Florida deaths rising sharply but nation’s new cases trending down; Herman Cain dies; Trump suggests delaying election

New U.S. COVID-19 cases showed signs of trending downward Thursday while deaths in Florida rose sharply one day after the U.S. death toll surpassed 150,000.

In Washington, D.C., President Trump suggested delaying the November election, saying reliance on mail-in voting due to the pandemic would be “inaccurate and fraudulent” despite lack of any evidence.

And the Commerce Department issued a record-breaking report of the U.S. economy, announcing that the gross domestic product contracted at a staggering seasonally adjusted annual rate of 32.9% in the April-June period.

In Florida, reeling from sharply rising daily death reports, the state’s largest school district announced that it will begin the school year virtually on Aug. 31. This despite a push by Gov. Ron DeSantis to have school districts provide in-classroom options.

Here are some significant developments:

  • The Philadelphia Phillies postponed a weekend series against the Toronto Blue Jays after a member of the coaching staff and home clubhouse employee both tested positive. 

  • Democratic leaders and Trump administration officials said they were far apart on a $1 trillion stimulus package. Without it, there won’t be another round of $1,200 stimulus checks or another cash bump in unemployment benefits.

  • Herman Cain, one-time presidential hopeful and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, died Thursday after being hospitalized in Atlanta for coronavirus treatment a month ago.

  • Attorney General Bill Barr tested negative for COVID-19 after a brief interaction with Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, who revealed he tested positive for the virus. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now requiring face masks on the House floor.

  • Kohl’s has joined other national retailers that will be closed on Thanksgiving Day during the coronavirus pandemic.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 150,000 deaths and over 4.4 million cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, there have been over 668,000 deaths and 17 million cases. 

📰 What we’re reading: Colleges have plans for classrooms and school buildings, but if students flock to frat parties and tailgates on Saturdays, then what?  “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,” one sorority member told USA TODAY. Read more here. 

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Phillies staffers test positive; weekend series postponed

Major League Baseball continues to struggle containing the coronavirus during its nascent season, and it’s not just the Miami Marlins. The Philadelphia Phillies said Thursday one of its coaches and a home clubhouse employee have tested positive for the virus, forcing postponement of their weekend series against the Toronto Blue Jays. Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, site of the series, has been temporarily closed.

The Phillies and Marlins have been out of action since Sunday, when the Marlins opted to play their game in Philadelphia despite four of their players testing positive for COVID-19. Now, 17 Marlins players and two staff members have contracted the virus, and their season was paused by Major League Baseball until at least Monday. No Phillies players are known to have tested positive.

— Gabe Lacques

New cases trending down nationally?

Based on a seven-day rolling average, daily cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. have fallen to 65,266, down about 3% from a week ago, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Researchers prefer to see two weeks of trending data, but University of Florida biostatistician Ira Longini said he thinks “the direction is real.” 

More good news: The percentage of positive tests nationwide dropped from an average of 8.5% to 7.8% over the past week. Still, Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the University of Nebraska College of Public Health, warns that yet a another boom in cases is possible. “This disease will continue to hopscotch around until it finds tinder – susceptible individuals – like any good fire,” Khan said.

Florida daily death toll continues to climb

For the third consecutive day, the Florida Department of Health reported a new daily record for COVID-19 deaths Thursday. The 253 fatalities represented a jump of almost 20% from the record set the previous day. The total death toll among Florida residents now stands at 6,586, almost half of them in July.

A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Wednesday shows seven states set records for new cases while eight states had a record number of deaths. New case records were set in Arkansas, Hawaii, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico and West Virginia. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Arkansas, California, Florida, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas.

Mike Stucca and Cheryl McCloud

Former presidential hopeful Herman Cain dies of COVID-19

Herman Cain, one-time presidential hopeful and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, died Thursday after being hospitalized in Atlanta for coronavirus treatment a month ago, according to his website and social media.

“Herman Cain – our boss, our friend, like a father to so many of us – has passed away,” wrote Dan Calabrese on Cain’s website.

Calabrese said Cain, 74, was “pretty healthy” in recent years but that his history with cancer landed him in a high-risk group for the coronavirus. Cain recently joined Newsmax TV and was working toward launching a weekly show.

Newsmax said Cain had attended a rally for President Donald Trump in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June, less than two weeks before he was diagnosed. Newsmax said it was not known where Cain, chair of Black Voices for Trump, was infected.

Trump suggests delaying election, rips universal mail-in voting

President Donald Trump lambasted mail-in voting Thursday, suggesting in a tweet that Election Day be delayed from the current date of Nov. 3, though the president lacks the legal authority to delay elections on his own. 

Mail-in voting could be a crucial part of the election process this year as the pandemic discourages in-person polling. But Trump tweeted that effort is “already proving to be a catastrophic disaster” and said it would make it easier for foreign governments and entities to influence the vote.

The date of the presidential election is set by federal law, meaning Congress, not the president, has the power to change it, according to Edward Foley, a law professor from Ohio State University and an election law expert.

Delaying a presidential election would be unprecedented – the nation did not do so even during the Civil War, the flu pandemic of 1920 and World War II. But Trump’s tweet nevertheless drew criticism from Democrats and Republicans for once again sowing doubt about the accuracy of elections. 

– David Jackson, Joey Garrison and John Fritze

Woman who trashed Target mask display cites mental illness for spiral

Melissa Rein Lively’s spiral in an Arizona Target was caught on video for all to see when she recorded herself destroying a mask display in early July. She says she regrets her explosion and is in treatment for mental illness. Lively, the CEO and founder of a public relations firm, said she lost all of her clients and her husband filed for divorce after the videos of her expletive-filled rants went viral.

“I think mental illness has been really something that has not been addressed as a result of this pandemic,” she told USA TODAY. “Because what happened to me was scary and it changed my life forever. I felt I had absolutely no control over my actions.”

Kelly Tyko

Virus could have long-term impact on the heart, studies reveal

New evidence suggests the coronavirus has lasting effects on the heart, raising alarm to cardiologists who have been concerned about potential COVID-19 long-term heart injury. Two German studies, published this week in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Cardiology, found heart abnormalities in COVID-19 patients months after they had already recovered from the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.

“We need to understand longer term clinical symptoms and outcomes that might occur in patients who’ve had it and recovered,” Maddox said. “That will just take some time to look at as more and more people get the infection and recover.”

Adrianna Rodriguez

Florida, struggling with virus surge, closing testing sites ahead of storm

All of Florida’s state-supported COVID-19 testing sites will temporarily close as the entire state remains in the possible path of a storm predicted to become Tropical Storm Isaias overnight. The Florida Division of Emergency Management said its drive-thru and walk-up coronavirus testing sites will close at 5 p.m. Thursday. The testing sites have tents and other free-standing equipment that can’t withstand tropical storm force winds. The closures come as the state struggles to get a handle on the outbreak that has already killed more than 6,500 residents.

The storm is expected to slam the state with heavy rains and strong winds as early as Friday. The sites will remain closed until they are safe to reopen, with all sites anticipated to reopen by 8 a.m., Aug. 5, at the latest, authorities said.

Ginny Beagan, Treasure Coast Newspapers

Fast, at-home testing plan revealed, but hurdles remain

The Food and Drug Administration has opened the door to COVID-19 testing that could be fast, cheap, and handled entirely at home — if companies don’t find the rules too burdensome. 

The FDA template spells out how a sample is to be collected and analyzed without the need to send a sample to a lab for analysis. The template also outlines how accurate the tests must be, with slightly lower standards than lab-based tests. It’s not clear, however, how long it will take the technology to catch up.

“The software alone will pose an incredibly large hurdle for many,” Dr. Michael Mina, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health,  said via email. “Unfortunately the template does not offer this type of ‘new’ avenue that I think is going to be necessary if we want to see truly $1 daily tests become a reality.”

Karen Weintraub and Ken Alltucker

Florida’s largest school district will begin school year online-only

Florida’s largest school district said Wednesday it will begin the school year online-only Aug. 31, a week after it was originally scheduled to start. Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said data on infections and hospitalizations will determine a decision on in-person learning, which will be announced in late September. Gov. Ron DeSantis, however, is urging districts to offer both online and in-person options. 

Florida reported more than 200 COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, bringing the state death toll to 6,333. The number of new COVID-19 cases increased by 9,446, marking the 36th consecutive day the state has recorded more than 5,000 new cases.

California withholds money from two defiant cities 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is withholding federal coronavirus relief funds from two Central Valley cities defying his public health orders by allowing all businesses to reopen amid the pandemic. The governor blocked nearly $65,000 from Atwater in Merced County and more than $35,000 from Coalinga in Fresno County.

The two cities were notified last week by the state’s Office of Emergency Services of the possibility of losing funds if they continued to defy state orders. But local officials chose to stand firm with their decisions. 

Pelosi mandates face masks on House floor

Hours after a Republican congressman who opposes face mask mandates tested positive for COVID-19, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said all members of the House of Representatives would be required to wear them on the floor. Pelosi, D-Calif., said lawmakers could be removed from the floor if they are not wearing a face covering. Earlier Wednesday, it was revealed Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, who usually eschews masks, has contracted the virus.

“The chair expects all members and staff to adhere to the requirement as a sign of respect for the health, safety and well-being of others present in the chamber,” Pelosi said, adding that not wearing a mask would be a “serious breach of decorum.”

– Christal Hayes

Fed keeps interest rates near zero as COVID-19 spikes

As COVID-19 surges across much of the country and many states pause or roll back plans to reopen their economies, the Federal Reserve is renewing its promise to help bolster the wavering recovery. Although noting the economy has “picked up somewhat,” the Fed on Wednesday kept its key short-term interest rate near zero and repeated its vow to use “its full range of tools to support the economy in this challenging time.”

Citing infection surges in many states that have forced them to roll back business reopenings, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said data show credit card spending falling and employment faltering in recent weeks.

“It looks like what we’re seeing is a slowdown in the rate of growth” since late June, Powell told reporters.

– Paul Davidson

Attorney General Barr tests negative for COVID-19

A day after his brief interaction with Rep. Louie Gohmert, who has contracted the coronavirus, Attorney General Bill Barr tested negative Wednesday, the Justice Department reported. Barr took the test after being notified of Gohmert’s positive result.

Gohmert joins a growing number of lawmakers to contract the virus. The Texas Republican has previously refused to wear a mask while speaking on the House floor, and reporters on Capitol Hill have frequently spotted him without one.

Gohmert 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

Chief of staff not optimistic about coronavirus package deal 

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows cast doubt on the possibility of a stimulus deal Wednesday afternoon, telling reporters on Capitol Hill after meetings with Democratic leaders, “I’m not optimistic we’ll reach any kind of comprehensive deal.” 

“No deal certainly becomes a greater possibility the longer these negotiations take,” Meadows said, entering House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office for negations.

Leaving that meeting, where Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were also present, Meadows said bluntly he didn’t “know that anything” would prompt a deal.

“We’re nowhere close to a deal,” Meadows continued. He added, “It means enhanced unemployment insurance provisions will expire” on Friday.

– Nicholas Wu and Savannah Behrmann

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 President Donald 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. 

More COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID updates: Herman Cain dies; Florida record deaths; Trump election

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