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Amy Coney Barrett sworn in, Covid-19 spreading like 'wildfire' and water discovered on the moon

Barrett promised to rule from the bench with strict independence, saying: "I will do my job without any fear or favor."
Image: Donald Trump, Amy COney Barrett
President Donald Trump and Amy Coney Barrett stand on the Blue Room Balcony after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas administered her the Constitutional Oath on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday night.Patrick Semansky / AP

Good morning, NBC News readers.

It's official, the Republican-controlled Senate voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court with just one week to go before the election.

Here's what we're watching this Tuesday morning.


Senate confirms Amy Coney Barret, cementing Supreme Court’s conservative majority

The Republican-led Senate voted narrowly Monday to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, ending an acrimonious confirmation process and handing President Donald Trump a political victory days before the election.

The vote was 52-48, with only Republicans voting "yes" and Democrats unanimous in their opposition. Just one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who faces a tough re-election race, voted "no." Barrett is the first nominee in the modern era to be confirmed to the Supreme Court with no votes from the opposition party.

For conservatives, her speedy confirmation process just 30 days after Trump announced her nomination, represented the culmination of years of work.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it his mission to reshape the federal bench with a more conservative bent by stacking it with younger, right-leaning judges. After securing the confirmation of more than 200 federal judges during Trump's term in office, more than any other recent president, cementing a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court a week before the election marked the ultimate triumph.

Trump celebrated the achievement with a televised White House swearing-in ceremony Monday night where Barrett's official constitutional oath was administered by Justice Clarence Thomas.

In a brief speech at the White House, Barrett promised to rule from the bench with strict independence.

"A judge declares independence not only from Congress and the president but also from the private beliefs that might otherwise move her," she said.

Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the judicial oath in a private ceremony Tuesday, officially making Barrett a justice and allowing her to get to work immediately.

Her impact on the court could be felt quickly with the court facing several issues about the upcoming election, including cases from Pennsylvania and North Carolina about whether deadlines for receiving mailed ballots can be extended.

On Monday, the Supreme Court issued an order that Wisconsin cannot count mail ballots that arrive well after the polls close.

The 5-3 decision was seen as a major setback for Democrats in the battleground state.

Voting rights groups and the state and national Democratic parties had sued to extend the deadline. They said the flood of absentee ballots and problems arising from the coronavirus pandemic make it harder for voters to receive their mail ballots and return them on time.

"A last-minute event may require a last-minute reaction. But it is not possible to describe COVID-19 as a last-minute event," the court said.

Follow the latest developments on the election in our live blog.


Coronavirus in the U.S. is spreading like 'wildfire,' epidemiologist says

Coronavirus cases are climbing at an alarming rate in the U.S., raising fears that parts of the country are in a third wave of Covid-19.

After record-setting days for new cases last week, hospitals are now starting to buckle from the influx of patients. There are currently nearly 43,000 people in the U.S. Americans hospitalized with Covid-19, the highest number since August 19th.

Texas is now tied with California for the most Covid-19 cases in the country.

"I look at it more as an elongated exacerbation of the original first wave," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday. "It’s kind of semantics. You want to call it the third wave or an extended first wave, no matter how you look at it, it's not good news."

"The metaphor of a wildfire is probably better," said William Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "It's indisputable that the U.S. is now seeing a pretty widespread transmission across the board."

And the illness is hitting home to more and more Americans. A majority of American adults say they know someone who has been diagnosed with Covid-19, according to new data from the NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll.

Sixty-eight percent of adults say they know someone who has had the coronavirus since December, while 31 percent say they don't know someone who has been diagnosed with the virus.


The world is watching: Why this election matters everywhere

It is not only Americans who have a lot at stake in this year’s presidential election. Countries around the world are watching the race and trying to determine what the outcome will mean for them.

For some, President Donald Trump has ushered in a new type of politics that they fully support. For others, a Joe Biden victory would be warmly welcomed.

NBC News journalists in bureaus around the world from China and Russia to Brazil and Canada have spoken with officials, experts and citizens to ask what's at stake for them this election. Read our reporting from around the world using this interactive tool.

Image: A collage of Joe Biden and Donald Trump with various globes and coronavirus spores.
On Nov. 3, almost 7.5 billion people outside the United States will face one of the most important elections in their lifetimes — without having any say in its outcome.Woody Harrington / for NBC News

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Plus

  • A Black man was shot and killed by police in Philadelphia on Monday sparking heated protests that left at least 30 officers injured, officials said.
  • The Trump administration scrapped a federal regulation designed to protect the editorial independence of the Voice of America and other U.S.-funded media outlets.
  • White House adviser Jared Kushner disparaged Black Americans' concerns about inequality as "complaining" during a Fox News interview on Monday.
  • The first "murder hornet" nest discovered in the United States has been successfully destroyed, Washington state officials said Monday.
  • First he was a soccer star. Then he took on the government and became a hero.

THINK about it

Here's how a handful of House races you've probably never heard of could determine the presidency, political analyst David Mark writes in an opinion piece.


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Quote of the day

"The oath that I have solemnly taken tonight means at its core that I will do my job without any fear or favor and that I will do so independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences.”

Amy Coney Barrett during her remarks at the White House Monday evening after her Supreme Court confirmation.


One fun thing

NASA has discovered water on the sunlit surface of the moon, scientists said Monday, a finding that could help in efforts to establish a permanent human presence on the lunar surface.

Water ice has been found on the moon before, in the coldest, darkest regions at the north and south poles. But the new finding suggests that water may be present across more of the lunar surface, beyond just areas that are frigid and permanently in shadow.

The NASA scientists explained that the discovery could be critical to future exploration of the lunar surface.

"Water is heavy. Therefore it's expensive to launch from the surface of the Earth," said Jacob Bleacher, NASA's chief exploration scientist for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. "It's far easier to travel when you don't have to carry everything with you that you might need for the entire trip."


Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown.

If you have any comments — likes, dislikes — send me an email at: petra@nbcuni.com

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Thanks, Petra