Virus surge 'overwhelms' Arizona and Texas, key 2020 primaries too close to call, and MLB is coming back

"Each day I've been going into work over the last month is worse ... just overwhelmed with COVID patients," said one Arizona doctor.
Image: Primary Election Day in Louisville
Kentucky State Representative and Democratic candidate for Senate Charles Booker greeted a voter in Louisville during a campaign stop on Tuesday. The Kentucky Senate Democratic primary to decide who will challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is too close to call. Bryan Woolston / Reuters

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By Petra Cahill

Good morning, NBC News readers.

The jump in coronavirus cases is overwhelming hospitals in Arizona and Texas, key Democratic primaries are too close to call and baseball is back for a shortened season.

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


Record-breaking hospitalizations in Arizona, Texas

The U.S. is seeing a "disturbing surge" of COVID-19 infections, particularly in the Southeast and West, Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Tuesday.

In Arizona and Texas coronavirus hospitalizations have hit record numbers — overwhelming medical professionals.

Arizona reported a record high of 3,591 new cases Tuesday, just as President Donald Trumparrived in the state and held an indoor rally at a Phoenix megachurch.

"Each day I've been going into work over the last month is worse, and what I mean by worse is ... just overwhelmed with COVID patients," said Dr. Frank LoVecchio, who works in several Arizona hospitals in emergency medicine and public health.

Playing a large part in this surge, health officials say, are increasing cases in younger people, in their 20s, 30s and 40s — increases that are driven, in part, by increased testing, but even more so by large gatherings.

Public health experts are concerned that while there does seem to be evidence that young people may not get as sick as older adults, they can still transmit the illness.

"Just because it starts with young people, doesn't mean it will stay with young people," Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said Tuesday on "TODAY."

While testifying Tuesday, Fauci also said that the federal government is trying to expand testing, not slow it down as President Donald Trump has suggested in recent days.

"We're going to be doing more testing, not less," Fauci said.

Meantime, baseball fans have something to cheer about.

Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that players are returning to training in anticipation of a coronavirus-abbreviated 60-game season.

Since the early 1960s, a regular MLB season has consisted of 162 games, but after a months-long drought of professional sports, fans will likely be happy to take what they can get.

See a map of COVID-19 hotspots.


Kentucky Senate primary race to decide who challenges Mitch McConnell too close to call

The Kentucky Senate Democratic primary race to determine who takes on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November istoo close to call, NBC News projects.

Amy McGrath, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, had a slight edge in a tougher-than-expected challenge from state Rep. Charles Booker.

With 10 percent of the vote in by Wednesday morning, McGrath led Booker, 44 percent to 39.6 percent. But that tally includes only votes cast in person at the polls Tuesday; none of the substantial number of mail-in ballots that could determine the outcome have been counted and will not be for days.

In New York, longtime Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel was in a tough fight for re-election as he tried to fend off an aggressive primary challenge from Jamaal Bowman, a progressive candidate running in his first political campaign. That race was also too early to call.


FBI finds no crime in NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace's garage

A noose that was found hanging in Black stock car racer Bubba Wallace’s garage stall was a pull rope placed there in October, the FBI announced Tuesday.

Review of security video following the discovery of the rope that looked like it had been fashioned into a noose at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama showed it had actually been put up nearly eight months ago, according to a joint statement from the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI.

Wallace was just assigned the garage stall last week, which "nobody could have known" in 2019, the statement said.

"We appreciate the FBI's quick and thorough investigation and are thankful to learn that this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba," NASCAR said in a statement Tuesday.


Prosecutor tells Congress DOJ pushed for lighter sentence for Roger Stone

A government lawyer said he resigned from the team prosecuting President Trump's longtime confidant Roger Stone because the Justice Department inappropriately pushed for a more lenient sentence.

"I have never seen political influence play a role in prosecutorial decision making, with one exception: United States v. Roger Stone," federal prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky said in testimony prepared for a hearing Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee.

"What I heard — repeatedly — was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the president," Zelinsky said.


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One fun thing, depending on who you ask

Fireworks sellers thought lockdowns would kill their sales — but turns out 2020 may be one of their best years ever.

However, not everyone is happy about it.

Illegal fireworks are a regular part of summer nights in most cities, but residents are complaining that this year, the fireworks appear to be louder, more frequent and going on longer than before, waking up neighbors into the early hours of the morning.

"We are going crazy" from "bombings" that last until "4 a.m.," Brooklyn residents wrote on a neighborhood forum.

Now cities are beginning to crack down.

Illegal fireworks illuminate the sky over the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York City, last Friday. Lucas Jackson / Reuters

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