Mask debate, police reform and soccer with a social cause

From "caution fatigue" to confusing advice, some are questioning the need to take safety measures.
Image: Florida coronavirus
Guests required to wear masks because of the coronavirus pandemic stroll through the Disney Springs shopping, dining and entertainment complex, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. on Tuesday. John Raoux / AP

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Good morning, NBC News readers.

After weeks of protest, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on policing reform. Three months into the pandemic, the great mask debate is still raging. And doctors express cautious optimism about a COVID-19 drug treatment.

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


Trump signed executive order on policing, but critics say it falls short

Flanked by police officers, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on policing Tuesday amid increasing pressure and nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody.

The order directs police departments to set new standards on the use of force, including restrictions on the use of choke holds. It also launches a national database on excessive force complaints and encourages the involvement of mental health professionals when responding to nonviolent cases, like those involving addiction, homelessness and mental illness.

In his remarks, Trump blasted calls from some activists to defund police departments as radical and dangerous.

But Trump's order fell far short of what activists and lawmakers have been calling for — including an outright ban on chokeholds, which led to Floyd's death, among other things.

Fact Check: Trump also claimed that former President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden did nothing to reform police during their eight years in office. But they did. Then Trump scrapped several of their changes.


To wear a mask, or not to wear a mask: Americans remain divided

Three months into the coronavirus pandemic, there is a deepening divide between Americans who are firmly adhering to guidelines issued by public health officials and those who believe the recommendations are overkill, contradictory or just plain annoying.

Masks, in particular, have become a flashpoint from coast to coast: In California, Orange County's chief health officer recently resigned after she received death threats for her countywide mask order.

And as COVID-19 cases spike in Texas, the mayors of nine cities have asked the governor to allow them to require masks.

Through interviews with people across the country, NBC News took a deep dive into the great mask debate dividing the country.

Meantime, Beijing stepped-up social distancing restrictions, closed schools and heavily limited travel on Wednesday, as Chinese officials hurriedly try to contain a new flare-up of coronavirus cases.


'Science by press release': Doctors view COVID-19 drug results with excitement and skepticism

A common steroid drug that's been used for decades to treat conditions from altitude sickness to eye inflammation has been shown to reduce deaths by a third in the sickest patients in the hospital with COVID-19, British scientists say.

Researchers at University of Oxford in the U.K. say the drug dexamethasone cut the death rate by 20 percent for patients on oxygen, and 35 percent for patients on ventilators.

However, doctors in the United States say they would like to see the data first.

The findings were issued in a press release, as opposed to an article in a peer-reviewed medical journal. As such, outside experts couldn't scrutinize the data behind the headlines.

Watch: Nightly News Kids Edition. In the latest episode, NBC News' medical correspondent Dr. John Torres explains what we've learned over the last six months about the coronavirus and Lester Holt interviews actress Kristen Bell about keeping busy in quarantine.


DOJ sues to stop Bolton's tell-all book

The Trump administration filed a lawsuit Tuesday against former national security adviser John Bolton, hoping to delay publication of his tell-all book, due to be released next week.

The Justice Department lawsuit claims that Bolton has not finished with the review process required of any author who had a government security clearance and it asked a federal judge for an order directing Bolton to urge his publisher to delay publication until that process is done.

But legal experts predicted that the lawsuit would be unable to stop publication.

"The law in this area is clear. Except in very rare circumstances, the courts cannot stop a publisher from publishing materials in advance," said Mark Rasch, a former federal prosecutor. "Every time the government has tried to prevent someone from publishing what they believe to be classified, they have lost," he added.


World’s most popular soccer league returns with social distancing — and a push for social justice

As English soccer fans settle down to watch Manchester City take on Arsenal on Wednesday in the English Premier League’s long-awaited return after coronavirus stopped play in March, it will be clear something has changed.

Not only will the stadiums be empty, the names of stars won’t appear on the back of their jerseys. Instead, all players’ shirts will say the same thing: “Black Lives Matter.”

It’s the result of a push by soccer stars to demonstrate their support for the global anti-racism movement sparked by the killing of George Floyd in police custody.

But the renewed push to tackle racism head-on is also a reminder of how long it has plagued the game.

A banana thrown from the crowd is seen at the side of the pitch as Arsenal's Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates after scoring in December 2018.Ian Kington / AFP via Getty Images file

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Plus


THINK about it

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One inspiring thing

With the power of persuasion — and Twitter — British soccer star Marcus Rashford managed to force the British government into an embarrassing U-turn.

The Manchester United player pressured the government Tuesday to extend free school meals for poor children over the school summer break.

Having grown up in a cash-strapped household himself, Rashford, 22, has been highlighting the plight of the 1.3 million kids who rely on free school meals in the United Kingdom.

"This is not about politics; this is about humanity," the England striker wrote in an open letter to lawmakers Monday.

After previously rejecting Rashford's pleas, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative government finally caved on Tuesday and announced a "Covid summer food fund" worth about $150 million.

Johnson credited Rashford for his "contribution to the debate around poverty and respects he's been using his profile as a leading sportsman to highlight important issues."

"I don't even know what to say. Just look at what we can do when we come together," Rashford wrote.Oli Scarff / AFP - Getty Images file

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Thanks, Petra