Texas tops 1 million cases as COVID-19 surge engulfs the US
Texas on Wednesday became the first state with more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, and California closed in on that mark as a surge of coronavirus infections engulfs the country.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said all restaurants, bars and gyms statewide will have to close at 10 p.m. starting Friday, a major retreat in a corner of the U.S. that had seemingly brought the virus largely under control months ago. He also barred private gatherings of more than 10 people.
Texas, the second-most populous state, has recorded 1.02 million coronavirus cases and over 19,000 deaths since the outbreak began in early March, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. California, the most populous state, has logged more than 995,000 cases.
The U.S. has recorded over 240,000 deaths and more than 10.3 million confirmed infections, with new cases soaring to all-time highs of well over 120,000 per day over the past week. Health experts have blamed the increase in part on the onset of cold weather and growing frustration with mask-wearing and other precautions.
Cases per day are on the rise in 49 states, and deaths per day are climbing in 39. A month ago, the U.S. was seeing about 730 COVID-19 deaths per day on average; that has now surpassed 970.
Biden chooses longtime adviser Ron Klain as chief of staff
WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Joe Biden has chosen his longtime adviser Ron Klain to reprise his role as his chief of staff, installing an aide with decades of experience in the top role in his White House.
Klain will lead a White House likely to be consumed by the response to the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to spread unchecked across the nation, and he’ll face the challenge of working with a divided Congress that could include a Republican-led Senate. Klain served as the co-ordinator to the Ebola response during the 2014 outbreak.
In a statement Wednesday night, Biden suggested he chose Klain for the position because his longtime experience in Washington had prepared him for such challenges.
“His deep, varied experience and capacity to work with people all across the political spectrum is precisely what I need in a White House chief of staff as we confront this moment of crisis and bring our country together again,” Biden said.
Klain served as chief of staff for Biden during Barack Obama’s first term, was chief of staff to Vice-President Al Gore in the mid-1990s and was a key adviser on the Biden campaign, guiding Biden’s debate preparations and coronavirus response. He’s known and worked with Biden since the Democrat’s 1987 presidential campaign.
Trump’s silent public outing belies White House in tumult
WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump spent 10 minutes in public Wednesday honouring America’s war veterans — a veneer of normalcy for a White House that’s frozen by a defeated president mulling his options, mostly forgoing the mechanics of governing and blocking his inevitable successor.
Trump’s appearance at the annual Veterans Day commemoration at Arlington National Cemetery was his first public outing for official business in more than a week. He’s spent the past few days in private tweeting angry, unsupported claims of voter fraud.
The president has made no comments in person since Democrat Joe Biden clinched the 270 electoral votes on Saturday needed to win the presidency.
All the while, his aides grow more certain that legal challenges won’t change the outcome of the election, according to seven campaign and White House officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the thinking of the president and others in the executive mansion.
Before setting off for the solemn commemoration at Arlington, Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to slam “fake pollsters” and grouse that a Republican city commissioner who defended the vote tabulation in Philadelphia wasn’t a true Republican. He also sought to draw attention to a Pennsylvania poll worker who recanted allegations of voter fraud on Tuesday before reasserting his allegations on Wednesday.
EXPLAINER: Trump’s challenges fail to prove election fraud
A barrage of lawsuits and investigations led by President Donald Trump’s campaign and allies has not come close to proving a multi-state failure that would call into question his loss to President-elect Joe Biden.
The campaign has filed at least 17 lawsuits in various state and federal courts. Most make similar claims that have not been proven to have affected any votes, including allegations that Trump election observers didn’t have the access they sought or that mail-in ballots were fraudulently cast.
Below, the AP examines Republican efforts to fight the vote tally in six states that Biden won or is leading:
Biden moves forward without help from Trump’s intel team
WASHINGTON (AP) — The presidential race was hovering in limbo in 2000 when outgoing President Bill Clinton decided to let then-Gov. George W. Bush read the ultra-secret daily brief of the nation’s most sensitive intelligence.
Clinton was a Democrat and his vice-president, Al Gore, was running against Republican Bush. Gore had been reading the so-called President’s Daily Brief for eight years; Clinton decided to bring Bush into the fold in case he won and he did.
President Donald Trump has not followed Clinton’s lead. As he contests this year’s election results, Trump has not authorized President-elect Joe Biden to lay eyes on the brief.
National security and intelligence experts hope Trump changes his mind, citing the need for an incoming president to be fully prepared to confront any national security issues on Day One.
“Our adversaries aren’t waiting for the transition to take place,” says former Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, who was chairman of the House intelligence committee. “Joe Biden should receive the President’s Daily Brief starting today. He needs to know what the latest threats are and begin to plan accordingly. This isn’t about politics; this is about national security.”
Pacific isles, secretive states among last virus-free places
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — From Argentina to Zimbabwe, from the Vatican to the White House, the coronavirus has spread relentlessly. It’s been confirmed on every continent but one and in nearly every country. Yet a few places have yet to report even a single case of infection. Some have been genuinely spared so far, while others may be hiding the truth. Here’s a closer look:
PACIFIC ISLANDS: The largest cluster of countries without the coronavirus is in the South Pacific. Tonga, Kiribati, Samoa, Micronesia and Tuvalu are among the small island nations yet to report a single case. They haven’t been spared from the pandemic’s effects, however.
Tonga managed to keep the virus out by stopping cruise ships from docking and closing the airport in March, says Paula Taumoepeau, the president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He says the government even imposed a lockdown, even though there were no known cases. These days, only people who have first tested negative are allowed to return on occasional repatriation flights. He says he finds it hard to believe the confirmed death toll in the U.S. alone exceeds twice his entire nation’s population of just over 100,000.
“I think the government has done a good job keeping COVID away from Tonga, but it has had a big impact on businesses, especially tourism and accommodation. It’s very, very bad,” Taumoepeau says. “None of the businesses have escaped.”
Indeed, many of the South Pacific islands rely on tourism as a major source of revenue and have seen unemployment spike and their economies struggle since the pandemic began. Much of the South Pacific is relatively poor and has basic health systems that would be ill-equipped to deal with major outbreaks.
Eta remains a tropical storm as Florida prepares for 2nd hit
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Eta remained a tropical storm Wednesday afternoon as it prepared to skirt past the heavily populated Tampa Bay region in Florida and crash ashore in the coming hours somewhere to the north along the Gulf of Mexico coast.
The storm’s maximum sustained winds remained at about 70 mph (110 kph) off Florida’s west coast as the storm moved northward, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Additional weakening was possible as Eta approaches the coast.
Forecasters had posted — but later discontinued — a hurricane watch for a 120-mile (190-kilometre) stretch that includes Tampa and St. Petersburg. Eta had briefly attained hurricane strength Wednesday morning but then weakened. Subsequently, a tropical storm warning was issued for the same general area.
The storm has been in the Gulf of Mexico since crossing over South Florida on Sunday. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Eta was located 45 miles (70 kilometres) west of St. Petersburg and was moving north at 12 mph (19 kph), the hurricane centre reported.
The Tampa Bay region is home to more than 3.5 million people across five coastal counties. No mandatory evacuations were immediately ordered but authorities began opening shelters for anyone needing them. No serious damage or flooding was immediately reported.
Veterans Day in 2020: quiet parades, sombre virtual events
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Celebrations marking Veterans Day gave way to sombre virtual gatherings Wednesday, with many of the nation’s veterans homes barring visitors to protect their residents from the surging coronavirus that has killed thousands of former members of the U.S. military.
Cemeteries decorated with American flags were silent as well, as many of the traditional ceremonies were cancelled. With infections raging again nationwide, several veterans homes are fighting new outbreaks.
In New York City, a quiet parade of military vehicles, with no spectators, rolled through Manhattan to maintain the 101-year tradition of veterans marching on Fifth Avenue. President Donald Trump took part in an observance at Arlington National Cemetery, while President-elect Joe Biden placed a wreath at the Korean War Memorial in Philadelphia.
More than 4,200 veterans have died from COVID-19 at hospitals and homes run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and nearly 85,000 have been infected, according to the department.
That death toll does not include an untold number who have died in private or state-run veterans facilities, including the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in Massachusetts, which had nearly 80 deaths earlier this year. Two former administrators were charged with criminal offences after an investigation found that “utterly baffling” decisions caused the disease to run rampant there.
New Yorker fires writer Jeffrey Toobin after Zoom incident
NEW YORK (AP) — The New Yorker has fired longtime staff writer Jeffrey Toobin after he reportedly exposed himself during a Zoom conference last month. He had already been on suspension and is also on leave from CNN, where he is chief legal analyst.
“I was fired today by @NewYorker after 27 years as a Staff Writer. I will always love the magazine, will miss my colleagues, and will look forward to reading their work,” Toobin tweeted Wednesday.
In a company memo, Conde Nast Chief People Officer Stan Duncan wrote that its “investigation regarding Jeffrey Toobin is complete, and as a result, he is no longer affiliated with our company.”
“I want to assure everyone that we take workplace matters seriously. We are committed to fostering an environment where everyone feels respected and upholds our standards of conduct,” Duncan said.
Toobin, 60, is one of the country’s most prominent legal authors and commentators. He is a former associate counsel in the Department of Justice who for the New Yorker has written about everything from the O.J. Simpson murder trial to the impeachment hearings of President Donald Trump.
Cleveland’s Bieber, Cincinnati’s Bauer win Cy Young Awards
Shane Bieber and Trevor Bauer love to talk pitching. They bonded as teammates with the Cleveland Indians, and stayed in touch after Bauer was traded to the Cincinnati Reds last year.
Bieber got a text from Bauer before this season started. The right-handers had the same Las Vegas odds for the Cy Young Award.
“I said … why don’t we go 2 for 2, or something like that?” Bieber said.
Why not, indeed.
Bieber was a unanimous winner in the American League on Wednesday night, and Bauer became the first pitcher to take home the NL honour for the majors’ oldest franchise.
The Associated Press