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K-pop band TWICE reveals its daring side on new album

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – TWICE, a popular K-pop group known for its catchy lyrics and colorful aesthetics, has released its second full album, a collection that invites listeners into the band’s more daring side.

“Eyes Wide Open,” released Monday, features 13 songs, including the lead single “I Can’t Stop Me.”

The all-female group, which debuted in 2015 and has achieved success in both Japan and South Korea, sat down with The Associated Press ahead of the release to talk about the project.

Nayeon, one of the band’s nine members, said that “I Can’t Stop Me” has a “retro” sound, with lyrics about “not being able to control ourselves crossing the line.”

The track sees TWICE explore the boundaries between good and bad, revealing a more daring side of the band – a departure from its happy-go-lucky style.

When asked to discuss boundaries they wouldn’t cross in their personal lives, the group – which has Japanese, South Korean and Taiwanese members, all in their early 20s – didn’t elaborate.

“This is a difficult question!” Jihyo said with a cheeky smile.

K-pop bands like TWICE are celebrated for their tightly synchronized dance moves and spotless aesthetics, often enduring years of training on the way to stardom. The demand for perfection never ends – leaving no room for mistakes, either onstage or off.

Group member Sana said balancing a hectic schedule with onstage perfection wasn’t easy when TWICE first started.

“We had so many venues we needed to perform at, but we had very limited time to prepare,” she said. “There were lots of moments when we’d practice for three hours twice a day and get on stage right away. So preparing and having to give perfect performances to so many people in such a rushed time weighed on us.”

“We could’ve done better and wanted to do better,” she added. “It was difficult to go through moments of not having control.”

But with half a decade of experience under their belt, the band is now allowed more breathing room.

“We don’t try too hard to be perfect,” said Tzuyu, the band’s Taiwanese singer. “I think I try to enjoy the moment instead of being so harsh on myself.”

As K-pop goes global thanks to bands like BTS and Blackpink, TWICE has its eyes on the U.S. market, planning to release English-language songs in the near future.

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Female football star sues for schools to offer girls’ teams

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Sam Gordon’s staggering football skills made her famous at age 9. But they didn’t make her fully welcome on the field.

As the only girl in a tackle football league in Utah, she heard parents from opposing teams urge their kids to “beat the girl.”

“I had a target on my back, and it was in the shape of a ponytail,” said Gordon, now 17. “It was awesome to prove to them that I’m more than just a girl in pads. I’m actually a football player.”

Viral videos viewed by millions of her playing catapulted Gordon to a place in the country’s most popular sport, including the ESPN awards and Super Bowl commercials. But very few other women have gotten a toehold in football.

To help change that, Gordon went to court.

She sued her school district and two others for refusing to create a girls’ football program under Title IX, saying many girls like her don’t feel comfortable playing with boys and some are even harassed. One player who testified said she was forced to change in the boys’ locker room at away games and often faced discriminatory treatment by her male coach and teammates.

But plenty of girls want to play, Gordon said, pointing to an all-female league she started with her father six years ago that’s drawn hundreds of girls from the Salt Lake City area.

The districts and state athletic officials are pushing back in court, though. They argue a girls football program would be unsustainable and require new infrastructure they shouldn’t be responsible for.

Closing arguments are set for this week. The school districts and state athletics association either declined or didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Gordon’s push to expand access to the sport to more women comes as concerns about youth and professional football players getting injured has reached a fever pitch. She said the league has made minor adjustments to prioritize safety such as removing punt returns, kickoffs and kick returns from the game to limit plays that can often result in injuries.

Jen Welter became the first woman in an NFL mentoring program for coaches when she joined the Arizona Cardinals’ training camp coaching staff in 2015. This year, there are eight female assistant coaches in the league, including the San Francisco 49ers’ Katie Sowers who became the first woman to coach in a Super Bowl last year.

Football is considered “America’s game,” but it is one of few sports that doesn’t have gender parity at any level, from the peewees to the pros, in terms of opportunity or compensation, Welter said.

“For a girl to play on a boys team, she is the exception,” Welter said. “Yet when you see a women’s tackle team or a girls’ tackle team they’re all in it together. We encourage that in all sports so why would football be so different?”

Some other opportunities for girls who want to play football are starting to open up. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and the NFL announced in May that women’s flag football will become a nationally recognized college varsity sport by 2021. That opportunity could be life changing for young girls and their path toward receiving a college education, Welter said.

“That changes everything,” she said. “Because now that we’ve seen life trajectory changing opportunities in football, that means it’s a viable dream and goal.”

Even if Gordon wins her lawsuit, she may not get a chance to play for her school under the Friday night lights. She’s a high school senior now, so she’d get one spring season at best.

But even if she doesn’t get to play with her school’s jersey, she said, the lawsuit would still be worth it for the girls who come after her.

“For them to get the opportunity to go and play and to … destigmatize girls playing contact sports and being tough and rowdy,” she said. “It’s more than just football, and I would be proud to be a part of that.”

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Sophia Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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Biden goes on offense in Georgia while Trump targets Midwest

WASHINGTON (AP) – One week until Election Day, Joe Biden is going on offense, heading Tuesday to Georgia – which hasn’t backed a Democrat for president since 1992 – and pushing into other territory where President Donald Trump was once expected to easily repeat his wins from four years ago.

The Democratic presidential nominee planned to travel to Iowa, which Trump took by 10 points in 2016, later in the week. His running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, is heading to Arizona and Texas, where Republicans haven’t lost any statewide office since 1994 – the nation’s longest political winning streak.

The aggressive schedule is a sign of confidence by the Biden team, which is trying to stretch the electoral map and open up more paths to 270 electoral college votes. But after Democrats flirted with GOP territory in 2016, only to lose those states as well as their traditional Midwestern strongholds, Biden’s campaign is mindful of overreaching.

The former vice president will also visit in the coming days Wisconsin, Michigan, and Florida.

Georgia, where Biden will make two stops on Tuesday, has increasingly become a draw for Democrats in recent years, as turnout increases among Black voters and the Atlanta suburbs tilt away from the GOP.

“If this was the Georgia of 2008, 2012 I think there’s no way we would have seen a Biden come this late,” said Nsé Ufot, chief executive officer of the New Georgia Project, which aims to increase voter registration, especially among young people and minorities. “It’s a loud signal and acknowledgement of Georgia as a battleground state.”

Trump is staying focused on the so-called “blue wall” states that he flipped in 2016: Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, where he’ll return on Tuesday to hit West Salem just three days after holding a Janesville rally.

While Biden rarely travels to more than one state per day, the president has maintained a whirlwind schedule, crisscrossing the country and making the argument that he built a booming economy before the coronavirus pandemic upended it.

His latest swing could be a victory lap after the Senate on Monday approved the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett and gave conservatives a commanding, 6-3 advantage on the Supreme Court. Trump has sought to use the vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month to animate conservative evangelical and Catholic voters to his candidacy, but the high court fight has been overshadowed by concerns over the coronavirus with cases surging.

Biden, meanwhile, is hoping to lift Democrats running for Senate in Georgia and Iowa with this travel plans. He planned to unveil his closing message during a Tuesday speech in Warm Springs, Georgia, where natural hot springs offered President Franklin Delano Roosevelt comfort as he battled polio and governed a nation weathering the Great Depression and World War II.

The former vice president’s campaign says his appearance will bookend his visit earlier this month to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, when Biden used the site of the bloody Civil War battle to issue a call for bipartisanship and putting country ahead of party. On Tuesday, he will try to evoke Roosevelt’s New Deal sensitivities while promising to restore the nation’s character.

“This is our opportunity to leave the dark, angry politics of the past four years behind us,” Biden declares in a 60-second closing ad airing on national cable channels and 16 states his campaign considers battlegrounds.

Both campaigns focused Monday on Pennsylvania, with Trump drawing thousands of largely mask-less supporters to rallies while Biden popped just over the border from his home in Delaware to greet a small group of supporters outside a campaign field office in Chester.

Biden declared, “Bottom line is Donald Trump is the worst possible person to lead us through this pandemic.” Trump countered that his Democratic challenger would impose unnecessary shutdowns.

“It’s a choice between a Trump boom or a Biden lockdown,” the president said at a rally in Allentown.

With more than a third of the expected ballots in the election already cast, it could become increasingly challenging for Trump and Biden to reshape the race. Biden is leading in most national polls and has an advantage, though narrower, in many key battlegrounds.

The campaign’s final week is colliding with deepening concerns about the COVID crisis. Trump is anxious for voters to focus on other issues such as the economy. Biden, meanwhile, has repeatedly hit Trump on the virus while presenting himself as a safer, more stable alternative.

Several close aides to Vice President Mike Pence tested positive for the virus last weekend, including his chief of staff, Marc Short. Pence, though, has maintained a packed travel schedule. On Tuesday he’ll be in South Carolina, a potential boost for Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is in a potentially tight reelection race.

Biden has accused Trump of “waving the white flag” in his response to the virus, while Trump fired back Monday that the former vice president “waved a white flag on life.”

Anticipating a razor-thin Electoral College margin, Trump has an aggressive schedule including a visit to Omaha, Nebraska, on Tuesday after a Sunday visit to Maine, aiming to lock up one electoral vote in each of the states that award them by congressional district. The president is scheduled hold a dizzying 11 rallies in the final 48 hours before polls close.

Democrats have been heartened by their lead in the record numbers of early votes that have been cast across a number of battleground states – though they caution that Republicans are more likely to turn out on Election Day.

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McGrath slams McConnell on Supreme Court confirmation

Democrat Amy McGrath made a closing pitch to a statewide TV audience Monday night at a forum that took place as her Republican opponent in Kentucky – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – basked in the confirmation of another conservative to the Supreme Court.

While McGrath and Libertarian candidate Brad Barron took turns answering questions, McConnell finished shepherding through Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the nation’s highest court.

Down in the polls and barely a week before Election Day, McGrath was on the attack from start to finish. The retired Marine combat pilot accused McConnell of misplaced priorities by pushing through Barrett’s confirmation while another coronavirus relief package has stalled in Congress.

“Here we are, we need more aid,” McGrath said during the forum on Kentucky Educational Television. “That’s what Kentuckians need right now – families, schools, business. And what’s Sen. McConnell doing right now? He’s ramming through a Supreme Court nominee with eight days to an election. Is he working on coronavirus aid that we need in Kentucky?”

For months, McConnell has crisscrossed Kentucky to tout his lead role in passing a $2 trillion economic rescue package early in the fight against the pandemic. In late summer, McConnell unveiled a slimmed-down version of another relief package totaling about $500 billion, which stalled amid partisan wrangling over its size and scope.

McGrath said McConnell waited too long and offered too little in relief. McGrath, who needs to win over some of President Donald Trump’s supporters to pull an upset, said she sides with Trump’s recent push for a bigger aid package. McConnell has said if such a bill passed the Democratic-controlled House with Trump’s blessing “we would put it on the floor of the Senate.”

McGrath talked about how the pandemic has affected her own life, saying: “I’m just like everybody else. I’m a regular Kentuckian. I’m trying to put my kids through school right now.” Some polling has indicated that she’s struggled to connect with some Kentuckians.

Meanwhile, McConnell has been Trump’s chief ally as the Senate has confirmed more than 200 federal judges – including three Supreme Court justices – put forward by Trump to put a more conservative imprint on the federal judiciary.

Barrett’s confirmation secured a likely conservative court majority for years to come. In a Senate speech Monday, McConnell said that “by any objective standard” Barrett deserved to join the court.

“Tonight, we can place a woman of unparalleled ability and temperament on the Supreme Court,” he said. “We can take another historic step toward a judiciary that fulfills its role with excellence, but does not grasp after power that our constitutional system intentionally assigns somewhere else.”

McGrath condemned McConnell’s handling of the Barrett confirmation barely a week before the presidential election, noting that the Kentucky Republican blocked then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nomination made months before the election.

“It is absolutely wrong,” McGrath said. “There is no principle behind it. He has broken the system.”

Barron said he supported Barrett’s confirmation and said Trump was “within his constitutional rights” to nominate her. But he warned there could be “political consequences” for McConnell’s handling of the nomination so close to the election, saying: ““Mitch has set us up for a possible packing of the courts by the Democrats.”

During the forum, McGrath repeated her support for senatorial term limits as she tries to unseat McConnell, who is seeking a seventh term. McGrath suggested that a two-term limit could be reasonable. Barron said he thought the proper limit would be three terms.

McConnell has touted his top Senate leadership post and his ability to deliver federal money as valuable assets for Kentucky that he says would be lost if he leaves the Senate.

McConnell’s campaign took aim at both challengers for their performance at the forum.

Kate Cooksey, the senator’s campaign spokeswoman, said McGrath and Barron “treated Kentuckians to an infomercial on what a disaster” they would be for Kentucky.

“It’s clear neither candidate would work for Kentucky families and job creators like Senator Mitch McConnell does every day,” she said in a statement.

McConnell and McGrath squared off in a debate earlier this month, but the senator’s campaign refused to participate in a debate that included Barron.

For Barron, the forum was a golden opportunity to present himself to a statewide audience. He found plenty to criticize about McConnell, including the ballooning federal budget deficit.

“I’ve often said I don’t even know why you guys (Democrats) field a candidate against him,” he said. “I really don’t. I mean to me, the way he spends, I don’t think you can tell any” difference.

The Libertarian candidate also laid out his limited government philosophy, saying it’s in line with the views of Kentuckians who “want to be the authors of their own lives.”

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Barrett swearing-in differs markedly from ‘superspreader’

WASHINGTON (AP) – This time they mostly wore masks.

It’s been only a month since President Donald Trump’s Rose Garden event to announce he was nominating Amy Coney Barrett to serve on the Supreme Court. That packed celebration for friends and allies of the president and his high court nominee turned into a coronavirus superspreader event.

When the just-confirmed Barrett returned to the White House on Monday to take her constitutional oath, the celebration was moved to the broader South Lawn, chairs for more than 200 guests were spread about 6 feet apart, and the mask-wearers greatly outnumbered those who declined to cover their faces.

Some participants – including Trump and Barrett – were unmasked.

But the event had a markedly different feel than the Sept. 26 Rose Garden gathering. More than two dozen attendees – including Trump, first lady Melania Trump, and Republican Sens. Mike Lee and Thom Tillis – tested positive after attending the earlier White House celebration.

Back then, the attendees showed a measure of ease – exchanging handshakes and hugs and standing close together as they conversed – that belied the reality that the nation was in the midst of a pandemic. The crowd was then ushered indoors for a reception.

Hours before Monday’s ceremony, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser questioned the wisdom of holding another large gathering at a moment when coronavirus cases were spiking in the U.S. She accused the president of flouting “scientific evidence and common sense.”

“I know that there were a number of people who attended that Rose Garden event who became sick, who are quite embarrassed by their participation, who had to go back to their constituencies and communities and explain their behavior,” Bowser said. “And so we don’t want any folks, our residents, certainly from D.C. or in our surrounding region, to be in that situation.”

After Barrett was administered the oath by Justice Clarence Thomas and delivered brief remarks, the assembled crowd stood to cheer and take photos from afar as the new justice posed with Trump, their spouses and Thomas.

Many guests stood for a few minutes in small groups, chatting with their masks secure before heading for the exits minutes after the guest of honor departed.

Some Republican senators invited to attend to the event decided it was better to watch from afar.

Indiana Sen. Todd Young told reporters that he had told the White House he would attend, but was reconsidering. Asked why, he said “no reason” and that it “had to do with a lot of factors.” Sen. Lindsey Graham, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had been expected at the event, but the South Carolina lawmaker – locked in a tough reelection fight – instead made an appearance on Fox News.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she was “staying away” because she was headed to Alaska and cases have been increasing there. She said people need to be careful about gatherings as illnesses have been rising, but stopped short of calling the White House event a mistake.

“It just seems like it’s just been a slow tsunami,” Murkowski said. “And I think that we all need to be very cautious and very careful.”

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The Latest: Barrett pledges no ‘fear or favor’ at high court

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Latest on the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court (all times local):

9:30 p.m.

Amy Coney Barrett is pledging to carry out her duties as a Supreme Court justice “without any fear or favor” toward the other branches of government or her own beliefs.

Barrett spoke Monday after taking the first of two oaths that will allow her to officially join the high court.

Addressing an outdoor White House ceremony in her honor, Barrett says it’s the job of a judge to “resist her policy preferences,” claiming it would be a “dereliction of duty” to give in to them.

Barrett is pledging to do her job “independently of the political branches and of my own preferences.”

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9:20 p.m.

The scene at an outdoor White House ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett looked very different from the previous White House event where President Donald Trump introduced her as his nominee.

Monday’s event was held on the South Lawn instead of the smaller Rose Garden.

Scores of guests were spaced out as opposed to being seated close together, as they were in the garden at the event on Sept. 26.

Most guests wore masks on Monday as opposed to the September event, where few people wore face coverings to protect themselves from the coronavirus.

Several people who attended the Sept. 26 event later contracted the virus, including Trump and first lady Melania Trump.

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9:17 p.m.

Amy Coney Barrett has taken the first of two oaths she needs to officially join the Supreme Court.

The Senate confirmed Barrett’s nomination on a largely party line 52-48 vote shortly before Justice Clarence Thomas administered the Constitutional Oath to Barrett at an outdoor White House ceremony.

Barrett is the first Supreme Court justice to be confirmed so close to a presidential election.

A conservative, Barrett fills the vacancy created by the September death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who led the court’s liberal voting bloc.

Chief Justice John Roberts is set to administer a second oath — known as the judicial oath — to the former federal appeals court judge at a private ceremony at the court on Tuesday.

The 48-year-old Louisiana native will then be able to take part in the high court’s work. Her addition likely will solidify a 6-3 conservative shift on the nation’s highest court.

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Coronavirus case-fatality rate down despite surge in cases

Deaths from COVID-19 are ticking up slightly in the U.S. alongside record highs for recorded cases, with California, Texas and Florida reporting the most fatalities overall in the past week while the Dakotas and Montana report the most deaths as a share of their populations.

Roughly 800 people are dying from the virus per day in the U.S., according to the seven-day rolling average. It’s a far better picture than the 2,200-plus who died during the spring crush in the Northeast and 1,200-plus who were victims of the “Sun Belt surge” in mid-summer.

But the average daily death toll is up 12% compared to two weeks ago. As winter approaches, experts warn that increased transmission will follow a familiar pattern, with greater transmission leading within weeks to more hospitalizations and more deaths.

“Our national political leadership keeps saying we’ve turned the corner. Well, it looks like an upward turn to me,” said William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University.

The good news is the share of people who are dying after testing positive for the virus is down to 2.6%.

Known as the case-fatality rate, the number is a marked improvement from the 3.4% in late July and about 6% during the initial crush in April and May, when states such as New York and New Jersey reported eye-popping numbers of problems in nursing homes.

Some of the decline is a mathematical issue — as testing capacity improves, there is a larger denominator of non-fatal cases. But the decline also can be explained by improving treatment and care, and the fact that transmission has trended younger, meaning a greater share of recoveries.

Federal and state officials have taken efforts to protect residents of congregate living facilities — the Trump administration dispatched rapid tests to nursing homes across the country — but they haven’t been able to shut out the disease completely.

“Nursing homes in some states have been better-fortified but there are still cases coming from them in select areas,” said Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

People of all ages with underlying conditions such as heart disease and diabetes remain susceptible to bad outcomes from COVID-19.

“The deaths are still very much clustered among people of advanced age and people with serious underlying health conditions,” Dr. Schaffner said.

Texas reported the most deaths in the past seven days, at roughly 500, followed by Florida at 462, according to a New York Times tracker.

But the Dakotas are the key worry spot when controlling for population, with North Dakota seeing 6.8 deaths per 100,000 residents and South Dakota tallying 5.9 per 100,000 over the last week.

The case-fatality rate is based on the share of deaths among known cases. Because they were slammed early on, states like New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts have case-fatality rates of 7% while new hotspots like Wisconsin and both Dakotas are at 1% each.

Those figures can be misleading, however, given the large number of asymptomatic cases that go undetected. The real case-fatality rate for the disease is probably closer to 0.6%, experts say, which doesn’t sound so bad but is worse than the annual flu, which is often closer to 0.1%.

The U.S.’s known case-fatality rate of 2.6% is better than the 10% in Mexico, 7.1% in Italy or 3.1% in France, which is seeing a record spike in daily cases, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker. French President Emmanuel Macron recently imposed nightly curfews to stem the spread of the virus.

As the virus spreads far and wide, the raw number of deaths mounts over time, with the U.S. tallying a world-leading 225,000 deaths from the disease.

The virus is killing about 69 people per 100,000 of the U.S. population, a rate slightly better than the 74-per-100,000 in Brazil or Spain, which declared a new state of emergency to deal with the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins.

But it is roughly on par with the U.K., at 68, and worse than France (52), Israel (27), Germany (12) or South Korea, which recorded its first cases around the same time as the U.S. but is recording less than one death per 100,000 people.

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Georgia infections show sharper rise if rapid tests included

ATLANTA (AP) – COVID-19 infections are rising more rapidly in Georgia, in line with a national trend of increasing cases.

The broadest measure of COVID-19 cases, which includes rapid antigen tests as well as the more precise genetic tests, shows the number of confirmed and probable cases was 18% higher in the week that ended Friday compared to the week before, according to a report issued Monday by the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The state recorded 10,086 genetic positives and 2,564 antigen positives last week, tipping Georgia back above 100 weekly cases per 100,000 people, one measure of rapid spread.

Georgia still remains far off its July peaks, when it was averaging 3,700 cases per day, worst in the nation at the time. Because the respiratory illness is now spreading so rapidly in other regions, Georgia ranks only 34th among the states, according to numbers tracked by The Associated Press. Many more cases, per capita, are being recorded in some Midwestern and Western states.

The share of positive genetic tests has risen above 7% statewide in Georgia from a low of 5.5% as late as Oct. 15, suggesting more rapid spread in communities. Experts say that if more than 5% of tests are coming back positive, it suggests that too few tests are being done and many infections may be going undetected.

Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey said earlier this month that the state was planning to include positive rapid antigen tests in its daily report, but has not yet done so. Many other states count those tests no differently than genetic tests, but Georgia officials said they’re worried about the higher rate of false results on the antigen tests.

Despite those concerns, the state publishes antigen numbers in once-weekly county-level reports that are issued on Mondays.

But even just counting genetic tests, the rise in cases in Georgia is increasingly clear. The state’s seven-day daily average of positive tests is up 30% since hitting a low on Oct. 8, according to AP numbers. The seven-day average of hospitalizations is up 7% since hitting a low on Oct. 12.

Deaths, which usually lag behind hospitalizations, have mounted more slowly in recent days. Georgia has recorded 7,827 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 and more than 326,000 cases confirmed through genetic tests. While most people who contract the coronavirus recover after suffering only mild to moderate symptoms, it can be deadly for older patients and those with other health problems.

The numbers are rising as millions of Georgians cast their votes for president and federal and state offices. Democrats have heavily criticized President Donald Trump and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans, for their actions during the pandemic. Kemp has said he’s striking the right balance between health and making sure restrictions don’t choke off economic growth.

Public health officials count 39 high transmission counties, with a group in northwest Georgia that includes the Carrollton, Cartersville, Rome and Dalton areas, parts of rural northeast Georgia north of Athens, and a belt running east to west south of Dublin.

Of the state’s 159 counties, 126 counties recorded more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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Trump eyes hosting election night party at his DC hotel

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump has his eye on hosting an election night party at his own hotel in the nation’s capital.

Over the weekend, the campaign pushed out fundraising emails in the president’s name offering donors the chance to enter a drawing “to join Team Trump at the Election Night Party in my favorite hotel,” in Washington, suggesting he will use his luxury hotel as the backdrop for reacting to election results.

“November 3rd will go down in history as the night we won FOUR MORE YEARS. It will be absolutely EPIC, and the only thing that could make it better is having YOU there,” Trump said in a fundraising solicitation.

For Trump, an election night party at his own hotel is symbolic for a businessman who leveraged his celebrity as a reality star and New York real estate magnate to win the nation’s highest office.

Critics see it as one more reminder of how the president has used his office to personally profit as foreign leaders, conservative supporters and administration officials use the lobby of Washington’s Trump International Hotel as an unofficial clubhouse for the Trump presidency.

Since 2017, the president and Republican National Committee have held several fundraisers at the president’s Washington hotel in the historic Old Post Office building, which the president’s company leases from the federal government.

Over the course of his presidency, the Trump campaign, the RNC and their joint-fundraising committees have spent over $7.4 million at Trump-branded properties.

The Washington hotel, which is blocks from the White House, has been sold out for weeks for Election Day as well as the days before and after Nov. 3. A basic room then is going for $1,200 a night, nearly triple the $476 room rate on Monday.

“Donald Trump has spent his entire presidency funneling taxpayer, campaign, special interest and foreign government money into the business that he still owns,” said Donald Sherman, deputy director of the nonprofit government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “In some ways, election night is going to be the pinnacle of his self dealing.”

The White House referred questions on the president’s election night plans to the Trump campaign, which did not respond to requests for comment.

It’s unclear how big Trump’s election night party will be. The District of Columbia, under coronavirus protocols, has capped mass gatherings at 50 people.

The president has sidestepped the district’s rules, which hold no weight on federal property, at other recent events. The president hosted hundreds of people on the White House grounds for an Independence Day weekend celebration, for his Republican National Convention speech in August and again at last month’s Rose Garden announcement of the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Several attendees, including Trump, tested positive for the coronavirus in the days following Barrett’s event. Few guests wore masks.

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser told reporters on Monday that she had heard of plans for an election night party and added, “We will be in touch with our licensee, which is the hotel.”

Bowser also more broadly questioned Trump’s wisdom in holding large gatherings at a moment when cases are spiking in the U.S. Trump was expected to host a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday after an anticipated Senate vote to confirm Barrett.

“You can believe that you can go to the White House and get COVID and that nothing’s going to happen to you. Perhaps,” Bowser said. “Or you can die from it.”

Trump held his 2016 election party in his then-hometown of New York. But he booked his victory party at New York’s Hilton in Midtown Manhattan because his own nearby Trump International Hotel & Tower didn’t have a big enough room.

It’s unclear how much of a presence Trump himself will be in the election night festivities this time. With a significant portion of the electorate opting to mail in their ballots, that could delay tabulation of results.

Sherman noted that Trump, whenever he leaves office, will have a Secret Service detail for the rest of his life like other past presidents. With every Trump trip to one of his properties, taxpayers will cover the tab of agents protecting the 45th president.

“I have a high level of confidence that Donald Trump will find a way to have government or special interest money go to his hotels regardless of the outcome of next week’s election,” Sherman said.

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Associated Press writer Brian Slodysko contributed to this report.

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No. 10 Florida, Mullen return to work after COVID outbreak

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) – No. 10 Florida resumed meetings and practices for the first time in two weeks Monday, getting back to work after a COVID-19 outbreak caused the Southeastern Conference to postpone two of the team’s games.

The Gators (2-1) are scheduled to host Missouri (2-2) on Saturday, ending a 21-day layoff and beginning the first of seven consecutive games for coach Dan Mullen and his team.

Mullen was one of more than 30 players and coaches who tested positive for the coronavirus following a road trip to Texas A&M; earlier this month. Everyone else on the plane – about 75 people in all – was quarantined because of potential exposure and contact tracing protocols.

It forced the Gators to shut down team activities and work remotely. It also left Mullen with concerns about missing so much time on the field and away from a daily routine.

“We’ve got some veteran players,” Mullen said. “For those guys, just picking it back up and getting going. Fortunately, when you have some older, veteran guys, it helps. But we’ll see.”

Adding to the team’s issues: SEC rules mandate that players who tested positive must adhere to a four-day reacclimation period that includes cardiac monitoring. The protocols call for Day 1 practice to be 25% or a normal routine, with Day 2 increasing to 50%, Day 3 at 75% and then full participation on Day 4.

It essentially means Mullen won’t be able to get his full team on the field for a full practice until Thursday.

Still, he was able to hold an in-person team meeting Monday for the first time in what seemed like forever.

“I think everybody’s really excited, ready to get back after it, ready to get back to football,” Mullen said. “I think after not playing, I think that is something that is big within the team right now, is that ability to get back out on the field, get back to doing football, you know what I mean?

“This year’s been kind of a unique year like no other, with stops and starts, and different schedules, and kind of everything going on. Our guys, I thought, have handled everything extremely well throughout the year, so I think they’re going to be really excited to get back out there on the practice field.”

Mullen already tempered his expectations.

“I don’t expect us to come out there and have certainly our sharpest, most crisp practice of the year,” he said. “But I do expect us to have great energy, excitement and enthusiasm to be on the field to be back out there to get going as we kind of build up to Saturday.”

Mullen said he felt “rested, for sure” following his 10-day quarantine, the worst of which was “being isolated in your house and not being able to see your family.”

The Gators have traced their outbreak to two players ignoring symptoms and getting on the team plane headed to Texas A&M.; Both players had tested negative the day before the trip.

But they tested positive the day after the game and likely spread it to teammates and coaches on the plane, in the hotel, in the cramped confines of a visiting locker room, at team meals and on the flight home.

“We always knew the travel was going to be a concern and an issue for us,” Mullen said. “When you add those all up, all of those different combinations, you add that up, and you throw the virus in the middle of it with obviously someone having it on the team, or at least maybe two people I’m guessing have it on the team, and then you put it in to that environment, you’re going to get a spread.”

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