- Videos went viral Wednesday showing Palm Beach, Florida residents voicing frustrations about a local mask mandate during a meeting with county commissioners.
- The same day, Florida recorded its highest single-day total of coronavirus cases with over 5,500 new reports, and the United States did the same, recording over 36,880 nationwide in a day.
- Along with Florida, states like Texas, California, and Arizona have also seen record spikes, but the governors of all four states have been reluctant to re-impose restrictions or scale back reopening efforts.
- President Trump, for his part, has continued to downplay the new cases, repeatedly claiming they are only the result of increased testing despite the fact that numerous health experts have said that is false.
County commissioners in Palm Beach, Florida passed a new mandate Wednesday requiring people to wear masks inside public buildings, prompting outrage from locals whose rants against the move went viral.
“You literally cannot mandate somebody to wear a mask knowing that that mask is killing people” one woman claimed in a viral clip. “We the people are waking up, and we know what citizen’s arrest is. Because citizen’s arrests are already happening.
“Every single one of you that are obeying the devil’s laws are going to be arrested,” she said, warning that God would punish the commissioners for their orders.
“Six feet, like I said before, is military protocol, you’re trying to get the people, to train them, so when the cameras, the 5G comes out, what?” the woman continued. “They’re going to scan everybody? We gotta get scanned? We gotta get temperatured?”
“What happened to Bill Gates? Why is he not in jail? ” she went on.
“Why is Hilary Clinton not in jail? Why are all of these pedophiles that are demanding you all to listen to their rules, why are they not in jail? Oh, is it because you are a part of them? Are you a part of the deep state? The deep state is going down and if any of you are in the deep state, you are going down with it.”
Still, the commissioners voted unanimously to impose the mandate Palm Beach after hearing three hours of arguments.
“They want to throw God’s wonderful breathing system out the door,” one woman said in another viral video.
“I don’t wear a mask for the same reason I don’t wear underwear: things gotta breathe,” argued another.
Cases Rise in Florida
The remarks were mocked online by people who pointed out that many the claims have been disproven by scientific evidence, and in some cases, have been debunked as conspiracy theories.
This recent example of the fierce opposition to wearing masks, which experts have said prevents the spread of the coronavirus, also comes as cases in Florida increased significantly in recent weeks.
On the same day the county commissioners meeting took place, Florida reported its single highest day of new cases with over 5,500. Over the last week or so, the state has repeatedly broken its previous record for new daily cases.
According to reports, before last Thursday, the state had never reported more than 3,000 new cases in a single day. Over the last week, more than 3,000 cases have been recorded every day but one.
Even compared to the week before, the growth has been significant. Data compiled by the state’s health department shows that there were 29,508 total new infections recorded from June 18 to June 24, which is nearly early double the 15,600 new cases confirmed in the week before.
For weeks, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis claimed that the spikes were due to increased testing, an argument President Donald Trump has made repeatedly.
However, numerous experts have said that is not true. While more testing does mean more infections will be found, it is more important to look at the positivity rate— the percentage of tests that are coming back positive. Comparing how many tests are being done to the amount of those tests that are positive is a much more accurate indicator of where a given state is.
According to reports, the percentage of people testing positive in Florida has risen sharply— a fact DeSantis finally admitted after pushing false narratives about testing for weeks.
“Most of that is community transmission particularly amongst the 20- and 30-year-old group. They are testing more than they were, for sure, but they’re also testing positive at a higher rate than they were before,” he said in a press conference Tuesday. “So, that would tell you there’s been an escalation in transmission over the last seven to 10 days.”
However, DeSantis still said he is going ahead with his reopening plans, which have already been some of the earliest and most expansive in the country, and notably include reopening schools in August.
Separately, on Wednesday, when the state saw its highest number of cases ever, DeSantis refused to issue a statewide order requiring people to wear masks.
“Ultimately, you have to trust people to make good decisions,” he said.
Increases in Other States
Florida is not the only state seeing huge spikes. Also on Wednesday, the U.S. as a whole broke its previous record for the highest single day of confirmed cases with 36,880.
Cases are also now rising in more than half of the states, but some have been hit worse than others. Among other states, California and Texas also broke their previous daily case records on Wednesday, with California reporting over 7,100 new cases and Texas reporting over 5,500.
Arizona is another state that has seen large increases in the last few weeks. On Tuesday, the state reported its highest single day of new cases with 3,600. The same day, President Trump held a rally at a megachurch in Phoenix, where he again insisted that testing was the reason for the spikes.
“When you have all those tests, you have more cases,” he said. “We want to do testing. We want to do everything, but they use it to make us look bad.”
Arizona has also seen a huge jump in hospitalizations. As of Monday, around 84% of the state’s ICU beds were in use. But, like DeSantis, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has refused to change his reopening plans.
Leaders of other states with rising cases have taken some actions. California Gov. Gavin Newsom this week issued a state-wide order requiring people throughout the state to wear masks in “high-risk settings.”
However, on Wednesday, Newsom said that he does not plan to pause the state’s reopening, though he is ready to re-impose restrictions if needed.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott basically did the exact opposite, announcing Thursday that he would pause the state’s reopening, but stressing that he does not plan on reversing any of the broad reopening phases he’s already allowed for.
Some states have even taken it a step further. On Wendesday, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut issued a travel advisory requiring people arriving from states with high coronavirus cases to quarantine for 14 days.
Numerous experts and public health officials have said that the new spikes indicate that not only is the U.S. failing to contain the virus, but that it is getting worse.
President Trump, however, has ramped up his efforts to downplay the virus at all costs. In addition to pushing the false claim that the spikes are simply due to increased testing, he also said he directed his administration to slow down testing during a campaign rally over the weekend.
A White House official claimed the remark was a joke, but when asked by a reporter on Tuesday if he had been kidding, a straight-faced Trump responded, “I don’t kid.”
Hours later, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tried to walk back Trump’s remarks.
“He was making was a serious point, and that’s why he said ‘I don’t kid,’” she said. “He was making a serious point, but he was using sarcasm to do that at the rally.”
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Donald Trump and Eldest Three Children Hit With Fraud Lawsuit From New York AG
AG Letitia James says that the former president “falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself.”
Lawsuit Filed Against Trump
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on Wednesday that she filed a civil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump and his three eldest children over allegations that they fraudulently inflated asset valuations within the Trump Organization.
Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump are all listed alongside their father in the lawsuit. Executives Jeffrey McConney and Allen Weisselberg, the latter of whom recently pled guilty to tax crimes, are also listed alongside other Trump businesses.
“Donald Trump, with the help of his children…and senior executives at the Trump Organization, falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, to satisfy continuing loan covenants, to induce insurers to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums, and to gain tax benefits, among other things,” a press release announcing the lawsuit claimed.
The Attorney General’s office claims that between 2011 and 2021, Trump and the Trump Organization made 200 false and misleading claims about asset values on annual financial statements.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in a State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
“The complaint demonstrates that Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us,” James said while announcing the complaint.
Her office is seeking to permanently ban Trump and his children from serving as an officer or director in any New York corporation and to bar Trump and his organization from entering into any New York real estate acquisitions for five years. The office is also seeking to recover $250 million in penalty payments, among other forms of relief.
The Office of the Attorney General has also referred the matter to the federal attorneys in New York and to the IRS for criminal investigation.
“There aren’t two sets of laws for people in this nation: former presidents must be held to the same standards as everyday Americans,” James added in a statement on social media.
“Trump’s crimes are not victimless,” she continued. “When the well-connected and powerful break the law to get more money than they are entitled to, it reduces resources available to working people, small businesses, and taxpayers.”
Trump Allegedly Inflated Key Assets
According to James’ release, Trump “made known through Mr. Weisselberg that he wanted his net worth on his statements to increase every year.”
“And the statements were the vehicle by which his net worth was fraudulently inflated by billions of dollars year after year,” the release continued.
Among the assets Trump and his organization allegedly inflated was the Trump Tower Triplex, an apartment Trump allegedly claimed was 30,000 square feet when it is just around 11,000 square feet. Because of its ballooned size, the property was valued at $327 million in 2015, roughly three times as much as the sole apartment in New York City to ever sell for over $100 million at the time.
For further comparison, the highest sale for a listing in Trump Tower at the time was only $16 million.
Trump also allegedly claimed Mar-a-Lago was valued as high as $739 million based on the “false premise” that the property could be developed and sold for residential use. The lawsuit claims that Trump actually signed deeds donating those rights, limiting the property’s use to a social club. James and her office claim its value would fall closer to $75 million.
Inflated Clauations Cannot Be “Excused”
“The inflated asset valuations in the Statements cannot be brushed aside or excused as merely the result of exaggeration or good faith estimation about which reasonable real estate professionals may differ,” the lawsuit states, adding that instead, they are the result of improper methodology intentionally meant to falsely boost Trump’s net worth.
The investigation into Trump’s alleged fraud began nearly three years ago, and the former president has repeatedly called it a politically motivated witch hunt. His attorney, Alina Habba, doubled down on that rhetoric in a statement Wednesday.
“Today’s filing is neither focused on the facts nor the law – rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda,” Habba said. “We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the Attorney General’s meritless claims.”
For his part, Trump has blasted the lawsuit on Truth Social, calling James a “fraud” and a “crime-fighting disaster.”
Trump previously tried to impede the probe but was ultimately ordered by a judge to sit for a deposition and turn over subpoenaed documents. Reports say he pled the fifth hundreds of times during his deposition.
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Hurricane Fiona Causes “Catastrophic” Damage in Puerto Rico, Leaving Many Without Power
While power has been restored to some, more than a million remain without it as continued rainfall, flooding, and landslides are expected to cause further damage across the island.
Hurricane Fiona Wreaks Havoc
Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico Sunday, bringing heavy rains, flooding, and landslides, while also knocking out power for the entire island and killing at least one person.
Photos and videos posted on social media show floodwaters consuming major streets and engulfing cars. Some pictures show an entire bridge flooded, making it impassible. Other footage shows a different bridge entirely uprooted and a metal barrier ripped away from the road and floating down a river of floodwater.
Officials have said conditions are still too dangerous to fully evaluate the extent of the crisis. In remarks to the public, Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierluisi, described the damage as “catastrophic.”
He asserted that the storm has been one of the most significant since Hurricane Maria — which hit the island almost exactly 5 years ago to the day — killing more than 3,000 people, leaving many without power for months, and causing destruction that the island is still recovering from.
Pierluisi noted that Puerto Rico has received over 30 inches of rain and that some areas have even gotten more rain than during Hurricane Maria. As of Monday afternoon, the National Gaurd has led 30 rescue operations so far, saving more than 1,000 stranded residents in 25 municipalities, according to the governor.
Pierluisi also added that more than 2,000 people were in the island’s 128 shelters, with officials further saying there is plenty of shelter space for those who need it. On Sunday, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, which will allow federal agencies to coordinate disaster relief.
Continued Issues As Storm Rages On
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s water authority has confirmed that just over 70% of the island is still without water. According to poweroutage.us, more than 1.3 million customers were still without power as of Monday morning.
The power company LUMA also stated that electricity had been restored to around 100,000 customers over the course of Sunday night, though it previously warned that the full restoration of power could take several days as the storm has created “incredibly challenging” conditions.
While Hurricane Fiona has passed through Puerto Rico, having now made landfall in the Dominican Republic, officials and experts say that heavy rains and further flooding are still to be expected for the next few days.
The National Weather Service has warned that “life-threatening and catastrophic flooding” as well as mudslides and landslides are expected to continue across the island. As a result, Pierluisi has urged Puerto Ricans Monday to remain home and in shelters so that officials can continue to respond to others in need.
He also noted that the areas most impacted by the hurricane include the southern part of the island, the southwest, and the mountains.
After moving through the Dominican Republic, Hurricane Fiona is expected to head towards Turks and Caicos Tuesday. The National Hurricane Center has said that the storm will continue to grow and by Wednesday, it is set to become a major hurricane — which means a Category 3 or higher.
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Government Aid Cut Child Poverty in Half During Pandemic, Data Shows
The reduction occurred similarly across geography, race, family type, and citizenship status.
Largest Drop in Half a Century
The United States’s child poverty rate sank to the lowest level on record last year, primarily thanks to pandemic relief measures and other government programs, according to an analysis of census data released Tuesday.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s supplementary poverty measure, which accounts for safety net programs and tax credits as well as regional differences in the cost of living.
From around 11% in 2019, the percentage of kids living below the poverty line fell to 9.7% in 2020 and 5.2% the year after that.
In just two years, nearly 5.5 million kids were lifted from poverty, marking an almost 60% drop in the child poverty rate.
The Center’s researchers gave most credit to the federal government’s numerous interventions in the economy, from stimulus payments and the expanded child tax credit to eviction moratoriums and expanded unemployment insurance.
Without government intervention, poverty in 2020 would have experienced its second-largest recorded increase, the Center claimed, but instead, it underwent the largest single-year decline in over half a century.
Especially impactful was the expanded child tax credit, which sent up to $300 per child to households with children every month between July and December 2021.
According to the analysis, this policy alone pulled nearly three million kids out of poverty.
But the tax credit’s expansion expired at the end of the year despite Democrats’ efforts to prolong it with Biden’s signature Build Back Better bill, which was blocked by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who reportedly told colleagues he was concerned that families might use the payments to buy drugs.
Poverty Before COVID
Child poverty has fallen by 59% since 1993, when it sat at around 28%, according to another analysis published Sunday by The New York Times and the nonpartisan group Child Trends.
They found that the decline occurred across all 50 states and D.C., as well as in different levels of poverty.
It similarly affected nearly all subgroups of children, — white, Black, Asian and Hispanic, single-parent and two-parent, immigrant and non-immigrant.
The causes driving the pre-pandemic decline included general economic improvement — low unemployment, a higher labor force participation rate among single mothers, and growing state minimum wages — but the researchers pinned government welfare programs as the dominant factor.
They specifically mentioned the earned income tax credit, social security, unemployment insurance, and nutrition and housing assistance.
Despite the positive trend, more than eight million children still live below the poverty line, and that number excludes those who live just above it but still struggle to meet basic needs.
The current poverty line sits around $29,000 for a family of four in a location with typical living costs.
Moreover, disparities still persist, with Black and Latino children about three times as likely as their white peers to be poor.