LONE STAR — Texas’ Big Political Read — 1.6.20 — GOP Leadership Undermines Trump — Allen West, Nehls Sessions, Crenshaw, Roy
GOP Leadership Turning on America
Former Florida Congressman and current Texas GOP Chairman Allen West is siding with 75 million supporters of President Donald Trump in their effort to overturn the President-elect Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral vote count.
In response to Texas Politics’ request for comment regarding Republican congressman who will not support the objection effort in the… READ MORE
According to Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz (R), House leadership is actively trying to undermine Trump Republicans. READ MORE
“Congressman Troy Nehls Announces Electoral College Vote Position” by Texas Politics’ Isabel Webb Carey – Earlier today, Representative Troy Nehls (TX-R) announced his decision to object to electoral votes cast in states which “failed to follow their own election laws and procedures.” Following Trump’s refusal to concede, election results have been challenged in six states where Biden won by a total margin of over 312,000 on accounts of voter fraud. Trump’s campaign and others have since lost more than 50 cases, including at the Supreme Court. Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-R) spearheaded the latest attempt. Nehls stands with a group of at least 12 Republican senators led by Sen. Ted Cruz (TX-R), along with over 100 GOP House members who have pledged to challenge the results from several battleground states in the joint session of Congress on Wednesday. The Republicans allege the fraudulence of the 2020 elections, despite no widespread evidence. In a statement, Nehls argued that mail-in ballots undermined electoral integrity and appealed for a “transparent and comprehensive investigative review of the 2020 election and implement measures to protect the integrity of future elections.” He also cited the concerns of his constituents: “I’m giving voice to the concerns of my constituents and tens of millions of Americans who feel their vote doesn’t count by objecting to the count of electoral college votes from disputed states. We owe it to the American people to put partisan games aside and investigate. We must restore confidence in the integrity of our elections.”
“Allen West: ‘We are about to find out who the summer Soldiers and sunshine patriots are’” by Texas Politics’ Javier Manjarres – Former Florida Congressman and current Texas GOP Chairman Allen West is siding with 75 million supporters of President Donald Trump in their effort to overturn the President-elect Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral vote count. Voter fraud and voting irregularities ran rampant during the 2020 election, but legal efforts to overturn the election have been dismissed in federal court. In response to Texas Politics’ request for comment regarding Republican congressman who will not support the objection effort in the U.S. Congress, Chairman West quipped that America was about to find out what certain legislators were made of. “It doesn’t matter what I say. It matters what his constituents, those who voted for him say…as well as the millions who may be in Washington DC tomorrow,” stated West. “We are about to find out who the summer Soldiers and sunshine patriots are.” West is referring to the number of so-called Conservative and Trump-supporting legislators that will not support the electoral vote objection on Wednesday. Several Texas House members will not object, but most will. Reps. Pete Sessions and Troy Nehls (both Republicans) have stated that they support the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Rep. Sessions believes that the effort will ultimately fail because of members like Roy and Crenshaw, as well as those Libertarian-leaning Republicans.
“‘Some Judgement Day lies ahead’ for those Republicans who don’t support Trump” by Texas Politics’ Javier Manjarres – Texas Republicans Reps. Dan Crenshaw and Chip Roy are expected to vote against the decertification effort of the 2020 presidential election. Rep. Roy has been very clear about his objection, citing the Constitution’s stating that it is up to state legislatures to deliver a win for President Donald Trump. “I am as outraged as anyone about the still-unanswered questions about the election,” stated Roy. “ But the Constitution is clear: States select electors. Congress does not. There is only one path to victory for @POTUS on Jan. 6: state legislatures certifying Trump electors in states at issue. Rep. Arrington stating in a press release stated that he would object to the certification of the election, saying “the law is clear about my authority and responsibility,” adding that it was up to the state’s to “make election law.” “The law is clear about my authority and responsibility in today’s proceeding, and the Constitution and prior court rulings are unambiguous: only state legislatures can make election laws,” said Arrington. “I swore an oath ‘to support and defend the Constitution’ and ‘faithfully discharge the duties of the office.’ “While I have grievances about the outcome of this election, my chief responsibility is protecting the integrity of all future elections. This is not about being loyal to a President or political party, it is about fidelity to Rule of Law, the Constitution, and my conscience.
“Arrington Blasts House Speaker Pelosi’s Radical Rule Changes” by Texas Politics’ Isabel Webb Carey – Yesterday, Rep. Jodey Arrington (TX-R) released a statement blasting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (MD-D) “radical” rule changes for the 117th Congress. He stated: “Attention, America! Today, Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats jammed through a radical Rules Package that fundamentally changes how the House of Representatives will function and sends a jarring message to the American people about the direction Democrats want to take our great nation.” On Monday the House adopted its rules package for the 117th Congress in a 217-206, party line vote. The package endured Republican attempts to derail its construction and was passed without any defections from the Democrats, despite the Party’s fragmentation. House Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern (MA-D) lauded the package as a “compromise” which appealed to both progressive and moderate factions of the party. While rules packages frequently trigger partisan sparring, Pelosi’s package is especially contentious. Democrats were accused of silencing Republican voices by undercutting their ability to offer MTRs to alter bills on the floor, which they successfully did eight times last Congress. McGovern defended the move, announcing that the motion to recommit “can no longer be used to hijack the legislative process for political gamesmanship.” Among other changes, the package weakens a procedural tool of the minority, provides key exemptions to the PAYGO budget rule which requires an offset to the cost of legislation, and strengthens congressional oversight provisions.
“Congresswoman Jackson Lee Submits Legislation for a Commission to Consider Reparations for Africans Americans” by Texas Politics’ Isabel Webb Carey – With the start of the 117th Congress yesterday, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-D) submitted H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act. The Texas Democrat has reaffirmed her commitment to securing legislation that could eventually provide reparations for victims of slavery. The committee funded by H.R. 40 would study the impacts of slavery on the United States in the present day and explore possibilities for reparations. It would not directly introduce payments, but energize ongoing examinations of racial inequalities and policy solutions. “In short, the Commission aims to study the impact of slavery and continuing discrimination against African-Americans, resulting directly and indirectly from slavery to segregation to the desegregation process and the present day,” Jackson Lee wrote in a press release. “The commission would also make recommendations concerning any form of apology and compensation to begin the long delayed process of atonement for slavery.” In the 116th Congress, the bill received support from 147 co-sponsors in the House. Included amongst co-sponsors are Texas Democrat Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Al Green, Sylvia Garcia, Veronica Escobar, Joaquin Castro, Marc Veasey, Filemon Vela, Vincente Gonzalez, and Henry Cuellar. Presently, all support is Democrat and Senate Republicans stand in opposition to the measure. Jackson Lee noted attempts to deflect the importance of these conversations by focusing on individual monetary compensation and emphasized the need to confront the ongoing legacy of slavery.
“Texas health official explains issues that may distort how many vaccine doses are actually available” by KSAT’s Fares Sabawi – While the development of COVID-19 vaccines has brought hope of ending the pandemic, the rollout has had complications in Texas. The state’s vaccine distribution dashboard seems to show that nearly half of distributed doses are still unused, adding more frustration to tens of thousands of Texans who are eligible but not able to find an appointment. But state officials admit the data may be misleading. The confusion- When the vaccine was initially approved, Texas officials announced that frontline health care workers would be the first to be inoculated in Phase 1A of the rollout. Shortly after, and well before all of Phase 1A was vaccinated, the state added residents in Phase 1B — 65 and over or those with underlying medical conditions — as eligible to receive the vaccine. While some people in Phase 1B have been able to secure their first dose of the vaccine, the majority have searched for vaccination appointments with little success. In San Antonio, many providers say they’re waiting on more shipments of the vaccine from the state and federal government before they’re able to inoculate more people, particularly in Phase 1B. In some cases, doses that have not yet been received by the provider are already scheduled to be delivered to a person in Phase 1A. Despite the great demand for the vaccine and a sizable population of Texans who are eligible to get the vaccine but have yet to find an appointment, the state’s data still shows a wide discrepancy between the number of vaccines shipped to providers and the number of Texans who have received a vaccine dose already.
“Texas Congresswoman Kay Granger tests positive for coronavirus” by Texas Tribune’s Alex Samuels – U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, a high-ranking member of Texas’ congressional delegation, has tested positive for the coronavirus, her office announced Monday afternoon. Granger, who was on the U.S. House floor during swearing-in proceedings in Congress on Sunday, is a ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee. Granger tested positive for the respiratory disease after arriving in Washington, D.C. and is “asymptomatic and feeling great,” her office said in a statement. Granger said she will remain under the care of her doctor and has been quarantining. According to WFAA, Granger received her first injection of the coronavirus vaccine in December. Experts say it takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after being vaccinated and that getting sick before completing a two-dose regimen should not undermine the potency of the vaccine. Granger, 77, did not immediately release further details. It is unclear how she contracted the virus. This is not Granger’s first brush with the virus. In July, she announced she tested negative after coming in contact with U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, who later tested positive for COVID-19. Multiple state leaders have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began. The first statewide elected official to publicly confirm a positive coronavirus test was Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann in May. Other state lawmakers, including Rep. Tony Tinderholt, Sen. Kel Seliger and outgoing House Speaker Dennis Bonnen have tested positive. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller also tested positive in early December.
“Texas gives Medicaid recipients using Planned Parenthood until Feb. 3 to find new health care provider” by KWTX – Thousands of low-income Medicaid recipients who rely on Planned Parenthood for non-abortion services like cancer screenings and birth control will have until Feb. 3 to find new health care providers, according to a letter sent from the state’s Health and Human Services Commission to the women’s health provider Monday. The extension comes after the conservative U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in November sided with Texas officials who have long tried to block Planned Parenthood from participating in Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled. To qualify, a single woman in Texas with two children must make less than $230 a month. After the court’s ruling, Planned Parenthood asked state officials to delay booting the string of women’s health providers for at least six months to give the organization time to find medical coverage for its more than 8,000 Medicaid patients, many of whom are women of color. Texas has a shortage of Medicaid providers in part because of the low reimbursement rates, the organization said. The heads of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and Planned Parenthood South Texas said in a joint statement Tuesday that the time frame allowed by the state is “woefully inadequate” and jeopardizes access to services including testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections in the midst of a pandemic. “Planned Parenthood providers play an outsized role in serving Medicaid patients in Texas and across the country,” said Ken Lambrecht of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, Melaney Linton of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, and Jeffrey Hons of Planned Parenthood South Texas. “Gov. [Greg] Abbott knows full well that other providers can’t just absorb Planned Parenthood’s family planning patients — a well documented fact explained by the experts, including the American Public Health Association.”
“A Texas man was sent to trial with the coronavirus. Jurors weren’t told they were exposed until after deliberations ended.” By KWTX’s Jolie Mccullough – It had been a month since his criminal trial began, but Teron Pratt was still awaiting judgment when he walked into a Central Texas courtroom last fall in gray slacks, a matching button-down shirt and a brown face mask. A weekslong trial for car burglary is far from typical, but these were abnormal times — as evidenced by the blue X’s taped onto half of the jury box chairs, and bottles of hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes scattered throughout the courtroom. Pratt, 46 and homeless, had been in the Brazos County jail for more than a year and a half, suspected of stealing from two trucks after numerous burglary convictions. His trial, originally slated for March 16, was delayed for months as the deadly coronavirus swept through the state and prompted the closures of restaurants, stores and, notably, courts. In 2019, about 186 Texas jury trials were held in civil and criminal cases in an average week, according to the state Office of Court Administration. From March until June of 2020, that number went to zero. The backlog of cases, which has continued to grow, will likely take the state years to overcome. “The court system in Texas has responded really well in everything except jury trials,” David Slayton, administrative director of the state’s court administration office, said in September. “It’s not really possible or feasible to have a lot of people in a room.” Last summer, several counties began experimenting with ways to hold in-person jury trials under the supervision of the state. Among those counties was Brazos, which scheduled two in-person criminal jury trials for defendants who had long been incarcerated. In mid-August, jail employees drove Pratt and another man about a mile and a half to the courthouse to stand trial.
“Capital One Shopping automatically searches for and applies the best coupon code at checkout” by NBC DFW – Coronavirus cases are exhausting the availability of intensive-care unit beds in North Texas and elsewhere in the state as hospitalizations with COVID-19 continue to soar to record levels, state health statistics showed on Tuesday. Hospitalizations with the illness the coronavirus causes set a ninth-consecutive record by topping 13,300 statewide on Tuesday, with 626 patients requiring intensive care, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. In all, the state estimated 314,465 COVID-19 cases were active. In Trauma Service Area E, the region that covers most of North Texas, hospitalizations exceeded 4,000 hospitalized patients. (That number for Tuesday won’t actually be reported by the state until Wednesday.) We had 4,026 patients which represented 26.41% of hospital capacity and another increase Tuesday. Available staffed adult ICU beds decreased in TSA-E to 46 beds with 11 available in Dallas County, 14 in Tarrant County, five in Collin County, eight in Denton County, two in Kaufman County, two in Ellis County, three in Wise County and one classified as “other.” “This is very serious and a critical situation,” said Stephen Love, president and CEO of the DFW Hospital Council. All ICU beds at hospitals in the Abilene and Bryan-College Station areas are full, while only two are available in the Laredo area with three in the Paris-Texarkana area. ICU bed availability is in the single digits in the Wichita Falls-Northwest Texas, Lufkin-Piney Woods, Waco, Galveston-Beaumont and Victoria areas.
“Texas’ medical marijuana program is one of the most restrictive in the country. Advocates hope the Legislature will change that.” By Texas Tribune’s Sami Sparber and Aria Jones – Five years after Texas legalized medical marijuana for people with debilitating illnesses, advocates and industry experts say the state’s strict rules, red tape and burdensome barriers to entry have left the program largely inaccessible to those it was intended to help. But with a new legislative session gaveling in next month, some Texas lawmakers see an opportunity to fix the state’s medical cannabis program — known as the Compassionate Use Program — by further expanding eligibility and loosening some restrictions so Texas’ laws more closely resemble those of other states that allow the treatment. There are 3,519 Texans registered with the state to use medical marijuana, though advocates say 2 million people are eligible based on current law. Texas’ program pales in overall participation and scope compared with other states: It has fewer enrolled patients and businesses than most other states with medical marijuana programs. At least some form of medical marijuana is legal in 47 states nationwide, but Texas’ restrictions put it in the bottom 11 in terms of accessibility, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. “We’re pretty dang close to the bottom. We’re pretty far behind,” said state Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, referring to how access to Texas’ medical marijuana program fares compared with other states. Menéndez will push legislation in the next session to further expand the program. Oklahoma, home to 25 million fewer people than Texas, has more than 100 times as many registered patients who can access medical marijuana. This December, two years after the passage of Oklahoma’s medical cannabis program, there were 365,464 people enrolled. To the east, Louisiana, with a fifth of Texas’ population, had 4,350 patients in 2019, and to the west, New Mexico had enrolled more than 82,000 people in its program as of the same year.
“NY Times: Pence Told Trump He Doesn’t Have Power to Change Election” by Newsmax/Reuters – Vice President Mike Pence reportedly told President Donald Trump during their weekly lunch on Tuesday that he does not have the power to overturn November’s presidential election results, The New York Times reported Tuesday. Trump has been pressuring Pence publicly to use his role on Wednesday as he presides over a joint session of Congress to certify the Electoral College votes that handed the win to Democrat Joe Biden. The move would essentially be a last-ditch effort following multiple failed court challenges alleging voter fraud, including two that were rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. “The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors,” Trump wrote on Twitter Tuesday morning, after having told a crowd of Georgia voters Monday night he was hoping Pence would “come through” on Wednesday.” “Because if he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him quite as much,” Trump added with a laugh. U.S. states have already certified the results, and Pence’s role on Wednesday as president of the Senate is to “open all the Certificates,” in the presence of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the U.S. Constitution says. Trump has suggested Pence could do more than that. “The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors,” Trump wrote in a tweet on Tuesday, his latest unfounded suggestion that the election was marred by widespread fraud.
“FBI, FAA Investigate Threat to Fly Plane Into Capitol” by Newsmax – The FBI and FAA are investigating an audio threat, broadcast on air traffic control frequencies Monday, that threatened to fly an airplane into the U.S. Capitol to avenge the death of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani, CBS News reports. In the audio, a computer-generated voice says, “We are flying a plane into the Capitol Wednesday. Soleimani will be avenged.” The threat comes just a year after Soleimani was killed by a U.S. drone strike approved by President Donald Trump. Iranian leaders have in recent days said Trump himself would be dead “within a few days.” The audio threat heard Monday is not considered credible, but breaching air traffic frequencies is a crime and can endanger airplane safety as it interferes with pilot communications. Pilots were told to be alert for any aircraft deviating from their standard flight patterns on Wednesday. No reason was given in the message for mention Wednesday, but it is the day a joint session of Congress is being held to certify the presidential election results. Iran has repeatedly vowed to avenge Soleimani’s death.
“The final Trump loyalty test for Congress is coming” by CNN’s Lauren Fox – The test for what the Republican Party will be in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency is coming in a little over 24 hours and on the heels of Georgia Senate runoffs that will finally determine the balance of the US Senate. But the price Republicans could pay for defying Trump and certifying the results of a fair and free election is already coming into clear view. The bottom line: The divide you are seeing rip through the Republican Party right now isn’t between conservatives and moderates. This isn’t the Freedom Caucus vs. leadership. It’s not even as simple as members who might run for President in 2024 vs. those who will not. What you are seeing right now is a gamble members are taking on whether the GOP can finally shake Trump going forward or whether there is no way to win the White House again without him on their side. Republican aides and members opposed to this effort are watching this play out and hoping that voters will have moved on from Trump in the next several years. The hope is that this vote does not become a litmus test for whether outside groups wage primary challenges against those who were not loyal to the President in his last days in office. Only time will tell how consequential this vote will really be. Still, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has warned members that for him, it is one of the most important of his career.
“Judge rejects another Trump attempt to decertify Georgia votes” by CNN’s Katelyn Polantz – A federal judge in Georgia denied yet another attempt by President Donald Trump to decertify its presidential election results and President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Judge Mark Cohen held a hearing Tuesday morning amid fallout from Trump’s call to pressure state officials to “find” votes. Trump had sued Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp on New Year’s Eve, seeking the emergency hearing on his request for an injunction. The state had argued in response that the case shouldn’t go forward for multiple reasons, including that Trump was seeking to disenfranchise millions of voters at the “thirteenth hour,” well after the election was soundly conducted and the results had been recounted, audited and certified. None of the dozens of lawsuits from Trump and his supporters seeking to overturn election results after Biden won in early November have been successful.
“Trump Adviser Cleta Mitchell Resigns From Law Firm After Georgia Call” by WSJ’s Sara Randazzo – Cleta Mitchell, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who supported President Trump in making claims of election fraud on a weekend call with the Georgia secretary of state, resigned Tuesday from the partnership of a corporate law firm. The firm, Foley & Lardner LLP, said Tuesday that Ms. Mitchell’s resignation was effective immediately and that she “concluded that her departure was in the firm’s best interests, as well as in her own personal best interests.” Ms. Mitchell couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Tuesday. Her husband, Dale Mitchell, said she had been planning to retire in June. “The left wingers are causing her trouble, but they’ve been causing her trouble,” he said. “She’s not exactly losing sleep over this.” Criticism of Ms. Mitchell, known for public-finance work and taking on conservative causes, mounted after she appeared in support of Mr. Trump on the hourlong call with Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger. Mr. Trump pressured Mr. Raffensperger to find enough votes to reverse the state’s election results, which showed President-elect Joe Biden won by a margin of 11,779 out of about five million votes cast. A recording of the call was reviewed and reported by news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal.
“Trump Administration Says Russia Likely Behind Massive SolarWinds Hack” by WSJ’s Dustin Volz – Russia is likely behind a massive, continuing hack discovered last month that has ripped through various federal government agencies and an unknown number of private organizations, the Trump administration formally said Tuesday. In a joint statement, four agencies in charge of intelligence and cybersecurity said that the administration has so far identified fewer than 10 federal agencies whose internal computer systems were infiltrated in the hack. While the statement didn’t identify any of the agencies, those affected include the departments of State, Treasury, Commerce and Energy, according to officials and others familiar with the investigation. An advanced, government hacking group “likely Russian in origin is responsible for most or all of the recently discovered, ongoing cyber compromises of both government and non-governmental networks,” said the statement, released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Security Agency, Office of the Director of National Intelligence and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The statement was the first from the administration to link what is called the SolarWinds hack to Russia since the attack was first discovered nearly a month ago. Senior officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have previously said in media interviews that Russia is believed to be responsible. Moscow has denied involvement.
“Pelosi announces new ‘Squad’ assignments to House committees” by Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced new committee assignments Tuesday, including several far-left “Squad” members and like-minded Democrat freshman representatives. “Squad” members Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan will now be on the House Oversight and Reform Committee. The newly elected Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri will join them on that committee, and freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York will be on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. “In the 2020 election, the American people overwhelmingly cast their ballots for a historically diverse and dynamic Democratic House Majority that will fight For The People,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Reinvigorated by our outstanding Freshmen Members, strengthened by our returning Members and inspired by the people whom we are honored to represent, our Majority is ready to Build Back Better in a way that will advance justice and prosperity for all Americans. Our Committees, enriched by the addition of these Members, are ready to drive transformational progress.” Additionally, the first two openly gay members of Congress, the newly-elected Reps. Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones, both of New York, received assignments as well. Torres was named to the House Homeland Security Committee and Jones to the House Education and Labor Committee.
“George W. Bush will attend Biden inauguration to witness ‘peaceful transfer of power’” by Fox News’ Thomas Barrabi – Former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush will attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration in Washington D.C. later this month, his chief of staff Freddie Ford announced on Tuesday. The Bush family’s plans to attend the inauguration were revealed just one day before Congress is set to meet to review the Electoral College’s voting results. Several prominent Republicans, including Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, have signaled their intention to object to Biden’s victory due to alleged voting irregularities in battleground states. “President and Mrs. Bush look forward to returning to the Capitol for the swearing-in of President Biden and Vice President Harris,” Ford wrote on Twitter. “I believe this will be the eighth Inauguration they’ve had the privilege of attending — President Trump’s being the most recent — and witnessing the peaceful transfer of power is a hallmark of our democracy that never gets old.” The George W. Bush Presidential Center did not immediately respond to a request for further comment. Bush, 74, is the only living Republican former president. Trump has repeatedly clashed with Bush and his brother, former Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, since he entered the political arena. Trump hammered Jeb Bush in personal terms during the 2016 Republican presidential primary, referring to the former Florida governor as “low energy” on countless occasions during his campaign.
“U.K. strain likely spreading in hard-hit California, officials warn” by Politico’s Alexander Nieves – More than two dozen new cases of the coronavirus strain that emerged in the United Kingdom have now been identified in San Diego County, as health officials warn that the potentially more contagious variant is likely elsewhere in the state already. The county’s health agency on Tuesday reported that 24 new cases had been confirmed through genome sequencing of samples collected from Dec. 27 through Dec. 31. Four additional positive tests directly linked to those confirmed cases are expected to show the same strain, known as B.1.1.7. Those are by far the highest number of cases detected in California so far. The mutated variant was confirmed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to have appeared in San Diego County last week, shortly after its presence in the United States was first documented in Colorado. The strain’s potential for wider spread could lead to more fatalities, even if the variant itself may not be more deadlier to a patient who contracts it. The new strain has become a major cause for concern in a state that has seen a record surge since November. Hospitals are filled to capacity in Southern California and the Central Valley, forcing health care officials to ration care for patients in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, like many states, California’s vaccine rollout has been slow — to the point where Newsom conceded Monday it was “not good enough.” None of the 24 confirmed San Diego County patients, who range in age from 10 to over 70, are thought to have recent travel histories, pointing to an increase in community spread of the strain. Officials say that none of the infected individuals has died and one woman is recovering at home after being hospitalized.
“Trump bars U.S. transactions with eight Chinese apps including Alipay” by Reuters’ Alexandra Alper and David Shapardson – U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order banning transactions with eight Chinese software applications, including Ant Group’s Alipay mobile payment app, the White House said, escalating tensions with Beijing two weeks before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. The move, first reported by Reuters, is aimed at curbing the threat to Americans posed by Chinese software applications, which have large user bases and access to sensitive data, a senior administration official told Reuters. The order argues that the United States must take “aggressive action” against developers of Chinese software applications to protect national security. It tasks the Commerce Department with defining which transactions will be banned under the directive within 45 days and targets Tencent Holdings Ltd’s QQ Wallet and WeChat Pay as well. The order also names CamScanner, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate which is published by Alibaba Group subsidiary UCWeb, and Beijing Kingsoft Office Software’s WPS Office. Kingsoft said in a statement published by Chinese state media that it did not expect Trump’s order to substantially impact the company’s business in the short term. Ant and the Biden transition team declined to comment.