'Deep worries' as White House reroutes COVID-19 data, Trump shakes up campaign and a kayaker's alligator encounter

President Donald Trump demoted his top campaign manager as polls show him trailing Joe Biden by double digits.
Image: Nurses protest to highlight practices during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic at St. Petersburg General Hospital in Florida
Registered Nurse Cassandra Hoffman joins other nurses to hold a protest to highlight practices during the coronavirus disease pandemic at St. Petersburg General Hospital in Florida on Wednesday. Octavio Jones / Reuters

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By Petra Cahill

Good morning, NBC News readers.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge across the country, there are now nearly 3.5 million confirmed cases. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump shook up his campaign staff and a Bitcoin scam hit some of Twitter's most famous accounts.

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


White House power grab of COVID-19 data deeply worries experts

The Trump administration has taken control of COVID-19 data in the United States, leaving public health experts gravely concerned about whether anyone outside the administration will be able to access the vital information moving forward.

Late Tuesday, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that the administration had ordered hospitals to submit information on COVID-19 patients directly to HHS, rather than through a longstanding reporting system via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The switch-up in the middle of the pandemic has left public health alarmed.

"Whoever controls the data is in the driver's seat. They have the power," said Dr. Christopher Ohl, a professor of infectious diseases at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

"I'm concerned that we'll only get what their analyses and conclusions are, and there won't be any way to corroborate it," Ohl said.

The move comes as the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continues to surge — there are nearly 3.5 million confirmed cases in the U.S., according to NBC News' tally.

The number of confirmed cases in California has jumped so dramatically that the state is now restricting testing.

And in Texas, the virus is now also rapidly spreading in the state’s nursing homes, threatening elderly, frail residents who are most at risk of serious illness and death.

  • Track U.S. hot spots where COVID-19 infection rates are rising.
  • The U.S. death toll from coronavirus is 137,972according to NBC News' tally.

Trump shakes up campaign staff, demotes top manager as polls show him trailing Biden by double digits

President Donald Trump announced a new campaign manager for his 2020 re-election on Wednesday, four months before voters head to the polls, in an effort to reset a campaign that has already been through multiple failed reboots.

Trump announced that he is removing his top campaign manager, Brad Parscale, and tapping Bill Stepien, his deputy campaign manager and a veteran Republican operative, to take over.

The move comes on the heels of a new national NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll showing that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden holds a double-digit lead nationally over Trump.

The poll shows Biden ahead of Trump by 11 points among registered voters, with 7 in 10 voters saying the country is on the wrong track and majorities disapproving of the president's handling of the coronavirus and race relations.

Meantime, Trump and his campaign are ramping up efforts to attack Biden's mental fitness, despite polling and guidance from advisers warning that the strategy could backfire.

And Trump's chief of staff thought he had declared a cease-fire in the recent White House blitz against the country's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

But trade adviser Peter Navarro had other plans.


Obama, Gates, Musk: Bitcoin scam breaches some of world's most prominent Twitter accounts

The Twitter accounts of Barack Obama, Jeff Bezos, Joe Biden, Elon Musk and many other high-profile people and companies became pawns Wednesday in one of the most visible cyberscams in the internet's history.

Suspected bitcoin scammers grabbed control of accounts belonging to the rich and famous, as well as lower-profile accounts, for more than two hours during the afternoon and tricked at least a few hundred people into transferring the cryptocurrency.

A tweet typical of the attack sent from the account of Bill Gates, the software mogul who is the world's second-wealthiest person, promised to double all payments sent to his Bitcoin address for the next 30 minutes.

"Everyone is asking me to give back, and now is the time," the tweet said. "You send $1,000, I send you back $2,000."

It’s not uncommon for individual Twitter accounts to be compromised, but the scale of Wednesday’s scam easily overshadowed previous breaches.

The attack was unusual for how many Twitter accounts were compromised, and for how long. Hundreds of Twitter accounts tweeted out identical language.


A 'tsunami of evictions' is coming, warn housing advocates

Approximately 28 million people across the country are facing homelessness as states lift temporary eviction moratoriums put in place to protect those who fell behind on rent because of the coronavirus.

At the same time, 30 million unemployed workers will lose their $600 a week of pandemic unemployment assistance, a benefit that is set to expire at the end of the month if Congress does not agree to extend it.

Combined, the severe economic hit from the coronavirus has left the country on the cusp of a "tsunami of evictions" that could exacerbate already high homeless rates.


In Russia's far east, rare anti-Putin protests gain momentum

An unlikely protest movement has become the first major challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin after he secured his political future in a contentious vote this month — and it may spell more trouble in the days ahead.

Residents of Khabarovsk, a large city near Russia's border with China, have been up in arms for days protesting the arrest of their governor on 15-year-old murder charges.

The governor whom the protests are defending, Sergei Furgal, is himself no hero.

But the sheer size of the public protests and Moscow's response to them are remarkable.


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Plus


THINK about it

Actor Nick Cannon's show got canceled. That's not "cancel culture," it's consequences, Mikki Kendall writes in an opinion piece.


Live BETTER

"Aging well is really all about connections and being socially active," says an 86-year-old therapist. She shares 5 tips to help seniors endure pandemic loneliness.


Shopping

Portable grills heat up fast, are affordable and travel-friendly, making them handy for a BBQ. Here’s what to know before buying one.


One cautionary tale

A North Carolina man is hoping he doesn't see the alligator who slammed into his boat again.

Pete Joyce, a firefighter and paramedic, said he was paddling in a swampy section of the Waccamaw River when he saw the alligator about three feet away from him.

He was stunned and didn't have enough time to react before the alligator lunged at him and tipped his boat over, but a video camera he was wearing on his chest captured the whole interaction so he could process it later.

His take away: "Kayaking's a great hobby, but you need to know your environment. You're going into wildlife so you have to do your research."


Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown.

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

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Thanks, Petra