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Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s leading infectious-disease expert, said Monday that he’s “cautiously optimistic” about a potential coronavirus vaccine now entering the last phase of testing.

Speaking on CNN, Fauci said he briefed President Trump on Monday on the 30,000-person Phase 3 trial just launched for the vaccine candidate being developed by biotech company Moderna in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer also announced a 30,000-person trial of its coronavirus vaccine candidate Monday.

Fauci cautioned that there’s no “guarantee” of a working vaccine but noted that a Phase 1 trial suggested the Moderna candidate created antibody responses in volunteers comparable to what is seen in people who have recovered from covid-19 — a “hallmark” of success.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Robert C. O’Brien, Trump’s national security adviser, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the White House said Monday. O’Brien, the highest-ranking administration official known to have tested positive, has “mild symptoms."
  • As many as 14 Miami Marlins players and coaches have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, an outbreak that has come three days into the MLB season.
  • Warner Bros. is pushing ahead with the release of “Tenet,” the anticipated, if embattled, Christopher Nolan movie.
  • About 4,000 federal employees are seeking disability compensation on the grounds that they contracted the coronavirus at work.
  • A physician who headed the intensive care unit at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center has died of the novel coronavirus, a hospital spokesman said Monday.
July 27, 2020 at 10:50 PM EDT
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George Washington University rolls back reopening plan, opts for virtual semester

By Lauren Lumpkin

George Washington University will hold all undergraduate courses online for the fall semester with limited exceptions, a reversal of the school’s previous plans for a hybrid term, leaders announced Monday.

A national resurgence of the novel coronavirus, along with guidance from public health experts and unease among faculty and students, have led campus leaders to reconsider plans for the fall. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser cited similar concerns Friday when she announced travelers from high-risk states would have to quarantine for 14 days upon arriving in the District — students included.

The announcement from GWU comes about a month before students were set to resume some courses in person.

July 27, 2020 at 10:47 PM EDT
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Arizona State swimming’s solution for coronavirus uncertainty: Redshirt the entire team

By Emily Giambalvo

The swimming and diving facility at Arizona State remains closed, and the team has yet to practice together since March, when sports came to a halt because of the novel coronavirus. Unable to lead his swimmers through daily practices, Coach Bob Bowman said he has thought to himself, “How can this program emerge from the pandemic better than before?”

About a week ago, a radical solution came to mind: Every member of the swimming and diving roster will redshirt during the 2020-21 school year. That means they have a clear focus for the first time in months. The athletes will prepare for next summer’s Olympic trials and the Tokyo Games, knowing they won’t compete at the college level until the 2021-22 season.

Not long after Pac-12 Championships, the NCAA swimming season — and for some athletes, their college careers — came to an abrupt end. Skipping the upcoming season ensures that will not happen again.

July 27, 2020 at 10:06 PM EDT
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Tenn. governor says no plans to close bars after White House health expert urges it

By Hannah Knowles

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) said Monday that he has no plans to close bars and curb indoor dining — minutes after White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx recommended those measures at a joint news conference with the governor.

Saying that the coronavirus situation in Tennessee was at an “inflection point,” Birx said Monday that diligence and targeted business restrictions statewide could have an effect on a par with a stay-at-home order.

“We can change the future of this virus in this state today,” she said. “If we continue to social distance, if every mayor throughout this great state would mandate masks, close the bars and substantially increase indoor dining distancing, together we can get through this.”

But when Lee took the microphone later, he said there are no plans to close bars or limit dining. Some mayors can shutter businesses on their own, but the vast majority of Tennessee’s county health departments fall under Lee’s purview, the Tennessean reports.

“I’ve said from the very beginning of this pandemic that there’s nothing off the table,” Lee said after a reporter brought up the issue. “I’ve also said that we are not going to close the economy back down, and we are not going to.”

“But I appreciate their recommendations and we take them seriously,” he said, after thanking Birx for visiting his state and saying there were “productive meetings” about education plans and strategies to encourage mask-wearing, among other topics.

Lee has also declined to issue a statewide mask order, though he promoted their effectiveness Monday, and Birx said Monday that she believes the governor has a “sound strategy” and supports local officials taking the lead. Birx appealed to the mayors of rural counties in particular to mandate face coverings, saying that a majority of counties in Tennessee require them but that “we need 100 percent.”

July 27, 2020 at 9:28 PM EDT
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Head of Baltimore hospital’s ICU dies of coronavirus

By Fredrick Kunkle

A physician who headed the intensive care unit at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center has died of the novel coronavirus, a hospital spokesman said Monday.

Joseph J. Costa, chief of the hospital’s Critical Care Division, died about 4:45 a.m. Saturday in the same ICU he supervised. He was attended by his partner of 28 years and about 20 staff members, who placed their hands on him as he died. Costa was 56.

David R. Hart, Costa’s husband, described the moment as painfully surreal when Costa died in his arms surrounded by the people he worked with and supervised.

“Can you imagine taking care of your own son, so to speak, or your brother, if you were a doctor, and going through this? That’s kind of what it’s like when you work at Mercy or any hospital,” Hart, 57, said Monday. “So that’s the hard part for me to watch. He was extraordinary.”

July 27, 2020 at 9:12 PM EDT
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Texas death toll grows by 675 after state changes its death reporting methodology

By Reis Thebault

The coronavirus death toll in Texas grew dramatically Monday after the state changed its reporting methodology and added 675 fatalities to an already fast-climbing tally.

The Texas Department of State Health Services acknowledged that the revision is an improvement over the agency’s old system, which for months advertised a virus death toll that was far too low. The new total — 5,713 — is about 12 percent higher than the state previously reported.

From June 1 to July 1, Texas reported 803 covid-19 deaths, according to data compiled in real time and analyzed by The Washington Post. But after changing its methodology, the state says 1,384 people died in that period — a toll 72 percent higher than disclosed at the time, a crucial period during which Texas pursued but then called off its aggressive reopening strategy.

The change amounts to a course correction for a state that experts said was undercounting its dead, and it comes after Texas has spent weeks in the national spotlight for a surge in coronavirus cases and fatalities.

The state health department said it will use death certificates now to identify covid-19 fatalities, instead of counting them as they were reported by local officials.

“The length of time that process takes varies by jurisdiction and does not provide timely demographic information on most fatalities,” the agency said in a statement.

The new method “allows fatalities to be counted faster with more comprehensive demographic data” and provides “the public with more information about when deaths occurred,” the statement continued.

The state claims it now knows the race and ethnicity of nearly everyone who has died. According to the updated numbers, Hispanics account for 47 percent of the state’s deaths, despite making up about 40 percent of its population.

The data does not include people who had covid-19 but “died of an unrelated cause.” The health department did not respond to questions about how many cases are among that group and what constitutes an unrelated cause.

July 27, 2020 at 8:25 PM EDT
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Baseball players express fear and uncertainty in the wake of Marlins’ outbreak

By Roman Stubbs

In the hours after Major League Baseball was leveled with reports that at least 14 members of the Miami Marlins had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, forcing at least two games to be postponed and casting doubt on the league’s plans for a shortened season, coaches and players from 20 other teams had arrived at empty stadiums to play games on Monday night.

There was still apparently baseball to be played, but as some logged on to their customary pregame Zoom calls with reporters, they expressed fear and uncertainty about continuing their season in the middle of the pandemic.

“My level of concern went from about an eight to a 12. I mean this thing really hits home now. You see half a team get infected and go from one city to another,” said Washington Nationals Manager Davey Martinez, whose team will host the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night. “I got friends on that Miami team, and it really stinks.”

July 27, 2020 at 8:02 PM EDT
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Fauci ‘cautiously optimistic’ about vaccine candidate headed into mass trial

By Hannah Knowles

Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s leading infectious-disease expert, said Monday that he’s “cautiously optimistic” about the potential coronavirus vaccine now entering the first in a series of large U.S. clinical trials. Early data suggests it’s safe and effective, he said.

Speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Fauci said he briefed President Trump on Monday on the Phase 3 trial just launched for a vaccine candidate being developed by biotech company Moderna in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health. The trial will test the candidate on 15,000 people while giving another 15,000 participants a placebo; another company, Pfizer, has also announced it’s starting a 30,000-person trial for a vaccine.

Fauci said those enrolled in the Moderna trial are racially diverse, as researchers seek to ensure any vaccine works for populations that are more vulnerable to the virus such as minorities and the elderly. About a fifth of participants are African American, while another fifth are Latinx, Fauci said, “which is very good."

“In fact, we want to get an even greater proportion,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

He cautioned that there’s no “guarantee” of a vaccine yet and said the new Phase 3 trial will take months. But he noted that a Phase 1 trial suggested the Moderna candidate created antibody responses in volunteers comparable to what is seen in people who have recovered from covid-19 — a “hallmark” of success.

Many health officials have expressed concern at the significant share of Americans who say they would not take a coronavirus vaccine, and Fauci said Monday that community outreach will be crucial in swaying skeptics. He emphasized that an unusually fast development process has not compromised safety.

“Certainly, there are no corners being cut,” Fauci said in another interview Monday on Fox News, when asked whether there’s “political pressure” to get a vaccine out before Election Day.

Carolyn Y. Johnson contributed to this report.

July 27, 2020 at 7:37 PM EDT
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The Chainsmokers draw ire after headlining a large, ‘safe’ concert as a respiratory illness surged

By Sonia Rao

The Chainsmokers drew public ire after headlining a large concert in the Hamptons this past weekend as a viral pandemic disproportionately affecting the respiratory system surged across the nation.

Billed as a “tailgate experience,” the concert took place Saturday night at a 100-acre sculpture garden in Southampton, N.Y., with town supervisor Jay Schneiderman and Goldman Sachs chief executive David Solomon (a.k.a. DJ D-Sol) serving as openers. Event organizers In the Know Experiences and Invisible Noise sold enough tickets for 600 vehicles to each receive an assigned tailgating area spanning 20 feet, according to the event page, which also stated the attendees would be required to wear masks only upon exiting their designated areas to use the bathroom.

The New York State Department of Health announced Monday an investigation into whether the event violated orders set in place by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to curb the spread of covid-19.

July 27, 2020 at 6:53 PM EDT
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One question still dogs Trump: Why not try harder to solve the coronavirus crisis?

By Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker

Both President Trump’s advisers and operatives laboring to defeat him increasingly agree on one thing: The best way for him to regain his political footing is to wrest control of the coronavirus.

In the six months since the deadly contagion was first reported in the United States, Trump has demanded the economy reopen and children return to school, all while scrambling to salvage his reelection campaign.

But both allies and opponents agree he has failed at the one task that could help him achieve all of his goals — confronting the pandemic with a clear strategy and consistent leadership.

Trump’s shortcomings have perplexed even some of his most loyal allies, who increasingly have wondered why the president has not at least pantomimed a sense of command over the crisis or conveyed compassion for the millions of Americans impacted by it.

Read more here.

July 27, 2020 at 6:24 PM EDT
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Early voting extended in Texas as mail-in voting remains off-limits to most

By Hannah Knowles and Robert Barnes

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) extended early voting Monday in the Nov. 3 elections by six days, saying it was necessary given the pandemic that’s put unprecedented pressures on the voting system nationwide.

That means registered voters will be able to cast their ballots in person Oct. 13 through Oct. 30, instead of Oct. 19 through Oct. 30. The adjustment comes as some push for more sweeping changes that President Trump and conservatives oppose: expanded access to mail-in voting. Advocates call the mail-in option crucial to ensuring people can safely participate, with the coronavirus’s threat only intensifying in many states, including Texas.

Abbott wrote Monday that polling locations needed to open for more early-voting days so “election officials can implement appropriate social distancing and safe hygiene practices” and to ensure “that elections proceed efficiently and safely.”

Most Texans remain unable to vote by mail, after the Supreme Court last month declined to force the state to offer mail-in ballots to all eligible voters, not just those over 65. The coronavirus is especially dangerous to older people.

The Texas Democratic Party had asked the court to reinstate a district judge’s order expanding mail-in voting. The court did not comment in its order, though Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the case raised “weighty but seemingly novel questions” regarding whether special conditions for those over a certain age violated the constitutional rights of younger voters.

Texas is one of two states that did not give all voters the right to cast mail or absentee ballots in the midyear primaries, as the pandemic led many states to change their rules and consider keeping the changes for the general election.

The president has said without evidence that mail-in voting would allow voter fraud and has also suggested that its expansion would hurt Republican candidates.

July 27, 2020 at 5:53 PM EDT
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‘Disgraceful, plain and simple’: Couple wearing Nazi flag masks at Walmart filmed in viral clash

By Allyson Chiu

Raphaela Mueller was strolling through Walmart on Saturday morning when a brief glimpse of two other shoppers in the Marshall, Minn., store stopped her dead in her tracks.

Fighting through disbelief that nearly rendered her speechless, Mueller, 24, who was born and raised in Germany, turned to her partner and blurted out a single question: “Wait, are those people wearing swastikas on their masks?”

When the young couple again encountered the man and woman, who were indeed sporting bright red facial coverings that resembled the Nazi flag, Mueller had no trouble finding her voice.

Together with her partner, Benjamin Ruesch, Mueller confronted them, capturing the tense exchange in a now viral video that has drawn widespread condemnation, including from prominent politicians such as Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D).

Read more here.

July 27, 2020 at 5:44 PM EDT
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Stores are closing all over Rome. The newest ones to open are selling masks.

By Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli

ROME — His business depends on selling Italian products — wine, limoncello, truffle oil — to tourists. But the visitors are suddenly gone, and as Italy reemerged from lockdown, Marco Guerrini was closing one store after the next. He feared his life's work was crumbling around him. Many nights, he couldn't sleep. His three teenage children sensed his anxiety.

Then they went to him with an idea.

Why not reimagine some of the stores? Why not start selling the one thing everybody seemed to need?

They suggested starting a company that sold nothing but masks.

“I realized the necessity for masks will be with us for a long time,” said Luca Guerrini, 17. He had imagined going back to high school in the fall with a surgical mask and thought he — and others — might prefer something stylish and personalized.

Read more here.

July 27, 2020 at 5:25 PM EDT
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Second company in U.S. leaps into late stages of human testing for coronavirus vaccine

By Carolyn Y. Johnson and Felicia Sonmez

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer launched a 30,000-person trial of its coronavirus vaccine candidate Monday, making it the second company to leap into the late stages of human testing in the United States.

The trial will unfold at 120 sites globally, according to the company’s statement. Pfizer executives have predicted that the company will have enough data to apply for regulatory authorization or approval by October.

Pfizer has partnered with the German firm BioNTech to develop the coronavirus vaccine and struck a $1.95 billion deal to provide 100 million doses to the U.S. government last week.

Pfizer’s experimental vaccine trial, like the one launched earlier in the day by biotechnology company Moderna, tests a vaccine technology that has never been approved for use in humans.

“The initiation of the … trial is a major step forward in our progress toward providing a potential vaccine to help fight the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, and we look forward to generating additional data as the program progresses,” Kathrin U. Jansen, head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer, said in a statement.

Pfizer has projected that it can have 100 million doses of the vaccine available by the end of this year, and 1.3 billion doses available in 2021.

Former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, hailed the news and called on President Trump to assure Americans that he will allow the Food and Drug Administration “to decide, free from political pressure, if the vaccine is safe and effective.”

In a statement, Biden also said the FDA should make public clinical data for any vaccine it approves and called for “full transparency” on the issue, including allowing public health experts to make “public, uncensored statements and appear before Congress unconstrained to speak the truth.”

July 27, 2020 at 4:49 PM EDT
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Trump says ‘a lot of the governors should be opening up states’ that aren’t reopening

By Felicia Sonmez

In remarks to reporters Monday at a biotech company in Morrisville, N.C., President Trump urged states that have shut down because of the pandemic to reopen.

“I really do believe a lot of the governors should be opening up states that they’re not opening,” Trump said in response to a question from a reporter about the economy. “And we’ll see what happens with them.”

The remarks came hours after the White House announced that national security adviser Robert O’Brien had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The president noted several states that have experienced a spike in cases in recent weeks, and he voiced optimism that they will soon be on their way toward reopening.

“These states are not out of the woods, but rigorous compliance with guidelines should allow them to turn the corner very, very quickly,” he said.

He also went further than he typically has in urging Americans to adhere to social distancing guidelines to slow the spread of the virus.

“We need all Americans to be conscious about their actions and to exercise extreme vigilance,” Trump said. “I trust all Americans to do the right thing, but we strongly advise everyone to especially — especially — focus on maintaining a social distance, maintaining rigorous hygiene, avoid large gatherings and crowded indoor bars and wear masks when appropriate.”