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

Trump tests positive for the coronavirus, the House approves Democrats' new $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, and more

Trump outside Air Force One
(Image credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

1. Trump, first lady Melania Trump test positive for coronavirus

President Trump announced early Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus. Trump was tested after a top aide, Hope Hicks, tested positive this week after traveling with him on Air Force One and Marine One this week. "Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19," the president tweeted just before 1 a.m. "We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!" Trump has downplayed the severity of the pandemic, telling people in the early days of the crisis that the virus would vanish "like magic." For months, he declined to appear in public wearing a mask, and has mocked his rival in the November presidential election, Democrat Joe Biden, for always wearing a mask in public, even though Trump's top health advisers say face coverings are the best way to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The Washington Post

2. House passes $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief proposal

The House on Thursday passed Democrats' $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package in the latest push to pressure Republicans to strike a deal on new stimulus legislation before the November election. The bill passed without a single Republican vote in the Democrat-controlled House after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met this week but failed to negotiate an agreement. Twenty Democrats voted against the House bill, many of them urging Pelosi to cut spending further to get Republicans to agree to a deal before lawmakers return to their districts to campaign. The Trump administration on Wednesday offered to increase its proposed spending on the legislation to $1.6 trillion, including a $400 per week pandemic jobless benefit. Bipartisan negotiations are continuing Friday.

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3. Texas governor orders counties to close many drop-off points for mail ballots

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Thursday issued a proclamation limiting each county in the state to one drop-off point for mail ballots. Starting Friday, voters can only return mail ballots in person to a publicly designated county voting clerk's office. All other drop-off satellite locations must close. Abbott also called for early voting clerks to let poll watchers "observe any activity conducted at the early voting clerk's office location related to the in-person delivery of a marked mail ballot." Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said courts have already ruled that it is too close to election day to change election rules, saying that Abbott is trying to make a change "last minute" because he and other Texas Republicans are afraid they "are on the verge of losing."

The Hill

4. Trump reduces refugee cap to historic low

The Trump administration is dropping the cap on the number of refugees it will let into the United States in the next fiscal year to 15,000, the lowest since the 1980 Refugee Act was enacted. The administration notified Congress of the change in a letter. President Trump has steadily reduced the cap since taking office in 2017. It was set at 18,000 in 2020. The State Department said Thursday it "anticipates receiving more than 300,000 new refugees and asylum claims in Fiscal Year 2021." Of that number, 15,000 would be accepted as refugees and the rest would enter the already-overflowing U.S. asylum process. Humanitarian groups on Thursday harshly criticized the move. Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, blamed the "absurdly low number" on "xenophobic political pandering."

CNN The Washington Post

5. In reversal, Biden campaign to start door-to-door canvassing

Former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign will send hundreds of newly trained volunteers to canvas voters in Nevada, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania this weekend. The push marks a reversal by the campaign, which had refrained from door-to-door campaigning due to the coronavirus pandemic, handing an advantage to President Trump and his supporters. Biden campaign manager Jenn O'Malley Dillon said the campaign's "voter contact operation is the most innovative and technologically advanced of any presidential campaign in history," but the time has come to expand it, while putting "safety first and foremost." Biden's team previously criticized Trump's campaign for its in-person canvassing efforts, saying it was "risking the lives of their staff" and voters because of the threat of spreading the virus.

The Associated Press

6. Amazon: 19,816 workers tested positive for coronavirus

Amazon on Thursday reported that 19,816 of its workers, 1.4 percent of its workforce, were infected with the coronavirus between March 1 and Sept. 19. The employees who tested positive were among the nearly 1.4 million front-line Amazon and Whole Foods Market workers the company has in the United States. The data did not cover Amazon's network of third-party delivery drivers. The disclosure came after months of pressure from labor groups, lawmakers, and regulators for Amazon to release data on infections. Amazon has confirmed at least eight worker COVID-19 deaths. Walmart, the largest employer in the U.S., reported in April that fewer than 1 percent of its 1.5 million U.S. employees had been infected, but it has not updated the figure.

Fox Business CNBC

7. N.Y. Catholic diocese files for bankruptcy protection

A Roman Catholic diocese on New York's Long Island filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Thursday. The Diocese of Rockville Centre, one of the largest in the United States, cited the cost of lawsuits filed by childhood victims of clergy sexual abuse and economic losses linked to the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for its financial troubles. The diocese has faced more than 200 sexual abuse lawsuits. The state's Child Victims Act temporarily lets victims file lawsuits over decades-old crimes. "What became clear was that the diocese was not going to be able to continue to carry out its spiritual, charitable, and educational missions if it were to continue to shoulder the increasingly heavy burden of litigation expenses associated with these cases," Bishop John Barres said.


8. Navalny blames Putin for nerve-agent poisoning

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny told the German magazine Der Spiegel that he believed President Vladimir Putin ordered his poisoning with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok. "I assert that Putin was behind the crime, and I have no other explanation for what happened," Navalny said in an article published Thursday. "I'm not saying this out of self-flattery, but based on the facts. The most important fact is Novichok." He said Russian agents would not try to kill an opposition leader "without being instructed by Putin." The Russian president has denied involvement and suggested that Navalny might have poisoned himself. Navalny fell ill during an August flight from Siberia to Moscow. He was treated briefly in Russia before being transferred to Germany.


9. Barrett signed 2006 newspaper ad condemning Roe v. Wade's 'barbaric legacy'

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett signed a 2006 newspaper ad condemning Roe v. Wade, calling for putting "an end to the barbaric legacy" of the landmark abortion rights ruling. A Senate Democratic aide said Thursday that "the ad should have been included in Judge Barrett's Senate Judiciary questionnaire and was not." Barrett's public declaration prompted a top Democrat to warn that replacing the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with Barrett would threaten women's reproductive rights. The White House said President Trump would not ask a nominee to prejudge any issue. Trump is pushing Republicans to confirm Barrett before the Nov. 3 election. Democrats say that many people have already started voting by mail so the winner of the election should fill Ginsburg's seat.

The Wall Street Journal The Washington Post

10. Trump tells Hannity he condemns white supremacists

President Trump called into Fox News host Sean Hannity's show on Thursday and condemned white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, and the far-right extremist Proud Boys group. Trump faced two days of criticism after declining to denounce white supremacists during this week's presidential debate, and telling the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by" during protests about racial injustice. "I condemn the KKK," Trump said Thursday night. "I condemn all white supremacists. I condemn the Proud Boys. I don't know much about the Proud Boys, almost nothing, but I condemn that." Trump also said his rival in the election, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, "should condemn antifa." Biden, paraphrasing FBI Director Christopher Wray, noted that unlike the Proud Boys and the KKK, antifa is an ideology, not an organization.


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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.