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US reports second-highest day of new coronavirus cases as Arizona, California set records

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People stand in line at a clinic offering quick coronavirus testing for a fee in Wilmington on Monday, June 29, 2020.

Brittan Murray | Long Beach Press-Telegram | Getty Images

The U.S. reported more than 44,700 coronavirus cases on Tuesday, the second-highest daily increase since the beginning of the nation’s outbreak, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

The newly reported cases bring the nation’s total to more than 2.63 million cases, roughly a quarter of the globes’ near 10.5 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins.

As of Tuesday, the U.S. reported an average of 41,132 new cases, based on the previous seven days to eliminate fluctuations in daily reporting. Tuesday marked the sixth day that average exceeded previous highs set in April, when some officials thought the U.S. reached its peak.

New cases rose by 5% or more in 40 states across the U.S., including in states like Florida, California and Texas. 

Daily new case counts could surpass 100,000 new infections per day if the outbreak continues at its current pace, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told Congress on Tuesday. He said the U.S. is “not in total control” of the coronavirus pandemic, adding that 50% of new cases are coming from four states: Florida, California, Texas and Arizona.

“I’m very concerned and I’m not satisfied with what’s going on because we’re going in the wrong direction if you look at the curves of the new cases, so we really have got to do something about that and we need to do it quickly,” Fauci told senators in a hearing held by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee

On Wednesday, both California and Arizona reported record increases in new cases, according to their health departments. California state officials later said that some of those new cases were confirmed earlier, but weren’t reported in the state’s official tally until Wednesday due to a backlog in reporting among local health departments. Arizona is nearing max capacity of intensive care unit beds with 1,495, or 89%, of the state’s ICU beds in use as of Tuesday.

Texas reported a record increase in new cases and people hospitalized with Covid-19 on Tuesday, according to the state’s health department. Gov. Greg Abbott ordered hospitals Tuesday to postpone elective surgeries in four additional counties to preserve space for Covid-19 patients. 

There are now eight counties in Texas that have been ordered to postpone elective procedures. On June 25, Abbott suspended procedures in Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties, which include the state’s largest cities: San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and Austin, respectively.

Texas is one of 16 states that are subject to New York’s travel advisory, requiring all travelers headed to New York from those states to quarantine for 14 days. Eight states —  California, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Tennessee — were added to New York’s original list due to “significant community spread” of Covid-19, according to the order.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced a similar advisory on Tuesday that instructs travelers arriving from most states to self-quarantine for 14 days. Visitors from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York and New Jersey are exempt from the directive. 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday that the city will postpone reopening indoor dining areas in restaurants due the sudden surge of cases in other parts of the country. 

“We see a lot of problems and we particularly see problems revolving around people going back to bars and restaurants indoors. Indoors is the problem more and more, the science is showing it more and more,” de Blasio said at a press briefing. 

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy previously announced on Monday that he would also delay reopening indoor dining in the state, which was planned for Thursday. 

— CNBC’s Nate RattnerJasmine Kim and Hannah Miller contributed to this report. 

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Venezuelan court sentences 2 former Green Berets to 20 years in prison

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ID cards of people linked to an operation denounced by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro are displayed during a meeting with members of the Armed Forces in Caracas, Venezuela on May 4, 2020. Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro confirmed the detention of two US “mercenaries” among 13 attackers involved in Sunday’s two failed maritime raids.

Miraflores Presidential Palace | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

A Venezuelan court sentenced two former U.S. special forces soldiers to 20 years in prison for their part in a failed beach attack aimed at overthrowing President Nicolas Maduro, prosecutors announced late Friday.

Former Green Berets Luke Denman and Airan Berry admitted to taking part in the May 4 operation orchestrated by a third ex-U.S. soldier who remains in the United States, Venezuelan’s chief prosecutor Tarek William Saab announced on Twitter.

“THEY ADMITTED THEIR RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE FACTS,” Saab wrote, adding that the case will continue for dozens of other defendants. He did not offer details.

“Operation Gideon” was launched from makeshift training camps in neighboring Colombia and left at least eight rebel soldiers dead while a total of 66 were jailed. Former Green Beret Jordan Goudreau, who operated a private, Florida-based security firm called Silvercorp USA, claimed responsibility for the failed attack.

Venezuelan prosecutors announced that Denman and Berry, both decorated former U.S. service members, were found guilty of conspiracy, trafficking in illegal arms and terrorism.

The two Americans arrested in the coastal fishing community of Chuao have ever since been widely displayed by officials on Venezuelan state TV as proof of their long-held claims that the United States is set on overthrowing Maduro’s socialist government.

The incident also unleashed claims that U.S. backed opposition leader Juan Guaido had authorized Goudreau through a signed agreement to carry out the attack, executed by two of Guaido’s former political advisors.

Guaido and U.S. officials have denied any role in the attack. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would use all possible means to win the freedom of Denman and Berry.

A day before authorities announced that the two ex-Green Berets were sentenced, Venezuelan authorities opened the trial of six American executives of the Houston-based Citgo company. The six men were arrested over two years ago in Venezuela on corruption charges.

The case had lingered for months until former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson met personally in July with Maduro in Caracas to urge they be released so they could return home to the United States.

Both play out amid hostility between Washington and Caracas. The Trump administration last year threw its support behind opposition leader Guaido, who declared he was Venezuela’s legitimate president, vowing to oust Maduro.

Guaido blames Maduro for the once wealthy nation’s economic and social collapse, while the socialist leader says Washington is manipulating Guaido to steal the nation’s vast oil wealth.

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As Trump bans WeChat, some in China turn to encrypted messaging app Signal

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The Signal Messenger app is displayed on a smartphone in Hong Kong, China.

Roy Liu | Bloomberg | Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s executive order banning American use of WeChat, the most popular app in China, takes effect next month, but some in China are already turning to an American app renowned for its privacy protections.

Downloads for Signal, an encrypted chat app that privacy advocates generally regard as best-in-class for everyday use, are spiking in China, a spokesperson for the app said Friday.

The Chinese government heavily regulates domestic internet use, funneling most of its citizens to WeChat, a multipurpose app that offers messaging, games and ridesharing options, among other uses. On Thursday, Trump, citing the likelihood that WeChat sends users’ data to the Chinese government, signed an executive order banning people and companies in the U.S. from engaging in “any transaction” with the app beginning Sept. 20.

It’s unclear whether that would require U.S. companies to cut off access to the app, but the order comes as Trump has threatened broad bans on Chinese tech companies operating in the U.S.

China’s Great Firewall, a censorship system that restricts citizens from directly visiting much of the internet, bans easy access to most other major Western chat programs. While a comparatively small number of Americans use WeChat, a ban would hamper those who use the app to communicate with friends, family or business associates in China.

But Signal isn’t blocked by the Great Firewall, both for iPhones via the App Store and Android via a direct download from Signal’s website, as Google’s Play Store is blocked.

“We are actually not banned in China, believe it or not,” said Jun Harada, a spokesperson for Signal.

While he declined to share actual download numbers because of a policy of not sharing user data, he said downloads in China began to skyrocket in the hours before Trump’s ban. “It’s looking to be on par if not bigger than when we made it to #1 in the App Store in Hong Kong,” he said, referring to a spike in downloads there last month, when China began implementing its National Security Law, which gave the country broad powers to crack down on protests in Hong Kong.

“We think that has helped us to get more mainstream awareness within China but also with the Chinese diaspora,” Harada said.

Signal gets high marks from privacy experts because it stores little information about its users and its messages are end-to-end encrypted, meaning a government that accesses them in transit would only see them encoded.

Yaqui Wang, a China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said she has long used Signal to communicate with people inside China, but cautioned that the government there could move to block it if it catches censors’ eyes, making it all the more difficult for people in the U.S. and China to communicate directly.

“Chinese authorities can block Signal if its popularity surges, just as it did to WhatsApp and Telegram,” Wang said.

“The bifurcation of the internet, the formation of two paralleled information and communication universes is becoming increasingly evident,” she said.

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City in China’s Inner Mongolia issues warning after bubonic plague patient dies

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Authorities in a city in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia issued a warning after a patient who had bubonic plague died of multiple organ failure, state media reported on Saturday.

Cases of plague are not uncommon in China, although outbreaks have become increasingly rare. From 2009 to 2018, China reported 26 cases and 11 deaths.

The patient was confirmed to have bubonic plague, the People’s Daily reported, citing an announcement from the health committee of the Bayan Nur city. The bubonic plague, known as the “Black Death” in the Middle Ages, is a highly infectious and often fatal disease that is spread mostly by rodents.

The committee issued a third-level alert, the second lowest in a four-level system, effective Friday to the end of 2020 to prevent the spread of the disease, the People’s Daily reported.

This marks the second death of a plague patient reported this month in the Inner Mongolia region.

Residential buildings in Baotou city, Inner Mongolia.

Simon Song | South China Morning Post | Getty Images

On Thursday, authorities in Baotou city, which is adjacent to Bayan Nur city, reported that a patient with an “intestinal-type plague” died of circulatory system failure.

Bayan Nur authorities have locked down the area where the dead patient lived and quarantined seven close contacts of the patient, who have tested negative for the disease so far and taken preventive medicines.

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