10 things you need to know today: July 24, 2020

The U.S. hits 4 million confirmed COVID cases, Trump cancels Jacksonville convention events due to Florida's virus spike, and more

Trump at a coronavirus briefing
(Image credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

1. U.S. hits 4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic reached another grim milestone in the United States on Thursday, as the total number of confirmed cases surpassed four million. More than 144,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. A second surge in cases across the South and West prompted many states to halt or reverse the reopening of their economies. Public health experts said the spike could have been caused by the premature easing of lockdowns imposed in March. Confirmed case counts are trending upward in 39 states. The country has confirmed more than one million new cases in the last 15 days as the infection rate doubled in less than a month. The U.S. passed 2 million confirmed cases on June 10, and 3 million cases on July 7.

USA Today The Washington Post

2. Trump cancels Jacksonville convention events due to Florida virus surge

President Trump announced Thursday that he was canceling the Jacksonville part of his August nominating convention due to the rising number of coronavirus cases in Florida. "It's just not the right time," Trump said. The president vowed that he would still deliver a campaign speech "in a different form," without providing specifics on what the nominating event would be like. "We won't do a big crowded convention, per se," he said. The decision marked a sharp turnaround for Trump and the GOP, after they decided earlier in the summer to move Trump's acceptance speech from Charlotte because North Carolina's Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, said it was impossible to guarantee that it would be safe to hold a full, in-person convention with a packed arena. Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, said at the time that his state would welcome the convention.

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3. Senate approves bill requiring Confederate-named bases to be renamed

The Senate on Thursday passed its $741 billion defense bill 86-14, which calls for removing Confederate names from Army bases. The bill has now been approved by both the Republican-led Senate and the Democrat-led House with majorities big enough to override President Trump's threatened veto. The legislation came after protests over police brutality and racism fueled calls to remove statues of Confederate leaders across the country, and remove the Confederate names and monuments from bases, including Fort Bragg and Fort Hood. Pentagon leaders have called for reviewing the names, but Trump has said his administration would not consider renaming bases, saying that would amount to rewriting history.


4. New jobless claims rise for 1st time since March

The Labor Department reported Thursday that 1.42 million Americans filed new applications for unemployment benefits last week, marking the first time that weekly jobless claims had increased since March. A week earlier, 1.3 million people filed new jobless claims. Last week's increase was larger than expected, suggesting that the hiring recovery was weakening as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths surged and prompted states to slow or reverse the reopening of their economies. The number of new jobless claims had been gradually decreasing every week, although they remained twice as high as they were in the worst week of the Great Recession. Last week's increase came as the additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits that Congress passed is scheduled to expire at the end of the month, and Republicans in the Senate continue to discuss a possible extension.

CNBC Bloomberg

5. Mnuchin: Next coronavirus relief bill won't include payroll tax cut

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Thursday that the next coronavirus relief bill will not include the payroll tax cut President Trump has pushed. The Trump administration was pushing for the cut as recently as this week, but seemed to abandon the idea after Republicans vehemently opposed it in a lunch with administration officials. Senate Republican leaders scrapped a plan to roll out their $1 trillion proposal at the last minute on Thursday after failing to come up with an agreement due to fierce lingering divisions within the GOP over the details. House Democrats approved their $3 trillion package in May. It includes new stimulus checks to individuals, and aid to struggling cities and states.

CNBC The Washington Post

6. Judge orders Michael Cohen released from prison

A federal judge on Thursday ordered Michael Cohen, President Trump's former lawyer and fixer, to be released from prison and returned to his Manhattan apartment on Friday. Cohen had been furloughed due to the risk of coronavirus infection in prison, but he was taken back into federal custody after he refused to sign a document promising not to publish a book. Cohen sued, saying the Trump administration was trying to prevent him from completing his book, which he said would paint Trump as a racist. The judge, Alvin Hellerstein of the Federal District Court in Manhattan, said the Justice Department's decision to return Cohen to prison this month was "retaliatory," and meant to punish Cohen "because of his desire to exercise his First Amendment rights to publish a book."

The New York Times

7. German court convicts 93-year-old former Nazi guard

A German court on Thursday convicted a 93-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard, identified as Bruno D., as an accessory to the murder of at least 5,232 people. He received a two-year suspended sentence, the court announced. The defendant was prosecuted in juvenile court because he was 17 years old when he served as an SS guard at the Stutthof concentration camp in 1944 and 1945. An estimated 65,000 people were murdered at the camp during the Holocaust. He had previously acknowledged that he had been a guard in the camp, which is near the Polish city now called Gdansk, but he told the court he had no choice. More than 40 co-plaintiffs from France, Israel, Poland, and the United States testified against him in the trial, which is expected to be one of the last prosecutions of a former Nazi.


8. China tells U.S. to close consulate in Chengdu

China said Friday it had ordered the United States to close its consulate in Chengdu following the Trump administration's decision to force Beijing to shut down its consulate in Houston. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said U.S. diplomats had been told to "stop all business and activities" in Chengdu in China's southwest. The foreign ministry said that Washington had "unilaterally provoked the incident" by forcing the Houston closure, saying the move "seriously violated international law and the basic norms of international relations." Hours before China's announcement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a speech that the Trump administration's increasingly aggressive confrontation of China on trade, technology, and other matters was necessary "if we want to have a free 21st century."

CNN The New York Times

9. Hurricane Douglas strengthens heading toward Hawaii

Hurricane Douglas intensified rapidly on Thursday, strengthening into a Category 3 storm with top sustained winds of 120 miles per hour as it moved northwest through the Pacific Ocean toward Hawaii. "The Hawaiian Islands should monitor the progress of Douglas," the National Hurricane Center said. The storm was about 1,000 miles from the island chain on Thursday. It is expected to weaken on Friday before reaching the islands. "Douglas is expected to be at or near hurricane intensity as it approaches the Hawaiian Islands on Sunday," the hurricane center said. "It is fairly common for hurricanes to track towards Hawaii," said Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist at Colorado State University, "but they usually dissipate or at least weaken considerably before impacting the islands."


10. Former Redskins to play upcoming season as 'Washington Football Team'

Washington's NFL team announced Thursday that it would play the upcoming season as the "Washington Football Team" while it continues to consider a name and logo to replace "Redskins." "The decision to use 'Washington Football Team' for this season allows the franchise the ability to undertake an in-depth branding process to properly include player, alumni, fan, community, and sponsor input," the team said in a statement. The Washington, D.C., franchise ditched its controversial old name under pressure from sponsors and activists, who argued that it was racist toward Native Americans. Suggested new names pitched by fans have included "Warriors," "Red Tails," and "Red Wolves."

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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.