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Trump hosts White House event against guidance of public health officials

U.S. President Donald Trump made his first public appearance on Saturday since returning to the White House after his hospitalization for the coronavirus, defying public health guidelines to speak to a crowd of hundreds even as the White House refused to declare that he was not contagious.

Trump took off his mask moments after he emerged on the White House balcony to address the crowd on the lawn below, his first step back onto the public stage with just more than three weeks to go until Election Day. But five days after Trump returned from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, his health remained a mystery as White House officials refused to reveal if he had tested negative or if he was still at risk of spreading the virus.

His return was a brief one.

With bandages visible on his hands, likely from an intravenous injection, Trump spoke for 18 minutes, far less than at his normal hour-plus rallies. He appeared healthy, though perhaps a little hoarse, during the speech — intended to send the message that he’s back and ready to resume his battle for re-election on Nov. 3.

Though billed as an official event, Trump offered no policy proposals and instead delivered his usual attacks on Democratic rival Joe Biden while praising law enforcement to a crowd of several hundred, most of whom wore masks while few adhered to social distancing guidelines.


A crowd of Trump supporters gather on the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday. (Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)

“I’m feeling great,” said Trump, who said he was thankful for their good wishes and prayers as he recovered. He then declared that the pandemic, which has killed more than 210,000 Americans, was “disappearing” — even though he is still recovering from the virus.

Trump also remarked that many countries, including Canada, are seeing a COVID-19 surge.​​​​​​

“You see big flare-ups in Europe, big flare-ups in Canada, a very big flare-up in Canada, you saw that today,” he said.

Many provinces in Canada are seeing spikes, with the two largest — Ontario and Quebec — reporting more than 1,900 cases combined on Saturday.

In comparison, Missouri — a U.S. state with about 6.1 million people — reported more than 5,000 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, more than doubling its previous daily record.

WATCH | Trump says Canada is seeing a ‘flare-up’  of COVID-19:

During his first public event since he was diagnosed with COVID-19, U.S. President Donald Trump said Canada and other countries are experiencing ‘flare-ups’ of the virus. 0:22

In either an act of defiance or simply tempting fate, officials organized the crowd just steps from the Rose Garden, where exactly two weeks ago the president held another large gathering to formally announce his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. That event is now being eyed as a possible COVID-19 “super-spreader,” as more than two dozen people in attendance have contracted the virus.

Trump had hoped to hold campaign rallies this weekend but settled for the White House event. But even as his health remained unclear, he planned to ramp up his travel with a rally in Florida on Monday, followed by trips to Pennsylvania and Iowa on subsequent days. It was not clear if Trump posed a risk to those he would fly with on Air Force One or encounter at the rally sites.

Before the speech, White House officials said they had no information to release on whether the president was tested for COVID-19, meaning he would make his first public appearance without the White House verifying that he’s no longer contagious.

Security was stepped up around the White House before the event, which was called a “peaceful protest for law & order.” Police and the Secret Service closed surrounding streets to vehicles and shut down Lafayette Square, the park near the White House that has long been a gathering place for public protest.

More rallies planned

As questions linger about his health — and Democratic opponent Biden steps up his own campaigning — Trump also planned to leave the Washington area for the first time since he was hospitalized for a campaign rally in Sanford, Fla. He is also increasing his radio and TV appearances with conservative interviewers, hoping to make up for lost time with just over three weeks until Election Day and millions already voting.

Biden’s campaign said he again tested negative on Saturday for COVID-19. Biden was potentially exposed to the coronavirus during his Sept. 29 debate with Trump, who announced his positive diagnosis barely 48 hours after the debate.


U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks to reporters as he departs Wilmington, Del., on Saturday. (Kevin Lamarque)

The president has not been seen in public — other than in White House-produced videos — since his return on Monday from the military hospital, where he received experimental treatments for the coronavirus.

On Saturday, all attendees were required to bring masks or were provided with them, and were given temperature checks and asked to fill out a brief questionnaire. Some in the crowd removed their mask to listen to Trump.

Trump’s Monday event in Sanford, Fla., what he’s described as a “BIG RALLY,” was originally scheduled to be held on Oct. 2, the day after he tested positive. Ahead of his Saturday event, Trump used Twitter to share news articles about problems with mail-in ballots in New Jersey, Ohio and Texas. Trump has repeatedly made unsubstantiated claims that universal mail-in voting is beset by widespread fraud.

Trump’s return to public activity came as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, cautioned the White House again to avoid large-scale gatherings of people without masks.

He said of the Barrett event in an interview with The Associated Press, “I was not surprised to see a super-spreader event given the circumstances.” That means “crowded, congregate setting, not wearing masks. It is not surprising to see an outbreak,” he said.

Virus restrictions in the District of Columbia, where the White House is located, prohibit outdoor gatherings larger than 50 people, although that rule has not been strictly enforced. Masks are mandatory outdoors for most people, but the regulations don’t apply on federal land, and the Trump White House has openly flouted them for months.

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Trump assails foes, doesn’t mention U.S. coronavirus deaths in Fourth of July event

On a day meant for unity and celebration, U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to “safeguard our values” from enemies within — leftists, looters, agitators, he said — in a Fourth of July speech packed with all the grievances and combativeness of his political rallies.

Trump watched paratroopers float to the ground in a tribute to America, greeted his audience of front-line medical workers and others central in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, and opened up on those who “slander” him and disrespect the country’s past.

“We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and the people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing,” he said. “We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children.

“And we will protect and preserve American way of life, which began in 1492 when Columbus discovered America.”

He did not mention the dead from the pandemic. Nearly 130,000 are known to have died from COVID-19 in the U.S.


Trump and his wife, Melania Trump, watch a U.S. military aircraft flyover on Saturday. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Even as officials across the country pleaded with Americans to curb their enthusiasm for large Fourth of July crowds, Trump enticed the masses with a “special evening” of tribute and fireworks staged with new U.S. coronavirus infections on the rise.

But the crowds wandering the National Mall for the night’s air show and fireworks were strikingly thinner those the gathering for last year’s jammed celebration on the Mall.

Many who showed up wore masks, unlike those seated close together for Trump’s South Lawn event, and distancing was easy to do for those scattered across the sprawling space.

Trump did not hesitate to use the country’s birthday as an occasion to assail segments of the population that do not support him. Carrying on a theme he pounded on a day earlier against the backdrop of the Mount Rushmore monuments, he went after those who have torn down statues or think some of them, particularly those of Confederate figures, should be removed. Support has been growing among Republicans to remove Confederate memorials.

“Our past is not a burden to be cast away,” Trump said.

Pandemic surging across U.S.

Outside the event but as close to it as they could get, Pat Lee of Upper Dublin, Pa., or the two friends she came with, one a nurse from Fredericksburg, Va., whose only head gear was a MAGA hat.

“POTUS said it would go away,” Lee said of the pandemic, using an acronym for president of the United States. “Masks, I think, are like a hoax.” But she said she wore one inside the Trump International Hotel, where she stayed.

By the Second World War Memorial, the National Park Service handed out packets of five white cloth masks to all who wanted them. People were not required to wear them.


People are seen on the National Mall as Trump speaks during an event on the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Another nurse, Zippy Watt from Riverside, Calif., came to see the air show and fireworks with her husband and their two daughters, one of whom lived in Washington. They wore matching American flag face masks even when seated together on a park bench.

“We chose to wear a mask to protect ourselves and others,” Watt said. She said her family was divided on Trump but she is “more of a Trump supporter. Being from southern Cali I see socialist tendencies. I’m tired of paying taxes so others can stay home.”

Trump’s guests were doctors, nurses, law enforcement officers and military members as well as officials from the administration, said Judd Deere, deputy White House press secretary. He said the event was a tribute to the “tremendous courage and spirit” of front-line workers and the public in the pandemic.


Guests are seen on the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday. (Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press)

In many parts of the country, authorities discouraged mass gatherings for the holiday after days that have seen COVID-19 cases grow at a rate not experienced even during the deadliest phase of the pandemic in the spring.

Yet Trump continued to crave big crowds when it came to his events.

He opened the holiday weekend by travelling to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota for a fireworks display Friday night near the mountain carvings of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. In stark words, he accused protesters who have pushed for racial justice of engaging in a “merciless campaign to wipe out our history.”

Even as he pushed ahead with celebrations, the shadow of the coronavirus loomed closer to him. Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top fundraiser for the president and girlfriend of his eldest child, Donald Trump Jr., tested positive for the virus, Trump’s campaign said late Friday. Guilfoyle tweeted Saturday that she was looking forward to “a speedy recovery.”

In a presidential message earlier Saturday on the 244th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Trump acknowledged that “over the past months, the American spirit has undoubtedly been tested by many challenges.”

His Democratic rival, Joe Biden, said in a statement that the U.S. “never lived up” to its founding principle that “all men are created equal,” but today “we have a chance to rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country.”


Trump’s endorsement of big gatherings at the National Mall and at Mount Rushmore came as many communities decided to scrap fireworks, parades and other holiday traditions in hopes of avoiding yet more surges in infection.

Confirmed cases are climbing in 40 states, and the U.S. set another record Friday with 52,300 newly reported infections, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautions that mass gatherings like the one scheduled for Washington present a high risk for spread of the virus. Yet Surgeon General Jerome Adams sidestepped when asked if he would caution a loved one against attending a large gathering. He said people should wear masks and otherwise make up their own mind.

WATCH | Independence Day celebrations a concern in U.S. where cases on the rise:

As new daily cases in the U.S. hit a record, concerns abound that July 4th celebrations will lead to an explosion of COVID-19 cases as people scoff at masks and physical distancing. 2:01

Trump has been aching to see the nation return to normalcy, and has been willing to push the envelope farther than many states and big city mayors are willing to go.

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said she didn’t have the right to shut down the holiday spectacle because it’s on federal land. But she warned the federal government about the dangers of such a large crowd and told her constituents: “Just because someone invites you to a party doesn’t mean you have to go.”

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Jennifer Jones recalls celebration of final curling event with her dad

Jennifer Jones says it was one of the most emotional moments of her illustrious curling career — a confluence of events seemingly fated to coincide with one another.

Jones’ rink had won the 2018 Scotties in dominant fashion, losing just two times all tournament. It was her sixth championship, tying Colleen Jones for the national record.

Accolades followed at the 2019 event in Calgary. A Jones victory vaulted her into second all-time on the Tournament of Hearts wins list. She currently sits at 200. 

Then, a TSN panel of broadcasters, reporters and top curlers voted the Winnipeg native the greatest Canadian women’s curler of all time. Jones remembers celebrating the moment with her parents at their AirBnB in Calgary.

It would be the last time Jones’ father, Larry, watched her curl in person.

“I remember coming back to where they were staying and he said to me, ‘you’re pretty good at curling, eh?'” Jones told CBC Sports’ Anastasia Bucsis on the Player’s Own Voice podcast on Tuesday. “‘Not bad, dad.’ And that’s one of the last memories I have with my dad, so I’ll always remember that day for the rest of my life.”

Larry Jones died May 21, 2019 at 80 years old. Jennifer says it was her father who first put her on the ice and taught her about curling.


“He’s the one who had this love of curling that was infectious in all my family and who, I think, he lived vicariously through me every time I played,” Jones said.

Jones, 45, also won Olympic gold at the 2014 Games in Sochi. She said she grew up a shy kid, but found solace on the ice.

“I loved the smell of the ice. I loved the feeling I had when I was out there. I felt like I was safe and I was at home and that’s why I played,” Jones said.

Thus, the Canadian women’s curling GOAT moniker carries with it a hint of irony.

“I started curling because I love to play and it was an outlet for me and then all of a sudden to be recognized as one of the greatest of all time, it’s crazy. It’s mind boggling to me,” Jones said.

Striving to be the best

For Jones, the moment and the title were too difficult to reconcile then. In fact, she says that may not ever happen.

Jones is married to fellow pro curler Brent Laing. The couple plays mixed doubles together. They have two kids – Isabella, 7, and Skyla, 3. It was Isabella who hammered home to her mother what that TSN poll truly meant.

Isabella heard the news, and asked in the simplest terms: “Mom, are you one of the best ever out of everybody?” Mom replied that yes, that’s what they voted on.

“Well I wanna be the best at something one day, mom,” Isabella responded.

WATCH | Jones wins record-tying 6th Scotties title:

Jones and Team Manitoba beat Team Wild Card in extra ends to win the 2018 Scotties Championship in Penticton, BC. 1:27

The elder Jones said that was all the perspective she needed.

“So I see how we can be role models and mentors for our kids and if in some small way that helps her achieve one of her dreams, then it’s almost like another dream come true for me,” Jones said.

For Larry Jones and Jennifer Jones and now Isabella Jones, curling is a family affair.

And so for Larry to be there for Jennifer to accept the title as the greatest Canadian women’s curler and for Isabella to acknowledge the true meaning of that bestowment, of course the Olympic gold medallist would be emotional.

“For [dad], it was just watching his daughter doing what she loved to do. And then when he reflected sometimes he’d shake his head and say ‘I can’t believe all that you’ve accomplished,'” Jones said.

“So I think for him it was just like any parent just seeing your kids happy and seeing their dreams come true.”

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Back in competition mode, Alysha Newman eyes victory in new pole vault event

The bar: Set high by the men’s competition. Their mission: Raise it even higher.

Three of the leading women’s pole vaulters, including Canada’s Alysha Newman, get their turn to compete Saturday in the second edition of the Ultimate Garden Clash. It’s a rare track and field competition contested during the coronavirus pandemic.

Individually, Commonwealth Games champion Newman, reigning Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi of Greece, two-time U.S. indoor winner Katie Nageotte and will compete head-to-head-to-head to see who can clear a bar set at 4 metres the most times in 30 minutes.

“It puts us in the competition, that adrenaline mode, which is what I’ve been missing that entire time. But also, it’s one of those things I’m going in like raw turkey. I don’t really know what to expect. I’ve never competed like this or tried to jump hardcore for 30 minutes,” Newman told CBC Sports’ Jacqueline Doorey.

WATCH | Newman shows how she’ll compete at UGC:

The Canadian pole vaulter explains her pole vault set up and how competing allows her to give back during quarantine. 3:22

Watch the women’s Ultimate Garden Clash live at CBCSports.ca on Saturday at noon ET.

Collectively, the women will try to better the total of their male counterparts, who had a combined 98 clearances in a competition on May 3.

Mondo Duplantis and Renaud Lavillenie shared the victory with 36 clearances over a bar set at 5 metres, while Sam Kendricks had 26 in an event that was staged in each of their backyards.

“I texted Sam and I talked to Renaud just to ask them how they were and they were like ‘you’re gonna be exhausted,’ so I’m mentally preparing that everyone’s going to feel that way,” Newman said,

WATCH | Highlights from men’s Ultimate Garden Clash:

Pole vault stars Renaud Lavillenie, Mondo Duplantis and Sam Kendricks hold a competition in their own backyards. 5:11

Unlike the men’s version, the women don’t have the same sort of setups in their backyards. Instead, they will be connected by video link from their local nearby training facilities. Newman will compete from Bolton, Ont.; Stefanidi will from Athens; and Nageotte in Marietta, Ga.

The women are envisioning 100 combined clearances. Sandi Morris, the Olympic silver medallist from the U.S. who recently built her own pole vault setup, won’t take part due to a knee ailment that’s sidelined her for two weeks.

“The girls are coming together to say we gotta beat them. So we want to at least do between 33-37 per person, so that would obviously beat them, but at the end of the day too, we want to push each other and then we want to win and we want to beat the guys,” Newman said.

Stefanidi, the gold medallist at the 2016 Rio Games, agreed with Newman’s assessment.

“I feel like most people would expect the guys to win in a head-to-head, so if they did, it won’t mean too much. But I think the way this is designed it is very possible — or at least just as likely — that we beat them, either as a group, or individually,” Stefanidi said.

She added with a laugh: “The reason it is important to win is so that we can have bragging rights for the rest of our careers.”

Not your normal competition

The competition is weather permitting — and Newman may have to bundle up, though the weather forecast for Saturday is promising.

Another obstacle ahead of the Ultimate Garden Clash for the competitors is re-training their body for an event that’s more endurance-based than usual.

“I had to tap back in to being like ‘OK, I got a meet. I’m eating healthy, I’m eating clean, I’m not staying up as late, I’m getting more into a routine,’ so that I can prepare to set myself up for the best success at that end of the week,” Newman said.

“You just try to do everything properly where before it was just like ‘Oh I can go do like a three- or four-hour workout no problem.'”

The new format also means less time for athletes to gather themselves between misses. And if the bar does fall, then only the competitor can reset it, costing her valuable time within the 30-minute allotment.

“At the end of the day I think trying to make the least amount of mistakes as possible, but being able to really take deep breaths between each jump to try to not make mistakes is no. 1 in the strategy I’m going with,” Newman said.

No time for rest

The first instalment of the Ultimate Garden Clash was a hit, with more than 1 million people from more than 90 countries watching the broadcast within 24 hours, according to World Athletics.

“We know there’s a real appetite among athletes and fans to return to competition,” World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said. “But we need to do that in a way that is careful and respectful of the measures put in place by public health authorities around the world so we can keep our community safe, and modern technology has allowed us to do that.”

The men’s pole vault competition provided a blueprint for the women — go all out for 30 minutes. There’s no time for a rest.

“At the end of the day it’s not a normal competition but we want to spice someone’s Saturday up too. Besides us pushing ourselves and trying to stay in jumping shape, we’re also doing this for everyone else too,” Newman said.

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Toronto sports franchises create assistance fund for event staff amid COVID-19 outbreak

Toronto’s five prominent sports organizations have teamed together to create a special assistance fund for event staff affected by the suspension of all major sports in the city.

The “Team Toronto Fund” was announced on Sunday in a joint statement by the Blue Jays, Maple Leafs, Raptors, Toronto FC, and Argonauts.

The program is designed to further assist arena, stadium and support staff should they be in need of extra financial assistance due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The statement says that team management, coaches, and players from all five teams will contribute to the fund “to provide additional aid to the many workers that support them each and every day and night.”

The Blue Jays are owned by Rogers Communications and play their home games at Rogers Centre, while the other four are under the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment umbrella.

The Leafs and Raptors play at Scotiabank Arena while the Argos and TFC call BMO Field home.

MLSE also unveiled details of a program to assist close to 4,000 part-time and event staff at Scotiabank Arena, BMO Field and Coca-Cola Coliseum, home to the American Hockey League’s Marlies, on Friday.

The NHL, NBA, MLB, MLS and CFL, along with the AHL, halted their seasons this week amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

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