50,000 New Coronavirus Cases In 1 Day : Coronavirus Live Updates : NPR

Women wear masks in Houston Wednesday. Harris County requires any business providing goods or services to require all employees and visitors to wear face coverings in areas of close proximity to co-workers or the public, at least through Aug. 26.

David J. Phillip/AP

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David J. Phillip/AP

Women wear masks in Houston Wednesday. Harris County requires any business providing goods or services to require all employees and visitors to wear face coverings in areas of close proximity to co-workers or the public, at least through Aug. 26.

David J. Phillip/AP

In a grim accounting of the coronavirus’ progress in the United States, another milestone was reached Wednesday: more than 50,000 new cases reported in a single day.

Johns Hopkins University & Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center, which tracks the virus worldwide, says the total number of cases reported in the U.S. stands at 2,686,480, an increase over Tuesday’s figure of 50,700. Deaths attributed to the coronavirus stand at 128,062.

Brazil is ranked second in the world behind the United States, with 1,448,753 cases and 60,632 deaths.

In testimony Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, predicted the number of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. could soon reach 100,000 per day.

Fauci drew an unfavorable comparison between U.S. and European efforts to control the spread of the virus, noting up to 95% of Europeans were at some point on lockdown compared to 50% of Americans.

In an interview Wednesday with Mary Louise Kelly on NPR’s All Things Considered, Fauci conceded the federal government’s inconsistent early guidance on whether to wear face masks was “detrimental” to containing the virus.

But he said he is encouraged by the growing number of Republican leaders now calling on people to wear masks, including Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Referring to his Senate testimony the previous day, Fauci said, “It really does not have to be 100,000 cases a day.”

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Where Are Coronavirus Cases Getting Worse? Explore Risk Levels County By County : Shots

This interactive map lets you find out how bad your county’s coronavirus outbreak is.

Harvard Global Health Institute/Microsoft AI/Screenshot by NPR

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Harvard Global Health Institute/Microsoft AI/Screenshot by NPR

This interactive map lets you find out how bad your county’s coronavirus outbreak is.

Harvard Global Health Institute/Microsoft AI/Screenshot by NPR

How severe is the spread of COVID-19 in your community? If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Though state and local dashboards provide lots of numbers, from case counts to deaths, it’s often unclear how to interpret them — and hard to compare them to other places.

“There hasn’t been a unified, national approach to communicating risk, says Danielle Allen, a professor and director of Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. “That’s made it harder for people,” she says.

Allen, along with researchers at the Harvard Global Health Institute, is leading a collaboration of top scientists at institutions around the country who have joined forces to create a unified set of metrics, including a shared definition of risk levels — and tools for communities to fight coronavirus.

The collaboration launched these tools Wednesday, including a new, online risk-assessment map that allows people to check the state or the county where they live and see a COVID-19 risk rating of green, yellow, orange or red. The risk levels are based upon the number of new daily cases per 100,000 people.

A community that has fewer than one daily new case per 100,000 is green. One to 10 is yellow; between 10 to 25 is orange; and above 25 puts you in the red. “When you get into that orange and red zone it means, in all likelihood, you’re seeing a lot of velocity, a kind of fast upward trend,” Allen says.

This is by no means the only attempt to categorize risk levels across the U.S. There are a number of frameworks out there using different measures. And that can lead to confusion, says Allen. “What we really need is a shared vocabulary and shared way of presenting data across jurisdictions,” she says. This effort represents the consensus of eight institutions and over a dozen individual experts, who have agreed on these metrics.

Of course, there are other important metrics when it comes to tracking the spread and severity of COVID-19. Local public health leaders need to know how many people are dying and how many people are hospitalized. They need to know how many tests are coming back positive in an area. (The lower the positivity rate, the more likely a community is testing enough to accurately detect the spread of the virus.)

But the group settled on tying the alert level to numbers of new cases per 100,000, because that’s a good indicator to show the current picture of outbreaks and compare them in a consistent way. It’s a standard way to measure the risk against the total population.

“It allows you to compare a rural area in upstate New York compared to New York City and have an apples to apples comparison for relative impact and relative caseload,” says Ellie Graeden of Talus Analytics and the Center for Global Health, Science and Security at Georgetown University, which is part of the convergence group that developed the metrics.

Also, by sticking with a standard, core metric you can compare trends over time. “You want to know whether things are going up or down,” Allen says.

For the public, this means you can now compare the case incidence where you live to that of, say, a nearby county where you’re considering going on an errand. Or the county where your parents live if you’re considering a visit. It gives you a way to assess your community’s risk level compared to others, at a glance, and modify your behavior accordingly.

For policy-makers, the risk levels are meant to signal the intensity of the effort needed to control COVID-19 and to trigger specific interventions. The collaborative released guidance for how state and local leaders should manage their response, depending on their risk level.

“As this [pandemic] unfolded, a lot of us were waiting for the federal government to stand up and really produce… some practical guidance on how those at the state and local level should be responding,” says Graeden. But in the in the absence of that clear guidance, this collaboration aims to fill the void.

If a jurisdiction is at the green level, they’re on track for containing the virus. At yellow, a community should implement measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing and have an active program of testing, contact tracing and isolation — including targeted testing of those in high-risk environments. Orange is considered “dangerous,” and requires surging testing and contact tracing efforts — or if that’s not possible, may call for stay-home orders.

At the red level, “jurisdictions have reached a tipping point for uncontrolled spread” according to the collaborative’s guidance. At this level, “you really need to be back at a stay-at-home [advisory]” Graeden says.

Currently, two states — Arizona and Florida — are at the red level and 13 are orange. Only Hawaii is green. But there’s a great deal of variation county-by-county. In orange Texas, for instance, more than 20 counties are red.

The idea is to take some of the guesswork out of the policy response at a local level, says Graeden, and offer a more standardized way to communicate the risk and the response options.

“We’ve all modified our metrics to align more accurately across the different platforms,” she says. “We’re now communicating and all agreeing on the same basic thresholds for the types of actions that need to be taken. “

The shared metrics and guidance will be incorporated into a number of initiatives and sites focused on COVID-19 response, including, led by a group of disease outbreak experts and former public health officials, CovidActNow, led by former technology executives and a group of academics. The convergence group hopes to see it adopted more widely and used by local and state governments.

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Officials Trace More Than 100 Coronavirus Cases To Michigan Bar

At least 107 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been linked to a bar in Michigan. 

Some 95 people who visited Harper’s Restaurant & Brewpub in East Lansing June 12-20 have now tested positive for COVID-19, Ingham County Health Department announced Monday.

A further 12 people “who were in contact with a primary case but did not go to Harper’s themselves” have also been infected with the virus, per a statement released by the department.

The rising numbers from the outbreak prompted Ingham County to issue “an emergency order reducing restaurant capacity to 50% or no more than 75 people, whichever is less.”

The patrons who tested positive for the coronavirus were aged 16 to 28.

None were hospitalized. Most showed mild symptoms and 28 were asymptomatic. Forty percent were students at or recent graduates of Michigan State University.

Ingham Country Health officials urged people who attended the venue during the nine-day period to get tested for the coronavirus and self-quarantine for 14 days following the date of their last visit.

“There are likely more people infected with COVID-19 not yet identified,” Ingham County Health officer Linda Vail warned last week when the case count from the outbreak stood at 34.

The 950-capacity venue had reopened at 50% capacity on June 8 and was “following appropriate safety procedures related to employees, restaurant capacity and table spacing,” per the department’s inspectors.

Harper’s announced its temporary closure — in order to modify its air conditioning system and further improve social distancing measures — via a lengthy post on Facebook on Jun. 23.

“We have attempted to instruct customers waiting in line to wear face coverings and practice social distancing through signage on the public sidewalk and with a banner on our railing,” the venue wrote.

“Our oversight of the line on our stairs has been successful, but trying to get customers to follow our recommendations on the public sidewalk has been challenging,” it added. “Because we have no authority to control lines on public property, we are left with the dilemma of staying open and letting this situation continue, or closing until we can devise a strategy that eliminates the lines altogether.”

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus

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Florida and Texas governors blame spike in coronavirus cases on increased testing

The explanations echo the Trump administration’s current positioning on the state of Covid-19 in America: denial and excuses.

At a time when Floridians continue to pack bars and restaurants, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis brushed away questions about his culpability in aggressively reopening his state during a press conference this week. In remarks layered with racial overtones, he blamed the surge in cases, in part, on crowded living conditions in migrant families. He said the state would also take a closer look at the spread of the virus among construction workers and day laborers, who he said are “overwhelmingly Hispanic.”

Pointing to one outbreak at a watermelon farm in Alachua County and another in a migrant community known as Indiantown in Martin County, DeSantis argued that “the close contact” in those households as well as the work environments of farm laborers are “really providing areas for the virus to thrive.”

“Some of these guys — they go to work in a school bus, and they are all just like packed there like sardines, going across like Palm Beach County or some of these other places, and (there’s) all these opportunities to have transmission,” DeSantis said Tuesday, adding that some of the workers are “migratory” and that the state’s health department is alerting Georgia and Alabama about “what may be coming down the pike.”

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott continues to insist there is no reason for alarm because the state’s hospital bed capacity is dramatically better than it was earlier this year when the pandemic first hit.

Abbott, who wore a mask to his press conference and took it off while speaking, has rebuffed a request from nine city mayors that would allow them to require masks in their cities. He says local officials should be using other tools at their disposal — like fining rule-breakers for big gatherings. The Texas governor also said the rise in cases this week was due to a batch of positive tests that all came in on June 10 from Texas prisons and a data error in rural Pecos County.

“As we continue the process of opening up Texas — as we continue to have Texans return to their jobs, so that they are able to earn a paycheck that will help them pay their bills and put food on their tables,” Abbott said, “…we remain laser focused on maintaining abundant hospital capacity.”

Both DeSantis and Abbott have argued they always expected case numbers to rise when testing increased, statements that directly contradict the assertions by epidemiologists that case numbers should go down with greater testing, because theoretically health officials should be able to trace the cases and slow the spread of the virus.

Mixed messaging as coronavirus cases rise in many states

President Donald Trump has set the tone for these Republican governors from the top, intently focusing on ensuring that the economy recovers as the November election looms.

Trump described the virus as “fading away” during an interview this week as he prepares to host a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday that could pack thousands of people into arena with no requirement for participants to wear masks.

Vice President Mike Pence urged governors during a call this week to highlight ramped up testing in their states as a reason coronavirus cases are rising. Pence, who heads the administration’s coronavirus task force, declared on Thursday in Michigan that the nation has proven “that we can safely reopen America.”

“Every single day we are one day closer to putting the coronavirus in the past,” Pence said during remarks at a Michigan steel plant Thursday. “We slowed the spread. We flattened the curve. We cared for the most vulnerable, and we saved lives.”

Those claims by Trump and Pence, however, are not supported by the facts. Twenty-three states saw an increase in new cases between June 10 and 17, according to a CNN analysis of data from John Hopkins University.
Florida and Texas are two of the 10 states experiencing record-high seven-day averages of new coronavirus cases, according to the analysis.

Florida officials are pointing to an “aggressive testing” strategy in their state, where DeSantis noted that health officials have made testing available to every resident of a long-term care facility as well as to the employees who work there.

Florida, which allowed certain businesses to reopen on May 4, announced its highest single-day count Thursday since the pandemic began, according to data released by the Florida Department of Health. The percentage of people testing positive hit a new peak of 10.18% on Tuesday, before falling to 9% on Wednesday, according to the new data from the state health department.
“Certainly as we reopened, we did expect to see an increase — but not like this,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said during an interview on CNN’s “At this Hour” Thursday. (The number of cases reported each day in Pinellas County, where St. Petersburg is located, has risen dramatically since early June).

“There are all kinds of alarm bells that are going off for me,” said Kriseman, a Democrat. “I’m not comfortable with what I see happening in my community,” he said, explaining his decision to require business employees to wear masks if they come face-to-face with customers beginning on Friday. “I think you’re going to see mayors across the state of Florida that are going to take actions in response to these numbers because we’re just not seeing that from our leadership in Tallahassee.”

But DeSantis this week rejected the notion that reopening Florida businesses led to the record numbers of cases, and said he did not think a requirement to wear masks is necessary. Restaurants, he noted, have been open for close to six weeks in some areas: “The idea that that all of a sudden is the reason (for the increase), I’m not sure that’s the case.”

“So no, we’re not shutting down, we’re going to go forward,” DeSantis said. “We’re going to continue to protect the most vulnerable. We’re going to urge, continue to advise, particularly our elderly population to maintain social distancing, avoid crowds.”

The Florida governor noted that from the beginning of the outbreak, he has recommended people wear masks if they are face-to-face with another person, or can’t socially distance. But, he said: “You don’t need to be wearing it if you are going for a jog or you’re on the beach. And so, some of this stuff can get out of hand. I want to be reasonable about it.”

DeSantis noted that the state has “6,400 ventilators that are just sitting idle.”

Texas governor battles mayors over mask requirements

Abbott has focused on Texas’s ability to handle new cases as hospitalizations reached a new record this week with 2,947 coronavirus patients — nearly doubling since Memorial Day (when 1,534 hospitalizations were reported), according to the Texas Department of State Health Services dashboard.

In their letter to Abbott, a group of mayors argued that requiring Texans to wear face coverings “could prove to be the most effective way to prevent the transmission of this disease.”

“Yet many people in many of our cities are still refusing to wear these face coverings even though these coverings are scientifically proven to help prevent the disease from spreading,” the mayors wrote in their letter Tuesday. “If mayors are given the opportunity to require face coverings, we believe our cities will be ready to help reduce the spread of this disease.” The mayors of Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, Arlington, Plano and Grand Prairie — a mix of Republicans, Democrats and Independents — signed on to the letter.

But the governor contends local officials asking for more authority have not imposed penalties and enforcement mechanisms currently available to them if Texans break the rules by participating in large gatherings, for example.

“I make clear on a daily basis around the entire state of Texas that wearing a mask is very important, and local officials send that same message,” Abbott said this week. “So all of us have a collective responsibility to educate the public that wearing a mask is the best thing to do. Putting people in jail, however, is the wrong approach.”

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Heartland hotspots: A sudden rise in coronavirus cases is hitting rural states without stay-at-home orders

When it came back positive, Tammy, who spoke on the condition that CNN not use her last name to protect her privacy, had already quarantined herself. Isolated, she decided to write her governor, Kevin Stitt, the first-term Republican and one of just 8 governors in the US to resist issuing a statewide stay-at-home-order. Tammy had voted for Stitt but she didn’t agree with his decision.

Just as cases are starting to plateau in some big cities and along the coasts, the coronavirus is catching fire in rural states across the American heartland, where there has been a small but significant spike this week in cases. Playing out amid these outbreaks is a clash between a frontier culture that values individual freedom and personal responsibility, and the onerous but necessary restrictions to contain a novel biological threat.

The remaining states, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming each saw an increase in cases, but more in line with other places that have stay-at-home orders. And all of those numbers may very well undercount the total cases, given a persistent lack of testing across the US.

This trend undermines the notion perpetuated by President Donald Trump and some of his Republican allies that the restrictive social-distancing measures aren’t necessary in rural America — and that these states even offer a model for reopening the country.

“If you look at Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota — that’s a lot different than New York, it’s a lot different than New Jersey,” Trump said at Thursday’s coronavirus task force briefing, adding that 29 states are “in that ballgame” of being ready to be reopened first.

“We have large sections of the country right now that can start thinking about opening,” Trump added.

A ‘mythic story’ of rural-urban divide

Laura Bellis, a progressive activist in Tulsa who has been a leading voice urging Oklahoma to adopt and enforce a stay-at-home policy, said she believes the resistance to such orders is grounded in a false view of an urban-rural divide.

“There’s a mythic story that they have really different needs, when we’re much more inextricably linked than that,” Bellis told CNN.

The governors of the holdout states frequently invoke middle-American, conservative values when defending their decisions not to issue stay-at-home orders. South Dakota’s Republican governor Kristi Noem has said her office has “trusted South Dakotans to exercise personal responsibility.” And Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska defended his call for voluntary social distancing as opposed to a stay-at-home order.

“This is a program that depends on people exercising personal responsibility and their civic duty,” Ricketts told Politico Wednesday. “This is about making that decision, not the heavy hand of government taking away your freedoms.”
In a Wednesday press conference, Stitt said he is making decisions about public-health guidelines “based on what’s happening in Oklahoma, not what’s going on in a different state or different city.” And in early April, Noem suggested her state did not need such tough restrictions because South Dakota is “not New York City.”

But while the American heartland is far less dense than New York and other cities and states on the coasts, it is home to much of the country’s agricultural and manufacturing base. The threat coronavirus poses to those sectors of the economy has begun to arrive.

In Iowa, for instance, two separate Tysons food processing plants have also closed due to outbreaks that have so far caused the deaths of two workers.

And in South Dakota a large pork processing plant owned by Smithfield Foods has been closed after experiencing a massive outbreak among workers there that has contributed to the explosion of coronavirus cases in Sioux Falls. (Noem has insisted a stay-at-home order “would NOT have prevented Smithfield from happening.”)

With the real potential for higher prices and even food shortages, insufficient action by Republican governors in the heartland could continue to ripple across the country in ways that would adversely affect the lives of Americans everywhere.

The governors in each of these states continue to insist that their own approach, short of a stay-at-home order, is the best way to combat the virus for their individual states — for the time being, at least.

“If we need to do more, we will do more,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday on “State of the Union.” “So that’s always an option on the table if we have to shelter in place. But right now, what we’re doing proves to be successful, this targeted approach.”

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Spring cases in limbo without Supreme Court guidance on arguments during pandemic

The justices issued an order on Monday in an April case, as if the month’s schedule had not changed amid the death and turmoil of Covid-19. The Court allocated the argument time among various parties in a still-slated April 21 dispute from Oklahoma.

That ambiguous order and lack of public notice about how the nine justices may modify their practices for spring cases has only added to the swirl of uncertainty in difficult times. The reluctance to offer alternatives — or provide clarity about possible postponements — reinforces the secrecy around what is already one of the most insular and mysterious institutions of government.

Earlier in March as social distancing measures began and government offices closed, the justices indefinitely postponed a slate of 11 cases that were to be heard this month. But the justices offered no suggestion of how those March disputes would eventually be aired or resolved. And now, nine April cases, scheduled to begin on the 20th of the month and run for two weeks, are similarly in limbo. Oral arguments are important to the justices’ consideration of disputes, but, as demonstrated by a handful of actions each term, not crucial to decisions.

With no word from the Court, lawyers have continued to prepare filings and be ready for arguments. But they are at sea about what to expect. Lower federal courts, in contrast, have instituted alternative practices and continued their oral arguments through teleconferences.

The Supreme Court does not allow live-streaming and declines to provide same-day audio of its cases. Many of the nine justices revel in their low-tech, old-fashioned ways. But in today’s anxious atmosphere, those patterns, and reluctance to step up communications, deepens the uncertainty.

The oral argument tradition

Chief Justice John Roberts has called oral arguments “a very important and well-functioning part of the decision process.”

They let lawyers tackle questions about their cases and give the justices themselves an opportunity to telegraph their views and begin persuading each other.

The hourlong sessions also offer spectators a window into the Court’s ways. Oral arguments constitute the only time all nine justices are seen together, in open court, as they struggle with an important legal dilemma.

When the Court last heard cases in early March, for example, the justices signaled their views on abortion rights and on a federal regulatory setup for consumer financial protection.

But while oral arguments help clarify issues and offer some transparency, they are not essential to the resolution of cases. Lawyers file written briefs with their cases, and the justices decide some disputes based only on such filings, including questions of life and death for condemned prisoners facing execution.

Dozens of disputes for the 2019-2020 term already had been aired in oral arguments that began last October, and the justices are working on those decisions.

Among the cases heard late last year and still awaiting resolution are those testing whether federal law protects LGBTQ workers from discrimination, whether New York gun regulations violate the Second Amendment, and whether the Trump administration’s plan to deport certain undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children can proceed.

The justices are now working from home and conducting their internal meetings by telephone. Decisions are being issued online, rather than in the courtroom, as is customary. The new process has not been without glitches. The decision scheduled to be posted Monday morning was delayed.

But what of the remaining 20 cases that were scheduled to be heard this spring?

All have been pending for months, if not years, in the usual federal appellate process and could possibly be delayed only a few months, if heard in the summer or early fall. Among the disputes that were on the calendar for this month are those involving House of Representatives and Manhattan district attorney efforts to obtain Trump’s financial records for ongoing investigations. Those cases were to be heard Tuesday.

The justices are still scheduled, on April 28, to hear a dispute relevant to the upcoming presidential election, testing whether states may fine or remove Electoral College delegates who refuse to cast their ballots for candidates to whom they were pledged.

Window on the court

Oral arguments are the formal start of the give-and-take as the justices consider a case. They typically do not discuss the merits of a dispute until after oral arguments, in a private weekly meeting.

The sessions also offer spectators an opportunity to pick up signals from the justices on their substantive views, as well as a chance to see individual predilections, beginning with who they invited for their special reserved seats.

The justices’ views emerged earlier this month in a dispute over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created by Congress in 2010 to safeguard consumers in banking, mortgage and other financial transactions. The case was triggered by a debt-services firm, resisting a CFPB investigation, that claimed the bureau was unconstitutionally set up because its director could be removed by the President only “for cause.”

The challengers urged the justices not only to invalidate the CFPB’s structure but to throw out the entire law and reverse a major 1935 case that had made it difficult for the President to remove the directors of multiple independent agencies. That argument theoretically played to conservatives’ increasing skepticism of federal regulations.

During the March 3 arguments, it appeared the five conservative justices would be ready to rule against the CFPB’s independent-director structure. But some on the right signaled they were not ready to gut the agency or use the case for a sweeping rollback of federal regulatory power.

Among the guests in the justices’ special reserved section for the CFPB dispute were Maureen Scalia, widow of Justice Antonin Scalia, who remains an icon of the right; her son John Scalia; and Leonard Leo, a Scalia family friend and leader at the conservative Federalist Society.

The next day, March 4, when the justices took up a challenge to a tough Louisiana abortion regulation on physicians who perform the procedure, among the spectators in the justices’ prime reserved seats were Jane Roberts, wife of the chief justice; Joanna Breyer, wife of Justice Stephen Breyer; and Ashley Kavanaugh, wife of newest Justice Brett Kavanaugh. (Jane Roberts had formerly served as volunteer legal counsel at Feminists for Life of America, an anti-abortion group, before her husband joined the Court.)

In dispute is a requirement that physicians obtain “admitting privileges” from a hospital within 30 miles of clinics. In a 2016 case out of Texas, the majority found that the regulation reduced the number of physicians available to perform abortions and offered virtually no health benefits for women.

Roberts, holding the key vote in many cases since the 2018 retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, had been a vigorous questioner in the Texas case but was more guarded in this month’s dispute. (The chief justice has never voted to strike down an abortion regulation, and he dissented when the majority invalidated the Texas regulation in 2016.)

But it was difficult to predict how he would cast his vote in the Louisiana matter based on his limited queries. He raised a line of inquiry that could differentiate the Louisiana law from the Texas regulation.

Kavanaugh — the successor to Kennedy, who was formerly the deciding vote for abortion rights — similarly focused on possible state-by-state differences, specifically if physicians in some places would be able to readily obtain so-called admitting privileges.

Kavanaugh suggested he doubted such laws would always lack valid grounds and be “unconstitutional in any state, regardless of the facts.”

How he and Roberts vote will likely be seen by the end of June when the justices — at least by their usual practice — finish handing down all their decisions for the term.

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A state-by-state breakdown of US coronavirus cases

There were at least 601 cases and 22 deaths in the United States across 34 states and the District of Columbia as of noon ET on March 9. That national figure includes 531 people diagnosed through the US public health system and 70 people repatriated to the US — 46 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, 21 on the Grand Princess cruise ship and three from China.

Here are the reported number of cases from each state, not including those who were repatriated.

Arizona: 5

California: 89 (including 1 death)

Colorado: 8

Connecticut: 1

District of Columbia: 1

Florida: 13 (including 2 deaths)

Georgia: 11

Hawaii: 2

Illinois: 7

Indiana: 2

Iowa: 3

Kansas: 1

Kentucky: 4

Maryland: 5

Massachusetts: 28

Minnesota: 2

Missouri: 1

Nebraska: 3

Nevada: 4

New Hampshire: 4

New Jersey: 6

New York: 142

North Carolina: 2

Oklahoma: 1

Oregon: 14

Pennsylvania: 6

Rhode Island: 3

South Carolina: 6

Tennessee: 3

Texas: 12

Utah: 1

Vermont: 1

Virginia: 2

Washington state: 137 (including 19 deaths)

Wisconsin: 1

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of coronavirus cases repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. It is 46.

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Supreme Court to discuss same-sex wedding, electoral college and contraceptives cases

Friday’s conference is the first scheduled time the nine justices will meet face-to-face in 2020 to conduct business.

The court will likely announce as soon as Monday which cases it will and won’t consider.

Arlene’s Flowers and same-sex wedding

Justice will again consider whether to hear the case of a Washington state florist who declined to make an arrangement for the wedding of a same-sex couple, a move that could eventually result in a broader ruling on religious freedom.

Last June, the Washington state Supreme Court ruled against Arlene’s Flowers and its owner, Barronelle Stutzman, who refused in 2013 to make a floral arrangement for client Robert Ingersoll’s same-sex wedding, citing religious views that are at odds with the wedding.
That decision came after the US Supreme Court on appeal sent the case back down to the state in 2018 to be considered in light of its Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, in which a 7-2 court sided that same year with a Colorado baker who declined to make a cake for a same-sex couple in a ruling carefully tailored to the case at hand.
“Absent this Court’s review, government officials will keep dragging ‘reasonable and sincere people’ of faith like Barronelle through the courts … imposing ruinous judgments, and barring them from their professions simply because they hold disfavored views about marriage,” Stutzman’s lawyers wrote to the high court last September.

“Only this Court can resolve the numerous First Amendment conflicts these issues have created … and set precedent that will protect people across the political spectrum in present and future cultural debates.”

CNN Supreme Court analyst Steve Vladeck said this week that the case could give the court an opportunity to issue an opinion on the broader issues it “dodged” two years ago in Masterpiece Cakeshop.

“In its narrow holding, the justices dodged a broader decision about when the religious beliefs of the owners of a secular business require an exemption from local and state anti-discrimination laws, such as laws banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” said Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

“But this case is one of many in the pipeline asking the Court to take up and resolve that issue — especially now that Justice (Brett) Kavanaugh has replaced Justice (Anthony) Kennedy, which may portend a majority that’s more inclined to side with the business owners in these disputes,” Vladeck added.

Washington state Supreme Court rules against florist in same-sex wedding case

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who is representing the state in the case, told CNN the issue is “well settled in courts all across our country at every level.”

“You cannot violate a civil rights statue under the guise of religious liberty,” he said in an interview. “The Supreme Court could take it if they want to, but it’s not like there’s some big dispute going on out there.”

Kristen Waggoner, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, the group representing Stutzman, said the court “has an opportunity to resolve many important legal issues left unanswered” following Masterpiece Cakeshop.

“A denial will finalize a flawed Washington court ruling that strips away Americans’ right to live and work according to our deepest beliefs,” she told CNN. “That hurts Americans no matter their religious beliefs.”

‘Faithless electors’

Three presidential electors in Washington state who voted for Colin Powell in 2016 rather than Hillary Clinton and were fined under state law want the US Supreme Court to take up their appeal and decide whether a state can bind an elector to vote for the state’s popular vote winner.
How the electoral map is moving toward Republicans
“The issue is undeniably important: presidential elections in the Electoral College will be increasingly close, and could literally turn upon whether electors have a constitutionally protected discretion,” Lawrence Lessig, a lawyer for the so-called “faithless electors,” told the justices in court papers.

Overall, 10 of the 538 presidential electors in 2016 voted or attempted to vote for someone other than their pledged candidate, Lessig noted.

In May, the Washington state Supreme Court held that the state could regulate the vote of an elector either directly or indirectly. But in August, a federal appeals court ruled that a similar Colorado law was unconstitutional.

“There is nothing in the federal Constitution” that allows a state to remove an elector or nullify his vote, a three-judge panel of the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals held. “The states may not interfere with the electors’ exercise of discretion in voting for the President and Vice President.”

Most states currently require some kind of a pledge from an elector to vote for the party’s candidate.

The Washington state challenge is brought by Peter Bret Chiafalo, Levi Jennet Guerra and Esther Virginia John, who were nominated as presidential electors for the Washington Democratic Party for the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine received the most popular votes in the state for president and vice president, respectively.

The three electors voted for Powell for president. For vice president, Guerra voted for Washington Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell, John voted for Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Chiafalo voted for Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Little Sisters of the Poor back at the Court

The court could also consider case involving the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic religious order for women, petitioning the court to affirm religious exemptions under the Affordable Care Act’s long controversial requirement that employer-provided health insurance plans cover birth control as a preventive service.

The petition asks the court to consider whether the group can bring the case, as well as the broader question of whether the federal government can legally provide religious exemptions to the contraceptive mandate. It cites the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which was designed to prohibit the federal government from “substantially burdening” a person’s exercise of religion.

The petition continues a long-standing battle between the nuns — bolstered by friendly policies from the Trump administration — and proponents of the contraceptive mandate previously in the federal government and now in the states.

The Little Sisters challenged the mandate before the court in March 2016, seeking an exemption similar to what has been provided to houses of worship such as churches. Although the Obama administration offered them an accommodation meant to respect their religious objections, they and other groups said it was not good enough because it would still make them complicit in providing the coverage.
The court later issued an order asking both sides to consider an alternative and address the question of whether “contraceptive coverage could be provided to petitioners employees, through petitioner’s insurance companies, without any such notice from petitioners.” Both the Obama administration and religious groups, including the Little Sisters, said they were open to a compromise, and that May, the court issued a unanimous ruling not to decide the case on the merits, but instead sent the case back down to the lower courts for opposing parties to work out.
But the landscape has changed under the Trump administration, which issued two final rules in 2018, including providing an exemption from the contraceptive coverage mandate to entities that object to such coverage based on religious beliefs. In January, Pennsylvania and California went to court to challenge the new rules, with federal judges in both states then halting them from going into effect.

After the Third US Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the federal level ruling against the Little Sisters in July, the nuns are now looking for the Supreme Court to affirm their exception.

The Third Circuit’s “decision and the resulting patch-work of injunctions and counter-injunctions cries out for this Court’s review,” the petition reads. “Religious liberty is too important for it to be accommodated only as a last resort.”

Appeals court says Obamacare individual mandate unconstitutional and sends law back to lower court

Mark Rienzi, a lawyer representing the Little Sisters, told CNN that the justices have “made it pretty clear that they do think this is a big, substantive, important thing to get resolved.”

“The shocking thing here is that the parties did come to a deal (in 2016), and yet now states are suing, saying that the federal government can’t give this exemption,” Rienzi said.

“If they don’t take it now, it’s just going to fester and continue, and I don’t think that’s in anybody interest or the court’s interest,” he continued, adding that he thought all nine justices would look favorably on the petition “because they all take the First Amendment and religious liberties seriously.”

Jacklin Rhoads, a spokesperson for the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General, told CNN in a statement that “two federal courts have blocked the Trump Administration’s rules because they would allow virtually any employer to deny women access to contraception for any reason—including the belief that women should not be in the workforce.”

“Both courts made clear that their rulings will have no impact on the Little Sisters of the Poor, who have a separate court-ordered injunction exempting them from the contraceptive mandate,” she added. “Any suggestion to the contrary is false and we have no reason to believe the Supreme Court will rule differently.”

The court has opted to turn down the Little Sisters before. In June, the court declined to take up a case brought by the Little Sisters challenging lower court opinions that blocked the administration’s efforts to weaken the mandate.

Iran terrorism judgment lawsuit

In the final days of 2018, Congress once again sided with the families of US Marines killed in the 1983 Beirut bombings, passing a bill that made explicit that courts were permitted to seize assets outside of the United States.

Shortly after Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law on December 20, the Justice Department filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to erase a decision made by the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals, effectively stripping the precedent from the books so that other future cases would be unable to rely on it to seize assets outside the United States.

“It now would be appropriate to grant the certiorari petitions, vacate the judgment below, and remand to the court of appeals for further consideration in light of the NDAA,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote.

The families of Marines killed in the attacks — for which the US has faulted Iran — have spent more than a decade trying to collect a judgment they won against Iran in 2007. But seizing the assets to fulfill the judgment has been difficult.

In the middle of the bond dispute is Clearstream Banking, a Luxembourg-based clearinghouse that has served as an intermediary for sovereign bonds held by Bank Markazi, Iran’s central bank, with offices in New York.

The US government — in particular the State Department — has a long history of resisting the ability of civil litigants to seize money from sovereign governments, even those like Iran. But the law passed by Trump effectively makes clear that courts have the power to seize assets for judgments inside and outside of the United States.

In their rebuttal, the plaintiff’s attorneys argued that despite the change in the law by Congress late last year, it does not in any way impair the Second Circuit’s decision, and that the Supreme Court should deny the government’s petition.

“This Court should reject the new suggestion of the United States. The legislation does not in any way call into question the correctness of the decision below; instead, it provides an independent ground for affirming its judgment,” the attorneys wrote in a brief.

Ultimately, the court can make one of three decisions: 1) Dismiss the petition, 2) Deny the US government’s petition or 3) Send the case back to the lower court to erase the precedent.

‘Copycat’ assault weapons ban

The court is already faced with a major 2nd Amendment case concerning a New York gun law that regulates where licensed handgun owners can take a locked and unloaded handgun. In that case, the law has been changed since the justices agreed to hear the challenge, and they are now considering whether or not to render the case moot.
The new case it could take up concerns a Massachusetts provision that prohibits the sale and possession of assault weapons and large capacity feeding devices except by a law enforcement officer or law enforcement retiree who is “not otherwise prohibited from receiving such a weapon or feeding device from such agency upon retirement.”
Following a 2016 mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, state Attorney General Maura Healey issued a notice to gun manufacturers and retailers in the state that her office “is stepping up enforcement of the state’s assault weapons ban, including a crackdown on the sale of copycat weapons,” which are assault weapons with minor design differences. Despite being covered under the ban, 10,000 such weapons were sold in the state in 2015, her office said. In response to the notice, four gun owners, two retailers and a firearms advocacy group filed suit challenging Healey’s enforcement of the ban.

The challenge was rejected last year by a federal appeals court, which sided with a previous ruling that dismissed the lawsuit. “This case concerns an issue of paramount importance,” the appeals court wrote in its decision. “In the wake of increasingly frequent acts of mass violence committed with semiautomatic assault weapons and LCMs, the interests of state and local governments in regulating the possession and use of such weapons are entitled to great weight.”

But in their writ of certiorari asking the court to hear the case, lawyers for the petitioners wrote that the state’s “bans are inconsistent with the Second Amendment’s text, history, and tradition and must be overturned.”
Supreme Court hears biggest Second Amendment case in a decade
The National Rifle Association argued the court should review the case, saying that its “intervention is imperative” because the state’s provision deprives citizens “of their constitutional right to keep and bear protected arms.”
In a brief submitted last year, Massachusetts urged the court not to agree to hear the case, touting the decision of the appeals court.

“Massachusetts has permissibly chosen to prohibit a narrowly defined group of weapons used disproportionally in (mass shootings), while at the same time ensuring that law-abiding residents have access to a host of other firearms for self-defense and other lawful activities,” the brief states.

CNN’s Dan Berman, David Burke and Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.

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Breaking New

Spotlight will be on U.S. chief justice in Trump trial and in major cases

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts is poised to serve a highly visible though largely ceremonial role in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump due next month. But it is in his day job on the Supreme Court that the mild-mannered jurist could have a bigger impact on Trump’s presidency.

FILE PHOTO: Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts is seen during a group portrait session for the new full court at the Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., November 30, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

Roberts, 64, is set to preside over the trial in which the 100 U.S. senators will serve as jurors to decide whether to convict the president and remove him from office, an unlikely result considering Trump’s fellow Republicans control the chamber and a two-thirds majority is needed to oust him.

While the senators – not Roberts – set the rules for the trial and determine its outcome, he is positioned to play a central role in deciding significant cases now before the nine-member court that will directly impact Trump.

It is in the marble-lined corridors of the Supreme Court across the street from the U.S. Capitol, hidden from the television cameras, where Roberts wields real power.

The justices will hear arguments and rule by the end of June – in the heat of the 2020 presidential race – on Trump’s bid to keep details of his finances secret after lower courts ordered that his accounting firm and two banks turn over records to congressional investigators and a New York City prosecutor.

Roberts is considered the ideological center of a court with a 5-4 conservative majority. As such, he could very well represent the decisive vote. Roberts is known for his cautious approach to major cases, sometimes disappointing fellow conservatives.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives on Wednesday made Trump only the third U.S. president to be impeached, passing two formal charges – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – arising from his request that Ukraine investigate political rival Joe Biden.

The court’s rulings in the financial records cases could set precedents consequential not only for Trump but for other presidents for decades to come.

With Democratic House lawmakers and a Democratic prosecutor in New York issuing subpoenas for his financial records, the businessman-turned-politician has argued for broad presidential immunity. Rulings in Trump’s favor could handcuff Congress and prosecutors in investigating any sitting president. Unlike other recent presidents, Trump has refused to disclose his tax returns.


The impeachment trial promises to be uncomfortable for Roberts, who prefers to fly under the radar even while he has steered the court in a rightward direction since being appointed as chief justice in 2005 by Republican President George W. Bush.

“My sense is that the chief doesn’t want to make himself the story,” said Sarah Binder, a scholar at the Brookings Institution think tank.

Those who know Roberts, including former law clerks, have said he will take his trial role seriously and, as a history buff, is likely reading up on the previous impeachment trials of Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, both of whom were acquitted.

His job is to keep the trial on track, though Roberts could be called upon to rule on whether certain witnesses should appear. Senators could reverse him if a majority disagrees with any ruling he makes.

In Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial, then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist had “relatively little to do,” said Neil Richards, a professor at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis who was one of Rehnquist’s law clerks at the time.

“I think Chief Justice Roberts is likely to approach his role … the way he has approached his judicial career to date: doing his best to be impartial, doing his best to preserve the dignity of his judicial office,” Richards added.

Roberts has not spoken publicly about his impending role. During a rare public appearance in New York in September, he appeared concerned about Washington’s hyperpartisan politics.

“When you live in a polarized political environment, people tend to see everything in those terms. That’s not how we at the court function,” Roberts said.

Roberts has the reputation as a traditional conservative and strong defender of the Supreme Court’s institutional independence. Roberts, raised in Indiana and educated at Harvard Law School, served in Republican President Ronald Reagan’s administration in the 1980s and was appointed first to a federal appeals court and later to the Supreme Court by Bush.

Roberts is often viewed as an incrementalist in his judicial philosophy, mindful that the Supreme Court risks its legitimacy if its conservative majority is seen as moving too aggressively to the right in its rulings.

He has voted consistently with his fellow conservatives -against gay and abortion rights and for expanded religious liberty and gun rights. But in 2012, Roberts sided with the court’s liberal bloc and cast the deciding vote to uphold the healthcare law dubbed Obamacare, signed by Democratic President Barack Obama in 2010 and reviled by conservatives.

Slideshow (3 Images)

In June, Roberts joined the liberal justices and cast the deciding vote in a 5-4 ruling blocking Trump from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census that critics said was intended to deter immigrants from taking part in the decennial population count.

Roberts publicly differed with Trump in November 2018, taking the rare step of issuing a statement defending the federal judiciary after the president lashed out at judges who had ruled against him.

An independent judiciary, Roberts said, “is something we should all be thankful for.”

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Jan Wolfe and Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham

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Breaking New

A hospital had 9 flu cases at this time last year. This year, it had more than 1,400

But Bonin is an experienced mother of seven, and she’d never seen any of her children so sick. She brought Adrian to the emergency room at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, where he was, indeed, diagnosed with influenza.

Adrian is in good company during what has proven to be an extraordinary fall for the flu in parts of the country, causing strain and long waits in the emergency room in some hospitals.

At Children’s, they’ve seen more than 1,400 cases of the flu so far this season, compared to nine cases at this time last year.

At Ochsner Health System, the largest nonprofit health system in Louisiana, there were 6,909 cases of the flu in November — that’s 1,385% more cases than what it saw in November 2018.

“You never hear of flu being this powerful in November,” Bonin said. “Adrian was so sick, he couldn’t even function, he didn’t even want to read a book or look at his iPad.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Protection divides flu activity into 10 levels, and in the week ending November 23, Louisiana and four other southeastern states, plus Puerto Rico, had the very highest level of activity.

In the same time period last year, only two states had reached the highest level. In fact, in the past 10 flu seasons, there have never been this many places with the highest level of flu activity at this time of year.

And flu is spreading fast. In the week ending November 23, 10 states had widespread activity. Just one week before, only six states had widespread activity.

“This acceleration this early is quite remarkable,” said Dr. William Lennarz, a pediatric emergency care specialist at Ochsner.

Children are being hit particularly hard this year. Influenza B, which is typically more severe in children than adults, usually appears in relatively small numbers toward the end of the season, but this year it has already made a major showing.

At Children’s, for example, all but 46 of their 1,433 cases have been influenza B.

When flu hits this early, not everyone is vaccinated. Adrian, for example, had not received a flu shot when he was struck with the flu.

“It’s concerning not to have kids immunized and protected when the flu starts to circulate,” said Dr. Amanda Jackson, primary care medical director at Children’s Hospital New Orleans.
“If it stays like this, influenza B is going to impact kids, and that’s always hard,” said Lynnette Brammer, team lead of the CDC’s domestic influenza surveillance team.
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This season, at least five children have died of the flu nationwide, according to the CDC.

Brammer added that it’s not too late to get a flu shot, and that this year the vaccine looks like a “pretty good” match with the flu.

There are concerns that this early season could mean a particularly severe season overall.

“When you see an early season, it doesn’t always mean it’s going to be a bad season, but statistically an early start is more often a bad season than a mild season,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

After a round of anti-viral medication, Adrian’s 104-degree fever broke, and he recovered from the flu.

After three children with the flu this season — two of Adrian’s siblings caught it, as well — Bonin has seen firsthand what flu can do.

“I pumped him for two days with Tylenol and Advil, and still his fever was so high it made me nervous,” she said. “It totally knocked him out. I’ve never seen one of my children down like this, and for so long.”

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