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China hits back with closure of U.S. consulate, COVID-19 test delays and baseball is back

There was panic on an Iranian passenger plane after U.S. fighter jets flew within close range.
Image: U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu after China announced the decision to revoke it's license, July 24, 2020 in Chengdu, China.
U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu after China ordered its closure on Friday.Yuyang Liu / Getty Images

Good morning, NBC News readers.

In a sign of escalating tensions, China hit back at the U.S. with its own consulate closure. Coronavirus test results face major challenges and baseball is back.

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

In tit-for-tat, China orders U.S. to close consulate

Beijing on Friday ordered the closure of the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, a city in southwestern China, in the latest round of tit-for-tat measures as relations between the two world powers deteriorate dramatically.

The move, which was in direct retaliation for the U.S. shutdown of China's diplomatic post in Houston on Wednesday, came within hours of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declaring that America's decades-long policy of engagement with China had failed.

China called the State Department's abrupt closure of the Houston diplomatic post an "outrageous and unjustified" provocation.

The State Department said it took the action to "protect American intellectual property and Americans' private information."

The U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu was opened in 1983 and covers the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou, as well as the Tibet Autonomous RegionGoh Chai Hin / AFP - Getty Images file

Short on supplies and overwhelmed: Why labs are so slow to process COVID-19 tests

Testing for the coronavirus has stymied the U.S. response to the pandemic since it began back in March.

Initially, there was a massive shortage of tests. Now, as COVID-19 cases surge across the country and more people are getting tested it can take up to two weeks or more to get results.

What is the problem? Why are the COVID-19 test results so delayed?

Laboratories say they are working as fast as they can, but from supply chain shortages to an overwhelming number of samples to test, they are struggling to keep up.

"The challenges that labs are facing are complex," said Louise Serio, a spokesperson for the American Clinical Laboratory Association, a trade group that represents companies such as Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp. "There is a significant strain on the global supply chain."

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the American Clinical Laboratory Association's members have performed more than 23 million COVID-19 tests, Serio said. Testing capacity is increasing every week and employees are working round-the-clock to run as many tests as possible, but they are running out of necessary chemicals and other products faster than their manufacturers can replenish them, she said.

"What we have consistently heard from members is that reagents, test kits, pipettes and platforms are all in great demand right now," she said.

Here are some other developments:

Trump cancels in-person Republican convention in Jacksonville, Florida

President Donald Trump said Thursday that he will no longer hold a large, in-person Republican convention in Jacksonville, Florida, because of the coronavirus but that he will hold virtual events and still give an acceptance speech.

Trump said it was "not the right time" for a big convention, adding that he had "to protect the American people."

Trump's plans for Jacksonville appeared to be in peril this week when the City Council president raised safety and health concerns and threatened to oppose a key funding bill for the convention. The event had also been struggling to raise money from donors, Republican sources said.

Trump had been scheduled to deliver his acceptance speech on Aug. 27, the 60th anniversary of Ax Handle Saturday, when a group of white men in Jacksonville attacked peaceful Black protesters demonstrating in support of racial justice.

This Sunday, with 100 days to go until Election Day 2020, NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo will host an hour-long special, "Decision 2020: 100 Days To Go," anchored by "Meet The Press" moderator and MSNBC host Chuck Todd.

Tune into MSNBC at 10 p.m. ET or stream it on NBC News NOW, or at 8 p.m. ET.

Meantime, listen to our "Into America," podcast. In the latest episode, Trymaine Lee speaks with The Lincoln Project co-founder Reed Galen about his political action committee's efforts to turn conservative voters against Trump this November.

Panic, injuries on Iranian passenger plane as U.S. fighter jets fly near, state media reports

Two U.S. fighter jets came within close range of an Iranian airliner on Thursday, forcing its pilot to swiftly change altitude and injuring passengers, Iranian state media reported.

Footage shot by a reporter for Iranian state TV aboard the flight purportedly captured the commotion inside the aircraft.

It shows one man with a bloodied face and another lying motionless on the aircraft floor. At least one passenger was pictured wearing her inflated yellow life jacket seemingly preparing herself for a crash landing.

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One fun thing

The Washington Nationals played the New York Yankees on Thursday night, marking the return of professional baseball to America, a mere 121 days late.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, an avowed Nationals' fan, threw the ceremonial first pitch in the season opener.

But, the country can rest assured, the nation's top infectious disease expert will probably be keeping his day job. He threw an errant pitch far to the right of home base.

Good-humored as ever, the 79-year-old doctor threw out his hands in comic disbelief. Better luck next time!

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Thanks, Petra