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U.S. spends Easter Sunday on lockdown as COVID-19 death toll tops 21,300

NEW YORK/CHICAGO (Reuters) – Americans spent Easter Sunday on lockdown as the U.S. toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic surpassed 21,300 deaths and more than half a million confirmed cases.

A young couple pray at sunrise on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, where normally thousands of Christians would gather for worship at Easter sunrise, in Washington, U.S. April 12, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

In the latest sign of the disruption wrought by the disease, one of the nation’s largest pork processing plants was shuttered after workers fell ill, and its owner warned the country was moving “perilously close to the edge” in supplies for grocers.

“It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running,” Ken Sullivan, chief executive of Smithfield Foods, said in a statement on Sunday.

With almost all Americans kept indoors under stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of the disease, many turned to online church services to mark the holiest day in the Christian calendar.

The United States has recorded more fatalities from the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus than any other country in the world. Roughly 2,000 deaths a day were reported for the last four days in a row, the largest number in and around New York City. Even that is viewed as understated, as New York is still figuring out how best to include a surge in deaths at home in its official statistics.

(Graphic: Tracking the novel coronavirus in the U.S. – here)

As the death toll has mounted, President Donald Trump mulled over when the country might begin to see a return to normality.

The sweeping restrictions on non-essential movement that were imposed in recent weeks across 42 states have taken a huge toll on commerce and raised questions over how long business closures and travel curbs can be sustained.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits in the last three weeks surpassed 16 million.

The Trump administration sees May 1 as a target date for relaxing the stay-at-home restrictions, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Stephen Hahn, said on Sunday. But he cautioned that it was still too early to say whether that goal would be met.

“We see light at the end of the tunnel,” Hahn told ABC’s “This Week,” adding, “Public safety and the welfare of the American people has to come first. That has to ultimately drive these decisions.”

SUNDAY SERVICES

Most states have issued broad stay-at-home orders that prohibit any large gatherings. In some states, that has sparked legal battles over whether there should be exceptions to attend Easter services in person.

On Saturday, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld an executive order barring more than 10 people from gathering for religious and funeral services. The decision, a victory for Democratic Governor Laura Kelly, followed an attempt by a Republican-led legislative body to overturn the order.

Some religious leaders plan to defy coronavirus bans, saying their right to worship outweighed the warnings.

Reverend Tony Spell told Reuters he expected more than 2,000 to congregate for services on Sunday at his evangelical Life Tabernacle megachurch near Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr will be monitoring the regulation of religious services, Department of Justice spokeswoman Kerri Kupac wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

“While social distancing policies are appropriate during this emergency, they must be applied evenhandedly & not single out religious orgs,” Kupac wrote. “Expect action from DOJ next week!”

In recent days, U.S. public health experts and some governors have pointed to signs that the country is starting to see a turnaround in the fight against the outbreak.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top U.S. infectious disease expert, said he was cautiously optimistic and pointed to the New York metropolitan area, which had its highest daily death toll last week but also saw a decrease in hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and the need to intubate critically ill patients.

“Once you turn that corner, hopefully you’ll see a very sharp decline and then you can start thinking about how we can keep it that way,” Fauci said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“If all of a sudden we decide ‘OK, it’s May whatever,’ and we just turn the switch on, that could be a real problem.”

Fauci and other public health experts say widespread testing will be key to efforts to reopen the economy, including antibody tests to find out who has already had the disease and could be safe to return to work.

Slideshow (6 Images)

The FDA’s Hahn said he was concerned that some antibody tests on the market that had not gone through the FDA scientific review process “may not be as accurate as we’d like them to be.”

“I can assure the American people that what we’re doing is using data and science to look at those tests to make sure that they’re valid, they’re accurate and they’re reproducible,” he said.

New government data shows a summer surge in infections if stay-at-home orders are lifted after only 30 days, according to projections first reported by the New York Times and confirmed by a Department of Homeland Security official.

Reporting by Barbara Goldberg, Tom Polansek, Katie Paul, Doina Chiacu, Ross Colvin, Noeleen Walder, Christopher Bing and Lisa Shumaker; Writing by Daniel Wallis; editing by Diane Craft

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The Woman Accusing Biden of Sexual Assault Filed a Report to Police. Here’s What You Need to Know.

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Around this time last year, Tara Reade was one of several women who’d said former Vice President Joe Biden of touching them in inappropriate, uncomfortable ways. But in late March, Reade appeared on podcaster Katie Halper’s show with a much more serious accusation: that Biden had sexually assaulted her in 1993.

Reade, who worked in Biden’s office back when he was a senator from Delaware, went a step further this week and filed a public incident report with Washington, D.C. police about a 1993 sexual assault. The report, which VICE News has viewed, doesn’t name Biden, but Reade told the New York Times that it’s about him. While the criminal statute of limitations has expired in Washington, D.C., Reade tweeted that she filed the report “for safety reasons only.”

Confusion over her evolving account is rife. When Reade came forward last year, she didn’t mention the assault allegation. Now, her version of events — and, in particular, the reason Reade said she was driven out of Biden’s office — has publicly shifted. Reade has said she told multiple people in Biden’s office that he’d harassed her, but they don’t recall that.

Biden’s campaign has vigorously denied the allegation and pointed to his long support of the Violence Against Women Act as proof of his dedication to improving women’s lives.

“He firmly believes that women have a right to be heard — and heard respectfully,” Kate Bedingfield, a deputy Biden campaign manager, said in a statement to the Times. “Such claims should also be diligently reviewed by an independent press. What is clear about this claim: It is untrue. This absolutely did not happen.”

Biden’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to a VICE News request for comment about the filing of the report.

Now, Biden is all but certain to become the Democratic nominee and take on President Donald Trump, who has been accused of sexual misconduct, including rape, by more than 20 women.

What are Reade’s allegations?

In 1993, Reade was in her 20s and working in then-Sen. Biden’s office. When she first talked to the Union, a news outlet in Nevada County, California in April 2019, she said that Biden sometimes touched her in ways that made her feel uncomfortable. On one occasion, he put his finger on her neck when they were near a group of interns. On another, Reade heard that Biden wanted her to serve drinks at an event because he liked her legs. Reade declined — a move that, she said at the time, torpedoed her career.

But, since her interview with Halper, Reade has publicly told a different story about the end of her time in Biden’s office. In the spring of 1993, she’s said, Reade approached Biden in the Senate office complex to deliver a gym bag. The two were alone.

That’s when, Reade said, Biden pushed her up against the wall and started kissing her.

“It happened all at once. The gym bag — I don’t know where it went, I handed it to him, it was gone, and then his hands were on me and underneath my clothes,” Reade told Halper on her podcast. “He went down my skirt but then up inside it. And he penetrated me with his fingers.”

Biden also asked Reade if she wanted to go somewhere else, Reade told Halper. But when she pulled back, Biden told her, “‘C’mon man, I heard you liked me.’”

“For me, it was like everything shattered in that moment,” Reade said.

Reade said Biden pointed at her and said, “You’re nothing to me.” He then assured her that she was okay.

Why is Reade coming forward now?

In a March interview with Salon, Reade said that she considered telling the California outlet about the alleged sexual assault. But when Reade talked to the reporter, the “way he asked the questions … shut me down.” (That journalist didn’t return Salon’s request for comment.)

After speaking out after the inappropriate touching, Reade said she was battered by online attacks and harassment. That also led her to stay silent.

Reade also tried approaching the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund about Biden in January. The fund ultimately declined to provide assistance to pursue a claim against him, reportedly because Biden is running for a federal office and aiding a case against him could risk the fund’s nonprofit status. Reade, who backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ run for president, eventually connected with Halper, who supports Sanders, through Twitter.

Is anyone backing up Reade’s story?

One friend, who has not been named, has said that Reade told her about the alleged assault at the time. Another unnamed friend told the Times that Reid said in 2008 that she’d had a traumatic experience while working for Biden and that he’d touched her inappropriately.

Reade’s brother, Collin Moulton, also told the Intercept that Reade had told him and their mother about the incident at the time. (Reade’s mother has since died.)

“Woefully, I did not encourage her to follow up,” Moulton told the Intercept. “I wasn’t one of her better advocates. I said, ‘Let it go, move on, guys are idiots.’”

Reade said she told three people in Biden’s office that Biden had harassed her: two aides, Dennis Toner and Ted Kaufman, as well as Biden’s executive assistant Marianne Baker. But she didn’t tell these people about the alleged assault.

While Reade said she also filed a written complaint about Biden’s behavior with the Senate, the Times couldn’t find a copy of it.

Kaufman, who remains Biden’s friend, told the Times that Reade never came to him. Toner said he also didn’t remember Reade’s complaint. And in a statement issued through Biden’s campaign, Baker said that no one ever complained to her about Biden’s inappropriate conduct.

After she spoke up in 1993, Reade said, she was sidelined in Biden’s office. She lost most of her duties and was relegated to working in a windowless office. Two interns confirmed to the Times that Reade abruptly stopped managing them, though they had no knowledge of any report of inappropriate conduct by Biden.

Eventually, Kaufman told Reade that she had a month to find another job, Reade told the Times. Reade never worked on Capitol Hill again.

Cover: Former Vice President Joe Biden, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during the Jill and Joe Biden 2020 Super Tuesday Los Angeles Rally held at the Baldwin Hills Recreation Center on March 3, 2020 in Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

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Anthony Fauci admits earlier Covid-19 mitigation efforts would have saved more American lives

“I mean, obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives,” Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” when asked if social distancing and stay-at-home measures could have prevented deaths had they been put in place in February, instead of mid-March.

“Obviously, no one is going to deny that. But what goes into those decisions is complicated,” added Fauci, who is a key member of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force. “But you’re right, I mean, obviously, if we had right from the very beginning shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then.”

Asked why the President didn’t recommend social distancing guidelines until mid-March — about three weeks after the nation’s top health experts recommended they be put in place — Fauci said, “You know, Jake, as I have said many times, we look at it from a pure health standpoint. We make a recommendation. Often, the recommendation is taken. Sometimes it’s not. But we — it is what it is. We are where we are right now.”

An administration official separately confirmed to CNN that the government’s top public health experts agreed in the third week of February on the need to begin moving away from a containment strategy and toward a mitigation strategy that would involve strong social distancing measures. The agreement among the health officials came after they held a tabletop exercise to game out the potential for a full-blown pandemic.

According to the Times report, Dr. Robert Kadlec, the top disaster response official at the Department of Health and Human Services, convened the White House coronavirus task force on February 21. During his meeting, the group conducted a mock-up exercise of the pandemic that predicted 110 million infections, 7.7 million hospitalizations and 586,000 deaths.

The group “concluded they would soon need to move toward aggressive social distancing, even at the risk of severe disruption to the nation’s economy and the daily lives of millions of Americans,” but it took more than three weeks for Trump to enact such guidelines on March 16.

Fauci told Tapper that “there is always a possibility, as we get into next fall and the beginning of early winter that we could see a rebound,” in the virus, but the lessons learned from the first iteration of it should help the US better respond to a potential new wave.

“Hopefully, hopefully, what we have gone through now and the capability that we have for much, much better testing capability, much, much better surveillance capability, and the ability to respond with countermeasures, with drugs that work, that it will be an entirely different ball game,” he said.

‘Not going to be a light switch’

With health experts and some elected officials saying the US is starting to see the effectiveness of social distancing measures put in place last month, Americans are wondering when the country can begin to ease up on the guidance.

Fauci said Sunday that the process of returning to normal “is not going to be a light switch that we say, ‘OK, it is now June, July’ … click — the light switch goes back on.”

He added: “It’s going to be depending where you are in the country, the nature of the outbreak that you have already experienced and the threat of an outbreak that you may not have experienced. So it’s going to have to look at the situation in different parts of the country.”

Analysis: Trump wants to reopen country soon. But power really lies with governors

Asked by Tapper when he thought that process could start, Fauci said he thinks “it could probably start at least in some ways maybe next month,” but noted that it’s “difficult” to make those types of predictions and officials are trying to open the country “appropriately.”

Trump said Saturday night that he hopes to make a decision “fairly soon” on when to reopen the country amid the coronavirus pandemic, telling Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro, “We have to bring our country back. So, I’ll be making a decision reasonably soon, we’re setting up a council now of some of the most distinguished leaders in virtually every field — including politics, and business and medical — and we’ll be making that decision fairly soon.”

But as Trump leans in to his desire to reopen the nation’s economy by May 1, America’s governors and mayors, who hold the power to enforce closures and who have often taken a far more aggressive posture on protecting public health, stand in his way.

An ominous warning

The director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said Sunday that if the social distancing measures and closures were relaxed on May 1, the country would see a rebound of coronavirus cases.

“We don’t think the capability in the states exists yet to deal with that volume of cases and so by July or August we could be back in the same situation we are in now” if there was premature opening of the country, Dr. Christopher Murray said on CBS, adding that West Coast states that are further along in the pandemic will still need “weeks of closures” beyond the peak for the opportunity to conduct proper testing and contact tracing.

Relaxing closures and social distancing measures on a rolling basis, he said, poses a new set of questions that have not been addressed.

Trump tweets Easter wishes as Americans remain under coronavirus lockdown

“Of course there’s a big issue of states are on different timings of their epidemics, which we know is the case. How are they going to control importation from other states into their state?” Murray said.

The inconsistent state mitigation policies have also been a problem for the modeling of the pandemic, according to Murray, who said that “incomplete implementation of social distancing closures in many states (is) adding a degree of uncertainty.”

The World Health Organization special envoy, Dr. David Nabarro, went a step further in an interview with NBC on Sunday, issuing an ominous warning about coronavirus, which has already infected more than 1,827,000 people worldwide.

“We’re not so sure that it will come in waves in the way that influenza does,” he said. “We think it’s going to be a virus that stalks the human race for quite a long time to come until we can all have a vaccine that will protect us and that there will be small outbreaks that will emerge sporadically and they will break through our defenses.”

Nabarro said it will be “key” for countries to “pick up cases as soon as they appear, isolate them and stop outbreaks from developing.”

There are more than 530,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the US, and more than 20,600 Americans have died, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

This story has been updated with additional developments Sunday.

CNN’s Kevin Bohn, Maeve Reston, Maegan Vazquez, Jason Hoffman, Kristen Holmes, Jeremy Diamond and Wes Bruer contributed to this report.

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Cuomo and De Blasio Continue to Spar Over Closing Schools: Live Updates

Cardinal Dolan said he would follow the guidance of doctors, scientists and civic leaders about when to reopen church doors to congregants.

“Faith, of course, doesn’t depend on things physical,” he said in an interview on CBS. “And we have faith these days that even though we can’t sadly get to the synagogue or to our parish churches, we can still be in union with God through prayer, through sincerity, through earnestness, through charity to others.”

“And, thanks be to God, so many are using the technological advances that we have, live-streaming, radio, TV, you name it,” he said.

A growing archive of coronavirus stories.

On Friday afternoon, a man in Montclair, N.J. sat in his living room, with a dog on his lap. His family was safe, but, he said, “I can feel the storm going on around, outside me.”

The next night, a young woman in Brooklyn said that when she walks outside she sees “so much fear on people’s faces.” “She said she looked forward to getting married after this pandemic but wondered if the ceremony would have to be much smaller than she imagined.”

Minutes later, another woman chimed in to say she was “currently in the backyard of someone” who she was in the midst of a second date with. “Our first date was a walk, a hike in the woods,” she said.

These are among the dozens of recordings people have left as part of a new project called Social Distancing Stories.

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SUNDAY UPDATES: Three new cases of COVID-19 in Boone County

Coronavirus

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

UPDATE 2:18 P.M.: The Columbia/Boone County Health Department has reported 79 cases of COVID-19 in Boone County.

That is a jump up three cases from 76 cases Saturday.

The county currently has 14 active cases of the virus. Sixty four people have recovered from the virus so far.

Columbia / Health / Health / Missouri / News / Public Health Alert

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Democrats Across The Country Are Fighting To Give Coronavirus Aid To Illegal Aliens

  • President Donald Trump signed a massive $2.2 trillion relief package for Americans suffering from the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • Many Democrats on Capitol Hill, however, have criticized the stimulus package and introduced legislation that would amend it to allow illegal aliens to draw from its funds. 
  • Several Democratic-led cities have allowed illegal aliens to tap into their own coronavirus assistance programs. 

Democratic lawmakers in Congress are calling on the federal government to make illegal aliens eligible for federal relief amid the coronavirus pandemic, while local and state Democratic leaders have already made their coffers available for those living unlawfully in the country.

President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act on March 27, making $2.2 trillion in stimulus funds available for families and U.S. businesses hurting under the coronavirus-induced lockdown. The relief package not only provides up to $10 million in forgivable loans for each small business, but also $1,200 to single Americans who make $75,000 or less a year.

While the stimulus package was by a wide margin in both chambers of Congress and was considered essential in the fight against COVID-19, not everyone was completely satisfied with the bill.

“I was appalled to learn hardworking, taxpaying immigrants were left out of the $2 trillion CARES Act,” California Rep. Lou Correa said in a statement released on April 3. Correa, along with 49 other House Democrats, supports the Leave No Taxpayer Behind Act which, if passed into law, would allow illegal aliens to tap into the funds provided by the CARES Act.

Reps. Veronica Escobar, Lou Correa and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell confer. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“By casting out immigrants, we are placing some of our most vulnerable residents in grave danger. Every individual taxpayer, irrespective of citizenship status, needs government assistance now,” Correa continued.

Among the sponsors of the Leave No Taxpayer Behind Act are Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All three are members of the so-called “squad” within the House Democratic caucus, a group of four first-term progressive women.

All four members have either called for the current relief package to include illegal aliens or allow them to tap into a future coronavirus relief bill.

Tlaib, for example, has proposed that the federal government issue pre-loaded debit cards with $2,000 for every individual in the country — even illegal aliens who have lived in the U.S. for as few as three months. These debit cards would be recharged with $1,000 every month until one year after the coronavirus crisis ends.

“We need to continue to make federal investments in our community health centers,” Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, the fourth squad member, said about a new COVID-19 relief package. “We need to center the humanity of every individual family and workers and that includes not leaving behind undocumented and uninsured.”

While liberal lawmakers on Capitol Hill continue to push for financial assistance for the undocumented, Democratic-controlled cities, and even the largest state in the country, are already doing so.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot signed an executive order on Tuesday that ensured all immigrants and refugees living within city limits, no matter their legal status, are eligible to receive coronavirus benefits. The order she signed allows undocumented aliens to tap into the city’s Housing Assistance Grant program and a $100 million Chicago Small Business Resiliency Fund to help small businesses that are struggling. (RELATED: ‘Worst Sanctuary City In America’: Trump Rips Chicago For Refusing To Cooperate With ICE)

Lori Lightfoot is sworn in as Chicago's 56th mayor in Chicago

Lori Lightfoot speaks after being sworn in as Chicago’s 56th mayor. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

“This order is more than just an official decree, it is a statement of our values as a city and as Americans,” Lightfoot said during a press briefing.

Minneapolis leaders recently rolled out a multimillion-dollar emergency housing assistance program in which households can receive as much as $2,000 each. Under the program’s qualification guidelines, the city specifically says that living in the country unlawfully is not an obstacle to receiving the funds.

Meanwhile, the state of California has allotted $50 million for a micro-lending program that will provide economic assistance to small businesses in the state that don’t otherwise qualify for the federal program, such as those run by illegal aliens.

Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom also confirmed that he is working with state legislators on a “Disaster Relief Fund” that would provide cash payments to those living unlawfully in the state until they are able to return to work or the state emergency proclamation has ended. Legislative leaders at the state capitol said talks are underway, and with the legislative body controlled by a Democratic supermajority, passage of such a proposal is likely.

“Californians care deeply about undocumented residents in this state,” Newsom said about the negotiations.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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Obama Hasn’t Endorsed Biden Because ‘He Knows Something That You Don’t Know’

President Donald Trump asserted on Wednesday the reason former President Barack Obama hasn’t endorsed his former vice president, Joe Biden, is because the 44th commander in chief “knows something.”

The context of Trump’s remarks during the daily coronavirus task force briefing was a question regarding Sen. Bernie Sanders’ announcement earlier in the day that he was suspending his presidential campaign but would hold on to his delegates and seek to win more in the upcoming primary contests.

“Now, is he dropping out or not?” Trump asked. “That’s not dropping out. When you keep your delegates and then you want more delegates before you get to the convention, that’s a weird deal going on there. I don’t know what’s happening.”

The president then noted that Obama has yet to endorse Biden.

“And I don’t know why President Obama hasn’t supported Joe Biden a long time ago,” Trump said.

TRENDING: Dr. Fauci Claims It’s ‘Possible’ That Americans Will Carry ‘Certificates of Immunity’

“There is something he feels is wrong. Why isn’t — he’ll come out.  I’m sure he’s got to come out at some point because he certainly doesn’t want to see me for four more years.”

The president continued, suggesting there is a reason Obama hasn’t endorsed Biden, which he felt he knew, but the reporters were not dialed in on yet.

“He knows something that you don’t know, that I think I know, but you don’t know. So it’ll be interesting,” Trump said, referring to Obama.

Do you think Biden will be the Democratic presidential nominee?

He left the mystery hanging out there and moved on to the next question.

In fairness, Obama did not endorse his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, until June 2016, after she had secured the number of pledged delegates needed to win the nomination.

At least two possibilities immediately come to mind regarding the knowledge Trump is suggesting that Obama is now privy to.

First, the 44th president somehow knows (or suspects) that Biden will not ultimately be chosen as the Democratic nominee, though his former No. 2 seemingly is the presumptive one now.

According to RealClearPolitics, Biden currently has 1,217 pledged delegates to Sanders’ 914. A candidate must win 1,991 pledged delegates to secure the nomination.

RELATED: As MSM Protects Them, Chinese Plant Social Media Ads Calling Trump Racist

It is unclear when, or if, many of the remaining state primary contests will happen before the Democratic convention, which itself may take place virtually.

If no candidate comes into the convention with the necessary pledged delegates from the primary contests, it will become a contested nomination fight, where anyone, like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo or even Clinton, could emerge as the nominee.

The second possibility is that Trump is implying Obama knows the gaffe-prone and aging Biden is not up to the task of being chief executive of the nation.

If Biden were elected this November, he would be the oldest person, at 78, to assume or even hold the office of president.

When Ronald Reagan finished his second term, he was 77 years old. Trump would be 78 when leaving office if he served another four years.

Though Biden has been gaffe-prone throughout his career in public office, the frequency and the nature of the flubs seem to be more pronounced recently and perhaps related to age.

In at least one instance, Biden did not even know what state he was in.

Trump has raised the issue of Biden’s mental fitness to serve on multiple occasions, including by tweeting a montage of the former Delaware senator’s gaffes last month.

At a Fox News town hall event in Pennsylvania last month, Trump said, “Then we have this crazy thing that happened, right? On Tuesday, which he thought was Thursday. But he also said 150 million people were killed with guns and that he was running for the United States Senate.”

“There’s something going on there.”

The New York Times reported last August that Obama and Biden spoke “at least a half dozen times before Mr. Biden decided to run, and Mr. Obama took pains to cast his doubts about the campaign in personal terms.”

“You don’t have to do this, Joe, you really don’t,” Obama told Biden last year before the campaign launch, “according to a person familiar with the exchange,” The Times added.

Further Obama instructed Biden’s campaign staff that they needed to protect the candidate, if he did run, so he did not “embarrass himself” or “damage his legacy.”

That ship seemingly has sailed, but it will be interesting to see if Biden does in fact become the nominee or if what Trump understands that Obama knows is that the former vice president simply is not up to the task of being commander in chief.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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Why some churches are holding Easter services, defying coronavirus guidelines

A number of churches across America are holding in-person services to celebrate Easter Sunday, despite federal guidelines calling for people to avoid public gatherings.

The issue of whether to hold in-person Easter services has revealed a split among top conservatives, with President Donald Trump encouraging Christians to worship from home while observing social distancing protocols, and members of the House Freedom Caucus arguing that restrictions on church services are an affront to First Amendment rights of freedom of religion and assembly.

While many churches are remaining closed as part of a nationwide effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, there are numerous reports of churches and even megachurches deciding to hold services.

In at least eight states, religious organizations have been deemed essential services, allowing them to be exempt from stay-at-home orders. While the majority of churches around the country have experimented with alternatives to conventional services — things like livestreamed prayers and drive-in services in parking lots — there have been clashes over restrictions on Easter Sunday, which would in normal circumstances lead to a huge boom in church attendance.

State and local officials have begun taking action to limit attendance at religious services, with mixed results. For example, the mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, issued an order prohibiting drive-in church services for Easter weekend, but a church sued the mayor and the city — and won a temporary restraining order from a federal judge who deemed the policy unconstitutional. US District Judge Justin Walker wrote in his order: “On Holy Thursday, an American mayor criminalized the communal celebration of Easter.”

In Kansas, state lawmakers overturned the governor’s executive order restricting religious gatherings to 10 people ahead of Easter, calling the order “a blatant violation, of our fundamental rights.”

And other religious leaders have held services in violation of state orders.

The Life Tabernacle Church near Baton Rouge, Louisiana expected a crowd of more than 2,000 on Easter Sunday despite a ban on gatherings of over 50 people in the state.

The church’s pastor, Rev. Tony Spell, said his faith would protect him and his attendees from falling ill. “God will shield us from all harm and sickness,” Spell told Reuters. “We are not afraid. We are called by God to stand against the Antichrist creeping into America’s borders.”

Spell made this proclamation despite having faced legal consequences for defying state restrictions in the past: He has already been charged with six misdemeanors for holding services.

As Slate’s Daniel Politi reports, some churches think of Easter as simply too important of a day to conduct services online, and are trying to find ways to offer socially distant in-person services. The Glorious Way Church in Houston will split its services into two sessions, offer hand sanitizer, and limit a 1,000-person space to 100 congregants.

“If it’s a crisis, the church should be able to dispel fear and panic and not join in with the fear and panic,” the church’s pastor John Greiner told the Texas Tribune. “We can’t really make a difference in our world just online.”

In Washington, there’s a split on Easter Sunday social distancing

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) wrote a letter to Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Attorney General William Barr on Saturday arguing against prohibiting services at places of worship.

“Calling on individuals to have greater awareness of their environments, keep reasonable distance from others, and strive to maintain better hygiene may all be warranted as we continue to confront the many unknowns of this virus,” Biggs and Hice wrote. “Prohibitions on worship have no place in these restrictions.”

“Members of many faiths are called upon to gather in community to worship,” they continued. “And the First Amendment protects their right to do so. Sadly, many leaders around the country have taken this pandemic as an opportunity to deem worship gatherings non-essential.”

In particular, Biggs and Hice decried that Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s ban on mass gatherings applies to church services, and that Beshear has pledged to record the license plates of people attending Easter services and impose a quarantine order on them. “There is no place for this behavior in America,” Biggs and Hice wrote.

While Trump said in March he hoped to have “packed churches” on Easter, he has in more recent days encouraged people to continue observing social distancing orders on the religious holiday. On Saturday, he tweeted that he would be tuning into a livestream at Dallas’s First Baptist Church rather than attending a service in person.

And on Sunday, he tweeted out a video message encouraging people to continue social distancing practices despite it being Easter.

“[T]his Easter will be much different than others, because in many cases we will be separated physically only from our churches,” Trump said. “We won’t be sitting there next to each other which we’d like to be. And soon we’ll be again. But right now we’re keeping separation.”

Clearly, not everyone agrees with the president on this issue. But should he want to ease social distancing in the weeks to come — as he has suggested is the case — Trump will have to find a way to convince the public not to gather in close spaces. Should such gatherings continue, reductions the country has seen in confirmed cases could halt, making the case for “reopening” parts of the country far more difficult to make.


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Pivots and partnerships to help people deal – TechCrunch

Some of us have learned how to be uniquely scrappy during this pandemic. I’m talking socks as masks and chickpea water as a vegetarian egg-white replacement type of scrappy.

And you will learn in this week’s installment of Tech For Good startups are no exception. Companies around the world are pivoting and partnering their way into helping us navigate the  COVID-19 pandemic. Below is a list of some recent partnerships that caught our eyes, as well as other goodness from private companies.


 

From greeting cards to virtual therapy

Ali O’Grady founded greeting-card startup Thoughtful Human in 2017. The greeting cards tackle difficult topics, such as cancer, grief and, more recently, quarantine and the pandemic. Thoughtful Human has partnered with BetterHelp Therapy to offer a month of free virtual therapy through phone or text.

Zira wants to help you bounce back if you were laid off

Zira is an automated workforce solution to help with shift schedules and team communication. Now, it launched a free tool called Bounce Back to help those laid off due to COVID-19. The application chiefly teaches users how to navigate unemployment, curated by location. It also creates a community for users to stay in touch with former employers, and has a job marketplace.

Yext goes up State

Yext, a site search tool, has partnered with the US Department of State to create a COVID-19 informational hub to disseminate information about travel alerts. In the last month, Yext has developed sites for the State of New Jersey and the State of Alabama.

An alternative to a good ol’ restaurant menu

My Menu, which traditionally offered a digital tablet menu platform to restaurants, is now giving away its underlying technology to help restaurants become online-friendly overnight. Using My Menu technology, restaurants can create a menu that pops up when customers scan a QR code on their phones. It will help restaurants make their menus more accessible.

Creativity using the cloud

DigitalOcean, a cloud provider, created a hub for developers to share projects aimed at helping people deal with the pandemic. Projects that have sprouted up as a result include an app that lets people anonymously report their health conditions to pulsecheck the spread across the world, and a remote learning group of Kenyan primary school teachers.

Founder therapy for free

Betaworks is launching a free, 6-week, peer-to-peer mentorship program to connect founders and company leaders in mentor-led support groups. The application deadline is April 13, and participants will be chosen on a first-come, first-served basis.

#MaskUp

Janelle M. Jimenez, the founder and CEO of sustainable clothing startup Stellari, is using her startup capital to work with Los Angeles manufacturers to create masks. She has invested $15,000 of seed money into partnerships with factories, and needs $10,000 to produce cloth masks at scale. She plans to donate the masks at cost and support the local garment industry at the same time. The effort has raised nearly $24,000 on Indiegogo.

Coders unite to make websites COVID-19 friendly

Coding Dojo has launched an initiative to connect its alumni group of coders to small businesses that need website development. Coders will take on projects, for no charge, like creating a website for that corner bodega or adding a delivery feature to existing websites.

As the marathon gets canceled, Boston’s new stride

Tom O’Keefe is the founder of StrideForStride, which buys race bibs for low-income runners from around the world, ranging from Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Jamaica, and the US. Due to COVID-19, they lost a fundraiser at hotels and donations from restaurants and Sam Adams. Stride plans to host running clubs around various businesses and bars in Boston once everything re-opens, and in the meantime has launched a website DownloadBoston.com to highlight local businesses.

Bonus round

A group of New Yorkers has launched a challenge called #InMyScrubs to raise money to send meals from local restaurants to feed health care workers at critical-need hospitals. While this isn’t a tech initiative, it is heartwarming. The idea is to post pictures of yourself on Instagram in home “scrubs” like sweatpants and athleisure as an act of solidarity with those in their hospital scrubs. The challenge has raised nearly $68,000.