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Correction: This video initially misstated Herman Cain’s age. He was 74. The politician and business executive had contracted COVID-19.

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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 a 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.
  • 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 151,000 deaths and over 4.4 million cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, there have been over 669,000 deaths and 17.1 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. 

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

SEC football teams to play only conference games

Taking a similar approach as the Big Ten and the Pac 12, the Southeastern Conference said Thursday its football teams would play a 10-game season only against fellow league schools — if there’s a season at all amid the coronavirus pandemic. As it is, the start of the season will be delayed to Sept. 26, nearly a month later than originally planned.

The SEC conference championship game, held in Atlanta, will be moved from Dec. 5 to Dec. 19, allowing for “one mid-season open date for each school and an open date on December 12 for all schools,” the league said.

The conference-only schedule eliminates a number of longstanding rivalries pitting SEC teams with opponents from other leagues, such as the games between South Carolina and Clemson, Florida and Florida State and Georgia and Georgia Tech.

— Paul Myerberg

Wisconsin is 34th state to require face masks

Wisconsin became the 34th state to require face coverings to limit spread of the coronavirus when Gov. Tony Evers issued an order mandating their use indoors — except for private residences — through the end of September.

The order, which would apply to the first few weeks of the school year if students return to classrooms, drew opposition from Republican lawmakers who successfully sued the Democratic governor in March over his stay-at-home order.

Evers initially resisted issuing the statewide mask mandate, saying for weeks he was considering the idea but worried Republican lawmakers would take him to the conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court again.  

Molly Beck and Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Key West couple arrested for violating quarantine

A Florida couple was arrested and charged with violating quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, an escalation of enforcement in a state grappling with a spike in cases and deaths.

Jose Freire Interian was walking his dog near his Key West home Wednesday when a neighbor began recording him on her cell phone. Hours later, police came knocking on his door with an arrest warrant and whisked Freire Interian and his wife to the county jail. They will go before a judge in August after posting bail Thursday morning.

“If the law allows someone to be arrested for violating a quarantine order and they continue to thumb their nose at the law, yeah, they should be arrested,” Key West City Manager Greg Veliz said.

Freire Interian, 24, speculated the arrests were the result of a soured relationship with another tenant. “I didn’t do anything. I was just walking my dog,” he said. “It’s not as if I left the house to go shopping.”

— The Associated Press

Gunman at hotel fires warning shots when mother, son don’t keep social distance

A gunman at a hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, was arrested after firing four warning shots after telling a woman and her son they weren’t socially distancing.  

According to the Miami Beach Police Department report, Douglas Marks, 29, told the two guests at the Crystal Beach Suites Hotel lobby to leave because they weren’t distancing. She said she ignored Marks but overheard him saying, “Let me take care of them. I have two people not following directions.”

The woman said she heard Marks repeat “you all need to leave” and then heard gunshots and ran out of the hotel with her son. The shots didn’t result in any injuries.

— David Oliver

‘Frontline Doctors’ may not live up to name

The group that calls itself America’s Frontline Doctors, whose video features a Houston doctor who has made outrageous claims, may not quite live up to the billing. USA TODAY confirmed that most are physicians with active state medical licenses, but their specialties and experience suggests they were offering little more than personal opinions rather than research experience on infectious diseases.

The group’s video, which was taken down by Facebook and Twitter for spreading COVID-19 misinformation, was retweeted by President Donald Trump. The president also used the term “very impressive” in referring to group member Dr. Stella Immanuel, who has said some medical conditions are caused by dreaming about having sex with demons and witches and claimed “alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments.” Like Trump, Immanuel has touted the disproved benefits of hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19.

Speaking with MSNBC, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, called the group “a bunch of people spouting something that isn’t true.”

— Ryan W. Miller and Joel Shannon

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

Europe to Americans: Stay home

A European vacation probably won’t be in the cards for Americans this summer. For the second time this month, the European Union extended its travel ban on Americans on Thursday, as COVID-19 infections continued to rise across the United States.

On July 1, the EU started lifting its travel restrictions outside the bloc and welcomed travelers from 14 countries, including Canada, South Korea and Australia. The U.S. was left off that initial list, and the EU extended its ban on American visitors July 16 before Thursday’s action. For the EU to welcome visitors, the coronavirus outbreak in a given country needs to be equally contained or better than in the bloc.

— Curtis Tate and Deirdre Shesgreen

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 Stucka 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  recovered from the disease.

“We need to understand longer term clinical symptoms and outcomes that might occur in patients who’ve had it and recovered,” said Dr. Thomas Maddox, chair of the American College of Cardiology’s Science and Quality Committee. “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 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 would close at 5 p.m. ET 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 an 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 them expected to reopen by 8 a.m. on 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 it 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 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 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. 

More COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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