The President and First Lady Have Coronavirus.

By Terrance Turner

Oct. 1, 2020 (UPDATED Oct. 2)

The President of the United States has tested positive for COVID-19. He announced just before midnight that both he and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive:

This development poses a risk not only to the president’s reelection campaign, but also to his health. He is a 74-year-old-man of considerable girth; older Americans are more likely to face complications from COVID-19. Houston affiliate ABC 13 cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in writing that “people in the 65-74 age range face a five times greater risk of hospitalization and a 90 times greater risk of death from Covid-19 compared to young adults between the ages of 18-29.”

Excess weight is also likely to cause complications from the virus; CNN reported in June that Trump weighed 244 pounds and is 6 feet 3 inches tall. “That gives him a body mass index of 30.5, making him technically, if mildly, obese,” ABC 13 added. Obesity triples the risk of hospitalization from Covid-19, according to the CDC. These factors would appear to place the president in particular peril.

Accordingly, his schedule has been adjusted. According to the New York Times, “The White House did not say how long Mr. Trump would have to remain isolated, but it canceled his plans to fly to Florida for a campaign rally on Friday, stripping his public schedule for the day of everything except a midday telephone call ‘on Covid-19 support to vulnerable seniors’.” If the president remains in quarantine for the recommended 14 days, he would have to miss a second debate with Joe Biden, scheduled for Oct. 15.

Hope Hicks — one of the president’s closest advisers — tested positive for COVID-19 last night. Hicks flew with the President on Air Force One, both to and from the debate on Tuesday night. Then she flew to Minnesota with him on Wednesday for a rally (!). Bloomberg News reporter Jennifer Jacobs delivered the news last night:

According to the Associated Press, Hicks began having symptoms while on the plane ride home on Wednesday. “Hicks began feeling mild symptoms during the plane ride home from a rally in Minnesota Wednesday evening, according to an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private information. She was quarantined away from others on the plane and her diagnosis was confirmed Thursday,” wrote Zeke Miller and Jill Colvin in their AP column.

The president and first lady entered quarantine within hours. Trump tweeted last night that he and First Lady Melania Trump were awaiting results from a COVID-19 test. “In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process,” he wrote on Twitter. “Whether we quarantine or whether we have it, I don’t know,” Trump said during a call-in interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity last night. “I just went for a test, and we’ll see what happens.”

Now we know what happened. The President has tested positive.

It is a stunning reversal for a man who routinely downplayed the severity of the pandemic. Jokingly referring to it as the “Kung Flu”, Trump blamed China for the virus. He mocked people for wearing masks (he did that just yesterday, the New York Times says). And he once claimed that it would disappear, “like a miracle”, from our shores.

The question now is how the president (and first lady) became infected. If the president’s exposure to COVID-19 was days ago, a positive test is still possible in the future. “If it was even five days ago, and he tests negative now, he still may end up testing positive tomorrow,” said Dr. Leana Wen. “And so this is why that quarantine period is so important,” she explained on “CNN Tonight” last night. The program aired footage of Hope Hicks and other advisers boarding the plane Marine One

During the broadcast, host Don Lemon pointed out that no one in the group was six feet apart OR wearing masks. Hicks was reportedly maskless during her flights with the president. White House spokesman Judd Deere stated that the White House will “incorporate current CDC guidance and best practices for COVID-19 “to the greatest extent possible”. But nobody on Marine One was wearing masks.

Interestingly, both Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence have tested negative, per CNBC. “As has been routine for months, Vice President Pence is tested for COVID-19 every day,” said Devin O’Malley, the vice president’s press secretary, in a tweet. “Vice President Pence remains in good health and wishes the Trumps well in their recovery,” he said.

UPDATE: Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, have both tested negative for the coronavirus. ABC News announced the news in a “Breaking News” update roughly an hour ago; the news has been confirmed by MSNBC.

UPDATE (5:10 pm, Oct. 2): The president is now being flown to Walter Reed Medical Center. He will be flown there aboard his Marine One helicopter, which is standard procedure (according to CNN). “Out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the President will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said. 

The New York Times quoted two sources who said the president has been experiencing a low-grade fever, nasal congestion, and a cough. His doctor issued a memo, cited by the Times, that said Mr. Trump remains “fatigued but in good spirits”. The memo also revealed that Trump is receiving an experimental drug — an antibody cocktail developed by the biotech company Regeneron.

The president just boarded Marine One, according to NBC News.

UPDATE (10/5/2020): The President has left the hospital and returned to the White House. According to the Associated Press, “Trump gingerly climbed the South Portico steps, removed his mask and declared, “I feel good.” After putting the mask in his pocket, Trump “gave a double thumbs-up to the departing helicopter from the portico terrace, where aides had arranged American flags for the sunset occasion. He entered the White House, where aides were visible milling about the Blue Room, without wearing a face covering.” Just yesterday, Dr. Sean Conley, the president’s doctor, said that he was still contagious and not “fully out of the woods” yet. But here he is, back at the White House.

This is a developing story. Please watch this space for further updates.

As Texas COVID Hits New Highs, Gov. Abbott Issues Mask Order

Image: Mike Pence
Photo from NBC News.

By Terrance Turner

July 1, 2020

The Texas Department of Safety and Health Services reported 8,076 new cases of COVID-19 today. That’s an all-time high for single-day cases. There were 57 deaths — the highest one-day total since May 14. According to KTRK, 6,904 hospitalizations were reported in the state of Texas. That’s also a record.

UPDATE (July 2):

The Texas Medical Center is now converting other beds into ICU beds because they have hit 100% capacity. They have now entered “Phase 2” of their ICU surge. That means they have 373 beds available, per KTRK. The TMC will certainly need those beds if today’s hospitalization numbers are any indicator.

Today, 7,915 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Texas. There are 44 new deaths. Hospitalizations from COVID-19 have hit a new record high: there were 7,382 lab-confirmed hospitalizations today, up 56% from last Thursday. According to Houston Chronicle reporter Jeremy Wallace, the number of coronavirus hospitalizations is up 389% since Memorial Day.

The dramatic spike forced Gov. Greg Abbott to take action. Today, the governor of Texas issued an executive order “requiring all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public places in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases, with few exceptions.” Those exceptions include people who are eating, exercising, or driving alone. (Or driving with passengers from one’s own household.)

Those under 10 years of age are also exempted from the order. So are those who have medical conditions that prevent masks. Or those who are voting. Or assisting a voter. Or giving a speech via broadcast or to an audience. Or anyone swimming in a pool…or a lake, or “similar body of water”. Or “any person who is actively providing or obtaining access to religious worship”, per the order.

The governor’s press release noted that the governor is giving mayors and county judges the ability to impose restrictions on some outdoor gatherings of over 10 people. Under the order, people cannot be in groups larger than ten and must maintain six feet of social distancing from others. (That, too, though, includes exceptions.) Penalties entail a verbal warning (for the first offense) and a $250 fine for the second.

The Associated Press reported today that the mask order takes effect Friday. As of Thursday, 176 of the state’s 254 counties had reported more 20 or more confirmed COVID-19 cases; those counties include most of the state’s population. 

Texas’ Coronavirus Cases Hit All-Time High

How Cardi B's Off-the-Cuff Video Became a Coronavirus Anthem - The ...
Cardi B warned y’all. (Photo via Google Images)

By Terrance Turner

“Coronavirus! Coronavirus!”

It is getting real — very real — in the Lone Star State.

Texas reported 2,504 cases of COVID-19 yesterday, which is the biggest one-day jump since the pandemic started. Texas also set a new record for COVID-19 hospitalizations for the third day in a row. According to the Texas Tribune, 2,153 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Wednesday — up from 2,056 the day before and 1,935 on Monday. The average number of hospitalizations a day has now climbed to 1,927 (officials use a 7-day “rolling average”). Houston Chronicle reporter Jeremy Wallace broke the news on Twitter yesterday:

Today, 1,826 new cases were reported in Texas. There were 35 new deaths, according to Wallace. He added that 13,732 more tests have been conducted since yesterday. The Texas Department of Safety and Health Services estimates that around 54,000 Texans have recovered from the virus.

So what’s behind this new jump? Gov. Abbott’s spokesperson says that the rise can be traced to two events: the Memorial Day festivities and the recent protests that have blazed across the state (and country).

According to Houston Public Media, over 21% of Texas’ new cases yesterday were in Jefferson County. When asked about the cause of the increase, DSHS spokesperson Chris Van Deusen pointed to Jefferson County’s three state prisons. Most of the new cases were “due to a change in how the local health department is reporting” cases from the prisons, he said. As usual, though, Harris and Dallas counties lead the state in COVID-19 cases.

Tonight, the president is in Dallas for a panel discussion and fundraiser. Today, Dallas County hit a new one-day high of 312 cases, according to ABC affiliate WFAA. Three people died. There are now over 13,000 new COVID-19 cases in Dallas County. The president reportedly has made little mention of the cases tonight, but he did manage to crack a joke(?):

The Dallas Morning News captured this photograph of (maskless) people praying during the roundtable discussion that Trump was a part of.

In a upper level of seating, social distancing cards are visible on unused chairs as people in the audience pray during a roundtable conversation about race relations and policing at Gateway Church Dallas Campus on Thursday in Dallas. Most of the seats lower down and closer to the stage were filled with attendees sitting side by side.

Meanwhile, the state continues to reopen. On June 3, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Phase 3 of reopening the Texas economy. With “very limited exceptions”, virtually all businesses in Texas can now reopen at 50% capacity. That includes museums, libraries, water parks, and swimming pools. Beginning after midnight, restaurants will be able to operate at 75% capacity. Abbott’s order specifies that there will be no occupancy limits for church services, local government operations, child-care services, or youth camps, or recreational sports.

UPDATE (JUNE 12, 2020): Beginning at 12:01 am, restaurants began operating at 75% capacity. Significantly, Abbott’s order specifies that professional and collegiate sports events may also commence at 50% capacity. (This may be difficult for the University of Houston: today Fox 26 reported that six student-athletes at UH have tested positive for the coronavirus. As a result, the university is suspending voluntary workouts.

Today, Texas added another 2,097 cases of COVID-19, according to Wallace. 19 additional deaths were also reported. The Texas DSHS data reveals that, once again, Dallas County and Harris County lead the state in both cases and deaths. According to the most recent data, Harris now has 15,864 cases total, with 267 deaths; Dallas is not far behind, with 13,257 cases. Dallas County has 277 deaths, leading the state. (Data are provisional and subject to change.) Gov. Abbott says that he is “concerned but not alarmed” about the rise in cases. But Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo was concerned enough to sound the alarm.

Yesterday, she unveiled a four-part “threat level” system of COVID-19, revealing that the Houston area is now on level “orange”. That indicates significant risk. If current trends continue, she said, the county may have to ask residents to stay home. The only exceptions would be essential errands.

As COVID Cases Climb, Abbott Announces New Openings

A visual representation of the numbers of cases by area within Texas. Harris County and Dallas County lead the state in cases and deaths. (Photo via the Texas Tribune.)

By Terrance Turner

May 18, 2020

On Saturday, Texas reported a record-high 1,801 cases of COVID-19. That’s the highest one-day jump since the pandemic started. The Department of State Health Services says that the totals were “largely from targeting testing” at meat plants. CBS News says that 700 of those cases sprung from a meatpacking plant in Amarillo, TX. On May 16, Gov. Abbott released a statement saying that he’d deployed a “surge response team” to Amarillo to conduct site surveys and test employees.

Another 33 deaths were reported on Saturday, according to the Houston Chronicle. That brings the three-day total to 147 — the most in a three-day period during this pandemic. Another 31 deaths were reported Sunday. But yesterday, the number of daily cases plunged from 1,801 to 785. Today, there were 909 new cases, according to the Texas Tribune.

Today, Gov. Abbott emphasized the positive during the press conference. He stressed that the hospitalization rate is lower than at any point since April 21. (Truthfully, hospitalizations have hovered between 1,500 and 1,700 for most of the past month.) Abbott also touted the “positivity rate”, which measures how many people who have been tested for the virus actually have it. Abbott displayed a chart during the press conference that presented a 7-day “rolling average” of positivity rates. The positivity rate in Texas fell from 13.86% on April 13 to 4.97% on May 13.

Graphic displayed during Gov. Abbott’s press conference yesterday.

Abbott used these encouraging statistics to bolster his argument in favor of reopening further. “Texas is prepared to move into Phase II,” Gov. Abbott said during today’s press conference. Effective today, gyms and businesses in office buildings can reopen at 25% capacity. Those who work at those jobs may be able to find child care more easily after today. “Starting immediately, child care services are able to open,” Abbott said.

Beginning Friday, May 22, restaurants may reopen at 50% capacity. Bars, breweries, and wine tasting rooms can reopen at 25% capacity on Friday. Also allowed to reopen: bowling alleys, bingo halls, aquariums, and Abbott added that on May 31, youth sports camps and Little League games may re-open. Pro sports may also resume, given certain standards and conditions.

UPDATE: May 19, 2020: Bars reopen on May 22, but you may not want to go just yet. A number of safety standareds have been instituted that may put a damper on your night out. “Customers should not be permitted to loiter at the bar or in commonly trafficked areas, and should remain seated at tables inside the bar,” the “Minimum Health Protocols” sheet on the Governor’s website says. “Only provide service to seated individuals.” No table can seat more than six people.

“Parties should maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other parties at all times, including while
waiting to be seated in the establishment or for admission to the establishment,” the article continues. “Activities that enable close human contact, including but not limited to dancing, are discouraged.” For bar patrons, there are additional rules:

“When individuals go to a bar or similar establishment, individuals should, to the extent
possible, minimize in-person contact with others not in the individual’s household. Minimizing
in-person contact includes maintaining 6 feet of separation from individuals. When
maintaining 6 feet of separation is not feasible, other methods should be utilized to slow the
spread of COVID-19, such as wearing a face covering or mask, washing or sanitizing hand
frequently, and avoiding sharing utensils or other common objects.”

Texas Reports 1000 New COVID-19 Cases for Eighth Straight Day

My graphic of the COVID-19 cases in Texas, which have topped 1000 daily for eight straight days. Graph created by Terrance Turner (with Google Slides)

By Terrance Turner

May 15, 2020

Today, the state of Texas reported 1,347 new cases of COVID-19. The Texas Tribune confirmed the news, adding that that Texas reported 56 new deaths. Yesterday, Texas reported 1,448 new cases of COVID-19. The state also reported 58 deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday — the largest one-day increase since this pandemic began. Houston Chronicle reporter Jeremy Wallace delivered news of the grim milestone late yesterday afternoon:

The Texas Tribune confirmed: “Texas reported 1,448 more cases of the new coronavirus Thursday, an increase of about 3% over the previous day [May 13], bringing the total number of known cases to 43,851. The state has also reported 58 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 1,216 — an increase of about 5% from Wednesday. Both of these are largest daily increases the state has reported. But they also come as testing has increased across the state.”

It does appear that testing has increased. According to state data released by the COVID Tracking Project, the state is averaging 17,000 tests a day. (The COVID Tracking Project, launched by The Atlantic, publishes and collects the most complete testing data available for U.S states and territories. It compiles data on testing and hospitalizations.) Testing on Thursday (May 14) produced 35,853 new tests for Texans, according to the Project.

KERA News quoted Abbott on April 27: “Getting up to 25,000 tests is something that should occur early on in the May timetable that we’re looking at,” the governor said. But since Texas began slowly reopening on May 1, the state has only met that threshold three tines Before the nearly 36,000 yesterday, there were roughly 49,000 tests on Wednesday, May 13 and 28,873 on May 2.

And cases continue to rise: Texas has reported 1,000 cases of COVID-19 each day for eight straight days. The Hill brought attention to the streak in a May 13 article. “According to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, 1,179 new cases were reported on Tuesday,” wrote staff writer Marty Johnson. “Since Gov. Greg Abbott (R) allowed some businesses to resume operations on May 1, Texas has only been below 1,000 new cases per day twice — on May 4 and May 7.”

ABC 13 reporter Nick Natario qualified these findings, writing on Twitter: “This is correct, but the state is also performing more tests. 110,000 more in May than the final two weeks of April. Hospitalization numbers have flattened.” He added that there are 130 fewer Texans in the hospital for COVID-19 than there were in April. However, according to Lauren Ancel Meyers, a biology professor at UT-Austin, it can take 10 days for hospitalization numbers to catch up with infection numbers. She says tracking data indicate that movement to places like grocery stores has increased in recent weeks.

Those numbers will likely increase next week. Monday marks the start of “Phase II” in Texas. Restaurants and retail stores will be open at 50% capacity, and gyms will reopen at 25%.

Reopenings Threaten Texans’ Lives. Does Greg Abbott Care?

Gov. Greg Abbott announces modifications to executive order ...
Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a press conference on May 4. (Photo via Click2Houston.)

By Terrance Turner

May 8, 2020

Today, a number of local businesses opened, thanks to an executive order by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. “This Friday, cosmetology salons, barbershops, hair salons, nail salons, and tanning salons are able to open,” Abbott said during a May 5 press conference. Each stylist can only have one customer at a time, he added. This is provided that all establishments follow social distancing of at least six feet. Swimming pools may also reopen, provided that they operate at 25% capacity.

Abbott also announced that wedding venues and churches that conduct weddings may open immediately. Weddings held indoors but outside of a house of worship must only operate at 25% capacity. Wedding receptions must also be at 25% capacity unless they’re outdoors, according to the press release on the governor’s website.

In addition, Gov. Abbott proclaimed that beginning May 18, locker rooms and gyms may also reopen. But locker rooms and shower facilities must remain closed. Gyms, too, must operate at 1/4 of their capacity. The same goes for office workforces and unspecified “manufacturing services” that are allowed to open that day. The press release said that these new rules would go into effect at 12:01 am today.

“Texas is in a position to continue operating parts of our economy because of the efforts and determination of the people of Texas,” the governor said. Certainly, the Texas population (29 million) has largely worked together to help flatten the curve of Covid-19. But is Texas really in a position to reopen? Is it?

Is it?

On April 30, the day before Abbott began reopening the economy, 50 deaths were reported, along with 1000 new cases of coronavirus. But that wasn’t enough to stop Abbott from reopening. Gov. Abbott allowed his stay-at-home order to expire on April 30. The next day, his executive order took effect, allowing restaurants, retail stores, and movie theaters to reopen on May 1.

According to ABC’s Austin affiliate KVUE, Texas health officials reported 2000 new cases between May 2-3. On May 2, CBS station KHOU confirmed that 1,293 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Texas. On Sunday, May 3, the number of COVID-19 cases in Texas passed 1,000 for the fourth consecutive day. (According to the Associated Press, deaths increased by at least 20 that day.) The Austin-American Statesman said that 1,026 fresh cases had been reported on May 3. (It added that the only previous days with more than 1000 cases were April 8 and April 10.) On May 4, 784 new cases were added.

In media appearances, Gov. Abbott has stressed the recovery rate, noting that Texas has among the highest recovery rates in the state. While raw data indicate that Texas is third in the nation for recoveries, that isn’t one of the White House guidelines for reopening.

“Understand that Texas either has the 3rd or 4th best — meaning lowest — death rate in the United States,” Abbott said in a television interview with KVUE. But the highest death counts are in Harris County and Dallas County. On May 4, Harris had 6,967 confirmed cases and more than 130 deaths, according to Dr. Umair A. Shah, executive director for the county’s public health department. Harris County includes the City of Houston, and Houston also experienced a spike.

ABC 13 revealed on May 3 that Houston had 115 new cases of COVID-19. There were also five deaths — the highest single-day death total for Houston since this pandemic started. “In this entire time period, we’ve never reported, in the city of Houston, more than five deaths. So this equals the maximum that we have ever reported of people that passed away on any given day,” Turner said.

Things got worse the next day. The Daily Beast reported on May 4:

“Harris, which includes the city of Houston and is the third-largest county in the United States, had 6,967 confirmed cases on Monday and more than 130 deaths, according to Dr. Umair A. Shah, executive director for the county’s public health department. There were 129 new cases overnight”

From “Texans Brace for a COVID-19 ‘Explosion’ Just Days After Reopening”

In Dallas County, the numbers were similarly bleak. On May 3, the county had its highest number of cases up to that point, with 234 new cases and 11 deaths. The next day, another 237 cases were added. The Dallas County Health and Human Services Department announced 251 cases from COVID-19 on May 7. “Today replaces yesterday as our second-highest day of new positive COVID-19 cases,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. Yesterday, 249 deaths were reported, according to NBC 5. The 10 deaths that day tied a county record.

Currently, there are an estimated 16,670 active cases of COVID-19 in Texas. Per the Texas Dept. of Health, there have been 1,049 fatalities. Today brought even more bad news. According to Houston Chronicle reporter Jeremy Wallace:

This past weekend, Texas surpassed a thousand deaths from COVID-19. But here we are, ready to reopen a slew of other Texas businesses. And Abbott has added insult to injury (literally) by publicly tussling with local authorities.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued a controversial order last month requiring all Harris County residents to wear masks in public. Gov. Abbott swiftly moved to undermine the order — and its penalty of $1000 fine for anyone who didn’t comply.

“We strongly recommend that everyone wear a mask,” Abbott said in a press conference. “However, it’s not a mandate. And we make clear that no jurisdictions can impose any type of penalty or fine.” He then announced that his executive order would supersede local orders — effectively nullifying Hidalgo’s order. (She later amended her order to conform to his.)

In a May 6 proclamation posted on the Texas Governor’s website, Abbott called for fines and even jail time for those who violated his executive orders:

WHEREAS, under Section 418.173, failure to comply with any executive order issued during the COVID-19 disaster is an offense punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000, confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days, or both fine and confinement.

“Governor Abbott Issues Executive Order To Expand Openings Of Certain Businesses and Activities” (gov.texas.gov)

But after Dallas salon owner Shelley Luther was jailed for violating a stay-home order (and refusing to apologize to a judge), Abbott did a 180. In a Fox News interview, Abbott spoke out against Houston enforcing HIS order. “In Houston, they were issuing fines and potential jail time for anybody who refused to wear a mask,” Abbott told host Sean Hannity. “Wearing a mask is the best practice. However, no one should forfeit their liberty and be sent to jail for not wearing a mask.”

He then went even further. The Chronicle quotes him as saying, in a written statement to the media: “Throwing Texans in jail who have had their businesses shut down through no fault of their own is nonsensical, and I will not allow it to happen.” But that’s exactly what Abbott did allow, by issuing his executive order.

On May 8, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo pointed out the obvious contradiction:

Abbott later amended his executive order by striking down the section that introduced fines and potential jail time. But by then, the political damage was already done. And the damage to Texas residents was only just beginning.

UPDATE (May 14, 2020): This week has brought another surge in both new cases and deaths from COVID-19. Gov. Abbott’s order to reopen barbershops and salons took force on May 8. Since then, cases have spiked. According to the Texas Dept. of Health Services, 1,179 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Texas on Tuesday. “Texas, which began to open its businesses at the beginning of May, has reported more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 for five consecutive days,” The Hill reported.

Obviously, these positive tests may very well represent infections from two or three weeks ago. Granted, Gov. Abbott cannot be held responsible for the rise in infections or deaths. But he has made himself a convenient target for criticism. Abbott publicly denounced local leaders for enforcing the orders that he himself signed (!). And his conflicting positions on those orders have left many Texans confused about how to proceed.

Continuing to open businesses, even as cases continue to soar, will surely expose more Texans to infection. Yet the deadly spike on the first weekend in May seemed to not affect Abbott at all. He designated several more businesses to reopen just a week later (last Friday, May 8). Coronavirus cases (and deaths) may well keep rising after more state businesses open next week. The question now is whether Gov. Abbott even cares.

Roughnecks QB P.J. Walker Joins Panthers (UPDATED)

By Terrance Turner

Updated Oct. 29, 2020

Houston Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker is signing with the Carolina Patherns, according to ESPN. He is the first XFL player to join an NFL team.

The move comes just three days after the XFL announced that it’s officially canceling its entire season due to the coronavirus outbreak. (XFL players are now free to sign with NFL teams, pending physicals.) The move also reunites Walker with Panthers coach Matt Rhule, who coached him at Temple University. According to the Houston Chronicle, Walker shined with the Temple Owls: “The 5-11, 214-pound New Jersey native played for Rhule at Temple, setting records for wins, passing yards, passing touchdowns, completions, attempts, total yards and total touchdowns as the Owls went to consecutive bowl games.” At Temple, Walker passed for 74 touchdowns and rushed for nine.

He was even more successful with the Roughnecks, leading them to an undefeated 5-0 season. Walker led the league with 15 touchdowns and 1,338 passing yards. In his most recent game, he helped the Roughnecks overcome their largest-ever deficit (14 points) and rally to beat the Seattle Dragons on March 7. His star-making performance led some to say that he should be the league’s MVP. When asked about that at the postgame press conference, Walker modestly demurred: “I’mma vote for Cam [Phillips],” he said, praising the Roughnecks wide receiver seated next to him. “I ain’t gonna vote for myself. I’m gonna vote for Cam.”

Watch the moment below.

BREAKING: The Carolina Panthers have traded QB Kyle Allen to the Washington Redskins. The team recently gave quarterback Cam Newton permission to seek a trade. This latest move indicates that Walker may be competing for the starting job with another recent signee: former New Orleans Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater. Stay tuned for further updates.

UPDATE: Tonight, P.J. Walker made his debut at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers during tonight’s game versus the Falcons. Starting QB Teddy Bridgewater was hit in the head by Falcons pass-rusher Charles Harris. The refs threw a flag. Harris was ejected for unnecessary roughness; Bridgewater exited the game. Walker, who has become the No. 2 backup quarterback, entered the game amid pouring rain. He took a shot right away, launching the ball across the field for a touchdown attempt. It didn’t take, but the drive resulted in a field goal.

Teddy Bridgewater just re-entered the game. Apparently he cleared concussion protocol. Stay tuned.

Calls Mount for End to White House Briefings After Trump’s Tantrum

By Terrance Turner

The President of the United States held a press briefing on Thursday to update the public on the coronavirus. During the briefing, he touted the drug hydroxychloroquine, used to treat malaria and arthritis, as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Preliminary tests had shown promise for the drug. Trump called it a “game-changer” that could help thousands. He added that the drug would be made available “almost immediately” with a prescription. Trump even said people would have access to the drug “literally within a few days.” But the Food and Drug Administration begged to differ. That same day, the FDA released a statement saying that “there are no FDA-approved therapeutics or drugs to treat, prevent, or cure COVID-19”.

The next day, at another briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci (the head of the White House coronavirus task force) was asked if hydroxychloroquine could be used as a “prophylaxis” against the virus. “The answer is no,” Fauci said plainly. “The evidence you’re talking about, John, is anecdotal evidence,” he continued, addressing the reporter by name. “But the information that you’re referring to specifically is anecdotal. It was not done in a controlled, clinical trial.”

Trump stepped to the mic, conceding that “what the doctor said is 100% correct.” He added. “We’ll see. We’re going to know soon.”

NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander pointed out that the president’s own words had painted a different picture. “Yesterday, Mr. President, you said that they were for, quote, ‘immediate delivery’.”

“Yes, we have millions of units ordered,” the president responded. “I am a man that comes from a very positive school when it comes to — in particular — one of these drugs. And we’ll see how it works out, Peter. I’m not saying it will, but I think people may be surprised. By the way, that would be a game-changer.”

“Dr. Fauci said that there’s no magic drug for coronavirus right now, which you would agree—”

“Well, I think we only disagree a little bit”, the president interrupted. (Crosstalk ensued.) “I disagree,” he said. Maybe, and maybe not. Maybe there is; maybe there isn’t. We’ll have to see.”

“Is it possible that your impulse to put a positive spin on things may be giving Americans a false sense of hope?” Alexander asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” Trump answered. “Such a lovely question,” he said sarcastically. “Look — it may work, and it may not work. And I agree with the doctor, what he said. . .. I feel good about it. That’s all it is, just a feeling. I’m, you know, a smart guy.”

Alexander’s next question set off a powder keg. “What do you say to the people who are scared, though? Nearly 200 dead. 14,000 who are sick [in the U.S.]. Millions, as you’ve witnessed, who are scared right now? What do you say to Americans, who are watching you right now, who are scared?”

“I say that you’re a terrible reporter, that’s what I say,” Trump fumed. “I think that’s a very nasty question and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people. The American people are looking for answers and they’re looking for hope. And you’re doing sensationalism and the same with NBC and Comcast. I don’t call it Comcast, I call it ‘Concast.’” He wasn’t done: “That’s really bad reporting, you ought to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism. Let’s see if it works. It might and it might not. I happen to feel good about it, but who knows? I’ve been right a lot.”

Watch the full exchange below:

This morning, the White House held another briefing. While Trump was talking about unity in our “beautiful, big American family”, his campaign was sending emails to supporters that further attacked Alexander. The Hill reported earlier today on the email’s contents: “President Trump was in the middle of delivering a positive, uplifting message to Americans who may be afraid, and Peter Alexander was triggered by it,” the email claims. “Perhaps if Alexander hadn’t been so determined to undermine the President’s message, he would have heard it.”

As for the briefing itself? This time, things unfolded rather smoothly, with the president deferring to experts and generally behaving himself. But the damage was already done. After yesterday’s exchange, many called for networks to end live coverage of Trump’s briefings. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow explicitly called for the practice to end last night on The Rachel Maddow Show.

She has been joined by a chorus of voices who say that the president lies so frequently that it does a disservice to viewers:

The Influencer, Revisited

By Terrance Turner

If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re reading it from home. COVID-19 — which today surpassed 16,000 U.S. cases, according to the New York Times — has forced us inside. To limit the spread of the virus, both local and national government officials are urging people to stay home. Like many other cities, Houston has closed bars, clubs, gyms, restaurants, and other businesses to prevent viral transmission. Those businesses employ thousands of workers, who have been laid off or simply sent home. As a result, numerous jobs have been lost.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, 16,000 Texans filed for unemployment benefits last week — a 38% jump from this time last year. Those who are still employed are almost invariably working from home. Those that aren’t may have trouble paying their bills. If you’re looking for a way to earn some extra money while at home, a new affiliate marketing program can help you. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the “Influencer” program, a digital media course that teaches people to become well-known and influential. Today, I’m writing to inform you of the opportunity to earn some extra cash and a few big prizes.

You can serve as an “affiliate marketer” for “The Influencer” and make money without even having a product of your own. Once you sign up for the program, you receive your own unique hyperlink. Those who click on the link and purchase the course generate a commission for you. That’s right: you can make a 50% commission on every click that leads to a sale. Better yet, the top sellers can attain amazing prizes (pictured above). The 3rd-place seller will win an iPhone 11; 2nd place wins a one-year supply of groceries. 1st place will win you $5000 in cash.

I know what you’re thinking, but let me be clear: THIS IS NOT A SCAM. I am currently taking the course myself, and it’s legit: a $47 course with 17 instructional videos. Each video teaches you a lesson on how to reach a wider audience and build an online following. To learn more about the program, click this link:
https://www.canibefamous.com/?affiliate_id=2197576

Texas Southern Cancels In-Person Classes, Commencement Due to Coronavirus

By Terrance Turner

This afternoon, I received an email from Interim TSU President Kenneth Huewitt. The email reads, in part: “Although there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on campus, this fact does not stop us from taking action now. Texas Southern University is announcing the following decisions:

• In an effort to minimize contact that could spread the COVID-19 virus on our campus, we are extending online instruction for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester. No decision has been made yet regarding the summer semesters.

• We are mandating that all residential students now away for Spring Break not return to campus. Given the State’s executive order pertaining to gathering places, recreation centers, eateries, entertainment, etc., it has become evident that this is the best action to take to enhance the safety of our students. Students should check their student email for detailed instructions from Residence Life & Housing regarding how to go about the collection of your belongings from your room.

• Students who are now staying on campus should begin making arrangements with their families/guardians to move out of the residence halls by no later than Saturday, March 28, and return home for the remainder of the semester. Students who are facing special circumstances can put in a request to Residence Life & Housing to have their situations evaluated. These requests will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

• We are cancelling the Spring 2020 Commencement ceremony. All Spring graduates will be allowed to walk at a future Commencement ceremony, and we will provide additional details at a later date.”

The email went on to state that refunds will be addressed in future communications. It also emphasized that essential services at Texas Southern will continue to operate: “TSU is NOT closing,” Huewitt said. He added that the TSU Library and Learning Center will remain open for those who need access to computers and WiFi. The university will also provide free food trucks.