Health experts said India became complacent in the winter when new cases were running at about 10000 a day

It may be especially telling this week, when 12 jurors found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty in the murder of George Floyd, to reread the first report the Minneapolis Police media relations office gave of Floyd’s death.

“Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction,” their May 25, 2020, bulletin began. They said officers responded to, “a report of a forgery in progress. Officers were advised that the suspect was sitting on top of a blue car and appeared to be under the influence.”

Let’s make plain here that no testimony established that George Floyd was “under the influence” of anything that led to his death — he died because Chauvin crushed his knee into Floyd’s neck and back on the street for more than nine minutes.

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Dr. Bill Smock, a forensic surgeon who appeared as a prosecution witness, told the court that when you see the video of George Floyd, he’s not overdosing: “He’s breathing. He’s talking. He’s not snoring. He is saying, ‘Please, please get off of me. I want to breathe. I can’t breathe.’ ”

The police bulletin went on to say that the suspect, “physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.”

India’s coronavirus infections rose by 346,786 overnight, the health ministry said on Saturday, setting a new world record for the third consecutive day, as overwhelmed hospitals in the densely-populated country begged for oxygen supplies.

India is in the grip of a rampaging second wave of the pandemic, hitting a rate of one COVID-19 death in just under every four minutes in Delhi as the capital’s underfunded health system buckles.

The government has deployed military planes and trains to get oxygen from the far corners of the country to Delhi. Television showed an oxygen truck arriving at Delhi’s Batra hospital after it issued an SOS saying it had 90 minutes of oxygen left for its 260 patients.

“Please help us get oxygen, there will be a tragedy here,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a conference on Friday.

The crisis is also being felt in other parts of the country, with several hospitals issuing public notices that they don’t have medical oxygen. Local media reported fresh cases of people dying in the cities of Jaipur and Amritsar for lack of the gas.

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India surpassed the U.S. record of 297,430 single-day infections anywhere in the world on Thursday, making it the global epicenter of a pandemic that is waning in many other countries. The Indian government had itself declared it had beaten back the coronavirus in February when new cases fell to all time lows.

However, COVID-19 deaths across India rose by 2,624 over the past 24 hours, the highest daily rate for the country so far. Crematoriums across Delhi said they were full up and asked grieving families to wait.

The country of around 1.3 billion has now recorded a total of 16.6 million cases, including 189,544 deaths.

Health experts said India became complacent in the winter, when new cases were running at about 10,000 a day and seemed to be under control, lifting restrictions that allowed for the resumption of big gatherings.

Others said that it could also be a more dangerous variant of the virus coursing through the world’s second most populous country where people live in close proximity, often six to a room.

“While complacency in adhering to masks and physical distancing might have played a role, it seems increasingly likely that this second wave has been fueled by a much more virulent strain,” wrote Vikram Patel, Professor of Global Health at Harvard Medical School, in the Indian Express.

WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said reducing transmission in India would be a “very difficult task” but the government was working on limiting mixing between people, which he said was essential.

As experts testified, Floyd’s “medical distress” was caused by Chauvin, choking the life out of him, after he was already handcuffed.

The report says, “Officers called for an ambulance.” It does not say they administered CPR. But Smock pointed out that police officers have the training, and legal responsibility, to give medical care to anyone they take into custody, even before an ambulance arrives.

A line near the end of that official report now sounds especially cold: “No officers were injured in the incident.”

John Elder, the Minneapolis Police Department’s director of public information, told the Los Angeles Times last year he had simply relayed the information received from police on the scene.

“Had we known that this [situation] was what we saw on the video,” he told the newspaper, “that statement would have been completely different.”

Of course it was because a 17-year-old named Darnella Frazier was on that corner and recorded what happened on her cellphone that Floyd’s murder became known, a movement grew, and the man who killed him was held responsible. This week, you may wonder how many other killings dismissed in bureaucratic prose as, “Medical Incident During Police Interaction,” have just been filed away. 

liran vartik

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