Hurricane Hanna, the first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season made landfall twice as a Category 1 storm on Saturday afternoon within the span of little over an hour in Texas.
The first landfall happened at around 5pm about 24 kilometers north of Port Mansfield, which is about 209km south of Corpus Christi. The second landfall took place nearby in eastern Kenedy County, reports AP.
Hanna had come ashore with maximum sustained winds of 145 kph. As of Saturday night, those winds had weakened to 120 kph.
Many parts of Texas, including areas near where Hanna came ashore, have been dealing with a surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, but local officials said they were fully prepared for the storm.
Chris Birchfield, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Brownsville, said residents needed to remain alert. While Hanna's winds were expected to weaken throughout Saturday night, the storm’s real threat remained heavy rainfall, he said.
“We’re not even close to over at this point. We’re still expecting catastrophic flooding,” Birchfield said.
Forecasters said Hanna could bring 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) of rain through Sunday night — with isolated totals of 18 inches (46 centimeters) — in addition to coastal swells that could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.
Some areas in South Texas had reported receiving up to 23 centimeters. Rainfall totals were expected to rise throughout the evening and into Sunday. “It’s been all day,” Melissa Elizardi, a spokeswoman for Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, said of the rainfall.
In a tweet, President Donald Trump said his administration was monitoring Hanna, along with Hurricane Douglas, which was heading toward Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean.
Hanna came nearly three years after Hurricane Harvey made landfall northeast of Corpus Christi. Hanna was not expected to be as destructive as Harvey, which killed 68 people and caused an estimated $125 billion in damage in Texas.
First responders in Corpus Christi proactively placed barricades near intersections to have them ready to go if streets began to flood, Mayor Joe McComb said. More than 43,700 people throughout South Texas, including Corpus Christi, Harlingen and Brownsville, were without power Saturday evening, according to AEP Texas.
Corpus Christi is in Nueces County, where health officials made headlines when they revealed that 60 infants tested positive for COVID-19 from July 1 to July 16.
Farther south in Cameron County, more than 300 confirmed new cases have been reported almost daily for the past two weeks, according to state health figures. The past week has also been the county’s deadliest of the pandemic.
Coastal states scrambled this spring to adjust emergency hurricane plans to account for the virus, and Hanna loomed as the first big test.
South Texas officials’ plans for any possible rescues, shelters and monitoring of the storm will have the pandemic in mind and incorporate social distancing guidelines and mask wearing.
Gov. Greg Abbott said Saturday that some sheltering would take place in hotel rooms so people could be separated.
“We cannot allow this hurricane to lead to a more catastrophically deadly event by stoking additional spread of COVID-19 that could lead to fatalities," Abbott said.
Cameron County planned to open at least three evacuation shelters. Other counties and cities throughout South Texas had also opened shelters, with many requiring face masks.
Various resources and personnel to respond to the storm were on standby across the state, including search-and-rescue teams and aircraft. Mobile teams that can continue testing for COVID-19 were also being deployed.
Abbott said he has issued a disaster declaration for 32 counties in Texas and had asked the federal government to approve a similar declaration.
Tornadoes were also possible overnight Saturday for parts of the lower to middle Texas coastal plain, forecasters said. A hurricane warning was in effect for Port Mansfield to Baffin Bay, south of Corpus Christi, and a tropical storm warning was in effect from Port Mansfield south to Barra el Mezquital, Mexico, and from Baffin Bay north to Port O’Connor.
The U.S. federal immigration officials on Friday announced that new foreign students will be barred from entering the United States if they plan to take their classes entirely online this fall.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement informed this in a memo to college officials, reports AP.
According to the memo, “New students who were not already enrolled as of March 9 will ‘likely not be able to obtain’ visas if they intend to take courses entirely online.
The announcement primarily affects new students hoping to enroll at universities that intended to provide classes entirely online due to Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the international students who are already in the U.S. or are returning from abroad and already have visas will still be allowed to take classes entirely online, according to the update.
The news U.S. policy strikes a blow to colleges a week after hundreds united to repel a Trump administration policy that threatened to deport thousands of foreign students.
A new order was released on Friday as a clarification to earlier guidance from March 9 that suspended existing limits around online education for international students.
That guidance was meant to provide flexibility as schools across the nation closed campuses amid the pandemic, but universities said it was unclear whether it extended to new students.
ICE, in its memo clarified that the flexibility applies only to students “who were actively enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9.”
Officials at some schools — including Harvard University and the University of Southern California, which are offering classes online this fall — had feared as much and already told first-year students they could not come from abroad.
The American Council on Education, a group of university presidents, said it was disappointed by the guidance.
Brad Farnsworth, vice president of the group, said “We’ve been fearing this and preparing for this. We’re still disappointed.”
On the other hand Harvard officials said they're asking Congress to extend the March guidance to new students but don't anticipate any changes by the fall term. New students can take classes online from abroad or defer their enrollment, the school said.
More than 150 prominent U.S. medical experts and health professionals has urged the decision makers to shut down the country and start over to contain the surging COVID-19 pandemic noting that reopening before suppressing the virus is not going to help the economy.
They came up with the call with an open letter.
"Of all the nations in the world, we've had the most deaths from COVID-19. At the same time, we're in the midst of 'reopening our economy,' exposing more and more people to coronavirus and watching numbers of cases -- and deaths -- skyrocket," they said in the letter addressed to the Trump administration, members of Congress and state governors.
"Right now we are on a path to lose more than 200,000 American lives by November 1st. Yet, in many states people can drink in bars, get a haircut, eat inside a restaurant, get a tattoo, get a massage, and do myriad other normal, pleasant, but non-essential activities," said the letter.
The best thing for the nation is not to reopen as quickly as possible, it is to save as many lives as possible.
They urged enough daily testing capacity to test everyone with flu-like symptoms plus anyone they have been in close contact with over the last two weeks, a workforce of contact tracers large enough to trace all current cases, and more personal protective equipment to keep essential workers safe.
"Shut it down now, and start over," they appealed.
Non-essential businesses should be closed. Masks should be mandatory in all situations, indoors and outdoors, where people interact with others, they said.
"We need that protocol in place until case numbers recede to a level at which we have the capacity to effectively test and trace. Then, and only then, we can try a little more opening, one small step at a time," said the experts.
More than 4.08 million COVID-19 cases have been reported in the United States with the fatalities surpassing 144,900 as of Friday afternoon, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States surpassed the 4-million mark on Thursday, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.
The total number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the US stood at 4,005,414 as of 3:04pm local time (1904 GMT), reports Xinhua.
Meanwhile, the national death toll from the disease rose to 143,820, according to the CSSE.
California has recently surpassed New York to be the hardest-hit state with 421,857 cases.
Other states with over 100,000 cases include New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Georgia, Arizona, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Louisiana, the CSSE data showed.
Joe Biden called President Donald Trump as the country's “first” racist president, saying the way he deals with people based on the color of their skin, their national origin is “absolutely sickening”.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s comments came during a virtual town hall organized by the Service Employees International Union.
When a questioner complained of racism surrounding the coronavirus outbreak and mentioned the president referring to it as the “China virus,” Biden responded by blasting Trump and “his spread of racism.”
“No sitting president has ever done this. Never, never, never. No Republican president has done this. No Democratic president. We’ve had racists, and they’ve existed. They’ve tried to get elected president. He’s the first one that has.”
Biden also suggested that Trump is using race “as a wedge” to distract from his mishandling of the pandemic.
Many presidents — including the nation’s first, George Washington — owned slaves.
President Woodrow Wilson, the country's 28th president, is having his name removed from Princeton University's public policy school after recent protests against institutional racism and police brutality. Wilson, who served in the early 20th century, supported segregation and imposed it on several federal agencies.
At a White House briefing later Wednesday, Trump responded to a question about Biden's comments by pointing to his administration’s efforts passing criminal justice reform legislation and expanding opportunity zones, as well as the low unemployment numbers for minority groups before the coronavirus outbreak.
“I’ve done more for Black Americans than anybody with the possible of exception of Abraham Lincoln," the president said. “Nobody has even been close.”
Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser for Trump’s reelection campaign, said in a statement that ”no one should take lectures on racial justice from Joe Biden."
Biden has vowed that, if elected, he will begin addressing institutional racism within his first 100 days of taking office. This was not the first time he's suggested Trump’s actions were racist.
Biden has built his campaign around the election being a “battle for the soul of the nation” and says he felt compelled to run for president after he saw Trump respond to a deadly 2017 white supremacist attack on counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, by saying there were “some very fine people" on both sides.
When Trump said last year that four Democratic congresswomen of color should “go back” to their countries, Biden called it a “flat, racist attack.”