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President Trump on Friday asserted that a coronavirus vaccine would probably be available for distribution next month, contradicting his administration’s chief scientific adviser responsible for accelerating vaccine production. The discussion comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told all states and U.S. territories to be ready to provide a vaccine to health-care workers and other high-priority groups as early as Nov. 1, which prompted concern that the Food and Drug Administration was rushing to approve a vaccine before Election Day, Nov. 3, for political reasons.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar denied that the federal government’s Nov. 1 timeline for vaccine distribution is related to the presidential election two days later.

Here are significant developments:
2:00 a.m.
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This luxury Disney World resort wants to home-school your kids

By Natalie Compton

Hotels and resorts across the country are pulling out all the stops to make up for lost business during the pandemic. They are offering work-from-home amenities. They are housing college students. They were even offering luxury quarantine packages.

With millions of children going to school remotely this fall because of the coronavirus outbreak, the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort (and other hotels) is now trying to corner the very stressed-out parent market by tempting them with “schoolcation” promotions.

It’s school, at a luxury resort, with Disney World in your backyard (if you can afford it). Can real school ever feel special again?

1:15 a.m.
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Hotels have found a new function during the pandemic: College housing

By Shannon McMahon

When University of Pittsburgh senior Stana Topich returned to campus in early August amid the coronavirus pandemic, it wasn’t to the 19-story freshman dorms where she had expected to close out her college experience as a resident assistant (RA). Instead, she moved into the Residence Inn Pittsburgh Oakland/University Place, a newly renovated three-star hotel with an indoor pool and stylish suites.

Along with two nearby hotels, the property is exclusively hosting Pitt students this semester, with masks required and capacity limitations in place. The school says it’s working with area hotels to “de-densify” campus housing and help reserve some dorms for quarantining and testing. The hotel housing comes at no extra cost to students, the University of Pittsburgh told The Washington Post.

12:35 a.m.
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Officials fear Labor Day weekend gatherings could lead to repeat of case surge following Memorial Day

By Meryl Kornfield, Hannah Denham and Jacqueline Dupree

Local officials and health experts fear that gatherings during Labor Day — the first long weekend for students who have returned to classrooms across the country — could lead to a repeat of the national surge of coronavirus infections that followed Memorial Day.

This comes as states in the West and Midwest — Montana, the Dakotas, Michigan and Minnesota — have seen an uptick since mid-June in positive coronavirus test results, which is predictive of increased cases, Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, told CNN on Thursday. Coastal states are also being watched as locals and tourists may flock to beach communities and businesses to commemorate the end of the summer — a bittersweet holiday for Americans returning to work.

This weekend also presents challenges that didn’t exist earlier this summer, including schools resuming and more infections, said Thomas Tsai, a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who partnered with Google to publish a forecast model for infections.

“In some ways we’re entering Labor Day with a more volatile mix than we did before Memorial Day,” he said. “We have masks and treatment but we’re starting with a much higher base of cases and we’re still seeing new hot spots rise across the country.”

The rise in cases after Memorial Day weekend was due to several reasons: rushed reopening in Southern states where testing and contract tracing weren’t yet in place, inconsistent mask mandates and increased travel due to the holiday, Tsai told The Washington Post.

Experts typically look at several factors to forecast potential red flags. Fauci on Thursday warned of the positivity rate for coronavirus screening in the Midwest: 6 percent, which tails behind the South’s 9.4 percent rate, even after a 3 percent rise since mid-June, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

“We don’t want to see a repeat of the surges that we have seen following the holiday weekends,” Fauci told CNN. “We don’t want to see a surge under any circumstances, but particularly as we go on the other side of Labor Day and enter into the fall.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged people who planned to attend gatherings on Labor Day to stay outside, wear masks, keep a distance of at least six feet from others and wash their hands often.

Many parts of the country also have restrictions in place that weren’t in place earlier this summer: Now, 34 states and the District of Columbia have universal mask mandates, up by 20 from Memorial Day weekend.

12:26 a.m.
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Trump contradicts coronavirus project chief on when vaccine could be ready

By Marisa Iati and Colby Itkowitz

President Trump on Friday asserted that a coronavirus vaccine would probably be available for distribution next month, contradicting his administration’s chief scientific adviser responsible for accelerating vaccine production.

“We remain on track to deliver a vaccine before the end of the year and maybe even before November 1,” Trump told reporters. “We think we can probably have it sometime during the month of October.”

But Operation Warp Speed co-chief Moncef Slaoui told NPR on Thursday that it was “possible but very unlikely” that a vaccine would be available by late October or early November.

The discussion comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told all states and U.S. territories to be ready to provide a vaccine to health-care workers and other high-priority groups as early as Nov. 1.

The memos prompted concern that the Food and Drug Administration was rushing to approve a vaccine before Election Day, Nov. 3, for political reasons. Officials have promised the process would not be influenced by the presidential race.

Earlier Friday, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speculated that Trump would push the idea that a vaccine will be ready in early November.

“My guess is he is going to announce a vaccine, he’s going to say it’s going to be available around Election Day, he’s going to hype it,” Biden said. “But look what every major scientist outside his political appointees have been saying about what he’s been doing so far with regard to health.”

11:55 p.m.
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One man’s battle shows why covid-19 and obesity are a toxic mix

By Joel Achenbach and Ariana Eunjung Cha

At 5-foot-9 and 248 pounds before covid-19 struck, John Place knew he needed to work on his health. In the scramble to run a small business and help raise four children, he ate high-calorie restaurant food every day. He never exercised. He was often fatigued and urinated frequently — warning signs of diabetes that he ignored.

When Place, 43, landed in a Florida intensive care unit in June, infected with the coronavirus and unable to breathe on his own, a brutally frank doctor put his survival chances at 20 percent.

“Your husband is morbidly obese, he’s diabetic, he has sleep apnea and the only thing he has going for him is he’s still young,” the physician told Place’s wife, Michelle Zymet.

Place survived 18 days on a ventilator and returned home, but his weight complicated his illness and care, and now is influencing his painful, laborious recovery.

11:45 p.m.
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Initial trial of Russian vaccine reports antibody responses, though scientists caution larger studies still needed

By Ben Guarino and Miriam Berger

All participants in an early stage-trial of Russia’s experimental covid-19 vaccine successfully produced antibody responses, according to initial results published Friday by the Lancet, a leading medical publication.

Moscow warmly welcomed the results, following criticism last month over its licensing of the vaccine for domestic use despite that large-scale trials on it had not yet even begun. But the Lancet findings also raised some red flags for scientists who expressed concern about the sample size and lack of a testing control, among other limitations.

In the study, Russia’s “Sputnik-V” covid-19 vaccine was tested on 76 participants divided between two trials conducted between this June and July. All participants recorded antibody responses and no negative effects were detected.

Naor Bar-Zeev, an infectious-disease expert at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who was not involved with the research said the work “was conducted very well and carefully, but it’s a small study with a small number of people.”

He said these results were on par with findings from phase one and two trials conducted in small populations in Great Britain and China. Like the Russian trials, those studied what are known as viral-vectored vaccines, in which a harmless virus delivers a gene to help the immune system recognize the coronavirus. All are awaiting the results of larger, phase three trials.

Bar-Zeev, with his Johns Hopkins colleague Tom Ingelsby, wrote in a commentary also published Friday in The Lancet there were “notable” limitations to this work, including a disproportionate number of white men.

“Much more remains to be learned” from the randomized phase three trial approved by Russian health authorities in late August, they wrote, adding they hoped the larger trial, of 40,000 civilian volunteers, would be “broadly inclusive” of at-risk groups.

Bar-Zeev cautioned that this vaccine -- like those being tested in the U.S. and elsewhere -- runs the risk of being too understudied in the rush for approval. There’s a potential danger in speeding to license vaccines unless they prevent not only disease, but transmission, he said.

11:14 p.m.
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Experts warn U.S. death toll could hit 410,000 by year’s end

By Joel Achenbach and William Wan

The global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic could triple by year’s end, with an additional 1.9 million deaths, while a fall wave of infections could drive fatalities in the United States to 410,000, according to a new forecast from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

This new estimate reinforces warnings by many experts that cooler, less humid weather and increased time spent indoors, could lead to a surge in viral transmission this fall and winter — something typically seen with other respiratory viruses.

The institute’s forecasts were influential earlier in the pandemic in guiding policies developed by the White House coronavirus task force, but they have been criticized by some experts for making projections further into the future than can be done reliably.

The U.S. death toll from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, now stands at 184,000, according to health data analyzed by The Washington Post. The IHME model projects that under the most likely scenario, 410,451 people in the United States will have died by Jan. 1. The best case scenario is 288,381 deaths, and worst-case is 620,029.

Responding to a reporter’s question about the model at Friday’s press briefing, President Trump defended his optimistic remarks about the country’s comeback and credited his own decisions to restrict travel to China and Europe for deaths that did not occur.

“If we didn’t close up, instead of the number you mentioned or whatever,” Trump said, “we would have perhaps 1.5 or 2 million deaths."

Trump has made similar claims before, referencing a March projection of 2.2 million deaths if no measures were taken.

10:15 p.m.
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Tourism to Iran drops to ‘near zero’ as fatalities surpass 22,000

By Miriam Berger

Iran had just 74 foreign tourists enter the country between March and June — down from 2.6 million in those three months the year before, the country’s minister of cultural heritage, tourism and handicrafts recently told the semiofficial Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA).

The steep halt in tourism to “near-zero levels” due to the coronavirus pandemic has cost the sector over half a billion dollars, Ali-Aghar Mounesan told ISNA. The government has promised loans to compensate the loss in revenue, though so far only around $7.7 million has been provided, Mounesan added.

Iran has 24 UNESCO World Heritage sites, among the country’s many celebrated cultural and historical sites. Before the pandemic, Iran’s tourism sector was on the upswing: In 2019, the World Tourism Organization ranked Iran as the second-fastest growing country for the sector.

But even before the coronavirus hit, Iran’s economy was also deeply hurting amid rising inflation and unemployment alongside renewed U.S. economic sanctions and long-standing government mismanagement.

In recent months, Iran has faced one of the region’s worst coronavirus outbreaks. On Friday, the country officially surpassed 22,000 fatalities, though analysts say the real number is likely higher. Some Iranians have accused their leaders of underreporting and covering up coronavirus cases and deaths. Iran’s authoritarian government has in turn cracked down on some groups like medical workers and journalists countering the official narrative.

9:30 p.m.
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One college’s students are on covid-19 dorm lockdown. They can only leave for food and bathrooms.

By Tim Elfrink

Earlier this week, the latest coronavirus tests at Gettysburg College showed an alarming rise in cases — a familiar problem as universities nationwide struggle with outbreaks among returning students. Some of those colleges have responded by going online-only, while others have tightened restrictions.

Gettysburg may be the first school to lock down every student in their dorms.

On Tuesday, administrators ordered everyone at the Pennsylvania college, which typically enrolls about 2,600 students, to stay in their rooms 24 hours a day for a full week, except for trips to the bathroom or to pick up food. As part of the new restrictions, students can’t leave to work out or to stroll outdoors, according to a memo from the college.

8:45 p.m.
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Wall Street extends losses in whiplash session

By Taylor Telford and Hannah Denham

U.S. stocks seesawed Friday as a precipitous sell-off in tech stocks spawned another day of turbulence on Wall Street despite a surprisingly upbeat jobs report.

Thursday marked the most brutal day of trading since March, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite nosediving more than 5 percent as Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and other technology stocks fell sharply. The sector’s losses continued on Friday, pulling down the three major U.S. indexes to cap a choppy first week of September.

After an early swoon, the Dow Jones Industrial and Standard & Poor’s 500 index average were nearly flat heading into the last hour of trading before turning negative again. The Dow closed down 159.42 points, or 0.6 percent, at 28,133.31. The S&P 500 lost 28.10 points, or 0.8 percent, to settle at 3,426.96.

8:00 p.m.
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How to safely go to the salon during the pandemic, according to stylists and health experts

By Meryl Kornfield

In the months since salons and barbershops shut their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, some people have caved, spontaneously snipping their hair until it looked passable for a Zoom call.

Others thoughtfully watched YouTube tutorials, ordered professional-grade equipment off Amazon and tried to copy experts.

And a few (including this writer) decided to just avoid mirrors.

But now hair salons are operational in all but two states — California and Hawaii — with partial openings, according to hair expert website behindthechair.com, leaving the shaggier among us wondering: How safe is it to get a trim?

7:15 p.m.
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State Department says now is a good time to get a passport

By Carol Morello

The slowdown caused by the pandemic hit U.S. passport operations hard. Most State Department employees have been teleworking, but passports cannot be processed at home for security reasons. So almost 1.8 million applications that were in the pipeline just sat for months.

But State Department officials say the backlog of passport applications has been tackled, and processors are now chipping away at applications that have arrived more recently.

“We’ve gotten through essentially all of the backlog work, and now we’re getting back to a regular rhythm,” Ian Brownlee, the principal deputy in Consular Affairs, said this week in a video chat with a travel website. “If you’re thinking of traveling nine months out, why not apply now? The thing’s good for 10 years.”

Despite the optimistic outlook, there are still delays. The State Department says it currently takes about 10 weeks to process a passport, from application to delivery in the mail. That’s up from the six to eight weeks it typically took in pre-pandemic days.

Also worth noting: Many countries still ban most Americans because of coronavirus concerns.

Read more here.

6:30 p.m.
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Coronavirus pandemic could put more pressure on Iran’s human rights advocates, analysts fear

By Rick Noack

The coronavirus pandemic could pose new risks to human rights advocates in Iran, according to analysts. The country has been hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic than most Middle Eastern nations, which has fueled political discontent and worsened the country’s economic crisis.

As the death toll continued to rise, conservative hard-liners have in recent months cracked down on progressive critics, amid concerns that discontent exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis may result in new protests. After coronavirus restrictions drove a growing number of people online earlier this year to post photos of themselves violating the country’s rules on women’s clothing, authorities threatened a harsh response.

One of the most prominent targets of the Iranian authorities in recent weeks has been composer and musician Mehdi Rajabian, who was arrested last month for working with female artists. On Saturday, Rajabian is set to stand trial.

5:53 p.m.
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Warp Speed chief calls pre-election vaccine ‘extremely unlikely’

By Paulina Firozi

The chief scientific adviser for the Trump administration’s effort to accelerate production of a coronavirus vaccine said it was “possible but very unlikely” that a vaccine will be ready to distribute by the end of October or early November.

The comment by Operation Warp Speed co-chief Moncef Slaoui followed reports this week that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told officials in all 50 states and the U.S. territories to prepare for vaccine distribution for high-priority groups as early as Nov. 1 — two days before the presidential election.

In an interview Thursday with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly, Slaoui said it was “possible but very unlikely” that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready to distribute by then.