Surging US virus cases raise fear that progress is slipping
PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – Alarming surges in coronavirus cases across the South and West raised fears Monday that the outbreak is spiraling out of control and that hard-won progress against the scourge is slipping away because of resistance among many Americans to wearing masks and keeping their distance from others.
Confirming predictions that the easing of state lockdowns over the past month and a half would lead to a comeback by the virus, cases surpassed 100,000 in Florida, hospitalizations are rising dramatically in Houston and Georgia, and a startling 1 in 5 of those tested in Arizona are proving to be infected.
Over the weekend, the virus seemed to be everywhere at once: Several campaign staff members who helped set up President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, tested positive, as did 23 Clemson University football players in South Carolina.
At least 30 members of the Louisiana State University team were isolated after becoming infected or coming into contact with someone who was. Meatpacking plants were also hit with outbreaks.
“It is snowballing. We will most certainly see more people die as a result of this spike,” said Dr.
Marc Boom, CEO and president of Houston Methodist Hospital, noting that the number of COVID-19 hospital admissions has tripled since Memorial Day to more than 1,400 across eight hospital systems in the Houston metropolitan area.
He warned that hospitals could be overwhelmed in three weeks, and he pleaded with people to cover their faces and practice social distancing.
Trump rally highlights vulnerabilities heading into election
NEW YORK (AP) – President Donald Trump’s return to the campaign trail was designed to show strength and enthusiasm heading into the critical final months before an election that will decide whether he remains in the White House.
Instead, his weekend rally in Oklahoma highlighted growing vulnerabilities and crystallized a divisive reelection message that largely ignores broad swaths of voters – independents, suburban women and people of color – who could play a crucial role in choosing Trump or Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
The lower-than-expected turnout at the comeback rally, in particular, left Trump fuming.
“There´s really only one strategy left for him, and that is to propel that rage and anger and try to split the society and see if he can have a tribal leadership win here,” former Trump adviser-turned-critic Anthony Scaramucci said on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”
The Republican president did not offer even a token reference to national unity in remarks that spanned more than an hour and 40 minutes at his self-described campaign relaunch as the nation grappled with surging coronavirus infections, the worst unemployment since the Great Depression and sweeping civil unrest.
In Minneapolis, talk of changing PD means taking on union
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – The fiery leader of Minneapolis’ police union has built a reputation of defying the city, long before he offered the union’s full support to the officers charged in George Floyd’s death.
When the mayor banned “warrior training” for officers last year, Lt.
Bob Kroll said the union would offer the training instead. When the city restricted officers from wearing uniforms at political events, he had T-shirts made to support President Donald Trump. He commended off-duty officers who walked away from a security detail after players on the state’s professional women’s basketball team, the Minnesota Lynx, wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts.
And after Floyd’s death, he didn’t hold back as he called unrest in the city a “terrorist movement.”
As Minneapolis tries to overhaul its police department in the wake of Floyd´s death, city leaders will collide with a pugnacious and powerful union that has long resisted such change.
But that union and Kroll are coming under greater pressure than ever before, with some members daring to speak out in support of change and police leaders vowing to negotiate a contract tougher on bad cops.
Other unions have publicly called for Kroll’s removal, while public opinion polls show more Americans are shifting their views on police violence and believe offending officers are treated too leniently.
“People recognize that this just can´t just be half-baked measures and tinkering around the edges in policy reform. What we´re talking about right now is attacking a full-on culture shift of how police departments in Minneapolis and around the nation operate,” Mayor Jacob Frey said.
Watchdog eyes violent routing of protesters near White House
An Interior Department watchdog office will investigate law enforcement and security forces´ violent clearing of protesters from a square in front of the White House earlier this month.
The Interior Department´s U.S.
Park Police and other forces released chemical agents and at times punched and clubbed a largely peaceful of crowd of demonstrators to drive the public from Lafayette Square on June 1, during nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd.
Three Democratic lawmakers – Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Reps.
Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Debra Haaland of New Mexico – had asked Interior Department Inspector General Mark Lee Greenblatt to investigate the actions that night of the Park Police, who oversee some of the nation´s most iconic national monuments.
Greenblatt agreed late last week, telling the lawmakers that Interior Secretary David Bernhardt had also asked for the review.
“Given the significance of the events, we have already begun collecting and reviewing information concerning the Park Police´s activities,” he told the Democrats.
NASCAR rallies around Wallace as FBI investigates noose
Bubba Wallace steered the No.
43 to the front of pit road, NASCAR champion Kyle Busch pushing the famous car on one side and close friend Ryan Blaney pushing on the other.
The entire 40-driver field and all their crew members followed. After the car came to a stop, Wallace climbed out, sat on the window ledge and sobbed.
Richard Petty, his Hall of Fame team owner, gently placed a hand on Wallace’s shoulder.
As federal authorities descended on Talladega Superspeedway on Monday to investigate the discovery of a noose in Wallace’s garage stall, the entire industry rallied around the Cup Series’ only Black driver.
“The news has disturbed us all and of course we want justice and know who and why,” said seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson. “And we want to stand with our friend.”
The 82-year-old Petty, at his first race since the coronavirus pandemic began and at Talladega on race day for the first time in more than 10 years, stood side by side with Wallace during the national anthem before Monday’s rain-postponed event.
Everyone stood behind the car while Brad Keselowski held the American flag at the front of the display of solidarity.
Virus outbreak could spin ‘out of control’ in South Sudan
JUBA, South Sudan (AP) – It began with a dry cough, weakness and back pain. For Reagan Taban Augustino, part of South Sudan´s small corps of health workers trained in treating COVID-19 patients, there was little doubt what he had.
Days later, hardly able to breathe, the 33-year-old doctor discovered just how poorly equipped his country is for the coronavirus pandemic: None of the public facilities he tried in the capital, Juba, had oxygen supplies available until he reached South Sudan’s only permanent infectious disease unit, which has fewer than 100 beds for a country of 12 million people.
It took more than an hour to admit him.
“I was almost dying at the gate,” he told The Associated Press from the unit last week.
The pandemic is now accelerating in Africa, the World Health Organization says. While the continent had more time than Europe and the United States to prepare before its first case was confirmed on Feb.
14, experts feared many of its health systems would eventually become overwhelmed.
South Sudan, a nation with more military generals than doctors, never had a fighting chance. Five years of civil war and corruption stripped away much of its health system, and today nongovernmental organizations provide the majority of care.
Nearly half of the population was hungry before the pandemic. Deadly insecurity continues, and a locust outbreak arrived just weeks before the virus.
Trump: US doing ‘too good a job’ on testing
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump said Monday the United States has done “too good a job” on testing for cases of COVID-19, even as his staff insisted the president was only joking when he said over the weekend that he had instructed aides to “slow the testing down, please.”
The president´s comments at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday brought quick rebukes from the campaign of likely Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as well as scores of Democratic lawmakers.
In an interview with Scripps for its local TV stations, Trump was asked Monday whether he did indeed tell aides to “slow it down.” He did not directly answer the question.
“If it did slow down, frankly, I think we´re way ahead of ourselves, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said.
“We´ve done too good a job,” adding that the reason the United States has more coronavirus cases is that it does more testing.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said any suggestion that testing has been curtailed is not rooted in fact, saying Trump made the slow-it-down comment “in jest.”
Trump administration extends visa ban to non-immigrants
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Trump administration said Monday that it was extending a ban on green cards issued outside the United States until the end of the year and adding many temporary work visas to the freeze, including those used heavily by technology companies and multinational corporations.
The administration cast the effort as a way to free up jobs in an economy reeling from the coronavirus.
A senior official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity estimated the restrictions will free up to 525,000 jobs for Americans.
The ban, while temporary, would amount to major restructuring of legal immigration if made permanent, a goal that had eluded the administration before the pandemic.
Long-term changes targeting asylum seekers and high-tech workers are also being sought.
Business groups pressed hard to limit the changes, but got little of what they wanted, marking a victory for immigration hardliners as Trump seeks to further solidify their support ahead of the November election.
The ban on new visas applies to H-1B visas, which are widely used by major American and Indian technology company workers and their families, H-2B visas for nonagricultural seasonal workers, J-1 visas for cultural exchanges and L-1 visas for managers and other key employees of multinational corporations.
Saudi Arabia to hold ‘very limited’ hajj due to virus
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Saudi Arabia said Tuesday that because of the coronavirus only “very limited numbers” of people will be allowed to perform the annual hajj pilgrimage that traditionally draws around 2 million Muslims from around the world.
The decision comes after weeks of speculation over whether Saudi Arabia would cancel the pilgrimage altogether or allow the hajj to be held in symbolic numbers.
It’s unclear why the government waited until just five weeks before the hajj to announce its decision, but the timing indicates the sensitivity around major decisions concerning the hajj that affect Muslims around the world.
Saudi kings have for generations assumed titles as custodians of Islam’s holiest sites, and their oversight of the hajj is a source of prestige and influence among Muslims globally.
The hajj also generates around $6 billion in revenue for the government every year.
Saudi Arabia has never canceled the hajj in the nearly 90 years since the country was founded.
The government said its decision to drastically limit the number of pilgrims was aimed at preserving global public health due to the lack of a vaccine for the virus or a cure for those infected, as well as the risks associated with large gatherings of people.
US honeybees are doing better after bad year, survey shows
American honeybee colonies have bounced back after a bad year, the annual beekeeping survey finds.
Beekeepers only lost 22.2% of their colonies this past winter, from Oct.
1 to March 31, which is lower than the average of 28.6%, according to the Bee Informed Partnership´s annual survey of thousands of beekeepers. It was the second smallest country in europe winter loss in the 14 years of surveying done by several different U.S. universities.
Last winter´s loss was considerably less than the previous winter of 2018-2019 when a record 37.7% of colonies died off, the scientists found.
After that bad winter, the losses continued through the summer of 2019, when beekeepers reported a 32% loss rate. That´s much higher than the average of 21.6% for summer losses. Those summer losses were driven more by hives of commercial beekeepers than backyard hobbyists, said bee partnership scientific coordinator Nathalie Steinhauer.
While the summer losses are bad, winter deaths are “really the test of colony health,” so the results overall are good news, Steinhauer said.
“It turned out to be a very good year.”
Populations tend to be cyclical with good years following bad ones, she said. The scientists surveyed 3,377 commercial beekeepers and backyard enthusiasts in the United States.