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The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Argentum — US mask debate intensifies

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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 135,205. Tuesday, 135,615. Wednesday, 136,466. Thursday, 137,419. Friday, 138,360.

The coronavirus has circulated in the United States for at least seven months. But in mid-July, with more than 3.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections tallied in all 50 states, elected officials continued on Thursday to debate the merits of compelling people to protect themselves and others with small, inexpensive face coverings.

The governors of Arkansas and Colorado issued statewide mask requirements for public, indoor spaces on Thursday. Mask orders are now in place in 28 states and the nation’s capital, but not in Georgia, where the governor is battling 15 cities and local officials over who has the legal authority to require people in the Peach State to wear a mask.

The Washington Post and The Center for Public Integrity: An unpublished report by the White House coronavirus task force dated Tuesday suggests that at least 18 hard-hit states — including California, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas — should enact stricter COVID-19 precautions, such as mask requirements and increased testing. 

The Hill: Masks win political momentum despite GOP holdouts.

Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who recommends but won’t require masks, says no one has that authority in Georgia. Mayors in his state are intent on testing Kemp’s say-so. On Wednesday, the governor (pictured below) banned all local governments in Georgia from requiring masks on public property, and within hours, state and local officials warned they would defy him. 

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D), who is among millions of Americans who have contracted and recovered from COVID-19, insists she wants to keep the mask requirement in place (The Associated Press). She argues she is not afraid of Atlanta being sued (Politico). In Savannah, Mayor Van Johnson (D) says the city’s emergency mask mandate will stand (WSAV).

> Tensions rose in Kentucky on Thursday, as Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) asked a judge to block all of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s COVID-19 orders. As new coronavirus infections and the testing positivity rate spike in the state, Cameron went to Boone County Circuit Court to argue that the governor’s executive orders to compel mask-wearing in public and to ban small gatherings are “arbitrary,” exceed his legal authority and violate the state constitution. Among other things, Cameron alleges, Beshear failed to list the “precise emergency” facing Kentucky. Beshear is seeking a resolution by the Kentucky Supreme Court (WDRB).   

> Colorado Gov. Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisColorado order allows hospitals to stop admitting, transfer patients when at capacity due to COVID-19 Broncos announce this weekend will be last game in front of fans this season Effort to recall Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has failed to collect necessary signatures by deadline MORE (D) on Thursday issued a statewide mask mandate requiring everyone age 10 and older to wear a mask or other facial covering while in public indoor spaces. The order took effect at midnight on Thursday. Polis made his decision after days of pressure from his fellow Democrats to make the move (Denver Post). 

> Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced a statewide mask mandate that requires adults to wear face coverings starting Monday. The masks will be required in all indoor areas with non-household members present, if it can't be assured people will stay six feet or more from others. People must wear face coverings outdoors where there is exposure to non-household members unless there's enough space to stay six feet or more apart. A violation of the order is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine between $100 and $500 (4029 TV News).

Also requiring masks: retailers Target and CVS (The Washington Post) — and beginning on Tuesday, Publix.

> Florida on Thursday reported its largest one-day increase in COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic started and the highest level of hospitalizations (Reuters). 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 issue a statewide order to require masks, although he’s been wearing one, but the Florida Department of Health has issued a public advisory, asking all residents to wear masks in public and to socially distance. Several Florida counties and some local municipalities have mask orders in place, turning the Sunshine State into patchwork of instructions… COVID-19 infected enough workers in the state’s coronavirus command center in Tallahassee to shut it down temporarily until at least Monday (The Washington Post). … DeSantis on Thursday assured Florida hospitals that Vice President Pence is expediting more deliveries of treatment drug remdesivir, which can shorten time needed for some patients to recover from COVID-19 (Tampa Bay Times).  

> Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) says she is studying the COVID-19 data in the nation’s capital and waiting before deciding on an approach to the school year. She announced on Thursday that she will wait to make her decision until July 31. "This week especially, we saw some trends in our data that are not ideal for making plans for the remainder of the school year," she said (WTOP).  

> Maryland: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is still asking why the administration did not do more to help his state with coronavirus testing early on during the pandemic. In an opinion article published by The Washington Post on Thursday, Hogan wrote, “So many nationwide actions could have been taken in those early days but weren’t. While other countries were racing ahead with well-coordinated testing regimes, the Trump administration bungled the effort.”

The New York Times: 10 states hit records on Thursday for deaths in a single day this week: Florida, Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

> International intrigue: The United Kingdom, the United States and Canada accused Russia on Thursday of trying to hack and steal coronavirus vaccine information from ongoing research trials (The Associated Press). The hacking group known as APT29, or "Cozy Bear," is largely believed to operate as part of Russia's security services, and the three countries allege that it is carrying out an ongoing cyber campaign to steal intellectual property about a possible COVID-19 vaccine (The Hill).  

> Economic indicators: Weekly jobless claims on Thursday rose by more than 1 million for the 17th week (CNBC). On a brighter note, retail sales for June, reported on Thursday by the Commerce Department, beat analysts’ expectations (The Hill).

> Sports in limbo: The National Collegiate Athletic Association released a report on Thursday about how college sports could resume, provided that COVID-19 contagions make it possible. “Today, sadly, the data point in the wrong direction. If there is to be college sports in the fall, we need to get a much better handle on the pandemic,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert (ESPN).

  

 

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LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: A month after moving the Republican National Convention in order to hold a full-fledged event, the party is rolling things back and will hold a scaled back version in Jacksonville, Fla., due to the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

According to The Washington Post, the number of convention-goers will be dramatically lessened as only regular delegates will be able to attend for the first three days of the convention, or nearly 2,500 people. The final day, featuring the president’s acceptance speech, will feature a crowd of roughly 6,000 or 7,000 people. 

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDanielRonna Romney McDanielMichigan certifies Biden victory in another blow to Trump Sunday shows - Virus surge dominates ahead of fraught Thanksgiving holiday GOP chairwoman leans into election claims: Party will 'run down every single irregularity' MORE made the announcement in a letter, citing Florida gathering rules. 

“When we made these changes, we had hoped to be able to plan a traditional convention celebration to which we are all accustomed. However, adjustments must be made to comply with state and local health guidelines,” McDaniel said. 

The convention notice from the Republican National Committee comes as Trump aides and allies have increasingly questioned whether the event is worth the trouble; some advocate scrapping it. Conventions are meant to lay out a candidate’s vision for the coming four years, not spark months of intrigue over the health and safety of attendees, they have argued. In the end, the decision about whether and how to move forward will be Trump’s (The Associated Press).

The convention move also comes amid a prolonged period of tumult for the campaign, which underwent a shake-up at the top on Wednesday as Trump replaced Brad ParscaleBrad ParscaleAides tried to get Trump to stop attacking McCain in hopes of clinching Arizona: report MORE as campaign manager with Bill Stepien to give the operation a shot in the arm. 

However, as Niall Stanage writes in his latest memo, it also comes as a number of polls show the president’s standing is falling nationally and in key states despite his efforts to stop the bleeding. While Stepien is highly thought of in GOP circles, the task facing the campaign could not be taller due to COVID-19, which has sent the economy into a tailspin, and the racial tensions following the police killing of George Floyd in May. 

The New York Times: Bill Stepien takes helm of Trump campaign as a data-obsessed political fighter.

Julie Pace, The Associated Press: Trump wants a 2016 repeat in a very different year.

The New York Times: Democratic officials tell members of Congress to skip the convention. 

The Hill: Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarBiden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far GOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations MORE (D-Minn.) rallies to fight back against primary challenge.

> Moneytalk: Democrats running in the most competitive Senate races blew past their GOP opponents in the dash for cash in the second fundraising quarter of the year, giving them a leg up as they near the stretch run to determine the Senate majority.

As The Hill’s Max Greenwood reports, second-quarter campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show that, in the 15 most competitive Senate races, Democrats outraised Republicans in all but two. Together, they pulled in a combined $102 million in the three-month period spanning April 1 through June 30, while Republicans raked in about $70 million.  

The Republicans trailing their Democratic opponents in second-quarter fundraising include some of the most vulnerable incumbents up for reelection this cycle. In Arizona, former astronaut Mark Kelly took in nearly $12.8 million to $9.3 million for Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyTrump nominee's long road to Fed may be dead end McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol McSally's final floor speech: 'I gave it my all, and I left it all on the field' MORE (R), who is among Democrats’ top targets this year.

Mark Leibovich, The New York Times: A club of GOP political heirs push back on Trump. 

The Hill: Goya fury underscores Biden’s need to attract Latino support.

 

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CONGRESS: Congress is expected to start work on a fifth coronavirus relief package next week, but negotiations will come too late for some as the $600 weekly boost in unemployment insurance will expire in the coming days.

As Cristina Marcos reports, the expiring provision of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act enacted in March raises the stakes for bipartisan talks, which lawmakers hope leads to a resolution before both chambers of Congress depart in roughly three weeks for the month-long August recess.  

Because most states process payments on a weekly cycle ending on Saturdays or Sundays, the last $600 payments would go out on July 25 if Congress doesn’t act sooner. Adding to the timetable for negotiations, Republicans are pushing to lower the weekly boost to $400 or less. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-Calif.) signaled that she is open to haggling over the figure, but that depends on whether there is another round of direct payments to Americans. 

The Washington Post: The White House says the next coronavirus relief bill “must” include a payroll tax cut favored by the president. Senate Republicans continue to resist the idea. 

The Hill: Democrats propose $350 billion in aid for minority communities in next COVID-19 bill.

> Senate probes: Senate Republicans are preparing to ramp up investigations into the Obama administration as a pair of committee chairmen are plotting the next steps in the weeks leading up to the August recess. 

According to The Hill’s Jordain Carney, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamLet's give thanks to Republican defenders of Democracy Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight MORE (R-S.C.) is pushing to hold public hearings as part of his investigation into the FBI's Russia probe, while Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonLoeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Wis.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, says that he is planning to release an interim report on an investigation related to Hunter Biden before the August break. The renewed effort comes after the president delivered an avalanche of complaints from the Rose Garden on Wednesday, going after Biden and wondering about the whereabouts of his son.  

 

OPINION

Testing is on the brink of paralysis. That’s very bad news, by Margaret Bourdeaux, Beth Cameron and Jonathan Zittrain, The New York Times opinion contributors. https://nyti.ms/2WIno9F

How Americans became part of the Trump family, book review by Megan Garber, The Atlantic, about Mary L.Trump’s “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man.” https://bit.ly/32l9y0q

The conservative case for paid family leave, by Maggie Cordish, former Trump White House policy adviser, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3fB5GMp

 

A MESSAGE FROM ARGENTUM

 

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets on Monday at 9 a.m. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' Sunday shows preview: Biden transition, COVID-19 spike in spotlight MORE (R-Calif.) will hold a press call at 1 p.m. Today, the House Small Business Committee will hold an oversight hearing at 10:30 a.m. about pandemic relief programs administered by the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration with testimony from Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Initial jobless claims rise for 2nd week | Dow dips below 30K | Mnuchin draws fire for COVID-19 relief move | Manhattan DA appeals dismissal of Manafort charges Mnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience MORE and SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza. … The House Ways and Means Committee at noon holds a hearing about the impact of the coronavirus on Social Security beneficiaries. … The House Oversight and Government Reform Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis will hear virtual testimony at 12:30 p.m. from former Federal Reserve Chairs Ben Bernanke and Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenMnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach Biden soars as leader of the free world The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday MORE about economic inequities.   

The Senate reconvenes on Monday at 3 p.m. and proceeds to executive session to resume consideration of the nomination of Russell Vought to be director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The president participates at 11:30 a.m. in a credentialing ceremony for newly appointed ambassadors to the nation’s capital.

Pence will deliver a speech this morning at Ripon College in Ripon, Wis. He’ll tour Morning Star Farm in La Crosse, Wis. and participate in a roundtable discussion at 4:15 p.m. EDT about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement in Onalaska, Wis., before returning to Washington. 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBiden faces challenges, opportunities in Middle East O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Israeli military instructed to prepare for Trump strike on Iran: report MORE will visit Des Moines, Iowa, to speak at an event at 5 p.m. EDT that has many people musing about his presidential interests in 2024. Pompeo’s speech will be live streamed at www.state.gov.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosts Anthony FauciAnthony FauciVaccine skepticism emerges as early test for Biden Trump encourages Americans to 'gather' in Thanksgiving proclamation despite coronavirus surge Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year MORE, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at 11 a.m. for a virtual forum about the coronavirus crisis. Information is HERE. White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump administration revives talk of action on birthright citizenship MORE said on Fox News on Thursday that Fauci is “false” and “irresponsible” to liken the coronavirus to the 1918 influenza pandemic (The Hill). And by the way, Fauci is profiled by InStyle magazine, in an article written by CBS News anchor Norah O’Donnell.

INVITATION: The Hill Virtually Live event Tuesday, July 21, at 1 p.m., “Advancing America's Economy: The Role of Private Capital,” with Reps. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyWhy it's time for a majority female Cabinet Democrats scramble on COVID-19 relief amid division, Trump surprise Bank lobbying group launches ad backing Collins reelection bid MORE (D-Fla.) and Bryan Steil (R-Wis.) and other experts, along with The Hill's editor at large Steve Clemons. Registration HERE. 

INVITATION: The Hill Virtually Live event Thursday, July 23, at 1 p.m. “Diabetes & the COVID Threat,” focuses on effective diabetes care during the COVID-19 crisis, with Reps. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteBipartisan lawmakers call for expedited diabetes research The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Dems push McConnell on COVID-19 relief; Grassley contracts COVID-19 Overnight Health Care: Schumer, Pelosi want Heroes Act as 'starting point' in new COVID-19 relief talks | Labs warn of possible delays in test results amid surge in demand | Federal government partners with pharmacies for coronavirus vaccine distribution MORE (D-Colo.) and Tom ReedTom ReedDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Bipartisan lawmakers call for expedited diabetes research The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Dems push McConnell on COVID-19 relief; Grassley contracts COVID-19 MORE (R-N.Y.), the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Diabetes, plus a panel of health experts. Moderator: The Hill's Clemons. Registration HERE.

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

 

ELSEWHERE

Cybersecurity: The sweeping hack of verified Twitter accounts Wednesday night was one of the largest security lapses in Twitter's history, and led to thousands of accounts being partially locked for hours. But the company and its users got off easy. Now lawmakers and top officials are mulling what steps to take to ensure Twitter is not hacked by groups with more malicious intent, particularly with only months to go ahead of a potentially-divisive presidential election and as geopolitical tensions increase during the COVID-19 pandemic (The Hill). … This week’s Twitter hacking spree alarms experts concerned about the platform’s security and resilience in the runup to the presidential election (Reuters). 

International: India exceeded 1 million cases of COVID-19, raising international alarms about the crisis in a populous democracy with significant poverty, scarcity of medical care for the poorest and dense living conditions (The Associated Press). …  British officials accused “Russian actors” Thursday of an attempt to interfere in the December 2019 general election, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab telling lawmakers that it “almost certain” that they did so by amplifying leaked government documents (The Associated Press). … The Vatican told bishops on Thursday that they should not hesitate to report cases of sexual abuse by clergy to police, even when it is not legally obligated, in the latest effort to shield minors from abusive priests. The directive came in a manual issued to bishops and high-ranking church officials on how to handle allegations of rape and molestation by priests, among other things (The Associated Press). 

Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaObama: 'Hopeless' to try to sell as many books as Michelle Obama sold record-breaking 1.7 million copies of memoir in first week Media and Hollywood should stop their marching-to-Georgia talk MORE has a pod! The former first lady will host “The Michelle Obama Podcast” about health and relationships exclusively through Spotify beginning July 29. She promises some celebrity guests, and her contacts list is chock full of VIPs. The new platform for the best-selling author and Netflix documentary subject will be the first title in an ongoing collaboration between Spotify and Higher Ground, a production company founded by the Obamas last year (The Associated Press).

 

 

THE CLOSER

And finally … Bravo to winners of this week’s Morning Report Quiz about brands that took a PR beating in the last week.

Here’s who aced our questions, which were drawn from recent news accounts: Patrick Kavanagh, Ki Harvey, Patricia Swank, Dan H. Hoxworth, Jim Hudak, Phil Kirstein, Candi Cee, John M. Cousins, Tom Chabot, Jeffrey E. Lowe, Mari Rusch, Adam Darr, Peter Stewart, Peter Lepper, Rich Davis, J. Patrick White, Norm Roberts, Caroline Fisher, Priscilla M. Cobb, Randall S. Patrick, Michael A. Lindquist, Carolyn Johnson, Stewart Baker, Tom Miller, Terry Pflaumer, Margaret Keough, Tom Werkema, “Gary,” Mike Roberts, Ken Stevens, Karen Kovar, “Passepartout Too-Too,” Sandy Walters, Tim Burrack, Lori Benso, Penelope Ward and Allen Reishtein.

They knew that consumers organized a boycott of Goya Foods after the company’s CEO praised the president (Trump posed in the Oval Office with some of the company’s products on Wednesday). 

Facebook, responding to an ad boycott, recently agreed to make some changes to curb racist and hate speech on its platform.  

The Washington Redskins announced the team will change its name as a result of public and corporate objections that “redskins” is a slur against Native Americans. 

The Atlanta Braves has received plenty of criticism about its name but the team announced that no change is in store and the Braves will “always” be the brand.

 

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!