The latest on the coronavirus pandemic from around the U.S. and the world.

WASHINGTON — Out-of-work Americans may see only a three-week boost to their unemployment benefits, as state and federal officials scramble to stretch out a limited pot of money and implement President Trump’s recent policy order.

The Trump administration offered the new details about its directive Monday, pledging additional aid would reach workers in a matter of weeks – even as its guidance quickly rekindled criticism that the White House’s actions alone are insufficient to help people weather the economic crisis wrought by the pandemic.

Under Trump’s order, the U.S. government aims to front the money for jobless Americans who would get at least an extra $300 in weekly payments. The dollars will come from a federal disaster relief fund managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will initially dispatch an amount to the states meant to cover three weeks’ worth of payments, the Trump administration said.

About 30 million workers had been receiving $600 in extra jobless benefits from the federal government until the end of July, when a stimulus program expired amid congressional bickering. Democrats and Republicans continued to quarrel over a possible reauthorization into August, when Trump signed his directive, which some economists predicted could last about five weeks.

On Monday, FEMA said the additional weeks of aid depend on the amount remaining in the federal disaster relief program, which has capped the new unemployment initiative at $44 billion. The Trump administration did not specify an exact date as to when the money would reach workers, but FEMA said in its guidance that it anticipated it could take an “average” of three weeks from when Trump first signed his directive – perhaps putting some of those first payments around Aug. 29.


Many states have warned in recent days they face the prospect of immense delays as they race to upgrade their computer systems to implement Trump’s order. Others state unemployment officials have said they fear the program’s confusing criteria may prevent them from sending any new aid at all.

“It’s just more uncertainty for workers at a time when uncertainty is a bad idea,” said Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Center.

FEMA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read the full story about benefits here.

UNC still plans to play fall sports, even after canceling in-person classes

The University of North Carolina says it still plans to play sports this fall after canceling in-person undergraduate classes in favor of remote instruction amid the coronavirus pandemic.



University of North Carolina students gather outside Woolen Gym on the Chapel Hill, N.C., campus as they wait to enter for a fitness class Monday. The University announced minutes before that all classes will be moved online starting Wednesday, due to COVID clusters on campus. Julia Wall/The News & Observer via Associated Press

The school announced the move to online-only instruction on Monday after reporting four coronavirus clusters involving student housing or a fraternity since Friday. UNC’s athletics department later issued a statement saying athletes will continue to take classes online and be able to participate in workouts while following safety protocols.

Athletes can choose to remain in current residences either on or off the Chapel Hill campus.

UNC is a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, which has announced plans to begin its football and other fall sports seasons the week of Sept. 7.

“We still are expecting to play this fall, and we will continue to evaluate the situation in coordination with the university, the ACC, state and local officials, and health officials,” UNC’s athletics department said in the statement. “The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff, and community remains our priority.”

Nursing home virus cases up nearly 80%, mainly in South, West

WASHINGTON — COVID-19 cases in U.S. nursing homes jumped nearly 80% earlier this summer, driven by rampant spread across the South and much of the West, according to an industry report released Monday.


“The case numbers suggest the problem is far from solved,” said Tamara Konetzka, a research professor at the University of Chicago, who specializes in long-term care. She was not involved with the study.

Long-term care facilities account for less than 1% of the U.S. population, but more than 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The situation is a politically sensitive issue for President Donald Trump, who is scrambling to hold on to support from older voters as polls show disapproval of his administration’s response to the pandemic.

The White House announced in late July the release of $5 billion for nursing homes, while launching a program to equip each of some 15,000 facilities with a fast-test machine to screen residents and staff for the coronavirus.


Romelia Navarro, right, is comforted by nurse Michele Younkin as she weeps while sitting at the bedside of her dying husband, Antonio, in St. Jude Medical Center’s COVID-19 unit in Fullerton, Calif., Friday, July 31. AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Monday’s study from the American Health Care Association found there were 9,715 coronavirus cases in nursing homes the week starting July 26, a 77% increase from a low point the week of June 21. The group is the industry’s main trade association.

Weekly deaths, rose to 1,706 the week of July 26, an increase of nearly 25% from a low point the week starting July 5.


Nursing homes in Sunbelt states had more time to prepare than facilities in the Northeast that were hit in late winter and early spring, with grim results. But Konetzka and other researchers have been warning that once a community anywhere experiences an outbreak, it’s only a matter of time before the coronavirus enters its nursing homes. A leading theory is that staffers who don’t yet know they’re infected unwittingly bring the virus in. Inside, the coronavirus encounters an ideal environment in which to spread among frail older people living in close quarters.

Read the full story here.

Virus clusters erupt at U.S. universities as semester begins

From the dorms at North Carolina to the halls of Notre Dame, officials at universities around the U.S. scrambled on Monday to deal with new COVID-19 clusters at the start of the fall semester, some of them linked to off-campus parties and packed clubs.

At Oklahoma State in Stillwater, where a widely circulated video over the weekend showed maskless students packed into a nightclub, officials confirmed 23 coronavirus cases at an off-campus sorority house. The university placed the students living there in isolation and prohibited them from leaving.

“As a student, I’m frustrated as hell,” said Ryan Novozinsky, a junior from Allentown, New Jersey, and editor of the student newspaper. “These are people I have to interact with.” And, he added, “there will be professors they interact with, starting today, that won’t be able to fight this off.”


OSU has a combination of in-person and online courses, and students, staff and faculty are required to wear masks indoors and outdoors where social distancing isn’t possible.


Baylor Garland, left, arrives to move in for his freshman year, assisted by his father Alan, right and mother, Teena, after they arrived from Eaton, Ga., at the University of Alabama on Saturday, Aug. 15, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. More than 20,000 students returned to campus for the first time since spring break with numerous school and city codes in effect to limit the spread of COVID-19. AP Photo/Vasha Hunt

Outbreaks earlier this summer at fraternities in Washington state, California and Mississippi provided a glimpse of the challenges school officials face in keeping the virus from spreading on campuses where young people eat, live, study — and party — in close quarters.

The virus has been blamed for over 170,000 deaths and 5.4 million confirmed infections in the U.S.

Read the full story here.

As schools reopen, working parents face tough decisions

Amanda Hickerson had been agonizing over the decision for weeks. Should she and her husband keep their first- and third-graders at home for a virtual start to the school year? Or should they opt for a hybrid choice that would let the children attend classes in school two days a week?


The choice for Hickerson wasn’t just about her children’s education. As with many Americans facing decisions about school reopening plans, it was also about her career. The mental health therapist from Smithfield, Va., had to cut back on seeing patients this spring when the coronavirus closed school and her kids moved to online learning. Hickerson’s husband wasn’t able to work from home so that meant she had little time for video counseling of clients.

Ashley Zeufeldt makes funny faces with her son Jarren Tucker, 3, as she stands with daughter Jaylynn Tucker, 6, for a portrait near her home in SeaTac, Wash., on Aug. 15. Photo for The Washington Post by photo by Lindsey Wasson

“As a counselor, I can’t afford to have those cute little YouTube moments where the kids come in and interrupt a meeting,” Hickerson, 41, said in an interview. “That violates the ethics of our profession, so it’s literally me locking myself in a room during a session.”

Last week, with just two minutes to go before the school district’s deadline, Hickerson chose the hybrid option. It meant she would have more time for counseling patients, but she still wasn’t certain it was the right choice.

“We are all in the same boat, and I think everyone’s doing the best they can. But this is all new, and trying to determine what’s best for you and your family, it’s really hard,” Hickerson said. “It’s also hard to know what the next turn is going to be and in terms of work, I can’t move forward. So, I’m feeling just stuck and very frustrated.”

That sense of frustration and uncertainty is shared by parents of school-age children across the country as schools reopen their doors – or their portals – for the beginning of classes.

A recent Washington Post-Schar School nationwide poll found 50% of working parents said it would be “harder” or “impossible” to do their job if their children’s schools only provide online instruction this fall, while 50% said it would have no effect.


Not surprisingly, working parents with younger children expected the greatest disruption, with 66% of those with a child entering kindergarten through second grade saying all-online schooling would make it more difficult or impossible for them to do their jobs, as did 60% of parents with a child in grades 3 to 5. That dropped to 40% among parents with children in middle school who do not have children in elementary school and to 26% among parents with children in high school.

Read the full story here.

Pastor of South Korean church linked to at least 300 coronavirus cases tests positive

SEOUL, South Korea _ A controversial South Korean pastor who defied public health authorities to hold services and massive anti-government rallies despite the COVID-19 pandemic has tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said Monday.

The church led by the Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon has been at the center of a growing cluster of cases in the capital, Seoul, which until recently had avoided large numbers of coronavirus infections despite a population of 10 million. More than 300 members of Jun’s 4,000-member Sarang Jeil Church have tested positive for the virus thus far, according to authorities.


In this April 20, 2020, photo, Sarang Jeil Church pastor Jun Kwang-hun speaks outside a detention center in Uiwang, South Korea. Jun who has been a bitter critic of the country’s president has tested positive for the coronavirus health authorities said Monday, two days after he participated in an anti-government rally in Seoul that drew thousands. Ko Jun-beom/Newsis via AP

South Korea has been struggling to keep a lid on outbreaks in the densely populated greater Seoul area _ in offices, fast-food restaurants and markets, but especially in some of the country’s large churches. On Monday, the country reported 197 new infections, the fourth day in a row of cases in triple digits.


The 64-year-old Jun is a firebrand right-wing pastor with a fervent following who has been waging a caustic public battle against South Korean President Moon Jae-in, particularly for his conciliatory North Korea policies. Jun is currently on bail after being arrested on suspicion of election-related charges and of flouting orders from health authorities with his mass gatherings.

His positive coronavirus test result comes after he spoke at a densely packed conservative rally in central Seoul on Saturday. Jun and his followers were among thousands who crowded the downtown area, clashing with police.

On stage, after first pulling his mask down to his chin and then taking it off to hold up in the air, Jun asserted that the outbreak among church members was a conspiracy to undermine him, saying that the virus had been intentionally brought into his congregation by outsiders.

For his part, Moon expressed concern that some churches at the center of outbreaks had not been cooperative with regard to testing and contact tracing, putting the country at risk.

“It’s senseless behavior that throws cold water on the long effort by the Korean people to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” the president wrote in a message on social media Sunday. “It’s a direct challenge to the nation’s disease-prevention system and inexcusable conduct that endangers people’s lives.”

Returning vacationers face new constraints as virus spikes in Europe, Asia


PARIS — Countries that had seen a summer respite from coronavirus outbreaks tracked swiftly rising numbers of new confirmed cases Monday, prompting fears among government leaders and health officials that months of hard-won progress would be lost in just days as vacationers return home.

New restrictions accompanied the final weeks of summer break in Europe. Hours-long traffic jams formed at the Croatia-Slovenia border over the weekend as Austrians trying to beat a midnight quarantine deadline rushed home from a favored coastal vacation spot.

With one goal in mind, the Italian government closed discos, required masks from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. anywhere people might gather and began testing all arriving travelers from Spain, Greece, Malta and Croatia.

“Our priority must be the reopening of schools in September in full safety,” Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said. Italy’s schools have been closed nationwide since early March.


A woman wearing a face mask walks by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo. AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, File

Several nursing homes around France closed their doors anew after reporting virus cases in recent days, families told The Associated Press. One nursing home in eastern France had 34 of its 135 residents and staff members test positive since Aug. 3, and nine residents with the virus die in the past week.

The local mayor in the town of Polnoy blamed the outbreak on waning vigilance by families amid the vacation season, and a sense among many in France this summer that the crisis was over.


Read the full story here.

France deploying riot police to enforce masks

PARIS — The French government is sending riot police to the Marseille region to help enforce mask requirements, as more and more towns and neighborhoods are imposing mask rules starting Monday to slow rising infections.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal announced Monday that 130 police officers are being sent to the Marseille region, which expanded its outdoor mask requirements to all farmers’ markets and more neighborhoods Friday.


A statue wears a mask along Trocadero square close to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File

France has seen scattered incidents of violence by people refusing to wear masks. Paris expanded its mask requirements Saturday, and other towns around France started requiring masks outdoors on Monday.

Infections have been speeding up around France in recent days, with 3,015 new cases Sunday, one of the highest daily spikes since the country lifted a strict two-month lockdown in May.


More than 30,400 people have died with the virus in France, one of the highest death tolls in the world.

The Netherlands reopens schools amid rise in infections

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Schools in northern regions of the Netherlands are reopening this week with most students expected back in classrooms Tuesday and Wednesday without social distancing or face masks.

Education Minister Arie Slob insisted Monday that it is safe to return to high schools.

However, speaking on NOS Radio 1 news, he conceded that “there is never a 100% guarantee that everything will go well.”

While students in Dutch schools don’t have to wear masks or stick to social distancing measures, they do have to stay 1.5 meters (5 feet) from their teachers and adhere to other coronavirus measures such as good hygiene and staying home if they have symptoms.


Students returning from vacations in high-risk countries must stay home for a 14-day quarantine period. High-risk cities include Paris and Marseille in France along with Brussels and Antwerp in Belgium.

The reopening comes amid a recent sharp rise in infections in the Netherlands. On Sunday, the public health institute reported 507 new confirmed cases in the previous 24 hours.

White House virus advisor says people should wear masks

TULSA, Okla. — A top White House coronavirus adviser encouraged people to cover their faces and to social distance to fight the global pandemic during a stop in Oklahoma, where Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt has resisted imposing a statewide mask order.

Dr. Deborah Birx led the roundtable discussion Sunday at the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa. The meeting was closed to journalists, but state and local officials who attended told the Tulsa World that Birx was unwavering on the necessity for masks and distancing in public.

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation said Birx also met with tribal health officials.


Birx is on a Midwestern tour that has included stops in Nebraska and Kansas. She is scheduled to be in Arkansas on Monday.

Czech Republic mandates masks indoors

PRAGUE — The Czech Republic is returning to mandatory use of face masks in indoor public spaces.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech says the face coverings will have to be worn on all means of the public transport and interior places, such are stores, shopping malls, post offices but not in bars and restaurants. People will also have to have the masks at any indoor public gatherings.

Vojtech says the “preventive measure” becomes effective on Sept 1, the start of the new school year.

Currently, the masks are mandatory at hospitals and outpatient clinics and other health care facilities across the country, and on Prague’s subway network.


The number of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Czech Republic has surpassed 20,000. According to Health Ministry figures released on Monday, the country has had 20,012 infected people while 397 have died.

India deaths from virus top 50,000

NEW DELHI — India’s number of reported fatalities from the coronavirus has crossed 50,000 after 941 new deaths were reported in the past 24 hours.

With a total of 50,921 reported deaths, India now has the fourth most reported fatalities from the virus in the world, behind the United States, Brazil and Mexico.

India’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases also crossed 2.6 million on Monday after a spike of 57,982 cases in the past 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry. India is behind the United States and Brazil in total reported cases.

August has seen a big spike in fatalities with more than a quarter of the country’s total coronavirus deaths coming in the past 17 days.


The Indian Council of Medical Research, India’s top medical research body, said that more than 731,697 samples were tested for the virus on Sunday. India has conducted nearly 30 million tests so far.

India’s fatality rate is less than 2%, according to the Health Ministry.

China reports no new virus cases for 1st time in a month

BEIJING — China has reported no new locally spread cases of the coronavirus for the first time in a month, as twin outbreaks on opposite sides of the country have faded.

The National Health Commission did report 22 imported cases in the latest 24-hour period. China has seen a small uptick in the number of infected people arriving from abroad in the past eight days.

Health authorities have reported 84,849 cases overall and 4,634 deaths since the start of the pandemic. China does not include people who test positive but do not show symptoms in its official case count.


Japan’s economy marks worst contraction on record

TOKYO — Japan’s economy shrank at annual rate of 27.8% in April-June, the worst contraction on record, as the coronavirus pandemic slammed consumption and trade, according to government data released Monday.

The Cabinet Office reported that Japan’s preliminary seasonally adjusted real gross domestic product, or GDP, the sum of a nation’s goods and services, fell 7.8% quarter on quarter.

The annual rate shows what the number would have been if continued for a year.

Japanese media reported the latest drop was the worst since World War II. But the Cabinet Office said comparable records began in 1980. The previous worst contraction was during the global financial crisis of 2009.

The world’s third largest economy was already ailing when the virus outbreak struck late last year. The fallout has since gradually worsened both in COVID-19 cases and social distancing restrictions.

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