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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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June 16, 2020 at 11:39 PM EDT

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

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.

By Ben Golliver
June 16, 2020 at 11:18 PM EDT

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

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.

By Sydney Page
June 16, 2020 at 10:47 PM EDT

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

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.”

By Candace Buckner
June 16, 2020 at 10:24 PM EDT

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

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.

By Valerie Strauss
June 16, 2020 at 9:59 PM EDT

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

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.”

By Candace Buckner
June 16, 2020 at 9:09 PM EDT

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

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.

By Samantha Pell
June 16, 2020 at 8:40 PM EDT

Amtrak is ending daily service to hundreds of stations

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.

By Luz Lazo
June 16, 2020 at 8:32 PM EDT

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

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.

By DeNeen L. Brown, Annie Gowen and Josh Partlow
June 16, 2020 at 7:51 PM EDT

Senate panel ends Loeffler probe tied to stock trades

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.

By Colby Itkowitz
June 16, 2020 at 7:26 PM EDT

Tensions over Orange County’s face mask regulations continue

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.

By Samantha Pell
June 16, 2020 at 7:01 PM EDT

Nine states set records in daily new cases or weekly averages

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.

By Candace Buckner
June 16, 2020 at 6:42 PM EDT

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

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.

By Samantha Pell
June 16, 2020 at 6:14 PM EDT

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

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.

By Philip Bump
June 16, 2020 at 5:21 PM EDT

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

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.

By Samantha Pell
June 16, 2020 at 5:06 PM EDT

Survey: Americans are historically unhappy during the pandemic

The global pandemic has led to a momentous swing toward unhappiness in the United States, even though most Americans are satisfied with their financial situation, according to a newly released poll.

A historically low number of respondents, 14 percent, in an ongoing survey by NORC at the University of Chicago say they are “very happy,” according to the first wave of May data. Twenty-three percent of people report they are “not too happy,” a new high since the question was introduced in the survey in 1972.

In conflicting data, the survey also discovered an all-time high 80 percent of people feel satisfied with the state of their family’s finances. The survey explained the findings as people comparing their happiness to those who have been financially affected by the pandemic.

While 80 percent of people say they have felt stress in the midst of the pandemic, trends of data researched by the General Social Survey for almost 50 years reveals that fewer people have reported feeling stress during this crisis compared with other historical milestones. For instance, 90 percent reported feeling a stress reaction after 9/11, and 89 percent said the same after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Even so, the people who lived in hot-spot regions for the outbreak reported feeling generally unhappier and more alone than those in other places around the country. Also, people who have been exposed to someone with the novel coronavirus were more likely to feel nervous (60 percent), dazed or numb (39 percent) and want to drink alcohol (45 percent) compared with someone who had not reported an exposure.

By Candace Buckner
June 16, 2020 at 5:03 PM EDT

Pence calls concerns about a second wave ‘overblown’

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.

“The media has tried to scare the American people every step of the way, and these grim predictions of a second wave are no different,” he wrote. “The truth is, whatever the media says, our whole-of-America approach has been a success.”

Data has indicated 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. The surge of cases reported suggests increased community transmission in states that are easing restrictions.

Twenty-five states tallied a higher seven-day new case average Monday than a week ago, according to a Washington Post data analysis. Nationally, the seven-day new case average rose to 21,562, up from 21,185 on June 8.

In his op-ed, Pence touted the administration’s handling of the pandemic and downplayed concerns that the country was unprepared for spikes, saying that access to testing and ventilators had improved. Earlier during the pandemic, the White House scrambled to resolve escalating fears that the country was ill equipped to handle an influx of coronavirus patients.

By Meryl Kornfield
June 16, 2020 at 4:40 PM EDT

Tulsa mayor won’t invoke local emergency authority to block Trump rally, despite coronavirus concerns

Tulsa’s mayor said Tuesday that despite the public health concerns with President Trump’s weekend campaign rally, he won’t use his local emergency powers to block the event.

“Do I share anxiety about having a full house at the BOK Center? Of course,” Mayor GT Bynum (R) said via Facebook.

Bynum noted he was not aware Trump had been invited to rally in Tulsa until he heard about it through local police. This is Trump’s first rally since March, when the coronavirus outbreak curtailed large gatherings.

“As someone who is cautious by nature, I don’t like to be the first to try anything. I would have loved some other city to have proven the safety of such an event already,” he said.

But in the interest of “navigating a balance between freedom and safety,” Bynum said the campaign event would go forward. The Trump campaign has agreed to follow the state’s reopening guidelines for businesses, he said, adding that every attendee will have their temperature checked and be given a mask and hand sanitizer.

“We are not going to suddenly abandon the state’s plan, to be either more lenient or more severe,” he said.

Local health officials are still worried that the event, which could draw more than 19,000 people, could create a health crisis, especially as the seven-day average of new cases in Tulsa County has doubled in the past week.

“Covid is here in Tulsa, it is transmitting very efficiently,” Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart told the Tulsa World on Saturday.

The Trump campaign has asked attendees to sign waivers promising not to sue if they get the virus that causes the disease covid-19.

By Kim Bellware
June 16, 2020 at 3:58 PM EDT

Five test postive at NOAA’s ‘Hurricane Hunters’ base in Florida

Five employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Aircraft Operations Center in Lakeland, Fla., have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the agency said in a statement. The base, which operates the agency’s elite fleet of specialized hurricane research aircraft that fly into and around nature’s strongest storms, has a total of about 110 personnel assigned to it. Other staff members who were in contact with the affected employees have been told to self-quarantine for 14 days “while they await additional test results,” said NOAA spokesman Jonathan Shannon.

The Hurricane Hunters have flown two missions during the current Atlantic hurricane season, which is expected to be unusually active. Data gathered by the flights is used to improve the accuracy of hurricane forecasts. The coronavirus cases raise the possibility that the agency could have limited reconnaissance ability during part of the hurricane season. The Air Force also conducts flights into hurricanes, although those aircraft lack some of the research equipment on NOAA’s fleet.

Keeping covid-19 out of NOAA facilities that are relied upon during hurricane season has been a significant concern. The agency said its aircraft are flying “with the minimum number of crew members necessary to conduct missions,” and there is more cleaning taking place aboard the planes before and after each flight.

Read more here.

By Andrew Freedman
June 16, 2020 at 3:14 PM EDT

Florida sees record 2,783 one-day total of new coronavirus cases

Days after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) waved off concerns about Florida’s growing coronavirus outbreak, the state Tuesday tallied its highest single-day count of new cases: 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 straight; 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 covid-19 has crept up as well.

The state’s infection totals have steadily grown since the start of June, roughly two weeks after its “full phase-one” reopening plan, which included expanding capacity at retail and personal service businesses to 50 percent, while indoor dining at restaurants opened to 25 percent.

Florida moved into reopening even as its infection rate remained steady; in recent days, DeSantis has attributed the rise in new cases to outbreaks in agricultural communities — singling out an unnamed watermelon farm in north central Florida — and on an increase in testing.

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.

DeSantis has faced scrutiny for his framing of the state’s data since a Florida Health Department data scientist alleged the department was manipulating data to satisfy DeSantis’s reopening goals. The data scientist, Rebekah Jones, was fired in mid-May.

As Florida grapples with a growing infection rate, on Tuesday at least four other states — Alabama, Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina and Oklahoma — were reporting record highs in their seven-day average of new cases.

By Kim Bellware
June 16, 2020 at 2:40 PM EDT

Children are only half as likely to get infected by the coronavirus, research shows

Children and teenagers are only half as likely to get infected with the coronavirus as people 20 and older, and they usually don’t develop clinical symptoms of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, according to a study published Tuesday.

The findings could influence policymakers who are facing tough decisions about when and how to reopen schools. Distance learning has been challenging for teachers, students and parents, and there is pressure on officials to restart in-person schooling to free up working-age parents who have been juggling work and child care.

Read more here.

By Joel Achenbach
June 16, 2020 at 2:08 PM EDT

Chicago sues Trump administration officials over their refusal to extend ACA enrollment

Chicago has sued members of President Trump’s administration in an effort to force them to open a special enrollment period, or SEP, of the Affordable Care Act and allow consumers to buy health insurance amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The city filed the federal lawsuit Monday against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Health Secretary Alex Azar; the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; and CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

The complaint alleges that Trump administration officials were politically motivated in their refusal to hold a special enrollment period as required by the “exceptional circumstances” provision of the law. It cites President Trump’s repeated promises to undermine or repeal the ACA, also known as Obamacare, and alleged that after defendants initially planned to open an SEP, they reversed course at the last minute after Trump expressed fear the move would serve to “[prop] up the ACA3.”

Not providing a chance to enroll in coverage at a time when scores of Americans lost their employer-provided health insurance has dangerously strained the health-care infrastructure of cities like Chicago and risked public health, the suit alleges.

Representatives with HHS and CMS did not immediately respond to request for comment.

In a statement to The Washington Post, City of Chicago Corporation Counsel Mark A. Flessner said the law “clearly mandates a special enrollment period be opened” during a crisis like the pandemic.

“Although never okay, now is not the time to play politics by blocking our residents from lawful access to the health benefits they desperately need,” Flessner said.

The suit seeks an opening of an SEP and legal fees.

By Kim Bellware
June 16, 2020 at 1:48 PM EDT

Trump predicts vaccine and cure for the coronavirus by the end of the year

President Trump on Tuesday predicted that by the end of the year, there will be a coronavirus vaccine, therapeutic and cure — a rosy scenario that he claimed would be accompanied by a robust economic recovery putting the nation in “a stronger position than we were before the plague came in from China.”

Trump spoke at a Rose Garden event where he signed an executive order on police reform and veered into other topics, including the pandemic.

“Before the end of the year, I predict we will have a very successful vaccine, therapeutic and cure,” Trump said. “We’re making tremendous progress.”

He went on to praise the scientists and doctors working to develop a vaccine, calling them “the best, the smartest, the most brilliant anywhere” and crediting them for having “come up with the AIDS vaccine.”

Trump appeared to correct himself moments later — there is no AIDS vaccine — praising the “therapeutic for AIDS.”

“AIDS was a death sentence,” he said. “And now people live a life with a pill. It's an incredible thing.”

Public health experts, including Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease official, have said there is no guarantee that a working vaccine for covid-19 will be available by the end of the year.

Earlier in his remarks, Trump promised a full economic recovery.

“Unless my formula is tampered with, we will soon be in a stronger position than we were before the plague came in from China,” Trump said. “People will have that job back that they might have lost. They’ll be making even more money than they did before. ... And you’ll see next year we’ll be one of the best economic years this country has ever.”

By John Wagner
June 16, 2020 at 1:06 PM EDT

WWE suspends Tuesday TV tapings after wrestler tests positive

A WWE wrestler in training tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the entertainment company to suspend its Tuesday television tapings and to test other wrestlers.

The unidentified wrestler was at the company’s training facility in Florida last week, but no one else at the space has tested positive for the virus, the New York Daily News reported.

Jeffrey Dugas, WWE’s associate medical director, told the Daily News that “all talent, production crew and employees on site at the training and production facilities will be tested for covid-19 immediately” as a matter of caution.

The WWE plans to continue with its regular television production schedule after test results come in, Wrestling Observer reported.

This is the second case of coronavirus to affect the wrestling and entertainment company.

A non-wrestling on-screen performer tested positive for the virus in April after showing symptoms following contact with two health-care professionals, the New York Post reported. That person has since completely recovered, according to the Post.

By Lateshia Beachum
June 16, 2020 at 12:53 PM EDT

Coronavirus vaccine will be free to those who cannot afford it, officials say

Top Trump administration officials said Tuesday that a vaccine for covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, will be free for vulnerable Americans who cannot afford it.

The administration is working with 14 candidates on the rapid development of covid-19 vaccines that it will eventually narrow down to the seven most promising candidates, two senior administration officials said on a call with reporters.

Companies receiving significant U.S. government financial support and working with Operation Warp Speed — an initiative unveiled by President Trump last month that aims to make 300 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine available by January — will provide the government an allocation of the vaccines developed, the two officials said.

Administration officials have also been in discussions with health insurers, who they said have expressed a “strong interest” in covering the vaccines with zero co-pay, though the government has not signed any formal contracts, the officials said.

While it is not yet clear when a vaccine will be available, the two officials said the elderly, those with preexisting conditions and those in high-risk, essential jobs, such as health care and food safety workers, will be prioritized in the distribution of a vaccine.

By Yasmeen Abutaleb
June 16, 2020 at 12:28 PM EDT

Fauci says he hasn’t spoken with Trump in two weeks

Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said Tuesday that he hasn’t spoken with President Trump in two weeks, a period that has coincided with more than 20 states seeing an uptick in their average new daily coronavirus cases.

At the outset of an NPR interview, Fauci, who has played a prominent role on the White House coronavirus task force, was asked when he last spoke with Trump.

“Not last week, but the week before,” he replied. “I spoke with him when we made the presentation to explain to him our vaccine development effort. So, it was two weeks ago, yeah.”

The comments by Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, are the latest sign that his direct communications with Trump have become much less frequent as the president focuses more of his energy on pressing states to reopen their economies.

On June 1, Fauci also noted in an interview that it had been about two weeks since his last conversation with Trump. At that point, the infectious-disease expert said the two spoke in conjunction with a teleconference with the nation’s governors for which Fauci was asked to provide medical context.

By John Wagner
June 16, 2020 at 12:24 PM EDT

U.S. borders with Canada, Mexico to remain closed to ‘nonessential’ travel for 30 days

TORONTO — Canada and Mexico said Tuesday that their shared borders with the United States will remain closed to “nonessential” travel for an additional 30 days to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Nonessential travel was first restricted across the boundaries in March. The agreements, which have now been extended three times, ban recreational travel and tourism but keep the borders open to trade and the travel of essential workers such as nurses.

“This is an important decision that will keep people in both of our countries safe,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.

He said there is “broad consensus” among Canada’s premiers that the border stay closed. Polls show that most Canadians also support such measures, though some have criticized the restrictions on family reunification.

Last week, the government announced that it would allow some immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to cross into Canada, but anyone who enters will have to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The agreements limiting travel at the borders also include provisions to temporarily turn back asylum seekers attempting to cross at unauthorized entry points.

By Amanda Coletta
June 16, 2020 at 12:16 PM EDT

Coronavirus safety measures run smoothly as first tourists arrive in Spain

MADRID — Spain said Tuesday the coronavirus travel safety precautions between Germany and Spain are running smoothly one day after the first batch of German tourists arrived in Spain’s Baleares Islands as part of a pilot test ahead of the official border opening next week.

“The experience of the path between Baleares and Germany is giving very good results from the point of view of safety for testing our protocols,” said Tourism Minister María Reyes Maroto.

The Balearic Islands is the first destination in Spain to reopen to international tourists, thanks to a pilot test that will see 10,900 visitors from Germany visit the archipelago over the next 15 days, staying for a minimum of five nights. Visitors will stay in specific hotels in the beach areas on the islands of Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza and not be required to observe quarantine.

The pilot tests the efficiency of the safety measures before Spain reopens to all European Union and Schengen-area countries on June 21 — a date that was changed from July 1 in a push for summer vacationers.

Earlier Tuesday, Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya told the BBC that Spain is weighing imposing a 14-day quarantine on British travelers when it opens it borders to the European Union. She said she hoped Britain would lift restrictions against Spanish travelers so Spain could reciprocate.

“We will be in a dialogue with the U.K. to see whether or not we should be introducing reciprocity as they have different measures than the rest of the European Union,” Gonzalez Laya said.

In 2019, some 83.7 million international tourists spent €92.3 billion ($102.6 billion) in Spain. Tourism accounts for nearly 13 percent of Spain’s GDP and an estimated 12.7 percent of the country’s jobs. The government will reveal a sweeping tourism revitalization plan Thursday.

By Pamela Rolfe
June 16, 2020 at 11:39 AM EDT

Beijing to close all schools amid new outbreak

Beijing will close all schools, just weeks after it began reopening them, as the city raised its coronavirus emergency response to Level II from III, state media reported late Tuesday.

The decision comes as the Chinese capital wrestles with a new outbreak of the novel coronavirus, with more than 100 cases confirmed by city officials in recent days and the government scrambling to test and isolate cases.

On Monday, the city mobilized almost 100,000 community workers to test everyone who has worked in or visited the Xinfadi market in southwestern Beijing, which appears to be the hub for the current outbreak.

Xinhua News Agency reported that all on-site classes for school and college students in Beijing would be canceled under the emergency response announced Tuesday.

Schools across China had been closed indefinitely after the Lunar New Year holiday in mid-February, leaving almost 200 million students at home. But schools in some parts of the country had reopened with precautions. In Beijing, schools began to reopen in mid-May.

By Adam Taylor
June 16, 2020 at 11:19 AM EDT

Stocks rise as retail sales spiked in sign of economic rebound

Investors sent stocks upward as retail sales spiked more than 17 percent in May, a sign that sales are beginning to recover after the economy was battered from the coronavirus outbreak and widespread shutdown measures.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 700 points, or 3 percent, in morning trading, continuing its rise from Monday, when the Federal Reserve announced it would buy individual corporate bonds, boosting investor confidence. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index rose 82 points, or 2.68 percent, while the Nasdaq composite Index added 225 points, or 2.29 percent.

Data released Tuesday by the Commerce Department showed that retail spending began to rebound from March and April lows as states gradually reopened parts of their economies. But the double-digit bounce in May followed two months of record-breaking declines, as many Americans sheltered at home to prevent the spread of the virus and sharply cut back on spending.

While the massive lift in retail spending has buoyed Wall Street’s expectations of a recovery, economists warn that it could take years for retailers and consumers to fully recover from the pandemic’s damage.

The Federal Reserve has predicted that the unemployment rate will fall to 9.3 percent by the end of the year, as part of the nation’s slow recovery. In his latest testimony before a Senate banking panel, Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell on Tuesday highlighted the uneven toll the recession has had on the country’s workforce, highlighting the stark job losses for low-income households.

By Hamza Shaban
June 16, 2020 at 10:41 AM EDT

Pence cites ‘right to peaceably assemble’ as he defends plans for indoor campaign rally

Vice President Pence on Tuesday cited “the right to peaceably assemble” as he defended President Trump’s decision to move forward with a campaign rally in Tulsa despite concerns raised by public health experts about holding a large indoor event amid the ongoing pandemic.

Pence, the chairman of the White House coronavirus task force, said during an interview on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” that several precautions will be taken, including temperature checks, making hand sanitizer available and providing masks to rally attendees.

“But look, the freedom of speech, the right to peaceably assemble is enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution, and the president and I are very confident that we’re going to be able to restart these rallies and tell the story of what this president has done through these unprecedented times, but also over the last three and half years, and drive toward a great victory on November the 3rd,” Pence said.

Pence said one of the reasons the Trump campaign chose Oklahoma for its first rally in months is that officials there are doing “just a remarkable job in reopening their state.”

Oklahoma is among 10 states that hit new highs for hospitalized coronavirus patients Sunday, according to data maintained by The Washington Post.

Pence said the campaign is continuing to talk to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), who said Monday that the rally could be moved to an outdoor venue from the 19,000-seat BOK Center, where it is scheduled to take place.

Pence made his comments ahead of a planned trip Tuesday to Iowa, where he is scheduled to deliver remarks about “opening up American again” at a manufacturer of recreational vehicles.

By John Wagner
June 16, 2020 at 10:35 AM EDT

WHO chief scheduled to give speech at Beijing university, despite criticism of China ties

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is expected to deliver a graduation speech at Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management on June 21, according to an announcement from the school.

The speech comes as WHO has faced criticism for its relationship with the Chinese government during the novel coronavirus pandemic, which originated in China. The organization’s biggest donor, the United States, said last month that it would be “terminating” its relationship with the international public health body, citing the damage caused by the pandemic.

The announcement from Tsinghua drew further criticism from U.S. officials when it appeared Tuesday. “Are we surprised? Dr. Tedros will be speaking at Tsinghua University where many of Communist China’s prominent leaders, including General Secretary Xi, graduated from,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) tweeted.

Tedros, the first WHO director-general from Africa, had previously served as health minister and foreign minister in his home of Ethiopia before being selected to lead the body in 2017. He was the first director-general to be chosen using a secret ballot that gave each member an equal vote.

WHO officials have rejected criticism of their handling of the pandemic, and some experts have said that the body needed to maintain a good relationship with Beijing to maintain access during the outbreak. Tedros has given other commencement speeches recently, including one at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy on June 2.

By Adam Taylor
June 16, 2020 at 10:23 AM EDT

Generic steroid reduces deaths by one-third among patients with severe covid-19, study says

A steroid used to lower inflammation for other illnesses has been linked to decreasing mortality rates in severe cases of the coronavirus, a new clinical trial has found.

Chris Witty, England’s chief medical officer, said it’s “the most important trial result for covid-19 so far.”

Low doses of dexamethasone decreased death rates by nearly a third in hospitalized patients with serious respiratory complications from covid-19, according to scientists involved in the clinical trial in Britain. The results were announced Tuesday but have not yet been published.

The drug is the first to improve survival for covid-19-afflicted patients, said Peter Horby, one of the chief investigators for the trial.

“The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become standard of care in these patients,” he said in a statement. “Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.”

A total of 2,104 patients were randomly selected to receive six milligrams of dexamethasone once a day for 10 days. That group was compared with 4,321 randomized patients who were receiving only “usual care” for covid-19.

Patients who received only “usual care” and required ventilation care had a high 28-day mortality risk, and those who needed oxygen had an “intermediate” mortality risk.

Dexamethasone lowered death rates by one-third in ventilated patients and one-fifth in other patients receiving oxygen, scientists found.

The findings indicate that dexamethasone could prevent one death in around eight ventilated patients or about 25 oxygen-requiring cases.

Nick Cammack, covid-19 therapeutics accelerator lead at Wellcome, called the results a “breakthrough” in a statement and said dexamethasone should be used around the world for critically ill patients.

“This is extremely promising news and a significant step forward, but we still have a long way to go,” he said. “To end this pandemic, we still need better diagnostics to detect, medicines to treat and vaccines to prevent covid-19.”

By Lateshia Beachum
June 16, 2020 at 9:12 AM EDT

England’s plan to keep disadvantaged young people learning online? Free Internet.

LONDON — Britain’s department of education has partnered with telecommunications company BT to offer 10,000 families in England free Internet access to support young people with their studies amid the limitations enforced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

A recent report from the National Foundation for Educational Research noted that around a quarter of students (23 percent) had limited or no access to technology, sparking concerns over the quality of education being received by young people from poorer and disadvantaged backgrounds during the pandemic.

According to the same report, 90 percent of teachers said that students are doing less work as a result of the lockdown measures, compared with the same period in the past year.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said steps were being taken to ensure “no child, whatever their background, falls behind” in their learning development as a result of the health crisis, the BBC reported Tuesday.

The government says it is committed to spending over 100 million pounds ($126 million) to help those learning at home during the lockdown period, which was implemented in March.

Although schools across the country have been given the green light by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to gradually begin reopening, many parents have refused to send their children into classrooms, citing health and safety fears. Some schools have chosen to delay opening until next week, while others have introduced social distancing measures to ensure learning environments are safe.

With more than 41,000 deaths, the United Kingdom is the worst-hit country in Europe, and many fear a second spike if life returns to normal too soon.

Other governments in Europe have also pledged to help households and the economy in recent weeks.

In May, Michael Ludwig, the mayor of Austria’s capital, Vienna, announced that all families in the city would be given a 50-euro voucher ($56) to spend. Singles are set to receive a 25-euro voucher ($28).

In Malta, the government is offering residents over the age of 16 five vouchers worth 100 euros ($112) to spend locally. Four of the five vouchers must be used in hotels or restaurants.

By Jennifer Hassan
June 16, 2020 at 8:44 AM EDT

Germany launches new coronavirus tracing app

BERLIN — Germany’s health authorities launched a new coronavirus tracing app on Tuesday to help identify and break infection chains.

The app’s Bluetooth technology measures encounters between users and issues warnings if one of them reports a positive test. It’s free and its use is voluntary.

While some researchers have said that contact tracing apps would have to cover at least 60 percent of the population to be effective, German authorities argue that every download can make a difference.

“The more people participate, the better,” Head of the Chancellery Helge Braun said at the launch, Tagesspiegel reported.

The app’s development has met resistance in a country where privacy concerns are high and often fueled by memories of former authoritarian governments that routinely breached citizens’ privacy.

Germany’s app was due to launch in mid-April, but debates about its functioning, compatibility and data collection technology caused significant delays.

To be mindful of German privacy concerns, data won’t be centrally stored on servers. Instead, the Bluetooth exchanges are encrypted and logged on the devices themselves. Pseudonyms are used so the identity of the other person is not known, and the data is deleted every 14 days.

The German app doesn’t work in other European countries, though a European Union-wide solution is still being worked on, Germany’s government spokesman Steffen Seibert said at a news conference on Monday.

The app’s development cost over 20 million euros and was developed by Deutsche Telekom and the software company SAP, with additional support from several Germany research institutes.

The app can be downloaded as of this week on smartphones from Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store.

By Luisa Beck
June 16, 2020 at 7:58 AM EDT

Betty Jones, who created magic in the kitchen and a ‘do right’ home, dies of covid-19

Betty Jane Jones was the kind of cook who could draw her children inside just by the smells. When she took her bread pudding to a cookout, it never made it past the front door. The host would meet her and grab it, keeping it hidden for a select few.

She grew up as one of 10 children whose parents were deaf. She learned to cook from her mother, watching and imitating, with no words spoken and nothing written.

Their house in Northeast Washington was always full of people, with deaf friends of her parents frequently visiting. Neighbors would stop by, and if her mother had something on the stove, they’d stick around.

Betty died April 8 of covid-19 at the age of 81. Just a month earlier, she was showing her oldest daughter how she made candied yams. She taught her seven children the basics, but they couldn’t re-create her dishes on their own.

Read more here.

By Kathryn Tolbert
June 16, 2020 at 7:27 AM EDT

Brazil ignored the warnings. Now, while other countries fret over a second coronavirus wave, it can’t get past its first.

RIO DE JANEIRO — Weeks ago, when this seaside metropolis had recorded fewer than 10,000 cases of the novel coronavirus and there still appeared to be time, some of Brazil's most respected scientists made their last-ditch appeal. The country had reached a pivotal juncture. Cases were skyrocketing. The hospital system was teetering at capacity. Thousands had already died.

So Carlos Machado, a senior scientist with Brazil’s prestigious Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, wanted the language to be strong. At the request of Rio officials, his team was assembling a list of recommendations. He needed to make clear what would happen if they didn’t immediately impose a complete lockdown.

“It would result,” the team warned in the early May report, “in a human catastrophe of unimaginable proportions.”

But the officials never instituted a lockdown. Cases and deaths soared. People stopped isolating, choosing instead to pack beach boardwalks on weekends. And the warning turned out to be just one more exit ramp that Brazil declined to take on its way toward becoming the second-most disease-ravaged country in the world.

Read more here.

By Terrence McCoy
June 16, 2020 at 6:54 AM EDT

The pandemic may drive some parents to opt for home schooling this fall, if they can afford it

All four of Uzma Jafri’s children will stay home this fall, even if the public schools they attend in Phoenix open their physical doors. Jafri, a doctor, and her husband, a pediatric dentist, do not think schools will be a safe environment during the pandemic, even if guidelines proposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are in place.

“In August, for schools, it’s a petri dish when it’s not a pandemic,” Jafri said. “We both know how viruses work, and we cannot understand how schools can open and be safe.”

School districts nationwide are strategizing on what a fall reopening could look like. Possible scenarios include staggered schedules where students alternate between attending in-person and online. Desks would be spaced out, masks could be required, and lunch may be eaten in classrooms. If there is a sudden surge, schools may shut down and reopen, perhaps multiple times.

Read more here.

By Sindya N. Bhanoo
June 16, 2020 at 6:23 AM EDT

Number of jobs in Britain falls by more than 600,000

LONDON — The total number of people on payrolls in Britain dropped by more than 2.1 percent — a dip of 600,000 workers — between the period of March to May, according to new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figures, which were released on Tuesday, reflect just how badly weeks of lockdown restrictions have hit Britain’s labor market, with the number of people in Britain claiming work-related benefits increasing by a monthly 23.3 percent in May to 2.8 million.

“The slowdown in the economy is now visibly hitting the labor market, especially in terms of hours worked,” said Jonathan Athow, a statistician for the ONS, adding that early indicators for last month showed that “the number of employees on payrolls were down over 600,000 compared with March.”

The total number of weekly hours worked dipped by a record 94.2 million hours on the previous year and by a record 91.2 million hours when compared with the previous quarter.

The ONS estimates that Britain has an unemployment rate of 3.9 percent, 0.1 percentage points higher than 2019 but largely unchanged when compared with the previous quarter. The government’s furlough scheme, which was put in place to help cover the salaries of more than 9 million people, has been widely credited with preventing job losses and even higher unemployment figures.

Last week the ONS said the economy had “experienced a significant shock,” adding that almost all sectors had suffered a catastrophic hit as a result of the health crisis that has claimed at least 41,821 lives.

Britain’s economy shrank by 20.4 percent in April, its largest monthly fall on record.

By Jennifer Hassan
June 16, 2020 at 5:39 AM EDT

Citing ‘positive progress,’ U.S. opens door to more flights by Chinese carriers

Citing “positive progress” and a decision by Beijing to allow U.S. airlines to resume service to China, the Trump administration on Monday eased plans to further restrict flights by Chinese carriers to the United States.

The announcement means Chinese airlines can continue offering four weekly round-trips to the United States, but any increase in service will be subject to negotiation.

The decision, announced by the U.S. Transportation Department, came after the Civil Aviation Administration of China issued the necessary permissions to allow Delta Air Lines and United Airlines to restart service between the two countries. The airlines had been among the U.S. carriers that had stopped flying to the region in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, which began in Wuhan.

Read more here.

By Lori Aratani
June 16, 2020 at 5:17 AM EDT

New Zealand announces two new coronavirus cases, breaking 24-day streak

New Zealand’s remarkable 24-day run with no new coronavirus cases has ended, health officials said Tuesday.

Two women who received special permission to travel from Britain so that they could visit a dying parent have tested positive for the coronavirus, said Ashley Bloomfield, the country’s director-general of health. One woman was displaying mild symptoms when she arrived, but those were chalked up to a preexisting health condition. Consequently, the women were placed under a less strict form of managed isolation.

Although the woman who had experienced covid-19 symptoms received daily calls to check on her health, those weren’t conducted properly, Bloomfield said. Rather than being asked about individual symptoms, she was simply asked, “Are you okay?”

The two new cases come a week after New Zealand lifted all its coronavirus-related restrictions and announced that it had no active covid-19 cases. Despite the return to normalcy, the country’s borders remain closed, and the two women were among the few to receive an exception from the mandatory 14-day quarantine period on compassionate grounds.

The policy of compassionate exemptions to the travel ban has now been suspended. Neither woman was tested as they left the managed isolation facility, prompting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to say Tuesday that “expectations were not met.”

Bloomfield also said that both women were self-isolating and that contact tracers were working to find anyone they might have encountered during their travels.

“A new case is something we hoped we wouldn’t get, but it’s also something we expected,” he said.

By Antonia Farzan
June 16, 2020 at 5:11 AM EDT

Ukrainian first lady in the hospital one week after contracting covid-19

Olena Zelenska, the wife of Ukraine’s president, was hospitalized after contracting the coronavirus, while her husband, Volodymyr Zelensky, and their two children tested negative for the infection last week, the president’s office said Tuesday.

The office added that her condition was stable and confirmed that she had not been placed on oxygen but was being isolated in a medical facility away from her family.

Last week, Zelenska took to Instagram to announce that she had contracted the virus, writing on June 12 that news of her positive result was unexpected given that the family had been taking careful measures to avoid contracting the infection, such as not mixing with others and wearing personal protective gear.

In the post, she said that despite the diagnosis, she felt good and reminded her 1.7 million followers and others reading her update to continue to take precautions such as wearing a face mask, because the threat of the infection had not disappeared.

“It’s too early to lose vigilance!” she said, urging people to take care and respect one another.

Ukraine has more than 33,000 confirmed cases of the infection and at least 922 deaths. The country closed its borders in March and reopened them on Monday.

By Jennifer Hassan
June 16, 2020 at 4:48 AM EDT

Oklahoma governor says Trump’s Tulsa rally could be moved outdoors

President Trump’s rally this weekend in Tulsa could potentially move to an outdoor venue, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) said Monday, adding that nearly a million people have requested tickets to the controversial event.

“I am looking for a potential other venue [so] that maybe we could move it outside,” Stitt said. “It’s still kind of in the works.”

The Saturday event is slated to take place in the 19,000-seat BOK Center, and Stitt said that state officials were “trying to take every safety precaution possible to make it a safe event.” He spoke to Trump on the phone on Monday, he said.

Public health experts, including Tulsa’s own health director, have raised concerns about holding a large indoor event at a time when coronavirus infections are on the rise across Oklahoma. Coronavirus transmission is generally believed to take place more easily in an enclosed indoor setting than outdoors.

On Monday, Stitt told reporters that the United States was a “free society” and that people could make their own decisions about whether to attend the event, according to the Tulsa World. People with compromised immune systems are not encouraged to attend, the governor said.

Stitt also said that Oklahoma was “being recognized as one of the first states to safely and measurably reopen,” though the number of coronavirus infections in the state has risen significantly in June.

Attendees at the Saturday rally are being asked to sign a disclaimer clearing the venue and Trump campaign of liability if they contract covid-19.

By Antonia Farzan
June 16, 2020 at 4:29 AM EDT

Diabetes a factor in 40 percent of covid-19 deaths in UAE

DUBAI — The Health Ministry for the United Arab Emirates announced that diabetes was a factor in 40 percent of the deaths from covid-19 in the country.

The UAE has some of the highest rates of diabetes in the world, especially among its native-born citizens, and it has been worsening over the years as increased prosperity has meant a more sedentary lifestyle.

An estimated 19 percent of the population of the UAE suffers from diabetes, with similar rates around the gulf region. In November, the health authority of Dubai, the largest city in the UAE, pledged to drop the rate to 16 percent by 2021 by encouraging healthy eating and better exercise.

Monday’s announcement by Amna al-Dahak al-Shamsi came as two more people died of the disease, bringing the country’s death toll up to 291 — very low by world standards. She said 116 of those who died had diabetes.

The UAE has more than 42,000 reported cases of infection, but rates have been dropping in recent weeks to about 300 new cases a day from a high of nearly 1,000 in late May. Rates of infection in other countries in the region have been on the rise, however, though death tolls are still comparatively low.

On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report announcing that those with underlying health conditions such as diabetes were 12 times as likely to die of covid-19.

By Paul Schemm
June 16, 2020 at 4:09 AM EDT

Charles Barkley: 'Catastrophic mistake’ if NBA players balk at resuming season

The NBA is planning on returning to action next month despite the coronavirus pandemic, but some notable players are opposed to the idea. In turn, Charles Barkley is very much opposed to those players’ hesitance about resuming the 2019-2020 season.

“I think it would be stupid to not play,” Barkley said Monday on ESPN.

The TNT analyst and Hall of Famer was asked for his thoughts on recent comments by the Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Dwight Howard. Irving and Howard assert that rather than playing, it’s more important to take advantage of a moment in society when major, positive change for black people appears attainable.

“I have no idea what Kyrie or Dwight are talking about, but it’d be a catastrophic mistake not to play,” Barkley said.

Read more here.

By Des Bieler
June 16, 2020 at 3:49 AM EDT

Federal judge blocks some Alabama absentee ballot restrictions, citing covid-19

A federal judge has temporarily overturned some voting restrictions in Alabama on account of the coronavirus pandemic, siding with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon’s Monday ruling applies only to the state’s runoff election in July, and it’s not clear whether it will apply statewide or just in three counties where officials were named as defendants, AL.com reported. But the injunction notably blocks the requirement to have absentee ballots signed by either two witnesses or a notary and states that disabled voters and those over age 65 do not need to include a photocopy of their photo ID. It also paves the way for curbside voting, which advocacy groups hope to see offered to members of vulnerable groups.

Alabama’s strict voting laws have received heightened scrutiny amid the pandemic, with civil rights groups pointing out that seeking out witnesses, a notary or a photocopier could put people at risk. The U.S. Justice Department says that the requirements don’t run afoul of the Voting Rights Act, but some experts told WBHM that the hurdles are likely to be steeper for people living in rural areas.

“No one should have to risk their health to vote,” Deuel Ross, senior counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a statement. “We’re happy that the Court removed Alabama’s needless barriers to voting and that many tens of thousands of vulnerable people will now have a safe means of voting in July.”

By Antonia Farzan
June 16, 2020 at 2:59 AM EDT

FDA’s hydroxychloroquine reversal raises even bigger questions about Trump’s role in pushing for the drug

From around the moment President Trump began hailing hydroxychloroquine as a potential “game-changer” in the fight against the coronavirus, one particular decision has lent his promotion of the drug the veneer of credibility: The Food and Drug Administration had authorized its use for covid-19 on an emergency basis.

But since then, the FDA has tellingly moved to warn about the dangers of the drug. And now, in its most significant walk-back to date, it has pulled that emergency use authorization (EUA) altogether.

The decision Monday by the FDA now lends credibility to persistent suspicions that all of this was politicized from the beginning.

Read more here.

By Aaron Blake
June 16, 2020 at 2:50 AM EDT

Rep. Ilhan Omar’s father dies of covid-19 complications

The father of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) has died of complications from covid-19, the congresswoman announced Monday night.

“It is with tremendous sadness and pain that I share that my father, Nur Omar Mohamed, passed away due to complications from covid-19,” Omar said in a statement. “No words can describe what he meant to me and all who knew him.”

In previous interviews, Omar has described being primarily raised by her father and grandfather after her mother died at a young age. The family fled war-torn Somalia for refugee camps in Kenya and ultimately sought asylum in the United States. In 1997, they settled in Minneapolis, where Mohamed drove a cab before finding a job at the post office.

As a middle school student who wore a hijab, Omar was constantly the victim of bullying, she told the New York Times in 2018. She recalled that her father told her: “Listen, these people who are doing all of these things to you, they’re not doing something to you because they dislike you. They are doing something to you because they feel threatened in some way by your existence.”

Omar ultimately went on to become one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, as well as the first Somali American member of the House. Additional details about her father’s death were not immediately available Tuesday.

By Antonia Farzan
June 16, 2020 at 2:01 AM EDT

L.A. health inspectors visited 2,000 restaurants. Only half were following covid-19 guidelines.

Approximately 1,000 restaurants that Los Angeles County health inspectors visited over the weekend weren’t complying with coronavirus-related guidelines, authorities said.

California officials permitted Los Angeles County restaurants to begin reopening a little less than three weeks ago, but with strict protocols in place. Restaurants must allow at least six feet of space between tables or separate them with partitions, keep their dining rooms at under 60 percent capacity, and have all servers wear masks and face shields.

Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer told reporters at a Monday news briefing that inspectors had visited 2,000 restaurants over the weekend and “found that 50 percent of the restaurants were still not in compliance.” That was alarming, she said, though nonetheless an improvement over the previous weekend.

Over the weekend, complaints about large groups waiting in line for brunch and sidewalks packed with diners had circulated on social media, Eater Los Angeles noted. Ferrer said Monday that some restaurant owners had been confused about the new regulations and that inspectors planned on returning this week and issuing orders to those that are still not in compliance.

“Starting this week, we’re actually going to revisit places where we noted that people still had confusion, had concerns, still hadn’t quite made the changes,” Ferrer said. “There should be no places where tables are right next to each other. There should either be a six foot barrier, or a physical barrier. Those are requirements in the protocols.”

By Antonia Farzan
June 16, 2020 at 1:47 AM EDT

Major League Baseball adds outbreak to labor dispute

Major League Baseball is in the midst of a labor battle over its return to play during the coronavirus pandemic, and now it must consider an outbreak of covid-19.

Several players and staff have tested positive, according to a letter obtained by the Associated Press. The league is already in danger of losing the entire season as it bargains with the players union over terms to return. Commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN “I’m not confident” there would be a 2020 season on Monday. This was a stark difference from Wednesday, before the MLB draft, when Manfred said, “I can tell you unequivocally we are going to play Major League Baseball this year, 100 percent.”

MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark said that the league has been negotiating in bad faith and that the players are “disgusted.”

The two sides are negotiating an economic deal for 2020 under the unique circumstances of the pandemic. The union effectively ended negotiations Saturday, and Clark put out a statement telling Major League Baseball to set the schedule.

Industry speculation has focused on a late-summer mini-season of between 48 and 54 games, an idea MLB first floated as a possibility earlier this month.

In the letter, MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem rebutted a claim that the league was stalling to play fewer games, according to USA Today.

“Your recent letters have all expressed the concern, in one form or another, that players are being ‘asked to take on extraordinary burdens and risks in the current environment,’” Halem said in the letter to the union. “However, the Association’s proposals to play as many games as possible, as deep into the fall as possible, increases the health risks to players and staff, which is not something we are prepared to do. We strongly disagree with your assertion that our concern about player health and safety in the midst of the greatest health crisis in our lifetime is a ‘pretext’ to play fewer games.”

By Kareem Copeland
June 16, 2020 at 1:13 AM EDT

Influential model predicts United States will see over 200,000 deaths by Oct. 1

New projections from University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation anticipate that approximately 201,129 people in the United States will have died from the coronavirus by Oct. 1, a marked increase from previous estimates.

The influential model’s last projection, released June 10, had anticipated 31,239 fewer deaths. Monday’s revised forecast reflects the uptick in new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations being reported in many states as restrictions are lifted and schools and business begin to reopen.

The IMHE’s model, which is used by the White House, anticipates that Florida will be one of the worst-hit states. While 6,559 deaths had been predicted just a few days ago, the projected death toll now stands at 18,675. The expected fatality rate in California and Arizona has also increased significantly in the revised forecast.

By Antonia Farzan
June 16, 2020 at 12:59 AM EDT

When will sports return?

The coronavirus pandemic threw the schedules of sports leagues into disarray starting in March, with big events such as Wimbledon and the British Open outright canceled and the Olympics pushed to 2021. Many major sports leagues suspended their seasons or altered offseason plans.

Sports such as golf, horse racing, auto racing and soccer have begun or are about to begin, and now the machinery of major team sports is beginning to start up in the United States, even if it is possible that there will be no fans in the stands.

Here’s where things stand with the NBA, MLB, NFL and other leagues.

By Cindy Boren
June 16, 2020 at 12:32 AM EDT

Children’s entertainers and party performers keep things light during dark times

Before most performances these days, he spends about 20 minutes applying makeup: white face, red lips, nose and eyebrows, maybe a heart on the cheek. Then he pulls on the rainbow wig, the polka-dot shirt and colorful overcoat. When Charles Kraus is finished transforming into Charles the Clown, he fires up the computer and is just a couple of mouse clicks away from what he does best.

“This is what I’ve always done,” said Kraus, 73, a veteran children’s entertainer with some 12,000 performances under his clown belt, performing at parties, parades, libraries, schools, summer camps and community centers. “And I could tell right away that children needed to laugh now more than ever.”

Kraus is part of a large network of performers from the birthday party circuit — clowns, magicians, balloon artists — who have been shut out of in-person performances because of the coronavirus pandemic. They have had to find new ways to connect with children, redirecting their talents into online chats and virtual performances or taking on more creative projects to buoy the spirits of people who might be trapped indoors, feeling isolated or just in need of a smile.

Read more here.

By Rick Maese
June 16, 2020 at 12:18 AM EDT

Colleges are ditching required admission tests over covid-19. Will they ever go back?

For generations of ambitious students, taking the SAT or ACT was considered essential to apply to the most selective colleges and universities. All but a few ultracompetitive schools required test scores.

For the high school Class of 2021, though, testing mandates are rapidly vanishing as the coronavirus crisis has obliterated exam schedules. This shift, coupled with growing skepticism of the tests that predated the pandemic, could produce lasting change in college admissions, as a gigantic test-optional experiment gets underway.

It is now possible for rising high school seniors to apply without a score to more than half of the Ivy League, to most top-ranked liberal arts colleges, to all public universities in California and nearly all in Virginia.

Read more here.

By Nick Anderson
June 16, 2020 at 12:16 AM EDT

FDA pulls emergency approval for antimalarial drugs touted by Trump as covid-19 treatment

The Food and Drug Administration withdrew its emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, drugs that President Trump repeatedly promoted for treatment of covid-19, reversing a decision that led to harsh criticism it had put politics ahead of science.

The FDA said Monday the medications “were unlikely to be effective” for covid-19 and that any potential benefits were outweighed by safety risks, including heart problems. The decision was outlined in a letter from Denise Hinton, the agency’s chief scientist, to Gary Disbrow, the acting director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, who requested the revocation. The FDA said the change was prompted by new information, including clinical trial results.

Read more here.

By Laurie McGinley and Carolyn Y. Johnson