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President Trump’s youngest son, Barron, tested positive for the coronavirus about the same time as his parents but has since tested negative, the first lady disclosed Wednesday.

“Luckily he is a strong teenager and exhibited no symptoms,” Melania Trump wrote in an online post released by the White House. The first lady said she has also tested negative, and the president has tested negative according to his doctor.

President Trump on Wednesday night pointed to Barron’s experience before urging students’ return to schools. His family’s recovery from the virus that has killed more than 200,000 Americans has only emboldened his push for a nationwide return to normalcy.

Here are some significant developments:
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that a new economic relief bill is unlikely before the election. The stock market closed in the red at the end of the day’s trading session as investors reacted.
  • Scientists pushing to allow the novel coronavirus to circulate freely among healthy young people until herd immunity is reached have found a receptive audience inside the White House. But top infectious-disease experts say the idea is unworkable and dangerous.
  • University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban is the highest-profile figure in college athletics to test positive for the coronavirus. The school announced his infection Wednesday.
  • U.S. coronavirus cases are rising again, seeding fears that an anticipated cold-weather surge in infections has arrived. Nine states are experiencing double-digit increases in the number of patients hospitalized because of coronavirus complications.
  • Citing a rapid resurgence of the virus, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a curfew to be imposed from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. on the Paris region and other major urban centers. It will begin Oct. 17 and last at least four weeks.
  • Italy, Germany and Iran are also seeing surging infections.
3:30 a.m.
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What day is it? This newsletter can help you remember — and recover.

By Steven Johnson

The pandemic has wrecked our sense of time.

Our past lives feel distant. The future comes in two-week chunks of dread. The present drags minute to minute, or else flies by in an undifferentiated mush.

That’s because how we perceive time is deeply tied to our mental well-being, through factors such as stress, attention, emotion and social relationships. The pandemic has warped them all, upending the mix of routines and new experiences that anchor us in time.

We can start by making new anchors. We’ll show you how with What Day Is It?, a seven-day email series to help you recover your sense of time and redefine your week.

2:45 a.m.
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Teleworking in a parking lot. School on a flash drive. The coronavirus prompts new urgency for rural Internet access.

By Meagan Flynn

Jason Onorati moved to rural Powhatan, Va., 23 years ago, when he didn’t need the Internet to raise a family.

He lives with his young son and his 2-year-old granddaughter on a gravel dead-end road on the edge of town, one of many pockets of rural America that lack reliable WiFi. Here, there is no access to Zoom, except on a cellphone, no Netflix or online billing. Teleworking, online doctor’s appointments and remote school are nearly impossible.

“I’m three-tenths of a mile from the road, which is why I can’t get Comcast,” Onorati said. “They want to charge by the foot. We’re talking thousands of dollars.”

The coronavirus pandemic has drawn new attention to this long-standing problem, with local and federal lawmakers and candidates in Virginia demanding funding and legal changes to bring broadband to an estimated half-million state residents.

2:00 a.m.
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Pandemic is ‘accelerating a dramatic decline’ in Internet freedoms worldwide, new report finds

By Miriam Berger

Internet freedom is yet another victim of the global coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report by the Washington, D.C.-based Freedom House institute.

“State and nonstate actors in many countries are now exploiting opportunities created by the pandemic to shape online narratives, censor critical speech, and build new technological systems of social control,” the human rights group said in a statement accompanying its annual Freedom of the Net report released Wednesday.

While Freedom House concluded that this was the 10th consecutive year in which digital rights have overall deteriorated, it identified the pandemic as “accelerating a dramatic decline in global Internet freedom.” Freedom House identified three overarching trends.

First, governments and political leaders have used the coronavirus “as a pretext” to restrict Internet freedoms, it said.

“Authorities often blocked independent news sites and arrested individuals on spurious charges of spreading false news,” the statement said. “In many places, it was state officials and their zealous supporters who actually disseminated false and misleading information with the aim of drowning out accurate content, distracting the public from ineffective policy responses, and scapegoating certain ethnic and religious communities.”

Second, according to Freedom House’s analysis, the pandemic has been used to justify expanding digital surveillance and the deployment of more technologies to monitor and track people.

“These practices raise the prospect of a dystopian future in which private companies, security agencies, and cybercriminals enjoy easy access not only to sensitive information about the places we visit and the items we purchase, but also to our medical histories, facial and voice patterns, and even our genetic codes,” the group warned.

Finally, the pandemic has provided new avenues for states to increase local regulations and restrictions over the Internet, thereby accelerating a move toward “cyber sovereignty” and away from supporting international protocols and standards that ensure more equitable global access.

1:15 a.m.
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City council in England apologizes for ‘mistakenly’ distributing used test kits

By Miriam Berger

The Birmingham City Council in central England said Wednesday that around two dozen coronavirus test kits it distributed this week had already been used after the media reported on possibly contaminated packages.

“We are aware that a small number of tests were mistakenly given out during Drop and Collect activity in Selly Oak yesterday (13th Oct),” the Birmingham Council said in a statement, according to the London-based LBC news station. “As soon as it became apparent that the wrong tests had been given out, steps were taken immediately to rectify the mistake.”

The city is running a “Drop and Collect” program, in which council workers and volunteers are distributing and then collecting coronavirus tests. The council said in a statement that it had so far conducted 100,000 tests.

Birmingham’s Selly Oak neighborhood is among the hardest hit by the virus. But Sophie Dunne, a student living in the area, told the BBC that volunteers knocking on doors on her street Tuesday provided her already opened test-kit boxes.

The boxes were sealed packages with test tubes and swabs inside “which had already been snapped off, so obviously it had been used,” she told the BBC.

Dunne told the BBC that after realizing the mistake, she and housemates “went running up the street to notify the workers handing out the tests.” She said other households were doing the same.

1:12 a.m.
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Trump points to son’s asymptomatic infection while urging school reopening

By Hannah Knowles

President Trump on Wednesday night pointed to his youngest son’s positive test for the coronavirus before urging students’ return to schools.

It was the latest example of how his family’s recovery from the virus — linked to the deaths of more than 200,000 Americans — has only emboldened his push for a nationwide return to normalcy.

Barron Trump tested positive for the virus at roughly the same time as his parents but was asymptomatic and has since tested negative, first lady Melania Trump revealed Wednesday in a post online.

Speaking later at an event, the president said his son had the coronavirus “for such a short period of time, I don’t think he even knew he had it.”

“Because they’re young and their immune systems are strong and they fight it off, 99.9 percent,” Trump said.

“Within like two seconds it was, Barron is just fine now, he’s tested negative,” Trump continued, before adding: “We gotta get the kids back to school … Get 'em back. Get 'em back.” He went on to discuss his own coronavirus diagnosis, saying it was “a little tough, and you have a temperature and you don’t feel good.”

The president left the hospital last week and has tested negative for the virus, his doctor said.

The president has been using his illness, just weeks ahead of the November election, to reinforce his message that the country is “turning the corner,” downplaying the virus’s threat even as nationwide cases are rising again.

Health experts, including leading infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci — a member of the White House coronavirus task force — have expressed concern that in the wake of Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis, members of the public may not take the virus as seriously as they should.

12:30 a.m.
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Amid waning tourism because of the coronavirus, felines on Brazil’s ‘Island of Cats’ are starving

By Ruby Mellen

An island west of Rio de Janeiro is populated by hundreds of feral cats that largely rely on humans to survive. Kindhearted travelers and fishermen passing by would leave sustenance for the felines: discarded fish guts, bowls of water. That dynamic worked well during normal tourist times, but has been thrown off balance by the coronavirus pandemic, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

With their human lifeline thinned to a thread, the cats of Furtada Island are undergoing a gruesome ordeal, beginning to feast on each others carcasses, fishermen told the AP.

They are not the only animals reliant on humans for food who have been hit hard by the pandemic. Monkeys in Lopburi, Thailand, once dependent on snacks from tourists, have become aggressive in their quest to remain fed during the pandemic, the New York Times reported. And restrictions on dining and the shuttering of restaurants because of the pandemic have pushed rats, who normally feed off waste from those establishments, toward more aggressive and even cannibalistic behavior.

12:00 a.m.
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German ad raises middle finger to tourists who shun masks

By Miriam Berger

The elderly woman in a pastel mask with a piercing stare and peppery gray hair has a stern message for any visitors to Berlin: Wear a mask — or receive a raised middle finger.

The evocative, angry image in an advertisement published Tuesday by Berlin’s tourism authority has garnered both praise and criticism for its blunt public health messaging.

The woman giving the middle finger is pictured alongside a message in German: “The raised [middle] finger for all those without a mask.”

The Berlin Senate and Visit Berlin campaign originally published the picture in Tuesday’s edition of a local newspaper, but it has since spread online, the BBC reported.

“Most Berliners and our guests respect and follow the corona rules but some people don’t,” Christian Tänzler, spokesman for Visit Berlin, told the BBC. “These people risk the lives of older people and people from the at-risk community.” He added: “For this reason we have chosen this provocative motif.”

Tänzler noted that Germans are known for a direct style of communication. “We use it in a very direct way to communicate to exactly the people who are not respecting the rules,” he said.

But the controversial nature of the gesture — which some media will not generally publish because of its association with an expletive — was also met with derision by some online who said the message was neither funny nor productive.

11:39 p.m.
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Wells Fargo fires more than 100 employees for fraudulently receiving relief funds

By Reis Thebault

Wells Fargo, one of the largest banks in the country, has fired more than 100 employees for defrauding the U.S. government by improperly taking taxpayer-subsidized coronavirus relief money.

The company announced the dismissals in an internal memo obtained by The Washington Post on Wednesday. The memo, first reported by Bloomberg News, says the bank identified a group of workers who defrauded the U.S. Small Business Administration “by making false representations in applying for coronavirus relief funds for themselves.”

“We have terminated the employment of those individuals and will cooperate fully with law enforcement,” David Galloreese, Wells Fargo’s head of human resources, wrote in the memo. “These wrongful actions were personal actions, and do not involve our customers.”

The employees used the Economic Injury Disaster Loans program, which was the first federal small-business assistance program activated to fight the pandemic-spurred economic crisis. And they were far from the first.

In July, a federal watchdog reported that it had identified $250 million in funds given to “potentially ineligible recipients,” and its investigation indicated “pervasive fraudulent activity.”

The Wells Fargo disciplinary actions come a month after JPMorgan Chase fired several employees for the same fraudulent activity through the EIDL program.

“We have zero tolerance for fraudulent behavior and will continue to look into these matters,” Wells Fargo’s Galloreese wrote. “If we identify additional wrongdoing by employees, we will take appropriate action.”

11:16 p.m.
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Alabama football coach Nick Saban tests positive

By Des Bieler

The University of Alabama announced Wednesday that decorated football coach Nick Saban tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Saban, 68, said he would work from home while offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian oversees team operations at the Crimson Tide’s facility.

Alabama’s athletic director, Greg Byrne, also tested positive, the school announced. It said Byrne and Saban accounted for the only positive tests and added, “All individuals who are considered high risk contacts have been notified and will follow quarantine guidelines.”

Saban said in a statement that after learning earlier Wednesday of his positive test, he “immediately left work and isolated at home.”

“At this time, I do not have any symptoms relative to COVID, and I have taken another PCR [polymerase chain reaction] test to confirm my diagnosis,” said the coach, who has led the Crimson Tide to five national championships in his 11 seasons at Alabama after previously winning one at LSU.

11:15 p.m.
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San Francisco rent is sliding, study shows

By Hannah Denham

Rent in San Francisco, which has the nation’s most expensive market, is sliding quickly, according to Zumper’s national rent report, highlighting the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on housing trends.

Zumper recorded the median price of a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco to be $2,830 during September, a historic 20 percent decrease from a year ago and an almost 7 percent drop from August. The two-bedroom median rent also dropped nearly 7 percent in September from the previous month, to $3,800.

And in contrast with New York City, which has the second-most expensive rental market, most San Francisco tenants who vacated in March amid lockdowns and stay-at-home orders haven’t returned, the report said. As companies, especially in tech hubs such as the Bay Area, adapt to remote work policies for the long haul, expensive cities have become less attractive as employees move to cheaper markets.

“Both cities continued to experience large migration outflows, but the differences in the two city’s migration inflows may explain their diverging price trends and could lead to rental prices in New York stabilizing faster than in San Francisco,” the report reads. “Were this to happen and these trends continue, it is likely that New York will overtake San Francisco as the most expensive city in the country.”

10:24 p.m.
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New relief deal unlikely before election, Mnuchin says, but talks are ongoing

By Erica Werner and Jeff Stein

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that a new economic relief bill is unlikely before the election, suggesting that Democrats are unwilling to give President Trump a victory.

“I’d say at this point getting something done before the election and executing on that would be difficult, just given where we are,” Mnuchin said during an event hosted by the Milken Institute’s Global Conference.

Asked whether Democrats are unwilling to make a deal because they don’t want to give Trump a victory three weeks before the election, Mnuchin replied: “I think that definitely is part of the reality. That’s definitely an issue.

“But the president is very focused on when he wins, we will need to do more. So that’s part of the reason to continue to work on this,” the treasury secretary added. “The clock will not stop.”

9:40 p.m.
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Rep. Bill Huizenga skips Pence’s Michigan rally after testing positive

By Felicia Sonmez

Rep. Bill Huizenga was expected to join Vice President Pence on Wednesday for a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Mich. But as the event was underway, the Michigan Republican announced that he had decided not to attend because he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Huizenga, who is running for his sixth term in Congress representing Michigan’s 2nd District, revealed his diagnosis in a tweet. He noted that his positive result came from a rapid coronavirus test and that he will undergo a more accurate polymerase chain reaction test, as well.

“Earlier today, I was expected to appear with the Vice President,” Huizenga said in the tweet. “While taking part in offsite testing protocols, I took a rapid test that came back positive for COVID-19. I am awaiting the results of a PCR test and I am self isolating until I have confirmed results.”

8:56 p.m.
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U.S. stocks sink with market close and dwindling hope for stimulus

By Hannah Denham

The stock market closed in the red at the end of Wednesday’s trading session as investors reacted to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s comments regarding the unlikeliness of a stimulus package arriving before the November election.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down nearly 166 points, or almost 0.6 percent. The S&P 500 index closed down 23 points, or nearly 0.7 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite closed down 95 points, or 0.8 percent.

Mnuchin made his remark Wednesday afternoon during an event hosted by the Milken Institute’s Global Conference, after a phone conversation with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). He said that agreeing on a new economic relief bill to aid struggling Americans, airline companies and small businesses would be “difficult” to achieve before the election.

“I’d say at this point getting something done before the election and executing on that would be difficult, just given where we are,” Mnuchin said during the event.

8:46 p.m.
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Barron Trump also had virus but has now tested negative, first lady says

By Colby Itkowitz

In an essay posted on the White House website, first lady Melania Trump revealed that teenage son Barron had also tested positive for the coronavirus when she, the president and many of his closest advisers contracted the virus a few weeks ago.

She wrote that her son was asymptomatic, while she experienced “body aches, a cough and headaches, and felt extremely tired most of the time.” They have both now tested negative, she said.

The first lady said she went a “more natural route,” foregoing medicine in favor of diet and nutritional supplements, a stark contrast to her husband — who was given experimental drugs and has been promoting them ever since.

The first lady, who notably did not mention President Trump in any meaningful way in the post, wrote that she used the time while she was sick and her husband was in the hospital to reflect on her own family and the “hundreds of thousands of people across our country who have been impacted by this illness that infects people with no discrimination.”

“We are in unprecedented times — and with the election fast approaching, it has been easy to get caught up in so much negative energy,” she added.

Later in the piece, she wrote that for her, “the most impactful part of my recovery was the opportunity to reflect on many things — family, friendships, my work, and staying true to who you are.”

Asked about his son on Wednesday, the president said Barron is doing “fine.”