Virus Updates: Progress Slow on Relief Bill; Trump Says Death Toll ‘Is What It Is'

The U.S. is approaching 5 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus, far outpacing other countries.

The reasons are obvious: Americans are resisting taking steps to avoid getting infected. Many of the hotspots are chalked up to large gatherings, from big house parties and large no-mask weddings to crowded bars and restaurants.

The U.S. has had more than 157,000 people die from the virus in just a matter of months, according to an NBC News tally.

It’s been fueled by a perfect storm of factors: continuing to gather in droves, resistance to wearing masks and a patchwork quilt of approaches to containing the virus by county, state and federal governments.

The number of confirmed infections in the U.S. has topped 4.7 million, with new cases running at over 60,000 a day. While that's down from a peak of well over 70,000 in the second half of July, cases are on the rise in 26 states, many of them in the South and West, and deaths are climbing in 35 states.

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

Progress Slow as Urgency Grows on Virus Relief Legislation

Frustrated Senate Republicans re-upped their complaints Tuesday that Democratic negotiators are taking too hard a line in talks on a sweeping coronavirus relief bill, but an afternoon negotiating session brought at least modest concessions from both sides, even as an agreement appears far off.

Top Democrats emerged from a 90-minute meeting with Trump administration officials to declare more progress. The Trump team agreed with that assessment and highlighted its offer to extend a moratorium on evictions from federally subsidized housing through the end of the year.

“We really went down, issue by issue by issue slogging through this. They made some concessions which we appreciated. We made some concessions that they appreciated," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “We’re still far away on a lot of the important issues but we’re continuing to go back.”

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Tuesday's session was “probably the most productive meeting we've had to date." Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the two sides set a goal of reaching an agreement by the end of the week to permit a vote next week.

“I would characterize concessions made by Secretary Mnuchin and the administration as being far more substantial than the concessions that had been made by the Democrat negotiators," Meadows said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., issued a pointed reminder that she and Schumer are “legislators with long experience" and a track record of working complicated deals — a rejoinder to critics complaining that they are being too tough and that the talks are taking too long.

“We agree that we want to have an agreement," Pelosi said. “Let’s engineer back from there as to what we have to do to get that done.”

Another glimmer of hope emerged as a key Senate Republican telegraphed that the party may yield to Democrats on an increase in the food stamp benefit as part of the huge rescue measure, which promises to far exceed a $1 trillion target set by the GOP.

Trump Says Florida Can Provide Accurate Vote-By-Mail Results Because of Republican Governors

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he had "total confidence" in Florida's ability to administer a vote-by-mail system this November, but cast doubt on other states ability to deliver reliable results.

"Florida has got a great Republican governor, and it had a great Republican governor," Trump said when asked by a reporter to explain why his comfort with mail-in voting did not appear to extend to states beyond Florida.

Trump is registered to vote in Palm Beach County and voted absentee in Florida's March presidential primary. The president has said he plans to vote absentee again in the general election.

"Over a long period of time they’ve been able to get the absentee ballots done extremely professionally. Florida is different from other states," Trump said Tuesday.

Trump focused on Nevada and New York — states with Democratic governors whose voters went for Hillary Clinton on 2016 — as examples of other states being unable to successfully carry out vote-by-mail.

Read the full story at

Chicago to Check Social Media to Help Enforce Travel Order, State Health Official Says

Chicago health officials may check your social media if they believe you may have violated the city's travel order, NBC Chicago reports.

The city's top public health official said Tuesday that social media could be used as evidence to help enforce a quarantine requirement for anyone visiting or returning to the city from a list of states seeing a rise in coronavirus cases.

"One of the easiest ways to sort of get enough proof that there was the potential of a violated quarantine order without me having to send out an inspector or do any sort of more aggressive follow up to collect that is to look at social media," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said.

Those social media posts could be used as proof to give someone a citation, she added.

"They're in any of the states that violated our order. And then a few days later, they're in Chicago, and they're clearly out in Chicago, not just back, but at a restaurant or at the Bean or whatever it may be, and they're posting about that - that's an example of where we could use that as proof to issue citations," Arwady said.

She noted that the city isn't necessarily monitoring the social media accounts of travelers, but will check them if they "identify someone of concern."

Read the full story here.

Clorox Won't Meet Demand for Wipes Until Next Year, CEO Says

Clorox disinfecting wipes could be hard to find on shelves until 2021, despite the company CEO's earlier prediction to NBC News that they could be expected to be restocked by the summer.

CEO Benno Dorer told Reuters Monday that the "entire supply chain is stressed" and "we feel like it's probably going to take until 2021 before we're able to meet all the demand that we have."

The wipes are made of the same in-demand material as is used to make masks, medical gowns and medical wipes.

COVID-19 Reshapes and Reduces Back-to-School Spending

As the pandemic drags into the new school year, it is upending the back-to-school shopping season. That's the second most important period for retailers behind the holidays.

Parents are buying less dressy clothing and more basics for their kids, while stepping up purchases of masks and other protective equipment as well as electronics. They're also holding back on spending amid uncertainty over what the school year will look like. The back-to-school season typically kicks off in mid-July and peaks in mid-August. This year, experts predict the peak will hit in late August and spill into most of September.

“We are definitely seeing a delay," said Jill Renslow, senior vice president of the Bloomington, Minnesota-based Mall of America, which reopened in mid-June with social-distancing protocols. “People just don’t know what they need."

The National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group, is pinning its hopes on parents who splurge on pricey items such as computers and other electronics to help their kids learn from home.

A fifth-grade teacher in Colorado Springs is turning to social media to get people to understand how different classrooms will look this fall due to the pandemic, including desks spaced far apart and scheduled bathroom breaks.

Trump on Rising Coronavirus Death Toll: 'It Is What It Is'

President Donald Trump lauded his administration's "incredible" job in handling the coronavirus pandemic in an interview that aired on HBO Monday night, and claimed the outbreak in the United States is "under control" despite the rising death toll, infection rates and hospitalizations in some states.

Pressed by Axios' Jonathan Swan how he could the virus is under control when the number of daily deaths climbed back up to 1,000 from an average of 500 a day just a few weeks ago, Trump said: "They are dying, that's true. And it is what it is," Trump said. "But that doesn't mean we aren't doing everything we can. It's under control, as much as you can control it. This is a horrible plague."

Trump told reporters at the White House briefing room on Monday that "the virus is receding" and said that they’ve seen "slow improvements" in hot spots across the South and the West, singling out Arizona, Texas and Florida, NBC News reports.

Health officials in Arizona have recorded more than 179,000 cases and 3,779 deaths from the virus in the state since the pandemic began. In-patient hospitalizations, ventilators in use and intensive care unit occupancy continue to trend downward slightly.

Texas reported more than three dozen new deaths from the virus Monday as the total number of deaths eclipsed 7,000, just two weeks after surpassing 4,000. But during that time, the rate of positive new cases has been trending downward and hospitalizations have leveled off around 9,000.

Florida's seven-day average of daily reported deaths was 176, second to Texas in total numbers for the summer resurgence of the pandemic in the Sunbelt states. It was fourth behind Arizona, Mississippi and Texas in per-capita terms. Florida’s numbers compare with average daily reported deaths of more than 760 per day for New York in mid-April.

Meanwhile, Minnesota, Iowa, Idaho, Virginia and Tennessee have all seen a rise in hospitalizations and deaths.

The U.S. leads the world in the number of confirmed cases and deaths. As of Tuesday, more than 4.7 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the U.S. and more than 156,500 people have died, according to an NBC News tally.

US Gov't Begins Two Trials on Eli Lilly's Antibody Drug

The National Institutes of Health announced Tuesday it is starting two trials testing whether an experimental antibody drug can work as a safe and effective treatment in patients with Covid-19, CNBC reports.

The trials, called ACTIV-2 and ACTIV-3, will look at U.S. drugmaker Eli Lilly’s experimental treatment known as LY-CoV555, which is being developed in partnership with Canadian biotech AbCellera. The companies announced Monday they began a phase three trial testing whether the treatment can prevent the spread of coronavirus in residents and staff at nursing homes.

One of the trials will test Eli Lilly’s experimental treatment on people with mild to moderate Covid-19 symptoms who have not been hospitalized and will enroll 220 volunteers.

The second trial, in a late stage, will look patients who have been hospitalized with mild to moderate Covid-19 with fewer than 13 days of symptoms and aims to enroll a total of 1,000 people.

Researchers in the phase three trial want to see whether the antibody treatment can promote a sustained recovery for two weeks at home, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on a conference call with reporters.

Read the full story on

Uncle Sam's Coronavirus Aid Looks a Lot Like a Wealth Transfer to the Rich

Jeff Esaw of Stratford, Connecticut, lost an estimated 80 percent or more of his overall revenue from his Southern barbecue catering business when the coronavirus shut down commerce in the state this year.

Esaw, an Army veteran, wasn't able to get an emergency Paycheck Protection Program loan — designed to help struggling small businesses meet payroll during the pandemic — when he applied through the local branch of a national bank, he said in a telephone interview with NBC News. At first, he also couldn't get unemployment insurance for himself, and he fell thousands of dollars behind on his home mortgage before negotiating for partial forbearance, he said.

But Peter Brant's White Birch Farm had no problem getting a taxpayer-backed windfall. The sprawling estate houses one of his family's mansions and a thoroughbred facility for his polo horses.

On April 6, Small Business Administration records show, the horse farm received a loan of $350,000 to $1 million to support wages for a staff of about five dozen people. Five weeks later, on May 15, White Birch Farm borrowed $25.7 million from JPMorgan Chase to buy a $47 million estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

When Congress and President Donald Trump created the loan program, they were clear that the intention was to protect workers from layoffs. No one said anything about providing for the upkeep of personal polo grounds or ensuring that the ultra-rich, like Brant, could improve their balance sheets with backing from taxpayers.

The government's treatment of two businessmen — one Black, one white; one struggling, one thriving; one left to fend for himself, one supported despite no apparent need — reflects the much larger story of the federal response to the coronavirus crisis. It has pumped trillions of dollars into America's wealthiest companies and investors, along with smaller chunks for lower- and middle-class families, in ways that reinforced and widened disparities between races and between economic classes, according to economists.

"It's disgusting," Esaw said of Brant's loan. "It really is."

Read the full story on

Poll: Americans Don't Trust Trump on Coronavirus. Republicans Don't Trust CDC or Fauci

Fewer than a third of Americans say they trust what President Donald Trump has said about the coronavirus pandemic, new polling shows, while a majority of the public trusts the messaging from the country's leading health experts.

According to the NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll, 58 percent of Americans say they don't trust what Trump has said about the pandemic, while 31 percent say they do trust his comments.

But a majority of American adults say they trust statements from Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fifty-one percent of adults say they trust Fauci's statements, and 55 percent say they trust the CDC. Twenty-nine percent say they don't trust Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and 32 percent say the same of the CDC.

And 49 percent say they trust what their states' governors have said, with 37 percent saying they don't.

Read the full story on

Trump Nursing Home Plan Limits Supply of Free COVID-19 Tests

The Trump administration's plan to provide every nursing home with a fast COVID-19 testing machine comes with an asterisk: The government won't supply enough test kits to check staff and residents beyond an initial couple of rounds.

A program that sounded like a game changer when it was announced last month at the White House is now prompting concerns that it could turn into another unfulfilled promise for nursing homes, whose residents and staff represent a tiny share of the U.S. population but account for as many as 4 in 10 coronavirus deaths, according to some estimates.

“I think the biggest fear is that the instruments may be delivered but it won't do any good, if you don't have the test kits,” said George Linial, president of LeadingAge of Texas, a branch of a national group representing nonprofit nursing homes and other providers of elder care.

The weekly cost of testing employees could range from more than $19,000 to nearly $38,000, according to estimates by the national organization. LeadingAge is urging the administration to set up a nationwide testing program to take over from the current patchwork of state and local arrangements.

The Trump administration responds that nursing homes could cover the cost of ongoing testing from a $5 billion pot provided by Congress, and allocated to the facilities by the White House.

Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL speaks to the devastating impact Covid-19 continues to have at long-term care nursing facilities across the country as they run low on staff and PPE.

Wave of Evictions Expected as Moratoriums End in Many States

Some 23 million people nationwide at risk of being evicted, according to The Aspen Institute, as moratoriums enacted because of the coronavirus expire and courts reopen. Around 30 state moratoriums have expired since May, according to The Eviction Lab at Princeton University. On top of that, some tenants were already encountering illegal evictions even with the moratoriums.

Now, tenants are crowding courtrooms — or appearing virtually — to detail how the pandemic has upended their lives. Some are low-income families who have endured evictions before, but there are also plenty of wealthier families facing homelessness for the first time — and now being forced to navigate overcrowded and sometimes dangerous shelter systems amid the pandemic.

Experts predict the problem will only get worse in the coming weeks, with 30 million unemployed and uncertainty whether Congress will extend the extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits that expired Friday. The federal eviction moratorium that protects more than 12 million renters living in federally subsidized apartments or units with federally backed mortgages expired July 25. If it's not extended, landlords can initiate eviction proceedings in 30 days.

“It's going to be a mess,” said Bill Faith, executive director of Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, referring to the Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, which found last week that more than 23% of Ohioans questioned said they weren't able to make last month's rent or mortgage payment or had little or no confidence they could pay next month's.

Nationally, the figure was 26.5% among adults 18 years or older, with numbers in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Nevada, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, New York, Tennessee and Texas reaching 30% or higher. The margins of error in the survey vary by state.

“I've never seen this many people poised to lose their housing in a such a short period of time," Faith said. "This is a huge disaster that is beginning to unfold.”

The Associated Press/NBC
Contact Us