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Weekly Review

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The World Health Organization officially classified the outbreak of COVID-19 as a pandemic, and the virus’s worldwide death toll reached 6,500.1 2 President Trump addressed the American people from the Oval Office and announced that all travel from Europe to the United States would be suspended, as well as all “trade and cargo,” and that health insurers had pledged to waive the cost of coronavirus treatment, after which the White House clarified that the travel ban applied only to non-U.S. citizens, that trade would be unaffected by the new policy, and that some health insurers had agreed to waive the cost of COVID-19 testing rather than treatment.3 4 The president then gave a press conference in the Rose Garden in which he declared a national emergency and claimed that Google was developing a website that would serve as a comprehensive guide to drive-through testing clinics, after which Google clarified that a related company, Verily, was developing a website for use exclusively by health-care workers in the Bay Area.5 6 “I don’t take responsibility at all,” said Trump, whose administration dismantled the White House’s pandemic response team in 2018 and shuttered a USAID program dedicated to studying zoonotic diseases last year, and who in the past weeks promised the American public that a vaccine was imminent; that the virus was “very well under control”; that the government had “pretty much shut it down coming in from China”; and that COVID-19 would “miraculously” disappear when “it gets a little warmer.”7 8 9 10 Trump—who attended a Mar-a-Lago party for his oldest son’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, at which attendees danced in a conga line and Trump interacted with three guests who later tested positive for the coronavirus—reportedly tested negative for the virus.11 12 On Facebook, Jared Kushner’s brother’s father-in-law crowd-sourced advice for Trump about how to handle the crisis, and the House of Representatives—whose members receive unlimited paid sick leave—passed legislation to expand sick leave benefits, food aid, and virus testing.13 14 “If you’re sick, stay home. You’re not going to miss a paycheck,” said Vice President Mike Pence with regard to the legislation, which covers only about one fifth of American employees.15 Amid professional recommendations to practice “social distancing,” Devin Nunes, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, called the moment a “a great time” for healthy Americans to “just go out,” and Oklahoma governor Mike Stitt posted a photo of himself at a crowded Oklahoma City food hall captioned “It’s packed tonight!”; Stitt later deleted the tweet and declared a state of emergency.16 17

In Iran, where U.S. sanctions have reportedly hindered coronavirus response efforts, several dozen people died after consuming bootleg alcohol said to inoculate one from COVID-19; the Revolutionary Guard was deployed to enforce curfews in public places; and satellite imagery indicated the construction of mass graves for victims of the virus near the city of Qom.18 19 20 21 The reduction in air pollution from the coronavirus lockdown in China was estimated to have saved 77,000 lives; plans for a “gratitude education campaign” in Wuhan, through which city residents would learn how to appropriately thank the Chinese government and President Xi Jinping for their coronavirus response, were shelved after a public outcry and replaced with a campaign to praise Wuhan citizens for their resilience during the lockdown; and Wuhan Zall F.C., a professional soccer team, opted to return to China from Spain to avoid infection.22 23 24 Mass quarantines were imposed in Spain, where the first lady tested positive for COVID-19; France, where the mayor of Landerneau refused to apologize for allowing a thousands-strong gathering of Smurf enthusiasts to proceed; and Italy, where the pope encouraged priests to “go out and go to the sick” and demanded that certain closed churches be reopened.25 26 27 28 The Islamic State issued a travel warning for European countries on account of the virus, advising followers to “stay away from the land of the epidemic.”29

The sudden absence of tourists from Thailand spurred violent conflict among monkeys in a Bangkok suburb, and a Japanese convenience-store owner managed to stop thefts of toilet paper by placing a curse on her inventory.30 31 Greece passed legislation green-lighting the use of seized ethyl alcohol to manufacture antiseptics; homemade hand sanitizer being sold at a New Jersey 7-Eleven was confiscated by the police after four boys reported being burned by the substance; and a teenager in Leeds, England, was suspended from school for selling “squirts” of hand sanitizer for a total profit of £9.32 33 34 35 “Very hard to discipline this behavior,” said the boy’s mother, “when his dad phones him from work to call him a ‘fucking legend.’” Two Tennessee brothers—who, as a “public service,” had hoarded more than 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer with the intention of selling them at a profit to make “crazy money”—were pressured by the state attorney general into donating the hand sanitizer to charity.36 37 Amid concern about virus transmission through face touching, KFC announced the suspension of their “Finger Lickin’ Good” ad campaign, and the coronavirus forced the Council of Foreign Relations to cancel a roundtable called “Doing Business Under Coronavirus.”38 39 The trial of a potential COVID-19 vaccine, for which participants are to be given $100 per clinic visit, began in Seattle.40 “We all feel so helpless. This is an amazing opportunity for me to do something,” said one of the test subjects. “I’m feeling great.”

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