In Colorado, Democratic Governor Jared Polis issued a statewide mask mandate Thursday, a week after refusing public health officials’ pleas to require facial coverings in public. Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson issued a similar mask mandate.
In Georgia, Republican Governor Brian Kemp filed suit Thursday against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who’s sick with COVID-19, seeking to overturn her local mask ordinance. Meanwhile, Target and CVS became the latest major U.S. retailers to require masks nationwide.
In Detroit, Michigan, police arrested 11 people Thursday as they blocked school buses in a nonviolent protest demanding the cancellation of in-person classes during the pandemic. At least 600 children are attending summer classes at Detroit-area public schools, even as coronavirus infections have been rising in Michigan for the last three weeks.
In St. Louis, Missouri, contact tracers have linked the spread of the coronavirus to summer extracurricular programs, including football conditioning camps at two high schools. Despite the surge, Missouri high school football games are set to begin on August 28.
At the White House, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday that science should not stand in the way of reopening schools.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: “You know, the president has said unmistakably that he wants schools to open. And I was just in the Oval talking to him about that. And when he says open, he means open in full, kids being able to attend each and every day at their school. The science should not stand in the way of this.”
In response, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten accused President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos of disregarding the safety of children and school employees. She told The Guardian, “It’s as if Trump and DeVos want to create chaos and want to jeopardize reopening. There’s no other reason why they would be this reckless, this callous, this cruel.”
In the United States, Republican leaders said Thursday they will scale back in-person attendance at the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville next month, as Florida suffers one of the world’s worst outbreaks of COVID-19. The Republican National Committee’s plans call for a mix of indoor and outdoor events, with only regular delegates permitted to attend the first three days of convention business — about 2,500 people each day. When President Trump formally accepts the nomination on August 27, the RNC plan calls for a crowd of up to 7,000 people.
A federal judge on Thursday extended a deadline for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, to release immigrant children in its custody. Last month, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee told ICE it had until today — July 17 — to release children from its “family detention centers” in Texas and Pennsylvania due to concerns over rising coronavirus infections. ICE now has until July 27 to comply with the order. This comes as another federal judge is poised to rule next week on a Trump administration request to keep immigrant families jailed in “family detention centers,” prompting fears that immigrant children could once again be separated from their parents.
In Monroe, Louisiana, a 46-year-old Guatemalan man in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement has died in a hospital where he had been receiving care since February. Luis Sánchez-Pérez had been imprisoned at the Catahoula Correctional Center, where over 100 people have tested positive for COVID-19. ICE alleges Sánchez-Pérez’s death was unrelated to the coronavirus. The American Immigration Lawyers Association reports at least 13 asylum seekers have died this year after being jailed by ICE.
In Texas, a Houston jail is reporting a surge in coronavirus cases linked to newly booked prisoners. Confirmed cases at Harris County Jail had dropped in recent weeks after the jail cut some of its population to ease an earlier outbreak. Nearly 1,000 people held in the jail have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
In Portland, Oregon, police arrested nine people Thursday morning after declaring their protest encampment near a downtown federal courthouse an “illegal assembly.”
The crackdown came as acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf accused Portland officials of failing to restore order during seven weeks of protests that erupted after the killing of George Floyd. During a visit to Portland Thursday, Wolf blasted Black Lives Matter protesters as “lawless anarchists” and a “violent mob” that desecrated and destroyed federal property.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown clapped back on Twitter, writing, “This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety. The President is failing to lead this nation. Now he is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government.”
Videos circulating on social media show heavily armed federal officers with no agency markings snatching people off Portland’s streets and forcing them into unmarked cars. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports one protester ran when he saw people wearing camouflage jump out of an unmarked vehicle, not knowing whether he was being arrested or kidnapped.
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to overturn a lower court’s ruling that could strip the voting rights of 1 million formerly incarcerated citizens in Florida. In an unsigned opinion, the court let stand an appeals court ruling upholding a Florida law, signed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, that requires people with felony convictions to pay court fines and fees before they can register to vote. A U.S. district court previously compared the fees to the poll taxes of the Jim Crow South. In a scathing dissent signed by Justices Kagan and Ginsburg, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, “This Court’s order prevents thousands of otherwise eligible voters from participating in Florida’s primary election simply because they are poor.”
Here in New York, hundreds of immigrant protesters camped out overnight outside Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s penthouse apartment on Fifth Avenue, calling for the passage of a New York state tax on billionaires. A proposed capital gains tax, backed by Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, would fund food and rental assistance for people who’ve lost jobs during the pandemic — including immigrants shut out of unemployment benefits and government stimulus funds.
Russia is denying claims by U.S., Canadian and British intelligence agencies that Russian hackers are targeting proprietary research on the development of vaccines for COVID-19. The National Security Agency blamed a Russian hacker group known as “Cozy Bear” that intelligence officials accuse of hacking into Democratic Party servers during the 2016 presidential campaign. The hacking claim has raised fears of growing “vaccine nationalism,” with countries competing to become the first with a vaccine rather than sharing research data. Dr. Ali Khan, the dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, tweeted, “I know the Russian govt are the bad guys but I dont see this any different than stealing bread if you are starving … Make open source.”
A federal judge has barred the Trump administration from gutting an Obama-era rule limiting emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Thursday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Rogers will reimpose limits on the amount of methane that oil and gas companies can allow to leak from drilling sites on public lands.
Scores of prominent environmentalists have signed an open letter demanding a halt to all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction, and an immediate end to all fossil fuel subsidies. They’re also calling on member states of the International Criminal Court to make “ecocide” an international crime. The letter was co-authored by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who says world leaders need to face the climate emergency.
Greta Thunberg: “We need to see it as, above all, an existential crisis. And as long as it’s not being treated as a crisis, we can have as many of these climate change negotiations and talks, conferences as possible; it won’t change a thing.”
In California, a 22-year-old transgender woman was found killed in an abandoned building in the city of Brawley earlier this week. Police are investigating the death of Marilyn Cazares as a homicide. Cazares’s aunt described her as charismatic, brave and outspoken. Cazares is at least the 23rd transgender or gender noncomforming person killed in the U.S. this year.
In sports news, at least 15 women have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment and verbal abuse against several executives and other employees of Washington’s NFL team. In details provided to The Washington Post, the women describe male executives constantly commenting on their looks, sending inappropriate text messages and pursuing unwanted relationships. The team announced this week it would be changing its name and mascot — a racist slur against Native Americans — which it first adopted in 1933.
A tell-all book by President Trump’s niece sold nearly 1 million copies Thursday on its first day of publication — a record for publisher Simon & Schuster. In her book, titled “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” clinical psychologist Mary Trump describes her uncle Donald as a “sociopath” who grew up in a dysfunctional family that fostered his greed and cruelty. On Thursday, Mary Trump told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow she’s heard her uncle repeatedly using racist language.
Rachel Maddow: “Have you heard the president use the N-word?”
Mary Trump: “Yeah.”
Rachel Maddow: “And anti-Semitic slurs specifically?”
Mary Trump: “Yes.”