10 things you need to know today: July 16, 2020

State surges lift the number of U.S. coronavirus cases to 3.5 million, Fauci calls White House effort to discredit him "bizarre," and more

Anthony Fauci in Washington
(Image credit: AL DRAGO/AFP via Getty Images)

1. U.S. coronavirus infections hit 3.5 million, California smashes record

A near record one-day increase in coronavirus cases lifted the total number of infections in the United States to 3.5 million, with more than 137,000 deaths. The outbreak has gotten worse in 41 states over the last two weeks. California officials said Wednesday their state had 11,142 COVID-19 cases reported over the last 24 hours, shattering the record of 9,816 cases reported on July 9. Hospitalization numbers also hit a new high of 6,700. The state also had its second highest single-day death toll, 144, with minorities and Los Angeles County hit hardest. California has paused reopening plans in some areas and reimposed some restrictions that had been lifted. Cases also have been surging in Florida, Texas, Georgia, and Louisiana.

The New York Times Los Angeles Times

2. Fauci calls White House effort to discredit him 'bizarre'

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top federal infectious disease expert, said in an interview published by The Atlantic on Wednesday that he did not understand why White House officials have tried to discredit him recently, adding that everyone in the administration should focus on fighting the pandemic, not each other. "It is a bit bizarre," he told the magazine, adding that the campaign accusing him of making repeated errors regarding the pandemic was a mistake because "it doesn't do anything but reflect poorly on them." President Trump on Wednesday distanced himself from White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who wrote a Tuesday op-ed criticizing Fauci and accusing him of numerous mistakes. "I have a very good relationship with Anthony," Trump said. "I can't explain Peter Navarro. He's in a world by himself." An anonymous administration official said Trump authorized Navarro's Fauci attack.

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The Atlantic Reuters

3. Oklahoma's governor becomes first to test positive for coronavirus

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) announced Wednesday that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. He is the first governor to test positive in the pandemic. Stitt said he was feeling fine but got tested Tuesday because he was feeling "a little bit achy," although he didn't have a fever. He said he was isolated from his family and would continue conducting business by teleconferencing. First lady Sarah Stitt and the couple's six children all tested negative. The news came as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surged in the state. Stitt, who opposes a statewide mask requirement, has faced criticism for not taking more drastic action to fight the outbreak. He encouraged President Trump's June rally in the state, contrary to the advice of public health officials. Stitt attended the rally, without a mask.

Oklahoman The Washington Post

4. Georgia governor voids local mask requirements

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on Wednesday banned local governments in the state from requiring residents to wear masks in public, voiding orders in at least 15 cities and counties. Kemp has said he thinks wearing masks to fight the spread of the coronavirus should be voluntary, and that local governments do not have the authority to order people to wear face coverings. Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, who in June ordered a $500 fine for residents not wearing masks inside public places, responded by saying the governor "doesn't give a damn about us." Kemp was among the first governors to ease lockdown restrictions and let businesses reopen. COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state have nearly doubled since the beginning of the month to 2,800, the most on record.

The Associated Press

5. Trump lawyers restart fight over tax records after Supreme Court loss

President Trump's lawyers on Wednesday resumed their effort to block access to his financial records in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for Manhattan prosecutors to access his tax returns. Trump's attorneys wrote the federal judge in the case arguing that the district attorney's subpoena for eight years of Trump's corporate and personal tax documents was too broad. They also said it was "motivated by a desire to harass or is conducted in bad faith," and would disrupt the president's constitutional duties. The district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., issued the subpoena to Trump's accounting firm in August as part of an investigation into hush-money payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. She has said she had an affair with Trump, which he denies.

The New York Times

6. George Floyd's relatives sue police officers and city of Minneapolis

Attorneys for George Floyd's family filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the city of Minneapolis and the four police officers who have been charged in his death. Attorney Ben Crump said the city's longstanding policies and procedures were as much a factor as the actions of the officers who forcefully detained the unarmed Floyd on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill. "It was not just the knee of officer Derek Chauvin on George Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, but it was the knee of the entire Minneapolis Police Department on the neck of George Floyd that killed him," Crump said. The incident, captured on a video posted to social media, showed Floyd repeatedly telling the officers he couldn't breathe, and touched off nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

USA Today

7. Trump weakens environmental review to speed up infrastructure projects

President Trump on Wednesday announced that he was limiting public review of the potential environmental impact of federal infrastructure projects to speed up permitting for construction of freeways, power plants, pipelines, and other projects. The move unilaterally weakened the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act, which Trump said had created "mountains and mountains of red tape" that was holding back important projects. "All of that ends today," Trump said at an Atlanta airport. Two people with knowledge of the matter told The New York Times Trump's changes include implementing a two-year time limit for all environmental studies and eliminating the need for agencies to look at a project's indirect effects on the environment. Business groups praised the move, but critics said it would be disastrous for the environment.

The New York Times

8. Asheville, N.C., leaders unanimously approve reparations

The Asheville, North Carolina, City Council on Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution apologizing for the city's historic role in slavery and discrimination against Black residents, and approved a plan to provide reparations to them and their descendants. "Hundreds of years of Black blood spilled that basically fills the cup we drink from today," said Councilman Keith Young, one of two African-American members of the body and the measure's chief proponent. "It is simply not enough to remove statues. Black people in this country are dealing with issues that are systemic in nature." The city won't make direct payments. Instead, it will invest in increasing minority home and business ownership, helping develop strategies for African-American families to build generational wealth, and other ways to address disparities.

USA Today

9. Trump shakes up campaign staff as Biden widens polling lead

President Trump on Wednesday shook up his campaign staff as he slipped in polls, demoting campaign manager Brad Parscale and replacing him with deputy campaign manager Bill Stepien. Parscale had faced internal pressure since an under-attended Oklahoma rally in June. The news came as presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden surged to take his biggest lead yet over Trump, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. Biden led Trump 52 percent to 37 percent in the national poll, with independents shifting strongly for Biden. In the same survey last month, Biden led Trump 49 percent to 41 percent. Biden's gains came as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths spiked in many states, raising concerns about the economic recovery from the initial coronavirus lockdowns.

The Guardian Quinnipiac University

10. Ruth Bader Ginsburg released from hospital

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Wednesday was discharged from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and is now "at home and doing well," a Supreme Court spokesperson said. The 87-year-old Supreme Court justice, the senior member of the court's liberal minority, was hospitalized on Tuesday for "treatment of a possible infection" after "experiencing fever and chills." "She underwent an endoscopic procedure at Johns Hopkins this afternoon to clean out a bile duct stent that was placed last August," a spokesperson explained. Ginsburg, who has beaten cancer four times, was previously hospitalized in May to receive treatment for a gallbladder condition.

Axios The New York Times

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.