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The medical journal Lancet published a statement from the authors of a study showing that hydroxychloroquine was dangerous for hospitalized covid-19 patients, saying they were unable to complete an independent audit of the hospital data underpinning their analysis. As a result, they concluded they “can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.”

The study, purportedly based on the health records of almost 100,000 patients around the world, found that hospitalized covid-19 patients treated with the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine — a drug repeatedly touted by President Trump — had a sharply higher risk of death and heart-rhythm problems compared to those who did not receive the drug.

Here are some significant developments:

  • The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told a House panel Thursday that demonstrators protesting racial injustice need to get tested for the coronavirus.
  • Two countries on Thursday reported alarming increases in coronavirus cases. Brazil confirmed a record number of deaths on consecutive days, more than 2,600 in that time, and now has at least 584,000 confirmed cases of covid-19. And Iran, which was hard hit earlier this year but began lifting lockdown restrictions April 11, reported a record 3,574 new confirmed cases over the past 24 hours, raising concerns of a second wave of infections.
  • The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits decreased to 1.9 million for the last week of May, the fewest since the novel coronavirus started spreading widely in March but more than analysts forecast. Though it is a sign the economy may no longer be in free fall, recovery could be long and difficult.
  • Iran released U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, a California native who had contracted the coronavirus and had been held for nearly two years. Due to several complicating health conditions, White’s family feared for his life in Iran’s notoriously cramped and unsanitary prison system.

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3:26 a.m.
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Spain mourns for covid victims while celebrating a return to normal life

Spain has been engaged in 10 days of national mourning, dedicated to the more than 27,000 lives lost here to the coronavirus. The mourning period — the longest in Spain’s modern history — is largely symbolic. King Philip VI presided over a minute of silence. More than 14,000 flags on government buildings and naval vessels have been lowered to half-staff. Local authorities have draped black ribbons on public monuments, and people have hung flags adorned with black ribbons from their balconies.

But these symbols of shared grief are somewhat discordant at a moment Spain is emerging from Europe’s strictest lockdown and many Spaniards are eager to resume normal life. The symbols have also become politicized. Just two weeks ago, the far-right Vox party led a 6,000-car caravan of protesters through Plaza Colón, waving Spanish flags to chastise the government for its coronavirus response.

2:59 a.m.
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‘People are looking at me’: For many who lost jobs in the coronavirus epidemic, hunger comes with shame

The Robert Garcia that Robert Garcia always saw in the mirror was the Marine who jumped out of helicopters, the guy who built houses, rode a Harley and had plenty of buddies. Now, thanks to the virus, his reflection shows a man alone in a single room in Santa Fe, out of work, looking outside and wondering what the neighbors are thinking when the food bank delivers his meals.

“People see them coming and I feel this anxiety that they look at me in a different way,” Garcia said. “Like, ‘What’s wrong with this dude that he’s getting food like that?’ ”

Until March, Fran Bednarek, a nurse in Santa Fe, traveled to the homes of people in need and helped them figure out how to keep it together. Now, she’s lost all her income, is stuck inside, and depends on a charity’s weekly boxes of frozen dinners.

Read more here.

2:17 a.m.
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Tennessee judge orders greater access to voting by mail

A Tennessee judge ruled Thursday that the state must allow any registered voter to cast a ballot by mail, an issue that has moved to the forefront during the coronavirus pandemic and drawn unsubstantiated claims of fraud by President Trump.

“In this time of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and its contagion in gatherings of people, almost all states — both Republican and Democrat — are providing their citizens the health protection of a voting by mail option,” Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle wrote, according to the Tennessean. “The governors, state officials and legislators in [Southern] states have spearheaded efforts to expand access to voting by mail to protect the health of their citizens during the pandemic.”

In Tennessee, absentee ballots and mail-in voting are currently available only to those who are sick, disabled, traveling or elderly. Lyle ruled that eligible voters should not have to have an excuse to request a ballot by mail.

Forty-six states offer access to mail-in voting to all registered voters, though some require a reason. Experts estimate that up to 70 percent of all ballots cast in November could be done by mail, NPR reported. In 2018, it was 23.1 percent.

Voting by mail would be “substantially fraudulent,” said Trump, who has voted by mail several times.

1:31 a.m.
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Amazon reverses ban on book critical of coronavirus lockdown after decision is blasted by many, including Elon Musk

SEATTLE — Amazon on Thursday backed away from a decision to block the sale of a self-published e-book about the coronavirus after critics, including Tesla chief executive Elon Musk, blasted the ban.

Thursday morning, Alex Berenson, a conservative-media favorite, tweeted to his more than 118,000 followers that Amazon banned his 6,400-word booklet. The booklet, “Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns: Part 1: Introduction and Death Counts and Estimates,” argues that the mainstream media is overstating the threat from the virus. Berenson dubbed them “Team Apocalypse.”

The tweet ricocheted around social media, and Musk, with his 35.6 million followers, called Amazon’s decision “insane.”

Read more here.

12:46 a.m.
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Dutch authorities will cull minks at nine farms after virus outbreak

The Dutch government has ordered mink at several farms in the Netherlands to be culled, after a growing number of cases in which the animals contracted the coronavirus. In a Wednesday letter to parliament, Dutch Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten said owners of the nine farms where the animals will be culled will be paid for their losses during the mass cull, which is set to begin Friday.

“Clearing the infected farms is in the interest of both human health and animal health,” she wrote. “The Animal Welfare Commission has been informed and will see to it that the animals are treated in a responsible manner and killed.”

Dutch authorities launched an investigation into two mink farms in April after several animals exhibited coronavirus symptoms and tested positive. As a precaution, the government urged pedestrians and cyclists to avoid the area around the farms and banned animals and manure from being moved off the farms.

Since then, cases have been reported on several other mink farms, which breed the animals to sell their fur. The Dutch government has said they believe the mink initially caught the virus from workers on the farms but last month Dutch authorities said that in at least two cases, infected mink may have transmitted the virus to humans.

There are more than 100 mink farms in the Netherlands, and, under a 2013 law, they are required to shut down by 2023. The Dutch government, concerned by infections at farms holding thousands of mink, may try to buy the remaining farms and cull the animals sooner, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Meanwhile, researchers are still seeking to understand how animals contract coronavirus and whether certain species can pass the virus to humans. Infections have already been confirmed in a handful of domestic dogs and cats. In April, several big cats at the Bronx Zoo also tested positive for the virus.

12:25 a.m.
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Ohio, Michigan, Oregon and Louisiana among jurisdictions moving forward through phases of reopening

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced the next step in the state’s reopening on Thursday by addressing entertainment venues. Starting June 10, aquariums, art galleries, country clubs, ice skating rinks, indoor family entertainment centers, indoor sports facilities, laser tag facilities, movie theaters, museums, playgrounds, public recreation centers, roller skating rinks, social clubs, trampoline parks and zoos are permitted to open.

“As I’ve said, Ohioans are able to do two things at once,” DeWine said on Twitter. “We can continue to limit the spread of #COVID19 while we safely reopen our economy.”

Ohio has a detailed list of mandatory practices for employees, customers and guests, physical spaces and those with confirmed cases. Those practices apply to all consumer, retail, services and entertainment businesses.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed an executive order on Monday that lifted all stay-at-home orders and moved the entire state into Phase 4, allowing all retailers to open Thursday and restaurants to open at 50 percent capacity June 8.

In Chicago, the Navy Pier tourist attraction announced that it will begin Phase 1 of its reopening on June 10. That will include parks, certain outdoor restaurants, kiosks and retailers, tour boats and select free programs.

The state of Washington had six counties apply for the third phase of a four-stage reopening plan, according to the Associated Press. Columbia, Ferry, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens and Wahkiakum counties have been in Phase 2 for three weeks and are now eligible to apply to move forward. The third phase allows for gatherings of 50 people or less, restaurants to open to 75 percent capacity and gyms and movies to open at 50 percent capacity.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced Thursday that 26 counties have been approved to move forward to Phase 2 on June 5, 6 and 8. Phase 2 increases the number of people permitted to gather together in addition to allowing bars and restaurants to stay open to midnight. Movie theaters, swimming pools and bowling alleys can now do business under outlined safety guidelines.

Louisiana has also moved to Phase 2, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) announced Thursday. The major changes allow places of worship and more businesses to open at 50 percent capacity with distancing, face masks for public-facing employees and increased sanitation. The state is also asking businesses to offer temperature checks before entering buildings, though it is not required.

11:54 p.m.
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CDC director says protesters should consider getting tested for covid-19

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told a House panel Thursday that demonstrators protesting racial injustice need to get tested for the coronavirus, and that crowds at a Missouri tourist hot spot and the SpaceX launch showed that public health messages about masks and social distancing are not resonating with the public.

Referring to mass protests against police violence that have taken place throughout the country, CDC Director Robert R. Redfield said demonstrators in regions that have not yet controlled the outbreak should “highly consider” getting tested. He noted that Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., are two metropolitan areas where significant transmission of the virus is still taking place.

The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man whose neck was pinned to the ground by a police officer.

Redfield was testifying at a House appropriations subcommittee hearing on his agency’s response to covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Health experts are concerned about any large gatherings in a close space that can make it easier to spread covid-19.

Read more here.

11:13 p.m.
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Race, ethnicity and other data to be required when labs report coronavirus test results

Federal health officials announced Thursday that they will require laboratories to report race, ethnic and other information about each person tested for the novel coronavirus, following months of criticism that the Trump administration has been insensitive to the pandemic’s profound demographic disparities.

The new guidance compels all labs running tests to diagnose the coronavirus or determine whether someone might have antibodies to the virus to collect and submit information on people’s age, sex, location and test result, as well as on race and ethnicity. There are 18 required pieces of information in all. The rules take effect Aug. 1.

Labs must submit that data within 24 hours to a state or local health department, which must, in turn, forward it to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stripping off the person’s identity when sending to the government.

Read more here.

10:48 p.m.
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Authors retract Lancet study on dangers of hydroxychloroquine

Three of the authors of a study that found the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine was dangerous for hospitalized covid-19 patients retracted it Thursday, saying they could “no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.”

The retraction notice was posted by the medical journal Lancet, which had published the study on May 22.

The study, purportedly based on the health records of almost 100,000 patients around the world, found that hospitalized covid-19 patients treated with the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine — a drug repeatedly touted by President Trump — had a sharply higher risk of death and heart problems compared to those who did not receive the drug. It also showed the drug didn’t provide a benefit. The study was “observational,” which is less rigorous that a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial.

Read more here.

10:42 p.m.
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The biggest challenge for a virus vaccine could be getting countries to share

Global leaders came together Thursday to raise at least $2 billion toward providing a future vaccine for the novel coronavirus to people throughout the world — a precarious diplomatic endeavor and one of the biggest unresolved problems in using a vaccine to combat the pandemic.

The virtual summit was convened by a public-private partnership called Gavi, which aims to increase vaccination rates in lower-income countries. At the summit, Gavi unveiled a proposal to ensure poor- and middle-income countries have access to the vaccine. The proposal the group sketched out also includes a way wealthy countries can get access to the same vaccines while supporting equitable global distribution.

The twists and turns of the scientific race to develop and mass produce a vaccine are being closely followed, with mere hints of progress sending the stock market surging. But an even more important challenge looms, because any vaccine will have to be distributed globally to stamp out the pandemic as quickly as possible and avoid a humanitarian disaster in which rich countries restart their economies while people in poorer countries continue to die.

Read more here.

9:56 p.m.
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Milwaukee to ease restrictions on restaurants and bars

Starting Friday afternoon, Milwaukee bars and restaurants will be allowed to resume in-person service, though indoor dining must be capped at 25 percent capacity, Mayor Tom Barrett (D) announced Thursday.

Those businesses had been limited to takeout and delivery service.

The announcement came the same week several bar and restaurant owners declared plans to reopen Monday for a few hours if Barrett did not share a plan soon about restoring service, OnMilwaukee.com reported.

Bars and restaurants in surrounding counties were cleared two weeks ago to resume in-person service with limited capacity.

As of Wednesday, the city had reported 6,589 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 194 deaths. The state of Wisconsin reported 10 deaths Thursday, increasing the total to 626.

9:25 p.m.
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Stocks turn in mixed-bag session after June rally loses steam

Wall Street went into a cool-down Thursday, as jobs and trade data took some of the steam out of June’s stock rally.

The Dow Jones industrial average bounced around before tipping green for its fourth straight positive session. The blue chip index added nearly 12 points, or 0.05 percent, to close at 26,281.82, after the Labor Department reported that nearly 1.9 million Americans had filed for unemployment benefits last week. Although this was the fewest weekly claims since the pandemic started, it’s more than analysts expected and more than twice the pre-pandemic record set in 1982.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 0.3 percent, to 3,112.35, for its first losing session in five days. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.6 percent to 9,615.81.

“In many ways, the claims numbers provide the closest thing to real-time insight into the status of the badly damaged job market,” Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com, said in an email to The Washington Post. “No matter how you crunch the variety of statistics, the job market story is devastating and heartbreaking unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. That’s among a series of coinciding storms we’re currently experiencing.”

Investors will get another employment reading on Friday, when the U.S. Labor Department releases its May report. Unemployment hit 14.7 percent in April — the highest level since the Great Depression — and is expected to push toward 20 percent in the next round.

The U.S. trade deficit grew to nearly $50 billion in April amid widespread business slowdowns and closures related to the pandemic, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. The deficit with China swelled by $9 billion, to $26 billion, in the same period, as China’s businesses moved toward normalcy while the coronavirus’s grip on the United States tightened. Recent weeks have seen a flare-up in U.S.-China tensions that is imperiling the hard-fought trade agreement.

8:00 p.m.
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Pandemic claims another victim: Medical research for deadly rare diseases

Anissa Merriam was a vibrant teenager, a talented artist who loved anime and excelled in difficult classes. But at 14, she started dropping her pencil and her hairbrush, and struggled with her studies. Something wasn’t right, she told her parents.

Eventually, Anissa was diagnosed with a rare, neurodegenerative form of epilepsy that strikes in early adolescence, causing intractable seizures and dementia. Most patients die before 30. Today, Anissa, at 22, likes to dress up like 1930s child star Shirley Temple, watch Disney movies and tap dance.

Not long ago, her mother, Jenifer Merriam, had reason to hope, as scientists pursued three or four different approaches they were confident would lead to a treatment, perhaps even a cure, for the disorder called Lafora disease. Some researchers were planning clinical trials for early next year. But those efforts have been imperiled by the coronavirus pandemic, as many labs remain shuttered or are operating at low capacity. For the Merriam family, it’s an especially cruel turn.

Since March, medical research on diseases other than covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has taken a huge hit, with countless experiments abandoned and clinical trials suspended or postponed. This singular focus will inevitably delay much-needed advances for other life-threatening ailments, including cancer, stroke and heart disease, experts say.

Read more here.

7:38 p.m.
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Germany’s $145 billion stimulus package: $340 per child, electric car rebates

The German government coalition on Wednesday approved a sweeping €130 billion ($145 billion) stimulus package to kickstart the economy after the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Among the measures are family subsidies for €300 ($340) for each child, doubling existing rebates to €6,000 ($6,800) for the purchase of electric cars, as well as cutting value added tax (VAT) until the end of the year.

Germany had previously agreed a €1.1 trillion ($1.2 trillion) rescue package in March. The new spending would be in addition to those measures, which included loan guarantees and subsidies.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the new measures were a reflection of the deep economic difficulties caused by the novel coronavirus, with economic data showing the country went into a recession in the first quarter of 2020.

“It’s clear that all of this requires a bold response,” Merkel said. “It’s about securing jobs, keeping the economy running or getting it going again.”

Germany began to lift coronavirus restrictions on April 20 following about a month of lockdown. The country has more than 180,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, including 8,600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker.