COVID-19 hot spots, billionaire PPP beneficiaries and a drug company whistleblower

"We are still knee deep in the first wave," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease doctor said Monday.
A member of the Tennessee National Guard Medical Staff stands outside the East Lake Courts Community Center, where free COVID-19 testing was offered in Chattanooga, Tenn. in May.
A member of the Tennessee National Guard Medical Staff stands outside the East Lake Courts Community Center, where free COVID-19 testing was offered in Chattanooga, Tenn. in May.Troy Stolt / Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP

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By Petra Cahill

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Grim new coronavirus infection numbers, the billionaires who benefitted from the PPP loans, and a drug company whistleblower explains why he went undercover for the feds.

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


Many in this Southern city are living like there's no pandemic. That's made it a hot spot.

Chattanooga, Tenn., a small city in the foothills of Appalachia on Tennessee's border with Georgia, is seeing a big jump in coronavirus cases.

The city, like so many others in the South, has the makings of a virus hot spot: It reopened quickly, there is little regard for masks and social distancing, which can help stop the spread of infection, and contact tracers have begun to lose threads on possible infections.

Meanwhile, bars, restaurants, gyms, beauty parlors, pools and many other businesses have remained open despite a precipitous increase in coronavirus infections.

Many residents seem to be carrying on as though there is no pandemic. Politicians, health experts and residents also said everything was made increasingly difficult by the perceived politicization of responding responsibly to the disease.

Here are some other coronavirus developments:


What unites Planned Parenthood, Kushner and Kanye? PPP loans

The federal government backed loans totaling as much as $150 million for Planned Parenthood affiliates in recent weeks, according to federal Paycheck Protection Program data released Monday by the Small Business Administration.

The Planned Parenthood loans infuriated anti-abortion-rights conservatives, but that money was just one of many revelations that caught the attention of lawmakers and activists across the political spectrum as they pored over the names of more than 600,000 loan recipients Monday.

Ultimately, Congress and Trump placed few restrictions on eligibility for the loan program, which was designed to help struggling small businesses and nonprofits meet payroll during the coronavirus crisis.

But in addition to restaurants, mom-and-pop shops and churches, the list of beneficiaries includes a private school named for a grandfather of Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, companies with ties to lawmakers and their families, Washington lobbying shops, Wall Street investment firms and private jet managers.

Here are some of the billionaires who got PPP loans while small businesses went bankrupt.

The Yeezy limited liability company, owned by billionaire musician and Trump acquaintance Kanye West, was one of the recipients of PPP loans identified in data the government released Monday.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

It was his dream job. He never thought he'd be bribing doctors and wearing a wire for the feds.

When Oswald Bilotta landed his dream job as a sales representative for Novartis Pharmaceuticals in 1999, he thought he'd be doing good for society while doing well for himself and his family.

He had no idea that just over a decade later, he'd be part of a vast federal investigation into kickbacks at Novartis, and that he'd be paying cash bribes to doctors while wearing a wire for prosecutors.

On July 1, Bilotta's years-long effort to blow the whistle at Novartis paid off. The U.S. Department of Justice announced a $678 million settlement with the company over improper inducements it made to doctors to prescribe 10 of the company's drugs, including anti-hypertension drug Lotrel.

The deal represents the biggest whistleblower settlement under the federal anti-kickback law, Bilotta's lawyer said.

"I felt like you needed to take drastic action to turn this system upside down and make it more legit," Bilotta, 57, explained in an exclusive interview with NBC News.


The half a billion dollar man

He became a Super Bowl champion and MVP in February.

Now Patrick Mahomes has another accolade: the richest contract in sports history.

The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback has agreed to a historic $503 million contract extension, according to his agency, Steinberg Sports, which announced the deal on Twitter.

The contract guarantees Mahomes will earn at least $477.

"First half billion dollar player in sports history. History made," the agency tweeted.

The $500 million dollar man Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.Jasen Vinlove / USA TODAY Sports via Reuters file

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Quote of the day

"The whole system needed to be blown up and pieced together in a fair way — fair for taxpayers and good for patients."

"Ozzie" Bilotta, the Novartis whistleblower.


'The Devil Went Down to Georgia'

Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Daniels died Monday in Tennessee. He was 83.

Known best for the Charlie Daniels Band hit "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," Daniels spanned genres from gospel and Southern rock to bluegrass and country.

The polished fiddler and vocalist also played guitar, bass and banjo on recordings by Bob Dylan and Ringo Starr, and he toured with Leonard Cohen in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

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Thanks, Petra Cahill