Trump’s executive order on unemployment could take months to implement; hundreds quarantining in Ga. school district

After weeks of stalled congressional negotiations over a new coronavirus stimulus package, President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders Saturday evening as the U.S. was approaching 5 million cases of COVID-19. Trump, repeatedly referring to the coronavirus as the “China virus,” said the orders would provide an additional $400 […]

After weeks of stalled congressional negotiations over a new coronavirus stimulus package, President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders Saturday evening as the U.S. was approaching 5 million cases of COVID-19.

Trump, repeatedly referring to the coronavirus as the “China virus,” said the orders would provide an additional $400 per week in unemployment benefits, suspend payments on some student loans through the end of the year and protect renters from being evicted from their homes.

“We’re coming back very strong. We’re doing well with the virus,” Trump said, even as the U.S. was leading nations worldwide in confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 and confirmed an additional 50,000 new cases Friday.

Top Democrats criticized the move and unemployment experts were left confused about how it might be implemented, speculating it could take months for states to figure it out.

Meanwhile, South Dakota was hosting one of the largest events since the beginning of the pandemic – the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, an event that is set to attract 250,000 people over the next 10 days, even as experts warn a spike in cases could overwhelm the rural health care system.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Florida, ravaged by a historic spike in COVID-19 cases for weeks, is showing signs of progress in statistics such as hospitalizations and positivity rates, according to its governor.

  • After only one week of school, more than 250 students and teachers from one Georgia school district will be quarantined for two weeks after several teachers and students tested positive for COVID-19, according to the district’s website.

  • The Mid-American Conference became the first major college football conference to cancel its fall season.

  • A CDC report found that Hispanic children were hospitalized at a rate eight times higher than white kids, and Black children were hospitalized at a rate five times higher.

  • France and Germany have quit talks on reforming the World Health Organization in frustration at efforts by the U.S. to lead the negotiations, despite its decision to leave the WHO, three officials tell Reuters.

? Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 162,000 deaths and 4.9 million cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, there have been more than 723,000 deaths and 19.4 million cases. 

? What we’re reading: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tested positive, then negative for COVID-19. That underscores how not all tests work the same way, nor do they always provide identical results. Even the same test taken twice can show contradictory outcomes. Here’s answers to common questions on the subject.

Our live blog is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news, and get updates in your inbox with The Daily Briefing.

Trump signs executive orders providing $400 unemployment benefit, payroll tax cut

Speaking from his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump said his orders would provide an additional $400 per week in unemployment benefits, which is $200 less than the supplemental benefit that expired at the end of July. 

Trump said he also would suspend payments on some student loans through the end of the year, protect renters from being evicted from their homes, and instruct employers to defer certain payroll taxes through the end of the year for Americans who earn less than $100,000 annually.

Trump said he decided to act on his own and order the benefits after two weeks of negotiations with congressional Democrats collapsed without an agreement on a new coronavirus relief package.

– David Jackson and Michael Collins

Trump’s executive order on unemployment could take months to implement

Although Trump signed an order to provide enhanced unemployment benefits to millions of out-of-work Americans, it’s unclear if he has the authority to do so by executive order while side-stepping Congress. And it could take months for states to implement. 

He directed the use of funds from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund, which would be capped at $44 billion, creating confusion among unemployment experts. The move could potentially bypass approval from Congress, some lawyers say, but it also leaves the door open to other challenges. 

“This is an administrative nightmare,” said Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, a think tank that advocates for labor and employment legislation.

“States are going to have to set up a new program aside from regular unemployment insurance. It could take months for states to implement this. … This is just a false promise to the American people.”

Read more about the challenges

— Jessica Menton

Brazil passes 100,000 deaths

Brazil surpassed a grim milestone of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday night, and five months after the first reported case the country has not shown signs of crushing the disease.

The nation of 210 million people has been reporting an average of more than 1,000 daily deaths from the pandemic since late May and reported 905 for the latest 24-hour period.

The Health Ministry said there had been a total of 3,012,412 confirmed infections with the new coronavirus — death and infection tolls second only to the United States. And as in many nations, experts believe that both numbers are severe undercounts due to insufficient testing.

Nearly 250 students at Georgia school district quarantined after first week of classes

After only one week of school, more than 250 students and teachers from one Georgia school district will be quarantined for two weeks after several teachers and students tested positive for COVID-19, according to the district’s website.

Cherokee County School District, north of Atlanta, is sharing regular updates on coronavirus cases in its schools on its website. The district has more than 42,000 students. 

As of Friday, at least 11 students, ranging in age from first to 12th grade, and two staff members, from various elementary, middle and high schools, have tested positive for coronavirus, prompting the quarantine order for almost 250 students and staff. The students will receive online instruction during the period.

In a letter to families on Friday, Superintendent Dr. Brian Hightower said that the trend of students and staff testing positive every day “will continue as we operate schools during a pandemic.” He called on students and staff to use face mask at school.

– Doug Stanglin

MAC becomes first major conference to cancel fall football season 

The Mid-American Conference, facing significant financial losses without the ability to play more than a handful of non-conference games against Power Five opponents this season, became the first Football Bowl Subdivision conference to cancel its fall season on Saturday, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the league had not yet made an announcement.

MAC schools have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, as the majority of their revenues for athletics come from university subsidies and student fees. Central Michigan and Akron have dropped multiple sports already, and Bowling Green reversed its decision to shut down the baseball program only after a grassroots fundraising effort. 

Besides a small slice of TV revenue, MAC schools depend on money from football game guarantees, which amount to appearance fees to play big conference schools. MAC schools stood to make $10.5 million alone this season from non-conference games against the Big Ten. 

But with the SEC and notably the Big Ten deciding to play only within their conference, MAC’s only Power Five games were Buffalo at Kansas State, Ball State at Iowa State, Miami at Pitt, Ohio at Boston College and Western Michigan at Notre Dame.

 – Dan Wolken

More than 12K crew members still stuck on cruise ships in US waters 

Nearly five months after the coronavirus pandemic shut down the cruise industry, more than 12,000 crew members remain on ships in U.S. waters, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. That’s down from more than 70,000 in May.

There are 57 cruise ships moored, at anchor or underway near or arriving at a U.S. port with about 12,084 crew members, said Lt. Cmdr. Brittany Panetta, a spokesperson for the U.S. Coast Guard. That includes 209 Americans who are spread out among 37 of the ships, the Coast Guard said.

But as of Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it knew of 53 U.S. crew members on 22 cruise ships in U.S. waters. Despite the discrepancy in numbers, it’s unclear how many of those crew members are actually stuck vs. working.

Akash Dookhun, a Celebrity Cruises crew member from Mauritius, an island nation in southeastern Africa, told USA TODAY he has not set foot on dry land since he was on a port call in New Zealand in early March. And he doesn’t know when he’ll stand on solid ground again. Read more here. 

– Morgan Hines

Young people struggle to find mental health support amid pandemic

Prevalence of depression among college students increased since the pandemic caused the closure of campuses this spring compared to fall 2019, according to a survey of 18,000 college students published by the Healthy Minds Network on July 9. And of the nearly 42% of students who sought mental health care during the pandemic, 60% said it was either much more or somewhat more difficult to access care.

Mental health among young people has been worsening for years. A 2019 analysis of teens reported 13% of U.S. teens ages 12 to 17 said in 2017 they had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year, up from 8% in 2007.

– Elinor Aspegren

Feds earmark almost $12M to develop virus vaccines, store vials, syringes

The federal government has allocated more than $9 billion to develop and manufacture candidate vaccines, and more than $2.5 billion more has been earmarked for vials to store the vaccines, syringes to deliver them, and on efforts to ramp up manufacturing and capacity.

The largest sums have gone to pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and a collaboration between Sanofi and GSK, as well as biotech firms Moderna and Novavax – all of which have candidate vaccines being tested in people.

To save time, the companies have been running trials simultaneously that they usually run in sequence. Moderna, for instance, hasn’t yet published its Phase 2 trial results, but is already in larger-scale Phase 3 trials, beginning tests last week of its candidate vaccine in 15,000 volunteers. Phase 3 trials started this summer are expected to return results this fall, with the timing depending on how quickly they can find volunteers.

If any of these approaches prove safe and effective, it could transform vaccine development worldwide, allowing faster attack strategies against dangerous viruses that may emerge in the future, as well as those that mutate rapidly, like the flu.

— Karen Weintraub and Elizabeth Weise

What we’re reading

21-year-old recovers from mild case, then his organs fail

A 21-year-old from Florida is warning of potential long-term virus complications after his mild case turned nearly fatal. Two weeks after Spencer Rollyson tested negative and returned to work, he started suffering from an array of symptoms. His fever eventually reached 103.4 degrees — and Rollyson fell unconscious in the middle of a June 15 telehealth appointment.

Doctors diagnosed Rollyson with multi-organ failure with heart failure, acute respiratory failure, and severe sepsis with septic shock. “I thought I was going to die. I was literally sitting in the hospital like, ‘I’m going to die,’ ” Rollyson recalled.

It’s yet another puzzling example of how the virus can damage the body in unpredictable ways. For example, two German studies published last week found heart abnormalities in COVID-19 patients months after they had recovered from the disease

— Rick Neale, Florida Today

No masks required as 250,000 expected at Sturgis bike rally

One of the largest events since the beginning of the pandemic has begun in South Dakota: More than 250,000 people are expected at the iconic Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. That’s scaled down from previous years, where about half a million people have descended on the city of about 7,000 for an event that has developed a reputation as an anything-goes festival.

While the 80-year tradition isn’t as raucous as it once was, festivalgoers will be largely free of social distancing restrictions common elsewhere in the country during this year’s 10-day festival. Masks are encouraged, but not required. 

More than half of Americans fear job losses

About 54% of Americans fear they may lose their job due to the coronavirus outbreak, Harris Poll data shows. Overall, nearly half expect their personal finances to be generally worse off in the coming months.

“There are two economies in the pandemic,” Gerzema said. “In general, older, wealthy Americans who are white are typically more confident that they’ll prosper. But the ones really feeling the pain are younger, lower income Americans and minorities.”

The labor-market recovery has reached a critical juncture, economists say, with millions of workers at risk of prolonged unemployment just as emergency unemployment benefits expire.  

– Jessica Menton

Montana’s Crow Tribe orders lockdown in latest spike in virus deaths on a reservation

The Crow Tribe in Montana has ordered its members to lock down for two weeks as tribal leaders moved to slow a sharp spike in coronavirus cases and deaths on yet another reservation in the country.

Native Americans have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 across the country, with major outbreaks from Arizona to South Dakota triggering similar lockdowns. The Navajo Nation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah has tallied 468 confirmed deaths from the virus and has ordered another lockdown this weekend. In Montana, Native Americans make up 7% of residents but have seen 15% of confirmed virus cases and 36% of deaths as of July 26, the state says.

Crow Tribe Chairman Alvin Not Afraid said the lockdown, which began Friday, is necessary because a stay-at-home order in effect since mid-March has been ineffective.

Big Horn County, where the 3,500-square-mile reservation is located, is on pace to record more confirmed virus cases in August than the previous two months combined. The county reported 85 new cases during the first week of August, compared to 249 in July and 44 in June. Seven of its 12 confirmed virus deaths have been recorded in the past 10 days. The figures include cases on the reservation but the tribe doesn’t publicly release case counts.

– Associated Press

CDC: Hispanic, Black children at higher risk of coronavirus-related hospitalization 

Two sobering government reports released Friday showed that racial disparities in the U.S. coronavirus epidemic extend to children.

One of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports looked at children with COVID-19 who needed hospitalization. Hispanic children were hospitalized at a rate eight times higher than white kids, and Black children were hospitalized at a rate five times higher, it found.

The second report examined cases of a rare virus-associated syndrome in kids. It found that nearly three-quarters of the children with the syndrome were either Hispanic or Black, well above their representation in the general population.

The hospitalization rate for Hispanic children was about 16.4 per 100,000. The rate for Black children was 10.5 per 100,000, and for white kids it was 2.1 per 100,000.

As with adults, many of the hospitalized children had existing health problems, including obesity, chronic lung conditions and — in the case of infants — preterm birth.

– Associated Press

Georgia student says suspension for posting images of maskless students dropped 

A Georgia high school dropped its five-day suspension for at least one student who posted a photo of crowded hallways showing students without face masks.

Hannah Watters, 15, tweeted Friday that she was no longer suspended from North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia. She told the Associated Press that her principal called her mother, apologized, and completely removed her punishment, leaving her surprised and “very grateful.” 

The 30,000-student suburban Atlanta school district resumed classes Monday with 70% of students returning for in-person instruction five days a week. It received national attention this week when the images of the crowded hallways showed students in clusters without face coverings. She said that she was then suspended for five days for violating rules on students posting school images on social media. BuzzFeed News reported that a second, unnamed, student was also suspended.

– Wyatte Grantham-Phillips

New York schools can reopen in-person classes, Cuomo says

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that New York schools will be able to open for in-person instruction this fall, leaving the ultimate decision on reopening up to local authorities.

Cuomo said the infection rates due to COVID-19 are low enough so the districts can begin to reopen next month. Friday’s decision is meant to be a preliminary one, as the first day of school is still a month away. Each district had to submit their own plans to reopen that are being reviewed by the state Health Department.

The nation’s largest school district, New York City, is expected to start classes Sept. 10. The district plans to allow students to choose either online learning or a hybrid plan with as many as three days of in-person instruction.

– Sophie Grosserode and Joseph Spector, New York State Team

More COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID updates: Sturgis 2020 rally; Trump executive order; MAC football

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