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Republicans are warily eyeing the resurgence of coronavirus cases in states critical to President Trump’s reelection in November, as much rides on the country’s ability to continue economic reopening without worsening the pandemic.

The recent spike in COVID-19 cases has led to some Republican governors aligned with Trump reinstating some, though not all, of the restrictions that were in place during the lockdowns and federal GOP officials expressing more support for wearing facial coverings in public.

Vice President Mike Pence has resumed a busier public schedule for the coronavirus task force, which held its first briefing in two months on Friday to help allay growing concerns. “Our focus today is very much on the advent of a rising series of new cases across the American South,” Pence said, addressing must-win states for the ticket this fall. Pence donned a mask in Texas on Sunday.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, on Tuesday repeated his call for the president to start doing the same. "The president has plenty of admirers,” he said. "They would follow his lead. It would help end this political debate. The stakes are too high for this political debate ... to continue." On Sunday, Alexander told CNN, "I’m just saying, if wearing masks is important, and all the health experts tell us that it is in containing the disease in 2020, it would help if, from time to time, the president would wear one to help us get rid of this political debate that says if you’re for Trump, you don’t wear a mask, and if you’re against Trump, you do.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed face masks on Monday, saying there should be “no stigma” attached to them. “Wearing simple face coverings is not about protecting ourselves,” the Kentucky Republican said. "It is about protecting everyone we encounter.”

"The president has said he has no problem with masks, that he encourages people to make whatever decision is best for their safety and to follow what their local jurisdictions say," said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany at Tuesday's briefing. "CDC guidelines are still recommended, but not required. And the president is the most tested man in America. It’s his decision whether to wear a mask."

Republican governors in Texas, Florida, and Arizona all followed Trump’s lead in reopening relatively early. Now, all three have closed the bars again in their states. National Democratic groups are on the air in these key battlegrounds with anti-Trump ads focusing on coronavirus management. Trump is trailing in Florida, where the Republican National Convention is to be held next month, while Arizona and even Texas, which hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976, are too close to call.

“These governors are trying to balance saving their economies with public health, and there are no easy answers,” said Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak.Higher positivity rates are only part of the story, as hospitalizations have been overstated, and the death rate has dropped sharply. Pausing the reopenings while they try to contain outbreaks is the wise choice at this point. The question is, what will they do if a pause is not enough?”

That’s also the dilemma for Trump, who has largely staked his reelection on an economic reopening that puts people back to work without devastating public health consequences. The latest polling from the Pew Research Center found that many of the voters who have shifted from approving to disapproving of his performance in office since March live in areas hardest hit by the coronavirus. Nationally, respondents said they preferred Democratic challenger Joe Biden to handle the outbreak by an 11-point margin, 52% to 41% for Trump.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a top Trump ally, has worked especially hard to defend his state’s coronavirus management, in contrast with Democratic governors of hot spots who have nevertheless been praised by the media, such as Andrew Cuomo. Florida’s official coronavirus death toll was 3,419 on Sunday, compared to 24,835 in Cuomo’s New York. The numbers are even lower for Texas and Arizona.

“I give Gov. DeSantis the highest marks possible for his performance during the entire pandemic,” said local Republican strategist Jamie Miller. “He has taken measured, reasonable steps to close, open, and now closing bars only. Even under the most conservative models in March, Florida is performing much better than anyone expected.”

But epidemiologists stress that deaths are a lagging indicator, so the increases in cases and hospitalizations in these 2020 battlegrounds bear watching. Trump plans to forge ahead with campaign rallies and praise for reopening.

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Broadway star Nick Cordero dies from COVID-19

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EW remembers longtime critic Bruce Fretts

Coronavirus updates: Atlanta mayor announces she is positive; MLBs testing struggles; New drug enters late-stage trials Auto dealers, restaurants with ties to lawmakers were among the firms that got PPP loans: Treasury report EW remembers longtime critic Bruce Fretts

Bruce Fretts had a great laugh. It started as a low-key chuckle, accompanied by a sheepish grin that showed off his dimples. Something would have to be really funny — Wayne Knight as Newman on Seinfeld, say — for it to develop into a full-fledged, open-mouthed guffaw. Pop culture didn't just make him laugh, though; it made him go.

© Roy Rochlin/Getty Images The former Entertainment Weekly writer, who played a key role in developing EW's approach to television coverage, has died at the age of 54.

Today, we at Entertainment Weekly are mourning the loss of a godfather of EW’s TV coverage, a key player in the magazine’s three-decade history, and an all-around good-natured, big-hearted soul.

As a critic at EW from 1991-2003, Bruce Fretts — who died at the age of 54 on Friday — played a key role in developing EW’s approach to television coverage with his in-depth reporting, discerning analysis, and incisive wit. Bruce was also crucial in defining EW’s voice in its early days; if you read something funny about a TV show in EW during the ‘90s, there’s a very good chance that Bruce wrote it.

Bruce penned cover stories on shows such as Friends and Baywatch; profiled celebrities including Harrison Ford, Howard Stern, and James Garner; and declared that TV was empirically better than movies back in 1995 — way before that sentiment was popular. And when EW made its first foray into books, it was Bruce who wrote the best-selling The Entertainment Weekly Seinfeld Companion. He had a calming, easy-going air about him, and he put everyone, including big stars, at ease. This made him an effective interviewer. (“I hate the monkey,” Friends star David Schwimmer famously told him in 1995.)

In addition to his love of the Mets, the Redskins, and Pez dispensers, Bruce was enamored with the best of the small screen, becoming a steadfast champion of high-quality, low-rated shows such as Freaks and Geeks, Homicide: Life on the Streets, NewsRadio, and Everybody Loves Raymond. (Raymond wasn’t actually a hit in its first two seasons, but Bruce’s persistent quality-television-over-here! alerts surely played a small role in the series widening its audience.) Pity the shows coasting on ratings or name power (Coach, According to Jim, Veronica's Closet, or any NBC filler on Must-See Thursday in the '90s) that were taking up valuable space on the broadcast network schedule, for they would find themselves targets of Bruce's cutting wit.

His humor was always on full display in EW’s annual Fall TV preview, an issue of which Bruce often wrote the lion’s share. One year, a Walker, Texas Ranger producer was quoted as saying that the coming season of the CBS action drama would bring "a different Walker than anyone's ever seen — it's a real tearjerker… There's two words I want to put together —that's Walker and Emmy." Bruce’s obliging punchline? “Okay, how about this: Walker will never win an Emmy.” When ABC’s lackluster Ryan Reynolds sitcom Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place rebranded itself as Two Guys, Bruce summed up the attempt at reinvention perfectly: "Two Guys remains the Domino's of sitcoms: The best thing about it is that it's done in 30 minutes."

Bruce didn’t just champion pop culture projects, he also championed many young writers at the magazine. He was a generous mentor, taking pride in helping to develop the younger EW scribes. His tastes were varied and unexpected, and his knowledge was even more extensive. While he wrote authoritatively on shows as a critic, Bruce also offered up astute stories on scheduling, pilot season, and, of course, ratings (his "Winners and Losers" articles were clear-eyed examinations of what was — and wasn’t — working on TV). Bruce always had another story to tell, which is one of the many reasons that his "Remote Patrol" columns were a must-read.

After leaving EW in 2003, Bruce remained a prolific writer and editor, first working at TV Guide, where he assumed the reins of the Cheers and Jeers column, and later as an editor for Closer Weekly. Up until his death, he contributed to a wide range of outlets, including The New York Times, Time, Fast Company, Emmy Magazine, and WBGO (as a TV critic). But for Bruce, his greatest achievement was his two wonderful children, Olive and Jed, of whom he was immensely proud.

Thank you, Bruce, for the words, the laughs, and the counsel. You will be missed. You won't be forgotten.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Bruce's memory to the Children’s Inn at NIH.


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