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Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, defended and amplified Deborah Birx’s statements about what she characterized as a “new phase” of the pandemic in the United States.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Fauci said that the kind of spread some states are experiencing is extremely difficult to contain. “When you have community spread it’s insidious, there are people who are spreading it who have no symptoms at all ... It’s difficult to do identification, isolation and contact tracing,” Fauci said.

Fauci’s comments came the same day President Trump lashed out at Birx, seemingly over her weekend remarks on CNN in which she warned that even rural areas would suffer. “It is extraordinarily widespread," Birx said.

Here are some significant developments:
  • At least 4,688,000 coronavirus cases and 152,000 fatalities have been reported in the United States since February. More than 48,000 new cases and 524 deaths were reported Monday.
  • Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden criticized Trump after he took shots at his own White House task force coordinator, Deborah Birx. “It’s hard to believe this has to be said, but if I’m elected president, I’ll spend my Monday mornings working with our nation’s top experts to control this virus — not insulting them on Twitter,” Biden wrote.
  • The coronavirus is surging in several Midwestern states that had not previously seen high infection rates. Average daily deaths remain elevated in the South and West where the virus spread rapidly after restrictions were lifted earlier this summer.
  • World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus threw some cold water on rising hopes for a vaccine that will be safe and effective, saying that “there’s no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be.”
  • Trump continued to insist that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for the coronavirus even as leading health officials in his administration have concluded otherwise. Trump suggested opposition to its effectiveness is because he supports it, as opposed to based on science.
  • Major League Baseball confirmed seven St. Louis Cardinals players and six staff members have tested positive over the past week, prompting the league to postpone four more games and extend the Cardinals’ shutdown until at least Friday.
August 3, 2020 at 11:45 PM EDT

‘It’s a fantasy,’ superintendent says about trying to reopen his schools safely

By Eli Saslow

Jeff Gregorich is the superintendent of the Hayden-Winkleman Unified School District in Arizona’s Gila County — “your classic one-horse town,” he says. “Picture John Wayne riding through cactuses and all that. I’m superintendent, high school principal and sometimes the basketball referee during recess.”

He spoke to The Post about trying to reopen his schools safely:

This is my choice, but I’m starting to wish that it wasn’t. I don’t feel qualified. I’ve been a superintendent for 20 years, so I guess I should be used to making decisions, but I keep getting lost in my head. Each possibility I come up with is a bad one.

The governor has told us we have to open our schools to students on August 17th, or else we miss out on 5 percent of our funding. I run a high-needs district in middle-of-nowhere Arizona. We’re 90 percent Hispanic and more than 90 percent free-and-reduced lunch. These kids need every dollar we can get. But covid is spreading all over this area and hitting my staff, and now it feels like there’s a gun to my head. I already lost one teacher to this virus. Do I risk opening back up even if it’s going to cost us more lives? Or do we run school remotely and end up depriving these kids?

Read more here.

August 3, 2020 at 11:15 PM EDT

White House steps back from Trump suggestion about delaying the election

By Joseph Marks

The White House has no plans to try to delay the Nov. 3 election, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Sunday, even as he defended a tweet from President Trump that raised the possibility.

“We’re going to hold an election on November 3rd, and the president is going to win,” Meadows said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.”

Trump’s tweet on Thursday, which set off alarm bells throughout Washington, was merely meant to raise questions about whether a major expansion of mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic could produce fraud or lead to untenable delays in counting votes, Meadows insisted.

Read more here.

August 3, 2020 at 10:31 PM EDT

Getting a vaccine in record time is hard. Distributing it may be equally daunting.

By Lena H. Sun

With the Trump administration aiming to deliver 300 million doses of vaccine against the coronavirus as early as January, state officials and health experts say they remain in the dark about key details and, therefore, are inadequately prepared for what is expected to be the largest single vaccination campaign ever undertaken.

Getting shots into the arms of millions of Americans is a massive undertaking, they say, requiring extraordinary coordination, planning and communication. But with only six months to the government’s target date for approving a vaccine, the administration has shared limited and often confusing information about its plans for distribution, making it difficult for overwhelmed state and local officials, including those who run immunization programs, to prepare.

Read more here.

August 3, 2020 at 9:55 PM EDT

Ariz. superintendent: ‘Unlikely’ that schools can safely reopen by governor’s deadline

By Reis Thebault

With just two weeks until the date by which Arizona’s governor has said schools must reopen in some capacity, the state’s head of public instruction said in-person learning is still unsafe, as coronavirus cases have surged.

“Every indicator shows that there is high community spread across the state,” Superintendent Kathy Hoffman said in a statement. “As school leaders, we should prepare our families and teachers for the reality that it is unlikely that any school community will be able to reopen safely for traditional in-person or hybrid instruction by August 17th. Our state is simply not ready to have all our students and educators congregate in school facilities.”

Hoffman’s comments come as some Arizona schools have already begun the fall semester and days ahead of when the state’s health department is slated to release metrics designed to guide — but not mandate — district decisions about when to reopen for in-person learning.

Educators have criticized Gov. Doug Ducey (R) for setting the Aug. 17 deadline requiring at least some in-person service for students who might have nowhere else to go. If schools don’t comply, they risk losing out on a portion of their state funding. Ducey’s order broadly defines those students, and some have worried it could lead to full classrooms and dangerous virus spread.

Jeff Gregorich, head of a tiny school district in southeastern Arizona, told The Washington Post recently that the governor’s mandate made him feel trapped.

“These kids need every dollar we can get,” Gregorich said. “But covid is spreading all over this area and hitting my staff, and now it feels like there’s a gun to my head. I already lost one teacher to this virus. Do I risk opening back up even if it’s going to cost us more lives? Or do we run school remotely and end up depriving these kids?”

The governor and his backers have said the plan is designed to help the state’s most vulnerable students. In her letter, Hoffman acknowledged that “there is a need to provide some students with certain critical services that cannot be provided at a distance” but also noted that “we should not expect or ask the majority of Arizona’s students and teachers” to return to school facilities until the virus is under control.

August 3, 2020 at 9:22 PM EDT

Florida’s coronavirus test sites, shuttered by storm, will reopen Tuesday

By Reis Thebault

Florida, where dueling disasters threatened devastation last week, will reopen its state-run coronavirus testing sites after an approaching storm forced them shut.

Hurricane Isaias — then a tropical storm — narrowly missed Florida and has since moved up the Eastern Seaboard, bringing its lashing winds and heavy rains to the Carolinas. But its menacing approach was enough to prompt the state, already suffering through some of its worst weeks of the pandemic, to suspend drive-through and walk-up testing at dozens of sites.

The storm appeared to take aim at the very places the virus was hitting hardest, in a state that has struggled to contain the virus’s spread: Counties on the east coast, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, encompass the majority of the state’s cases.

But with Isaias moving north, the Florida Division of Emergency Management announced Monday that 15 testing sites will resume operations on Tuesday. Another group of sites, including the one at Miami’s Major League Baseball stadium, will reopen Wednesday, the agency said.

Florida’s rate of newly reported cases has been falling for days, but experts caution that the dips may be due to decreased or backlogged testing.

August 3, 2020 at 9:02 PM EDT

Trump campaign gives halfhearted endorsement of masks: ‘Why not give it a shot!’

By Felicia Sonmez

Trump’s reelection campaign sent an email to supporters Monday night declaring that “Patriots Wear Face Masks” — but the text of the message fell short of a ringing endorsement.

In the email, Trump told supporters he was writing “not to ask for a contribution, but to ask for your help.” Wearing face masks, he wrote, is “something we should all try to do” when it’s not possible to socially distance.

“I don’t love wearing them either,” Trump wrote. “Masks may be good, they may be just okay, or they may be great. They can possibly help us get back to our American way of life that so many of us rightfully cherished before we were so terribly impacted by the China Virus.”

Trump has frequently used the phrases “Wuhan virus,” “Chinese virus” or “China virus,” which critics decry as racist, to emphasize the country where the coronavirus was first detected.

The president, who for months ridiculed journalists and others for wearing face coverings, has recently begun wearing a face mask at some public events.

“I recently tweeted that many view wearing a mask as a patriotic act, and there is no one more patriotic than me and you,” he wrote in Monday’s email to supporters. “Why not give it a shot!”

August 3, 2020 at 8:27 PM EDT

Trump keeps promising an overhaul of the nation’s health-care system that never arrives

By Anne Gearan, Amy Goldstein and Seung Min Kim

It was a bold claim when President Trump said that he was about to produce an overhaul of the nation’s health-care system, at last doing away with the Affordable Care Act, which he has long promised to abolish.

“We’re signing a health-care plan within two weeks, a full and complete health-care plan,” Trump pledged in a July 19 interview with “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace.

Two weeks later, there is no evidence that the administration has designed a replacement for the 2010 health-care law. Instead, there is a sense of familiarity.

Repeatedly and starting before he took office, Trump has vowed that he is on the cusp of delivering a full-fledged plan to reshape the health-care system along conservative lines and replace the central domestic achievement of Barack Obama’s presidency. No total revamp has ever emerged.

Read more here.

August 3, 2020 at 7:37 PM EDT

Fauci backs Birx’s warning of a ‘new phase,' pointing to ‘insidious’ community spread

By Hannah Knowles

Top infectious-diseases expert Anthony S. Fauci on Monday underscored his medical colleague Deborah Birx’s declaration that the United States has reached a worrying “new phase” in the coronavirus pandemic, pointing to rampant spread that cannot be pinpointed to limited hot spot locations.

“Nursing home outbreaks, meatpacking plant outbreaks, prison outbreaks — it’s unfortunate that they occur, but you know exactly what you’re dealing with, and you can go in there and try and suppress the infection and contain it,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at a news briefing with Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D). “Whereas when you have community spread, it’s insidious.”

With people throughout the community spreading the virus, potentially without any symptoms, it’s much harder to identify cases, isolate patients and then conduct contact tracing, Fauci said.

“The reason why [Birx is] saying it’s a new phase is because throughout the country, when you have community spread, it’s much more difficult to get your arms around that and contain,” Fauci said.

Fauci’s comments came the same day President Trump lashed out at Birx, seemingly over her weekend remarks on CNN in which she referred to a “new phase.” Fauci and Birx are both members of the White House coronavirus task force.

“I want to be very clear: What we’re seeing today is different from March and April,” said Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, on “State of the Union,” adding that cases are “extraordinarily widespread” and rising in settings both urban and rural.

President Trump tweeted Monday that Birx “took the bait” and “hit us” after criticism from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Birx has faced growing scrutiny after the New York Times reported last month that her optimism about the country’s trajectory helped justify reopening.

August 3, 2020 at 7:14 PM EDT

GOP leader doxes neighbors who complain about mask-less businesses

By Patricia Sullivan

The chairman of the Arlington County Republican Committee was kicked out of a Facebook group Sunday for posting personal information of people who complained about county businesses not enforcing rules on masks and physical distancing.

Andrew Loposser posted a set of names with contact information he obtained from the Virginia Department of Health to the 11,276-member group “Arlington Neighbors Helping Each Other Through Covid-19.”

“Only part of the snitches in Arlington County,” Loposser wrote. “If y’all want to try to destroy businesses via the health department, we will make sure your name, email, phone numbers and addresses are well known to activists who want to peacefully protest you.”

In response to other commenters who supported the effort to report violations to the health department, he added: “The board and any Nazis who want to support this can pound sand.”

Read more here.

August 3, 2020 at 6:36 PM EDT

Clorox promotes a new CEO as demand for cleaning products surges

By Hamza Shaban

Linda Rendle will become the next chief executive of Clorox, the company announced Monday, as demand for its cleaning products and household goods has exploded during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rendle, who is currently the company president, has been with Clorox for 17 years. She will join a small group of women who run the country’s biggest and most influential companies. Despite making up slightly more than half of the country’s population, women in chief executive roles amount to just 6 percent of the S&P 500, according to data published by the nonprofit group Catalyst.

The change in Clorox’s leadership comes as the company reported dramatic sales growth. In addition to its namesake bleach and cleaning products, Clorox is behind Brita filters, Hidden Valley dressings and Glad wraps, among other brands. Overall, sales increased 22 percent this quarter, compared with the same time last year, owing to consumers spending more time at home and sharp demand for disinfectants to protect against the virus, the company reported Monday. Since March, when the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic, shares in Clorox have risen nearly 50 percent.

The company projects that the covid-driven growth will slow to the low single digits or remain flat for fiscal 2021. The company said it projects continued elevated demand for its cleaning products, but it also highlighted the pressure that American consumers will face during the ongoing recession and threats to job security.

August 3, 2020 at 6:33 PM EDT

Trump chides coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx after her blunt assessment

By John Wagner and Reis Thebault

President Trump on Monday publicly chided Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, for offering what he considered too blunt of an assessment of the spread of the virus.

In a tweet, Trump claimed that Birx “took the bait” after she was criticized by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and “hit us.”

The president was apparently referring to remarks over the weekend in which Birx said the United States had entered a “new phase” of the pandemic.

“What we’re seeing today is different from March and April,” Birx, the physician overseeing the White House response, said Sunday on CNN. “It is extraordinarily widespread.”

During the same interview, Birx defended herself after Pelosi said Sunday that she lacks confidence in Birx and the task force.

Trump’s tweet was aimed at Birx and the House speaker: “So Crazy Nancy Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Deborah Birx, going after her because she was too positive on the very good job we are doing on combatting the China Virus, including Vaccines & Therapeutics,” Trump tweeted. “In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!”

During the CNN interview, Birx said that she has “tremendous respect for the speaker” and “tremendous respect for her long dedication to the American people.”

At a news conference Monday evening, Trump seemed to backtrack on his criticism of Birx, telling reporters that the two had just met in his office and the physician is a “person I have a lot of respect for.”

The president instead reserved his sharpest criticism for Pelosi and accused her of treating Birx “very badly — very, very badly. Very nasty.”

Pelosi had renewed her critique of Birx during a CNN interview earlier Monday, referencing an April news briefing of the task force at which Trump mused about ingesting disinfectants to treat the coronavirus as Birx stood nearby.

“I don’t have confidence in anyone who stands there while the president says swallow Lysol and it’s going to cure your virus,” Pelosi said.

August 3, 2020 at 6:06 PM EDT

Cardinals’ outbreak grows to 13 positives, another series postponed

By Dave Sheinin

The full scope of the coronavirus outbreak among the St. Louis Cardinals came into view Monday, and like the one that hit the Miami Marlins the week before, the numbers were alarming: Seven Cardinals players and six staff members have tested positive over the past week, prompting MLB to postpone four more games and extend the Cardinals’ shutdown until at least Friday.

The Cardinals’ four-game series in Detroit against the Tigers, which was to begin Tuesday, was scrapped in the wake of Monday’s news, and the Cardinals remain under self-isolation at their Milwaukee hotel, where they have been since Thursday and where a scheduled three-game series against the Brewers over the weekend was postponed. At this point, the Cardinals’ next scheduled game is Friday in St. Louis against the Chicago Cubs.

The two major outbreaks among the Cardinals and the Marlins — the latter of whom saw 18 players and two coaches test positive, leading to a week-long shutdown that is scheduled to end Tuesday — have alarmed people across the sport.

Read more here.

August 3, 2020 at 5:41 PM EDT

A new gentrification crisis

By Tracy Jan

When newly retired firefighter Joe Ward-Wallace opened South L.A. Cafe in November, he was the latest in a string of Black entrepreneurs hoping to contain the spread of gentrification in South Los Angeles.

Sales increased by 10 percent each month, he said, part of a renaissance of Black-owned cafes and other businesses in the historically African American community.

“It was a tactic for cultural preservation,” Ward-Wallace said. “We were on an upward swing right before covid to reclaim our community.”

Then the coronavirus pandemic ground the nation’s economy to a halt. Overnight, business at South L.A. Cafe dropped 70 percent. Ward-Wallace furloughed nine of his 10 employees.

The recession threatens to devastate Black commercial districts and other ethnic enclaves that fuel the vibrancy, economies and identities of American cities.

Read more here.

August 3, 2020 at 5:07 PM EDT

Gov. Hogan curtails power of local health officers to order blanket school closures in Md.

By Erin Cox and Donna St. George

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday curtailed the authority of local health officials to issue blanket orders to keep schools closed, undoing Montgomery County’s decision to require all private schools to teach students online only as they reopen in the fall.

Hogan (R) sharply rebuked Maryland’s most populous jurisdiction for barring in-person instruction at parochial and private schools, saying local officials overstepped his interest in giving leeway to local leaders.

He said that private and parochial schools “deserve the same opportunity and flexibility to make reopening decisions” that public school systems enjoyed.

Read more here.