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June 16, 2020

New Projection: More than 200k U.S. COVID-19 Deaths by October

This Day in History | 1884

The first roller coaster in America opens at Coney Island, in Brooklyn, New York. The new entertainment was an instant success and by the turn of the century there were hundreds of roller coasters around the country.

Good morning Middle Americans, 

We interrupt this moment of political and racial discord in America to remind you that we are not out of the woods yet when it comes to another invisible enemy – COVID-19. According to Reuters, A “specific mutation in the new coronavirus can significantly increase its ability to infect cells, according to a study by U.S. researchers.”

Meanwhile, the head of Harvard’s Global Health Institute, says that deaths could surpass 200,000 by this Fall. What we are seeing is the wave rolling across America’s heartland. That wave started in New York. We are also learning now that a new mutation of COVID-19 makes it more durable and therefore, more infectious than other strains of the virus. 

Also, we have a couple of stories about BIG Supreme Court rulings, one on LGBTQ rights, the other on gun cases that will have a lasting impact on the country and on the politics of 2020. 

Finally, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says he’ll testify in front of Congress. Break out the popcorn, he’s one of the most polarizing figures in big tech today, and members of both chambers will likely have some ridiculous questions. Hopefully they will be more prepared than Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch was back in 2018 when he asked Facebook how the platform remains ‘free” to it’s users. 

Read all about it. 

-Fraser Dixon

Texas Reports Highest Number of Hospitalized Coronavirus Patients Since Outbreak Began

(CBS News) – On Monday, Texas recorded its highest daily number of patients hospitalized due to the coronavirus — for the fourth day in a row. The record-breaking numbers come as the state continues to reopen its economy.

The state’s Department of Health and Human Services reported 2,326 lab-confirmed COVID-19 patients who are currently in Texas hospitals, bypassing the previous record high on Sunday of 2,287. There are currently 51,365 total staffed hospital beds in the state, with 14,525 hospital beds available. Only 1,626 beds in Intensive Care Units are currently available in the state. 

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Governors Face White House Scrutiny Over Nursing Home Coronavirus Infection Rates

(Time) – A grim blame game with partisan overtones is breaking out over COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents, a tiny slice of the population that represents a shockingly high proportion of Americans who have perished in the pandemic.

The Trump administration has been pointing to a segment of the industry — facilities with low federal ratings for infection control — and to some Democratic governors who required nursing homes to take recovering coronavirus patients.

Homes that followed federal infection control guidelines were largely able to contain the virus, asserts Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, which sets standards and pays the bills. “Trying to finger-point and blame the federal government is absolutely ridiculous,” she says.

Verma says data collected by her agency suggest a connection between low ratings on safety inspections and COVID-19 outbreaks. But several academic researchers say their own work has found no such link.

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Supreme Court Rejects Several Gun Rights Cases for Next Term

(CBS News) – The Supreme Court on Monday turned away a host of challenges to state laws placing restrictions on firearms, declining to take up the contentious matter of gun rights in the U.S. after sidestepping the issue in April.

In declining to take up the appeals, the justices leave intact laws from several states that gun rights supporters said violated their Second Amendment rights. Among the cases turned away were legal battles over laws in at least four states — Massachusetts, Maryland, Illinois and New Jersey — that require residents to meet certain criteria in order to get a permit, including demonstrating a specific need, to carry a handgun outside the home.

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The Supreme Court’s Historic LGBTQ Ruling Is Now a Valuable Legal Weapon Against Bigotry

(The Daily Beast) – LGBTQ campaigners are optimistic that Monday’s historic 6-3 decision at the Supreme Court, making it illegal to fire people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, will have a significant impact on other cases and legislation with LGBTQ discrimination at their heart.

Those include the Trump administration’s ban on trans people serving in the military and a proposed new rule, announced last Friday by Roger Severino, director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to strip transgender health-care protections from Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Find out more here

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Amazon’s Bezos Open to Testifying before Congress

(The Hill) – Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will be available to testify in a House antitrust investigation into major tech companies, according to a letter from a lawyer representing the company obtained by The Hill on Monday.

The e-commerce giant had previously resisted making its CEO available for a House Judiciary Committee hearing, prompting threats of legal action by the lawmakers.

The letter, sent by Robert Kelner of the Covington & Burling law firm and provided to The Hill by a source familiar with the negotiations over the appearance, says that Amazon would make Bezos available to testify at a hearing “with the other CEOs this summer.”

Kelner said that the executive would only appear after some issues on timing, format and questions about the committee’s request for internal documents are resolved.

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