- President Donald Trump announced that all travel and trade with Europe will be barred from entering the United States for 30 days starting Friday as the coronavirus pandemic worsens in the United States.
- Trump also announced that he has instructed the Small Business Administration to provide loans to affected businesses and people.
- The Department of Homeland Security later clarified his comments by saying that trade will not be affected and this measure will only apply to foreign travelers.
Trump Bans U.S. Travel Between Europe
In an address from the Oval Office Wednesday night, President Donald Trump announced that all travel and trade between the United States and Europe would be suspended starting Friday.
Within an hour after his address, Trump and the Department of Homeland Security then had to walk back those claims with additional statements clarifying that the travel ban only applied to foreign travelers.
“To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days,” Trump originally said in his address. “There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval.”
“Today, President Donald J. Trump signed a Presidential Proclamation, which suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States,” the DHS clarified. “This does not apply to legal permanent residents, (generally) immediate family members of U.S. citizens, and other individuals who are identified in the proclamation.”
Additionally, about an hour after his address, Trump announced on Twitter that the ban will not affect trade between the U.S. and any European country.
Notably, these travel restrictions will not be imposed on the United Kingdom.
This was also only the second time Trump has addressed the nation from the Oval Office, only implementing it once last year to speak on the 2018-2019 government shutdown.
Health Insurance and Warning to Older Americans
In his address, Trump continued by detailing a meeting between his administration and some of the nation’s top health insurance companies. He then said they have agreed to waive co-pays on coronavirus testing and cover treatment for those who have the virus.
Thursday, Trump’s comments were later again clarified by those health insurance providers, who said while they would cover testing, they have not agreed to cover far more costly treatment.
Trump also warned older Americans to be careful and avoid travel after advising nursing homes to suspend all non-medical visits.
In a warning to all Americans, Trump said people should brace for even more disruptions such as school closures and cancellations to more large gatherings. Later on Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom called for all public gatherings of more than 250 people to be canceled.
Trump also announced that he has instructed the Small Business Administration to provide loans in affected states and territories, also asking Congress for an additional $50 billion in assistance.
“To ensure that working Americans impacted by the virus can stay home without fear of financial hardship, I will soon be taking emergency action, which is unprecedented, to provide financial relief,” Trump said. “This will be targeted for workers who are ill, quarantined, or caring for others due to coronavirus. I will be asking Congress to take legislative action to extend this relief.”
Other emergency actions include instructing the Treasury Department to defer tax payments for certain businesses and people affected by the virus, with Trump saying such a move would put $200 billion of liquidity back into the economy.
Regarding his push for Congress to pass payroll tax cuts, Trump once again doubled down on his calls for the government to provide relief to workers affected by the virus.
“This is not a financial crisis,” Trump said. “This is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation and as a world.”
Stocks Stop Trading
If that statement was meant to assuage investors, however, it did not work.
Following Trump’s address Wednesday night, Dow futures fell by 1,100.
Even before his address on Wednesday, stocks had already begun entering bear market territory, which occurs after those stocks drop 20% or more after recent highs.
Just six minutes after opening on Thursday, those drops were so big that investors stopped trading for about 15 minutes. That is the second time this week such an instance has happened. Outside of this week, stocks haven’t been temporarily halted since 1997.
For some context, however, those breaks meant to help investors slow down and think about their decision on where or not to invest in a stock.
Still, stocks for businesses in the travel industry plunged Thursday. Shares for cruise lines like Royal Caribbean shares dropped nearly 27% while Carnival was down 19%. Airlines such as United, Delta, and American all down more than 12%.
Other Reactions to Trump’s Oval Office Address
Thursday morning, the European Union condemned the Trump Administration’s travel suspension, saying the decision “was taken unilaterally and without consultation.”
Others, including many analysts, argued that the suspension probably came a little too late, many pointing out that the coronavirus outbreak has already reached American soil and seen community transmission.
In a heated exchange with Ohio Governor John Kasich, CNN Anchor Don Lemon blasted Trump for sending mixed messages and providing the public with inaccurate information during his address.
“This has been going on long enough for them to get it straight,” Lemon said. “We need straight, accurate information for this president, and this administration we’re not getting it, and I don’t understand why you are tiptoeing around it. He came out, gave an address that happens very rarely, and he doesn’t get it right?!”
Kasich then fought back, saying the president had finally taken the coronavirus seriously, alluding to criticism that Trump has downplayed the threat of the virus by recently comparing it to the flu and using it as an opportunity to talk about the border wall.
House Dems Propose Paid Leave Legislation
After Trump’s address, House Democrats unveiled a sweeping coronavirus release package that consisted of a number of measures, including national paid sick leave program, free coronavirus testing, food security assistance, and expanded unemployment benefits.
Very notably, that proposal does not include a payroll tax cut. According to reports, both Democrats and Republicans rejected the proposal, arguing that payroll tax cuts do not help those hit the hardest and are largely aimed at helping the wealthy.
Thursday morning, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the House is expected to vote on the legislation later in the day before leaving for a 10-day recess. According to reports, Pelosi is still hashing out the details with the Trump Administration, but not everyone is on board.
“The legislation that Speaker Pelosi introduced at 11pm last night—written by her staff and her staff alone—and plans to vote on just 12 hours later is not only completely partisan,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Twitter. “It is unworkable.”
McConnell Slams House Bill, Senate Staffers Test Positive for Coronavirus
Meanwhile, on the Senate side, Mitch McConnell slammed the House bill, calling it an “ideological wish list.”
I hope Senate Democrats will not block potential requests from our colleagues today to pass smaller, non-controversial pieces of legislation today,” he said.
While some Republican senators have expressed support for at least some parts of the bill, it’s unclear what the Senate will do. It may decide to consider the package or just propose one of its own.
Thursday morning, McConnell announced that the Senate will cancel its plans for the scheduled recess next week and will instead work through that.
To make matters worse, senators are now facing another problem that could complicate things even more. Wednesday night, Senator Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) office confirmed that one of her staffers tested positive for coronavirus, marking the first case on Capitol Hill.
Cantwell later announced that she was closing her D.C. office to have it deep-cleaned. In response, other Senators closed their D.C. offices as well.
See what others are saying: (Politico) (Axios) (The Guardian)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.