The United States is approaching 8 million confirmed coronavirus infections, surpassing 64,000 new cases Thursday for the first time since July. More than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths were reported over the last 24 hours, with every region of the U.S. reporting increased hospitalizations.
Wisconsin set another statewide record for infections, with more than 3,700 new coronavirus cases reported Thursday. Wisconsin has one of the world’s highest test positivity rates — now over 20%. Despite that, President Trump is planning to hold a packed campaign rally in Janesville, Wisconsin, on Saturday.
This comes as The Wall Street Journal reports that throughout the pandemic, White House officials have made line-by-line edits to official health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, altering language written by scientists on social distancing and rolling back CDC limits on in-person gatherings like church choirs.
The World Health Organization warned Thursday that the antiviral drug remdesivir fails to prevent deaths among COVID-19 patients. The WHO’s conclusion is based on a study of more than 11,000 patients. It follows smaller, less rigorous studies that found the drug can cut the number of days COVID-19 patients are hospitalized.
Remdesivir has been routinely administered to COVID-19 patients in the United States since May, when the FDA granted the drug emergency use authorization. It was one of several drugs administered to President Trump as he battled a COVID-19 infection earlier this month.
The WHO is warning that even in a best-case scenario, younger, healthier people may have to wait for over a year before they’ll be able to receive a vaccine against COVID-19. This is Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the WHO.
Dr. Soumya Swaminathan: “I think for an average person, a healthy young person might have to wait ’til 2022 to get a vaccine.”
Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett ended Thursday with the right-wing judge’s confirmation looking all but assured, after four rushed days of questioning in which Barrett refused to state her position on abortion rights, gay marriage, the Affordable Care Act, voting rights, climate change, family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border, and even if President Trump could delay the election. The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Barrett’s nomination on October 22. The full Senate could vote on whether or not to confirm Barrett as early as October 26 — just over a week before Election Day. We’ll have more on the story after headlines.
In North Carolina, voters queued in lines for up to four hours Thursday as early voting got underway. With less than three weeks to go before Election Day, a record 17 million people have already cast ballots — some 15% of the U.S. electorate, many of them in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Florida and Texas.
On Thursday night, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden appeared on ABC for a “town hall” event scheduled by the campaign after President Trump refused to hold a second debate with Biden remotely after Trump tested positive for COVID-19. During the 90-minute event, Biden blasted Trump over his handling of the pandemic and urged people to wear masks and follow other public health measures. Biden also defended elements of his 1994 crime bill, which led to mass incarceration in the U.S., and he said local police departments should be reformed and better funded — not defunded or dismantled.
Joe Biden: “We shouldn’t be defunding cops. We should be mandating the things that we should be doing within police departments and make sure there’s total transparency.”
As Joe Biden spoke, President Trump appeared at a rival town hall event in Miami, Florida, hosted by NBC. The network’s decision to give Trump a simultaneous platform drew protests from NBC News anchors and journalists. Columbia Journalism Review editor Kyle Pope called it a “craven ratings stunt.”
During the one-hour broadcast, Trump falsely claimed that 85% of people wearing masks catch the coronavirus, said he was unaware of whether he took a coronavirus test ahead of his debate with Joe Biden in late September, and did not deny that he’s more than $400 million in debt — just wouldn’t say to whom. Pressed by NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie, Trump refused to disavow the far-right, anti-Semitic QAnon conspiracy theory.
Savannah Guthrie: “Let me ask you about QAnon. It is this theory that Democrats are a satanic pedophile ring and that you are the savior of that. Now, can you just, once and for all, state that that is completely not true” —
President Donald Trump: “So, I know you — yeah.”
Savannah Guthrie: — “and disavow QAnon in its entirety?”
President Donald Trump: “I know nothing about QAnon.”
Savannah Guthrie: “I just told you.”
President Donald Trump: “I know very little — you told me, but what you tell me doesn’t necessarily make it fact. I hate to say that. I know nothing about it. I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard. But I know nothing about it.”
Trump’s own FBI Director Christopher Wray has identified QAnon as a domestic terrorism threat.
Ahead of Thursday’s dueling town hall events, President Trump rallied some 2,000 supporters in Greenville, North Carolina, where people packed shoulder to shoulder and few wore masks. In a shocking moment, Trump appeared to admit that he ordered U.S. Marshals to carry out the extrajudicial killing of anti-fascist activist Michael Reinoehl in Washington state on September 3.
President Donald Trump: “We sent in the U.S. Marshals. Took 15 minutes. It was over. Fifteen minutes, it was over. We got him. They knew who he was. They didn’t want to arrest him. And 15 minutes, that ended.”
Last month Trump bragged about Reinoehl’s killing in an interview with Fox News, saying, “There has to be retribution.” Reinoehl was believed to have killed a far-right protester.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is asking Americans to wear masks and to practice social distancing, after he revealed on Thursday that he spent a week in an intensive care unit while hospitalized with COVID-19. Christie is one of dozens of people — including President Trump — who became infected after a White House celebration for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee in late September.
In a statement, Christie wrote, “I was wrong not to wear a mask at the Amy Coney Barrett announcement and I was wrong not to wear a mask at my multiple debate prep sessions with the president and the rest of the team. I hope that my experience shows my fellow citizens that you should follow C.D.C. guidelines in public no matter where you are and wear a mask to protect yourself and others.”
U.S. workers filed nearly 900,000 initial unemployment claims last week amid fresh signs the U.S. economy is suffering lasting damage due to the pandemic. About 65 million U.S. workers have applied for some form of jobless assistance since March. This comes as a pair of new studies shows 8 million U.S. residents have been forced into poverty since Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell let the CARES Act coronavirus relief bill expire in July. McConnell has refused to hold a Senate vote on the follow-up $3 trillion HEROES Act relief bill passed by House Democrats in May.
In Kansas City, housing advocates protesting evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic chained themselves to the front doors of the Jackson County Courthouse in an attempt to shut down the court all day and block eviction hearings. Activists with the group KC Tenants have referred to evictions during the pandemic as “acts of violence.”
In Chicago, ex-Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson is being accused of repeatedly raping and abusing his former driver and fellow police officer. In a lawsuit filed late Wednesday, officer Cynthia Donald says Johnson committed “shockingly violent” acts of sexual assault against her for over three years and later destroyed the evidence on his cellphone when the city’s inspector general launched an investigation into Johnson’s conduct. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired Johnson last year following mounting accusations of misconduct and after he was found asleep at the wheel after a night of heavy drinking.
This comes as the Chicago Police Department says it will only accept five of the 155 proposed changes to its use-of-force policy suggested by a group of community leaders. The 20-member group was appointed after the May police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.
In Los Angeles, 22-year-old basketball fan William Gonzalez lost vision in his right eye early Monday after he was shot in the face by a police projectile, causing his eye socket to shatter and eyeball to explode. The incident came as the LAPD declared a celebration of the Lakers’ NBA championship an “unlawful gathering” and moved in on revelers. Other people were also badly injured by police, including a man who lost eight teeth.
The University of Miami used a network of surveillance cameras and facial recognition software to track down students involved in a protest last month against the university’s decision to resume in-person classes during the pandemic. That’s according to the Miami New Times, which reports that after being identified in surveillance footage, the students received emails ordering them to report to university administrators for questioning.
Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse tore into President Trump on Wednesday over his support of human rights abuses and racists, accusing Trump of personally profiting from the presidency. Senator Sasse’s remarks can be heard in a recording of a phone call with constituents published by the Washington Examiner.
Sen. Ben Sasse: “The way he kisses dictators’ butts. I mean, the way he ignores that the Uyghurs are in literal concentration camps in Xinjiang right now. He hasn’t lifted a finger on behalf of the Hong Kongers. … The United States now regularly sells out our allies under his leadership. The way he treats women and spends like a drunken sailor. The ways that I criticized President Obama for that kind of spending, I’ve criticized President Trump for, as well. He mocks evangelicals behind closed doors. His family has treated the presidency like a business opportunity. He’s flirted with white supremacists.”
Those comments came as The Daily Beast reported right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch is predicting Joe Biden will defeat Donald Trump in a landslide.
Yemen Houthi rebels have begun exchanging more than 1,000 prisoners with Yemen’s Saudi-backed government in the first large-scale prisoner swap since civil war erupted in 2014. U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths hailed the exchange as an “important milestone” toward ending conflict in Yemen, where years of attacks by a U.S.-supported, Saudi-led coalition have exacerbated a humanitarian crisis that’s pushed millions to the brink of famine.
In a related prisoner exchange, more than 200 Houthi supporters were allowed to return home from Oman in exchange for the release of two U.S. citizens held captive by Houthis. This is released American prisoner Mikael Gidada speaking from Oman just after his release.
Mikael Gidada: “[I am] an American citizen. I was living and working in Yemen and was in prison for 899 days, two years and six months, in solitary confinement. And it was hell. It was really hell.”
Mexico’s former defense secretary, General Salvador Cienfuegos, was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday while on a family vacation. He was arrested on a warrant by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. He served as defense secretary from 2012 to 2018 under former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. The Mexican magazine Proceso reports the arrest was connected to a corruption probe involving drug traffickers. Cienfuegos was defense secretary in 2014 at the time of the disappearance and presumed massacre of 43 students from a teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. Last month Mexican authorities issued arrest warrants for soldiers in connection to the massacre.
In Georgia, a Catholic priest has been sentenced to 33 months in jail for breaking into the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia to protest U.S. nuclear weapons policy. Father Steve Kelly is part of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 — a group of Catholic peace activists who entered the base in 2018 armed with hammers, crime scene tape, baby bottles containing their own blood, and an indictment charging the U.S. government with crimes against peace. The base is home to at least six nuclear ballistic missile submarines, each of which carries 20 Trident thermonuclear weapons. Kelly has been locked up since his arrest on April 4, 2018, so he has already served nearly all of his 33-month sentence, which included time served. Another member of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, Patrick O’Neill, is being sentenced today. Click here to see all of our coverage on the Kings Bay Plowshares.