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The health department’s top communications official apologized to staff on Tuesday for incendiary remarks he made earlier this week in which he called for President Trump’s supporters to prepare for an armed insurrection after a contested election and accused government scientists of “sedition,” according to two people familiar with the meeting.

Michael Caputo, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, which is overseeing the coronavirus response, leveled the accusations and promoted other conspiracy theories in a Facebook Live event on Sunday.

Here are some significant developments:

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September 15, 2020 at 11:30 PM EDT

Divorced and separated couples learn to navigate the ups and downs of custody during covid-19

Julia Joy described her relationship with her ex-husband of six years as friendly. When the novel coronavirus forced the city of Boise, Idaho, to shut down, they agreed on no social interaction outside of the house and to wear their masks. But as the city has reopened, they couldn’t be further apart on how to raise the kids with a weekly visitation schedule.

“It presented a crack in the facade that we’re friends and super great co-parents or the poster children for divorce — any pressure cracked that really quickly,” said the mother of four.

Co-parents across the country have their work cut out for them. Even the most amicable relationship under constant duress, such as a national health crisis, can create friction. This is especially true for co-parents navigating complicated relationships with their exes. Trying to get in sync about a shared pandemic protocol, or not, as states reopen has left many families exhausted, frustrated and — most of all — anxious.

By Nia Decaille
September 15, 2020 at 11:00 PM EDT

The European Parliament doesn’t want to spread the coronavirus by traveling to France. The French are furious.

BRUSSELS — It is one of the strangest features of the European Union: a parliament that a week out of every month travels from its seat in Brussels to Strasbourg, France.

French leaders demanded the costly arrangement when the modern European Union was established. Now, with the pandemic making movement a potential health hazard, the legislature’s leaders decided to stick to Brussels as they reconvene this week — and France is outraged.

“There is something behind it we cannot tolerate. Now we are not respecting European treaties,” French Civil Service Minister Amélie de Montchalin told French radio on Tuesday. “The seat of the European Parliament is in Strasbourg. It is not a French invention. It is not a fantasy. It is written in the treaties.”

By Quentin Ariès and Michael Birnbaum
September 15, 2020 at 10:30 PM EDT

Analysis: The U.S. now has the capacity to carry out 40 to 50 million monthly coronavirus tests. But that’s not happening

The United States should be able to conduct 40 million to 50 million coronavirus tests a month by now, according to a prediction by a top Trump administration health official in June.

Medical manufacturers and labs insist the capacity is there — although it’s increasingly hard to determine how many covid-19 tests are actually being performed in this country.

But a much smaller figure — around 9 million tests — appear to actually have been performed in the United States so far in September.

By Paige Winfield Cunningham
September 15, 2020 at 10:00 PM EDT

Analysis: Voters may not let Trump change the subject from the coronavirus pandemic to economy

The Trump campaign and fellow Republicans are eager to turn the page from the president’s handling of the coronavirus to his economic stewardship. With the pandemic still raging, key voters may not be willing to change the subject.

President Trump’s camp today is rolling out a “mid-eight-figure ad buy” focused on the economy, aiming to make it the “defining issue” in the final seven weeks of the presidential race, Fox News reports, after Trump’s law-and-order message seems to be falling flat.

That will be easier said than done.

“In order to get to a discussion about the economy, there has to be a sense that the pandemic is under control,” said David Winston, a pollster and strategist for congressional Republicans. “The challenge for Republicans is not so much that they need to be perceived as better than Democrats on health-care issues, which historically they haven’t been, but to put a belief in place that they can get the country to a transition point” on the pandemic.

By Tory Newmyer
September 15, 2020 at 9:30 PM EDT

Calls to declare racism a public health crisis grow louder amid pandemic, police brutality

Before Fayetteville, Ark., Mayor Lioneld Jordan (D) started to directly address the toll racism takes on the health of his non-White residents, he admitted there was a lot he didn’t know about the problem. After learning more, he had a choice to make: ignore the issues or try to make them better.

“It’s like you’re not as responsible when you don’t know,” Jordan said at a virtual meeting in mid-August during which the city council was set to vote on a resolution that would declare racism a public health emergency in the town of 88,000, which is nearly 80 percent White. “But when you do know, and you don’t make changes, that’s when you’re really wrong.”

The push to highlight racism as a public health threat, one that shortens lives and reduces quality of life in a manner similar to smoking or obesity, gained even more momentum in the summer. The coronavirus pandemic and police brutality have emerged in recent months as inescapable crises that have killed non-White people at disproportionately higher rates.

By Kim Bellware
September 15, 2020 at 9:00 PM EDT

Fewer Americans had health insurance last year before pandemic struck, report shows

Health insurance became slightly more scarce in the United States last year, even before the coronavirus pandemic arrived and stole the jobs and health benefits of millions of Americans, according to federal data released Tuesday.

Nearly 30 million people in the country lacked coverage at some point during 2019, 1 million more than in the previous year. Last year marked the third year in a row that the ranks of the uninsured swelled, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report regarded as the most solid depiction of the nation’s health insurance landscape.

Still, the report provided contrasting images of Americans’ financial well-being, also showing that the number of people living in poverty continued to decline in 2019. According to the Census Bureau figures, the official poverty rate fell to 10.5 percent last year, compared with 11.8 percent in 2018, marking the fifth consecutive annual decline in the national poverty rate.

By Amy Goldstein and Rachel Siegel
September 15, 2020 at 8:30 PM EDT

Global views of U.S. plunge to new lows amid pandemic, poll finds

President Trump defended his handling of the coronavirus pandemic during an interview with Fox News over the weekend, arguing that he took “tremendous steps” early in the outbreak, which “saved probably two or two and a half million lives.”

But much of the world appears to think otherwise. In a new poll of 13 nations released Tuesday, a median of 15 percent of respondents said the United States had handled the pandemic well, while 85 percent said the country had responded poorly.

The data, released by Pew Research Center, suggests that the international reputation of the United States has dropped to a new low in the face of a disorganized response to the novel coronavirus. The country leads the world in virus-related deaths.

International affairs analysts say it may be difficult to repair the damage to the United States’ standing overseas. Among some traditional allies like Germany, views of the United States have declined to the lowest levels since Pew began tracking them nearly two decades ago.

By Adam Taylor
September 15, 2020 at 8:00 PM EDT

She could reopen her diner. But what about the hungry people she’s feeding?

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Everyone was hungry, and the free sack lunches Meg Heriford has been handing out at her shuttered diner since the pandemic began disappeared with alarming speed.

Before the shutdown, Ladybird Diner was a busy spot on the main street of this college town, where up to 600 people a day packed into the tiny space, a swirl of chaos and vitality, pancakes and pie — coconut cream with lofty meringue, apple with rustic latticework and the one they called the Duchess, with a sour cream custard, blackberries and topped with oat crumble.

The “Fresh Daily” case was empty now, the turquoise vinyl booths devoid of diners and the rotating dessert tower turned into temporary storage for loaves of bread.

By Annie Gowen
September 15, 2020 at 7:30 PM EDT

Coronavirus kills far more Hispanic and Black children than White youths, CDC study finds

The coronavirus is killing Hispanic, Black and American Indian children at much higher numbers than their White peers, according to federal statistics released Tuesday.

The numbers — the most comprehensive U.S. accounting to date of pediatric infections and fatalities — show there have been 391,814 confirmed cases and 121 deaths among people under the age of 21 from February to July.

Of those killed by covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, more than three-quarters have been Hispanic, Black and American Indian children, even though they represent 41 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal agency collected data from health departments throughout the country.

By William Wan
September 15, 2020 at 6:45 PM EDT

Pelosi says House will stay in session until new deal reached on economic relief

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that the House will stay in session until a new economic relief deal is reached, facing pressure from Democratic lawmakers over Congress’ failure to address the ongoing fallout from the health care crisis as the election loomss.

“We have to stay here until we have a bill,” Pelosi said on a conference call with House Democrats on their first full day back in session after a summer recess, according to a Democratic aide on the call who spoke on condition of anonymity to recount her comments.

The House is scheduled to adjourn on Oct. 2 until after the election. Bipartisan talks on a new relief measure collapsed last month and have not been revived, leading to speculation that Congress and the administration will be unable to reach a bipartisan accord before Election Day.

Despite Pelosi’s comments, there was no indication that talks between congressional Democrats and the administration would be revived, and Pelosi offered no new vision for a compromise.

By Erica Werner
September 15, 2020 at 6:00 PM EDT

Woodward says there was ‘denial across the board’ in White House about severity of coronavirus

Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward said Tuesday that there was “denial across the board” among White House staffers about the severity of the coronavirus, and blamed President Trump for being a “bulldozer” who rejects opposing views.

Woodward, whose new book, “Rage,” is based in part on 18 on-the-record interviews with Trump, made the comments in a Washington Post Live interview.

“I think there was denial across the board,” Woodward told The Post’s Philip Rucker when asked whether White House staffers who also knew about the lethality of the virus denied its severity. He added that Trump is “a one-man band” who is “going to do what he wants to do on impulse or on information he has.”

By Felicia Sonmez
September 15, 2020 at 5:07 PM EDT

Seven deaths traced to Maine wedding outbreak

Seven people have died since becoming infected with the novel coronavirus in connection to an outbreak at a Maine wedding in early August at which guests flouted social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines, state health officials said.

The wedding and reception held at the Big Moose Inn outside Millinocket on Aug. 7 is linked to at least 176 reported coronavirus infections, including the two additional deaths tallied Tuesday, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah said in a news briefing.

Six of the people who died of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, were residents of Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center in Madison.

None of those who died attended the wedding events, Shah said, an indication of “how virulent the disease can be and how far-reaching the effects can be.”

The Millinocket wedding is not the only rule-defying celebration linked to a growing number of cases, as contact tracers and public health officials across the country continue to track down infections that stemmed from a spree of summer “super-spreader” gatherings.

“The virus favors gatherings,” Shah said. “It does not distinguish between happy events, like a wedding celebration, or a sad farewell, like funerals. It is everywhere.”

While Shah credited the state’s low hospitalization rates, he remarked that the spread of the virus in the state was disturbingly ubiquitous. The health official said residents should not assume that the virus has not reached their community, as it’s already probably there.

“I’m concerned about where we are,” Shah said. “Maine CDC is concerned about where we are, and I’m asking everyone else to share in that concern.”

The church of the pastor who officiated the ceremony, Calvary Baptist Church, issued a statement Tuesday, according to the Associated Press, that said church members attended the wedding reception. The statement goes on to defend the church’s legal right to continue hosting in-person services.

When asked about the pastor’s comment, Shah said the agency was not aware of church members in attendance at the reception but would look into it.

Ten known infections have been traced to the church, but ongoing epidemiological investigations have not confirmed a connection between the outbreaks associated with the wedding and the church, Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long told The Post.

By Meryl Kornfield
September 15, 2020 at 4:34 PM EDT

Caputo apologizes to HHS staff for inflammatory remarks about armed insurrection

The U.S. health department’s top communications official apologized to staff members on Tuesday for incendiary remarks he made earlier this week urging President Trump’s supporters to prepare for an armed insurrection and accusing government scientists of “sedition,” according to two people familiar with the meeting.

Michael Caputo, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, which is playing a lead role in the response to the coronavirus pandemic, promoted those and other conspiracy theories in a Facebook Live event he did on Sunday.

At his meeting with staff members Tuesday, Caputo apologized for his remarks and the embarrassment they brought upon the agency, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the proceedings. He also indicated his departure might be imminent, saying he was considering a medical leave. He added that his family had been receiving threats and that his physical health was in question.

By Yasmeen Abutaleb and Josh Dawsey
September 15, 2020 at 4:31 PM EDT

Masks not required at White House signing of Israeli, Bahraini and Emirati agreements

Masks and social distancing were low on the agenda Tuesday when around 100 people gathered on the South Lawn of the White House as officials from Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates signed accords establishing formal ties.

During the event hosted by the United States, President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not wear face coverings as they met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Bahraini and Emirati foreign ministers, all of whom did not wear masks.

The White House said that masks were encouraged but not required, while social distancing would be maintained as much as possible.

Israeli media earlier in the week reported that the Israeli delegation had raised objections to the absence of mask and social distancing protocols in the lead-up to the historic event.

On Monday, the UAE’s assistant minister for culture and public diplomacy said during an interview with the Abu Dhabi-based National that he would bring extra masks, given the White House’s lack of emphasis on the precaution.

“Of course the ceremonies at the White House have been famous for being no mask ceremonies and so I’m planning to bring extra masks for everyone who needs them — we will be all covered up,” Omar Ghobash said from Washington.

It was unclear whether Ghobash was at the event Tuesday because he was not on an initial list of expected attendees provided by the White House.

Coronavirus cases are on the rise in both Israel and the UAE, the latter where not wearing a mask in public can lead to a hefty fine.

Despite Tuesday’s diplomatic lift, Netanyahu has faced domestic criticism for flying to Washington for the ceremony just as Israel is returning to a nationwide lockdown ahead of a month of Jewish holidays.

Many of Tuesday’s attendees were wearing, and proudly pictured in, masks. The Trump administration, however, has frequently belittled mask-wearing, contravening guidance from public health experts that face coverings are critical for preventing transmission.

Critics say that Trump’s rhetoric has politicized and polarized mask-wearing in the United States, while in many other countries, it’s been more easily accepted as a community health measure necessity to combat the pandemic.

Paul Schemm contributed to this report.

By Miriam Berger