US President Donald Trump wore a mask for the first time in public during the pandemic while visiting a military hospital in suburban Washington on Saturday.
Trump flew by helicopter to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to meet wounded service members and health care providers caring for COVID-19 patients.
Health officials recommended the facial covering for Trump as a precaution against spreading or becoming infected by the novel coronavirus.
As he left the White House, he told reporters: “When you’re in a hospital, especially ... I think it’s a great thing to wear a mask.”
Trump was wearing a mask in Walter Reed’s hallway as he began his visit. He was not wearing one when he stepped off the helicopter at the facility.
However, the president was a latecomer to wearing a mask during the pandemic, which has raged across the US since March and infected more than 3.2 million and killed at least 134,000.
Most prominent Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence, endorsed wearing masks as the coronavirus gained ground this summer.
Republican governors have been moving toward requiring or encouraging the use of masks as the pandemic has grown more serious in some states in the South and West.
Trump, however, has declined to wear a mask at news conferences, coronavirus task force updates, rallies and other public events.
According to the people close to him, the president feared a mask would make him look weak and was concerned that it shifted focus to the public health crisis rather than the economic recovery. They spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private matters.
While not wearing one himself, Trump sent mixed signals about masks, acknowledging that they would be appropriate if worn in an indoor setting where people were close together.
He accused reporters of wearing them to be politically correct and retweeted messages making fun of Democratic rival Joe Biden for wearing a mask and implying that Biden looks weak.
The universities in California have put up a fight against the US government's decision to push back international students if the concerned universities adopt online teaching method due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the USA on Monday announced that international students won't be allowed to stay in the country if their classes are entirely online in the fall semester triggering a huge outcry from different corners, reports Xinhua.
Meanwhile, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued the federal government on Wednesday in a bid to block the Trump administration's new directive.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, and California State University Chancellor Timothy White announced in a joint statement on Thursday that California is filing a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's "unlawful policy that threatens to exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 and exile hundreds of thousands of college students studying in the United States through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program."
"At a time when COVID-19 cases are surging across the state, the policy requires international students to take classes in person - putting themselves, teachers, other students, and the community at large at risk of getting and spreading the coronavirus - or be subject to deportation," said the officials in the statement.
"Beyond the myriad significant direct harms to individual students, the mission of California's higher education institutions would suffer if international students are forced to disenroll because of the Trump Administration's arbitrary actions. It will also likely further burden educational institutions at a time when the state faces significant budget shortfalls and schools are already struggling to confront the economic and public health impacts of COVID-19," they added.
California is the state with the largest university systems in the US. Officials pointed out that with new COVID-19 cases averaging more than 7,500 a day in the most populous US state over the last week, the Trump administration's policy threatens to turn California's colleges and universities into "super-spreaders" of the disease.
"With this lawsuit, California is standing up for the 21,000 international students who attend our community colleges and standing up for our right to continue teaching and learning in a safe and responsible way during the pandemic," said Oakley.
White also noted that the university stands in the strongest opposition to the policy guidance.
"It is a callous and inflexible policy that unfairly disrupts our more-than 10,300 international students' progress to a degree, unnecessarily placing them in an extremely difficult position. And it deprives all of our students - and the communities, state, and nation we serve - of the remarkable contributions of these international students," White noted.
The University of California (UC) announced plans to file suit against ICE over the rule earlier this week. In a press release issued by the university on Wednesday, UC President Janet Napolitano called the rule "mean-spirited, arbitrary and damaging to America."
UC Board of Regents Chair John A Perez was quoted by the statement as saying that UC has increased online instruction and decreased in-person classes in order to protect students' health amid the COVID-19 pandemic. "It is imperative for UC to file this lawsuit in order to protect our students."
The UC's 2019 fall enrollment data showed that 27,205 of the university's 226,125 undergraduate students are non-resident international while 13,995 of the university's 58,941 graduate students are non-resident international.
The 10-campus UC system enrolled about 38 percent of the state's over 68,000 Chinese international students, who primarily attended San Diego, Irvine, Davis, Berkeley and UCLA, according to a recent report in the Los Angeles Times.
Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne wrote in a Wednesday email that he had sent a letter to the acting secretary of homeland security in opposition to new immigration regulations.
He added that the university in the San Francisco Bay Area will file an amicus brief in support of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The University of Southern California (USC) announced on Wednesday that the university has joined an amicus brief strongly supporting the lawsuit filed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The highly rated private research university located in Los Angeles also noted that it is actively considering all other legal options.
"We are also working with our Congressional delegation and fellow universities on legislative and other solutions to this terribly misguided decision," USC President Carol Folt said in a statement.
"Given the broad range of courses being offered, both in person and online, we are optimistic we will be able to support our international students to study in person safely if they wish, but it may take a few days," the university noted.
"To our international students: If you need to add an in-person course to your schedule to maintain visa status this Fall, it will be provided at no additional cost to you," tweeted USC Office of the Provost on Thursday.
USC is extremely popular with international students. A total of 12,265 international students were enrolled at USC during the 2019-20 academic year, with around 7,000 from China, according to the university's website. Enditem.
Jasmin Pierre was 18 when she tried to end her life, overdosing on whatever pills she could find. Diagnosed with depression and anxiety, she survived two more attempts at suicide, which felt like the only way to stop her pain.
Years of therapy brought progress, but the 31-year-old Black woman’s journey is now complicated by a combination of stressors hitting simultaneously: isolation during the pandemic, a shortage of mental health care providers and racial trauma inflicted by repeated police killings of Black people, reports Associated Press.
“Black people who already go through mental health issues, we’re even more triggered,” said Pierre, who lives in New Orleans. “I don’t think my mental health issues have ever, ever been this bad before.”
Health experts have warned of looming mental health crisis linked to the coronavirus outbreak, and the federal government rolled out a board anti-sicide campaign. But doctors and researchers say the issues reverberate deeper among Black people, who’ve seen rising youth suicide attempts and suffered disproportionately during the pandemic.
Mental health advocates are calling for more specialized federal attention on Black suicides, including research funding. Counselors focusing on Black trauma are offering free help. And Black churches are finding new ways to address suicide as social distancing has eroded how people connect.
“There has been a lot of complex grief and loss related to death, related to loss of jobs and loss of income,” said Sean Joe, an expert on Black suicides at Washington University in St. Louis. “There’s a lot of hurt and pain in America going on right now, and you only are getting a sense of depth in the months ahead.”
Suicides overall have increased. Roughly 48,000 people in the U.S. died by suicide in 2018, with the rate increasing 35% since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among all ages. For ages 10 to 19, it’s second after accidents.
Suicide attempts rose 73% between 1991 and 2017 among Black high school students while suicidal thoughts and plans for suicide fell for all teens, according to a study published in November in the journal Pediatrics. The findings, including troubling suicide trends among Black children, prompted the Congressional Black Caucus to issue a report in December deeming the situation a crisis.
Suicide risk factors include a diagnosis like depression or trauma or having a parent who committed suicide. Many factors are amplified for Black families, who often face higher poverty rates, disproportionate exposure to violence and less access to medical care.
The pandemic has heightened the disparities.
President Donald Trump on Friday commuted the sentence of his longtime political confidant and former advisor Roger Stone.
The move came just days before Stone was to begin serving a 40-month prison sentence for lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing the House investigation.
Stone was found guilty on charges linked to a justice department probe that alleged Russia tried to boost the Trump 2016 campaign
The action, which Trump had foreshadowed in recent days, underscores the president’s lingering rage over special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and is part of a continuing effort by the president and his administration to rewrite the narrative of a probe that has shadowed the White House from the outset.
Democrats, already alarmed by the Justice Department's earlier dismissal of the case against Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, denounced the president as further undermining the rule of law.
Stone, 67, had been set to report to prison on Tuesday after a federal appeals court rejected his bid to postpone his surrender date.
But he told The Associated Press that Trump called him Friday evening to tell him he was off the hook.
“The president told me that he had decided, in an act of clemency, to issue a full commutation of my sentence, and he urged me to vigorously pursue my appeal and my vindication,” Stone said by phone from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he was celebrating with friends.
He said he had to change rooms because there were “too many people opening bottles of Champagne here.”
Although a commutation does not nullify Stone’s felony convictions in the same way a pardon would, it protects him from serving prison time as a result.
The move marks another extraordinary intervention by Trump in the nation's justice system and underscores anew his willingness to flout the norms and standards that have governed presidential conduct for decades. As Trump stares down a coronavirus pandemic that has worsened his chances for reelection, he has been more willing than ever to test the limits of his power.
Democrats denounce Trump's action.
House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff called it “offensive to the rule of law and principles of justice. Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez asked, “Is there any power Trump won’t abuse?”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, in a statement, called Stone a “victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media," and declared, “Roger Stone is now a free man!"
Stone had been open about his desire for a pardon or commutation, appealing for the president’s help with a monthslong television and social media campaign and seeking to postpone his surrender date by months after getting a brief extension from the judge, in part by citing the coronavirus.
Trump, who had made clear in recent days that he was inching closer to acting, had repeatedly publicly inserted himself into Stone’s case, including just before Stone’s sentencing.
That earned a public rebuke from his own attorney general, William Barr, who said the president’s comments were “making it impossible” for him to do his job. Barr was so incensed that he told people he was considering resigning over the matter.
“With this commutation, Trump makes clear that there are two systems of justice in America: one for his criminal friends, and one for everyone else,” Schiff said. “Donald Trump, Bill Barr, and all those who enable them pose the gravest of threats to the rule of law.”
Stone, a larger-than-life political character who embraced his reputation as a dirty trickster, was the sixth Trump aide or adviser to have been convicted of charges brought during Mueller’s investigation.
A longtime Trump friend and informal adviser, Stone boasted during the campaign that he was in contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange through a trusted intermediary and hinted at inside knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans to release more than 19,000 emails hacked from the servers of the Democratic National Committee.
A reporter who attended White House briefings this week has tested positive for Covid-19.
The White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) released the information on Thursday.
The case marks the first known coronavirus case among the White House press corps, reports Xinhua.
The reporter, who has not been named, wore a mask during press briefings with Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Monday and Wednesday, the WHCA said.
"The individual is asymptomatic. We are contacting those who the individual recalled being in closer contact," wrote WHCA President Jonathan Karl in an email.
"Other than the briefings, this person did not spend time working out of the White House and was only in briefing room itself, not elsewhere in our workspace," Karl wrote.
The White House said it would test those present at briefings, according to the WHCA.