February 24, 2020

A Republican running for Congress in Arizona announced on Monday he is suspending his campaign following a heroin overdose last week.

Chris Taylor is an Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan and a member of the City Council in Safford. He has a history of opioid addiction dating back to his high school years. "I'm not going to hide from this," Taylor told The Arizona Republic. "I'm not ashamed of what happened. I wish to sincerely apologize to the amazing people who have supported me."

Taylor told NBC News he is seeking treatment for substance abuse, having relapsed "after having so many solid years in sobriety. I have to figure out where I went wrong. Thankfully I have every resource available to me through the Veterans Affairs Administration and I have the strongest support system one could dream of. The only thing I can do is face this head on in complete humility and put one foot in front of the other so that I can get the help needed to be the father and husband that my family deserves."

Taylor was running in Arizona's 1st Congressional District, hoping to unseat Rep. Tom O'Halleran (D). In his campaign ads, Taylor promised to support President Trump, cut taxes, and defend the Second Amendment. Catherine Garcia

8:08 a.m.

Fatalities from complications of the novel COVID-19 coronavirus continue to climb in the United States as several major cities are bracing for their caseload apex in the next week.

The U.S. reported 1,344 deaths from the new coronavirus Saturday, the country's highest number of fatalities in one day since the outbreak began. There are now more than 300,000 confirmed infections nationwide. In his daily White House briefing Saturday, President Trump warned the next couple of weeks would only get more difficult. "There will be a lot of death unfortunately," he said.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said the coming weeks were crucial in the fight against the pandemic, urging Americans to adhere to social distancing guidelines. "This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store, not going to the pharmacy, but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe, and that means everybody doing the six feet distancing, washing your hands," she said.

Birx added that modeling shows metro areas like New York, Detroit, and New Orleans will likely reach the peak of their outbreaks in the next six or seven days. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) also said it looks like his state his about a week away from when its health care system will be stretched thinnest. Read more at CNN and The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

April 4, 2020

Zoom is all the rage these days, allowing people to conduct business and catch up with family and friends over video chat during the social distancing period brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic. But the New York City school system has turned against the platform.

Many teachers and students have been using Zoom for remote learning purposes since schools closed, which has apparently led to some privacy and security concerns, Chalkbeat reports. "Based on the {New York City Department of Education's] review off those documented concerns, the DOE will no longer permit the use of Zoom at this time," a memo shared with principals and obtained by Chalkbeat said.

Instead, teachers have been told to switch to Microsoft Teams because it's more secure and functions similarly.

There have certainly been some issues with Zoom, including students logging into other classes and sharing inappropriate images or audio, but the department's decision has received criticism from local politicians.

Several principals were also disappointed, per Chalkbeat. "It's taking all the work we've done and flushing it down the toilet — and you're going to lose some kids along the way," said one Brooklyn principal speaking on condition of anonymity who added that the loss of Zoom could be a hindrance for students with disabilities or families with limited fluency with technology. Read more at Chalkbeat. Tim O'Donnell

April 4, 2020

Both countries are far from out of the woods, but Italy and Spain have reported some encouraging novel coronavirus trends over the last few days.

Italy continues to see daily increases in new COVID-19 infections and fatalities, but the rate is slowing. While there was a slight uptick in new cases Saturday from the day before, the daily average appears to have mostly plateaued, signaling the country's lockdown which started on March 9 has been at least somewhat effective. The number of deaths also dropped from previous days, though the total — 681 — was again quite high. Deaths will continue to lag behind the infection rate, so another spike remains possible, but the country may be past its peak.

Perhaps the most positive news from Italy is the announcement that the number of patients in intensive care throughout the country's health care system declined for the first time since the outbreak began in February.

Spain, for the first time, overtook Italy as the European country with the highest number of new cases Friday, and it is still overwhelmed by new infections and deaths. Yet Maria Jose Sierra, the deputy head of Spain's health agency, said the figures "confirm the downward trend we have seen in the last few days." Two weeks ago, Spain saw a 20 percent increase in daily deaths, while on Saturday the amount rose by just 7 percent from the previous day. But with the understanding that there's still a long way to go — and that there are likely a large amount of undetected, mild cases — Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez extended lockdown measures for another 15 days until April 26. Read more about Spain and Italy at Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

April 4, 2020

The late Kobe Bryant is officially on his way to Springfield.

Bryant, the former Los Angeles Laker who was killed along with his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash in California in January, was selected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday. He'll be inducted on Aug. 29 in a ceremony that will also be headlined by Bryant's contemporaries and fellow NBA legends, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.

Bryant's wife, Vanessa, and oldest daughter, Natalia, appeared on ESPN on Saturday to talk about the significance of the achievement. Vanessa Bryant said she wished her husband was there to experience the moment, but it was nevertheless an "incredible accomplishment and honor" and the "peak" of his NBA career. "Every accomplishment that he had as an athlete was a stepping stone to be here," she said.

In addition to the three NBA superstars, all-time WNBA great Tamika Catchings will also be enshrined, as will Baylor University women's basketball head coach Kim Mulkey, Bentley University women's basketball head coach Barbara Stevens, four-time NCAA men's basketball coach of the year Eddie Sutton, and former Houston Rockets head coach Rudy Tomjanovich. Tim O'Donnell

April 4, 2020

Ford and General Motors, two longstanding titans of the American automobile industry, are working rapidly around the clock to produce potentially life-saving ventilators for patients suffering from the novel COVID-19 coronavirus, but there are two major issues that could render their attempts ineffective in the end, The Washington Post reports.

First, they may simply not have enough time. The companies are working fast, but they may not have started early enough. So, by the time they produce the necessary amount of ventilators, many places around the U.S. may have already experienced the peak of the pandemic, which is expected to come sometime in April. "Even though we are moving mountains ... and we are moving as fast as we can," said an auto executive involved with the process, "these herculean efforts might not be enough."

For example, the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates the U.S. will need 32,000 ventilators by mid-April. Ford is aiming to get 1,500 out by the end of April, and GM thinks it will produce 10,000 per month by mid-May, meaning both companies would still fall short at the time of expected peak.

The other issue is that it's unclear if the ventilators will be sufficient. Intensive care specialists and ventilator experts told the Post that Ford's product is more geared toward ambulance and hospital transports than the ventilators they rely on in hospital to keep patients breathing for weeks. Dr. Matthew Aldrich, the medical director of critical care at the University of California at San Francisco, said his hospital normally vets their ventilators before making a purchase, and he hopes the same thing is being done to make sure Ford's and GM's are up to the task.

Still, Dr. Jeff Hirsch, the chief medical officer for GE health care, said even simplified ventilators have "the potential to be lifesaving." Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

April 4, 2020

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is still in the running for the Democratic presidential nomination, but his competitor, former Vice President Joe Biden, has his sights set on the next step of his campaign.

Biden said Friday he informed Sanders he will begin the process of vetting potential Cabinet and vice presidential candidates, telling donors at a virtual fundraising event that he plans on launching a committee to select a running mate sometime in mid-April. Former primary challengers like Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are often mentioned as possibilities.

Biden has emerged as the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination after a slate of decisive primary victories, but he gave Sanders — whom he considers a friend — a heads up about the decision because he didn't "want him to think I'm being presumptuous." But Biden said the process takes time, so he wants to get a head start.

The former vice president also said he's asked his old boss, former President Barack Obama, for advice on Cabinet selections, though he said the conversation was more focused on how to begin the process rather than any individual candidates. Read more at NBC News and Politico. Tim O'Donnell

April 4, 2020

German officials appear quite displeased with the United States, as both countries search for supplies to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Berlin regional government said Friday the U.S. confiscated 200,000 FFP2 respirator masks (known as N95 masks in the U.S.) it ordered from a U.S. manufacturer based in China while they were in transit in Bangkok, Thailand. The masks reportedly never reached their destination.

Berlin Interior Minister Andreas Geisel called it an act of "modern piracy," arguing that "even in times of global crisis, methods from the Wild West should not become prevalent."

The Berlin government didn't provide many details about the incident, including when it happened, and U.S. and German officials didn't comment on the accusations. 3M, the manufacturer, said it "has no evidence to suggest" its products were seized. But one German federal official told The Wall Street Journal that "America's behavior since the crisis has been positively rabid when it comes to medical supplies."

France has also complained about the U.S. diverting shipments, and German officials previously accused the Trump administration of trying to convince a German company working on a COVID-19 vaccine to relocate stateside. Read more at The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times. Tim O'Donnell

See More Speed Reads