“U.S. coronavirus cases double in just six weeks, to 4 million”, The Washington Post

By John WagnerKim BellwareBrittany ShammasLateshia BeachumHannah DenhamAdam TaylorMarisa IatiHannah Knowles and Meryl Kornfield, July 23 , 2020

[This is part of the updated coverage by The Washington Post provided to readers free of charge.]

The United States has reached a grim milestone of 4 million coronavirus cases, doubling the total number of infections in just six weeks as deaths and hospitalizations continue a sharp rise in many states.

Positivity rates are at alarming levels in numerous states, hospitalizations are soaring, and for the third straight day on Thursday, more than 1,000 new coronavirus deaths were reported, according to Washington Post tracking. The rolling seven-day average of infections has doubled in less than a month, reaching more than 66,000 new cases per day Wednesday. The U.S. death toll now exceeds 141,000.

Here are some significant developments:

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8:33 p.m.

Israel’s Netanyahu was a pandemic hero — until a second wave plunged him into crisis

JERUSALEM — In May, Benjamin Netanyahu was riding high. He had just started his fifth term as Israel’s prime minister after surviving a string of near-death elections, had co-opted his main rival into a unity government and was enjoying a surge in popularity after successfully leading the country through the initial onslaught of the coronavirus.

Just two months later, with Israel suffering a second wave of infections, the prime minister finds himself enduring a hot summer of collapsing poll numbers, swelling protests and dissenting lawmakers. Even some of Netanyahu’s fellow Likud party members have challenged his handling of the resurgence, a break in the ranks rare for Israel’s longest-serving leader.

Netanyahu’s quick turn from dominance to defense is a further illustration of the pandemic’s power to upend governments and humble highflying leaders — as it has in the United States, where surging infections have imperiled the reelection of President Trump.

Read more here.

By Steve Hendrix
8:01 p.m.

WHO leader says Pompeo criticism is ‘untrue and unacceptable’

World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday criticized remarks reportedly made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a visit to London this week.

“The comments are untrue and unacceptable and without any foundation for that matter,” Tedros said at a news briefing from Geneva.

Pompeo had visited the British capital this week, where he met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and made public remarks that focused on China.

During a public appearance with Raab, Pompeo mentioned the World Health Organization only in passing. “You can’t engage in coverups and co-opt international institutions like the World Health Organization,” the U.S. diplomat said, referring to alleged Chinese behavior.

However, at a closed meeting earlier in the day, hosted by the Henry Jackson Society think tank and attended by British lawmakers, British media reported that Pompeo criticized the WHO directly.

Pompeo said the WHO was “political, not a science-based organization” and accused Tedros of being too close to Beijing, the Guardian reported.

Tedros said Thursday that Pompeo’s criticisms were only a distraction from efforts to save lives. “One of the greatest threats we face continues to be the polarization of the pandemic,” he said.

“I am appealing again to all nations to work together,” Tedros added. “Politics and partisanship have made things worse.”

Maria Van Kerkhove, a U.S. infectious-diseases expert at the WHO, said that, as an American, she felt compelled to speak up in support of Tedros.

“I see firsthand every day the work that Dr. Tedros does,” Van Kerkhove said.

“Many of us have worked seven days a week, 20 hours a day, for the last seven months,” said Mike Ryan, WHO emergencies chief. “Everything we think, everything we do, is focused on trying to save lives.”

By Adam Taylor
7:31 p.m.

Workers are getting laid off anew as PPP runs out

The phone stopped ringing at the Nelsons’ auto-body shop in Broomfield, Colo., back in March.

The normal four-to-six-week wait for customers looking to have dents or bumps fixed on their cars disappeared, leaving the shop silent. Tammy Nelson and her husband, Scott, applied in April for a loan from the Payment Protection Program — the federal government’s chaotic $660 billion aid program meant to help businesses and their workers stay afloat.

But the PPP loan had only delayed the inevitable — the phone didn’t start ringing again amid the surging pandemic. Nelson laid off her five employees at the end of June, including herself and her husband. They are among the first wave of PPP layoffs happening across the country, as the loan program begins to expire.

Read more here.

By Eli Rosenberg
7:02 p.m.

If you won’t wear a mask, some airlines say you can’t fly

U.S. airlines this week unveiled stricter rules for face coverings, with at least two, American and Southwest, saying they will no longer carry passengers who refuse to wear masks.

Under new rules announced by American, Delta, Southwest and United, only children younger than 2 will be permitted to fly without a mask. Delta customers may travel without face coverings but would have to undergo a special screening that the carrier warned could take more than an hour. United said it may deny boarding to travelers who refuse to wear a mask, adding that those with special medical conditions should contact the airline before their flight.

In rolling out stricter policies, airline executives cited passenger surveys in which travelers voiced support for better enforcement of mask mandates.

Read more here.

By Lori Aratani and Ian Duncan
6:34 p.m.

New CDC guidance on schools written by White House officials, not health experts

President Trump sees school issues as key to reelection, and after paying almost no attention to education for most of his presidency, he’s pushing them in negotiations over the next pandemic relief bill.

But beyond funding, the White House is looking for other ways to pressure schools to reopen. For weeks, Trump has promised new guidance would be issued by the Centers for Disease and Prevention, which he thinks has been too “tough.”

On Thursday the CDC released several new documents that emphasize the benefits of school, in line with Trump’s messaging. Some of the guidance was written by White House officials rather than experts at the CDC, people familiar with the process said. The new guidelines for school administrators mention precautions outlined in previous documents but appear to drop specific reference to keeping students six feet apart — something many schools find almost impossible to do if they are fully reopened.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has taken a more nuanced tack. Last week, he released a plan that urged caution, saying that each school district should make decisions based on local conditions and that schools in areas with high infection rates should not reopen too soon.

“Donald Trump’s disastrous mismanagement of the coronavirus response is the top roadblock stopping schools from re-opening,” said Biden spokesman Andrew Bates.

Read more here.

By Laura Meckler, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey
5:59 p.m.

Walmart customer arrested after brandishing gun during mask argument

A Florida man has been charged with a felony after pointing a gun at another Walmart customer who told him he should be wearing a mask, authorities said.

Vincent Scavetta, 28, faces charges of aggravated assault with a firearm and improper exhibition of a firearm, according to an arrest report from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. He was arrested after identifying himself as the man who pulled a gun in surveillance footage from the July 12 incident, which was shared widely by news outlets.

“Scavetta acknowledged that the video the media had been broadcasting showed Scavetta in a very poor light,” the arrest report said.

The incident unfolded at a Walmart in Palm Beach County, where masks are required in stores. Scavetta told police he had removed his mask after rain soaked it while he was walking through the parking lot. Inside the store, he was confronted over his lack of a mask by a man named Christopher Estrada, who was shopping with his young daughter. Scavetta began cursing at the man.

Things escalated, with a witness later telling police that Scavetta had yelled, “You don’t know what I’ve got.” At some point, Estrada wielded an umbrella. Scavetta said it hit him in the forehead and he was afraid for his life.

In an interview with police, he admitted pointing a gun at Estrada, whose daughter appeared frightened and tried to pull her father away. Scavetta said he “felt bad” for getting out his gun with the young girl present.

Estrada told police he didn’t want to pursue charges against Scavetta, in part because he had no prior criminal record. But he said “that guy should not have a [concealed-carry] license” and asked for him to be evaluated.

Police told Scavetta’s lawyer that he probably would not be criminally charged if he gave up his concealed-carry license. He declined, and prosecutors moved forward with charges.

By Brittany Shammas
5:28 p.m.

Miami and Miami-Dade County mayors urge residents to consider wearing masks at home

A health-care worker gives a thumbs up after people used nasal swabs for a self-administered test at a coronavirus testing site at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium in Miami on Thursday.
A health-care worker gives a thumbs up after people used nasal swabs for a self-administered test at a coronavirus testing site at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium in Miami on Thursday. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The mayors of the city of Miami and the county where it’s located suggested separately on Thursday that residents consider wearing masks in their own homes to thwart the spread of the coronavirus among family members.

Although Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (R) said the city’s number of daily cases has fallen from about 125 at its high point to 20 recently, the virus continues to transmit rapidly within households.

“I would tell our residents — and this is voluntary, this is not something that we can mandate — that they should consider, particularly if they have a multigenerational household, wearing masks indoors at times with their multigenerational residents and also respecting social distance when they’re at home,” Suarez said at a news conference.

At his own news conference, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez (R) urged people to protect themselves from their own family members, who may be carrying the virus without feeling sick.

A family member becoming ill can be particularly dangerous for the older residents of multigenerational households, which Gimenez said in a news release are common in Miami and its surrounding areas.

“Because we have such a high level of positivity rate here in Miami-Dade, you also need to start thinking about maintaining a distance also from your loved ones for a while,” Gimenez said at the news conference. “Yes, I know It’s a sacrifice, but do so because, again, just because it’s your son or your daughter or your cousin or your mother or your father, doesn’t mean they don’t have covid.”

Miami-Dade County has been among the hardest-hit counties in Florida, one of the states that has been most impacted in recent weeks. The seven-day average of new daily cases in Miami-Dade has hovered around 2,800 in the past few days as new infections have begun to level off after rising rapidly, according to Washington Post data.

The county’s average number of daily deaths has decreased slightly to 16, from 22 on this day last week. Hospitalizations continue to rise.

By Marisa Iati
4:56 p.m.

Fact Checker: DeVos’s claim that children are ‘stoppers’ of covid-19

“More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don’t get it and transmit it themselves, so we should be in a posture of — the default should be getting back to school kids in person, in the classroom.”

— Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, in an interview on “The Conservative Circus” (iHeart radio), July 16, 2020

Our eyes popped out when we first heard this comment by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, as she pressed the administration’s case for reopening schools in the fall with in-person classes.

Could children actually be “stoppers” of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus? That would be great news — if true. The interruption of school threatens to create a learning deficit — and many parents may find it difficult to return to work if children are not in classes.

Let’s examine DeVos’s evidence that children do not transmit the coronavirus, as it appears to be influencing administration policy.

Read more here.

By Glenn Kessler
4:27 p.m.

White House, GOP kill payroll tax cut but flounder over broader coronavirus bill

Senate Republicans killed President Trump’s payroll tax cut proposal on Thursday but failed to reach agreement with the White House on a broader coronavirus relief bill.

This set off a frantic scramble with competing paths forward, as administration officials floated a piecemeal approach but encountered pushback from both parties, and the entire effort appeared to teeter chaotically on the brink of failure.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had planned to roll out a $1 trillion GOP bill Thursday morning but that was canceled in a head-spinning series of events.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows emerged from a meeting with McConnell to insist there was “fundamental agreement” on the overall deal — but simultaneously suggested breaking up the effort into smaller pieces of legislation and trying to move forward on an extension of enhanced unemployment benefits that are about to expire.

Read more here.

By Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim and Jeff Stein
3:15 p.m.

Marine in helicopter squadron that transports the president has tested positive for coronavirus, officials say

A Marine assigned to the helicopter squadron in which the president and other top government leaders travel has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, officials say, in the latest instance of the virus potentially threatening the White House.

The service member was “on detachment” in Bedminster, N.J., where Trump is traveling this weekend, Capt. Joseph Butterfield, a Marine Corps spokesman, said in a statement, adding that the test is not expected to affect Trump’s trip.

“Out of an abundance of caution, Marines who may have had contact with the infected Marine have been removed from the detachment,” Butterfield said. “The infected Marine was never in direct contact with the president’s helicopter, Marine One.”

According to Butterfield, the Marine — who is asymptomatic — was tested Tuesday and received the results Thursday. Butterfield said that “close contact tracing is being performed in coordination with the White House Medical Unit.”

The squadron, Marine Helicopter Squadron One, does 80 to 100 “random and targeted” coronavirus tests each week, he added.

Previously, several White House staff members and others in the president’s circle have tested positive for the coronavirus. Temperature checks and rapid testing are required for certain White House access and access to Trump.

Most recently, a cafeteria worker in the White House complex tested positive this week, prompting the dining facility to close because of exposure concerns.

Meryl Kornfield contributed to this report.

By Hannah Knowles
2:53 p.m.

Trump cancels Jacksonville part of Republican National Convention

Facing high numbers of covid-19 cases in Florida and uncertainty on how to conduct a safe gathering, President Trump announced Thursday that he is canceling the Jacksonville part of the Republican nominating convention.

“It’s just not the right time,” he said.

Trump had pushed ahead with convention plans despite warnings from various quarters, but bowed Thursday to the overwhelming obstacles of holding a mass gathering during a pandemic.

Read more here.

By Colby Itkowitz
2:30 p.m.

Nationals star Juan Soto tests positive for coronavirus ahead of season opener

Nationals outfielder Juan Soto slides in ahead of a tag by Orioles catcher Austin Wynns while scoring on a double by Howie Kendrick during an exhibition game at Camden Yards on Monday.
Nationals outfielder Juan Soto slides in ahead of a tag by Orioles catcher Austin Wynns while scoring on a double by Howie Kendrick during an exhibition game at Camden Yards on Monday. (Julio Cortez/AP)

Juan Soto has tested positive for the coronavirus and will miss the start of the season, Washington Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said Thursday afternoon.

Soto was last tested Tuesday and has not had any symptoms in the time since, according to two people with knowledge of his condition. The Nationals revealed his status less than five hours before scheduled first pitch against the New York Yankees.

Soto, 21, is now asymptomatic and will have to receive back-to-back negative test results before he can return to play, according to MLB’s protocol. Rizzo told reporters Thursday that no other players or coaches will have to quarantine after the Nationals conducted thorough contact tracing. Soto’s positive test was first reported by ESPN.

Read more here.

By Jesse Dougherty
2:05 p.m.

Dow tumbles 350 points, dragged down by disappointing jobs data, big tech

U.S. stocks fell sharply Thursday as disappointing jobs data raised fears that the economic recovery would stall out.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 353 points, or 1.3 percent, to close at 26,652.33. The broad Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index shed over 40 points, or 1.2 percent, to settle at 3,235.66. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite slid nearly 245 points, or 2.3 percent, to end at 10,461.42.

Roughly 1.4 million Americans filed new claims for unemployment insurance last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That marked the first week-over-week increase since March and comes as the number of U.S. coronavirus cases barreled past 4 million and hospitalization and death numbers continue to rise.

Big tech took a beating, with Microsoft sliding 4.4 percent despite better-than-expected quarterly results. Meanwhile, Facebook tumbled 3.0 percent, Amazon fell 3.7 percent, Apple skidded 4.6 percent and Google parent Alphabet shed 3.4 percent. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

By Hannah Denham
1:46 p.m.

U.S. coronavirus cases surpass 4 million, signaling growth of 1 million in roughly two weeks

The coronavirus case total in the United States surpassed 4 million on Thursday, 15 days after crossing the 3 million mark and more than six months after the country reported its first infection.

That the nation passed its next million-cases mark in just about two weeks indicates the accelerating pace of the virus’s spread. Three and a half months passed between the identification of the country’s first case, on Jan. 15, and the passing of 1 million cases on April 28, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.

The second million infections took 44 days, and the nation totaled 3 million cases 27 days after that, on July 8. The 15 days in which the United States has tallied its most recent million infections represent roughly half the amount of time the country took to report the previous million.

The 4 million mark comes as the nation has logged some of its highest daily infection totals of the pandemic in the past few days and as death numbers have continued to tick upward nationwide. As of Thursday afternoon, the country had reported 67,858 new infections, with several states not yet counted. New daily hospitalizations across the country have been increasing since late June.

By Marisa Iati and Jacqueline Dupree
1:36 p.m.

Brazil reports record infections as coronavirus spreads to all regions

Military firefighters in Brazil's Minas Gerais state, wearing protective gear, demonstrate the use of an isolation stretcher, or bubble stretcher, to transport covid-19 patients at Pampulha Airport in Belo Horizonte on July 22. (Douglas Magno/AFP/Getty Images)
Military firefighters in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state, wearing protective gear, demonstrate the use of an isolation stretcher, or bubble stretcher, to transport covid-19 patients at Pampulha Airport in Belo Horizonte on July 22. (Douglas Magno/AFP/Getty Images)

RIO DE JANEIRO — There was a time, weeks ago, when Carlos Renan dos Santos Evaldt allowed himself to hope. Much of Brazil was in varying states of chaos as the coronavirus devastated the country’s largest cities. But it had largely spared the wealthier, more developed south.

Maybe the region’s preventive measures had succeeded, Evaldt thought. Maybe the nightmare unfolding elsewhere wouldn’t happen in Porto Alegre, which in May had the lowest transmission rate of any large Brazilian city.

But after a surge in cases and deaths, his city is considering imposing a lockdown. The pockets of Brazil that had been largely unscathed by the virus — the south, the vast central states — have been engulfed by it. And the hope Evaldt once entertained feels to him now like a foolish indulgence.

“People thought what happened elsewhere wouldn’t happen here, that it couldn’t happen here,” said Evaldt, a Porto Alegre banker. “Now it is very clear that a safe place doesn’t exist. No one is safe.”

The sheer relentlessness of the surge here underscores Brazil’s failure to quell the world’s second-worst coronavirus outbreak. On Wednesday, Latin America’s largest country posted a record 67,860 new cases, bringing the total infected to 2.2 million, with nearly 83,000 dead. Both counts are second only to the United States.

Read more here.

By Terrence McCoy
12:53 p.m.

The pandemic has damaged the appeal of studying in the United States for some international students

Students walk on the Stanford University campus in early March. (Ben Margot/AP)
Students walk on the Stanford University campus in early March. (Ben Margot/AP)

Sehr Taneja, a 24-year-old master’s degree student at Harvard Kennedy School, had always seen the United States as “the gold standard” for education. But now she’s more concerned about contracting covid-19 or facing deportation than about the rigor of her course load.

Back home in India after leaving Boston in March, she’s deciding whether to defer her second year.

“It just became a question of: Do I trust the government?” she said. “I don’t think they have the best interests of international students in their hearts.”

Such worries over health care, immigration and visa status are drivers behind an expected drop in enrollment among international students at U.S. institutions, and have struck a blow to the standing of the United States as a coveted destination for overseas study, according to initial data gathered by organizations in the global education sector.

Colleges and universities in the United States have long relied on and fostered an elevated reputation among students from around the world. But the coronavirus pandemic has thrown that model into question, while countries including Canada and the United Kingdom continue to gain a competitive edge.

Read more here.

By Miriam Berger
11:43 a.m.

Can you get coronavirus twice? Doctors are unsure even as anecdotal reports mount.

When Sophie Cunningham, a guard for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, returned to training last week after a bout with covid-19, she made an announcement that startled fans. She said she believed she had been infected twice — once in March and then again in June or July.

“They said you can only get it once, but I’ve had it twice,” she told reporters Thursday. “Hopefully, I’m done with it.”

As the United States marks its sixth month since the arrival of the virus, Cunningham’s story is among a growing number of reports of people getting covid-19, recovering and then falling sick again — assertions, that if proved, could complicate efforts to make a long-lasting vaccine, or to achieve herd immunity where most of the population has become immune to the virus.

Read more here.

By Carolyn Y. Johnson and Ariana Eunjung Cha
11:22 a.m.

CBP, ICE and TSA employees join class-action lawsuit against Trump administration for coronavirus hazard pay

Employees of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration are among the latest federal employees suing the Trump administration for hazard pay they claim they’re entitled to for being exposed to the novel coronavirus on the job.

Lawyers representing the individual employees on Wednesday amended the class-action lawsuit to add new plaintiffs from at least nine federal agencies, including parts of the Department of Homeland Security and the Defense Department.

The lawsuit, first filed in federal claims court in March, was initially brought by federal employees in roles like a Bureau of Prisons supervisor, a commodity grader with the Agriculture Department and a radiographer with Department of Veterans Affairs.

The employees claim that under a federal labor statute, they’re entitled to hazard pay equal to at least 25 percent of their wages as they were exposed to “hazardous working conditions through the performance of their assigned duties and that the hazardous duty had not been taken into account in the classification of their position.” The lawsuit argues the coronavirus is a “virulent biological” that also qualifies them for environmental pay.

“This is hitting the federal workforce harder and harder. The federal government doesn’t seem to have learned from mistakes in the past or improved at all to save people’s lives,” attorney Heidi Burakiewicz, who is representing the plaintiffs, told The Washington Post on Thursday.

The White House deferred to the Justice Department for comment, which did not immediately respond.

It’s unclear how many federal employees have become infected or died because of the coronavirus, though attorneys for the plaintiffs say “hundreds” have died, while the number of infected cases is in the thousands. Prisons, which have become major vectors for the U.S. outbreak, report numbers via the Bureau of Prisons, though Burakiewicz challenged their accuracy because testing is not consistent or widespread throughout all facilities.

As of Wednesday, 4,247 federal inmates and 385 Prisons Bureau staff had tested positive, according to the bureau; one bureau employee has died.

By Kim Bellware
10:51 a.m.

Fox Sports will use virtual fans in the stands for its MLB telecasts

Viewers who tune into Fox and Fox Sports 1 for the first Major League Baseball telecasts Saturday will be in for a bit of a surprise. The stadiums will be filled with yelling, cheering, booing fans who may even resurrect the wave.

The fans will not, however, be real.

Fox, bless its heart, is trying something different, using computer-generated spectators rather than cardboard cutouts of fans or empty seats covered with banners at a time when fans are prohibited from attending events because of the coronavirus pandemic. Wrigley Field, Dodger Stadium, Petco Park and Nationals Park will be jammed with fans for the foreseeable future, even if it looks, well, weird in the video Fox shared.

Read more here.

By Cindy Boren
10:08 a.m.

Banks face a unique coronavirus problem: Now everyone is wearing a mask

Face masks are mandatory at Walmart, Target and a growing number of other retailers. President Trump, who long resisted being photographed in a mask, now encourages the public to wear them and said he carries one with him.

But for U.S. banks, the widespread adoption of masks has been trickier. The small pieces of cloth that public health officials consider one of the best defenses against the novel coronavirus could double as a handy disguise for would-be bank robbers, they say.

Face-mask requirements “create the very real risk of increases in bank robberies,” a top financial regulator said recently.

Banks generally prohibit customers entering their branches from wearing items that could shield their identities. No hoodies or sunglasses. Masks have been a big no-no.

Read more here.

By Renae Merle
9:43 a.m.

3 out of 4 Americans support face-covering requirements, including majority of Republicans

Three-quarters of Americans, including nearly 60 percent of Republicans, favor requiring face coverings in public, a new poll has found.

The survey of 1,057 adults in the United States, conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, also showed that about 2 in 3 Americans disapprove of President Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

Democrats overwhelmingly favor mask mandates, at 89 percent. The majority of Republicans — 59 percent — also support them. The Associated Press noted that the poll was conducted before Trump began to embrace face coverings as “patriotic.”

Ninety-five percent of Democrats and 75 percent of Republicans say they wear face coverings when leaving home. Overall, more Americans — 86 percent — are wearing masks compared with in May, when 73 percent were doing so.

Concern over the virus has also ticked up. Eight in 10 Americans are at least somewhat worried they will become infected with the coronavirus, compared with about 7 in 10 in June.

By Brittany Shammas
9:26 a.m.

AMC Theatres pushes back reopening for U.S. movie theaters, again

AMC Theatres is pushing back its reopening date to the second half of August, the world’s biggest movie theater chain said in a Thursday news release.

Why? There are no new movies to show.

“This new timing reflects currently expected release dates for much anticipated blockbusters like Warner Bros.’ ‘Tenet’ and Disney’s ‘Mulan,’ as well as release dates for several other new movies coming to AMC’s big screens,” the company said in the release.

AMC has already postponed its phased reopening in the United States twice, but summer blockbusters are delayed by the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus and state regulations pulling back on allowing large gatherings.

Warner Bros. delayed the Aug. 12 release date for “Tenet” Monday, now tentatively set for September. Disney hasn’t yet changed the Aug. 21 release date for its live-action reboot of “Mulan.”

AMC said in the release that one-third of its theaters in Europe and the Middle East have already opened and are operating normally. The Kansas-based company operates 1,000 theaters and 11,000 screens worldwide.

By Hannah Denham
9:20 a.m.

Senators push for more data on coronavirus in pregnant women

A group of 15 Democratic senators is pushing the Trump administration to more thoroughly track how the coronavirus affects pregnant women after new findings suggest they may be particularly vulnerable to the virus.

In a letter first shared with the 19th, a media outlet focused on women, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Patty Murray call on the Department of Health and Human Services to collect more information on pregnant women who contract covid-19, including whether they had preexisting conditions that might exacerbate the virus and the severity of their symptoms.

They also argue for “expanding surveillance efforts, improving public health communication, ensuring the proper inclusion of pregnant people in clinical trials for covid-19 therapeutic and vaccine candidates, and addressing racial disparities in health care outcomes related to both covid-19 and maternal health.”

Both senators have previously called on the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration to make sure covid-19 treatments and vaccines are tested for pregnant women. So far, none of the makers of federally backed vaccine candidates have indicated they will test their products in pregnant women.

Data published last month by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested pregnant women may be more likely to develop complications from the virus and to require intensive care and intubation. The data — which came after the agency had for months suggested pregnant women were no more vulnerable than the general population — did not find an increased mortality risk.

But a CDC Web page cautions “much remains unknown” about how the virus affects pregnant women. The limited data has hampered efforts to understand the risks to pregnant women, medical experts have said. That makes it harder to assess when to include them in vaccine trials, or how to approach disease prevention.

By Shefali Luthra | The 19th
8:54 a.m.

The Tokyo Olympics were supposed to open Friday. Instead, the city is facing a spike in coronavirus cases.

If all had gone according to plan, Tokyo would awake tomorrow to the opening day of the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Instead, the city is grappling with a spike in coronavirus infections, with 366 new cases reported Thursday, a daily record.

The rescheduled Summer Games are set for a year from Thursday. Japan marked the moment with a 15-minute ceremony held in Tokyo’s newly built Olympic Stadium, absent an audience.

The 68,000-seat arena cost $1.4 billion. But a poll this week by Japan’s Kyodo News Agency found that fewer than one in four people in Japan even want to host the games anymore. One-third of respondents said the games should be canceled, while 36 percent expressed interest in postponing them for more than a year.

“If current situation continues, we couldn’t” host, Tokyo Olympics organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori said Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.

Read more here.

By Miriam Berger
8:24 a.m.

Roughly 20 cases among teens investigated for link to New Jersey house party

Health officials in Middletown, N.J., are investigating an outbreak among a cluster of teens for possible links to a house party nearly two weeks ago.

An estimated 20 teens ages 15 to 19 have tested positive, the Middletown Township Department of Health and Social Services said in a statement Wednesday. It urged parents whose children may have attended a gathering or a group activity or participated in sports to get tested and self-quarantine.

New Jersey faced a growing level of infections and hit a peak in April, around the same time that the tri-state area — which includes Connecticut and New York — reached the apex of its outbreaks. Though infections and hospitalizations have dropped in the months since, health officials nationwide have flagged group gatherings such as house parties as a concern.

In California, where cases were stable for months before surging — the state’s total number of cases just surpassed New York — health officials cited social gatherings and lax mask-wearing practices as factors for recent instances of community spread.

By Kim Bellware
8:03 a.m.

Parents need option of in-class instruction for their children, Florida governor says

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Thursday continued to make the case for students to return to classrooms in the fall, despite the state’s teachers union suing over an order forcing schools to fully reopen.

During an appearance on “Fox & Friends,” the governor said that schoolchildren are “by far at the least risk for coronavirus, thankfully.”

“We also know they play the smallest role by far in transmission of the virus,” DeSantis continued. “And yet they’ve really been asked to shoulder the brunt of our control measures.”

His comments echoed those of Trump, who said Wednesday he would be comfortable sending his school-age son and grandchildren back to school, citing some evidence that young children transmit the coronavirus less easily.

The role children play in spreading the virus is still being studied, with experts saying that results are not definitive. A South Korean study found that children over the age of 10 were as likely to transmit the virus as adults, while those under 10 were less likely to spread it.

Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said Wednesday on Fox News that the United States is launching a study of its own, saying that the data “really needs to be confirmed here.”

DeSantis said Thursday that the “evidence-based decision” would be for parents to have the option of in-class instruction for their children. He said those who are not comfortable with sending their children back to school can continue distance learning.

“We want to do what parents want,” he said. “But we have a lot of parents that think that their kids will fall behind if they’re not able to get back inside the classroom.”

By Brittany Shammas
8:02 a.m.

American, Southwest airlines post huge losses in second quarter

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines posted big quarterly losses between April and July in their earnings reports released Thursday, projecting that travel demand will not rebound anytime soon.

In American’s second quarter, revenue dropped more than 86 percent to just $1.6 billion, from nearly $12 billion a year ago, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The company posted a net loss of nearly $2.1 billion, attributing it to stay-at-home orders, border closures and travel restrictions.

“As a result, we have experienced an unprecedented decline in the demand for air travel, which has resulted in a material deterioration in our revenues,” the company said in the earnings report. “While the length and severity of the reduction in demand due to covid-19 is uncertain, we expect our results of operations for the remainder of 2020 to be severely impacted.”

American reported a loss in earnings per diluted share of $4.82.

Southwest Airlines posted revenue of $1 billion in its second quarter, an almost 83 percent dip compared with a year ago. The company also posted a net loss of $915 million, with a $1.63 net loss per diluted share.

“As our Nation continues to battle the covid-19 pandemic, demand for air travel remains weak,” Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly said. “We were encouraged by improvements in May and June leisure passenger traffic trends, compared with March and April; however, the improving trends in revenue and bookings have recently stalled in July with the rise in covid-19 cases.”

Kelly added that Southwest expects demand for air travel to remain low until a vaccine or treatment for the coronavirus is made widely available.

By Hannah Denham
7:26 a.m.

Ann Taylor parent company files for bankruptcy

Ascena Retail Group, the conglomerate behind women’s apparel brands Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant and Catherines, filed for bankruptcy Thursday and said it would close some of its 2,800 stores after years of declining sales and ballooning debt.

The company, founded as Dressbarn in 1962, is one of the country’s largest sellers of women’s clothing. But in recent years, its lineup of no-frills workwear and other basics have lost ground to a growing crop of competitors, including TJ Maxx and Everlane. Ascena said it will close all of its Catherines stores, as well as a “significant” number of locations of Justice, its brand for girls and preteens.

It’s the latest retail casualty of the coronavirus pandemic, following Brooks Brothers, J.C. Penney, J.Crew and Neiman Marcus into bankruptcy court. Ascena temporarily shuttered all of its stores and furloughed more than 90 percent of its employees in mid-March, as stay-at-home orders took effect. To stay afloat, it borrowed $230 million, canceled merchandise orders and stopped paying rent.

Read more here.

By Abha Bhattarai
7:01 a.m.

Peru’s president apologizes to grieving woman who ran after his motorcade, admits death toll is undercounted

Peru has struggled to contain the coronavirus and is the sixth worst-hit country in the world. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)
Peru has struggled to contain the coronavirus and is the sixth worst-hit country in the world. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Peru’s president visited one of the main hospitals in the city of Arequipa on Sunday — but as his motorcade pulled away, one woman, weeping as she ran, chased after his vehicle, pleading with him to help coronavirus patients being failed by the government and the nation’s buckling health-care system.

The woman, identified as 33-year-old Celia Capira, was recorded waving her arms and screaming over the conditions faced by those suffering from the infection, including her husband, who was forced to wait five days for a bed. He later died in the hospital, leaving Capira and their three children behind.

“Mr. President, you need to go to the tent!” Capira shrieked in the footage, as she urges others in the crowd to prevent the leader from leaving. “Don’t let him go,” she cried.

Martín Vizcarra has since apologized to Capira, stating he did not hear her sobs and shouts as she desperately pursued him.

Despite locking down the country on March 16, Peru has struggled to contain the virus and is the sixth worst-hit country in the world with at least 366,550 confirmed cases and an estimated 13,767 deaths — although many believe that the mortality rate is much higher.

Vizcarra, who has been in office since 2018, appeared to address skepticism regarding the data on Wednesday, saying that a recount had found more deaths and that past figures had been inaccurate and undercounted.

Experts claim that Peru’s fragile health-care system and its staff were not prepared for the scale and severity of the outbreak, with patients including Capira’s husband waiting days for beds and running out of oxygen supplies.

Banks and markets have been linked to the large-scale outbreak in the country along with overcrowded living conditions among poor households.

By Jennifer Hassan
6:58 a.m.

3-year-old exiled from Israel by coronavirus travel restrictions returns to family after a half-year stuck abroad

A 3-year-old Israeli girl who found herself stuck abroad amid coronavirus travel restrictions was finally able to return home this week after Israeli airline Israir stepped in to escort her back.

Melaniya Petrushanska had been visiting Ukraine with her grandmother in January as the novel coronavirus began to spread.

As both Israel and Ukraine imposed travel restrictions, it became clear that the toddler could end up trapped as flights were canceled.

Although Melaniya is an Israeli citizen, her grandmother is not and was thus barred from entry to Israel from early March onward.

Her parents would have faced a mandatory 14-day quarantine if they traveled to Ukraine and then a subsequent 14-day quarantine on their return to Israel.

Melaniya’s mother, Alona, told Reuters that she had to tell her daughter that she was stuck because “the planes are sick.”

Israir, which offers flights to international destinations including Ukraine, eventually agreed to allow the child to fly, providing an escort to ensure she made the journey safely.

Melaniya was greeted Monday by her tearful family at Ben- Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, Reuters reported. She is currently in a 14-day quarantine.

By Adam Taylor
6:27 a.m.

Japan promises to ease no-entry restrictions on foreign residents stranded abroad

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday that Japan would gradually begin allowing thousands of foreign residents who have been stranded outside Japan the right to return, provided they are tested for covid-19 before arrival.

But Abe did not indicate when the process would begin, even as Japan deals with a rise in confirmed cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The announcement followed months of increasingly desperate appeals from business leaders and foreign residents who have been banned from reentering the country since April — ostensibly because they could be carrying the coronavirus — at the same time as Japanese nationals living abroad have been allowed to return. To critics of the policy, it was another blow to “Brand Japan” and the country’s efforts to attract foreign investment and establish itself as a regional financial hub.

Read more here.

By Simon Denyer
6:26 a.m.

Analysis: Mask mandates are coming to more states. They were controversial in 1918, too.

The controversy over government mask mandates and how to enforce them was a huge issue more than a century ago, when the 1918 influenza pandemic killed 675,000 people in the United States and caused an estimated 50 million deaths worldwide, the Power Up newsletter reports. Those who did not comply with mask rules faced fines, public shaming or even prison.

Fines then, as now, could be steep: Penalties for mask violations in San Francisco ranged from $5 to $100 — which in today’s dollars is about $85 to more than $1,700. In West Palm Beach, Fla., violations of an ordinance that closed all public meetings and gatherings of any kind until the flu had passed carried a penalty of a “$100 fine or 30 days in jail. In 1918, $100 carried the purchasing power of $1,762 today,” according to the Palm Beach Post.

Not dissimilar to today’s culture war, the “mask slackers” in 1918 viewed mandates as a threat to personal freedom: “A week ago, I laughed at the idea of the mask,” local Red Cross Chairman John A. Britton told a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle at the time. “I wanted to be independent. I did not realize that the cost of such independence was the lives of others.” And viewing masks as a sign of weakness — as President Trump previously suggested — also appears to be a timeless attitude in particular among men, who in 1918 also needed more convincing than women to wear masks.

By Jacqueline Alemany and Brent Griffiths
5:56 a.m.

Miami increases penalties for not wearing a mask, including stiffer fines, jail time

As Miami looks to tamp down its surge of coronavirus cases, it’s increasing the penalties for not wearing a mask.

Miami-Dade County is an epicenter of the U.S. outbreak with a weekly average of roughly 2,800 new cases a day. Cities throughout the county, including Miami and Miami Beach, have implemented mask mandates in an effort to slow transmission rates — and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (R) said it’s effective.

“We’re seeing some early evidence that the mask in public rule is working, and we want to make sure it’s being adopted universally in our population,” Suarez said Thursday during an appearance on CNN’s “New Day.”

The penalties, which took effect Wednesday, include a $100 fine for first and second offenses, jumping to $500 after repeated notices and possible jail time. The previous efforts to enforce masks in public started with a warning and escalated to $50 fines, but as of Monday, the warnings are over.

Suarez said 39 Miami police officers are being dedicated to enforcement. Suarez suggested the money collected from the mask fines could be used to support small businesses that have suffered during pandemic-related closures and slowdowns.

By Kim Bellware
5:46 a.m.

Republicans scrap Trump’s demand for payroll tax cut as they cobble together draft coronavirus bill

Senate Republicans have cast aside one of President Trump’s key demands from a new coronavirus stimulus package, refusing to include a payroll tax cut in their opening offer to Democrats, which could be unveiled as soon as Thursday.

In recent days, Trump had insisted that he might not sign an eventual bill if it did not include the tax cut, but the plan was unpopular with Republicans. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday morning on CNBC that the White House still likes the idea and would pursue it in potential future legislation.

“It won’t be in the base bill,” Mnuchin conceded.

The evolving GOP plan, which Republicans have struggled to assemble, comes with coronavirus cases surging in much of the nation. The White House and GOP are under pressure to put together a public health and economic response as the November election nears. Republicans had hoped to present their plan on Wednesday, but they couldn’t reach agreement, and the situation remained extremely fluid on Thursday morning as well.

Read more here.

By Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim and Jeff Stein
5:28 a.m.

Analysis: Most parents prefer delaying in-person school for their kids, poll finds

The Trump administration is pressuring schools to reopen — but a poll shows most parents want schools to wait, The Health 202 newsletter reported.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll out Thursday found 60 percent of parents whose children normally attend school say it’s better to resume in-person classes later to make sure the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus is as low as possible. Most parents say they prefer delaying reopening even if it means their kids fall behind academically or they won’t be able to return to work. That compares with 34 percent of parents who say it’s better to open schools sooner so they can return to work and kids can return to in-person learning, even if it means there’s some risk students, teachers and school staff members could get sick.

President Trump escalated the debate by insisting he would be “comfortable” sending his son and grandchildren to school this fall. But scientists are still determining how the virus affects children and to what extent they can spread the virus to others.

The poll shows parents are concerned about an array of risks: 79 percent of parents said they are worried about teachers and staff members contracting the virus; 70 percent said they are worried about their children getting sick, and 69 percent said they were worried about themselves or a family member getting sick if schools reopen.

By Paulina Firozi
5:16 a.m.

Weary parents brace for more all-virtual school

The decision by D.C.-area school districts to have all-virtual classes this fall will shape the fate of more than 438,000 children and their families. (Mindy Bixby)
The decision by D.C.-area school districts to have all-virtual classes this fall will shape the fate of more than 438,000 children and their families. (Mindy Bixby)

Thousands of D.C.-area families who had pinned their hopes on school buildings reopening this fall must grapple with a stunning new reality: Their children will not step inside a classroom for who knows how many months to come.

The announcements came rapid-fire over the course of the day Tuesday: First, Fairfax County Public Schools and Loudoun County Public Schools in Northern Virginia said they were switching to all-virtual school in the fall. Hours later, Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland followed suit. The districts’ decisions will cumulatively shape the fate of more than 438,000 children and their families.

Read more here.

By Hannah Natanson
4:47 a.m.

Emirates airline offers travelers free medical coverage for coronavirus-related expenses

An Emirates plane taxis on the tarmac upon arriving at Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport as a passenger sits at terminal July 17.
An Emirates plane taxis on the tarmac upon arriving at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport as a passenger sits at terminal July 17. (Vahid Salemi/AP)

DUBAI — Dubai’s Media Council announced Thursday that the wealthy city’s airline, Emirates, would cover any costs incurred by passengers from the coronavirus or quarantine during their journey in an effort to boost travelers’ confidence.

Emirates customers can claim medical expenses of up to $173,000 and quarantine costs of $115 a day for 14 days if they test positive for the novel coronavirus during their travels. Previously, travelers who tested positive at Dubai’s airport had to quarantine for two weeks at their own expense.

“Emirates is proud to lead the way in boosting confidence for international travel,” Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, the airline’s chief executive, said in the statement. “We know people are yearning to fly as borders around the world gradually reopen, but they are seeking flexibility and assurances should something unforeseen happen during their travel.”

Previously, passengers arriving in Dubai had to carry proof of international health insurance.

The announcement came the same day that the national crisis authority of the United Arab Emirates, the union that includes Dubai, clarified that all arriving passengers must carry a negative coronavirus test result less than 96 hours old.

Dubai’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism and the extensive reach of its long-haul carrier. Before the pandemic, Dubai’s airport was the world’s busiest for international travel.

On July 7, tourists were welcomed back to Dubai even while the other six emirates in the federation remained closed to visitors. Emirates has been carrying out extensive publicity campaigns in hopes of wooing tourists back to Dubai, which is known for its extensive restaurants, skyscrapers and high-end shopping opportunities.

By Paul Schemm
4:22 a.m.

Airbus workers in Spain strike over planned job cuts

Airbus workers protest in front of the town hall in Getafe, Spain, on July 23.
Airbus workers protest in front of the town hall in Getafe, Spain, on July 23. (Rodrigo Jimenez/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Thousands of Airbus workers across Spain are striking Thursday to protest the aircraft manufacturer’s decision to slash more than 10 percent of its workforce in the coming months.

Once considered a jewel of the European economy, the plane maker has faced a huge drop in demand in recent months as the coronavirus pandemic brought air travel to a halt. As part of a restructuring plan to stay afloat, Airbus said last month that it would have to cut 15,000 positions globally.

The bulk of those layoffs will hit France and Germany, but the company said it expects to cut 900 manufacturing jobs in Spain, which is home to eight Airbus facilities and was hit especially hard by the virus earlier this year.

While marching outside a plant near Madrid on Thursday, employees called for greater government involvement to revive Airbus and protect their jobs in the long term. With banners and picket signs, they marched to local government offices while chanting, “Zero layoffs!”

“The company, taking advantage of this temporary situation of covid-19, wants to get rid of 900 workers,” José Luis Collado, who has worked at Airbus for more than four decades, told Reuters. “This is a temporary situation. It’s going to pass, and we don’t understand why we’re being thrown out on the street.”

Spain’s government, which is one of Airbus’s founders, owns 4 percent of the company. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said earlier this month that his government would be working with Airbus to preserve the plane manufacturing jobs.

No details have been released, and unions said strike actions will continue in September if officials and the company do not meet their demands, the Associated Press reported.

By Teo Armus
4:00 a.m.

Trump calls testing ‘overrated’ but says he’s willing to do it even if it makes him look bad

President Trump delivers remarks Wednesday at the White House on violent crime.
President Trump delivers remarks Wednesday at the White House on violent crime. (Jabin Botsford for The Washington Post)

President Trump, who has been trying to cast himself as more engaged in managing the pandemic, said in a television interview Wednesday night that he thinks coronavirus testing is “overrated” but that he is willing for the country to do it even if it makes him look bad.

During an interview with Fox News medical contributor Marc Siegel, Trump repeated his now-familiar claim that the United States looks worse compared to other countries because it is conducting more tests.

“Every time you test, you find a case, and you know, it gets reported in the news we found more cases,” Trump said. “If, instead of 50, we did 25, we would have half the number of cases.”

“So, I personally think it’s overrated,” Trump added.

He then pivoted, saying, “But I’m totally willing to keep doing it.”

“The experts are saying it’s a good thing to do,” he said later. “So, I’m okay with it, if they want to do it. But I — again, it makes us look bad, but they say it’s good. I don’t mind looking bad, if it’s a good thing.”

Trump’s comments to Fox News came after resumed public briefings this week on the pandemic in a bid to project more leadership on the issue. He has offered a generally rosy view as metrics show the nation struggling to combat the virus.

By John Wagner

The Washington Post