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EU diplomats say they barely considered letting US residents in for Europe’s reopening: The country ‘was never going to make it’

Ashley Collman

European Union officials eliminated the US early while deciding which countries to allow in for the bloc’s initial reopening this week, NBC News reported Thursday, citing three diplomats.

The diplomats, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said the decision over which countries to reopen to was strictly based on epidemiological data.

So the US, which is grappling with the most coronavirus cases in the world, was never going to make the cut, they said.

“The US was never going to make it,” one of the diplomats told NBC News. “Just look at their coronavirus situation.”

A doctor walking by a sign on a boarded-up shop in the Haight Ashbury area of San Francisco on March 17. 
Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

The diplomats said the cuts were made by eliminating countries in multiple rounds, rather than evaluating on a country-by-country basis.

To pass the first round, countries’ rates of new coronavirus cases had to be the same as or lower than the EU’s average over a two-week period.

At the time, the EU rate was 15 cases per 100,000 residents. The US rate was almost 10 times as high: 145 cases per 100,000.

For this reason, the US didn’t even make it to round two, in which countries were evaluated on whether their infection rate was increasing or decreasing and on how reliable their government was at tackling the virus.

This looked at, for example, the accuracy of a country’s coronavirus reporting and availability of testing.

President Donald Trump at Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on May 14. 
Evan Vucci/AP

Fifteen countries made the list allowing residents to travel to the EU’s member states starting Thursday.

Among the countries that made the list are China, where the pandemic started, and the US’s northern neighbor, Canada.

The decision not to open the EU to travelers from the US will no doubt have an impact on Europe’s tourism industry, but the diplomats said they never took that into consideration.

“If we started talking about making exceptions for countries that provide a lot of tourism, even if they have a lot of coronavirus cases, that would not be the right approach,” one EU diplomat told NBC News.

A poll conducted in late April and early May found that majorities of people in numerous European countries including Germany, France, Spain, Denmark, and Portugal had lost trust in the US because of its response to the pandemic.

European health experts have also been stunned by the US’s slow response to its outbreak, as Business Insider’s Tom Porter reported.

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Mississippi to remove state flag, the last to display the Confederate battle emblem

BY KATE SMITH

UPDATED ON: JUNE 28, 2020 / 7:50 PM / CBS NEWS

The Mississippi state legislature voted on Sunday to replace its state flag, the last in the nation to display the Confederate battle emblem. The removal of the flag marks the latest Confederate symbol to topple in the weeks following George Floyd’s death as activists have called for a reexamination of the racism that exists in all corners of society.

The bill passed by a vote of 91-23 in the House and 37-14 in the Senate.  

The bill now goes to the desk of Governor Tate Reeves, who on Saturday morning said he would sign the legislation into law, reversing resistance to a legislature-led change to the flag. Mississippians will vote on a replacement flag in the November election. According to the legislation, the current flag design cannot be an option.

“I would guess a lot of you don’t even see that flag in the corner right there,” said Mississippi state Representative Ed Blackmon, who is black, during public comment on Saturday. “There are some of us who notice it every time we walk in here, and it’s not a good feeling.”

Mississippi Flag
The state flag of Mississippi flies at the Governor’s Mansion in Jackson, Mississippi, on Friday, April 26, 2019.ROGELIO V. SOLIS / AP

Up until earlier this month, the majority of Mississippians favored keeping the flag, which prominently features the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. In 2001, voters decided two to one in a ballot measure to keep the flag as is, many arguing it was a nod to their ancestors who fought for Mississippi in the Civil War. 

But a recent wave of influential business, religious and sports leaders condemning the flag — including the Southeastern Conference and the National Collegiate Athletic Association —  prompted a change of heart. By Thursday, polling showed 55% of Mississippians wanted a change, according to the state’s chamber of commerce.

Many symbols of the Confederacy have vanished in the wake of Floyd’s death. Earlier this month, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced his intention to remove a towering statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Richmond’s historic Monument Avenue. Military leaders have said they were open to renaming forts named after Confederate generals, a proposal that’s been rejected by President Trump. NASCAR announced it would prohibit the display of the Confederate flag during races and other events, writing in a statement that the flag’s presence “runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment.”

But nowhere is the Confederate flag more on display than in Mississippi, the last remaining state to include the design on its official state flag. As other Southern states have retired designs that included the symbol, Mississippi has been the lone holdout, even as institutions across the state have voluntarily pulled it down. 

Following the attack on black parishioners by a white supremacist in a South Carolina church, all of Mississippi’s public universities and many cities have stopped flying the ensign. But the flag still flies in front of many public buildings, including the state capitol building and the Governor’s mansion.

Mississippians had previously been resistant to changing the flag, citing the state’s history. But activists argued the flag has been co-opted, and now is used as a symbol of white supremacy, the Jim Crow South and racism and violence that black Americans still face.

“My ancestors were beaten and traumatized, and it was under that flag,” said Jarrius Adams, 22, a political activist that advocated for the change. “There are a lot of moments when I’m not proud to be from Mississippi, but this is definitely a moment that I’m extremely proud to be from Mississippi.”

First published on June 28, 2020 / 6:59 PM

© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 21: Former MAC VIVA GLAM Spokesperson, Eve, Celebrates The MAC AIDS Fund’s $250 Million Milestone During The International AIDS Conference on July 21, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for MAC Cosmetics)

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