Live updates: Amid protests and campaign rallies, health officials warn that mass gatherings still pose health risks

Live updates: Amid protests and campaign rallies, health officials warn that mass gatherings still pose health risks

Please NoteThe Washington Post is providing this important information about the coronavirus for free. For more free coverage of the coronavirus pande

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Live updates: Amid protests and campaign rallies, health officials warn that mass gatherings still pose health risks

Please NoteThe Washington Post is providing this important information about the coronavirus for free. For more free coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter where all stories are free to read.President Trump will deliver a commencement address at West Point in a socially distanced ceremony Saturday morning, as health officials caution that mass gatherings of any type could worsen the spread of the novel coronavirus.The warning comes as the 2020 election heats up and nationwide protests against racism and police brutality stretch into their third week. Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the South and West have spiked, with several states, including Texas and North Carolina, reporting record numbers of new infections in recent days.Here are some significant developments:Beijing’s biggest meat and vegetable market was shut down after the discovery of a cluster of coronavirus cases, raising the prospect of a second wave of infections.Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, cautioned Friday that it was still a “danger” and “risky” for people to gather in big groups, whether a protest or political rally.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new pandemic guidelines that include a recommendation saying cloth face coverings were “strongly encouraged” at events that involve shouting, chanting or singing.Public safety experts, business leaders and local officials expressed anxiety Friday that the decision to move most of the Republican presidential convention to Jacksonville, Fla., will needlessly endanger the health of participants and state residents already grappling with a record high number of new coronavirus cases.Joe Biden ratcheted up some of his criticism of Trump on Friday, saying that his handling of the coronavirus was “almost criminal” and that he has “bungled” the economic fallout.Minnesota leaders are claiming the state is better prepared for a second wave of the novel coronavirus, if it follows similar patterns of other states across the country that have relaxed social distancing and are now seeing an uptick in cases and hospitalizations.Sign up for our coronavirus newsletter | Mapping the spread of the coronavirus: Across the U.S. | Worldwide | Which states are reopening | Has someone close to you died of covid-19? Share your story with The Washington Post.June 13, 2020 at 9:23 AM EDTTrump to speak at socially distanced West Point graduationPresident Trump will deliver a commencement address to the graduating class of West Point in a socially distanced ceremony Saturday morning.About 1,100 newly minted Army second lieutenants returned to the campus from their homes in May to quarantine for up to three weeks to attend Trump’s speech. The event will be live-streamed so that friends and family of the graduates, who are not allowed to attend the event in person, can watch. Graduates will be seated six feet apart.White House spokesman Judd Deere told The Washington Post that Trump’s speech is subject to change, but the plan is to highlight the cadets’ accomplishments.“It’s a commencement address and the focus should be on the cadets, not on anything else,” Deere said.The ceremony comes as the coronavirus pandemic rages and national discourse continues about the use of the military on domestic soil to quell protests against police brutality. Trump’s previous calls for military force against protesters have stoked criticism, including among rank and file.Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who took issue with participating in Trump’s photo op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, are not expected to attend the ceremony.A coalition of more than 500 West Point graduates from classes spanning six decades penned an open letter this week to the Class of 2020, emphasizing their responsibility to avoid partisan politics.“The abhorrent murder of George Floyd has inspired millions to protest police brutality and the persistence of racism,” they wrote. “Sadly, the government has threatened to use the Army in which you serve as a weapon against fellow Americans engaging in these legitimate protests. Worse, military leaders, who took the same oath you take today, have participated in politically charged events.” By Meryl KornfieldJune 13, 2020 at 9:05 AM EDTCiting pandemic, federal judge bars Seattle police from using pepper spray and tear gas A federal judge in Washington state on Friday temporarily barred authorities in Seattle from using pepper spray and tear gas against protesters, supporting arguments by a local Black Lives Matter chapter that the less-lethal weapons could facilitate the spread of the novel coronavirus.U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones ruled that police indiscriminately had fired an excessive amount of the chemicals at mostly peaceful protesters during demonstrations sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.Jones said the officers’ actions probably violated the protesters’ First Amendment rights and posed health risks to demonstrators.“These protests occur during a pandemic,” the judge wrote, “the spread of which may be exacerbated by chemical irritants such as tear gas and pepper spray.” The judge’s order also temporarily prohibited Seattle police from using flash-bangs, the loud, bright grenadelike rounds that authorities use to disperse crowds.In court papers, the Seattle-King County chapter of Black Lives Matter argued that the crowd-control weapons caused protesters to panic and flee. This pushed already large crowds into tight spaces, the group said, “increasing the likelihood of spread of covid-19.” The plaintiffs also cited open letters from elected officials and health officials warning that using chemical agents against demonstrators could cause them to cough and experience respiratory inflammation, making them more susceptible to infection.“Police tactics are exacerbating health risks amidst a devastating respiratory pandemic,” read a June 7 letter signed by two dozen city, county and state officials.The city contended that the use of force by police was appropriate because some people were engaging in “significant arson events, assaults on civilians and officers, as well as widespread looting and property destruction.” Stay safe and informed as the United States reopens with our free Coronavirus Updates newsletter.By Derek HawkinsJune 13, 2020 at 8:11 AM EDTCluster of cases discovered around Beijing market, raising prospect of second wave of infectionsA district in central Beijing has gone into “wartime mode” after discovering a cluster of coronavirus cases around the biggest meat and vegetable market in the city, raising the prospect of a second wave of infections in the sensitive capital, the seat of the Chinese Communist Party.The discovery of dozens of infections, both symptomatic and asymptomatic, underscores the perniciousness of the virus and its propensity to spread despite tight social controls.“We would like to warn everyone not to drop their guard even for a second in epidemic prevention control: we must be prepared for a prolonged fight with the virus,” Xu Hejian, a spokesman for the Beijing municipal government, said at a news conference Saturday.Read more here.By Anna FifieldJune 13, 2020 at 7:39 AM EDTAs coronavirus cases climb, some local officials put reopening on holdA rise in coronavirus cases is spurring leaders in some cities and states to delay reopening additional businesses and warn that a return to stricter shutdown orders is possible should cases continue to climb.White House guidelines for reopening called for states to reevaluate after each phase and move backward if the virus spreads. Nationwide, few officials have publicly done so, and states with rapidly increasing caseloads and hospitalizations are moving forward with reopening amid political and economic pressure to return to normal. Increased testing in some states has contributed to the uptick.But officials in North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas — all states with recent record highs — are now proceeding with increased caution. Some local officials are doing so in direct conflict with the governor.Read more here.By Rachel WeinerJune 13, 2020 at 6:43 AM EDTBritish authorities urge Londoners not to attend protestsLONDON — The London Metropolitan Police on Saturday urged protesters not to descend on the British capital amid concerns about the pandemic and potential clashes between anti-racist protesters and far-right groups.The death of George Floyd has sparked outrage and protests around the world. In London, demonstrators were expected to hit the streets for the third weekend in a row.The Metropolitan Police Commander Bas Javid said, “I absolutely understand why people want to make their voices heard. But the government is clear, and that is, we remain in a health pandemic.” He said that for those who were intent on coming anyway should comply with rules on social distancing.Priti Patel, Britain’s home secretary, tweeted on Saturday: “We are in the grip of an unprecedented national health emergency. This severe public health risk forces me to continue to urge people not to attend protests this weekend.”On both sides of the Atlantic, protesters have ignored the bans on large public gatherings and come together to voice their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.Last weekend in the U.K., over 100,000 protesters took to the streets in cities up and down the country. Protesters in Bristol topped a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in to the harbor while in London, the statue of Winston Churchill was tagged with “was a racist.”On Friday, a number of statues, including Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were boarded up amid fears that protesters this weekend could target them.Read more here.By Karla Adam
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