We’re ending our live coverage for the day, thanks for following along. A summary of some key events:
- Trump campaign reportedly ordered removal of social distancing stickers at Tulsa rally. Washington Post publishes video, which appears to show Trump campaign workers methodically removing stickers from seats
- Mike Pence postpones Florida campaign tour as coronavirus cases surge. State sees new record rise in daily cases as push to reopen across US halts or reverses
- Outrage mounts over report Russia offered bounties to Afghanistan militants for killing US soldiers. Fierce response from top Democrats after US intelligence finding was reportedly briefed to Trump in March, but the White House has yet to act
- Princeton to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from school over racist history. University president cites ‘thorough, deliberative’ process to reach decision amid nationwide movement
The FBI has launched an investigation after a noose was found inside a black firefighter’s locker at a fire station in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington earlier this month.
“Acts like this that embody hate, intimidation, and aggression will not be tolerated,” Bloomington’s fire chief, Ulie Seal, said in a statement. “The firefighter who brought this to our attention has demonstrated extreme strength and bravery and has done the right thing.”
Bloomington’s mayor, Tim Busse, said he was “disgusted, angry, and embarrassed by this cowardly act. To be clear, this incident is very serious and is being dealt with aggressively.”
George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police officers in May sparked a wave of anti-racism protests across the country.
While there has been understandable attention in the US on the rise in Covid-19 cases in states across the country, outbreaks in countries where the virus had appeared to be under control have sparked concern the world is starting to enter a second wave (if the first wave ever ended). Emma Graham-Harrison has more:
A meat-processing plant in Germany. A church in Seoul. A squat and a hospital in Italy. A wholesale market in Beijing. All of them have experienced clusters of infections after national authorities declared the disease suppressed in their country and launched a slow return towards normal life.
Months into the pandemic, fear of a second wave of infections now hangs over countries that have managed to stamp out the disease, mostly through economically and socially painful lockdowns.
An incubation period of up to two weeks, the fact that some infected people can spread the disease before symptoms show and others remain asymptomatic … all this helps the virus to spread undetected before an outbreak flares. South Korea grabbed international attention last week when its disease control authorities were the first in the world to announce that the country had entered a second wave, focused around the capital and apparently triggered by gatherings over a May holiday.
The term “second wave” has no agreed-upon scientific definition. It can mean anything from localised spikes in infection to a full-blown national crisis, and some experts avoid it for this reason. The World Health Organization avoided using it to describe South Korea’s status when asked in a news conference.
There is more consensus on both prevention and how to handle new outbreaks using approaches honed rapidly over the past few months to find people who are infected, and prevent them spreading the disease.
You can read the full article below:
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States rose to more than 2.5 million on Saturday, according to a Reuters tally. More than 125,000 Americans have died of Covid-19, the highest known death toll from the disease in the world.
Cases are rising across the country, and some states are reversing or pausing reopening.
Video appears to confirm Trump campaign ordered removal of social-distancing stickers
The Washington Post has obtained video and photos that appear to confirm reports the Trump campaign ordered stickers detailing social distancing guidelines to be removed from the site of the president’s rally in Tulsa last week. Here’s more from the Post’s report, which you can read in full here:
“The removal contradicted instructions from the management of the BOK Center, the 19,000-seat arena in downtown Tulsa where Trump held his rally on June 20. At the time, coronavirus cases were rising sharply in Tulsa County, and Trump faced intense criticism for convening a large crowd for an indoor political rally, his first such event since the start of the pandemic.”
Washington state will pause its plan to complete a full reopening. Covid-19 cases in the state have been on the rise recently, and Washington governor said in a statement on Saturday that the situation is “evolving”.
“Phase four would mean a return to normal activity and we can’t do that now due to the continued rise in cases across the state,” Inslee said. “We all want to get back to doing all the things we love in Washington during the summer, and fully open our economy, but we aren’t there yet. This is an evolving situation and we will continue to make decisions based on the data.”
Pence calls off Florida tour as cases surge in state
My colleague Edward Helmore has news from the Vice-President’s camp:
As reopening plans went into a dramatic reverse or stalled across the US in the face of a resurgent virus, Mike Pence called off a planned campaign bus tour in Florida amid a surge in confirmed coronavirus cases.
The vice-president had been set to appear in Lake Wales at an event next week organized by pro-Trump group America First Policies billed as the “Great American Comeback tour.”
The group announced: “Out of an abundance of caution at this time, we are postponing the Great American Comeback tour stop in Florida. We look forward to rescheduling soon.” Pence was still traveling to the state, the White House confirmed, saying he would meet with Governor Ron DeSantis and his healthcare teams.
Florida is seen as a key battleground state in the 2020 election and has been controversially picked as the site of a Trump rally in late August to celebrate his nomination for a second term.
The news of the cancellation came as Miami became the latest local authority to act in the wake of the virus’s rise by announcing it was closing its beaches and planning a crackdown on coronavirus rules.
Florida also reported yet another record rise in daily cases. The Florida department of health reported 9,585 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, shattering the previous daily high for positive Covid-19 infections which it notched up on Friday. Florida has now had 132,545 positive cases to date.
“If people are not going to be responsible and protect themselves and others from this pandemic, then the government is forced to step in and restore common sense to save lives,” Gimenez said.
Mississippi starts process to change state flag
The Mississippi state government has started a process that will see the Confederate battle emblem removed from the state’s flag.
The state’s House of Representatives voted on Saturday to redesign the flag, and the motion will now go to the state senate. The Confederate symbol, which features on the state current flag, is widely seen as an icon of the slave-owning south during the Civil War. The new design “would not include the Confederate battle flag but shall include the words ‘In God We Trust.’” Voters will decide which of the designs will be displayed on the new flag.
The state’s Republican governor, Tate Reeves, has already said he supports a change to the flag. “The argument over the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself and it’s time to end it. If they send me a bill this weekend, I will sign it,” he wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
The Winston-Salem Journal reports on a disturbing development in the Bubba Wallace story. Wallace, Nascar’s only black driver, led a successful campaign to rid the stock-car racing series of the Confederate flag. Last week, a noose was found in his team’s garage although a subsequent investigation found the rope had been there since last fall, and Wallace was not the subject of a hate crime. Here’s what the Associated Press has to say on the latest development:
A North Carolina racetrack has lost some partnerships after its owner advertised “Bubba Rope” for sale online days after Nascar said a noose had been found in the garage stall of Bubba Wallace, the top series’ only Black driver.
A concrete company and a driver series ended their partnerships Friday with the half-mile, dirt track 311 Speedway in Stokes County, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.
The racetrack owner’s “Bubba Rope” post on Facebook Marketplace earlier this week sparked a backlash on social media and a condemnation from a spokesman for Gov. Roy Cooper.
“Buy your Bubba Rope today for only $9.99 each, they come with a lifetime warranty and work great,” the post said.
The Carolina Sprint Tour posted on its Facebook page that it would not race at the speedway for the remainder of its season, according to the newspaper.
“We do not condone nor support the comments and posts that have been made the past week,” the series said in a post online.
A concrete company also said it was cutting all ties with the speedway.
Megan Rapinoe has praised her fellow soccer players after they kneeled before the opening game of the National Women’s Soccer League’s summer tournament.
The NWSL’s Challenge Cup is the first major team sports tournament to resume in the US since the Covid-19 shutdown. Every member of the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns knelt during the national anthem, while players and coaches wore Black Lives Matter shirts before kickoff.
“You love to see it,” wrote Rapinoe on Twitter. “You love to see these women using their voice, demanding better for America, and for black people and people of color.”
In a joint statement before the match, which was shown on network television, the Thorns and Courage said they “took a knee today to protest racial injustice, police brutality, and systemic racism against black people and people of color in the United States”.
Dr Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, says he is skeptical that US schools will return to normal in the near future.
“I’m hearing a lot of parents say, ‘let’s scrap the fall and we’ll maybe start in the spring,’” Jha told CNN on Saturday. “January and February aren’t going to be better. They’re going to be the deep winter months and March will be pretty tough. I don’t expect a widespread vaccine will be available, and widespread and readily available, by January or February.”
Jha believes schools won’t return to normal until May or June 2021. He said that it was not the actions and precautions taken by individual schools that will determine when kids can return to classrooms full-time, but how Covid-19 is handled in communities as a whole.
“If we don’t get our act together and get the virus under control we’re going to have a whole year of online education for all of our children. It is going to have a lot of effects on kids and parents,” he said.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command says US F-22 jets intercepted Russian reconnaissance aircraft near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands on Saturday.
Norad, a combined American-Canadian force, said the Russia craft entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and remained there for eight hours. The Russian jets were in international airspace for the entire time and did not violate American or Canadian territory. It is the fourth time this month US fighters have intercepted Russian planes near Alaska in the last month.
“This year alone, Norad forces have identified and intercepted Russian military aircraft including bombers, fighters, and maritime patrol aircraft on ten separate occasions when they have flown into the ADIZ,” said Norad commander General Terrence J O’Shaughnessy.
Russian-American author Masha Gessen has released a new book, Surviving Autocracy (you can read an extract here). Gessen has written books dealing with both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump and has lived in both of their countries. In an interview with the Observer, Gessen says that in some ways, Trump is worse than his Russian counterpart. Here’s what Gessen told the Observer’s Lisa O’Kelly:
“In a way, I think Trump is worse. I never thought I would hear myself say that. They share a lot of characteristics although they are temperamentally extremely different men. They both have this contempt for excellence, they both have a hatred of government, and they both have this way of campaigning against government as such, even as presidents of their respective countries. I think in the end, Putin is somewhat less cynical. He has an idea – it is self-aggrandising and absurd on the face of it – that if he stepped away Russia would fall apart and so he has to carry this burden. And for his labours he deserves to have the yachts and the palaces and all that. But he is doing it for his country. Trump doesn’t even have that delusion.”
Princeton University says it is removing Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges after trustees concluded that the 28th US president’s “racist thinking and policies” made him “an inappropriate namesake”.
The Ivy League school’s trustees made the decision Friday, according to a statement released on Saturday. The policy school will now be known as “The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs”.
Wilson served as president of the New Jersey school from 1902 to 1910, shortly before serving as US president from 1913 to 1921, was president of Princeton from 1902 to 1910.
“Wilson’s racism was significant and consequential, even by the standards of his own time,” Princeton president Christopher L Eisgruber said in a statement.
“He segregated the federal civil service after it had been racially integrated for decades, thereby taking America backward in its pursuit of justice. He not only acquiesced in but added to the persistent practice of racism in this country, a practice that continues to do harm today.”
The Associated Press reports on alarming trends in Arizona, which has emerged as one of the world’s coronavirus hotspots:
Hospitals across Arizona, a state of over 7 million people, spent a six-week lockdown and a nearly two-month ban on elective surgeries getting ready for the surge that’s appearing now. They polished emergency plans that require them to ensure they can increase capacity by 50%. They stocked up on masks and gowns, and trained professionals who normally work in operating rooms or other areas to care for virus patients. Dr. Lisa Goldberg, director of Tucson Medical Center’s emergency department, said her staff did drills, trained, and prepared.
Meanwhile Ducey, a Republican, argued the closures he ordered had slowed the spread of the disease and hospitals were now much better prepared. While he stressed the need for social distancing, he resisted wearing a mask himself in public even as cases mounted, batting away calls by some cities to allow them to require masks.
When the case surge became impossible to ignore, Ducey reversed himself on June 18 and allowed cities and counties to require masks in public, but didn’t issue a statewide order. Most have, including Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma and the counties that surround them.
Today, hospitals statewide are filling up with patients, some critically ill. The state had more than 66,000 confirmed cases as of Friday, up from just over 20,000 on June 1. Thousands more are being reported each day, and 1,535 people have died.
More than 2,400 people are hospitalized with coronavirus this week, up from about 1,000 three weeks ago. More than 600 ICU beds were filled with virus patients this week, two-thirds of them on ventilators and sedated.
Arizona has just over 200 empty ICU beds, out of about 1,600 in the state. More are being added as hospitals brace for a flood of patients as newly infected people slowly get sicker. Traveling nurses are being hired from other states to back up overworked staff.
“This is not a sprint, this is a marathon. In fact it’s an ultra-marathon,” Goldberg said.
Bubba Wallace, Nascar’s only full-time black driver who earlier this month successfully campaigned for the stock car organization to prohibit the Confederate flag at its tracks and properties, said people have the right to peacefully protest the ban, but suggested police may take a lighter touch than they have against anti-racism demonstrators.
“It’s their right for peaceful protest,” Wallace told reporters on Friday. “It’s part of it. But you won’t see them inside of the race tracks where we’re having a good time with the new fans that have purchased their tickets and purchased their favorite driver’s apparel. You won’t see it flying in there.”
Nascar’s ban of the rebel standard, distancing itself from what for many is a symbol of slavery and racism, got off to a checkered start last Sunday at Talladega, the first large-scale sporting event in the US to allow fans to attend since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.
A plane circled above the track with the message ‘DEFUND NASCAR’ trailing behind the rebel standard, while roughly two-dozen protesters on pickup trucks and wagons carried the flag in a rolling protest along Speedway Boulevard just off the property.
“Outside, they’re just going to be making a lot of noise,” Wallace said. “It’s part of it. It’s exactly what you see on the flip side of everything going on in cities as they peacefully protest. But we won’t see cops pepper-spraying them and shooting them with rubber bullets, will you?”
Florida breaks one-day record for new cases
Florida has broken its one-day record for new coronavirus infections for a second straight day with an additional 9,636 positive cases, the state’s department of health said on Saturday.
There were 76,129 tests conducted Friday, with a 12.7% positivity rate, officials said. Florida has more than 122,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with at least 3,366 deaths.
To help mitigate the alarming trends, Miami mayor Carlos A Gimenez is due to sign an emergency order closing all beaches in Miami-Dade County from 3 to 7 July.
On Friday, the state’s faltering response to these soaring new coronavirus numbers came under renewed fire when the state’s former leading Covid-19 data scientist accused his administration is “cooking the books” in an effort to hide the true impact of the devastating pandemic.
Rebekah Jones, who says she was fired from her job in charge of the state’s official Covid-19 database in May for refusing to manipulate its figures, claimed on social media to have evidence that employees at Florida’s department of health “have been instructed this week to change the numbers and begin slowly deleting deaths and cases so it looks like Florida is improving next week in the lead-up to July 4, like they’ve ‘made it over the hump’.”
The pandemic has forced organizers to move parades, marches and forums online across the United States in June for Pride Month, an annual celebration of the LGBTQ community and a renewed call for equal rights. Still, “canceling” Pride was not an option, said Cathy Renna, director of communications at the National LGBTQ Task Force.
“Our community just said, ‘A year without Pride is not acceptable - let’s find a way to try and create an experience online’,” she said. “And in some ways, it’s allowed an accessibility to Pride that we didn’t have before.”
Millions of people from every corner of the world are expected to tune in on Saturday to Global Pride, a 24-hour virtual broadcast to be streamed on YouTube and the Global Pride website, that organizers say could become the largest LGBTQ event ever. Among those scheduled to deliver remarks are Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg of Norway, Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel and Manvendra Singh Gohil, the first openly gay prince of India.
Some in-person demonstrations will still take place. On Sunday in New York City, the Reclaim Pride Coalition, a group of queer and trans activists, will hold its second annual Queer Liberation March which this year will focus on a protest against racial injustice and demands for police reform.
“Inspired by the historic, Black-led protest movement that has taken to the streets here in NYC and across the world, Reclaim Pride supports demands for immediate defunding, disarming, and dismantling of police forces,* the organization’s Francesca Barjon said in a statement.’
Organizers of Reclaim Pride reject commercial sponsorship as well as the presence of uniformed police, and have asked participants to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing during the march.
New York sees steady decline in cases and deaths as other states face rapid rises
Florida, Texas, Arizona and California have emerged as states experiencing a rapidly increasing number of coronavirus cases. Record seven-day case averages have now been reported by 13 states in total across a huge swathe of America, including Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Washington.
But New York, once the center of the US coronavirus crisis, appears to be heading in the right direction.
Andrew Cuomo, the state’s Democratic governor, said on Saturday that less than 1% of the roughly 73,000 people tested for Covid-19 on Friday were positive.
The 703 new cases account for 0.96% of those tested, down from 1.4% the day prior.
“Today’s numbers show a continued, steady decline in our hospitalization and death rates, and proves that a response based on science, not politics, is only way to defeat this virus,” Cuomo said. “While this is good news, New Yorkers cannot become complacent – we must continue to remain vigilant and smart in the fight against Covid-19. Wear a mask, socially distance – be New York tough.”
A small city on the outskirts of Houston has instituted a curfew starting Saturday night due to surging cases of the novel coronavirus, the latest move by officials in a dramatic retreat in the aggressive reopening of America’s second-biggest state.
The mayor of Galena Park, a community of 10,000 people east of Houston, said she was heeding a warning from Harris County judge Lina Hidalgo, who on Friday raised the public threat level to its most severe, a sign people should shelter at home.
“It is crucial to continue to practice good hygiene, stay home as much as possible, avoid unnecessary trips, gatherings, and wear a face-covering at all times when you leave your home,” mayor Esmeralda Moya said in a statement late on Friday.
Galena Park’s curfew will run from 10pm to 5am daily.
The US recorded more than 45,000 new cases of Covid-19 on Friday, the largest single-day increase of the pandemic, bringing the total number of Americans who have tested positive to at least 2.46m. Hospitalizations in Texas, reported by state health officials, have now skyrocketed more than threefold over the past month.
“The harsh truth is that our current infection rate is on pace to overwhelm our hospitals in the very near future,” Hidalgo said at a press conference on Friday. “We opened too quickly.”
Donald Trump’s motorcade has just arrived at Trump National Golf Club in Loudoun County, according to the White House press pool.
According to CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju, this marks the 271st day he’s spent at one of his golf clubs in the 1,254 days since taking office.
The pool reporter notes a group of protesters were there to greet the president outside the club, holding signs that included ‘Trump makes me sick’ and ‘Dump Trump’, while “a woman walking a small white dog nearby gave the motorcade a middle-finger salute”.
The brother of a 20-year-old student who was shot and seriously injured by police at a protest in Austin, Texas, says officers’ use of less lethal munitions, such as beanbags, should be reviewed. The AP reports:
When a participant at a rally in Austin to protest police brutality threw a rock at a line of officers in the Texas capital, officers responded by firing beanbag rounds ammunition that law enforcement deems “less lethal” than bullets.
A beanbag cracked 20-year-old Justin Howell’s skull and, according to his family, damaged his brain. Adding to the pain, police admit the Texas State University student wasn’t the intended target.
Protesters took to the streets in Austin and across the nation following the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In some instances, police reacted with force so extreme that while their intent may not be to kill, the effects were devastating.
Pressure has mounted for a change in police tactics since Howell was injured. He was not accused of any crime. He was hospitalized in critical condition on May 31 and was discharged Wednesday to a long-term rehabilitation facility for intensive neurological, physical and occupational therapy. His brother has questioned why no one is talking about police use of less lethal but still dangerous munitions.
“If we only talk about policing in terms of policies and processes or the weapons that police use when someone dies or when they are ‘properly lethal’ and not less lethal, we’re missing a big portion of the conversation,” said Josh Howell, a computer science graduate student at Texas A&M University.
The Austin Police Department said in a news release that, before June 1, its officers used Def-Tec 12-gauge beanbag munitions on protesters. According to the manufacturer’s website, they have a velocity of 184 mph. Howell said any ammunition fired at that kind of speed has the potential to be deadly.
“Anything shot at 90 miles per hour is lethal,” Howell said.
My colleagues Dominic Rushe and Amanda Holpuch have reported on the impact coronavirus could have on people’s health insurance.
Millions of Americans who have survived Covid-19 or face future infections could lose their insurance or be barred from getting coverage should the Trump administration successfully repeal Obamacare.
The Trump administration asked the supreme court late Thursday to overturn the Affordable Care Act – a move that, if successful, would bring a permanent end to the health insurance reform law popularly known as Obamacare.
Under the ACA, insurance companies cannot deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. Its abolition would mean millions of Americans who have had or have cancer, multiple sclerosis or other diseases would struggle to find insurance.
Good morning ...
… and welcome to another day of coverage of US politics, the coronavirus outbreak and anything in between.
The US reported more than 45,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday, marking its biggest single-day jump yet. Overall, US deaths from Covid-19 have surpassed 125,000.
Infection rates are on the rise in more than 30 states, among them Florida, where Miami mayor Carlos A Gimenez is due to sign an emergency order on Saturday closing all beaches in Miami-Dade County from 3 to 7 July, putting a damper on Fourth of July weekend in an attempt to contain an outbreak in a city responsible for more than 30,000 of the state’s 123,000 confirmed cases.
Giminez said in a statement:
After consulting with our County’s public health experts, I will be signing an emergency order on Saturday to close all beaches in Miami-Dade County starting Friday, July 3, and ending Tuesday, July 7. The closure may be extended if conditions do not improve and people do not follow New Normal rules requiring masks to be worn always inside commercial establishments and outdoors when social distancing of at least 6 feet is not possible.
As we continue to see more COVID-19 positive test results among young adults and rising hospitalizations, I have decided that the only prudent thing to do to tamp down this recent uptick is to crack down on recreational activities that put our overall community at higher risk.
Again, everyone should wear masks inside public establishments and outside if they cannot practice social distancing of at least 6 feet.
I have been seeing too many businesses and people ignoring these lifesaving rules. If people are not going to be responsible and protect themselves and others from this pandemic, then the government is forced to step in and restore common sense to save lives.
Elsewhere, US president Donald Trump has canceled today’s planned trip to his New Jersey golf club and has no public events on his schedule for the next two days.