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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has told public health officials in all 50 states and the U.S. territories to plan to distribute a coronavirus vaccine to health-care workers and other high-priority groups as early as Nov. 1, according to CDC guidance. The timeline for possible early distribution has raised concerns that the Food and Drug Administration is rushing to approve a vaccine before Election Day.

Here are some significant developments:
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to criticism of her trip to a San Francisco hair salon — which was not cleared to reopen for indoor service and where she appeared momentarily maskless. Her defense: “It was a setup.”
  • By the end of 2020, the amount of debt owed by the United States will amount to 98 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, the highest level since the end of World War II, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said.
  • Cheap, widely available steroid drugs reduced the number of deaths in the sickest patients with covid-19, according to three newly published clinical trials.
  • A Minnesota biker who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has died of covid-19 — the first fatality from the virus traced to the 10-day event that drew more than 400,000 people to South Dakota. His is among at least 260 cases in 11 states tied directly to the event.
  • A study out of Iceland found that coronavirus antibodies lasted for at least four months, which could be good news for vaccine development efforts.
September 2, 2020 at 11:30 PM EDT

Bigger hauls, fewer choices: How the pandemic has changed our grocery shopping habits forever

By Laura Reiley

Contactless shopping and the elimination of free samples. Less browsing and “product discovery” and more focus on the expediency of repurchasing. These are ways the novel coronavirus has changed how Americans buy groceries. The pandemic has altered what products people purchase, when and where, who is buying them, and how much time is devoted to the endeavor.

Americans are spending more, yet increasingly they are being offered fewer choices, both online and in person, slowing a years-long trend toward innovations that put “good for you” and “environmentally friendly” spins on established and much-loved products.

The winnowing — what one expert calls a “Sovietish” reduction of choice — is also solidifying eating patterns, for good or for ill. With customers’ selections reinforced by online advertising, repeat ordering and other algorithms, the food system is becoming bifurcated as consumers who have expressed enthusiasm for healthful or artisanal foods are offered more of the same, while those with a penchant for highly processed comfort foods are inundated with opportunities to restock.

September 2, 2020 at 10:45 PM EDT

Covid-19 has killed more police officers this year than all other causes combined, data show

By Christopher Ingraham

In a speech this week in Pittsburgh, Joe Biden linked the Trump administration’s mismanagement of the coronavirus to its handling of protests and riots with a surprising statistic: “More cops have died from covid this year than have been killed on patrol,” he said.

The Democratic presidential nominee’s claim is true, according to data compiled by the Officer Down Memorial Page and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, two nonprofits that have tracked law enforcement fatalities for decades.

As of Sept. 2, on-the-job coronavirus infections were responsible for a least 100 officer deaths, more than gun violence, car accidents and all other causes combined, according to the Officer Down group. NLEOMF reported a nearly identical number of covid-related law enforcement deaths.

September 2, 2020 at 9:52 PM EDT

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson says he and his family tested positive for virus

By Reis Thebault

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and members of his family tested positive for the coronavirus, he told his nearly 200 million Instagram followers on Wednesday.

Johnson, the famous wrestler-cum-actor, turned the 11-minute social media video into a public service announcement. In it, he adopts a tone akin to that of infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci, urging viewers to “be extra cautious and don’t let your guard down” when it comes to the potentially deadly virus.

“This has been one of the most challenging and difficult things we have ever had to endure as a family — and for me personally too, as well,” Johnson said, looking directly into the camera and clad in a hoodie advertising his tequila company. “And I’ve gone through some doozies in the past.”

In just two hours, his post racked up more than 1.2 million views. He, his wife and two younger daughters caught the virus from “very close family friends,” Johnson said. They’ve all recovered, but from now on, he said, his house has a new rule: “When it comes to people coming over to your house, get them tested. You never know.”

Johnson, who once appeared to flirt with a 2020 presidential run, also advised his followers to wear their masks, chastising elected officials who have turned face coverings into a politically polarizing issue.

“Wear your mask,” he said. “It is the right thing to do, the responsible thing to do.”

His motto, he said, will be to “control the controllables.”

September 2, 2020 at 9:32 PM EDT

Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver dies at 75 from dementia and covid-19

By Matt Schudel

Tom Seaver, a Hall of Fame pitcher and the hero of New York’s Miracle Mets, who led his once-hapless team from the National League basement to an improbable World Series championship in 1969, died Aug. 31 at age 75.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced his death, noting that the causes were Lewy body dementia and covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The place of death was not disclosed. Mr. Seaver and his family announced in 2019 that he was withdrawing from public life because of advancing dementia.

From the time he came to New York in 1967 as a 22-year-old rookie, Mr. Seaver began to transform a team that had been known as an inept group of lovable losers since the franchise began five years earlier.

September 2, 2020 at 9:11 PM EDT

Pelosi says appointment at hair salon was ‘a setup’ after her visit stirs controversy

By Reis Thebault

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded on Wednesday to criticism of her trip to a San Francisco hair salon — which was not cleared to reopen for indoor service and where she appeared momentarily maskless. Her defense: “It was a setup.”

The California Democrat insisted that she had followed the salon’s rules as they were presented to her and that she trusted an establishment that she has patronized “over the years, many times.” Pelosi said she was told that the city would allow one customer in the shop at a time, and she complied with those guidelines. However, San Francisco — a city Pelosi has represented for more than three decades — allowed salons to open for outdoor service only starting Tuesday, the day after her visit.

“As it turns out, it was a setup,” Pelosi said of the appointment at a Wednesday news conference on school reopening. “So I take responsibility for falling for a setup, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.”

Fox News aired surveillance footage from eSalon showing Pelosi walking through the business with a mask around her neck and a masked stylist nearby. Republicans, including President Trump, have pounced on the story, accusing Pelosi of hypocrisy.

Erica Kious, eSalon’s owner, told Fox that she rents space to independent stylists and was incensed that Pelosi came in when the rest of Kious’s business had to remain closed.

“It was a slap in the face,” she said.

But Pelosi, responding to reporters’ repeated questions about the visit, said there is “more to this that I’m not going into as to the motivations of the salon,” but she declined to elaborate. Kious did not respond to a request for comment.

“I think that this salon owes me an apology,” Pelosi said.

She said she was wearing a mask during the appointment, except while she was having her hair washed.

“I don’t wear a mask when I’m washing my hair,” she said. “Do you wear a mask when you’re washing your hair? I always have a mask.”

Pelosi said that her critics are using the visit as a distraction and that Republicans should instead help pass the Heroes Act, a $3 trillion coronavirus aid package

“They want to jump on this,” she said. “I think it’s really important for us to pass the bill so in a scientific way we can address the virus and bring people back to work.”

September 2, 2020 at 9:10 PM EDT

New restrictions take effect in Havana amid rise in new cases

By Rick Noack

Amid a rise in novel coronavirus cases, strict new restrictions have taken effect in Havana, the Cuban capital.

The latest measures — including a nighttime curfew and curbs on the sale of goods — are expected to last half a month, according to the Associated Press. Other measures, including a continued suspension of in-person school teaching, could remain in place for longer, Reuters reported.

Cuba has reported over 300 new infections within the last seven days. Many of them were confirmed in the capital city, raising concerns among Cuban officials that the outbreak there could eventually spiral out of control.

Prior restrictions had been lifted in Havana earlier this summer, amid a drop in the number of new cases.

But after new infections in other parts of Cuba were recently linked to Havana clusters, authorities imposed restrictions on travel from the capital city, with only few valid reasons for exemptions.

The country has so far reported 4,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 95 deaths. Other Latin American nations with a similar number of citizens have reported far higher case tallies, including Bolivia, with more than 117,000 confirmed infections.

September 2, 2020 at 9:00 PM EDT

Florida severs ties with coronavirus testing lab for dumping 75,000 late test results in one day

By Hannah Denham

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is cutting ties with the coronavirus testing lab responsible for reporting covid-19 test data to the state’s public database after the lab reported a backlog of nearly 75,000 test results dating back to April.

The state Department of Health and the Division of Emergency Management severed its ties to Quest Diagnostics, a multinational medical lab headquartered in New Jersey, on Tuesday, according to a news release. Because of the delay, the data was dumped, causing the state’s reported coronavirus counts to spike drastically in one day.

DeSantis said in the release that the lab broke the law by not reporting the results “in a timely manner.” His office was informed of the backlog and data dumping Monday night, according to the release.

“To drop this much unusable and stale data is irresponsible,” he said. “I believe that Quest has abdicated their ability to perform a testing function in Florida that the people can be confident in.”

Quest Diagnostics blamed the delay in reporting on a “technical issue” in a Tuesday release but said that it had informed those who had taken the coronavirus tests and their medical providers in a timely manner.

“We apologize for this matter and regret the challenge it poses for public health authorities in Florida,” Quest Diagnostics said in the release. “The issue has since been resolved.”

According to the Florida Department of Health, most of the data were more than two weeks old. The reporting showed at least 3,773 new confirmed cases Monday, without the data — with the old data, Quest Diagnostics reported Monday’s total new cases at 7,643. Quest Diagnostics said it has performed and reported 1.4 million covid-19 tests in total for the state of Florida. The Miami Herald reported that the lab makes up 22 percent of the coronavirus testing contracted by the state.

September 2, 2020 at 8:40 PM EDT

Australia officially in recession after record quarterly decline in GDP

By Miriam Berger

Australia’s economy is officially in a recession for the first time in nearly three decades after two straight historically bad quarters of economic activity because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Australia’s gross domestic product fell by 7 percent in the quarter that ended in June, which is the country’s worst recorded decline and is more serious than economists had originally forecast, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). The country’s GDP additionally declined by 0.3 percent in the quarter ending in March, which included the start of the global pandemic.

Spending by Australia’s private sector has been hit particularly hard by the country’s shutdown and broader global slowdown due to the pandemic.

“As expected, government spending and net exports provided support, but this was swamped by the collapse in private sector demand,” Sarah Hunter from BIS Oxford Economics told ABC.

Australia last faced a recession, defined by two straight quarters of declining GDP, in 1991, although in that period, the economy shrank by only 0.3 and 0.1 percent, according to ABC. Before June’s decline, Australia’s largest quarterly fall in GDP was by 2 percent in 1974, ABC reported.

September 2, 2020 at 8:20 PM EDT

Spain begins effort to test 100,000 school employees for antibodies before classes restart next week

By Miriam Berger

Madrid on Wednesday began testing more than 100,000 school staff members for coronavirus antibodies as part of its precautionary infection control measures before schools reopen in staggered phases next week.

Spain’s resurging coronavirus outbreaks have been centered in Madrid. When schools do reopen, all children over 6 will have to wear masks. But as a further precaution, Madrid is aiming to first screen all teachers for antibodies and then to test those whose results are positive.

Teachers unions have criticized the testing efforts, run by a private company, for being too hastily carried out.

On Wednesday, the first day of testing, one of six testing centers was forced to close early amid soaring demand that saw large crowds of school employees gathering outside with little space for social distancing. Teachers who were unable to get a test as planned will be rescheduled, organizers said, according to Reuters.

The president of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, told local Spanish media outlets on Wednesday that while measures were being taken to make schools “very safe places,” she nonetheless expected “practically all the children” who return to contract the novel coronavirus at some point in the school year, the Guardian reported.

“That’ll probably be because they pick it up over the weekend at a family gathering or in the park in the afternoon or from a classmate,” Díaz Ayuso, who heads Madrid’s regional government, told Spain’s esRadio, according to the Guardian. “We just don’t know because the virus can be anywhere.”

Also on Wednesday, Spain’s Health Ministry reported 3,663 new diagnosed cases, down from a high of over 10,000 Friday. The virus tore through much of the country in the spring and was contained following a strict lockdown. The recent resurgence has so far remained less deadly than the initial phase. Nearly 30,000 people have died of covid-19 in Spain.

September 2, 2020 at 7:40 PM EDT

United to furlough more than 16,000 employees at the end of September

By Lori Aratani

United Airlines announced Wednesday that it will furlough more than 16,000 employees once a federal payroll support program expires at the end of September.

The number is significantly fewer than the 36,000 the airline said in July could face furloughs, but company officials said several steps, including aggressive cost-cutting and the willingness of thousands of employees who agreed to leave the company, take voluntary leave or work part-time schedules allowed it to reduce the number.

Still, it was a stark reminder of the challenges the industry faces as it grapples with the worst economic downturn in its history.

September 2, 2020 at 7:20 PM EDT

She asked to vote remotely to protect her newborn — but was denied. So she brought her baby to the California House floor.

By Caroline Kitchener

Assembly member Buffy Wicks had been fielding calls from her colleagues for weeks.

“We need your vote,” they told her, again and again. “Can you come?”

After giving birth on July 26, Wicks was home with her newborn in Oakland, Calif., 90 minutes from the state Capitol building in Sacramento. Many of the most important votes would come up on the final night of the session: Aug. 31. The House would vote on affordable housing and a key family leave policy.

Wicks could be the deciding vote, her colleagues told her.

She would “figure out a way,” she promised.

September 2, 2020 at 6:35 PM EDT

CDC tells states to plan for vaccine as early as Nov. 1, raising concerns of political pressure

By Lena H. Sun

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has told public health officials in all 50 states and the U.S. territories to plan to distribute a coronavirus vaccine to health-care workers and other high-priority groups as early as Nov. 1, according to CDC guidance.

The CDC has sent three memos, dated Aug. 26 and obtained by The Washington Post, directing officials to set up planning for limited vaccine doses.

Trump administration officials have said they hope the Food and Drug Administration will approve a safe and effective vaccine by the end of the year and have promised that the process will not cut any corners or be influenced by politics.

But the timeline for possible early distribution has raised concerns that the FDA is rushing to approve a vaccine before Election Day.

The CDC memos describe planning assumptions and a detailed distribution scenario for the last quarter of the year, when a limited supply of one or two vaccines might be ready to be given to priority groups. One memo describes “Vaccine A,” “Vaccine B,” the doses that may be available by the end of October, the end of November, and the end of December, storage requirements, minimum order amounts, and possible places where the shots could be given, such as mass vaccination or mobile clinics.

If Vaccine A is approved, it needs to be stored at temperatures of minus-70 degrees Celsius and requires two doses, 21 days apart. About two million doses would be available by the end of October, 10 to 20 million by the end of November and 20 to 30 million by the end of December. The details match a product being developed by Pfizer.

If Vaccine B is approved, it can be stored at minus-20 degrees Celsius and requires two doses, 28 days apart, according to the CDC memo. About 26 million doses of Vaccine B would be available by the end of the year, most of them in December. The details match a product being developed by Moderna.

“These scenarios are designed to support jurisdictional, federal and partner planning, but they are still considered hypothetical,” the vaccination scenario memo states. “The Covid-19 landscape is evolving and uncertain, and these scenarios may evolve as more information is available.”

September 2, 2020 at 5:30 PM EDT

Vikings’ Kirk Cousins explains his ‘if I die, I die’ comment about the coronavirus

By Cindy Boren

When it comes to protection from the coronavirus, Kirk Cousins isn’t a big believer in the efficacy of wearing face masks, despite evidence to the contrary from scientists. And if he contracts covid-19, he would be “at peace with it.”

In an interview with the NFL Network’s Kyle Brandt on The Ringer’s “10 Questions” podcast, the Minnesota Vikings quarterback was asked, on a scale of one to 10, “If 1 is the person who says, ‘Masks are stupid, you’re all a bunch of lemmings’ and 10 is, ‘I’m not leaving my master bathroom for the next 10 years,’ where do you land?”

With a small laugh, he answered: “I’m not gonna call anybody stupid, for the trouble it would get me in. But I’m about a 0.00001.”

September 2, 2020 at 5:15 PM EDT

India loosens restrictions in some areas, despite soaring cases

By Paulina Villegas

The nation with the fastest-growing daily coronavirus caseload in the world has begun lifting restrictions in some states as an attempt to lessen the economic fallout brought by the pandemic.

As India enters a new “unlock” phase on Tuesday, authorities are allowing some businesses and public spaces outside of containment zones to reopen.

Other areas, however, have announced extended lockdowns to prevent further spread of the virus.

Metro rail services across the country will resume gradually on Sept. 7, with prescribed preventive measures like the compulsory use of masks, social distancing and other norms, federal officials announced Tuesday.

Competitive college exams were held on Tuesday, despite demands from students that they be rescheduled for fear of contagion, the Associated Press reported.

The easing of the regulations came only days after the nation of more than 1.3 billion people reached bleak milestones. In the past week, India recorded the world’s highest one-day jump in new cases: more than 77,000 since the pandemic began. It also surpassed Mexico’s total number of fatalities, with more than 66,000 people succumbing to the virus, and now having the third-highest death toll in the world.

After India reached 1 million cases in July, the nation hit the next million in 21 days. The third million took 16 days. India now has more than 3.7 million recorded cases, nearing Brazil’s 3.9 million.

The skyrocketing numbers have experts warning the worst may be yet to come, as the spread has moved from highly populated cities to remote rural areas.

Officials, however, point at the country’s high recovery rate and relatively low death rates, compared with the overall number of cases, to defend the success of the government’s response.