WASHINGTON – Pressure was mounting on the Trump administration Wednesday to release people from immigration detention facilities where at least one detainee has tested positive for COVID-19 and advocates fear tight quarters and overall conditions could cause rapid spread of the virus.
The U.S. holds around 37,000 people in immigration detention. Detainees and advocates say many are vulnerable because of age and pre-existing medical conditions, and because they are often held in open rooms, beds 3 feet apart, and without adequate supplies of masks or other protections.
Immigrant advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union, filed lawsuits in California, Maryland, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, seeking court orders for the immediate release of people in immigration detention, especially those at risk because of their age or medical conditions.
Texas sued over abortion stance
Planned Parenthood joined other abortion providers Wednesday in suing Texas over moving to ban abortions during the coronavirus outbreak, accusing Republican leaders of exploiting the pandemic to deliver on politics.
The federal lawsuit filed in Austin, Texas, is among the most high-profile challenges to a government response to the coronavirus pandemic. The chief executive of Whole Woman's Health, an abortion provider with three clinics in Texas, said they canceled 150 appointments this week after Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday issued an order that halted nonessential surgeries in order to free up medical supplies to fight COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
National parks draw too many
A week ago, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt waived entry fees to national parks across the country to encourage people to use the outdoors as safe escapes during the coronavirus pandemic.
Cabin-sick visitors eager to escape the confines of their homes came in droves, partly lured by warmer weather and blooming flowers. The large numbers prompted the National Park Service to close access to some parks this week, including some of the largest and most visited such as Yellowstone and Grand Teton National parks in Wyoming, Yosemite National Park in California and Hawaii National Park.
Liberty says it's following rules
In light of the coronavirus pandemic, Virginia's governor asked Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. on Wednesday to reconsider his decision to welcome students back to the Lynchburg campus this week after their spring break.
Gov. Ralph Northam criticized Liberty, which is among the nation's largest and most prominent evangelical colleges, as sending “mixed messages” about COVID-19. In a statement that accused Northam of making “false accusations,” the university said it was in compliance with all of the governor's directives and applicable federal guidance.
US traveler gets home just in time
A 33-year-old American woman running out of her life-saving medication to treat her auto-immune disease finally boarded a flight home Wednesday after being stuck in Peru for about 10 days, but hundreds of other U.S. citizens remained stranded after the South American nation closed its borders due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I could not be happier,” Anna, who requested that her last name not be made public due to privacy concerns related to her medical condition, said after getting on the plane in Cusco.
Tony Awards postponed
With Broadway shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic, producers of the annual Tony Awards have postponed this year's celebration of American theater.
The show was originally scheduled for June 7 but the virus forced all 41 Broadway theaters to go dark and caused turmoil in the Tony schedule.