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Coronavirus updates: Texas introduces new face mask requirement

Ovidiu Dugulan/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 517,000 people worldwide.

Over 10.7 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations' outbreaks.

Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 2.6 million diagnosed cases and at least 128,385 deaths.

Here's how the news is developing today. All times Eastern. Please refresh this page for updates:

7:40 p.m.: Miami-Dade County to issue curfew, roll back reopening of entertainment venues

Florida's Miami-Dade County will have a nightly curfew and roll back the reopening of entertainment venues to "tamp down this spike of COVID-19," Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez announced Thursday.

The curfew will be in effect daily from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting Friday until further notice. It will exempt essential workers, including first responders, hospital workers, food delivery services and media.


Movie theaters, arcades, nontribal casinos, concert houses, bowling alleys and other establishments will close starting Friday. Since June 8, entertainment venues have been able to apply to reopen in the county.

The mayor said he will sign the orders Thursday night.

6:30 p.m.: CDC forecasts 140K to 160K deaths by July 25

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have updated their forecast for deaths from COVID-19.

Forecasts indicate that between 140,000 and 160,000 total deaths nationally are expected by July 25. Previous forecasts had suggested between 124,000 and 140,000 deaths by July 4.

Currently, more than 128,000 people have died from the virus in the U.S.

Forecasts also suggest that the number of new deaths will increase in 11 states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. For all other states, that number is expected to stay the same as in previous weeks, or slightly decrease.

4:50 p.m.: Texas introduces new face mask requirement

As coronavirus cases climb in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday issued an executive order requiring face masks in counties with 20 or more diagnosed cases.

"We have the ability to keep businesses open and move our economy forward so that Texans can continue to earn a paycheck, but it requires each of us to do our part to protect one another—and that means wearing a face covering in public spaces," he said in a statement.

Texas hit a record 8,076 new cases on Wednesday.

Of those being tested in Houston, 20% are now positive, officials said Thursday.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is asking churches to return to virtual services and for offices to revert to no more than 25% occupancy.

4:20 p.m.: California governor encourages fireworks cancelations

As California coronavirus cases continue to rise, Gov. Gavin Newsom is encouraging the 19 counties with new mandatory closures to consider canceling Fourth of July fireworks.

On Wednesday, the governor said 19 counties, representing 70% of the state's population, were required to close bars and indoor operations at businesses including restaurants and wineries.

"In counties not on the list, municipal fireworks displays may still happen, but to watch them, residents must find ways to watch them from their cars and apart from others," Dr. Sonia Angell, California's Department of Public health director and state public health officer, said Thursday.

California has reported new 4,056 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, Newsom said Thursday.

In the last two weeks, hospitalizations have jumped by 56%, he said.

3:50 p.m.: 2 test positive after attending massive party
Two people who went to a massive party in Upstate New York have now tested positive for COVID-19, county officials said.

Hundreds were at the June 20 party in Onondaga County, which includes Syracuse, even though gatherings were not supposed to exceed 25 people, the Onondaga County Health Department said.

"Health Department investigators are in the process of identifying all close contacts of the individuals and notifying them," the health department said. "Those who attended the party may have been exposed and should monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 until Saturday, July 4."

Meanwhile, in Rockland County, New York, an ill party host spread the virus to at least eight others.

County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel said Wednesday that some people contacted by health investigators were denying being at the party and refusing to speak to the investigators.

"Many do not answer their cellphones and do not call back," she said. "'Sometimes parents answer for their adult children and promise that they have been home consistently -- when they have not been."

Schnabel said she was "forced by these circumstances to send subpoenas to the individuals who are required to cooperate with us."

County spokesman John Lyon told ABC News on Thursday that all eight people who were issued subpoenas have responded and are now complying with contact tracing.

3:25 p.m.: 11-year-old boy dies from COVID-19 in Florida

An 11-year-old boy has died from COVID-19 in Miami-Dade County, Florida, becoming the state's youngest known death, state data showed, according to Miami ABC affiliate WPLG.

The number of diagnosed coronavirus cases in the state jumped by 9,558 in one day, according to the state's Department of Health.

Of those tested in Florida, 14.5% are now positive -- which is down 0.5% from Wednesday.

The state now has a total of 169,102 cases.

Miami-Dade County, which includes the city of Miami, set a record daily increase with 2,306 cases. Of those tested in the county, 19.5% are now positive, according to the state's data

2:08 p.m.: Spike in last few days 'well beyond the worst spikes that we've seen,' Fauci says

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told BBC News Thursday that the U.S. didn't lock down as thoroughly as other countries did.

"We're seeing very disturbing spikes in different individual states," Fauci said.

"What we've seen over the last several days is a spike in cases that are well beyond the worst spikes that we've seen," he went on. "We've got to get that under control or we risk an even greater outbreak in the United States."

While some countries in Europe "closed down to the tune of about 97% lockdown," Fauci said, only about 50% of U.S. states implemented strict lockdowns.

"Now all you have to do is take a look at the news at night and you see people congregating at bars without masks, congregating in different types of groups that are well beyond the recommended number of people," he said. "What happens when you do that and you don't wear a mask? You get the kind of outbreaks we're seeing."

Fauci stressed that young people play an important role in stopping the spread.

Speaking directly to younger Americans, he said, "If you are infected, it is likely you will infect someone else who will infect someone else, who then might infect a vulnerable person. Then you get into very serious consequences."

1:30 p.m.: Herman Cain, who attended Trump Tulsa rally, hospitalized for COVID-19

Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is in an Atlanta-area hospital being treated for the coronavirus, a spokesperson said in a statement.

Cain, a Black Voices for Trump co-chair, attended President Donald Trump's June 20 rally in Tulsa.

Cain posted a photo of a group at the rally without masks or social distancing.

Here’s just a few of the #BlackVoicesForTrump at tonight’s rally! Having a fantastic time!#TulsaRally2020 #Trumptulsa #TulsaTrumprally #MAGA #Trump2020 #Trump2020Landslide pic.twitter.com/27mUzkg7kL

— Herman Cain (@THEHermanCain) June 20, 2020



Cain is awake, alert and not on a respirator, the statement said, adding, "There is no way of knowing for sure how or where Mr. Cain contracted the coronavirus."

 

12:50 p.m.: Casinos reopen in Atlantic City

Casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, reopened on Thursday after a 108-day closure.

11:37 a.m.: Nashville closes bars, cancels Fourth of July fireworks

Nashville is closing its bars for at least two weeks and is canceling the Fourth of July fireworks as coronavirus cases sharply rise, Mayor John Cooper said Thursday.

Davidson County, which includes Nashville, is reporting a record daily high of 608 new cases, Cooper said.

The mayor said phase 3 of reopening has not been effective and the city is reverting to its phase 2 plans, with some modifications. Entertainment venues will be closed and restaurants must reduce capacity to 50% from 75% capacity.

11 a.m.: Florida sees 9,558 new cases in 1 day

In Florida, the number of diagnosed coronavirus cases jumped by 9,558 in one day, now reaching a total of 169,102 cases, according to the state's Department of Health.

The state's positivity rate now stands at 14.5%, which is down 0.5% from Wednesday.

Miami-Dade County, which includes Miami, set a record daily increase with 2,306 cases. Of those tested in the county, 19.5% are now positive, according to the state's data.

10:30 a.m.: NYC opening 22 streets for outdoor dining

New York City is doubling down on outdoor dining. Starting this weekend, 22 streets covering 2.6 miles will be dedicated to restaurants, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.

New York City won't allow indoor dining because of concerning data from states across the U.S., de Blasio said.

"It became deafening how bad the situation was in many many states and how much it was related back to bars and restaurants," he said.

Of those tested in New York City, just 2% of residents are now testing positive for the coronavirus, de Blasio said Thursday.

The mayor is also addressing the plan for returning to school in the fall.

He said face coverings will be required and schools will implement social distancing, handwashing stations and deep cleaning.

9:30 a.m.: West Hollywood will charge you $300 for not wearing a mask

As the coronavirus infection rate increases in California, those not wearing masks in West Hollywood will be charged $300 -- a $250 fine and $50 fee -- for the first-offense, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

"Our last option was to conduct enforcement by issuing an Administrative Citation, but the risk to Community health is too great," the department said Wednesday night.

In Los Angeles County, 1 in 140 people are estimated to be infected, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday.

Garcetti said the infection rate could be as high as 1 in 70 in the upcoming weeks.

7:29 a.m.: FDA chief details response plan amid rising cases

The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said they are working to get more personal protective equipment and testing supplies to areas of the country where coronavirus infections are on the rise.

"We are seeing rising cases, particularly in the south and the west," Dr. Stephen Hahn told ABC News in an interview Thursday on Good Morning America.

Hahn, who is also a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said one advantage the country has now that it didn't earlier in the year is the newly-authorized experimental therapeutics, such as the antiviral medication remdesivir. There's also convalescent plasma therapy, a century-old technique used for treating epidemics in which the blood plasma of patients who have recovered from a disease is transfused to those who are still infected.

Some 28,000 people infected with COVID-19 in the United States have been treated with convalescent plasma, according to Hahn, who urged those who have recovered from the virus to donate their plasma.

"We will eventually get beyond this pandemic," he said. "We have a lot of therapeutics, we have vaccines in the pipeline."

The FDA has granted authorization for four separate vaccine candidates to proceed with clinical trials. Two of those potential vaccines are expected to begin the late state of trials later this month, according to Hahn.

"We are on target to reach a vaccine by year's end or early next year," he added, "so I'm cautiously optimistic."

Hahn advised people to continue washing hands frequently as well as practicing social distancing and, when that's not possible, to wear a face mask.

"These are common sense things as we head into the Fourth of July weekend that we can do to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus," he said.

6:51 a.m.: University of Oklahoma's football team reports cluster of cases

At least 14 student-athletes and two staff members of the University of Oklahoma's football team have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, officials said.

Seven of the school's 111 football players tested Tuesday were positive for the virus, while the other seven players had tested positive earlier. Two players have since recovered, according to a statement from the University of Oklahoma Athletics Department.

The University of Oklahoma football team has returned to campus and its student-athletes began voluntary workouts Wednesday.

6:02 a.m.: Oregon sees highest single-day jump in cases

Oregon health officials announced Wednesday the highest single-day jump in coronavirus cases that the state has seen since the start of the pandemic.

The Oregon Health Authority said 281 new cases of COVID-19 were identified on Tuesday. About 75 percent of recent cases were patients under the age of 50.

However, since hospitalization is less common among younger patients infected with the virus, statewide hospital capacity is "sufficient for now," the Oregon Health Authority said in a statement Wednesday.

5:29 a.m.: US testing supply chain is under strain, FEMA memo says

The coronavirus testing supply chain in the United States is under strain with demand for tests outpacing supply, according to an internal daily memo from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Meanwhile, intensive care units in Utah are at 65% capacity and hospitals around the state could reach capacity within two weeks. Utah reported 3,754 new cases of COVID-19 last week, a 13.8% increase from the previous week. Planning is underway to increase ICU capacity and to prepare for patient transfers during a surge, according to the memo obtained by ABC News.

In Hawaii, a bus driver who tested positive for COVID-19 in Honolulu on June 28 continued working for five days while feeling sick. Health officials there are working to trace anyone who came in contact with the driver during that time, the memo said.

4:36 a.m.: 4-month-old baby hospitalized for coronavirus in Alabama, officials say

A four-month-old baby who is infected with the novel coronavirus has been hospitalized in Huntsville, Alabama, according to local ABC affiliate WAAY-TV.

Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children CEO David Spillers told WAAY the infant is their youngest COVID-19 patient.

"I think that probably the news today is we now have five children that are COVID positive that are in the hospital, so if you think this doesn't affect young people it actually affects young people," Spillers said during a press conference Wednesday. "Some of those children are only months old. So it's the first time we've seen that during the pandemic."

Spillers said he's concerned about how the children contracted the virus. One of the young patients is a 4-year-old who has been receiving cancer treatment and is now positive for COVID-19.

"I feel very confident the outcomes will be good for those children," he said. "We haven't seen that before, and I think it's just a direct result of more COVID in the community and people engaging around children and infecting them."

For those who are against wearing face masks, Spillers had this message: "I challenge people who resist wearing face coverings to think about this the next time you resist wearing face coverings. Anybody can have COVID. Anyone can give COVID to anyone else because in many cases you could be asymptomatic. If the thought of you accidentally giving COVID to someone, particularly a child with cancer, is not enough reason to put on a face cover, then I don't know what is."

A growing number of Alabama cities are making face masks mandatory, but Huntsville isn't one of them. Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle told WAAY he thinks that mandate will come at some point in the future.

3:32 a.m.: US reports record-high number of new cases in a day

More than 50,000 new cases of COVID-19 were identified in the United States on Wednesday, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

It's the first time the United States has reached or crossed the 50,000 threshold of new diagnosed cases in a single day.

Wednesday's caseload shattered the country's previous record set on June 26, when more than 45,000 new cases were identified.

The national total currently stands at 2,686,582 diagnosed cases with at least 128,062 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins. The cases include people from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and other U.S. territories as well as repatriated citizens.

By May 20, all states had begun lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The day-to-day increase in cases then hovered around 20,000 for a couple of weeks before shooting back up to over 30,000 and then crossing 40,000 last week.

Nearly half of all 50 states have seen a rise in infections in recent weeks, with some -- including Arizona, California and Florida -- reporting daily records.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Colorado police officer in troubling photo near Elijah McClain memorial resigns

Kali9/iStockBy BILL HUTCHISON and CLAYTON SANDELL, ABC NEWS

(AURORA, Colo.) -- A Colorado police officer resigned ahead of his chief's imminent announcement of her disciplinary decision over troubling photos allegedly linked to him and his colleagues that were taken near the scene of where Elijah McClain was placed in a police chokehold and later died.

Officer Jaron Jones of the Aurora Police Department submitted his resignation amid local, state and federal investigations launched when images of him and other officers posing near a memorial for McClain surfaced last week.

"In response to inquiries by the press, Jaron Jones, hired October 31, 2016, tendered his resignation. Jones was one of the employees involved and depicted in the photograph investigation related to #ElijahMcClain," Aurora police officials said in a statement posted Thursday on Twitter.

No further information was announced.

Interim Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson issued a statement on Monday saying she had pulled multiple officers from street duty and made the probe into the photo a "top priority."

A source familiar with the investigation told ABC News that Wilson met with her internal affairs review board on Tuesday and subsequently made a disciplinary decision. The decision has been sent to the officers in question who each have the option of appealing.

The photos, which have not been made public, were brought to the attention of the department's Internal Affairs bureau by an Aurora police officer, Wilson said in her statement this week.

She said an "accelerated investigation" was completed Monday evening and that she plans to soon publicly release the results of the probe "in its entirety."

"This will include reports, photographic evidence obtained, officer's names, and my final determination which can rise to the level of termination," Wilson said.

She did not provide details of what the photos show the officers doing.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado, the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and the Denver division of the FBI said in a joint statement this week that the agencies are aware of photographs and are "gathering further information about that incident to determine whether a federal civil rights investigation is warranted."

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has also appointed a special prosecutor to reinvestigate McClain's death and file charges if "the facts support prosecution."

McClain, 23-year-old Black man, was walking home in Aurora, a suburb of Denver, after buying iced tea at a corner store on Aug. 24, 2019, when he was stopped by police, Mari Newman, an attorney for McClain's family, told ABC News last week.

He was wearing a ski mask on a warm night -- which Newman attributed to him being cold -- when a person called 911 at 10:30 p.m. to report him acting "sketchy," according to an audio recording of the 911 call released by the Aurora Police Department.

The caller told a 911 operator that a man, later identified as McClain, "has a mask on" and "he might be a good person or a bad person." The caller went on to say no weapons were involved and when asked if he or anyone else was in danger, the caller said "No."

Police body camera footage showed McClain walking on the sidewalk when three officers approached him, with one telling him multiple times to stop. But McClain, who was apparently listening to music at the time, continued to walk. According to the body camera footage, an officer put his hands on McClain, saying, "Stop tensing up." McClain replied, "Let go of me" and told the police that he was "just going home."

The officers took McClain to the ground and placed him in a carotid control hold -- which involves an officer placing his arm around a person's neck, restricting the flow of blood to the brain from the carotid arteries, according to a letter from Dave Young, the district attorney for Adams and Broomfield Counties, to then-Aurora Police Chief Nicholas Metz. McClain, who was placed in handcuffs, is seen in the footage at one point throwing up after the struggle with officers while he is on the ground.

According to Young's letter, paramedics called to the scene said McClain remained combative and possibly suffered from a condition known as excited delirium. McClain was later administered, by paramedics, what Newman alleged was an "excessive dose" of ketamine, which is used by medical practitioners and veterinarians as an anesthetic.

After McClain was put in an ambulance, he went into cardiac arrest, according to police. He died several days later.

A pathologist who conducted an autopsy was unable to conclude that the actions of any law enforcement officer caused the death, Young said in a statement he released last week.

While Young said McClain's death "was both tragic and unnecessary," he declined to file criminal charges against the officers, saying, "In order to prove any form of homicide in the State of Colorado it is mandatory that the prosecution prove that the accused caused the death of the victim."

"Based on the facts and evidence of this investigation I cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers involved in this incident were not justified in their actions based on what they knew at the time of this incident," Young said.

The controversy over the photos emerged as Aurora police have come under scrutiny after being video recorded using batons and pepper spray on protesters gathered in a park for a demonstration over McClain's death. Some demonstrators were playing violins in honor of McClain, who played the instrument when police used force to disperse the crowd.

During a virtual emergency city council meeting Tuesday night, dozens of public comments from residents, including some who said they attended protests on Saturday, were read, the majority critical of the force police used on protesters.

"The police escalated a peaceful vigil into another example of police brutality in this country. I've been beyond disgusted by the Aurora police," one resident's comment read.

Another added, "What's the point of the First Amendment when all law enforcement does is violate it?"

Wilson defended her officers, telling the city council that among the peaceful protesters there was a group of agitators attempting to stir up trouble.

She said several groups converged on the Aurora Municipal Center in the early afternoon and were peaceful until a couple of hours later when a group of roughly 50 agitators began pushing over barricades. She said the department had received intelligence that violence-prone groups intended to cause trouble.

Wilson said some protesters threw objects at officers, who were wearing riot gear and carrying shields.

She said one man in the crowd was armed with a rifle and another with a handgun, while officers observed a woman handing out rocks from a backpack. Undercover officers, Wilson said, reported hearing talk that some protestors wanted to storm the police department building.

Wilson claimed that at one point, officers were actually trying to separate peaceful "violin vigil" protestors from a small group of violence-prone agitators, something she says police failed to communicate to the mostly peaceful crowd.

"I'm deeply concerned that children were frightened by that," Wilson said. "People were confused by that, and I profusely apologize for that."

ABC News' Ella Torres contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Trump holding large-scale July 4th event at Mount Rushmore

Bill Chizek / iStockBy Jordyn Phelps and Ben Gittleson

(WASHINGTON) -- While President Donald Trump hopes to portray an American comeback with a big fireworks display at Mount Rushmore and a July Fourth celebration on the South Lawn of the White House complete with military flyovers, the festivities are being held despite risks posed by the resurgence of the coronavirus.

The president’s plan to address a crowd of thousands at Mount Rushmore on Friday, where the state’s Republican governor says social distancing will not be enforced, comes against the backdrop of the U.S. hitting a new single-day record of 50,000 new cases reported on Wednesday.

The new record-setting case count was on the same day that the president repeated that he thought the virus will "just disappear" eventually, even though public health officials have made clear it will not simply go away.

"I think we're going to be very good with the coronavirus," he said Wednesday in an interview with the Fox Business network. "I think that at some point that's going to sort of just disappear, I hope."

After months of declining to wear a mask in public and mocking those who did, including the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden -- Trump seemed to change his tune on Wednesday.

"I'm all for masks," he said, adding he "would have no problem wearing one in public."

But Trump has still yet to wear one in public. His comments came after a sudden, recent shift in recent days in which Republican lawmakers and governors have begun strongly encouraging mask wearing -- including urging the president to don one to set an example for Americans.

Fauci warns of 'even greater outbreak'
Trump has continued putting a positive spin on the pandemic even as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, warned of "an even greater outbreak."

On Tuesday, Fauci told Congress that he would not be surprised if the number of new COVID-19 cases surpassed 100,000 per day and warned that surges in some areas were putting the entire country at risk.

"What we’ve seen over the last several days is a spike in cases that are well beyond the worst spikes that we’ve seen," he said Thursday in an interview with BBC Radio 4. "That is not good news. We’ve got to get that under control, or we risk an even greater outbreak in the United States."

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the United States' limited closures and social distancing measures fell far behind the near totality of European nations' lockdowns.

"That allowed the perpetuation of the outbreak that we never did get under very good control," he said. "And now all you have to do is take a look at the news at night and you see people congregating at bars without masks, congregating in different types of groups that are well beyond the recommended number of people. What happens when you do that and you don't wear a mask? You get the kind of outbreaks we're seeing."

Vice president visits hotspots
Two days after visiting another hotspot, Arizona, Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Tampa Thursday as Florida grabbed with a record-setting pace of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations over the last few weeks.

Before departing, Pence told CNBC that he and Trump support Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's decision to reinstate certain restrictions, like ordering bars to stop serving alcohol.

The vice president planned to meet with DeSantis, a Republican whose response Trump has praised, about Florida's worsening situation. Six weeks earlier, the two shared a photo op lunch inside a restaurant -- sans masks -- and DeSantis chided reporters for warning about the threat of the virus to his state.

"You got a lot of people in your profession who waxed poetically for weeks and weeks about how Florida was going to be just like New York," DeSantis said then. “'Wait two weeks, Florida is going to be next, just like Italy. Wait two weeks.' Well, hell, we’re eight weeks away from that, and it hasn’t happened."

Trump pushes forward with Fourth of July celebrations
But even as parts of the country are seeing a setback in efforts to bring the virus under control, that hasn’t stopped the president from moving ahead with plans to celebrate the Independence Day.

Friday’s much-anticipated fireworks display at Mt Rushmore is the first of its kind in a decade, breaking a ban on such displays at the iconic location due to concerns about wildfires.

But in teasing forward to the display that he has long pushed for as president, the president seemed unaware of the environmental risks.

“They've been wanting to do that for years, fireworks,” Trump said Thursday. “They used to do it many years ago. And for some reason, they were unable or unallowed to do it.”

But on top of the environmental concerns, is the risk to the thousands who are expected to attend. Public health experts have raised alarm about such a large-scale event amid the pandemic.

Rather than follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that recommend social distancing, the state’s Republican governor has said that those with health concerns can simply not participate.

"We told those folks that have concerns that they can stay home, but those who want to come and join us, we'll be giving out free face masks, if they choose to wear one. But we won't be social distancing. We’re asking them to come, be ready to celebrate, to enjoy the freedoms and the liberties that we have in this country,” Gov. Kristi Noem said in an interview with Fox News on Monday.

Questioned about health concerns related to the event, White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere referred questions to the South Dakota governor’s office, as it is not a White House organized event, but said in a written statement that “the President takes the health and safety of everyone traveling in support of himself and all White House operations very seriously.”

“The President looks forward to taking part in the Independence Day festivities, hosted by Governor Noem, and celebrating the greatest country the world has ever known capped off with a magnificent fireworks display above the great faces of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln,” Deere said.

The president will return to the White House for a scaled-down July Fourth celebration on the White House South Lawn. While the president had previously expressed his intention to hold a large-scale event on the National Mall with military displays as he did last year, the White House said this year’s celebration was modified because of coronavirus concerns.

"It will have a different look than 2019 to ensure the health and safety of those attending," spokesperson Deere said in a statement. "The American people have shown tremendous courage and spirit, particularly our amazing frontline workers, in the fight against this global pandemic just as our forefathers did in the fight to secure our independence, and both deserve celebration on America’s birthday this year.”

While the president traditionally plays host to military families at the Independence Day event, this year the White House has also extended an invitation to front line workers and their families, to include law enforcement, doctors, nurses, and others.

Deere said that the event will include measures to promote social distancing and said the White House will also provide facial covering to attendees.

ABC News' Stephanie Ebbs, Anne Flaherty and Libby Cathey contributed reporting.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Miami cop to be terminated after video shows him appearing to punch a woman in the face

MattGush / iStockBy Jon Haworth, ABC News

(MIAMI) -- At least one Miami-Dade County police officer will be fired after a shocking video posted to Instagram appears to show two officers in a verbal altercation with a woman before one of them punches her in the face in an incident that allegedly took place at Miami International Airport.

The video shows two police officers speaking to the woman as she begins to confront one of them before coming face to face with him. It is unclear how the dispute began in the video.

The officer can then be seen taking a step back and striking the woman in the face causing her to stumble backwards before she is tackled to the floor and appears to be placed in handcuffs while on the ground.

"As a result of an administrative investigation into the officer's conduct during this incident; it is my intent to proceed with the termination of the involved officer's employment with the Miami-Dade Police Department," Alfredo "Freddy" Ramirez III, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department said in a statement Thursday afternoon. "The administrative process to proceed with termination has been initiated. The MDPD holds itself accountable for its actions, and this is just another example of our commitment to do just that."

The incident sparked a quick reaction and earlier statement from Ramirez Wednesday night, as well as Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez in statements published on Twitter.

"I am shocked and angered by a body cam video that i just saw involving one of our officers," Ramirez said in the social media statement. "I've immediately initiated an investigation and ordered that the involved officers be relieved of duty. Actions such as these undermine the hard work that we have invested in our community and causes my heart to break for our community and for the vast majority of our officers who dedicate their lives to serving our County. This will not stand, and I assure our community that any officer acting in this vain will be held to account."

Additionally, Ramirez confirmed that he spoke to State Attorney Kathy Rundle and asked her to immediately get involved with the investigation into the conduct of the officers.

Mayor Gimenez also released a statement on Twitter condemning the video saying that the incident was unnecessary and a clear use of excessive force.

"This is appalling," said Gimenez. "It's excessive use of force and unnecessary. That's NOT what our [Miami-Dade Police Department] are trained to do. [Director] Ramirez has ordered the officer relieved of duty & investigation is underway. This is why I instituted body cameras & MDPD is reviewing all footage."

The names of the two officers and the woman involved in the altercation have not yet been released and it is not known if the two officers will face any charges from the state attorney's office.

Fort Lauderdale City Manager Chris Lagerbloom released a statement of his own early Thursday morning saying he was troubled but what he saw in the video.

"I can understand the intensity of the moment captured on body camera footage as the officers were clearly under attack," said Lagerbloom. "The exchange recorded by the body cameras paints an unflattering yet truthful depiction of the chaos they were operating in. The language the officers used, and sentiment expressed is not consistent with what the public expects from our police force."

Lagerbloom concluded: "We will learn from this experience and we will be better. This is what the public expects from the City of Fort Lauderdale."


Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Former Jeffrey Epstein companion Ghislaine Maxwell arrested

Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesBy Aaron Katersky, Ivan Pereira and Alexandra Svokos

(NEW YORK) -- Ghislaine Maxwell, the former companion of Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested by the FBI in New Hampshire on Thursday morning.

Maxwell, 58, was charged by the Southern District of New York, which did not stop investigating Epstein's associates after his death, with conspiring to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, perjury and other offenses.

From at least 1994 to 1997, Maxwell assisted, facilitated and contributed to Epstein's alleged abuse of minor girls, the six-count indictment claimed.

Federal prosecutors in New York alleged Maxwell helped Epstein recruit, groom and ultimately abuse girls as young as 14. In some cases, she allegedly befriended the girls, took them shopping and to the movies before turning them over to Epstein for alleged abuse at his properties in New York City, New Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, prosecutors said.

"She pretended to be a woman they could trust," Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said at a news conference Thursday. "Today, after many years, Ghislaine Maxwell finally stands charged for her role in these crimes."

The perjury charges stem from statements Maxwell made in civil depositions, according to the complaint.

Attorneys who represent Maxwell in civil lawsuits filed by women who allege Epstein abused them didn't immediately return messages to ABC News for comment. Maxwell previously denied any wrongdoing.

She was arrested in Bradford, New Hampshire, without incident. Later in the afternoon, Maxwell appeared virtually before a federal magistrate and waived her right to a detention hearing in New Hampshire, clearing the way for her transfer to New York, where she'll be temporarily detained.

Prosecutors will request that Maxwell remain behind bars pending court hearings since she has "a strong incentive" to flee, according to a detention memo obtained by ABC News. The detention memo said that in the last three years, Maxwell has taken at least 15 international flights, and she has three passports, large sums of money and many international connections.

"The strength of the Government's evidence and the substantial prison term the defendant would face upon conviction all create a strong incentive for the defendant to flee," the memo said.

The memo also claimed Maxwell used several tactics to hide from the public and authorities after Epstein was indicted last year. She moved locations at least twice, changed her primary phone number and e-mail address and ordered packages for delivery using a different name on the shipping label, according to prosecutors.

"Most recently, the defendant appears to have been hiding on a 156-acre property acquired in an all-cash purchase in December 2019 (through a carefully anonymized LLC) in Bradford, New Hampshire, an area to which she has no other known connections," the memo said.

If convicted on the charges, Maxwell faces up to 35 years in prison, according to prosecutors.

Epstein's alleged victims expressed gratitude to investigators for their work.

Jennifer Araoz, who has alleged Epstein abused her, said in a statement that she was able "to take a breath of relief."

"For years, I feared Epstein and his ring. Maxwell was the center of that sex trafficking ring. Now that the ring has been taken down, I know that I can't be hurt anymore," she said in a statement.

Brad Edwards, a Fort Lauderdale attorney who now represents more than 50 women who claim they were abused by Epstein, said in a statement his clients were pleased by news of Maxwell's arrest.

"They are also thankful for the determination that the SDNY prosecutors have demonstrated throughout their investigation. Today brings us one step closer to justice," he said in a statement.

Maxwell's arrest comes almost exactly a year after the arrest of Epstein, who died by suicide in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan in August 2019.

ABC News' James Hill contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Despite pandemic, Trump promoting July 4th fireworks in DC over mayor's objections

photovs / iStockBy Lauren Lantry, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump is promoting a big July Fourth celebration and fireworks display in the nation's capital this weekend, with administration officials expecting large crowds on the National Mall and nearby, despite the mayor's objections the event may spread the coronavirus.

The dispute comes amid spikes in coronavirus cases around the country – with over 50,000 COVID-19 cases reported in just one day this week.

“We’ve communicated to them that we do not think this is in keeping with the best CDC and Department of Health guidance. But this event will take place entirely on federal property,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a news conference.

The city is currently in phase two of its reopening plan, which encourages its residents to continue to engage in social distancing, keep wearing a mask, and to avoid congregating in confined space with more than 50 people.

But Bowser said since she does not have jurisdiction over federal land, she could only urge D.C. residents to exercise caution this weekend, advising people to stay home if they don’t think they can remain physically distanced from others.

“Ask yourself, do you need to be there,” she said. “Ask yourself, can you anticipate or know who all is going to be around you? If you go downtown, do you know if you’ll be able to social distance?”

According to Department of Interior officials, 300,000 face coverings will be available to be handed out to those who come to the National Mall to watch the fireworks and flyovers.

But White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday noted that wearing a mask will not be mandatory.

“The president has said that we should follow our local authorities with masks, so that’s the decision,” McEnany said. “He encourages people to follow those authorities. CDC guidelines, I’d also note, say recommended but not required, and we are very much looking forward to the Fourth of July celebration."

This event is the latest conflict between President Trump and the city's Democratic mayor amid the pandemic and ongoing protests for racial justice.

In a climactic moment of tension between the two leaders in early June, and as protests erupted across the country following the death of George Floyd, Bowser allowed a “Black Lives Matter” mural to be painted in bright yellow letters on 16th Street, right near the White House. That street, unlike the National Mall, is under her jurisdiction.

Even before crowds gather on the National Mall to watch the flyovers and fireworks display, protest groups say they will hold a march calling for an end to racial inequality in the United States.

Organizer say a George Floyd Memorial March on Washington is expected to begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Lincoln Memorial and end at the Ellipse just south of the White House, where Trump will later be hosting his second annual "Salute to America" event.

That will be the second celebration the president will attend in two days. On Friday, he and the first lady travel to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota for a flyover and fireworks display, where GOP Gov. Kristi Noem has said social distancing will not be enforced, face coverings will remain optional, and crowds of over 7,000 are expected to gather, according to state officials.

"We're going to have a tremendous July third, and then we're coming back here, celebrating the Fourth of July in Washington, D.C.," Trump said on Thursday.

While the July Fourth fireworks are taking place over Bowser’s objections, the White House has scaled-down the "Salute to America" part of the celebration.

Trump had said in the spring that he wanted a repeat of last year's event he heavily promoted, complete with multiple military vehicles placed at the Lincoln Memorial.

That event, according to the Government Accountability Office, cost taxpayers $13 million, double that of previous years.

The 2019 “Salute to America” also caused tension between the city government and the White House because the event required extra security and road closures beyond the already heightened security needed for the holiday events.

Despite the downsizing, this year's "Salute to America" -- moved to the White House South Lawn -- will still have a military flair.

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels will perform a flyover above the National Mall, and over 10,000 fireworks are expected to be set off during a 35-minute show, one of the largest in recent history, according to the Department of the Interior.

In addition to the event in Washington, the Pentagon said it will conduct military flyovers over Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore on Saturday.

Planes will begin the flyovers at about 4 p.m. over Boston and then work their way down the coast before joining other aircraft flying over the capital. Some 1,700 service members will be involved in supporting these events, according to the Department of Defense.

Thanking corporate donors in a tweet Wednesday evening, the president said the Saturday event will “without question, be a special evening.”

The Saturday flyovers over the National Mall in Washington are expected to begin around 6:45 p.m. and the fireworks display is set to start at 9:07 p.m.

ABC News' Stephanie Ebbs, Luis Martinez, Benjamin Gittleson, Jordyn Phelps contributed to this report.


Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


National Crown Day: 7 states have passed laws to ban natural hair discrimination

m-imagephotography /iStockBy Jacqueline Laurean Yate via GMA

(SACRAMENTO) -- One day shy of a year ago today, California became the first state to pass a law banning natural hair discrimination.

To commemorate, July 3 has been declared National Crown Day to celebrate the day the CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) legislation was signed into law.

On Friday, the Crown Coalition will host a number of virtual events throughout the day to support efforts toward ending hair discrimination across the country.

Last year, Sen. Holly Mitchell led the charge in introducing and playing a key role in getting the bill passed in California. Since then, laws have also been passed in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Colorado, Washington and Maryland in addition to municipalities in Cincinnati as well as Montgomery County, Maryland.

Twenty-three states have introduced CROWN legislation including Georgia, Florida and Arizona.

"When the governor signed SB 188, the CROWN Act into law one year ago today, I joked that July 3rd would become our true Independence Day, the day our natural hair was freed from oppressive workplace dress codes," Mitchell told "Good Morning America." "Acknowledging that our hair and its natural texture is a race-based trait was an important addition to the body of law aimed at securing equal treatment and equal protection for all.

"Until Congress is able to recognize that the quality of my work as an employee or student is based on what's inside my head and not how I choose to wear my hair, we will continue the state-by-state strategy to pass the CROWN Act in every state in our nation."

In December 2019, Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat who represents Louisiana's 2nd District, introduced the first federal bill to ban natural hair discrimination.

"Discrimination against black hair is discrimination against black people," Booker said in a statement. "Implicit and explicit biases against natural hair are deeply ingrained in workplace norms and society at large. This is a violation of our civil rights, and it happens every day for black people across the country."


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Bodycam footage appears to show police in Florida celebrate after shooting rubber bullets at protesters

Ft Lauderdale PDBy IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) -- Officers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, are being investigated for their actions during a May 31 protest after body camera footage surfaced that appears to show them laughing and celebrating after shooting rubber bullets at protesters.

The footage, first obtained and reported on by the Miami Herald, showed members of a SWAT team shooting tear gas and then firing non-lethal projectiles into a group of protesters who threw bottles, a tear gas canister and other objects at the officers.

After dispersing the crowd, two of the officers are seen in the video laughing after shooting the protesters with rubber bullets and apparently referring to them using several curse words. During the conversation between the two officers, one of them apparently mistakenly believes their body camera is on standby mode and not recording.

The Fort Lauderdale police released the video after the Herald article was posted online.

Protesters in the May 31 demonstration following George Floyd's death have argued that Fort Lauderdale police escalated tensions and used unnecessary force. LaToya Ratlieff told reporters last month she was walking away from the protest when she was shot in the eye by a rubber bullet, a wound requiring 20 stitches. Floyd died in police custody in Minnesota on May 25.

"My situation isn't unique," Ratlieff told ABC affiliate WPLG on June 7.

Fort Lauderdale City Manager Chris Lagerbloom said in a statement that while he understood the intensity of the situation in the video, "as the officers were clearly under attack," he still was "troubled" by what he saw. Lagerbloom said he called on Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione to investigate the incident.

"The exchange recorded by the body cameras paints an unflattering yet truthful depiction of the chaos they were operating in. The language the officers used and sentiment expressed is not consistent with what the public expects from our police force," Lagerbloom said in a statement.

Maglione said his office is investigating over 8,000 minutes of body camera footage, including the video in question. He defended the officers’ actions in a statement released Wednesday.

"The entire video clearly demonstrates our officers were under attack by a group of people who chose to use violence instead of peace to antagonize the situation," he said. "Although the language is extreme and offensive to some, our officers were dealing with the chaos of a developing situation."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Houston hospitals transferring COVID patients: 'We're running out of ICU beds'

JazzIRT/iStockBy IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(HOUSTON) -- The surge in coronavirus cases has gotten so bad in Houston that two of the city's hospitals have begun transporting patients to other cities in Texas.

Harris Health Systems, which runs Ben Taub and LBJ hospitals, over the last 24 hours has transferred 33 COVID-19 patients to facilities in Houston and in surrounding areas, and was in the process of transferring 15 more, according to spokesman Bryan McLeod.

Some of those locations include Texas Children's Hospital, which recently admitted adult COVID-19 patients, and UTMB's Galveston hospital, which is more than 50 miles outside Houston.

McLeod said Ben Taub's ICU was at 73% occupancy, while LBJ's ICU was at 96% occupancy as of Thursday morning. Half of those ICU patients were being treated for coronavirus, he said.

"We're running out of ICU beds," he told ABC News.

Harris County leads Texas in coronavirus cases -- 32,859 as of Thursday morning -- according to the Harris County Health Department. Last month, the county saw a jump in new daily cases, with a record 849 reported June 11. The county has recorded 384 deaths.

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott shut down state bars and urged people to take more precautions as the number if new COVID-19 cases increased throughout the state.

Texas reported more than 8,000 new cases, and 57 deaths, on Wednesday.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Miami cop relieved of duty after video shows him appearing to punch woman in the face

ChiccoDodiFC/iStockBy JON HAWORTH, ABC News

(MIAMI) -- At least one Miami-Dade County police officer has been relieved of duty after a video posted to Instagram appears to show two officers in a verbal altercation with a woman before one of them punches her in the face in an incident that allegedly took place at Miami International Airport.

The video shows two police officers speaking to the woman as she begins to confront one of them before coming face to face with him. It is unclear how the dispute began in the video.

The officer can then be seen taking a step back and striking the woman in the face causing her to stumble backwards before she is tackled to the floor and appears to be placed in handcuffs while on the ground.

The incident sparked a quick reaction from the Director of the Miami-Dade Police Department Alfredo Ramirez III as well as the Mayor of Miami-Dade County Carlos Gimenez in statements published on Twitter.

“I am shocked and angered by a body cam video that i just saw involving one of our officers,” said Ramirez in the social media statement. “I’ve immediately initiated an investigation and ordered that the involved officers be relieved of duty. Actions such as these undermine the hard work that we have invested in our community and causes my heart to break for our community and for the vast majority of our officers who dedicate their lives to serving our County. This will not stand, and I assure our community that any officer acting in this vain will be held to account.”

Additionally, Ramirez confirmed that he spoke to State Attorney Kathy Rundle and asked her to immediately get involved with the investigation into the conduct of the officers.

Mayor Gimenez also released a statement on Twitter condemning the video saying that the incident was unnecessary and a clear use of excessive force.

“This is appalling,” said Gimenez. “It’s excessive use of force and unnecessary. That’s NOT what our [Miami-Dade Police Department] are trained to do. [Director] Ramirez has ordered the officer relieved of duty & investigation is underway. This is why I instituted body cameras & MDPD is reviewing all footage."

The names of the two officers and the woman involved in the altercation have not yet been released and it is not known if the two officers will face any charges from the state attorney's office.

Fort Laurderdale City Manager Chris Lagerbloom released a statement of his own early Thursday morning saying he was troubled but what he saw in the video.

“I can understand the intensity of the moment captured on body camera footage as the officers were clearly under attack,” said Lagerbloom. “The exchange recorded by the body cameras paints an unflattering yet truthful depiction of the chaos they were operating in. The language the officers used, and sentiment expressed is not consistent with what the public expects from our police force.”

Lagerbloom concluded: “We will learn from this experience and we will be better. This is what the public expects from the City of Fort Lauderdale.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Summer heat building, July 4 weekend to be hot and hazy

ABC NewsBy MAX GOLEMBO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- In the last 48 hours, almost a foot of rain fell near Grand Forks, North Dakota, which flooded fields, overwhelmed drains and swamped farmsteads.

Severe storms also moved through Kansas City, Missouri, quickly dropping 2 to 3 inches of rain that flooded streets on Wednesday, which caused several cars to get stuck.

In New Jersey, slow-moving thunderstorms Wednesday flooded streets there, after 2 to 3 inches of rain fell.

Also, in Selmer, Tennessee, 6 to 8 inches of rain fell, producing widespread flash flooding. Twenty families had to evacuate their homes.

Slow-moving thunderstorms with heavy rain will continue in the eastern U.S. Thursday, especially in the South, where a stationary front is stuck.

A flash flood watch will continue through Thursday morning for Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi. In those four states, with the ground already saturated, any additional rainfall could cause more flooding.

The heaviest rain over the next few days will be from the Plains and into the Gulf Coast and east to northern Florida, where some areas could see more than 4 inches of rain in a short period of time.

As we get closer to the holiday weekend, the summer heat is building from the Deep South all the way into the Great Lakes and the East Coast.

Chicago is having its hottest summer since 2012 and has already seen nine days with 90 degrees or higher.

Seven states are under heat advisory Thursday, from Minnesota down to Louisiana, where high temperatures combined with high humidity make it feel like it’s over 100 degrees. In some spots there, it could feel like it's 111 degrees.

The heat will not be limited to the central U.S. this holiday weekend, when temperatures will reach the 90s and 100s from California to New Jersey. The Fourth of July weekend is shaping up to be hazy and hot across much of the U.S.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Advocates demand action after coronavirus spurs 2,000 reports of anti-Asian bias

Asian Pacific Policy and Planning CouncilBy STACY CHEN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A new report says that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States have been the target of more than 2,000 bias incidents since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic -- with nearly half of them occurring in California.

The figures were released Wednesday by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, a coalition of organizations in the greater Los Angeles area that advocates for the rights of the AAPI community.

In March, the organization launched Stop AAPI Hate, a program to track coronavirus-related harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. As of July 1, there were over 2,000 incidents reported across 45 states, with 42% of incidents coming from California.

At a Wednesday press conference, council Executive Director Manjusha Kulkarni was joined by California Assemblymembers Al Muratsuchi and David Chiu in asking California Gov. Gavin Newsom to include members of Asian communities in the state's upcoming COVID-19 task force "to help ensure the state takes real action," Kulkarni said, as well as to educate schools and businesses about the impacts of xenophobia and racism.

They also called on the governor to allocate around $1.4 million for specific policies and research programs to help curb discrimination as part of the COVID-19 general fund, and also to strengthen existing anti-discrimination laws and mental health services for those who are affected.

Kulkarni, who said the state's recently-passed $202 billion budget included no funding for initiatives to fight anti-Asian discrimination, said the organization nonetheless feels the governor is open to their concerns and that members are "really hopeful this will be among many important issues that rise to the surface."

In response, Newsom's press secretary, Jesse Melgar, told ABC News that "we value our relationship with the API Caucus and other stakeholders, and look forward to ongoing dialogue about how we collectively work toward the vision of a California for All."

"Racism and xenophobia have no place in California -- not during a public health emergency when it is essential we come together to support all of our communities -- not ever," Melgar said.

Recently, several videos of a woman harassing local Asian Americans in Torrance, California, went viral on social media. She was seen going on a racist rant at a park on two separate occasions, and in a third similar incident at a mall in 2019. A Torrance police department investigation resulted in no arrests.

Around the same time a typed note was found posted on the door of a Japanese cookware shop in Torrance threatening the owner with violence.

“We are going to bomb your store if you don’t listen and we know where you live. Go back to Japan, you monkey,” the note read.

Members of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council say these are just a few of the more than 800 incidents that have been reported in California over the past three months.

Assemblymember Muratsuchi has lived in Torrance, a city whose population is over 34% Asian, for over 20 years, and says he acknowledges Newsom’s past support of Asian Americans. But he calls the recent attacks "ugly and disgusting" and says he hopes they can get the resources necessary to deal more effectively with the spike in anti-Asian activity.

At the press conference, officials also directed blame toward President Donald Trump, whose continued use of terms like "Chinese virus" and "kung flu" was said to encourage racist rhetoric against Asian Americans.

"This pandemic of racism is being perpetrated by the commander-in-chief of the U.S.," said David Chiu, chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, who also addressed struggling businesses in LA's Chinatown. "This is akin to the tactics he used in his 2016 campaign when he attacked our Latino community using similar dog whistles."

The attacks on Asian Americans come as Black Lives Matter protests spread across the globe. Kulkarni said that Asian Americans, like Black and Latinx communities, have been the victims of racism.

This period of reckoning "gives us an opportunity to stand with our African American sisters and brothers and fight what they're going through," she said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Teachers worry about return to classroom amid surges in COVID-19 cases

smolaw11/iStockBy SOPHIE TATUM, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- August Plock, a high school social studies teacher in Pflugerville, Texas, said he is slated to be back in the classroom on Aug. 13. But as new COVID-19 cases surge in the state, he said he's concerned that teachers are being sacrificed in order to reopen the economy.

President Donald Trump and some leaders are pushing for a return to normalcy. But a big piece of that equation -- reopening schools -- depends largely upon the willingness of teachers, many of whom say they have serious concerns about how the decision is being handled.

Plock worries that returning to the classroom could mean accidentally exposing his 86-year-old mother, who he regularly visits, to the virus.

"I would hate to think that I’ve been exposed to COVID and maybe not realized yet that I have, and then somehow bring that to her and to her home and expose her, so there are a lot of concerns related to that," said Plock, who also serves as the president of Pflugerville Educators Association of the Texas State Teachers Association.

Some teachers around the country say they are nervous about returning because of underlying health conditions or concerns about infecting family members. Others say they are frustrated by the lack of clear guidance from officials about what’s safe. And for some, it’s about child care if their own kids are only back at school for a handful of days during the week.

The result is an inevitable clash between leaders pushing aggressive reopening policies in states like Texas and Florida and teachers, some of whom say local officials need to think more about what they are asking teachers to do.

Three unions in Fairfax County, Virginia, representing education professionals, released a statement last week pushing back against the county school system’s "return to school" plan, arguing that the lack of detail doesn’t allow teachers and families to make an informed decision about returning to the classroom for in-person instruction.

"We want to make sure it’s safe for our students, the educators and their families when they return home," President of Fairfax County Federation of Teachers Tina Williams told ABC News.

In an interview with ABC News, Kimberly Adams, president of the Fairfax Education Association, said the unions need to be more deeply involved in the decisions surrounding the return to school, and said her organization feels that anyone who applies for virtual teaching should be granted that option. She said in a statement that they shouldn't return to in-person learning until a vaccine or a treatment is widely available.

"We feel that should be the driver on the side of how many positions are available and how many distance teachers they need and how many classes they can offer in person. What’s being done is the reverse … they’re asking how many parents intend to send their children to school and then staffing up the buildings according to that," Adams said.

David Walrod, a math and special education teacher at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Fairfax County and a member of the governor’s return to school work group, said although first and foremost he is looking forward to the day that school is back to normal, he is worried about teacher safety.

"I am concerned about people being put into situations where they have to decide between going in an unsafe work condition or losing their jobs," he said.

Apprehension around returning to unsafe classrooms extends even to parts of the country where the virus has been reined in. Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, a union that represents nearly 200,000 public school educators in New York City, said there’s "real fear" among teachers in the city after several died during the pandemic.

"In the last two weeks, as we're watching what's going on in these other states, you can hear the fear and anxiety building again amongst our membership. They know what that is, they lived that. And they're in horror that people aren't taking it seriously," Mulgrew said.

School systems across the country are scrambling to make plans, but advocates say without the proper federal funding to help with safety measures, reopening for in-person learning in the fall just won’t happen. And Mulgrew said teachers won’t go back unless certain protocols are being followed.

Safety protocols require funding, and ABC News previously reported that states could face an estimated $615 billion budget shortfall over the next three years because of the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Cutbacks could severely impact public school funding.

"There was a pause in the economy. State revenues collapsed. What the heck are they going to do? They [schools] need this funding from the federal government," Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a phone interview.

"So, if you know that you need funding for PPE, funding for cleaning, funding for transportation and funding to create the physical distancing, which means staggered schooling, I'm not even talking about the structural needs of kids or the social emotional needs of kids, but funding for school nurses, funding for guidance counselors. If none of that is coming to districts, what the heck are they supposed to do?" she said.

Mulgrew said if schools don’t get additional federal funding, which is outlined in a bill that has yet to pass the Senate, "there's no way for us to have the funding to do all this extra safety stuff."

"If we don't feel we can reopen safely and the mayor of New York thinks we can, we're going to have a street fight," Mulgrew said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Alabama students throwing 'COVID parties' to see who gets infected: Officials

City of Tuscaloosa - Government/FacebookBy BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News

(TUSCALOOSA, Ala.) -- Students in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 have been attending parties in the city and surrounding area as part of a disturbing contest to see who can catch the virus first, a city council member told ABC News on Wednesday.

Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry said students have been organizing "COVID parties" as a game to intentionally infect each other with the contagion that has killed more than 127,000 people in the United States. She said she recently learned of the behavior and informed the city council of the parties occurring in the city.

She said the organizers of the parties are purposely inviting guests who have COVID-19.

"They put money in a pot and they try to get COVID. Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot. It makes no sense," McKinstry said. "They're intentionally doing it."

Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith told the City Council on Tuesday that he has confirmed the students' careless behavior.

In a briefing to the City Council, Smith expressed concern that in recent weeks there have been parties held throughout the city and surrounding Tuscaloosa County, "where students, or kids, would come in with known positive," according to a video recording of the meeting obtained by ABC affiliate station WBMA-TV in Birmingham.

"We thought that was kind of a rumor at first," Smith told the council members. "We did some research. Not only do the doctors' offices confirm it but the state confirmed they also had the same information."

In his presentation, Smith, who wore a face mask, did not say what is being done to curb the behavior or what schools the students were from. Tuscaloosa is the seventh-largest city in Alabama and home to The University of Alabama and several other colleges.

Just hours after Smith's briefing, the City Council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring people to wear face coverings when out in public.

On Wednesday, Holly Whigham, a spokesperson for the fire department, told ABC News, "We are not releasing any statements about what was said last night."

It was unclear if the COVID-positive students infected anyone at the parties they attended.

Richard Rush, a city spokesman, said in a statement to ABC News that the city "is currently working with local agencies and organizations to ensure that we do everything in our power to fight this pandemic."

McKinstry said she fears that some people will attend the parties not knowing their intent and be exposed to infected guests.

"We're trying to break up any parties that we know of," McKinstry told ABC News, adding the infected students are obviously disregarding guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to self-quarantine for two weeks.

"It's nonsense," McKinstry added. "But I think when you're dealing with the mind frame of people who are intentionally doing stuff like that and they're spreading it intentionally, how can you truly fight something that people are constantly trying to promote?"

Arrol Sheehan, spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Public Health, said the state's "Safer at Home Order" explicitly states that people who test positive "shall be quarantined to their place of residence for a period of 14 days."

Sheehan stressed that violation of the heath order is a misdemeanor and fines for each violation can be up to $500.

"Suspected violations of the home quarantine order should be reported to law enforcement and the local health department," she said in a statement to ABC News.

As of Wednesday, Alabama had recorded 38,422 COVID-19 cases, an increase of 10,696 in the last 14 days, according to data provided by the state Department of Public Health. At least 947 people have died in Alabama from the virus.

In Tuscaloosa County, 2,049 people had contracted the contagion and 38 deaths had occurred in the county, according to the Department of Public Health.

Word of the COVID parties came on the same day Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced she is extending the "Safer at Home" orders through July 31 because coronavirus infections continue to rise.

Under the extended orders, gyms, entertainment venues, child care facilities and barbershops are required to follow sanitation and social distancing rules. Retail stores are allowed to open with a 50% occupancy rate.

"Personal responsibility means it is everyone's responsibility," Ivy said at a news conference. "If we continue going in the wrong direction, and our hospitals are not able to handle the capacity of patients, then we're going to reserve the right to come back in and reverse course."

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, who joined Ivy at the news conference, urged people to wear face coverings although they are not required statewide.

"We know face coverings aren't perfect and they don't stop everything," Harris said. "But they do limit transmission."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Party guests exposed to COVID-19 not cooperating, officials say

narvikk/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, EMILY SHAPIRO and MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 515,000 people worldwide.

Over 10.6 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations' outbreaks.

Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 2.6 million diagnosed cases and at least 128,044 deaths.

Here's how the news developed Wednesday. All times Eastern:

9:49 p.m.: Los Angeles releases new color-coded threat indicator

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti introduced a new color-coded threat level indicator at a press conference on Wednesday, saying the county currently resides at orange -- the second-highest level.

"Today we are at orange, that means the risk of infection is high with 1 in 140 people in LA County are estimated to be infected," Garcetti said. "When the indicator is orange you should stay home."

"Red would mean that we are still at the highest risk of infection and residents must stay home; we would likely be on a mandated safer-at-home order," he added.

There were 2,002 new cases and 35 deaths in LA County reported on Wednesday. Officials also noted that statistics were missing from one of the larger labs in the area, so case totals were likely higher. There are 1,889 people currently hospitalized, the most since May.

Garcetti said the infection rate could be as high as 1 in 70 in the upcoming weeks.

"This spike in infections and in hospitalizations is serious," he said. "I know we are exhausted, I know we let down our guard, I know we think we are invincible, but this disease reminds us we aren't."

"We took this seriously in March, in April and in May when we sacrificed and stayed at home we saved thousands and thousands of lives," he added.

7:55 p.m.: US sets new record for COVID-19 cases

The U.S. reported over 50,000 new cases of COVID-19 for the first time on Wednesday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The total -- 52,982 -- included record daily cases in Arizona, California, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas, it said.

The national positivity rate also rose to 7.3%, and hospitalizations are back to late-May levels, the project reported.

7:16 p.m.: Dog dies, tests positive for COVID


A 6-year-old mixed breed in Georgia has died from the coronavirus, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The dog came down with "a sudden onset of neurological illness which progressed rapidly over the course of a couple of days" and had to be euthanized.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirmed the dog was positive for COVID-19, though it did not actually test the animal.

There have been a number of animals to test positive for coronavirus in the United States, according to the USDA, including three dogs and four cats. The USDA also confirmed a lion and a tiger tested positive at the Bronx Zoo, though the zoo reported six other big cats had also been diagnosed.

6:09 p.m.: SC announces highest daily death toll

South Carolina announced 1,497 new cases today, according to Dr. Linda Bell, South Carolina's state epidemiologist.

There were also a daily record of 24 new confirmed deaths.

And in another record, there are currently 1,160 hospitalized in the state.

"Unless we do something dramatically different to control this disease that is spread simply by breathing from infected people, then we will be looking at projections that are far worse than what we are experiencing now," Bell said.

5:50 p.m.: Texas hits record 8,076 new cases


Texas has hit a record 8,076 new cases of the coronavirus -- about 1,100 more than yesterday's previous record -- and the state now has a positivity rate of 13.56%, down slightly from Tuesday.

Hospitalizations have jumped to 6,904 statewide.

Texas Medical Center hospitals in Houston are transitioning to a phase 2 surge planning as the intensive care unit capacity nears 100%.

On Wednesday, officials also announced that beaches in Galveston, a popular cooling off destination just southeast of Houston, will close during the Fourth of July weekend due to increases in COVID-19 cases. Beaches will be off-limits starting Friday at 5 a.m. and reopen Monday morning.

5:12 p.m.: Texas hits record 8,076 new cases

Texas has hit a record 8,076 new cases of the coronavirus -- about 1,100 more than yesterday's previous record -- and the state now has a positivity rate of 13.56%, down slightly from Tuesday.

Hospitalizations have jumped to 6,904 statewide.

Texas Medical Center hospitals in Houston are transitioning to a phase 2 surge planning as the intensive care unit capacity nears 100%.

4:55 p.m.: TSA closes main Atlanta checkpoint after screener tests positive

Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport shut down its main TSA checkpoint for a deep cleaning on Wednesday after a screener tested positive for COVID-19, a TSA spokesperson said.

That officer was last working on Tuesday from 3:30 a.m. to noon.

The main checkpoint is expected to reopen Thursday morning as the airport anticipates a jump in travelers for the Fourth of July holiday.

The TSA is projecting it will screen 27,000 passengers on Thursday and again Friday -- up from their recent average of around 20,000, the spokesperson said.

Overall, the TSA has had 866 federal employees test positive for COVID-19. Twenty-nine of them work at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

3:15 p.m.: California shuts down most indoor businesses in 19 counties

As California sees a significant increase in its positivity rate, the state is immediately requiring these businesses to close indoor operations: restaurants, wineries, movie theaters, zoos, museums, family entertainment centers and card rooms.

This applies to all counties that have been on the "county monitoring list" for three consecutive days, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday. Nineteen counties are currently on the list, including Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento and Fresno.

This guidance will remain in place for at least three weeks, Newsom said.

Newsom also said parking facilities at state beaches in Southern California and the Bay Area will be closed for the 4th of July weekend.

In counties that close local beaches, the state will join and close state beaches, he said.

2:50 p.m.: Party host with COVID-19 spreads virus to at least 8 guests

Rockland County, New York, is seeing a coronavirus cluster attributed to a large party -- one of the many gatherings in the area, county Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel said Wednesday.

The host of the party was ill at the time and the virus spread to at least eight others -- all young adults, Schnabel said at a news conference.

"Large gatherings remain an issue," she said. "The risk for transmission of the virus is high and very real."

Schnabel said some people contacted by health investigators are denying being at the party and are refusing to speak to the investigators.

"Many do not answer their cell phones and do not call back," she said. "'Sometimes parents answer for their adult children and promise that they have been home consistently -- when they have not been."

"This must stop," she said. "Unfortunately I am now forced by these circumstances to send subpoenas to the individuals who are required to cooperate with us."

2:30 p.m.: Masks now required statewide in Oregon

Effective now, masks will be required statewide in Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown announced.

The mandate applies to all indoor places. Children 12 and younger do not have to wear a mask, though it is still encouraged.

Oregon has had one of the lowest COVID-19 mortality rates in the country, Brown said, and she warned, "an uncontrolled spike in cases will threaten our hospital capacity."

Oregon has over 8,600 cases of the coronavirus and Brown said the state could reach 10,000 cases within a week.

12:15 p.m.: WHO says 60% of all COVID-19 cases were reported in the last month

Sixty-percent of all COVID-19 cases so far have been reported just in the past month, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference on Wednesday.

"For the past week, the number of new cases has exceeded 160,000 on every single day," he said.

As the U.S. reports around 45,000 new cases a day, the WHO points to the two countries which were once the epicenters of pandemic: Italy and Spain.

Spain was reporting around 10,000 new cases per day at its peak while Italy was reporting around 6,500 new cases per day, Tedros said.

"We will never get tired of saying that the best way out of this pandemic is to take a comprehensive approach," Tedros said.

Countries that have adopted this comprehensive approach have suppressed COVID-19 transmission and saved lives, he said.

Tedros added that flare-ups are to be expected as countries start to lift restrictions, but one of the lessons of the pandemic is that no matter what situation a country is in, it can be turned around.

"It’s never too late," he said.

11:50 a.m.: Cuomo to Trump: 'Admit you were wrong'

The coronavirus is "getting worse" across the U.S. with 35 states seeing increasing infection rates, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

Cuomo slammed President Donald Trump who he said "denied the reality of this situation from day one."

"Republican governors listened [to Trump]. And a lot of Republicans listened and won't wear a mask," Cuomo said at a news conference. "He has lived in denial and he has been denying the scientific facts from day one."

"Now the country is suffering because of the president and it's time for him to change course," Cuomo said. "The first thing he can do -- come clean with the American people, admit the threat of this virus. Admit you were wrong."

10:50 a.m.: Florida hits 15% positivity rate

In Florida, the number of coronavirus cases jumped by 6,563 in one day, bringing the state to a positivity rate of 15%, according to the state's Department of Health.

In Miami-Dade County, which includes Miami, and in Osceola County, which is near Orlando, 18.2% of those tested are positive.

10:25 a.m.: NYC postpones opening indoor dining

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is postponing the reopening of indoor dining, he said on Wednesday.

De Blasio said his decision comes as he watches states including Florida, Texas and California "slipping backward," with cases rising, especially "around people going back to bars and restaurants indoors."

Instead, New York City will "double down" on outdoor dining, de Blasio said.

He said 6,600 restaurants are already participating.

New York City, initially the nation's epicenter of the pandemic, is now on the road to recovery.

Of those tested for the coronavirus citywide, just 2% are now testing positive, de Blasio said Wednesday.

While indoor dining will not yet restart, New York City beaches are opening for the season on Wednesday.

8:30 a.m.: Lockdown returns to UK city of Leicester

The British government is reimposing lockdown restrictions in Leicester following a spike in coronavirus infections.

Non-essential shops and most schools in the central city will have to close again on Thursday, just two weeks after reopening. Meanwhile, Saturday's loosening of restrictions for pubs and restaurants across England will not be taking place in Leicester.

The city had "10% of all positive cases in the country over the past week," U.K. Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock told lawmakers Monday.

Hancock said the reimposed measures would be enforced by local police "in some cases."

It's the country's first such regional lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

7:53 a.m.: Hundreds of new cases reportedly linked to Myrtle Beach visits

Hundreds of new coronavirus cases have been linked to recent trips to South Carolina's popular resort city, Myrtle Beach, according to reports from local ABC affiliates.

Dr. David Goodfriend, director of the Loudoun County Health Department in Virginia, told Washington, D.C. ABC affiliate WJLA-TV that around 100 teenagers from the area have tested positive for COVID-19 after visiting Myrtle Beach.

"We're starting to see more and more positive test results come in, and as we followed up on those, similarly, they had shared they had gone down to Myrtle Beach, at least the Myrtle Beach area," Goodfriend said. "At least one group said there were about 40 folks staying in one house and they were having parties or being at parties with over 100 people in the house."

Dr. Molly O'Dell, director of communicable disease control with the Virginia Department of Health's Roanoke City-Alleghany Districts, told Lynchburg, Virginia ABC affiliate WSET-TV that 130 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the area on Tuesday and that more than 100 of them are linked to Myrtle Beach visits.

O'Dell recommended anyone returning home from Myrtle Beach to self-quarantine for 14 days and watch for symptoms.

7:11 a.m.: 100K cases per day 'is where we're heading,' Harvard doctor warns

Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, affirmed concerns voiced by the nation's top infectious disease expert that the United States could see 100,000 new coronavirus cases per day.

"That is where we're heading," Jha told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview Wednesday on Good Morning America.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, made the stark warning during a Senate hearing on Tuesday, saying, "I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 [cases] a day if this does not turn around."

But Jha said "there are things we can do right now" to "avoid the fate that Dr. Fauci mentioned."

"First and foremost, I think we need every state to have a mandatory mask law. I just think we can't dither around on masks; everybody needs to be wearing one when they're outside of their home," he said. "Second is, I think we just can't right now afford indoor gatherings; so no bars, I don't even know if we can keep restaurants open, certainly not nightclubs. We've got to get very serious about that. And then we've got to keep pushing on testing and tracing."

If all else fails, "then you have to just essentially shut the state down," Jha said.

"We've got to get on top of this otherwise we'll find ourselves with some very unappetizing choices," he added. "A stay-at-home order, in my mind, is really the last thing that you do when nothing else has worked."

6:43 a.m.: Washington state sees second-highest increase in cases

Washington state reported 571 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, marking its second-highest single-day increase since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The state's highest single-day rise was set on June 19, when 619 new cases were confirmed.

Overall, the Washington State Department of Health has reported 32,824 confirmed cases with 1,332 deaths.

6:02 a.m.: Tokyo Disneyland reopens for first time in four months

Tokyo Disneyland reopened Wednesday after being closed for four months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 115-acre theme park in Urayasu, near Tokyo, has undertaken a new set of policies and safety measures to protect against COVID-19, such as temperature screenings and the mandatory use of face masks.

Tickets to the park must be purchased online in advance. A limited number of guests will be allowed at a time in attractions, shops, restaurants and other facilities. Disney characters must maintain social distancing while greeting guests. Meanwhile, the park's signature shows and parades remain suspended to avoid the formation of crowds, according to information posted on the Tokyo Disneyland website.

Tokyo DisneySea also reopened in Urayasu on Wednesday. Both parks suspended operations on Feb. 29 due to coronavirus concerns.

Tokyo, which has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country, permitted the area's amusement parks to reopen in mid-June, after the Japanese government completely lifted the nationwide state of emergency in late May.

The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ABC News.

5:35 a.m.: US reports nearly 44,800 new cases in one day

Nearly 44,800 new cases of COVID-19 were identified in the United States on Tuesday, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The latest daily caseload is just under the country's record high of more than 45,000 new cases identified last Friday.

The national total currently stands at 2,636,538 diagnosed cases with at least 127,425 deaths.

The cases include people from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and other U.S. territories as well as repatriated citizens.

By May 20, all states had begun lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The day-to-day increase in cases then hovered around 20,000 for a couple of weeks before shooting back up to over 30,000 and then crossing 40,000 last week.

Nearly half of all 50 states have seen a rise in infections in recent weeks, with some -- such as Florida, South Carolina and Georgia -- reporting daily records.

3:38 a.m.: Europe reopens borders but US travelers remain barred

The European Union began opening its external borders on Wednesday, but travelers from the United States aren't among those allowed to visit.

EU ambassadors have agreed on lifting travel restrictions for 15 countries based on the epidemiological situation and containment measures, including Australia, Canada, South Korea and Tunisia. China was also included on the list but with a caveat -- the country must reciprocate by allowing EU travelers to visit.

Countries where coronavirus infections are on the rise were excluded from the list, noticeably the United States, Russia and Brazil.

The criteria requires that the number of new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days per 100,000 people is similar or below that of the EU's. According to The New York Times, the average among the 27 countries within the EU was 16 in mid-June; in the United States, it was 107.

The EU said countries must also have a "stable or decreasing trend of new cases over this period in comparison to the previous 14 days." The bloc will consider the reliability of each nation's data as well as what measures have been taken in response to their outbreaks, including contact tracing and testing. Reciprocity will also be taken into account.

U.S. President Donald Trump suspended travelers from most European countries in March.

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