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- More than a million Americans who had died received COVID-19 stimulus payments totaling $1.4 billion, a government watchdog said in a report to Congress released Thursday.
The finding is part of a sweeping review of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic by the Government Accountability Office, an independent nonpartisan congressional agency. The report paints a clearer picture of what critics called a muddled rollout by the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department of more than 160 million payments worth $269 billion.
- Eighteen members of a North Texas family tested positive for coronavirus after they had gathered for a surprise birthday party in late May.
One relative, who unknowingly had already been infected with the novel virus, attended the party and interacted with several family members.
The party’s host was the one who had initially contracted coronavirus, spreading it to each of the seven other family members who attended. Those eight people then spread the virus to 10 other relatives in the family, including young children and relatives in their 80s.
- Nearly 25 million Americans may have contracted the coronavirus, a figure ten times higher than the number of confirmed cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
In a briefing with reporters Thursday, CDC Director Robert Redfield said surveys of blood samples taken from around the country suggest that millions of Americans may have contracted the virus either without knowing it or with only minimal symptoms.
- Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the state will pause its efforts to reopen the economy as the number of confirmed coronavirus infections spikes and hospitals begin to fill. Abbott has been warning of a mounting catastrophe for days, as new cases rise precipitously, but said businesses that are already allowed to operate under the current reopening phase can remain open.
- Houston’s Texas Medical Center, considered the largest medical complex in the world, reached 100 percent ICU occupancy Thursday, as Texas continues to cope with a surge in coronavirus cases.
- Disney announced on Thursday that it is postponing its planned phased July 17 reopening of two of its Disneyland theme parks in California as local officials reconsider guidelines due to a massive spike in new coronavirus cases.
The move comes after thousands of Disneyland workers penned a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom saying they are “not yet convinced it is safe” to reopen the parks.
- A Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners public comment session went viral after residents denounced mandatory masking laws as “devil’s laws” that would “throw God’s wonderful breathing system out the door.”
The phrase “Parks & Rec” began trending on Twitter as users compared the footage to wacky town hall scenes from the NBC sitcom.
- Hospitalizations for the coronavirus in New York state fell below 1,000 for the first time since March 18 as the state continues to blunt the spread of the virus. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office is crediting residents’ strict adherence to social distancing and other health measures with helping to flatten the curve.
- Officials who have served under presidents of both parties signed on to an open letter warning that the coronavirus pandemic threatens the future of liberal democracy.
The letter states that some democratically elected governments are “fighting the pandemic by amassing emergency powers that restrict human rights and enhance state surveillance without regard to legal constraints.”
“Parliaments are being sidelined, journalists are being arrested and harassed, minorities are being scapegoated, and the most vulnerable sectors of the population face alarming new dangers as the economic lockdowns ravage the very fabric of societies everywhere,” states the open letter, from the Stockholm-based think tank IDEA.
The letter is signed by officials from across the globe, including former Clinton administration Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and H.R. McMaster, a past national security adviser under President Trump.
- The White House has indicated that President Trump will not be quarantining for the required 14 days when he visits New Jersey this weekend despite holding campaign rallies in Arizona and Oklahoma, states where coronavirus cases have been spiking.
- Guy Phillips, a Republican city council member in Scottsdale, AZ took the microphone while attending an anti-mask rally and said “I can’t breathe” twice — the words George Floyd said before his death in Minneapolis police custody. Phillips then tore his face covering off and declared the mask mandate “insanity.”
- The United States on Wednesday reported a record 36,880 new coronavirus cases more than two months after its previous record for daily infections, a signal that the country is struggling to contain the pandemic.
- The White House coronavirus task force will hold a press briefing on Friday, marking the first time the group has spoken on camera to the public in roughly two months.
- Rep. Maxine Waters took aim at President Trump, saying he is more concerned with protecting Confederate monuments than halting the spread of the coronavirus.
In a lengthy statement issued by the congresswoman’s press office, Waters excoriated the president, calling him “an incompetent and heartless man who is more focused on saving statues of slaveholders, Confederate generals, and racists, than protecting the health of living and breathing Americans.”
- A new study shared by the CDC found that pregnant women with coronavirus were more likely to visit emergency rooms and be placed on mechanical ventilators than nonpregnant women who contracted COVID-19.
- Rick Bright — a whistleblower who led the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and says he was ousted from the role for breaking with Trump officials on the handling of coronavirus — says he is still being retaliated against by top Trump officials even though he is in a new role, alleging they are actively trying to discredit him and prevent him from being successful.
- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has issued a new rule requiring public schools to share more coronavirus relief funds with private schools than federal law currently mandates. Opponents say the change “diverts valuable resources intended for low-income students to serve private school students, regardless of wealth.”
- A Government Accountability Office report reveals the CDC has shared incomplete and inconsistent data on the amount of coronavirus testing occurring nationwide, which has significantly hampered efforts to track infections and help states make informed decisions on reopening.
- Several staffers on President Trump’s reelection campaign have reportedly entered quarantine this week after interacting with colleagues who tested positive for the coronavirus after attending the president’s Tulsa, Oklahoma rally last weekend.
- Amsterdam announced on Thursday that it would ban vacation rentals including those on the home-sharing site Airbnb in three areas that make up the central old town.
- Microsoft founder Bill Gates said Thursday that the current coronavirus picture, both globally and in the US, is “more bleak” than he would have expected.
“It’s possible to ramp up testing for a new pathogen very, very fast,” he said. “In fact a number of countries did that extremely well in this case and the technology keeps getting better there. The US in particular hasn’t had the leadership messages or coordination that you would have expected.”
“The range of behaviors in the US right now, some people being very conservative in what they do, and some people ignoring the epidemic, is huge,” Gates said.
“Some people almost feel like it’s a political thing which is unfortunate,” he added, something he says he didn’t expect in America.
“The governor of North Dakota, a friend of mine, had to say ‘please don’t be mean to people wearing a mask’ which kind of blows the mind.”
- The White House coronavirus task force has been tracking COVID-19 rates around the country and monitoring spikes of new infections in Texas, Arizona and Missouri — even as President Trump declares that the danger posed by the ongoing pandemic is receding.
- The Trump administration on Thursday night argued in a legal brief filed to the Supreme Court that the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) should be invalidated.
The legal filing, while expected, makes official the Trump administration’s position in the Supreme Court against the health law months ahead of the election, at a time when Democrats are hammering President Trump over his position on health care.
Overturning the ACA would take away health coverage for about 20 million people, and the stakes are even higher given the effects of the current pandemic.
- The U.S. on Thursday broke its record for most new coronavirus cases reported in a day as the concerns over a second wave of the pandemic continue to mount.
As numbers spike across the South, 40,401 new cases were reported on Thursday.
- Missouri (553), Nevada (497), Alabama (1,142), and Texas (5,996) all posted record daily highs on Thursday.
- Former Vice President Joe Biden said that if he’s elected president in November that he would make it required for people in the country to wear masks, as the number of coronavirus cases continues to spike nationwide.
Sources: ABC News, Axios, Bloomberg, CBS News, CNN, Financial Times, Fox News,The Hill, NBC News, NPR, NY Times, Politico, Reuters, Salon, Slate, Vanity Fair, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post