The United States death toll from COVID-19 topped 4,000 for the first time on Thursday, setting yet another daily world record, as top public health official Dr. Anthony Fauci warned the U.S. outbreak will get even worse in the weeks ahead.
Arizona is now one of the worst-affected parts of the world, with nearly 1% of state residents testing positive for coronavirus in just the past week.
In California, the National Guard is assisting the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office, after morgues and mortuaries ran out of storage space for COVID-19 victims.
The CDC reported Thursday that asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus are responsible for more than half of new infections — a finding that bolsters the urgent need for masks and social distancing. Meanwhile, new research published in the journal Science Immunology shows about nine out of 10 people have robust immunity to coronavirus eight months after an infection. It’s not yet known if immunity wanes after a longer interval.
President Trump said Thursday there would be an orderly transition of government on January 20, though he refused to admit he lost the election to Joe Biden. Trump’s concession came in a scripted video statement, one day after he incited a mob of thousands to march on Congress to overturn the election results.
President Donald Trump: “Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem. I immediately deployed the National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders. America is and must always be a nation of law and order.”
In fact, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan says he repeatedly tried to get permission to deploy National Guard troops to assist at the Capitol Wednesday afternoon after receiving a panicked call from congressional leaders who had fled to a secure location. Hogan says he was thwarted for over an hour and a half before Pentagon leaders finally allowed him to send in troops. The New York Times reports Trump took no action to authorize the National Guard deployment, with Vice President Mike Pence finally intervening. On Thursday, President-elect Joe Biden drew comparisons between Trump’s crackdown on peaceful protests for Black lives and Wednesday’s assault on the Capitol.
President-elect Joe Biden: “No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, there wouldn’t have been — they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she would consider a vote on whether to impeach President Trump if members of his Cabinet and Vice President Pence fail to immediately remove him from power under the 25th Amendment. Pelosi formally adjourned the House of Representatives until after Biden’s inauguration on January 20, so any vote on impeachment would require that lawmakers return to Washington. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has adjourned the Senate until January 19.
The United States Capitol Police announced that officer Brian Sicknick, who was hospitalized after Trump’s mob attacked him, died of his injuries Thursday evening. The 42-year-old had been on life support. He was one of 50 police officers reportedly injured by marauders on Wednesday. Police arrested just 26 people on Capitol Hill during the insurrection.
On Thursday, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said he would quit, effective January 16. Also on Thursday, congressional leaders ousted the sergeants-at-arms of both the House and Senate.
The top federal prosecutor for Washington, D.C., on Thursday refused to rule out criminal charges against Donald Trump for inciting Wednesday’s riot on Capitol Hill. Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin said Trump and others could face charges ranging from seditious conspiracy to rioting to insurrection.
Sherwin also said prosecutors will charge any Capitol Police officers found to be complicit with the rioters. Officers were filmed pulling barricades aside, holding hands with insurrectionists, and even posing for a selfie after they smashed their way into the Capitol.
As insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, hundreds of fervent Trump supporters gathered for local rallies around the country. In Los Angeles, police are investigating after images circulated of a Trump mob attacking a Black woman near City Hall. The young woman, Berlinda Nibo, was walking home when she came upon the rally and started documenting it on her phone. Dozens quickly surrounded her, demanding to know who she voted for and to take off her face mask. She was then brutally attacked by the group of white supremacists, who shoved her, pulled out her hair extensions and pepper-sprayed her in the eyes. The bearded man pictured holding her from behind was one of several witnesses who intervened to help Nibo escape the out-of-control mob.
Public health officials fear Wednesday’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was a likely coronavirus superspreader event. Few of the marauders wore masks, and many of them celebrated their refusal to follow public health guidelines. This is far-right podcast host Clay Clark speaking at a rally of Trump supporters in Washington on Tuesday.
Clay Clark: “Turn to the person next to you and give them a hug, someone you don’t know. Go hug somebody. Go ahead and spread it out, mass spreader. It’s a mass spreader event! It’s a mass spreader event! It’s a mass spreader event!”
In international news, southern Africa is seeing a regional surge in coronavirus cases following a second wave in South Africa linked to a variant that many scientists believe is more infectious. South Africa’s confirmed cases have topped 1.1 million with over 31,000 deaths. A Johannesburg nurse described the dire situation.
Lerato Mthunzi: “Our mortuaries, as I speak to you, are full to capacity. In fact, it’s in the longest, where we’ve seen, you know, body bags on the floor.”
Brazil’s COVID-19 deaths have topped 200,000 — the second-highest death toll after the U.S. — as health officials resist a lockdown amid an intense surge. Japan has declared a one-month state of emergency in and around Tokyo as cases in the capital hit a record high of 2,500 Thursday. Residents are being asked to stay home, and bars and restaurants to close at 8 p.m. Health experts say stricter measures are needed, with some suggesting a full national lockdown.
An Iraqi court has issued an arrest warrant for President Trump for killing militia chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in the same targeted drone strike that killed top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani just over one year ago. The strike on the Baghdad airport was ordered by Trump, who later said it had taken out “two [men] for the price of one.” Earlier this week, Iran requested Interpol arrest Trump and other U.S. officials for Soleimani’s assasination.
Joe Biden has tapped Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for labor secretary. Walsh was a top union leader, heading up the Boston Building Trades before his career in politics, and has the support of many prominent labor union figures. But others had hoped Biden would select another Cabinet member of color, as several were reportedly up for consideration, including California Labor Secretary Julie Su, who is Asian American. If Walsh is confirmed, Boston City Council President Kim Janey, who is African American, will become acting mayor, making her the first woman and first person of color to serve as mayor of Boston.
In other Cabinet news, Biden has selected Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo as commerce secretary. The Revolving Door Project said the choice was “profoundly troubling,” tweeting, “Raimondo has a record of promoting fracking and cuts to public assistance programs, selling public pensions to Wall Street, and grossly mishandling Rhode Island’s COVID-19 outbreak.”
And Isabel Guzman has been nominated to head the U.S. Small Business Administration. She previously served in the same agency under President Obama and is currently the director of California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate. Guzman is the first Latina named to a Cabinet-level post by Biden. She’ll be involved in overseeing the implementation of the Paycheck Protection Program, a key part of the pandemic stimulus plan.
Two members of Trump’s Cabinet have resigned in protest of Wednesday’s failed coup attempt at the U.S. Capitol. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a statement she was “deeply troubled” by the insurrection. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called the events “unconscionable” and said they were an “inflection point.” Chao and DeVos have been members of Trump’s Cabinet since just after his inauguration in 2017. They’re the 11th and 12th Trump administration officials to quit after Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol.
Boeing has agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion to settle a nearly two-year federal criminal investigation into the company’s role in two fatal crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia that killed all 346 people on board 737 MAX airplanes. The Justice Department had accused Boeing of having concealed information about the aircraft. Michael Stumo, the father of Samya Rose Stumo, who died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, told NPR, “This is a Boeing protection agreement. There’s nobody being held accountable, personally.”
In Guatemala, the former security head of a Canadian-owned mine has been convicted for the 2009 assassination of Adolfo Ich, an Indigenous Maya Q’eqchi’ community leader and land protector. Mynor Padilla pleaded guilty on Wednesday in what The Guardian newspaper described as a rare conviction over human rights violations linked to Canadian mining corporations in Central America. Padilla worked in the region’s largest nickel mine in eastern Guatemala, which at the time of Ich’s killing was owned by Hudbay Minerals. Ich was a leading voice of resistance against the mine and its destruction of Indigenous territory.