A Late Summer COVID-19 Surge

Happy Friday! Embrace today with the joyful naiveté of the Miami Marlins employee who mistakenly ran onto the field yesterday, grabbed a ball that was still in play, and chucked it into the stands, allowing Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers to score.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Biden administration is weighing a move that would keep migrant families detained crossing into the United States illegally close to the border in Texas while their asylum claims are processed, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday. Such a “remain-in-Texas” policy could aid authorities in deporting families that don’t qualify for asylum, but would likely face stiff opposition from border states and immigrant advocacy groups. The U.S. Border Patrol arrested 91,000 migrants who crossed the border in a family group in August—the highest monthly record to date. 
  • German Rivera—one of the conspirators charged in the 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse—pleaded guilty in federal court in Florida on Thursday to aiding and supporting the plot. Rivera—a retired Colombian army colonel—had previously pleaded not guilty after he was extradited to the U.S. this year, but is now cooperating with prosecutors still trying to get to the bottom of the plot. Rivera is one of 11 defendants in the case—one other defendant has pleaded guilty so far and was sentenced to life in prison earlier this year.
  • The U.S. is shifting some troops and equipment out of an American air base near the Nigerien capital of Niamey and to another base in central Niger following the country’s military takeover in July, Pentagon officials said yesterday. According to a spokesperson, the move was made “out of an abundance of caution” and there was no threat of violence. A small number of non-essential personnel will withdraw from the country—there are currently 1,100 American troops in Niger. France maintains 1,500 troops in the country and is currently in talks with Niger’s junta about removing their military presence.  
  • President Joe Biden announced on Thursday his intent to nominate Michael Whitaker to serve as the head of the Federal Aviation Administration. Whitaker is currently an executive at Supernal—a Hyundai company working on an electric aircraft—and previously served as deputy FAA administrator in the Obama administration. The nomination comes amid an increase in safety incidents and near misses between commercial planes.
  • Peter Navarro—a trade adviser to former President Donald Trump—was found guilty of criminal contempt of Congress yesterday for refusing to testify before the House January 6 Committee. He is the second Trump aide or confidant to be convicted of contempt for not complying with a subpoena from the select committee. Steve Bannon was sentenced to four months in jail and a $6,500 fine last October, and is currently appealing the conviction. Navarro is scheduled to be sentenced on January 12.  

A COVID-19 Uptick

People wait in line for a free COVID-19 test in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
People wait in line for a free COVID-19 test in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s been 316 days since we last devoted a full edition of TMD to an update on COVID-19 in the United States. Today, the clock restarts.

For many of us, daily concern about COVID-19 faded from our lives long ago. But, there are indications the virus is making a comeback. Here at The Dispatch, Declan Garvey was our canary in a coal mine, going down for the count with the virus in early August (but still managing to host Dispatch Live, muting himself every time he had to cough). For the general public, another anecdotal sign came on Monday evening, when first lady Jill Biden tested positive for the virus. It’s her second go-round (or third, if you count “rebound” cases), after she and President Joe Biden contracted COVID-19 late last summer.  

The virus does indeed seem to be on the rise again, though the infrastructure we once used to track such surges has been largely dismantled. New Omicron subvariants—EG.5 and the ascendant BA.2.86—don’t appear to be more severe than the XBB.1.5 subvariant that drove infections in the spring, but they may be better able to infect people who otherwise had some immunity to the virus, either from contracting COVID-19 itself or from being vaccinated and boosted. Vaccine manufacturers say their newest booster protects against the latest strains in circulation, but if past is prologue, not many people are going to get the shot. Even if case counts continue their upward trajectory, however, don’t hold your breath waiting for shutdowns or mask mandates to return.

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