the coronavirus crisis
5:42 p.m.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, The Kansas City Star reports.

Earlier in the day, Parson's office announced his wife, Teresa Parson, tested positive after developing mild symptoms, including a runny nose and cough, prompting the governor to seek testing as well. So far, Parsons said he feels well and has "no symptoms of any kind," but will quarantine. The Star notes the 65-year-old had heart surgery four years ago, so he is in a demographic that's at greater risk.

Parson is now the second governor to test positive after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), who contracted the coronavirus in July. (Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) received a false positive result in August.)

The test result comes in the middle of a campaign for Parson, who is seeking his first full gubernatorial term after his predecessor resigned in 2018. He was scheduled to debate his Democratic opponent, Nicole Galloway, on Friday, but it's been called off.

Per the Star, Missouri has reported nearly 117,000 coronavirus cases and about 1,950 deaths. The state had the fifth highest rate of cases per capita in the U.S. last week. Read more at The Kansas City Star. Tim O'Donnell

12:37 a.m.

On Tuesday, as the U.S. coronavirus death toll hit 200,000, Vice President Mike Pence reflected on the last several months, and told supporters in New Hampshire he knows "in my heart that we have saved hundreds of thousands of American lives."

He called the death toll "a heartbreaking milestone," but promised that before the end of the year, there will be "a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine." He declared that President Trump "put the health of America first" and the administration is "protecting the vulnerable, we're saving lives, and developing lifesaving medicines."

The United States has about 4 percent of the world's population, but has recorded 20 percent of its COVID-19 deaths. In May, Trump predicted during a Fox News interview that over the course of the pandemic, "anywhere from 75,000, 80,000 to 100,000 people" would die from the virus. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, later clarified that her task force's projections showed "between 100,000 and 240,000 American lives lost, and that's with full mitigation and us learning from each other of how to social distance." Catherine Garcia

September 22, 2020

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is implementing new COVID-19 restrictions, and he says "we should assume" they'll extend into 2021.

Johnson on Tuesday said "we must take action to suppress the disease" after the United Kingdom has seen its number of daily COVID-19 cases rise, which he noted is not "merely a function of more testing." The British government on Monday reported the highest number of new COVID-19 cases since May with 4,300 infections, and government scientists warned that without new steps, that number could rise to 49,000, The Associated Press reports.

"We always knew that while we might have driven the virus into retreat, the prospect of a second wave was real, and I'm sorry to say that, as in Spain and France and many other countries, we've reached a perilous turning point," Johnson said.

Beginning on Thursday, pubs, bars, restaurants, and other hospitality venues must close at 10 p.m. Additionally, weddings will be restricted to 15 people, face masks will be required in taxis and among retail staff, and those who can work from home are being asked to do so. The U.K.'s plan to reopen "business conferences, exhibitions, and large sporting events" starting on Oct. 1 will also be halted.

"We will spare no effort in developing vaccines, treatments, new forms of mass testing," Johnson said. "But unless we palpably make progress, we should assume that the restrictions I have announced will remain in place for perhaps six months."

While Johnson said the U.K. is not returning to "the full lockdown of March," he warned that if the new steps do not bring the coronavirus R number below one, then "significantly greater restrictions" could be implemented. Brendan Morrow

September 17, 2020

The number of Americans filing new jobless claims has declined after failing to budge last week, though it still remains historically high.

The Labor Department on Thursday said that 860,000 Americans filed jobless claims last week, down 33,000 from the week prior. Last week, Labor Department data showed no decline in new jobless claims, raising concern after experts thought there would be a dip. Ahead of Thursday's data, economists had predicted there would be about 875,000 claims, writes CNBC.

Continuing claims dropped by almost one million to 12.6 million, Bloomberg reports.

This was another week that the number of claims stayed below one million, although experts have noted that the past few weeks' numbers shouldn't be directly compared to the numbers from earlier in the pandemic since the Labor Department recently changed its methodology.

Despite the decline, jobless claims are still about five times higher than they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, NBC News notes, and the number continues to surpass the pre-pandemic record of 695,000 claims in one week.

"Unemployment is down from its peak," American University economist Bradley Hardy told The Wall Street Journal, "but I remain concerned." Brendan Morrow

September 16, 2020

From the beginning of the pandemic, health experts warned that the coronavirus' true toll would extend beyond illness and death directly related to COVID-19. As the health care system became overwhelmed earlier this year, many people who needed care for other medical issues received delayed treatment. But people suffering from dementia were perhaps most drastically affected, The Washington Post reports.

More than 134,200 people have died from Alzheimer's in the United States and other forms of dementia since March when the pandemic first really took hold across the country. The Post's analysis of federal data found that is 13,200 more deaths than expected compared with previous years. Indeed, the Post notes, dementia has produced by far the most excess fatalities not directly attributed to COVID-19 throughout the pandemic — more than diabetes and heart disease, the next two highest categories, combined.

The deaths appear to be related not just to the virus, but isolation strategy, the Post reports. Doctors have reported increased falls, pulmonary infections, depression, and suddenly frail patients who had been stable for years. That's likely partly attributable to the fact that social and mental stimulation, especially interactions with family members, are among the few ways to slow dementia, but are now much less available for patients because they are more isolated. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

September 15, 2020

Moviegoers largely aren't flocking back to reopened theaters in the United States — and for theaters, experts say, the outlook is "beyond bleak."

Tenet recently debuted in those U.S. movie theaters that have reopened as the first major blockbuster to be released since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but its domestic box office numbers have so far been seen as disappointing. After Tenet tested the waters, Warner Bros. recently delayed its upcoming blockbuster Wonder Woman 1984 from October to December, and looking ahead, theaters are likely to struggle as CNN notes there's no giant films scheduled to come out earlier than November.

"There's no way around this; the outlook for theaters over the next seven weeks is beyond bleak," Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock told CNN. "...With no major blockbusters until November — although those aren't remotely set in stone — theaters will likely have to make the unfortunate choice of shutting down again or limiting their operating hours."

Theaters in New York City and Los Angeles remain closed, and MKM Partners' Eric Handler notes to CNBC that until they reopen, "it is going to be challenging to put up big box office numbers."

After Wonder Woman's delay, The New York Times reports that "at least three studios" on Monday convened meetings to discuss "how to proceed" with movies scheduled to be released in theaters, and on Tuesday, Variety reported that Disney will "likely" delay Black Widow, the Marvel blockbuster it previously set for Nov. 6. Additionally, according to that report, Disney is considering releasing Soul, the next Pixar movie, on Disney+. Should Black Widow be delayed, Variety notes, theaters wouldn't have "any major releases" until the James Bond film No Time to Die, which isn't scheduled to come out until Nov. 20.

"The next stretch," Box Office Pro analyst Shawn Robbins told the Times, "is going to be extremely hard." Brendan Morrow

September 15, 2020

More than 7,400 patients likely caught the coronavirus while seeking care for other conditions in U.S. hospitals between mid-May and mid-July, data the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided The Wall Street Journal shows.

The data, reported by half of U.S. hospitals to the CDC, indicates hospitals have struggled to prevent contagion within their walls, but experts don't want people to panic. Hospitals are still considered safe and seem to be improving at containing the virus, and the risk of becoming infected has remained low throughout the pandemic. Dr. Meghan Baker, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, told the Journal that avoiding hospitals out of fear of becoming infected with the virus is actually the "bigger public health risk."

Baker and her colleagues recently published a study that found hospitals can, perhaps unsurprisingly, control viral spread with the right tactics like testing every patient on arrival and requiring everyone who is able to wear masks to do so. Brigham and Women's Hospital, for instance, only reported two hospital-acquired COVID-19 cases. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

September 12, 2020

Communications aides in the Health and Human Services Department have openly complained that reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on COVID-19 are undermining President Trump's optimistic pandemic messaging and, despite initial resistance from the CDC, they have increasingly been allowed to review the reports and occasionally alter them, Politico reports.

The change came after Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign official, took over as the health department's spokesperson in April. In an email sent to CDC Director Robert Redfield in August that was reviewed by Politico, Caputo reportedly berated CDC scientists for using their reports to "hurt the president," while Caputo's scientific advisor Paul Alexander, an assistant professor of health research at McMaster University near Toronto, said the CDC is "writing hit pieces" on the Trump administration. He reportedly told Redfield the "outrageous" reports "must be read by someone outside of CDC" like him, so he can "tweak it to ensure it is fair and balanced and 'complete.'"

Several people in the medical community have defended the accuracy and objectivity of the CDC reports, but Caputo told Politico the reviews are necessary "to make sure that evidence, science-based data drives policy through this pandemic — not ulterior deep state motives in the bowels of CDC." Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

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