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For the fourth straight day, the United States has witnessed more than 1,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus, with 1,249 reported Thursday. The death toll nationwide was slightly lower than Wednesday, when 1,400 coronavirus-related deaths were reported, the worst day in more than two months for deaths from the disease.

Meanwhile, the illness continues to rattle the economy, which shrank a head-spinning 9.5 percent from April through June, the fastest the quarterly rate has fallen in modern record-keeping. At the same time, Congress is still clashing over a new coronavirus relief bill, with no deal reached on extending emergency unemployment benefits that expire on Friday or help for people facing evictions. Concerns are growing that the path to recovery could be delayed and more difficult.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Herman Cain, a former pizza chain executive and Republican presidential candidate, died after testing positive for the coronavirus. Though it is unclear where Cain contracted the disease, he attended a June Trump campaign rally in Tulsa that drew several thousand supporters, most of whom did not wear masks.
  • President Trump visited the American Red Cross headquarters on Thursday and urged people who have recovered from covid-19 to donate their plasma to help others fight the disease the virus causes. He also wore a face mask as he toured the facilities in Washington, the third time he has worn one in public.
  • Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies announced that two staff members tested positive for the coronavirus. No Phillies players have tested positive, but the team’s three-game series this weekend against the Toronto Blue Jays has been postponed, and all activity at Citizens Bank Park has been canceled.
  • Children may have as much of the coronavirus in their respiratory systems as adults, a new study says, complicating Trump’s assertion that children are safer from the virus than older people.
  • About 1 in 5 U.S. adults packed up and moved because of the pandemic — or they know someone who did, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center. The likelihood of someone moving or knowing someone who moved is greatest with higher levels of education and income.
July 30, 2020 at 10:32 PM EDT
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SEC narrows season to 10 games per team, drops nonconference schedule

By Chuck Culpepper

The SEC, that Tyrannosaurus rex of college football, announced Thursday a narrowing of its season to 10 games per each of its 14 teams, all within the conference, beginning near the end of September rather than the outset. With that, it became the fourth top-tier conference to enter the national rescheduling fray that owes to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The approach of the league that has claimed 10 of the past 14 national championships plus five of the past 14 runners-up also differed from the fresh intent the ACC revealed Wednesday. That league allowed for 10 intra-conference games and the loud one-year presence of Notre Dame, but also for one nonconference game per school. The SEC’s decision for a schedule entirely insular means a strange one-season hiatus for certain SEC-ACC rivalries that often can seem eternal: Florida vs. Florida State, Clemson vs. South Carolina, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech and Kentucky vs. Louisville.

The new schedule also nixed two other familiar kinds of SEC nonconference game days, one a rarity and the other not.

Read more here.

July 30, 2020 at 9:24 PM EDT
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Supreme Court blocks online signatures for Idaho ballot initiative campaign

By Robert Barnes

The Supreme Court on Thursday shut down a lower court’s decision that cited the coronavirus pandemic as reason to ease the rules on gathering signatures for a citizens ballot initiative.

The case from Idaho was the latest example of the high court deferring to state officials, rather than lower court judges, in how to deal with election-related issues caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The justices put on hold a lower-court order that Idaho officials either put on the ballot an education initiative promoted by a group called Reform Idaho or allow the group to gather signatures electronically, although the deadline had passed.

It is unclear exactly how the court’s vote broke down, although at least five of the nine justices had to agree with the action.

Read more here.

July 30, 2020 at 8:36 PM EDT
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U.S. reports more than 1,000 deaths for the fourth day

By Meryl Kornfield

The United States tallied 1,249 coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, the fourth day the country has reported a death toll in the four digits.

New cases also increased Thursday to 69,312 confirmed infections, the highest count since Friday. Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio and Hawaii reported record new coronavirus cases.

Five states and Puerto Rico reported new highs or tied with their records for seven-day case averages: Hawaii, Missouri, Montana, Oregon and Alaska.

Twelve states and Puerto Rico reached their highest seven-day averages for new deaths.

Florida, Arizona and Mississippi counted record single-day death numbers Thursday. Florida reported the highest toll at 252 deaths.

Texas health officials announced an “automation error” with its death toll this week and said there were 225 fewer deaths on Wednesday.

July 30, 2020 at 8:02 PM EDT
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Infected children can carry as much or more of the coronavirus as adults, study says

By Marisa Iati and Meryl Kornfield

Children may have as much of the coronavirus in their respiratory systems as adults, a new study says, complicating President Trump’s assertion that children are safer from the virus than older people.

“The lower they are in age, the lower the risk in terms of the age group itself,” Trump told reporters Thursday at a news conference. “Children are at the lowest risk of any age group from the virus.”

But the study, published Thursday in JAMA Pediatrics, suggests that although children tend to experience milder symptoms than adults, their throats still carry significant amounts of the virus. In fact, the study found that children under 5 carry 10 to 100 times more virus than adults.

The study is limited by the fact that it detected viral RNA — genetic material — rather than infectious virus, the researchers wrote. Still, they noted that other studies have shown a correlation between levels of RNA and live virus.

Therefore, “young children can potentially be important drivers of SARS-CoV-2 spread in the general population,” the researchers wrote, using the scientific acronym for the novel coronavirus.

“Behavioral habits of young children and close quarters in school and day care settings raise concern for SARS-CoV-2 amplification in this population as public health restrictions are eased,” they added.

July 30, 2020 at 7:15 PM EDT
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How a secretive Pentagon agency seeded the ground for a rapid coronavirus cure

By Paul Sonne

The U.S. government’s response to the pandemic has been impugned as slow and haphazard, with at times baffling messages from President Trump.

But the story of a secretive Pentagon agency is a counterexample of U.S. government foresight, one that began more than a decade ago with the aim of finding super-fast ways to protect American troops if they were to confront a deadly new virus in the field.

If it weren’t for the agency’s investments over the past decade and earlier, largely outside the glare of Washington’s partisan politics, the American race toward a vaccine and antibody therapy to stop the coronavirus most likely wouldn’t be moving as quickly as it is today.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is far from exclusively responsible for the fast pace. But it played a significant role in advancing the science that is making the quick pace possible and setting a North Star for researchers.

Read more here.

July 30, 2020 at 6:32 PM EDT
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Phillies report two positive tests for staff members, postpone weekend games

By Dave Sheinin

Major League Baseball’s long-odds struggle to weave a 60-game regular season through a global pandemic suffered another damaging blow Thursday, when the Philadelphia Phillies announced two staff members had tested positive — raising fears that the recent outbreak within the Miami Marlins organization had jumped to a second team.

While there was no clear evidence the Phillies’ infections — which the team said were of a coach and a member of the home clubhouse staff — came from the Marlins, the teams had played three games over the weekend at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, even as the Marlins’ outbreak grew from one player on Friday to four by Sunday. By Thursday, with both teams temporarily shut down, infections among the Marlins were up to 17 players and two coaches.

No Phillies players have tested positive, and MLB has reported zero positive tests of any player in baseball, outside of the Marlins, since July 24. However, three Phillies staff members have now tested positive since the weekend, including a visitors’ clubhouse attendant.

Read more here.

July 30, 2020 at 5:44 PM EDT
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Trump urges recovered covid-19 patients to donate plasma

By Carolyn Y. Johnson

President Trump issued a national call to action Thursday, exhorting people who have recovered from covid-19 to donate blood plasma to help others fight the disease and boost the nation’s supply.

“If you’ve had the virus, if you donate, it would be a terrific thing,” Trump said on a visit to the American Red Cross headquarters. “We really need donations of the plasma. To those that have had the virus, you’ve gotten through this. And I guess that means you have something very special there.”

The call for donors is based on a simple, but powerful fact about the immune system. People who recover from a coronavirus infection typically have virus-blocking antibodies circulating in their blood in the weeks after they recover. Those antibodies can be harvested in plasma donations and transfused to the next people who get sick, helping boost their immune systems. In contrast, developing treatments for a new virus is an uncertain and time-consuming process.

Blood plasma from people who have successfully recovered from the coronavirus infection has been widely used in the United States, even though researchers are still gathering evidence to definitively show it works. About 50,000 people have been transfused with the treatment, called convalescent plasma, under an expanded access program sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration.

Read more here.

July 30, 2020 at 5:08 PM EDT
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Wisconsin joins more than 30 other states mandating face coverings

By Marisa Iati

Wisconsin residents will now have to wear face masks indoors under a new order that Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced Thursday in response to significant community spread of the coronavirus.

The mandate, which takes effect Saturday, applies with few exceptions to anyone age 5 and older who is inside any building, besides a private home, where people from multiple households are present. The order “strongly recommends” face coverings in other settings.

“This is another tool in the toolbox in reducing the spread of COVID-19, and the sooner we work together to box in this virus, the sooner we can get back to work, school, sports, restaurants, and get our state and our economy back on the right track,” Evers said in a tweet.

Some of the state’s Republican lawmakers quickly expressed opposition to the mandate. State Sen. Steve Nass called for an emergency session to overturn the rule, which he described as “illegal and unnecessary,” the Associated Press reported. Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told the AP that he expected citizens’ organizations to challenge the order’s constitutionality.

The mask mandate will take effect the same day that liberal judge Jill Karofsky joins the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which in May sided with the state’s Republican lawmakers to invalidate Evers’s stay-at-home order. Karofsky’s addition will narrow the court’s conservative majority from 5-2 to 4-3, local news reports say.

Wisconsin joins more than 30 states that have implemented mask rules to try to prevent community spread of the contagious virus. Health officials in Wisconsin reported 1,059 infections on Wednesday, the state’s second-highest total since the pandemic began.

Evers also declared a public health emergency, saying the numbers of cases and deaths in the state “drastically increased” in July. Wisconsin has tallied 919 deaths, 135 of which have come this month.

July 30, 2020 at 4:40 PM EDT
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Trump wears mask for third time in public

By Felicia Sonmez

During a visit to the American Red Cross National Headquarters in Washington on Thursday afternoon, President Trump wore a mask in public for the third time.

He donned it while touring the Red Cross facilities, where he met with a man who was donating plasma.

The president had long resisted wearing a mask in public and would often ridicule journalists and others for wearing them during the pandemic. But he appears to have shifted slightly on the issue in recent weeks; he wore one for the first time during a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center earlier in the month, and wore one again Monday during a trip to North Carolina.

Later Thursday, during a roundtable at the Red Cross headquarters, Trump declared that things in many areas of the country are “getting much better,” even though some states are recording record levels of new coronavirus cases and the U.S. death toll is approaching 150,000.

Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams also gave Trump a message from supporters he said he met with recently in Miami.

“I was in Trump country,” Adams said. “They told me to deliver you a message, Mr. President. They told me to tell you [that] you look badass in a face mask. I promised them I would tell you that."

“Miami,” Adams added, “I told the president he looks badass in a face mask.”

July 30, 2020 at 4:05 PM EDT
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Lowe’s will give workers another $300 bonus in August

By Hamza Shaban

Lowe’s became the latest company to give employees another round of coronavirus bonuses, recognizing the efforts of front-line associates who don’t have the luxury of working from home during a surging pandemic.

In an announcement Thursday, the home improvement chain said full-time hourly workers will receive $300 in mid-August and part-time and seasonal workers will receive $150. The bonus pay matches previous amounts the company gave employees in March, May and earlier this month, Lowe’s said. The company’s August bonuses, which total $100 million, come as it has reported a $2 billion increase in sales during the first quarter of 2020 compared with the same period last year.

The company said the pay was meant to help employees navigate the extraordinary hardships endured during the pandemic, for general expenses, as well as the costs of child care and remote schooling. Many American households will not be sending their children back to classrooms for at least the beginning of the fall term.

“No one could have anticipated how long we would be navigating this pandemic together,” said Marvin Ellison, the company’s president and chief executive, in a news release. “As we approach the start of another school year, our commitment to support our hard-working associates will continue into August."

Other major retailers have extended bonus pay. Walmart said last week that full-time hourly employees will receive $300 and part-time workers will get $150 in August bonuses. And Lowe’s chief rival, Home Depot, said in April it would boost workers’ weekly pay by $100 for full-time associates and $50 for part-time employees.

July 30, 2020 at 3:32 PM EDT
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Tyson Foods adopts weekly coronavirus testing for workers

By Hannah Denham and Abha Bhattarai

Tyson Foods is launching weekly on-site coronavirus testing for employees at all 140 of its U.S. production facilities as it significantly ramps up measures to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The food conglomerate behind Tyson, Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm has grappled with coronavirus outbreaks at its meat-processing plants that have sickened thousands of workers and led to supply chain slowdowns. After Thursday’s announcement, spokesman Gary Mickelson said the company has piloted the strategy at three of its U.S. work sites.

The new strategy “will help further our efforts to go on the offensive against the virus,” Donnie King, Tyson Foods group president and chief administrative officer, said in a news release. “Adding more resources and technologies reinforces our commitment to protecting our team members, their families and plant communities."

In April, an investigation by The Washington Post found that Tyson and two other large meat processors failed to provide employees with protective equipment, instead telling them to keep working even as the spread of the coronavirus across the United States turned crowded plants into infection hot spots.

A few days after the investigation was published, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration outlined new procedures for meatpacking plants to protect workers: sanitizing shared equipment; physical barriers between employees at workstations; personal protective equipment; and sick leave without penalty.

July 30, 2020 at 2:54 PM EDT
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Florida sheriff issues more than 260 citations in two weeks over parties and ‘car clubs’

By Hannah Knowles

A sheriff’s office in Florida says it has issued more than 260 citations in two weeks while breaking up parties and “roving car clubs” as part of an operation that it says will address crime and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Sheriff Gregory Tony said at a Wednesday news conference that authorities grew particularly worried that congregations of dozens of cars were becoming hot spots for violence, including shootings. The citations stemming from 13 gatherings were all traffic-related, according to Broward County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Gerdy St. Louis, and Tony said there were also 25 arrests for alleged offenses such as grand theft and driving under the influence.

Despite the focus on crime and traffic, Tony linked the ongoing operation to the coronavirus.

“About two weeks ago, I think I made it clear that I’ve seen how this thing is connecting,” the sheriff said. “Anytime we’re having large gatherings of 100-, 150-plus people, it’s crystal clear that we’re not seeing a compliance with the CDC recommendations, and, therefore, more people will contract this virus.”

Responding to what authorities called “an alarming spike” in coronavirus cases and the share of tests coming back positive, Broward County has instituted a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. through Aug. 1 and limited private gatherings to 10 people, seeking to discourage parties.

The average number of new cases reported each day in Broward rose sharply in June and the first half of July before plateauing, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.

July 30, 2020 at 2:36 PM EDT
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First lady of Brazil, minister test positive for virus as country’s cases mount

By Siobhán O'Grady

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s wife, Michelle, has tested positive for the coronavirus, officials announced Thursday. Her diagnosis comes several days after her husband announced that he had recovered from the virus. He announced his positive test result July 7.

The presidential office said in a statement that the first lady “is in good health and will follow all established protocols,” Reuters reported.

Marcos Pontes, the country’s science and technology minister, also announced Thursday that he had tested positive for the virus. He is the fifth minister in Bolsonaro’s cabinet who is known to have tested positive.

Brazil has confirmed more than 2.5 million cases of the virus, second only to the United States.

But even as the numbers of cases and deaths have risen rapidly in Brazil, Bolsonaro has resisted strict social distancing measures and backed hydroxychloroquine as a treatment against covid-19, despite scientists’ cautioning that the medication could be dangerous to some patients.

Cases continue to surge across Brazil, hitting parts of the country that once felt safer than major cities such as Sao Paulo, where transmission is widespread.

On Wednesday, the Brazilian government allowed foreign tourists to enter the country via air once again, even as the death toll reached a record high.

July 30, 2020 at 2:15 PM EDT
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Arizona, Florida and Mississippi report record-high deaths for one day

By Hannah Knowles and Jacqueline Dupree

Arizona, Florida and Mississippi on Thursday reported record-high new deaths in one day, according to data tracked by The Washington Post, as deaths nationwide spike after a surge of cases that appears to have peaked.

Florida reported close to 10,000 new cases and 252 deaths, a tally 176 percent higher than the average daily deaths over the past week. Florida’s average daily death tally has risen to record heights for several days in a row, while another hot spot state, Texas, has seen its average break records for weeks on end.

Mississippi added 48 deaths and 1,775 cases, also a single-day record. Over the past week, Mississippi has been second only to Florida in new cases per capita and — along with Texas and South Carolina — lags just behind Arizona in deaths per capita.

Arizona added 172 deaths Thursday, a significant jump from its previous high of 147 single-day deaths announced July 18, though health officials have noted recent improvement in other measures of the state’s coronavirus situation.

Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said Thursday on Fox News that if governors and mayors mandate masks and if “every American” embraces face coverings and social distancing, “we can really get control of this virus and drive down cases as Arizona has done.”

Arizona, Maine and Vermont are the only states for which average new cases have decreased since early July — though Arizona’s typical tally of new coronavirus-related deaths has more than doubled over the same period.