By Hamid Bayati

Departed States of America

April 21, 2020 - 11:33

The U.S. on Saturday closed its deadliest week so far in the spread of the coronavirus, recording 16,580 deaths since Sunday amid signs that the rise of the death toll was slowing and political tensions were heightening.

The U.S. on Saturday closed its deadliest week so far in the spread of the coronavirus, recording 16,580 deaths since Sunday amid signs that the rise of the death toll was slowing and political tensions were heightening.

The number of people who have died from the virus in the United States now stands at more than 40,000 as public debates over the lifting of restrictions spark partisan squabbling between the president and the leaders of a handful of states, U.S. News reported.

Democratic governors late Friday and early Saturday fired back at President Donald Trump's tweets and subsequent comments Friday afternoon that appeared to support protest movements aimed at ending social distancing protocols and reopening the economies of states whose governors the president has criticized frequently.

"LIBERATE MINNESOTA," Trump wrote in the first tweet, followed by another with, "LIBERATE MICHIGAN."

He later wrote, "LIBERATE VIRGINIA and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!"

During a press briefing Friday, Trump said he thought the restrictions in some states were "just too much," repeatedly citing Virginia and the Second Amendment, and indicated that he didn't think the gatherings would result in people spreading the virus.

"No, these are people expressing their views. I see the way they are and I see the way they're working and they seem to be very responsible people to me, but it's – you know, they're been treated a little bit rough," he said.

Democratic governors in the states that Trump specifically targeted dismissed the president's statements.

"I do not have time to involve myself in Twitter wars," Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said in a press conference on Friday. "I will continue to make sure I do everything I can to keep Virginians safe and to save lives."

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz told KTOE news radio in Eagle Lake, Minnesota, that he is "not going to read into what something is supposed to mean."

"That's why I called to ask what we're doing differently to get people back to work in as safe a manner as possible. The response will likely be longer than a two-word tweet, but I think there's a responsibility to tell us that."

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, discussed as a contender to become Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's running mate, did not comment publicly on Trump's tweets as of Saturday morning.

The protests so far appear to be largely composed of Trump supporters and a particularly vocal bloc of conservatives and libertarians. However, the message the president appears to endorse also contradicts federal guidance he approved on Thursday, saying these states and others must maintain public health precautions as the virus continues to spread.

And they come as states increasingly turn to one another for support, saying they aren't receiving the leadership they need from the federal government. The governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island earlier this week announced they would form a pact to begin planning for reopening businesses and schools. The governors of California, Oregon, and Washington said they would form a similar plan.

But some good news emerged. The workweek ended with 32,000 new cases as of Friday and nearly 3,800 deaths, a drop from the highest single-day total recorded Thursday, when 4,600 people died from the virus in the U.S., according to numbers compiled by statnews.com.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat whose state has been hardest hit by the virus, said Saturday that hospitalizations and intubations – a patient whose condition requires a ventilator, for whom only 20 percent recover – had decreased consistently over the prior three days.

"You could argue we are past the plateau and we're starting to descend," Cuomo said, adding caution: "Happy days are not here again. … We still have about 2,000 people yesterday who were new admissions to a hospital or new COVID diagnoses."

More than 500 people died in New York in the prior 24 hours.

Though Cuomo declined to comment on Trump's political statements, other state leaders who have previously clashed with the president fired back at his latest tweets. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called them "grossly irresponsible" and "dangerously bombastic."

"It inspires people to do dangerous things," Inslee told CNN late Friday. "And it is a dangerous thing today to go out and congregate. It is a dangerous thing to ignore that yesterday Donald Trump put out guidelines that we now need to follow."

Inslee said Trump's tweets contradicted instructions from the federal government on Thursday that some states, including the three Trump singled out, should not remove social distancing guidelines because too many people remain infected with the virus.

Illinois blows $17M on shoddy face masks from China

Meanwhile, Illinois, in its desperate search for masks to protect its medical workers and first responders, laid out $17 million for KN95 masks from China.

The state did so after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month these types of masks were an acceptable alternative to the United States approved N95 masks, New York Post reported.

They were wrong.

On Thursday, similar masks were recalled by multiple states — including Missouri, whose Department of Health and Senior Services director Sandy Karsten said the masks did not meet their standards.

The Illinois Department of Public Health sent out an alert saying that the KN95 masks might not meet performance standards and advised agencies to remove them, according to local WGN-TV.

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