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President Trump contradicted the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the timeline for distributing a coronavirus vaccine, saying Robert Redfield misspoke when he said a vaccine wouldn’t be widely available until summer or fall 2021. In remarks in Wilmington, Del., Joe Biden expressed reservations about whether a coronavirus vaccine approved by the Trump administration would be safe, raising doubts about the president’s ability to put the health of Americans before politics.

Here are some significant developments:
September 16, 2020 at 11:30 PM EDT
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Businesses with ‘windfall’ pandemic profits are showering them on investors, study finds

By Christopher Ingraham

Here’s an arresting statistic: back at the beginning of September, if Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos were to have given each of his 876,000 employees a $105,000 bonus, he would have been left with roughly as much wealth as he had in mid-March, at the start of the pandemic.

That figure comes from a new Oxfam report highlighting the staggering amount of money being made in the top echelons of American business at a time of widespread death and economic devastation.

From a purely practical standpoint it would have been challenging for Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, to give out bonuses of that magnitude. Most of his wealth is tied up in Amazon stock, rather than liquid cash. (Representatives from Amazon did not respond to a request for comment). But the factoid about the world’s richest man — he was briefly worth more than $200 billion in August — is a useful illustration of what Oxfam calls the “windfall” profits flowing to a small number of very large businesses whose products and services are in high demand in the pandemic era.

September 16, 2020 at 10:45 PM EDT
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Big Ten football reverses decision, will return to play in late October

By Emily Giambalvo

Just over a month after the Big Ten became the first major conference to postpone the 2020 football season, the league reversed its decision Wednesday and announced plans to begin playing the weekend of Oct. 24.

The Big Ten will have medical protocols that include daily coronavirus testing and enhanced cardiac screening, the announcement said. The conference’s university presidents and chancellors voted unanimously to play football this fall.

The Big Ten will have eight weeks for regular season games and then a conference championship held the weekend of Dec. 19, just before the College Football Playoff committee’s selection Dec. 20. That weekend, all other Big Ten teams will play another game with the No. 2 team in the East division playing the No. 2 team in the West and so forth. Those games could be tweaked to avoid rematches, and the locations of those games have yet to be determined.

September 16, 2020 at 10:20 PM EDT
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Low-income students are dropping out of college this fall in alarming numbers

By Heather Long and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel

In August, Paige McConnell became the first in her family to go to college — and the first to drop out.

McConnell, 18, could not make online classes work. She doesn’t have WiFi at her rural home in Crossville, Tenn. The local library turned her away, not wanting anyone sitting around during the pandemic. She spent hours in a McDonald’s parking lot using the fast-food chain’s Internet, but she kept getting kicked off her college’s virtual classes because the network wasn’t “safe.” Two weeks after starting at Roane State Community College, she gave up.

“At my high school graduation, I told all my family I would go to community college. I was trying to better my future,” McConnell said. “But the online classes really threw me for a loop. I knew I couldn’t do it.”

McConnell’s situation is playing out all over the country.

September 16, 2020 at 9:38 PM EDT
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University of Georgia defends closure of early-voting site as football proceeds

By Darren Sands

The University of Georgia on Wednesday responded to a wave of criticism over the closure of a popular on-campus polling location, saying the potential for long lines and social distancing requirements factored into the closure.

“Due to concerns about long voting lines and insufficient indoor space required to maintain social distancing necessitated by the covid-19 pandemic, the university determined early this summer that there would be no on-campus voting site at the Tate Center this fall,” the school said in a tweet from its main Twitter account.

According to an Associated Press report published Sept. 9, the school had 2,600 total infections in the previous four weeks.

Earlier Wednesday, an advocacy group called UGA Votes released a lengthy explanation about the nonexistence of a polling location and noted that it had successfully hosted early voting in 2016 and 2018. The group said it engaged in “extensive conversations” with administrators before the university handed down its decision.

On social media, some people claimed the closure was politically motivated or pointed to the fact that the school had allowed football to proceed. The university responded to the backlash, saying “those comparing this matter to a football game should be able to recognize that football games will be played outdoors but we will still require social distancing by substantially reducing capacity in the stadium.” It added that tailgating had been banned “due to a desire to keep the campus as safe as possible.”

The school said it would provide shuttles to take students to a voting location in downtown Athens.

The university released a statement Wednesday showing that infections were down after the recent spike.

“These data give us some cautious optimism that cases might have plateaued on our campus,” said Garth Russo, the chair of UGA’s Medical Oversight Task Force. “However, we are by no means out of the woods yet.”

September 16, 2020 at 9:30 PM EDT
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Trump claims U.S. coronavirus death rate would be low ‘if you take the blue states out’

By Felicia Sonmez

Trump on Wednesday claimed that the United States would have a low covid-19 death rate if it weren’t for “blue states” with Democratic governors.

The president made the assertion during a news briefing where he defended his administration’s response to the pandemic. The country’s progress in battling the novel coronavirus, he said, comes “despite the fact that the blue states had had tremendous death rates.”

“If you take the blue states out, we’re at a level that I don’t think anybody in the world would be at," Trump said. “We’re really at a very low level.”

Of the 15 states with the highest covid-19 death tolls, eight have Democratic governors and seven have Republican governors.

At least 193,000 people in the United States have died of covid-19, and nearly 6.6 million cases have been reported in the country.

September 16, 2020 at 9:00 PM EDT
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Pandemic’s isolation has killed thousands of Alzheimer’s patients while families forced to watch from afar

By William Wan

Isolation is literally killing thousands of people with Alzheimer’s. Since the pandemic began, the United States has seen a 13,200 jump in excess deaths from Alzheimer’s and dementia, according to a data analysis by The Washington Post. The isolation has caused rapid deterioration and death for many nursing homes -- unable to reopen without sufficient testing, protective equipment and help.

In recent months, doctors have reported increased falls, pulmonary infections and frailty in patients who had been stable for years. Some patients can no longer swallow food. Others are so depressed, they refuse to get out of bed.

“It’s like we as a country just don’t care anymore about older people,” said Dan Goerke, 61. For months, Goerke has visited the doorway of his wife’s nursing home, even as she has begun to forget who he is.

If only he could hold his wife’s hand, he said, maybe she would eat like she used to. Maybe she would smile, talk, recognize him once again.

September 16, 2020 at 8:30 PM EDT
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Texas state Rep. Gary Gates has evicted more than 100 tenants from his low-income housing empire

By Paulina Villegas

Texas state Rep. Gary Gates (R) has evicted more than 100 tenants from his local housing empire, apparently breaking with his public image of a man of the people supporting those most affected by the pandemic fallout.

Over the past six months, Gates has filed at least 104 evictions across 34 apartment complexes, from which almost three-fourths have resulted in the tenants’ evictions, according to an analysis of eviction records by Hearst Newspapers.

The businessman and politician owns 8,400 apartments in Harris County, mostly centered in low-income neighborhoods, according to Gates, who won the District 28 state seat against his Democratic opponent Eliz Markowitz after state Rep. John Zerwas (R) stepped down in the middle of his term,

Gates, who was elected in January, has branded himself as someone committed to helping the people of Texas weather the health and financial crisis brought by the pandemic.

He has delivered thousands of care packages, hand sanitizer units and protective masks in schools and distribution centers, which he said were self-funded.

Gates responded to the reports of the evictions saying he has tried to avoid displacing people by offering payment plans to some, and paid a few others to move out of the apartments in a rapid manner.

“We bend over backwards to do everything we can, because look, it doesn’t do me any good to have a vacant apartment,” Gates told the Houston Chronicle, adding that he has stopped filling for evictions since the Center for Disease Control and Prevention ordered a new halt on residential evictions this month, through the end of the year.

Tenant protections brought by the Cares Act, meant to lessen the pandemic’s financial impact and prevent layoffs and evictions, protected only six out of the 34 apartment complexes owned by Gates. Nationwide, the legislation only applies to a small fraction of properties.

And although Gates argued he has stopped filing for evictions for the moment, he said he will likely resume once the moratorium is lifted as negotiations for a second relief package in Congress have stalled.

September 16, 2020 at 8:16 PM EDT
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Trump confirms one White House staffer recently tested positive for coronavirus

By Felicia Sonmez

Trump on Wednesday confirmed that a White House staffer recently tested positive for the coronavirus, hours after his press secretary declined to tell reporters, arguing that the information is private.

“I heard about it this morning. At a very small level. … Last night I heard about it for the first time. And it’s a small number of cases. Maybe it’s not even cases," Trump told reporters when asked about reports of a positive case among the White House staff.

He then asked White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who said, “It did not affect the event, and press was not around the individual." She added that it was “one person,” to which Trump responded, “It’s not anybody that was near me. … It was one person. Not a person that I was associated with.”

It was not immediately clear to which event McEnany was referring, but one of the activities on Trump’s schedule Tuesday was a signing ceremony of agreements establishing formal ties between Israel and two Arab states, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. About 800 people were in attendance at the event, according to the White House. Later that evening, Trump attended a town hall hosted by ABC News in Philadelphia.

At a media briefing earlier Wednesday, McEnany declined to say whether a staffer had tested positive. “I don’t share people’s personal medical information,” she said.

Raquel Krähenbühl, a White House correspondent for Brazil’s TV Globo, tweeted Wednesday morning that the White House was half an hour late in calling the press pool for its routine coronavirus tests. “I was told they were late because ‘It was a very busy morning. We had a couple of positives today,’” Krähenbühl tweeted.

In May, two White House staff members — Pence spokeswoman Katie Miller and a military valet to the president — were diagnosed with the coronavirus.

McEnany said Wednesday that she would not discuss the topic because last time, the name of one of the staffers who had tested positive had been “leaked” — even though Miller herself confirmed her diagnosis to NBC News, and Trump appeared to confirm Miller’s identity, telling reporters at the time, “She’s a wonderful young woman, Katie. She tested very good for a long period of time, and all of a sudden today she tested positive."

“I’ve seen the reporting out there, but again, I’m not here to give people’s personal identities,” McEnany said at Wednesday’s briefing. “In the past, when I’ve discussed a case, unfortunately, that individual’s name was leaked to the media.”

McEnany was also asked repeatedly about Trump’s comment during the town hall Tuesday evening that “there are a lot of people that think masks are not good,” a statement that appears to be at odds with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

McEnany replied that Trump meant that “masks are not good when they are not used appropriately.”

September 16, 2020 at 8:15 PM EDT
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CDC head speaks out after Trump contradicts him on masks

By Colby Itkowitz

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday reiterated the importance of wearing a mask to help prevent infection from the novel coronavirus after Trump contradicted him on the efficacy of mask-wearing. Earlier in the day, Redfield had said wearing a mask could be more effective than a vaccine.

Asked about Redfield’s comments during a news conference, Trump said that he called CDC director about that comment and that if someone were to ask Redfield now he’d “probably say he didn’t understood the question.”

No, vaccine is much more effective than the masks,” he said.

Following the news conference, Redfield tweeted that “the best defense we currently have against this virus are the important mitigation efforts of wearing a mask, washing your hands, social distancing and being careful about crowds.”

Trump also contradicted Redfield on the timeline for distributing a coronavirus vaccine, saying Redfield misspoke when he said a vaccine wouldn’t be widely available until summer or fall 2021.

“No, I think he made a mistake when he said that. It’s just incorrect information. And I called him, and he didn’t tell me that. And I think he got the message maybe confused,” Trump said when asked about Redfield’s comments.

Trump said that the vaccine “could be announced in October” and that as soon as it is available it can be distributed “immediately” to the general public.

“To the general public immediately. When we go, we go. We’re not looking to say, gee, in six months we’re going to start giving it to the general public. No, we want to go immediately,” he said. “No, it was an incorrect statement. I saw the statement. I called him and I said, ‘What did you mean by that?’ And I think he just made a mistake. He just made a mistake. I think he misunderstood the question probably.”

Asked to put a timeline on when every American will be able to get a vaccine, Trump said, “Very soon.”

Redfield, in another tweet posted after Trump’s remarks, said: “I 100% believe in the importance of vaccines and the importance in particular of a #COVID19 vaccine. A COVID-19 vaccine is the thing that will get Americans back to normal everyday life.”

September 16, 2020 at 8:00 PM EDT
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Ten days: After an early coronavirus warning, Trump is distracted as he downplays threat

By Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Yasmeen Abutaleb

In explaining why he repeatedly misled the American public about the early dangers posed by the novel coronavirus, President Trump has argued that he did not want to engender panic — and suggested that his actions showed he took the looming pandemic seriously.

But a detailed review of the 10-day period from late January, when Trump was first warned about the scale of the threat, and early February — when he admitted to author Bob Woodward that he was purposely downplaying covid-19 — reveals a president who took relatively few serious measures to ready the nation for the virus’s arrival.

Instead, enabled by top administration officials, Trump largely attempted to pretend the virus did not exist — spending much of his time distracted by impeachment and exacting vengeance on his political enemies. He also carried on as usual with showy political gatherings and crowded White House events.

September 16, 2020 at 6:35 PM EDT
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Social platforms flag Tucker Carlson video that features virologist’s claim that virus 'came from a lab’

By Kim Bellware

Facebook and Instagram have flagged as false a video from a Tuesday night segment of the Fox News program “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that features Li-Meng Yan, a virologist from China who claims to have evidence the novel coronavirus was created in a lab by the Chinese Communist Party. Yan’s claim is based on a theory that has for months been met with broad skepticism by the wider scientific community.

After “Tucker Carlson Tonight” shared the videos on Facebook and Instagram with the status, “Chinese whistleblower to Tucker: This virus was made in a lab & I can prove it,” the platforms placed a disclaimer screen over the video flagging it as false information.

Twitter has also suspended Yan’s personal account, but it did not flag the video of her segment shared by Carlson’s verified Twitter account.

The pages for “Tucker Carlson Tonight” acknowledged the disclaimer, updating its status on the Tuesday video to read, “Facebook is trying its best to censor this video” and said it will address the issue on Wednesday’s program.

Yan claimed in her appearance Tuesday that coronavirus “actually is not from nature; it is a man-made virus created in the lab” and described herself as a target the CCP wants “disappeared.”

On Monday, Yan, who says she worked at the University of Hong Kong, uploaded a report she co-authored to an open-source repository; the report has not been through a peer-review process, which is generally considered the gold standard for evaluating scientific research. The report was published by the Rule of Law Society and the Rule of Law Foundation, a pair of New York-based nonprofit groups aimed at investigating corruption by Chinese Communist officials that are linked to Chinese businessman Guo Wengui and former White House strategists Stephen K. Bannon.

Yan’s claims echo ones made by President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, both of whom have raised the possibility that the Chinese military concocted the virus in a lab. Though the claim is largely disregarded by scientists, it gained momentum among some Trump allies after a July report that U.S. officials in 2018 visited China’s virology lab in Wuhan and warned the U.S. State Department about the lack of adequately trained staff members in the lab; Wuhan later became the epicenter of the outbreak.

September 16, 2020 at 6:23 PM EDT
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Videos shows protesters walk through Target telling shoppers to remove masks

By Reis Thebault

Fewer than a dozen maskless protesters strode through a Target store in Florida on Tuesday evening, chanting “We’re not going to take it” and instructing shoppers to remove their face coverings.

The brief anti-mask demonstration in the home goods section of the Fort Lauderdale big-box retailer was captured on video and posted to Twitter, where it has racked up more than 17 million views as of Wednesday. It’s the latest instance of rebellion against social distancing and other pandemic protocols designed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Most experts say using a mask is the simplest way to prevent new infections and deaths. The movement against wearing one has been percolating on social media sites for months, fueled by misinformation and conspiracy. But it has also spilled into the real world, with ugly — and deadly — consequences: Caustic protests have proliferated, and as workers increasingly have been tasked with enforcing mask mandates inside businesses, they’ve been menaced, shot at and at least one has been killed after confrontations with customers who refused to comply.

The small group that walked through Target appeared to be composed of about 10 people — mostly male, many of whom looked young, including at least one child. At least two wore “Make America Great Again” gear. They shouted at shoppers to “take your mask off,” announcing “we’re not doing this,” and “we’re Americans,” according to the bystander video, which lasts about 30 seconds.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Target spokeswoman Danielle Schumann said the company was aware of the incident and the store’s employees “asked them [the protesters] to leave after they removed their masks and became disruptive and rude to other shoppers.”

Target, like Walmart and other retailers before it, began requiring face coverings at all of its U.S. locations in August.

Avi Selk contributed to this report.

September 16, 2020 at 5:40 PM EDT
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Trump calls for stimulus payments and massive economic relief bill, upending Republicans’ more limited approach

By Erica Werner and Rachael Bade

President Trump on Wednesday called on congressional Republicans to support a massive economic relief bill with “much higher numbers” and stimulus payments for Americans, abruptly proposing an entirely different plan than what the Senate GOP sought to advance in recent days.

His Twitter post could reframe talks that had stalled for more than a month and put the focus on Senate Republicans at a moment when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was under pressure from her caucus to come up with a new solution.

Democratic leaders immediately seized on Trump’s new position.

September 16, 2020 at 5:30 PM EDT
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The Federal Reserve projects the economy to improve next year, with unemployment falling to 5.5 percent by the end of 2021

By Rachel Siegel

Federal Reserve leaders predict that unemployment will fall to 7.6 percent by the end of this year, and to 5.5 percent by the end of 2021, even as much about the path of the virus and its influence over the economic recovery remain unknown.

As the Fed concluded two days of policy meetings on Wednesday, the projections suggest Fed leaders are growing more optimistic about the recovery than they were earlier this summer. By 2023, policymakers’ projections put the unemployment rate at 4 percent.

By August, the rate had already fallen to 8.4 percent, lifting hopes that the economy was finding its footing. The last time Fed policymakers released their projections in June, they expected the unemployment rate to fall to 9.3 percent by the end of the year, 6.5 percent by the end of 2021 and 5.5 percent by the end of 2022.