U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Climbs to World’s Second Highest

WALL STREET JOURNAL: The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surpassed Spain’s, making it the second highest in the world behind Italy’s, as the global economic impact from the crisis continued to mount.

The number of cases topped 1.6 million world-wide, while deaths exceeded 96,000, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.

U.S. confirmed cases rose to more than 466,000, according to Johns Hopkins, though the actual number is likely higher, experts say, due to lack of widespread testing, false negatives and differences in reporting standards. The number of U.S. deaths was 16,686. In comparison, Italy’s death toll was 18,279, the highest of any country, and Spain’s was 15,843, according to Johns Hopkins.

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Saudis, Russians Bury Differences, but Mexico Threatens Oil Deal

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed in principle Thursday to lead a 23-nation coalition in massive oil-production cuts after a monthlong feud and a drop in demand due to the coronavirus crisis devastated oil prices. But following more than 11 hours of negotiations, Mexico abruptly exited the talks, jeopardizing a final pact.

Delegates said the talks would continue at a Group of 20 meeting of energy ministers set for Friday.

Prices shot higher ahead of the Saudi-Russia announcement before abruptly losing momentum and reversing course. The benchmark U.S. crude price, for May delivery, ended 9.3% lower on the day at $22.76 a barrel.

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US-Mexico border: Thousands of migrants expelled under coronavirus powers

BBC NEWS: The US has expelled more than 6,300 undocumented migrants on its Mexico border using emergency powers to curb coronavirus spread, officials say.

The 21 March public health measure lets officials override immigration laws, expediting removal processes.

Critics say the order is being used as an extension of strict immigration policies.

Meanwhile, the number of illegal border crossings has fallen amid travel restrictions across the region.

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Woman gives birth standing with trousers on while detained at US-Mexico border

THE INDEPENDENT: A woman suffering flu-like symptoms gave birth standing and fully clothed while detained near the Mexican-US border, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Guatemalan woman, 27, was being processed at the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station near San Diego when her complaints of pain and pleas for help were allegedly ignored by agents, according to a complaint filed on Wednesday by the ACLU and Jewish Family Service of San Diego with the US Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General.

The woman, holding onto a garbage can for support, was repeatedly told to sit and wait to be processed. 

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More than 6,300 migrants turned away at U.S.-Mexico border under COVID-19 restrictions

ARIZONA CENTRAL: U.S. border agents processed and immediately expelled more than 6,300 migrants caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally since March 21, the date the U.S. began implementing a series of restrictions at the border to contain the spread of COVID-19. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection disclosed the numbers on Thursday as part of its enforcement statistics for March. Overall, the number of border apprehensions fell slightly to 29,953, compared with February. 

Customs officers working at the ports of entry along the Southwestern U.S. border also processed fewer migrants in March. In all, officers processed 3,984 migrants deemed inadmissible to the country, a third less than in February. 

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Government watchdog: Millions wasted on Tornillo migrant detention facility

TEXAS TRIBUNE: The federal government wasted millions in taxpayer dollars on food, supplies and personnel during a brief reopening of a West Texas immigration detention facility last year, a government watchdog reported Thursday.

The findings from the Government Accountability Office focus on expenditures from August to December to operate the tent encampment at Tornillo, a rural community in eastern El Paso County. The facility was reopened to hold single adults amid a spike in apprehensions of undocumented immigrants at the Texas-Mexico border. It was previously used in 2018 to detain undocumented immigrant children.

Over those five months, the federal government spent about $66 million to operate the facility, which was built to hold as many as 2,500 detainees. But it never held more than 70 people, and the average daily population for the first three months was 28 people, according to the report.

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U.S. expels thousands to Mexico after largely halting asylum

ASSOCIATED PRESS: A U.S. Border Patrol agent wouldn’t let Jackeline Reyes explain why she and her 15-year-old daughter fled Honduras and needed asylum, pointing to the coronavirus. It was just days after the Trump administration essentially shut down the nation’s asylum system.

“The agent told us about the virus and that we couldn’t go further, but she didn’t let us speak or anything,” said Reyes, 35, who was shuttled on March 24 to Reynosa, Mexico, a violent border city.

President Donald Trump’s administration is relying on a seldom-used public health law to set aside decades-old national and international immigration laws. People seeking refuge in the U.S. are whisked to the nearest border crossing and returned to Mexico without a chance to apply for asylum. 

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OPEC+ Agrees To Cut Oil Output For Two Years But There’s One Holdout

INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY: OPEC+ reached an agreement to reduce production for through April 2022 to help prop up oil prices, but the deal is conditional on the consent of Mexico.

Earlier, Mexico logged off an emergency videoconference meeting after marathon talks Thursday without agreeing to the deal. The OPEC member reportedly wants to cut its production by 100,000 barrels per day vs. a request to cut by 400,000.

Talks with Mexico are expected to resume at the G-20 meeting Friday. OPEC+ will meet again June 10 to discuss any further action.

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How Coronavirus Has Changed Life Along US-Mexico Border

KPBS: San Diego and Tijuana are linked by geography, commerce and family ties. Now, they’re also linked by coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

Stay-at-home orders and closed businesses on both sides of the border have led to empty streets and a significant drop in both legal and illegal crossings.

Life is also uncertain for hundreds of Central American migrants who are waiting in Tijuana to come to the U.S. to seek asylum. Meanwhile, there’s a rising concern among immigrant advocates of the threat of the COVID-19 virus infection to immigrants held in detention in the U.S.

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Mexico auto sector to resume operations once U.S. industry gears up

REUTERS: Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday the domestic auto sector can resume operations shortly after the U.S. industry gears up from a coronavirus-led halt, to avoid further disruption to closely interconnected supply chains.

Most automotive plants in Mexico suspended operations in March to contain the spread of the coronavirus and in response to a supply shortage created by the outbreak.

Trade groups such as Mexican automotive industry association AMIA and truck manufacturing association ANPACT had called for the industry to be among those exempted from a government order to suspend all economic activity not deemed essential.

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Mexican Standoff Imperils Proposed 10M-Barrel OPEC+ Oil Cut

ASSOCIATED PRESS: A deal between OPEC and nations including Russia to boost oil prices involves a 10 million barrels per day cut until July, then an 8 million barrels per day cut through the end of the year, though the cartel said Friday its approval hinges on Mexico’s agreement.

A marathon videoconference call between OPEC and other producers lasted until early Friday morning, when it apparently devolved into a Mexican standoff. The cartel, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia say Mexico’s refusal to agree blocked the proposed accord.

Mexico has yet to respond, though the deal comes as prices have been gutted by the coronavirus pandemic and the COVID-19 illness it causes. Analysts warn even these proposed cuts may not be enough to offset the loss in demand.

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Gonzalez: Mexico’s suspicious interest in the US Census

THE HILL: Mexico’s ambassador to the United States has been tweeting in Spanish, urging people to make sure they fill out their census forms. Government officials often take a hand in important national projects with electoral and budgetary implications.

Except that, in this case, Amb. Martha Barcena has been tweeting about the U.S. Census, not a Mexican survey. “Even in difficult times, it is very important to respond to the #2020Census,” she wrote in a retweet of an English-language Census Bureau tweet urging people to fill out the Census.

Filling out the Census is a responsibility of all residents of the United States, and counting every last person is of utmost importance. But by commenting on a U.S. domestic matter, the ambassador has become but the latest Mexican official to leave the impression that Mexico City believes that the 36.6 million people of Mexican descent in the United States are a “shared” population.

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In Oaxaca, this scientist is a hometown boy made good. The U.S. says he’s a Russian spy

LOS ANGELES TIMES: In Mexico’s southern Oaxaca state, Héctor Alejandro Cabrera Fuentes is a figure of pride and emulation, a role model who emerged from one of the country’s poorest regions and soared to global success.

He is acclaimed as a world-renowned microbiologist and heart specialist who never lost the common touch — stopping for a bite at the local taquería on visits back home and volunteering to help when an earthquake in 2017 devastated his rural home region.

“Dr. Héctor Cabrera is a distinguished citizen of our town and very beloved by all of the population,” said Hazael Matus, mayor of El Espinal, Cabrera’s hometown. “He is a person who has always helped others.”

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Trump administration, citing coronavirus, expels 10,000 migrants in less than 3 weeks

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Trump administration has quickly expelled roughly 10,000 migrants to Mexico and other countries in less than three weeks since imposing its most severe immigration restrictions yet in response to the coronavirus outbreak, officials said Thursday.

After the United States and Mexico last month closed their border to “nonessential travel,” U.S. officials began rapidly removing almost all migrants arriving at the border, with minimal processing. For the first time, those turned away en masse include people seeking asylum as well as hundreds of lone migrant children, both groups that are protected by U.S. law.

The actions reflect how the administration — in response to the pandemic — is taking steps toward achieving some of President Trump’s long-sought goals restricting immigration, in this instance barring asylum seekers and unaccompanied children from entry into the United States, and with an end-run around the laws and bureaucratic requirements.

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Small Businesses Wait for Cash as Disaster Loan Program Unravels

NEW YORK TIMES: Flooded by requests for help like never before, a federal disaster loan program that was supposed to deliver emergency relief to small businesses in just three days has run low on funding and nearly frozen up entirely. Now, business owners who applied are desperate for cash and answers about what aid, if any, they are going to receive.

The initiative, known as the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, is an expansion of an emergency system run by the Small Business Administration that has for years helped companies after natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and tornadoes. To speed billions of dollars in aid along, the government directly funds the loans, sparing applicants the step of finding a lender willing to work with them.

But in the face of the pandemic, the loan program is drowning in requests. Many applicants have waited weeks for approval, with little to no information about where they stand, and others are being told they’ll get a fraction of what they expected.

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More than 13% of Texas nursing homes have at least one resident with coronavirus, officials say

TEXAS TRIBUNE: More than 160 of the state’s 1,222 nursing homes, or about 13%, have at least one case of the new coronavirus, state officials said Thursday. And 38 nursing home residents and staff members have died of COVID-19 statewide.

The disclosure, made late Thursday by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, is the first time Texas has made public the extent of COVID-19’s spread in nursing homes, as other states have done.

The move comes after The Texas Tribune reported Wednesday that Texas was not disclosing comprehensive data on nursing home residents and staffers who have tested positive for the virus.

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More Texans filed for unemployment in the last 4 weeks than all of 2019

TEXAS TRIBUNE: More than 760,000 Texans have applied for unemployment insurance over the last four weeks, exceeding the roughly 700,000 people who filed for unemployment relief in Texas in all of 2019.

Just last week, a historic313,832 Texans submitted unemployment insurance claims, which was a 13.6% jump from the previous week’s short-lived record. Analysts expect many more people to lose work in the coming weeks as more than 1 million Texans are expected to be jobless.

The numbers are early — but incomplete — indicators of how dramatically and suddenly the state’s economy collapsed under social distancing orders officials issued to curb the still growing public health crisis spurred by the novel coronavirus.

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Detainee and employee at El Paso-area ICE detention facility test positive for COVID-19, Sen. Tom Udall says

EL PASO MATTERS: One detainee and one employee at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in southern New Mexico have tested positive for COVID-19, Sen. Tom Udall’s office said Thursday.

The positive test for a detainee at the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral s the first known case of COVID-19 in an El Paso-area ICE detention facility. ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the positive test or details on the detainee.

“After our office inquired, we were informed that one employee and one detainee at the Otero facility have tested positive for COVID-19,” a Udall spokesman said.

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El Paso reports first COVID-19 death

EL PASO MATTERS: A man in his 80s with underlying health conditions died of COVID-19 in an El Paso hospital on Thursday, the county’s first death in the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Dee Margo said.

“We feel very sad that we have this death in our community. We will continue being vigilant about how the virus behaves in our community,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, the El Paso city-county health authority. Ocaranza said the man had underlying health conditions.

Health officials reported 33 new positive COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 225 since the first case was reported on March 13. Officials said about 3,500 COVID-19 tests have been conducted in El Paso, Ocaranza said.

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Advocates: Two cases of coronavirus detected at El Paso-area immigrant detention center

EL PASO TIMES: An employee and a detained migrant have contracted the novel coronavirus COVID-19 at the Otero County Processing Center, according to Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso.

“Obviously this is a troubling situation which can escalate quickly in ways that will put detained persons, facility staff and surrounding communities at risk,” Las Americas said in a statement.

An El Paso spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which runs the facility through a private contractor, couldn’t immediately confirm the cases reported by Las Americas Thursday afternoon. 

“ICE and management at Otero have a responsibility to take immediate steps to secure the safety and well-being of all of these persons,” the Las Americas statement said.

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UTEP researchers are working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine with the help of a supercomputer

EL PASO TIMES: As the worldwide coronavirus death toll climbs daily, Dr. Suman Sirimulla feels the pressure that comes with developing a vaccine in real time in the midst of a pandemic.

That pressure, he said, only motivates him to spend as many hours as he can in the lab.

Sirimulla, an assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso, is working to develop the molecular structure of a drug that would target the novel coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19. To do that, he and his team are using a supercomputer to screen billions of molecular compounds to find ones that could be a match.

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1-year-old child among 11 confirmed COVID cases in Laredo, 166 total

LAREDO MORNING TIMES: Webb County and the City of Laredo have confirmed three additional cases of COVID-19 in their 5 p.m. update, totaling 11 cases today. The 11 cases bring the total number of recognized cases of novel coronavirus to 166.

Further information was not available on the case due to the city’s policy of not releasing identifying information on coronavirus patients. Earlier today, the city confirmed eight additional cases.

In their noon update, the city health department said the eight cases occurred in patients between the ages of 1 and 82 years old. The 1-year-old child is the third recognized case of COVID-19 in a Laredo child. While the city is still investigating the newly-announced case, the other two children are currently in stable condition and recovering at home.

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City considers expanding operating days for COVID-19 drive-thru testing

BROWNSVILLE HERALD: During a regular Brownsville City Commission meeting earlier this week, Brownsville Fire Department Chief Jarrett Sheldon, who is overseeing the emergency management operations, said there might be a need in the near future to have the drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in Brownsville open six or seven days a week.

“The COVID-19 drive-thru testing site continues to operate Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. … We are currently considering extending the days of drive-thru testing, the days of operation, to six to seven days per week in the near future,” he said during the meeting.

“We are communicating with neighboring jurisdictions the number of questionnaires filled out by the constituents and emergency management continues to work in constant communication with local, county and state partners and agencies to bring the latest information and updates.”

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Taking a toll: Two more county residents die from COVID-19

BROWNSVILLE HERALD: At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, on behalf of the Cameron County Commissioners Court, county Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. expressed his deepest condolences to the families of the latest Cameron County residents to succumb to COVID-19.

A 91-year-old female residing at Veranda Rehabilitation and Healthcare and a 93-year-old female resident of Windsor Atrium nursing home, both in Harlingen, have died, bringing the county’s death toll to three and the Rio Grande Valley’s death toll from the virus to five. One victim, an employee of Veranda, resided in Willacy County.

Treviño reported that the county is up 126 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, including 30 residents who have recovered and been cleared of the virus. 

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2 more nursing home deaths

VALLEY MORNING STAR: Two more residents have died after a health care worker carried the COVID-19 virus into a nursing home and a rehabilitation center, Cameron County officials said.

On Thursday, a 90-year-old woman became the second resident to die after living at Veranda Rehabilitation and Healthcare.

Meanwhile, a 93-year-old woman died after living at Windsor Atrium, where county officials believe a Veranda health care worker introduced the coronavirus.

The deaths bring the Rio Grande Valley’s COVID-19 death toll to five.

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Hidalgo County COVID-19 update: 7 new cases, 9 total recovered

MCALLEN MONITOR: Hidalgo County officials reported that seven more people have tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday, for a total of 146 cases. Officials also shared some good news, adding that nine people have since been cleared to leave isolation, including one individual who was cleared Thursday.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez, who called Thursday’s report “encouraging” nonetheless urged residents to continue abiding by social distancing recommendations and the county’s stay-at-home order.

“But we must remain vigilant, Easter weekend traditionally means large gatherings with extended family,” Cortez said. “This year I urge everyone to stay at home with your core family members instead. We must slow the spread of this disease and avoiding gatherings is a key way to do that.”

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