Good morning, NBC News readers.
New coronavirus cases hit another grim record, Stonewall Jackson's statue no longer has a place in the city that was once the Confederate capital and Russia's Vladimir Putin secured his position of power for another 16 years.
Here's what we're watching this Thursday morning.
New coronavirus cases continue to climb — setting more grim records
It is "absolutely correct that some labs across the country are reaching or are near capacity," Adm. Brett Giroir, who is overseeing the nation's COVID-19 testing, said Wednesday during a briefing with reporters.
In hard-hit states such as Arizona, California and Texas, demand for COVID-19 testing has grown rapidly. People are reporting waiting in line to get tested for two, three or more hours — often in the hot summer sun.
And the rate of positive coronavirus tests are increasing. Check out a state-by-state breakdown here.
President Donald Trump has attributed the jump in cases to an increase in testing, but health experts say decreased social distancing is the culprit.
With the wave of new COVID-19 cases, some states are beginning to peel back their reopening plans.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered much of California to shutter indoor operations at restaurants, museums, bars and other venues on Wednesday as the state’s coronavirus caseload continues to surge.
Meantime, Trump said Wednesday that he believes the coronavirus will "just disappear" even as cases explode across the U.S. and top health officials warn that the country needs to do more to stop the spread.
"I think we're going to be very good with the coronavirus. I think that at some point that's going to sort of just disappear, I hope," Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network.
- Track U.S. hot spots where COVID-19 infection rates are rising.
- The U.S. death toll from coronavirus has surpassed 129,000, according to NBC News tally.
Gen. Stonewall Jackson statue down after Richmond mayor orders removal
A statue of Gen. Stonewall Jackson on Richmond's Monument Avenue came down Wednesday after the mayor ordered the "immediate removal" of all Confederate monuments on city property.
"As the capital city of Virginia, we have needed to turn this page for decades. And today, we will," Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said in a video address.
Calls for the removal of Confederate tributes and other statues have grown louder amid widespread protests against police brutality and racial discrimination that followed the death of George Floyd in police custody.
Stoney said he issued the order using emergency powers Wednesday to protect public safety.
Analysis: With veto threat, Trump dares GOP to back Confederate military leaders or risk his wrath
President Trump threatened on Wednesday to veto a national defense bill the Senate is currently considering if an amendment from Sen. Elizabeth Warren to rename military bases honoring the Confederacy is not removed.
With the threat, he gave the Republicans in Congress a tough choice: vote to honor leaders of the Confederacy, or vote against him.
The threat is implicit: Republicans in Congress who buck him risk his wrath, NBC News' Jonathan Allen writes in a news analysis.
But there's a complicated political calculus for GOP lawmakers, some of whom are in tough re-election contests in states and districts where a vote for Confederate commanders could be toxic.
- See a map of where monuments and statues are coming down across the country.
- Listen to the latest episode of our Into America podcast. Host Trymaine Lee digs into the idea "My Body is a Monument."
16 more years of Putin?
Russian President Vladimir Putin secured his political future on Wednesday after a wide majority of voters supported a controversial national referendum that paved the way for the former KGB agent to stay in power until 2036.
After 98 percent of ballots had been counted, the official results showed that the former KGB officer who has ruled Russia for more than two decades as president or prime minister had easily won the right to run for two more six-year terms.
Meantime, controversy continues to swirl in the U.S. over allegations that Russia paid Taliban militants to kill Americans in Afghanistan.
Many are questioning the White House explanation that Trump simply wasn't told about the alleged Russian bounties on U.S. soldiers.
The idea that Trump's intelligence briefer, a career government bureaucrat, decided to keep him out of the loop isn't credible, say current and former officials.
Can sports return responsibly during the COVID-19 pandemic?
U.S. sports leagues working to resume play have devised elaborate plans in an effort to hold off the coronavirus: players living in isolated "bubble" communities, regular testing and even connected devices to monitor player health.
But there's little hope of keeping the coronavirus out entirely. It's a given that players will test positive, according to people from both the medical and the sports industries.
"The whole strategy is to minimize the chance of being shut down again, but they’re fully prepared to have some players become infected," one sports industry insider said.
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- Harsh new book about the Trump family by the president's niece, Mary Trump, can be published, a New York appellate judge ruled.
- Fox News anchor Ed Henry was fired over a sexual misconduct allegation.
- Trump's July Fourth fireworks and flyover plans disturb D.C. Mayor Bowser.
THINK about it
Standing up for Black lives does not mean tearing down our history, Dr. Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, writes in an opinion piece.
What are the pool rules? Is it safe to invite friends over to swim this summer? Experts weigh in.
Looking to up your backyard campfire ambience? Here are the best fire pits out there.
One kind thing
Nothing beats an actual letter in the mail.
Boston sisters Saffron and Shreya Patel saw how much joy their letters brought their grandmother in England.
So they came up with the idea for Letters Against Isolation, an effort to spread some happiness to seniors through cards and letters during the coronavirus.
The sisters, along with their 2,100 volunteers, have sent over 18,000 letters to seniors across the United States over the past few months.
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Thanks, Petra Cahill