July Fourth weekend will test Americans' discipline as coronavirus cases hit record

The U.S. headed into the Fourth of July weekend with many parades and fireworks displays canceled, beaches and bars closed, and health authorities warning that this will be a crucial test of Americans' self-control that could determine the trajectory of the surging coronavirus outbreak.

With confirmed cases climbing in 40 states, governors have ordered the wearing of masks in public, and families were urged to celebrate their independence at home. Even then, they were told to keep their backyard cookouts small.

Health experts agree this will be a pivotal moment in determining whether the nation slides into a deeper mess. The fear is that a weekend of crowded pool parties, picnics and parades will fuel the surge.

"We're not going to be arresting people for having gatherings, but we're certainly going to discourage it," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, public health director for Seattle and King County.

Those who decide they must gather with a small group of family members need to be careful, he said: "Don't share utensils, don't share objects, don't pass them back and forth, because you're passing that virus around as well."

The warnings were sounded after a Memorial Day weekend that saw many people emerge from stay-at-home orders to go to the beach, restaurants and family gatherings. Since then, confirmed infections per day in the U.S. have rocketed to an all-time high, more than doubling.

The U.S. set another record on Friday with 52,300 newly reported cases, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Arizona, California, Florida and Texas have been hit especially hard.

Despite it all, there will still be fireworks and community events scattered across the nation, with many taking social distancing into account. In Ohio, Upper Arlington's July Fourth parade will take a much longer route through its neighborhoods so residents can watch without crowding the streets.

"We're calling it the front porch parade," said organizer Sam Porter. "We can't just not do something."

Fireworks will be launched from four spots across Albuquerque, New Mexico, so that people can ooh and aah from home instead of gathering in a single place.

President Donald Trump was set to travel to South Dakota on Friday for a fireworks show at Mount Rushmore before returning to the nation's capital for military flyovers Saturday and a mile-long pyrotechnics display show on the National Mall that his administration promises will be the biggest in recent memory. Up to 300,000 face masks will be given away but not required.

The big party will go on over objections from Washington's mayor.

"Ask yourself, do you need to be there? Ask yourself, can you anticipate or know who all is going to be around you? If you go downtown, do you know if you're going to be able to social distance?" Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

Beaches that had been open for the traditional start of summer over Memorial Day weekend will be off-limits in many places this time, including South Florida, Southern California and the Texas Gulf Coast.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Americans who do go to the beach to wear face coverings, though not in the water.

With professional pyrotechnic displays canceled, authorities are bracing for wildfires and injuries caused by Americans shooting off fireworks at home. Sales of fireworks have been booming in what some sellers say may reflect a desire for a little excitement among people cooped up for so long.

Jamie Parrott, a pediatric neurologist in Columbia, South Carolina, said he intends to stay home with his grandchildren, setting off fireworks and eating hamburgers, because that's the safer course for older people like himself.

"We'll muddle through," he said.

Delaware's governor ordered bars in some beach towns to close ahead of the holiday, saying people were getting complacent about masks and social distancing. The Jersey shore town of Wildwood canceled its fireworks, and the Lake Erie resort village of Put-in-Bay in Ohio did the same after health officials linked a small number of coronavirus cases to bars on the island.

After hearing Michigan's governor warn about the need to be smart amid an uptick of cases, Mary Halley of Jonesville said her family canceled plans for a weekend outing on Lake Michigan.

"We had some disappointed kids, but we knew as a family we couldn't do that," she said.

The problem, she said, is that too many people aren't listening to the experts. "Even in my small, little town, there are lot of people who didn't comply with the orders," she said.

Dr. Don Williamson, head of the Alabama Hospital Association, said he is "really, really worried about the Fourth of July."

"I think that will likely determine the trend for Alabama for the rest of the summer," he said.

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Hong Kong officials 'very disappointed' at Canada's move to suspend extradition pact

  • Beijing imposed a new national security law this week on the former British colony, despite protests from Hong Kong residents and Western nations, setting China's freest city and a major financial hub on a more authoritarian track.
  • "The Canadian government needs to explain to the rule of law, and explain to the world, why it allows fugitives not to bear their legal responsibilities," Hong Kong's security chief, John Lee, told a radio program on Saturday.
  • On Saturday's program, Hong Kong Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng said she was disappointed and expressed extreme regret over Canada's move, adding that she thought it could probably violate international law.

Senior officials in Hong Kong said on Saturday they were "very disappointed" at Canada's decision to suspend its extradition treaty with the Chinese-ruled city and again slammed Washington for "interfering" in its affairs.

Beijing imposed a new national security law this week on the former British colony, despite protests from Hong Kong residents and Western nations, setting China's freest city and a major financial hub on a more authoritarian track.

"The Canadian government needs to explain to the rule of law, and explain to the world, why it allows fugitives not to bear their legal responsibilities," Hong Kong's security chief, John Lee, told a radio program on Saturday.

Lee was very disappointed and strongly opposed Canada's move, he added, as it let politics override the rule of law.

The comments followed Canada's statement on Friday that it was suspending the treaty with Hong Kong in the wake of the new law and could boost immigration from the city.

Canada would also bar the export of sensitive military items to Hong Kong, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters.

On Saturday's program, Hong Kong Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng said she was disappointed and expressed extreme regret over Canada's move, adding that she thought it could probably violate international law.

On Friday, a Hong Kong government spokesman described as "totally unacceptable" a bill passed by the U.S. Senate to penalize banks doing business with Chinese officials who implement the new law. 

"We reiterate that any 'sanctions' imposed under the act will not create an obligation for financial institutions under Hong Kong law," the spokesman said in a statement.

He urged the United States to immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong's internal matters, adding that Beijing, as well as the city's government, could take counter-measures when needed.

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Leaders Across The U.S. Urge Mask-Wearing Ahead Of July 4th Holiday

Leaders throughout the United States are urging Americans to don face masks as the July 4th holiday weekend approaches amid a surge in coronavirus cases across much of the country. 

“The virus does not take a holiday,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said in a statement this week. “The bottom line is be vigilant and stay safe while enjoying some time outside.”

Guidance from state and local leaders is largely the same: The coronavirus crisis is far from over. An even higher spike in cases is at stake if people flock to beaches, pools and July 4th parties without taking precautions, like wearing masks, practice social distancing, keeping gatherings small and holding them outdoors, where the virus is transmitted less easily.

Some are also calling facial coverings “patriotic” ― a response to a minority group of critics who say masks impede their American freedoms.

“As we talk about Fourth of July and independence, it’s important to understand that if we all wear these, we will actually have more independence and more freedom because more places will be able to stay open. We’ll have less spread of the disease,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Friday.  

“The patriotic thing for us to do is to take care of our fellow Americans,” Washington state Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib said on Twitter. 

“Lets help our neighbors and families and remain patriotic by wearing a mask for ourselves and others around us,” Florida Rep. Donna Shalala (D) wrote in a tweet.

In California, which has rolled back reopenings for bars and restaurants, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) launched a large, multilingual public awareness campaign around masks. “People can die. People like your mom,” says one video, showing a person struggling to breathe on a ventilator.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, issued an order shortly before the holiday instructing everyone in the state to wear a face covering, which came as a sharp reversal of his previous stance and one that indicates how bad the crisis has become there. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) warned July 1 that his state had already lost the ground it gained in the second half of June and risked even more COVID-19 cases if people do not wear masks. He even told Louisianans not to visit reopened businesses if they aren’t taking the appropriate precautions. 

“I’m urging the general public: Don’t patronize businesses that are not conducting themselves in a safe manner,” Edwards said. 

President Donald Trump ― who typically eschews face coverings even though officials say his wearing one could send a strong message to his supporters ― changed his tune on masks in the days before July 4th. 

“I’m all for masks,” Trump said on Fox Business this week before going on to falsely predict the disease will just “disappear.” 

The president is still averse to mask mandates ― worrying Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser due to the huge fireworks display he planned for the holiday weekend. Bowser, who lacks the authority to tell people what to do on federal land, where the display is taking place, urged people to practice social distancing and wear masks nonetheless.

While the efforts to contain the virus have been largely successful in areas that were hit hardest in the beginning of the crisis, other states that initially had few COVID-19 patients are seeing rapid increases in reported cases and hospitalizations as businesses have been allowed to reopen. Many Republican states have also shown reluctance to cross Trump, who has generally worked to downplay the threat of the virus.

Although messaging around mask use has varied around the country since the coronavirus crisis began, public health experts overwhelmingly agree that they are key to curbing the spread of COVID-19. When worn properly, masks intercept any tiny droplets ― which could contain the coronavirus ― that human beings expel from their mouths and noses when coughing or just simply talking. The droplets are now thought to be the primary way that the virus spreads.

People can start spreading virulent droplets in the days before they show symptoms, and many never experience symptoms at all, so the masks and distancing are important even if you feel fine.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control expanded the list of symptoms to look out for to include nausea, diarrhea and congestion or runny nose.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards as a Republican. He is a Democrat.


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Kimberly Guilfoyle, Trump campaign official and girlfriend of president's son, tests positive for coronavirus

  • Trump Jr., the eldest son of President Donald Trump, tested negative, according to a person familiar with the situation.
  • Neither Trump Jr. nor Guilfoyle traveled with the president on Air Force One as the president went to Mount Rushmore for a July 4th weekend celebration, the person said.
  • Guilfoyle is expected to drive back to the East Coast to avoid interactions with other people, two people familiar with the matter said.

Kimberly Guilfoyle, a senior Trump campaign official and Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend, tested positive for coronavirus while in South Dakota on Friday, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Trump Jr., the eldest son of President Donald Trump, tested negative, the person said.

Neither Trump Jr. nor Guilfoyle traveled with the president on Air Force One as the president went to Mount Rushmore for a July 4th weekend celebration, the person said.

They both planned to attend but never made it to the site. Requests for comment from Guilfoyle and Trump Jr. were not immediately returned Friday night.

Guilfoyle is expected to drive back to the East Coast to avoid interactions with other people, two people familiar with the matter said.

The White House says Trump is tested for the coronavirus daily.

The New York Times first reported that Guilfoyle tested positive.

The development occurred on a day in which there were more than 53,000 new cases of COVID-19 reported across the United States, according to NBC News counts.

Guilfoyle, who is Trump Victory Finance Committee chair, spoke at Trump's June 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and in the introductory program ahead of Trump's remarks in Phoenix, Arizona, on June 23.

But it is unknown when or where she was exposed to the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19.

While the site of exposure is not known, since the Tulsa rally multiple people who attended have tested positive for the virus, including a journalist and at least two members of the campaign's advance team.

In addition, six campaign staffers tested positive hours before the rally but were not present at the event.

On Thursday it was announced that former presidential candidate Herman Cain, who attended the Tulsa rally, tested positive for COVID-19.

He received the positive result on Monday, and on Wednesday he developed symptoms serious enough that he required hospitalization, a  posted to his Twitter account said.

Cain, 74, did not need a respirator and was awake and alert at an Atlanta area hospital, the statement said.

It is not known when Cain was exposed to or contracted the illness.

Trump's campaign said in a statement Thursday that Trump did not meet with Cain at the Tulsa rally.

There have been more than 2.7 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States, with more than 130,000 deaths linked to the disease, according to NBC News' count.

Cases have been rising in a number of states, and 19 states have either rolled back or paused reopening plans due to the illness.

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Surgeon general stops short of warning people to avoid crowds on Fourth of July

  • Surgeon General Jerome Adams stopped short of advising people to avoid participating in large gatherings over the Fourth of July weekend, despite warnings from health officials. 
  • Dozens of states are reeling from a spike in confirmed coronavirus cases as reopening efforts continue in the United States. 
  • President Trump is scheduled to appear at two large Fourth of July celebrations Friday and Saturday.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Friday stopped short of advising people to avoid participating in large gatherings over the Fourth of July weekend, despite warnings from health officials that such events may spread the coronavirus. 

His remarks come as President Donald Trump plans to appear at two large Fourth of July events, one at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday evening and one in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. Dozens of states are reeling from a spike in confirmed coronavirus cases as reopening efforts continue in the United States. 

When asked whether he'd advise someone to go to a large gathering, Adams in an interview with NBC's "Today" evaded answering the question directly, instead rattling off points for individuals to consider before making that decision.

He recommended that an individual recognize whether they're at higher risk for the coronavirus because of underlying medical conditions and whether the community they're in has seen spikes in confirmed cases recently.  

"Today" show host Craig Melvin interrupted before Adams finished his points, pressing him on whether he'd advise someone to attend an event where there will be a large gathering of people. 

"It's not a yes or no," Adams said. "Every single person has to make up their own mind. There are going to be people going to beaches, going to barbecues, going to different environments. And they have to look at their individual risk. As you mentioned, CDC says larger gatherings are a higher risk. You have to take that into account again with whether or not you're at risk, whether or not you live with someone who is vulnerable."

Adams urged people who do go out to wear a face covering.

"If we all wear these, we will actually have more independence and more freedom, because more places will be able to stay open and will have less spread of the disease," he said.

Trump is scheduled to attend a Fourth of July celebration this weekend, with large gatherings of people expected on the National Mall. White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday said that masks will not be required during the event. 

"The president has said that we should follow our local authorities with masks, so that's the decision," McEnany said. "He encourages people to follow those authorities. CDC guidelines, I'd also note, say recommended but not required, and we are very much looking forward to the Fourth of July celebration."

Trump is also scheduled to attend a fireworks display on Friday in South Dakota, where Republican Gov. Kristi Noem said social distancing will not occur and masks will be optional. 

"We will have a large event at July 3rd. We told those folks that have concerns that they can stay home, but those who want to come and join us, we'll be giving out free face masks, if they choose to wear one. But we will not be social distancing," Noem said Monday night in a Fox News interview.

The outbreak has spread worldwide, with more than 10.8 million confirmed cases and over 521,874 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has had at least 2.7 million cases and 128,740 deaths, according to the latest tallies.

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As coronavirus cases soar, Texas issues statewide order requiring face coverings

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Thursday requiring residents across the state to wear a face-covering in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive Covid-19 cases.
  • Abbott's announcement comes after city and local officials have urged the governor for weeks to give them the authority to issue and enforce local mask mandates.
  • Abbott said in a recorded announcement that he made the decisionbecause the percent of total tests coming back positive and the hospitalization rate both increased too much.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Thursday requiring residents across the state to wear a face-covering in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive Covid-19 cases as the outbreak rapidly spreads across the Lone Star state.

"Wearing a face covering in public is proven to be one of the most effective ways we have to slow the spread of COVID-19," Abbott said in a press release.

"We have the ability to keep businesses open and move our economy forward so that Texans can continue to earn a paycheck, but it requires each of us to do our part to protect one another — and that means wearing a face-covering in public spaces," he added. 

Abbott also issued a proclamation giving mayors and county judges the ability to impose restrictions on some outdoor gatherings of over 10 people.

Texas carved out several exemptions to the order, waiving the requirement for religious services. Kids under the age of 10 and people with a medical condition that prevents wearing a face covering are exempt from the order. The order says face coverings are also not required while exercising or voting, among other activities.

The order, however, expressly requires anyone at a protest or demonstration with more than ten people to cover their face. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has previously warned about the "potential for widespread transmission" of the coronavirus at "group gatherings during church events and within the broader community."

After the first violation of the order, people will be issued a verbal or written warning, according to the text of the order. Every subsequent violation is punishable by a fine of up to $250. Local police "can and should" enforce the rule, according to the order, but Abbott said police cannot detain or arrest people for violating it. The order is effective as of 12:01 p.m. Friday, local time.

Abbott's announcement comes after the governor had resisted calls for a statewide mandate by some Democratic politicians. The governor did allow local and city officials to issue their own requirements, but only after nine mayors from some of the largest cities in Texas sent a letter to Abbott, urging him to give them the "authority to set rules and regulations" mandating face masks in public.

Abbott said in a recorded announcement that he made the decision because the percent of total tests coming back positive and the hospitalization rate both increased too much. In the second half of May, Texas reported an average of about 1,500 new coronavirus cases every day, Abbott said. In the past week, "that number quadrupled," he said.

"Both of those danger zones have now been triggered," he added. 

The CDC and the World Health Organization recommend that people wear masks as a way to slow the spread of the virus. Scientists say the virus can spread through respiratory droplets that pass when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Studies suggest the masks serve as a helpful barrier.

On Wednesday, Texas reported a record-high spike of 8,076 new cases in a 24-hour period, according to the state health department. The virus has now infected more than 168,000 people in Texas and killed at least 2,481 people.

By comparison, New York state had around 10,000 new daily cases at the height of its pandemic earlier this year. 

Across Texas, there are 12,894 hospital beds and 1,322 ICU beds still available, but hospitals in some particularly hard-hit areas like Houston have said they are approaching surge capacity.

"We are now at a point where the virus is spreading so fast, there is little margin for error," Abbott said.

As more Texans have become infected with the virus, fallen ill and become hospitalized, Abbott last week ordered the suspension of elective procedures to make more room for Covid-19 patients in hospitals throughout the hardest hit counties: Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties. On Tuesday, he expanded the order to include Cameron, Hidalgo, Nueces and Webb counties. That affects some of Texas' biggest cities, including San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and Austin.

"Importantly, these spikes are not limited to just the big cities," Abbott said. "More than 91 counties have hit record-high numbers in just the past three days."

Texas was among the first states to reopen. Abbott allowed the state's stay-at-home order to end on April 30 and by May 1, all stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls were allowed to reopen with modifications.

"Covid-19 is not going away," he added. "In fact, it's getting worse."

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In Colorado, Progressives Had A Chance At Real Power. They Let It Go.

John Hickenlooper, a moderate and self-proclaimed pragmatist, sailed through the Colorado Democratic Senate primary on Tuesday without much of a fight from the progressive left. That, progressive advocates say, may be what tanks their best chance this year of gaining another voice and strong support for their agenda in the Senate. 

Hickenlooper, the popular former governor and failed 2020 presidential candidate, routed Andrew Romanoff, the former state House speaker who ran firmly to Hickenlooper’s left, in the race to take on Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in November’s election. Gardner is among this cycle’s most vulnerable GOP incumbents, meaning the Democratic primary presented the opportunity for progressives to place an ally in the Senate. 

But in letting Hickenlooper claim the nomination with a margin of close to 20 percentage points, they lost any hope of having a candidate who might actually rally around some of their biggest policy ideas, including the Green New Deal and “Medicare for All.”

Romanoff wasn’t the perfect pick for progressives. His own record as a state lawmaker, not unlike Hickenlooper’s as governor, was that of a moderate, willing to make concessions across the political aisle. 

But in the Senate race, Romanoff backed a Green New Deal, while Hickenlooper said it would be a “failure.” Romanoff campaigned on Medicare For All, while Hickenlooper argued for building a public option into the Affordable Care Act. Romanoff backed tuition-free public colleges and universities. Hickenlooper favors that proposal only for community colleges. Romanoff campaigned on abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Hickenlooper used more tempered language around reforming ICE. 

“You have the chance to trade an anti-Green New Deal vote with a pro-Green New Deal vote,” said David Sirota, a former presidential campaign speechwriter for Sen Bernie Sanders (i-Vt.) who has been based in Colorado for more than a decade and is married to state Rep. Emily Sirota (D). “Hickenlooper screws you. It’s an enormous missed opportunity. Whoever wins the primary has an equally good shot of winning against Gardner. When you don’t take blue state opportunities, that’s a huge missed opportunity.”

Compared to the kind of coordinated energy behind Charles Booker, the progressive candidate who fell a few percentage points short in Kentucky’s Democratic Senate race, the faceoff in Colorado went almost under the radar.

Romanoff was backed by the progressive climate activist groups Sunrise Movement and 350 Action, as well as the Denver chapter of the Sanders-aligned group Our Revolution and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which is aligned with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). But big-name elected officials stayed out of the race or came to Hickenlooper’s aid.

Sanders didn’t endorse, nor did Green New Deal co-author Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). In the campaign’s final week, Warren endorsed Hickenlooper, drawing ire from progressives. Also backing him was Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), another progressive. 

Local activists and party insiders all told the same story: after Hickenlooper ended his brief presidential bid and then decided to run for the Senate, he quickly was seen as the presumptive nominee, undercutting the appetite for challenging him.

“We had some really exciting candidates (in the early jockeying among Democrats for the Senate nod), including women of color, including strong environmentalists, before Hickenlooper was in this race,” said Joe Salazar, a former Colorado state lawmaker and progressive activist who has long publicly warred with the former governor over oil and gas policy. “Then he steps into this race and the (national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee) backs the show pony instead of these progressive women,” 

Salazar said he reached out to Sanders’ team to endorse Romanoff, but heard nothing back. “That took a lot of wind out of the progressive energy in this race.”

National Democratic officials coalesced behind Hickenlooper

Alice Madden, a progressive and former majority leader in the Colorado House of Representatives, met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) before Hickenlooper jumped into the race. She said Schumer, who oversees the Democratic efforts to win a Senate majority in November, seemed open to her candidacy as long as she was able to do one thing: raise money. When Hickenlooper got in, that prospect was gone. She dropped out two months after Hickenlooper entered the race.

“Schumer looks at Colorado and looks at a popular governor who can obviously raise some money, sees him as dominating, and that allows Schumer to spend money in Maine and Arizona,” Madden said, referring to other states where Democrats have high hopes of toppling GOP Senate incumbents. She added, “Hickenlooper was the surest bet.”

The DSSC, the party’s official Senate campaign arm, endorsed Hickenlooper almost immediately. A rumor spread throughout the state that political consultants who worked against Hickenlooper would be backlisted by party officials. Endorsements from major groups and unions became hard to secure for Hickenlooper’s rivals.

“You think about groups like Emily’s List,” Madden said of the progressive political action committee to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights. “If they get a call from DSCC, and they say we want Hickenlooper, they’re not going to buck them. And then every (progressive) candidate gets asked where is Emily’s List?”

Big environmental groups generally sat out the primary. For instance, the campaign arms of the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club declined to endorse. 

The Sunrise Movement campaigned for Romanoff for months. On Sunday, Evan Weber, the group’s national political director, issued a clarion call for volunteers to phonebank for Romanoff, calling him “the best candidate to defeat Cory Gardner.” 

“Here’s the bottom line: This Tuesday’s election is a pivotal one for the Green New Deal,” an email from Weber read. 

Some progressives complained that campaigning for Romanoff took a backseat within the movement to backing Charles Booker’s surging ― but ultimately unsuccessful ― bid to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. Even if Booker had clinched the nomination, which he narrowly lost to former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, he faced a steep uphill battle to unseat one of the GOP’s most powerful incumbents. Gardner’s seat, by contrast, represented the “most flippable race in the country” for Democrats, yet Romanoff received “one-tenth the progressive energy we saw for Booker,” said R.L. Miller, president of Climate Hawks Vote.

“It’s deeply frustrating,” she said. “If more groups had jumped in and hard and piled on hard the way they did for Booker, this really could have been turned around.” 

Weber now worries that Hickenlooper’s miscues and scandals, which include a resurfaced 2014 video of him comparing the job of a political scheduler to being on a slave ship and an independent ethics panel finding he violated state law as governor in 2018 by accepting rides in a private jet and a Maserati limousine, may mean Democrats “could lose the most winnable seat on the map.”  

“I’m concerned the future of the Senate is actually at play from the DSCC’s meddling here,” Weber said. 

When should progressives compete?

One problem for Romanoff in wooing progressives was a political past that didn’t make him a natural candidate for them to champion. His record in the state legislature was that of a moderate, said Madden, who worked with him at the statehouse in Denver. A chief sticking point was his record on immigration policy.

As Colorado’s House speaker in 2006, he championed a series of laws cracking down on undocumented immigrants. Among them was requiring local law enforcement to report any arrested individuals suspected of being illegal immigrants to federal authorities. That measure was repealed in 2013, under Hickenlooper’s governorship. 

Romanoff has since said those laws were “a serious mistake.” Still, according to Salazar, it’s a record that gave a lot of progressive activists pause, particularly those in the Latino community.

“Andrew Romanoff became a born-again progressive,” Rick Ridder, a Democratic political consultant in Colorado, said. “He was never a big progressive to begin with. … If there was to be a progressive movement in Colorado it would not have been reflected in either of those two candidates.” 

That may go a long way to explain the lack of national mobilization. That, and the quick consensus that emerged that Hickenlooper would be the nominee.

“The DSCC did a better job about making clear that dissent would not be tolerated,” Sirota said, comparing the Colorado race to other primaries across the nation where progressives have been more of a force. “The money and the institutional power was so overwhelming that it ended up creating a conventional wisdom that it was an un-winnable primary.”

The race is part of a bigger debate among progressives on how to build actual power. In New York’s recent Democratic primary, Jamaal Bowman, buoyed by progressives, almost assuredly ousted Rep. Eliot Engel, and Mondaire Jones won the nomination for an open seat in a heavily Democratic district. In Kentucky, a massive push in the campaign’s final two weeks among progressives closed the 20-point gap between Booker and McGrath to less than three percentage points. The question facing progressives remains whether it’s worth fighting in races here the odds appear heavily stacked against them.

In Colorado, the consensus was that it wasn’t.

“Hickenlooper was up by 40 points, so if you’re a progressive organization, why spend any money under these circumstances?” Ridder said. “This isn’t worth the fight.”

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Houston ICUs Surpass 100% Capacity As Texas Medical Center Makes Beds Available

Intensive care units in one of the world’s largest medical centers are operating at 102% capacity as coronavirus cases surge in Texas, according to a report Wednesday from Texas Medical Center in Houston.

An estimated 36% of the center’s 1,330 ICU beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients. The sprawling medical campus reported that there were 480 current patients with the virus in total.

As the medical center reached capacity, it enacted Phase 2 of a plan to address the surge by making 373 more beds available by reallocating hospital staff and equipment to ICUs in order to take in more patients, the Houston Chronicle reported.

This is the first time that the Houston medical center’s intensive care units have surpassed their capacity since the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. The Texas Medical Center campus contains most of Houston’s hospitals, including Baylor College of Medicine, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Hermann and Houston Methodist.

Texas was one of the first states to push for an aggressive strategy to reopen businesses and activities after quarantine regulations forced a national shutdown. However, Gov. Greg Abbott slowed down some of the state’s reopening plans as coronavirus hospitalizations rose again. Abbott ordered bars to shut down again and called for restaurants to operate at 50% capacity after allowing them to reopen.

Meanwhile, county and city officials in Texas have began enacting face mask requirements to try to slow the surge.

On Tuesday, the state saw 6,975 new COVID-19 cases in a single day, marking a new record for the state. Texas has also seen 75,000 more reported cases over the month of June, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.

If the additional beds under Phase 2 also become occupied, the medical center could enter Phase 3 of its ICU overflow plan, which would add 504 beds.

The adaptations in response to ICU overflow caused confusion Tuesday after the center’s reports on its website showed that the hospitals on its campus had already reached capacity.

Texas Medical Center CEO Bill McKeon told KHOU-TV in Houston that it has since updated its information to show that, although ICU capacity may have been reached, there are still ways to make more beds available.

“We’re four times what we were in May and April, so we’re very concerned. We don’t want this discussion about capacity to lose sight of this virus being highly active in our community,” McKeon said.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misnamed one of the hospitals that make up Texas Medical Center. It is called Houston Methodist, not Houston Memorial.

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Mississippi Governor Signs Bill to Remove Confederate Battle Emblem from State Flag

After more than a century, Mississippi's state flag will no longer feature the Confederate battle emblem.

Governor Tate Reeves signed a bill on Tuesday that removes the racist symbol from the state's flag, which has been in place for 126 years, since 1894.

While a final design for the new Mississippi flag has not yet been revealed, Reeves said that it will feature the words "In God We Trust."

The new design will be voted upon in November, and if rejected, another special election will be held with another design.

"Tonight, I signed the bill to retire the 1894 Mississippi flag and begin the process of selecting a new one — emblazoned with the words 'In God We Trust,'" the Republican governor said in a tweet Tuesday.

"Now, more than ever, we must lean on our faith, put our divisions behind us, and unite for a greater good," he added.

"This was a hard conversation for Mississippi, but family conversations can often be hard," Reeves said in his statement before signing the bill.

"I know there are people of goodwill who are not happy to see this flag changed. They fear a chain reaction of events erasing our history, a history that is no doubt complicated and imperfect," he went on to say. "I understand those concerns and am determined to protect Mississippi from that dangerous outcome."

Reeves said that the decision to change the flag "is not a political moment to me, but a solemn occasion to lead our Mississippi family to come together, to be reconciled and to move on."

It is not the first time that the discussion to remove the Confederate emblem from the flag has been had — Mississippians voted to keep the symbol in 2001, The Washington Post reported at the time.

In recent weeks, there has been a public outcry for the flag to finally change.

Faith Hill tweeted her support of removing the Confederate emblem last week, saying "it is time for the world to meet the Mississippi of today and not the Mississippi of 1894."

"I understand many view the current flag as a symbol of heritage and Southern pride, but we have to realize that this flag is a direct symbol of terror for our black brothers and sisters," the singer, 52, added in another tweet.

Earlier this month, the NCAA prohibited championship events to take place in states that fly the Confederate flag, ESPN reported — a policy change that only effected Mississippi, which is the last of the 50 states to abandon the antiquated symbol.

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World News

Amy McGrath Wins Kentucky Senate Primary Race To Face Mitch McConnell

Former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath won the Democratic nomination to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November after holding off a late charge from progressive state Rep. Charles Booker in Kentucky’s Democratic Senate primary.

The Associated Press declared McGrath the winner on Tuesday, a week after voters cast their ballots on June 23 in a primary election delayed and altered by the coronavirus pandemic. McGrath led Booker by roughly 7,000 votes ― 44.9% to 43.5% ― with more than 90% of ballots counted when the race was called. Mike Broihier, a retired Marine and farmer who waged his own progressive campaign, finished a distant third, with about 5% of the vote.

McGrath claimed victory in an email to supporters Tuesday afternoon, saying she was “humbled to be your nominee” against McConnell and that she “can’t wait to get started in sending him into retirement.”

McGrath’s victory is the latest in a string of wins for Democratic establishment leaders, whose preferred candidates have repeatedly held off progressive insurgents like Booker in the 2020 election cycle. But the results also demonstrate the first major challenge facing McGrath in November: She lost Kentucky’s two largest counties and will need to reenergize voters who preferred Booker in both locations to have any shot at ousting McConnell this fall. 

McGrath will enter the general election armed with a massive campaign war chest after raising more than $40 million during the primary. Her robust fundraising ability has helped fuel hopes among Democrats that McGrath can mount an aggressive bid to unseat the six-term Republican senator who has long been the bane of Democrats and is now an even bigger target as one of President Donald Trump’s chief Washington allies.

The primary victory gives McGrath a second chance to win a seat in Congress after she narrowly lost the race for a central Kentucky House seat to GOP Rep. Andy Barr in 2018. 

McGrath emerged as a prominent and promising new face in Kentucky politics during that earlier Democratic primary. Her long-shot bid for a House seat focused heavily on her experience in the Marines and her status as an outsider. 

This time, she had to hold off her own insurgent challenger. Booker, a freshman state legislator from Louisville, emerged as a real contender in the primary after taking a leading role in racial justice protests that broke out in his hometown and across Kentucky. Those demonstrations highlighted the March police killing of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman in Louisville. 

Booker, who became Kentucky’s youngest Black state lawmaker elected in nearly a century in 2018, ran on a slate of progressive proposals that included the Green New Deal and “Medicare for All.” He broke into the national conversation amid the protests, receiving numerous endorsements from state lawmakers and national progressive leaders ― including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). Kentucky’s two largest newspapers also endorsed Booker in the contest’s closing stages.

“Like so many Kentuckians, I was and am inspired by the powerful movement Charles Booker built toward the causes of defeating Mitch McConnell and fighting systemic racism and injustice in our country,” McGrath said in the email to supporters. “He tapped into and amplified the energy and anger of so many who are fed up with the status quo and are rightfully demanding long-overdue action and accountability from our government and institutions.”

The Kentucky primary was originally scheduled to take place on May 19 but was delayed for more than a month over concerns about COVID-19. After Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) and Secretary of State Michael Adams (R) reached a bipartisan agreement to expand absentee voting with no-excuse mail-in ballots and to allow a week of early voting, the election drew record turnout for a Kentucky primary. Total votes surpassed the number cast in 2008, when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama dueled for the Democratic presidential nomination. 

Although there were concerns about voter suppression due to most counties’ decision to limit in-person voting to a single location, the expansion of mail-in voting proved largely successful. Some voters, however, faced delays in receiving their ballots and there were notably long lines at the polls in Lexington, pointing to issues that Kentucky needs to address before November’s election.

Booker’s late surge in the race pushed him to the lead among Kentuckians who cast ballots in person on Election Day. He won those voters by 65 percentage points in Louisville and 50 points in Lexington, the state’s two largest cities. But McGrath’s advantage with mail-in votes, which made up roughly three-quarters of the ballots cast in the race, earned her the victory. Booker’s final margin of victory in Lexington, for example, shrank to roughly 6 percentage points, and absentee ballots swung many of Kentucky’s rural counties sharply in McGrath’s favor. 

McGrath’s entry into the race against McConnell last July generated an immediate wave of national interest in Kentucky’s Senate race. She smashed Kentucky fundraising records and sparked visions of a potential Democratic victory over the Senate leader, who ranks, by some measures, among the least popular lawmakers in the country.

Again, she leaned on her military experience and her outsider status. But early missteps ― including a waffling position on whether she would have supported Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court ― caused some angst among Democrats about her candidacy and helped create the atmosphere in which Booker’s progressive campaign later thrived.

Over the race’s final days, Booker hit McGrath for being a “pro-Trump Democrat,” an allegation based on an earlier comment in which she’d blamed McConnell for standing in the way of parts of Trump’s agenda, and for choosing not to attend protests over Taylor’s killing.

McGrath, who supports an Obamacare expansion to include a public option, legislation to lower the price of prescription drugs and federal infrastructure investments, particularly in Kentucky’s rural areas, came out late in the race to back existing Senate legislation to reform police. She also touted her Democratic bona fides in a late advertising push. 

In the end, McGrath won handily in many of Kentucky’s rural counties, as well as in some suburban areas.

But the enthusiasm around Booker may have dampened support for her among progressive voters, who’ve long wanted to see a candidate like him take on McConnell, and among Black voters, who form a small but potentially powerful bloc of support for Democratic candidates in Kentucky’s biggest cities. Booker’s victories in Louisville and Lexington, as well as his better-than-expected performance in some key rural and suburban counties, show where McGrath needs to make up ground in the general election.

To beat McConnell in November, McGrath must rack up huge margins in Jefferson and Fayette counties, where Louisville and Lexington, respectively, are home to the state’s largest bases of reliable Democratic voters. Booker also won Warren County, a western Kentucky area that has begun to trend toward Democrats.

But McGrath outpaced her progressive challenger in two other suburban northern Kentucky counties that are also vital in November, and she will be buoyed by the national Democratic interest in knocking off McConnell and wresting away his control of the Senate, which should help her continue to raise staggering amounts of cash. She exited the primary with nearly $20 million left, and McGrath can point to polls to bolster hopes that she has a chance to pull off the upset. In the closing days of the primary, her campaign touted a May poll showing her running dead even with McConnell, although national observers still rate McConnell as the favorite to win re-election. 

This story has been updated with comments from Amy McGrath.

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