Daily Briefing

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

Tim O'Donnell
Coronavirus testing.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

1.

U.S. records 1,000 coronavirus deaths for 5th straight day

The United States on Saturday recorded more than 1,000 coronavirus fatalities in the previous 24-hour period for the fifth consecutive day. Data collected by Johns Hopkins University revealed more than 58,000 new infections in that same span. The pandemic has continued to take a toll around the world, as well. South Africa on Saturday surpassed 500,000 cases after recording more than 10,000 in a single day, while the Philippines topped 100,000 infections after medical groups in the country said "we are waging a losing battle against COVID-19." The Australian state of Victoria, home to Melbourne, declared a state of emergency Sunday and imposed new lockdown measures after a surge in infections despite earlier optimism that the country had successfully contained the virus. [The Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera]

2.

Top Democrats, White House conclude 'productive' coronavirus relief talks

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) resumed coronavirus relief negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Saturday morning. The four negotiators met for several hours and while the talks didn't result in anything tangible, Schumer and Meadows both said separately that it was the most productive meeting yet. Congress failed to reach an agreement Friday for the next iteration of the CARES coronavirus relief bill, ending the week of negotiations with frustration on all sides. Discussions will continue Sunday with staff-only meetings, before Pelosi, Schumer, Mnuchin, and Meadows return to the table Monday. [The Washington Post, Reuters]

3.

Tropical Storm Isaias nears Florida

Rain began to lash Florida's east coast early Sunday as Tropical Storm Isaias approached the state, which is also dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, with sustained winds of 65 miles per hour. Isaias, which hit the Bahamas on Saturday, was downgraded from Hurricane-status, but is still a powerful storm, prompting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to warn residents not to be "fooled" by the downgrade. After arriving in Florida, the storm is expected to move up the East Coast of the United States in the next few days, reaching all the way up to New England and bringing with it heavy rain and high winds. [The Weather Channel, The Associated Press]

4.

Nearly 8,000 evacuated as wildfire burns in Southern California

Nearly 8,000 people have evacuated their homes because of a wildfire burning east of Los Angeles. The Apple Fire, which began, in Riverside, California, on Friday night had burned more than 12,000 acres as of Saturday evening and destroyed at least one home, but no injuries have been reported. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation. Dozens of engines, air support, and 375 firefighters are reportedly on the scene. The Riverside County Fire Department said the fire remains zero percent contained. The natural disaster is coinciding with the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit Southern California hard in recent weeks, and all evacuation centers will enforce COVID-19 protocols like temperature screenings, masks, and social distancing. [CNN, Fox News]

5.

NASA astronauts aboard SpaceX capsule en route back to Earth

SpaceX's Dragon Endeavour capsule successfully undocked from the International Space Station on Saturday night with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken aboard as they make their journey back to Earth following their multi-month stint in orbit. The duo is expected to gently splash down off the coast of Florida — well away from Tropical Storm Isaias — on Sunday at 2:48 p.m. following a high-speed descent. If, as expected, the landing is successful, NASA will plan to move forward with routine SpaceX flights, perhaps as early as late September, BBC notes. That will mark a new era of spaceflight for the U.S., one in which NASA relies on private partners for transportation hardware. [BBC, NASA]

6.

GOP convention will reportedly be closed to press

In an unprecedented move, the scaled-back Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, will reportedly be closed to the press this year, although an official said the decision is not final and press coverage options are still being considered for the August event. A conventions spokesperson on Saturday said the decision was the result of "health restrictions and limitations in place within" North Carolina amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller, the president of the White House Correspondents' Association, called the decision "ill-advised" since the nomination of President Trump "is very much the business of the American people." If the rules are not changed, the entire convention still won't be completely private. A Republican official told CNN that the proceedings on the Monday of the convention, including the vote to formally nominate Trump, will be live-streamed. [CNN, The Associated Press]

7.

Thousands of protesters gather outside Netanyahu's residence

Thousands of protesters gathered outside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's official residence Saturday in Jerusalem and his beach house near Tel Aviv, calling for him to resign over his government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as allegations of corruption, for which he is facing trial. Netanyahu denies the accusations. The protests appear to be the largest in Israel since 2011. Israeli police have been criticized for using excessive force in reaction to the protesters this week, but the most recent demonstrations on Saturday evening mostly ended peacefully despite 12 people getting arrested for "causing public disturbances." Netanyahu has attempted to downplay the protests and claims the media is overstating their significance, but The Guardian notes the demonstrations have shown little sign of slowing down. Still, polls indicate the prime minister's right-wing bloc has retained support across the country. [Haaretz, The Guardian]

8.

DHS reassigns top intelligence official

The Department of Homeland Security on Saturday reassigned Brian Murphy, the acting undersecretary for the department's Office of Intelligence and Analysis. The move comes after The Washington Post reported his office compiled intelligence briefings on journalists and protesters in Portland, Oregon, over the last few weeks. Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf instructed the office to stop collecting the information and ordered an investigation into the proceedings. Murphy will reportedly take on an administrative support role within the department's management directorate. The protests, meanwhile, have continued since federal agents began to withdraw from the scene last week. The demonstrations Thursday and Friday night were mostly peaceful and there was reportedly little interaction with law enforcement, but the Portland Police Bureau declared an unlawful assembly Saturday night after people threw bottles at police officers outside a precinct. [The Associated Press, NPR]

9.

Marines call off search for 8 missing service members

The First Marine Expeditionary Force said it has called off search and rescue efforts to find eight United States service members who went missing after an accident involving an amphibious assault vehicle off the coast of Southern California on Thursday. The vehicle was carrying 15 Marines and one sailor when it reported taking on water and sank for unknown reasons in deep water. Of those on board, eight Marines were rescued, two of whom are in critical condition at a hospital, and one of whom died. The seven missing Marines and sailor are presumed dead. A.A.V's are considered to be particularly vulnerable and the Marines have sought a replacement, but they're still a cornerstone in the Corps' inventory, The New York Times reports, because of their amphibious nature. [The New York Times, First Marine Expeditionary Force]

10.

Actor Wilfred Brimley dies at 85

Wilford Brimley, a character actor who appeared in films like Cocoon and The Natural, died Saturday at a hospital in St. George, Utah. He was 85. Brimley's agent said he had been sick for two months with a kidney ailment. Brimley had an unconventional path to acting, having worked as a blacksmith, cowboy, and ranch hand, before his friend, actor Robert Duvall, convinced him to give performing a shot. His first big-screen credit in The China Syndrome came at the age of 45. In addition to his roles in movies, Brimley served as the spokesman for Quaker Oats in the 1980s and 1990s. [Rolling Stone, The New York Times]