Florida breaks record with more than 21,000 new COVID cases
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Florida reported 21,683 new cases of COVID-19, the state’s highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic, according to federal health data released Saturday, as its theme park resorts again started asking visitors to wear masks indoors.
The state has become the new national epicenter for the virus, accounting for around a fifth of all new cases in the U.S. as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread.
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has resisted mandatory mask mandates and vaccine requirements, and along with the state Legislature, has limited local officials’ ability to impose restrictions meant to stop the spread of COVID-19. DeSantis on Friday barred school districts from requiring students to wear masks when classes resume next month.
The latest numbers were recorded on Friday and released on Saturday on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website. The figures show how quickly the number of cases is rising in the Sunshine State: only a day earlier, Florida reported 17,093 new daily cases. The previous peak in Florida had been 19,334 cases reported on Jan. 7, before the availability of vaccinations became widespread.
The state reported 409 deaths this week, bringing the total to more than 39,000 since its first in March 2020. The state’s peak happened in mid-August 2020, when 1,266 people died over a seven-day period. Deaths usually follow increases in hospitalizations by a few weeks.
Frustration as Biden, Congress allow eviction ban to expire
WASHINGTON (AP) — Anger and frustration mounted in Congress as a nationwide eviction moratorium expired at midnight Saturday — one Democratic lawmaker even camping outside the Capitol in protest as millions of Americans faced being forced from their homes.
Lawmakers said they were blindsided by President Joe Biden’s inaction as the deadline neared, some furious that he called on Congress to provide a last-minute solution to protect renters. The rare division between the president and his party carried potential lasting political ramifications.
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the chair of the Financial Services Committee, said Saturday on CNN: “We thought that the White House was in charge.”
Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., camped outside the Capitol, said: “I don’t plan to leave before some type of change happens."
“We are only hours away from a fully preventable housing crisis,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., during a floor speech in a rare Saturday session as senators labored over an infrastructure package.
Caeleb Dressel joins elite club with 5th Olympic gold medal
TOKYO (AP) — Make it five for Caeleb Dressel.
The American star won his fifth gold medal of the Tokyo Games, finishing off one of the great performances in Olympic history. He joins an elite club of just four other swimmers ever with at least five gold medals at one games.
Dressel swam the butterfly leg as the Americans set a world record in the 4x100-meter medley relay with a time of 3 minutes, 26.78 seconds -- eclipsing the mark of 3:27.28 they set at the 2009 Rome world championships in rubberized suits.
Ryan Murphy, Michael Andrew and Zach Apple joined Dressel on the winning team, ensuring the Americans closed out the swimming competition with another gold in a race they’ve never lost at the Olympics.
Earlier in the session, Dressel won the 50 freestyle for his third individual title of the games. He also won two golds on the relays.
Olympics Latest: Martin wins BMX gold for Australia
TOKYO (AP) — The Latest on the Tokyo Olympics, which are taking place under heavy restrictions after a year’s delay because of the coronavirus pandemic:
Australia’s Logan Martin capped quite a show in BMX freestyle’s Olympic debut, putting together a sterling first run to win gold at the Tokyo Games.
Britain’s Charlotte Worthington started the high-flying act by winning women’s gold and Martin followed with an equally-impressive performance.
Mask guidance divides parents heading into new school year
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — With U.S. health officials recommending that children mask up in school this fall, parents and policy makers across the nation have been plunged anew into a debate over whether face coverings should be optional or a mandate.
The delta variant of the coronavirus now threatens to upend normal instruction for a third consecutive school year. Some states have indicated they will probably heed the federal government's guidance and require masks. Others will leave the decision up to parents.
The controversy is unfolding at a time when many Americans are at their wits' end with pandemic restrictions and others fear their children will be put at risk by those who don't take the virus seriously enough. In a handful of Republican-led states, lawmakers made it illegal for schools to require masks.
In Connecticut, anti-mask rallies have happened outside Gov. Ned Lamont’s official residence in Hartford, and lawn signs and bumper stickers call on him to “unmask our kids.” The Democrat has said that he’s likely to follow the latest advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC on Tuesday recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors at schools nationwide, regardless of vaccination status. The agency cited the risk of spread of the highly contagious delta variant, even among vaccinated people.
Tenants prepare for unknown as eviction moratorium ends
BOSTON (AP) — Tenants saddled with months of back rent are facing the end of the federal eviction moratorium Saturday, a move that could lead to millions being forced from their homes just as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus is rapidly spreading.
The Biden administration announced Thursday it would allow the nationwide ban to expire, saying it wanted to extend it due to rising infections but its hands were tied after the U.S. Supreme Court signaled in June that it wouldn't be extended beyond the end of July without congressional action.
House lawmakers on Friday attempted, but failed, to pass a bill to extend the moratorium even for a few months. Some Democratic lawmakers had wanted it extended until the end of the year.
“August is going to be a rough month because a lot of people will be displaced from their homes,” said Jeffrey Hearne, director of litigation Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. “It will be at numbers we haven’t seen before. There are a lot of people who are protected by the ... moratorium.”
The moratorium, put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, is credited with keeping 2 million people in their homes over the past year as the pandemic battered the economy, according to the Princeton University’s Eviction Lab. Eviction moratoriums will remain in place in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois, California and Washington, D.C., until they expire later this year.
US memorials to victims of COVID-19 pandemic taking shape
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio (AP) — Ohio has planted a memorial grove of native trees to remember people who died of COVID-19, and governors and state lawmakers nationwide are considering their own ways to mark the toll of the virus.
Temporary memorials have sprung up across the U.S. — 250,000 white flags at RFK stadium in the nation’s capital, a garden of hand-sculpted flowers in Florida, strings of origami cranes in Los Angeles.
The process of creating more lasting remembrances that honor the over 600,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus, though, is fraught compared to past memorial drives because of the politics.
Last year, a bill kickstarting a national COVID-19 memorial process died in Congress as the Trump administration sought to deemphasize the ravages of the pandemic.
States are a good place to start with monuments given the complexities involved in remembering the federal government’s early handling of the disease, said James Young, founding director of the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Institute for Holocaust, Genocide and Memory Studies.
Schumer: Senators will 'get the job done' on infrastructure
WASHINGTON (AP) — Unable to produce the final text of a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure bill, the Senate wrapped up a rare Saturday session making little visible progress on the legislative package, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed the work would get done.
The Senate planned to reconvene Sunday. Senators and staff have been laboring behind the scenes for days to write what is certain to be a massive piece of legislation. An early draft swelled beyond 2,500 pages. To prod the work along, Schumer kept senators in a weekend session, encouraging the authors of a bipartisan infrastructure plan to finish drafting the bill so that senators can begin offering amendments.
Several senators had predicted that the text of the bill would be ready for review late Friday or early Saturday, but it was not done when the Senate opened for business late in the morning. Nor was it ready to be filed when Schumer closed the floor 11 hours later.
"They need a little more time," Schumer said in the evening. “I'm prepared to give it to them."
Schumer, D-N.Y., said he understood that completing the writing of such a large bill is a difficult project, but he warned that he was prepared to keep lawmakers in Washington for as long as it took to complete votes on both the bipartisan infrastructure plan and a budget blueprint that would allow the Senate to begin work later this year on a massive, $3.5 trillion social, health and environmental bill.
French police clash with anti-virus pass protesters in Paris
PARIS (AP) — Thousands of people protested France's special virus pass with marches through Paris and other French cities on Saturday. Most demonstrations were peaceful, but sporadic clashes with riot police marked protests in the French capital.
Some 3,000 security forces deployed around Paris for a third weekend of protests against the pass that will be needed soon to enter restaurants and other places. Police took up posts along the Champs-Elysees to guard against an invasion of the famed avenue.
With virus infections spiking and hospitalizations rising, French lawmakers have passed a bill requiring the pass in most places as of Aug. 9. Polls show a majority of French support the pass, but some are adamantly opposed. The pass requires a vaccination or a quick negative test or proof of a recent recovery from COVID-19 and mandates vaccine shots for all health care workers by mid-September.
Across the Alps, thousands of anti-vaccine pass demonstrators marched in Italian cities including Rome, Milan and Naples for the second consecutive week. Milan demonstrators stopped outside the city’s courthouse chanting “Truth! “Shame!” and “Liberty!” while in Rome they marched behind a banner reading “Resistance.” Those demonstrations were noisy but peaceful.
For anti-vaccine pass demonstrators in France, “Iiberty” was the slogan of the day. The marches drew some 204,000 people around the country. Some 14,250 people hostile to the pass protested in Paris, several thousand more than a week ago.
At 46, African skateboarder finally wows mom at Tokyo Games
TOKYO (AP) — At age 46, the second-oldest skateboarder at the Tokyo Games is hoping to not have a heart attack and have mounds of fun. Should be no problem. Fun has been a life’s work for Dallas Oberholzer.
“I have never had a real job. I have never applied for a job," he says. "My whole life has just been skateboarding. I am just hooked.”
Skateboarding's young guns, with their endorsements and boards bearing their names, have bigger tricks and bigger Instagram followings than the grizzled South African with a salt-and-pepper beard. Oberholzer isn't expecting to beat them when they go wheel-to-wheel this week in Tokyo's huge purpose-built Olympic skate bowl.
But Oberholzer has big tales, woven from a nomadic existence on four squeaky polyurethane wheels. If skateboarding is the punk rock sport of the Games, disruptive and not taking itself too seriously, then Oberholzer is its Iggy Pop — raw, wild and worn, someone who can talk and talk and talk.
About, say, when he worked as a concert chauffeur, ferrying around Janet Jackson's dancers. Or his 16-month road trip, from Canada all the way to Argentina, after he graduated from university with a degree in marketing that he quickly realized he had no use for.