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At his rally in Tulsa on Saturday, President Trump called coronavirus testing “a double-edged sword” and said he asked officials to conduct fewer coronavirus tests to keep case numbers down. After claiming the United States has tested 25 million people, Trump said: “When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please!’ ”

The rally came on a day when Oklahoma reported 331 new coronavirus infections and the country tallied 32,477 new confirmed cases, according to tracking by The Washington Post. Eight states reported their highest single-day case totals since the pandemic began. Across the nation, eight states have also seen a 10-percent or higher change in hospitalizations since Memorial Day.

Here are some significant developments:

  • For the second time this week, Texas surpassed 4,000 new daily coronavirus cases as the pandemic continues to sweep through the state amid its reopening. On Saturday, the state reported its highest single-day increase, with 4,430 confirmed cases. Florida also surpassed 4,000 new cases reported in a single day, with 4,049 new infections.
  • Six members of Trump’s campaign advance team for his Tulsa rally tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to a statement from the president’s campaign. “Quarantine procedures” were implemented immediately, the statement added.
  • An experimental vaccine by Oxford University has turned into the West’s best — and perhaps only — chance to have a viable vaccine before the end of the year.
  • Pope Francis thanked doctors and nurses from Italy’s hardest hit region for their work Saturday in one of his first speeches to an in-person audience since the pandemic lockdowns.
  • The National Institutes of Health said it halted a clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine for treating coronavirus patients, saying it “provides no benefit."
  • Face mask requirements are taking hold across the country as states throughout the South and West continue to report record highs in new daily coronavirus cases.

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June 20, 2020 at 10:18 PM EDT

Trump tells rally crowd that he directed officials to slow virus testing to find fewer cases

President Trump told attendees at his rally in Tulsa on Saturday that he asked officials to conduct fewer coronavirus tests to keep case numbers down, although public-health experts routinely say that testing is important to controlling the pandemic.

The president called testing “a double-edged sword” and said the United States has tested 25 million people. A tracker from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the United States has completed 26.8 million tests but notes that the number of tests does not necessarily equal the number of people tested because a person can be tested multiple times.

“When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases,” Trump said. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please!’ ”

He did not specify who he was referring to or when he asked them to conduct fewer tests.

Trump has previously expressed skepticism about the importance of testing. But a White House official told The Washington Post that Trump was joking.

Health experts have said that although case numbers rise when more tests are conducted, the recent increase in testing across the country does not fully explain why some states have seen sharp increases in infections. Some experts told USA Today that loosening stay-at-home restrictions, isolated outbreaks and the virus impacting previously little-affected communities are also factors.

By Marisa Iati and Christopher Rowland
June 20, 2020 at 9:57 PM EDT

Eight states report record number of single-day cases

Eight states, mostly in the South and West, on Saturday reported their highest single-day case totals since the pandemic began.

While Florida and Texas have drawn attention with skyrocketing numbers of cases exceeding 4,000, Georgia (1,800), South Carolina (1,148), Utah (643), Washington (624), Nevada (445) and Missouri (389) also set records for single-day confirmed cases. Overall, 13 states reached highs in seven-day new-case averages, and 28 states reported seven-day new-case averages higher than the averages from a week ago.

Georgia experienced its biggest spike within a 24-hour window while eclipsing a previous high of 1,598 cases set in the earlier days of the outbreak, on April 7, according to research conducted by The Washington Post.

In Missouri, the lone Midwest state in the bunch, smaller and rural counties accounted for the majority of the new cases. This week, the Joplin, Mo., area had the nation’s highest growth rate over the past seven days. According to the Dartmouth Atlas Project, which collects the data, Joplin experienced an 11.9 percent increase in cases, with many stemming from an outbreak inside a nursing home.

Across the nation, eight states have also seen a 10 percent or higher change in hospitalizations since Memorial Day, according to The Post’s research.

Arkansas has experienced the most dramatic rise since the holiday, with a 143.5 percent increase in hospitalizations. The state, however, still trails Texas, whose 3,247 covid-19 patients in hospitals equates to a 108.3 percent rise since May 25.

Also, Arizona’s hospitalizations have increased by 132.7 percent, with 1,938 covid-19 patients under care as of Saturday.

By Candace Buckner and Jacqueline Dupree
June 20, 2020 at 9:47 PM EDT

After 2-week postponement due to virus, Tiz the Law wins 152nd Belmont Stakes

ELMONT, N.Y. — Tiz the Law, often presumed the country’s best 3-year-old horse through the winter and early spring, drilled nine rivals in a shortened 152nd Belmont Stakes as the oddest Triple Crown season opened Saturday at Belmont Park.

In becoming the first New York-bred horse to win New York’s most celebrated race since Forester in 1882, Tiz the Law insisted upon the lead at the top of the stretch and made the stretch run a virtual coronation. He won handily by four lengths to give a third Triple Crown race win and first Belmont title to 82-year-old trainer Barclay Tagg, and a first in any Triple Crown race to 25-year-old jockey Manuel Franco.

The Belmont, postponed two weeks from its original date because of the novel coronavirus pandemic and shortened from 1½ miles to 1⅛, was the first of the three Triple Crown races for the first time. The Kentucky Derby, which typically is held first, is now scheduled for Sept. 5 and the Preakness is set for Oct. 3.

Read more here.

By Chuck Culpepper and Matt Bonesteel
June 20, 2020 at 9:13 PM EDT

CDC test kits for virus probably were contaminated, federal review confirms

The test kits for detecting the nation’s earliest cases of the novel coronavirus failed because of “likely” contamination at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose scientists did not thoroughly check the kits despite “anomalies” during manufacturing, according to a new federal review.

The review, conducted by two Department of Health and Human Services lawyers, also said there was “time pressure’’ at the CDC to launch testing, and “lab practices that may have been insufficient to prevent the risk of contamination.’’ The lawyers, from the department’s general counsel’s office, were not named.

Neither the review, released late Friday, nor an accompanying statement from President Trump’s chief spokesman at HHS assigned blame to any CDC scientist or official by name.

Read more here.

By David Willman
June 20, 2020 at 7:57 PM EDT

NFL union advises players not to participate in group workouts because of virus threat

The NFL Players Association advised players Saturday not to participate in group workouts ahead of the scheduled opening of teams’ training camps late next month, based on concerns related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Please be advised that it is our consensus medical opinion that in light of the increase in Covid-19 cases in certain states that no players should be engaged in practicing together in private workouts,” the union’s medical director, Thom Mayer, wrote to all NFL players. “Our goal is to have all players and your families as healthy as possible in the coming months.”

The NFL has joined MLB, the NHL and college programs in having a recent flurry of players test positive. That comes as some states nationwide experience an increase in cases while lifting restrictions and reopening businesses.

Read more here.

By Mark Maske
June 20, 2020 at 7:08 PM EDT

Trying to beat back coronavirus, New Zealand locks out foreign workers

Jeus Joaquin helped New Zealand beat back the coronavirus as the nation’s confirmed cases gradually fell to zero in May.

During New Zealand’s 49-day lockdown, the 34-year-old emergency department nurse treated covid-19 patients at Thames Hospital, on the country’s North Island. Essential workers such as him were lauded as heroes as New Zealand’s international prestige soared. (The country has since seen three new cases).

But the win against the virus came at a cost, and Joaquin is among those paying it.

His wife and two toddlers are stuck in the Philippines, where the family is from. They are among an estimated 10,000 foreign workers and family members of citizens and permanent residents who were blocked from returning to New Zealand when the country closed its border. It’s now extremely difficult for anyone but a New Zealand citizen — and a few select foreigners — to get into the country, despite the government’s pledges to assist families locked out.

Read more here.

By Miriam Berger
June 20, 2020 at 6:33 PM EDT

Masks are distributed and temperatures are screened as attendees enter Trump’s campaign rally

TULSA — Attendees at President Trump’s campaign rally here Saturday were handed blue face coverings as they approached the event grounds and directed through a maze of metal fencing, which led to a touchless temperature screening conducted by volunteers in purple smocks.

Most police officers, National Guard soldiers, food vendors and the vast majority of people in line to enter the BOK Center chose not to wear face coverings, though Trump-branded masks dotted the crowd.

Earlier in the day, Trump’s campaign announced that six members of the advance team staffing the rally tested positive for the coronavirus, underscoring concerns about holding a massive indoor event in a city where cases are spiking. The campaign said quarantine procedures had gone into effect for the infected staff members and those in “immediate contact” with them, as hundreds of supporters filled downtown streets in anticipation of the evening rally — his first since the virus brought much of public life to a standstill in March.

Read more here.

By Robert Klemko, Arelis Hernández and Isaac Stanley-Becker
June 20, 2020 at 6:07 PM EDT

Texas reports highest single-day increase in cases as governor says more young adults are testing positive

For the second time this week, Texas has surpassed 4,000 new daily coronavirus cases as the pandemic continues to sweep through the state amid its reopening.

On Saturday, Texas reported its highest single-day increase, with 4,430 confirmed cases of the virus. Unlike Tuesday, when the state announced 4,098 cases that included 1,476 previously unreported infections of inmates, no such asterisks came with Saturday’s total.

Texas also announced 25 deaths related to covid-19, bringing the total to 2,165, while current hospitalizations were up to 3,247, an increase of 1,005 since the past Saturday.

The daily case total in Texas has been increasing since late May, and more young people have been testing positive.

This week, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) attributed the surge in infections to increased testing and a lack of social distancing among young adults. Health experts have argued that increased testing alone does not explain the increase in cases in many states, including Texas.

“There are certain counties where a majority of the people who are tested positive in that county are under the age of 30, and this typically results from people going to bars,” Abbott said Tuesday at a news conference, according to the Texas Tribune.

Despite the swelling numbers, Abbott permitted amusement parks in the state to open at 50-percent capacity Friday.

By Candace Buckner
June 20, 2020 at 5:27 PM EDT

Greece extends lockdown of refugee camps as it allows tourists to return

Tourists from many countries can now roam free in Greece. But Saturday, the government extended a lockdown of the country’s refugee camps until early July — a move it said is necessary to keep the overcrowded accommodations virus-free.

Refugee advocates have criticized the restrictions, extended on World Refugee Day, as an erosion of rights and the wrong approach to keeping people safe. Earlier Saturday, about 2,000 people gathered in Athens to protest the government’s treatment of migrants and asylum seekers, AFP reported.

Over 32,000 refugees are housed on Greek islands in accommodations originally built for less than one-fifth the current number of occupants. Thousands more are housed on the mainland.

The island camps have long caused friction with local communities that are greatly dependent on tourism amid a struggling economy. But rights groups have also called on Greece to close the camps as a precaution against the coronavirus, which could thrive in the cramped and often unsanitary conditions.

Greek authorities have been moving some asylum seekers out of the island camps and into the mainland facilities but are also ordering out around 11,000 refugees already in the temporary accommodations, leaving thousands on the brink of homelessness amid a pandemic.

Greece previously provided up to six months of housing for refugees on the mainland after they received protected status, but recently reduced the amount of time to just one month to create more space for those relocated from the island camps.

By Miriam Berger
June 20, 2020 at 4:35 PM EDT

Florida exceeds 4,000 new cases in a day, setting a record

Florida surpassed 4,000 new coronavirus cases reported in a single day for the first time Saturday, state officials said in a news release.

The Sunshine State reported 4,049 new infections, a 6 percent increase from the previous high set Friday. The state’s total caseload stands at 93,797.

Florida’s seven-day case average of 2,892 is also a record, up 88 percent from the past week’s average of 1,542. Saturday was the 13th straight day the state hit a new average high.

At his news conference Saturday, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said most new cases are asymptomatic and the vast majority are people in their 20s and 30s. Additionally, he said cases now have a different meaning than when the pandemic started because lower-risk individuals are being tested as the economy reopens.

“Our cases are shifting at a radical direction younger,” DeSantis said. He said state officials would rather deal with a trend of cases in younger patients than in older people, who are at higher risk for severe symptoms and death.

The state reported 40 new deaths Saturday, putting the overall death toll at 3,144.

In recent days, Florida’s rate of positive cases has also been on the rise. It stood at 12.3 percent Friday, compared with 10 percent Thursday and 8.8 percent Wednesday, state officials said.

Acknowledging the surge in cases, DeSantis said everyone who enters a hospital is being tested and that the increased number of infections is partly because the state has been testing more people in certain environments as a precaution.

“The state is in a very good spot to be able to handle these eventualities compared to where everyone really was in February and March,” DeSantis said. “We have a very robust testing infrastructure in place. Anyone who needs a test can get a test.”

Saturday evening, the Florida Department of Health issued an additional public health advisory, recommending that residents wear masks in public, encouraging older and vulnerable populations to limit interactions outside of the home, and urging all individuals to refrain from participating in gatherings of more than 50 people.

By Brittany Shammas, Jacqueline Dupree and Samantha Pell
June 20, 2020 at 4:06 PM EDT

In the quiet of a shutdown, students and seniors forge new friendships

Around twice a week, Mary Jane Gillespie, 76, and Callie Heimbach, 17, get on the phone to catch up. They chat about languages — how Spanish is easier to learn than French because it has fewer silent letters; how German is useful in reading Beowulf. They discuss how the novel coronavirus will go down in history like the 1918 flu and the 1950s polio epidemic.

And they remark on all the chirping since the shutdown.

“I was thinking about what you told me — I can hear the birds so much,” Heimbach marveled on a recent call.

They talk like old friends, but they have never met in person; three months ago, they didn’t even know about each other. But in March, Heimbach’s Alexandria school, St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes, and Gillespie’s retirement community, Goodwin House, with locations in Falls Church and Alexandria, embarked on the Companion Program, a partnership to connect teenagers with seniors in a sort of coronavirus-era pen pal relationship. For the past two months, 28 pairs have been communicating regularly.

Read more here.

By Tara Bahrampour
June 20, 2020 at 3:32 PM EDT

With a persistent pandemic, lawmakers will have more access to testing

A lot has changed in the seven weeks since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined a Trump administration offer to provide coronavirus testing to members of Congress.

Back then, health officials faced testing shortfalls across the nation, particularly in the Washington region, and the two leaders feared the optics associated with creating a special system for lawmakers while everyday Americans could not get tested.

Read more here.

By Paul Kane
June 20, 2020 at 3:06 PM EDT

Spain prepares to welcome European tourists starting Sunday

Spain is preparing to reopen its borders to almost all European Union member countries Sunday as it seeks to strike a balance between refueling its economy and preventing a resurgence of the coronavirus.

Less than three months ago, Spain was among the countries worst hit by the virus, as official fatalities soared to more than 28,000 dead. But on Saturday, the government reported only 134 new infections in the previous day and 36 covid-19 related deaths over the past week as it prepared to lift its state of emergency Sunday.

With about 12 percent of the economy based on tourism, Spain has been eager to salvage what remains of the summer tourism potential. It is a calculated move, as the number of new virus cases could rise as travel resumes, public health experts warn.

Spain has put in place procedures for monitoring visitors, such as taking temperatures and collecting contact information.

After much back-and-forth, Spain announced Saturday that travelers coming from Britain will not be subject to a two-week quarantine, as initially planned. Talk of a quarantine restriction had greatly riled Britons, about 18 million of whom visited Spain in 2019 and accounted for more than one-fifth of all tourists that year, according to the Guardian. About 400,000 Britons have second homes in Spain.

Despite the pressure, Britain’s situation remains precarious. On Saturday, the Department of Health and Social Care reported 128 covid-19-related deaths in the previous 24 hours, raising the confirmed death toll to more than 42,400.

Acknowledging the risk, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez urged people on Saturday to stay vigilant against the virus and to observe hygiene and face-mask requirements.

“The virus could return and we could be hit by a second wave, which is something we need to avoid at all costs,” the Guardian quoted him as saying.

By Miriam Berger
June 20, 2020 at 2:56 PM EDT

Six Trump campaign staffers in Tulsa test positive, spokesman says

Six staffers working on Trump’s Tulsa rally have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a statement from the president’s campaign. “Quarantine procedures” were implemented immediately, the statement added.

“No COVID-positive staffers or anyone in immediate contact will be at today’s rally or near attendees and elected officials,” wrote campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

He said the six members of the advance team were the only positives “out of hundreds of tests performed.”

Rallygoers will be temperature screened and given face masks and hand sanitizer, though masks are not required.

By Brittany Shammas