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Morning Brief

U.S. Daily Death Toll Spikes as Leaders Warn of Impact on the Poor

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Anthony Fauci have both voiced worries that coronavirus death toll may disproportionately affect the poor.

Two nurses have lunch on the grass in Central Park across from Mount Sinai hospital on April 7, 2020 in New York City, New York.
Two nurses have lunch on the grass in Central Park across from Mount Sinai hospital on April 7, 2020 in New York City, New York. David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The daily coronavirus death toll spikes in the U.S., the acting U.S. Navy secretary resigns, and Japan declares a state of emergency.

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U.S. Registers Highest Daily Death Toll to Date

With 1,736 new deaths recorded in the United States, yesterday represented the highest daily death toll of any country in the coronavirus pandemic so far.

Much of that number can be attributed to cases in New York where 731 new coronavirus deaths were announced. At nearly 5,500, New York alone now accounts for almost half of coronavirus deaths in the United States.

While announcing the figures, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined the human toll the pandemic is taking on the state, “Behind every one of those numbers is an individual, is a family, is a mother, is a father, is a brother, is a sister. So, a lot of pain again today,” he said.

Is the coronavirus killing more people of color? New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio highlighted the disproportionate number of people of color and lower-income residents who have suffered and died during the city’s coronavirus outbreak, promising preliminary data broken down by race later this week.

Beginning his remarks at the White House press briefing yesterday, Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert on the White House coronavirus task force, underlined the point that “health disparities have always existed for the African American community but here, again, with this crisis, it’s shining a bright light on how unacceptable that is,” he said.

Speaking at the briefing, U.S. President Donald Trump said he would withdraw U.S. funding for the World Health Organization over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He later backtracked, saying he would simply “look at” the possibility of denying funds.

Did Trump know the risk of pandemic in January? It also emerged on Tuesday that White House economic adviser Peter Navarro had explicitly warned of the risk of a pandemic as early as Jan. 29. “The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil,” Navarro’s memo said. “This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.”

U.S. testing rate is improving. Although the United States has now tested over 2 million people, its per capita testing rate still lags behind other countries. The United States has conducted 582 tests per 100,000 people compared to Italy’s 600 per 100,000 and South Korea’s 709 per 100,000. The rate of testing in the United States has improved from March 31 when it was just 318 per 100,000.

What We’re Following Today

Acting Navy secretary resigns. Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned yesterday, marking the end of a contentious week for the Navy. The episode began when a letter from Captain Brett Crozier outlining deteroriating conditions on the coronavirus-stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier leaked to the media. Crozier’s subsequent firing led to Modly addressing the crew of the carrier directly where he called the captain “too naïve or too stupid” to realize his letter would leak. The audio recording of the address leaked to the media on Monday, and Modly’s fate was all but sealed.

“I had hoped to transmit a message of love, and duty, and mission, and courage in the face of adversity,” Modly wrote in a resignation letter, “Those words are in there, but they are now lost, because of me, and I will regret that for the rest of my life.” James McPherson, a retired admiral will replace Modly, FP’s Jack Detsch reports. He will be the third person to take on the role in the past four months.

Japan declares state of emergency and stimulus. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency in Japan as well as a $990 billion stimulus package to cope with the effect of the coronavirus pandemic. Japan has a relatively low number of coronavirus cases—under 4,000—however, the number of cases in Tokyo have doubled in the past five days. At 20 percent of GDP, Japan’s stimulus package is the largest by percentage of economic output of any nation in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Taliban talks suspended. The Taliban have withdrawn negotiators from Afghanistan just days after they had begun overseeing prisoner exchanges. “The intentional delays in the release of our prisoners violates the peace agreement, therefore we call back our technical team back from Kabul,” the group said on Twitter. The Taliban had already broken off prisoner exchange talks with the Afghan government earlier on Tuesday, calling the discussions “fruitless.”

Keep an Eye On

Sweden prepares stronger coronavirus powers. In a signal that its outlier status could be ending, the Swedish government is advancing a bill that would grant it greater powers to shut down areas in a bid to fight the coronavirus. Unlike most European nations, Sweden’s schools and businesses have mostly stayed open. Writing in FP, Natalia Rothschild explained why Sweden’s culture and administrative independence played a role in its unique approach to the pandemic so far.

Eastern Libya’s first coronavirus case. Eastern Libya has announced it’s first coronavirus case, bringing the total number of cases in the country up to 20. Eastern Libya is controlled by Khalifa Haftar with the backing of the United Arab Emirates, Russia, and Egypt. The World Health Organization has warned that Libya’s damaged health infrastructure means it would be unable to handle a widespread outbreak. Writing in FP, Edward P. Joseph and Wolfgang Pusztai say that the coronavirus crisis is an opportunity for Libya’s warring factions to finally find common ground. “There is still time to galvanize Libya’s factions into cooperation—but only if diplomats urgently craft a plan built around the country’s shared fate amid the pandemic,” they write.

Boris Johnson’s condition “stable.” At a news conference yesterday, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has remained stable in intensive care with standard oxygen treatment. “He has not required any mechanical ventilation or non-invasive respiratory support,” Raab said. As Raab continues his caretaker role as the nominal head of the British government, Owen Matthews delves deeper into the foreign minister’s career to date, reporting that “People who have worked with Raab describe him as determined to the point of obstinacy.”

Odds and Ends

New Zealand’s Health Minister David Clark is the second national health official in the space of a week to come under fire after not sticking to lockdown rules. Clark took his family to the beach 12 miles from his home within days of New Zealand’s lockdown order. Unlike Scotland’s chief medical officer, Clark will not lose his job, but will lose any seniority in the cabinet and be stripped of his associate finance minister role. “I’ve let the team down. I’ve been an idiot, and I understand why people will be angry with me,” Clark said. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Clark would have been fired under “normal circumstances.”

That’s it for today.

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Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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