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The US recently topped 4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and now has reached another unenviable milestone.

USA TODAY

The Commerce Department issued a record-breaking report of the U.S. economy from the April-June period on Thursday, a day after the nation’s death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 150,000.

The U.S. gross domestic product contracted at a staggering seasonally adjusted annual rate of 32.9% in the April-June period.

In Florida, reeling from rising daily death reports, the state’s largest school district announced that it will begin the school year virtually on Aug. 31. A decision on when to allow in-person instruction will be based on data from infections and hospitalizations.

In Washington, Democratic leaders and Trump administration officials said they were far apart on a $1 trillion stimulus package. Without it, no new round of $1,200 stimulus checks and no more cash bump in unemployment benefits.

Here are some significant developments:

  • The U.S. surpassed 150,000 deaths from COVID-19 Wednesday.
  • Attorney General Bill Barr tested negative for COVID-19 after a brief interaction with Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert 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 664,000 deaths and 16.9 million cases. 

📰 What we’re reading: Call it coronavirus déjà vu. After planning ways to reopen campuses this fall, colleges are increasingly changing their minds, dramatically increasing online offerings or canceling in-person classes outright. Read more.

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

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 on 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

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

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

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 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. 

What we’re reading

More COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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