Whitmer kidnapping; Europe cases rise; NY protests


President Trump received mostly the same treatment as anyone would get for COVID-19, except for one experimental drug and the speed of his care.


President Donald Trump has returned to the Oval Office, breaking quarantine despite recommendations from his doctors that he remain in the White House residence.

Trump, whose first signs of symptoms came a week ago, returned to the Oval Office on Thursday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that COVID-19 patients quarantine for at least 10 days after the first sign of symptoms.

Trump — who appeared to have a relatively severe case of COVID-19, requiring supplemental oxygen and taking intravenous drugs — may even need to quarantine for longer, as the CDC says that patients with severe cases “likely remain infectious no longer than 20 days after symptom onset.”

That said, Trump shows no signs of slowing down. He repudiated the Commission on Presidential Debates’ decision to move the second presidential debate to a virtual format, calling it a “joke.” He said he will not be participating. There will be the possibility, however, that an event will be held on Monday in Pittsburgh, an aide told USA TODAY.

Some significant developments:

  • Second Lady Karen Pence is being criticized for not wearing a mask when she greeted her husband on stage at Wednesday’s vice presidential debate.
  • The head of the White House security office is gravely ill with COVID-19 and has been hospitalized since September.
  • Protesters gathered for a second night in New York on Wednesday in defiance of new shutdown orders in some of the city’s neighborhoods that have seen concerning spikes in new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

📈 Today’s numbers: The United States has reported more than 7.5 million cases and more than 211,000 deaths. Eleven states set records for new cases over the just-ended seven-day period while three states had a record number of deaths. The world has seen over 36 million cases and over 1 million people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

📰 What we’re reading: As winter approaches, restaurants in locations with colder weather nationwide are envisioning new ways to keep outdoor dining open. That means you may end up dining in a heated tent, or better yet, an “igloo.”

🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak, state by state.

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.

6 accused of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

The federal government has charged six people with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, according to newly unsealed court records. The FBI became aware early in 2020, through social media, that a militia group was “discussing the violent overthrow of certain government and law enforcement components,” and “agreed to take violent action,” according to a sworn affidavit. The group met for field exercises and training this year, the affidavit alleges. Discussions included using 200 men to “storm” the Capitol Building in Lansing, kidnap hostages, including, Whitmer and try the governor for treason, according to the affidavit.

The FBI used confidential informants as part of the investigation and has paid one of them more than $14,000, according to the affidavit.

Paul Egan and Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press

Cases sharply rise throughout Europe as more shutdowns loom 

European countries that have previously fared well in the pandemic have seen a severe uptick in positive COVID-19 cases this week, prompting the possibility of more shutdowns and social distancing mandates across the pond.

England reported a 56% increase in positive COVID-19 cases last week, after more than 51,000 people received positive tests, per Sky News. In Germany, officials reported a one-day jump of 4,058 cases, warning that cases could reach to more than 10,000 a day if “we lose control.” The Netherlands also reported a single-day record high of positive cases, reported the BBC, as did Poland, which is reintroducing mandatory face masks in public spaces in response.

Florida gun background checks surge amid pandemic and protests

More than 1 million people in Florida requested background checks to purchase firearms during the first nine months of 2020, according to statistics from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It’s the first time since 2016 that Florida has had that many, and only the second time since 2004.

Many are first-time gun buyers, with more than 80,000 new applications for concealed weapons permits since July 1, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture. Purchases peaked in March, when the pandemic hit, and June, when protests surrounding the deaths of Black Americans reached a fever pitch.

– Julius Whigham II, Palm Beach Post

California megachurch school tied to outbreak with at least 137 cases

As of Tuesday, there have been 137 COVID-19 cases at Bethel Church’s School of Supernatural Ministry since classes started in early September, and currently there are 68 active cases. The charismatic megachurch, which has in the past been criticized for holding large, in-person worship events during the pandemic, issued a statement instructing students and staff in contact with individuals who have tested positive to stay home. 

“We have seen that a primary source of the transmission has occurred in off-campus living situations and social interactions outside of school hours that are common to student life,” said a statement from the school.

– David Benda, Redding Record Searchlight

Anti-lockdown protests in NYC’s Orthodox Jewish community

Protesters gathered for a second night in New York on Wednesday in defiance of new shutdown orders in some of the city’s neighborhoods that have seen spikes in new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. Orthodox Jewish protesters gathered en masse in Brooklyn, some with masks and others without, decrying new restrictions from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that would close nonessential businesses and schools and limit the size of religious gatherings.

The new lockdown orders were issued for parts of Queens, Brooklyn and the city’s suburbs that have disproportionately contributed to new virus cases in recent weeks, and some of those areas are home to large populations of the Orthodox Jewish community. The new measures also come amid the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, contributing the anger from some of those in the Orthodox community.

– Ryan W. Miller

Med journal writes first-ever editorial against Trump for COVID-19 response

In a historic move, the New England Journal of Medicine published an editorial on Wednesday condemning President Donald Trump and his administration for their response to the coronavirus pandemic. For the first time in it’s 208-year history, it called for current leadership to be voted out of office.

In an editorial signed by nearly three dozen editors, the journal said the Trump administration has “taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy” regarding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, writing the “magnitude of this failure is astonishing.”

– Savannah Behrmann

What can we expect from a winter COVID-19 second wave?

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health officials have predicted that we would have a terrible winter — as more people spend more time indoors, travel for the holidays, and struggle with conflicting messages from national and local leaders.

No one really knows what the next few months will bring, but clues point to a mixed bag. Lots of inexpensive, readily available, fast tests will be available in the coming months, and at least one vaccine is likely to win preliminary approval by the end of the year. That said, we can’t let up yet.

“Things are likely to get bad in the winter if what we continue to do is relax measures in places where COVID-19 cases are high or increasing,” said Samuel Scarpino, an assistant professor at Northeastern University in Boston, where he directs the school’s Emergent Epidemics Lab.

– Karen Weintraub

American Lung Association wants to dispel COVID-19 misinformation

The rash of coronavirus infections emanating from the White House, followed by President Donald Trump’s tweeted advice to the nation – “Don’t be afraid of Covid’’ – prompted the American Lung Association to issue guidance for those confronting the disease in hopes of dispelling misinformation.

A statement from ALA chief medical officer Dr. Albert Rizzo largely reiterates info from the CDC, counseling members of the public who get infected to isolate for 10 days from the point of getting a positive test result or develop symptoms, to work with a contact-tracing team and to consult with a doctor without leaving the house, possibly through telemedicine. But they come at a time of increased skepticism about the government’s instructions regarding the virus and fatigue about restrictions.

– Jorge L. Ortiz

Cheap, rapid, at-home tests are key to the COVID-19 fight. Where are they?

Advocates say rapid and cheap home tests might be as important as a vaccine in the fight against COVID-19, even though the tests are less accurate than pricier PCR tests.  But testing companies developing rapid home tests and their allies want the FDA and other federal agencies to loosen restrictions on home tests and ease authorization.

Dr. Michael Mina, a Harvard epidemiologist who has been advocating for such cheap tests since June, says some testing companies have been discouraged by the agency’s initial recommendations. But Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said that the FDA is “very flexible” in its requirements for test developers. “We’ve been taking essentially all comers,” he said. 

– Ken Alltucker

Contributing: The Associated Press

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