Daily U.S. coronavirus cases surged to their highest level since the start of the pandemic for the second straight day Thursday and showed no signs of slowing down, wiping out gains made after hundreds of millions of U.S. residents spent weeks under lockdown. Thirty-one states are now reporting daily increases in COVID-19 cases of 5% or more. The U.S. has confirmed more than 2.4 million cases — the highest number in the world by far — though on Thursday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said antibody testing shows the true rate of coronavirus infection is likely 10 times higher.
In Arizona, Republican Governor Doug Ducey called Thursday for state residents to wear masks in public, reversing his past opposition to requiring facial coverings.
Gov. Doug Ducey: ”COVID-19 is widespread in Arizona. It’s in all 15 of our counties. It’s growing, and it’s growing fast, across all age groups and demographics.”
At the Texas Medical Center in Houston — Texas’s largest hospital — 100% of ICU beds are full, and public health officials are worried the virus could soon overwhelm the city’s healthcare system. This is Dr. Peter Hotez of the Baylor College of Medicine.
Dr. Peter Hotez: “I believe if the numbers continue to rise at this pace, Houston is on track to become the worst-affected city in the United States.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has ordered elective surgeries canceled in several counties. On Thursday, he conceded his state is facing a “massive outbreak” of COVID-19, but said he was pausing — and not rolling back — the reopening of Texas’s economy.
Gov. Greg Abbott: “If you do not need to go out and go to work or have to go to the store or engage in some other activity, the best thing that you can do is to just stay at home.”
In Florida, a record surge in COVID-19 cases has brought the official death toll to over 3,400. Alabama, Missouri and Nevada also saw record highs Thursday, while Mississippi’s top public health official said he was “terrified we will overwhelm the healthcare system.”
The White House coronavirus task force will be holding a public briefing Friday for the first time in nearly two months.
In a major victory for the Trump administration, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday the U.S. government can fast-track deportations of asylum seekers without first allowing them to fight for their case in front of a judge. The 7-2 ruling affects the thousands of asylum seekers whose initial credible fear claims are denied by immigration officers in bare-bone proceedings without a lawyer present. The American Civil Liberties Union responded, “Today’s SCOTUS ruling fails to live up to the Constitution’s bedrock principle that everyone gets their day in court.” We’ll have more on Thursday’s ruling after headlines with Lee Gelernt of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued the case at the Supreme Court.
The Trump administration on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act, even as tens of millions of people have lost their jobs and employer-based health insurance coverage amid the pandemic. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden responded during a campaign event in Pennsylvania.
Joe Biden: “I think it’s cruel, it’s heartless, it’s callous. And it’s all because, in my view, he can’t abide the thought of letting stand one of President Obama’s greatest achievements, the Affordable Care Act.”
Biden promised to outline a new proposal on healthcare in the coming weeks. Throughout the campaign, Biden has opposed Senator Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All bill; he’s instead called for an expansion of the Affordable Care Act and a public health insurance option that would compete with private health plans.
The World Health Organization has declared an end to an outbreak of Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which killed nearly 2,300 people after it erupted in August of 2018. This is the WHO’s regional director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti: “It wasn’t easy, and at times it seemed like a mission impossible. Ending this Ebola outbreak is a sign of hope for the region and for the world that with solidarity and science and courage and commitment, even the most challenging epidemics can be controlled.”
The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a Democratic-led police reform bill demanding sweeping changes to laws and policies that have contributed to decades of police misconduct. Its passage came exactly one month after George Floyd’s killing at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers set off a global uprising against police brutality and systemic racism. This is California Democrat and Congressional Black Caucus chair Karen Bass.
Rep. Karen Bass: “People marching to demand not just change, but transformative change that ends police brutality, that ends racial profiling and ends the practice of denying Americans the ability to sue when they have been injured, that denies local jurisdictions the power to fire or prosecute offending officers.”
A much weaker police reform bill stalled in the Republican-led Senate after Democrats said it didn’t go far enough. President Trump has said he would veto the House bill if it reached his desk.
In New York, a group of activists have camped outside City Hall for a third night in a row. They are vowing to continue the Occupy City Hall encampment until Mayor Bill de Blasio agrees to cut a billion dollars from the police department’s $6 billion budget. Tatiana Hill is an organizer with Voices of Community Activists & Leaders New York.
Tatiana Hill: “We voted for City Council. We voted for this mayor. Some of them have made promises to us as communities as far as addressing the needs that we have, and that hasn’t happened. We see the harm being done to our communities via the instrument of the police, and we want to end that harm in ways that will increase healing in our communities.”
In Wilmington, North Carolina, three veteran police officers have been fired for misconduct after accidentally recording themselves talking about killing Black residents. One officer said, “We are just going to go out and start slaughtering” them — using the N-word to describe Black people. He went on to say, “I can’t wait. God, I can’t wait.” The same officer said he felt society needed a civil war to “wipe them off the f—ing map.” The department learned about the comments after the officers accidentally recorded their own phone conversations in a patrol car. The firings were announced by the city’s new police chief, Donny Williams, the first African American to ever hold the position. He just took the post this week.
Wilmington, North Carolina, was the scene of a violent massacre in 1898, when heavily armed white supremacists launched a coup to topple the city’s biracial government. They burned down Black businesses, including the local African American newspaper. As many as 300 African Americans were killed. A former Confederate Army officer who helped lead the coup then took over as Wilmington’s new mayor.
President Trump has personally requested that a statue of Confederate General Albert Pike be put back up in Washington, D.C., after protesters toppled it and set it on fire on Juneteenth. NBC is reporting Trump personally called Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to ask the Park Service to restore the statue. Meanwhile, the Army has activated 400 National Guard troops to protect other monuments in Washington.
In Madison, Wisconsin, police have launched a hate crime investigation after a Black teenager reported being attacked early on Wednesday while she was driving. Eighteen-year-old Althea Bernstein says she was stopped at a red light when four white men approached her car. One screamed a racial epithet, and then lighter fluid was sprayed into her car. She told Madison365, “I turned my head to look, and somebody’s throwing lighter fluid on me. And then they threw a lighter at me, and my neck caught on fire.” Bernstein was able to drive away and was later treated at the hospital for burns to her face and neck. The attack occurred while a Black Lives Matter protest was winding down nearby.
In sports news, NASCAR has released a photo of the noose found in the garage of Bubba Wallace at Talladega Superspeedway. Wallace is the only Black elite NASCAR driver in the country. Earlier this week, the FBI said the noose was a garage pulldown rope, in place since at least October, long before the garage was assigned to Wallace. On Thursday, NASCAR revealed it had examined nearly 1,700 garage stalls at 29 tracks across the country. Steve Phelps, the president of NASCAR, said, “They found only 11 total ropes that had a pulldown rope tied in a knot and just one noose: The one in Bubba Wallace’s garage.” Earlier this month, NASCAR banned the display of the Confederate flag at races after Bubba Wallace called for them to be removed.
In media news, the Los Angeles Times is settling a proposed class-action lawsuit brought by six Black and Latinx journalists arguing the paper’s underrepresentation of people of color in the newsroom is a result of long-standing discriminatory pay practices. On Tuesday, Black L.A. Times journalists called out the newspaper with the hashtag #BlackatLAT to share their experiences with racism at the paper. The following day, L.A. Times staff held a near five-hour forum pushing executive editor Norman Pearlstine and other L.A. Times leadership to propose sweeping changes at the paper addressing decades of “neglect” against journalists of color, and to foster a more inclusive and equitable newsroom.
The Federal Communications Commission is finalizing plans to link the telephone number 988 to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. It’s just the third three-digit nationwide phone number, after 311 and 911, and supporters of the move say it will direct people in crisis to trained mental health professionals — rather than police. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. suicide rates are highest among veterans — more than 20 of whom die by suicide each day — while LGBTQ youth report they’re three times more likely than other young people to contemplate suicide.
In Louisiana, two environmental activists fighting the construction of a major new plastics plant are facing felony charges for “terrorizing” an oil and gas lobbyist. Anne Rolfes and Kate McIntosh, who are members of the group Louisiana Bucket Brigade, turned themselves in on Thursday. In December, the activists visited the home of an oil and gas lobbyist and left a box of plastic pellets, bits of plastic pollution found off the coast of Texas. The action came as part of a campaign to halt plans by Formosa Plastics to build a new plant in St. James Parish, in an area known as Cancer Alley.
Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed a sweeping 10% cut to the military’s budget, saying the money could be invested instead in education, healthcare and poverty reduction.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “If the horrific pandemic we are now experiencing has taught us anything, it is that national security is not just building bombs, missiles, jet fighters, tanks, submarines, nuclear warheads and other weapons of mass destruction.”
Sanders spoke on the floor of the Senate on Thursday on the same day President Trump visited a shipyard in Wisconsin, where he boasted about the administration’s “colossal” military spending.
President Donald Trump: “We’ve totally rebuilt the military, two-and-a-half trillion dollars. And some people would say, 'Well, that's out of the budget.’ I said, 'Let me tell you something: There is no budget when it comes to our military.'”
The Pentagon’s budget is larger than the next 11 nations combined.