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News Brief: Isaias Moves Up The Coast, COVID-19 Poll, TikTok Negotiations


Hurricane Isaias is dumping heavy rain in the Carolinas. After the hurricane landed, it was downgraded to a tropical storm.


And it's moving north, where the forecast is flooding and possibly even some tornadoes.

MARTIN: NPR's Sarah McCammon joins us now from Virginia Beach, Va. Hi, Sarah.


MARTIN: So what can you tell us? What's the latest with this storm?

MCCAMMON: Well, this thing has been really erratic and unpredictable. The path and especially the intensity of the forecasts has been shifting a lot in recent days. But it did make landfall a little after 11 Eastern Time last night as a hurricane in North Carolina - that was along the southern coast of North Carolina overnight - reaching wind speeds of up to 85 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center. There are reports now of hundreds of thousands of people in coastal North Carolina losing power. And we'll know more about other damage as the day goes by. But we do know that it has now weakened to a tropical storm. And it's heading further north, bringing tornado warnings and other severe weather here to Virginia and on up the East Coast.

MARTIN: And clearly, this is an unusual hurricane season in that, I mean, officials are having to manage all of the usual challenges of evacuating and sheltering people during a hurricane, and there is also this thing called a global pandemic.


MARTIN: So how is that affecting response efforts?

MCCAMMON: Right. So hurricane season is always a time when you're told in this part of the country to be ready, be on alert. But this year, there is a whole other layer, and it's a big one. Here's how North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper put it.


ROY COOPER: Now, I know that North Carolinians have had to dig deep in recent months to tap into our strength and resilience during the pandemic. And that hasn't been easy. But with this storm on the way, we have to dig a little deeper. Let's keep each other safe from the wind and water, as well as from the virus.

MCCAMMON: And there have been worries about people being confused by what might feel like contradictory advice. Cooper was telling residents before the storm that, until now, their home has been the safest place because of the pandemic. But that may not be true. There were some evacuations for parts of the North Carolina coast in recent days.

And across the region, as the storm has moved through, people have been encouraged, if they can, to shelter with family and friends if they need to leave their homes rather than going to a shelter. That said, there have been shelters open in Florida in North Carolina. And officials there have been doing temperature checks, screening people for coronavirus symptoms and trying as much as they can to practice social distancing.

MARTIN: So that's what's happening where it hit. We know this thing's already moving up the East Coast, right? It's raining where I am in Washington, D.C. You yourself are sheltering in place with your family, right?

MCCAMMON: Yeah. It's been raining off and on here this morning. We just had a tornado warning expire for the Virginia Beach area just a little while ago. So I have my kids. I think they're still in the hallway, the safest place in my house. And for areas that have already been hit by Isaias, the big concern is really especially inland flooding - right? - because...


MCCAMMON: ...It doesn't take that much water on the road for there to be a lot of danger. Gov. Cooper from North Carolina warned yesterday that the region loses too many people who go out after these storms and drive around in flooded roads. And in South Carolina, similar warnings telling people to watch out as the sun comes up. Watch for barriers. Pay attention to road signs. And as I mentioned, the storm is moving northward it's moving up the coast through the Virginia Beach area. And it's going to go on up toward D.C. and beyond as the next several days go by, going quite a ways up the East Coast. And after the storm, there's a lot of hurricane season left to go.

MARTIN: That's right. NPR's Sarah McCammon. Sarah, we appreciate you. We appreciate your kids sleeping safely in the hallway.

MCCAMMON: (Laughter).

MARTIN: Thank you very much.

MCCAMMON: Thank you.


MARTIN: OK, a new poll by NPR and Ipsos finds that Americans are actually agreeing on a couple of things related to COVID-19.

KING: Yeah. Most of us want a national plan to fight the virus. And most of us, the poll says, think that the president and Congress aren't doing enough to help the economy.

MARTIN: NPR's Brian Mann joins us to talk about the findings in the poll. Hi, Brian.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.

MARTIN: What's the top line here?

MANN: Well, people are saying things are bad - so bad, you know, with more than 155,000 Americans dead that it's time to set all the political feuding aside and go really big on a national response. Here's something interesting. Two-thirds of people we surveyed say America is doing worse, 41% saying much worse than other countries responding to the pandemic. Here's Mallory Newall. She's a pollster with Ipsos. This is the firm that worked with NPR on this.

MALLORY NEWALL: We've come to a pretty dire place when it comes to the - both the death toll and the spread of coronavirus across the country. And Americans, as they grapple with the reality and just how grave the situation is, I think they're looking for sweeping, really broad, powerful action here.

MANN: And, of course, this comes sort of on the eve of this big election. Asked about November's presidential vote, upwards of 80% of Americans say they'll support the candidate with a coronavirus plan and a national strategy for rebuilding the economy. Eighty-one percent say they want someone who can unify the country.

MARTIN: But we heard Mallory Newall there say Americans are looking for sweeping, broad action. What does that actually mean? I mean, what do people want to see from the federal government?

MANN: Well, you know, we've heard about mask wars - the debate over wearing masks. And, really, our poll found that that's kind of over. Seventy-five percent of Americans now support state mandates that require mask wearing. Americans also want the federal government to drastically improve coronavirus testing. What's interesting is even some Republicans we surveyed who back President Trump want him to do a lot more to fight COVID-19. I spoke with Kevin Reno (ph), who lives in Irving, Texas.

KEVIN RENO: I think a national approach would be better. I think it would be effective. And it may be at the point here before too long that we have to do that.

MANN: So far, of course, President Trump has resisted this idea, but we've found roughly two-thirds of Americans want a national strategy for coronavirus testing and also for deciding when businesses and schools can reopen.

MARTIN: Well, the poll asked about that, right? How do Americans feel about the schools - some of them - reopening to in-person classes?

MANN: People are really nervous, but this is a place where people are divided more along partisan lines. Overall, 66% of Americans say they favor distance learning in the fall, keeping kids home. Democrats overwhelmingly favor that. Republicans, interestingly, are more mixed. Sixty percent still agree with President Trump. They support kids returning to classroom education. But 40% also favor remote online learning.

MARTIN: What about the economy? What does the poll say when it comes to the economic stress and anxiety people are feeling?

MANN: Yeah, this part was also dramatic. Most people, roughly two-thirds, say Washington should get off the fence and spend big to help the economy, help millions of people who are struggling, even if that means taking on more national debt. And another surprising thing here is how many people support taking really aggressive measures to turn the tide on the coronavirus. More than half, for example, support closing state borders temporarily.

MARTIN: Wow. NPR's Brian Mann. Thanks for bringing us those results, Brian. We appreciate it.

MANN: Thank you.


MARTIN: OK, the Chinese company that owns TikTok is under a little bit of pressure from President Trump and is considering selling.

KING: Yeah. The president says he thinks TikTok is a threat to U.S. security. And he's even given the company a kind of deadline.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I set a date of around September 15, at which point it's going to be out of business in the United States.

KING: Now, over the weekend, President Trump talked to the CEO of Microsoft, which is a potential buyer here.

MARTIN: NPR's tech reporter Bobby Allyn is with us this morning. Hi, Bobby.


MARTIN: So take a step back, Bobby. Why does President Trump have an interest in TikTok's U.S. operations in the first place?

ALLYN: Well, Trump never mentions TikTok without saying China. TikTok's talks parent company, ByteDance, is based in Beijing. And Trump says that means TikTok could be harvesting the private data of millions of Americans and sharing it with the Chinese Communist Party. Now, you know, whether that's really happening is up for debate. But to Trump, it's black or white, right? It's TikTok either stays Chinese owned and will be banned, or the app is bought by an American company, like Microsoft, and can stick around.

MARTIN: Right. So Noel mentioned this - Microsoft CEO talked with President Trump over the weekend about the possibility of acquiring TikTok. But that's rather remarkable, right? Like why did the CEO of a private company feel the need to run this by the president?

ALLYN: Right. And so that's because the Trump administration including trade adviser Peter Navarro, has been peering (ph) on cable news and saying the White House does not trust Microsoft. And while it looks like, right now, that Microsoft has won back the confidence of the White House, you know, the company just really wants to make sure it absolutely has the blessing of the administration before trying to take TikTok over. And, you know, a big part of Microsoft's pledge is to ensure that no TikTok data ever leaves American shores. But yes, to your question, the president getting intimately involved in a private company's merger talks is not typical. But TikTok - right? - An app known for dance challenges and prank videos no less, finding itself as the latest political football in Washington, is dealing with just that.

MARTIN: Can we close by just talking about the business end of this? Like, what's in it for Microsoft to buy TikTok? What do they get out of this, potentially?

ALLYN: Right. So I think when we hear the word Microsoft, when we think of the company, many people still think of Windows, right? It's not exactly the hippest image in the world. But Microsoft does own Xbox. It's one actually one of its most successful businesses. And there's a lot of crossover potential between gamers and TikTok users. Not to mention bringing on TikTok would allow Microsoft to go toe-to-toe with Facebook, which sees TikTok's huge popularity and is pretty envious.

MARTIN: NPR's Bobby Allyn reporting on this story - the potential acquisition by Microsoft of TikTok under some pressure from President Trump. Bobby, thanks. We appreciate it.

ALLYN: You got it. See you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Noel King is a host of Morning Edition and Up First.