The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surpassed 150,000 Wednesday with little indication the historic global health crisis is diminishing.
Barely two months ago the number was 100,000. Just last week the U.S. surpassed 4 million infections, doubling its total case count in six weeks. And the nation is still averaging about 1,000 deaths and 60,000 infections per day.
Not all states are on the same trajectory, of course. New York and some of the Northeastern states have tamped down the surge. California, Texas and Florida are among a raft of states now struggling mightily.
“As is the case with any infectious outbreak, there are different curves playing out at the same time,” said Ogbonnaya Omenka, an associate professor and public health specialist at Butler University. “In essence, it’s getting better and worse at the same time.”
In Washington, Attorney General William Barr was being tested for the virus after a Texas congressman he was near on Tuesday tested positive.
Twitter continued a crackdown on tweets about fake cures that has already ensnared President Donald Trump. This time, Madonna got called out.
Here are some significant developments:
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 150,000 deaths and nearly 4.4 million cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, there have been over 662,000 deaths and 16.8 million cases.
📰 What we’re reading: Call it coronavirus déjà vu. After planning ways to reopen campuses this fall, colleges are increasingly changing their minds, dramatically increasing online offerings or canceling in-person classes outright. Read more.
Our live blog is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news, and get updates in your inbox with The Daily Briefing.
Table of Contents
Attorney General Barr being screened after Texas congressman tests positive
Attorney General Bill Barr was being tested for the coronavirus Wednesday after coming into contact with a Texas congressman who tested positive, the Justice Department announced. Barr and Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, were close to each other and maskless after Barr’s appearance at a combative House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday. Gohmert has previously refused to wear a mask while speaking on the House floor. He said he has worn a mask more “in the last week or two” and suggested he may have contracted the virus by moving it around on his face.
“I can’t help but think if I hadn’t been wearing a mask so much in the last 10 days or so, I really wonder if I wouldn’t have gotten it,” he said.
– Jason Lalljee, Kevin Johnson and David Jackson
Florida deaths surpass 200 in a day for first time
The Florida Department of Health reported an inauspicious daily record of COVID-19 deaths for the second day in a row Wednesday. The 216 fatalities marked the first time deaths have surpassed 200 and bring the state death toll to 6,333. If the state averages 200 fatalities per day, the total death toll would more than double by Labor Day. The surge comes less than two weeks before some public schools begin their new school year amid pressure from state officials to provide in-class education.
The number of new COVID-19 cases increased by 9,446 Wednesday, marking the 36th consecutive day the state has recorded more than 5,000 new cases. There was a modest silver lining – the state has recorded four straight days with less than 10,000 new cases, the first time that’s happened since July 6-9.
Doctor in video Trump retweeted was sued in woman’s death
A Houston doctor who has made outrageous claims and appeared on a video retweeted by Trump was sued for malpractice after a woman she treated in Louisiana died last year, the Houston Chronicle reported.
In the video, Dr. Stella Immanuel touts the coronavirus-fighting virtues of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug Trump has repeatedly promoted even though federal regulators last month revoked authorization of its use as an emergency treatment amid growing evidence it doesn’t work and can have deadly side effects.
“You don’t need masks. There is a cure,” Immanuel says in the video, which Twitter and Facebook took down because it spread coronavirus misinformation. “You don’t need people to be locked down.”
“I thought she was very impressive,” Trump said about Immanuel on Tuesday.
Immanuel, who has said some medical conditions can be caused by having sex with demons in a dream, was sued in January. She and another doctor treated a Louisiana woman named Leslie Norvell who said she had part of a hypodermic needle stuck in her arm, the newspaper reported, adding that Norvell died six days later.
Pence vows support for schools to reopen
The Trump administration continued its push to have schools reopen for in-person learning during the pandemic, as Vice President Mike Pence visited a class of fourth graders at a North Carolina private school. Trump has threatened to withhold federal funds from K-12 schools that don’t reopen their classrooms in the fall term, a critical component of igniting the economy by allowing parents to return to work.
“We’re all going to make sure schools across America have the support to open up and stay open,” said Pence, who was joined at the Raleigh-area campus of Thales Academy by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
The Los Angeles school district, the country’s second largest, has already said all instruction in the fall will be online. So has San Diego’s. Many other districts are still formulating their plans. New York’s has said it will go with a hybrid approach.
Increasingly, many pandemic job losses looking permanent
Everyone wants the current unemployment crisis to be temporary. But new data reveals that millions of jobless Americans may not have a role to return to once the pandemic ends. In April, 78% of those in households experiencing job loss felt that situation would be temporary. Now, almost half think that job loss is likely to be permanent, according to The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. All told, roughly 10 million workers might need to find a new employer after the pandemic wraps up, and some might need to switch gears and find a new profession altogether.
– Maurie Backman, The Motley Fool
Alabama extends mask requirement
With the start of the school year looming and hospital intensive care units at near capacity, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey extended a state order requiring face masks in public through Aug. 31.
“Y’all, we just must remain vigilant if we are going to get our kids back in school and keep our economy open,” said the Republican governor, acknowledging the mask mandate is not popular in her conservative state. “Wearing a mask can’t hurt, but it sure can help.”
Tailgates, frat parties a concern as colleges ready to open
It’s not just the action on the field that poses health risks as the college football world mulls how to put on a season. Game days, often packed with frat parties and tailgates, are worrying health officials who say such events could spark outbreaks of COVID-19. Will young people, who have been a catalyst for the surge in coronavirus cases this summer, abide by social distancing guidelines as they return to campus in the fall? Are fraternity brothers and sorority sisters going to put parties on hold?
“Absolutely not,” predicts Zulema Avila, a rising junior at Louisiana State University and member of the Delta Zeta sorority. “Even if they don’t allow spectators inside the (stadium), there’s still going to be tailgates, there’s still going to be apartment parties and Greek life parties.”
– Jay Cannon
Bill Gates: $3B for poor nations is ‘most impactful’ to end pandemic
The latest Republican coronavirus stimulus proposal, which includes $3 billion for vaccines for poor countries, is “the most impactful money ever” for halting the global pandemic, Bill Gates told USA TODAY. Gates has been quietly advocating for the U.S. to retake its leadership role in global public health, a role that essentially ended with the U.S. dropping out of the World Health Organization earlier this year. Gates said this week’s proposal represents a return to leadership – though the commitment falls short of what he believes is needed.
“It’s hard to overstate how much the U.S. historically has led” global health efforts, Gates said.
– Elizabeth Weise
Drug to treat severe COVID-19 fails in clinical trial
One of the most promising approaches to treating COVID-19 has failed in a large clinical trial. The drug tocilizumab (sold under the brand name Actemra) had been expected to be effective against severe infections of the virus that causes COVID-19 because it tamps down the immune overreaction that often takes place in those patients.
The results are not yet published, but Genentech, which manufactures Actemra, announced Wednesday that its large Phase 3 trial did not improve results for patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 or reduce deaths. Researchers found some indication that the drug might reduce the time those patients spend in the hospital, but the difference wasn’t statistically significant.
– Karen Weintraub
Latinos struggle to find testing, take brunt of virus outbreaks
As the virus silently spreads from workplaces to homes and communities, Latinos are bearing the the brunt. And, experts and advocates say, inadequate or simply unavailable testing is one of the reasons. In 20 of 27 states that reported positive coronavirus cases by ethnicity, growth among Latinos has outpaced overall growth since Memorial Day, according to a USA TODAY analysis. Nationwide, Latinos have been four times as likely as whites to be hospitalized, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the Catholic Charities Diocese of Stockton, California, Executive Director Elvira Ramirez says she noticed a lack of testing in her community months ago.
“Every time we would ask, ‘Well what about testing?’ it seemed as though there was no testing being done,” Ramirez said. “Finally there is something in place, but it seems woefully inadequate to the need.”
– Jayme Fraser, Erin Mansfield, Matt Wynn and Scott Linesburgh
Many colleges walking back plans for in-classroom learning this fall
After planning ways to reopen campuses this fall, colleges are increasingly changing their minds, dramatically increasing online offerings or canceling in-person classes outright. This sudden shift will be familiar to students whose spring plans were interrupted by the rapid spread of the coronavirus. In many cases, the colleges had released plans for socially distant in-person classes only a few weeks ago, hoping to beat the coronavirus.
“Instead, the virus beat us,” said Robert Kelchen, a professor of higher education at Seton Hall University.
– Chris Quintana
The Chainsmokers concert draws a crowd – and wrath from Cuomo
New York state’s Health Department will investigate “egregious social distancing violations” in the village of Southampton after video showed crowds standing close together at a concert featuring The Chainsmokers. Gov. Andrew Cuomo questioned why local law enforcement didn’t break up the show, saying it was “out of control and all the rules were being violated.” The state’s investigation will look at the role of local leaders and reports of “ongoing” violations in Southampton, Cuomo said. The Saturday night concert, dubbed “Safe & Sound,” was billed as a charity drive-in show.
“We have no tolerance for the illegal reckless endangerment of public health,” Cuomo tweeted.
Fatalities climb in nation’s most populous states
California, Florida and Texas were among nine states recording a record number of deaths over a seven-day period that ended Tuesday, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data shows. Nine states also set records for newly confirmed cases. Arkansas had the dubious distinction of being on both lists. The state had newly confirmed cases and 54 deaths.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the virus is disproportionately impacting Latinos, particularly in the state’s Central Valley. Newsom unveiled a proposed $52M plan for eight Central Valley counties to help expand disease investigation, contact tracing and quarantine efforts.
– Mike Stucka
Madonna’s Instagram account flagged for promoting fake COVID-19 ‘cure’
Instagram flagged Madonna’s account Tuesday night, and a post appeared blurred with a warning over the video: “False Information.” The text continues, “Reviewed by independent fact-checkers,” and provides a list of incorrect assertions in Madonna’s post. Madonna shared a video and caption about unproven coronavirus conspiracy theories. The video, about a fake cure, echoed the same misinformation as a clip that was taken down from Twitter after President Donald Trump shared it. On Madonna’s post, fact-checkers note that there is not yet a cure for COVID-19 and that hydroxychloroquine is not a cure.
– Carly Mallenbaum
Arizona protesters want in-person classes at schools
A protest in support of schools offering in-person classes for the upcoming academic year amid the COVID-19 pandemic drew around 100 people Tuesday evening at the Arizona Capitol. The protest is called “AZ Open Our Schools Rally” and was organized for families and educators who want in-person learning options at Arizona schools.
Attendees wore green to the demonstration at the state Capitol because “Green means GO for education!” according to the rally’s Facebook page. Several speakers talked about school reopening plans. “We don’t want to force people to do things they don’t want to do, but we also don’t want to be forced to do things we don’t want to do, for example, online school,” a woman said to cheers from the crowd.
– Helena Wegner and Perry Vandell, Arizona Republic
What we’re reading
More COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
On Facebook: There’s still a lot unknown about the coronavirus. But what we do know, we’re sharing with you. Join our Facebook group, “Coronavirus Watch,” to receive daily updates in your feed and chat with others in the community about COVID-19.
In your inbox: Stay up-to-date with the latest news on the coronavirus pandemic from the USA TODAY Network. Sign up for the daily Coronavirus Watch newsletter here.
Tips for coping: Every Saturday and Tuesday we’ll be in your inbox, offering you a virtual hug and a little bit of solace in these difficult times. Sign up for Staying Apart, Together here.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID updates: US over 150K deaths; Barr gets tested; Florida record