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U.S. states and territories on Wednesday reported more than 1,100 new deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, marking the first time since May 29 that the country exceeded that number, according to Washington Post tracking. The tally was led by Texas, which reported a record 197 new deaths Wednesday.

Deaths from the virus have continued to climb upward since June, a troubling trend that gives credence to experts who expected an increase in fatalities following the recent surge in infections.

With cases, hospitalizations and deaths mounting in many areas, governors in Ohio, Indiana and Minnesota on Wednesday joined the growing momentum for mandating face coverings statewide. More than 30 states now require people to wear masks as top health officials and federal leaders, including once-skeptical President Trump, tout their effectiveness.

Here are some significant developments:

July 22, 2020 at 11:44 PM EDT

China vows to retaliate after U.S. orders closure of its consulate in Houston

CHANGSHA, China — The United States has ordered China to close its consulate in Houston by Friday, an abrupt move that opens up a new front in a battle for supremacy between the world's two biggest economies.

Beijing immediately vowed to retaliate for the "unprecedented escalation," leading to speculation it could order the closure of the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, which has been shuttered since the novel coronavirus epidemic spread across the city in January.

The confrontation in the diplomatic sphere widens a conflict that already incorporated trade and technology, freedom of the press and religion, students and scientists, as well as the coronavirus and the race for a vaccine.

Read more here.

By Anna Fifield, Carol Morello and Shane Harris
July 22, 2020 at 11:16 PM EDT

The baseball season starts Thursday. How it ends is anyone’s guess.

If you had to define the essence of baseball in a sentence, you might say it is a sport of complexity and nuance that revolves around the pitcher-vs.-batter matchup, grounded in the timeless precision of its dimensions — 90 feet between the bases, 60 feet 6 inches from the pitcher’s rubber to the plate — and constructed around a near-daily schedule that values durability, resilience and mental sharpness.

With a new regular season set to begin Thursday night at Nationals Park, all of those sacred, core elements remain in place. Max Scherzer of the World Series-champion Washington Nationals will throw the first pitch of the season against the New York Yankees at 7:08 p.m., in what will be the first meaningful baseball game since Game 7 of the World Series nearly nine months ago (which was also started by Scherzer).

But in almost every other measurable way, and many immeasurable ones, Major League Baseball in 2020 will be a sport transformed — bent, twisted, compacted and stripped of much of its ancient, sensory charm.

Read more here.

By Dave Sheinin
July 22, 2020 at 10:45 PM EDT

Analysis: The problem with the White House’s argument against Trump wearing a mask

Asked why the president has so often been reticent to wear a mask, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany argued Tuesday it was because of how frequently he was tested for the virus.

“As I’ve made clear from this podium, the president is the most tested man in America,” she said. “He’s tested more than anyone, multiple times a day. And we believe that he’s acting appropriately.”

In other words, since the White House is confident he’s not infected and since the point is to prevent someone from infecting others, no mask needed.

That, however, is not the protection it seems, for him or for those he comes into contact with.

Read more here.

By Philip Bump
July 22, 2020 at 10:11 PM EDT

Banks face a unique coronavirus problem: Now everyone is wearing a mask

Face masks are now mandatory at Walmart, Target and a growing number of retailers. President Trump, who long resisted being photographed in a mask, now encourages the public to wear them and said he carries one with him.

But for U.S. banks, widespread adoption has been trickier. The small pieces of cloth public health officials consider one of the best defenses against the growing novel coronavirus threat could double as a handy disguise for would-be bank robbers, they worry.

Face-mask requirements “create the very real risk of increases in bank robberies,” a top financial regulator said recently.

Read more here.

By Renae Merle
July 22, 2020 at 9:39 PM EDT

Twitter to crack down on conspiracy theory groups

Twitter’s broad and continuing crackdown against hundreds of thousands of QAnon-related accounts is evidence of a newfound aggressiveness on the part of social media companies in cracking down on conspiracy theories — some of which have gained traction with the president.

Twitter, along with other social media sites, has become a breeding ground for conspiracy theories. Supporters spread misinformation, coordinate harassment against public figures, and organize real-life protests. Their activity reached a fever pitch during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic when some protests calling for businesses to reopen were tied to members of darker Internet subcultures, including QAnon believers.

Read more here.

By Rachel Lerman and Elizabeth Dwoskin
July 22, 2020 at 9:10 PM EDT

Fauci to testify to House panel next week

Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease specialist, will testify next week before a House subcommittee designed to review President Trump’s coronavirus response, the panel said Wednesday.

The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis was announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in April to scrutinize how funds were used in response to the pandemic, she said at the time.

The subcommittee on Wednesday said a July 31 hearing will examine “the urgent need for a national comprehensive plan to address the coronavirus pandemic” as death tolls and new cases continue to rise across the country.

Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, are also expected to testify July 31.

Fauci’s role in the coronavirus response has been a source of intrigue in recent weeks, and The Washington Post recently reported that he had been largely sidelined by the White House. Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Asked on Wednesday why Fauci and other experts — once familiar faces at coronavirus news conferences — had not appeared at the daily briefings that were revived this week, President Trump said he “just spoke” to Fauci and was relaying any information from him and White House response coordinator Deborah Birx to the public.

“And I’m giving the information to you,” Trump added. “And I think it’s probably a very concise way of doing it. It seems to be working out very well. … They’re very much involved.”

By Michael Brice-Saddler
July 22, 2020 at 8:40 PM EDT

The case for treating teachers around the world as essential front-line workers

Teachers are essential. Yet during the novel coronavirus pandemic, they have not been designated as or treated as essential front-line workers in the United States.

Why not?

Essential workers are just that: People who do jobs that are considered essential by government officials to maintain public health and safety and keep critical infrastructure operations working when parts of the economy have been shut down.

In some countries, including Britain, some teachers and teaching assistants as well as social workers were deemed essential when the coronavirus hit this past spring. When Britain shut down to try to stem the spread of the disease, schools remained open for vulnerable students and for children whose parents had essential jobs outside their home.

But not in the United States.

Read more here.

By Valerie Strauss
July 22, 2020 at 8:09 PM EDT

Birx says ‘open questions’ remain about risks among children

White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will release guidelines this week for reopening schools as researchers continue to determine the impact of the novel coronavirus on children.

In an interview Wednesday with Fox News’s Bret Baier, Birx said students and teachers with preexisting conditions should be accommodated so they can avoid contact with infected peers, and she encouraged “innovation” among educators who have found ways to protect public health, including wearing masks and hanging plastic sheeting in classrooms.

Birx didn’t directly say whether President Trump was correct when, at a Wednesday news conference, he questioned the risks associated with reopening classrooms. She said there are still questions about the health risks for children who become infected.

“They do say that [children] don’t transmit very easily, and a lot of people are saying that they don’t transmit. We’re looking into that,” Trump said earlier. “We’re studying very hard that particular subject that they don’t bring it home with them.”

Birx said the United States is launching a study across all age groups to better evaluate the antibody levels among children, especially because the best research available about children developing the coronavirus was done in South Korea. The study found that people between 10 and 19 years old spread the virus at levels similar to adults, while those under 10 are significantly less likely to transmit it.

“I think it’s a very important question that we have to understand: Do children under 10 transmit the virus less?” Birx said. “That’s what the South Korea study suggests, but I think it really needs to be confirmed here.”

“I think there’s still open questions there,” she said.

By Meryl Kornfield
July 22, 2020 at 7:38 PM EDT

Trump says he is ‘comfortable’ sending his son and grandchildren back to school

President Trump said Wednesday he would be comfortable sending his school-age son and grandchildren to in-person school this fall, even as the country struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump suggested during a news briefing that children have strong immune systems to ward off the virus and pointed to some evidence that has shown young children transmit it less easily.

“Yeah, I am comfortable with that,” Trump said when asked about his own family.

Read more here.

By Colby Itkowitz
July 22, 2020 at 7:18 PM EDT

U.S. reports more than 1,100 new deaths in a day for first time since May

U.S. states and territories Wednesday reported more than 1,100 new daily deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, marking the first time since May 29 that the country exceeded that number, according to Washington Post tracking.

The tally was led by Texas, which reported a record 197 new deaths Wednesday. The last time a state surpassed 197 new deaths was May 14, with Pennsylvania reporting 275.

Alabama on Wednesday also reported a new single-day high in deaths, 57, and six other states reported at least 50 new deaths from the virus. Idaho set a new daily record with 10.

Deaths from the virus have continued to climb since June, a troubling trend that gives credence to experts who expected increases in deaths to follow recent surges in infections. In June, Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease specialist, told Congress that “deaths always lag considerably behind cases.”

As of 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nebraska and Washington state had not yet reported daily covid-19 data.

By Michael Brice-Saddler and Jacqueline Dupree
July 22, 2020 at 7:00 PM EDT

Senate GOP struggles to finalize $1 trillion coronavirus bill

Senate Republicans struggled to finalize a $1 trillion coronavirus relief bill Wednesday, confronting internal divisions and continued White House demands for a payroll tax cut that most lawmakers oppose.

Several lawmakers speculated openly that they might be unable to make any deal with Democrats at all, suggesting the possible need for a stand-alone extension of unemployment benefits that expire at the end of this month.

Read more here.

By Erica Werner, Jeff Stein, Seung Min Kim and Rachael Bade
July 22, 2020 at 6:35 PM EDT

Can you get coronavirus twice? Doctors are unsure

When Sophie Cunningham, a guard for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, returned to training last week after a bout with covid-19, she made an announcement that startled fans. She said she believed she had been infected twice — once in March and then again in June or July.

“They said you can only get it once, but I’ve had it twice,” she told reporters Thursday. “Hopefully, I’m done with it.”

As the United States marks its sixth month since the arrival of the virus, Cunningham’s story is among a growing number of reports of people getting covid-19, recovering and then falling sick again — assertions, that if proved, could complicate efforts to make a long-lasting vaccine, or to achieve herd immunity where most of the population has become immune to the virus.

By Carolyn Y. Johnson and Ariana Eunjung Cha
July 22, 2020 at 5:50 PM EDT

Virus may be controlled but never ‘eradicated,’ Fauci says

The coronavirus may never be wiped off the planet — that’s the bad news — but it may be controlled and ultimately managed, Anthony S. Fauci said.

The country’s top infectious-disease expert offered the sobering yet cautiously hopeful assessment Wednesday during a virtual event hosted by TB Alliance on the future of fighting global pandemics like the coronavirus and tuberculosis.

Citing the high rate of coronavirus cases in which people are infected but show no symptoms, Fauci said the virus is unlikely to be the “worst” global killer, although it has certainly proved to be particularly deadly for elderly patients and those with underlying conditions.

The virus is also unlikely to “disappear” the way severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, did after it was identified in 2002. The respiratory virus spread to more than two dozen countries and killed nearly 800 people before virtually vanishing; it was considered eradicated the following year.

The novel coronavirus, Fauci said, is “too efficient” in its ability to transmit from one person to the next.

“I think we ultimately will get control of it; I don’t really see us eradicating it,” he said.

The ability to control the virus will depend on strong public health measures, “a degree of global herd immunity” and a vaccine, he said. Fauci said he is “cautiously optimistic” about developing an effective vaccine.

“I think when you put all three of those together, I think we will get very good control of this, whether it’s this year or next year,” he said.

By Kim Bellware
July 22, 2020 at 5:21 PM EDT

Democratic lawmakers introduce bill to address racial disparities caused by coronavirus

Two Democratic senators have introduced legislation that they say will help address racial disparities in the United States caused by the novel coronavirus, which has disproportionately harmed communities of color.

In a statement, Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez (N.J.) and Ben Cardin (Md.) said the Health Disparities Action Act would require “targeted testing, contact tracing, public awareness campaigns and outreach efforts specifically directed at racial and ethnic minority communities,” as well as other vulnerable populations affected by the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted communities of color and the Trump administration’s response has failed to address the needs of these vulnerable populations,” Cardin said in a statement. “Health disparities for people of color [are] rooted in systemic racism, racial discrimination and record-high levels of income inequality. Our bill will help racial and ethnic minorities in the ongoing fight against this pandemic, and will help inform future reform efforts to reverse long-standing systemic racism in medical research, testing and delivery of care.”

These disparities are well documented. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites evidence of higher rates of death and hospitalization among black, American Indian, and Hispanic and Latino populations, among other groups. For Menendez and Cardin, their states are no exception.

In New Jersey, 21.3 percent of deaths attributed to the coronavirus have been of African Americans, even though they make up 14 percent of the state’s population, according to the statement. And in Maryland, African Americans make up 30 percent of the population but 40 percent of the state’s deaths related to the coronavirus. There’s an even starker discrepancy for Hispanic Marylanders who have died of the virus, according to the statement.

The proposed bill would urge the Trump administration to address that disparate impact and calls on states to revise testing and contact tracing plans to ensure that they reach vulnerable populations. It would also target public awareness campaigns about symptoms, testing and treatment to populations disproportionately affected by the virus, according to the senators.

The bill is co-sponsored by more than a dozen Senators, including Democrats Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

By Michael Brice-Saddler