Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 7, 2021

U.S. again averaging 100,000 COVID-19 cases daily, Dixie becomes largest wildfire in U.S., and more

1

U.S. again averaging 100,000 COVID-19 cases daily

The United States is now averaging more than 100,000 new COVID-19 infections per day for the first time since February, as the Delta variant continues to spread rapidly. While the increase is happening across the country, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said about half of all the U.S.'s new cases in the past week were recorded in Florida, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. The seven-day average for deaths has also increased from about 270 per day two weeks ago to 500 per day as of Friday, The Associated Press reports. Daily hospital admissions are up, as well, the seven-day average jumping more than 40 percent this week. The good news is that vaccination rates are also increasing, with daily numbers as high as they've been in a month.

2

Dixie becomes largest wildfire in U.S.

California's Dixie Fire is now the largest active wildfire in the United States after it grew by 110 square miles overnight Thursday. At 676 square miles in size and only 35 percent contained, it has also become the third largest blaze in the Golden State's history. On Thursday, the fire burned through the town of Greenville, California, destroying 91 buildings. More than 10,000 homes in the area remain under threat. The U.S. isn't the only country dealing with fires. More than 150 blazes have been reported in Greece, the worst of them around the north of Athens. A 38-year-old volunteer firefighter was killed by a falling electric pole in a suburb of the city, BBC reports.

3

Biden administration extends student loan moratorium through January

The Biden administration announced Friday that it will extend a coronavirus pandemic-related moratorium on federal student loan payments, which was set to expire next month, through the end of January 2022. The Education Department clarified that this will be the final extension of the pause, which the Trump administration signed off on in March 2020 when the pandemic first took hold in the United States. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimated the moratorium collectively saved borrowers $7 billion per month in payments, while the Education Department estimates they saved $5 billion per month on loan interest. Democrats praised the White House's decision to extend the pause, but Republicans were more critical of the move, viewing it as too costly.

4

Cuomo aide files criminal complaint against him

An assistant to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) who has accused him of groping her while they posed for a picture filed the first known criminal complaint against him during a meeting with sheriff's officials. In response, Cuomo's personal lawyer Rita Glavin held a press conference in which she suggested the unnamed accuser was not alone with Cuomo at the Executive Mansion on the day in question, was sent there for different reasons than she has said, and did not indicate she had any misgivings about the encounter in emails to colleagues. Glavin and other lawyers for the executive chamber also used the news conference to question whether an explosive newly-released report conducted by New York Attorney General Letitia James on several allegations of sexual harassment against Cuomo was fair. Cuomo isn't planning on resigning, but dozens of New York Democrats have requested he step down or face impeachment.

5

U.S. military says drone behind tanker attack produced by Iran

The United States military's Central Command announced Friday that explosive experts conducting a forensic investigation into last week's fatal drone attack on a commercial tanker off the coast of Oman concluded the drone was produced by Iran. The strike killed two crew members aboard the MT Mercer Street, which is managed by a United Kingdom-based, Israeli-owned company. Israel quickly blamed Tehran for the attack after it occurred, and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said this week the country was ready to retaliate, potentially continuing the shadow war between the two nations. 

6

U.S. men's basketball team wins gold

The United States men's Olympic basketball team secured its 4th straight gold medal in Tokyo on Saturday, defeating France, 87-82. It's the 16th gold for the U.S. side since basketball became an Olympic sport in 1936. The U.S. got off to a rocky start, losing a couple of exhibition games before they got to Tokyo and then falling to France in the opening game of group play. But the roster full of NBA stars righted the ship and mostly cruised the rest of the way until France gave them another tough game in the final. Kevin Durant led the way for the Americans with 29 points, while Jayson Tatum picked up 19 off the bench. The U.S. women's team will go for gold against Japan next. Tip off is at 10:30 p.m. ET.

7

Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb enters Pennsylvania Senate race

Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) became the latest politician to enter the race for retiring Sen. Pat Toomey's (R-Pa.) Senate seat. Multiple Democrats and Republicans are aiming to replace Toomey and potentially determine control of the 50-50 upper chamber. Lamb, a Marine veteran, is a centrist who has had success winning in a traditionally Republican district. "I know we can win this," he said in a fundraising email announcing his campaign. "[Former President] Donald Trump has come to Pennsylvania to campaign against me three times, and we've won every single time." Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, however, is widely seen as the favorite for the Democratic nomination.

8

First Capitol rioters plead guilty to assaulting police officers on Jan. 6

Scott Fairlamb of New Jersey and Devlyn Thompson of Washington state on Friday became the first people to plead guilty to assaulting police officers during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. In their plea deals they acknowledged they're likely facing three to five years in prison. Fairlamb admitted to shoving and punching an officer and obstructing an official proceeding of Congress. In turn, prosecutors dropped 10 other counts he was charged with, including rioting and trespassing. Thompson admitted to using a baton to strike an officer.

9

At least 10 stabbed on Tokyo commuter train

A man stabbed at least 10 passengers on a commuter train in Tokyo on Friday. The suspect fled the scene but was eventually captured by police, fire department officials said. One of the victims was able to walk away, while the other nine were taken to nearby hospitals. They were reportedly all conscious, though one passenger was seriously wounded. The alleged knife-wielder reportedly entered a convenience store, identified himself as the suspect on the news, and said he was tired of running away. The store manager called the police.

10

NASA's Perseverance unsuccessful in first attempt to collect Martian rock

NASA's Perseverance rover made its first attempt to collect a rock on Mars on Friday, but data indicate that it was unsuccessful in doing so after drilling its first sample-collecting hole. Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C., said the result wasn't what the agency had "hoped for," but added that "there is always risk with breaking new ground." He said he's "confident we have the right team working on this," and he expects they'll have success going forward. Jennifer Trosper, the project manager for Perseverance at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said it's more likely the empty tube was a result "of the rock target not reacting the way we expected" than "a hardware issue with" Perseverance's sampling system.

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