President Trump announced in a tweet early Friday that he and his wife Melania have both tested positive for the coronavirus. “We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately,” he wrote. “We will get through this TOGETHER!” The news came just hours after it was reported that Hope Hicks, a close adviser to Trump who traveled with him aboard Air Force One several times this week, had tested positive.

Here are some significant developments:
October 2, 2020 at 6:27 PM EDT
Link copied

The NFL has its first coronavirus outbreak. Here’s how it has responded.

By Matt Bonesteel

Even though most games have been played without fans in the stands, the NFL had navigated the novel coronavirus pandemic with relative smoothness through three weeks of the regular season. That changed before Week 4.

Early in the week, news broke that eight members of the Tennessee Titans — three players and five staff members — had tested positive for the coronavirus in the aftermath of their Week 3 game against the Minnesota Vikings, with more players and staff members testing positive as the week wore on. The development injected uncertainty into the schedule for the first time since the summer, when the pandemic forced the cancellation of preseason games and required teams to significantly alter how they went about their daily operations.

Additional positive tests within the organization have since been announced. So after announcing Wednesday that the Titans’ game against the Pittsburgh Steelers would be rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday, the league opted Thursday to postpone the game until later in the season.

Here’s what else we know about the situation, including how often players are tested and what happens if a player tests positive.

October 2, 2020 at 5:45 PM EDT
Link copied

Here’s how to warm your outdoor space for socially distant entertaining. But act quickly.

By Laura Daily

Your porch or patio make socially distanced entertaining possible, and you’d like to continue into winter. What you need is a way to keep your guests toasty warm.

Outdoor heaters can essentially create a year-round livable space for family and friends. But don’t dawdle; if you want to keep the party going once the mercury drops, place your order now.

Many heaters are out of stock or on back order, as manufacturers can’t keep up with demand, says Emily McGee, spokeswoman for the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA). Often, when a shipment does arrive at a distributor or retailers, the models are already spoken for.

“Not only are restaurants snapping up outdoor heaters as they set up patio dining, but consumers are investing in outdoor living spaces. In fact, residential orders now surpass commercial,” says Graham Reed, vice president of Sunglow Industries, a wholesale heater distributor in Newport News, Va.

October 2, 2020 at 5:02 PM EDT
Link copied

U.S. faces shortage of up to 8 billion meals in next 12 months

By Laura Reiley

Bill Blackmer lost his job in telecommunications on April 18. Blackmer lives with his wife, Mary, and two young daughters in Weymouth, Mass.

“I waited until after dinner, once everything had settled down, to tell her,” he remembers. “Mary didn’t say anything, just grabbed her stomach and took three steps back and sat down.”

He is among tens of millions of Americans who have turned to a local food bank for help after becoming newly food insecure because of the pandemic and its fallout. About 10 percent of Americans, 22.3 million, reported they sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat within the past week, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent Household Pulse Survey fielded between Aug. 19 and 31. That is up from 18 million before March 13.

Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks, projects a 6 billion to 8 billion meal shortfall in the next 12 months, a deficit that may be magnified with federal food assistance programs set to expire in the coming weeks and months. The Feeding America analysis estimates the total need for charitable food over the next year will reach 17 billion pounds, more than three times last year’s distribution.

October 2, 2020 at 4:15 PM EDT
Link copied

Out of money and fearing the virus, hundreds of thousands of foreign workers are flooding home

By Joanna Slater, Kareem Fahim and Katie McQue

In his long years away from his family, Ramakrishnan Athekkatil often imagined what it would be like to settle down back in India.

He never imagined he would return like this: laid off, in debt and pursued by a sickness racing around the globe.

Home was a small village ringed by coconut palms and paddy fields on India’s southwestern coast. His father, pushed by poverty, had been the first to leave for the Persian Gulf in search of work. Later Ramakrishnan, 47, and his four brothers all made the same voyage.

October 2, 2020 at 3:22 PM EDT
Link copied

The pandemic is threatening Medicare’s hospital program

By Paige Winfield Cunningham

The Congressional Budget Office released a report last month that probably would have gotten attention were the nation not in the middle of a pandemic and a presidential election.

The CBO now expects Medicare Part A — the part of the program that pays for hospital care for seniors — to become insolvent by 2024, two years earlier than previously expected. That’s the closest to insolvency Medicare has been since 1971, when its trustees projected a two-year insolvency window.

The pandemic and the resulting economic impact are largely the reason for Medicare’s diminished financial outlook. Payroll tax revenue, which flows into the hospital trust fund, has taken a nose dive amid widespread layoffs, yet the Medicare population is expected to continue growing at the same rate.

October 2, 2020 at 2:53 PM EDT
Link copied

Trump’s age, immune system and underlying health problems will chart his battle

By Lenny Bernstein, Laurie McGinley, Lena H. Sun and Joel Achenbach

President Trump’s advanced age and his immune system’s response will most strongly influence the course of his battle with covid-19, a disease whose impact ranges unpredictably from no symptoms at all to rapid death, according to experts and research. And the president’s path over the next 10 days — or possibly longer, if he develops an extended version of the disease — may be dictated by whether he inhaled a large amount of virus deep into his lungs.

The president, famously opposed to the medical guidance that Americans wear masks in most circumstances, may have left himself vulnerable to receiving a heavy dose of the coronavirus that has killed at least 207,000 people and infected more than 7.2 million in the United States, according to a Washington Post analysis.

People with underlying health problems also tend to have poorer outcomes. The 74-year-old president weighs 244 pounds, a total that makes him slightly obese, according to information released by the White House after his physical exam in June. He takes a statin for high cholesterol and his blood pressure is slightly elevated.

The most important factor is the president’s age. Human immune systems, which battle the virus, become less effective as we grow older. Even as the overall covid-19 death rate in the United States has declined during the eight months of the pandemic, nearly 80 percent of fatalities occur among people 65 and older. Older men die more frequently than older women.

October 2, 2020 at 2:00 PM EDT
Link copied

Nobel prizes are ‘particularly important this year,’ foundation head says ahead of next week’s announcements

By Adam Taylor

The Nobel Prize awards, to be announced next week, are “particularly important this year” despite the fact that the traditional awards ceremony would not be possible because of the covid-19 pandemic, the head of the foundation that awards the prizes said.

“I’m happy that we are able to announce laureates next week. That was not self-evident six months ago,” Lars Heikensten, head of the Nobel Foundation, told Swedish Radio in an interview published Friday. There will not be a ceremony where the prizes are given out, however, nor a 1,000-person gala to celebrate the winners in Stockholm.

The Nobel Prizes, named after Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, are given out in the subject areas of chemistry, peace, physics, physiology or medicine, and literature. The prizes are generally awarded annually, though there have been a number of exceptions.

The closely-watched Nobel Peace Prize, which is awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, is expected to be announced Oct. 9. A ceremony to mark the award will be held Dec. 10, with around 100 guests rather than the traditional 1,000 at the University of Oslo, Norwegian broadcaster NRK reported last month.

October 2, 2020 at 1:15 PM EDT
Link copied

Pfizer ‘would never succumb to political pressure,’ CEO writes in open letter to employees

By Antonia Farzan

Pfizer “would never succumb to political pressure,” the drugmaker’s chief executive wrote in a Thursday open letter lamenting the fact that the company’s experimental coronavirus vaccine became a talking point in Tuesday night’s presidential debate.

Of the companies whose vaccine candidates have advanced to final-stage clinical trials, Pfizer is the only one to express confidence that some preliminary data on safety and efficacy could be ready before the Nov. 3 election. During Tuesday’s debate with Democratic challenger Joe Biden, Trump said that he had spoken to Pfizer and several other companies working on developing vaccines, and insinuated that they were deliberately dragging their feet because the timing has “become very political.”

“We’re weeks away from a vaccine,” Trump said, contradicting what government scientists and public health experts have repeatedly stated.

In Thursday’s letter to employees, Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla expressed disappointment that “the prevention for a deadly disease was discussed in political terms rather than scientific facts,” and that the company had unwittingly found itself “in the crucible of the U.S. Presidential election.” He did not mention Trump by name, but voiced concerns that “amplified political rhetoric” around the timing of a potential vaccine would undercut public trust in the final product.

“In this hyper-partisan year, there are some who would like us to move more quickly and others who argue for delay,” he wrote. “Neither of those options are acceptable to me.”

Bourla also emphasized that his ambitious goal of delivering vaccine data to the Food and Drug Administration by the end of October was aimed at readying a vaccine in time for a potential second wave of cases in the fall and winter, and that political considerations played no role in the equation.

“Imagine the compounded tragedy if we have a safe and effective vaccine that many people didn’t trust,” he wrote.

October 2, 2020 at 12:30 PM EDT
Link copied

Covid-19 ‘long haulers’ have nowhere else to turn — so they’re finding each other online

By Kelsey Ables

As Chimére Smith clicked on the link to join the covid-19 Slack support group, she could feel her body shaking. Not because of an internal buzzing sensation reported by some people struggling with the illness — though she is certainly familiar with that.

Smith, a 38-year-old Baltimore middle school teacher, fell ill in March with symptoms progressing rapidly from a sore throat to crushing fatigue to heart palpitations. Still dealing with symptoms several weeks in, she was confused and afraid but alive — though that, it seemed, could change at any moment.

For Smith, joining the Slack group meant accepting that as her struggle continued with no end in sight, she could not go on alone. “As strong and independent as I think I am, I had to admit that I needed other people to help me,” says Smith, who still has symptoms to this day.

October 2, 2020 at 11:45 AM EDT
Link copied

Trump is among a growing group of world leaders infected with the coronavirus

By Miriam Berger

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump are not alone.

The couple tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the White House announced early Friday, joining a small but growing group of world leaders who have been diagnosed with the virus.

Here are some of the world leaders and their spouses who have contracted the virus so far.

October 2, 2020 at 11:27 AM EDT
Link copied

A pandemic-era ode to every tourist’s guilty pleasure: The gift shop

By Liz Langley

Gift shops are the dessert at the end of any tour, gallery or attraction, sometimes better than the exhibits themselves.

Do I want to visit Baltimore’s Edgar Allan Poe House & Museum? Of course. But do I want a “Masque of the Red Death face mask” from the Poe House gift shop? Be still my telltale heart — yes!

Right now, of course, I can do only one of those things, and when it comes to future travels, my outlook is far less sunny than that of Mr. Poe. The evil twins, pandemic and penury, have turned my Bucket List into a Shot Glass List.

October 2, 2020 at 11:04 AM EDT
Link copied

U.S. stocks slump after Trump tests positive for covid-19

By Taylor Telford

Global markets were roiled Friday after President Trump announced that he and the first lady had tested positive for the coronavirus, creating new uncertainty roughly a month before Election Day and as the nation continues to grapple with the social and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. futures swooned, then clawed back some losses. Shortly after open, the Dow Jones industrial average was down about 280 points, or 1 percent, to 27,543. The S&P 500 index sank more than 1.2 percent, to 3,338, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq declined 1.7 percent, to 11,131.

The VIX volatility index spiked more than 9 percent in early trading.

“It seems reasonable to assume that markets will be on shaky ground throughout October with the perfect storm of a highly contentious election and a pandemic that remains stubbornly at the forefront,” Peter Essele, head of portfolio management for Commonwealth Financial Network, wrote in a commentary Friday.

Meanwhile, the last monthly jobs report issued before the Nov. 3 election signaled that the economic recovery could be cooling off. The U.S. economy added 661,000 jobs in September — the smallest monthly jobs gain since the recovery began in May. This brings the unemployment rate to around 7.9 percent, which is more in line with other recent recessions.

October 2, 2020 at 10:14 AM EDT
Link copied

Economy added 661,000 jobs in September as recovery slows

By Eli Rosenberg

The U.S. economy added just 661,000 jobs in September — the smallest monthly job gain since May, signaling that the recovery could be cooling off.

In what will be the last monthly jobs report issued before the election Nov. 3, the unemployment rate dropped to 7.9 percent, putting the rate closer to that of other recessions.

The modest gains in jobs were driven by hiring increases in leisure and hospitality, which added 318,000 jobs back in September, mostly at restaurants and bars. Retail added back another 142,000 jobs, driven in part by hiring at clothing stores.

October 2, 2020 at 10:00 AM EDT
Link copied

Medical experts express concern about Trump’s age after positive test

By Paulina Firozi

News of President Trump’s diagnosis spread quickly through the medical community Friday, and experts weighed in with at least two key concerns: The president’s age puts him at higher risk of complications, and his proximity to others means there are many more people to test.

Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, tweeted: “We also need to sort out who else has been infected.” He suggested that anyone who has been near Hope Hicks — a top Trump aide who traveled with the president this week and tested positive on Thursday — starting Monday and near Trump starting on Tuesday should quarantine.

“If someone was in an enclosed space with him or Ms Hicks during their contagious period and not wearing a mask, they are at risk,” Jha tweeted. “This is why I call this a nightmare.”

In an interview on “Good Morning America,” Jha also pointed to the president’s age, 74.

“The bottom line is his age alone puts him at high risk of complication,” Jha said. “So, I think we all pray that he recovers quickly but worry that he may be at risk.”

Former Food and Drug Administration head Scott Gottlieb echoed that concern in an interview with CNBC.

“The president is in a high-risk group simply by virtue of his age,” he said. “He’s also reported to be overweight. … There’s every reason now to expect that the president will do well and recover, and we are all wishing him well, but the risk is still high because of age alone.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released guidelines to describe who is at increased risk, noting that older adults are among those “more likely than others to become severely ill.”

“Among adults, the risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at higher risk,” the agency said. It noted that severe illness means a person with covid-19 “may require hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe, or they may even die.”

Individuals in their 60s and 70s are, for example, generally at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s.

The CDC says adults older than the president are at highest risk. “The greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among those aged 85 or older,” according to the agency.

Gottlieb framed the “critical question” now: “Is the president, or Melania, or Hope, or other White House staff who may have been exposed, symptomatic? That would give us a lot more information about the risks they face.”

Former CDC director Tom Frieden said every new covid-19 infection is a “step backwards in our effort to slow” the ongoing pandemic.

Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist at the University of Washington, called on the White House to be transparent about the details of the president’s illness.

“I think it’s important that they overshare information. I want to know what’s his symptom profile,” Gupta said in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show. “How is the first lady feeling? And critically, what is Hope Hicks feeling like? Because if she was a high-risk exposure because she’s very symptomatic at a young age, then that’s concerning.”

In that case, Gupta suggested, everybody on Air Force One or who came in contact with them should quarantine for two weeks, per CDC guidelines.