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Sidelined by the White House and harshly criticized in an extraordinary op-ed from one of President Trump’s top advisers, Anthony S. Fauci — the nation’s top infectious-disease expert — said in an interview published Wednesday that the country needs to focus on a surging virus “rather than these games people are playing.”

“We’ve got to almost reset this and say, ‘Okay, let’s stop this nonsense,' ” he said after being asked by the Atlantic to state “the truth about the federal response to the pandemic” in the United States. “We’ve got to figure out, How can we get our control over this now, and, looking forward, how can we make sure that next month, we don’t have another example of California, Texas, Florida, and Arizona?”

Here are some significant developments:

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July 15, 2020 at 11:25 PM EDT

Tulsa poised to mandate mask-wearing after recent surge

By Katie Shepherd

People in Tulsa will be required to wear masks inside businesses and in public spaces where social distancing is not possible after the city council voted Wednesday to pass a mask mandate as an emergency measure following a recent spike in novel coronavirus cases.

Local public health officials linked the surge in new cases to President Trump’s June 20 rally in the Oklahoma city, where attendees crowded into an arena and mostly disregarded advice to wear masks.

The city council voted 7-2 to implement a mandatory mask policy to tamp down the city’s growing outbreak.

According to the measure, violators who refuse to don a face covering could be charged with a misdemeanor, such as criminal trespass, disturbing the peace, or disorderly conduct.

The new mask mandate will take effect when Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum signs the new ordinance. On Twitter, the mayor said he is “grateful" to the council members for passing the new rules and will sign the ordinance on Thursday morning.

“The purpose of the mask is to reduce the ability of the wearer to unknowingly spread a virus that has the ability to overwhelm our local health care system," Bynum said on Facebook on Wednesday. “We don’t wear a mask for our own protection, we wear it to protect others from us.”

Some people are exempt from the requirement, including children and people who the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises should not wear face coverings “due to a medical or mental health condition or developmental disability.”

People eating or drinking inside a restaurant are also permitted to remove their masks, according to the ordinance.

Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) and Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith announced that they had tested positive for the virus Wednesday. Stitt is the first U.S. governor to test positive for the coronavius. A Vietnamese restaurant that Stitt visited last week closed for cleaning Wednesday after learning about the governor’s positive test.

July 15, 2020 at 10:53 PM EDT

A number of MLB umpires will opt out of the 2020 season over virus fears

By Matt Bonesteel

The Associated Press reported that about 10 Major League Baseball umpires have joined around a dozen players in deciding to opt out of the 2020 season, which has been significantly shortened by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Jon Heyman of MLB Network puts the number at 11, with some opting out because they have family members who are ill.

Under an agreement reached between the umpires and MLB, umpires deemed to be at risk because of their age, health issues or other reasons will continue to get paid if they opt out. If just one regular season game is played this season, the umpires will receive at least 37.5 percent of their salaries, per the terms of the deal.

Read more here.

July 15, 2020 at 10:25 PM EDT

D.C. has tested 13,706 blood samples. Only 809 carried coronavirus antibodies.

By Julie Zauzmer

Fewer than 6 percent of District residents who have sought out antibody testing, hoping to find that their bodies carried proteins that could ward off the novel coronavirus, have tested positive for the antibodies.

In a month of testing that has been offered to the public as well as to health-care workers, the District’s public health lab and other labs have tested 13,706 blood samples and found that only 809 carried antibodies.

The District will continue to offer free antibody tests at three sites for one more month, as the city seeks to learn from the results about who has and has not been exposed to the virus — and as residents search for hope, however elusive, that they might somehow be immune.

Read more here.

July 15, 2020 at 10:20 PM EDT

French newborn infected with coronavirus in the womb, study says — but experts say risk to babies still low

By Kim Bellware

A baby boy born in France in March contracted the coronavirus in the womb, according to a study by French doctors that was published Tuesday, marking what one expert called the “most convincing instance” to date of transplacental transmission, or passing on infection in utero.

The 23-year-old mother was admitted to a hospital in suburban Paris in March when she was 35 weeks pregnant and later tested positive, according to the study published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications. After doctors saw signs of “distress” in the fetus, the baby was delivered by Caesarean section. Doctors later found traces of the virus in the baby, who suffered neurological issues they said was due to virus-induced brain inflammation.

While the French case study isn’t the first instance in which a baby is suspected to have contracted the virus in utero, it’s significant because of how well documented it was, said Diana W. Bianchi, who directs the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Bianchi said it still appears that transplacental transmission is rare and cautioned against interpreting the study’s outcome as applying to everyone, rather than being an individual case.

“The chance of the baby getting sick is much, much smaller than the mother getting sick,” Bianchi told The Washington Post. There is also little evidence that suggests babies develop birth defects if they contract the virus, and Bianchi noted that the neurological issues in the French baby could be attributed to other factors besides the virus.

“We get asked all the time, ‘What’s the risk for my baby?’ Fortunately, these cases seem to be rare,” Bianchi said. “The numbers of the reports that we’ve seen — and we know well over a thousand women who have been infected — we’ve seen a handful that the babies have been infected.”

July 15, 2020 at 9:55 PM EDT

Virginia adopts first coronavirus safety rules for workplaces in the country after labor groups decry White House inaction

By Eli Rosenberg

The state of Virginia will adopt the first set of coronavirus-related workplace safety mandates in the country, after a board approved the emergency regulation Wednesday — a move the state took after months of inaction from a federal agency tasked with nationwide enforcement.

The state’s safety and health codes board voted 9-2 to adopt what is called an “emergency temporary standard,” which will require businesses to implement a raft of safety measures to protect workers from the coronavirus. Companies could face steep financial penalties if they are found to have violated the policies.

The policies prohibit workers suspected of having the coronavirus from showing up to work, require companies to notify workers of possible exposure to infected co-workers within 24 hours, and include mandates about physical distancing, protective gear, sanitation, disinfecting and hand-washing.

July 15, 2020 at 9:41 PM EDT

Average number of new cases in the U.S. rises for 37th straight day

By Marisa Iati and Jacqueline Dupree

The seven-day average of new cases in the United States increased for the 37th day in a row on Wednesday as state officials, health experts and businesses intensified pressure on people to wear masks outside their homes.

The average new-case total, 62,189, was up by nearly 10,000 from the same day last week, according to The Washington Post’s tracking. New Hampshire, Idaho, Montana, Oklahoma and New Mexico set records for single-day cases, while 19 states representing most regions of the country hit new average highs.

In the past week, infections have spread particularly quickly in New Hampshire, the Virgin Islands and Montana, where the new-case average on Wednesday was at least twice the average of a week ago. The figure was 348 percent higher in New Hampshire.

Two counties have logged a streak of new-case-average highs longer than two weeks: Florida’s Broward County, which has set a record for 30 days straight, and Oklahoma’s Oklahoma County, which includes the state’s capital and has reached a new high for 16 days in a row.

Although the nation’s seven-day average of deaths has remained mostly stable for the past few days, that average reached record highs in Alabama, Arizona, Florida and Texas.

July 15, 2020 at 9:29 PM EDT

Officials, experts say new rules for covid-19 reporting will add burdens during pandemic

By Amy Goldstein and Lena H. Sun

State health leaders, public health experts and hospital officials warn that an abrupt change in how the Trump administration requires them to report coronavirus data will increase the burden on facilities already strained by the pandemic and could impede the distribution of critical medicines.

The opposition came after the Department of Health and Human Services notified governors and hospital leaders this week that it was changing the protocol for sending the federal government daily information about coronavirus patients, supplies and bed capacity. Administration officials say that replacing a data-collection system run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would streamline reporting and lead to more efficient distribution of therapeutics, testing supplies and protective gear.

Officials also suggested that states might want to get the National Guard to assist hospitals — an idea the industry has condemned.

Read more here.

July 15, 2020 at 9:20 PM EDT

Restaurant closes after Oklahoma governor visits, tests positive

By Meryl Kornfield

A Vietnamese restaurant in Tulsa has temporarily closed after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) dined there last week and then tested positive for the coronavirus.

The establishment, Kai Vietnamese Cuisine, said Wednesday on Facebook that it would close until further notice, undergo a professional cleaning and ensure its staff is tested. Stitt, who announced Wednesday that he was infected with the virus, said he is feeling fine but will isolate.

“He visited our establishment last week and we want to be proactive and shut down to get the staff tested and get our restaurant professionally disinfected,” the restaurant said in a Facebook post announcing the closure.

Stitt is the first U.S. governor to test positive for the virus. He said he isn’t sure how he became infected but does not suspect he was infected at President Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa last month.

In a photo now removed from the restaurant’s Facebook page, Stitt posed with two staff members after he ate lunch. The photo caption was edited later to explain that the restaurant’s management had accepted that the governor did not wear a mask.

“We asked for a photo as soon as he was done eating which is why he isn’t photoed with a mask,” the restaurant wrote, according to a photo of the post shared on Twitter. “Our family was honored just to have an Oklahoma leader choose our restaurant to eat at, this wasn’t meant to be about a mask or no mask. It was more about how far our little family has come since coming to America to fulfill an American dream.”

Stitt previously deleted a photo he posted in March of his family at a packed restaurant after it drew national attention.

July 15, 2020 at 9:05 PM EDT

Mask mandates catch on as states, businesses try to bypass a toxic debate

By Griff Witte

They have emerged as an unlikely symbol of partisan divide and a source of bottomless derision for President Trump.

But masks on Wednesday moved ever closer to becoming a new national reality in America’s pandemic-scarred life, with businesses, states and health experts preaching their promise as the country’s last line of defense against a fast-growing viral threat.

Even as the White House continued to resist pushing for a national mask mandate, evidence abounded that face coverings were becoming a de facto requirement — and not only in big cities where they have been in widespread use for months.

Read more here.

July 15, 2020 at 8:41 PM EDT

D.C. slips in key coronavirus metric as region sees highest caseload in weeks

By Fenit Nirappil, Rachel Chason and Dana Hedgpeth

The greater Washington region recorded its highest daily coronavirus caseload in weeks Wednesday as the District lost more ground in its fight to quell the pandemic.

The District, Maryland and Virginia combined to report the region’s highest single-day case increase since June 4. Leaders in the region are monitoring a recent rise in cases in hopes of staving off outbreaks that have occurred elsewhere in the country.

While much of the increase is the result of infection spikes in Virginia’s Hampton Roads region, many other localities have also reported increases in recent days.

District leaders reported Wednesday that a key transmission rate metric rose to alarming levels for the first time since late April.

Read more here.

July 15, 2020 at 8:13 PM EDT

‘How many more people have to die’ before Florida reimplements some restrictions, reporter asks

By Marisa Iati

During a news conference in Florida’s hardest-hit county on Wednesday, a reporter asked the governor a blunt question: “How many more people have to die before you consider scaling back on your reopening plans?”

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who implemented an aggressive reopening plan, did not address whether he would reinstate any coronavirus restrictions and instead defended his administration’s record during the pandemic. He said the state has saved “probably thousands of lives” in long-term care facilities and that Florida officials take the prevention of deaths and hospitalizations “very, very seriously.”

“We’re doing all we can because every life counts, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re 10 years old, 30 years old or 90 years old,” DeSantis said. “We want to be there to do the best we can, to help folks — particularly those who are the most vulnerable to a nasty virus.”

The question came as Florida’s death toll hit 4,626, with 112 new deaths reported Wednesday. In Miami-Dade, where the news conference took place, health officials logged 27 new deaths and 2,514 additional infections. More than 4,550 people in the county were hospitalized with covid-19. DeSantis said that although Miami-Dade’s hospitals have enough beds to treat patients, they lack enough staff. The state is sending health-care workers to the county to assist, he said.

The governor also said that Florida has conducted about 90,000 coronavirus tests per day in the past week and that the state would move business away from labs that are not returning results in “a timely fashion.” The state requested in early May that labs deliver results in 48 hours, but many have not done so, he said.

DeSantis added that emergency room visits for coronavirus-like illnesses are declining and that the positive case rate has gone down in “some key areas.” He did not specify which areas he meant.

July 15, 2020 at 7:47 PM EDT

Ohio governor says surge in cases is not just from increased testing

By Meryl Kornfield

In a solemn evening address Wednesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) urged Ohioans to be more vigilant against the spread of the coronavirus, saying that the recent increase in cases was not just the result of more testing.

While President Trump and other Republican leaders have tied escalated screening to the nationwide surge in infections, DeWine broke from that explanation, adding that it was not the time to underestimate the reach of the virus. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, and other leading public health officials have attributed the spike to community transmission in the past several weeks.

“Our number of positive cases has skyrocketed by almost 200 percent,” DeWine said. “Clearly, our number of new cases is not just the result of increased testing.”

The state reached a record in its seven-day average of infections, with 1,304 new cases reported Wednesday. More than 1,000 people are currently hospitalized, the highest number since mid-May, according to a data analysis by The Washington Post.

DeWine said Ohio was “headed down a dangerous path” if residents do not wear face coverings, follow social distancing recommendations and take other precautions to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But DeWine stopped short of issuing an order to shut down the reopened state.

Instead, he warned that he may announce restrictions later but hoped individuals would take proper precautions so that Ohio does not become the country’s next hot spot.

“If all of us do not take immediate action to slow this virus down, the tragedy that we see playing out on our television screens every day in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California may well be our reality in just a matter of weeks,” DeWine said.

July 15, 2020 at 7:29 PM EDT

Walmart, Kroger and Kohl’s will require masks at all U.S. stores

By Hannah Denham and Marisa Iati

Walmart — the world’s largest retailer — Kroger and Kohl’s said they will require face coverings at all U.S. stores starting next week.

Arkansas-based Walmart’s mandate begins Monday. The company announced the policy in a statement Wednesday, citing the recent resurgence in U.S. coronavirus cases and the need for consistency across its operations. Walmart said roughly 3,250 of its 5,000 namesake stores and Sam’s Club locations already comply with public health mandates in their respective markets.

Kroger followed suit Wednesday afternoon, announcing in a tweet that the Ohio-based grocery store chain would require customers to wear masks in all its locations starting July 22. Employees are already required to wear masks.

Kohl’s department stores will require face coverings for customers beginning Monday. The company already requires employees to wear masks.

Read more here.

July 15, 2020 at 7:14 PM EDT

Catalonia sees most daily cases since May, after Spain began to lift restrictions

By Ruby Mellen

Parts of Spain’s northeastern region Catalonia have gone back into lockdown after seeing a surge of new coronavirus infections less than a month after the country lifted its nationwide lockdown.

A judge approved a shutdown for approximately 160,000 people living in the Lleida area, according to Reuters, limiting nonessential travel outside people’s homes. Authorities have also recommended other towns and cities in Catalonia increase restrictions in the face of new outbreaks. But within the region of 7.5 million people, disagreements abound over how to handle virus clusters in a country that was among Europe’s hardest-hit and underwent one of the continent’s strictest and longest lockdowns.

Spain, with a population of more than 46 million people, has recorded more than 28,400 coronavirus-related deaths.

Catalonia announced 938 new cases on Wednesday, the region’s highest jump since May 19. Nearly 250 of those cases were recorded in its capital, Barcelona. The city’s mayor, Ada Colau, said there were no plans to lock down the city, but the government is looking at containment measures such as strengthening contact-tracing capabilities.

Meanwhile, as tourists once again flock to Spain’s beaches and nightclubs, not all visitors are adhering to the country’s health regulations. A video that emerged over the weekend appeared to show drunken, mask-less Brits dancing on cars in the streets of Mallorca.