We’re closing down the blog now. Here’s a round-up of today’s main events:
- Trump deletes tweet of supporter shouting ‘white power’ after outrage. Deputy press secretary claims Trump had not heard the racist language of video he tweeted that was posted for nearly four hours
- US health secretary: ‘Window is closing’ to stop coronavirus as US cases pass 2.5m. Alex Azar points to recent spike in infections, particularly in the south and says people have to ‘act responsibly’ in hot zones
- Trump denies knowledge of ‘Russian bounties on US troops’. Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered cash to Taliban militants for successful attacks on coalition troops in Afghanistan
- Mississippi lawmakers clear path to remove Confederate emblem from state flag. Voting will begin to remove the current flag from state law and a commission would design a new one without the rebel symbol
Florida governor Ron DeSantis says younger people are driving up the Covid-19 numbers in his state. “You’re seeing it in those groups who are less at risk, but you’re seeing them test positive at much higher rates,” DeSantis said. “I think [ages] 25 to 34 has been pretty close to 20%.”
The number of coronavirus cases in Florida rose by 8,530 to 141,075 on Sunday, according to the state’s health department. Miami-Dade county reported more than 2,000 new cases for the first time.
The news comes one day after the state established a daily record for new cases with 9,585 reported on Saturday, part of an alarming weeklong trend of 43,784 confirmed cases, which accounts for more than 30% of Florida’s overall tally.
As of 9.25am on Sunday, there have been 141,075 positive cases of the coronavirus statewide. The case count includes 138,567 Florida residents and 2,508 non-Florida residents.
California governor orders closure of bars and nightclubs in LA
California governor Gavin Newsom has ordered the closure of bars and nightclubs in seven of the state’s counties, including Los Angeles. Newsom’s order came as Covid-19 cases in California rise.
“Covid-19 is still circulating in California, and in some parts of the state, growing stronger,” Newsom said in a written statement. “That’s why it is critical we take this step to limit the spread of the virus in the counties that are seeing the biggest increases.”
Los Angeles county reported 2,169 news coronavirus cases on Saturday alone. “If we can’t find it in us to follow these mandates, including wearing face coverings and distancing when around others, we jeopardize our ability to move forward on the recovery journey,” Barbara Ferrer, the Los Angeles county health director, said on a statement on Saturday. “Our collective responsibility is to take immediate action, as individuals and businesses, to reverse the trends we are experiencing.”
Arizona has set a new high for confirmed Covid-19 cases in a single day. Here’s more from the Associated Press:
Arizona health officials reported 3,858 more confirmed coronavirus cases on Sunday, the most reported in a single day in the state so far. It was also the seventh time in the last 10 days that daily cases surpassed the 3,000 mark.
The Arizona Department of Health Services also reported nine additional deaths. That pushes Arizona’s documented Covid-19 totals to nearly 74,000 cases and 1,588 known deaths.
Some Arizona hospitals have begun activating surge plans to increase their capacity to treat Covid-19 patients as confirmed cases rise and more people seek treatment. Arizona became a coronavirus hot spot following Governor Doug Ducey’s lifting of stay-home orders last month.
A reminder that the young and fit can still feel the effects of Covid-19. Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz was the first NBA player to test positive for the virus (after an ill-advised decision to touch several reporters’ microphones) in March.
His diagnosis ushered in the league’s decision to shut down. Gobert says he will be fit enough to play when the NBA resumes in the coming weeks, but told French publication L’Equipe that he still has trouble smelling, a common side-effect of the virus.
“Taste has returned, but [my] sense of smell is still not 100%,” he said. “I can smell smells, but not from far away. I spoke to specialists, who told me that it could take up to a year.”
The NBA will resume in a “bubble” at Disney World in Orlando, although there has been speculation whether the rise in Covid-19 cases in Florida could put the restart in jeopardy.
Let’s take a little break from criticism of Donald Trump’s response to Covid-19 and instead hear from someone who doesn’t think Mike Pence is doing a good job either. That would be Washington’s Democratic governor, Jay Inslee.
“When I heard the vice president talk about how things are just hunky-dory, it’s just maddening,” Inslee said on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. “The situation is critical in many places across the United States and all the happy thoughts and wishful thinking in the world is not going to wash that away.”
Inslee did also give his thoughts on the president, by the way. The governor said Covid-19 was far more important than the president defending statues of Confederate generals. “We need a president who will care more about living Americans and less about dead Confederates,” he said.
Inslee added that the president should use the influence he has over his most ardent supporters to help curb the spread of the virus. “If we can get everyone wearing a MAGA hat to wear a mask, we are going to contain this virus,” he said. “This is the way to open our economy, if we get people to mask up and reopen our economy, that’ll be a good day for everyone.”
Pence: ‘wearing a mask is just a good idea’
On Friday, vice president Mike Pence led a briefing by the coronavirus task force in which he did not once recommend that people wear face masks. It seemed that political considerations – Donald Trump has made statements pooh-poohing masks – prevented Pence from making the most basic of health recommendations.
Two short days later and Pence has (for the moment) changed his tune. The vice president is visiting Texas today to meet with local officials about the state’s growing outbreak. During his visit, Pence has made a rare public show of wearing a mask himself – and he has now recommended that others do the same.
The Texas Tribune reports:
Take it from Mike Pence: wear a mask in public.
COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) — It was a scene Jeannine Lee Lake never would have imagined when she first ran against Greg Pence, Vice President Mike Pence’s brother, for a rural Indiana congressional seat two years ago: an almost entirely white crowd of more than 100 people marching silently in the Pences’ hometown this month, offering prayers for Black people killed by police and an end to systemic racism.
Leading them was Lake, who is in rematch against Pence. She is the only Black woman running for federal office in Indiana this fall.
The Democrat, who lost badly in 2018 and again faces long odds in the deeply conservative district, has spent much of the past few weeks at events such as the one in Columbus on Juneteenth. In communities across a district that is 93% white, Lake has talked about seeing her children pulled over by police and “harassed for no reason.” She has spoken the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black people killed by police, telling crowds “we’re here to call for change.”
“In no way, shape or form is 2018 the same as the 2020 race in regard to the grassroots effort and the galvanization of the movement that is now Black Lives Matter,” said Lake, 50. “It’s just a total shift.”
The reenergized movement against racial inequality has amplified the voices of Black candidates, in some cases pushing the political debate over race into Republican-leaning areas. Democrats say they’ve seen a significant boost in fundraising and other engagement for candidates running on racial justice issues, and believe it could help the party flip some Republican-held districts in November.
Read further via the Associated Press.
In a week that saw the worst day on record for new cases, Trump shrugs as experts warn Americans not to follow his lead, Ed Pilkington reports:
A disaster is unfolding in Montgomery, Alabama, where Martin Luther King preached and where Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus. Hospitals are running short of drugs to treat Covid-19, intensive care units are close to capacity, and ventilators are running short.
Between 85% and 90% of the very sick and dying are African American.
Amid this gathering storm, the city council met to decide whether to require people to wear masks, a basic protection the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommends. Doctors lined up to plead their case.
“This is beyond an epidemic in this area,” said the pulmonologist Bill Saliski. “Our units are full of critically ill covid patients. We have to slow this down.”
His colleague, Nina Nelson-Garrett, described watching undertakers carrying out corpses, 30 minutes apart.
“Something as simple as a mask can save someone’s life,” she said.
Dr Kim McGlothan recounted how she was frequently stopped by white people asking, “Is the media sensationalizing this, is it really as bad as they are making out?”
McGlothan told the council: “People don’t believe the hype. Until you mandate masks, we won’t be able to stop this – we just won’t.”
Then a black resident stood up. Six of his relatives had died from Covid-19. His brother was on a ventilator. “This is not about masks,” he said. “The question on the table is, ‘Do black lives matter?’ I lost six of my family to Covid. How would it feel if it was your family?”
Read the full piece here:
Hello this is Tom McCarthy jumping into the blog and wondering whether everyone has seen the below photo, supposedly of a Trump supporter wearing a face mask as a sleeping mask, making the rounds today?
Is this staged? What do you think?
Bryan Armen Graham
US health secretary Alex Azar has warned that “the window is closing” on the country’s chance to take action to effectively curb the coronavirus, as the number of confirmed cases surpassed 2.5m.
The Health and Human Services secretary pointed to a recent spike in infections, particularly in the south and said people have “to act responsibly” by social distancing and wearing face masks especially “in these hot zones”.
For a third consecutive day on Saturday, the number of confirmed US cases rose by more than 40,000. In Arizona, cases have risen by 267% so far in June and jumped by a record 3,857 cases on Sunday, the eighth record-breaking increase this month. Overall, US deaths from Covid-19 have surpassed 125,000 with more than 2.5m confirmed cases, according to compiled by Johns Hopkins University, far more than any other country in the world.
The fresh surge in Covid-19 cases has been most pronounced in a handful of southern and western states that reopened earlier and more aggressively, with the support of the Trump administration, despite warnings by health officials to wait to see a steady decline in cases. Texas and Florida were among the states that reversed course on parts of their reopening plans last week as cases continue to increase.
Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press program on Sunday morning, Azar was asked by presenter Chuck Todd why the US was failing to tackle the Covid-19 crisis, especially when so many other countries seem to be succeeding.
Azar acknowledged the US was “seeing surging in cases” and that the majority of those are among people under the age of 35, which means a “large number of those” will be asymptomatic, presenting a different challenge for authorities trying to get a grip on outbreaks.
“This is a very serious situation,” Azar said, adding that “the window is closing” to stop virus spread. “We have to act, and people as individuals have to act responsibly. We need to social distance, we need to wear our face coverings.”
Democratic party chairman Tom Perez has put out a statement following Donald Trump’s since deleted retweet of a man shouting “white power”. The president called those appearing in the video “great people”.
“Once again, Donald Trump’s actions are simply indefensible,” said Perez in the statement. “As our country faces a reckoning since the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many others, we are seeking ways to address systemic racism and injustice. But Trump is tweeting a video promoting ‘white power.’
“This president tries to claim ignorance, but the consistency of his actions – on Charlottesville and most recently Lafayette Square – drown out his vacuous words. We need a president who will heal our nation’s wounds and unite the American people, not a demagogue who tries to divide us through fear and bigotry.”
White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere says the president had not heard the “white power” shout when he retweeted the video.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo says the White House administration is “in denial” about the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This is a continuation of the first wave, and it was a failed effort to stop the first wave in the country,” Cuomo said during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press. “If you listen to what the president says, what they said at the White House briefing, they’re saying what they said three months ago. They’re basically in denial about the problem. They don’t want to tell the American people the truth.”
Cuomo said the White House’s attitude meant states had created their own responses to the virus. “And they don’t want to have any federal response,” he added. “I knew what they were saying: ‘You’re on your own.’ And it’s not a good feeling, but it’s sort of liberating.”
New York, which was once the worst-affected region in the world by Covid-19, has seen a decline in deaths and cases over the last few weeks, and the state is gradually reopening. Five people died from the virus in New York on Saturday, whereas there were nearly 800 fatalities a day in the state at the peak. “We are on the exact opposite end,” Cuomo said. “We have less than 800 people in hospitals, [the] lowest number basically since we started.”
However, as cases rise across the US as a whole, Cuomo said he was concerned the state could be hit hard again and said New Yorkers should wear masks and practice social distancing.
“I’m now afraid of the spread coming from other states because we are one country and people travel,” Cuomo said. “I’m afraid the infection rate in the other states will come back to New York and raise that rate again.”
Nancy Pelosi suggests Russia has information on Donald Trump
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has suggested Russia may have compromising information on the president. Pelosi said she found the lack of response from the Donald Trump over reports in the New York Times that Russia had offered bounties for Taliban-linked militants to kill US soldiers “appalling”.
“I don’t know what the Russians have on the president politically, personally or whatever it is, but he wants to ignore [reports of wrongdoing],” Pelosi told ABC’s This Week. When she was asked if she was saying the Russians have dirt on Trump, Pelosi replied: “How else would you explain his refusal to ignore, again and again, the intelligence that puts right at the Russian doorstep the involvement into our elections, for example?”
The president said on Sunday no one had told him about the reports. “Nobody briefed or told me, [vice president Mike] Pence, or chief of staff Mark Meadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians,” Trump tweeted in part. “Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us…”
You can read more on the story here:
Some, including Donald Trump, have claimed the rise in Covid-19 cases across the US are due to increased testing. That’s not a view shared by Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control. During an appearance on Fox News on Sunday, Frieden said he could say with “100% certainty” that there has been a true rise in cases, because of a rise in the proportion of positive tests. He also said the recent cases were “just the tip of the iceberg”.
Frieden said he understood why people were growing frustrated by lockdown measures but “the virus is not tired of making us sick.” He added that he believed that a number of southern states had reopened too soon. “If you open when cases are still increasing, as many states did, it’s like leaning into a left hook,” Frieden said. “You’re going to get hit hard. And that’s what’s happening.”
Former national security adviser John Bolton who, it’s fair to say, is not a close friend of the president these days refused to be drawn on whether Donald Trump’s retweet of a supporter shouting “white power” was racist.
“It may be that you can draw a conclusion that he heard it, and it was racist, and he tweeted it to promote the message. It is a legitimate conclusion to draw. It is also entirely legitimate to say he just had no idea what else was in the video other than the Trump sign,” Bolton said during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union.
Trump recently tried to block the publication of a tell-all book by Bolton on the White House administration.
Mississippi’s state legislature is expected to take up a bill on Sunday to be proposed and passed to allow for the change of the state’s flag, which contains a Confederate battle emblem in the canton that’s been widely condemned as racist.
The state’s House and Senate passed a resolution by overwhelming margins on Saturday suspending the legislative deadlines so lawmakers can consider the bill when lawmakers convene today.
As the AP reports:
The flag’s supporters resisted efforts to change it for decades, but rapid developments in recent weeks have changed dynamics on this issue in the tradition-bound state.
As protests against racial injustice recently spread across the U.S., including Mississippi, leaders from business, religion, education and sports have spoken forcefully against the state flag. They have urged legislators to ditch the 126-year-old banner for one that better reflects the diversity of a state with a 38% Black population.
Legislators are expected to start voting Sunday to remove the current flag from state law. A commission would design a new flag that cannot include the Confederate symbol and that must have the words “In God We Trust.”
“There are economic issues. There are issues involving football or whatever,” Republican lieutenant governor Delbert Hosemann said Saturday. “But this vote came from the heart. That makes it so much more important.”
Mississippi remains the last state in the union whose flag contains the Confederate emblem. It was adopted in 1894, nearly three decades after rebel forces under Robert E Lee unconditionally surrendered to Ulysses S Grant at Appomattox Court House to end the American civil war.
Larry Eubanks, who sat outside the state’s Capitol building in Jackson on Saturday, is among those Mississippians who supports the current flag. saying he hopes lawmakers would allow a proposed flag change to be decided by the registered voters.
Earlier on Saturday, Republican governor Tate Reeves said he would sign legislation to change the flag if it reached his desk: “The argument over the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself and it’s time to end it. If they send me a bill this weekend, I will sign it.”