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Vice President Pence blamed the media for stoking concerns about a second wave of the novel coronavirus, calling fears of a spike “overblown” in an op-ed published Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal. Pence, who leads the White House coronavirus task force, wrote that more than half of the states have reported a decline or plateau in cases.

But data indicate that the country has yet to quash the first wave of the virus — even though many states, especially in the South and Midwest, are moving forward with reopening plans. Florida, Texas, Arizona and Oklahoma are among approximately a dozen states seeing a surge in cases and hospitalizations.

Here are some significant developments:

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NBA pitches players on life in the bubble: Luxe hotels, golf and lots of social distancing

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In a memo sent to all 30 general managers Tuesday, the NBA painted the most detailed picture yet of what daily life will be like for teams and players when the 2019-20 season resumes at a single-site campus next month in the Orlando area.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver painted the broad strokes of the health and safety protocols during an interview with ESPN on Monday, noting that the restrictive environment “may not be for everyone” and that players would not be punished if they chose to stay home.

In the memo, which was sent by Byron Spruell, president of league operations, the league outlined additional health and safety guidelines, including onboarding, housing and recreational opportunities. A copy of the 2,400-word memo, which was first reported by The Athletic, and an attached 33-page player handbook was obtained by The Washington Post.

Read more here.

There’s a loophole along the closed U.S.-Canada border. Couples are getting married there.

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Ever since the border between the United States and Canada closed to nonessential travel in mid-March because of the novel coronavirus, cross-border couples have been blocked from being together.

As the weather warmed and shutdowns lifted, a new reunion spot emerged in mid-May: Peace Arch Park. There, cross-national couples and families could actually embrace — at long last.

Entryways from both the American and Canadian sides are patrolled, and the park itself is surveilled to ensure no one exits the wrong side. But as long as visitors stay within the 42-acre area, they are permitted to roam freely throughout the grounds. According to the park’s website, it is a space that is “devoted to peace and serenity.”

The park is considered equal parts American and Canadian — a shared territory for citizens of both countries to visit.

Read more here.

House subcommittee begins investigation into nursing homes’ response to the coronavirus outbreak

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On Tuesday, the bipartisan House oversight panel that examines the federal response to the novel coronavirus pandemic announced an investigation into nursing homes, particularly the agency managing the nation’s five major nursing home companies.

Citing concern over “lax oversight,” Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), chairman of the select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis, sought documents and various information from five for-profit nursing home companies. The companies operate more than 850 nursing homes in 40 states and have collectively reported 2,280 across their facilities. The investigation will target the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which oversees those nursing facility companies.

“Despite CMS’s broad legal authority, the agency has largely deferred to states, local governments, and for-profit nursing homes to respond to the coronavirus crisis,” Clyburn wrote in a letter addressed to Seema Verma, the administrator of the agency. “CMS has issued guidance for nursing homes, but this guidance has often been unclear, and CMS failed to take adequate steps to ensure that nursing homes comply with its recommendations.”

According to USA Today, more than 40,000 people in nursing homes have died due to complications from covid-19, the disease the virus causes, accounting for almost 40 percent of the United States’ overall death toll since the start of the outbreak. On Monday, CMS, however, reported a much lower number: 25,923, which did not include figures from assisted-living facilities.

The subcommittee also wants CMS to shed light on how nursing homes spent federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (Cares) Act.

“Although recipients must agree to use the funds for certain purposes related to the outbreak,” Clyburn wrote in the letter, “there has been little public reporting on which nursing home operators have received funds, the amount and type of relief provided, and how they have actually used the funds.”

Many colleges are bringing students back to campus this fall. Why some faculty are very concerned.

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The Chronicle of Higher Education is tracking nearly 1,000 colleges and universities to see how they are planning to reopen for the fall semester, and as of June 5, most of the schools were expecting to welcome students back to campus even as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues.

Sixty-five percent are planning in-person semesters, 11 percent are planning employing in-person and remote learning, 9 percent are still considering a range of options, 8 percent are planning to go completely remote, and 6 percent haven’t decided, according to the Chronicle.

Reopening colleges and universities for students presents unique problems for these schools.

Read more here.

Fauci would ‘avoid’ Major League Baseball playing the season into October

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Anthony S. Fauci has expressed reservations about Major League Baseball playing into fall, saying he would “avoid” that scenario.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has voiced full support for the NBA’s plan to restarting the season next month in a bubble, but he said baseball would face fewer risks by playing in the summer rather than extending the season when the weather turns cold.

Despite coronavirus cases spiking in several states, Fauci said playing in the upcoming summer months would still be more beneficial.

“Even in warm weather, like in Arizona and California, we’re starting to see resurgences as we open up,” Fauci told the Los Angeles Times. “But I think the chances of there being less of an issue in the end of July and all of August and September are much, much better than if you go into October.”

Months into the pandemic, experts are still learning about the novel coronavirus. Even Fauci described it as a virus that “keeps fooling us.” However, Fauci noted that most viruses tend to spike when the weather turns cold as people are spending more time inside.

The reasoning makes Fauci, a noted Washington Nationals fan, believe July would be more ideal for the major leagues to start the season.

“If the question is time, I would try to keep it in the core summer months and end it not with the way we play the World Series, until the end of October when it’s cold,” Fauci said. “I would avoid that.”

New Jersey police used Cares Act funds to create station barber shop amid outbreak

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Police in New Jersey used funding from the federal Cares Act to pay a local barber to set up shop and give haircuts to officers inside a police station, according to NJ Advance Media.

Woodbridge Township Police Director Robert Hubner told NJ Advance Media on Tuesday that the operation was given the all-clear by the township health department. The total cost for the first round of haircuts from the local barber was $1,605 for time and supplies, according to the report.

Funds from the federal Cares Act are required to be used for direct coronavirus-related expenses.

Hubner told the newspaper that the barber set up the makeshift station in the “sally port area,” where suspects typically are taken in and out of the building. The barber visited the station six times and also gave haircuts to nonmembers of the department.

According to Hubner, only the first round of haircuts was covered by the department and any additional haircuts, including for those outside the department, were paid for out of pocket.

While the operation supposedly had the blessing of the town’s health department, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy had banned similar personal services for the past three months through his executive order he passed in March.

Salons and barber shops in New Jersey are allowed to resume operations on June 22, with strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.

Amtrak is ending daily service to hundreds of stations

12:40 a.m.
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Amtrak is ending daily service to hundreds of stations outside the Northeast, and you can blame the coronavirus pandemic, the railroad said this week.

Starting Oct. 1, most Amtrak long-distance trains will operate three times a week instead of daily, the company said in a memo to employees Monday.

The carrier is also planning to enter fiscal year 2021 with reduced train frequencies in the Northeast Corridor, the busiest in its network, and on its state-funded routes, the company said.

The downsized operations come as Amtrak prepares to cut up to 20 percent of its staff in response to the financial crisis left by the pandemic. Demand for service — and the company’s revenue — plummeted to historic lows starting in mid-March as states implemented strict coronavirus shutdowns.

Read more here.

Lawyers file suit in effort to block Trump’s indoor Tulsa rally

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Two Oklahoma lawyers filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in an effort to block President Trump from holding an indoor campaign rally in Tulsa this weekend on the grounds that the gathering could become a “super-spreader event” for the coronavirus at a time when cases are rising in the city.

The lawsuit in the district court of Tulsa County seeks an injunction against the company that manages the 19,000-seat venue, the BOK Center, “to protect against a substantial, imminent, and deadly risk to the community,” according to a copy of the complaint.

The suit adds to mounting concerns among Democrats, civil rights activists, and even some Republicans that Trump’s rally could enflame racial tensions in Tulsa and contribute to further spreading of the coronavirus. Some opponents plan to protest Trump’s presence. At the same time, Trump’s supporters eagerly awaited Saturday night’s gathering, already lining up four days ahead of time.

Read more here.

Senate panel ends Loeffler probe tied to stock trades

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The Senate Ethics Committee ended its investigation into Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) over alleged insider trading before the coronavirus crisis, notifying her in a letter Tuesday that it found “no evidence” she violated the law or Senate rules.

The panel’s decision follows the Justice Department, which last month closed its probe of Loeffler’s stock sales before the global pandemic crashed the markets.

“The fake news media takes another loss. Exonerated. Again,” Loeffler tweeted.

Government watchdog groups Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and Common Cause filed complaints with the Senate ethics panel in March accusing Loeffler of violating the Stock Act, which forbids lawmakers from profiting off information they learn in closed briefings.

Read more here.

Tensions over Orange County’s face mask regulations continue

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The debate over face coverings in California’s Orange County reached a fever-pitch Tuesday, with groups that support and oppose a mandate to wear masks physically confronting each other.

About 25 Orange County union leaders met outside the county administration building Tuesday to call on health officials to reinstate an order requiring that residents wear masks when conducting essential business, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The group was met with a group of protesters chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, these masks have got to go” and “Fake news has got to go.” Luis Aleman, a project lead for the Orange County Labor Federation, told the Times that protesters screamed at speakers and even tried to hit them on the head with their signs.

Face coverings are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

This battle over face masks began in May, and tensions have only heightened. The county’s top health officer abruptly resigned last week after weeks of harsh attacks, and even a death threat, over her mask requirements.

A video that was circulating on social media last 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.

On Thursday, the new health director peeled back the mask order, telling the Times that the change was not because of public pushback but was to bring the county into line with recent state guidance. California allows each county to set its own policy on masks.

Nine states set records in daily new cases or weekly averages

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Nine states, mostly in the South and West, have reported either new single-day highs in coronavirus cases or have set a record with seven-day new case averages.

On Tuesday, as Florida spiked with 2,783 new cases and Texas saw 2,622, Arizona (2,392), Nevada (379), Oklahoma (228), Oregon (278) and South Carolina (612) also reported record-high counts since the start of the outbreak.

Additionally, North Carolina, which currently has 829 covid-19 hospitalizations, saw its seven-day rolling average tick up again to set a high mark for a 15th consecutive day. Alabama, which had the second-highest rate of new coronavirus cases per capita from June 8-14, has hit its average seven-day case high for the seventh time in 15 days.

Arizona, a state that lifted its stay-at-home order May 15, eclipsed the 2,000 mark in daily new cases for the first time. Just a week ago, on June 9, Arizona reported only 618 new cases. With the increase, the state now has 1,506 people hospitalized because of the novel coronavirus.

In Oregon, 119 of the 278 new cases came from the rural northeastern Union County. In comparison, Multnomah County, home of the most populous city in the state, Portland, reported only 42. Health officials say the stunning surge in Union County stems largely from an outbreak at a church.

“We were surprised by the number that tested positive,” said Dr. Paul Cieslak, an infectious-disease expert in Oregon, according to the Associated Press.

Over the weekend, the county worked with Lighthouse Pentecostal Church to set up a testing site for 365 people. Before the outbreak, Union County had fewer than 25 confirmed cases, the AP reported.

Fla. cases spike because of increased testing in ‘high-risk’ environments, DeSantis says

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) continued to dismiss concerns surrounding a surge of novel coronavirus cases in the state as Florida tallied its highest single-day count of new cases on Tuesday: 2,783, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.

Totals for Florida’s seven-day average of new cases have hit record highs for the past nine days; a week ago, the state’s one-day total of new cases was 1,096.

During that same period, the seven-day average of new hospitalizations from the virus has crept up as well.

At his Tuesday news conference, DeSantis said the state has seen an increase in cases because there has been more testing in “high-risk environments” such as farms with migrant workers, jails and long-term care facilities. He continued his claim that since the state has increased coronavirus tests, that has led to more cases.

DeSantis’s own Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services later put out a statement saying he was “mistaken regarding agriculture being a primary driver” in infections, adding that harvests ended several weeks ago.

An investigation by the Miami Herald found the upward trend from the past several weeks could not be attributed to testing alone, suggesting that the governor was misreading or selectively interpreting data to make it appear that parts of the state were hitting necessary benchmarks for reopening.

In long-term care facilities, DeSantis said, every resident and staff member who wanted to be tested has been tested, with the positive rate among residents at 8 percent and workers at 3 to 4 percent. DeSantis also added that most fatalities in the state related to covid-19 have been linked to long-term care facilities.

DeSantis said that in May, the state did about 150,000 tests per week, and now the state is averaging 30,000 per day.

With the increase in testing, DeSantis also stated that the median age of those testing positive for covid-19 is now 37.

“We haven’t had a fatality under the age of 18,” DeSantis said.

Despite the recent spike, DeSantis gave assurances that the state would not shut down again after restrictions began to ease last month.

Analysis: Pence is right, we’re not seeing a second wave. We’re still in the first one.

10:14 p.m.
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In an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, Pence dismisses the idea that there’s an emerging second wave of cases in the United States.

To hear Vice President Pence tell it, something like what happened in New Zealand — where they truly squashed the curve — is also happening in the United States. It’s hard to blame him for making that case, given that he was handed the unenviable task of managing the pandemic here, a task that necessitates containing both the virus and the president’s slapdash approaches to it. But that doesn’t make his presentation of what’s happening accurate.

Pence’s response to the idea that there’s a new wave of cases doesn’t immediately address the idea that there’s a new wave of cases. Yes, yes, Trump’s leadership has been essential; we’ve heard this from Pence before. But that our public health system is stronger doesn’t actually tell us anything about whether there’s a second wave. And the metrics he lays out offer some information about what’s happening with the virus, though don’t necessarily get to the point that’s Pence’s purported focus: the second wave.

Gov. Abbott claims Texas is prepared for the spike in coronavirus cases

9:21 p.m.
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott claimed Tuesday that the state is better prepared to deal with the novel coronavirus than it was in March and April because of new medical strategies, treatments and additional personal protective equipment.

While speaking during his Tuesday news conference, Abbott (R) also made note of the “abundant” hospital capacity in the state, while acknowledging the spike in coronavirus cases. He assured residents that as the state continues to open up and people return to their jobs, officials remain “laser-focused on maintaining abundant hospital capacity.”

Texas reported 2,518 hospitalizations Tuesday, which Abbott described as a “really a very small percentage of all the beds that are available.” According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, there are 14,993 available hospital beds and 1,675 available ICU beds.

The state also reported 2,622 new cases Tuesday, which is both a single-day and average-new-case high. Last Tuesday, Texas reported 1,637 new cases.

Abbott continued, saying that Texas doesn’t have to choose between returning jobs or protecting health care, and that the state has all the “tools and strategies” in place to maintain jobs without jeopardizing public health.

“The best way to contain the spread of this virus is by all Texans working together and following simple safety precautions,” Abbott said. “We all have a responsibility for our own health and for the health of our loved ones, friends and neighbors. Covid-19 still exists in Texas, and if we are to contain the spread while getting Texans back to work, all Texans must do their part.”

Last week, Minnesota leaders also claimed that the state was better prepared for a second wave of the novel coronavirus, if it follows similar patterns as 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 with when the pandemic began, the state now has more capacity to test and track the virus, along with more hospital beds and stable supplies of masks and gowns to protect doctors, nurses and other caregivers.