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

DETROIT — African Americans are disproportionately likely to say a family member or close friend has died of COVID-19 or respiratory illness since March, according to a series of surveys conducted since April that lays bare how black Americans have borne the brunt of the pandemic.

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Belvin Jefferson White holds a portrait of her father, Saymon Jefferson, on May 18 at Saymon’s home in Baton Rouge, La. Belvin recently lost both her father and her uncle, Willie Lee Jefferson, to COVID-19. Gerald Herbert/Associated Press file

Eleven percent of African Americans say they were close with someone who has died from the coronavirus, compared with 5 percent of Americans overall and 4 percent of white Americans.

The findings are based on data from three COVID Impact surveys conducted between April and June by NORC at the University of Chicago for the Data Foundation about the pandemic’s effect on the physical, mental and social health of Americans.

While recent surveys conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research have found that black Americans are especially likely to know someone who had the virus, the new data from the COVID Impact research further details the toll the pandemic has taken on black Americans.

Pre-existing conditions and limited access to health care have been identified as reasons black Americans have been particularly susceptible to the virus. Experts and medical professionals say the longstanding effects of structural racism and generational trauma exacted upon black Americans in the centuries following slavery also cannot be ignored.

“The health inequities that we’re seeing here are nothing new, because we’re starting in a place where during slavery, we had black women who were enslaved and were being experimented on by white male physicians,” said New York-based Dr. Uché Blackstock, a former associate professor at the NYU School of Medicine and the founder of Advancing Health Equity. “So our healthcare system is founded on racism, and our communities have been essentially made sick by racism. We carry the highest disease burden in almost every parameter. We were already in a crisis.”

Read the full story about COVID-19’s toll on black Americans here.

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A man walks by a closed store in Chicago. Layoffs are declining and hiring is slowly picking up, yet it’s not clear where the job market goes next. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and other economists have warned that a second coronavirus outbreak would lead many more consumers to stay home, thereby dealing another blow to restaurants, bars and retailers. Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press, file

Despite job market gains, uncertainties cloud future

WASHINGTON — Layoffs are slowing, unemployment is declining and hiring is gradually rising, suggesting that a steady rebound may be afoot in the U.S. job market.

Or is it?

So many uncertainties are overhanging the economy that no one knows whether hiring will expand steadily in the months ahead or merely plateau as employers recall only enough of their laid-off staffers to partially reopen for business.

The most dangerous risk is that the coronavirus will roar back with renewed intensity, forcing millions of businesses to shut down again and resume deep job cuts.

The outlook is so opaque that at a news conference last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell used the words “uncertain” or “uncertainty” seven times to describe the outlook for economy.

“The extent of the downturn and the pace of recovery,” Powell said, “remain extraordinarily uncertain and will depend in large part on our success in containing the virus.”

Read the full story about the U.S. job market’s prospects here.

House demands coronavirus loan information from Treasury, banks

WASHINGTON — A House subcommittee investigating billions of dollars in coronavirus aid is demanding that the Treasury Department, the Small Business Administration and several large banks turn over detailed information about which businesses applied for and received federal loans.

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Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin told Congress last week that the names of loan recipients and the amounts disbursed as part of the $600 billion-plus Paycheck Protection Program are “proprietary information.” Kevin Dietsch/Pool via Associated Press

The requests come after Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin told Congress last week that the names of loan recipients and the amounts disbursed as part of the $600 billion-plus Paycheck Protection Program are “proprietary information.” Democrats say there is nothing proprietary or confidential about businesses receiving millions of taxpayer dollars.

The letters ask the banks and the department for a complete list of applicants for loans, whether they were approved and also details on the guidance Treasury has issued. The subcommittee is also asking for communications between the government and the banks.

Democrats say they are not receiving enough information about the loan disbursements and fear the Treasury Department has favored large, well-funded companies over smaller businesses in underserved communities. In the letters, the Democrats on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis request that the banks “take immediate steps to ensure that remaining PPP funds are allocated to those businesses truly in need.”

In the letter to Mnuchin and Small Business Administrator Jovita Carranza, the Democrats urged more transparency “so American taxpayers can understand whether federal funds are helping vulnerable businesses and saving jobs, or are being diverted due to waste, fraud, and abuse.”

The committee, which is headed by Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., sent the letters to executives of some of the largest lenders in the program, including JP Morgan Chase, Santander Bank, U.S. Bancorp, Bank of America, Truist Financial Corporation, PNC Bank and Citigroup.

Now 10 weeks after the Paycheck Protection Program was launched, the SBA says it has processed 4.5 million loans worth $511 billion. But it has yet to reveal the recipients of taxpayer aid. The agency has only provided general information, such as the total amounts of loans awarded in a given time period.

The loans can be forgiven if businesses use the money to keep employees on payroll or rehire workers who have been laid off.

Volunteers sign up to put their lives on the line for a coronavirus vaccine

Lehua Gray, a 32-year-old product manager in Austin, wants to risk her life for a coronavirus vaccine. A cloud of potentially deadly microbes would be spritzed up her nose – if she’s allowed to a participate in what’s called a human challenge trial.

It’s built on a deceptively simple premise: Researchers inject healthy volunteers with an experimental vaccine and then expose them to a pathogen. If the vaccine prevents volunteers from getting sick, the study can accelerate development of a promising formula.

This approach has been used to test malaria and cholera vaccines – and now, in laboratories and conference rooms, preliminary discussions are unfolding about the feasibility of employing it in the quest to find a weapon against the novel coronavirus.

Lehua Gray, in her Austin bedroom on a quilt made by her grandmother, says she would participate in a vaccine trial that could involve being exposed to the coronavirus. One motivation: Her grandmother is vulnerable to respiratory illnesses. Photo for The Washington Post by Julia Robinson.

The obstacles are formidable. Infecting healthy people with a potentially lethal virus, with no treatment to save them from severe illness or death, raises some of the most fraught ethical, scientific and philosophical issues in the history of medicine. Exposure to pathogens in challenge trials is usually permitted only for diseases that aren’t fatal or that have treatments available. No such assurances exist for the coronavirus, which has killed more than 425,000 people worldwide.

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said in an interview that challenge trials are “on the table for discussion – not on the table to start designing a plan.”

Large-scale trials of coronavirus vaccine candidates are slated to begin this summer and fall, but they involve more conventional approaches.

When Gray explains to her family her interest in potentially participating in a challenge trial, “it starts out being a conversation about FDA processes and ends up being a conversation about how I’m about to risk my life,” she said.

Despite that risk, Gray and more than 28,000 other volunteers have joined a new online organization, 1Day Sooner, hoping that by placing themselves in the path of the virus, the pandemic will end sooner.

Read the full story here.

Tokyo sees most virus cases since May 5 as it eases restrictions

Tokyo disclosed 47 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, the highest since May 5, as the capital eases restrictions and readies to fully reopen the economy.

Thirty-two of the cases were traced to nightclubs and bars, a spokeswoman for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said by phone, with 18 of them coming from a single business establishment in Shinjuku, which houses the city’s most well-known entertainment and red-light district. It is yet to be determined where 10 other people contracted the virus. The surge was the result of more proactive testing, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters Sunday.

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A woman walks past a souvenir shop at shopping arcade near Sensoji Temple in Tokyo Friday, June 12. AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko

The jump comes as the Tokyo government is planning to lift all business restrictions on Friday, which would allow nightclubs and live music venues to reopen. While many firms have voluntarily complied with requests to close, with authorities lacking the ability to enforce requests, some establishments continued to operate during the pandemic.

The increase also comes days after the capital entered its final reopening phase and lifted the “Tokyo Alert,” which was issued to urge greater vigilance amid a rebound in cases after a state of emergency ended May 25.

“I’d like to deal with it positively,” said Yasutoshi Nishimura, economy and fiscal policy minister, about the case spike at a press conference Sunday, with businesses being cooperative and measures taken to prevent a second wave of infections.

On Saturday, Nishimura announced a new policy at nightclubs and bars to contain the spread, according to Nikkei. It reported the policy will include customers being separated from each other and their contact information being checked.

As Japan’s economy gradually restarts, Nishimura told NHK on Sunday morning that the government will push for digitalization and support employment with subsidies.

Beijing carries out mass testing as coronavirus spreads in the capital

Beijing has set about testing hundreds of thousands of people for coronavirus in an exhaustive effort to stamp out a new eruption of the disease in the Chinese capital.

After dozens of new cases were reported over the weekend, continuing into Monday, Chinese authorities mobilized almost 100,000 community workers to carry out tests on everyone who has worked in or visited the Xinfadi market in the southwest of Beijing.

Xinfadi is the largest fruit, vegetable and meat market in the capital, which is home to some 21 million people, and supplies 70% of the city’s fresh vegetables and 80% of its fruit.

But after discovering more than 90 new infections linked to the market over the weekend, and a further 36 being reported Monday, Beijing’s health authorities are taking military-style action to try to ensure the virus doesn’t spread further.

“These clustered cases are highly correlated with the Xinfadi agricultural wholesale market, which has a highly mobile crowd and poses great outbreak risks,” Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said at a State Council briefing, according to state media reports Monday. “We have to take firm action and resolute measures to effectively stop the epidemic from spreading,” she said.

The sudden appearance of scores of new infections, both symptomatic and asymptomatic, highlights the resilience of the virus and its rapid spread despite tight social controls. It also underscores the dangers of markets as the virus is believed to have originated in the Huanan food market in the city of Wuhan before it spread across the globe.

More than 77,000 people were tested on Sunday and another 200,000 people were expected to be tested Monday, Beijing municipal authorities said.

Oklahoma senator defends Trump’s Tulsa rally as health officials warn of virus risk

Besieged by criticism for scheduling a campaign rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth, an observance of the end of U.S. slavery in a city notable for a historic outburst of racist violence, President Donald Trump on Friday relented and bumped the event back by one day.

But Tulsa’s top health official is urging the campaign to again postpone – not over politics but over public health. As novel coronavirus cases have set new daily records in Oklahoma in recent days, Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart warned over the weekend that a rally expected to draw more than 19,000 Trump supporters could ignite a bigger crisis.

“COVID is here in Tulsa, it is transmitting very efficiently,” Dart told the Tulsa World on Saturday. “I wish we could postpone this to a time when the virus isn’t as large a concern as it is today.”

A Republican senator from Oklahoma took to the air on Sunday to argue that the rally will be safe, although the Trump campaign has asked attendees to sign waivers promising not to sue if they do get the virus that causes the disease COVID-19.

“Everyone needs to take responsibility for their own health,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said on ABC’s “This Week,” adding that he intends to go to the rally.

Pushed by host George Stephanopoulos on how it would be possible to practice social distancing in a jammed arena, Lankford said, “That will be up to city of Tulsa, the governor of Oklahoma and the Trump team itself to be able to figure out how they want to manage that.”

The conflict hints at the significant challenges of campaigning during a pandemic, a particularly acute problem for Trump, who has built a movement centered on the giant gatherings that health officials warn are among the riskiest events for transmitting the coronavirus. Trump has also consistently declined to wear a face mask in public and has criticized others for doing so. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged organizers of large gatherings that involve shouting, chanting or singing to “strongly encourage” attendees use cloth face coverings to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

Read the full story here.

Hong Kong Disneyland will reopen June 18

HONG KONG — Hong Kong Disneyland will re-open June 18, as the city looks to gradually restart its economy amid a dwindling of coronavirus infections.

Hong Kong Disneyland, which has been closed since January due to the coronavirus pandemic, will reopen with limited visitor capacity. It will also introduce social distancing measures in restaurants, rides and other facilities, while suspending activities that require close interaction such as photo sessions with Disney characters, the park said in a press release Monday.

Visitors to the park will also be asked to wear masks, as well as fill out health declaration forms and have their temperature taken upon arrival.

It is the second Disney-branded theme park to re-open globally, following Shanghai Disneyland which opened its doors to guests last month.

Hong Kong’s social distancing measures, which prohibits gatherings of more than eight individuals and limits the capacity of restaurants and eateries, are currently in place until June 18. The city has reported 1,110 cases of coronavirus infections so far, with four deaths.

China’s capital re-institutes virus measures

BEIJING — China has reported 49 new confirmed coronavirus cases as the capital Beijing re-instituted measures to contain a new outbreak.

Of the new cases, 36 were reported Monday in Beijing, traced to a wholesale market that supplies much of the city’s meat and vegetables.

Ten of the other cases were brought from outside the country and three were found in Hebei province just outside Beijing. The National Health Commission reported 177 people in treatment for COVID-19, while 115 were in isolation and under monitoring for showing signs of the illness or having tested positive without giving off symptoms.

China has reported a total of 4,634 deaths from the virus among 83,181 confirmed cases.

Beijing has closed the Xinfadi market, ordered testing of all its workers and is requiring anyone who traveled there to self-isolate for two weeks.

The new cases reported over the weekend mark China’s highest daily total of coronavirus cases in two months, prompting Beijing to suspend the restart of some classes and reverse the relaxation of some social isolation measures.

Gov. Cuomo threatens to ‘reverse’ reopening amid NYC social violations

NEW YORK — Stir-crazy New Yorkers may ruin the planned reopening for the rest of the city.

Areas including Manhattan and the Hamptons where businesses have been widely reported for violating social distancing rules could see their reopening plans “reversed,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened Sunday, even as Saturday marked the lowest number of new COVID-19 deaths in the state since its peak in April.

The state has received a whopping 25,000 complaints about establishments that are serving customers and allowing drinking on the streets, he said, noting Manhattan and the Hamptons are “leading areas in the state with violations.”

“I am warning today in a nice way: consequences of your actions,” Cuomo said at an Albany news conference, noting businesses can lose their liquor licenses for breaking social-distancing rules. “We have 25,000 complaints statewide. I’m not going to turn a blind eye to them.”

The threat came as social media have been flooded with photos of revelers congregating in Greenwich Village, the Upper East Side and Hell’s Kitchen – areas that typically draw well-to-do diners and drinkers. The images depict a city gone stir crazy after nearly three months of lockdown orders in which bars and restaurants have been prohibited from serving customers on their premises.

Read the story here.

Ghana’s health minister contracts COVID-19

ACCRA, Ghana — Ghana’s president has announced that Health Minister Kwaku Agyemang-Manu has contracted COVID-19 and is undergoing treatment at a hospital.

In a state broadcast Sunday night, President Nana Akufo-Addo said the health minister had “contracted the virus in his line of duty” leading the West African nation’s fight against COVID-19.

Ghana has one of highest number of confirmed cases in Africa because of its robust testing, with more than 11,400 cases. Health authorities have reported 51 deaths.

News of the health minister’s illness further fueled worries as Ghana’s universities prepared to reopen Monday so students in their final year of study can take exams.

“If the health minister is contracting the disease, what is the guarantee that my son will be safe?” said Peter Owusu, who son studies at the University of Cape Coast.

France announces reopening of its economy

PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron announced that France is fully reopening its economy, including all restaurants, to accelerate the country’s recovery after virus crisis.

Macron said restaurants in the Paris region will be allowed to open indoor seating starting on Monday. Until then, only outdoor seating was permitted.

Restaurants in other French regions have already reopened.

From June 22, all nursery schools, primary schools and junior high schools will be open and mandatory for all students — instead of classes capped to small groups and many children staying at home.

Macron also confirmed that the second round of local elections that have been interrupted by the virus lockdown will take place on June 28.

“We must relaunch our economy,” Macron said.

France is reopening its borders with other European countries at midnight and will start allowing visitors from other continents on July 1st.

The country, which has reported at least 29,398 deaths from the virus in hospitals and nursing homes, has been under strict lockdown from March 17 to May 11, before gradually easing restrictions.


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