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G-7 foreign ministers spar over coronavirus amid pandemic
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G-7 foreign ministers spar over coronavirus amid pandemic

G-7 foreign ministers spar over coronavirus amid pandemic
Photo Credit: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool Photo via AP
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Washington. Pompeo said Wednesday that the Group of Seven members were all aware of China's "disinformation campaign" regarding the coronavirus outbreak, as the two countries dispute the origins of the disease. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool Photo via AP)

G-7 foreign ministers spar over coronavirus amid pandemic

Foreign ministers from the Group of 7 leading industrialized democracies sparred Wednesday over whether to call out China as the source of the coronavirus pandemic.

Meeting by video conference because of the outbreak, the ministers agreed on the need for joint efforts to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes a disease being called COVID-19. But U.S. and European diplomats said the ministers were unable to agree on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's call for the virus to be identified by name as the “Wuhan virus.”

As a result, just a day after G-7 finance ministers and central bankers issued a joint communique referring to the COVID-19 virus, the foreign ministers opted against releasing a group statement. U.S, officials pointed to Tuesday's finance ministers' statement to reject suggestions of G-7 disunity and said the foreign ministers had never intended to release their own communique.

European officials said Pompeo had insisted on identifying the COVID-19 virus as the “Wuhan virus” even though the World Health Organization and others have cautioned against giving it a geographic name because of its global nature. In recent weeks, Pompeo has stepped up his use of “Wuhan virus," accusing China of putting the world at risk by not revealing more details about the outbreak, which was first reported in the city of Wuhan.

President Donald Trump had until very recently frequently referred to the novel coronavirus as the “China virus” or the “Chinese virus," but since the beginning of this week has steered away from those terms as critics have said they foster discriminatory sentiments and behavior against Asians and Asian Americans.

In a solo news conference after the meeting, Pompeo again referred to the “Wuhan virus," saying it was “the most pressing agenda item." He said all the foreign ministers had “committed to fighting (it) with transparency, as is necessary all around the world.” He did not deny there had been disagreements over what to call the virus, but said all the ministers had acknowledged that China had not been forthcoming about its details early on and was now trying to shift the narrative about it.

“Every one of the nations that was at that meeting this morning was deeply aware of the disinformation campaign that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in to try and deflect from what has really taken place here,” Pompeo said.

Other foreign ministers were not nearly as emphatic in their own comments about the meeting, with at least one leaving open the suggestion that China is not the only country trying to use the outbreak to advance political points.

French Foreign Minister Yves Le Drian said in a statement that he had “underscored the need to combat any attempt to exploit the crisis for political purposes and expressed the view that the unity of all in order to effectively combat the pandemic must now take precedence over any other considerations.”

The disagreement over the virus terminology was first reported by the German publication Der Spiegel. German officials said they were more concerned about what would come from a virtual summit of the Group of 20 nations leaders that is supposed to be held on Thursday at the request of Saudi Arabia.

U.S. officials meanwhile downplayed the disagreement among the foreign ministers and pointed to the G-7 finance ministers' statement from Tuesday that did not mention either “Wuhan” or “China” in relation to the virus and instead referred to it repeatedly as the COVID-19 virus.

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  • A Charlotte, North Carolina, mother who was desperately trying to protect her twin baby boys just learned her entire family was exposed to the coronavirus by a Spectrum technician. “He told me the tech that had been at our house had just tested positive for COVID-19, and my heart just stopped,” said Emily Beaty. The mother said she has been protecting her twin baby boys since they were born 26 weeks premature. She called Spectrum last week to have her internet serviced. She said she asked the customer service representative the steps that the company was taking to protect customers from exposure to COVID-19. 'They were taking this situation very seriously. They were prescreening their employees, and all of their employees were healthy,” she said. She said the tech arrived at her home and started doing work outside. Her husband saw him cough briefly outside. Eventually, the tech came inside to quickly finish up before leaving, she said. Four days later, she said Spectrum called her and said the tech tested positive for COVID-19. 'I just don't feel like they were doing a proper screening. I mean, they sent a tech out to my house that had a cough and not two days later, he is being tested for coronavirus,' Beaty said.A spokesperson for Spectrum sent WSOC-TV the following statement: “We have confirmed that one of our Charlotte-based technicians has tested positive for COVID-19. We immediately contacted the customers recently served by this technician, as well as the technician’s co-workers. “We learned this technician was not feeling well on March 25 (Wednesday) and sent the technician home immediately. The technician sought medical attention and was subsequently tested. When we confirmed the positive test on March 27 (Friday), we began contacting customers served by this technician and co-workers. “We are continually communicating and educating our staff on best practices according to the CDC health and safety guidelines, such as proper hygiene and social distancing. We are encouraging all technicians to take their temperature at home before reporting for work. We have made clear, including in a message directly from our chairman and CEO to all employees that any employee who is sick, or who is caring for someone who is sick, should stay home. If an employee needs to self-quarantine, they will not need to use their paid sick leave, but will continue to be paid and receive full benefits while under quarantine. The company also has given every worker an additional 15 days of COVID-19-related paid time off, and hourly workers who do not use this time during the COVID-19 pandemic will be paid out the remaining unused days at the end of the year.
  • More than 860,000 people worldwide -- including more than 189,000 people in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. Officials are attempting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. as hospitals brace for unprecedented patient surges. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Wednesday, April 1, continue below: Captain of embattled aircraft carrier requests Navy evacuation as coronavirus infects sailors Update 3:17 a.m. EDT April 1: In a letter dated March 30, U.S. Navy Capt. Brett Crozier requested the military evacuation of 90 percent of the 4,000-member crew aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, besieged by the novel coronavirus. Specifically, Crozier asked that the evacuees be moved into isolation on Guam, The Washington Post reported. “Decisive action is required. Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure,” Crozier wrote, adding, “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.” Read more here. China announces 1,367 asymptomatic coronavirus cases Update 3:03 a.m. EDT April 1: China’s National Health Commission confirmed on Wednesday it is monitoring a total of 1,367 asymptomatic novel coronavirus infections. According to the commission, 130 of those total cases were diagnosed on Tuesday, alone, while 302 were released from quarantine. To date, China has confirmed a total 82,294 cases nationwide, but it was not immediately clear if that figure includes the asymptomatic cases. Kroger announces $2-per-hour ‘hero bonus’ for employees on coronavirus front lines Update 2:44 a.m. EDT April 1: U.S. supermarket chain Kroger announced early Wednesday it will pay staff members still working amid the worsening novel coronavirus outbreak an additional $2-per-hour “hero bonus.” “Our associates have displayed the true actions of a hero, working tirelessly on the front lines to ensure everyone has access to affordable, fresh food and essentials during this national emergency,” Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement announcing the bonuses. The pay bump – benefitting all front-line grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call center staff – applies to all hours worked between March 29 and April 18. UN Secretary-General: Coronavirus ‘attacking societies at their core’ Update 2:21 a.m. EDT April 1: Citing the “human crisis” created by the novel coronavirus pandemic, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the collective global response the “greatest test” since World War II. Guterres’ insights were published in a new report released Tuesday. “COVID-19 is the greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations,” Guterres stated in the report, adding, “This human crisis demands coordinated, decisive, inclusive and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies – and maximum financial and technical support for the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries. But this is much more than a health crisis. It is a human crisis. The coronavirus disease is attacking societies at their core.' Read the full report here. US coronavirus deaths hit 4,076, total cases top 189K Update 12:31 a.m. EDT April 1: By early Wednesday morning, the number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States neared 200,000 across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 189,510 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 4,076 deaths. U.S. cases now outnumber those in any other nation by wide margins, including the 105,792 reported in Italy and the 95,923 confirmed in Spain. Of the confirmed U.S. deaths, 1,550 – or nearly half of the nationwide total – have occurred in New York, 267 in New Jersey and 259 in Michigan.  In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest hit with at least 75,795 confirmed cases – or roughly four times the next-closest state – followed by New Jersey with 18,696 and Michigan with 7,615. Three other states have now confirmed at least 6,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • California: 6,932, including 150 deaths • Florida: 6,732, including 84 deaths • Massachusetts: 6,220, including 89 deaths Meanwhile, Illinois, Louisiana and Washington state each has confirmed at least 5,000 novel coronavirus infections; Pennsylvania and Georgia each has confirmed at least 4,000 cases; Texas and Connecticut each has confirmed at least 3,000 cases; and Colorado, Tennessee, Ohio and Indiana each has confirmed at least 2,000 cases. Click here to see CNN’s complete state-by-state breakdown.
  • A 'Stranger Things' star and her family have donated tens of thousands of meals to food banks amid the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Albuquerque Journal, 16-year-old actress Millie Bobby Brown took to Instagram on Friday to announce that she and her family had given 20,000 meals each to food banks in New Mexico, where the popular Netflix series had been scheduled to film its next season, and Atlanta, where the show had previously filmed. “While we stay home and do our part to flatten the curve, we must not forget those in need,” wrote Brown, who plays Eleven. “My thoughts are with the great people and crew from Santa Fe, NM whom we didn’t yet get to meet in our company move on ‘Stranger Things.’ In appreciation of this community, my family and I have donated 20,000 meals to The Food Depot, which will provide meals for those hungry in the Northern New Mexico service area.” Brown added: “Also, to all those in Atlanta who have embraced us, to the ST crew and their families, you’re in our thoughts. My family and I have donated 20,000 meals to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, which will provide meals for those hungry in their service area.” >> See the post here Brown also urged her fans to “find enjoyment in the simple things” during social distancing.'Reflect on the impact of great people and then share the love with others,' she continued. “A special shout-out to those who have supported me, inspired and empowered me, whom I admire and just make me happy.” Several other celebrities, including Angelina Jolie, Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Kylie Jenner and Arnold Schwarzenegger, also have made large donations to organizations that are helping with coronavirus relief efforts. Read more here or here.
  • You may be seeing a lot of empty shelves at grocery chains and other stores. But a 17-year-old Georgia high schooler is bringing relief to stressed people across the country who can’t find cleaning and paper products. WSB-TV’s Wendy Corona learned he’s doing it all while self-isolating. Blake Rand is a skilled computer programmer. With his school closed because of coronavirus, he also has a lot of time on his hands. Recently, his mother came to him with a problem. “My mom needed supplies, as everybody else does, and she couldn’t really find any, so I just went online and just kept looking and looking everywhere and found some,” Rand said. When his grandmother, who has Parkinson’s and can’t leave the house, couldn’t find her supplies online, he was struck with an idea. “I just decided to help out the community and make a website,” Rand said. The website is called Coronafinds.com, and on it are the results of hours of online scouring Rand spends to locate hard-to-find, in-stock products like toilet paper. “It’s just a list of links that are updated daily, and it’ll pretty much just give you the item name, and if you want to purchase an item, you just go to link, and it takes you to a bigger retailer like Target or CVS, and then you can just purchase it there,” Rand said. He told Corona that the products can almost always be found on major retailer sites; you just have to sift through hundreds of choices. “Like a lot of people don’t look at like the Dollar General and those kind of stores, Boxed. I try to find, like, smaller stores, too, because those usually have a lot in stock,” Rand said. Needless to say, his family is doing pretty well on supplies. “I got enough. I’m not hoarding, though, but I have enough,” Rand said. Blake said he is looking in to automating Coronafinds.com. Also, in his spare time, he does security research to find vulnerabilities in sites like Apple and Snapchat.
  • At the beginning of the spread of the novel coronavirus in December 2019, we didn’t really have an idea of just how quickly the virus could spread. It was when COVID-19 was officially declared a global pandemic that the situation became very real for the entire world - especially those in countries where the virus had already spread far and wide and claimed hundreds of lives on a daily basis. So far, it’s become clear that obtaining as much data as possible is the best way to combat the virus, mainly by testing as many people as possible and ensuring we have the appropriate approach to deal with the numbers. Now, mapping the outbreak is the goal for many tech companies across the globe as we learn more about how and when COVID-19 spreads from person to person. WFXT found two companies that teamed up to show just how far and wide the Spring Break revelers in Florida spread out after congregating at a single beach during a national call for social distancing in early March. Mapping platform Tectonix teamed up with cell phone location data tracker X-mode to create a viral video that shows thousands leaving one Florida beach over Spring Break, fanning out across the country and potentially spreading the coronavirus. “Despite international news, no one seemed to be changing behavior based on what we saw at all, like nothing happened,” said Rob Gresham, Co-Founder of Tectonix. Together, both companies were able to “analyze secondary locations of anonymized mobile devices that were active at a single Ft. Lauderdale beach during Spring Break” and track them as the spread out across the country. Most of the more than 5,000 people in the sample size were headed to the Northeast. Co-Founders of Tectonix, Rob Gresham and Elliott Bradshaw say they hope to apply their mapping technology to other areas and industries impacted by the virus. “We’re looking to apply that technology not just to looking at how Spring Breakers spread coronavirus, but home logistics shipments are moving around the world and how airline trends are being impacted by this type of crisis,” said Bradshaw. Researchers at Boston’s Children’s Hospital and Harvard have developed their own way to map the virus. Using crowdsourcing, https://www.covidnearyou.org/#!/ asks the public to report current symptoms in real time and be identified only by ZIP code. “There really is a lack of understanding of the true burden of this disease across our country, particularly with the limited amounts of testing being done,” said Kara Sewalk, one of the developers of COVID Near You. Sewalk says the goal is to help public health experts and government officials understand how many people are infected on a local, state and federal level. “It’s not meant to replace surveillance of COVID or any other type of illness, but rather to augment existing surveillance systems to supplement the information that we’re collecting across the U.S.,” said Sewalk.
  • When Rocky Friedman of Port Townsend, Washington gathered with his sisters last year to plan for their mother’s 100th birthday celebration March 31, she serendipitously sent a one-sentence email. “Don’t forget to invite Amal and George Clooney.” Friedman said his mother, Miriam, “lives on her own, walks for exercise, reads voraciously, can tell you far more about professional sports than her son will ever know, and rocks my world with her unconditional love.” Friedman, who owns the historic Rose Theatre in Port Townsend, wondered what was possible. He shared the story Tuesday in an email to Rose Theatre supporters “because in the challenging times that we live, I think it will make you smile, and we all need that.” Through a little research and four intermediaries, Friedman was encouraged to write to Clooney with his request. “I asked if he would please consider writing a short congratulatory note to my mom on reaching this milestone. I emphasized - with less than subtlety - that at nearly 100 she was very likely his oldest fan. How could he refuse?” He didn’t. “Dear Miriam,” Clooney wrote. “They tell me you’re 100! I don’t believe it. Here’s hoping you have a fantastic birthday.” Friedman shared a photo of his mother with the signed photo on her birthday. “When I received the photograph from him that my mom is holding, and read the personal inscription, I couldn’t stop smiling. As my daughter said, ‘In the midst of the coronavirus, George Clooney comes through.’” “Thank you, George.” For more information on the Rose Theatre & Starlight Room, follow this link.