Florida has seen a recent surge in COVID-19 cases. Emory University’s Dr. Bob Bednarczyk breaks down what this means for the state.

USA TODAY

The U.S. was approaching 150,000 COVID-19 deaths Wednesday with no slowdown in sight. Florida reported it’s largest one-day death total yet while California, Texas and Florida were among states suffering their largest one-week death toll. 

In Washington, Attorney General William Barr was being tested for the virus after a Texas congressman he was near on Tuesday tested positive. And President Trump was trying to figure out why Dr. Anthony Fauci has such a high approval rating and “nobody likes me.” 

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a top adviser to the Trump administration, as not always agreed with the president on tactics to curb the outbreak.

“For the most part we have done what he and others …. have recommended,” Trump said Tuesday. “He’s got this high approval rating, so why don’t I have a high approval rating with respect, and the administration, with respect to the virus?”

Trump added that “Nobody likes me. It can only be my personality.”

Twitter continued a crackdown on tweets about fake cures that has already ensnared the president. This time, Madonna got called out.

Here are some significant developments:

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. is nearing 150,000 deaths and has reported over 4.3 million cases of the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, there have been over 661,000 deaths and 16.7 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.

Attorney General Barr being tested after Texas congressman tests positive

Attorney General Bill Barr was being tested for 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

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 to workplaces to homes to 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 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,” said Robert Kelchen, a professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, “the virus beat us.”

Chris Quintana

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 brings 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.

The Chainsmokers concert draws a crowd – and wrath from Cuomo

New York state’s Health Department will investigate “egregious social distancing violations” in 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 the village of 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 reopening in-person classes for the upcoming school 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

McDonald’s to close 200 US restaurants

McDonald’s is permanently closing 200 of its 14,000 U.S. locations this year with “low-volume restaurants” in Walmart stores making up over half of the closures. During its quarterly earnings call Tuesday, the fast food giant said the closings were previously planned for future years but are being accelerated. Officials also shared the continued impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on sales globally.

“Within a matter of weeks, the McDonald’s system made operational modifications across 30,000 restaurants, while closing and then reopening another 9,000 restaurants,” CEO Chris Kempczinski said during Tuesday’s earnings call. “We introduced new safety procedures in all our restaurants, modified our menus, and developed new contactless ways to serve our customers.”

– Kelly Tyko

What we’re reading

More COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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