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During his briefing on COVID-19 response,

USA TODAY

It’s time to hit the reset button: Shut it down and restart. That’s what more than 150 health professionals are urging government leaders in an open letter published earlier this week.

“Tell the American people the truth about the virus, even when it’s hard. Take bold action to save lives — even when it means shutting down again,” the letter, spearheaded by the non-profit U.S. Public Interest Research Group, says.

Public health leaders argue in the letter that the U.S. reopened too quickly, non-essential businesses should close again, Americans should mostly stay home and government officials need to invest more in testing, contact tracing and personal protective equipment capacities.

“If you don’t take these actions, the consequences will be measured in widespread suffering and death,” the letter to President Donald Trump, federal officials and governors says. 

Here are some significant developments:

📈 Today’s stats: The U.S. has surpassed 4 million confirmed cases and has more than 144,000 deaths, according to John Hopkins University data. Worldwide cases have surpassed 15 million with more than 633,000 deaths.

📰 What we’re reading: When will a vaccine be available to the general public? To understand when pre-COVID-19 life in the U.S. can resume, USA TODAY created a panel of experts who estimate we’re almost halfway to an available vaccine. 

Our live blog is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news, and get updates in your inbox with The Daily Briefing.

24 million Americans fear missing next rent payment

Days from the end of enhanced unemployment benefits and a federal eviction moratorium, 24 million Americans say they have little to no chance of being able to pay next month’s rent, a U.S. Census Bureau survey shows.

A disproportionate share of those in danger come from Black and Hispanic households, two groups who have borne the brunt of negative health and economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Congress works to negotiate a new stimulus, experts warn the time to ward off an eviction and foreclosure crisis has almost run out.

“We’re about to fall off a massive cliff and see a major spike in evictions,” said Alanna McCargo, vice president of housing finance policy at the Urban Institute.

– Kevin Crowe, Theresa Diffendal and Carlie Procell

Americans’ confidence in being able to pay August rent:

Fauci: I wouldn’t go to a restaurant or get on a plane right now

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said that he would not eat inside a restaurant or get on a flight given the current state of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.

Speaking with the business news outlet MarketWatch, Fauci admitted part of his reasoning is because at age 79 he is in a higher risk demographic and he goes to the White House nearly every day for coronavirus task force meetings.

Fauci added that eating outside at a restaurant is much safer than indoors. He also said that the U.S. is still “in a pretty big first wave,” reminded Americans that they should be wearing masks when out in public and reaffirmed his prediction that a potential vaccine could be ready as soon as early 2021.

Poll: 3 in 4 Americans want mask wearing required

An overwhelming 3 out of 4 Americans support requiring people to wear masks in public, a new poll found.

Almost 90% of Democrats as well as nearly 60% of Republicans support requiring masks outside of people’s homes. The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll was conducted before President Donald Trump, who had been dismissive of wearing masks despite public health officials’ support, tweeted earlier this week that wearing a face covering is patriotic.

Although partisan rhetoric around masks has undermined what public health officials say is a simple step that can save lives, 95% of Democrats and 75% of Republicans say they’re wearing face coverings when leaving the house. 

The poll also found about two-thirds of Americans disapprove of how Trump is handling the pandemic.

Coronavirus is tearing through Latino communities – and it may get worse

The coronavirus’ continued rampage through the southern and western United States is almost certain to leave an especially deadly trail among Latinos, who not only represent a significant percentage of the population in those regions but often face structural conditions that make them more vulnerable.

A new study published Thursday, the first nationwide analysis of COVID-19 cases and deaths among Latinos, concludes that crowded housing arrangements and high-risk jobs in industries like meatpacking, poultry and hospitality are among the major reasons Latinos have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

As the virus extracts a heavy toll on California, Texas and Florida — the three states with the largest Latino populations — the death count among the country’s biggest minority group could be staggering.

“My prediction is that it’s very likely because the policies and practices that are needed to prevent infections and deaths are not in place,’’ said Carlos Rodriguez-Diaz, the study’s lead author.

– Jorge L. Ortiz

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R-0 may be the most important scientific term you’ve never heard of when it comes to stopping the coronavirus pandemic.

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CDC guidelines for schools: Wear masks, wash hands, don’t touch

Parent check-list for back-to-school: Label your child’s face mask with permanent marker. Have them practice putting on and taking off their mask without touching the cloth. Make a labeled, resealable plastic bag to store their mask during lunch time. Those are among the suggestions the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has for school administrators and parents as families prepare for school to resume in the fall.

Students should wear masks, wash their hands frequently and socially distance to protect against COVID-19 as schools reopen this fall, CDC urged in new guidance documents for administrators published Thursday. “It is critically important for our public health to open schools this fall,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield in a release.

CDC, the nation’s top public health agency, has faced considerable political pressure from President Donald Trump and others to get schools reopened.

A key consideration for school administrators, CDC said, was COVID-19 transmission rates in their communities. But the CDC guidance offered no specific metrics for what transmission rates would require specific actions.

– Elizabeth Weise

GOP backs more stimulus checks, funds for schools in new aid package

Senate Republicans were scrambling Thursday to finalize a $1 trillion coronavirus relief package that will include another round of $1,200 stimulus checks and additional funding to help schools recover from the pandemic.

GOP leaders and the White House said late Wednesday that they had agreed on key parts of the legislation, which will serve as a starting point for negotiations with Democrats, who have already passed their own bill in the House.

But Republicans are still struggling to put the finishing touches on the package. Congress and the White House are under pressure to clinch a deal on a fresh pandemic aid package; a federal program of expanded unemployment benefits is set to run out within days.

One item that will be missing from the GOP plan is Trump’s demand for a payroll tax cut. Republicans abandoned that proposal even though Trump had suggested he might not sign any bill that doesn’t include it.

Arizona governor announces guidelines for schools reopening

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has ordered public health officials to choose data by Aug. 7 for schools to rely on when deciding when to reopen schools for in-person classes. When schools reopen, everyone will be required to wear masks, with some exceptions for students, Ducey added.

The plan comes with another major requirement for schools. Under the order, schools will be required to reopen for on-site learning on Aug. 17 for students who have nowhere else to go. That means, Superintendent Kathy Hoffman said, districts have to open at least one site for students to go, but do not have to open every school or require every teacher to show up to work in-person. Schools also are required to provide distance learning as an option.

– Lily Altavena, Arizona Republic

New CDC guidelines: People with mild to moderate COVID-19 only need to isolate 10 days

People who have had mild to moderate COVID-19 can come out of isolation after 10 days and don’t need to be retested before going back to work, new CDC guidelines say. Symptoms, not testing, are the guide. If patients had a fever, it needs to have been gone for at least 24 hours. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention document, published Wednesday, says symptoms are a better gauge of how infectious someone is so they are “not kept unnecessarily isolated and excluded from work or other responsibilities.” 

The document acknowledges that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is so new that doctors are still gathering evidence for how it works. As more data becomes available, the medical community is gaining a better understanding of how people who are infected can avoiding passing on the disease. The new guidelines reflect the latest thinking.

– Elizabeth Weise

Amtrak tightens face mask requirement

Amtrak on Thursday joined U.S. air carriers in tightening face mask requirements, saying passengers could be removed or banned from its trains for non-compliance. The railroad service had begun requiring face masks in May, but had allowed passengers to remove them when seated alone. Now, passengers can only remove their masks when they’re in private rooms, an option only available on the company’s long-distance trains.

“Amtrak reserves the right to remove customers or ban them from future travel in the event of noncompliance with Amtrak’s face covering policy,” Amtrak said on its website.

– Curtis Tate

Trump cancels Jacksonville portion of RNC due to COVID-19

President Donald Trump announced Thursday he is canceling the Jacksonville portion of the Republican National Convention because of the coronavirus pandemic, a major setback in his effort to energize his struggling bid for reelection. “The timing for this event is not right,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “There’s nothing more important in our country than keeping our people safe.” 

Trump said that he would deliver remarks to formally accept his party’s nomination for president but offered no detail on where or when that will happen. The abrupt decision was not only a significant blow to his campaign but also raised questions about the president’s narrative that the country is ready to reopen for business.

Trump said convention delegates will still gather in North Carolina, where the official business of the convention was set to take place, and formally nominate him for reelection.

Late Thursday, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez reaffirmed that his party will hold its national convention next month in Milwaukee, with a mostly virtual event. Delegates will vote remotely. Joe Biden has said he intends to accept the nomination in Milwaukee

– John Fritze, Courtney Subramanian, Michael Collins and Bill Glauber

AMC Theatres delays reopening again

AMC Theatres is delaying its planned reopening date again amid a spike in COVID-19 cases in dozens of states. The movie theater chain said Thursday that it is now planning to reopen its U.S. locations in “mid to late August.”

The company had previously set its reopening date for July 15 and then delayed it to July 30. But sharp increases in COVID-19 cases in states such as Texas, Florida and Arizona, coupled with Hollywood delaying film releases, have combined to make a swift return to indoor moving showings implausible.

– Nathan Bomey

Florida, Texas among states with deadliest weeks 

A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Wednesday shows 12 states set records for new cases over a seven-day period while six states had a record number of deaths over the period. New case records were set in Alaska, California, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Florida, Idaho, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

In Florida, the week’s death toll was 824, more than twice the number of any week during the spring COVID-19 surge. Still, Gov. Ron DeSantis continued to press for in-classroom learning when schools open, some in less than three weeks. DeSantis stressed that young people face the least risk from the virus. 

“It is our kids who have borne the harshest burden of the controlled measures instituted to protect against the virus,” DeSantis said Wednesday.

– Michael Stucka

More COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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Contributing: The Associated Press

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