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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reported signs of progress in the ongoing negotiations over a new coronavirus relief bill Monday night, but her fellow Democrats and the Trump administration remained far apart after a day of lobbing attacks at one another.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, her Trump administration interlocutor, for an hour Monday, one day before the deadline Pelosi set to get stimulus legislation passed before the Nov. 3 election.

On MSNBC on Monday night, Pelosi said, “We have finally in the last 24 hours … come to a place where they are willing to address the crisis.”

That note of cautious optimism came after President Trump accused Pelosi of stalling and posited that it would hurt Democrats at the polls. Pelosi, meanwhile, insisted to colleagues that she wants to pass legislation before the election because she doesn’t want to carry “the droppings of this grotesque elephant into the next presidency.”

The stock market slid Monday as hopes for the deal faded and disagreements persisted over funding for state and local governments, liability protections for businesses and a variety of other issues.

Here are some significant developments:
  • About 285,000 more people in the United States died this year than what was anticipated due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, with nearly 67 percent dead from the disease itself, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.
  • The number of officially confirmed coronavirus cases has surpassed 40 million worldwide, as new surges in the United States and Europe are raising concerns about an escalation of the pandemic. The United States continues to report more cases than any other country.
  • The Trump administration’s pandemic response is increasingly plagued by infighting, lethargy and the president’s mistrust of his government’s top scientists, according to interviews with 41 White House officials, public health leaders and others.
  • Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said he was “absolutely not” surprised when Trump contracted the novel coronavirus soon after attending a Rose Garden ceremony last month for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett where few people wore masks.
  • Large school districts across the country are reopening campuses to students, a slow-moving reversal driven by concern that students are falling behind and early evidence that schools have not become the coronavirus superspreaders it was feared they might be.
  • More than 8,170,000 coronavirus cases and 219,000 fatalities have been reported in the United States since February, and a surge of infections is shattering records in states that previously escaped the worst of the pandemic. Many Republican governors are resisting new measures to stop the spread.
October 20, 2020 at 1:24 PM EDT
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The coronavirus pandemic has caused nearly 300,000 more deaths than expected in a typical year

By Lenny Bernstein

The coronavirus pandemic has left about 285,000 more people dead in the United States than would be expected in a typical year, two-thirds of them from covid-19 and the rest from other causes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.

The CDC said the coronavirus, which causes covid-19, has taken a disproportionate toll on Latino and Black Americans, as previous analyses have noted. But the CDC also found, surprisingly, that it has struck 25- to 44-year-olds very hard: Their “excess death” rate is up 26.5 percent over previous years, the largest change for any age group.

It is not clear whether that spike is caused by the well-recognized shift in covid-19 deaths toward younger people between May and August, or deaths from other causes, the CDC said.

October 19, 2020 at 11:45 PM EDT
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Federal judge rules against Treasury and IRS again: The incarcerated are entitled to stimulus checks

By Michelle Singletary

At first, the IRS said inmates were eligible for stimulus payments up to $1,200.

Then the agency walked back that decision, telling correctional facilities to intercept stimulus checks that the agency had already issued. Spouses of the incarcerated were told they had to return the part of relief money intended for incarcerated individuals.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (Cares) Act provides economic impact payments or stimulus payments of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for taxpayers filing a joint tax return. There was nothing in the law prohibiting prisoners from receiving stimulus payments.

A class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of incarcerated individuals in local, state and federal facilities arguing that the IRS actions were unlawful. Judge Phyllis Hamilton of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California agreed, saying the decision to withhold the stimulus payments was “arbitrary and capricious.” Hamilton ordered the Treasury Department and the IRS to send the relief money and to do so within certain deadlines.

October 19, 2020 at 11:00 PM EDT
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For a normal college experience during the pandemic, these students hopped continents

By Susan Svrluga

When Natalie Smith walked into her macroeconomics class recently, she felt a wave of euphoria.

To see her classmates and professor in person, take notes and ask questions without having to awkwardly unmute herself on Zoom — “I was unnaturally happy,” she said, laughing. “I’ve never been so happy to attend an economics course.”

Never mind that her temperature was scanned when she walked into the building, that everyone was wearing masks and that she was in Italy, thousands of miles from Washington, D.C., where she had expected to study this fall.

Smith had found a way to get to Johns Hopkins University’s only campus that is not virtual this semester — its School of Advanced International Studies program in Bologna — joining an only-in-pandemic-times, scrambled-at-the-last minute community of “students in exile” whose lives have been upended by the novel coronavirus.

October 19, 2020 at 10:18 PM EDT
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Report: Nearly a month into in-person classes, few infections at New York City schools

By Darren Sands

After initial fears that a return to in-person learning at public schools across New York City could cause the spread of the coronavirus to worsen, initial testing data shows a more promising outlook: Out of 16,298 tests taken in the first week of the program, just 20 staff members and eight students were positive. The low infection rate is due in part to smaller class sizes and social distancing, according to the report in the New York Times.

New York’s school system, the nation’s largest, was the first big-city system to reopen in September. The testing is a bright spot and suggests that the guidelines and testing procedures it implemented could serve as a potential blueprint as U.S. school districts navigate how to safely return during the pandemic.

“It’s great that New York City is doing some level of random testing,” Ashish Jha, a physician and the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told the Times. “It’s not at the level that would be ideal.”

Paula White, executive director of the teachers group Educators for Excellence, told the Times that the data “is encouraging” and that it “reinforces what we have heard about schools not being super spreaders.”

New York is still trying to recover from the pandemic-wrought devastation, but the positive news could serve as a boost to Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), who has made returning to school a major issue as he enters his last year in office.

October 19, 2020 at 10:15 PM EDT
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D.C. now has 39 states on its ‘high-risk’ list

By Michael Brice-Saddler and Dana Hedgpeth

D.C. health officials on Monday added eight states to the city’s list of locations considered “high-risk” for travel because of the coronavirus pandemic, raising the total of states under the designation to 39 as new cases continue to surge across the country.

A state is considered high-risk if its seven-day rolling average number of new coronavirus cases is 10 or more per 100,000 people. Under an order from Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), anyone who comes to the nation’s capital from a high-risk state for nonessential reasons must self-quarantine for two weeks.

October 19, 2020 at 9:30 PM EDT
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Analysis: The pandemic response was a war between teleprompter Trump and Twitter Trump. The latter won.

By Philip Bump

Standing at a lectern in front of a backdrop reading “Protecting America's Seniors,” President Trump offered unusually sober advice about the coronavirus pandemic to a group of older Floridians on Friday.

“So whether you’re Republican or Democrat,” he said, reading from the teleprompter, “we must choose facts over fear.” Looking away from the prompter briefly, he added, “We have to — science over hysteria; hope over despair; and the common good over partisan politics.”

He urged those listening not to simply go out and do what they wanted because “the president said, ‘Let’s get out.’” For younger people, though? Different advice and a different tone.

“We cannot allow unscientific, panic-driven, fear-based policies to deny our children and grandchildren their future and their dreams,” he said. “We can't take a year or two years out of their life. … These left-wing lockdowns will crush America.”

The crowd — indoors, many not wearing masks — cheered.

There’s an obvious disconnect between what Trump says in the first quoted segment and in the second. We must choose “science over hysteria” — but restrictions aimed at containing the coronavirus are “unscientific” and “panic-driven.”

October 19, 2020 at 8:45 PM EDT
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As Washington scrambles for more bailout money, the Fed sits on mountain of untapped funds

By Rachel Siegel and Jeff Stein

The White House and Congress are fighting over an economic relief bill, and odds appear low they will reach a deal before the November election. Yet hundreds of billions of dollars already set aside by lawmakers to support the Federal Reserve’s emergency aid programs may never be touched, illustrating the unevenness of Congress’s bailout decisions from earlier this year.

In March, Congress allotted $454 billion to the Treasury Department to support the central bank’s emergency lending programs, including those for struggling businesses and local governments. Of that pot, only $195 billion has been specifically committed to cover any losses the Fed might take, including though loans that companies fail to repay. Seven months into the crisis, the remaining $259 billion still has not been committed to any of the Fed’s specific programs or for any other purpose, and it is unlikely that it will be anytime soon.

The fate of this money — and its inability to address remaining cracks in the economy — show the surprising limits of the nearly $3 trillion in emergency aid Congress approved early in the pandemic.

October 19, 2020 at 8:00 PM EDT
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Trump, Pelosi exchange attacks as stimulus deal remains elusive

By Erica Werner and Jeff Stein

House Democrats and the Trump administration remained far apart Monday in economic relief negotiations, and a resolution looked unlikely ahead of the Tuesday night deadline set by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a deal that could pass before the election.

President Trump seemed to downplay chances for an outcome, telling reporters that “Nancy Pelosi, at this moment, does not want to do anything that’s going to affect the election.”

But Pelosi insisted in a call with Democratic colleagues that she did want to pass legislation before the election, saying she didn’t want to carry “the droppings of this grotesque elephant into the next presidency,” according to a person on the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss it. The elephant comment was first reported by Politico.

She spoke by phone for nearly an hour Monday afternoon with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, with whom she’s been holding regular negotiating sessions over a bill between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion. The two “continued to narrow their differences” and “the speaker continues to hope that, by the end of the day Tuesday, we will have clarity on whether we will be able to pass a bill before the election,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said on Twitter.

October 19, 2020 at 7:15 PM EDT
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CDC to passengers and workers: Wear a mask when you are on a plane, train, bus or other public transport

By Lena H. Sun, Michael Laris and Lori Aratani

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday strongly recommended in newly issued guidelines that all passengers and workers on planes, trains, buses and other public transportation wear masks to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The guidance was issued following pressure from the airline industry and amid surging cases of the coronavirus in the United States and strong evidence on the effectiveness of masks in curbing transmission, according to CDC officials.

The recommendations fall short of what transportation industry leaders and unions had sought, and come long after evidence in favor of mask-wearing was well established.

The CDC had previously drafted an order under the agency’s quarantine powers that would have required all passengers and employees to wear masks on all forms of public transportation, according to a CDC official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Such orders typically carry penalties. The order was blocked by the White House, the official said. It was first reported by the New York Times.

Monday’s recommendation followed a request from Vice President Pence to CDC Director Robert Redfield, CDC officials said. Although the agency already recommends the use of face masks generally, the new language is more strongly worded and gives the airline industry more cover to press for mask-wearing, one CDC official said.

October 19, 2020 at 6:34 PM EDT
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The pandemic is rewriting the rules of science. But at what cost?

By Frances Stead Sellers

Soon after the novel coronavirus began circulating on the West Coast, a team of researchers began an urgent quest to find out how the pathogen might affect pregnant women, beginning their work before they had figured out how to pay for it. Concerned that it might take months to go through the grant-application process, with no guarantee of success, the team at the University of California at San Francisco turned to philanthropy and crowdfunding.

Stephanie Gaw, one of the co-principal investigators, said she was astonished by the response.

“Within a week, we had raised $25,000,” she said. “In a month, $70,000.”

The pandemic has upended norms of the scientific process, from the way studies are funded through the publication of findings. Researchers have been presenting their results online or sending them directly to media outlets rather than awaiting publication in prestigious academic journals. And the stodgy process of peer review has evolved into forthright — and sometimes acrimonious — assessments in the unbridled atmosphere of the Internet.

October 19, 2020 at 5:45 PM EDT
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Wisconsin governor’s contested order restricting public gatherings back in effect after court ruling

By Kim Bellware

An executive order by Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) that limits the size of public gatherings and indoor capacity at bars and restaurants is back in effect Monday after a judge rejected an effort to block the order from being enforced.

Amid a steady rise in new infections in Wisconsin, Evers’s Oct. 6 order scaled back the capacity for public gatherings to 25 percent, including at bars and restaurants; the order lasts until Nov. 6 but could be extended.

The Tavern League of Wisconsin, a trade group representing the state’s influential tavern industry, opposed Evers’s order on bureaucratic and business grounds: It argued that such restrictions should come from a formal rulemaking process and said limiting bars and restaurants to 25 percent capacity would devastate an already struggling network of small businesses that have been laid low by the pandemic.

Barron County appellate Judge James Babler said an earlier Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling left boundaries over certain executive powers murky and noted that the plaintiffs could not demonstrate harm by Evers’s order because they had not been adhering to it in the first place.

In a statement, TLW President Chris Marsicano said the group was disappointed with the ruling, which he said would have a “catastrophic” effect on small businesses in the state. Evers, meanwhile, praised the ruling as critically important in slowing the spread of the virus, which has been rising steadily in the state since September.

On Monday, Wisconsin’s weekly average for new single-day cases was 3,228, a more than 280 percent increase compared to last Monday’s rolling average.

October 19, 2020 at 5:11 PM EDT
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New Jersey governor advises residents not to travel

By Ruby Mellen

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy advised residents not to leave the state as officials recorded a worrying spike in confirmed coronavirus cases over the weekend.

“My advice is not to travel, frankly,” Murphy (D) said during a routine virus briefing.

The messaging comes as the state announced more than 2,200 new confirmed cases over the weekend. Recent data has also brought the state’s positive test rate to more than 10 percent over a seven-day rolling average. That means New Jersey technically qualifies for the quarantine regulations it has jointly imposed with New York and Connecticut.

It was unclear from Murphy’s news conference whether New Jersey would be added to the shared list, an updated version of which is scheduled to be released Tuesday.

Murphy said interstate commuters could continue going to work, without quarantining. He added that New Jersey was open in its considerations of what restrictions to impose to stem the infection.

“Everything remains on the table,” Murphy said.

October 19, 2020 at 4:33 PM EDT
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Dow drops 400 points as uncertainty looms over coronavirus aid package

By Hamza Shaban

Stocks fell on Monday as the prospects dimmed for a last-ditch effort between the White House and Congress to negotiate a coronavirus relief deal.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped sharply by the closing bell, giving up 408.8 points, or 1.43 percent.

The losses arrived as a deadline set by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on a potential rescue package inched closer. Over the weekend, Pelosi said that a deal on coronavirus aid must be struck by Tuesday for Congress to pass legislation before Election Day. But losses on Wall Street accelerated in the afternoon as the closing bell approached and a breakthrough in Washington never materialized.

The S&P 500 index fell by 56.9 points, or 1.63 percent, at the end of the trading day, while the tech heavy-Nasdaq lost 192.7 points, or 1.65 percent.

For months, investors had been anticipating another round of government relief, with the potential for hundreds of millions of dollars flowing to struggling households and businesses. But the talks over a deal have repeatedly advanced and stalled, even as officials at the Federal Reserve and other economics experts have said that the U.S. recovery depends on robust financial support from the federal government. With just one day until the deadline, investor sentiment appeared to sour.

Investors also took in some positive economic developments on the global stage. China reported on Monday that its economy grew by 4.9 percent in the period between July and September, compared to last year. But the financial update was tempered by the harsh reality of the contagion itself. The number of confirmed cases around the world surpassed 40 million for the first time. And many states are suffering a surge in new infections over the past seven days, including Texas, Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Even with Monday’s losses, the three major indexes are slated to record gains for the month of October.

October 19, 2020 at 3:33 PM EDT
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Trump mocks Biden for trusting scientists on coronavirus response

By Kim Bellware

President Trump leaned into one of the most persistent criticisms of his leadership during the pandemic — his lack of respect for scientific expertise — and attempted to use it as a cudgel against Democratic nominee Joe Biden during a Sunday campaign rally in Carson City, Nev., where he mocked the former vice president for believing scientists rather than dismissing them.

“He will surrender your future to the virus,” Trump said, adding that Biden wants to “lock down” the country. The president then adopted a mock-serious tone and said, “He’ll listen to the scientists.”

“If I listened totally to the scientists, we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression,” Trump added.

Throughout the pandemic, Trump has faced criticism for embracing conspiracy theories and unverified information about the coronavirus while at the same time sidelining and downplaying health and science experts whose advice conflicts with his insistence that the virus is less serious than the more than 220,000-person death toll indicates.

During his rally remarks, Trump pushed for states to fully reopen, despite the fact that new infections have been rising in recent weeks, including in key battleground states such as Wisconsin and Florida. Two days before Trump’s rally in Nevada, the number of single-day new infections throughout the United States surpassed 64,000 two days in a row for the first time since July.