Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 2, 2020

Harold Maass
A testing site
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images


U.S. one-day coronavirus increase breaks record

There were a record number of new coronavirus cases reported in the United States on Wednesday, with a Washington Post tally putting the increase at 52,788. Johns Hopkins University data put the figure at 50,203, up from a previous high of 45,255 reached on June 26. At least five states — Arizona, California, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas — set one-day records. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced an order to close, for three weeks, restaurant dining rooms, bars, and other indoor facilities in 19 counties that are home to 28 million people, or 72 percent of the state's population. One infectious disease expert warned the U.S. was facing "the perfect storm" for a COVID-19 spike with people traveling for July 4 and many businesses newly reopened. [CNN, The Washington Post]


Seattle police clear CHOP protest zone

Seattle police on Wednesday cleared out the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) and arrested 32 people who had remained in the protest zone. Hours after Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an executive order calling for immediate action to end the "unlawful assembly" in the area, at least 100 police officers equipped with body armor, helmets, batons, and other weapons swept through the CHOP. Many protesters still in the area backed away. Some shouted, "We'll be back." The protesters had occupied the area around a park and police precinct for about three weeks, since early in the nationwide protests against racial injustice that erupted after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. Police left the precinct in early June. After two shootings left two teens dead Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said, "Enough is enough." [The Seattle Times]


Russia's disputed vote lets Putin stay in power until 2036

Russian voters approved constitutional changes that will let President Vladimir Putin hold onto power until 2036. With polls closed Wednesday after a weeklong plebiscite, 78 percent supported the constitutional amendments with about 75 percent of the precincts counted. The voting was extended for a full week to boost turnout without creating crowds that could have increased the risk of spreading the coronavirus. Kremlin critics said the government used the unprecedented long voting period to manipulate the result. "We look at neighboring regions, and anomalies are obvious — there are regions where the turnout is artificially (boosted), there are regions where it is more or less real," Grigory Melkonyants, co-chair of the independent election monitoring group Golos, told The Associated Press. [The Associated Press]


Minutes: Fed officials concerned about coronavirus downturn's severity

Federal Reserve officials expressed concerns during their early June meeting that the coronavirus pandemic was causing an economic downturn that would be the worst since the end of World War II, according to minutes of the meeting released Wednesday. Fed policy makers also noted that the job losses triggered by the crisis were hitting the hardest among low-wage workers, women, African Americans, and Hispanics. During the meeting, Fed leaders voted unanimously to keep their benchmark interest rate at a record low near zero, where they expected to leave it through 2022. President Trump, who before the pandemic criticized Fed Chair Jerome Powell for not lowering interest rates fast enough or sharply enough, said he was "getting more and more happy" with him. [The Associated Press]


Ex-George W. Bush officials back Biden

A group of former George W. Bush administration and campaign officials has started a super PAC aiming to get disgruntled Republicans to support presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The group, using the name "43 Alumni for Biden," "seeks to unite and mobilize a community of historically Republican voters who are dismayed and disappointed by the damage done to our nation by Donald Trump's presidency," according to a release announcing the group's drive to defeat Trump in the November election. "For four years, we have watched with grave concern as the party we loved has morphed into a cult of personality that little resembles the Party of Lincoln and Reagan," said Karen Kirksey, who serves as director of the committee and worked in Bush's Labor and Agriculture departments. The group hopes to work with a Biden administration "in a bipartisan way through civil, spirited debate" on key issues. [CNN]


Richmond removes statue of Gen. Stonewall Jackson

Richmond, Virginia, authorities on Wednesday removed a statue of Gen. Stonewall Jackson as momentum builds to end the public display of monuments to figures prominent in the Confederacy. The statue was one of four honoring Confederate heroes on Monument Avenue in the state capital, which also served as the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Protesters have gathered nightly in the area since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody inspired nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice. The protesters have called for removing the Confederate statues because they are symbols of racism and the fight to preserve slavery. In early June, protesters toppled part of a monument to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. A spokesman for Richmond's mayor said the city would "remove as many monuments as we can, as soon as we can." [The Washington Post]


Harvey Weinstein, studio reach $19 million settlement with accusers

Disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein, his brother Bob Weinstein, and his former studio have reached a nearly $19 million settlement to resolve two lawsuits filed by dozens of the women who have accused him of sexual assault and harassment, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Wednesday. Accusers will be able to claim from $7,500 to $750,000 out of the $18,875,000 victims' compensation fund. Lawyers representing six accusers blasted the deal as a "complete sellout" because Weinstein doesn't have to accept responsibility or personally pay anything. A lawyer for Weinstein said he "remains intently focused in defending himself on all remaining legal matters." [CNN, The Associated Press]


Study finds homemade cloth masks help block coronavirus

A new study published in ACS Nano found that cloth masks can block coronavirus particles. The study, involving researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Smithsonian Institution's Conservation Institute, eased some concerns that nothing but medical-grade masks can filter coronavirus particles. While N95 masks are still clearly the most effective, cloth masks can help, the study found. Cotton, in particular, was among the most effective, especially tightly-woven cotton fabrics like flannel. Layering seems to be key for homemade masks. The best single-layer cotton blocked about 20 percent of the coronavirus-sized particles used in the study, while N95 masks filter 95 percent. Still, the study suggests homemade masks are helpful in reducing the risk of infection and passing on the virus. [Gizmodo]


Trump: Painting 'Black Lives Matter' on 5th Ave. is a 'symbol of hate'

President Trump on Wednesday criticized New York City for its plan to paint Fifth Avenue, where his Trump Tower is located, with the words "Black Lives Matter," which he called a "symbol of hate." Shortly after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio discussed the plan in an interview with MSNBC, Trump tweeted that painting the name of the anti-racism movement would result in "denigrating this luxury avenue," and would "further antagonize" police. The comments came days after Trump retweeted a video showing a supporter shouting "white power" at pro-Black Lives Matter protesters in Florida. De Blasio said his government was shifting $1 billion out of the police budget and using it for civilians who can better handle some work that police had been handling. He also said some of the money would go to youth initiatives. [CNN, NPR]


Court lifts restraining order on publisher of Mary Trump's tell-all book

A New York appellate judge on Wednesday lifted a restraining order to allow publisher Simon & Schuster to move forward with its plan to release a tell-all book by Mary Trump, President Trump's niece. A lower court had put the late-July release on hold pending a decision on whether a non-disclosure agreement Mary Trump signed as part of a settlement of a family estate prevented her from writing the book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man. But the appellate judge, Alan Scheinkman, ruled that the privacy agreement didn't involve publisher Simon & Schuster, so it can continue distributing the book pending a decision on the core issue of whether Mary Trump violated the confidentiality agreement by writing the book. [The New York Times, The Washington Post]