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The United States has reached a grim milestone of 4 million coronavirus cases, doubling the total number of infections in just six weeks as deaths and hospitalizations continue a sharp rise in many states.

Positivity rates are at alarming levels in numerous states, hospitalizations are soaring, and for the third straight day on Thursday, more than 1,000 new coronavirus deaths were reported, according to Washington Post tracking. The rolling seven-day average of infections has doubled in less than a month, reaching more than 66,000 new cases per day Wednesday. The U.S. death toll now exceeds 141,000.

Here are some significant developments:

Israel’s Netanyahu was a pandemic hero — until a second wave plunged him into crisis

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JERUSALEM — In May, Benjamin Netanyahu was riding high. He had just started his fifth term as Israel's prime minister after surviving a string of near-death elections, had co-opted his main rival into a unity government and was enjoying a surge in popularity after successfully leading the country through the initial onslaught of the coronavirus.

Just two months later, with Israel suffering a second wave of infections, the prime minister finds himself enduring a hot summer of collapsing poll numbers, swelling protests and dissenting lawmakers. Even some of Netanyahu’s fellow Likud party members have challenged his handling of the resurgence, a break in the ranks rare for Israel’s longest-serving leader.

Netanyahu’s quick turn from dominance to defense is a further illustration of the pandemic’s power to upend governments and humble highflying leaders — as it has in the United States, where surging infections have imperiled the reelection of President Trump.

Read more here.

WHO leader says Pompeo criticism is ‘untrue and unacceptable’

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World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday criticized remarks reportedly made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a visit to London this week.

“The comments are untrue and unacceptable and without any foundation for that matter,” Tedros said at a news briefing from Geneva.

Pompeo had visited the British capital this week, where he met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and made public remarks that focused on China.

During a public appearance with Raab, Pompeo mentioned the World Health Organization only in passing. “You can’t engage in coverups and co-opt international institutions like the World Health Organization,” the U.S. diplomat said, referring to alleged Chinese behavior.

However, at a closed meeting earlier in the day, hosted by the Henry Jackson Society think tank and attended by British lawmakers, British media reported that Pompeo criticized the WHO directly.

Pompeo said the WHO was “political, not a science-based organization” and accused Tedros of being too close to Beijing, the Guardian reported.

Tedros said Thursday that Pompeo’s criticisms were only a distraction from efforts to save lives. “One of the greatest threats we face continues to be the polarization of the pandemic,” he said.

“I am appealing again to all nations to work together,” Tedros added. “Politics and partisanship have made things worse.”

Maria Van Kerkhove, a U.S. infectious-diseases expert at the WHO, said that, as an American, she felt compelled to speak up in support of Tedros.

“I see firsthand every day the work that Dr. Tedros does,” Van Kerkhove said.

“Many of us have worked seven days a week, 20 hours a day, for the last seven months,” said Mike Ryan, WHO emergencies chief. “Everything we think, everything we do, is focused on trying to save lives.”

Workers are getting laid off anew as PPP runs out

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The phone stopped ringing at the Nelsons’ auto-body shop in Broomfield, Colo., back in March.

The normal four-to-six-week wait for customers looking to have dents or bumps fixed on their cars disappeared, leaving the shop silent. Tammy Nelson and her husband, Scott, applied in April for a loan from the Payment Protection Program — the federal government’s chaotic $660 billion aid program meant to help businesses and their workers stay afloat.

But the PPP loan had only delayed the inevitable — the phone didn’t start ringing again amid the surging pandemic. Nelson laid off her five employees at the end of June, including herself and her husband. They are among the first wave of PPP layoffs happening across the country, as the loan program begins to expire.

Read more here.

If you won’t wear a mask, some airlines say you can’t fly

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U.S. airlines this week unveiled stricter rules for face coverings, with at least two, American and Southwest, saying they will no longer carry passengers who refuse to wear masks.

Under new rules announced by American, Delta, Southwest and United, only children younger than 2 will be permitted to fly without a mask. Delta customers may travel without face coverings but would have to undergo a special screening that the carrier warned could take more than an hour. United said it may deny boarding to travelers who refuse to wear a mask, adding that those with special medical conditions should contact the airline before their flight.

In rolling out stricter policies, airline executives cited passenger surveys in which travelers voiced support for better enforcement of mask mandates.

Read more here.

New CDC guidance on schools written by White House officials, not health experts

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President Trump sees school issues as key to reelection, and after paying almost no attention to education for most of his presidency, he’s pushing them in negotiations over the next pandemic relief bill.

But beyond funding, the White House is looking for other ways to pressure schools to reopen. For weeks, Trump has promised new guidance would be issued by the Centers for Disease and Prevention, which he thinks has been too “tough.”

On Thursday the CDC released several new documents that emphasize the benefits of school, in line with Trump’s messaging. Some of the guidance was written by White House officials rather than experts at the CDC, people familiar with the process said. The new guidelines for school administrators mention precautions outlined in previous documents but appear to drop specific reference to keeping students six feet apart — something many schools find almost impossible to do if they are fully reopened.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has taken a more nuanced tack. Last week, he released a plan that urged caution, saying that each school district should make decisions based on local conditions and that schools in areas with high infection rates should not reopen too soon.

“Donald Trump’s disastrous mismanagement of the coronavirus response is the top roadblock stopping schools from re-opening,” said Biden spokesman Andrew Bates.

Read more here.

Walmart customer arrested after brandishing gun during mask argument

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A Florida man has been charged with a felony after pointing a gun at another Walmart customer who told him he should be wearing a mask, authorities said.

Vincent Scavetta, 28, faces charges of aggravated assault with a firearm and improper exhibition of a firearm, according to an arrest report from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. He was arrested after identifying himself as the man who pulled a gun in surveillance footage from the July 12 incident, which was shared widely by news outlets.

“Scavetta acknowledged that the video the media had been broadcasting showed Scavetta in a very poor light,” the arrest report said.

The incident unfolded at a Walmart in Palm Beach County, where masks are required in stores. Scavetta told police he had removed his mask after rain soaked it while he was walking through the parking lot. Inside the store, he was confronted over his lack of a mask by a man named Christopher Estrada, who was shopping with his young daughter. Scavetta began cursing at the man.

Things escalated, with a witness later telling police that Scavetta had yelled, “You don’t know what I’ve got.” At some point, Estrada wielded an umbrella. Scavetta said it hit him in the forehead and he was afraid for his life.

In an interview with police, he admitted pointing a gun at Estrada, whose daughter appeared frightened and tried to pull her father away. Scavetta said he “felt bad” for getting out his gun with the young girl present.

Estrada told police he didn’t want to pursue charges against Scavetta, in part because he had no prior criminal record. But he said “that guy should not have a [concealed-carry] license” and asked for him to be evaluated.

Police told Scavetta’s lawyer that he probably would not be criminally charged if he gave up his concealed-carry license. He declined, and prosecutors moved forward with charges.

Miami and Miami-Dade County mayors urge residents to consider wearing masks at home

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The mayors of the city of Miami and the county where it’s located suggested separately on Thursday that residents consider wearing masks in their own homes to thwart the spread of the coronavirus among family members.

Although Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (R) said the city’s number of daily cases has fallen from about 125 at its high point to 20 recently, the virus continues to transmit rapidly within households.

“I would tell our residents — and this is voluntary, this is not something that we can mandate — that they should consider, particularly if they have a multigenerational household, wearing masks indoors at times with their multigenerational residents and also respecting social distance when they’re at home,” Suarez said at a news conference.

At his own news conference, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez (R) urged people to protect themselves from their own family members, who may be carrying the virus without feeling sick.

A family member becoming ill can be particularly dangerous for the older residents of multigenerational households, which Gimenez said in a news release are common in Miami and its surrounding areas.

“Because we have such a high level of positivity rate here in Miami-Dade, you also need to start thinking about maintaining a distance also from your loved ones for a while,” Gimenez said at the news conference. “Yes, I know It’s a sacrifice, but do so because, again, just because it’s your son or your daughter or your cousin or your mother or your father, doesn’t mean they don’t have covid.”

Miami-Dade County has been among the hardest-hit counties in Florida, one of the states that has been most impacted in recent weeks. The seven-day average of new daily cases in Miami-Dade has hovered around 2,800 in the past few days as new infections have begun to level off after rising rapidly, according to Washington Post data.

The county’s average number of daily deaths has decreased slightly to 16, from 22 on this day last week. Hospitalizations continue to rise.

Fact Checker: DeVos’s claim that children are ‘stoppers’ of covid-19

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“More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don’t get it and transmit it themselves, so we should be in a posture of — the default should be getting back to school kids in person, in the classroom.”

— Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, in an interview on “The Conservative Circus” (iHeart radio), July 16, 2020

Our eyes popped out when we first heard this comment by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, as she pressed the administration’s case for reopening schools in the fall with in-person classes.

Could children actually be “stoppers” of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus? That would be great news — if true. The interruption of school threatens to create a learning deficit — and many parents may find it difficult to return to work if children are not in classes.

Let’s examine DeVos’s evidence that children do not transmit the coronavirus, as it appears to be influencing administration policy.

Read more here.

White House, GOP kill payroll tax cut but flounder over broader coronavirus bill

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Senate Republicans killed President Trump’s payroll tax cut proposal on Thursday but failed to reach agreement with the White House on a broader coronavirus relief bill.

This set off a frantic scramble with competing paths forward, as administration officials floated a piecemeal approach but encountered pushback from both parties, and the entire effort appeared to teeter chaotically on the brink of failure.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had planned to roll out a $1 trillion GOP bill Thursday morning but that was canceled in a head-spinning series of events.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows emerged from a meeting with McConnell to insist there was “fundamental agreement” on the overall deal -- but simultaneously suggested breaking up the effort into smaller pieces of legislation and trying to move forward on an extension of enhanced unemployment benefits that are about to expire.

Read more here.

Marine in helicopter squadron that transports the president has tested positive for coronavirus, officials say

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A Marine assigned to the helicopter squadron in which the president and other top government leaders travel has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, officials say, in the latest instance of the virus potentially threatening the White House.

The service member was “on detachment” in Bedminster, N.J., where Trump is traveling this weekend, Capt. Joseph Butterfield, a Marine Corps spokesman, said in a statement, adding that the test is not expected to affect Trump’s trip.

“Out of an abundance of caution, Marines who may have had contact with the infected Marine have been removed from the detachment,” Butterfield said. “The infected Marine was never in direct contact with the president’s helicopter, Marine One.”

According to Butterfield, the Marine — who is asymptomatic — was tested Tuesday and received the results Thursday. Butterfield said that “close contact tracing is being performed in coordination with the White House Medical Unit.”

The squadron, Marine Helicopter Squadron One, does 80 to 100 “random and targeted” coronavirus tests each week, he added.

Previously, several White House staff members and others in the president’s circle have tested positive for the coronavirus. Temperature checks and rapid testing are required for certain White House access and access to Trump.

Most recently, a cafeteria worker in the White House complex tested positive this week, prompting the dining facility to close because of exposure concerns.

Meryl Kornfield contributed to this report.

Trump cancels Jacksonville part of Republican National Convention

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President Trump on July 23 said he is canceling the Jacksonville part of the Republican nominating convention due to the spike of coronavirus cases in Florida. (The Washington Post)

Facing high numbers of covid-19 cases in Florida and uncertainty on how to conduct a safe gathering, President Trump announced Thursday that he is canceling the Jacksonville part of the Republican nominating convention.

“It’s just not the right time,” he said.

Trump had pushed ahead with convention plans despite warnings from various quarters, but bowed Thursday to the overwhelming obstacles of holding a mass gathering during a pandemic.

Read more here.

Nationals star Juan Soto tests positive for coronavirus ahead of season opener

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Juan Soto has tested positive for the coronavirus and will miss the start of the season, Washington Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said Thursday afternoon.

Soto was last tested Tuesday and has not had any symptoms in the time since, according to two people with knowledge of his condition. The Nationals revealed his status less than five hours before scheduled first pitch against the New York Yankees.

Soto, 21, is now asymptomatic and will have to receive back-to-back negative test results before he can return to play, according to MLB’s protocol. Rizzo told reporters Thursday that no other players or coaches will have to quarantine after the Nationals conducted thorough contact tracing. Soto’s positive test was first reported by ESPN.

Read more here.

Dow tumbles 350 points, dragged down by disappointing jobs data, big tech

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U.S. stocks fell sharply Thursday as disappointing jobs data raised fears that the economic recovery would stall out.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 353 points, or 1.3 percent, to close at 26,652.33. The broad Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index shed over 40 points, or 1.2 percent, to settle at 3,235.66. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite slid nearly 245 points, or 2.3 percent, to end at 10,461.42.

Roughly 1.4 million Americans filed new claims for unemployment insurance last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That marked the first week-over-week increase since March and comes as the number of U.S. coronavirus cases barreled past 4 million and hospitalization and death numbers continue to rise.

Big tech took a beating, with Microsoft sliding 4.4 percent despite better-than-expected quarterly results. Meanwhile, Facebook tumbled 3.0 percent, Amazon fell 3.7 percent, Apple skidded 4.6 percent and Google parent Alphabet shed 3.4 percent. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

U.S. coronavirus cases surpass 4 million, signaling growth of 1 million in roughly two weeks

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The coronavirus case total in the United States surpassed 4 million on Thursday, 15 days after crossing the 3 million mark and more than six months after the country reported its first infection.

That the nation passed its next million-cases mark in just about two weeks indicates the accelerating pace of the virus’s spread. Three and a half months passed between the identification of the country’s first case, on Jan. 15, and the passing of 1 million cases on April 28, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.

The second million infections took 44 days, and the nation totaled 3 million cases 27 days after that, on July 8. The 15 days in which the United States has tallied its most recent million infections represent roughly half the amount of time the country took to report the previous million.

The 4 million mark comes as the nation has logged some of its highest daily infection totals of the pandemic in the past few days and as death numbers have continued to tick upward nationwide. As of Thursday afternoon, the country had reported 67,858 new infections, with several states not yet counted. New daily hospitalizations across the country have been increasing since late June.