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As protests continue, so does the coronavirus

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: A protester wears a surgical mask with \"Black Lives Matter\" written on the front while protesters gather outside the Seattle Office of Emergency Management to protest against police brutality and the death in police custody of George Floyd
A protester wears a surgical mask with "Black Lives Matter" written on the front while protesters gather outside the Seattle Office of Emergency Management to protest against police brutality and the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Seattle, Washington, June 2, 2020./Lindsey Wasson / Reuters

WASHINGTON — As the country has turned its attention to one crisis (policing, race and protests), it’s turned away from another (the coronavirus) that hasn’t gone away.

In the last 24 hours, there were nearly 20,000 confirmed coronavirus cases inside the United States, as well as more than 1,000 reported deaths — bringing the total to nearly 107,000 Americans killed by the virus.

And the questions become: Is the lack of social distancing in cities across the country going to lead to a spike in new cases?

And, psychologically and politically, can the United States handle a second wave of the virus? Especially one that has already disproportionately affected vulnerable and minority groups?

“The billowing clouds of tear gas that the authorities are sending through protest crowds across the United States may increase the risk that the coronavirus could spread through the gatherings,” the New York Times writes.

“Along with the immediate pain that can cause watering eyes and burning throats, tear gas may cause damage to people’s lungs and make them more susceptible to getting a respiratory illness, according to studies on the risks of exposure. The gas can also incite coughing, which can further spread the virus from an infected person,” the paper adds.

And as Charlie Warzel asks, are jails that are now packed with arrested protesters going to lead to further spread — especially after they’re released?

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

1,835,944: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 19,280 more than yesterday morning.)

106,713: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,157 more than yesterday morning).

17.76 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

Almost 94 million: The number of American adults who have delayed medical care due to the coronavirus, resulting in a financial freefall for the health industry

$15.7 trillion: How much CBO says the coronavirus could trim GDP.

57 percent: The share of Americans in a new Monmouth poll who say that police are more likely to use excessive force against black people, up more than 20 points since 2016.

7 times: The rate at which Minneapolis police have used force against black people compared to white people, according to a New York Times analysis.

“I’m late for lunch”

Yesterday, we asked which — if any — Republican elected politicians would criticize President Trump for using police to clear protesters all for a photo-op.

A few, in one way or another, disagreed with the president (though hardly in the same manner Republicans criticized him after Charlottesville and Helsinki).

But others either agreed with Trump or ducked the questions from NBC’s Kasie Hunt. Here’s a quick rundown of responses from GOP senators yesterday:

Sen. Lisa Murkowski: What we saw “was not the America that I know.”

Sen. Tim Scott: “But obviously, if your question is, should you use tear gas to clear a path so the president can go have a photo-op, the answer is no.”

Sen. James Lankford: “If he’d have gone out there yesterday morning rather than right before curfew, that would have been a non-issue… The whole appearance at that time, right before curfew, I thought was wrong timing.”

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah. “I didn’t watch it closely enough to know.”

Sen. Pat Roberts: “I don’t have any comment on that.”

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., on the president’s photo op at St. John’s last night: “Didn’t really see it.”

Sen. Rand Paul: “I guess I was mostly horrified by the violence I’ve seen in our cities. I mean, did you see the woman hit by the two by four?”

Sen. Steve Daines: “I was grateful for the president’s leadership.”

Sen. Rob Portman: “I’m late for lunch.”

2020 Vision: Breaking down last night’s primaries

In the marquee contest we were watching last night, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, lost his GOP primary to state Sen. Randy Feenstra by 10 percentage points. Feenstra defeated King, 46 percent to 36 percent.

Also in Iowa, Democrat Theresa Greenfield easily cleared the 35 percent she needed — she got 48 percent — to avoid a Democratic convention, and Greenfield will face incumbent Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, in the fall.

In Montana, GOP Congressman Greg Gianforte and Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney won their respective primaries and face off in the fall in the state’s gubernatorial contest. Term-limited Gov. Steve Bullock easily won his Senate primary and take on Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont.

In New Mexico, Yvette Harrell bested Claire Chase in the GOP NM-2 primary, and she’ll face Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., in November.

And also in New Mexico, EMILY’s List-backed Teresa Leger Fernandez defeated former CIA officer Valerie Plame and others to win the Dem nomination to the NM-3 House seat being vacated by Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, who’s running for the Senate.

Finally, in the presidential contest, Joe Biden now stands at 1,940 pledged delegates, according to NBC News’ count — just short of the 1,991 needed to clinch the Democratic nomination.

Biden will likely reach and surpass that magic number after next week’s primaries.

Tweet of the day

Ad watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s ad watch is a tale of two messages. Footage of law enforcement clearing out what appeared to be a peaceful protest in Lafayette Park ahead of the president’s brief visit to St. John’s Church echoed across the country Monday night as Democrats repudiated the move as an abuse of power.

Priorities USA wasted little time amplifying the visual, releasing an ad Tuesday splicing together news footage from the clash with video from Trump’s speech, adding in criticism of Trump from veterans and clergy members.

Compare that to the White House’s take on the trip to the church, which had been set on fire just days ago. It released a 30-second video of Trump’s visit in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, one filled with triumphant music and without any of the ugly visuals that precipitated the trip.

The Lid: Change is gonna come

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we noted a surprising new data point in attitudes about racial inequality.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Rod Rosenstein testifies today in the Senate probe of the FBI’s 2016 investigation of President Trump’s campaign.

Rep. Eliot Engel’s hot mic comments have him in hot water amid a tough primary challenge.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper told NBC News that he had “no idea” that Trump and the officials he led with him, including Esper, were heading for St. John’s church during his Monday night photo-op.

Trump says he’s officially pulling the nomination piece of the RNC out of Charlotte. (One alternative may be Nashville.)