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People with chronic health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes were hospitalized six times more often than otherwise healthy individuals infected with the coronavirus during the first four months of the pandemic, and they died 12 times more often, according to a new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The data are consistent with earlier reports showing the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on people with underlying medical conditions. The report also highlighted the disease’s stark disparities between whites and minority groups.

More than 114,000 people have died of the coronavirus in the United States, and nearly 2.1 million cases have been reported.

Here are some significant developments:

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June 15, 2020 at 11:26 PM EDT

Fashion was broken even before the pandemic. A reboot could be just what it needs.

It has been a lie. Fashion — as a business — has been a beautiful, intoxicating, unsustainable lie. Not all of it, but much of it. It didn’t start that way, but that’s what it ultimately became.

The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has made this truth plain.

For years, designers spun whimsical garments that tantalized the imagination but mostly didn’t sell; it was their more pragmatic styles that made the cash registers sing. Success was a fabulist tale of prepaid celebrity endorsements and social media impressions.

Bricks-and-mortar retailers opened outlet after outlet, e-commerce expanded its reach, all while discounting merchandise that customers refused to buy until it was discounted even more.

For shoppers, fashion was an all-encompassing pop culture phenomenon — but a phenomenon is not necessarily a good business.

Read more here.

By Robin Givhan
June 15, 2020 at 10:59 PM EDT

Trump signals a move past coronavirus with rallies, even as cases spike in many states

President Trump is defying Tulsa’s top public health official by pressing ahead with a massive indoor political rally there. Scores of his aides have been reporting to work in their office cubicles at his campaign headquarters. Virtually nobody around the president — neither White House staffers nor Secret Service agents — regularly wears a face mask anymore. And social distancing is a thing of the past.

To observe Trump and his entourage this month as he prepares to resume normal campaign activity coast to coast could lead one to conclude that the coronavirus pandemic is over.

In reality, the virus continues to ravage the United States and is fast spreading in some mid- and small-sized cities that avoided bad outbreaks this spring. Recent spikes in coronavirus cases have been recorded in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and Oklahoma — all states where Trump has said he plans to soon hold campaign rallies.

“It is the ultimate powder keg,” Kavita Patel, a primary care physician and former senior adviser in the Obama White House, said of political rallies. “And this won’t be just one rally. It’s a sequence of rallies. They won’t stop. That’s Donald Trump throwing a match in.”

Read more here.

By Philip Rucker, Josh Partlow and Isaac Stanley-Becker
June 15, 2020 at 10:37 PM EDT

U.S. Open intends to play on schedule, but will tennis’s top players show up?

U.S. Open officials plan to announce this week that they’ll stage the tournament as scheduled, beginning Aug. 31 in New York, pending sign-off by local health officials, according to people with direct knowledge of the deliberations.

After weeks of conference calls with the governing bodies with a stake in professional tennis, including the men’s and women’s pro tours, organizers have devised a plan to hold the Grand Slam event at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., under unprecedented restrictions because of the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 114,000 Americans and over 430,000 worldwide.

No spectators will be permitted, and players will be required to follow rules and precautions that world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, a three-time U.S. Open champion, has called “extreme” and hinted is a possible dealbreaker for his participation.

Read more here.

By Liz Clarke
June 15, 2020 at 10:12 PM EDT

Ohio to send application forms for absentee ballots to all registered voters

With concerns about the novel coronavirus expected to carry into the fall, Ohio will send application request forms for absentee ballots to all 7.8 million registered voters ahead of the November elections.

“Sending the request — not the ballot — helps voters participate in the election and means each registered voter in Ohio can continue to choose one of three options available to them: early voting, absentee voting by mail, or voting in person on Election Day,” Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said, according to WFMJ.

Ohio’s announcement comes as states make preparations to accommodate voters uneasy about voting in person during the pandemic.

After Michigan and Nevada made similar announcements, President Trump threatened to withhold federal dollars, making unfounded claims that voting by mail leads to fraud.

Ohio has sent such applications to all voters for previous presidential and gubernatorial elections.

The $1.5 million cost of mailing the applications will come from federal funds.

By Steven Goff
June 15, 2020 at 9:45 PM EDT

Coronavirus recommendations ignored as case numbers rise

Coronavirus infections continued to rise in many parts of a divided nation Monday, with public health recommendations under attack from communities tired of staying home and officials eager to restart local economies.

Even as the number of infections rose and hospital beds filled in some places, voices clamored for an end to mandatory mask-wearing. And relaxation of restrictions designed to curb the novel coronavirus continued.

“They’re either just over it, or they’ve come to believe it’s a phony pandemic because their own personal grandmother hasn’t been affected yet,” said Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist at the University of California at Irvine, a city in Orange County. Elected officials last week forced the county health department to scale back a mask-wearing order. “People just think this is a nothingburger. So they think the risk is exaggerated.”

Read more here.

By Lenny Bernstein, Rachel Weiner and Joel Achenbach
June 15, 2020 at 9:10 PM EDT

MLB commissioner now says he’s ‘not confident’ there will be a 2020 season

It took just five days for Major League Baseball’s hopes of staging a 2020 season, as characterized by the person most empowered to make it happen, to go from “unequivocally” and “100 percent” certain to “not confident.” The sudden turnabout, in remarks by Commissioner Rob Manfred to ESPN, represented a new low point in the sport’s halting, bitter efforts to work out a deal with its union to salvage a season amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m not confident,” Manfred told the network Monday when asked whether he was confident there would be a 2020 season. “I think there’s a real risk. And as long as there’s no dialogue [with the union], that real risk is going to continue. … [The dispute is] just a disaster for our game, absolutely no question about it. It shouldn’t be happening, and it’s important that we find a way to get past it and get the game back on the field for the benefit of our fans. ... The owners are 100 percent committed to getting baseball back on the field. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that I’m 100 percent certain that’s going to happen.”

Read more here.

By Dave Sheinin
June 15, 2020 at 8:38 PM EDT

Airlines will step up enforcing mask policies, trade group says

A group of major American airlines will begin “vigorously” enforcing face-covering policies after reports of travelers not being held to the safety standard.

Delta, Southwest, United Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue and others will “clearly articulate” their face-covering policy to passengers and may require customers to acknowledge the policy at check-in, the Airlines for America industry trade organization announced Monday on behalf of the member companies. If passengers don’t comply, carriers can implement their own consequences, which could include suspension of flying privileges.

Crew members will also announce specific details once onboard, including consequences for violating the policy.

“U. S. airlines are very serious about requiring face coverings on their flights,” Nicholas E. Calio, the group’s president and chief executive, wrote in the statement. “Carriers are stepping up enforcement of face coverings and implementing substantial consequences for those who do not comply with the rules."

The use of face masks at airports has been sporadic, according to reports from across the country.

A tweet in May by American Airlines customer Tony Scott was shared more than 6,700 times after he wrote about a passenger seated beside him who refused to wear a mask. He said he informed an attendant, but no measures were taken. The airline’s website states that “a face covering is required while flying on American, except for very young children or anyone with a condition that prevents them from wearing one.”

United Airlines announced Monday that any passenger who does not comply will be placed on an internal travel restriction list that will take away their travel privilege on the airline for a period of time to be determined.

By Kareem Copeland
June 15, 2020 at 7:54 PM EDT

CDC: Patients with underlying conditions 12 times more likely to die of covid-19

People with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes were hospitalized six times more often than otherwise healthy individuals infected with the coronavirus during the first four months of the pandemic, and they died 12 times more often, according to a federal health report released Monday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on more than 1.7 million coronavirus cases and 103,700 deaths from covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, reported to the agency from state and territorial health departments from Jan. 22 through May 30. The data are consistent with earlier reports showing the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on people with underlying medical conditions. The report also highlighted the disease’s stark disparities between whites and minority groups.

Read more here.

By Lena H. Sun
June 15, 2020 at 7:31 PM EDT

Volunteers sign up to put their lives on the line for a vaccine

Lehua Gray, a 32-year-old product manager in Austin, wants to risk her life for a coronavirus vaccine. A cloud of potentially deadly microbes would be spritzed up her nose — if she’s allowed to a participate in what’s called a human challenge trial.

It’s built on a deceptively simple premise: Researchers inject healthy volunteers with an experimental vaccine and then expose them to a pathogen. If the vaccine prevents volunteers from getting sick, the study can accelerate development of a promising formula.

This approach has been used to test malaria and cholera vaccines — and now, in laboratories and conference rooms, preliminary discussions are unfolding about the feasibility of employing it in the quest to find a weapon against the novel coronavirus.

The obstacles are formidable. Infecting healthy people with a potentially lethal virus, with no treatment to save them from severe illness or death, raises some of the most fraught ethical, scientific and philosophical issues in the history of medicine. Exposure to pathogens in challenge trials is usually permitted only for diseases that aren’t fatal or that have treatments available. No such assurances exist for the coronavirus, which has killed more than 425,000 people worldwide.

Read more here.

By Ben Guarino and Carolyn Y. Johnson
June 15, 2020 at 7:11 PM EDT

At least 28 parishioners at West Virginia church test positive

At least 28 people who attend a church in Greenbrier County, W.Va., have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Gov. Jim Justice (R) said Monday — the latest in a string of outbreaks at churches in the state.

“We have concern like you can’t imagine in that community right now,” Justice said at a news conference in Charleston. “How many communities do we have like this in West Virginia? They’re everywhere. Absolutely, this could be your community tomorrow. This could be your church tomorrow. This could be your family tomorrow.”

Justice identified the location as Graystone Baptist Church in Lewisburg. The announcement came two days after the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources said churches in Boone, Hampshire, Jefferson and Marshall counties were also affected. Those churches were not identified, and details about the extent of the outbreaks were not released.

West Virginia’s outbreak comes three weeks after President Trump called on governors nationwide to allow churches to reopen, even in areas where pandemic shutdowns remained.

The church in Greenbrier County, which borders Virginia, will remain closed for 14 days of environmental cleaning with support from the National Guard, the state said. Free community testing began over the weekend and was extended through Monday.

“I want to strongly encourage all West Virginians, especially when in church settings, to follow the guidelines and use every other pew, maintain social distancing, and please wear masks,” Justice said.

By Steven Goff
June 15, 2020 at 6:53 PM EDT

New York attorney general asks Apple, Google to ensure tracing apps have privacy protections

New York Attorney General Letitia James urged Apple and Google to place better restrictions on health apps that have sprung up in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In letters to the tech giants, James asked for better privacy protections by third-party apps and clear notifications that differentiate those apps from government-run versions, her office announced Monday.

“As businesses open back up and Americans venture outdoors, technology can be an invaluable tool in helping us battle the coronavirus,” James wrote. “But some companies may seek to take advantage of consumers and use personal information to advertise, mine data and unethically profit off this pandemic.”

“Both Apple and Google can be invaluable partners in weeding out these bad actors and ensuring consumers are not taken advantage of by those seeking to capitalize on the fear around this public health crisis,” she added.

James requested that only apps affiliated with federal or state public health agencies be able to collect sensitive personal health information. She also asked third-party contact-tracing apps to be prohibited from collecting and using consumer information for targeted advertising.

Third-party contact-tracing apps should also be prohibited from using data to identify anonymous users, James said. The apps should be required to delete consumer information on a rolling 14-day basis, along with providing consumers an easy way to delete their own information, she said.

James also asked those third-party apps to make clear they do not use the exposure notification framework available to governmental public health agencies. She also asked the apps to disclose what type of data they collect and how consumers will be tracked.

By Kareem Copeland
June 15, 2020 at 6:17 PM EDT

Fed leaders urge Congress to spend more on coronavirus recovery

Top Federal Reserve officials on Monday urged Congress to spend more as the nation emerges from the global health crisis.

The calls came the same day that the Fed launched a new lending program for small and midsized firms and announced plans to start buying the bonds of big companies Tuesday, news that triggered a stock market rally on Wall Street.

The U.S. government can borrow money at a historically cheap rate right now after the Fed cut interest rates to zero in March and signaled that low rates are likely to remain in place through 2022. San Francisco Fed President Mary C. Daly was one of several top officials who called on Congress to invest soon in education, health care and digital infrastructure to create a stronger — and more inclusive — U.S. economy for years to come.

“We can’t wait 10 years for an economic recovery to reach everyone,” Daly said at a National Press Club event. “Inclusive growth is faster growth — and it will pay for itself in the long run.”

Read more here.

By Heather Long
June 15, 2020 at 5:47 PM EDT

WNBA to hold a shortened 22-game season without fans

The WNBA will officially play a shortened 22-game season at IMG Academy in Florida without fans, the league announced Monday.

All 12 teams will report to the Bradenton facility in early July, and the site will host training camps and games and provide housing. The league did not announce safety guidelines that will be in place to protect everyone amid the coronavirus pandemic. The contract with IMG is still being finalized.

The WNBA also announced that players would receive full pay and full benefits.

Read more here.

By Kareem Copeland
June 15, 2020 at 5:38 PM EDT

Oklahoma lawmaker who had covid-19 calls Trump rally ‘reckless’

Oklahoma lawmaker Jason Lowe brings a first-person perspective to the controversy concerning President Trump’s decision to hold a rally Saturday at a Tulsa arena, his first large-scale event since the novel coronavirus pandemic began in March.

Lowe, a Democratic state representative, had covid-19 early in the outbreak, and the thought of jamming almost 20,000 people into BOK Center while the virus remains potent scares and angers him.

“It’s reckless,” he said in an interview with The Post. “When I confronted covid, I felt like a truck hit me. To have a rally in an enclosed stadium, it’s dangerous. It puts the campaign over the citizens of Oklahoma.”

CNN reported the Tulsa Health Department is “concerned about the safety of any large gathering of people in enclosed spaces where social distancing is difficult to maintain.”

The city has reported about 1,600 confirmed cases and 62 deaths. The state on Monday said there were 186 new cases, a 21 percent increase over the previous seven-day average. Oklahoma’s death total is 359.

The Trump campaign is requiring attendees to sign a liability waiver, which, Lowe said, “is appalling in the sense of, even though a person might say, ‘Okay, I might get sick. I’m going to sign this waiver, it’s my responsibility.’ But what about the individuals he or she might infect, that did not sign a waiver, that their health is at risk? So I am very concerned about what the president is doing.”

The campaign plans to check the temperature of everyone entering the venue and will provide sanitizer and a mask, though attendees are not required to wear it.

Lowe was hospitalized for a day in late March with fatigue and fever. He said he remained sick for about 10 days and quarantined at home.

“It’s scary. I didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Lowe, who represents a district in Oklahoma City. “It’s just appalling to have a rally in an enclosed stadium. That’s just shocking. … There’s no way you should be attending this rally.”

By Steven Goff
June 15, 2020 at 5:27 PM EDT

Stock market recovers after Fed announces it will buy corporate bonds

The stock market rebounded Monday afternoon to erase its sharp slide at the opening bell, with investors upbeat after the Federal Reserve announced it would buy individual corporate bonds.

The rally came after investors expressed initial concern that the novel coronavirus pandemic could be picking up in numerous states.

The Dow Jones industrial average started with a loss around 500 points, or 2 percent, shortly after it opened at 9:30 a.m. But it recovered those losses by shortly after noon and, following the Fed’s announcement, closed up 158 points, or 0.6 percent. The Nasdaq closed up 1.4 percent.

Read more here.

By Hannah Denham
June 15, 2020 at 5:01 PM EDT

Roughly 50,000 businesses have permanently closed since March, Yelp data shows

More than 143,000 businesses have closed since the outbreak of the coronavirus in the United States, according to data released by Yelp, and about 35 percent or roughly 50,000 of those businesses are not expecting to reopen, highlighting the devastating economic impact of the pandemic on small businesses across the country.

Yelp counted closures that were marked by business owners on its platform from March 1 through June 9. Since the number of closures is an estimate of the businesses most severely impacted by shutdown measures, it’s likely that other businesses were not counted, the company said.

Even as businesses adapted to the social distancing measures put in place to prevent the spread of the virus — with offerings such as new virtual services, mobile ordering and contactless delivery — retail businesses and restaurants were among the hardest hit, according to the data.

Nearly half of all restaurants that have closed since March 1 are listed as permanent, and more than one-quarter of retail businesses are not expecting to continue their operations past the shutdown, the data shows.

“Even though local economies are starting to reopen, there’s still a long road ahead for the businesses that had to shut down,” said Justin Norman, Yelp’s vice president of data science, in a statement.

By Hamza Shaban
June 15, 2020 at 4:35 PM EDT

Arizona, Texas report spikes after reopening continues

Several states that were among the first to reopen are now reporting spikes in coronavirus cases.

Twenty-seven states reported a seven-day case average higher as of Sunday than their average a week ago, including Arizona, Georgia and Texas, according to a Washington Post data analysis.

Arizona reported 1,014 new cases Monday, continuing a two-week trend of record case counts, deaths and hospitalizations. The state has the third-highest rate of transmission in the country as of Monday. The state has tallied 36,705 coronavirus cases and 1,194 covid-19 deaths.

Texas reported 2,326 covid-19 hospitalizations Sunday, a new high. The state’s Monday numbers weren’t public as of the afternoon. Texas has totaled 87,854 coronavirus cases and 1,976 deaths. The uptick in hospitalizations in the state began after Memorial Day weekend, when health experts warned transmission could increase with more people traveling. The state announced its second phase of reopening on May 18, allowing more businesses to reopen and restaurants to increase capacity.

Governors for both states have said they do not expect to reinstate shutdown restrictions that were lifted.

“It’s not under discussion,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) said at a Thursday news briefing when asked whether he would consider restricting activity to essential businesses. Arizona’s stay-at-home order expired May 15.

Officials have cited increased testing for their states’ spikes. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said that hospitals continue to have the capacity for coronavirus patients.

On Friday, amusement parks and carnivals in Texas counties with more than 1,000 confirmed cases will be allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity.

By Meryl Kornfield
June 15, 2020 at 4:33 PM EDT

Crew member who attended race at defiant North Carolina racetrack tests positive

A crew member for one of the teams that raced at Ace Speedway, a North Carolina track shuttered after a judge ruled that it violated orders banning large outdoor gatherings, has reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus.

CARS Tour series operator Jack McNelly shared the news with competitors Saturday, the News & Observer reported, citing a story on racing news website Short Track Scene. The infected person was not identified, but Short Track Scene reported that it was a crew member present for a June 6 race.

Ace Speedway has drawn headlines for hosting about 2,000 spectators for races over the past three weekends despite a state order capping outdoor gatherings at 25 people. The track claimed its June 6 event was a peaceful protest in an apparent bid to claim that it was protected by the First Amendment.

Days after that race, on Thursday, an Alamance County judge ordered the track to temporarily close after a lawsuit filed by a state health department official, the News & Observer reported.

By Brittany Shammas
June 15, 2020 at 4:15 PM EDT

Analysis: Despite Trump’s claim, the increase in new coronavirus cases isn’t just a function of testing

Since the end of May, more than 11,000 additional Americans have died of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. There was a burst of attention paid to the death toll when it passed 100,000 at the end of last month, but since, thanks in part to other acute crises, awareness faded somewhat. That shift was also certainly a function of states beginning or continuing to scale back measures meant to contain the virus, shifts that signaled that the crisis was fading even if that wasn’t necessarily the case.

In recent days, there have been reports of new surges in coronavirus cases in a number of states. This can be misleading, since, as President Trump pointedly noted on Monday morning, more testing can uncover more cases even if rates are declining. But that’s not always the case.

By Philip Bump
June 15, 2020 at 3:32 PM EDT

‘If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any,’ Trump says

At a roundtable Monday afternoon on protecting senior citizens during the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump had a novel response when asked about the number of covid-19 cases in the U.S.

“If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

At least 2 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the United States as of Monday afternoon, and at least 114,000 Americans have died of covid-19.

Trump has frequently sought to play down the severity of the crisis in the United States as compared to other countries by arguing that the number of confirmed cases in the United States is high because of the expansion of testing capabilities here.

By Felicia Sonmez
June 15, 2020 at 3:28 PM EDT

Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott tests positive for coronavirus, agent says

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has tested positive for the novel coronavirus but is “feeling good,” his agent told the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on Monday.

Elliott is one of a number of Cowboys and Houston Texans players to test positive for the virus, Rapoport reported. None of the players is believed to have visited the teams’ facility.

The Cowboys declined to discuss Elliott’s positive test with Rapoport, citing “federal and local privacy laws.” After Rapoport broke the news of his positive test, Elliott sent a one-word tweet that read “HIPAA ??” — a reference to the federal law that protects patient privacy.

By Matt Bonesteel
June 15, 2020 at 3:23 PM EDT

The 2021 Oscars will be delayed until April because of pandemic

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Monday that the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony will be delayed two months to April 25, the latest alteration made to award season as the industry continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. The eligibility window has also been extended two months to Feb. 28, with nominations announced in mid-March.

The news arrives days after the academy announced its intention to come up with a more inclusive set of eligibility standards, one of the first explicit actions taken to diversify the slates of competing films. These standards, part of an equity initiative called Academy Aperture 2025, will be developed by a task force with the help of the Producers Guild of America and are expected to be implemented by August.

By Sonia Rao
June 15, 2020 at 3:14 PM EDT

As control measures lift, pandemic continues to grow. Here are the global hot spots.

Across continents, pandemic-weary communities are emerging from months of shutdowns and restrictions as politicians and businesses urge people to return to work. Lives have been upended, bank accounts have suffered, and many people are craving a return to old routines. But the novel coronavirus persists. Measured in terms of new confirmed cases — figures that experts agree are underestimated — it is surging rather than dwindling.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization reported the highest single-day increase since the start of the pandemic: 136,000 new infections on June 7. (The tally by Johns Hopkins University has slightly different figures.) Days later, the United States surpassed 2 million confirmed cases, cementing its place at the top of the confirmed infections ranking.

Three months after much of the world shut down, the United States, Brazil, Russia and India are reporting the highest number of new daily cases.

By Miriam Berger
June 15, 2020 at 2:43 PM EDT

Inspectors general warn Congress that Trump administration is blocking scrutiny of rescue programs

The Trump administration’s intensifying efforts to block oversight of its coronavirus-related bailout programs is raising new alarms with government watchdogs and lawmakers amid concerns about the anonymity of companies receiving unprecedented levels of taxpayer funds.

Government watchdogs warned members of Congress last week that previously unknown Trump administration legal decisions could substantially block their ability to oversee more than $1 trillion in spending related to the covid-19 pandemic.

In a letter Thursday to four congressional committee chairs, two officials in charge of a new government watchdog revealed that the Trump administration had issued legal rulings curtailing independent oversight of Cares Act funding. The letter surfaced amid growing bipartisan outrage over the administration’s decision not to disclose how it is spending hundreds of billions in aid for businesses.

Read more here.

By Tom Hamburger, Jeff Stein, Jonathan O'Connell and Aaron Gregg
June 15, 2020 at 2:12 PM EDT

Rep. Tom Rice says he and his family are recovering from covid-19

Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) said Monday that he and his family are recovering from covid-19.

In a statement posted on Facebook, Rice said he, his wife Wrenzie, and their son Lucas “are all on the mend and doing fine.”

Rice said that his son, Lucas, was the first member of his family to get sick. Then Rice became ill last Monday.

“I had a low fever and a mild cough,” he said. “It was gone by Thursday. I never stopped eating or drinking or working or moving. The only bad thing is I have completely lost sense of taste and smell. CAN’T TASTE BACON!!!”

Rice’s wife, Wrenzie, became ill Thursday, Rice said. “She is worse than I was, but nowhere near as bad as Lucas,” he said. “She has a slight fever, pretty bad cough, headache and backache. But she hasn’t quit moving.”

Rice said that he and his family are “finishing our quarantine and looking forward to seeing you all again.”

Rice’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the congressman and his wife were tested.

In his Facebook post, Rice also called the disease “the Wuhan Flu,” a phrase that some lawmakers have used in an effort to blame China for the spread of the novel coronavirus. Wuhan is the Chinese city where the first cases of the coronavirus emerged.

By Felicia Sonmez
June 15, 2020 at 1:48 PM EDT

WHO warns flu monitoring is on decline as resources are diverted for coronavirus response

Countries must continue to vigilantly monitor and share influenza information, the World Health Organization warned Monday, as health systems already burdened by the coronavirus now prepare for flu seasons.

Despite significant progress in recent years to improve international influenza outbreak surveillance, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned that there are now “significant challenges” to those monitoring systems.

“Influenza surveillance has either been suspended or is declining in many countries, and there has been a sharp decline in sharing of influenza information and viruses because of the covid-19 pandemic,” Tedros said at a Monday news conference. “Compared with the last three years, we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in the number of specimens tested for influenza globally.”

The disruptions, Tedros warned, could affect the international community’s ability “to detect and report new influenza viruses with pandemic potential.” Influenza season is already underway in the Southern Hemisphere, and coronavirus cases are still climbing steadily around the globe.

The WHO has recorded more than 7.8 million cases of the coronavirus and 430,000 deaths since the pandemic began. The first 100,000 cases, Tedros said, took two months to report. But in the past two weeks, he added, “more than 100,000 new cases have been reported almost every single day.”

Nearly three-quarters of the latest cases, he said, were recorded in just 10 countries.

By Siobhán O'Grady
June 15, 2020 at 1:22 PM EDT

Top White House economic adviser says spikes in covid-19 cases are ‘small bumps’

The White House’s top economic official said the recent spike in coronavirus cases across several states is “controllable,” and confirmed that President Trump opposes national shutdown measures even if coronavirus data were to show a significantly worsening outbreak.

Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, described the surge in cases as “relatively small bumps” during an interview that aired on Fox News on Monday morning.

“I do not want to downplay or argue against the fact that it’s happening. But I think it’s something we have to get used to. I think it’s controllable,” he said.

Kudlow’s remarks come as new infections have surged nationwide. Twenty-one states had an increase in their average daily new coronavirus cases last week, as compared to the week prior, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. In recent days, Florida and Texas both reported their highest single-day record for new cases. And the United States has surpassed 2 million confirmed cases overall, the highest total for any nation.

The number of new infections continues to climb even as states have begun to wind down coronavirus restrictions on businesses and gatherings, fueling concerns that a second wave will emerge. But, Kudlow said: “We are not intending to close down the economy. We do not believe this is a second wave.”

In contrast, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) suggested over the weekend that New York City, the worst-hit city in the country, may have to shut down again if residents don’t adhere to social-distancing guidelines.

By Hamza Shaban
June 15, 2020 at 12:53 PM EDT

More than 40,000 crew members still stranded at sea, report says

Three months after the cruise ship industry shut down over coronavirus concerns, at least 42,000 workers remain stranded at sea without paychecks, the Miami Herald reported. Some are still suffering from covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Cruise lines stopped sailing in mid-March after coronavirus outbreaks aboard ships including Carnival’s Diamond Princess, which saw 600 infections and 14 deaths. At least 65 passengers and workers have died of the virus, according to a Washington Post tally, and cruise ships have been blamed for helping its spread across the globe.

Some Caribbean countries have not allowed ships to dock in their ports because of concern over infections and deaths connected to cruise travel. In mid-April, nearly 80,000 crew members were stuck at sea.

Workers have slowly made their way to their native countries as travel restrictions are loosened, the Herald reported. About 3,000 Carnival employees were allowed off in Croatia this month, while MSC Cruises flew home more than 1,000 Indian crew members and Royal Caribbean more than 1,200 Filipino crew members.

By Brittany Shammas
June 15, 2020 at 12:20 PM EDT

NYC mayor stays home sick Monday, does not believe symptoms are from covid-19

NEW YORK — New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) was home sick Monday, canceling his daily briefing and other public appearances, but his staff said he does not believe he has covid-19.

De Blasio, who has been holding daily news conferences since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, is not planning to take a test to determine whether he has covid-19, his spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein said.

She said the mayor is experiencing “stomach issues.”

His briefings have been remote since early in the crisis, attended in person by other public officials and staff but not by reporters, who are able to call in remotely.

The mayor in recent weeks has attended protests in response to George Floyd’s police custody killing and has encouraged New Yorkers who attended the massive protests to go for novel coronavirus tests, which are free and available to anyone.

New York City — the epicenter of the worldwide pandemic — began what is expected to be a slow reopening process at the start of last week, although indoor service at bars and restaurants remains prohibited.

Large, closely packed crowds have gathered on the sidewalks and streets for outdoor imbibing and have raised concerns, sparking a public dispute between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) and de Blasio’s camp, which noted over the weekend that outdoor service is allowed per the governor’s executive order.

By Shayna Jacobs
June 15, 2020 at 11:57 AM EDT

Restaurants pause service again because of virus

Restaurants in Arizona and Florida are halting their indoor-dining service again because of staff coronavirus infections.

Fox 10 Phoenix reported that restaurants across Phoenix have closed their doors for a second time because of infections among staff. Other dining businesses have chosen to temporarily close because of active cases in their communities, according to the station.

In Florida, where the number of new coronavirus cases topped more than 2,000 for a second day, restaurants that had briefly dropped their indoor dining options to comply with state orders before the state began reopening are finding themselves in a similar position after staff members have become infected, Magic 94.9 reported.

Most businesses closing for a second time are urging all employees to get tested for the virus and are disinfecting their establishments, according to local outlets.

By Lateshia Beachum
June 15, 2020 at 11:17 AM EDT

Canadian manufacturing sales plunged a record 28.5 percent in April

Canadian manufacturing sales plunged a record 28.5 percent to $36.4 billion in April, the first month that widespread social distancing practices were in place, according to data released by the country’s statistics agency Monday.

The dramatic fall in April follows a smaller downturn in March, when sales fell by 9.8 percent as the coronavirus pandemic began to impact operations. The plunge in April was larger than what most analysts expected, with sales falling across each of the 21 industries included in the report.

The transportation equipment industry was hit particularly hard, Statistics Canada found, with sales falling 76.4 percent in April alone. Sales in the motor vehicle industry declined by 97.5 percent, a dive the agency attributed in large part to all Canadian assembly plants shutting down operations in April “while many motor vehicle parts suppliers in North America operated at limited capacity or closed operations completely.”

The petroleum and coal product industry also experienced record drops, with sales falling 46.4 percent in April. The food industry faced a 12.8 percent fall in sales, as some meat plants closed when workers tested positive for the novel coronavirus and fewer restaurants ordered dairy products.

By Siobhán O'Grady
June 15, 2020 at 10:49 AM EDT

PPE could cause drainage issues in Texas

Improper disposal of gloves, masks and cleaning wipes could threaten drainage systems in Texas, WHNT reported.

Raul Sesin, general manager for Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1 in Texas, told the station that there has been a rise in illegal discarding of items used to protect individuals from infection during the pandemic.

The rise in litter could cause excessive flooding as hurricane season looms. Trash doesn’t just wash away, Sesin told WHNT.

“You gather all that trash together, it accumulates downstream and starts creating issues for us,” he said, adding that drain clearing can take weeks and urging people to place their used items in the trash.

By Lateshia Beachum
June 15, 2020 at 10:25 AM EDT

Stock market opens sharply lower after worst week since March, with Dow down 500 points

The stock market slid sharply with Monday’s opening bell, after new coronavirus outbreaks sparked more concern among investors about economic recovery.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down around 500 points, or 2 percent, shortly after market open. The tech-heavy Nasdaq was down 108 points, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 57 points.

The downturn continued last week’s slide, which was the sharpest plummet since mid-March, prompted by the health and economic crises, despite a hopeful Friday rebound.

Read more here.

By Hannah Denham
June 15, 2020 at 9:55 AM EDT

24 Hour Fitness files for bankruptcy, closes more than 100 gyms

Gym chain 24 Hour Fitness filed for bankruptcy protection, the company announced Monday, following the permanent closure of more than 100 locations, as the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage businesses across the country.

Forced to shut down its gyms during pandemic-related restrictions, the company said it will continue plans to get locations running again. But 24 Hour Fitness plans to open doors of its gyms with a diminished footprint. As states gradually lift restrictions on businesses to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the company has shuttered locations across 14 states.

“If it were not for COVID-19 and its devastating effects, we would not be filing for Chapter 11. With that said, we intend to use the process to strengthen the future of 24 Hour Fitness for our team and club members, as well as our stakeholders,” said chief executive Tony Ueber in a statement.

The company said it expects to secure $250 million in financing through the bankruptcy, and plans to reopen the majority of its roughly 300 remaining gyms by the end of the month.

To help prevent transmission of the virus, 24 Hour Fitness has implemented a workout reservation system and “stringent cleaning and social distancing protocols,” the company said. But, as with other businesses, customers may be hesitant to return, especially in an environment where people are surrounded by others breathing hard, sweating and touching the surfaces of workout equipment and machines.

24 Hour Fitness is the latest business to seek bankruptcy protection since the outbreak began, joining distressed companies such as J.C. Penney, J. Crew and Neiman Marcus.

By Hamza Shaban
June 15, 2020 at 9:08 AM EDT

N.J. governor would consider shutting down state again if rules aren’t followed

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) would consider closing his state again if citizens behave like the New Yorkers who are flooding establishments with no masks and flouting social distancing advice.

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) threatened “state action” if laws continued to be dismissed, and Murphy said in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show that state action is also an option for New Jersey.

“You have to leave that on the table as a consideration,” he said, when co-anchor Savannah Guthrie asked whether he would follow Cuomo’s warning. “I hope to God that we don’t have to.”

New Jersey shores, boardwalks and all retail shops reopened Monday in addition to outdoor dining. Barbershops and hair salons will reopen next week, Murphy said as a heckler angry about the timeline shouted in the background.

“We make the decisions that are not arbitrary. They’re based on facts and data,” Murphy said, adding that his state was the second-most hit in the country with 12,600 deaths.

The state has driven down the rate at which the virus spreads, but Murphy said he doesn’t think New Jersey could responsibly move faster in reopening indoor dining and casinos.

The governor said he’s more concerned about the virus in indoor settings compared with outdoor activities.

“My gut tells me that this will come back,” he said. “But God willing, it’ll come back in spurts that we can, with testing and contact tracing, surround it and push it back down.”

By Lateshia Beachum
June 15, 2020 at 8:32 AM EDT

Homelessness crisis expected in D.C. when virus emergency ends, evictions begin

Just about the time Washington, D.C., is coming out of the coronavirus crisis, it will face a new one over homelessness, housing experts warn.

Thousands of tenants who recently lost their jobs because of the pandemic shutdown can no longer afford to pay their rent or will soon lack the money to do so. They’re able to stay in their homes for now because of an emergency moratorium on evictions. But the ban ends 60 days after Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) lifts the public health emergency, and evictions are likely to surge, according to officials and advocates for tenants.

The threat of a spike in homelessness is the first sign of the devastating blow the coronavirus shutdown has delivered to the city’s ambitious efforts to address its shortage of affordable housing. Some progress had been achieved, which was illustrated when the region’s annual homeless count, conducted in January before the pandemic hit, was its lowest since the survey began in 2001.

Read more here.

By Robert McCartney
June 15, 2020 at 7:40 AM EDT

As maskless New Yorkers crowd outside bars, Cuomo threatens to shut the city back down

At a Brooklyn beer garden, patrons squeezed together on picnic tables to sip on lagers. In Manhattan’s Upper East Side, they huddled outside a diner after dark. And in the East Village, a flock of New Yorkers spent the city’s first Friday since its reopening crowded shoulder to shoulder on the sidewalk.

As a jazz band played outside the bars on St. Marks Place, there were more frosty beverages than covered faces to be seen.

“Don’t make me come down there …” New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) wrote on Twitter on Saturday, responding to a video of the maskless masses.

Read more here.

By Teo Armus
June 15, 2020 at 7:07 AM EDT

Beijing carries out mass testing as coronavirus spreads in the Chinese capital

Beijing has set about testing hundreds of thousands of people for coronavirus in an exhaustive effort to stamp out a new eruption of the disease in the Chinese capital.

After dozens of new cases were reported during the weekend, continuing into Monday, Chinese authorities mobilized almost 100,000 community workers to carry out tests on everyone who has worked in or visited the Xinfadi market in the southwest of Beijing.

Xinfadi is the largest fruit, vegetable and meat market in the capital, which is home to some 21 million people. But after discovering more than 90 new infections linked to the market over the weekend, and a further 36 being reported Monday, Beijing’s health authorities are taking military-style action to try to ensure the virus doesn’t spread further.

More than 77,000 people were tested on Sunday and another 200,000 people were expected to be tested Monday, Beijing municipal authorities said.

Everyone who has visited the market since May 30 is also ordered to isolate themselves at home, and residential compounds around Xinfadi and another nearby market, Yuquan, have been sealed off so that residents can’t wander freely.

Beijing authorities have quickly imposed strict controls across the capital, requiring students to again wear masks in their classrooms at school, ordering restaurants to cancel banquets, and telling gyms and movie theaters to close up.

Top officials in China’s Communist Party have made concerted efforts to ensure the virus, which began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of last year, did not rage in the politically sensitive capital.

But the surprise outbreak, months after the party had declared victory over the virus and held up their response as exemplary, is inconvenient for its leaders.

Key party officials were removed from their posts over the outbreak, the Beijing Daily reported Monday. These included the party secretary in the area that incorporates Xinfadi and the general manager of the market, while the deputy head of the district was fired for “failing” in his duty to prevent and control the coronavirus.

By Anna Fifield
June 15, 2020 at 6:43 AM EDT

Travel restrictions across Europe being eased this week, as summer vacations are set to begin

Many European countries eased border restrictions on Monday, just in time for summer holidays that are set to begin across parts of the continent in the coming weeks.

Among the countries that abandoned their previous restrictions were the European Union’s most populous nations, Germany and France. Many smaller countries in the area, including Switzerland and Croatia, also reopened borders. Some countries, such as Italy, had already reopened their borders before Monday.

Travel restrictions remain in place for most non-E.U. citizens, however, and some countries will only reverse strict rules in the coming weeks.

Many borders were closed for nonessential travel in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus, raising questions over the future of the decades-long Schengen project that had seen border controls abandoned across an area that covers more than 400 million people in Europe.

The “Schengen area” was frequently criticized in recent years, and some member states reintroduced border controls during the 2015 migrant influx.

But the widespread restrictions over the past three months also highlighted the extent to which individual member states have benefited from the close economic integration the bloc has pursued over the past decades, allowing workers to travel freely and goods to be exported without additional challenges.

With borders reopening, many E.U. member states hope to offset some of the economic repercussions of the pandemic through a revival of the tourism sector. Whether those hopes are justified will be decided in the coming weeks as travelers have to choose between staying home and heading abroad.

“You can go abroad for your holiday again,” said Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok, according to the Associated Press. “But it won’t be as carefree as before the corona crisis. The virus is still among us and the situation remains uncertain.”

By Rick Noack
June 15, 2020 at 6:16 AM EDT

GOP senator defends Trump’s Tulsa rally as health official warns it’s a ‘huge risk factor’ amid coronavirus spike

As coronavirus cases have set new daily records in Oklahoma in recent days, Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart warned over the weekend that a rally expected to draw more than 19,000 Trump supporters could ignite a bigger crisis.

A Republican senator from Oklahoma took to the air on Sunday to argue that the rally will be safe, although the Trump campaign has asked attendees to sign waivers promising not to sue if they get the disease.

“Everyone needs to take responsibility for their own health,” Sen. James Lankford said on ABC’s “This Week,” adding that he intends to go to the rally.

The conflict hints at the significant challenges of campaigning during a pandemic, a particularly acute problem for Trump, who has built a movement centered on the kind of giant gatherings that health officials warn are among the riskiest events for transmitting the coronavirus.

Read more here.

By Tim Elfrink
June 15, 2020 at 5:47 AM EDT

Greece opens airports to (some) international tourists

In an effort to boost tourism revenue before the end of the summer season, Greece reopened its main airports to some international flights Monday, easing coronavirus testing and mandatory quarantine requirements for travelers from all but a few high-risk destinations.

The tourism industry accounts for about one-fifth of Greece’s economic output and provides about 700,000 jobs, Reuters reported. Since Greece went into a strict lockdown in March, the nation has barred visitors from several high-risk countries and required newly arrived foreign nationals to quarantine for 14 days before interacting with the public.

Under the relaxed rules that go into place Monday, flights from Italy, Spain and the Netherlands will be allowed into Greece. Flights from Britain and Turkey have not yet been approved.

“You can come to Greece, you will have a fantastic experience, you can sit on a veranda with this wonderful view, have your nice assyrtiko wine, enjoy the beach,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Saturday, Reuters reported. “But we don’t want you crowded in a beach bar. … There are a few things that we won’t allow this summer.”

Arrivals from high-risk countries will still undergo mandatory tests and 14-day quarantines based on the test results. Tourists arriving from areas that are not as hard hit by the virus will be subject to random testing.

Some museums, hotels and gyms have also reopened.

Greece’s coronavirus measures have proved successful so far, limiting deaths in the country to 183, with 3,121 cases. But the country’s leaders have been concerned with the economic impact of the nationwide lockdown, especially on the large tourism industry. Before March, Greece’s economy had been recovering after successfully exiting bailouts stemming from a decades-long debt crisis only two years ago.

By Katie Shepherd
June 15, 2020 at 5:22 AM EDT

After months of lockdown, England’s shops open their doors once again

LONDON — After almost three months of lockdown restrictions put in place amid the coronavirus pandemic, Britain continued its quest to rebuild its battered economy on Monday with nonessential shops across England opening their doors to customers once again.

Photos and videos shared on social media showed swarms of people lining up outside fashion retail store Primark in the city of Birmingham from as early as 7 a.m., while in London, bright blue banners thanking Britain’s cherished National Health Service for its support during the health crisis dangled above the shopping hotspot of Oxford Street as hundreds flocked to their favorite shops.

At Britain’s largest designer outlet, Cheshire Oaks, cars snaked around the block ahead of its reopening — a televised event which kept many entertained as security officials struggled to find the right key to unlock the parking lot.

Across the country, shops will operate with social-distancing rules in place, including hand sanitizer stations for customers and one-way walking systems. Staff will serve customers behind plastic screens and the total number of in-store visitors will be capped. Cash payments are likely to be widely discouraged.

From today, it is mandatory for people traveling on public transport to wear a face covering — but while many have welcomed the rule, critics say it should have been implemented by Prime Minister Boris Johnson months ago.

Those worried about a possible second-wave of the virus say the reopening of shops has come too soon. With at least 41,783 fatalities, Britain has the third highest death toll in the world, after Brazil and the United States.

By Jennifer Hassan
June 15, 2020 at 5:03 AM EDT

France’s health minister says ‘most of the epidemic is behind us’ as country opens up

France’s health minister said Monday that while society would remain vigilant, the worst of the epidemic was behind the nation and children could return to school and the country could reopen.

The remarks by Olivier Véran to LCI television comes after a widely viewed broadcast the night before from President Emmanuel Macron announcing the easing of many of the country’s restrictions, especially in Paris.

“Most of the epidemic is behind us and we are doing everything to monitor the outbreaks in France,” Véran said. “The virus is not dead but we are able to control its spread.”

He added that only 1 percent of the tests being conducted were now coming back positive and authorities were continuing to track and trace any clusters. He recommended continuing to avoid large gatherings in closed environments. Masks will be mandatory on public transportation and recommended for cases where social distancing is not possible.

He saluted the country’s health system for coping with the crisis, saying “it was strained but it did not break.”

Children are set to return to schools on June 22 with measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus. “Children must return to school,” Véran said, they need to find their friends, their teachers and restore their balance.”

France has been hard hit by the virus with more than 150,000 cases and nearly 30,000 deaths, but the number of new cases has shrunk from thousands a day at the outbreak’s peak in April to just a few hundred now.

By Paul Schemm
June 15, 2020 at 4:39 AM EDT

Thailand lifts curfew; announces 21 days since last local transmission

Thailand lifted its nationwide curfew on Monday after nearly two months, as officials announced that 21 days had passed since the last known instance of local transmission.

In January, the first coronavirus case outside China was reported in Thailand, but the Southeast Asian nation has been relatively successful in containing the virus’s spread since then. Only 58 deaths have been reported, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, and just over 3,100 cases have been identified.

Experts credit widespread mask-wearing and the country’s swift move to shut its borders, alongside the curfew and lockdown measures, with helping to flatten the curve.

The easing of restrictions on Monday will also allow restaurants, which reopened two weeks ago, to serve alcohol. Bars will remain closed, but playgrounds, amusement parks and schools with fewer than 120 students will be allowed to reopen. Sports competitions can also resume, though without spectators.

By Antonia Farzan
June 15, 2020 at 4:06 AM EDT

Saudi Arabia reports surge in cases, blames young people and lack of social distancing

DUBAI — Saudi Arabia is in the midst of a new surge of coronavirus infections that officials are blaming on young people and a lack of adherence to social distancing rules.

On Sunday, authorities reported a new all-time high in daily cases with 4,233 found. Since the outbreak, some 127,541 cases have been reported. Daily rates had dropped to just over 1,000 at the end of May.

“This rate could increase, infections may rise, and its spread could rise if members of the public continue to not adhere to preventive measures in several places, especially in places where there is a number of people around them,” said Health Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Abd al-Ali on Sunday, according to the al-Arabiya news site.

Most of the new cases have been reported in Riyadh. Over the weekend, Abdullah Asiri from the Health Ministry blamed young people for flouting the rules and spreading the infection.

“During the past days, we have seen a lot of covid-19 cases among the youth. These are mainly asymptomatic cases and a possible cause of the spread and transmission of the infection in their homes in large numbers. These youth have possibly been in noncompliance of the precautionary and preventive measures,” he told the al-Ekhbariya news channel.

Since the virus was detected in Saudi Arabia, authorities have carried out measures to combat it, including night curfews, day curfews, closing mosques, and locking down cities and provinces. Following the holy month of Ramadan, many of the measures were relaxed, and there was an increase in the number of cases.

A popular shopping mall in the port city of Jiddah, another virus hot spot, was shut down over the weekend for not enforcing social distancing protocols, Saudi media reported. Inspectors said that people were congregating in groups without masks and that the mall administration was not addressing the situation.

By Paul Schemm
June 15, 2020 at 3:41 AM EDT

Chilean copper miners union calls for more safety precautions after worker’s death

Fearing a coronavirus outbreak after the death of a colleague, a Chilean copper miners union called on Sunday for the nation’s largest mining companies to reconsider plans to keep mines open during the coronavirus pandemic.

Union leaders within the Federation of Copper Workers have been raising concerns over an increase in coronavirus cases since an employee at the large Chuquicamata mine owned by Codelco died earlier this month, Reuters reported.

“The increase in cases is alarming and demonstrates that the preventive measures implemented with health and safety protocols aimed at self-care are not working,” the union said in a statement.

The allegation of a significant jump in coronavirus cases followed news last week that the union was considering telling members at some mining sites to leave work and self-isolate following the recent death of the worker.

Reuters reported that Chilean mining authorities had inspected the Chuquicamata site and said it was complying with all of the required health and safety regulations to prevent the spread of the virus.

Large mining companies in Chile, including Codelco, BHP and Antofagasta, have remained open during the pandemic. The companies say they have halted some projects, sent at-risk workers home and implemented safety precautions required by the government to prevent outbreaks among their workers.

Chile is the world’s leading copper producer by far. Although the industry has bolstered the economy during the pandemic, shrinking demand from China in recent months has lowered prices for the metal, Reuters reported.

The novel coronavirus has killed 3,323 people in Chile, and the nation has had more than 174,000 cases.

By Katie Shepherd
June 15, 2020 at 3:24 AM EDT

Sweden’s leader defends coronavirus response

Sweden’s prime minister is defending the country’s laid-back response to the coronavirus pandemic amid growing criticism that the lack of a strict lockdown has led to a higher mortality rate.

“We’ve followed the same main strategy as others,” Stefan Lofven told state broadcaster SVT on Sunday night, according to Bloomberg News. “Which, in other words, means keeping the contagion at levels that the health-care system can handle.”

Sweden’s strategy of not imposing strict lockdowns, long a subject of debate, came under intense scrutiny this month when the country’s top epidemiologist acknowledged that too many lives had been lost and that in retrospect it would have been better to follow an approach closer to that of other nations. Sweden has reported nearly 48 deaths for every 100,000 people, far more than other Scandinavian nations and much of Europe.

Lofven claimed Sunday that the country’s excess mortality rate was normal for the time of year and pointed out that methods for tracking fatalities vary widely between countries. The Swedish prime minister also insisted that it was “too early to draw any definitive conclusions” about the strategy’s success. The growing number of infections — which total over 51,000 to date — could be attributed to an increase in testing, he said.

Recent polls have shown that Swedes’ confidence in public health authorities and their government has dropped significantly as rising death rates call into question some of their pronouncements, such as the claim that wearing masks could do more harm than good.

By Antonia Farzan
June 15, 2020 at 2:48 AM EDT

Peruvian militias turn to corporal punishment to enforce coronavirus rules

Peruvian peasant militias are taking matters into their own hands by whipping people who disobey quarantine, Reuters reported.

Peru has reported 229,736 coronavirus cases to date, one of the highest tallies worldwide and second only to Brazil in Latin America. Nearly 6,700 deaths have been attributed to the virus, and its alarming spread has prompted the militias to take harsh action.

“According to the crime, you can punish with lashes,” Aladino Fernández, who leads a militia group in the Cajamarca region, told Reuters. “A serious crime would be about 15 lashes.”

The militias, which formed in the 1970s as opposition to leftist rebel forces, now primarily focus on exacting justice in rural areas where there is little oversight from government authorities. Typically, they adjudicate disputes over theft, infidelity and corruption, Reuters reported. But as the coronavirus has spread, the militias have taken charge by closing their region’s borders and instituting lockdowns to keep residents safe.

The groups’ violent methods are often met with criticism. But their role is legally protected by the Peruvian government because of their work fighting against the Shining Path rebel group in the 1980s.

By Antonia Farzan
June 15, 2020 at 2:12 AM EDT

Egypt reopening airports July 1; tourists restricted to coastal areas

Egypt’s airports will reopen to international flights on July 1 after they were shut down in March to stem the spread of the coronavirus, the civil aviation minister said late Sunday.

Domestic flights have been allowed inside the country, but otherwise it has been cut off from the rest of the world as it struggles to bring its coronavirus outbreak under control.

Mohamed Manar Anba said tourism would be restricted to coastal provinces that have had very low rates of coronavirus infections, including southern Sinai and the resort city of Sharm al-Sheikh, as well as the resort of Hurghada on Egypt’s Red Sea coast. The northwest Mediterranean coast will also be open for tourists.

Egypt’s outbreak has been largely confined to large, crowded cities such as the capital, Cairo.

The pandemic has struck a devastating blow to Egypt’s tourism industry, which contributes up to 15 percent of the country’s economic output if indirect jobs linked to the sector are included.

Flights will not have printed publications on board and will serve only dry food and canned drinks, the minister said at the news conference. Since June 1, hotels have been restricted to operating at 50 percent capacity.

Despite the moves to open the economy, Egypt appears to be in a particularly severe phase of its outbreak, with a steady increase in the daily toll of cases since the end of the fasting month of Ramadan in late May.

More than half of the country’s 44,598 cases were found since the beginning of the month, and in the past three days, record numbers of cases exceeding 1,600 daily have been recorded.

By Paul Schemm
June 15, 2020 at 1:49 AM EDT

Alaska faces severe shortage of poll workers because of the coronavirus

The threat of the coronavirus has left Alaska with few poll workers willing to staff its upcoming elections — a dilemma that communities across the United States could soon be facing.

The Anchorage Daily News reported on Sunday that 95 percent of Anchorage’s regular poll workers declined to help out this year and that none of Alaska’s legislative districts have enough staff lined up for the statewide primary elections in August. Though still a little further away, November’s general election is likely to have similar complications.

Officials are warning that it may be necessary to close some polling places if there aren’t enough election workers to go around, the Daily News reported. The majority of poll workers are typically retired and see the $12-an-hour job as a way to give back to their communities, but they are more vulnerable to covid-19 because of their age.

Alaska offers what is known as “no-excuses absentee voting,” meaning that voters can request an absentee ballot without providing a specific reason they need one. The state is strongly encouraging people to vote by mail and plans to send absentee ballot request forms to every voter over age 65, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer (R) told the Daily News. But election officials have ruled out having the August primary take place entirely by mail and have yet to make a decision about the November general election.

By Antonia Farzan
June 15, 2020 at 12:48 AM EDT

Upcoming Trump rally in Tulsa raises concerns among public health experts

President Trump’s plan to hold a campaign rally in Tulsa this weekend is worrying public health experts, who warn that there is a high risk of the coronavirus spreading through the 19,000-seat Bok Center arena.

More than 800,000 people have signed up for the event, which will be the first of its kind to take place since coronavirus-related stay-at-home orders were announced across the country in March, campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted Sunday. Citing the recent uptick of infections in the city and across Oklahoma as a whole, Bruce Dart, the director of Tulsa’s city and county health department, told the Tulsa World this weekend that he wished the rally would be postponed to a later date.

“I’m concerned about our ability to protect anyone who attends a large, indoor event,” he said. “And I’m also concerned about our ability to ensure the president stays safe as well.”

Michael T. Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said in an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” that he was concerned about the implications of bringing together a large number of people in an enclosed indoor venue. Chanting and cheering could help aerosolize the virus, enhancing the risk of exposure, he noted.

“Would I want my loved ones in a setting like that? Absolutely not,” Osterholm said. “And it wouldn’t matter about politics; I wouldn’t want them there.”

Rally attendees are being asked to sign a disclaimer waiving their rights to hold the venue or Trump campaign liable if they contract covid-19. On Sunday, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) told CNN that he hadn’t yet decided if he would wear a mask at the June 20 event.

By Antonia Farzan
June 15, 2020 at 12:46 AM EDT

Ohio State asks football players and parents to sign coronavirus risk waivers

Ohio State University football players and their parents were asked to sign a waiver acknowledging the heightened risk of the coronavirus that comes along with participating in the fall season.

The Columbus Dispatch obtained a copy of the waiver, called the “Buckeye Pledge,” which asks players to submit to testing, monitor for symptoms, self-quarantine if exposed to the virus, and follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention including wearing masks and social distancing.

Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith told ESPN that the pledge was intended as an educational tool to help students better understand the precautions needed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus while playing football this fall.

“We don’t look at that as a legal document,” he told ESPN. “It’s a Buckeye pledge. Allow us to help you so that if we face a situation, our trainers, our strength coaches, our coaches or any athletic administrator sees a student-athlete not wearing a mask or not social distancing, we can say: ‘Hey, you made a commitment. You signed a pledge.’ ”

Smith said every Ohio State football player had signed the pledge. In doing so, the student-athletes acknowledged that “although the university is following the coronavirus guidelines issued by the CDC and other experts to reduce the spread of infection, I can never be completely shielded from all risk of illness caused by COVID-19 or other infections.”

The waiver is just one strategy schools are undertaking to promote coronavirus precautions as they prepare to return to campus this fall. Some colleges have suggested limiting spectators at sporting events, requiring students to wear masks indoors, relying on takeout food, keeping large lectures online and formally discouraging parties.

By Katie Shepherd
June 15, 2020 at 12:22 AM EDT

Ghana’s health minister has contracted covid-19 ‘in the line of duty,’ president says

Ghana’s health minister, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, has contracted the coronavirus and is receiving treatment in a hospital, the country’s president said Sunday night.

Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a state broadcast that the health minister had contracted the virus “in the line of duty” and is in stable condition, Reuters reported. During the same address, Akufo-Addo confirmed that the West African nation would move forward with plans to gradually lift restrictions and would allow secondary schools and universities to reopen on Monday.

Ghana has reported 11,964 coronavirus cases to date, one of the highest tallies on the continent. But the country has also introduced a much more robust testing program than many of its neighbors, and its death count remains relatively low at 54.

By Antonia Farzan
June 15, 2020 at 12:20 AM EDT

Analysis: Brazil faces the coronavirus disaster almost everyone saw coming

By the end of last week, Brazil reached a grisly milestone. It surpassed Britain in confirmed coronavirus-linked fatalities, ranking now below only the United States with more than 43,000 dead and more than 867,500 confirmed cases. Infection rates are still surging, the country’s daily death tolls are among the highest in the world, and health authorities aren’t close to flattening the curve. In one study, researchers project that 100,000 people could die before August in the country.

The depth of the calamity hitting the region’s most populous nation was not unexpected: Public health experts, journalists and opposition politicians warned of the risks the virus posed in Brazil’s teeming cities, marked by stark inequality, densely packed slums and uneven access to public goods.

Read more here.

By Ishaan Tharoor