The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - All eyes on Florida as daily COVID-19 cases hit 15K

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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning: 135,205.

If the new normal in the United States requires figuring out how to live with the coronavirus, it also means puzzling through some of science’s most complex questions and absorbing a few grim truths.


As Florida on Sunday set another single-day record for confirmed COVID-19 cases, people across the country began to comprehend that the pathogen is in the air they breathe everywhere and that masks are surprisingly effective shields when coupled with physical distancing. 


Although Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans Group of Florida mayors calls on DeSantis to issue mask mandate DeSantis promises to keep Florida open despite recent coronavirus case surge MORE (R) says he will not make masks mandatory in the Sunshine State, plenty of other powers have been speaking up. At least 40 states have versions of mask requirements, and in Utah on Friday, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asked members in the state to wear face coverings in public (Daily Herald).


Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Brett Giroir, a pediatrician on Trump’s coronavirus task force, on Sunday during an interview on ABC’s “This Week” called mask-wearing in public “absolutely essential.”  


“If we don’t have that, we will not get control of the virus,” he said (The Associated Press). The four-star admiral spoke a day after President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Trump's remaking of the judicial system Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit MORE wore a mask for the first time in public.


As Reid Wilson reports, officials’ efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 have failed in much of the United States. Fatalities in some of the hardest-hit states are expected to rise this week. Forty-three states in the last two weeks have seen COVID-19 cases spike upward. In 29 states, the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus has climbed over the same period. More than 80 percent of intensive care beds are occupied in Alabama, Arizona and Georgia.


Arizona’s Maricopa County medical examiner’s office on Friday hit 97 percent of capacity and the state called in refrigerated trucks to store COVID-19 fatalities (The Hill).  


“I would be lying if I didn't say I was concerned,” Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Quinton Lucas told The Hill during an interview. “We have looked at the trends out of Texas, Arizona and Florida. Those states kind of reflect the political choices that were made statewide in Missouri, and that does give us concern.”


The Kansas City metropolitan area has confirmed more than 10,000 coronavirus cases. One disease model portends that Jackson County, Mo., is likely to experience more than 200 new cases every day by the beginning of August.


And if scientists are correct, the situation is worse than imagined just weeks ago: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimates that 40 percent of people infected with COVID-19 do not have any outward symptoms and can transmit the virus unknowingly. That is up from the 35 percent the agency estimated on May 20. Other researchers say asymptomatic cases of the virus could be 50 percent (ABC News).


The latest revisions of public health guidelines announced by researchers and clinicians come as the nation’s school districts and universities establish new reopening policies and economically distressed businesses with enclosed spaces and faulty air filtration systems ponder how to safely proceed. 


> Trump’s COVID-19 advisers: Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight health care: AstraZeneca says its COVID-19 vaccine candidate is up to 90 percent effective It's time for COVID-19 disaster relief ... for mothers Fauci: US could see 'well over 300,000' COVID-19 deaths MORE’s blunt public assessments as a virologist leading the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases got him sidelined with a president who loathes being publicly contradicted and insists on optimism even when it’s fiction (The Washington Post). … U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams finds himself in an administration defined by a White House spoiling for a fight. He’s never been alone in a room with the president, but as a member of the administration he’s inextricably tangled with Trump in the public eye (The Washington Post).


> World Health Organization (WHO): U.S. allies around the world bite their tongues after Trump withdraws U.S. financial support for the WHO during a pandemic (The Hill).


> Risks and government workers: Senators last week said the administration’s reopening plans for federal employees who are supposed to return to their offices and work locations are unsafe (Federal News Network). … More than 1,000 Transportation Security Administration employees have tested positive for COVID-19 (HuffPost). Essential employees and frontline workers in various cities are pushing for workers’ rights legislation and other measures as forms of COVID-19 protection (NBC News). Many teachers say they fear returning to classrooms because of the coronavirus risks (The New York Times).


✔  Better news!: No one died in New York City on Saturday from the coronavirus. It was a landmark for Gotham not experienced since March 13 (NBC New York). But New York state is quietly preparing for another COVID-19 surge, if it comes (The Associated Press).






2020 POLITICS: Only months out from Election Day, Democrats are making a concerted effort to tie down-ballot Republicans to the president and Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosWomen set to take key roles in Biden administration America has a civic education problem — here's how to fix it Biden's Education secretary must expel the harmful policies of the last four years MORE over their threat to cut funding to schools that do not resume in-person classes in the coming months.


As The Hill’s Julia Manchester reports, the move by the administration to lay down this marker has angered teachers’ unions, which are looking to take out their frustration on lawmakers on the ballot in November. 


Former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperDemocrats frustrated, GOP jubilant in Senate fight Chamber-endorsed Dems struggle on election night OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Down ballot races carry environmental implications | US officially exits Paris climate accord  MORE (D), the party’s Senate nominee in the state, is among the latest Democrats to go on the offensive, calling on incumbent Sen. Cory GardnerCory GardnerHillicon Valley: Trump fires top federal cybersecurity official, GOP senators push back | Apple to pay 3 million to resolve fight over batteries | Los Angeles Police ban use of third-party facial recognition software Senate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities Democrats vent to Schumer over Senate majority failure MORE (R-Colo.) to denounce the president’s stance on the issue. In North Carolina, Democrat Cal Cunningham, who is running against Republican Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTeam Trump offering 'fire hose' of conspiracy Kool-Aid for supporters Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection North Carolina's Mark Walker expected to announce Senate bid MORE, warned against the politicization of reopening schools, calling on Congress to do the work to ensure that schools open safely at the right time.


In Iowa, Democrat Theresa Greenfield, who is challenging Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstThe Memo: Trump plows ahead with efforts to overturn election More conservatives break with Trump over election claims Peggy Noonan: 'Bogus dispute' by Trump 'doing real damage' MORE (R) (pictured below), is also hitting Republicans’ handling of the virus, saying that the incumbent Republican needs to “answer for this failure.” Ernst sidestepped whether she supports the administration’s plan. 


“I’d have to look at that policy,” Ernst said on Thursday. “I want it [schools reopening] done safely and sensibly, and I think that’s the right way to do it.”


As an ABC News-Ipsos poll released on Friday shows, Democrats have good reason to lob the attacks. According to the survey, 67 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s response to the pandemic. 


The Hill: Congress under pressure to provide billions for school openings.


Scott Gottlieb: Schools can open safely this fall.


Reuters: Trump’s push to reopen schools part of his bid to boost suburban standing.


The Hill: Trump tax returns unlikely before November.





> Florida, Florida, Florida: With the continued spread of the virus in the Sunshine State, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit Protect our world: How the Biden administration can save lives and economies worldwide MORE is making a hard play at flipping Florida blue, something former President Obama did twice before Trump’s 2016 victory. 


The president appeared in the state on Friday and plans remain for the GOP to hold the majority of its convention in Jacksonville despite the pandemic. However, Biden is in pole position less than four months before Election Day, with the latest RealClearPolitics average showing a 5-point lead for the former VP. 


As Niall Stanage writes in his latest memo, while most of the attention is directed at the "blue wall" states in the Rust Belt, a Biden win in Florida would make Trump's path to reelection vanishingly narrow. Spiking coronavirus cases, and the related controversy around the approach taken by DeSantis, a staunch Trump ally, create grave problems for the president, who won the state by a little more than a point in 2016.


The Associated Press: It’s Trump’s call on what the GOP convention will look like.


The New York Times: Trump wants to derail Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsAlabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future Tuberville incorrectly says Gore was president-elect in 2000 Next attorney general must embrace marijuana law reforms MORE. Now Alabama will have the final say.


The Washington Post: Brad ParscaleBrad ParscaleAides tried to get Trump to stop attacking McCain in hopes of clinching Arizona: report MORE hits a rough patch as Trump’s campaign manager.


CONGRESS: Lawmakers appear poised to do little, if anything, to legislatively respond to intelligence and reports that Russia placed bounties on the killings of U.S. and allied troops. 


Democrats continue to press Trump administration officials for answers on the issue, going ahead with filing bills or amendments to the annual defense policy bill to address the issue. However, Republicans are echoing the administration’s talking point about the intelligence being “uncorroborated,” creating a steep climb for any legislative action to come to fruition.


“We know that countries like Russia and Iran, in particular, are using proxies to attack Americans wherever they can find them,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCornyn says election outcome 'becoming increasingly clear': report Top GOP senator: Biden should be getting intel briefings GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results MORE (R-Texas). “So none of this should be a surprise to anybody who’s been paying attention. But I think we will continue to try to figure ways to protect our forces against any kind of threats, whether its Russian bounties or just people who want to kill Americans. That’s where I think we need to focus on, is maintaining that force protection.”


When pressed recently, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFeinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee Voters want a strong economy and leadership, Democrats should listen On The Money: Biden to nominate Yellen for Treasury secretary | 'COVID cliff' looms | Democrats face pressure to back smaller stimulus MORE (R-Ky.) did not directly address whether he would back a new round of sanctions against Russia, simply saying that it’s “no secret the Russians are up to no good” (The Hill).


Douglas London, The New York Times opinion contributor: Trump’s shocking inaction on Russia.


> Testimony: Democratic lawmakers are pushing to hear testimony from John BoltonJohn BoltonPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Sunday shows - Virus surge dominates ahead of fraught Thanksgiving holiday Bolton calls on GOP leadership to label Trump's behavior 'inexcusable' MORE, saying that the president’s former national security adviser should answer to Congress — under oath — about his time in the White House. 


Bolton refused to talk to managers of the House impeachment proceedings against the president last year but in a book released last month he argued that Trump is incompetent as commander in chief and unfit to be president. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiVoters want a strong economy and leadership, Democrats should listen On The Money: Biden to nominate Yellen for Treasury secretary | 'COVID cliff' looms | Democrats face pressure to back smaller stimulus Democrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus MORE (D-Calif.) has yet to announce a decision on whether to force Bolton to testify, saying for weeks that she’s considering matters. While she decides, lawmakers have become vocal, calling for Bolton to speak to investigators about his 17 months in the White House. (The Hill).


Yahoo News: Amid Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneWashington braces for unpredictable post-election period Like it or not, a Trump self-pardon may be coming soon This election is headed to the courts, but Democrats have lawyers too MORE flap, GOP senator to allow Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE testimony. 


> Immigration: Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinDurbin seeks to become top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary panel Feinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee Democrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus MORE (D-Ill.) says he has a commitment from Biden and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration Voters say Biden should make coronavirus vaccine a priority: poll New York City subway service could be slashed 40 percent, officials warn MORE (D-N.Y.) to make immigration reform the first major agenda item if Democrats win the White House and Senate in November. 


In 2009, the first year of total Democratic control during Obama’s presidency, Democrats focused on health care first and then climate change, leaving many of their supporters in the immigration reform community sorely disappointed. While there’s been little discussion about any specific plans, some Republicans have already indicated they would be prepared to negotiate, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamFeinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee Democrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Media and Hollywood should stop their marching-to-Georgia talk MORE (R-S.C.) (The Hill).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


It’s 2022. What does life look like? by David Leonhardt, writer, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/2C7gzqX 


Anti-Semitic posts and tepid reactions should enrage us, by Mitch Albom, columnist, Detroit Free Press. https://bit.ly/3eiPWwl 



The House meets for a pro forma session at noon and returns to legislative business on July 20. 


The Senate meets at 5:30 p.m. for a pro forma session.


The president will have lunch with Vice President Pence at 12:30 p.m. Trump will participate in a roundtable at 2 p.m. with select attendees who offer testimonials about the benefits of law enforcement. 


Pence will join the president for lunch.


INVITATION: The Hill Virtually Live talks to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit King of Jordan becomes first Arab leader to speak with President-elect Biden Central Asia is changing: the Biden administration should pay close attention MORE on Wednesday at 11 a.m. about “New Threats, New Defense: The Future of National Security.” Interviewer: Editor-in-Chief Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Election Day has arrived Law enforcement braces for unrest after Election Day The Hill's 12:30 Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association -Trump enters debate week after NYT obtains his tax returns MORE. RSVP HERE. 


Washington Post Live will interview New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamFive House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet Favorites emerge as Latino leaders press Biden to appoint 5 Hispanics to Cabinet States split on COVID-19 responses as cases surge MORE (D) today at 1 p.m. about the coronavirus situation in her state and her inclusion on Biden’s list of vice presidential contenders. Live stream conversation hosted by journalist Jonathan Capehart: wapo.st/grisham


The Hill’s Coronavirus Report has updates and exclusive video interviews with policymakers emailed each day. Sign up HERE!


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.


Sports: The Washington Redskins, after years of resistance, will indeed change the team name, considered a slur by Native Americans and many others. According to Sports Business Journal, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is set to announce this morning that the franchise will retire its name. A new one — and there are many creative ideas out there — is in suspense (ESPN). … The Atlanta Braves announced Sunday that the franchise will not change its name despite such announcements by other teams (the Redskins and Cleveland Indians, for example). In a letter to season ticket holders, the team said it would “always” keep the name but indicated the Braves will weigh the future of the tomahawk chop (ESPN).


Economy: As beach towns open, business owners say there are shortages of the foreign workers on whom they rely each summer. From Cape Cod, Mass., to Myrtle Beach, S.C., Trump’s ban announced in June on green cards and his freeze on temporary visas are hurting U.S. businesses, proprietors complain (The Associated Press).


International: Iran in a report late Saturday blamed misaligned radar for the downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet. On Jan. 8, Iranian forces fired an anti-aircraft missile at the Boeing 737-800 shortly after its takeoff from Imam Khomeini International Airport, killing 176 passengers (The Washington Post). … China announced sanctions against Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics MORE (R-Fla.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMcSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol Capitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview Republican senators urge Trump to label West Bank goods as 'Made in Israel' MORE (R-Texas) and other U.S. officials in response to a legislative effort to hurt Beijing over the treatment of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region. The move is largely symbolic, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying declining to elaborate on the “sanctions” (Reuters) … South Africa reimposed its national curfew as coronavirus infections surge across the country (AFP).


Target Mars: Beginning this week, there could be a bit of a traffic jam ahead for Mars. The United States, China and the United Arab Emirates are all sending unmanned exploratory spacecraft to the red planet (The Associated Press).  


➔ State watch: Stockton, Calif., is experimenting with a universal basic income for select residents, an idea advocated during the Democratic presidential primary and in various forms by some Democratic lawmakers in Washington. Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, pictured below, last year launched SEED, which sends $500 per month to 125 randomly selected residents in his city over two years. The program studies recipients with one key question in mind: How is guaranteed income impacting their income volatility? So far, advocates believe the program has a beneficial effect on recipients and their families (CNBC). 





And finally … For Mary Daniel of Florida, where there’s a will, there’s going to be a way.


Daniel, 57, accepted a part-time nursing home dishwashing job during the pandemic so she could see her husband, Steve, who is a resident in the facility. He suffers from Alzheimer’s and the couple had been kept apart for 114 days during the spring and early summer as the coronavirus began to circulate. Mary’s first shift washing and scrubbing took place on July 3 and she said her husband recognized her even behind her mask.


I walked into his room and he said my name. … When he said, Mary, and gave me the biggest hug, I mean, we both cried,” she explained (CNN).