10 things you need to know today: May 23, 2020

·7 min read


President Trump is calling for religious institutions to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump announced Friday that he would identify houses of worship, including "churches, synagogues, and mosques," as "essential places that provide essential services." He called on governors to allow those institutions to reopen, and vowed to "override the governors" if they do not because "in America we need more prayer, not less." Just like reopening businesses, Trump does not have the power to override governors when it comes to letting places of worship start holding services again. Some churches had resisted closing down amid the pandemic, and subsequently saw deadly coronavirus outbreaks spread among their members. [C-SPAN, The New York Times]


Forty-three states recorded their highest unemployment rate since the government began tracking the data in 1939, federal numbers released Friday reveal. Nevada had the highest overall unemployment rate in the country, at 28.2 percent, up from 3.6 in February before the pandemic shutdowns. The other two states to top 20 percent unemployment in April were Michigan and Hawaii, at 22.7 percent and 22.3 percent, respectively. Nevada and Hawaii saw their unemployment numbers rise because of their reliance on tourism, while Michigan's job losses stem from automotive plant shutdowns. Seven states recorded unemployment below 10 percent, with Connecticut the lowest at only 7.9 percent. Those numbers should probably be higher due to errors in the robustness of data collection as well as how that data was classified, CNN notes. [CNN, MarketWatch]


Former Vice President Joe Biden apologized for declaring that if "you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or [President] Trump, you ain't black," during a Friday morning interview with Charlamagne tha God on The Breakfast Club. Biden's comments were quickly criticized as racist and offensive, and by Friday afternoon, Biden acknowledged he "shouldn't have been such a wise guy" and that "Perhaps I was much too cavalier" in a Friday afternoon call with black business leaders. "I've never, never, ever taken the African American community for granted," he continued, adding that "no one should have to vote for any party based on their race, their religion, their background." [CBS News, BBC]


Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday that the initial results from Moderna's coronavirus vaccine trial are "really quite promising" and that it remains "conceivable" a vaccine could be available in some capacity by the end of this year. Fauci, one of the key members of the White House coronavirus task force, was still cautious, however, noting that a lot of things could hinder the vaccine's development between now and then. Dr. Carlos del Rio, an Emory University professor of medicine working on the Moderna study, echoed Fauci, saying he's "cautiously optimistic" about its success. Del Rio noted that the team is working at a "mind-boggling" pace. [NPR, CNBC]


The death toll from a Pakistan International Airlines flight that crashed during its descent into Karachi on Friday rose to 97 on Saturday. Two passengers survived the incident, and no fatalities have been reported among people on the ground in the densely populated neighborhood where the crash-landing occurred, although eight people were injured. One of the survivors, Mohammad Zubair, said the flight from Lahore was smooth until the descent, when the pilot came on the intercom to say the plane was experiencing engine trouble and the landing could be "troublesome." The Airbus A320's black box, which includes the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, was found and is under review. [The Associated Press, Reuters]


Car rental firm Hertz on Friday became the latest company to file for bankruptcy protection as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Hertz, which was founded in 1918, has struggled since the pandemic severely reduced global travel, and its lenders were unwilling to grant it another extension on its auto lease debt payments past Friday's deadline, The Associated Press reports. By the end of March, the company reportedly accrued more than $24 billion in debt and was unable to generate revenue after travel largely shut down. Around that time, Hertz laid off 12,000 workers, furloughed 4,000, cut vehicle acquisitions by 90 percent, and stopped all nonessential spending, but the moves proved too late. The company will continue to operate during the bankruptcy process. [The Associated Press, Reuters]


The Trump administration has discussed launching the United States' first nuclear weapons test since 1992 as a tactic in negotiations with China and Russia, The Washington Post reports. One administration official speaking on condition of anonymity said the conversation is still ongoing, while another person familiar with the situation said the White House — after some reportedly serious disagreements — has decided to take other measures in response to threats posed by Moscow and Beijing. The U.S. has accused the other two countries of conducting low-yield nuclear tests and is seeking a trilateral deal to regulate their arsenals. Russia and China have both denied the assertions. [The Washington Post]


The Washington, D.C., metro area has the highest coronavirus positivity rate in the country, Dr. Deborah Birx said at the White House press briefing on Friday. The region includes both the nation's capital, northern Virginia and several counties in Maryland. Birx said that D.C. is followed in positivity rate by Baltimore, Chicago, and Minneapolis. "These are the places where we have seen really a stalling, or an increase of cases as in Minneapolis," she explained. The D.C. metro area specifically has a rate of infection three times higher than the areas directly surrounding it. Governors in Maryland and Virginia began easing restrictions in their states last Friday, while protestors gathered in Baltimore County on Friday to push for a faster reopening. [NBC News, The Washington Post]


While the 2018 midterm elections saw a historic number of women run for Congress, 2020 has already broken that record, Gen reports. In 2018, 529 women filed to run for the House or the Senate, according to Vox, with 117 ultimately elected or appointed. This year, some 538 female congressional candidates have filed their paperwork so far. Among them are 490 women vying for House seats, according to data from Rutgers University's Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), up from 476 in 2018. So far, 48 women have filed to run for Senate in 2020, just behind 2018's record of 53. Additionally, Gen notes that 195 of the women running for the House this year are on the Republican ticket, "far more than the previous high of 133 in the 2010 midterms." [Gen, Vox]


Jerry Sloan, the Hall of Fame coach who propelled the Utah Jazz to 1,223 wins, died Friday at 78. The Jazz announced the news on Friday, saying Sloan had died of complications from Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia. His 23 seasons with the Jazz made him the winningest coach in the franchise's history, and the third winningest coach in NBA history at the time of his retirement. While in Utah, Sloan led the Jazz to 20 postseason appearances. They twice made it to the NBA finals, losing to the Chicago Bulls both times. Sloan, who also enjoyed a productive playing career mainly with the Bulls, was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009, and retired from the sideline in 2011. "Jerry Sloan will always be synonymous with the Utah Jazz," the team said in a statement. [NBA.com, The Week]

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