The U.S. has topped 11 million confirmed COVID-19 cases — less than one week after it passed the milestone of 10 million cases. A record 70,000 people are now hospitalized. With the surge affecting every part of the nation, Michael Osterholm, a top adviser on President-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force, said the U.S. is having “many mini-epidemics.”
States are rolling out new measures to combat the surge. Wisconsin and Chicago have issued new stay-at-home orders. Vermont has barred all gatherings outside of members of the same household. Washington state has also set strict rules on gatherings outside of household members, limited capacity at restaurants, and prohibited indoor service at gyms, museums and movie theaters.
Utah and North Dakota are the latest states to mandate mask wearing. Meanwhile, in South Dakota, where the COVID-19 death rate is among the worst in the world, Governor Kristi Noem, a close Trump ally, has said she would not enforce a mask mandate even if ordered by future President Joe Biden.
A new survey by National Nurses United found that hospitals are still failing to provide adequate PPE and workplace protections. Nurses say hospitals are unprepared as the surge is only expected to get worse during the flu season and the healthcare industry’s pursuit of profit is at the center of its failures. Nurses also report mental health struggles related to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, North Dakota’s Republican Governor Doug Burgum said infected but asymptomatic health workers should still treat COVID-19 patients at hospitals.
A new report has found prisoners organized over 100 strikes between March and June in response to dangerous conditions inside jails and prisons amid the pandemic. Perilous, a digital research and media group that authored the report, said prisoners rose up across 39 states, with most protests happening inside immigrant prisons.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, over 250,000 people in jails and prisons have tested positive for the coronavirus, and over 1,400 prisoners and staffers have died. Perilous referred to the uprisings as “clearly one of the most massive waves of prisoner resistance in the past decade.”
The drugmaker Moderna says early results from a large clinical trial show its coronavirus vaccine is nearly 95% effective at preventing COVID-19. Researchers caution that Moderna’s finding is not yet peer-reviewed and that it could be months before the company’s vaccine might be widely available, if it’s proven to be safe. But the news builds on other preliminary findings that dozens of coronavirus vaccines under development may prove highly effective at preventing disease.
The Washington Post reports over 130 Secret Service officers have been ordered to self-isolate or quarantine. The coronavirus has sidelined around 10% of the agency’s security team and is partially linked to working on the campaign trail at Trump’s many rallies.
Over one week after all major networks projected Joe Biden won the presidential election, his team remains shut out of key funding and access normally granted to incoming administrations. On Friday, the two remaining states to project a winner were called, with North Carolina going to Trump and Biden taking the win in Georgia, although that race is now undergoing a hand recount. Biden has won 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232, and Biden has amassed over 5.5 million more votes in the popular count. In 2016, when Trump won the election with 306 electoral votes, he declared his victory a landslide. But he has yet to concede the race, delaying the transition for Biden’s team and further inflaming Trump’s base of supporters who believe his lies that the election was rigged against him. A Sunday morning tweet by Trump appeared to show he acknowledged Biden’s win, by saying, “He won because the Election was Rigged,” though Trump quickly walked it back by tweeting less than two hours later, “I concede NOTHING!”
Trump’s many legal challenges to alter the outcome of the election continue to falter. On Friday, a judge declined to block the certification of election results in Detroit, Michigan, and Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State said she will not order a recount of votes since Biden’s lead is too wide. On Sunday, the Trump campaign scrapped major parts of its case in Pennsylvania. Several law firms representing the Trump campaign have either withdrawn from lawsuits or said they would not get involved in additional litigation.
Meanwhile, as the fate of the Senate hangs on the two runoffs in Georgia in January, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing to pack the courts with more right-wing judges before Trump leaves office: 12 judicial nominations are currently awaiting a Senate vote, and 23 are awaiting committee hearings.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of Trump supporters rallied in Washington, D.C. At least 20 people were arrested as the pro-Trump protesters clashed with counterprotesters, resulting in a hospitalization for a stabbing. An independent journalist also reported being stabbed Saturday by someone who appeared to be a member of the far-right group Proud Boys.
In a victory for young undocumented people, DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, has been restored to near-full operation, after another federal judge ruled acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf was not appointed to serve in his role, and therefore did not have the authority to issue restrictions on the program. Javier Valdés of Make the Road New York, one of the organizational plaintiffs in the case, said, “This victory is just the beginning. Not only must the Biden administration immediately protect DACA & TPS holders & reverse all of Trump’s nativist polices, but also provide swift relief & a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented families across the country.”
Peru is facing another leadership vacuum after interim President Manuel Merino resigned just days after being appointed and following days of mass protests, in which at least two protesters were killed. Over 100 others have been injured, and at least 41 people are missing, as police violently crack down on some of the largest protests Peru has seen in decades. Merino’s appointment came after what opponents are calling a “legislative coup” against former President Martín Vizcarra, who was impeached and removed as he’s being investigated for corruption allegations. At least half of Peru’s congressmembers are also under investigation for corruption. On Sunday, the father of one of the killed protesters spoke out.
Father of killed protester: “Us mothers and fathers in Peru are in this situation. Nobody wants what has happened, but also no one is free, because the bombs that were being thrown in central Lima — just imagine that and what do they say about the government. There’s a need to rise up.”
In Ethiopia, forces from the country’s northern Tigray region fired missiles at Eritrea’s capital Asmara Saturday, marking a major new escalation in the conflict which erupted when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military offensive in Tigray earlier this month. Meanwhile, the U.N. is warning of a growing humanitarian crisis as at least 25,000 people have already fled the Tigray region into neighboring Sudan. This is an Ethiopian refugee speaking from the Sudanese border town of Hamdayat.
Abrhit: “There is no food. There is looting. We lost our belongings. I lost my siblings. We came to Sudan on foot. And my children are not eating.”
In the southern Caucasus Mountains, thousands of ethnic Armenians have set their homes on fire as they began a mass exodus from the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, making way for Azerbaijani forces to take control of the region. The civilian withdrawal began as Russian peacekeepers arrived to oversee the transfer of power in Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan, the victor of a war with Armenia that broke out on September 27. It was the worst fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh since the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, when conflict killed some 20,000 people and displaced a million others — most of them Azeris.
China, Japan and 13 other countries have signed a deal to set up the world’s largest trading bloc, encompassing nearly a third of the global economy. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, also includes several Southeast Asian countries, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.
The Trump administration is pushing through plans to auction off drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January. It’s unclear what would happen to any deals made by the Trump administration, since Biden has vowed to block oil exploration in the Alaskan refuge. The Arctic refuge is extremely rich in biodiversity and has been home to Indigenous peoples for thousands of years.
Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ordered Enbridge to close decades-old pipelines that carry oil and gas under the Straits of Mackinac, a fragile waterway connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. In a statement, Governor Whitmer said Enbridge’s Line 5 pipelines have repeatedly violated terms of an easement granted in 1953, adding, “Enbridge has routinely refused to take action to protect our Great Lakes and the millions of Americans who depend on them for clean drinking water and good jobs.”
Tropical Storm Iota has strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane and is expected to make landfall tonight on the coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras, as much of Central America is still reeling from the devastation left by Hurricane Eta, which displaced at least 210,000 people. Meanwhile, Storm Vamco, downgraded from a typhoon, battered Vietnam Sunday after leaving 67 people dead in the Philippines as the country’s deadliest storm this year.