Trump holds first coronavirus briefing in months, Portland standoff and U.S. abruptly closes China's Houston consulate

Emergency services earlier responded to reports of a fire at the Chinese consulate, but were denied access.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump, who has resisted wearing face coverings in public, encouraged Americans to wear masks to help stop the spread of coronavirus during his briefing on Tuesday. Evan Vucci / AP

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By Petra Cahill

Good morning, NBC News readers.

President Donald Trump levelled with Americans about the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. escalated its rift with China, and Chicago was rocked by more gun violence.

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


Trump says coronavirus crisis will probably 'get worse before it gets better,'

President Donald Trump offered a newly sober projection for the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday, warning Americans that the country had not yet seen the worst of it.

"It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better. Something I don't like saying about things, but that's the way it is," Trump said at his first coronavirus-related press conference in months.

The president, who has been resistant to wearing a face covering in public, also encouraged Americans to wear a mask to help stop the spread of the virus.

"We're asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask. Get a mask," he said during the notably solo event.

"Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact, they'll have an effect, and we need everything we can get."

While Trump mostly levelled with the American people about the challenges the country faces in a way he had not in the past, he still made numerous false statements about the U.S. mortality rate, hospital capacity and states' preparedness to combat the virus. Read our fact check.


Coronavirus a 'Category 5' emergency for Florida's older population

Even as young adults have been the recent focus of concerns about growing COVID-19 cases across the United States, a Florida senior living advocacy group is likening the state's skyrocketing deaths to the kind of destruction caused by a catastrophic hurricane.

"If the coronavirus in Florida were a hurricane, its intensity in two weeks has reached Category 5 status," LeadingAge Florida CEO Steve Bahmer said during a video conference Monday.

"Over the past two weeks, Florida has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 epidemic," Bahmer said.

Florida is particularly susceptible to the virus as older Americans tend to have underlying conditions that exacerbate its impact — and one in five Floridians is 65 or older.


Standoff in Portland as chaos envelopes parts of the city

For nearly two months, protesters have gathered in a park in downtown Portland to demonstrate against police brutality. But recently, demonstrations have become increasingly heated after federal forces arrived without the consent of local leaders.

The standoff between law enforcement and protesters in the streets of downtown Portland has caused what some legal experts say could be a constitutional crisis.

This week an older group of parents have joined the demonstrations in an attempt to form a barrier between protesters and law enforcement, shouting things like "Feds stay clear, moms are here!"

"What really crossed the line for me was when the feds started picking people off the street," said Leslie Yeargers, a Portland resident and mother of two children in their early 20s who attended her first protest Monday night. "That is a totalitarian and authoritarian tactic, and I don't want it in my city and I want them gone."

News Analysis: Trump is tempting violence with his vow to deploy more federal police. But to what end? NBC News' Jonathan Allen asks in a news analysis.


'What in the hell are we doing?' Senate Republicans clash over coronavirus relief

Beset by internal divisions and clashes with the Trump administration, Senate Republicans downplayed the prospects Tuesday of enacting new coronavirus relief before key programs like boosted unemployment payments expire.

Republicans continue to negotiate among themselves but broadly oppose an extension beyond this week of the $600 weekly federal jobless benefit that millions of Americans are collecting.

Complicating Republican talks is the White House, which is trying to cut funding for COVID-19 testing and demanding a payroll tax cut that many in the president's party oppose.

At a meeting of Republican lawmakers Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas cast doubt on the spending talks, asking, "What the hell are we doing?" according to a Republican source familiar with his remarks.


U.S. orders closure of China's Houston consulate as tensions rise

The State Department has ordered the closure of China's Houston consulate in a move that the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday called an "outrageous and unjustified" provocation.

The move was just the latest incident in a relationship between the two superpowers that has become increasingly strained.

State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said the U.S. was acting to "protect American intellectual property and Americans' private information."


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Plus


THINK about it

My father showed me the power of nonviolence. John Lewis lived it, Bernice King writes in an opinion piece.


Live BETTER

Is it coronavirus or Lyme disease? Similar symptoms could create confusion. Here's what you need to know.


Shopping

Quarantine is an ideal time to reorganize your refrigerator. Here are the seven best storage solutions, according to a home organization professional.


One fun thing

The hit movie "Airplane!" is 40 years old.

It would be easy to put the comedy on a no-fly list of offensive films. But, that would be a mistake because it demonstrates how to push boundaries in the right way, cultural critic Bryan Reesman writes in an opinion piece.

A scene from the 1980 comedy "Airplane!"Allstar Picture Library Limited

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