Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: November 22, 2020

Tim O'Donnell
Newark Liberty airport.
KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images


U.S. surpasses 12 million coronavirus cases ahead of Thanksgiving

The United States has recorded more than 12 million coronavirus cases, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows. Per Reuters, nearly 1 million new infections were recorded in just the last six days. The latest surge occurs as Americans gear up for the holiday season. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned against traveling for Thanksgiving, more than 1 million people passed through U.S. airports on Friday, according to Transportation Security Administration data. That's the second highest number of air travelers in a day since mid-March, when the pandemic first took off in the country. However, that figure is still less than half the total of people who passed through screenings on the same weekday a year ago, so the CDC's message does seem to have been at least somewhat effective. [Reuters, Axios]


Federal judge throws out Trump lawsuit in Pennsylvania

U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Brann threw out yet another lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign seeking to block the certification of the presidential election results in Pennsylvania. The campaign's attorneys argued Pennsylvania counties violated the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law by taking different approaches to notifying voters before the election about mistakes on their mail-in ballots — some counties allowed voters to fix the errors, while others didn't notify them at all. Brann dismissed the argument entirely. He wrote that plaintiffs "seeking such a startling outcome" should "come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption," but instead the campaign presented "strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations." [The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press]


Regeneron's antibody cocktail gets FDA emergency green light

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued an emergency use authorization for Regeneron's antibody cocktail, a treatment that was given to President Trump in October after he tested positive for COVID-19. Trump credited the cocktail for aiding his recovery. For now, the authorization applies only to high-risk patients — people over the age of 65 or those who have underlying conditions — and the treatment is meant to be administered in the early stages of an infection; it has not been authorized for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 or those who require oxygen therapy. Demand is likely to outpace supply with infections rising rapidly across the U.S., but Regeneron said it hopes to have enough doses for 80,000 patients by the end of November, 200,000 by the first week in January, and 300,000 by the end of January. [Bloomberg, CNN]


Trump campaign requests recount in Georgia

The Trump campaign formally requested a recount in Georgia on Saturday. The campaign is within its rights since President-elect Joe Biden's margin of victory is within 0.5 percent, but the chances of flipping Georgia's 16 electoral votes back to President Trump appear slim, especially after the state already conducted a full, albeit unofficial, recount. That added a few hundred votes to Trump's total, but not nearly enough to overturn the results, which were subsequently certified. The next recount is expected to begin next week. Trump has focused on signature matching for mail-in ballots during his quest to win Georgia, but campaign-requested recounts, which involve rescanning paper ballots, would not address that issue. [Fox News, NBC News]


Trump tells G-20 leaders he looks forward to working with them 'for a long time'

The virtual Group of 20 summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia, opened Saturday and will continue through Sunday. As expected, leaders of the world's wealthiest nations focused heavily on the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis throughout the first day, with many, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, calling for a unified global approach to curbing the spread of the virus. President Trump addressed his fellow heads of state, reportedly telling them he is looking forward to working with them "for a long time," an apparent reference to the fact that he has yet to concede the presidential election, despite losing to President-elect Joe Biden (none of the other speakers made a direct reference to Biden's victory, The Observer reports). Trump reportedly then boasted about the U.S. military, economy, and COVID-19 vaccine development before going to play golf. [NPR, The Observer]


Loeffler quarantining after positive, inconclusive COVID-19 tests

Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) is quarantining after she initially tested positive for the coronavirus. A subsequent test, however, came back inconclusive, but the asymptomatic Loeffler will continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for a positive test until her next results are in, a campaign spokesman said. Loeffler is preparing for a runoff election against Democratic challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock, which could decide the fate of the upper chamber in January. She was out on the campaign trail Friday with Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), who is also in a January runoff. Loeffler was reportedly not seen wearing a mask throughout most of the day. Loeffler's rapid test that morning reportedly came back negative, while her PCR test showed the positive result. [Fox News, CNN]


Ethiopian military reportedly preparing to surround, shell Tigray capital

An Ethiopian military spokesman said Sunday that the government's troops are planning to surround the Tigray region's rebel-held capital city, Mekelle, with tanks and may shell the city to force surrender, Reuters reports. But the Tigray People's Liberation Front is reportedly committed to standing firm, and the Ethiopian military is reportedly urging civilians to save themselves. Reuters notes it could not verify the most recent claims from either side because phone and internet communication has been down. The intra-country conflict escalated violently this month after a simmering years-long feud between the northern Tigray region and the federal government headed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The African Union has attempted to mediate the conflict, but Abiy's government has so far rejected the efforts. [Reuters, The Week]


Anti-government protesters march in Guatemala over controversial spending bill

Protesters in Guatemala set fire to part of the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala building Saturday, and participants in a student-led march set up a guillotine outside. The demonstrators had taken to the street in response to a controversial budget bill passed this week that will make cuts to health care, education, human rights programs, and the judiciary, while increasing lawmakers' stipends for meals and other expenses. Thousands of people joined the anti-government protests, many peacefully demanding a presidential veto of the bill, prosecution of corruption, and resignations across all branches of government and the constitutional assembly, per Al Jazeera. Guatemala is still recovering from consecutive hurricanes that displaced thousands of people amid the coronavirus pandemic. [Al Jazeera, The New York Times]


Israeli air force hits Hamas targets in Gaza after rocket attack

Israel said its air force struck two Hamas targets in Gaza in response to a rocket that was fired at Israel from the region on Saturday evening. The Israeli attack hit an underground facility, several military positions, and two rocket manufacturing sites belonging to Hamas, the army said in a statement. The initial rocket attack damaged a building in Ashkelon, Israel, but officials did not report any injuries or deaths. The Israeli army said it is opening a probe into why the Iron Dome missile defense system did not activate after the launch. After the strike, an Israeli Defense Forces tank fired at a Hamas position without authorization, prompting an internal investigation. [Haaretz, The Guardian]


Archaeologists uncover well-preserved remains of Vesuvius victims in Pompeii

Archaeologists discovered two well-preserved bodies who were killed nearly 2,000 years ago after Mount Vesuvius erupted, destroying the ancient city of Pompeii, officials at the Italian archeological park said Saturday. The two victims appear to be a wealthy noble, between 30 and 40 years old, and a younger man, aged 18 to 25, who was presumably his slave. The remains of the two men were found next to each beneath a deep layer of ash in what was once a large villa with views of the Mediterranean Sea on the outskirts of Pompeii. It is believed the victims initially escaped the fall of ash from Vesuvius before succumbing to a powerful blast from the volcano the next morning. [CBS News, The Associated Press]