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News Wrap: A surge in COVID-19 infections is pushing hospitals to the breaking point

In our news wrap Tuesday, Hospitals and medical staff are overwhelmed in some parts of the country as COVID infections continue to rise, the Taliban claimed they have captured a seventh provincial capital in Afghanistan, much of the northern Caribbean is hunkered down as Tropical Storm Fred approaches, and Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a series of voting bills passed by Republicans.

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  • William Brangham:

    In the day's other news — the surge in COVID-19 pushed hospitals and medical staff to the breaking point in parts of the country. Daily new cases are now averaging more than 116,000 nationwide, and hospitalizations in a number of states with low vaccination rates are running higher that ever.

    Arkansas has hit records for two days running, and Texas is now calling for health workers from other states to come assist.

    Facebook says it has taken down hundreds of accounts for trying to smear the COVID vaccines made by Pfizer and AstraZeneca. More than 300 Facebook and Instagram accounts were linked to an advertising firm operating out of Russia. Facebook didn't suggest any motive behind the postings, but Russia has been actively marketing its own vaccine around the world. President Biden today defended the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in the face of a swiftly-moving Taliban offensive.

    The insurgents claimed they had captured Farah, the seventh provincial capital to fall in a week. Afghan officials claimed government tanks and troops were still holding on. The president said he's watching developments, but that, quote, they've got to fight for themselves.

  • President Joe Biden:

    I think they're beginning to realize they've got to come together politically at the top. And — but, we are going to continue to keep our commitment. But I do not regret my decision.

  • William Brangham:

    Meanwhile, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad warned Taliban representatives that they'll face international isolation if they take power by force. In turn, the Taliban said it is committed to negotiations. Six European countries are pressing to resume sending migrants back to Afghanistan, despite the fighting there. The Afghan government has stopped accepting deportees for at least three months. Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece and the Netherlands say that policy will only encourage more Afghans to try to flee to Europe.

    Much of the northern Caribbean hunkered down tonight, awaiting the arrival of tropical storm Fred. The system closed on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, carrying up to six inches of rain. It's on track to reach the Dominican Republic and Haiti tomorrow, and possibly Florida later in the week.

    In California, some 6,000 firefighters worked today to keep the state's largest wildfire away from more than a dozen small communities in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains. But the Dixie fire burned most of the town of Greenville last week. Those who escaped are still struggling to cope.

  • Jack Romero, Displaced Greenville Resident:

    Everything's gone. I have no idea what to do, where to go. I'm kind of lost, and my personal situation on top of it, I'm just overwhelmed. I'm completely overwhelmed.

    I'm doing my best to keep it cool — keep it functioning, anyway, because you've got to. There's no other choice. It's either keep moving or curl up and die.

  • William Brangham:

    The Dixie Fire is just 25 percent contained. Crews are rushing to make more progress, ahead of the scorching temperatures that are forecast for later this week.

    The Texas Supreme Court opened the door today to arresting Democratic lawmakers who left the state to block proposed voting restrictions. More than 50 Democrats flew to Washington last month to prevent a quorum in the Republican-led state legislature. Republican Governor Greg Abbott has vowed to arrest them, but a lower court issued a restraining order to shield them. Today's ruling overturns that order.

    In Wisconsin, Democratic Governor Tony Evers vetoed a series of voting bills passed by Republicans. They focused on absentee voting, requiring photo IDs, and barring local officials from filling out missing information on ballot envelopes. Evers called the bills "anti-democratic." Republicans argued they close loopholes and prevent fraud.

    And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 162 points to close at 35,264. The Nasdaq fell 72 points. The S&P 500 added four.

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