First Thing: Covid claims 500,000 American lives

Molly Blackall
·7-min read
<span>Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Good morning.

More than 500,000 people in the US have now died from coronavirus, just over a year since the country detected its first case. That is more than the population of Miami, Colorado Springs or Minneapolis. It’s also more than the number of Americans who died in the second world war, Korea and Vietnam. In a primetime address to the nation last night, Joe Biden urged people “to resist becoming numb to the sorrow”, before a holding a moment of silence and candle lighting ceremony at the White House.

It’s not Democrats or Republicans who are dying from the virus. It’s our fellow Americans, it’s our neighbors. It’s our friends, our mothers, our fathers, our daughters, husbands, wives. We have to fight this together as one people, as the United States of America.

For each of the more than 500,000 American lives lost to coronavirus, there is a “bereavement multiplier”, a network of relatives who are left to cope with the loss. A recent study found that for each Covid-19 death, about nine close family members are left grieving, totalling more than 4.5 million people – and the study does not account for the huge number of friends grieving. Michael Sainto spoke to one family who lost a father and brother to Covid-19 within 24 hours.

According to an investigation by the Guardian and KHN, 3,448 healthcare workers in the US are thought to have died from the virus as they put their lives on the line to care for others. But the historian Andrew Gawthorpe argues that the high death toll was preventable, and spiralled because the “Republican response has been based on a characteristically narrow definition of which Americans are worthy of saving”.

  • China did “little” to investigate the origins of coronavirus in the first eight months of the pandemic, according to an internal World Health Organization document seen by the Guardian. The report, dated August 2020, also said the WHO team received little new information, including no documents or written data, during an investigation at that time.

  • A skateboarding world champion has been charged after hosting large parities during the pandemic, which were possible super-spreader events. Nyjah Huston repeatedly organised parties in southern California as Covid rates soared, leading authorities to cut off water and power to the house.

The supreme court has allowed prosecutors to see Trump’s tax returns

The supreme court rejected the former president&#x002019;s attempt to block his tax records from prosecutors.
The supreme court rejected the former president’s attempt to block his tax records from prosecutors. Photograph: Gerald Herbert/AP

The supreme court has declined to stop Donald Trump’s tax returns being handed over to a prosecutor in New York City, marking a significant defeat for the former president who has long sought to keep them hidden. When he ran for office in 2016, Trump broke with tradition and refused to release his tax returns. Now he has left the White House, Trump has lost the legal protections of being in office, and is being investigated on a number of fronts.

The former president is on a losing streak, writes the Washington bureau chief, David Smith, but this could be his costliest defeat yet. The Manhattan district attorney’s office will not release the tax returns publicly and has not said why it wants them, only that they were justified in seeking the documents because of public reports of “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization”.

  • Trump won Texas because of Covid and a Republican voter drive, according to a postmortem of the state’s presidential election result by state Democrats. They found that Republicans turned out in greater numbers, and Democratic party efforts to rally potential voters were limited by the pandemic.

Nasa has released a video of its rover landing on Mars

Nasa has released a video of its Perseverance space rover landing on Mars, and the first audio recorded on the surface of the red planet. The footage was shared days after the spacecraft touched down, after travelling through space for nearly seven months.

Scientists have given Perseverance, nicknamed Percy, 5,000 instructions to investigate on Mars, and it completed them all with flying colours. The rover, which cost a massive $2.7bn, is searching for signs of ancient life.

These videos and these images are the stuff of our dreams,” said Al Chen, who was in charge of the landing team.

The battle between Facebook and the Australian government appears to have ended in a truce

The botched news ban resulted in the suspension of government accounts.
The botched news ban resulted in the suspension of government accounts. Photograph: Dado Ruvić/Reuters

Facebook will restore news to its platform in Australia in the coming days, after the government agreed to alter its landmark media bargaining code that was designed to force the social media site to pay news outlets to display their content. In response to the proposed law, Facebook attempted to block all news for its Australian users, but inadvertently also banned the pages of charities and government, including health and emergency services. The ban was widely viewed as a warning to the rest of the world not to try and regulate the tech company.

On Tuesday, Facebook’s treasurer and the Australian communications minister announced that a deal had been reached that would result in news being restored. The agreement might mean that the government will let Facebook be exempt from the code, providing it can show that it has signed enough deals with media outlets to pay them for the content.

In other news…

Protesters gather for a rally to call for justice for Elijah McClain in Denver in November.
Protesters gather for a rally to call for justice for Elijah McClain in Denver in November. Photograph: Kevin Mohatt/Reuters
  • Police did not have a legal basis to stop or use a chokehold on Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old black man who died after being restrained by officers and paramedics in a Denver suburb in August 2019, according to an independent investigation.

  • The engine failure of a Boeing jet over Denver may have been caused by metal fatigue in the fan blades, according to the US National Transportation Safety Board. The engine caught fire shortly after takeoff, and rained down debris on Denver. The incident led Boeing to ground dozens of planes while investigations took place.

  • Jeep should stop using Cherokee as a car name, the chief of the Oklahoma-based tribe has said. Chuck Hoskin Jr said corporations and sports teams should stop the practice of using Native American names and iconography, saying: “It does not honor us by having our name plastered on the side of a car.”

Stat of the day: 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since it won its World Cup bid

An average of 12 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died each week in Qatar, since it won the right to host the World Cup 10 years ago, a Guardian investigation has found. In the last decade, Qatar has launched an unprecedented building programme, largely to prepare for the football tournament. According to experts, it is likely that these deaths occurred on the World Cup projects.

Don’t miss this: Amazon workers are unionising in a historic workers rights push

In Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, a storm is brewing. Workers there are pushing for a union, the first attempt to organize an entire Amazon warehouse in the US, and the biggest private-sector union drive in the south in years. Steven Greenhouse speaks to staff and experts about the working conditions for Amazon employees, and what the future holds.

Last thing: Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen launch a podcast

Bruce Springsteen with Barack Obama during their podcast of conversations recorded at the singer&#x002019;s home studio in New Jersey.
Bruce Springsteen with Barack Obama during their podcast of conversations recorded at the singer’s home studio in New Jersey. Photograph: Rob DeMartin/AP

In terms of US celebrity status, it does not get much more star-studded that this: Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen have teamed up to produce a podcast. Renegades: Born in the USA features the pair discussing their backgrounds, masculinity and “enduring love of America”, according to Spotify.

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