Newsletter: The Election Faces More Uncertainty

Trump Oct. 1
President Donald Trump walks from Marine One to the White House in Washington, early Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, as he returns from Minnesota. Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo
Trump Oct. 1
President Donald Trump walks from Marine One to the White House in Washington, early Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, as he returns from Minnesota. Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo

Newsletter: The Election Faces More Uncertainty

Hey there, it’s Friday, and it feels like there’s been a year’s worth of news in just two days. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Trump’s positive coronavirus test upends campaign in final stretch

With just 32 days left until Election Day, President Donald Trump’s announcement that he and the first lady have tested positive for the coronavirus has propelled the presidential campaign — as well as the nation and the world — further into uncharted territory.

The president and Melania Trump so far are showing “mild symptoms,” and they are expected to remain home for two weeks, according to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. The White House has not given a detailed account of Trump’s condition.

News of the president’s test result quickly raised questions about who else may have been exposed, which can’t be immediately answered because the virus’ incubation period can last days.

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife tested negative this morning. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, also tested negative, as did Sen. Kamala Harris. [NPR]

And Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the president’s nominee for the Supreme Court, tested negative, a White House spokesman said today. The Washington Post reported that Barrett was diagnosed with the coronavirus earlier this year and recovered. [Washington Post]

The president of the University of Notre Dame, who attended Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination ceremony on Saturday at the White House without wearing a mask, recently tested positive, according to a university spokesman. [Chicago Tribune]

And Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said today he has been diagnosed with the coronavirus. Lee also attended Barrett’s White House ceremony. [NPR]

Meanwhile, GOP donors who attended a Trump fundraiser hours before his diagnosis are “panicking,” according to CNBC. That fundraiser, which included about 30 to 50 donors, took place after White House officials were aware that Hope Hicks, a close aide to the president, had tested positive. [CNBC]

2. How Illinois political leaders are limiting exposure to the coronavirus

As news broke about President Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis, Gov. JB Pritzker was already self-quarantining after a staff member tested positive on Monday.

It’s the second time Pritzker has self-quarantined during the pandemic. An aide to the governor told WBEZ’s Tony Arnold about the administration’s plans for keeping Pritzker safe and what would happen if he became ill.

Pritzker and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton are rarely in the same room together and maintain a safe distance when they are, a spokeswoman told WBEZ. Staffers who work for the state and must report to the office also undergo daily temperature checks and weekly COVID-19 tests, and they must wear face coverings while in the office. The office also is deep cleaned once a week. [WBEZ]

Meanwhile, state officials today reported 2,206 new cases and 47 deaths, the most fatalities reported in a single day since late June. Illinois faces a weekly average of 2,070 cases per day, which is a 13% increase from the average two weeks ago. [New York Times]

3. Jobs reports shows U.S. recovery is losing steam

Employers brought back just 661,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department reported today. That’s down from 1.5 million in August. The unemployment rate fell to 7.9%, from 8.4% in August, in part because many people, especially women, left the workforce.

While the economy has recovered about half of the 22 million jobs lost in the spring, the pace of hiring is slowing down, causing some economists to warn that the U.S. recovery could be in jeopardy. Economists also say permanent job losses could grow if Congress and the White House do not reach a deal on another round of economic relief. [NPR]

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today appeared optimistic that an agreement can be forged, saying Trump’s positive coronavirus test “kind of changes the dynamic, because here they see the reality of what we have been saying all along: This is a vicious virus.” [CNBC]

4. Breonna Taylor grand jury recordings are released

After nationwide protests erupted over a Kentucky grand jury’s decision to not charge any current or former officers for the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, a court today released more than 20 hours of recorded grand jury proceedings.

The recordings include interviews with witnesses, 911 audio and other pieces of evidence.

As NPR reports, the recordings come as questions surround how Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron handled the case. Earlier this week, Cameron said the only criminal charge his office presented to the grand jury was wanton endangerment.

Brett Hankison, a former Louisville Metro Police Department detective, was the only officer indicted. He was charged for endangering the lives of Taylor’s neighbors when he fired his weapon during the March raid on Taylor’s home. [NPR]

5. Chicago saw its deadliest September since 1993

At least 81 homicides were reported last month, the most since September of 1993, which saw 83 homicides, reports the Chicago Tribune, citing Police Department data.

The grim news comes as homicides are up 50% so far this year compared to last year, putting 2020 on track to be the city’s deadliest year since 2016, the Trib reports.

While the number of homicides was high last month, the number of both shootings and victims was down 19% in September, when at least 400 people were shot across the city, the Police Department says. [Chicago Tribune]

Here’s what else is happening

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett will begin Oct. 12. [NPR]

Cook County prosecutors will not charge a Midlothian police officer who fatally shot a Black security guard in 2018. [Chicago Sun-Times]

In a secret recording, Melania Trump delivered a profanity-laced rant about Christmas decorations and complained about news coverage of her husband’s policy of separating migrant families. [CNN]

Anne Hathaway plays the Grand High Witch in a new movie adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches. [A.V. Club]

Oh, and one more thing …

  • And now for some potty talk: NASA is expected to shoot a $23 million toilet into space later today.
  • NASA wants to test the new zero-gravity toilet at the International Space Station, where astronauts will, uh, try out the titanium toilet for a few months to see how it works.
  • According to the BBC, the toilet “uses a vacuum system to suck waste away from the body in a zero-gravity environment. For privacy, the toilet is located inside a cubicle — just like in a public bathroom on Earth.” [BBC]

Tell me something good …

What’s your favorite Halloween costume?

Laura writes:

“My mom made me a Morticia Addams costume when I was 8. There I went, a pudgy Morticia in a dark wig whose tentacles kept getting caught in the doors as I went trick-or-treating.”

Martha writes:

“We live in Hyde Park, where many folks are affiliated with the University of Chicago. Many years ago, my then-small son — maybe 5 years old — wanted to be a mummy for Halloween. We wrapped him in strips of torn white sheeting as is traditional, and he was quite pleased with the effect. At the first house we went to, the person answering the door said, ‘Oh, are you dressed up as The English Patient?’ Seriously? A 5-year-old? Only in Hyde Park.”

And Anna writes:

“I was Wonder Woman, my only costume as an adult. It was fabulous. I wish I felt like Wonder Woman now!”

Thanks for all the responses this week! I’m sorry I couldn’t share them all, but it was nice hearing from y’all!

Thanks for reading and have a nice night! I’ll see you on Monday.