Australian Health Authorities Urge Caution as Lockdowns Ease

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Australian state health authorities have urged residents to exercise caution with lockdown measures set to be relaxed across the nation on Monday.

The two most-populous states will lift several restrictions as they continue to grapple with isolated coronavirus outbreaks. New South Wales reported three new cases on Sunday, all of who were travelers in hotel quarantine; while Victoria extended its state of emergency to allow the chief health officer to keep issuing safety directives.

“Victorians will no doubt welcome the further easing of restrictions from tomorrow, but our coronavirus fight is far from over,” state Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said in a statement Sunday.

New South Wales will permit pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants to allow entry to as many as 50 customers from June 1 as authorities try to breathe life back into the economy. Ahead of the lifting of the measures, the state’s health officials said it “remains essential” for people to maintain social distancing and regularly wash their hands, according to a statement on Sunday.

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In Victoria, as many as 20 people will be able to gather inside a home or outside. The roll-back in measures comes as Mikakos in a press conference on Sunday warned of possible community transmission linked to a family cluster in a Melbourne suburb, and as a separate spate of cases have been connected with a hotel that’s been used for quarantines.

Queensland will also allow travel within the state starting midday Monday. The state’s borders will remain closed and will be reviewed at the end of June, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters Sunday.

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Coronavirus causes dramatic rise in Americans’ savings rate

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Personal finance expert Dave Ramsey discusses how people are saving money amid the coronavirus crisis.

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Americans saved a record amount of their income in April, as the coronavirus pandemic caused businesses across the country to shut down and individuals were encouraged to stay in their homes.

According to data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis on Friday, the personal savings rate as a percentage of personal income jumped to 33 percent in April, from 12.7 percent in March. At about one-third of personal income, 33 percent, is the highest savings rate since the BEA began recording and reporting the data in the late 1950s.

For comparison, the personal savings rate has largely remained in the single digits throughout the past three decades.

The statistic accounts for what people have left after they pay taxes and spend money.

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April also saw a 10.5 percent month-over-month increase in personal income, which the agency largely attributed to the fact that individuals were receiving their economic impact payments from the federal government.

During the same month, however, personal consumption expenditures declined by 13.6 percent – or $1.6 trillion – indicating people were less willing to part with their cash.

Specifically, there was a $943 billion decrease in spending on services, in addition to a $758 billion decline in spending on goods. The latter drop was heavily driven by less spending on food and beverages, according to the BEA.

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The uptick in savings, and decline in spending, came as millions of Americans lost their jobs. As of Thursday, about 40 million individuals had filed for initial jobless claims since mid-March. In April, the unemployment rate jumped to 14.7 percent – a level not seen since the Great Depression.

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Consumer spending patterns may change as state economies begin to reopen and consumers have greater access to the goods and services they are accustomed to. Spending, which accounts for a majority of GDP, is expected to play an important part of the U.S. economic recovery.

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Coronavirus, police shut down US Marine’s business in North Carolina

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Fox Business Briefs: 2.1 million people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week; American Airlines is cutting 30 percent of its administrative staff and management, about 5,000 employees.

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One U.S. Marine veteran has been making a stand for small business owners in the state of North Carolina for nearly a month now as local authorities try to figure out what the appropriate procedures are for the coronavirus.

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Nicholas Koumalatsos, the owner of Snap Fitness training facility in Holly Ridge made a decision to reopen his business on May 1 under CDC-recommended guidelines despite executive orders from Gov. Roy Cooper that extended the state’s lockdown to May 8, he explained in a 21-minute YouTube video – which has garnered well over 722,500 views as of Friday. These orders resulted in what Koumalatsos alleges to be harassment from local law enforcement.

The 12-year Special Operations Marine Corps veteran described the orders to be unconstitutional in his eyes and said that he had watched three businesses shut down in one month over the restrictions. By May 7, Koumalatsos said Holly Ridge police officers entered his training facility without a warrant and cited him for violating the orders with an attached class two misdemeanor.

FOX Business reached out to the Holly Ridge Police Department about the matter but a spokesperson said the organization would not offer a statement at this time. Nor did FOX Business hear back from Koumalatsos after multiple attempts to make contact.

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“There has been a lot of attention on the Holly Ridge Police Department warning and shutting down a local 24-hour gym, Snap Fitness. The police department was enforcing Governor Cooper's Executive order after receiving advice from the Onslow County District Attorney, Ernie Lee,” a press release issued on behalf of Holly Ridge said, which was issued on May 20 –a day after Koumalatsos YouTube video was posted. “The Executive Order states that gyms are not to be open during Phase 1. The officers are employed by the Town of Holly Ridge, and routinely reach out to the DA for guidance. Police officers are officers of the state and the DA represents the state at the local level.”

“They gave me a class two misdemeanor… I received a class two misdemeanor and we closed the gym and went on about our way,” Koumalatsos said in his video. “A couple of hours later, I was – I came home trying to cool off. Wrap my head around everything that’s been happening and the chief of police shows up. While I’m here at my home speaking to the chief of police of this town, the captain goes back to the gym and looks for me.”

To illustrate his point, Koumalatsos inserted a brief clip of Police Captain Ewan Richards re-visiting his business.

Ultimately, Police Chief Keith Whatley voided the citation.

“The way it was supposed to go down was each business gets three warnings and then a citation, and so he took the citation back,” Koumalatsos explained in his video.

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Snap Fitness reopened on May 8 under the governor’s phase one plan, which opened up commercial activity for more businesses and 50 percent capacity in retail spaces, though it does not list gyms specifically. Koumalatsos said he received a call from the police chief the next day for allegedly violating orders and was given a formal first warning.

By May 18, Koumalatsos received a visit from Captain Richards – who recently began serving as the department’s acting chief after the former’s alleged “temporary relieve” – informed Koumalatsos that he was in violation of the governor’s orders by having his training facility open.

Koumalatsos continues to describe Richards’s subsequent return at 3 p.m. that day along with security camera footage that shows the captain-turned-acting-chief entered Snap Fitness with a key card. The veteran goes as far as to say that the entry was done without a warrant and that he considers it illegal trespassing.

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The Town of Holly Ridge refuted Koumalatsos accusation of its officers using an old personal key card to gain access to the facility.

“This accusation is not true. Snap Fitness had previously given the Holly Ridge Police a key card. Since the Police Department had been given a key by the gym and was using it for police purposes, the DA states this is not trespassing. It should be noted that neither the owner of the gym or any patron received a citation,” the Holly Ridge’s press release stated. “The Town Council has and will continue to support the Holly Ridge Police Department in their discretion in following the advice of the district attorney.”

Inside and outside the facility, Koumalatsos said officers were attempting to photograph the faces and license plates of gym-goers for ticketing purposes. He added brief video clips of his interactions with Richards, but there is no recorded evidence of the said actions in these provided clips.

“That’s where I started to have the issue,” Koumalatsos said. “If you want to harass me, if you want to come at me, I’ve been in a fight, I know how to protect myself. I can take a beating. I can take all of it, you can ruin my life. I will rebuilt it again. What I cannot allow is for a law enforcement officer who’s also a marine have you – that swore an oath to protect its people, to protect the constitution, harass citizens of my town.”

Snap Fitness has been closed since the incident and Koumalatsos shared he is unsure of when his company will be allowed to reopen. It is not immediately clear if the training facility can reopen under phase two, which currently doesn’t have a start date at this time.

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Though, the Town Council of Holly Ridge adopted a resolution on May 20 that has requested the governor’s office to allow business owners the ability to decide their own reopening under CDC guidelines.

Koumalatsos explained in his video that he feels it is unfair that big-box retailers can be open during the pandemic while small businesses have been asked to remain closed, and he equated current order to the criminalization of business owners.

“Currently ABC Stores, Tobacco Shops, and many other big businesses are allowed to operate under the essential clause however, small businesses are deemed non-essential,” he echoed in the written description that accompanies his YouTube video and all the other social media platforms where he has shared the vlog. “This is a clear picture of favoritism to businesses that have high sales tax rate for the state of North Carolina.”

This is a developing story.

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Fox’s Lou Dobbs Lavishes Praise On Donald Trump As U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Pass 100,000

Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, one of Donald Trump’s loudest cheerleaders, drew scorn on Wednesday for lavishing praise on the president as the nationwide death toll from the coronavirus passed 100,000.

“He is arguably the greatest president in our history,” claimed Dobbs, whose sycophantic statement earned a thank you tweet from Trump himself:

Dobbs has previously claimed Trump is setting a standard for presidents “that most mortals won’t be able to meet,” is “unbeatable at the polls” and has energized the White House in ways that have never been seen before.

The “Lou Dobbs Tonight” host’s boasts about Trump have in the past been widely mocked and ridiculed, with many critics likening them to state television propaganda in North Korea.

This time, however, Dobb’s praise of Trump as the bleak pandemic milestone was reached was greeted with fierce criticism, given the Trump White House’s fumbled, slow and sloppy response to the public health crisis:

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Time’s Up Sets Guidelines To Reopen Workplaces During COVID-19 Crisis, Says Women Face Biggest Economic Impact From Pandemic

As the nation continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and businesses begin to reopen, Time’s Up Foundation has released the Time’s Up Guide to Equity and Inclusion During Crisis which offers urgent and practical practices in all sectors to help employers care for their employees, equalize the workplace while leading with purpose.

With the help of experts, researchers and leaders from over 20 companies with over 700,000 people in high-impact industries, Time’s Up created the guide from key data, insights, and recommendations for prioritizing diversity and inclusion. The guide looks to offer steps that will help build resilient workplaces in the future.

“Now, in this moment of crisis, we as employers have a responsibility to rebuild our economy and society to be more inclusive and equitable — not just for women, but for all of us,” said Tina Tchen, president and CEO of Time’s Up Foundation. “Leaders must recognize that COVID-19 impacts each of their employees differently — and keep diversity and inclusion integral to their economic recovery strategy. The companies that get the commitment to their people right— starting with their most vulnerable people — are going to be the ones that survive in the long run, emerging stronger from this moment than ever before.”

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Time’s Up points out that women are “bearing the brunt” when it comes to the economic impact of COVID-19, especially low-paid women and women of color. The foundation says that out  of the 20.5 million people who lost their jobs in April, more than half were women and women of color are overrepresented in industries that have been hardest hit — even as one in three jobs held by women has been deemed essential.

Even before the pandemic, leaders were starting to come to the realization of inclusive and equitable and how it affects the bottom line. The guide looks to help businesses stay invested in building a diverse and inclusive work environment.

“What’s truly unique about this guide is that it is informed by a cross-section of diversity and inclusion professionals who came together – virtually – to connect, be heard, and develop resources that directly address the issues they have been seeing in the field – all in real-time,” said Christena Pyle, vice president and head of TIME’S UP’s efforts to transform the advertising industry. “At this critical time for our workforce and our country, we are excited to share this resource and build upon it in the weeks and months to come.”

Highlights from the guide inlcude paying attention to the impact of laying off and furloughing people of color and women as well as making sure that social distancing guidelines do not unintentionally roll back work culture or exclude women, people of color, LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities, older workers, and other vulnerable employees from career advancement. Read the complete guide here.

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