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Health officials in Texas reported a record number of hospitalizations on Wednesday — 2,793 — in a 66 percent increase since Memorial Day, an analysis by The Washington Post shows. The daily death toll also increased slightly in the past few days. Thirty-three coronavirus-related fatalities were announced Wednesday, making the total number of deaths statewide 2,062. Texas began to reopen on April 20 after roughly two weeks under a stay-at-home order. Cases have been trending upward since then.

A host of states in the western and southern United States have seen coronavirus cases climb in recent days, raising fears of a new wave, as infections dwindle in other states that were initially hit harder.

That trend continued in some states Wednesday. Oklahoma registered another record for single-day new cases, California set another record in its rolling average, while North Carolina’s average dropped by one case, breaking a streak of 15 new highs in a row.

Here are some significant developments:

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June 17, 2020 at 11:24 PM EDT

Trump pushing officials to speed up already-ambitious vaccine timeline

President Trump, faced with multiple crises and falling poll numbers less than five months before the presidential election, is prodding top health officials to move faster on a historically ambitious timeline to approve a coronavirus vaccine by year’s end.

The goal is to instill confidence among voters that the virus can be tamed and the economy fully reopened under Trump’s stewardship.

In a meeting last month with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar — who is overseeing the effort called Operation Warp Speed, along with Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper — Trump pushed Azar repeatedly to speed up the already unprecedented timeline, according to two senior White House officials familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. Trump wants some people to be able to get the vaccine sooner than the end of the year to demonstrate an end to the pandemic is within reach, according to those officials and two others.

Read more here.

By Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, Laurie McGinley and Carolyn Y. Johnson
June 17, 2020 at 10:56 PM EDT

Florida man’s list of good deeds includes helping his favorite restaurants and feeding hospital workers

Bill’s Cafe had served the last BLT sandwich of the day, the doors were closed, and Bill Salley could finally crank up the volume on Cheap Trick.

The music is playing loudly again after Salley and his staff, thanks in large part to the generosity of a regular customer, endured a nearly two-month shutdown of regular service because of restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The customer, who spoke to The Washington Post about this good deed and others on the condition that he remain anonymous, gave Salley $42,000 for the cafe to provide 100 breakfast sandwiches to hospital workers five days a week for two months.

Read more here.

By Candace Buckner
June 17, 2020 at 10:25 PM EDT

Soccer’s Champions League, halted by pandemic, to finish with knockout tournament in Portugal

This year’s Champions League will be completed as a 12-day knockout tournament from the quarterfinals onward and played entirely at two stadiums in Lisbon, European soccer’s governing body announced Wednesday. The annual competition for the most prestigious club soccer title in the world was halted during the round of 16 in March because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig, Atalanta and Atletico Madrid already have qualified for the quarterfinals after winning their two-leg round-of-16 matchups. The remaining four matches in the round of 16 will be played Aug. 7-8, either at home stadiums or in Portugal, depending on whether local restrictions on sporting events have been lifted.

The final eight teams will then gather for a knockout tournament (in which teams play one match with the winner advancing) beginning Aug. 12, with the final scheduled for Aug. 23.

Portugal has one of Europe’s lowest death tolls from covid-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, and this week further reopened its doors to international tourists.

Read more here.

By Matt Bonesteel
June 17, 2020 at 9:41 PM EDT

Single riders used to cut the line at theme parks. But the travel hack can’t survive social distancing.

One epic February day in 2018, Louis Davidson went to Disney’s Animal Kingdom as soon as it opened and hopped onto Expedition Everest. Then — thanks in large part to a theme park hack called the single-rider line — the Cleveland, Tenn., computer programmer rode the roller coaster again, 57 more times, until the park closed.

“I just started riding and kept riding the entire day,” said Davidson, 52, who runs the Disney Pic a Day Twitter account and blog. “Stopped for lunch.”

For theme park fans who just want to cut to the action without fuss (and don’t mind joining a group of strangers), the single-rider line has been a favorite hack for years. While not available on every ride — or guaranteed to be shorter, or even operating all the time — the lines are a go-to shortcut for frequent visitors in the know.

Or, at least, they were. “Pour one out for the single rider line, which is done,” says Robert Niles, editor of Theme Park Insider. “No one’s keeping them.”

Read more here.

By Hannah Sampson
June 17, 2020 at 9:28 PM EDT

Oregon governor requires masks for over half the state’s population as virus cases soar

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued a directive Wednesday instructing people in seven counties to wear masks indoors and in public spaces as the novel coronavirus spreads quickly in the state.

The order is set to take effect on June 24 and will affect 55 percent of Oregon’s population, according to OregonLive.com. The counties — Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Hood River, Marion, Polk and Lincoln — are all near Portland, in the northwest part of the state.

Separately, Lincoln County mandated that residents must start wearing masks this week.

The directives mirror several other regions in the western and southern parts of the United States that have recently started mandating masks as cases increase.

In Oregon, the numbers of coronavirus infections and deaths have been rising since May 27, two days after Memorial Day. Health officials reported 278 cases on Tuesday — by far the state’s highest daily total.

Last week, Brown paused all counties’ progression through the phases of reopening, citing a growing number of virus cases in rural and urban areas. She said Wednesday that she was allowing four counties to progress to the next phase.

By Marisa Iati
June 17, 2020 at 8:45 PM EDT

Ariz. sheriff learns of positive test during visit to White House

The sheriff of Pinal County, Ariz., announced Wednesday that he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, a day after visiting the White House.

Sheriff Mark Lamb, whose county has seen a rise in cases, revealed his positive test in a Facebook post.

“Unfortunately, as a law enforcement official and elected leader, we do not have the luxury of staying home. This line of work is inherently dangerous, and that is a risk we take when we sign up for the job,” Lamb wrote. “Today, that risk is the COVID-19 virus.”

On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order on policing in the Rose Garden while surrounded by law enforcement officials. Lamb, who has previously met with Trump and visited the White House, was invited to attend the event and like all visitors, he was screened for illness. Although asymptomatic, Lamb said he tested positive for the virus. In the Facebook post, Lamb did not say whether he had met personally with the president during the recent visit.

Across Arizona, there has been a spike in infections, with 1,827 new cases on Wednesday. In Pinal County, the public health department reported 59 new cases.

Lamb said he probably was exposed to an infected person at an event on Saturday. Also, Lamb said he has alerted the county health department, which will administer contact tracing and alert people that Lamb came into contact with at the event. Lamb said he will self-quarantine for at least 14 days.

By Candace Buckner
June 17, 2020 at 8:32 PM EDT

Tennis set to return in August with Washington’s Citi Open, Serena Williams at the U.S. Open

Tennis will return from a five-month hiatus in mid-August, with its opening event the Citi Open in Washington before the sport moves to New York City for three weeks, culminating in the U.S. Open. While it’s unclear how many of the world’s top-10 players will take part in the Grand Slam event, tournament officials shared during a conference call Wednesday a videotaped commitment from Serena Williams, a six-time U.S. Open champion, who said she couldn’t wait to get to New York.

Under a revised men’s calendar unveiled Wednesday, the Aug. 14-21 Citi Open will lead directly into Cincinnati’s relocated Western & Southern Open, which will be held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York as an undercard, in effect, to the U.S. Open, which will be held Aug. 31-Sept. 13 as scheduled.

All three events will be contested under unprecedented health and safety protocols to guard against the spread of the novel coronavirus that halted all sanctioned pro tournaments in March.

Read more here.

By Liz Clarke
June 17, 2020 at 8:15 PM EDT

FDA warns 3 companies on marketing of coronavirus test kits

The Food and Drug Administration has sent its first set of warning letters to three companies for alleged marketing of unauthorized coronavirus test kits, the agency announced Wednesday.

The companies’ alleged violations included offering at-home test kits to consumers without marketing approval, falsely claiming products were “FDA approved” and labeling products with the FDA logo, which may not be used on private companies’ products.

The agency’s admonishments were issued to Medakit in Hong Kong, Antibodiescheck.com in the United Arab Emirates and Jason Korkus, a dentist, and Sonrisa Family Dental in Chicago.

The letters gave the companies 48 hours to show the FDA that they had corrected the situation. The agency said it may take legal action if the businesses do not resolve the issue.

In a statement Thursday, Medakit founder Mike Touzard said his company responded to the FDA two days after receiving the warning letter. Medakit told the FDA it has blocked people in the United States from making purchases on its website, noted on the site that its products are not FDA-approved and has begun to review its marketing to correct mistaken claims, according to Touzard.

Representatives of the other two companies did not respond to emails from The Washington Post requesting comment.

No diagnostic or antibody test kits have been approved for use completely at home, the FDA said in its statement. Several diagnostic tests allow at-home collection of samples, but those must be sent to a lab to be processed. Customers using a completely at-home test could struggle to process the samples or misinterpret the results, harming their understanding of their own health, the FDA said.

By Marisa Iati
June 17, 2020 at 7:38 PM EDT

Local authorities in Arizona can require masks to be worn in public

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) granted permission to local authorities to require face coverings in public.

Ducey made the announcement Wednesday as novel coronavirus infections continue to spike in the state, with 1,827 new cases and 76 new hospitalizations reported Wednesday. In the state, 1,582 people are hospitalized with complications related to covid-19, and that is a number that has trended upward since Memorial Day when the state had 833 hospitalizations, according to research conducted by The Washington Post.

The governor’s decision followed Tucson Mayor Regina Romero (D) announcing that she had directed the city attorney to amend the local emergency proclamation so that masks are now required in public to slow the spread of the virus.

“Public health experts agree — the time to #MaskUpTucson is NOW,” Romero concluded her tweet.

The Pima County Health Department reported an increase of 385 confirmed cases from Monday to Tuesday. Overall from June 10 to 17, the county that includes Tucson has recorded more than 1,000 new cases.

In an MSNBC interview, Romero placed the blame on Ducey for lifting coronavirus-related restrictions near the end of May.

“Unfortunately, these numbers started rising as soon as Governor Ducey reopened our state,” Romero said. “We are hearing from health-care professionals that we can pinpoint to that particular action by the governor regarding this alarming rate of covid-19 increases in our state.”

Before Ducey’s announcement, Romero was part of a growing group of mayors and local leaders around the country seeking to mandate masks.

Nine mayors in major Texas cities — including Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin — wrote a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to grant them “authority to set rules and regulations,” while Montgomery, Ala., Mayor Steven Reed bypassed the city council and issued an executive order requiring masks to be worn in public.

The Memphis and Fayetteville, Ark., city councils also have passed ordinances that will mandate masks in public, and Lincoln County in Oregon announced a similar instruction on Wednesday.

By Candace Buckner
June 17, 2020 at 7:33 PM EDT

Tulsa mayor calls Trump’s visit an ‘honor’ despite requests to cancel or postpone rally

The mayor of Tulsa said Wednesday it was “an honor” to welcome President Trump for a campaign rally this weekend despite a recommendation from the city’s health director to postpone the event because of coronavirus concerns and calls by city leaders to cancel it.

G.T. Bynum, a Republican, told a news conference that “I’m not positive that everything is safe” and urged residents who planned to attend Trump’s Saturday night gathering to wear masks and take other precautions. Bynum said he would not be attending the rally but would greet Trump at the airport. He added that the company managing the venue has “sole discretion” on whether to host the event and that “it’s not my decision to make.”

“The president chose this city, and so it falls on us,” Bynum said. “And it is an honor.”

Some residents, business owners and civil rights activists have called on Bynum to cancel Trump’s rally at the 19,000-seat BOK Center, warning it could bring a confluence of dangers.

Read more here.

By Josh Partlow, Annie Gowen and DeNeen L. Brown
June 17, 2020 at 7:13 PM EDT

Texas announces a record number of hospitalizations as its daily death toll rises

Health officials in Texas reported a record number of current hospitalizations on Wednesday — 2,793 — in a 66 percent increase since Memorial Day, an analysis by The Washington Post shows.

The number of new daily coronavirus cases announced Wednesday — 3,129 — would also have been an all-time high were it not for 1,476 cases in prisons that officials added to Tuesday’s figure for 2,622. Texas is nearing 100,000 total cases of the virus.

The daily death toll has also increased slightly in the past few days. Thirty-three coronavirus-related fatalities were announced Wednesday, making the total number of deaths statewide 2,062. Tuesday’s 46 deaths marked the highest number of fatalities in the state since May 20, when 50 deaths were recorded.

Texas began to reopen on April 20 after roughly two weeks under a stay-at-home order. Cases have been trending upward since then. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) released a statement on Tuesday urging residents to stay calm as infections increase because there was “abundant hospital capacity.”

By Marisa Iati and Jacqueline Dupree
June 17, 2020 at 6:14 PM EDT

High-income residents account for half the nation’s decline in spending, causing trickle-down effect for workers

The nation’s top income quartile has been responsible for about half of the country’s decline in spending during the coronavirus-induced economic downturn, according to a research group affiliated with Harvard University.

Those high-income households directed most of their spending cuts at services that required potentially unsafe human-to-human contact, like food services and transportation, Opportunity Insights found. As a result, small businesses in the most affluent areas lost more than 70 percent of their revenue, compared with a roughly 30 percent loss for small businesses in the least affluent areas.

This loss of revenue had severe results for workers, the study found. Nearly 70 percent of low-wage workers in the most affluent Zip codes were laid off within two weeks of the coronavirus crisis beginning, while about 30 percent of low-wage workers in the least affluent Zip codes experienced the same. Businesses in the wealthier areas are also posting fewer new jobs as states reopen.

The researchers also determined that restarting a state’s economy only modestly affected spending and businesses’ revenue.

“These findings show that it is the fear of COVID19 itself, not executive orders restricting business activity, that are the primary cause of reduced economic activity and job loss,” the authors wrote.

Stimulus payments significantly increased spending, while small-business loans have had little effect on employment rates, according to the study.

“Given this sequence of events, the only path to full economic recovery in the long run is to restore consumer confidence by focusing on health policies that will address the virus itself,” the authors concluded. “Traditional economic tools — loans to firms or blanket stimulus payments to households — may have weaker effects on restoring employment in the sectors and areas where it fell most when the fundamental constraint on spending is health concerns.”

By Marisa Iati
June 17, 2020 at 6:08 PM EDT

Nearly 80% of hospitalized coronavirus patients in Atlanta were black, CDC reports

Nearly 80 percent of patients hospitalized in Atlanta because of covid-19 were black, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In data taken from March to April, black patients made up 79 percent of the 220 hospitalizations across six metropolitan Atlanta acute-care infirmaries. The median age of all those hospitalized was 61, and 52 percent were male.

The CDC study also found that many of those hospitalized patients had prior health conditions such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension or chronic kidney disease. Also, smoking and obesity were more prevalent, according to the report.

According to the 2019 Census, 51.8 percent of the metropolitan Atlanta population consists of people who identify as “Black or African-American, alone.”

At least 115,000 people have died of the coronavirus in the United States, according to a Washington Post tracker. Though black people account for 13 percent of the U.S. population, the group makes up 24 percent of coronavirus-related deaths, according to the Covid Racial Data Tracker.

The Post reported May 6 that U.S. counties that are predominantly black accounted for more than half of the cases in the country and almost 60 percent of coronavirus deaths.

CDC data reveals that the “age-adjusted COVID-19 death rate for black people is 3.6 times that for whites,” the Brookings Institution reported.

By Candace Buckner
June 17, 2020 at 5:23 PM EDT

Coronavirus case found at South Carolina’s Post & Courier after employees return to the office

A coronavirus infection has been confirmed at the Post & Courier newspaper in South Carolina days after employees were asked to resume working in the office, the Daily Beast reported.

Many employees had been working from home during the virus outbreak and expressed concern when management directed them to return to their Charleston office on June 1, according to the Daily Beast. Leadership reportedly told staff members on Wednesday that some of them could go back to working from home.

Executive Editor Mitch Pugh did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post about the positive case. The Daily Beast also reported that the newspaper’s leaders did not respond to messages seeking comment.

On May 31, the day before Post & Courier employees returned to the office, the state reported what was then its highest daily case total.

South Carolina’s daily coronavirus case count has been trending upward since late May, about a month after the state began to restart its economy. The state has totaled 20,551 coronavirus cases. The latest one-day record, 840, was Sunday.

The Post & Courier has 34 reporters, six digital journalists and five visual journalists, Poynter reported. There are 25 editors across the newsroom, according to a staff list on the newspaper’s website.

By Marisa Iati