July 3, 2020

As coronavirus cases continue to surge in the U.S., overwhelming hospitals and bringing state-wide reopening plans to a halt, many might be wondering where the next hotspots will be. Unfortunately, that's somewhat hard to predict, as "the infection curve rose in 40 of the 50 states heading into the July Fourth holiday weekend," The Associated Press reports. But we can make some educated guesses.

The states with the most severe outbreaks at present are Arizona, Florida, Texas, and California, which "reported a combined 25,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases Thursday," AP says. But Georgia "is among the most worrying states right now," says Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic. Over the last week, the Peach State reported more than 14,800 new cases, and this can't be chalked up to more testing: "At the beginning of June, about one in 14 tests came back positive. Last week, about one in nine tests did; today, one in seven tests did," Meyer says.

Another state to watch is Ohio, "which saw new cases rise much faster than tests this week," Meyer reports. The percentage of positive tests has also doubled in Kansas, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, and South Carolina. "In Nevada, it has tripled. In Idaho, it is five times higher," according to AP.

Meanwhile, the Northeast, which was the early epicenter for the virus, has seen new infections drop significantly. Of the states seeing a downward trend in infections, only two — Nebraska and South Dakota — are outside the Northeast. "What seems to unite many of the most affected states is that they reopened indoor dining, bars, and gyms," Meyer says. "What will distinguish them is how they react now." Jessica Hullinger

3:01 p.m.

Experts are warning this hurricane season could be one of the most active ever recorded.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in an updated forecast on Thursday said it's anticipating a potentially "extremely active" Atlantic hurricane season in 2020, with somewhere between 19 and 25 named storms, CNN reports.

As the NOAA notes, the Atlantic hurricane season that started in June and ends on Nov. 30 is "off to a rapid pace" with nine named storms already, whereas "historically, only two named storms form on average by early August," and there are usually an average of 12 named storms during a season. The NOAA's forecast suggests that of the up to 25 named storms, between seven and 11 will become hurricanes, and between three and six will be "major" hurricanes during a season that could be "one of the busiest on record."

"This year, we expect more, stronger, and longer-lived storms than average," Gerry Bell, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center's lead seasonal hurricane forecaster, said in a statement. Bell also told The New York Times that "we've never forecast up to 25 named storms before."

This projection by the NOAA comes after Isaias, which made landfall as a hurricane in North Carolina before being downgraded into a tropical storm, left at least nine people dead and knocked out power for millions. Brendan Morrow

2:37 p.m.

A study now backs up what many scientists expected about the coronavirus all along.

People who are infected with COVID-19 but don't show symptoms carry about as much of the virus in their nose, throat, and lungs as those with symptoms, a study published Thursday in JAMA Internal Medicine shows. They also carry that viral load just as long as symptomatic people, revealing that even asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers can spread the very contagious virus, The New York Times reports.

While COVID-19 can be devastating and even deadly for people who contract it, approximately 30 percent of people who have the disease show no symptoms, the study showed. That essentially makes it impossible to know if a person is transmitting the virus or not, and is a big reason coronavirus is so hard to contain, the Times notes. Still, there have been debates over just how contagious people are before they begin showing symptoms, versus whether completely asymptomatic people spread the disease just as much.

This study largely clears that up. Measuring the virus' genetic material, researchers determined there was just as much of it in asymptomatic patients as in symptomatic. Following a person's chain of transmission or growing a live virus would've helped prove the similarities more definitively, the Times continues.

The study looked at 193 symptomatic patients and 110 asymptomatic people in isolation in South Korea, with a median age of 25. A previous study showed children, who are largely asymptomatic when infected with the disease, also hold as much of the virus as adults. Kathryn Krawczyk

Opinion
1:32 p.m.

Minneapolis residents won't get to vote this fall on a ballot measure to eliminate their city charter's mandatory ratio of police officers to population. Nixing that proportional requirement is one step in dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department, a plan that gained majority support on the city council after George Floyd was killed during an MPD arrest in May.

The ballot measure delay was imposed Wednesday by the Minneapolis Charter Commission, which argued council members pushing for an overhaul haven't adequately explained what they'll do next. "The council says, 'Trust us. We'll figure it out after this is approved. Trust us,'" said the commission's chair, Barry Clegg. "Well, I don't. ... We need more time to fill in these blanks so voters can make a decision based on an actual specific plan and not the promise of one."

Clegg's demand is reasonable. The best modern example we have of unmaking an entire police department is from Camden, New Jersey. The new department there has had some remarkable successes. It also hired back most of the old department's officers and now has more officers overall. Minneapolis residents should know what they're voting for: What, exactly, will change in the new "Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention"? How is this not the same cops by a different name? How will violence actually be prevented?

Black Minneapolitans particularly deserve answers to these questions, and some have for weeks raised objections to the city council's move toward sweeping changes without acceptably elaborating its alternative. Activist Raeisha Williams, for example, supports major MPD reforms but called the council's haste "grotesque" if it cuts back on emergency response services "when they had nothing else in place for who was going to protect the community the right way."

This local skepticism was reflected in a national Gallup poll released Wednesday. Black Americans mostly oppose defunding the police: 61 percent said they want police presence in their area to stay the same, and 20 percent want more policing. The problem isn't necessarily how many police there are but how they're policing. Black communities can be subject to over- and under-policing at once: too much harassment over petty concerns while frightening, violent crime goes unsolved. A rushed plan, heavy on symbolism, will be ill-equipped to address this paradox. Bonnie Kristian

1:29 p.m.

The governor of Ohio has tested positive for COVID-19 just before he was to meet with President Trump.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) on Thursday took a COVID-19 test "as part of the standard protocol" to meet with President Trump at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, as the president visits the state, and the result came back positive, the governor's office said. DeWine, who will return home to quarantine for two weeks, said he isn't showing any symptoms.

DeWine is the second governor in the United States to test positive for COVID-19 after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), Axios notes.

Additionally, CNN's Jeremy Diamond observes that this is another instance in which the White House's testing protocol prevented Trump from being exposed to the coronavirus. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) recently tested positive for COVID-19 at the White House after he had been set to travel with Trump to Texas. Brendan Morrow

12:58 p.m.

Testing accessibility has always been a problem when it comes to fighting the coronavirus. And even as that has improved, a slow turnaround rate has often made test results useless.

That's why some researchers and public health experts are starting to emphasize rapid result coronavirus tests even if they're less accurate than the time-intensive PCR tests, The New York Times reports. Their logic? "Even if you miss somebody on Day 1, If you test them repeatedly, the argument is, you'll catch them the next time around," said Omai Garner, director of clinical microbiology in the UCLA Health System.

The experts who back an emphasis on quicker tests cite the failure of long-term tests to stem coronavirus spread throughout the U.S. "If you had asked me this a couple months ago, I would have said we just need to be doing the PCR tests," said Susan Butler-Wu, a clinical microbiologist at the University of Southern California. But, she added, it's now "kitchen sink time, even if the tests are imperfect."

Still, PCR coronavirus tests rely on laboratory procedures to generate their results, and even quick-result tests require "specialized machines that are neither cheap nor easy to produce in bulk," the Times writes. But antigen tests, which identify a protein in the coronavirus, could be performed at any doctor's office or even at home, and could be mass-produced to cost just a few dollars each. Some companies are focused on developing these low-cost tests and ramping up their production until a vaccine is found.

Read more about the testing transformation at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:40 p.m.

The attorney general of New York has filed a lawsuit to dissolve the National Rifle Association.

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday announced she has filed a lawsuit against the NRA "to dissolve the organization in entirety for years of self-dealing and illegal conduct," alleging the pro-gun group is "fraught with fraud and abuse" and that senior leadership diverted millions of dollars "into their own pockets."

Four defendants are named in the lawsuit, including Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who James described as the "central figure behind this scheme." James has accused the defendants of failing "to follow numerous state and federal laws, which contributed to the loss of more than $64 million in just three years." They allegedly put millions of dollars from the non-profit organization to personal use, including for "lavish" trips.

James also accused the NRA of "awarding contracts to the financial gain of close associates and family, and appearing to dole out lucrative no-show contracts to former employees in order to buy their silence and continued loyalty."

The New York attorney general had been investigating the NRA for 18 months. The attorney general of Washington, D.C. on Thursday also announced a lawsuit against the NRA Foundation for alleged misuse of charitable funds.

President Trump on Thursday decried James' lawsuit as "terrible," recommending the NRA "move to Texas and live a very good and beautiful life." Brendan Morrow

Opinion
12:10 p.m.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is "against the Bible," President Trump told Geraldo Rivera at the 17:30-mark of a radio interview Thursday morning. "That may be a little harsh," Rivera responded. "Well, okay, take a version of it," Trump replied. "The people that control him totally are. It may be a little harsh for him, but he's gonna have no control."

This "against the Bible" line seems to be a new phrase for Trump, his latest rhetorical trial balloon. I've found no example of him using it, on Twitter or off, before the three times he said it this week. The first was Sunday in a tele-rally with Pennsylvania supporters, where Trump described Biden as being against guns, fracking, the Bible, and God himself, a list from which he selected fracking as being the "big factor" to discuss at greater length. He used the phrase again in a Fox Business interview Tuesday in nearly identical context, then repeated it to Rivera.

Trump never explained what being "against the Bible" means. As many reactions have noted, Biden is Catholic and Trump, a professed Presbyterian, is visibly clueless about Christianity. But in speaking, presumably, to white evangelicals whose support he has lately been losing, I think Trump intends two meanings at once.

The first is that a Biden administration will be unfriendly to conservative Christians. Trump's playing to fears that, though Biden personally is religious and a comparative moderate among this year's Democratic contenders, the younger Democrats who'll run his White House will hail from the party's leftmost wing. They'll be "against the Bible," Trump is saying, in the sense of viewing traditional religious practice as an obstacle to the progressive future they were elected to create.

The second sense, if I'm right, suggests someone with more evangelical background than Trump advised him on use of this phrase. I grew up in evangelical churches, and to say something or someone is "against the Bible" can be an interpretive statement, a shorthand for, "against God's message in Scripture as we rightly understand it." But notice that simply tossing off a charge of "against the Bible" doesn't do any interpretative work: There's no explanation, no citation of chapter and verse. It relies on the assumption that speaker and listener both know that right interpretation already. It is, in other words, another Trump attempt to tell evangelicals he's one of them — when he very clearly is not. Bonnie Kristian

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