The Past 24 Hours or So

10/16

Read Time: 10 Minutes

Coronavirus/COVID-19

  • The U.S. reported 63,242 new cases with a test positivity rate of 6.286% and 953 additional deaths. 15,270 patients are receiving critical care.
  • Surging coronavirus cases in many areas of the country may make it unwise to hold large family gatherings at Thanksgiving this year, particularly if elderly relatives or out-of-state travel are involved.
  • The antiviral drug Remdesivir – one of a number of medications given to President Trump when he was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month – had no substantial impact on the survival of coronavirus patients or the length of their hospital stays, according to a World Health Organization clinical trial.
  • Dozens of scientists and public health organizations blasted a “herd immunity” strategy being endorsed by top officials at the White House — which calls for quickly reaching herd immunity by letting COVID-19 spread uncontrolled among the young and healthy population while protecting the vulnerable — saying it “would haphazardly” sacrifice lives and calling it “a political statement.”

“Instead of selling false hope that will predictably backfire, we must focus on how to manage this pandemic in a safe, responsible, and equitable way,” 14 public health groups wrote in an open letter.

  • The coronavirus pandemic may have caused tens of thousands of more deaths in the spring and summer than previously thought, a new study says.

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond found nearly 75,000 more people may have died from the pandemic than what was recorded in March to July, according to the report published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA. 

By examining death certificates, the study found more than 150,000 deaths were officially attributed to COVID-19 during that period. But researchers determined that nearly 75,000 additional deaths were indirectly caused by the pandemic, bringing the total number of deaths for those four months to more than 225,000. 

  • President Trump spoke dismissively about Dr. Anthony Fauci during a campaign rally, suggesting he had offered inconsistent advice about the novel coronavirus and claiming the nation’s top infectious disease expert is a Democrat.
  • President Trump complained that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has thus far failed to strike a deal on coronavirus relief legislation amid his ongoing negotiations with House Democrats.

In an interview on Fox Business, Trump said he had authorized Mnuchin to offer more than $1.8 trillion in federal spending to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to help shore up the pandemic-battered U.S. economy.

“I’ve told him,” Trump said. “So far, he hasn’t come home with the bacon.”

  • President Trump kept up his attacks against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) on Thursday morning by nonsensically accusing her of wanting to be a “dictator” a week after the FBI thwarted an alleged militia plot to kidnap her.

“Michigan, she has to open up. She wants to be a dictator in Michigan,” Trump said. “The people can’t stand her. And they want to get back and want to get back to work and so Michigan we won.”

Trump said that states such as Pennsylvania and North Carolina have to “open up,” and boasted that they will the day after the November election.

“They got to open them up. They will open them up on November 4th. They’re only doing it for politics,” Trump said

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday broke with President Trump and shot down the prospect of a coronavirus deal totaling between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion — the goalposts of the current talks between Democrats and the White House — as he prepares to force a vote on a $500 billion bill.
  • Orthodox Jewish leaders say they have seen a growing faction of young men in the community who are tired of coronavirus guidelines and resentful of the secular authorities.
  • Chris Christie, who was recently hospitalized with a coronavirus infection, told The New York Times on Thursday that he had believed he was in a “safe zone” at the White House and that he was “wrong” to not wear a mask.
  • YouTube will ban content containing misinformation about coronavirus vaccines. The video platform is already removing content with misinformation about the existence and the transmission of the coronavirus, as well as content promoting medically unsubstantiated methods of treatment.
  • The NFL’s Atlanta Falcons shut down their practice facility after positive COVID-19 test. 
  • The AAC announced that the football game between No. 8-ranked Cincinnati and Tulsa has been postponed due to positive COVID-19 cases at Cincinnati. 
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that there continues to be “very, very, very low positivity levels” of COVID-19 in schools.
  • Pennsylvania added nearly 1,600 Covid-19 cases, marking the 10th consecutive day with more than 1,000 new cases.
  • Philadelphia public schools will begin phasing back in-person learning starting Nov. 30.
  • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) reported a record number of new coronavirus cases for a second day in a row.
  • Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed an executive order today, extending current Covid-19 restrictions through Oct. 31.
  • Missouri reported 1,413 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 on Tuesday — the highest daily count since the pandemic began.
  • New Mexico is reporting the highest infection levels the state has seen since the pandemic began, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) said in a news conference on Thursday.

The positivity rate is 8.1%, and hospitalizations are up 74%.

“These are the highest levels we’ve been at, and in a very bad way,” Lujan Grisham said. The state had been doing well before this, she said — “and now, we’re in those columns where we’re leading the country, if not in the number one position, nearing it for uncontrollable spread.”

“This is the most serious emergency that New Mexico has ever faced,” she added.

  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the border will remain closed until the U.S. can get a handle on the coronavirus as cases rise again. The Prime Minister is also urging Canadians to think about the health risks if they choose to travel abroad.
  • Paris and other French cities will be subject to a nighttime curfew starting Saturday to try to slow the spread of coronavirus, French President Emmanuel Macron announced.
  • Italy on Wednesday recorded its highest daily increase in coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic. The country saw 7,332 new cases exceeding the previous daily high set during the first wave of the pandemic on March 21, of at least 6,557 cases. 

Presidential Campaign

  • U.S. intelligence analysts suspected at least as far back as last month that a mixture of hacked and forged emails from the Ukrainian company Burisma Holdings might be dumped online as an “October surprise,” The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Russian military-intelligence hackers successfully breached Burisma’s servers in January, The Times reported earlier this year.

Wednesday’s report said analysts contacted people with knowledge of the hack because they were concerned “the Burisma material would be leaked alongside forged materials in an attempt to hurt” the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden.

Earlier Wednesday, the New York Post published an article purporting to feature a “smoking-gun email” between a Burisma executive and Biden’s son Hunter.

As Business Insider reported, the authenticity of the Post article is highly questionable, and its sourcing raises numerous red flags.

  • Trump retweeted white nationalist Lauren Southern and Tarl Warwick, a YouTuber with far-right connections.
  • A federal judge has ruled that North Carolina absentee ballots must include a witness signature, delivering a win to Republican groups in the state that have pushed for tighter regulations around absentee voting.
  • A Pennsylvania county has to resend nearly 29,000 ballots to voters after a printing error led to voters receiving incorrect ballots.
  • Twitter had briefly locked Trump’s reelection campaign account. A Twitter spokesperson explained: “Accounts that Tweet the materials or links to the materials referenced here may be required to delete those Tweets based on our policies on hacked materials and private and personal information.”
  • White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s Twitter account was temporarily locked after she shared a New York Post story on Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, that has drawn questions about its sourcing and accuracy. She said Twitter “essentially” had her at “gunpoint” with the move.
  • President Trump tore into NBC hours before appearing on the network for a town hall forum, preemptively complaining that he would be treated unfairly: “And so they asked me if I’d do it, and I figured what the hell, we’ve got a free hour on television.”

“So you know, I’m being set up tonight, right. I’m doing this town hall with Con-cast,” Trump said, mocking the name of NBC’s parent company. “So I’m doing it and it’s NBC. The worst.”

Trump mocked network anchor Lester Holt and political director Chuck Todd, while lamenting that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s town hall on the network earlier this month was “meant for children.”

  • More than 100 Hollywood actors, directors, producers and showrunners sent an open letter opposing NBC’s decision to air a town hall with President Trump at the same time as one being held with Joe Biden. 

“President Trump refused to participate in the virtual debate scheduled for Thursday night by the Presidential Debate Commission. By agreeing to air his town hall as counter-programming opposite Vice President Biden’s town hall on ABC, you are enabling the President’s bad behavior while undercutting the Presidential Debate Commission and doing a disservice to the American public.”

  • Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam Adelson gave $75 million to Preserve America, a new anti-Biden super PAC that suddenly became one of the biggest 2020 spenders last month.

In total, Preserve America raised $83.76 million between its creation on Aug. 31 and the end of September. Other major donors include Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, who gave $5 million, investment banker Warren Stephens, who gave $2 million, and businesswoman Diane Hendricks, who gave $1 million.

The group will report spending $77 million in September, with almost all of it — just under $76 million — on independent-expenditure ads attacking Biden. In just over a month of activity, Preserve America has become one of the largest outside spenders in politics

  • Former President Obama will hit the campaign trail for Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the closing two weeks of the presidential race, when he is expected to visit key battleground states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — states the former running mates carried in 2008 and 2012.
  • Senior White House adviser Hope Hicks joined President Trump on his two-day trip to North Carolina, Florida and North Carolina, flying on Air Force One just two weeks after testing positive for COVID-19. She was not wearing a mask.
  • Kamala Harris is canceling her campaign travel schedule through Sunday after two campaign staffers, including her communications director Liz Allen, tested positive for COVID-19.

Trump Administration

  • The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to 898,000 new claims. The number of people who are continuing to receive unemployment benefits dropped 1.2 million to 10 million. The decline signals that many of the unemployed are being recalled to their old jobs; but, it also reflects the fact that potentially even more people have used up their regular state benefits — which usually expire after six months — and have transitioned to extended benefit programs that last an additional three months.

Thursday’s report from the Labor Department shows that the job market remains fragile, and it coincides with other recent data that have signaled a slowdown in hiring. The economy is still roughly 10.7 million jobs short of recovering all the 22 million jobs that were lost when the pandemic struck in early spring.

  • Watchdog organizations are now calling for the Agriculture Department’s inspector general to investigate whether Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has run afoul of the ethics agreement he signed as a nominee for the job early in the Trump administration.

Perdue pledged in 2017 to separate himself from his multimillion dollar business holdings that could pose conflicts of interest in his public duties. But last year, he disclosed he had become trustee of a newly formed fund that includes many of the same assets as his original family trust.

Racial & Social Issues

  • YouTube on Thursday became the latest social media giant to take steps to stop QAnon, the sprawling pro-Trump conspiracy theory community whose online fantasies about a cabal of satanic pedophiles running the world have spilled over into offline violence.

The company is updating its hate speech and harassment policies to prohibit “content that targets an individual or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify real-world violence.” The new policy will prohibit content promoting QAnon, as well as related conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate, which falsely claims that top Democrats and Hollywood elites are running an underground sex-trafficking ring from the basement of a Washington pizza restaurant.

  • Motel 6, Home Depot and Keurig Dr Pepper have cut ties with the Richards Group, an advertising agency in Dallas, after a report that its founder had made racist remarks in a meeting last week.

During a Zoom meeting of more than three dozen Richards Group employees on Thursday, a creative team working on the Motel 6 account presented an idea for an ad to Stan Richards, who founded the Richards Group in 1976. Mr. Richards responded to the idea by saying, “It’s too Black,” according to a person at the meeting, who said the ad would have featured Black, white and Hispanic guests. Mr. Richards, who is white, added that the ad might offend or alienate Motel 6’s “white supremacist constituents,” the person said.

  • Texas football players, many of whom have raised concerns over using “The Eyes of Texas” as the school song, have been told by the athletic director that they are expected to be “standing together as a unified group” for the song that has roots in blackface minstrel shows.

Sources:  ABC News, Associated Press, The Atlantic, Axios, Bloomberg, CBS News, CNN, Chicago Tribune, Financial Times, Forbes,  Fox News,The Hill, Independent, MSNBC, NBC News, NJ.com, NPR, NY Times, Politico, Reuters, Salon, Slate, Vanity Fair, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post

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