Although Las Vegas’ 150,000 hotel rooms are essentially deserted, local officials last week set up a temporary homeless shelter in an outdoor parking lot. Images of 100-plus people sleeping in concrete spaces marked to maintain social distancing sparked national outrage, after Seattle, New Orleans, and the state of California opted to rent hotel rooms for homeless people threatened by coronavirus. More than 6,500 Las Vegas residents lack permanent housing, and a 500-person Catholic Charities shelter had to close temporarily last week after a guest tested positive for Covid-19. About 50 volunteers helped prepare the parking lot, laying 24,000 square feet of carpet to serve as sleeping mats before realizing it would be impossible to sanitize. “Our entire country has seen the fact that we can’t manage this situation,” said David Riggleman, communications director for the City of Las Vegas.
The Trump administration is ramping up construction of border fencing despite Arizona’s stay-at-home order, drawing protests this week from locals as workers pour into their towns. More than 100 organizations signed a letter urging the White House to halt the project, saying it risks spreading coronavirus to communities like Ajo, where just one small clinic provides medical care. The town has been deluged with workers, who have filled motels, rental houses, and RV parks. In February, Customs and Border Protection announced plans to replace more than 91 miles of border barriers in Arizona, on top of 197 miles of new fencing under construction nationwide. Ajo resident Maria Singleton, 57, counted 22 construction trucks passing her house one morning. “This administration’s priority is to get the wall done,” she said. “The rest of us might as well be damned.”
Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed bills that bar female trans student athletes from competing in women’s sports and prohibiting changes to the sex listed on a birth certificate. The bans are the first of 40 anti-trans proposals across the country this year to become law. The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act says disputes about gender may be resolved only by examining the student’s “reproductive anatomy,” “genetic makeup,” or testosterone levels. The birth certificate rule, which takes effect July 1, likely runs afoul of a 2018 federal court ruling based on the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. The U.S. Justice Department last week backed a federal lawsuit brought by families of three female high school runners in Connecticut seeking to ban transgender competitors in girls’ sports.
About 70 students from the University of Texas at Austin spent spring break at a beach resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, despite warnings against inessential travel, and 28 of them have since tested positive for Covid-19, health officials said this week. The students chartered a plane to Cabo, but some returned on commercial flights. Now dozens, all in their 20s, are under quarantine and being monitored. Americans following stay-at-home orders watched aghast last month as spring breakers ignored warnings and crowded beaches and bars. Spring breakers from around the country have come back to university towns testing positive. In Travis County, home of UT-Austin, almost half of coronavirus-related hospitalizations involve people ages 20 to 40. “Get over yourselves,” Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen told defiant partiers. “You’re affecting a lot of people. Grow up.”
Real estate tycoons such as President Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner got a provision in the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package that will let them avoid an estimated $170 billion in federal taxes over the next 10 years, The New York Times reported last week. Inserted by Senate Republicans, the change to the tax code was buried on page 203 of the 880-page bill. The tax law passed in 2017 limited investors’ ability to use depreciation on real estate to minimize taxes on profits from other investments. Wealthy developers like Trump and Kushner have used the technique to avoid paying taxes despite massive profits across their portfolios. The relief bill Trump signed last week lifted the 2017 restriction, letting taxpayers use paper losses to shelter an unlimited amount of income. An independent congressional analysis found that the rule, which applies to this year and two retroactive years, is the second-biggest tax giveaway in the $2 trillion legislation.
Three cruise ships pleaded for permission to dock in Florida this week, after South American ports refused to accept thousands of passengers and crew who may have been exposed to coronavirus. Carnival Corp.’s Zaandam set off from Buenos Aires on March 8 with 2,300 passengers and crew, including more than 300 U.S. citizens. More than 190 people on board have reported flu-like symptoms and four have died, at least two from Covid-19. About half of the people on board were transferred to another Carnival ship, the Rotterdam, but as the two ships headed to Fort Lauderdale, Gov. Ron DeSantis sought to deny them entry, saying, “We cannot afford to have people who are not even Floridians dumped into South Florida.” With Princess Cruises’ Coral Princess also approaching Florida with 2,000 passengers, President Trump expressed sympathy, saying travelers shouldn’t be left to fall ill on “ghost ships.” ■