California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) warned on Monday that if the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations continues to quickly rise, projections show the state's intensive care units could reach capacity by mid-December.
Because of the risk of overwhelming parts of the state's health care system, Newsom said, he may soon have to impose a "more dramatic" and "arguably drastic" stay-at-home order for certain areas, so California can get its coronavirus numbers back down. The state, he said, will not "just sit back" and plans to "improve upon our existing efforts."
There are 7,733 ICU beds in California, and 75 percent of them are now occupied. Newsom said 1,812 of the ICU beds are filled by coronavirus patients, the Los Angeles Times reports. As of Sunday, there were 7,787 coronavirus patients hospitalized in California, an increase of about 89 percent from two weeks ago. Over the last week, California has averaged 13,937 new cases per day, nearly a 75 percent increase from two weeks ago. More than 19,100 Californians have died from the coronavirus.
Los Angeles County has placed new capacity limits at stores and banned most gatherings of people not from the same household, and this had to be done because "we are at the most difficult moment in the pandemic," L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. "We don't really have any choice but to use all the tools at hand to stop the surge. Until there is a vaccine, each of us needs to protect all of those around us — both those we know and those we don't. The virus is running rampant through almost every part of our county." Catherine Garcia
When President Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden arrived at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, there was no chief usher to greet them. He had been fired at about 11:30 a.m., half an hour before Biden was sworn in as president, The New York Times reports. Former first lady Melania Trump had hired the chief usher, Timothy Harleth, from the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., in 2017, after the previous chief usher, Angella Reid, was dismissed a few months into Donald Trump's term.
The White House chief usher is in charge of the first family's residence, overseeing everything from personnel issues to budgets. It is typically an apolitical job, and ushers typically stay through several administrations. Reid, hired in 2011, was only the ninth chief usher since 1885, though she was the first woman hired for the job. The Bidens had communicated to the White House counsel that they intended to bring in their own chief usher, a person familiar with the process told the Times. A Biden White House official told CNN that Harleth "was let go before the Bidens arrived," though CNN reports it was the Bidens who gave him the ax.
Harleth was already in hot water with Trump's team, though. He "had found himself in an untenable position" since the election, "trying to begin preparations for a new resident in the White House, even as its occupant refused to concede that he would be leaving the premises," the Times reports. And Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was "unhappy" with Harleth "for trying to send briefing books about the residence to the Biden transition team in November." Harleth "had worked with Jill Biden's staff for weeks to organize the move of household belongings," The Washington Post adds.
The absence of a chief usher was one manifestation of the chaotic transition period, but it doesn't entirely explain the curious breach in protocol where nobody opened the doors for the BIdens when they arrived at the White House, the Times notes. The doors, which awkwardly stood closed for about 10 long seconds as the Bidens watched, are typically opened by Marine guards.
Once the Bidens passed through the doors into the newly sanitized White House, things got better, the Post reports. "Awaiting Biden in a room adjacent to the Oval Office were two trays stacked with chocolate chip cookies, each one in plastic wrap with a gold presidential seal." Peter Weber
With the help of Slater, Screech, and Kelly Kapowski, the Lincoln Project has found a way to turn nine seconds of a Saved by the Bell episode into a roast of multiple Republican lawmakers.
Quick '90s TV history lesson: In the classic Saved by the Bell episode "There's No Hope with Dope," teen idol Johnny Dakota came to Bayside High to film an anti-drug PSA. The gang was so excited to film it with him, but once they found out Johnny was a secret stoner, they dropped him like a ton of Zack Morris' 10-pound brick phones. They ended up doing the PSA with NBC President Brandon Tartikoff, warning kids about the dangers of drugs.
Now, that PSA has been repurposed by the Lincoln Project for a mashup that might make Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) wish they could disappear like Tori did at the end of Season 4. Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia
Over the course of three days in early January, volunteers making their way down the Tennessee River in a 25-foot aluminum boat were able to remove more than 9,000 pounds of trash from the water.
It wasn't the first time the volunteers — staffers from the Johnsonville State Historic Park and members of the group Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful — cleaned the 652-mile river; in October, they pulled out 4,811 pounds of garbage.
Kathleen Gibi, executive director of Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful, said it is up to "local partners and individuals who are eager about taking ownership to protect and improve their beautiful river community."
The Tennessee River has an extraordinarily high amount of microplastics in it, and every cleanup is a step in the right direction. The volunteers are already planning their next event in April, and set a goal to remove at least 100,000 pounds of trash from the river by the end of 2021. Catherine Garcia
Among the first 17 executive orders President Biden signed Wednesday evening was one hitting "pause" on construction of former President Donald Trump's border wall. "It shall be the policy of my administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall," Biden's order said. "I am also directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to construct a southern border wall."
Biden gave the Pentagon and Homeland Security departments up to a week to stop all border construction, and for the most part, the frantic wall-building Trump had unleashed in his last months in office had stopped by Thursday, The Associated Press reports. The Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday it told its contractors to stop installing any additional barriers and do only what's "necessary to safely prepare each site for a suspension of work."
Biden gave his administration 60 days to find and review all current contracts and determine which can be canceled, which must be renegotiated, and whether any of the remaining money can be used on other projects. Trump, as of Jan. 15, had spent $6.1 billion of the $10.8 billion in wall construction it had contracted out, a Senate Democratic aide told AP. Overall, the Trump administration had secured $16.45 billion for the wall, including $5.8 billion appropriated by Congress and the rest seized from the Treasury and Defense departments. Biden is targeting that latter pot of money.
Trump says he built 450 miles of his wall, though almost all of that was replacement for other barriers. His administration signed contracts for constructing 664 miles, the Senate aide told AP. "Trump said the border wall would be 'virtually impenetrable' and paid for by Mexico, which never happened," AP notes. "While the wall is much more formidable than the barriers it replaced, it isn't uncommon for smugglers to guide people over or through it. Portions can be sawed with power tools sold at home improvement stores." Peter Weber
To combat rising anti-Semitism, the Austrian government has introduced measures to educate the country about Judaism, protect synagogues, and impose harsher punishments for hate crimes.
Karoline Edstadler, Austria's minister for the European Union, said the government is working to combat anti-Semitism of all forms, whether it is online in a message board comment or announced during a public protest. In 2019, there were 550 recorded anti-Semitic incidents in Austria, Edstadler said, and "that is twice as much as five years ago."
Oskar Deutsch is president of Vienna's Jewish community, and he told The Associated Press when there is discrimination, "Jews are always the first one who are affected." He said it's up to everyone in Austria, not just Jewish people, to fight against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate. Catherine Garcia
Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) set off a metal detector on Thursday as he tried to enter the House chamber while carrying a gun, HuffPost reports.
Reporter Matt Fuller witnessed Harris set off the metal detector and then stand as an officer used a wand to scan him. It was then discovered that Harris' suit coat was concealing a firearm. Harris was refused entrance to the Chamber, Fuller reports, and he asked Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) to take the gun so he could go onto the House floor for a vote. Katko responded that he didn't have "a license" and would not take the weapon, Fuller said.
Speaking to other lawmakers near him, Harris complained that he asked his staff to remind him about the metal detectors, and they had failed to do so, Fuller reports. Harris left, and upon his return 10 minutes later, he did not set off the metal detector. A Capitol Police spokesperson told Fuller the situation is under investigation.
The metal detectors were installed after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Several Republican lawmakers have tried to go around the metal detectors to avoid being scanned, and on Thursday, Fuller said he saw Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.), and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) refuse to be wanded down after setting off the metal detectors. Boebert earlier boasted that she will always have her gun on her while in D.C.
Members of the House are not permitted to carry firearms onto the floor, and Fuller tweeted that a person "who would have a good sense of this situation" told him there are "a lot more members than we think who go to the floor armed." Catherine Garcia
Presidents routinely file financial disclosures when they leave office, and forms recently submitted by former President Donald Trump show that 47 of his hotels, resorts, and other properties lost more than $120 million in revenue in 2020, The Washington Post reports.
The pandemic has hit the travel and hospitality industries hard, and two of Trump's most famous hotels struggled last year; the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., which has a $170 million loan outstanding, saw its revenue drop more than 60 percent, while the Doral in Miami saw its revenue decline 44 percent. Trump's private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach fared better — its revenue went up 13 percent.
An analysis by the Post found that combined, revenue at the 47 companies listed in Trump's financial disclosures dropped more than 35 percent in 2020. Banking consultant Bery Ely told the Post that Trump "faces some very serious problems that have been building in recent years and I think are going to come to a head now that he's left office." Trump, he added, has done "enormous reputational damage to himself."
While Trump does still own his company, the Post notes, it's unclear if he plans on going back to running day-to-day operations. The Trump Organization's website still lists his eldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, as the company's leaders. Read more at The Washington Post.Catherine Garcia