Your Sunday Update: Kids Can Get Free Lunch at Local Libraries, Some Central Florida Pubs, Restaurants Close Temporarily, How The Lockdown Has Changed Lives
Don’t forget: Monday the Orange County CARES Act portal reopens
Danielle Prieur, WMFE
The Orange County CARES Act portal will reopen Monday at 8 am. The site opened twice last week.
Slightly more than 3,300 residents have successfully completed the application for the one-time $1,000 grant.
RECORDATORIO: Las solicitudes volverán a abrir, 6/15, 8 a.m. El programa permitirá que 25,000 residentes ingresen al portal antes de cerrar. Los solicitantes ahora tendrán menos documentos para presentar para acelerar el proceso de solicitud.
— Orange County FL (@OrangeCoFL) June 14, 2020
The site will allow 25,000 people to apply before shutting down for the day.
The county says fewer supplemental documents are required to apply.
Kids can get a library book, free lunch at select Orange County Library branches
Danielle Prieur, WMFE
Kids eighteen years and younger can get free lunch at six Orange County Library branches, Monday through Friday through the USDA’s Summer BreakSpot program.
Volunteers and staff members distribute the meals out of OCPS Mobile Lunch Vehicles. No meals will be served July 3 in observance of Independence Day.
The @OCPS_FNS Mobile Lunch Vehicles are offering Grab-and-Go meals to kids under age 18 at select library locations.
See locations and times of service on our website: https://t.co/UzR61EasLS
The OCPS Mobile Lunch Vehicles are part of the USDA Summer BreakSpot. pic.twitter.com/ZFx5RGleZC
— OCLS (@oclslibrary) June 14, 2020
The program ends July 31.
The weekly schedule is as follows:
Chickasaw Branch: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Fairview Shores Branch: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Hiawassee Branch: 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
South Creek Branch: 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
North Orange Branch: 12:45 – 1:45 p.m.
South Trail Branch: 1 – 2 p.m.
Some pubs closing temporarily as Florida virus cases rise
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Some Florida bars and restaurants are temporarily closing their doors after being back open for just a few weeks because workers or patrons have tested positive for the new coronavirus.
The closures come as the number of new daily coronavirus cases in Florida once again exceeded 2,000 cases on Sunday.
The Florida Department of Health reported that Florida had 75,568 total cases and 2,931 related deaths.
In the Orlando suburb of Altamonte Springs, a restaurant closed temporarily after some patrons tested positive. Three bars in downtown St. Petersburg and two restaurants in the city’s restaurant district have temporarily closed recently after several staffers tested positive for the virus.
Floridians mark Trump’s birthday with flotillas, caravans during pandemic
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Trump supporters in Florida were celebrating the president’s birthday Sunday with caravans, flotillas and parades throughout his adopted homestate.
In Palm Beach County home of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort separate caravans of trucks, motorcycles and boats were riding along highways and the intercoastal waterway at various times in the morning in order to maintain social distancing.
The organizers were part of the president’s Florida re-election effort.
An anti-Trump caravan also was riding through the county on Sunday to protest racism and call for police reforms.
Pro-Trump flotillas also were planned for Fort Lauderdale, Miami, the Florida Keys, Tampa, Pensacola and Jacksonville.
Take a minute, with It’s Been a Minute to celebrate some good news this week
Sam Sanders, NPR
Amidst all the heavy news, it’s important to remember there are still good things happening. Here are just a few “best things” from our listeners. pic.twitter.com/OWt9jbwRCA
— It’s Been A Minute (@NPRItsBeenAMin) June 12, 2020
Amidst all the heavy news, it’s important to remember there are still good things happening. Here are just a few “best things” from our listeners.
GLOBAL PHOTOS: How lockdown has changed my life
The Everyday Projects, NPR
How has the novel coronavirus changed your life? Show us in a picture.
That is the assignment we gave to the more than 600 photographers who work with The Everyday Projects — contributing to Instagram accounts from countries in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, North America and Europe.
Their mission is “to challenge stereotypes that distort our understanding of the world.”
In this case, they found that parts of their lives had been altered dramatically. But they also took comfort in showing how ordinary activities could still go on — and give a sense of comfort.
The images they submitted to NPR are a visual testament to the unforeseeable changes that came in 2020 as this virus swept the globe, triggering a pandemic that has altered the way we all live.
Here are images submitted to NPR for this project. They are pictures of uncertainty and of sorrow, but also of joy and hope, which have not been destroyed even in this most difficult of times.
Check out the photos here.
Hacking, phishing, surveillance, disinformation…these are tools used to silence dissidents and influence elections. But what happens when these same methods are used against an ordinary citizen?
The story of a man fighting an enemy he can’t see and becoming increasingly paranoid.
Which makes him a lot like the rest of us. What happens when you no longer know how to trust?
Locusts are a plague of biblical scope in 2020. Why? and … what are they exactly?
Pranav Baskar, NPR
Titanic swarms of desert locusts resembling dark storm clouds are descending ravenously on the Horn of Africa. They’re roving through croplands and flattening farms in a devastating salvo experts are calling an unprecedented threat to food security. On the ground, subsistence planters can do nothing but watch — staring up with horror and at their fields in dismay.
Locusts have been around since at least the time of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt, 32 B.C., despoiling some of the world’s weakest regions, multiplying to billions and then vanishing, in irregular booms and busts.
If the 2020 version of these marauders stay steady on their warpath, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization says desert locusts can pose a threat to the livelihoods of 10 percent of the world’s population.
The peril may already be underway: Early June projections by the FAO are forecasting a second generation of spring-bred locusts in Eastern Africa, giving rise to new, powerful swarms of locust babies capable of wreaking havoc until mid-July or beyond.
Here are five things you need to know about locusts to understand the current crisis — and why the tiny invaders are such a big deal.
The pandemic closed the border and this engaged couple was stuck on opposite sides
Eilis O’Neil, NPR
Ryan Hamilton and Savannah Koop had planned to get married on May 8. Hamilton lives in Bellingham, Wash., and Koop lives just across the border in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
But, on March 21, the U.S.-Canada border closed to all nonessential travel, and will remain closed until at least June 21. Unfortunately for Hamilton and Koop, visiting loved ones — and attending one’s own wedding — are not considered essential travel.
The two met on a dating app last July and traveled easily back-and-forth across the international border to see each other.
Koop was two hours late for their first date.
“I blamed it on the border line,” Koop said, “but I probably only waited one hour at the border line-up.”
Nonetheless, she said, border waits were “my excuse quite often, because I’m usually — I’m not punctual.”
By fall, they were talking about marriage.
“I used to say, ‘In eight to nine years, when we get engaged eventually,'” Hamilton said, “and then she said, ‘that’s not a funny joke anymore.'”
They started looking at rings and Koop made it clear she didn’t want “glitz and glam and a big diamond,” but rather preferred a simple gold band.
“I was vocally one of those guys who was like, ‘I will never propose with just a simple gold band,'” Hamilton said.
But when they decided to get engaged, their timeline was short.
“There was a week and a half for me to get a ring, so it was either propose with no ring or propose with a simple gold band,” Hamilton said.
Gold band it was.
Soon after Hamilton and Koop got engaged, the coronavirus pandemic started to take off in North America.
“We had had an inkling that the borders were going to close, and I was checking the news every single hour,” Koop said.
The news came on March 20: the border was closing, effective the very next day.
“I think I bawled,” Koop said. The couple panicked as they tried to sort out if one should go to the other to get across the border before it closed.
“And then the day was over,” Koop said. “That was incredibly heartbreaking.”
The date for their wedding came and went, and the border remained closed.
Koop grew tired of FaceTime and suggested they meet up.
They looked at a map and found a place along the border where they could park, one on each side of the ditch separating the two countries.
“I’m sitting in my car and I see Ryan’s car coming up, and I’m just like, ‘Whoa, there’s Ryan! I can see him!'” Koop said. “And I just cried so hard. It was just like streams of tears coming down my face.”
But see each other is all they could do.
“It’s quite a wide ditch,” Koop said. “It’s too wide — way wider than six feet.”
They went for a walk, each staying on their side of the ditch. Then it became a regular visit.
“The next week, we went almost every day,” Hamilton said.
Over time they saw other families and couples doing the same thing.
But finally, Peace Arch Park reopened. The park is on the border between Washington state and British Columbia, and pedestrians from each country can meet without officially having to cross the border.
Now, Hamilton and Koop can get together after work, hold hands and share food.
They say the dates are nice, but what they really want is to be married.
“We haven’t been indoors together in almost three months,” Koop said. “It is, like, surreal to be like, ‘Oh, Ryan’s supposed to be my husband right now, but he’s not.'”
Hamilton still lives with three roommates, but wishes he was living with Koop.
“It’s weird not to be able to even start our life together,” Hamilton said. “We’re just stuck.”
While they wait for the border to open back up, Hamilton and Koop have been meeting with immigration lawyers and financial planners, doing their best to map out the future.
They say they have faith things will work out, eventually.
Care-free days at theme parks giving way to virus safeguards
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Amusement parks around the U.S. are getting ready to welcome back visitors.
But just like everywhere else, there will be plenty of changes to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Most will have temperature checks at their gates and limit how many people are allowed in each day.
Big theme park operators including Disney and Six Flags will require all guests to wear masks.
Some parks have done trial runs with employees to figure out social distancing on rides and plan on cutting down long lines.
Disney’s Florida parks will open in July, but without parades, fireworks and character greetings.
As California trains 20,000 contact tracers, librarians and tax assessors step up
April Dembosky, NPR
After more than two months at home, Lisa Fagundes really misses her work managing the science fiction book collection of the San Francisco Public Library. She feels like she’s in withdrawal, longing to see new books, touch them, smell them. “It’s like a disease,” she says, laughing.
But recently, she’s been learning how to combat a different disease: COVID-19. While libraries are closed, Fagundes is one of dozens of librarians in San Francisco training to become contact tracers, workers who call people who have been exposed to the coronavirus and ask them to self-quarantine so they don’t spread it further.
Librarians are an obvious choice for the job, says Fagundes, who normally works at the information desk of the San Francisco Main Library. They’re curious, they’re tech savvy, and they’re really good at getting people they barely know to open up.
“Because a lot of times patrons come up to you and they’re like, ‘Uh, I’m looking for a book –’ and they don’t really know what they’re looking for or they don’t know how to describe it,” Fagundes says.
Or they’re teens afraid to admit out loud that they’re looking for books about sex or queer identity. Fagundes is used to coaxing it out of them in an unflappable, non-judgmental way. Similar skills are needed for contact tracing, which involves asking people about their health status and personal history.
“Talking about sensitive subjects is a natural thing for librarians,” she says. “It’s a lot of open ended questions, trying to get people to feel that you’re listening to them and not trying to take advantage or put your own viewpoint on their story.”
Fagundes is part of the first team of contact tracers trained through a new virtual academy based at the University of California – San Francisco. The state awarded the university an $8.7 million contract in May to expand the academy and train 20,000 new contact tracers throughout California by July — one of the largest such efforts in the country.
Ramping up to be ready for new cases
California Gov. Gavin Newsom says counties need 15 contact tracers for every 100,000 residents to adequately contain the virus after shelter-in-place orders are lifted.
Smaller contact tracing teams have been able to manage the work load in recent months, while most people have been staying home. Local health officials said each new person who tested positive for the coronavirus was in close contact with an average of four or five people while infectious — usually family members and neighbors.
But as counties begin allowing businesses to re-open, a person’s average contacts will go up to 40, and will be much harder to locate, necessitating a larger workforce to identify and call them.
“You have a four- or five-day window to find people and get them isolated, which is what we do instead of treat them, because we don’t have treatment for COVID,” says Dr. George Rutherford, a UCSF professor of epidemiology who is leading the training effort.
Read the full article here.
The N95 respirator has become one of the most coveted items in the world, especially by medical professionals.
But how did this seemingly simple mask become the lifesaving tool it is today?
From bird beaks to wrapping paper to bras, we follow the curious history of one of the most important defenses in our fight against COVID-19.
Risks of home birth loom for women in rural Africa amid lockdowns
Patrick Adams, NPR
One of the indirect effects of the Ebola epidemic that tore through West Africa between 2014 and 2016 was the dramatic decline in access to care for pregnancy and childbirth, increasing the risk of injury or death among expectant mothers across the affected zone.
Now experts worry the novel coronavirus could have the same effect in poor countries around the world, worsening a global maternal mortality rate the World Health Organization has described as “unacceptably high.”
In a study published in May in the Lancet Global Health, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said the spillover effects of COVID-19 could result in an additional 56,700 maternal deaths over the next six months in 118 low- and middle-income countries.
Even in the best of times, these countries account for an estimated 94% of the 295,000 maternal deaths recorded annually worldwide, the bulk of them in sub-Saharan Africa. The leading cause of those deaths is what’s known as postpartum hemorrhage, or excessive blood loss after the birth of a baby. And that’s driven in large part by the fact that, for a variety of reasons, millions of women still deliver at home (or en route to a health facility), many of them with no one else present.
Despite early predictions that the coronavirus would wreak havoc in African countries, many have so far managed to limit its spread, offering lessons for the world. Still, the United Nations has raised the alarm about the grave threat to women and girls, predicting that reductions in routine health services and access to contraceptives could result in 7 million unintended pregnancies.
“Left unchecked, these reductions … will be more catastrophic for mothers and children than COVID-19 itself,” wrote Henrietta Fore, executive director of the U.N. Children’s Fund, in a mid-May commentary to the Lancet Global Health.
“There may likely be a decrease in facility births,” says Jeffrey Smith, deputy director of maternal and child health at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is a funder of NPR and of this blog. “That’s what we saw at the height of the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone,” all places where a woman’s risk of bleeding out in childbirth was already very high.
Read the full article here.
Five coronavirus treatments in development
Joe Palca, NPR
Right now, there is only one drug shown by rigorous scientific testing to be helpful for treating COVID-19. That drug is the antiviral medication called remdesivir, made by Gilead Sciences. But remdesivir’s proven benefits are modest: reducing hospital stays from 15 to 11 days.
So there’s an urgent need for better therapies. The good news is that there are some on the horizon. Some are being tested now, some will begin testing soon, and others are in the beginning of the pipeline.
Researchers expect to see a benefit from treating COVID-19 with convalescent plasma. This is plasma taken from patients who have had the disease and recovered. Their plasma contains the antibodies their bodies made to successfully fight off the disease, so the theory goes that giving those antibodies to people currently sick with COVID-19 could help them recover. It’s an approach that has been used in the past to treat diseases for which there were no effective medicines, including SARS and Ebola, although results are mixed.
There are several efforts underway to expand the use of convalescent plasma for treating COVID-19 patients even before its benefit has been proven. The Mayo Clinic is leading one effort, Michigan State University leads another.
A similar approach uses something called hyperimmune globulins. These are concentrated versions of the antibodies contained in the convalescent plasma.
In addition to using plasma products for therapies, they might also be used to prevent infection in medical workers and other high-risk individuals.
Remdesivir is what’s known as an antiviral drug. It blocks the ability of the coronavirus to make copies of itself and thereby spread through someone’s body.
Antiviral drugs that have been used to treat other viral infections including HIV are also being tried for COVID-19, so far without proven success.
But a new kind of antiviral drug that appears promising is called EIDD-2801.
It was created by scientists at a not-for-profit biotech company owned by Emory University. Studies in animals have shown it can reduce the symptoms of SARS, another disease caused by a coronavirus. Last month, the pharmaceutical giant Merck signed a collaborative agreement with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to develop EIDD-2801, which has already begun testing in humans in the United Kingdom. One significant advantage EIDD-2801 has over remdesivir is that it can be taken as a pill rather than intravenously.
Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made molecules that can mimic the human immune system’s antibodies. They can be used to target cancer cells, or other undesirable cells, such as those that have been infected with viruses. They have been used successfully to treat a wide range of diseases, from cancer to rheumatoid arthritis.
They work by supplementing a person’s own immune system with antibodies targeted against a specific invader. In the case of COVID-19, that would be antibodies targeted against specific regions of the coronavirus.
From the earliest days of the pandemic, researchers have focused on monoclonal antibodies as a potential treatment.
“There are a variety of monoclonal antibodies in development that look very good,” says John Mellors, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
A second drug based on monoclonal antibodies begins trials in humans today. The drug is actually a cocktail of two monoclonal antibodies, made by the pharmaceutical company Regeneron.
In a forthcoming paper in the journal Science, company scientists show the cocktail approach can reduce the chance the virus will develop resistance to the drug.
The new drug will be tested both as a treatment for patients with mild and severe COVID-19 disease, and as a way to prevent people at high risk of getting infected with the coronavirus from developing the disease.
One of the features of the coronavirus that makes it so devastating to human health is its ability to send someone’s immune system into overdrive.
Inflammation is a result of the immune system’s own efforts to fight off a disease but if that inflammation runs out of control, it can cause severe damage. In the case of COVID-19, that damage is frequently to the lungs, making it hard for a patient to breathe.
There are a variety of drugs already on the market that can be used to tamp down the immune response, and there are existing several drugs being tested on patients with COVID-19. The problem with these drugs is they suppress the immune system, so they may reduce someone’s ability to fight off the virus, thereby making the viral infection worse. Clinicians say it will take time to learn when and how much of these drugs to use to be of most help to patients.
It may be possible to design novel drugs for COVID-19 that are different from anything that currently exists. To that end, the White House has launched The COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium. Part of the idea is to create computer models for how the virus infects cells, and then create ways to block that infection process. It’s also possible that computing and artificial intelligence could identify existing drugs that could be repurposed to treat COVID-19. It also could be used to track best practices in the way treatments are used.
100 miles around a living room, transgender pro wrestler, Onion vs. Secretariat
It’s Only a Game, NPR
Since 2018, Michael Henry Ortiz has been trying to run 100 100-mile races in 100 consecutive weeks.
So what did he do when the COVID-19 pandemic kept him inside his New York City apartment?
Run around his living room, of course!
Also this week on Only A Game, the story of Sam Khandaghabadi, the Iranian American trans pro wrestler who created Hoodslam. And, we re-air our story on the horse named Onion who took on Secretariat … and won. Join us!
Oregon pauses reopening as coronavirus cases rise
Austin Horn, NPR
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has put a temporary pause on all further reopening efforts in the state after it saw the most new cases of the coronavirus in a single day since the start of the pandemic.
“In order to ensure that the virus is not spreading too quickly, I am putting all county applications for further reopening on hold for seven days,” Brown said in a statement. “This is essentially a statewide ‘yellow light.’ It is time to press pause for one week before any further reopening.”
Less than three weeks ago, the seven-day rolling average of new cases in the state was lower than 32. Now, it’s above 100, according to data compiled by The Oregonian newspaper
The pause came just before Oregon’s most populous county, Multnomah, was set to start phase one of reopening, as Oregon Public Radio reported.
The county, which is home to Portland, was planning to have a limited reopening of establishments such as restaurants, gyms, salons and malls. It is the only county in the state that hasn’t moved into the initial phase of reopening.
Brown cited a number of “areas for concern” that the state has been seeing in Multnomah County in its recent coronavirus data.
She said that hospitalizations have gone up there in the last two weeks, a higher percentage of tests are coming back positive, and more than 40% of new cases haven’t been traced back to a source.
“This was not the outcome we anticipated when we submitted our application on June 5,” Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said in a statement. “I understand how difficult this is for businesses, employers and families. But the increase in cases and delay in reopening is a reminder that we are very much still in this.”
Prosecutors question Italy’s top leaders over coronavirus response
Sylvia Poggioli, NPR
Italy’s prime minister and health and interior ministers faced hours of questioning in Rome Friday as prosecutors opened an investigation into possible government mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis.
Investigators want to know why the towns of Alzano Lombardo and Nembro in the northern industrial region of Lombardy were not isolated and declared “red zones” as soon as the first cases were identified. As of now, no one has been charged.
As the first country outside Asia hit by the new coronavirus, Italy was totally unprepared to deal with the new and poorly understood virus. The country reported its first official case of local infection in the town of Codogno on Feb. 21. By that evening, the national government ordered 10 towns in the surrounding province of Lodi into lockdown.
Action was not so swift in the towns of Alzano Lombardo and Nembro, in Bergamo province. They registered their first cases on Feb. 23, but it wasn’t until March 3 that national health officials recommended the two towns be sealed off. Meanwhile, the local branch of the leading business lobby, Confindustria, launched an English-language campaign “#Bergamoisrunning,” playing down the threat of the virus: “Italian governments and responsible agencies have taken immediate protective measures, in order to prevent new cases,” the head of Cofindustria Bergamo said in an online letter.
It was only on March 8, when the entire Lombardy region was locked down, that Alzano Lombardo and Nembro were quarantined. Several experts say that delay allowed the coronavirus to spread to the city of Bergamo, which became the virus epicenter in Italy. The city recorded nearly six times as many deaths in the month of March as the average over the previous five years.
Bergamo became the symbol of Italy’s COVID-19 tragedy when videos showed army trucks carrying coffins from its overwhelmed cemetery to other towns: Caskets were piling up; Bergamo’s crematorium, even working nonstop, could not handle more than 25 bodies a day. Mayor Giorgio Gori says he regrets his city and the surrounding area were not locked down sooner. He told the Foreign Press Association this week, “We didn’t lose five days, we lost two months.”
Asked by the daily La Repubblica if, in hindsight, he should have ordered a lockdown sooner, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said his conscience was clear and that he would not have done anything differently. Conte and his center-left coalition are engaged in a blame game with Lombardy’s right-wing regional government. Lombardy officials say the decision to isolate Alzano Lombardo and Nembro was up to the national government, but officials in Rome say regions have the full authority to order their own lockdowns, as several did in March.
Meanwhile, some 50 families of victims of COVID-19 in Bergamo province have filed formal legal complaints to seek to know whether there was wrongdoing in any of the deaths of their loved ones. They say their aim is not to prosecute individual health care workers but to reveal where the system may have failed.
About 57,000 Italians have joined the families’ Facebook group called Noi Denunceremo (We Will Report). The daily Corriere della Sera reported on Friday that 250 more complaints were about to be filed.
Pandemic perspective: What the 20 poorest and richest countries spend on health care
Huo Jingnan, NPR
Of the world’s poorest states, the Democratic Republic of the Congo spends the least per citizen on health care — $19 per person annually.
And in Sierra Leone, the highest health spender south of the Sahara, it’s over triple — $66 per capita.
That’s still just a fraction of how much the world’s wealthiest countries spend on each of their residents’ health. In the United States, the number is nearly $10,000. Half of the 20 richest countries spend at least $5,000 per person.
While experts warn that higher health spending doesn’t necessarily lead to better outcomes, it helps in a pandemic.
These budgets fund hospitals. They pay for doctors and cover the cost of essential medical supplies and services, like intensive care beds, medication and ventilators.
Strapped health-care budgets and weak infrastructure imperil the coronavirus response and longer-term health outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa, where the world’s poorest countries are clustered, but that’s only part of the picture. For these countries, which have already battled other outbreaks – AIDs, Ebola and tuberculosis – the playbook has always looked different.
With cadets social distancing and a backdrop of tensions, Trump speaks at West Point
Jason Slotkin, NPR
President Trump addressed the graduating class of the U.S. Military Academy on Saturday as the nation continues to grapple with a public health crisis and unrest following the police killing of George Floyd.
The president delivered his remarks at West Point to an audience of more than 1,000 graduating cadets. The in-person speech was a break from the video addresses that have been ubiquitous this graduation season.
During his address, Trump praised the graduating class, highlighting the military academy’s legacy and the work of individual cadets. He invoked the names of famous graduates, such as Generals Douglas MacArthur and George S. Patton, and celebrated the academy’s role in shaping America’s military.
“No force on earth can match the noble power and righteous glory of the American warrior,” Trump said.
The president told cadets that the moment they entered the academy’s grounds, they “became brothers and sisters pledging allegiance to the same timeless principles.”
“You come from the farms and the cities, from states big and small and from every race, religion, color and creed. But when you entered these grounds you became part of one team one family proudly serving one great nation,” the president said.
For most of his remarks, Trump hewed closely to the themes of the commencement ceremony, extrapolating on the school’s motto, “Duty. Honor. Country.” He did not directly address the ongoing nationwide protests against police violence, but did use his remarks to thank the U.S. National Guard in responding to “recent challenges” among them, “ensuring peace, safety and the constitutional rule of law on our streets.”
The remarks came against a backdrop of tensions between the president and current and former military leaders over Trump’s response to nationwide protests over police violence.
Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he disagreed with President Trump’s threatened use of the 1807 Insurrection Act to quell the protests.
On Thursday, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he regretted appearing with the president during a photo op that followed the forceful dispersal of peaceful protesters near the White House. The incident prompted a stinging rebuke from the president’s first Secretary of Defense, retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, who called it “an abuse of executive authority.”
The president has also said he opposes renaming military bases named for confederate generals despite bipartisan support in Congress.
During his remarks, the president also mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic referring to the disease as “an invisible enemy” from a “distant land called China.”
“We will vanquish the virus,” Trump said. “We will extinguish this plague.”
The pandemic had a marked effect on the ceremony. Cadets who’d been sent home because of the coronavirus were called back for the ceremony.
During the ceremony, graduates were seated six feet away from each other. Cadets also donned masks as they crossed the stage. There was also no handshakes and family had to watch the ceremony remotely.
Like what you just read? Check out our other coronavirus coverage.
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