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Dr. Deborah Birx Contradicts Trump, Privately Tells Govs To Increase COVID Testing

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Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, told the nation’s governors in a call Monday that it was vital that they ramp up testing to find asymptomatic individuals to prevent further community spread.

Her remarks stood in stark contrast to those by the president at his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma over the weekend—and the days since—in which he said he had asked his team to slow-walk testing initiatives so as not to inflate the country’s official case count. “Hopefully I have left you with the impression that increased testing is good,” Birx said on the call, a recording of which was obtained by The Daily Beast. “We would like to even see it even more. Identifying cases early including your asymptomatic [ones] will really help us protect the eldery and the additional people with comorbidities.”

In her weekly call with governors, Birx said her team had collected data that suggests an uptick in cases in people between the ages of 18 and 35, and that state officials should continue to test that population to better contain the virus and to ensure hospitalizations and deaths do not spike. For good measure, she asked governors to enhance testing of workers in nursing homes and of individuals in Hispanic communities, saying it would be helpful to enlist bilingual testers for the latter.

The call with governors comes just two days after President Trump told rally-goers that he asked his team to “slow the testing down” to keep the U.S. case count artificially lower. Trump’s advisors told reporters that he was merely joking. But on Tuesday morning, before departing for Arizona, Trump told reporters he was not. “I don’t kid,” he told CBS News’s Wija Jiang.

Birx’s remarks on Monday’s call underscore the extent to which the president and members of his own coronavirus task force are increasingly operating off of different playbooks. Appearing before a House committee on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the government, said he’d never been told to slow down testing and expected it to ramp up.  

The internal administration debate over the efficacy of testing comes at a time when cases of coronavirus are rising fast in several states and ticking up nationally. Both Birx and Pence acknowledged on the call that there was still plenty of reason for state officials to worry about the trajectory of the virus’s spread, particularly in the south and southwestern part of the county.

“We have about 110 counties … that are in that alert status,” Birx said.

The call featured remarks from several of the governors in the hardest hit states. Those governors stressed, as did Birx, that much of the rise in cases was due to younger individuals, often asymptomatic, testing positive for the disease. And in explaining those spikes, the governors offered an implicit admission that the relaxing of social distance policies that they’d undertaken had given way to complacency about health standards writ large.

“Obviously some of our folks aren’t following the rules and some of the businesses we are working on making sure these folks are following the phased approach,” said Gov. Ron Desantis (R-FL) whose state has had an appreciable spike in COVID-19 cases, especially among those aged 18 to 35.

“They aren’t necessarily sick but they are definitely transmitting it. There’s an unmistakable shift,” Desantis said.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) said there had been an uptick in the percentage of people testing positive who are under the age of 30 and that state officials had begun revoking alcohol licenses from some bars that were not following reopening guidelines.

“We do have bars opened up at 50 percent and we have found that some bars are not following those rules and are crowded just like they were before the pandemic occurred,” Abbott said. “If they do not follow [the protocols] they will lose their ability to remain open.”

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, whose state’s hospital system is under increasing stress, blamed the sharp increase in COVID cases, in part, on Mexicans with U.S. citizenship coming across the border for better medical care. But he also spotlighted residents of the states not practicing best public health practices, calling it “human nature.”  “They’ve wanted to get out and about,” said Ducey. “We are seeing even with social distancing policies in place, they are gathering. We are working with our business owners for accountability there.”

During the course of the hour-and-a-half call, none of the governors who spoke said they felt as if testing should be ramped down. But only one participant—Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak (D-NV)—challenged Pence to explain the president’s remarks.

“The president’s comment Saturday night as it related to his order to slow down the testing is certainly not helping,” Sisolak said. “We are doing everything we can in Nevada to increase our testing and increase the availability of our testing.”

Pence’s response to Sisolak was not far off from those put out by White House officials and advisors over the weekend who said Trump’s statements were not meant to be taken seriously.  “The president’s observation,” Pence said, “was a passing observation.”

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Keyshia Cole’s Mom, Frankie Lons, Has Passed Away

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Frankie Lons, the vibrant mother of singer Keyshia Cole, who became a popular figure after appearing on Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is in 2006, has passed away.

News of her death surfaced on Monday morning (July 19). Cole’s younger sister, Elite, who appeared on The Way It Is as well, confirmed the sad news. She took to her InstaStories to write, “Worse pain ever….to see my mama in a body bag on her birthday! My heart so f–kin broke.”

According to Cole’s brother Sam, said Lons relapsed and overdosed at her home on Sunday while celebrating her birthday.

Last year, Cole shared that Lons, who struggled with drugs off and on, checked into rehab and in February would have been there for 30 days. She was hopeful that her mom would finally be able to stay sober and be as healthy as possible for her children.

“Do you believe in the power of love?” she wrote alongside a photo of her next to her mom.”What about lack thereof? 50/50 There’s strength in knowing there’s something or someone you can always lean back on. Someone to catch u when u fall. I’ve been being strong for you, hoping I’ll get a chance to feel that feeling from you.”

Cole and her older sister, Neffeteria, haven’t spoken publicly on the news. During Cole’s latest reality series on BET, Keyshia Cole My New Life in 2019, the singer and Lons had a conversation about the possibility of her not being around, which Cole said, understandably, alarmed her.

“Some things happen out there in the streets and it scares a child, the thought,” Cole said.

“One day chicken the next day feathers. If I die today you’re going to move on and you’ve got to make it. You’ve got to live for Keyshia,” Lons replied. “You have to live for you and your family not nobody else. You don’t have to do nothin’ but die and pay taxes, but you have to move on if anything happens to me. At the end of the day you’ll see me later. Up there.”

She added, “I’m a be always where you can find me. Even when God calls me. A mother’s love will always protect you.”

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Spike Lee Apologizes After Accidentally Announcing Top Cannes Prize Winner at Start of Show

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“It took a lot of suspense out of the night I understand, it wasn’t on purpose,” said the director.

As with most awards ceremonies, the Cannes Film Festival likes to build up to the winner of its biggest award, the Palme d’Or winner. Alas, that wasn’t to be the case with Spike Lee on hand.

“I have no excuses,” Lee, this year’s jury president, said in a press conference. “I messed up.”

He then tried to make a sports analogy to compare his slip to, adding, “I’m a big sports fan. It’s like the guy at the end of the game in the foul line, he misses a free throw, or a guy misses a kick.”

Others might compare it to the 2017 Oscars when “La La Land” was erroneously announced as best picture over the actual winner, “Moonlight.” At least in this case, Lee only killed the suspense and announced the winner early, rather than assemble the wrong cast and crew on the stage only to send them off and replace them.

Maybe it was a language mix-up, or Spike just misunderstood her use of “first prize” in French to refer to the top prize of the night, rather than the first prize to be presented on the night, for Best Actor (Caleb Landry Jones, “Nitram”).

Instead, though, Lee quickly blurted out that Julia Ducournau’s “Titane” had picked up the Palme d’Or, to the shock and horror of his fellow panelists.

Hilariously, Spike almost did it again (though everyone already knew the winner thanks to his first flub).

Taking to the stage at the proper time for announcing the Palme winner, he said, “In 63 years of life I’ve learned that people get a second chance, this is my second chance. I apologize for messing up. It took a lot of suspense out of the night I understand, it wasn’t on purpose.”

But then he almost announced the winner again before the evening’s hostess, French actress Doria Tillier, evening stopped him so that Sharon Stone could come out and do what she was there to do … announce the Palme d’Or winner … that everyone already knew.

Perhaps Lee was just excited that Ducournau is only the second female — and first solo female — in history to win the honor, coming 28 years after the win for “The Piano” and Jane Campion. That year, she shared top honors with Chen Kaige’s “Farewell My Concubine.”

Lee said that the organization took the error well, telling him to “forget about it.” He later joked about it, talking about what an honor it was to be on the jury. “This year, especially, after COVID-19. This is historic. Besides me f—— up, this is historic.”

You can check out the complete list of winners below:

Palme d’Or: “Titane,” Julia Ducournau

Grand Prix: “A Hero,” Asghar Farhadi & “Compartment No. 6,” Juho Kuosmanen

Best Director: Leos Carax, “Annette”

Best Actress: Renate Reinsve, “The Worst Person in the World”

Best Actor: Caleb Landry Jones, “Nitram”

Jury Prize: “Memoria,” Apichatpong Weerasethakul & “Ahed’s Knee,” Nadav Lapid

Best Screenplay: “Drive My Car,” Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Camera d’Or: “Murina,” Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic

Palme d’Or, Short Film: “All the Crows in the World (Tian Xai Wu Ya),” Tang Yi

Special Mention: “Ceu de Agosto,” Jasmin Tenucci

Honorary Award: Marco Bellocchio

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Tennis Player Coco Gauff Tests Positive For COVID-19, Will Not Attend Olympics

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17-year-old tennis player Cori “Coco” Gauff was slated to be on the U.S. tennis team at the upcoming Olympic Games, but has withdrawn after testing positive for COVID-19.

She broke the news via social media.

“I am so disappointed to share the news that I have tested positive for COVID and won’t be able to play in the Olympic Games in Tokyo,” she wrote in a note. “It has always been a dream of mine to represent the USA at the Olympics, and I hope there will be many more chances for me to make this come true in the future.” At #25, Gauff is the youngest player with a Women’s Tennis Association ranking in the top 100 .

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At 15, Gauff shocked the sports world when she beat tennis icon Venus Williams in the opening round of Wimbledon in 2019. She then bested Williams again during her Australian Open debut in January 2020 and defeated Naomi Osaka at the same event.

Gauff finished her statement by wishing all of her fellow athletes well. “I want to wish TEAM USA best of luck and a safe game for every Olympian and the entire Olympic family.”

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