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Anthony S. Fauci said Friday that it is a “danger” and “risky” for people to be gathering in large groups — whether at a Trump rally or a protest. The nation’s top infectious-disease expert advised on a podcast that if gatherings take place, people should “make sure” to wear a mask. President Trump plans to hold his first rally in months next week in Tulsa.

Meanwhile, across the South and West, coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are on the rise. In Texas, more than 2,100 people in the state were hospitalized with covid-19 as of Friday, according to state data tracked by The Washington Post, and intensive care units are reportedly at 88 percent capacity in the Houston area. Arkansas reported 731 new cases, the largest since the pandemic began. And in North Carolina, cases topped 40,000 after its highest single-day increase.

“We continue to see a decrease in social distancing,” Mecklenburg County, N.C., health director Gibbie Harris said Friday, “and before long we will be back to where we were when we put the stay-at-home order in place.”

Here are some significant developments:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new coronavirus guidelines Friday, which included a recommendation that organizers of large events that involve shouting, chanting or singing “strongly encourage” the use of cloth face coverings. push to reopen the country.
  • Florida got rid of its top geographic data scientist in May. Rebekah Jones now publicizes statistics on her own, at FloridaCOVIDAction.com, which gives a higher case total and a lower number of people tested than data published by the state.
  • Wall Street is back in buying mode, with the Dow Jones industrial average jumping nearly 700 points at the opening bell following Thursday’s a massive sell-off.
  • The United States surpassed 2 million coronavirus cases on Thursday, less than five months after the first case was confirmed. That far exceeds the number of infections reported in any other country. The virus has now killed at least 112,000 people in the United States.

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June 12, 2020 at 9:50 PM EDT

NBA players express concern about potential return amid coronavirus spikes, national protests

While the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association continue to negotiate the terms of next month’s return, dozens of players have raised questions about the plan’s format, schedule, health and safety protocols, and timing within the context of nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd while in police custody.

In an internal memo sent to teams Friday, the NBA indicated that plans for the resumption of the 2019-20 season remain on track, with all players instructed to return to their markets by June 22 and games set to begin at a single-site campus in greater Orlando on July 30, one day earlier than initially proposed. But the league and its players have yet to reach agreement on a health and safety protocol, with union members airing grievances and asking questions during a virtual meeting Wednesday.

Read more here.

By Ben Golliver
June 12, 2020 at 9:29 PM EDT

Trump, GOP want a Jacksonville convention party. Some locals worry about health.

Public safety experts, business leaders and local officials expressed anxiety Friday that the decision to move most of the Republican presidential convention to Jacksonville, Fla., will needlessly endanger the health of participants and state residents already grappling with a record high number of new coronavirus cases.

“It’s irresponsible,” said Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett L. Dennis, a Democrat. “It will increase the number of covid infections and put the locals at risk.”

“Anyone who is a thinking person would have concerns,” said David Miller, a Jacksonville business leader who opposes the move. “It puts our community in harm’s way. And it values political spectacle over sound decisions being made with the best interests of the health of our community.”

Read more here.

By Annie Linskey and Josh Dawsey
June 12, 2020 at 9:19 PM EDT

Biden attacks Trump’s handling of the coronavirus

Joe Biden ratcheted up some of his criticism of President Trump on Friday, saying that his handling of the coronavirus was “almost criminal” and that he has “bungled” the economic fallout.

During an hour-long town hall with the labor union AFSCME, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee warned that the U.S. will likely see a resurgence of the coronavirus and that Trump isn’t doing enough to prepare. “This is almost criminal, the way he’s handled this,” Biden said of Trump’s leadership on the coronavirus. “There’s going to be some form of second wave, I hate to tell you this,” he added later.

Biden said Trump’s approach has led to more Americans deaths and a slower economic recovery. “Donald Trump has bungled everything,” he said. “He’s bungled us into the worst job crisis in over a century.”

Read more here.

By Matt Viser
June 12, 2020 at 9:10 PM EDT

William & Mary to bring students back for fall term amid pandemic

The College of William & Mary, second-oldest in the country, plans to bring students back to its Williamsburg, Va., campus in August despite the disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic — an announcement that signals an acceleration of the movement to reopen campuses.

Katherine A. Rowe, the public university’s president, said Friday the fall term will start for the law school on Aug. 17 and for undergraduates and other students on Aug. 19. There will be no fall break, and some classes will be held on Saturday, in an effort to squeeze as much in-person instruction as possible into the semester by the time it ends before Thanksgiving.

“Ultimately, our mission calls us back," Rowe said in a statement. "The uncertainty of pandemic persists and no single path or solution will meet the needs of all. Yet a return to campus speeds access to student learning and community, under pandemic, in numerous ways. Students are asking to return and we have heard them. I have confidence in the creativity of our staff and faculty to partner with students and families and find the best solution for each.”

Read more here.

By Nick Anderson
June 12, 2020 at 9:02 PM EDT

CDC issues new covid-19 guidelines at a time of protests and rallies

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new coronavirus guidelines Friday to help Americans navigate a changed country, as they face mass protests, spiking cases in many states and President Trump’s plans to return to holding big rallies.

The CDC guidance includes a recommendation that organizers of large events that involve shouting, chanting or singing “strongly encourage” the use of cloth face coverings. That is complicated by a push to reopen the country even as more than 2 million Americans have now been infected by the coronavirus.

The CDC guidance comes after more than two weeks of national protests where many demonstrators wore masks but others did not. It also coincides with Trump’s plans to hit the campaign trail next week and to accept his party’s nomination at a packed convention in Jacksonville, Fla., in August.

Read more here.

By Lena H. Sun, Chelsea Janes and Toluse Olorunnipa
June 12, 2020 at 8:51 PM EDT

Virtual winery tours are bringing wine country to you

The pitch seemed too good to be true. A video graphics firm specializing in virtual-reality exhibits and “minds-on experiences” was offering to produce virtual tours of wineries, for no charge.

“I honestly thought there was a catch to it, you know, like the free cruise phone calls you get,” says Pennie Haase, national marketing director for Alexander Valley Vineyards in California’s Sonoma County. But she checked out the firm, Geoffrey M. Curley + Associates, or GMC+A, and discovered “The Great Fermentation,” an exhibition last year that brought the experience of visiting a Tuscan vineyard and winery to downtown Chicago. She decided to jump at the offer.

Read more here.

By Dave McIntyre
June 12, 2020 at 8:37 PM EDT

Goodbye to make-your-own waffles? Coronavirus may end the hotel breakfast as we know it

In pre-pandemic times, Rick Bell had the breakfast routine down at Engadine Inn and Cabins in the Asheville, N.C. area, where he is an owner, proprietor and cook.

First course: a fruit-based dish. Second: traditional hot breakfast, either sweet or savory depending on the day. Plates went out one at a time to guests of the bed-and-breakfast in the dining room, along with juice and coffee. Service started at 9 a.m.

These days, mealtime and tables are being spread out, and porches are open for breakfast. And instead of making several visits to a table, a server is leaving all the plates, pots and cups at once to avoid too much interaction.

Like hoteliers all over the world, Bell is having to reconsider once-standard morning meal plans to accommodate new health regulations, employee safety and customer concerns as coronavirus changes the way people travel and dine out. For the many hotel brands that have elevated breakfast to a key part of their offering, the adjustment is especially important.

Read more here.

By Hannah Sampson
June 12, 2020 at 8:36 PM EDT

Fauci warns Trump rally attendees that it’s ‘risky’ to gather in large groups

Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said Friday that it is a “danger” and “risky” for people to be gathering in large groups — whether at a Trump rally or a protest.

Speaking on ABC News’s “Powerhouse Politics” podcast, Fauci said that if the gatherings take place, people should “make sure” to wear a mask.

Just restrictions are lifting, “doesn’t mean that you walk around without a mask, that you jump into a crowd ... that you stop doing the things that are important," Fauci told host Jonathan Karl.

President Trump has repeatedly refused to wear a face covering in public, and recently moved the main part of his party’s nominating convention from North Carolina to Florida after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) declined to promise he could speak to a packed arena. Trump has indicated he does not want to require participants to wear masks for his acceptance speech.

The dissonance comes as fears of a new wave of coronavirus surging in several regions, with a number of states reaching record-high cases in recent days.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new coronavirus guidelines Friday to help Americans navigate a changed country, as they face mass protests, spiking cases in many states and President Trump’s plans to return to holding big rallies.

The CDC guidance includes a recommendation that organizers of large events that involve shouting, chanting or singing “strongly encourage” the use of cloth face coverings. That is complicated by a push to reopen the country even as more than 2 million Americans have now been infected by the coronavirus.

By Lena H. Sun, Chelsea Janes and Toluse Olorunnipa
June 12, 2020 at 8:26 PM EDT

Minnesota leaders claim state is better prepared for a coronavirus resurgence

Minnesota leaders are claiming the state is better prepared for a second wave of the novel coronavirus, if it follows similar patterns of other states across the country that have relaxed social distancing and are now seeing an uptick in cases and hospitalizations.

Officials told the Star Tribune that compared to when the pandemic began, the state now has more capacity to test and track coronavirus, along with more hospital beds and stable supplies of masks and gowns to protect doctors, nurses and other caregivers.

On Thursday, the state reported 13,391 diagnostic tests — its second-highest daily tally so far in the pandemic. Free testing took place at four sites in Minneapolis and St. Paul, according to the Star Tribune, following protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody.

“There’s no question in my mind but that we’re better prepared,” Jan Malcolm, state health commissioner, told the Star Tribune. “We also know a lot more about the virus than we did four months ago.”

Minnesota has recorded 29,795 coronavirus cases, with a 479-case increase on Friday. Minnesota has now seen its daily reported cases rise for the past three days. The state also reported 25 new fatalities, for a total of 1,274 since the pandemic began.

On Friday, the Minnesota House of Representatives voted to continue Minnesota’s coronavirus peacetime emergency, which allows Gov. Tim Walz (D) to keep his emergency power. The state Senate had voted earlier in the day to end it.

Multiple states are seeing an increasing number of patients since Memorial Day weekend, when many people socialized in groups in parts of the country. Additionally, there are new concerns that the anti-racism protests sparked by Floyd’s death in Minneapolis could add to a nationwide surge.

By Samantha Pell
June 12, 2020 at 8:15 PM EDT

Alcoholics Anonymous, struggling to reach new members during the shutdown, expects a surge

Meetings have always been a path to sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous. But instead of hunting for a gathering in a church basement, these days, most seekers have to find the right Zoom password.

Virtual meetings are taking place around-the-clock; anyone can join a gathering on the other side of the world in the middle of the night. But because of “Zoom bombing” — outside attacks in which intruders enter video meetings — hosts are adding passwords to meetings, which members fear could be a barrier -to some. And with no formal marketing, A.A. runs through word of mouth via local networks, so finding the right meeting link often takes several clicks for the uninitiated.

Members of A.A. say they miss the in-person meetings where people often hug and hold hands. They say the stay-at-home orders to combat the novel coronavirus have created additional feelings of isolation, which those addicted to alcohol already are facing. And they are worried that people who want to join A.A. might have trouble finding a meeting or feeling comfortable joining a Zoom call where most everyone else generally knows each other.

Read more here.

By Sarah Pulliam Bailey
June 12, 2020 at 7:50 PM EDT

MLB’s latest proposal unlikely to result in a deal on 2020 start

Major League Baseball’s latest proposal to its union for starting the pandemic-delayed season improved its previous offers but failed to meet the players’ demands of full, prorated salaries for 2020 — which means it likely did little to slow the sport’s descent toward a default scenario of a late-summer mini-season of between 48 to 54 games.

Commissioner Rob Manfred, in a television interview on Wednesday, had predicted the league’s offer would represent “another significant move in the players’ direction in terms of the salary issue.” However, union leaders have been adamant that players would not accept additional pay cuts beyond the one agreed to in March — which called for them to earn prorated shares of their 2020 salaries based on the number of games played — and are expected to reject MLB’s latest offer.

Read more here.

By Dave Sheinin
June 12, 2020 at 7:37 PM EDT

Houston congresswoman is self-isolating after exposure to covid-19

Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Tex.) announced Friday she was going to self-quarantine in Houston after she found out she had been in contact with a family member who tested positive for the coronavirus.

“The Congresswoman has been tested and is awaiting results,” Garcia’s office said in a statement.

Garcia represents the 29th Congressional District of Texas, which includes eastern Houston, one of the state’s coronavirus hot spots. Harris County, which includes Houston, has the highest number of cases in the state. On Thursday, the county also reported its highest covid-19 hospital population since the outbreak began. The county introduced a four-tier rating system Thursday to measure the danger of the pandemic, and its first day showed the second-highest rating on the scale.

“I want this to serve as a reminder for everyone in the Houston region and across the country that we are still combating COVID-19,” Garcia said in a statement, “and that everyone should be following public health guidelines that will help keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy.”

By Angela Fritz
June 12, 2020 at 6:51 PM EDT

University of Houston suspends voluntary workouts after six athletes test positive for coronavirus

The University of Houston has suspended all voluntary workouts after six student-athletes tested positive for the coronavirus. According to a Friday news release from the school, the impacted students have been placed in isolation, and contact tracing procedures have been initiated.

The decision to suspend workouts came not only because of the positive tests among athletes but also with an increase in positive tests in the greater Houston area over the past week. The athletic program will continue to partner with university officials, team physicians and local health professionals to decide when to restart workouts.

The Houston area has experienced a spike of cases since Memorial Day. In Harris County, there were 312 new cases reported Friday, with 15,864 cases overall. Texas reported 2,097 new cases Friday, with 83,680 cases total. Texas also had 2,166 hospitalized with the coronavirus on Friday — an increase of 158 patients from Thursday.

The NCAA allowed athletes to return to campus for voluntary offseason workouts June 1. Several college programs have reported athletes testing positive for coronavirus since then, including Auburn and Alabama.

According to Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle, the university conducted tests only on athletes who showed symptoms as they returned to campus. Other colleges have tested all athletes who returned to campus for voluntary workouts.

By Samantha Pell
June 12, 2020 at 6:48 PM EDT

A N.J. city voted to allow indoor dining, in defiance of governor’s order. The state sued.

A New Jersey city surprised residents — and state officials — on Thursday when it announced that the city council had voted to allow indoor dining at its restaurants starting next week, in defiance of Gov. Phil Murphy’s order.

Murphy (D) already said outdoor dining would be allowed beginning June 15, but the city of Asbury Park wanted to go further to stimulate the local economy. The city said it would allow restaurants to host patrons indoors at 25 percent capacity, or up to 50 people, whichever was lower.

On Friday, Murphy announced the state was suing Asbury Park to stop it.

“We have worked with the governing body of Asbury Park to try to amicably resolve the issue of their resolution regarding indoor dining,” Murphy said Friday. “Unfortunately, they have not done so."

The city reversed course, noting on its website that the lawsuit “resulted in the Superior Court entering an Order which temporarily halts Asbury Park from allowing indoor food and beverage service per the resolution."

Cases and hospitalizations are down significantly in New Jersey since the state’s pandemic peak in April. Murphy has relaxed restrictions and announced the state would enter Phase 2 of reopening next week.

But Murphy’s slow-and-steady approach has not been fast enough for some businesses that are struggling from the sharp economic blow brought on by the outbreak and social distancing measures.

“New Jersey elected officials and small-business owners have been challenging Murphy’s latest shutdown guidelines after he participated in the anti-police-brutality marches, which he called a ‘profound moment,’ ” Bloomberg News reports. “But his critics said it showed he was holding residents to a different standard for social distancing as the state tries to avoid a resurgence of virus cases.”

On Friday, President Trump is hosting Murphy and his wife for dinner at his Bedminster golf club, where the president is spending the weekend, to “discuss the State’s response efforts to COVID-19, progress to reopen, and their shared interest for improving our Nation’s infrastructure,” White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said on Twitter.

By Angela Fritz
June 12, 2020 at 5:58 PM EDT

Senate Democrats press for simplified PPP loan forgiveness application

Forty-seven Senate Democrats are pressing the Small Business Administration to set up a streamlined application process for “low-dollar” subsidized small business loan recipients, according to a letter released Friday by the office of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

The lawmakers say the SBA’s existing 11-page loan forgiveness application takes too long to complete and may be too difficult for some “underserved” small businesses such as sole proprietors, who may not have lawyers and accountants to help with the application.

“We are especially concerned that so many of these very small and underserved businesses will feel compelled to hire accountants and attorneys to complete the forgiveness form in a manner that provides comfort that the loans will be forgiven,” the senators wrote.

Read more here.

By Aaron Gregg
June 12, 2020 at 5:31 PM EDT

U.S. passport processing resumes

The State Department has resumed processing U.S. passports to clear a backlog of 1.7 million pending applications before it can start tackling new requests, officials said Friday.

Carl Risch, the assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, said 11 of the 29 passport agencies and centers around the United States that reduced services as the coronavirus began to spread have started Phase 1 on the road to normal. About half the agency’s passport workers have returned to their offices.

Passport applications will be processed on a “first in, first out” basis. Risch estimated it will take six to eight weeks to clear up the backlog dating from late February.

Read more here.

By Carol Morello
June 12, 2020 at 4:53 PM EDT

As Houston-area hospitalizations rise, Rep. Dan Crenshaw calls new recommendations ‘fear mongering’

As coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Texas climb, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) is calling for fewer restrictions aimed at slowing the spread. Crenshaw has been an outspoken critic of restrictions and of Democrats’ response to the pandemic.

Harris County, which includes Houston, has the highest number of cases in the state, and this week it reported its highest number of covid-19 hospitalizations since the outbreak began. The county introduced a four-tier rating system Thursday to measure the danger of the pandemic, and its first day showed the second-highest rating on the scale.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo — also the county’s director of emergency management — asked residents to minimize contact with others, avoid medium or large gatherings and visit only businesses that follow public health guidance.

“This is such an irresponsible overstatement from our County Judge. Pure and simple fear mongering,” Crenshaw tweeted Thursday evening. “It needs to stop. People have figured out what they need to do to remain safe. We have enormous hospital capacity. We can do this.”

Intensive care units are at 88 percent capacity in the Houston area, ABC13 reports. More than 2,100 people in Texas were hospitalized with covid-19 as of Friday, according to state data tracked by The Washington Post.

“We said early on that we would lock down in order to save our hospital systems. Well, we saved our hospital systems. They weren’t even close to being overwhelmed,” Crenshaw said, adding, “I just hope that if a second wave hits like we all agree might happen, that we have learned these lessons.”

Hidalgo emphasized her concern about the rise in cases and hospitalizations with strong language Thursday.

“I am growing increasingly concerned that we may be approaching the precipice of a disaster,” Hidalgo said at a news conference. “And if we get to that precipice of a disaster, we will not be in a position to reopen successfully.”

By Angela Fritz and Kareem Copeland
June 12, 2020 at 4:48 PM EDT

Coronavirus cases in North Carolina, Arkansas, Oklahoma continue to surge

North Carolina reported its largest single-day record for coronavirus cases as it topped 40,000 total cases since the pandemic began. The North Carolina Department of Heath and Human Services reported 41,249 cases, up 1,768 from Thursday.

The state has also recorded 1,092 fatalities, up 28 from Thursday. North Carolina has now seen its daily reported cases rise for the past three days as multiple states become coronavirus hotspots.

As of Friday afternoon, Mecklenburg County, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases thus far, reported 11 straight days of triple-digit case increases. Friday, it reported 383 new cases, for 6,538 total, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.

“We continue to see a decrease in social distancing,” Mecklenburg County health director Gibbie Harris said Friday, “and before long we will be back to where we were when we put the stay-at-home order in place.”

In Arkansas, the state reported 731 new cases, the largest since the pandemic began. About 200 of the new cases are from correctional facilities. The state reported 11,547 total cases as of Friday, with 3,294 active cases, 203 hospitalized and 171 deaths.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said at a news conference on Friday that the state is not going to give a directive that everyone in the state will have to put on a mask in public since it is “not enforceable, not realistic, but it is important that we wear masks.”

In Oklahoma, the state has reported its single-day high for the first time since April 4. Its cases rose by 222 on Friday for 7,848 overall, with two additional deaths reported. Tulsa County reported its second-highest single-day cases (71), with the previous being on June 1. The county has now reported 1,443 cases overall. President Trump is returning to the 2020 campaign trail on June 19 in Tulsa.

By Samantha Pell
June 12, 2020 at 4:13 PM EDT

Orange County, Calif., residents call virus a hoax, rail against face masks

Residents of California’s Orange County will no longer be required to wear masks in public, local officials announced Thursday, as a debate over face coverings has been underway lately in some parts of the state, with a growing amount of public pushback on mask regulations.

Tensions were high in Orange County earlier in the week. The county’s top health officer abruptly resigned Tuesday after weeks of harsh attacks, and even a death threat, over her mask requirements. Nichole Quick was replaced by Clayton Chau.

On Thursday, Chau peeled back the mask order, telling the Los Angeles Times that the change was not because of public pushback but was to be consistent with recent state guidance. California allows each county to set its own policy on masks.

However, criticism of the mask requirements had come from far and wide over the past few weeks. A video that has been circulating on social media this week showed more than 100 people going to an Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting to speak out against the county’s face-mask regulations.

Residents walked up one by one to the microphone, voicing their displeasure about the regulations that had required them to wear a mask amid the pandemic.

Some complained that the virus was a “hoax,” that they have been discriminated against because they could not go into a store without a mask and that the science behind wearing these masks was incorrect and contradictory to advice from medical experts.

“You are kneeling on the necks of people, and you are continuing to act in a thuggish manner,” one woman said.

Another angrily pronounced: “This is a hoax. This is a fraud. There’s nobody dying in excess of any other year in the last decade. Are you aware of this?”

Orange County had reported 8,153 coronavirus cases and 210 coronavirus-related fatalities as of Friday.

By Samantha Pell
June 12, 2020 at 4:03 PM EDT

Beijing closes food markets after days of new coronavirus infections

Just a day after Beijing announced the first new coronavirus infection in almost two months, officials in the capital city said Friday that two more cases have been reported, leading authorities to close multiple meat markets and delay plans to reopen schools next week.

The two men who were infected had recently visited the markets, according to state media, but it is unclear how they were exposed to the virus. The men said they did not have contact with travelers in the past two weeks, state media said. The back-to-back reports of new infections have raised concerns about a potential second wave of the coronavirus, echoing the fears of other national governments that have begun to ease lockdown measures even as the virus has not fully subsided.

Last month, tensions between the United States and China eased somewhat after Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to an independent evaluation of the country’s response to the coronavirus once the pandemic ends. Before that concession, China had been in bitter opposition to a proposal from Western governments to conduct an international inquiry into the origins of the outbreak.

As many governments are gradually reopening parts of their economies and relaxing isolation measures, Chinese officials are still urging a crisis mentality to prevent a second wave.

“Until there is final victory in epidemic prevention and control, it is necessary to maintain wartime status at all times and resolutely eliminate the possibility of an epidemic rebound,” Beijing government spokesperson Xu Hejian said at a Friday news conference, according to CBS News.

By Hamza Shaban
June 12, 2020 at 4:02 PM EDT

Republican National Convention will take place in a full arena, Jacksonville mayor says

Participants in the Republican National Convention this summer should anticipate sitting in a full arena without social distancing measures in place, Jacksonville, Fla., Mayor Lenny Curry (R) said Friday.

“If circumstances change in the interest of public health, obviously the RNC, the president, myself — if there was an unexpected outbreak, health risk, hospitalization systems that couldn’t handle it — we would obviously adapt at that point in time,” Curry said during an appearance on Fox Business. “But we are on the road to full recovery, and we expect to have a convention that demonstrates that Jacksonville is open for business.”

Curry said his city is experiencing a decrease in hospitalizations and in the percentage of coronavirus tests that come back positive. The daily case total in Duval County, where Jacksonville is located, continues to rise.

The Republican National Committee announced Thursday that most of the convention’s events, scheduled for Aug. 24 through 27, will move to Jacksonville from Charlotte, after Trump said he wanted the convention to take place in a city that would let him speak to a full arena. The RNC has also said that it does not want face masks to be required during the president’s speech.

Curry said he expects the convention to draw tens of thousands of people to Jacksonville and to earn $100 million for the city.

By Marisa Iati
June 12, 2020 at 3:12 PM EDT

Illinois governor cancels state fair

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced on Friday that he will issue an executive order canceling the Illinois and Du Quoin state fairs because of the potential to spread the coronavirus.

“This is the right choice based on guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health and other experts,” he said in a statement. “We have to prioritize keeping our people safe.”

Young Illinois exhibitors between the ages of 8 and 21 will be given the opportunity to participate in the Department of Agriculture-hosted Junior Livestock Expo in Springfield in September because of the fair cancellations.

The fair was last canceled from 1942 to 1945 because the grounds were used as a U.S. Army Air Forces supply depot during World War II, according to the governor’s office. This is the first time that the Du Quoin fair will be canceled.

Illinois residents joins other states with scrapped summer staples because of coronavirus concerns.

Last month, organizers announced that cancellation of the Minnesota State Fair, and Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) called off the state’s six biggest rodeos this summer, which included the Sheridan WYO Rodeo.

By Lateshia Beachum
June 12, 2020 at 3:05 PM EDT

Pandemic deepens economic pain at Trump’s company

The head of President Trump’s flagship hotel stood on Pennsylvania Avenue with face mask on and two thumbs up.

After three brutal months of empty hotel rooms and a skeleton staff, Mickael Damelincourt finally had something to celebrate: new sidewalk seating to safely welcome back Trump’s MAGA-loving customers. “Let’s get back to work,” Damelincourt tweeted on May 28.

By the next day, Trump was in his underground bunker, protesters swarmed downtown Washington cursing Trump’s name, and the hotel’s outdoor seating experiment was tabled.

The whiplash at Trump’s D.C. hotel is emblematic of the problems faced by his company, which was already suffering from a tarnished brand before the novel coronavirus hit. The fresh wave of political anger directed toward Trump complicates an already difficult recovery for the company.

Read more here.

By Josh Partlow, David Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell
June 12, 2020 at 2:21 PM EDT

Analysis: What voting by mail looks like when it works

Voting by mail will be new to millions of Americans this summer and fall as more states make moves to allow people to vote absentee rather than in person amid a pandemic.

President Trump has been adding to the sense of uncertainty about voting by alleging that vote-by-mail could lead to “massive fraud and abuse.” A recent Washington Post analysis found only a minuscule number of potentially fraudulent mailed ballots in elections in 2016 and 2018.

So what needs to happen for voting by mail to go right? The Fix talked to Amber McReynolds, the election official who in 2013 set up voting by mail in Colorado. It’s one of five states that was regularly holding elections by mail before the pandemic.

Read more here.

By Amber Phillips
June 12, 2020 at 1:22 PM EDT

Oregon pauses reopening for a week amid rising infections and hospitalizations

Oregon has put a one-week pause on counties’ reopening applications amid evidence that coronavirus infections are rising in both urban and rural parts of the state, Gov. Kate Brown (D) said Friday at a news conference.

The move is intended to give public health experts time to determine why the virus is spreading and whether the state needs to modify its reopening plan. Brown said she planned to work with those experts to decide whether to extend the pause, lift it early or take other action to stem the spread.

“This is essentially a statewide yellow light,” she said.

Of Oregon’s 36 counties, 29 are in Phase 2 of reopening, six are in Phase 1, and one has not begun to reopen. Brown’s order freezes in place each county’s status.

Health officials analyzing the state’s coronavirus data have noted reasons for concern, said Pat Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority. The state recorded 178 infections on Thursday, its highest number since the outbreak began. Although testing has increased, Allen said the percentage of positive results has risen from 1.9 percent to 3 percent.

Emergency department visits have decreased, but overall hospitalizations have increased. Allen said the state is also facing large outbreaks in workplaces, including a seafood wholesaler in Lincoln County.

State Health Officer Dean Sidelinger told reporters that as of Friday morning, Oregon officials had not identified a positive case of the coronavirus in someone who recently attended a protest of police brutality.

By Marisa Iati
June 12, 2020 at 1:00 PM EDT

CDC suggests organizers of large gatherings ‘strongly encourage’ use of face masks

Federal health officials on Friday urged organizers of large gatherings that involve shouting, chanting or singing to “strongly encourage” the use of cloth face coverings to lower the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

The guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comes after more than a week of national protests against police brutality at which many attendees and police did not wear masks.

The recommendations also come as President Trump announced plans to hit the campaign trail next week and to accept his party’s nomination in Jacksonville, Fla. The Republican National Committee has indicated it does not want to require participants to wear masks for the speech.

The CDC said event planners should consider several strategies, from broadcasting regular announcements about steps attendees could take to reduce the virus’s spread, to limiting seating capacity to allow for social distancing, to reconfiguring parking lots to limit congregation points. It also suggested working with local officials to identify how to separate people with covid-like symptoms, or those who have tested positive for the virus but do not have symptoms.

Separately, the CDC also laid out recommendations to help individuals reduce their own risk for infection as they resume daily activities.

Besides urging people to continue precautions such as hand-washing, wearing face coverings, and keeping six feet apart, it made specific suggestions for certain activities, including:

  • Going to the bank — Use drive-through services or ATMs.
  • Hosting a cookout — Encourage people to bring their own food and drinks and identify one person to serve shareable items.
  • Traveling overnight — Consider taking the stairs at hotels, or wait to ride alone in the elevator or only with people from your household.

Read more here.

By Lena H. Sun
June 12, 2020 at 12:47 PM EDT

Canada mandates temperature screening for air passengers

TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday said Canada would be mandating temperature checks for air passengers, a move he said would add “another layer of protection” in the country’s battle against the coronavirus.

“Our government is mandating temperature checks before boarding as part of stepped-up airport screening measures for air passengers through a phased approach, first for those traveling to Canada, then for those traveling from Canada and finally for those traveling within Canada,” he said.

Any passenger with a fever will be prohibited from boarding, he said.

Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, dismissed temperature checks last month as “not effective at all.”

Asked about the change in message, Trudeau said the screening will not be a “panacea.”

“It is an extra layer of safety,” he said.

By Amanda Coletta
June 12, 2020 at 12:07 PM EDT

Florida fired its top coronavirus data scientist. She started publishing the statistics on her own.

Florida wanted to get rid of its top geographic data scientist. The researcher wanted to publish her analysis of the state’s coronavirus data.

So after the Florida Health Department fired her on May 18, Rebekah Jones decided to start publicizing the statistics on her own, according to the Palm Beach Post. She created FloridaCOVIDAction.com, which gives a higher case total and a lower number of people tested than data published by the state.

Jones told the Post that the health department limited the data she could publish while she worked there and that some of her findings raise questions about Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s push to reopen the Florida economy.

“I decided to stop wallowing in self-pity and do something constructive, something useful with the skill set I’ve been using for so long,” Jones told the Post. “People have a right to know what’s going on in a straightforward, nonpolitical kind of way.”

Jones and DeSantis have offered different explanations for why the state terminated her. Jones alleges that she was pushed out because she refused to censor data, while DeSantis told reporters that she was fired for several reasons, including that “she didn’t listen to the people who were her superiors.”

On Friday, Jones’s website counted 75,897 people with coronavirus infections in Florida, while the state site tallied 70,971. Jones said her total includes people who have tested positive for antibodies — proteins that indicate that someone had the virus in their system.

Terry Adirim, chairwoman of Florida Atlantic University’s Department of Integrated Biomedical Science, warned the Post that counting people who have tested positive for antibodies is risky because antibody tests render more false positives than virus tests.

By Marisa Iati
June 12, 2020 at 11:48 AM EDT

Airlines are suing U.K. to lift self-isolation rules for travelers

A group of airlines in the United Kingdom is challenging the British government to lift what they say are onerous travel restrictions that will destroy jobs and devastate the tourism industry.

British Airways, Ryanair and EasyJet are suing to force judges to review a new rule from the British Home Office that requires all incoming travelers to self-isolate for 14 days.

Instituted for the first time on Monday, the new policy was designed to prevent a resurgent outbreak of the coronavirus from outside the country, the Home Office says. The spread of the virus has slowed in Britain, and government officials say public health measures have proved successful in dropping what’s known as the reproduction number — the average number of new people infected by a sick person — below one. But as in other nations that have suffered serious outbreaks, the goal of health officials has shifted to prevent a deadly second wave.

“As the number of infections within the U.K. drops, we must now manage the risk of transmissions being reintroduced from elsewhere,” John Aston, the Home Office chief scientific adviser, said in a statement announcing the new travel measures for arriving passengers.

The alliance of airlines argues that the rule unfairly punishes travelers from countries that have low infection rates. By mandating self-quarantining, the group says, the rule will discourage travelers from coming to Britain, even as the country has eased lockdown measures and begins to reopen segments of the economy for the summer.

A previous self-isolation rule was in effect in Britain but applied only to a subset of travelers from countries with a high risk of infection. The new policy applies to all countries with few exceptions.

The British government has said it will continue to review travel restrictions as new scientific evidence emerges. Britain will also consider special agreements with countries that have low infection rates, removing the need for self-quarantines.

By Hamza Shaban
June 12, 2020 at 11:17 AM EDT

Research underscores how punitive U.S. criminal justice system is a coronavirus risk factor

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, public health experts singled out prisons and jails as severe outbreak risks, prompting calls to release inmates to mitigate its spread.

Those warnings proved prescient. Eight of the 10 largest clusters of the novel coronavirus in the United States are now in jails and correctional facilities, according to data compiled by the New York Times. New peer-reviewed research, published in the journal Health Affairs, shows that those outbreaks have ripple effects that extend far beyond institutional walls.

As of mid-April, the study found, nearly 16 percent of coronavirus infections in Illinois could be linked to a single source: the Cook County Jail in Chicago. The authors say the data highlight how the punitive U.S. criminal justice system — with its particular reliance on arrest and incarceration — is a risk factor that makes everyone in the country more vulnerable to a pandemic.

For the study, the researchers obtained data from the Cook County Jail on the entrance, release and covid-19 status of thousands of inmates who were incarcerated in the facility in March. In contrast to prisons, which typically house long-term inmates serving out their punishment, most jail stays are brief: The majority of jail inmates are accused, but not convicted, individuals awaiting their day in court.

As a result, there is considerable “cycling” between jails and the communities around them. People are arrested, housed temporarily in cramped conditions highly conducive to the spread of infectious-disease and then either released back into the community or sent on to other detention centers to serve out their sentences. Staffers who make daily trips between jail facilities and their homes represent another possible vector of community spread.

Read more here.

By Christopher Ingraham
June 12, 2020 at 10:10 AM EDT

Dow pops nearly 700 points following worst sell-off since March

Wall Street is back in buying mode, with the Dow Jones industrial average jumping nearly 700 points at the opening bell after a reality check sell-off lopped 6.9 percent from the blue-chip index.

A steady rise in coronavirus cases and a sobering economic outlook from the Federal Reserve — which expects unemployment to hover near 9.3 percent by year’s end — sparked a massive sell-off Thursday that sent the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index skidding 5.9 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index tumbling 5.3 percent.

On Friday, the Dow jumped 680 points, or 2.7 percent, before retreating slightly. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq each climbed more than 2.3 percent.

“Forecasts haven’t worried investors for now and we’ll need to see dramatically bigger spikes in new cases for states to even consider tightening lockdown measures again,” Craig Erlam, an analyst with OANDA, wrote in comments emailed Friday to The Washington Post. “This feels like more of an excuse to take some profit in a market that has bounced back remarkably to the point that there’s a huge disconnect between stock markets and economic reality.”

Read more here.

By Taylor Telford
June 12, 2020 at 9:32 AM EDT

General Motors declines request to close plant for cleaning after 5 test positive for coronavirus, report says

General Motors rejected a request from one of its unions to temporarily close its plant in Wentzville, Mo., after five workers there tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the Detroit Free Press reported.

UAW Local 2250 President Glenn Kage told the newspaper that the union asked the automaker to shut down the factory — located about 40 miles northwest of St. Louis — for 14 days to do a deep clean after a worker was confirmed to have the virus Monday and the number of infections reached five by Thursday.

GM leadership told the union that five infections out of 4,100 workers constituted a small percentage, Kage told the Free Press. The union, however, worried that it would spread because three of the five infected employees worked in the same area.

Representatives of GM did not immediately respond to questions from The Washington Post, but a spokesman told the Free Press that the company is trying to keep the coronavirus from infecting workers and engaging in contact tracing if someone does contract it.

The plant’s safety measures include checking workers’ temperatures, social distancing on the assembly line, keeping the room cool and maintaining plexiglass dividers at every break table, according to the Free Press. GM spokesman Jim Cain told the newspaper that none of the company’s factories have had to pause production because of the coronavirus since many plants reopened May 18.

By Marisa Iati
June 12, 2020 at 9:30 AM EDT

RNC chairwoman promises ‘packed arena’ at its convention site in August

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Friday that the party will have a “packed arena” at its national convention in Jacksonville, Fla., citing that as a difference with what would have happened in Charlotte.

McDaniel’s comments on Fox News came a day after the RNC formally announced it is moving President Trump’s renomination speech and other convention festivities to Jacksonville after the original site refused to go along with Trump’s demands for a crowded large-scale event amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re obviously going to put safety checks in place to make sure the convention goers are safe,” McDaniels said. “But we’re going to have a packed arena, and we’re going to recognize the renomination of our president as we go on to reelect him in November, and it’s going to be a great celebration.”

McDaniel said that “it became very apparent” that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) “was not going to give us guidelines so that we could hold our convention. And we had to move the celebration part to Florida, but we’ll still have the business of the convention in North Carolina. We love both states.”

Some lower-profile convention events will remain in Charlotte because of signed contracts requiring some activities there.

By John Wagner and Annie Linskey
June 12, 2020 at 9:04 AM EDT

Asylum seekers are risking their lives to help Canada fight the coronavirus. The government is considering upgrading their status.

TORONTO — As she watched the coronavirus close schools, businesses and borders, Gaëlle Ledan sometimes became so overwhelmed she lost her appetite. But the 36-year-old asylum seeker, a physician in her native Haiti, said she never thought about quitting her job as a nursing assistant at the seniors’ home in Montreal, where she has worked for two years.

“I thought, ‘You have to give your best and make people’s lives better,’ ” Ledan said. “I was there for better or for worse.”

Ledan is one of at least several hundred asylum seekers risking their lives, and in some cases dying, for as little as $10 an hour in the trenches of Canada’s coronavirus fight, working the “essential” jobs few Canadians want, even as their own futures in the country remain uncertain. Now, under pressure from advocacy groups and some lawmakers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is considering ways to recognize their contributions, including regularizing their legal status.

Read more here.

By Amanda Coletta
June 12, 2020 at 8:51 AM EDT

Advertisers look for influencers with ‘authentic’ messaging during protests and the pandemic

Social media influencers — who promote products or sell their own online to followers — have never been more visible than they have in the last three months, as people stay home and scroll through Instagram, TikTok and YouTube for hours during the coronavirus pandemic. Influencers hold outsize power to speak to their hundreds of thousands of followers, and they often earn between $100 and more than $1,000 per post, depending on how big their following is.

The rise of influencers, who typically document huge swaths of their lives with videos and photos as they advertise products ranging from makeup to mattresses to meals, has fundamentally changed the way many younger consumers shop. The group includes well-known names like the Kardashians and more niche accounts focused on organization, wellness or fashion. But just one well-placed post by an influencer with tens of thousands or even millions of followers can make or break a product — and even sell it out in seconds.

Companies spent an estimated $5.2 billion on influencer marketing on Instagram in 2019, according to social media analytics firm HypeAuditor. That number could reach up to $6.5 billion in 2020.

But as with many career fields, the global pandemic — and the subsequent protests that have swept the nation to support the Black Lives Matter movement — has fundamentally changed the way these influencers do their jobs. Authenticity is now a make-or-break quality for millions of followers, as well as brands seeking a way to connect with consumers in an uncertain time. Influencers are carefully trying to navigate political activism, appearing in touch during an economic meltdown and partnering with the right brands, all while continuing to earn a living.

Read more here.

By Rachel Lerman
June 12, 2020 at 7:49 AM EDT

Canada considers upgrading status of asylum seekers involved in coronavirus response

As she watched the coronavirus close schools, businesses and borders, Gaëlle Ledan sometimes became so overwhelmed that she lost her appetite. But the 36-year-old asylum seeker, a physician in her native Haiti, said she never thought about quitting her job as a nursing assistant at the seniors’ home in Montreal where she has worked for two years.

“I thought, ‘You have to give your best and make people’s lives better,’ ” Ledan said. “I was there for better or for worse.”

Ledan is one of at least several hundred asylum seekers risking their lives, and in some cases dying, for as little as $10 an hour in the trenches of Canada’s coronavirus fight, working the “essential” jobs that few Canadians want, even as their own futures in the country remain uncertain. Now, under pressure from advocacy groups and some lawmakers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is considering ways to recognize their contributions, including regularizing their legal status.

Read more here.

By Amanda Coletta
June 12, 2020 at 7:10 AM EDT

Senators weigh allowing corporations to accelerate federal tax breaks in next coronavirus bill

Some Senate Finance Committee members are studying a proposal that would allow corporations to claim a bevy of federal tax credits in 2020 that they would otherwise be ineligible to receive until future years, according to four people with knowledge of internal deliberations.

Powerful members of Washington’s business lobby, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are asking lawmakers to include the tax change in the next congressional legislation being taken up to combat the novel coronavirus, these people said.

Under current law, corporations are generally not allowed to claim federal tax credits if the credits exceed their overall tax liability, meaning they cannot receive more from the government than they pay in. If corporations cannot claim their federal tax credits, they can roll them into future years. The current proposal being discussed by several Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee would void that limit, allowing businesses to “cash out” on all their credits this year. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to frankly discuss internal deliberations.

Read more here.

By Jeff Stein
June 12, 2020 at 6:45 AM EDT

Italian prosecutors arrive for questioning of Prime Minister Conte over pandemic response

ROME — Italian prosecutors arrived for the questioning of the country’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, on Friday as part of an inquiry into how the coronavirus was able to cut such a devastating path through the northern province of Bergamo.

Prosecutors were also expected to question the interior and health ministers, according to the Associated Press.

Scrutiny of the government’s decision-making in the early stages of the pandemic is part of a broader debate in Italy about whether political errors magnified the scale of the disaster and who deserves blame.

Conte’s approval ratings had initially surged in response to the crisis. Even though they have slightly declined in recent weeks, according to polls by the Ixè Institute, he remains ahead of his competitors nationally.

In the north of the country — where Bergamo is located — Conte has been heavily criticized by regional leaders aligned with the far-right League party, however.

On Wednesday, Conte emphasized that he is being called by prosecutors only as a witness and said he is “not worried at all.”

According to Italian media reports, part of the inquiry now underway focuses on the question of why two hot spots in Bergamo — the towns of Nembro and Alzano — were not sealed off in the weeks before Conte announced a regional and then nationwide lockdown.

As the virus emerged in Italy, the government initially locked down 11 small towns, but they were all in other provinces, and it was clear almost immediately that the majority of coronavirus cases appeared to be outside those towns. With prevention measures delayed, the virus surged in Bergamo. The area suffered a higher spike in deaths than any other area of Europe.

Noack reported from Berlin.

By Chico Harlan and Rick Noack
June 12, 2020 at 6:10 AM EDT

With virus all but eliminated, Australia lifts nearly all restrictions

Most parts of Australia have entirely eliminated the coronavirus, officials said Friday, as they announced that concert crowds, fans in stadiums and even students from abroad can all return next month.

Brendan Murphy, the country’s top medical officer, said fewer than 40 infections have been recorded over the past week. More than half of those cases were in travelers who recently returned home from overseas or who had already been isolating themselves.

“We have effectively achieved elimination at this time in many parts of the country,” Murphy said at a news conference, according to Reuters.

Last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a three-step plan to lift most restrictions by July. But as case numbers dropped faster than expected, officials decided to lift the cap on all but the largest gatherings.

In July, as many as 10,000 people will be allowed in seated stadiums at once, although — like restaurants and other sites — the venues must limit occupancy to one person for every four square meters (43 square feet).

Officials are also finalizing plans that would allow foreign students to fly in for classes, although only after undergoing a quarantine, he said. Australian universities, which rely heavily on international students, have faced mounting financial losses during the pandemic.

Despite the low case count, Australia’s states and territories have remained reluctant to allow domestic travel, Reuters reported. Morrison has urged them to reopen internal borders, threatening to delay the arrival of foreign students if they do not move ahead soon.

“If someone can’t come to your state from Sydney, then someone can’t come to your state from Singapore,” he said.

Morrison also warned that large Black Lives Matter rallies, including some last weekend that drew tens of thousands of people, could complicate the path to reopen.

By Teo Armus
June 12, 2020 at 6:06 AM EDT

What does a theater company do when it can’t make theater? Make a film.

The idea struck Molly Smith, Arena Stage’s artistic director, on a morning of the pandemic when she was reading the newspaper and reflecting on what a theater company might make when it can’t make theater:

Capture the moment, in the manner of a news crew.

“Newspapers do really well with thumbnail sketches, and I thought, ‘Why aren’t we doing this?’ ” she recalled. “What if we interviewed 10 diverse people in one day, with really good writers. A real snapshot in time. A love letter to this area. Something to say: ‘This happened here.’ ” And so, a renowned theater company has taken a novel turn — into moviemaking.

Read more here.

By Peter Marks
June 12, 2020 at 5:44 AM EDT

DeVos doubles down on policy shutting vulnerable college students out of emergency grants

After instances of confusing and often conflicting guidance, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a regulation Thursday that officially bars millions of college students from pandemic relief grants.

The interim final rule, which is effective immediately, doubles down on previous guidelines from the Education Department narrowing student eligibility for more than $6 billion in emergency grant aid set aside for college students in the stimulus package. It asserts that only those who can participate in federal student aid programs can receive money, shutting out undocumented and international students, as well as those with defaulted student loans or minor drug convictions.

Read more here.

By Danielle Douglas-Gabriel
June 12, 2020 at 5:19 AM EDT

Graves and crosses on famous Rio beach honor Brazil’s dead

Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach is famous for its festivities, from volleyball matches at the 2016 Olympics to one of the largest New Year’s Eve celebrations in the world.

But on Thursday, it became a site of protest, dotted with 100 mock graves and black crosses in the sand, in tribute to the more than 40,000 Brazilians who have died of covid-19.

Demonstrators with the human rights group Rio de Paz dug the graves overnight, across from the ritzy Copacabana Hotel, as a way to critique their government’s lackadaisical response to the virus.

With more than 800,000 confirmed infections, Brazil has become one of the pandemic’s most volatile hot spots. Only the United States has reported more cases.

President Jair Bolsonaro has been widely criticized for dismissing the severity of the pandemic, urging the country to reopen and pushing out two consecutive health ministers. Last week, his government for several days stopped releasing key data on fatalities and cases.

“The president has not realized that this is one of the most dramatic crises in Brazil’s history,” Antonio Carlos Costa, who helped organize the protest, told Reuters.

As families mourn thousands of deaths, and others suffer from unemployment and hunger, Bolsonaro has failed to show solidarity with the nation’s suffering, Costa said.

After one angry passerby on the beach pulled out the crosses Thursday, one man went around and put them back up, one by one. He had lost his 25-year-old son to the virus, he told Reuters.

By Teo Armus
June 12, 2020 at 5:06 AM EDT

White House reportedly eyeing Mexico as source of rising infections

The White House is contemplating a theory that legal cross-border travel from Mexico may be causing a recent rise in coronavirus infections, the Associated Press reported, instead of newly loosened restrictions on businesses and public life.

The idea came up during a meeting Thursday of the federal administration’s coronavirus task force, which has been working to identify similarities among new hot spots in the United States, according to the news agency.

The United States’ recent rise in coronavirus cases appears to be hitting the Southwest especially hard. Hospitals are nearing capacity in Arizona, and more patients are being hospitalized in Texas. But in states far from the border region, such as North Carolina, Hispanic populations have experienced a worrying uptick in infections, too.

As the pandemic rages in parts of Mexico, the task force is examining whether those outbreaks may be spreading through legal travel, the AP reported. President Trump has regularly scapegoated the United States’ southern neighbor.

While nonessential travel across the border remains prohibited and traffic is down substantially, commercial transport and agricultural workers are still allowed entry to the United States. Small community hospitals in Southern California have been flooded with Americans who live along the border and cross it regularly during normal conditions, The Washington Post’s Kevin Sieff has reported.

With outbreaks spreading in northern Mexican cities such as Tijuana, the Trump administration has been urging Mexican officials to reopen — or keep open — many of the assembly plants there that feed into U.S. manufacturing supply chains, even as workers fall ill.

More than 133,000 infections have been confirmed in Mexico, and nearly 16,000 people have died. Those figures are a fraction of the totals in the United States, but they nonetheless amount to the fourth-largest coronavirus outbreak in Latin America.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sending teams to U.S. hot spots to conduct further research, the AP reported.

By Teo Armus
June 12, 2020 at 4:41 AM EDT

Britain’s economy shrinks by record 20.4 percent in April

LONDON — Britain’s economy shrank by 20.4 percent in April, its largest monthly fall on record, amid the global health crisis and lockdown restrictions that the government imposed March 23 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

After the United States, Britain has the second-highest covid-19 death toll, with at least 41,364 fatalities. With stay-at-home measures in place, millions of workers were furloughed as businesses ground to a halt.

The economy had “experienced a significant shock,” the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Friday, adding that almost all sectors had suffered a catastrophic hit from the pandemic.

April’s decline in economic output was three times as great as that experienced during the 2008-2009 downturn, the ONS said, when output contracted by 6.9 percent over a 13-month period. It also followed a contraction of 5.8 percent in March compared with February, an outcome that accounted for just one week of the lockdown period.

There were “very few bright spots” in the most recent report, ONS statistician Jonathan Athow said, although he noted that the pharmaceutical industry grew partly because of increased demand for drugs to combat covid-19.

Britain’s central bank last month warned that output could plunge 25 percent in the second quarter and 14 percent this year, in what would be the steepest downturn in more than 300 years.

Still, with the country beginning to reopen, analysts are hopeful that May’s figures will reflect an improvement as the nation begins a long road to recovery.

By Jennifer Hassan
June 12, 2020 at 4:24 AM EDT

Halt in ecotourism threatens conservation efforts worldwide

In northern Cambodia, giant ibis, white-winged ducks and other rare species have helped ecotourism take flight in recent years. Just two decades after their near-extinction, the population of giant ibis has grown to about 300 birds, bringing thousands of visitors to remote areas of the country. This tourism has provided an important economic catalyst, generating critical revenue for rural communities and conservation initiatives.

But now, in Cambodia and other wild places around the world, ecotourism is in the crosshairs of a new threat — covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The consequences for both wildlife and people are still unfolding and expected to be far-reaching.

Read more here.

By Hugh Biggar
June 12, 2020 at 4:05 AM EDT

Political and health leaders’ embrace of Floyd protests fuels debate over coronavirus restrictions

The governor of Michigan attended a street protest even though it appeared to violate her own order demanding social distancing. So did Pennsylvania’s governor. Washington’s mayor for weeks had a Twitter handle that told people to “stay home” — while sharing video of protesters massing near the White House on a street emblazoned with a mural she commissioned.

Months after the coronavirus forced Americans into their homes, protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody drove hundreds of thousands of people back to the streets. Demonstrators, elected officials and public health experts said the risk of being exposed to the virus is acceptable because the protests speak to the enduring effects of racism that lie at the root of Floyd’s death and the disproportionate toll the pandemic has exacted on African Americans.

Read more here.

By Rachel Weiner
June 12, 2020 at 3:34 AM EDT

Utah study detected elevated levels of coronavirus in sewage before cases surged

Before testing confirmed a sudden surge of covid-19 cases in Utah’s rural Cache County, scientists noticed that traces of the coronavirus were showing up in sewage in significantly larger concentrations.

Those findings, which presaged an outbreak at a beef processing plant where at least 287 workers have tested positive for the coronavirus so far, indicate that monitoring wastewater can help alert public health officials to rising infection rates, the Utah Division of Water Quality said Thursday.

Along with a number of other scientists worldwide, Utah researchers have been studying whether sewage can provide early warnings about outbreaks. Because many people who contract the coronavirus don’t display symptoms and may not get tested, the researchers hope that wastewater can provide a more accurate picture of a community’s overall infection rate than the official case count.

The pilot study launched by Utah’s top three research universities in April sampled water from 10 treatment plans across the state and found elevated levels of the virus in urban areas and tourist destinations. In late May, the concentration of the coronavirus in two wastewater plants in Cache County increased dramatically. The number of cases reported in that area spiked about a week later, when officials confirmed that close to 300 workers at the meatpacking plant had contracted the virus, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

“The initial results show that we can not only detect the virus in sewage but we can see trends that are broadly consistent with known infection rates in Utah’s communities,” Erica Gaddis, director of the Utah Division of Water Quality, said in a statement. “We hope that monitoring the sewage can help in prioritizing limited state resources such as mobile testing.”

The scientists plan to expand the scope of their study in light of the encouraging early results.

By Antonia Farzan
June 12, 2020 at 3:00 AM EDT

Puerto Rico to lift most restrictions next week, even as cases may be rising

Puerto Rico will lift nearly all of its coronavirus restrictions next week, allowing beaches, churches and movie theaters to reopen even after a jump in infections earlier this month.

Starting Monday, businesses in the U.S. territory will be permitted to operate seven days a week and restaurants can be filled to 50 percent capacity, Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced (PNP) said Thursday. A tweaked version of the island’s nightly curfew will continue for another two weeks, and masks will be required in public.

“These have been hard decisions,” she said at a news conference, according to the Associated Press. “Now it’s up to each one of us … to decide where to go and how to go about it.”

Vázquez Garced’s announcement was celebrated by Puerto Rico’s business leaders, who pointed out that the island’s already battered economy lost an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion as the coronavirus shuttered many businesses for three months.

But the reopening has also worried health experts, the AP reported, who say the island has not tested enough people and has conducted the wrong kinds of test. The territory has seen more than 1,400 confirmed cases and nearly 4,000 probable cases, including at least 144 deaths, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.

This week, health officials said the island had reached its peak two months ago and urged people to maintain social distancing, noting that restrictions could return if cases go up again.

But data shows that may already be happening. Since the start of June, Puerto Rico has repeatedly recorded its highest-ever seven-day average of new coronavirus cases, data shows.

Separately on Thursday, a judge ordered the island’s education officials to open all public school cafeterias. Many of the cafeterias, which serve free meals to a mostly poor population of 292,000 students, had been closed for the past two months.

By Teo Armus
June 12, 2020 at 2:02 AM EDT

Face masks credited for lack of cases linked to Missouri hairstylists who served 140 clients while sick

Two Missouri hairstylists serviced 140 clients while sick with the coronavirus — but nearly a month later, no new covid-19 cases have been linked to the salon. That’s probably because the stylists were wearing masks, health officials said this week.

In late May, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department warned that people who got haircuts at a Great Clips in Springfield, Mo., after restrictions were lifted could have been exposed to covid-19. Two stylists had worked at the salon while symptomatic, potentially introducing the virus to 140 of their clients and six of their co-workers.

The discovery prompted Great Clips to temporarily close its franchises in the area, saying that its employees had experienced “repeated threats” and harassment after the news became public. Meanwhile, all customers and employees who were potentially exposed to the virus were given the opportunity to be tested, county health officials said.

While only 46 agreed to be tested, all the results came back negative, the health department said on Monday. Those who declined testing were quarantined for 14 days, with health officials calling twice a day to check if they developed symptoms. None did.

“This is exciting news about the value of masking to prevent covid-19,” Springfield-Greene County Director of Health Clay Goddard said in a statement. “We are studying more closely the details of these exposures, including what types of face coverings were worn and what other precautions were taken to lead to this encouraging result. We never want an exposure like this to happen, but this situation will greatly expand our understanding of how this novel coronavirus spreads.”

In addition to requiring clients and stylists to wear face coverings, the salon had also staggered appointment times and spaced out salon chairs to allow for social distancing. Those precautions probably helped too, Goddard said.

By Antonia Farzan
June 12, 2020 at 1:13 AM EDT

Presidential contender in Dominican Republic tests positive

Luis Abinader, who is narrowly favored to become the Dominican Republic’s next president, said Wednesday that he and his wife have tested positive for the coronavirus — less than a month before the elections.

“Be calm because with God’s grace we will recover quickly,” Abinader said in a video on social media.

Although the Caribbean nation has been badly hit by the global pandemic, with 1 out of every 500 people infected and a state of emergency still in place, presidential and legislative elections are still scheduled to go ahead on July 5.

As a tourist hub, the Dominican Republic saw the virus spread rapidly compared with other countries in the region. More than 560 fatalities have been reported, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

The coronavirus outbreak had already postponed elections from their original date in May. More than 7 million people are expected to cast their ballots, according to Reuters.

Abinader, the 52-year-old founder and head of the opposition Modern Revolutionary Party, said he and his wife were isolating at home. He is not a high-risk patient and doctors expect him to recover quickly, they said.

Reuters reported that Abinader is leading in polls with 39 percent of the vote, ahead of Gonzalo Castillo, the ruling party’s candidate, by about two points. If neither candidate obtains an absolute majority, they will face a runoff later in July.

President Danilo Medina wished Abinader a speedy recovery on Twitter, writing, “You have all our support and solidarity."

By Teo Armus
June 12, 2020 at 12:46 AM EDT

The veteran nurse could have taken easier jobs. She chose to work in a correctional facility that’s now a covid-19 hot spot.

Daisy Doronila was the youngest of five sisters born in Manila. She came from humble beginnings, said her daughter, Denise Rendor. Nursing was a way to rise above her circumstances. She ended up loving it.

Doronila worked as a nurse in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, for a few years before coming to the United States, where she had always dreamed of living. Her first jobs were in California, at a medical center serving mostly the poor in South Los Angeles and at a juvenile detention facility. When she accepted a job 20 years ago at the Hudson County Correctional Center in New Jersey, many of her friends were puzzled. A veteran nurse, she had many other offers to work in less intense settings, but Rendor said her mom felt moved to work at the correctional facility.

“She wanted to take care of vulnerable people. She felt like someone needed to be there,” Rendor said.

Read more here.

By Ariana Eunjung Cha and Brittany Shammas
June 12, 2020 at 12:12 AM EDT

Governments urge singles to find a ‘cuddle buddy’ or ‘support bubble’ during pandemic

Dating before the coronavirus pandemic, two people on a first encounter might discuss where they see their future going or whether they are seeing other people. Dating during the outbreak has demanded a different dealbreaker: What are their social distancing practices?

Governments, which often already champion monogamy through tax structures and other policies, are similarly concerned about promoting the integrity of couples because of a shared interest: containing the spread of the virus.

Behold the “support bubble,” as the British prime minister has dubbed it, the world’s latest dating fad — or so some public health experts hope.

Read more here.

By Miriam Berger and Jennifer Hassan
June 12, 2020 at 12:12 AM EDT

Trump’s Tulsa campaign rally sign-up page includes coronavirus liability disclaimer

The sign-up page for tickets to President Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa next week includes something that hasn’t appeared ahead of previous rallies: a disclaimer noting that attendees “voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19” and agree not to hold the campaign or venue liable should they get sick.

Trump’s reelection campaign announced Thursday that the president’s next “Make America Great Again” rally will be held June 19 at the BOK Center.

The rally comes as the United States has surpassed 2 million confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, with more than 112,000 people dead.

Read more here.

By Felicia Sonmez
June 12, 2020 at 12:11 AM EDT

Amid a rise in infections, Oregon halts reopening requests from counties

Oregon will temporarily stop its counties from loosening coronavirus restrictions, Gov. Kate Brown (D) said late Thursday, amid a concerning increase in infections across the state.

For the next seven days, all counties will remain at their current phase of reopening. Multnomah County, which includes the city of Portland and has not yet reopened, will continue at the strictest stage of closures and stay-at-home orders.

“Think of it as a statewide ‘yellow light,’” Brown wrote on Twitter. “This one-week pause will give public health experts time to assess what factors are driving the spread of the virus.”

According to data tracked by The Washington Post, Oregon on Thursday hit a record high for its rolling average of new cases reported over a seven-day period. State officials also posted the highest number of infections in a single day since the start of the pandemic.

The governor said Oregon has seen rising case counts in some cities as well as rural areas. With several other states across the West and Southeast, including Texas, Utah and California, it appears to be emerging as part of a “second wave” of infections.

By Teo Armus