July 8, 2020

Churches have become a major source of coronavirus infections in smaller communities across the United States, even when health protocols are followed, The New York Times reports.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 650 cases have been linked to nearly 40 churches and religious events across the country, many of them occurring over the last month, per the Times. That number doesn't place church services as a leading source of infections on a national scale, but in certain places many cases can be traced to reopenings.

For example, when the Lighthouse United Pentecostal Church in Island City, Oregon, which is in the rural northeastern region of the state, reopened on May 22 there were only six confirmed coronavirus cases in the county. Now, there are 356 and the Times reports many of those can be traced to the church. Patients include the pastor and his wife, who was hospitalized. Dan Satterwhite, a pastor at an affiliated church in the neighboring town of Pendleton, said the outbreak likely stems from a wedding held at the church in Island City.

Religious leaders like Satterwhite are often placed in a difficult position. He said he initially livestreamed services, but congregants — including those who did not have reliable access to internet — were determined to return to in-person services. So far, social distancing and mask-wearing are common at Satterwhite's own church, but the risks remain. "I am trying to do the right thing," he said. "I know a lot of people don't feel this way, but those that do, feel that church is essential." Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

1:23 p.m.

Yet another movie franchise is about to go Mads.

Mads Mikkelsen has joined the cast of the upcoming fifth Indiana Jones film, Deadline reported on Thursday. He'll be starring opposite Fleabag's Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who recently landed the role of the female lead, as well as, of course, Harrison Ford himself.

Details about Mikkelsen's character in the movie weren't revealed — though fans were quick to speculate he could be the antagonist — and it still isn't clear what the overall plot of the sequel is. James Mangold is directing the new Indy installment, though, with Steven Spielberg only producing this time.

This is, of course, just the latest big movie series that Mikkelsen can add to his resume after previously having roles in Star Wars, James Bond, and Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, and he's also set to replace Johnny Depp in the Harry Potter spin-off series Fantastic Beasts. Just think of Mikkelsen as Thanos, making his way through Hollywood and collecting every major film series into some sort of casting Infinity Gauntlet. And like Thanos, his eventual appearance in every ongoing movie franchise may well be inevitable. Brendan Morrow

12:49 p.m.

LaMarcus Aldridge of the Brooklyn Nets has unexpectedly announced he's retiring from the NBA over a health issue, revealing "one of the scariest things I've experienced" occurred during his last game.

Aldridge, who just signed with the Nets in March, announced Thursday he will retire from the NBA after 15 years. He explained that during his most recent game, he "played while dealing with an irregular heartbeat," and it "really worried me even more" when his "rhythm got even worse" later that evening.

"The next morning, I told the team what was going on and they were great getting me to the hospital and getting me checked out," he said. "Though I'm better now, what I felt with my heart that night was still one of the scariest things I've experienced."

For that reason, the 35-year-old said it's "time to put my health and family first" and retire. Before signing with the Brooklyn Nets, Aldridge previously played for the San Antonio Spurs and the Portland Trail Blazers, and he was the second overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, notes TMZ. Aldridge had missed the Nets' most recent two games, according to ESPN.

Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks said the team "fully supports" Aldridge's decision, as "his health and well being are far more important than the game of basketball." Aldridge concluded his announcement by telling fans that "you never know when something will come to an end, so make sure you enjoy it everyday." He added, "I can truly say I did just that." Brendan Morrow

12:47 p.m.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin will not testify in his murder trial, as his defense rested its case on Thursday without testimony from the defendant.

Chauvin told the judge he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to take the stand. He is facing murder and manslaughter charges over the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died while Chauvin placed him under arrest in May 2020.

"The question of whether Chauvin would testify was the subject of weeks of speculation," writes The Associated Press. "The risks were high: Testifying could have opened him up to devastating cross-examination, with prosecutors replaying the video of the arrest and forcing Chauvin to explain, one frame at a time, why he kept pressing down on Floyd."

Prosecutors presented their case for two weeks, arguing Chauvin's knee on Floyd's neck ultimately killed him, and that Chauvin wrongfully used excessive force even after Floyd stopped resisting. The defense argued over the course of two days that Floyd's underlying health conditions and drug use were to blame for his death. Closing arguments will begin Monday morning.

Read more at The Associated Press. The Week Staff

11:05 a.m.

Rolling out a new version of Instagram for kids is a very, very bad idea, child safety advocates are telling Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, a non-profit organization, has coordinated a letter to Zuckerberg signed by health and child safety advocates calling for the company to cancel plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under 13, NBC News reports. The groups argue that such an app "would put young users at great risk."

"Instagram, in particular, exploits young people's fear of missing out and desire for peer approval to encourage children and teens to constantly check their devices and share photos with their followers," they write. "The platform's relentless focus on appearance, self-presentation, and branding presents challenges to adolescents' privacy and wellbeing."

Instagram head Adam Mosseri confirmed last month that the company was "exploring" a version of the app for children under 13, who are not officially allowed on Instagram, as was first reported by BuzzFeed News. A spokesperson for Instagram told NBC that it's looking for "practical solutions to the ongoing industry problem of kids lying about their age to access apps," suggesting this could be a way to provide kids who are already online with a "safe and age-appropriate" experience.

But the advocates counter that children between 10 and 12 who lie about their age to get on Instagram are unlikely to actually use a new version for kids, which they would see as "babyish," so this plan would "likely increase the use of Instagram by young children who are particularly vulnerable to the platform's manipulative and exploitative features."

The Instagram spokesperson told NBC the company will "prioritize" the safety and privacy of children in any such app and will "consult with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates to inform it." Brendan Morrow

10:16 a.m.

The number of Americans filing new jobless claims has just significantly declined to again reach the lowest level of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Labor Department said Thursday that 576,000 Americans filed new jobless claims last week, a decline of 193,000 claims from the week prior. This was the lowest level of new weekly jobless claims since March 2020, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Last month, the number of weekly jobless claims also declined to the lowest level of the pandemic up until that point by sinking to 684,000, although the number unexpectedly rose the following week. But the most recent U.S. jobs report showed the economy added 916,000 jobs in March, easily surpassing economists expectations, while the unemployment rate declined to six percent.

The same morning these latest jobless claims were released on Thursday, the Commerce Department also said that retail sales soared 9.8 percent in March, the biggest jump since May 2020.

"Stellar jobless claims plus off the charts retail sales packs a positive one two punch and sends strong signals that the economy is full steam ahead toward recovery," eTrade managing director of investment strategy Mike Loewengart told The Washington Post. "While we haven't necessarily seen the market move on strong economic beats or misses, it's certainly a step in the right direction."

Brendan Morrow

9:22 a.m.

It's officially official: the J-Rod era has come to an end.

Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez confirmed to NBC's Today on Thursday they have broken up after four years together, calling off their two-year engagement.

"We have realized we are better as friends and look forward to remaining so," they told Today. "We will continue to work together and support each other on our shared businesses and projects. We wish the best for each other and one another's children. Out of respect for them, the only other comment we have to say is thank you to everyone who has sent kind words and support."

It was previously reported last month that the two had broken up after twice postponing their wedding amid the pandemic. But they subsequently gave fans hope by deeming these reports "inaccurate," saying they were "working through some things" but were still together — though recently, Lopez was spotted not wearing her engagement ring on Instagram.

And now, after this month-long emotional rollercoaster and conflicting information over whether love is, in fact, dead, we can now officially confirm: yes, it is. Brendan Morrow

7:55 a.m.

Moulin Rouge! The Musical star Karen Olivo is set to exit stage right — and she's putting the industry on blast on her way out.

Olivo has announced on Instagram that she won't return to Moulin Rouge! when it comes back to Broadway, calling out the industry's "unacceptable" silence about a recent exposé on allegedly abusive behavior by award-winning producer Scott Rudin.

"What I'm seeing in this space right now with our industry is that everybody's scared, and nobody is really doing a lot of the stuff that needs to be done," she said. "People aren't speaking out."

Rudin, who didn't work on Moulin Rouge! but has produced a number of successful shows including The Book of Mormon, was accused in a recent piece in The Hollywood Reporter of abusive behavior by former employees. In one instance, he allegedly became so angry he smashed a computer monitor on an assistant's hand, leaving the assistant bleeding and forced to rush to the emergency room.

Olivio further explained to The New York Times that the lack of a major response to these allegations against Rudin in the industry "cracked me open" and added to her feeling that "Broadway is not the place I want to be." Olivo is nominated at the upcoming Tony Awards for her performance as Satine in Moulin Rouge!, and she previously won a Tony for her role in West Side Story.

"Those of you who say you're scared, what are you afraid of?" Olivio said on Instagram. "Shouldn't you be more afraid of not saying something and more people getting hurt?"

Moulin Rouge! producers confirmed that Olivo won't return to the show when it resumes performances, and they expressed support for her "advocacy work to create a safe, diverse, and equitable theater industry for all." Brendan Morrow

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