Congressional leaders and White House officials return to the bargaining table this week with a $1 trillion package of stimulus checks, jobless benefit bonuses and relief for small businesses hanging in the balance.
All combatants agree that some progress was made in talks Saturday, but no one spoke optimistically about a deal coming soon. Among major sticking points – what will replace the $600 weekly unemployment benefit bonus that expired last week. The bonus more than doubled unemployment checks issued to tens of millions of Americans left jobless by months of pandemic-driven recession.
““We have to balance,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “There’s obviously a need to support workers, support the economy … on the other hand, we have to be careful about not piling on enormous amounts of debt.”
Texas was among several states setting records for deaths in a week. One physician lamented that he was fighting a “war against COVID – and a war against stupidity.”
In Australia, the sprawling city of Melbourne was effectively placed in lockdown Sunday amid a spiraling outbreak. In Berlin, despite an uptick in cases, thousands marched for an end to coronavirus restrictions and “muzzle” mask requirements.
Here are some significant developments:
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded almost 155,000 deaths and over 4.6 million cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, there have been over 685,000 deaths and almost 18 million cases.
📰 What we’re reading: Online school? Some parents want to hire tutors, start mini schools this year. Most can’t afford to.
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Birx: Rural areas not immune to ‘extraordinarily widespread’ pandemic
The U.S. is in a new and far more widespread phase in its fight against the coronavirus than when the pandemic first raced across the nation in the spring, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator said Sunday. Dr. Deborah Birx, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” warned that rural American should not feel immune to the virus, which has thus far been more damaging in urban areas. She said the national death toll, which some experts have estimated could double to more than 300,000, depends on how well southern and western states promote mitigation efforts.
“It is extraordinarily widespread,” Birx said. “This epidemic right now is different and it’s more widespread and it’s both rural and urban.”
More weekly records fall as pandemic rages on
Three states set weekly records for new cases while eight states had a record number of deaths in a week, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Saturday shows. New case records were set in Alaska, Hawaii and Tennessee, and also Puerto Rico. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Arkansas, California, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina and Texas.
Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has been lobbying for in-class options as schools begin to open next week, spiked to a new record with 1,245 deaths.
– Mike Stucka
Texas doctor fighting ‘war against COVID and a war against stupidity’
Texas, battling a spike in coronavirus cases, set a state record for deaths in a week with 1,875. At least one top physician in the state is upset by the public’s unwillingness to wear masks, practice social distancing and otherwise join the battle to halt the pandemic.
“I’m pretty much fighting two wars,” Dr. Joseph Varon told NBC News in Houston. “A war against COVID and a war against stupidity. And the problem is the first one, I have some hope about winning. But the second one is becoming more and more difficult.”
Varon, chief medical officer of United Memorial Medical Center, said that although science and common sense dictate some of the measures, “people just are not listening throughout the country.”
“The thing that annoys me the most is that we keep on doing our best to save these people, and then we get another batch of people who are doing exactly what we are telling them not to do,” Varon said.
Productive discussion’ but no deal on $1 trillion stimulus package
Republicans and Democrats agreed progress was made Saturday during deliberations over a new stimulus deal to combat the impacts of coronavirus, a bright spot in what was an otherwise fraught week of negotiations. The group has spent days trying to reconcile priorities for what would be a fifth round of stimulus funding, considered crucial to keep the economy afloat until the pandemic is arrested.
“We’re not close yet, but it was a productive discussion and now each side knows where they’re at,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said after a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
– Jason Lalljee
Australia struggles, Melbourne area declared ‘state of disaster’
Australia’s Victoria state declared a “state of disaster” on Sunday and instituted tight restrictions aimed at curbing a surge in COVID-19 cases. An evening curfew was implemented across Melbourne from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Authorities also announced 671 new coronavirus cases had been detected since Saturday, including seven deaths. Residents of Melbourne, a city of about 5 million people, will only be allowed to shop and exercise within 3 miles of their homes. All students across the state will return to home-based learning and child care centers will be closed.
“We can’t allow this to drag on. And I’m sure everyone would rather get on top of it as quickly and decisively as we possibly can,” Victoria Premier Dan Andrews said. “And the only way to do that is to rip the Band-Aid off, go harder – and do it now.”
MLB pitcher suffers heart condition after recovering from COVID-19
Major League Baseball, struggling to continue its shortened season amid coronavirus outbreaks, took another hit when the Boston Red Sox announced that pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez is done for the season. Rodriguez, 27, had tested positive for the coronavirus before the start of Boston’s summer camp. He was cleared to return to team workouts on July 18, but had not been activated because he developed myocarditis — a heart condition — after recovering from COVID-19. The team says Rodriguez is expected to make a full recovery. Rodriguez said on July 19 that his bout with the coronavirus had left him feeling “100 years old.”
“I’ve never been that sick in my life, and I don’t want to get that sick again,” he said.
– Providence Journal
FDA list of dangerous hand sanitizers surpasses 100
The Food and Drug Administration’s list of hand sanitizers to avoid because they may contain methanol continues to grow. The FDA’s “do-not-use list of dangerous hand sanitizer products” now includes 101 varieties of hand sanitizer that should be avoided – some that have already been recalled and other products being recommended for recalls. Methanol is a toxic substance when absorbed through skin or ingested.
The FDA says it has seen an increase in number of “adverse events, including blindness, cardiac effects, effects on the central nervous system, and hospitalizations and death, primarily reported to poison control centers and state departments of health.”
– Kelly Tyko
Louisiana ravaged twice by COVID-19
A powerful resurgence of COVID-19 infections in Louisiana is hitting the state harder than its first wave in spring, making it the only state in the nation to experience two devastating spikes of the virus, an analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. The state leads in COVID-19 cases per capita, continuing to outpace even Florida, Arizona and New York, where dramatic surges of the virus have occurred since the outbreak began in March.
Louisiana’s experience with COVID-19 offers insight into how a state that took strict shut-down measures to curtail the rapid spread of the virus early on can suffer a more expansive surge after reopening. It also reveals how the course of the pandemic in a state can evolve, penetrating new areas relatively untouched by the first round of infections.
– William Taylor Potter and Michael Stucka, USA TODAY Network
FDA authorizes tests that estimate amount of antibodies in blood
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration have authorized the first two COVID-19 antibody tests that can estimate the quantity of antibodies in a patient’s blood – what’s known as “semi-quantitative” tests. Scientists still don’t know if or how much antibodies can provide immunity from COVID-19, or for how long. But the new tests could be useful to scientists as they continue to learn more about what the existence of antibodies means, Dr. Tim Stenzel, of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a statement.
“Patients should not interpret results as telling them they are immune, or have any level of immunity, from the virus,” Stenzel said.
Thousands protest in Berlin against coronavirus restrictions
Thousands protested Germany’s coronavirus restrictions Saturday in a Berlin demonstration that insisted “the end of the pandemic” has arrived – a declaration that comes just as authorities are voicing increasing concerns about an uptick in new infections. With few masks in sight, a dense crowd marched through downtown Berlin from the Brandenburg Gate. Protesters who came from across the country held up homemade signs with slogans like “Corona, false alarm,” “We are being forced to wear a muzzle,” “Natural defense instead of vaccination” and “We are the second wave.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID updates: ‘War against stupidity,’ stimulus, curfew in Australia