Virus Updates: Trump Defends Disproved COVID-19 Treatment; US Deaths Reach 150K

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The U.S. has reached more than 150,000 deaths and over 4.3 million cases in the coronavirus pandemic, according to a tally by NBC News.

The grim milestone was reached on Tuesday as President Donald Trump returned to promoting unproven claims that an anti-malaria drug is an effective treatment for the coronavirus by sharing a video that has since been pulled down by social media platforms for spreading misinformation.

Meanwhile, leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said the Miami Marlins’ coronavirus outbreak could endanger the Major League Baseball season, but he doesn’t believe games need to stop now.

MLB's return struck out Monday after an outbreak amongst Miami Marlins coaches and players forced two MLB games to be postponed. The Marlins, which now have had their season paused, are stranded in Philadelphia, where they finished a series with the Phillies.

And on Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans finally rolled out their highly debated $1 trillion virus aid proposal late Monday, sending the White House and House Democrats into negotiations over the details of the bill.

Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.:

Trump Defends Disproved COVID-19 Treatment

President Donald Trump issued a stout defense Tuesday of a disproved use of a malaria drug as a treatment for the coronavirus, hours after social media companies moved to take down videos promoting its use as potentially harmful misinformation.

The president, in a marked shift from the more measured approach he’s taken toward the virus in recent days, took to Twitter to promote hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and to amplify criticism of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. In a White House briefing, Trump defended his decision to promote a viral video of a group of doctors promoting the use of the drug Monday, even though his own administration withdrew emergency authorization for its use against the coronavirus.

“I think they’re very respected doctors," Trump said, adding they believed in the drug. "There was a woman who was spectacular in her statements about it.” The doctors, members of a group called America’s Frontline Doctors, took part in an event organized by Tea Party Patriots Action, a dark money group that has helped fund a pro-Trump political action committee.

Scientific studies have shown hydroxychloroquine can do more harm than good when used to treat symptoms of COVID-19.

Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., and others shared video of the event on Facebook and Twitter, prompting both companies to step in and remove the content as part of an aggressive push to keep the sites free of potentially harmful information about the virus — though not before more than 17 million people had seen one version of the video circulating on the web.

The impact of the coronavirus will turn the 2020 election race on its head. And right now the polls are not looking good for Donald Trump.

Fauci: Early Signs Coronavirus Outbreaks Brewing in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee

White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday there are early signs that a coronavirus outbreak could be brewing in Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky.

The so-called positivity rate, or the percentage of tests run that are positive, appears to be rising in those states — an early indication that the outbreak is worsening, Fauci said. While President Donald Trump and others have blamed the rise in cases in the U.S. on increased testing, a growing positivity rate can’t be blamed on increased testing. 

“That’s a surefire sign that you’ve got to be really careful,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.” 

Coronavirus outbreaks that have ripped through the South have recently shown signs of slowing after states delayed or rolled back reopening plans, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, Covid-19 cases were growing by more than 10% in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee as of Monday compared with a week ago, based on a seven-day average.

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Teachers' Union OKs Striking If Unsafe to Return

One of the nation’s largest teachers’ union is authorizing its members to strike if their schools plan to reopen without proper safety measures in the middle of the global pandemic.

The American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.7 million school employees, issued a resolution on Tuesday saying it will support any local chapter that decides to strike over reopening plans. The group says school buildings should open only in areas where coronavirus infections are low enough and if schools enact certain safety measures.

The union’s president blasted President Donald Trump for ordering schools to reopen even as the virus continues to surge. Randi Weingarten called Trump’s response “chaotic and catastrophic,” saying it has left teachers angry and afraid.

Trump RTs Video Promoting Unproven Hydroxychloroquine as 'Cure'; Dr. Fauci, Twitter Respond

President Donald Trump retweeted a viral video Monday that promotes hydroxychloroquine, a drug that has not been proven to cure the coronavirus.

Trump retweeted the video, which shows several people who say they are doctors speaking about using the malaria drug to treat the virus, adding the caption, "Covid has a cure. America wake up."

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have pulled the video for touting false information. "This Tweet is no longer available," the tweet that Trump shared later said.

"Tweets with the video are in violation of our COVID-19 misinformation policy," Twitter said early Tuesday morning, NBC News reported. The president's son Donald Trump Jr. also shared the video on Twitter, prompting the social platform to suspend his account temporarily. A Twitter spokesperson called out the president’s son for violating its policy on “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19,” CNBC reported.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, meanwhile, responded to Trump's tweet while appearing on "Good Morning America" Tuesday, saying, "the overwhelming prevailing clinical trials that have looked at the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine have indicated that it is not effective in coronavirus disease."

Fauci also said that he has "not been misleading the American public under any circumstances" after Trump retweeted another post accusing the nation's top infectious disease expert of misleading the public.

Last month, the World Health Organization halted a study on the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat the virus, saying their findings "showed that hydroxychloroquine does not result in the reduction of mortality of hospitalized COVID-19 patients."

In May, Trump announced he was taking hydroxychloroquine despite FDA warnings that use of the drug can cause serious heart problems. The president said he didn't have the virus but decided to take the drug after having consulted with the White House physician.

There is still no proven cure for the coronavirus.

Top Virus Experts: 'We Will Be Dealing With This Forever'

Two of the country’s top infectious disease experts presented a sobering look at the battle still to come against COVID-19. Their message, conveyed during a recent CNBC event, was encapsulated in related views on how much of a difference a coronavirus vaccine can make and what reaching herd immunity in the U.S. population will mean for life across the nation. 

"Even with a vaccine, there is no going back to normal anytime soon," said Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaking at a CNBC Workforce Executive Council virtual event to human resources executives on July 23 about a safe return to the workplace. "Prepare for at least eight to 12 months of this situation," said Frieden, who now runs the Resolve to Save Lives disease prevention organization.

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy at the University of Minnesota, said it is estimated that 7% to 9% of the total U.S. population has been infected with coronavirus, and that means the worst is yet to come. He said the best understanding in the medical field is that transmission will not slow down until 50% to 70% of the population is infected.

"The pain, suffering, death and economic pain we’ve had to date — that’s 7% to 9% of the U.S. population. We’ve got a long way to go," Osterholm said.

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JetBlue Revenue Down More Than 90%

JetBlue Airways on Tuesday said it swung to a loss in the second quarter and forecast that revenue will fall by about 80% in the third quarter as the coronavirus pandemic promises a choppy recovery in travel demand, CNBC reported.

The New York-based airline carried just 616,000 passengers in the three months ended June 30, down more than 94% from the 11 million that flew JetBlue in the same period last year. Revenue plunged about 90% from the second quarter of 2019 to $215 million from more than $2.1 billion during the same three months last year.

JetBlue is the latest airline to detail financial losses stemming from the coronavirus crisis, which kept millions of would-be travelers at home. Executives are warning that while demand bottomed out in the spring, a choppy recovery is ahead because of a surge in virus cases and new travel restrictions.

In Reversal, CES Gadget Show Won't Be In-Person After All

CES, one of the world’s biggest technology conferences, won’t be held in person next year, a reversal from organizers' May announcement that it still planned to go ahead with a smaller show in Las Vegas. Instead, the 2021 event will be a virtual convention, one that organizers hope to bring back to Las Vegas in 2022. The announcement Tuesday is sure to be a blow to the tourism industry in Las Vegas. More than 170,00 people attended the four-day show this January, flying from all over the world to see some of the latest TVs, robots and gadgets.

Mask-Wearing Divisions Remain Even as Coronavirus Cases Spike, Poll Finds

Democrats, nonwhites and elderly Americans are all significantly more likely to say they wear protective masks every time they leave home, new polling data show, as measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus continue to be polarized and case counts in the U.S. reach new heights.

The new NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll found that 97 percent of Democrats and those who lean Democratic say they wear masks at least most of the time when they leave their homes and might be in contact with others (86 percent say they wear masks "every time," while 11 percent say they do so "most of the time").

Seventy percent of Republicans and those who lean Republican say the same (48 percent say "every time" and 22 percent say "most of the time").

There's also a clear division along racial lines. Eighty percent of nonwhite Americans say they wear masks "every time" they're in public spaces with others, including 82 percent of Blacks, 82 percent of Asians and 81 percent of Hispanics. That's compared with 61 percent of whites who say the same.

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President Donald Trump said Tuesday the coronavirus pandemic will "get worse before it gets better." He also urged Americans to wear masks whenever social distancing is not possible.

Chainsmokers Concertgoers Called Out Over Lack of Social Distancing

A weekend drive-in charity concert in the Hamptons and headlined by The Chainsmokers drew a sold-out crowd as well as harsh online criticism over a seeming lack of social distancing, NBC New York reported.

Images of large crowds attending Saturday night's concert trickled onto social media the day after, quickly igniting criticism over the effectiveness of social distancing enforcement.

The concert caught the attention of New York's Department of Health. Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker sent a letter to the Southampton Town Supervisor, Jay Schneiderman, to alert him of an open investigation into the event.

The event had all the promise of a safe and run experience, at least as detailed by the event webpage. Ticket holders were given 20-by-20 foot or 20-by-15 foot parking space that were not to be left except for restroom access. The size of the space depended on the price of the ticket, some reportedly went as high as $25,000. Face coverings were required for event staff and concert goers who left their "assigned tailgate area" to use the restroom.

Pfizer and BioNTech Began Late-Stage Human Trial for Vaccine Monday

U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and German biotech BioNTech said they began their late-stage human trial for a potential coronavirus vaccine on Monday as pharmaceutical companies race to win regulatory approval before the end of the year, CNBC reported.

The trial will include up to 30,000 participants between the ages of 18 and 85 across 120 sites globally, including 39 U.S. states, the companies announced. If successful, they expect to submit it for final regulatory review as early as October. They plan to supply up to 100 million doses by the end of 2020 and approximately 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.

The decision to start the trial reflects "our primary goal to bring a well-tolerated, highly effective vaccine to the market as quickly as possible, while we will continue to evaluate our other vaccine candidates as part of a differentiated COVID-19 vaccine portfolio," BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said in a release. "Many steps have been taken towards this important milestone and we would like to thank all those involved for their extraordinary commitment."

The companies’ experimental vaccine, uses messenger ribonucleic acid, or mRNA molecules, to provoke an immune response to fight the virus. Scientists hope mRNA, which relays genetic instructions from DNA, can be used to train the immune system to recognize and destroy the virus.

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Tens of thousands of volunteers will take part in the study, with results being reported as soon as November.

3 Charged After Police Break Up 700-Person House Party in New Jersey

Three people were arrested after police spent nearly five hours breaking up a massive party at a residence in Jackson Township Sunday, the local police department said.

After receiving reports of a party, officers monitored the area and observed some 100 cars parked outside and 700 people at the residence, which they later learned was rented out on AirBnB, NBC New York reports.

The homeowner, who was identified as Yaakov Weiss, 40, of Jackson, and party organizers Patience Guanue, 23, and Alicia Hinneh, 22, both of Newark, were issued summonses for violating the governor’s executive order, police said.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has ordered outdoor gatherings capped at 500 people because of the outbreak, with indoor gatherings limited to 25% of capacity or 100 people at most.

Long Beach Mayor Loses Mother to Coronavirus

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia announced Monday that his mother, a longtime health care worker, has died due to complications from the coronavirus.

Gaby O'Donnell was 61.

Garcia announced earlier this month that his mother and step-father had been hospitalized with COVID-19 and placed on ventilators. Garcia has tested negative, saying he had limited contact with his mother and stepfather during the pandemic due to social-distancing requirements, NBC Los Angeles reported.

Georgia Governor Backs Out of Hearing on Atlanta Mask Order

Georgia's governor said he's withdrawing a request for an emergency hearing in a lawsuit that aims to block the state's largest city from ordering people to wear masks in public or imposing other restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this month sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the City Council, but a spokesman announced late Monday that the governor wanted “to continue productive, good faith negotiations.” As a result, the governor decided to withdraw the request for a hearing that was scheduled for Tuesday morning, spokesman Cody Hall said.

The move doesn't withdraw the underlying lawsuit, but it means a judge won't immediately weigh in on whether Kemp or Bottoms is right in a dispute about the extent of Kemp's powers under Georgia's public health state of emergency. The Republican governor argues local leaders cannot impose measures that are more or less restrictive than those in his executive orders.

Bottoms' office did not immediately have a comment late Monday night on the withdrawal of the request for a hearing.

The Associated Press/NBC
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