In Brief: October 16, 2020

Europe, US reel as virus infections surge at record pace

Coronavirus cases around the world have climbed to all-time highs of more than 330,000 per day as the scourge comes storming back across Europe and spreads with renewed speed in the U.S., forcing many places to reimpose tough restrictions eased just months ago.

ADVERTISING


Well after Europe seemed to have largely tamed the virus that proved so lethal last spring, newly confirmed infections are reaching unprecedented levels in Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy and Poland. Most of the rest of the continent is seeing similar danger signs.

France announced a 9 p.m. curfew in Paris and other big cities. Londoners face new restrictions on meeting with people indoors. The Netherlands closed bars and restaurants this week. The Czech Republic and Northern Ireland shut schools. Poland limited restaurant hours and closed gyms and pools.

In the United States, new cases per day are on the rise in 44 states, with many of the biggest surges in the Midwest and Great Plains, where resistance to masks and other precautions has been running high and the virus has often been seen as just a big-city problem. Deaths per day are climbing in 30 states.

“I see this as one of the toughest times in the epidemic,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious-disease specialist at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. “The numbers are going up pretty rapidly. We’re going to see a pretty large epidemic across the Northern Hemisphere.”

Black man’s family views graphic video of in-custody death

BATON ROUGE, La. — Family members viewed long-secret body-camera video this week of a Black man who died in Louisiana State Police custody, their attorney calling it damning footage that shows troopers choking and beating the man, repeatedly jolting him with stun guns and dragging him face-down across the pavement.

Ronald Greene’s mother and sister wailed “like they were at a funeral” Wednesday after meeting with Gov. John Bel Edwards and watching a half-hour of the footage of the May 2019 encounter that is now the subject of a federal civil rights investigation, their attorney told The Associated Press.

“This family has been lied to the entire time about what happened,” said civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, who also viewed the footage. “The video was very difficult to watch. It’s one of those videos like George Floyd and even Ahmaud Arbery where it’s just so graphic.”

The video, which police have refused to release publicly, only added to persistent questions about Greene’s death, such as why State Police initially blamed it on a car crash and why they waited more than a year to discipline one of the responding officers. Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth died in a single-car crash last month just hours after learning he had been fired over his role in the incident.

The meeting followed AP’s disclosure of a 27-second audio clip from Hollingsworth’s body-camera in which he can be heard telling a colleague, “I beat the ever-living f—- out of him,” and of graphic pictures of Greene’s body released by his family showing deep bruises to his face and cuts on his head.

Christie says he was wrong not to wear mask in White House

WASHINGTON — Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday that he was wrong not to wear a mask at the White House, after he and President Donald Trump both came down with the coronavirus.

Christie, in a statement, said he has recovered from COVID-19 after a weeklong stay in a hospital’s intensive care unit. He called on all political leaders to advocate for face coverings, with the practice becoming increasingly politicized even as the pandemic has killed more than 217,000 Americans.

“I believed that when I entered the White House grounds, that I had entered a safe zone, due to the testing that and I and many others underwent every day,” Christie said. “I was wrong.”

Christie, who was at the White House for the announcement of Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the president’s nominee to the Supreme Court and to a participate in several rounds of Trump’s debate prep, seemingly chided the president’s attitude toward the disease.

“No one should be happy to get the virus and no one should be cavalier about being infected or infecting others,” Christie said.

Scramble to count people as 2020 census winds down

Census advocates across the nation made last-ditch efforts Thursday to get as many households to answer the 2020 census, which has been challenged by a pandemic, natural disasters, court fights and the Trump administration’s push to have it end a month earlier than planned.

The tally was mandated to halt at 11:59 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time on Thursday — 5:59 a.m. Friday for people living on the East Coast — but questions lingered about deadlines and who gets counted when congressional seats are allotted.

From wire sources

Advocates are particularly worried that minorities, and people in rural and tribal areas, are going to be missed due to the rushed ending of the count, resulting in less federal funding for those communities and perhaps fewer congressional seats and electoral votes for states that have large minority populations.

Census advocates who had been planning on two more weeks to encourage people to answer the census found themselves scrambling after the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the Trump administration could end the nation’s head count this week.

“Everybody is leaning in hard to try to make sure they can reach as many people as possible,” said Kathay Feng, an official with Common Cause, the good-government advocacy group.

From wire sources

Biden campaign flips COVID-19 threat into new Trump contrast

WILMINGTON, Del. — Confronted with its first known coronavirus scare, Joe Biden’s presidential campaign turned the threat into another contrast with President Donald Trump in the closing weeks of a general election battle dominated by how the Republican incumbent has handled the pandemic and his own COVID-19 diagnosis.

According to Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, the campaign learned late Wednesday that two people associated with the operation had tested positive for the coronavirus. By 10 a.m. Thursday, O’Malley Dillon had publicly identified a top aide to vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris as having contracted the virus and confirmed that the campaign would suspend travel temporarily for the California senator and her husband, Doug Emhoff.

Before the end of the day, the campaign announced a third positive case linked to Biden’s campaign plane and up-to-date negative COVID-19 tests for Biden and Harris, along with medical experts’ explanations of why they believed Biden was never exposed and wouldn’t have to cancel upcoming travel.

ADVERTISING


With the election quickly approaching, the episode was another example of how Biden and Trump are responding in vastly different ways to the pandemic. While Trump’s aides offered shifting and sometimes contradictory explanations following a White House coronavirus outbreak, Biden’s team offered more specifics. And as Trump returns to aggressive campaign travel before massive, often unmasked crowds, the Biden campaign reinforced its commitment to following public health guidelines.

“It is because of the protocols that we have in place that we have been able to get this information, that we were able to identify what’s happening here,” O’Malley Dillon said, noting the campaign’s regular testing for Biden, Harris and those who travel with them, along with strict enforcement of masks and social distancing at all events.