10 things you need to know today: November 21, 2020

Tim O'Donnell

1.

The United States is approaching 12 million coronavirus cases, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows. On Friday, the country set a new record with more than 195,000 infections over the past 24 hours. Hospitalizations have also reached record levels, leaving health care systems overwhelmed in several states, while deaths — a lagging factor — are returning to figures not seen since May. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, told CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta that the latest wave of COVID-19 is "faster" and "broader" than previous ones. "And what worries me," she said, is that it "could be longer." The virus' resurgence is global — Iran is shutting down business and travel, Russia reported daily highs in deaths and infections Saturday, and Toronto is going into lockdown. India, South Korea, and Hong Kong have also seen upswings. [CNN, The Associated Press]

2.

Michigan's Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R), the two state GOP lawmakers who met with President Trump at the White House on Friday, issued a joint statement following the encounter that they "have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan" and, therefore, they will "follow the normal process regarding Michigan's electors." After several legal setbacks, Trump was seemingly attempting to discourage Shirkey and Chatfield from certifying the presidential results in Michigan — where President-elect Joe Biden holds a 150,000-vote advantage — and instead have the state's GOP legislators choose electors for Trump. A person familiar with the content of Friday's meeting told The Wall Street Journal that Trump didn't directly pressure the lawmakers to block the vote from certification. [Reuters, The Wall Street Journal]

3.

After a hand recount was completed, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) certified the state's presidential election results on Friday after Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) did the same, meaning Georgia's 16 electoral votes will go to President-elect Joe Biden. Kemp, however, left open the possibility of another recount, should the Trump campaign request one within the next two business days. While Raffensperger has ardently defended Georgia's election process, Kemp said he is "frustrated" with what the initial audit revealed, including the discovery of uncounted ballots in multiple counties. That resulted in Trump picking up several hundred votes, though it was far from enough to flip the state. Ultimately, Kemp said he "formally" certified the vote because he's "legally bound to take this step" as Georgia's governor. [CBS News, The Atlanta Journal Constitution]

4.

Pfizer said Friday that it's submitting its application to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine. If the FDA and its independent scientific advisers decide the vaccine is safe and effective enough at a meeting in early December, the first shots could quickly go out to groups of Americans, according to criteria to be determined by another government group. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech announced earlier this week that its vaccine had proved 95 percent effective in its large, ongoing human trial, and emergency use authorization means the FDA will continue to monitor the study. Pfizer said it has also started applications for approval in Britain and Europe. [The Associated Press]

5.

Nearly two dozen rockets hit Kabul's heavily fortified Green Zone, where many embassies and international firms are based, on Saturday, reportedly killing at least eight civilians and wounding at least 31 others in the Afghan capital. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, and the Taliban, which is involved in peace talks with the Afghanistan government as the sides seek an end to their decades-long conflict, denied involvement, saying it does "not blindly fire on public places." Tariq Arian, a spokesman for Afghanistan's interior ministry, said the perpetrators mounted the rockets on a small truck and set them off, adding that an investigation is under way. [Al Jazeera, Agence France-Presse]

6.

Donald Trump Jr., the president's oldest son, tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week, three people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg. A spokesman confirmed the news to The Washington Post, as well. The younger Trump is reportedly asymptomatic and has been isolating since he received the result. He is the latest in a string of people associated with the White House, including President Trump, to have contracted the virus over the past few months. Trump Jr.'s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, who serves as an adviser to the president, tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this year. [The Washington Post, Bloomberg]

7.

The Group of 20 summit will be held virtually this weekend, with Saudi Arabia serving as host. The two-day meeting featuring leaders of the world's wealthiest nations is expected to focus on the coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis it has caused. Climate change will also reportedly be a primary topic during the event. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Chinese President Xi Jinping are among the leaders scheduled to give speeches, and President Trump will also participate, though it's unclear at which events he'll appear. Trump has not made many public appearances since losing the presidential election to President-elect Joe Biden earlier this month. He has still not conceded the race. [The Hill, France 24]

8.

Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old charged with killing two people during Kenosha, Wisconsin, protests over the summer, was released Friday after posting bail. Rittenhouse was charged with homicide, attempted homicide, and other charges in the Aug. 25 shooting deaths of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber in Kenosha. His attorney paid a $2 million cash bond on Friday, and Rittenhouse left the Kenosha County Jail that afternoon. In late August, thousands of people turned out in Kenosha to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Members of militia groups and others claiming to be defending Kenosha businesses — Rittenhouse seemingly among them — also turned up and clashed with protesters. Rittenhouse, who is from Illinois, was extradited to Wisconsin at the end of October to face homicide and attempted homicide charges. Rittenhouse's lawyers say he plans to plead not guilty to all charges, as they claim his actions were taken in self defense. [The Associated Press, The Week]

9.

A gunman opened fire at The Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, on Friday afternoon, injuring eight people, authorities said. The extent of their injuries is unknown, but the victims — seven adults and one teenager — were reportedly all alive when taken to the hospital. The suspect, whom witnesses described as a white male in his 20s or 30s, had not been identified or arrested by police as of 9:30 p.m. on Friday. A preliminary investigation, however, has led law enforcement to believe the shooting was not a random act, but the result of an altercation. The mall will be closed Saturday as investigators continue their work. [ABC News, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

10.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) will receive this year's International Emmy Founders Award later this month for his "leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic" and "his masterful use of TV to inform and calm people around the world," the International Emmys announced. Cuomo presented daily televised press briefings through the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic as New York saw the highest case counts in the U.S. "The governor's 111 daily briefings worked so well because he effectively created television shows, with characters, plot lines, and stories of success and failure," International Academy President and CEO Bruce L. Paisner said in a press release. Cuomo also recently published a book about his leadership during the pandemic, though it's still far from over. [International Emmy Awards]

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