Coronavirus cases are surging to new highs in communities across the United States as fall weather sets in, with over 54,000 new infections reported Tuesday and 20 states reaching record highs for the disease. Oklahoma City officials say they’ve run out of intensive care beds. Bismarck, North Dakota, reported it has just a single ICU bed remaining. And six major hospitals in Mississippi have no ICU capacity. Officially there have been nearly 216,000 deaths from COVID-19 this year, but a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association predicts up to 400,000 pandemic-related U.S. deaths in 2020. This comes as The Washington Post and The New York Times report that Trump administration officials say they’ve adopted a policy of deliberately letting the virus infect much of the U.S. population in order to attain “herd immunity.” Health experts warn the strategy might not even be possible and could lead to more than 2 million U.S. deaths. In Geneva, Switzerland, the head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said Monday that herd immunity should only be reached through vaccination — not natural infection.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it. Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic. It’s scientifically and ethically problematic.”
Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly has suspended clinical trials of its monoclonal antibody drug over an unspecified “potential safety concern.” President Trump touted a similar drug produced by Regeneron as a “cure” for COVID-19 after he received a dose while hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center earlier this month. Both Eli Lilly and Regeneron have applied for emergency use authorizations of their antibody therapies.
Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was back on Capitol Hill Tuesday for a second day of confirmation hearings. During 11 hours of questioning, Barrett repeatedly refused to say how she would rule on several key issues — from reproductive rights to healthcare to voting rights. She also declined to say whether she would recuse herself if the outcome of the 2020 election is decided by the Supreme Court. We’ll have the latest on Judge Barrett’s nomination after headlines.
An FBI agent testified Tuesday that members of a far-right, anti-government group charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer also planned to target Virginia’s Democratic Governor Ralph Northam. Members of the so-called Wolverine Watchmen were reportedly angered by Governor Northam’s lockdown measures aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. In Richmond, Virginia, Dr. Northam blamed President Trump’s rhetoric for inciting far-right violence.
Gov. Ralph Northam: “These threats are not coming and this rhetoric is not coming from another country; it’s coming from Washington. And that, I regret. And it needs to stop.”
As coronavirus lockdowns remained in effect last April, President Trump tweeted, ”LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!” Trump tweeted ”LIBERATE MICHIGAN” that same day.
In Washington state, more eyewitnesses have stepped forward to corroborate claims that police made no attempt to arrest anti-fascist activist Michael Reinoehl on September 3 before they killed him in a hail of gunfire. All but one of 22 eyewitnesses interviewed by The New York Times report police did not identify themselves or give Reinoehl any commands before opening fire. Five of the witnesses said officers began shooting the instant their unmarked vehicles converged on Reinoehl, who was reportedly shot dead as he chewed on candy, clutching a cellphone in one hand and a bag in the other. President Trump previously called the shooting “retribution” after Reinoehl allegedly killed a far-right Trump supporter in Portland. On Tuesday, Trump raised the case again during his campaign rally in Pennsylvania.
President Donald Trump: “Two days went by. Three days went by. I said, 'Why the hell haven't they arrested him?’ And they knew who he was. And we sent in the U.S. Marshals. And in 15 minutes it was all over. That was the end of it. That was the end of it.”
At Tuesday’s rally in Pennsylvania, President Trump also appealed to suburban white women voters, boasting that he had repealed fair housing regulations introduced by President Obama meant to expand low-income housing opportunities in the suburbs.
President Donald Trump: “So, can I ask you to do me a favor? Suburban women, will you please like me? Remember? Please. Please. I saved your damn neighborhood, OK?”
The Trump administration has been ramping up subsidies to farmers ahead of Election Day, as payments are projected to reach a record $46 billion this year. Farmers have been hit hard by Trump’s ongoing trade disputes with China and Europe, as well as the coronavirus pandemic. Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group said, “This is an authoritarian power grab used to buy political support from voters who are essential to his reelection.”
The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the Trump administration can order the Census Bureau to halt its 2020 count a month early, dealing a major blow to civil rights groups. Advocates say the decision will lead to a vast undercount of immigrants and communities of color, with huge implications for voting rights and the fair allocation of federal funds. In a lone dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, “The harms caused by rushing this year’s census count are irreparable. And respondents will suffer their lasting impact for at least the next 10 years.”
In Virginia, a cable that was allegedly cut by accident caused the state’s entire online voter registration system to crash for hours Tuesday, on the deadline to register to vote in Virginia before Election Day. Voting rights activists condemned state election officials for the malfunction, warning it likely left thousands of eligible voters unable to register. A similar error happened in 2016. There’s now a lawsuit that will be heard in court today to extend the deadline.
On Tuesday, early voting got underway in Texas with massive crowds waiting in line for hours. Similar scenes played out in Georgia Monday as early voting got underway there. Meanwhile, a federal court in Texas upheld a directive by Republican Governor Greg Abbott limiting ballot drop box sites to one per county — including Harris County, home to 4.7 million people, a disproportionate number of whom are Democratic voters. California’s Republican Party has admitted to deceiving voters by placing dozens of falsely labeled drop boxes for mail-in ballots in Los Angeles, Fresno and Orange counties. California’s secretary of state has sent cease-and-desist orders to Republican officials, warning anyone distributing phony mail-in ballot boxes could be subject to criminal prosecution.
In immigration news, over 100 asylum seekers from Cameroon were deported en masse Tuesday afternoon, despite congressional intervention and efforts from activists, who held an action at the Fort Worth Alliance Airport in Texas to try to stop the deportation flights. Among those deported were several leaders of a hunger strike at Pine Prairie Detention Center in Louisiana and two Cameroonian women who fear they were unknowingly subjected to forced sterilizations at Irwin Detention Center in Georgia. Immigration rights groups say ICE agents coerced the asylum seekers into signing their deportation orders after months of torture and abuse. The asylum seekers say they were held in solitary confinement after joining hunger strikes. Many of them fear they’ll be killed upon their arrival to Cameroon. This is one of the Cameroonian asylum seekers speaking from an ICE prison.
Cameroonian asylum seeker: “We are under ICE custody, which they keep on giving us torture. For several years, they’re keeping us, and they want to send us back to our country, which it is violent. … Too many of us, if we return back to our country, we are going to be homeless. … My mom was shot in front of me. Just imagine what is happening to our country.”
The Mexican government says it has identified at least two women who may have been subjected to invasive gynecological surgeries without their consent while imprisoned at Irwin Detention Center in Georgia. One of the women reportedly says she was operated on without receiving an explanation of the procedure or her medical diagnosis in Spanish.
A federal prosecutor has found no evidence of wrongdoing in an investigation into allegations that former Obama administration officials illegally “unmasked” the names of Americans whose communications were swept up in foreign surveillance. Attorney General William Barr ordered the investigation after President Trump and some Republican lawmakers accused the Obama administration of a political conspiracy. No report on the investigation has been made public.
In Belarus, government officials have threatened to kill anti-government protesters, saying police are allowed to shoot at dissenters with live ammunition. This comes as mass mobilizations continue to demand new elections, after longtime authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory in a poll that opponents say was rigged. Pensioners joined the protests Monday as demands mounted for Lukashenko’s resignation.
Protester: “It hurts me that the authorities are doing God knows what to our children. I want our children to have a say, to have rights. They must be able to protect themselves. I want us to have a new, free election and for political prisoners to be freed.”
This comes as the European Union on Monday agreed to impose sanctions personally targeting President Lukashenko.