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Democrats to go virtual with convention

By AI HEPING in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-08-06 13:54

A general view of the Wisconsin Center ahead of the Democratic National Convention on in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Aug 5, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Republicans are still working out plans for their party's national political convention, while Democrats said Wednesday that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, their event will be entirely virtual with former vice-president Joe Biden accepting his party's presidential nomination from his home state of Delaware.

On the advice of health officials working for the party, campaign officials said no national Democratic officials will travel to Milwaukee from out of state to participate in events, which will begin Aug 17.

Democrats said that the decision reinforces that Biden takes the novel coronavirus pandemic seriously while President Donald Trump does not.

"I've wanted to set an example as to how we should respond individually to this crisis," Biden said at a fundraiser on Wednesday, adding, "Science matters."

Wisconsin officials are still expected to give speeches at the downtown Milwaukee convention center, but leading Democrats, including Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, plan to deliver their addresses from elsewhere. Delegates had already been instructed not to attend.

Trump said in an interview Wednesday that he will "probably" deliver his speech accepting the Republican nomination for a second term live from the White House's South Lawn.

Citing the expense of traveling with a full Secret Service detail, Trump told Fox News that the White House would be the "easiest" setting for his address: "And we are thinking about that. ... It's the easiest alternative. I think it's a beautiful alternative."

Trump did say in his Fox & Friends interview that "if for some reason somebody had difficulty with (the White House speech plan), I could go someplace else".

A campaign address from the White House could cause White House aides setting up for the event to violate the 1939 Hatch Act, which bans political activity paid by taxpayers. Trump, as president, isn't subject to the Hatch Act, but nearly every federal employee is.

"Is that even legal? I assume that's not something that you could do," said Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota. "I think anything to do on federal property would seem to be problematic."

Another Republican senator, Wisconsin's Ron Johnson, told reporters that Trump's proposal is "probably not allowed" and he "probably shouldn't do it".

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized Trump for suggesting that he could deliver his convention acceptance speech from the South Lawn, calling it "very wrong".

"It's not serious thinking," she told MSNBC. "It won't happen, whether it's legally wrong or ethically out of the question, it shouldn't have been something that was expressed."

Drugmakers that have contracts with the US and other countries announced Wednesday their charges for coronavirus vaccines, which range from $10 to $37 a dose.

Johnson & Johnson said it agreed to provide 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine for use in the US, in exchange for more than $1 billion from the federal government, implying a per-dose price of about $10. Johnson & Johnson previously received $456 million in US funding to develop its vaccine.

Moderna said it signed small-volume supply contracts with governments at prices ranging from $32 to $37 a dose, which would mean a two-dose regimen could cost as much as $74. Moderna didn't disclose the countries, but Canadian officials said they signed a supply agreement with Moderna.

Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca have pledged not to earn a profit during the pandemic, while Moderna and Pfizer say they will.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that checkpoints will be set up at bridges and tunnels leading into the city to enforce a quarantine order for people coming from states with high rates of COVID-19.

The checkpoints will signal to people that the city is serious about continuing to keep its infection rate low, de Blasio said.

"We're not looking to target out-of-state residents," said the city's sheriff, Joseph Fucito, whose agency will operate the checkpoints. "In fact, what we're looking to do is educate people who've spent time in COVID-19 hot spots regardless of their residence."

The state quarantine order requires people coming from states with elevated rates of infection to self-isolate for up to two weeks. People caught violating the order could be fined up to $10,000.

The order applies to travelers from 34 states and Puerto Rico.

New York City's health department said that there have been 18,937 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 4,626 probable COVID-19 deaths as of Wednesday.

The health department defines "probable" deaths as people who didn't have a positive coronavirus laboratory test, but their death certificate will give the cause of death as "COVID-19" or an equivalent.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is asking the thousands of New Yorkers who have fled the city because of the virus to return to save it from economic ruin. Many moved to second homes, while others rented or bought new properties, leaving their expensive city apartments.

At a news conference Tuesday, Cuomo said of the wealthiest residents who have left the city: "I literally talk to people all day long who are in their Hamptons house who also lived here, or in their Hudson Valley house or in their Connecticut weekend house, and I say, 'You gotta come back, when are you coming back? We'll go to dinner. I'll buy you a drink. Come over, I'll cook.'

"They're not coming back right now. And you know what else they're thinking? 'If I stay there, I pay a lower income tax,' because they don't pay the New York City surcharge," he said.

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