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President Trump reiterated a claim that a novel coronavirus vaccine will be ready this Fall, and said on Fox Sports Radio that Democrats are “petrified” that it will emerge before Election Day. Trump’s claim went against a prediction by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Robert Redfield that vaccines will not be widely available until the middle of next year. Many experts, including scientists leading the vaccine effort, have agreed with Redfield.

In an interview on Fox News, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said that attempted to discredit the head of the federal agency, saying he was “not sure where Dr. Redfield got his particular timetable, but it’s not based on those that are closest to the process.”

“It is important that we have consistent messaging from all levels” by top officials worldwide, World Health Organization emergencies chief Mike Ryan said at a news briefing on Thursday.

Here are some significant developments:
September 17, 2020 at 11:45 PM EDT

Six months, and a grim milestone: 26th-straight week of record-level unemployment claims

Another 860,000 people applied for unemployment insurance claims last week — the 26th-straight week that unemployment claims remained above a pre-pandemic record dating to the 1960s.

And 659,000 people had claims processed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the program for self-employed and gig workers, a drop of about 200,000 after those numbers had risen for weeks.

The total number of people claiming unemployment insurance went up by about 100,000, to 29.7 million, as of Aug. 29, the most recent week available for this statistic.

By Eli Rosenberg
September 17, 2020 at 11:00 PM EDT

Coronavirus blockade strands hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jewish pilgrims at Ukrainian border

KYIV, Ukraine — Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jewish pilgrims have camped out for days in the forested no man’s land between Belarus and Ukraine, stranded by new Ukrainian border restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus as the country experiences a surge.

The pilgrims, most of whom belong to the Breslover branch of Hasidism, have traveled to celebrate the Jewish new year at the grave of their movement’s founder. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov is buried in the central Ukrainian town of Uman. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, starts at sundown on Friday.

Ukrainian officials said last month they would not allow foreign nationals to enter the country during September. Most of the pilgrims are from Israel. Last year, close to 30,000 came to Ukraine for Rosh Hashanah.

September 17, 2020 at 10:15 PM EDT

Is the coronavirus spreading silently among kids? Testing limits make it hard to tell.

It is a nightmare repeatedly playing in parents’ minds: Their child is welcomed back to their classroom, but in the excitement the kids get too close to one another, sharing germs.

The children may not have coronavirus symptoms or be able to express that they are not feeling well, unwittingly spreading the virus as they continue to go to school or come into contact with adults.

Only when the older members of the family — those more likely to show signs of infection — get tested do they learn what has happened: It’s covid-19, and by then it’s everywhere.

By Meryl Kornfield
September 17, 2020 at 9:30 PM EDT

House passes measure condemning ‘China virus’ moniker — a term often used by Trump

With just weeks until the election, the Democratic-led House on Thursday delivered a thinly veiled rebuke of President Trump with passage of a measure condemning “all forms of anti-Asian sentiment” related to the novel coronavirus, including the use of terms such as the “China virus” and “Kung Flu.”

The measure passed 243 to 164, with 14 Republicans joining Democrats in supporting it. No Democrats voted against the measure. Rep. Justin Amash, a Michigan independent, voted “present.”

The resolution makes no mention of Trump, but its lead sponsor, Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), made clear that it targeted the president.

“The rise in anti-Asian rhetoric and the blaming of Asian Americans for the spread of the coronavirus has been shameful and reckless, particularly when it comes from our nation’s leaders such as President Trump,” she said in a statement after the vote.

During Thursday’s debate, other Democrats also referenced the president.

“Where do you stand when racism and anti-Semitism and anti-Asian sentiments are emanating from the highest office in the land? Where do you stand?!” Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) asked his colleagues.

The resolution cites a dramatic increase in reports of hate crimes against people of Asian descent since January and says anti-Asian rhetoric has resulted in Asian Americans being “harassed, assaulted, and scapegoated” amid the pandemic.

By John Wagner
September 17, 2020 at 8:45 PM EDT

Canada’s largest province rolls back reopening amid a surge of cases

Amid a surge of coronavirus cases, Canada’s most populous province began rolling back aspects of its reopening on Thursday, imposing new limits on social gatherings.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said private indoor gathering limits will drop from 25 to 10, while private outdoor gathering will drop from 100 to 25. They will not apply to gatherings such as weddings, which have been linked to some cases.

Public health officials have blamed a worrying spike of the virus on large social gatherings, but they have not been able to trace half of the cases, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, raising questions about what’s driving the spread.

Ford said the changes will only affect the three regions of the province with the most cases. He admitted there’s a risk that the gatherings relocate to other parts of the province not covered by the new restrictions.

Organizers and guests of gatherings flouting the rules face fines of 10,000 Canadian dollars and 750 Canadian dollars, respectively.

“We will throw the book at you if you break the rules,” Ford said, adding that organizers of large gatherings “must be a few fries short of a Happy Meal."

Several testing centers in Ontario have been overwhelmed and some people have waited several hours to be tested. Some people have been turned away, including the leader of the federal Conservative Party, who tried to get tested with his family in Ottawa after an aide tested positive for the virus.

Cases have for weeks been ticking upward in several provinces. An average of 779 new cases have been reported during the most recent seven days, according to data from the Public Health Agency of Canada, up 26 percent from the previous week.

“The ongoing increase in new cases being reported daily continues to give cause for concern,” Theresa Tam, the country’s top doctor, said in a statement. She warned there is a risk that the spread gets “out of hand.”

By Amanda Coletta
September 17, 2020 at 8:42 PM EDT

Biden says he’d never downplay a threat to the American people

Biden said he couldn’t imagine keeping critical information from Americans as Trump is accused of doing with the coronavirus threat, and said it’s cause for the president to step down.

“This is all about one thing, the stock market ... and his reelection,” Biden said. “It should be about the American people, and they’re in trouble.”

In times of crisis Biden said you have to “level” with the American people.

“They’re tough,” he said. “There’s never been a time they have not been able to step up. This president should step down.”

By Colby Itkowitz
September 17, 2020 at 8:15 PM EDT

New York City reverses school opening plan. Now most students will start remotely.

New York City public schools will not open buildings on Monday as Mayor Bill de Blasio had planned and will instead adopt a phased-in approach to in-person learning and start the 2020-21 academic year for most students remotely, officials said Thursday.

De Blasio had promised to open all schools in the nation’s largest school district on a hybrid plan — in which students who wanted to would spend a few days in class and a few days at home each week.

But he faced significant pushback from many teachers and parents, who expressed concern about whether schools could adequately prevent a covid-19 outbreak, with many of them having poor ventilation systems. There were also concerns about whether schools had enough personal protective equipment, such as masks.

“We have to do it right,” de Blasio said Thursday.

By Valerie Strauss
September 17, 2020 at 8:02 PM EDT

Only about half of Americans would get vaccine today, as others fear approval process moving too quickly

Only about half of Americans would get the coronavirus vaccine if it were available today, a significant drop from just a few months ago, according to a new national survey released Thursday.

The biggest hurdle, the Pew Research Center said in its report, may be that the overwhelming majority of Americans, at 78 percent, say the approval process will move too fast.

“There are widespread public concerns about aspects of the vaccine development process,” the survey’s authors said.

The latest survey found that 51 percent of Americans would definitely or “probably” get the vaccine.

The other 49 percent of respondents expressed either serious reservations about receiving the vaccination or reported that they would not get vaccinated at all.

In May, the Pew Center found that 72 percent of Americans would definitely or “probably” get the vaccine.

President Trump has said a vaccine could arrive by the end of October, raising concerns that the Food and Drug Administration is rushing an approval before Election Day. Public health experts such as Anthony S. Fauci have said distribution is not likely until near the end of this year or in 2021.

“Trump’s imprecise, extemporaneous comments about vaccines have frequently clashed with messages from government officials, outside scientists and companies,” The Post’s Carolyn Y. Johnson reported Thursday. “That discord has intensified concerns that political pressure will force a vaccine to be prematurely approved but also has sown public confusion as important public health messages have become entangled with politicians’ appeals to voters and companies’ communications to shareholders.”

By Darren Sands
September 17, 2020 at 7:45 PM EDT

Newly revealed USPS documents show an agency struggling to manage Trump, Amazon and the pandemic

It would be months before Louis DeJoy took the reins of the nation’s mail system, and the U.S. Postal Service already was mired in crisis.

Mail carriers were revolting, fearful they had few protections against the newly emerging coronavirus. The Trump administration was bearing down on its finances, sending USPS officials scrambling over what they saw as a potential illegal takeover of agency operations. And then there was a looming standoff with Amazon, which privately signaled it could take some of its lucrative delivery business elsewhere.

The tensions surfaced at an April 9 meeting, when Amazon executives “stated their concerns” about the Postal Service’s economic plight amid the pandemic and questioned its “viability to them as a continued shipping partner,” according to a once-secret memo circulated within the agency, which described the situation as an “inflection point.” (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

By Tony Romm, Jacob Bogage and Lena H. Sun
September 17, 2020 at 7:39 PM EDT

Trump moves closer to Pelosi in economic aid talks, and House speaker must decide next move

House Democrats were starting to squirm this week, fretting that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s risky gamble in economic relief talks would backfire and they would go into the November elections without any new stimulus package.

But President Trump scrambled that calculus Wednesday when he cast aside the Republican negotiation position and told his party to embrace a much larger spending bill, including stimulus checks, to give Americans more money. In short, he moved closer to Pelosi’s position after a month-long showdown.

Now the California Democrat faces a crucial decision: Does she try to negotiate an agreement with a White House that suddenly seems ready to deal or continue to hold her ground and make Trump, facing his own election woes, swallow the sweeping $2.2 trillion bill she has long demanded?

By Rachael Bade and Erica Werner
September 17, 2020 at 7:15 PM EDT

Churches have become South Korea’s coronavirus battleground

INCHEON, South Korea — The Protestant pastor’s sermon echoed through a vast, virtually deserted church. A handful of worshipers took their positions, spaced out among the pews. Hundreds more watched at home over a live stream.

“May they point fingers at our churches as the epicenter of the coronavirus, we will stick to our principles and stand firm in front of our God,” Rev. Seog Sang-woo told his scattered congregation on a recent Sunday.

In South Korea, Christians find themselves at the center of pandemic controversy, after places of worship and Christian communities were blamed by President Moon Jae-in for two waves of coronavirus infections. The ensuing dispute has mixed religion, epidemiology and politics in a nation where nearly 1 in 3 people identify as Christian and where those who do often lean conservative, putting them at odds with Moon’s center-left government.

By Min Joo Kim
September 17, 2020 at 7:14 PM EDT

Analysis: A devastating picture of Trump’s coronavirus response — from a firsthand witness

President Trump faces reelection in about a month and half, with his coronavirus response dragging him down and a growing number of former aides and allies speaking out against him in extraordinary ways.

But none of them combines those two things like the latest person to speak out, which makes her easily one of the most significant witnesses to date.

Olivia Troye is Vice President Pence’s recently departed homeland security adviser, and as The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey reports, she’s stepping forward to make her case against Trump. She does so from a unique vantage point: She was involved in many of the White House’s internal discussions on the coronavirus pandemic.

By Aaron Blake
September 17, 2020 at 7:08 PM EDT

At least 30 Mass. students in quarantine after student came to school despite positive test, officials say

At least 30 high school students in southeastern Massachusetts have been forced to quarantine after a family knowingly sent their child who had tested positive for the coronavirus to school on the first day of in-person classes, officials say.

Eighty percent of Attleboro Public Schools students were expected to return to classrooms for some kind of in-person instruction, with various health and safety restrictions in place, the district said. The situation highlights the difficulties school districts around the country are facing when it comes to enforcing safety protocols during in-person learning.

Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux told CNN that school administrators did their part but were undermined by the student’s parents. Speaking to CBS affiliate WBZ-TV, Heroux said the blame rests with the student and her family.

“This was an egregious violation of trust one parent puts into another parent, one student to another student,” Heroux said.

The 30 students were ordered to quarantine after school nurses traced who had been in close contact with the coronavirus-positive student based on classroom seating charts, cafeteria schedules and school bus routes.

Rumors that a positive student was in school prompted a call to the local health board, which contacted the school the next day after realizing that a student had tested positive, WBZ reported.

According to an email from Attleboro High School Principal Bill Runey that was obtained by NBC affiliate WCVB, the reporting system the school relies on did not identify the student’s case until Tuesday, one day after the student had already returned to the building.

By Kim Bellware
September 17, 2020 at 6:43 PM EDT

Trump claims ‘rigged election’ after some N.C. voters got two ballots. They can still only vote once.

President Trump on Thursday claimed duplicate absentee ballots mistakenly sent to a few hundred voters in North Carolina could result in a fraudulent election — his latest allegation against voting by mail that local officials refute.

“RIGGED ELECTION in waiting!” the president tweeted.

The president’s response to the error in North Carolina comes as millions of Americans worried about the spread of the coronavirus pandemic plan to vote by mail, and as Trump has ramped up accusations, without evidence, that expanded mail-in voting will lead to corruption, miscounting and delays.

The mix-up occurred when an employee at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections realized she was misplacing address labels on some envelopes, said Kristin Mavromatis, a spokesperson for the county board of elections. So they planned to scrap that batch of mailings.

But that doesn’t mean voters will be able to cast two ballots, which if done intentionally is a felony in North Carolina.

By Paulina Firozi