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Denver man files wrongful death claim against Arches National Park after newlyweds’ trip ends with wife’s death

A newlywed Denver couple’s road trip to Arches National Park in Utah this summer ended in tragedy when a metal gate at the park exit swung open, impaled the couple’s car and decapitated the woman, a 25-year-old Ugandan human rights activist.

Esther Nakajjigo, who’d moved to Colorado in 2019 to attend the Watson Institute in Boulder, was killed instantly.

In October, Nakajjigo’s husband, Ludovic Michaud, and her parents filed a $270 million wrongful death claim — a precursor to a formal lawsuit — against the park, alleging that the gate should have been secured to prevent it from swinging into the road.

“The National Park Service has, in fact, known for decades that an unsecured metal pipe gate creates an undetectable hazard and dangerous condition for its park invitees,” the claim reads, noting at least three other instances since 1988 in which people in cars were fatally impaled by such gates.

This incident happened June 13 just before 2 p.m. as the couple were leaving the park, according to the claim. A video of the crash shows Michaud was driving and Nakajjigo was in the front passenger seat as they drove toward the gate at about the same speed as other vehicles, according to a sheriff’s report.

Read more via The Denver Post.

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine is looking 90% effective

Pfizer Inc. said Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine may be a remarkable 90% effective, based on early and incomplete test results that nevertheless brought a big burst of optimism to a world desperate for the means to finally bring the catastrophic outbreak under control.

The announcement came less than a week after an election seen as a referendum on President Donald Trump’s handling of the scourge, which has killed more than 1.2 million people worldwide, including almost a quarter-million in the United States alone.

“We’re in a position potentially to be able to offer some hope,” Dr. Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of clinical development, told The Associated Press. “We’re very encouraged.”

Pfizer, which is developing the vaccine with its German partner BioNTech, now is on track to apply later this month for emergency-use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, once it has the necessary safety information in hand.

Even if all goes well, authorities have stressed it is unlikely any vaccine will arrive much before the end of the year, and the limited initial supplies will be rationed.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, said the results suggesting 90% effectiveness are “just extraordinary,” adding: “Not very many people expected it would be as high as that.”

“It’s going to have a major impact on everything we do with respect to COVID,” Fauci said as Pfizer appeared to take the lead in the all-out global race by pharmaceutical companies and various countries to develop a well-tested vaccine against the virus.

Dr. Bruce Aylward, the World Health Organization’s senior adviser, said Pfizer’s vaccine could “fundamentally change the direction of this crisis” by March, when the U.N. agency hopes to start vaccinating high-risk groups.

Global markets, already buoyed by the victory of President-elect Joe Biden, rocketed on the news from Pfizer. The S&P 500 was up 3.3% in afternoon trading, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained more than 1,300 points. Pfizer jumped more than 11%. Other vaccine stocks were up as well.

Still, Monday’s announcement doesn’t mean for certain that a vaccine is imminent: This interim analysis, from an independent data monitoring board, looked at 94 infections recorded so far in a study that has enrolled nearly 44,000 people in the U.S. and five other countries.

Some participants got the vaccine, while others got dummy shots. Pfizer released no specific breakdowns, but for the vaccine to be 90% effective, nearly all the infections must have occurred in placebo recipients. The study is continuing, and Pfizer cautioned that the protection rate might change as more COVID-19 cases are added to the calculations.

Dr. Jesse Goodman of Georgetown University, former chief of the FDA’s vaccine division, called the partial results “extremely promising” but ticked off many questions still to be answered, including how long the vaccine’s effects last and whether it protects older people as well as younger ones.

Trump, who had suggested repeatedly during the presidential campaign that a vaccine could be ready by Election Day, tweeted: “STOCK MARKET UP BIG, VACCINE COMING SOON. REPORT 90% EFFECTIVE. SUCH GREAT NEWS!”

Biden, for his part, welcomed the news but cautioned that it could be many months before vaccinations become widespread in the U.S., and he warned Americans to rely on masks and social distancing in the meantime. He said the country still faces a “dark winter.”

Confirmed infections in the U.S. eclipsed 10 million on Monday, the highest in the world. New cases are running at all-time highs of more than 100,000 per day. And tens of thousands more deaths are feared in the coming months, with the onset of cold weather and the holidays.

Pfizer’s vaccine is among four candidates already in huge studies in the U.S., with still more being tested in other countries. Another U.S. company, Moderna Inc., also hopes to file an application with the FDA late this month.

Both companies’ shots are made with a brand-new technology. These “mRNA vaccines” aren’t made with the coronavirus itself, meaning there’s no chance anyone could catch it from the shots. Instead, the vaccine contains a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognize the spiked protein on the surface of the virus.

The timing of Pfizer’s announcement is likely to feed unsubstantiated suspicions from Trump supporters that the pharmaceutical industry was withholding the news until after the election. Donald Trump Jr. tweeted: “The timing of this is pretty amazing. Nothing nefarious about the timing of this at all right?”

Pfizer has insisted that its work is not influenced by politics and that it was “moving at the speed of science.” Its independent data monitors met on Sunday, analyzing the COVID-19 test results so far and notifying Pfizer.

Pfizer opted not to join the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, which helped fund a half-dozen vaccine makers. The company instead said it has invested billions of its own dollars.

The strong results were a surprise. Scientists have warned for months that any COVID-19 shot may be only as good as flu vaccines, which are about 50% effective and require yearly immunizations. Earlier this year, Fauci said he would be happy with a COVID-19 vaccine that was 60% effective.

Whatever the ultimate level of protection, no one knows if people will need regular vaccinations.

Also, volunteers in the study received a coronavirus test only if they developed symptoms, leaving unanswered whether vaccinated people could get infected but show no symptoms and unknowingly spread the virus.

Pfizer has estimated it could have 50 million doses available globally by the end of 2020, enough for 25 million people.

Public Citizen, the consumer advocacy group, called the release of the preliminary and incomplete data “bad science” and said that any enthusiasm over the results “must be tempered” until they are reviewed by the FDA and its independent experts.

“Crucial information absent from the companies’ announcement is any evidence that the vaccine prevents serious COVID-19 cases or reduces hospitalizations and deaths due to the disease,” the organization said.

___

AP writers Marilynn Marchione, Frank Jordans and Charles Sheehan contributed to this report.

Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump to become 46th president of the United States

WASHINGTON — Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump to become the 46th president of the United States on Saturday, positioning himself to lead a nation gripped by historic pandemic and a confluence of economic and social turmoil.

His victory came after more than three days of uncertainty as election officials sorted through a surge of mail-in votes that delayed the processing of some ballots. Biden crossed 270 Electoral College votes with a win in Pennsylvania.

Biden, 77, staked his candidacy less on any distinctive political ideology than on galvanizing a broad coalition of voters around the notion that Trump posed an existential threat to American democracy. The strategy proved effective, resulting in pivotal victories in Michigan and Wisconsin as well as Pennsylvania, onetime Democratic bastions that had flipped to Trump in 2016.

Biden was on track to win the national popular vote by more than 4 million, a margin that could grow as ballots continue to be counted.

Trump seized on delays in processing the vote in some states to falsely allege voter fraud and argue that his rival was trying to seize power — an extraordinary charge by a sitting president trying to sow doubt about a bedrock democratic process.

As the vote count played out, Biden tried to ease tensions and project an image of presidential leadership, hitting notes of unity that were seemingly aimed at cooling the temperature of a heated, divided nation.

“We have to remember the purpose of our politics isn’t total unrelenting, unending warfare,” Biden said Friday night in Delaware. “No, the purpose of our politics, the work of our nation, isn’t to fan the flames of conflict, but to solve problems, to guarantee justice, to give everybody a fair shot.”

Kamala Harris also made history as the first Black woman to become vice president, an achievement that comes as the U.S. faces a reckoning on racial justice. The California senator, who is also the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency, will become the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government, four years after Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.

Trump is the first incumbent president to lose reelection since Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992. It was unclear whether Trump would publicly concede.

Americans showed deep interest in the presidential race. A record 103 million voted early this year, opting to avoid waiting in long lines at polling locations during a pandemic. With counting continuing in some states, Biden had already received more than 74 million votes, more than any presidential candidate before him.

More than 236,000 Americans have died during the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 10 million have been infected and millions of jobs have been lost. The final days of the campaign played out against the backdrop of a surge in confirmed cases in nearly every state, including battlegrounds such as Wisconsin that swung to Biden.

The pandemic will soon be Biden’s to tame, and he campaigned pledging a big government response, akin to what Franklin D. Roosevelt oversaw with the New Deal during the Depression of the 1930s. But Senate Republicans fought back several Democratic challengers and looked to retain a fragile majority that could serve as a check on such Biden ambition.

The 2020 campaign was a referendum on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which has shuttered schools across the nation, disrupted businesses and raised questions about the feasibility of family gatherings heading into the holidays.

The fast spread of the coronavirus transformed political rallies from standard campaign fare to gatherings that were potential public health emergencies. It also contributed to an unprecedented shift to voting early and by mail and prompted Biden to dramatically scale back his travel and events to comply with restrictions. Trump defied calls for caution and ultimately contracted the disease himself. He was saddled throughout the year by negative assessments from the public of his handling of the pandemic.

Biden also drew a sharp contrast to Trump through a summer of unrest over the police killings of Black Americans including Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and George Floyd in Minneapolis. Their deaths sparked the largest racial protest movement since the civil rights era. Biden responded by acknowledging the racism that pervades American life, while Trump emphasized his support of police and pivoted to a “law and order” message that resonated with his largely white base.

The president’s most ardent backers never wavered and may remain loyal to him and his supporters in Congress after Trump has departed the White House.

The third president to be impeached, though acquitted in the Senate, Trump will leave office having left an indelible imprint in a tenure defined by the shattering of White House norms and a day-to-day whirlwind of turnover, partisan divide and the ever-present threat via his Twitter account.

Biden, born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and raised in Delaware, was one of the youngest candidates ever elected to the Senate. Before he took office, his wife and daughter were killed, and his two sons badly injured in a 1972 car crash.

Commuting every night on a train from Washington back to Wilmington, Biden fashioned an everyman political persona to go along with powerful Senate positions, including chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees. Some aspects of his record drew critical scrutiny from fellow Democrats, including his support for the 1994 crime bill, his vote for the 2003 Iraq War and his management of the Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court hearings.

Biden’s 1988 presidential campaign was done in by plagiarism allegations, and his next bid in 2008 ended quietly. But later that year, he was tapped to be Barack Obama’s running mate and he became an influential vice president, steering the administration’s outreach to both Capitol Hill and Iraq.

While his reputation was burnished by his time in office and his deep friendship with Obama, Biden stood aside for Clinton and opted not to run in 2016 after his adult son Beau died of brain cancer the year before.

Trump’s tenure pushed Biden to make one more run as he declared that “the very soul of the nation is at stake.”

Trump sues in Pennsylvania, Michigan; asks for Wisconsin recount

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s campaign filed lawsuits Wednesday in Pennsylvania and Michigan, laying the groundwork for contesting the outcome in undecided battlegrounds that could determine whether he gets another four years in the White House.

The new filings, joining existing Republican legal challenges in Pennsylvania and Nevada, demand better access for campaign observers to locations where ballots are being processed and counted, the campaign said. However, at one Michigan location in question The Associated Press observed poll watchers from both sides monitoring on Wednesday. Nevada is undecided as well.

The Trump campaign also is seeking to intervene in a Pennsylvania case at the Supreme Court that deals with whether ballots received up to three days after the election can be counted, deputy campaign manager Justin Clark said.

The actions reveal an emerging legal strategy that the president had signaled for weeks, namely that he would attack the integrity of the voting process in states where the result could mean his defeat.

His campaign also announced that it would ask for a recount in Wisconsin, a state The Associated Press called for Democrat Joe Biden on Wednesday afternoon. Campaign manager Bill Stepien cited “irregularities in several Wisconsin counties,” without providing specifics.

Biden said the count should continue in all states, adding, “No one’s going to take our democracy away from us — not now, not ever,” Biden said on Wednesday.

His campaign didn’t immediately comment on the new lawsuits in Michigan or Pennsylvania over access for observers. But it has been seeking donations for what it is calling the “Biden Fight Fund.”

“Our legal team is standing by, and they will prevail,” Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon wrote in a fundraising email to supporters earlier Wednesday.

Election officials continued to count votes across the country, the normal process on the day following voting. Unlike in previous years, states were contending with an avalanche of mail ballots driven by fears of voting in person during a pandemic. At least 103 million people voted early, either by mail or in-person, representing 74% of the total votes cast in the 2016 presidential election. So far, roughly 135 million votes have been tallied, according to unofficial results collected by The Associated Press.

Every election, results reported on election night are unofficial and the counting of ballots extends past Election Day. Mail ballots normally take more time to verify and count. This year, because of the large numbers of mail ballots and a close race, results were expected to take longer.

The Trump campaign said it is calling for a temporary halt in the counting in Michigan and Pennsylvania until it is given “meaningful” access in numerous locations and allowed to review ballots that already have been opened and processed.

Trump is running slightly behind Biden in Michigan. The president is ahead in Pennsylvania but his margin is shrinking as more mailed ballots are counted.

There have been no reports of fraud or any type of ballot concerns out of Pennsylvania. The state had 3.1 million mail-in ballots that take time to count and an order allows them to be received and counted up until Friday if they are postmarked by Nov. 3.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a CNN interview the lawsuit was “more a political document than a legal document.”

“There is transparency in this process. The counting has been going on. There are observers observing this counting, and the counting will continue,” he said.

The Michigan lawsuit claims Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, was allowing absentee ballots to be counted without teams of bipartisan observers as well as challengers. She’s accused of undermining the “constitutional right of all Michigan voters…to participate in fair and lawful elections.” Michigan Democrats said the suit was a longshot.

Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, a liberal advocacy group, said Trump only filed the suit to stop The Associated Press and other media outlets from calling the race for Biden.

“This is a Hail Mary,” he said.

Poll watchers from both sides were plentiful Wednesday at one major polling place in question — the TCF Center in Detroit, The Associated Press observed. They checked in at a table near the entrance to the convention center’s Hall E and strolled among the tables where ballot processing was taking place. In some cases, they arrived en masse and huddled together for a group discussion before fanning out to the floor. Uniformed Detroit police officers were on hand to make sure everyone was behaving.

Mark Brewer, a former state Democratic chairman who said he was observing the Detroit vote counting as a volunteer lawyer, said he had been at the TCF arena all day and had talked with others who had been there the past couple of days. He said Republicans had not been denied access.

“This is the best absentee ballot counting operation that Detroit has ever had. They are counting ballots very efficiently, despite the obstructing tactics of the Republicans.”

Republicans had already launched legal challenges involving absentee votes in Pennsylvania and Nevada, contesting local decisions that could take on national significance in the close election.

Trump, addressing supporters at the White House early Wednesday, talked about taking the undecided race to the Supreme Court. Though it was unclear what he meant, his comments evoked a reprise of the court’s intervention in the 2000 presidential election that ended with a decision effectively handing the presidency to George W. Bush.

But there are important differences from 2000 and they already were on display. In 2000, Republican-controlled Florida was the critical state and Bush clung to a small lead. Democrat Al Gore asked for a recount and the Supreme Court stopped it.

To some election law experts, calling for the Supreme Court to intervene now seemed premature, if not rash.

A case would have to come to the court from a state in which the outcome would determine the election’s winner, Richard Hasen, a University of California, Irvine, law professor, wrote on the Election Law blog. The difference between the candidates’ vote totals would have to be smaller than the ballots at stake in the lawsuit

“As of this moment (though things can change) it does not appear that either condition will be met,” Hasen wrote.

Ohio State University election law professor Edward Foley wrote on Twitter Wednesday: “The valid votes will be counted. (The Supreme Court) would be involved only if there were votes of questionable validity that would make a difference, which might not be the case. The rule of law will determine the official winner of the popular vote in each state. Let the rule of law work.”

Biden campaign attorney Bob Bauer said if Trump goes to the high court, “he will be in for one of the most embarrassing defeats a president has ever suffered by the highest court in the land.”

The justices could decide to step into the dispute over the three-day extension for absentee ballots if they prove crucial to the outcome in Pennsylvania.

Even a small number of contested votes could matter if a state determines the winner of the election and the gap between Trump and Biden is small.

Trump vs. Biden: Where they stand on health, economy, more

WASHINGTON (AP) — Amid the tumult of the 2020 presidential campaign, one dynamic has remained constant: The Nov. 3 election offers voters a choice between substantially different policy paths.

President Donald Trump, like many fellow Republicans, holds out tax reductions and regulatory cuts as economic imperatives and frames himself as a conservative champion in the culture wars. The president has offered few details about how he would pull the levers of government in a second term. His most consistent argument focuses on stopping Democratic opponent Joe Biden and his party from pushing U.S. policy leftward.

Biden, for his part, is not the socialist caricature depicted by Trump. But he is every bit a center-left Democrat who frames the federal government as the force to combat the coronavirus, rebuild the economy and address centuries of institutional racism and systemic inequalities. The former vice president and U.S. senator also offers his deal-making past as evidence he can do it again from the Oval Office.

A look at where the rivals stand on key issues:

ECONOMY, TAXES

Low unemployment and a soaring stock market were Trump’s calling cards before the pandemic. While the stock market has clawed its way back after cratering in the early weeks of the crisis, unemploymen t stands at 7.9%, and the nearly 10 million jobs that remain lost since the pandemic began exceed the number that the nation shed during the entire 2008-2009 Great Recession.

Trump has predicted that the U.S. economy will rebound in the third and fourth quarters of this year and is set to take off like a “rocket ship” in 2021. He promises that a coronavirus vaccine or effective therapeutics will soon be available, allowing life to get back to normal. His push for a payroll tax cut over the summer was thwarted by stiff bipartisan opposition. But winning a second term — and a mandate from voters — could help him resurrect the idea.

First and foremost, Biden argues that the economy cannot fully recover until COVID-19 is contained. For the long-term recovery, he pitches sweeping federal action to avoid an extended recession and to address longstanding wealth inequality that disproportionately affects nonwhite Americans.

His biggest-ticket plans include a $2 trillion, four-year push to eliminate carbon pollution in the U.S. energy grid by 2035 and a new government health insurance plan open to all working-age Americans (with generous subsidies). He proposes new spending on education, infrastructure and small businesses, along with raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Biden would cover some but not all of the new costs by rolling back much of the 2017 GOP tax overhaul. He wants a corporate income tax rate of 28% (lower than before but higher than now) and broad income and payroll tax hikes for individuals with more than $400,000 of annual taxable income. All that would generate an estimated $4 trillion or more over 10 years.

Biden frames immigration as an economic matter as well. He wants to expand legal immigration slots and offer a citizenship path for about 11 million residents who are in the country illegally but who, Biden notes, are already economic contributors as workers and consumers.

EDUCATION

Trump has pushed for schools to fully reopen for in-person learning and announced that the federal government will begin distributing millions of rapid coronavirus tests to states. He urged governors to use them to reopen schools for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Trump has also used his call for schools to fully reopen as an opportunity to spotlight his support for charter schools and school choice. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a longtime proponent of charter schools and school voucher programs, has suggested that families be allowed to take federal money allotted to school districts that don’t open and spend it on private schools that do open. For most of Trump’s first term, his administration sought major increases to federal charter school grant aid. Congress responded with relatively small increases.

With higher education, Trump has repeatedly complained that campuses are beset by “radical left indoctrination.” He has threatened to defund universities and said he would ask the Treasury Department to reexamine the tax-exempt status and federal funding of unspecified schools.

Biden wants schools to get more federal aid for pandemic-related costs through the same federal law used after national disasters like hurricanes and wildfires.

Beyond COVID, Biden wants the federal government to partner with states to make public higher education tuition-free for any student in a household earning up to $125,000 annually. The assistance would extend to everyone attending two-year schools, regardless of income. He also proposes sharply increasing aid for historically Black colleges. His overall education plans carry a 10-year price tag of about $850 billion.

He calls for universal access to prekindergarten programs for 3- and 4-year-olds; tripling Title I spending for schools with higher concentrations of students from low-income households; more support for non-classroom positions like on-campus social workers; federal infrastructure spending for public school buildings; and covering schools’ costs to comply with federal disability laws. Biden also opposes taxpayer money being routed to for-profit charter school businesses, and he’s pledged that his secretary of education will have classroom teaching experience.

HEALTH CARE

As a candidate for the White House, Trump promised that he would “immediately” replace President Barack Obama’s health care law with a plan of his own that would provide “insurance for everybody.” Americans are still waiting for his plan.

Trump recently returned to health care amid disapproval of his administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and growing uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act, which his administration is asking the Supreme Court to overturn. He is reiterating his 4-year-old promises for quality health care at affordable prices, lower prescription drug costs, more consumer choice and greater transparency.

He also announced executive orders calling for an end to surprise medical bills and declaring it the policy of the U.S. government to protect people with preexisting conditions, even if Obamacare is struck down. However, protections for preexisting conditions are already the law, and Trump would have to go to Congress to cement a new policy through legislation. In the first presidential debate, Trump also held out the repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate to have health insurance as significant progress, while ignoring questions about his lack of a comprehensive plan.

Biden wants to expand Obama’s law to provide more generous coverage to a greater number of people and add a “Medicare-like public option” that would compete with private insurers and be available to working-age Americans. Biden estimates that would cost about $750 billion over 10 years. That positions Biden between Trump, who wants to scrap the 2010 law, and progressives, who want a single-payer system to replace private insurance altogether. Biden sees his approach as the next step toward universal coverage and one he could get through Congress.

Biden also has sought to turn the current Supreme Court vacancy into a health care matter, noting that the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a key vote in upholding the 2010 health care law, while Trump’s nominee, federal appellate Judge Amy Coney Barrett, has criticized the court’s reasoning in that decision.

CORONAVIRUS

Over the course of the summer, Trump went from acknowledging that the pandemic may “get worse before it gets better” to declaring that the U.S. is “rounding the corner” on the crisis. Then he tested positive for the virus himself.

The pandemic remains the biggest obstacle for his reelection hopes, and his bout with the virus just weeks before Election Day only brightened the spotlight on the issue.

Roughly 7 in 10 Americans think the nation is on the wrong track, and just 39% of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the crisis that has killed more than 207,000 people in the U.S., according to a recent poll The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Congress approved about $3 trillion in coronavirus relief in March and April, and Democrats and the White House have been at loggerheads over another significant round of funding, with Trump sending mixed messages on what he wants.

Trump has largely placed responsibility with governors for leading the response.

Biden draws some of his sharpest contrasts with Trump on the pandemic, arguing that the presidency and federal government exist for such crises and that Trump has been an abject failure responsible for tens of thousands of preventable deaths.

Biden endorses generous federal spending to help businesses and individuals, along with state and local governments. He’s also promised aggressive use of the Defense Production Act, a wartime law a president can use to direct certain private-sector activity. Additionally, Biden promises to elevate the government’s scientists and physicians to communicate a consistent message to the public, and he would have the U.S. rejoin the World Health Organization. He’s also willing to use executive power for a national mask mandate, but whether that is enforceable is questionable.

ABORTION

Years before his run for the White House, Trump described himself as a strong abortion rights proponent. But since coming to Washington, he has been cheered by anti-abortion groups for his administration’s efforts to restrict access to the procedure.

As a candidate and as president, Trump has consistently expressed his opposition to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide and said the issue should be decided by states.

He has expressed support for the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits Medicaid from being used to pay for abortions in most circumstances, and he’s sought to restrict access to two drugs that are used to induce abortions in the first 10 weeks of pregnancies.

In his Republican National Convention speech in August, Trump declared that “children, born and unborn, have a God-given right to life.” Nominating Barrett, a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge, has the anti-abortion movement hopeful that the high court — should she win confirmation — will tilt decisively to the right and pave the way for the court to eventually overturn the Roe case.

Biden has declined to offer his own list of prospective Supreme Court nominees, but he’s said repeatedly that he supports Roe v. Wade’s finding that the Constitution establishes a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. He’s endorsed calls for Congress to codify that right, a move that would keep abortion legal statutorily even if the court struck down the constitutional protections.

A practicing Catholic, Biden talked publicly for years of his personal struggle over abortion as a moral issue. He cited that as a reason he supported the Hyde Amendment ban on federal taxpayer funding for abortion services. But he reversed that position early in his 2020 campaign after coming under pressure from women’s groups and Democratic activists. Biden said he wasn’t bowing to pressure but instead argued that Republican legislatures around the country had restricted abortion access to the point that the Hyde Amendment had become an untenable barrier for poor or working-class women to access a constitutional right.

TRADE

Trump views the signing of two major trade deals — an updated pact with Mexico and Canada and Phase 1 of a China agreement — as signature achievements of his presidency. U.S. and China signed Phase 1 in January, less than two months before the pandemic put an enormous strain on U.S.-China relations. Trump says Phase 1 led to China buying roughly $200 billion over two years in U.S. agricultural products, energy and other American products. In return, the U.S. canceled planned U.S. tariffs on Chinese-made smartphones, toys and laptop computers. The U.S. also cut in half, to 7.5%, the tariff rate levied on $120 billion in other China imports.

Phase 2 of the deal is expected to focus on some tougher issues between the countries, including Trump’s wish to get China to stop subsidizing its state-owned enterprises. But for Trump, who has come to frequently refer to the coronavirus as the “China virus,” it remains to be seen whether he will be able to effectively reengage Beijing on trade. Trump recently said he’s currently “not interested” in talking to China.

Biden has joined a growing bipartisan embrace of “fair trade” abroad — a twist on decades of “free trade” talk as Republican and Democratic administrations alike expanded international trade. Biden wants to juice U.S. manufacturing by directing $400 billion of federal government purchases to domestic firms (part of that for buying pandemic supplies) over a four-year term.

He wants $300 billion in new support for U.S. technology firms’ research and development. Biden says the new domestic spending must come before he enters into any new international trade deals. He pledges tough negotiations with China, the world’s other economic superpower, on trade and intellectual property matters. China, like the U.S., is not yet a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multilateral trade agreement that Biden advocated for when he was vice president.

FOREIGN POLICY

During his first term, Trump built his foreign policy around the mantra of “America First.”

But in the final lap before Election Day, Trump has been offering himself as an international peacemaker for nudging the Gulf monarchies of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to sign agreements with Israel opening business and diplomatic relations. Trump says other Arab nations are on the cusp of opening formal relations with Israel.

He also counts as major achievements building more than 200 miles (320 kilometers) of his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, cajoling more NATO members to fulfill their pledge to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense spending and reducing the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan and other hot spots. He also announced his intended withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.

Trump can officially withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement — it sets the goal of holding global warming below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit — as an example of an agreement that “disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries.” The deal, which was signed by Obama, stipulates that no nation can leave until four years after it signed on. For the U.S., that’s Nov. 4 — one day after the U.S. election.

The president has also made clear his desire to leave Afghanistan sooner than the timeline laid out in the Feb. 29 peace agreement with the Taliban, which set the path for U.S. troops to leave the country in 12 to 14 months if the insurgent group met certain conditions. There are currently about 4,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and Trump has said he wants them all to be withdrawn by the end of the year.

Trump also counts his engagement with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un as a monumental achievement. The president has not been able to prod Kim to give up his nation’s nuclear program, but he has met Kim three times — something Trump critics say has only legitimized the authoritarian leader.

Biden says he would begin “the day after the election” rebuilding relationships with allies ruffled by Trump’s approach, which Biden mocks as “America alone.” Biden’s top priority is reestablishing the foundations of NATO, the post-World War II alliance of Western powers that Biden said is necessary to counter Russia’s aggressive, expansionist aims in eastern Europe and Asia.

Biden also says he would immediately confront Russian President Vladimir Putin about his country’s interference in U.S. elections. Biden pledges to “end forever wars” but clarifies that U.S. special forces — as opposed to large-scale ground missions — remain a vital part of world stability. He calls for rebuilding a decimated U.S. diplomatic corps, rejoining the Paris climate accord and pushing China and other large economies to reduce carbon pollution.

Doctor: Trump improving, but not ‘out of the woods’ yet

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — President Donald Trump faces “critical” coming days after a “very concerning” period in his fight against COVID-19 at a military hospital, his chief of staff said Saturday — in contrast to a rosier assessment moments earlier by Trump doctors, who took pains not to reveal the president had received supplemental oxygen at the White House before his hospital admission.

Trump remained at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday. He offered his own assessment of his status Saturday evening in a video from his hospital suite, saying he was beginning to feel better and hoped to “be back soon.”

And he was back on social media early Sunday morning, sharing a video of flag-waving supporters, most not wearing masks, gathered outside Walter Reed.

“Thank you so much!” Trump tweeted at 7:18 a.m.

The day before, chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters outside the hospital, “We’re still not on a clear path yet to a full recovery.” In an update Saturday night, Trump’s chief doctor expressed cautious optimism but added that the president was “not yet out of the woods.”

The changing, and at times contradictory, accounts created a credibility crisis for the White House at a crucial moment, with the president’s health and the nation’s leadership on the line. With Trump expected to remain hospitalized several more days and the presidential election looming, his condition is being anxiously watched by Americans.

Moreover, the president’s health represents a national security issue of paramount importance not only to the functions of the U.S. government but also to countries around the world, friendly and otherwise.

Trump’s Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, pulled his attack ads off the air during Trump’s hospitalization, and on Sunday, he dispatched senior aides to deliver a largely friendly message.

“We are sincerely hoping that the president makes a very quick recovery, and we can see him back out on the campaign trail very soon,” Biden adviser Symone Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

She added: “This is a glaring reminder that the virus is real.”

Saturday’s briefing by Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley and other doctors raised more questions than it answered. Conley repeatedly refused to say whether the president ever needed supplemental oxygen, despite repeated questioning, and declined to share key details, including how high a fever Trump had been running before it came back down to a normal range. Conley also revealed that Trump had begun exhibiting “clinical indications” of COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon, earlier than previously known.

Conley spent much of the briefing dodging reporters’ questions as he was pressed for details.

“Thursday, no oxygen. None at this moment. And yesterday with the team, while we were all here, he was not on oxygen,” Conley said.

But according to a person familiar with Trump’s condition, Trump was administered oxygen at the White House on Friday morning, before he was transported to the military hospital by helicopter that evening. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity,

Conley said that Trump’s symptoms, including a mild cough, nasal congestion and fatigue, “are now resolving and improving,” and that the president had been fever-free for 24 hours. But Trump also is taking aspirin, which lowers body temperature and could mask or mitigate that symptom.

“He’s in exceptionally good spirits,” said another doctor, Sean Dooley. He said Trump’s heart, kidney and liver functions were normal and he was not having trouble breathing or walking around.

In an evening health update, Conley said Trump had been up and moving around his medical suite without difficulty and conducting business. “While not yet out of the woods, the team remains cautiously optimistic,” he said.

In the hospital video, Trump defended his decision to continue campaigning and holding large events during a pandemic.

“I had no choice,” said Trump, who refused to abide by basic public health recommendations, including mask-wearing. “I had to be out front. … I can’t be locked up in a room upstairs and totally safe. … As a leader, you have to confront problems.”

Trump also thanked his medical team and hailed the state-of-the-art treatments he was receiving, comparing them to “miracles coming down from God.” Trump’s medical care is far superior to the average American’s, with around-the-clock attention and experimental treatments.

The president was angry at Meadows’ public assessment of his health and, in an effort to prove his vitality, Trump ordered up the video and authorized longtime confidant Rudy Giuliani to release a statement on his behalf that he was feeling well, according to a Republican close to the White House not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations.

Trump is 74 years old and clinically obese, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has infected more than 7 million people nationwide and killed more than 209,000 people in the U.S.

First lady Melania Trump remained at the White House to recover from her own bout with the virus. She was “really handling it very nicely,” Trump said in the video, noting with a touch of humor that she was “just a little tiny bit younger” — in fact, 24 years younger.

Meadows himself had insisted Friday morning that Trump had only “mild symptoms” as the White House tried to project an image of normalcy. It was unclear whether Trump already had received oxygen when Meadows spoke.

“President Trump remains in good spirits, has mild symptoms and has been working throughout the day,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said late Friday. She said Trump had only been sent to Walter Reed as a precaution.

Trump’s administration has been less than transparent with the public throughout the pandemic, both about the president’s health and the virus’s spread inside the White House. The first word that a close aide to Trump had been infected came from the media, not the White House. And aides have repeatedly declined to share basic health information, including a full accounting of the president’s symptoms, what tests he’s undertaken and the results.

In a memo released late Friday, Conley did report that Trump had been treated at the hospital with remdesivir, an antiviral medication, after sharing that he’d taking another experimental drug at the White House.

Conley declined to say when Trump had last been tested before he was confirmed to have COVID-19 late Thursday. He initially suggested that Trump was 72 hours into the diagnosis — which would mean that he was confirmed infected Wednesday. Conley later clarified that Trump was administered an accurate test for the virus on Thursday afternoon, after White House aide Hope Hicks was confirmed to be positive and Trump exhibited “clinical indications” of the virus.

The White House has said Trump was expected to stay at the hospital for “a few days” and would continue to work from its presidential suite, which is equipped to allow him to keep up his official duties. In addition to accessibility to tests and equipment, the decision to move to the hospital on Friday was made, at least in part, with the understanding that hurrying there later could send a worrying signal if he took a turn for the worse.

On Saturday, Conley said Trump’s blood oxygen level was 96%, which is in the normal range. The two experimental drugs he has received, given through an IV, have shown some promise against COVID-19. On Friday, he was given a single dose of a drug Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. is testing to supply antibodies to help his immune system fight the virus.

On Friday night, he began a five-day course of remdesivir, a Gilead Sciences drug currently used for moderately and severely ill patients. The drugs work in different ways — the antibodies help the immune system rid the body of virus and remdesivir curbs the virus’s ability to multiply.

“We’re maximizing all aspects of his care,” attacking the virus in multiple ways, Conley said. “I didn’t want to hold anything back if there was any possibility it would add value to his care.”

He noted that in many cases, COVID-19 can become more dangerous as the body responds. “The first week of COVID, and in particular day seven to 10, are the most critical in determining the likely course of this illness,” he said.

At the same time, the White House has been working to trace a flurry of new infections of close Trump aides and allies. Attention is focused in particular on the Sept. 26 White House event introducing Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. That day, Trump gathered more than 150 people in the Rose Garden, where they mingled, hugged and shook hands — overwhelmingly without masks. There were also several indoor receptions, where Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Amy Coney Barrett, her family, senators and others spent time in the close quarters of the White House, photographs show.

Among those who attended and have now tested positive: former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, the president of the University of Notre Dame and at least two Republican lawmakers — Utah Sen. Mike Lee and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis. The president’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, and the head of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, have also tested positive, though they were not at the event. Another prominent Republican who has tested positive: Sen. Ron Johnson. R-Wis.

One of the president’s personal assistants, Nick Luna, tested positive after having traveled with Trump several times recently, a White House official said Saturday night. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Trump, first lady positive for coronavirus; president has ‘mild symptoms’

President Donald Trump is experiencing “mild symptoms” of COVID-19 after revealing early Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus, a stunning announcement that plunged the country deeper into uncertainty just a month before the presidential election.

Trump, who has spent much of the year downplaying the threat of a virus that has killed more than 205,000 Americans, said he and Mrs. Trump were quarantining. The White House physician said the president was expected to continue carrying out his duties “without disruption” while recovering. A White House official said Friday morning that the president was experiencing mild symptoms but was working from the White House residence.

Trump’s diagnosis was sure to have a destabilizing effect in Washington and around the world, raising questions about how far the virus had spread through the highest levels of the U.S. government. Hours before Trump announced he had contracted the virus, the White House said a top aide who had traveled with him during the week had tested positive.

“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately,” Trump tweeted just before 1 a.m. “We will get through this TOGETHER!”

Vice President Mike Pence tested negative for the virus on Friday morning and “remains in good health,” his spokesman said.

Many White House and senior administration officials were undergoing tests Friday, but the full scale of the outbreak around the president may not be known for some time as it can take days for an infection to be detectable by a test. Officials with the White House Medical Unit were tracing the president’s contacts.

Trump was considering how he might address the nation or otherwise communicate with the American people Friday, an official added.

Trump was last seen by reporters returning to the White House on Thursday evening and did not appear ill. He is 74 years old and clinically obese, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has infected more than 7 million people nationwide.

The president’s physician said in a memo that Trump and the first lady, who is 50, “are both well at this time” and “plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence.” Their son Barron, who lives at the White House, tested negative.

Trump has been trying all year to convince the American public that the worst of the pandemic is behind them. In the best of cases, if he develops no symptoms, which can include fever, cough and breathing trouble, it will likely force him off the campaign trail just weeks before the election and puts his participation in the second presidential debate, scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami, into doubt.

Trump’s handling of the pandemic has already been a major flashpoint in his race against Democrat Joe Biden, who spent much of the summer off the campaign trail and at his home in Delaware citing concern about the virus. Biden has since resumed a more active campaign schedule, but with small, socially distanced crowds. He also regularly wears a mask in public, something Trump mocked him for at Tuesday night’s debate.

“I don’t wear masks like him,” Trump said of Biden. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from me, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

In a tweet Friday morning, Biden said he and his wife “send our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a swift recovery. We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family.”

It was not immediately clear whether the former vice president had been tested since appearing at the debate with Trump or whether he was taking any additional safety protocols. Trump and Biden did not shake hands during the debate, but stood without masks about 10 feet apart for the 90-minute event.

World leaders offered the president and first family their best wishes after their diagnosis, as governments used their case as a reminder for their citizens to wear masks and practice social distancing measures.

Trump’s announcement came hours after he confirmed that Hope Hicks, one of his most trusted and longest-serving aides, had been diagnosed with the virus Thursday. Hicks began feeling mild symptoms during the plane ride home from a rally in Minnesota on Wednesday evening, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private information. She was isolated from other passengers aboard the plane, the person said.

Hicks had been with Trump and other senior staff aboard Marine One and Air Force One en route to that rally and had accompanied the president to Tuesday’s presidential debate in Cleveland, along with members of the Trump family. The Trump contingent removed their masks during the debate, in violation of the venue rules.

Multiple White House staffers have previously tested positive for the virus, including Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, national security adviser Robert O’Brien and one of the president’s personal valets. An RNC official confirmed Friday that Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel learned she had tested positive Wednesday afternoon. She has been at her home in Michigan since last Saturday and did not attend the debate.

But Trump has consistently played down concerns about being personally vulnerable. He has mostly refused to abide by basic public health guidelines — including those issued by his own administration — such as wearing face coverings in public and practicing social distancing. Instead, he has continued to hold campaign rallies that draw thousands of often mask-less supporters.

“I felt no vulnerability whatsoever,” he told reporters back in May.

The news was sure to rattle an already shaken nation still grappling with how to safely reopen the economy without driving virus transmission. The White House has access to near-unlimited resources, including a constant supply of quick-result tests, and still failed to keep the president safe, raising questions about how the rest of the country will be able to protect its workers, students and the public as businesses and schools reopen. U.S. stock futures declined on the news of Trump’s diagnosis.

Questions remain about why Trump and his aides continued to come to work and travel after Hicks fell ill. Trump traveled to New Jersey on Thursday for a fundraiser, potentially exposing attendees to the virus. Trump’s social media director Dan Scavino and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who were originally set to join him on the trip, were replaced at the last minute by other aides.

But McEnany still briefed the press Thursday morning and made no mention of Hicks’ suspected illness, raising anew concerns about White House transparency.

It is unclear where the Trumps and Hicks may have caught the virus, but in a Fox interview, Trump seemed to suggest it may have been spread by someone in the military or law enforcement in greetings.

The White House began instituting a daily testing regimen for the president’s senior aides after earlier positive cases close to the president. Anyone in close proximity to the president or vice president is also tested every day, including reporters.

Several members of Trump’s Cabinet were undergoing testing for COVID-19 Friday. The president’s youngest son, Barron, tested negative “and all precautions are being taken to ensure he’s kept safe and healthy,” said Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s spokeswoman. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who has been on Capitol Hill meeting with lawmakers, also tested negative, the White House said.

Yet since the early days of the pandemic, experts have questioned the health and safety protocols at the White House and asked why more wasn’t being done to protect the commander in chief. Trump continued to shake hands with visitors long after public health officials were warning against it, and he initially resisted being tested.

Trump is far from the first world leader to test positive for the virus, which previously infected Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent a week in the hospital, including three nights in intensive care. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was hospitalized last month while fighting what he called a “hellish” case of COVID-19.

“One of the last of the Greatest Generation”: Colorado woman who volunteered for the Navy in World War II dies at 102

Rosanna H. Gravely was one of the last of her kind — a female World War II veteran — and on Monday she was buried in her uniform at Fort Logan National Cemetery after a short military funeral.

Four people sat on benches as a representative of American Legion Post 103 presided over a service that included a 21-gun salute and taps for the 102-year-old widow, who did not have children or grandchildren.

Two Navy members folded the American flag that draped Gravely’s casket and presented it to the couple who had become her adopted family in Colorado — Gayle and Pam Bechtold.

“She’s one of the last of the Greatest Generation,” Gayle Bechtold said after the service.

It’s difficult to determine whether there are other female World War II Naval veterans living in Colorado. But one thing military historians know is there are not many left anywhere.

Read more via The Denver Post.

Federal judge removes BLM director for serving unlawfully

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A federal judge ruled Friday that President Donald Trump’s leading steward of public lands has been serving unlawfully, blocking him from continuing in the position in the latest pushback against the administration’s practice of filling key positions without U.S. Senate approval.

U.S. Interior Department Bureau of Land Management acting director William Perry Pendley served unlawfully for 424 days without being confirmed to the post by the Senate as required under the Constitution, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris determined.

The ruling came after Montana’s Democratic governor in July sued to remove Pendley, saying the former oil industry attorney was illegally overseeing an agency that manages almost a quarter-billion acres of land, primarily in the U.S. West.

“Today’s ruling is a win for the Constitution, the rule of law, and our public lands,” Gov. Steve Bullock said Friday. Environmental groups and Democratic lawmakers from Western states also cheered the judge’s move after urging for months that Pendley be removed.

The ruling will be immediately appealed, according to Interior Department spokesman Conner Swanson. He called it “an outrageous decision that is well outside the bounds of the law,” and he said the Obama administration had similarly filled key posts at the agency with temporary authorizations.

The agency will abide by the judge’s order while the appeal is pending, officials said. It will also have to confront questions over the legitimacy of all decisions Pendley had made, including his approval of land use plans in Montana that Morris said Pendley was not authorized to make.

The land bureau regulates activities ranging from mining and oil extraction to livestock grazing and recreation. Under Trump, it has been at the forefront in the administration’s drive to loosen environmental restrictions for oil and gas drilling and other development on public lands.

Pendley has been one of several senior officials in the Trump administration running federal agencies and departments despite not having gone before the Senate for the confirmation hearings that are required for top posts.

Last month, the Government Accountability Office, a bipartisan congressional watchdog, said acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and his acting deputy, Ken Cuccinelli,were improperly serving and ineligible to run the agency under the Vacancies Reform Act. The two have been at the forefront of administration initiatives on immigration and law enforcement.

Trump agencies have defended the skipped deadlines for Senate hearings for administration nominees, saying that the senior officials involved were carrying out the duties of their acting position but were not actually filling that position, and thus did not require a hearing and votes before the Senate.

Pendley had been formally nominated by Trump to direct the land bureau in July, after being given temporary authorizations to the acting position several times by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

But the nomination was withdrawn earlier this month after the confirmation process threatened to become contentious, potentially disrupting key U.S. senate races in Montana, where Bullock is seeking to unseat incumbent Republican Steve Daines, and Colorado, where Republican Sen. Cory Gardner is being challenged by former Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Pendley continued to hang on to the post despite the withdrawal, under an arrangement that Pendley himself set up months ago. In a May 22 order, Pendley made his own position, deputy director, the bureau’s top post while the director’s office is vacant.

After establishing that succession order, Pendley’s actions included approval of two sweeping land resource management plans in Montana that would open 95% of federal land in the state to oil and gas development, attorneys for Bullock contended in court filings.

Administration officials had insisted in public statements and court filings that Pendley was not in fact the acting director, but rather “exercising the authority of the director.”

Morris rejected the administration’s argument, saying they were “evasive and undermine the constitutional system of checks and balances.”

“Under the federal defendant’s theory, a president could ignore their constitutional appointment responsibility indefinitely and instead delegate authority directly or through cabinet secretaries to unconfirmed appointed officials. Such an arrangement could last for an entire presidential administration. In fact, the case before the Court presents that scenario,” he wrote.

The bureau’s holdings are sweeping, with nearly 1 out of every 10 acres nationally under its dominion, mostly across the U.S. West.

Pendley was a longtime industry attorney and property rights advocate from Wyoming who had called for the government to sell its public lands before joining the Trump administration.

After joining the government, he declared that his past support for selling public lands was irrelevant because his boss, Bernhardt, opposes the wholesale sale of public lands.

Trump’s actions to bypass the confirmation process has raised serious questions about the legitimacy of people in acting roles.

The GOP-led Senate typically is falling short of the votes needed from its ranks to confirm some of Trump’s choices. But as Trump bypassed the chamber, chipping away at its advise-and-consent role, the Republican leadership has also allowed the acting positions to stand.

Shortly after the GAO questioned the DHS officials, Trump formally nominated Wolf to the secretary post. A hearing was held last week in the Senate on his nomination, but it’s unlikely Wolf will be confirmed before the election.

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Matthew Brown, Associated Press

Follow Matthew Brown on Twitter: @matthewbrownap

Associated Press writers Ellen Knickmeyer contributed from Oklahoma City and Lisa Mascaro from Washington.

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Vail Van Show cancels; four major brands cite California wildfires as reason for decision to pull out

In 2020, the global pandemic has impacted events across the world. The latest cancellation in Vail is the Van Show, impacted by the West Coast wildfires that have burned with an intensity previously unseen.

Vail’s first North American Van Show was slated for Friday, Sept. 25, to Sunday, Sept. 27. The first-year event was set and ready to go, said organizer Mike McCormack, principal at the Eagle-based events, public relations and marketing company Uncommon Communications.

Then, late last week, four of the show’s top brands pulled out, citing the California wildfires and transportation barriers as reasons for their decision. They were scheduled to bring more than a dozen rigs to Vail Village, per an email McCormack sent to stakeholders, announcing the cancelation.

“With the pandemic and California being shut down anyway, the fires just proved to be an obstacle that was too big to overcome,” McCormack said. “How do you respond to that other than with empathy?”

The Bobcat Fire burns in the distance beyond a Joshua tree Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Juniper Hills, Calif. Brands slated to participate in the Vail Van Show cited the wildfires as a reason for their decision to pull out.
Marcio Jose Sanchez | Associated Press

With that, McCormack made the difficult decision to cancel what would have been a first-year event. He’s grateful for the town of Vail’s support and is looking forward to next year. So are exhibitors, who are already registering for next year’s event, happening Sept. 24-27, 2021.

“It’s a bummer, but the work hasn’t gone to waste. The enthusiasm for next year is really over the top,” McCormack said. “We’re ready for next year. A good event has 16 to 18 months of lead time, and that’s what we have.”

Without four of the biggest brands, McCormack said the event wouldn’t have been able to offer a guest experience that provided a seamless and high-quality experience, from start to finish. Plus, the Lionshead Eagle Bahn Gondola has already closed, and Gondola One in the Village closing this coming weekend, meaning that Vail is winding down its summer season in preparation for the winter.

“Quality matters,” he said.

While event cancelations have become commonplace in the unusual year that has been 2020, calling it hasn’t been in the playbook for event organizers until this year made it absolutely necessary. McCormack said all events organizers are used to adapting and thinking on their feet, because nothing ever goes exactly according to plan.

“Events are made from curveballs,” he said.

He said that putting on event is like the inner workings of a watch: guests see the time, and organizers are the tiny gears, coordinating moving parts and keeping everything in working order while the guest doesn’t even notice what’s going on behind the glass.

“Faced with the facts, the writing is on the wall,” he said. “But we live to fight another day.”

All vendors and exhibitors have been offered a full refund for this year’s event registration, and registration for next year is already open. For more information, visit vanshow.wpengine.com.