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Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne. Photo: Clarence Davis/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images.

Florida's Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister issued a warrant for the arrest of megachurch pastor Rodney Howard-Browne on Monday after he refused to cancel his packed services and obey coronavirus social distancing orders.

The big picture: With at least 5,000 cases and 60 deaths as of Monday morning, Florida is a growing epicenter for the coronavirus outbreak. Gov. Ron DeSantis has declined to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, but a Hillsborough County order that took effect last week prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people.

Howard-Browne, an evangelical leader who has been hosted by the Trump White House, continued to hold two crowded services at The River at Tampa Bay Church on Sunday despite warnings from Chronister's office, the Tampa Bay Times notes.

  • He mocked those who were scared of the coronavirus as "pansies" last week and said his church "will never close," the New York Post reports.
  • Howard-Browne was arrested on charges of unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules.

What they're saying: "His reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people in his congregation at risk, and thousands of residents who may interact with them this week, in danger," Chronister said at a press conference on Monday.

Go deeper

39 mins ago - Health

U.S. surpasses 400,000 coronavirus deaths on Trump's final full day in office

Expand chart
Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Over 400,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the U.S. as of Tuesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

Why it matters: It only took a little over a month for the U.S. to reach this mass casualty after 300,000 COVID deaths were reported last month. That's over 100,000 fatalities in 36 days.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
47 mins ago - Podcasts

Bill Browder on Russia-U.S. relations after Alexei Navalny's arrest

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was recently arrested in Moscow, just months after being poisoned in an assassination attempt, in what could become Joe Biden’s first major foreign policy test.

Axios Re:Cap speaks with Bill Browder, an investor and author who has his own history of clashing with Putin, to better understand the Navalny situation and how the U.S. might respond by using a law that Browder helped create.

3 hours ago - World

Special report: Trump's U.S.-China transformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump began his term by launching the trade war with China he had promised on the campaign trail. By mid-2020, however, Trump was no longer the public face of China policy-making as he became increasingly consumed with domestic troubles, giving his top aides carte blanche to pursue a cascade of tough-on-China policies.

Why it matters: Trump alone did not reshape the China relationship. But his trade war shattered global norms, paving the way for administration officials to pursue policies that just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable.