Briefs: Trump, still infectious, back at White House — without mask

President Donald Trump stands on the balcony outside of the Blue Room as returns to the White House Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington, after leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md. Trump announced he tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 2. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Associated Press

News for October 6, 2020

Associated Press

Trump, still infectious, back at White House — without mask

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump staged a dramatic return to the White House after leaving the military hospital where he was receiving an unprecedented level of care for COVID-19. He immediately ignited a new controversy by declaring that despite his illness the nation should not fear the virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans — and then he entered the White House without a protective mask.

Trump's message alarmed infectious disease experts and suggested the president's own illness had not caused him to rethink his often-cavalier attitude toward the disease, which has also infected the first lady and several White House aides, including new cases revealed Monday.

Landing Monday night at the White House on Marine One, Trump gingerly climbed the South Portico steps, removed his mask and declared, "I feel good." He gave a double thumbs-up to the departing helicopter from the portico terrace, where aides had arranged American flags for the sunset occasion. He entered the White House, where aides were visible milling about the Blue Room, without wearing a face covering. 

The president left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where his doctor, Navy Cmdr. Sean Conley, said earlier Monday that the president remains contagious and would not be fully "out of the woods" for another week but that Trump had met or exceeded standards for discharge from the hospital. Trump is expected to continue his recovery at the White House, where the reach of the outbreak that has infected the highest levels of the U.S. government is still being uncovered.

Still, just a month before the election and anxious to project strength, Trump tweeted before leaving the hospital, "Will be back on the Campaign Trail soon!!!" And in case anyone missed his don't-worry message earlier, he rushed out a new video from the White House.

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Vaunted White House virus testing couldn't protect Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — His press secretary once described President Donald Trump as the "most tested man in America" when it came to COVID-19. And variations on that message were the White House ready response any time critics questioned the president's lax approach to following guidelines for avoiding the novel coronavirus.

But that vaunted testing operation proved woefully insufficient in protecting the president and those who work for him at the White House, as evidenced by a string of positive tests over the past week for Trump, his wife and others in their orbit.

Trump demonstrated in dramatic fashion that relying on testing alone isn't enough to create a safe bubble. Mask wearing and social distancing are other key ingredients for preventing the spread of COVID-19, and both have often been in short supply at the White House. 

From the earliest days of the virus, Trump has provided conflicting advice on wearing a mask, noting that federal health experts were recommending them, but adding that "I don't think I'm going to be doing it."

At another point, he said that "maybe they're great, and maybe they're just good. Maybe they're not so good."

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'An embarrassment': Trump tweet angers pandemic survivors

SEATTLE (AP) — Dizzy with a soaring fever and unable to breathe, Scott Sedlacek had one thing going for him: He was among the first people to be treated for COVID-19 at Seattle's Swedish Medical Center, and the doctors and nurses were able to give him plenty of attention.

The 64-year-old recovered after being treated with a bronchial nebulizer in March, but the ensuing months have done little to dull the trauma of his illness. Hearing of President Donald Trump's advice by Tweet and video on Monday not to fear the disease — as well as the president's insistence on riding in a motorcade outside Walter Reed Medical Center and returning to the White House while still infectious — enraged him.

"I'm so glad that he appears to be doing well, that he has doctors who can give him experimental drugs that aren't available to the masses," Sedlacek said. "For the rest of us, who are trying to protect ourselves, that behavior is an embarrassment." 

COVID-19 has infected about 7.5 million Americans, leaving more than 210,000 dead and millions more unemployed, including Sedlacek. The U.S. has less than 5% of the globe's population but more than 20% of the reported deaths.

Yet the world's highest-profile coronavirus patient tweeted on Monday, as he was due to be released from the hospital following a three-day stay: "Don't be afraid of Covid. Don't let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!"

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Biden aims to expand map as Trump recovers from coronavirus

MIAMI (AP) — As President Donald Trump recovers from the coronavirus, Joe Biden is capitalizing on having the campaign trail largely to himself by hitting critical swing states and investing in longtime Republican bastions that he hopes might expand his path to victory.

The Democratic presidential nominee made his second trip to Florida in a little over two weeks on Monday. His visit to Miami was designed to encroach on some of Trump's turf, even swinging through Little Havana, a typically conservative area known for its staunch opposition to the communist government that Fidel Castro installed in Cuba.

He'll follow up with a trip later this week to Arizona, which hasn't backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996. Even Biden's former primary rival, Bernie Sanders, has resumed in-person campaigning for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak in March. The progressive Vermont senator held socially distanced rallies in the battlegrounds of New Hampshire and Michigan, proclaiming, "We need Joe Biden as our president."

Sitting on a massive pile of campaign cash less than a month before Election Day, Biden is trying to put Trump on defense across the country and build an advantage in the Electoral College so large that the president might struggle to contest it. That's especially important since Trump, who lost the popular vote in 2016, has said he may not accept the election results this year and has raised unfounded allegations that the increased use of mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic could lead to fraud. 

Biden is complementing the expanded campaign travel with a late-stage ad push, reserving more than $6 million in television airtime in Texas — for decades deeply red — through the end of October, according to an Associated Press analysis of CMAG data. He also plans to spend $4 million on advertising in Georgia, another Republican-leaning state that Democrats are feeling bullish about.

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As Harris pitches to Black voters, some want to hear more

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Standing before Sen. Kamala Harris at a campaign event near a Raleigh barbershop, Marcus Bass asked the Democratic vice presidential nominee a pointed question: How would she and Joe Biden convince young Black voters their ticket isn't simply the lesser of two evils?

"I appreciate your question and the point," Harris replied. "Nobody is supposed to vote for us — we need to earn it."

That's what Harris, the first Black woman to appear on a major party's presidential ticket, is trying to do in swing states like North Carolina, as the presidential contest enters its final weeks. In conversations at barbershops and historically Black colleges and universities, through ads on popular websites and live Instagram interviews, Harris is pitching herself and Biden as a team that can make meaningful progress on issues that matter to Black Americans, like police reform, ending the new coronavirus pandemic and creating a more equitable economy.

She'll have the chance to pitch to her biggest audience yet on Wednesday, when she is expected to debate Vice President Mike Pence. Harris is likely to deliver a message that's particularly resonant for Black Americans, including the disproportionate toll the coronavirus has taken on their communities and the vital need for access to health care. 

The theme takes on a new significance after President Donald Trump was hospitalized with the virus, reviving criticism of the administration's handling of the pandemic. 

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California wildfires are huge this year, but not deadliest

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — With months still to go in California's fire season, the state has already shattered records for the amount of land scorched in a single year — more than 4 million acres to date, with one blaze alone surpassing the 1 million acre mark. Five of the 10 largest wildfires in state history have occurred since August.

Beyond their size, how do the scope and devastation of this year's fires compare to previous wildfire seasons in California? Here are some comparisons:

4 MILLION ACRES

The 6,250 square miles or 16,000 square kilometers that have burned this year are more than double the previous record for the most land burned in a single year in the state — roughly the size of Connecticut. The previous record was set in 2018 when deadly wildfires destroyed 1.67 million acres (2,609 square miles or 6,760 square kilometers). The August Complex, burning in the Coast Range between San Francisco and the Oregon border, surpassed 1 million acres, another record.

"We used to think a 50,000-acre fire was huge. Now we're dealing with an average of over 300,000 acres," said Scott McLean, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire, who called this year's blazes "horrendous."

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Kyrgyzstan cancels parliament election results after unrest

MOSCOW (AP) — The Central Election Commission of Kyrgyzstan declared the results of the weekend's parliamentary election invalid on Tuesday after mass protests erupted in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, and other cities, with opposition supporters seizing government buildings overnight and demanding a new election. 

Hundreds were injured, and one person died. Members of several opposition parties announced plans to oust the president and form a new government.

The decision to cancel the results of the vote was made in order to "prevent tension" in the country, head of the Commission Nurzhan Shaildabekova told the Interfax news agency. 

Mass protests in the capital, Bishkek, and other cities broke out after the authorities announced early results of Sunday's parliamentary election. They attributed the majority of votes to two parties with ties to the ruling elites, amid reports of vote buying and other violations. 

Supporters of a dozen opposition parties took to the streets on Monday, demanding the cancellation of the vote and a new election. Police moved to disperse the crowds with water cannons, tear gas and flashbang grenades. Some 590 people sustained injuries in clashes with police and one person died, the Interfax news agency reported, citing Kyrgyzstan's Health Ministry. 

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Panel to announce 2020 Nobel Prize for physics

STOCKHOLM (AP) — The 2020 Nobel Prize for physics is being announced Tuesday, an award that has in the past honored discoveries about the tiniest of particles and the vast mysteries of outer space.

Goran Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, will announce the recipient some time after 11:45 a.m. (0945 GMT; 5:45 a.m. EDT).

It is common for several scientists who worked in related fields to share the prize. Last year's prize went to Canadian-born cosmologist James Peebles for theoretical work about the early moments after the Big Bang, and Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for discovering a planet outside our solar system.

The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and prize money of 10 million Swedish kronor (more than $1.1 million), courtesy of a bequest left 124 years ago by the prize's creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel. The amount was increased recently to adjust for inflation. 

On Monday, the Nobel Committee awarded the prize for physiology and medicine to Americans Harvey J. Alter and Charles M. Rice and British-born scientist Michael Houghton for discovering the liver-ravaging hepatitis C virus.

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Amid rising infections, Israeli ultra-Orthodox defy lockdown

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — After a revered ultra-Orthodox rabbi died this week, Israeli police thought they had worked out an arrangement with his followers to allow a small, dignified funeral that would conform with public health guidelines under the current coronavirus lockdown. 

But when it was time to bury the rabbi on Monday, thousands of people showed up — ignoring social distancing rules and clashing with police who tried to disperse the mass gathering.

Such violations of lockdown rules by segments of the ultra-Orthodox population have angered a broader Israeli public that is largely complying with the restrictions imposed to halt a raging coronavirus outbreak. 

The defiance on display has confounded public health experts, tested Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's longstanding political alliance with religious leaders and triggered a new wave of resentment from secular Israelis who fear for their health and livelihoods.

"We've been asked to go into this lockdown, with its insane economic cost, that is causing people to go insane, because of the increase in coronavirus which is mostly occurring in the ultra-Orthodox sector and in large part because of criminal negligence," wrote media personality Judy Shalom Nir Mozes on the Ynet news site. "There are two sets of laws here. One for us and one for them."

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After 6 months stranded, Easter Islanders will return home

RUSSELL, New Zealand (AP) — About 25 residents from remote Easter Island who have been stranded far from their loved ones for more than six months because of the coronavirus will finally be able to return home this week on a French military plane.

The group has been stranded on Tahiti in French Polynesia. Many arrived in March planning to stay for just a few weeks, but they got stuck when the virus swept across the globe and their flights back home on LATAM airlines were canceled.

A second group of about 15 Tahitians have also been stranded on Easter Island because of the flight cancelations. 

French authorities announced Tuesday they would use an Airbus A400M Atlas turboprop to repatriate both groups in a flight that would take about six hours in each direction.

Also named Rapa Nui, Easter Island is a Chilean territory located midway between Polynesia, in the South Pacific, and South America.

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