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Florida, North Carolina and California on Wednesday set state records for coronavirus-related deaths reported in a single day, according to data tracked by The Washington Post, as the nationwide death toll nears 150,000. Daily new cases in late July reached more than double the previous peak from April.

While headlines have focused on new hot-spot states in the South and West, top health officials are also urging preventive measures in states such as Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana and Kentucky that are seeing only subtle increases in positive cases. Leading infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci warned Wednesday that these states should be vigilant to avoid the surges experienced in the South.

Fauci said that on a conference call with governors a day earlier, he “made that point to them that it is very important to get ahead of the curve.”

Here are some significant developments:

  • The head of the Federal Reserve said Wednesday that rising numbers of coronavirus cases since mid-June are beginning to slow an economic recovery.
  • Alabama Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville (R) is defying District of Columbia orders for visitors from certain states to self-quarantine for 14 days as he fundraises and attends face-to-face meetings in D.C.
  • Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), who has frequently been seen around the Capitol without a mask and in close contact with others, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Attorney General William P. Barr — who was in proximity to Gohmert at a hearing Tuesday — has tested negative.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is requiring that all lawmakers wear masks while on the House floor.
  • Florida’s state-run virus testing sites will be closed over the weekend in anticipation of a tropical storm.
  • Trump called for a short-term fix Wednesday to address expiring unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions, saying the other parts of the GOP’s $1 trillion relief bill can wait.
July 29, 2020 at 11:30 PM EDT

Ridiculed and alone, Rudy Gobert was the face of coronavirus in sports. Now he’s ready to return.

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Rudy Gobert sat alone in a Disney World ballroom, putting the finishing touches on a rice bowl after practice.

The Utah Jazz’s all-star center set up a folding chair as his makeshift table, his 7-foot-1 frame hunched over as he dined in silence. When he finished, he grabbed a disinfecting wipe, the signature product of the NBA bubble, and methodically cleaned the surface.

When he finished, he nodded that he was ready to detail his emergence as the face of the novel coronavirus in American sports, a physically and emotionally taxing stretch during which he fought off the coronavirus and faced intense criticism for careless behavior leading up to his positive test.

Read more here.

By Ben Golliver
July 29, 2020 at 10:50 PM EDT

Lancet editor Richard Horton has harsh words for Trump, hope for science

LONDON — As editor of the Lancet medical journal, Richard Horton has overseen publication of some of the most-cited papers of the coronavirus pandemic, from the first reports from Chinese scientists to the latest on vaccine development. He has also emerged as an outspoken voice on the failures of the global response.

In May, his editorial board — based mostly in Britain — stirred controversy by wading into U.S. politics and advocating that Americans should elect a president “who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics.”

Now Horton is out with a new book, “The Covid-19 Catastrophe: What’s Gone Wrong and How to Stop it Happening Again.” It is an angry work, thrumming with righteous disbelief over mistakes made in the past six months. He accuses President Trump of a “crime against humanity” for cutting World Health Organization funding during a pandemic. He blames British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for thousands of excess deaths.

Read more here.

By William Booth
July 29, 2020 at 10:10 PM EDT

These countries are banning alcohol or closing bars in response to coronavirus surges

In the United States and around the world, bars and other establishments that serve or sell alcohol have become a focus of efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Public health experts say drinking, especially in crowds, is not conducive to social distancing.

After the initial round of shutdowns ended, many U.S. states pushed to ease restrictions, in favor of restarting the economy. In recent weeks, however, some of those places, including Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and Texas, have reversed some of those decisions.

Elsewhere in the world, bar closures and bans on selling alcohol have become common. As countries face new surges in case numbers, here are some of the governments that have imposed new alcohol-related restrictions.

Read more here.

By Miriam Berger
July 29, 2020 at 9:39 PM EDT

New U.S. deaths pass 1,300 in highest 1-day count since late May

Daily coronavirus-related deaths in the United States have passed 1,300 for Wednesday with Washington state’s figures not yet reported — the highest one-day count since the latter half of May.

A series of four-digit daily totals last week underscored the virus’s sustained resurgence in much of the country this summer. As of Wednesday evening, according to data tracked by The Washington Post, more than 147,600 deaths have been reported nationwide since the beginning of the pandemic.

Thirteen states reached their highest seven-day averages for novel coronavirus deaths. California, Florida, Idaho and North Carolina on Wednesday broke their records for virus-related deaths reported in a single day, while Texas posted 313 new deaths — higher than the state’s recent average, though lower than the single-day high of 675 that Texas had on Monday.

With its report of 217 new deaths Wednesday, Florida joined Texas as one of eight states that have tallied more than 200 single-day deaths at some point during the pandemic.

New Jersey remains the state with the highest single-day count on record: 1,877 new deaths reported on June 25 after authorities added more than 1,800 probable deaths to the state’s totals, according to The Post’s tracking. But deaths in the tri-state region slowed as the pandemic’s hot spots shifted to other regions of the country. New York, once the country’s viral epicenter, posted six fatalities Wednesday, and its high of 1,250 deaths in one day occurred in mid-April.

By Hannah Knowles, Jacqueline Dupree and Meryl Kornfield
July 29, 2020 at 9:20 PM EDT

The latest trend among wealthy American travelers? Buying another country’s citizenship.

For generations, the American passport afforded its holders the privilege of hassle-free travel around much of the world. That has changed with the coronavirus pandemic. While borders are beginning to reopen to international travel, some countries are staying closed to Americans because of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak stateside.

These travel restrictions are producing an emerging trend among some wealthy Americans: buying a second passport.

Before the coronavirus, the plan mainly appealed to Americans for tax purposes, said Armand Arton, the president of financial firm Arton Capital, which specializes in citizenship through investment. But mid-pandemic, motivations have shifted. Some of Arton Capital’s American clients are in mixed-nationality relationships where couples have been separated because of pandemic travel bans. Others are worried about the impact of U.S. politics on their passport’s global standing.

By Natalie Compton
July 29, 2020 at 9:00 PM EDT

Alabama candidate for U.S. Senate defies D.C. quarantine orders

Alabama GOP Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville is fundraising and holding face-to-face meetings in Washington this week, defying orders from the city that visitors from certain coronavirus hotspots quarantine upon arrival.

Tuberville spent at least some of his time in D.C. at the Trump International Hotel, according to a photo posted to Facebook by Arkansas GOP Rep. Bruce Westerman showing the two men in the hotel lobby on Tuesday night. In the photo, neither man is wearing a mask.

Alabama is among the states identified by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser as a coronavirus hot spot, and any “non-essential” visitors from there are expected to self quarantine for 14 days. Alabama’s covid-19 cases are surging with more than 25 percent of its total cases appearing in the last two weeks.

By Colby Itkowitz
July 29, 2020 at 8:28 PM EDT

Lawmakers said aviation companies laid off workers even as they took Cares Act funds

Democratic lawmakers have launched an investigation into whether four aviation contractors violated provisions of the Cares Act by laying off thousands of workers, despite receiving millions of dollars from the government to keep workers on the job.

An analysis by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis found that more than $500 million in federal funds went to four companies that have laid off more than 7,500 workers.

On Wednesday, lawmakers sent letters to the companies, including three that provide catering services to airlines: Flying Food Fare, Gate Gourmet and Swissport. A fourth, G2 Secure Staff, provides services to airports including baggage handling, wheelchair assistance and pre-departure screening, according to its website.

By Lori Aratani and Ian Duncan
July 29, 2020 at 8:01 PM EDT

At least 17 of 21 ‘red zone’ states not heeding federal advice, congressman says

At least 17 of 21 states flagged as novel coronavirus “red zones” in the latest internal report compiled for the White House coronavirus task force are not following all of the report’s recommendations, according to a special congressional committee formed to review the Trump administration’s pandemic response.

The report, which is sent regularly to state officials but is not released to the public, categorizes states as green, yellow or red based on their levels of new cases and rate of tests coming back positive. Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), the chairman of the House’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, on Wednesday wrote to the governors of several red-zone states — Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma and Tennessee — urging them to heed experts’ advice and requesting documents on their plans.

The recent task force report "recommends far stronger public health measures than the Trump Administration has called for in public — including requiring face masks, closing bars, and strictly limiting gatherings,” Clyburn wrote in a letter to Vice President Pence and White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx. “Yet many states do not appear to be following these unpublished recommendations and are instead pursuing policies more consistent with the Administration’s contradictory public statements downplaying the seriousness of the threat.”

Birx and fellow virus task force member Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, have voiced some of the recommendations publicly, calling for states to close bars and scale back indoor dining to head off surges in infection. Birx this week visited Tennessee and advocated a statewide shutdown of bars, but Gov. Bill Lee (R) rejected the suggestion at a news conference with Birx by his side.

A state is designated a red zone if it reports more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people or if more than 10 percent of its virus tests come back positive.

By Hannah Knowles
July 29, 2020 at 7:31 PM EDT

Barr tests negative after encounter with Gohmert

Attorney General William P. Barr — who was in proximity to Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) at a hearing Tuesday before the lawmaker tested positive for the novel coronavirus — has tested negative, a Justice Department spokeswoman said Wednesday evening.

Barr was tested Wednesday after Gohmert revealed his positive test, Kerri Kupec said. Barr took questions from Gohmert and other lawmakers at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, and a video shows the two men were at least briefly walking near each other in a hallway, neither wearing masks at the time.

Doctors do not have a clear idea of when in the course of a coronavirus infection a test will show as positive — meaning it is possible someone who has been exposed and contracted the virus could test negative one day, only to test positive later. Kupec said Barr would “self-monitor and continue to get regularly tested,” but she declined to comment on whether he would seek to isolate himself in any way.

By Matt Zapotosky
July 29, 2020 at 7:30 PM EDT

Florida closes all state-run testing sites as storm approaches

Florida’s state-run coronavirus testing sites will close over the weekend as a tropical cyclone in the Caribbean is expected to hit the peninsula.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management ordered all state-supported drive-through and walk-up coronavirus testing sites to close Thursday at 5 p.m., agency spokesman Jason Mahon told The Post on Wednesday. The more than 50 sites across the state will reopen on a rolling basis next week beginning Tuesday, and all should be operational again Wednesday, barring storm damage.

The sites, which are usually set up in parking lots and large outdoor areas, are often furnished with free-standing structures such as tents, tables and cones, which could become projectiles in tropical storm winds, Mahon said.

Testing also slowed in Texas when Hurricane Hanna made landfall last week. In Starr County, health officials didn’t screen for the virus for at least six days.

The unnamed storm, expected to become Tropical Storm Isaias by the time it nears Hispaniola on Thursday, is forecast to potentially approach Florida over the weekend. However, because it has yet to develop a clear center of circulation, forecast uncertainty is greater than usual.

Everything from a track into the Gulf of Mexico, west of Florida, to a storm that moves through the Bahamas, off the state’s east coast, remains plausible.

The National Hurricane Center cautions: “While this system could bring some rainfall and wind impacts to portions of Cuba, the central and northwest Bahamas, and Florida later this week and this weekend, it is too soon to determine the location or magnitude of those impacts.”

By Meryl Kornfield and Andrew Freedman
July 29, 2020 at 7:20 PM EDT

A trickle of hajj pilgrims, where millions once worshiped

It’s one of the largest annual gatherings anywhere, and one of towering importance in the Muslim faith, drawing more than 2 million people to the Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina.

But this year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Saudi Arabia limited the hajj pilgrimage, underway Wednesday, to a sliver of its accustomed size, allowing up to 1,000 worshipers living in the kingdom to make the trip.

The move dealt a blow to millions of Muslims around the world for whom the hajj represents a once-in-a-lifetime aspiration worth years of saving, planning and waiting.

Read more here.

By Ruby Mellen
July 29, 2020 at 6:47 PM EDT

Humana partners with telehealth startup Heal in $100 million investment

Health insurance provider Humana announced a new partnership Wednesday with a five-year-old start-up that specializes in telemedicine and house calls for primary care.

Through a $100 million investment, Humana aims to expand medical services available to aging Americans who are healthy and to those who live with chronic conditions but would prefer to see a doctor in their own home.

The partnership comes as the number of virtual doctor visits has skyrocketed across the country. The coronavirus pandemic has prompted many businesses to shut down, limiting the availability of in-person medical appointments. And the rising number of infections has kept much of the public at home, sometimes delaying medical visits.

The health start-up Heal offers a mobile app and website where patients can schedule virtual and in-home visits for primary care treatment. Heal already operates in several markets, including New York, California and the District. Humana’s investment will fund an expansion into several new locations, including Chicago, Charlotte and Houston.

“We continue to see high levels of customer satisfaction and improved health outcomes when care is delivered in the home,” Susan Diamond, president of Humana’s home business, said in a statement. “Our goal is to make the healthcare experience easier, more personalized and caring for the people we serve — and is the hallmark of how Humana delivers human care.”

By Hamza Shaban
July 29, 2020 at 6:37 PM EDT

Maryland to stop paying for mandatory coronavirus testing for nursing home staff

Maryland’s health department has warned nursing homes that the state will soon stop paying for the weekly coronavirus testing it requires for staff — prompting frustration from some in the industry, who say facilities cannot afford to foot the bill.

State officials say nursing homes should be able to pay for the tests through funding they received from the federal Cares Act. But industry advocates say there is not enough money to cover those costs and other pressing pandemic-related needs, especially for small, independent facilities.

“This is not something that [nursing homes] are set up to be able to continue on their own,” said Allison Ciborowski, chief executive for LeadingAge Maryland, which represents 120 nonprofit operators of long-term care facilities.

Read more here.

By Rebecca Tan and Rachel Chason
July 29, 2020 at 6:27 PM EDT

Hogan calls latest coronavirus aid package ‘disastrous’ for state and local governments

The latest coronavirus rescue package pending before Congress would be “disastrous” for state and local governments whose budgets have been decimated by the pandemic, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Wednesday.

Hogan, chair of the National Governors Association, said the proposal by Senate Republicans to give flexibility on previous federal aid and provide new money for education “is helpful” but far too little to address the budget shortfalls of as much as 30 percent.

“It doesn’t even mention funding to the state and local governments, which is disastrous,” Hogan told reporters during a news conference in Annapolis. “The governors are on the front lines, providing much-needed services to people that really need them, more services to more people than ever, and there’s no money to pay for those services.”

Hogan said there was bipartisan agreement among most governors that $500 billion in federal aid is crucial.

“I don’t really care about the specifics, if it’s a Republican bill or a Democratic bill, or what we’re fighting about,” Hogan said. “Just get some kind of a bipartisan consensus and get something done. Because to not get something would be a disaster.”

By Erin Cox