We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were In”—Verily quick takes on the happenings of this week.
President Trump Announces Guidelines to “Open Up America Again”
On Thursday this week, President Donald Trump said the United States has passed the peak of the novel Coronavirus’ damage and introduced guidelines for state governors to consider in reopening their economies.
Vice President Mike Pence said the proposal is "based on up-to-date data and readiness," mitigates the risk of a resurgence, "protects the most vulnerable," and is "implementable on a state-by-state or county-by-county basis at governors' discretion.” —Mary Rose Somarriba
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President Trump Announces Freeze on WHO Funding
On Tuesday, President Trump said he was halting U.S. funding for the World Health Organization, pending a review of its performance in managing the global coronavirus crisis. "We have deep concerns whether America's generosity has been put to the best use possible. The reality is the WHO has failed to adequately obtain and share information in a timely and transparent fashion,” Trump said.
The WHO has come under fire for parroting the statements of Chinese government officials that there was no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of COVID-19, delaying the declaration of a global pandemic, and allowing the reopening of Chinese wet markets, where the virus is believed to have originated, among other controversies and missteps. Trump said the U.S. would work with the WHO to enact “meaningful reforms.”
International reaction to the move was largely negative. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that now is "not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organisation or any other humanitarian organisation in the fight against the virus.”
The United States is by far the largest single source of WHO funding, contributing about 15 percent of the organization’s budget. It was not immediately clear what impact the funding cuts would have on the WHO’s operations. —Margaret Brady
Luxury Fashion Brands Lend A Hand Against COVID
Iconic luxury goods companies like Burberry, Chanel, and Prada have turned their attention away from the runway and toward hospitals, as they’ve redeployed manufacturing resources to meet the need for personal protective equipment, CNN reported this week.
In France, Louis Vuitton said it has begun production on hundreds of thousands of nonsurgical face masks. Six Paris hospitals were also due to receive thousands of Vuitton-made hospital gowns. “Thank you to the hundreds of artisans who have volunteered to create these masks, as well as everyone doing their part to fight this global pandemic," the company said via Instagram. Chanel, another legendary French brand, also has its sewists making masks.
In the United Kingdom, Burberry said it has transformed a coat factory in Yorkshire into a gown and mask powerhouse. And in Italy, where death rates from coronavirus have been extraordinarily high, Prada kept one of its factories open specifically to manufacture masks and medical overalls, producing tens of thousands of garments to help patients and healthcare workers.
In the face of an expected global economic downturn, luxury brands like these may face financial headwinds, so it’s especially heartening to see these iconic firms put high fashion (and high profits) to the side temporarily in order to meet the desperate need in each of their countries. —MB
New York Times Edits Out A Statement About Biden’s Sexual Misconduct Allegations
The New York Times is under fire this week for editing out “imprecise language” in a story exploring former Senate staff member Tara Reade’s sexual assault claims against Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden. Reade accused Biden of assaulting her in 1993 while she worked in his office. NYT’s article reads: “No other allegation about sexual assault surfaced in the course of reporting, nor did any former Biden staff members corroborate any details of Ms. Reade’s allegation," adding “The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden." This statement was edited from the original article’s wording, which read: "The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden, beyond the hugs, kisses and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable." No correction was noted.
The newer version of the article also excluded multiple allegations from other women who claim Biden repeatedly made them uncomfortable by hugging them from behind or sniffing their hair. In an interview, executive editor Dean Baquet admitted the changes were made after the Biden campaign complained about the wording of the original article, but he defended the paper’s actions saying,“it was an awkward phrasing issue that could be read different ways and that it wasn’t something factual we were correcting.”
In response to criticism, New York Times tweeted a statement saying that a tweet within the story thread had been deleted to reflect the changes in the article. But the original news story includes no editor's note accounting for the change, and critics are accusing of the paper of editing out women's allegations to make Biden appear more favorable. —Krysta Scripter
Air Pollution Drops Admit Coronavirus Lockdown, NASA Reports
NASA satellites show the coronavirus lockdown has resulted in a 30 percent drop in nitrogen dioxide pollution in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions of the United States. The Ozone Monitoring Instrument on NASA’s Aura Satellite, which has measured atmospheric nitrogen dioxide levels since 2005, shows that March 2020 has the lowest levels of the gas. Nitrogen dioxide is mostly emitted by burning fossil fuels for transportation and electricity generation. The space agency will continue to analyze how much of the 30 percent drop was caused by natural variations in weather versus changing human behavior patterns. —Melanie Wilcox
IRS Releases New Portal For Stimulus Payment Updates
You’ve probably heard by now that the government is sending out stimulus checks to help those affected by the coronavirus pandemic. If you’re wondering about where your check might be, the IRS recently launched a tool to help Americans see their check status online.
The site isn’t without bugs—users have reported that the site was overloaded, wouldn’t let them enter their information, or sent them to a message that read “Payment Status Not Available.” The IRS recommends checking in daily, as the website only updates once a day. To find out your status, you’ll need your Social Security number, date of birth, and mailing address.
CNN reports that the IRS is already issuing checks—but those who have already filed their taxes, or have given the IRS their direct deposit information, may see their checks sooner. If you haven’t yet filed your taxes, you can enter your payment information here. —KS
John Mayer Releases New Music On Weekly Show
In his weekly Sunday evening live Instagram show, Current Mood, John Mayer has released new music, including “You Are Still You:” Though the present situation can be scary, you’re the him or her you were in January, and all your friends will help to see you through, so don’t be blue, you are still you.”
Mayer and Leon Bridges released another track “Inside Friend” they created prior to the COVID-19 pandemic because the lyrics fit … the current mood. The lyrics to “Inside Friend” describe the ideal dating situation for an introvert or homebody. Mayer’s parody song “Drone Shot of My Yacht” released at the beginning of the month pokes fun at billionaire David Geffen’s viral yacht picture on Instagram. I can see this becoming the song of the summer. —MW
One Year Later, Notre Dame Still Awaits Rebirth
It’s been an eventful year since the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris came close to complete destruction in a devastating electrical fire. On Wednesday, one of the church’s famous bells tolled at 8 p.m. to mark the grim date.
The delicate work to free the ancient structure from a mass of burned timbers and twisted metal scaffolding was scheduled to begin in March, however France went into a nationwide lockdown on March 17 to combat the spread of coronavirus. Now, only a security team is present to guard the wounded building.
On Good Friday, the Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, held a low key, televised service inside a secured section of the cathedral. A small group venerated a cathedral relic believed to be the Crown of Thorns and presented readings from scripture.
This week, the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, released a message praising restoration workers and reiterating a promise to rebuild Notre Dame within five years of its near-destruction.
“The restoration of Notre Dame is a symbol of the resilience of our people and our capacity to overcome great trials," he told the French. “You pave the way for better days, when we will find the joy of being together again and the spire of Notre Dame once again reaches to the sky." —MB
Good News of the Week
Those looking for a regular dose of good news should be watching John Krasinksi’s weekly installment of Some Good News at this point (the fourth episode drops Sunday).
But in other good news, the BBC reports this week that 106-year-old Connie Titchen of the United Kingdom became Britain’s oldest survivor of the Coronavirus this week. “I feel very lucky that I’ve fought off this virus,” she said in a statement released by the Birmingham City Hospital. “I can’t wait to see my family.” The hospital staff lined a hallway clapping as she was discharged.
Titchen’s granddaughter Alex told the BBC that her grandmother has “a really active life. She loved to dance, cycle and play golf.... She has always cooked for herself too, although she likes a cheeky McDonald's every now and then. I haven't told her they are closed."
Watch of the Week
The New York Post reports, “A Massachusetts nurse is moved to tears—and you will be, too—when two neighbors saddle up to a violin and a cello for an impromptu musical performance of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ in front of the shocked medical worker’s house.”
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