There are ominous signs of a new wave of coronavirus infections building in the US midwest, even as vaccinations continue to gather pace across the country.
In Michigan, hospitalisations have soared and intensive care beds are being rapidly filled. An average of 6,228 cases a day were confirmed in the state over the past week, according to Johns Hopkins University data, approaching record highs seen in November. Michigan’s public health system “is overwhelmed”, warned the state’s top medical official, Joneigh Khaldun.
The surge has prompted Governor Gretchen Whitmer to urge people to restrict activities and wear masks and for schools to halt in-person learning.
“A year in, we all know what works and this has to be a team effort,” the Democrat said. “We have to do this together. Lives depend on it.”
Covid is also making a resurgence, albeit to a lesser degree, in Minnesota, where cases have jumped since March. On Friday, 2,659 new infections were reported, the most in a single day since January. Governor Tim Walz has said he is not planning new restrictions but called on the federal government to speed up vaccine delivery.
Illinois reported 4,004 new cases on Friday, also the most since January, with the number of seriously sick people in hospital rising.
Michigan should shut down again to combat surge in cases, CDC director says
Nearly half of American adults have received at least one vaccine dose
Chauvin trial: Judge rejects defense’s request to sequester jury
The 11th day of Derek Chauvin’s trial is now underway in Minneapolis, where the former police faces murder charges over the killing of George Floyd.
Chauvin’s defense lawyer, Eric Nelson, unsuccessfully requested that Judge Peter Cahill sequester jurors. Nelson has asked for them to be sequestered because of the fatal police shooting of a Black man in a Minneapolis suburb Sunday.
The death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, sparked clashes between protesters and police that continued late into the night.
“As a result of that, there was some fairly extensive civil unrest that occurred,” Nelson has said, noting that “at least one juror” resides there.
“Given that this is obviously a high-profile case, this is a case that evokes a lot of emotion for a lot of people, ultimately your honor, the question becomes: will the jury be confident to make a decision regardless of the potential outcome of the decision?”
Cahill has refused, pointing out that Chauvin’s trial and this shooting are different cases, and then said: “We’ll sequester them on Monday when we’re doing closings.”
Follow the latest developments from Minneapolis by reading the Guardian’s trial live blog:
Matt Gaetz and a spokesman for Donald Trump reacted angrily late on Sunday after CNN reported that the scandal-hit Florida Republican congressman sought a meeting with the former US president when allegations of sex-trafficking and illegal drug use were first reported – and was rebuffed.
CNN cited two anonymous sources who “said Gaetz tried to schedule a visit with Trump after it was first revealed that he was being investigated”. It said “the request was rejected by aides close to the former president”.
The New York Times first reported federal investigations of Gaetz on 30 March. Since then, multiple reports have linked the congressman to an ally in Florida indicted for sex trafficking and other crimes but reported to be close to a deal with prosecutors.
Gaetz is reported to be under investigation for possible sex trafficking of a 17-year-old girl; for allegedly paying for sex; for alleged use of illegal drugs; and for allegedly showing House members nude pictures of women.
He denies all accusations. The Times has also reported that towards the end of Trump’s time in power, Gaetz sought a blanket pre-emptive pardon. Trump denied receiving such a request.
In response to the CNN report, Trump’s spokesman, Jason Miller, tweeted: “This story is complete fake news. No such scheduling or meeting request was ever made, and therefore, it could never have been declined. Take note that this story has zero on-the-record sources. It’s literally made-up. We are demanding a full retraction.”
After a year where Black Lives Matter demonstrations saw Americans begin to re-address and rethink racial inequality in the nation, a pushback from predominantly Republican lawmakers is on the horizon, with 29 states in the US moving to introduce draconian anti-protest laws.
Florida is the most recent state to bring in legislation which critics say would crack down on demonstrations, infringe free speech rights and potentially disproportionately target people of color, while other states have pursued anti-protest bills which could even prevent those convicted from receiving public benefits.
Republicans in Florida’s house of representatives passed the controversial Combating Violence, Disorder, and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act at the end of March. The law would increase penalties for participating in broadly defined “violent” protests – the vast majority of Black Lives Matter protests have been peaceful – and make it a felony to deface monuments if damage is more than $200.
That bill is likely to pass the Florida senate – and be signed into law by the governor – in the coming weeks, with Republican politicians in many other states pursuing similar legislation.
There are 71 laws pending at the state and federal level which would impinge on Americans’ right to protest, according to the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law, in 29 states.