In our news wrap Wednesday, COVID-19 continues its march across the U.S., with 92,000 new cases reported in the last 24 hours. The United Kingdom is bracing for the start of a new lockdown, while Europe’s worst hot spot, Belgium, reported slowing hospitalizations for the first time in a month. Also, Central America has spent a long day in the grips of Tropical Storm Eta.
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Beyond the presidential, congressional and state races, a variety of issues, from marijuana to ride-sharing, were on Tuesday's ballots.
Five more states legalized marijuana, and Oregon became the first to decriminalize small amounts of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Voters in California exempted Uber and Lyft from making their drivers full employees eligible for benefits. They also refuse to reinstate affirmative action for college admissions and public hiring.
The march of COVID-19 across the United States shows no sign of slowing, with another 92,000 infections in the last 24 hours. In Europe, England braced for a new lockdown tomorrow. But the continent's hottest spot, Belgium, reported that hospitalizations are slowing for the first time in a month.
Yves Van Laethem (through translator):
If it continues like this, we will be able to remain below the maximum capacity of our hospitals.
So, it gives me the opportunity to say one more time that, by staying at home, by respecting those rules, which I have to admit are not always comfortable, lives can be saved.
Overall, European nations recorded a nearly 50 percent increase in virus deaths in the last week.
Central America has spent a long, dangerous day in the grips of Tropical Storm Eta. It lashed Northern Nicaragua and Honduras after making landfall on Tuesday as a Category 4 hurricane. The weakened storm dumped torrential rain, triggered mudslides and tore up towns, killing at least three people. It could swing toward South Florida this weekend.
The U.S. formally exited the landmark Paris climate agreement today. It fulfills a longstanding pledge by President Trump, but it's not clear how long it will last. Former Vice President Biden has vowed to rejoin the global pact to fight climate change if he wins the election.
The U.S. Supreme Court is wading back into religious rights. The justices heard arguments today on whether a Catholic agency may refuse to certify same-sex couples as foster parents on religious grounds. The agency, in Philadelphia, argues that that policy should not bar it from qualifying for city contracts. A decision is expected by June.
And, on Wall Street, stocks scored sizable gains again, as investors bet that Republicans will block new taxes and regulations if they hold their Senate majority. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 367 points to close at 27847. The Nasdaq rose 430 points, and the S&P 500 added 74.