Monday Sunrise Briefing: A confusing presidential health watch

REUTERS/Cheriss May
President Donald Trump waves to supporters Sunday as he briefly rides by in the presidential motorcade in front of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he is being treated for COVID-19 in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S. Oct.r 4, 2020.

Questions about President Donald Trump's health swirled through the weekend as his physicians and White House staff gave confusing or conflicting assessments. One month from the election, the American public saw a historical pattern of obfuscation, half-truths, and secrecy that’s often marked US presidential illnesses. The motives over time have ranged from politics to national security. On Sunday, Mr. Trump’s doctors again evaded basic questions about his health but also said he “continued to improve” and that he could be discharged as early as today. Mr. Trump released a brief video Sunday afternoon, saying “It’s been a very interesting journey" and he took a short, controversial car ride to wave to supporters before returning to the hospital.

Also testing positive for COVID-19 are three senators - including two on the Judiciary Committee that will oversee Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett - and several White House and Trump campaign officials. While Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has halted all Senate floor activity, he said the confirmation process was going “full steam ahead.”

With the president sidelined, Vice President Mike Pence outlined plans to ramp up campaign appearances by Trump family members and himself after Wednesday’s vice presidential debate.

Why We Wrote This

Good morning! Welcome to your Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, sunrise briefing.

Here are two news events from this past weekend (while you may have been sailing, playing chess, and enjoying an offline life). Also, what to look for in the news this week.

2. In California, a grim record and reason for hope. Wildfires this year have scorched a record 4 million acres - an area larger than Connecticut - in a fire season that’s not over. The acreage burned is more than double the previous record set two years ago. California's 2020 fires have killed 31 people, incinerated hundreds of houses, and forced thousands of people to evacuate. About 17,000 firefighters are still battling nearly two dozen major blazes. But a shift in weather is expected to help. Winds and temperatures dropped Sunday, while moisture levels are rising, and rain is forecast at higher elevations. “We are seeing some relief in the weather, but it’s going to be three of four days before it really makes a difference on the fire,” Cal Fire meteorologist Tom Bird said Sunday.


AP Photo/Ian Walton, Pool
Canada's Brent Lakatos, right, won the men's wheelchair race at the London Marathon in England, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Dutch athlete Nikita Den Boer won the women's wheelchair race. Shura Kitata of Ethiopia won among male runners, and Kenya's Brigid Kosgei won among women.

Look Ahead

Monday, Oct. 5. 

Recognizing progress in medical care: The Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine is scheduled to be announced today. It's the first of five prizes awarded annually thanks to Swedish chemist, engineer, and industrialist Alfred Nobel.

Tuesday, Oct. 6

Recognizing progress in physics. The Nobel Prize in physics is expected to be awarded today. The 2019 prize was shared by three astrophysicists “for contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth’s place in the cosmos.”

US vice presidential debate. Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic candidate Sen. Kamala Harris are scheduled to debate sitting 12 feet apart at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City at 9 p.m. E.T. 

China watchers. Top diplomats from the U.S., Australia, and India plan to gather in Tokyo to discuss regional concerns, such as China's increasingly assertive actions. These are the first face-to-face ministerial meetings hosted by Japan since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Best at prepping for winter. The annual ursine competition for bulking up for hibernation concludes. Online voting will lead to the crowning of the Fattest Bear of 2020.

Wednesday, Oct. 7 

Recognizing progress in chemistry. The Nobel Prize in chemistry is expected to be announced today. The 2019 prize was shared by three researchers for "for the development of lithium-ion batteries."

Thursday, Oct. 8

Recognizing literary excellence. The Nobel Prize in literature is expected to be announced today. The 2019 prize was awarded to  Peter Handke "for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience."

Thai tourism returns: Thailand receives the first group of tourists from China as the tourism industry reopens. A flight with 150 tourists from Guangzhou is scheduled to arrive in Phuket.

Friday, Oct. 9

Recognizing peacemakers. The Nobel Peace Prize is scheduled to be awarded today. The 2019 prize was given to Abiy Ahmed Ali "for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea."

Generosity Watch

David Clark Scott
A free food refrigerator or "freeedge" outside D'Friend's Barber Shop in Jamaica Plain, a neighborhood in Boston. These mini-food pantries are popping up around the world.

The latest wrinkle in food donations are free food refrigerators or “freeedges.”

We’ve seen innovations in giving like this before. Remember the Little Free Pantry movement modeled after the mini-libraries.  This is the icebox version of the tiny food pantry. In cities throughout the United States, since the start of the pandemic, these “freeeges” have popped up. There are at least 40 on the sidewalks of New York City, reports The New York Times. And they’re showing up in the streets of Latin America, Europe, and Asia (see the map for locations).

Volunteers stock the often second-hand refrigerators with perishables, such as milk, yoghurt, eggs, and produce. The guiding philosophy: “Take what you need, leave what you don’t.” 

"It's incredible how fast this is all happened. I mean, I can't even explain how much hope this gives me," Marina Vergara, a Los Angeles resident, told NPR. "You know it's really nice to know that we're here for one another." 

Hidden gem 

Start your week with a recent story that inspired Monitor readers:

More nations ending soccer’s gender wage gap: ‘This could change things’

Sneak preview

In tonight’s Daily Edition, watch for our story about the lasting legacy of Agatha Christie on the 100th anniversary of her first mystery novel. 

Finally, check out the Monitor’s selected stories from Friday's subscription-only Daily Edition:

  1. Will Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis change anything? Or everything?
  2. Years of disconnects fuel US-China clash
  3. Police reforms surge after months of racial justice protests
  4. A weighty vote: Who will win Fat Bear Week?
  5. Put the kettle on and settle in with a fresh batch of British TV shows

You have unlimited access to all our pandemic coverage. If you value our hopeful  and respectful approach, please consider subscribing.

This is a beta test - an experiment with an early Monday morning news update. Please give us your feedback via the link below and let us know what you think. Thank you!


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