10.26pm BST22:26

New York governor Andrew Cuomo called Donald Trump’s executive order extending federal unemployment insurance “laughable” and another chapter in the federal government’s botched response to the coronavirus in a conference call with reporters on Sunday.

Trump said on Saturday he would use unspent funds from the Cares act to continue unemployment payments to millions of newly unemployed Americans at a rate of $400 per week – a $200 drop from the earlier $600 payment – but mandated individual states cover 25% of the payment.

“The concept of saying to states, you pay 25% of the insurance, is just laughable,” Cuomo said. “It’s just an impossibility. So none of this is real on the federal side. This is going to have to be resolved.”

The Democratic governor said he didn’t know if Trump was “genuine in thinking the executive order is a resolution or if this is just a tactic in the negotiation. But this is irreconcilable for the state. And I expect this is just a chapter in the book of Washington Covid mismanagement.”

Cuomo praised New Yorkers for driving down the rate of infections in the state so low that only 0.78% of 65,812 tests performed Saturday came back positive.

He said the 131 individuals in intensive care units also represented the lowest number since the early days of the health crisis.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo has dismissed as ‘laughable’ the executive order signed by Donald Trump forcing states to pay part of the $400 weekly unemployment insurance benefits. Photograph: Mark Lennihan/AP

Updated
at 10.28pm BST

9.33pm BST21:33

Three Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) employees have been killed in a helicopter crash while conducting aerial surveys for desert bighorn sheep in the south-western part of the state, according to officials.

The crash happened on Saturday in the remote wilderness of Black Gap Wildlife Management Area, which is adjacent to Big Bend National Park, on the Rio Grande that marks the border with Mexico.

The victims of the crash were identified as wildlife biologist Dewey Stockbridge, fish and wildlife technician Brandon White, and state wildlife veterinarian Bob Dittmar, according to the TPWD.

“No words can begin to express the depth of sadness we feel for the loss of our colleagues in this tragic accident,” Carter Smith, executive director of TPWD, said in the statement.”

“These men were consummate professionals, deeply liked and highly regarded by their peers and partners alike for the immense passion, dedication, and expertise they brought to their important work in wildlife management and veterinary medicine,” he said.

Details of the crash are so far limited and an official investigation by the authorities is underway, according to local media reports.

9.00pm BST21:00

Biden pledges to block Pebble Mine in Alaska if he wins White House

Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said on Sunday that if he’s elected, his administration would stop a proposed copper and gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region.

“It is no place for a mine,” Biden said in a statement on Sunday afternoon. “The Obama-Biden Administration reached that conclusion when we ran a rigorous, science-based process in 2014, and it is still true today.”

The Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration proposed restricting development in the area but never finalized the restrictions. The agency retains the option to invoke that so-called veto process again if it decides to do so.

Biden’s remarks came five days after a surprise intervention from Donald Trump Jr breathed life into efforts to protect the biggest remaining wild salmon run on the planet.

Trump Jr expressed his opposition to the controversial project, breaking with his father’s administration’s efforts to advance the development of the Pebble mine, which would be built near headwaters of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage.

On July 24, the Army Corps of Engineers issued its final environmental analysis for the mine, which essentially green-lights development of what would be the largest mine in North America. Many experts have criticized the environmental review process as hurried and containing crucial gaps in the science.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said on Sunday that if he’s elected, his administration would stop a proposed copper and gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region. Photograph: Marc Lester/AP

Updated
at 10.23pm BST

8.40pm BST20:40

Donald Trump, who spent the night at his private golf club in New Jersey, took part in a virtual conference call today with international leaders on Lebanon in the wake of Tuesday’s massive chemical explosion that devastated the capital.

White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere shared the following readout of the call:

The President expressed his deepest condolences for those killed and injured in the Beirut explosion. President Trump reaffirmed that the United States stands ready and willing to continue providing aid to help the people of Lebanon in their recovery. The President agreed with the other leaders to work closely together in international response efforts. President Trump also urged the Government of Lebanon to conduct a full and transparent investigation, in which the United States stands ready to assist. The President called for calm in Lebanon and acknowledged the legitimate calls of peaceful protestors for transparency, reform, and accountability.

French president Emmanuel Macron, who organized the donor conference in collaboration with the United Nations, warned “it is certainly the future of Lebanon and its people that’s at stake, but also the future of an entire region”.

Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that the explosion in Beirut was a bomb attack in off-the-cuff remarks at the White House on Tuesday were quickly walked back by Pentagon officials, raising the question of where the president got his information. Lebanese officials were reported to have sought urgent clarification from US diplomats.

Sunday’s teleconference raised a total of $298m in emergency aid, organizers said.

US president Donald Trump speaks as Dutch minister for development cooperation Sigrid Kaag participates via a video connection with world leaders about aid to Lebanon in the Hague, the Netherlands on Sunday. Photograph: Phil Nijhuis/EPA

8.10pm BST20:10

North Carolina’s department of health and human services reported 1,452 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, increasing the overall total to 136,218.

Officials said 1,109 people were hospitalized with the virus on Sunday, 20 fewer than Saturday.

Eight additional coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24-hour period have lifted the statewide death toll to 1,109 since the start of the pandemic.

The Republican national convention was initially set for Charlotte, North Carolina’s most populous city, but party leaders downscaled the event because of concerns about coronavirus. The city will still play host to a smaller gathering of Republican delegates to hold the meetings necessary to officially nominate Trump as the party’s candidate in the November presidential election.

Three more days of speeches and other events are set to take place, though Republicans have not announced where those will take place.

7.40pm BST19:40

A total of nine students and staff members at a Georgia high school that made national headlines after a photo shared on social media showed its hallways packed with teenagers, many of them not wearing masks, have tested positive for the coronavirus.

North Paudling High School principal Gabe Carmona wrote Saturday that six students and three staff members returned positive tests in a letter obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

🇯🇲Black🇭🇹Aziz🇳🇬aNANsi🇹🇹
(@Freeyourmindkid)

This is the first day of school in Paulding County, Georgia. pic.twitter.com/fzdidaAABM

August 4, 2020

Hannah Watters, a sophomore at the school who was initially suspended for posting the photo to Twitter, has since had her punishment revoked, CNN reported.

Elsewhere in Georgia, the AP reports that school officials in a nearby metro Atlanta county said 12 students and two staff members across a dozen schools tested positive for the virus during their first week back at school. The Cherokee County school system reported that more than 250 students with potential exposure had been sent home to quarantine for two weeks.

As our Ed Pilkington wrote today, Georgia is one of 21 states across the US that have been placed by the White House coronavirus taskforce in the “red zone”, indicating the disease is now so prevalent that immediate restrictions must be imposed to avoid dire consequences.

“Our situation is rapidly getting out of control,” Melanie Thompson, an Atlanta physician and co-organizer of the letter, told the Guardian. “Frontline health workers are at the end of their ropes – we have been left on our own to make it up as we go along, while the governor fails to do what’s needed to control this epidemic.”

7.22pm BST19:22

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sunday reported 4,974,959 cases of the new coronavirus, an increase of 54,590 cases from its previous count a day prior, and said that the number of deaths had risen by 1,064 to 161,284.

The CDC reported its tally of cases of the respiratory illness known as Covid-19, caused by a new coronavirus, as of 4pm ET on 8 August.

The CDC figures do not necessarily reflect cases reported by individual states.

Updated
at 7.27pm BST

7.06pm BST19:06

Richard Luscombe has the latest on the pandemic’s spread in Florida:

Florida has set a grim new coronavirus milestone: 3,355 hospitalizations in a week, the highest since the pandemic began.

The Sunday-to-Sunday statistic comes at the end of an already bleak week in which the state passed both half a million confirmed cases and 8,000 deaths, according to figures from the Florida department of health.

If there is a silver lining, it’s that the numbers of new cases appears to be trending lower (6,229 news cases reported Sunday after three consecutive days above 7,000) and that the state’s positivity rate has fallen below 9% for only the second time this month. The statewide average of positive tests was above 12% on several occasions through July.

Still, the figures show that Florida remains a hotspot for Covid-19, and stands second to only California (554,160) in the number of cases nationwide.

Meanwhile, there is a growing backlash to efforts by Florida’s political leaders to order schools to reopen with on-campus tuition for students this month. Last month Republican governor Ron DeSantis’s department of education issued an executive order mandating the reopening of bricks-and-mortar schools five days a week.

School districts in most of the state’s 67 counties are ignoring the order on safety grounds, and will start the school year with online learning, while this week the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics put out its own guidance, essentially opposing the reopening of schools until cases and rates of positivity are significantly lower.

If schools reopen too soon, “you’ll be chasing [coronavirus] all over the place, and I don’t know if the health department has the personnel to really handle how much that might be,” Dr Michael Muszynski, a FCAAP expert in pediatric infectious diseases, wrote to DeSantis.

6.26pm BST18:26

Joe Biden says US’s 5m Covid-19 cases ‘breaks the heart’

The Democrats’ presumptive presidential candidate, Joe Biden, published a statement on Medium late on Saturday night in anticipation of the US reaching 5m Covid-19 cases, a landmark that was reached earlier today by Johns Hopkins’ reckoning but was passed yesterday by other counts.

“It’s a number that boggles the mind and breaks the heart,” he wrote. “Five million is more than the entire population of Alabama – or of more than half the states in our union, for that matter. Each time the number clicks up, it represents a life altered, a family stricken with anxiety, a community on edge. And for the families of the more than 160,000 souls who have died because of this virus, it is a pain that can never be undone.”

Biden also hit out at Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic as the two men prepare to compete for the presidency in November’s elections.

“And yet, we continue to hear little more from President Trump than excuses and lies in an effort to cover for his repeated failures of leadership – failures that worsened the pandemic here at home, and in turn deepened our economic crisis,” he wrote.

6.10pm BST18:10

While many Republicans have said the weekly unemployment benefits during Covid-19 encourage people not to work, Gene Marks says some small business owners support such efforts:

About 30 million unemployed Americans are now on tenterhooks waiting to see if the $600-a-week federal unemployment benefit created by the Cares Act will be renewed. As the political row over its efficacy and necessity continues, the House and the Senate remain far apart on a compromise.

What shouldn’t be left out of the discussion is an unlikely, yet numerous, group of people who do support the added benefit: small business owners.

The issue is complicated.

Many I know in the business community have taken issue with the additional $600 federal payment. They complain that a great number of their workers – particularly hourly and part-timers – have avoided returning to the workplace because the benefit provides them with more compensation then they were getting at their job and merely incentivizes them to stop working.

But some studies – like this one from a group of Yale University researchers – have found the opposite to be true. The study found “no evidence” that workers receiving the added federal unemployment benefit were disincentivized to work and that “people with more generously expanded benefits also resumed working at a similar or slightly quicker rate than others did”.

However, as the Wall Street Journal points out, the study excluded part-time workers and other “short-termers” who make up the vast majority of employees that benefited the most from the federal bump. “A worker in Louisiana who made $2,400 from part-time jobs all of last year would collect $2,516 a month in jobless benefits today – $29 a week from the state plus the $600. An average worker who had made $17 per hour ($680 a week) in Ohio has been able to collect $940 each week with the federal boost.”

The debate will continue.

But many small business owners remain convinced the payments should continue. Why? Because it has provided a safety net for their employees during a time when their companies couldn’t pay wages due to the country’s self-inflicted economic collapse.

You can read the full article below:

5.55pm BST17:55

Tom Inglesby, the director of the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has appeared on NBC’s Meet The Press to discuss hopes for a Covid-19 vaccine.

Infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci has said early vaccines may only be effective for half the population. Inglesby said such a vaccine would be better than nothing.

“I think we would take 50% because 50% would be a lot better than what we have now,” he said. Inglesby added: “We’ll have to see what we get, for the amount of time that has passed … to have a vaccine that’s 50% effective in the coming months or the beginning of 2021 would be phenomenal.”

He also said that fresh lockdowns should be considered in areas where the virus surges.

“I don’t think we’re doomed, I think we know what to do, other countries have done it,” he said. “We know that in other countries, universal masking, physical distancing, avoiding larger gatherings, those kinds of things have worked. If we act together in national unison we can get there.”

5.39pm BST17:39

While the US passed the grim milestone of 5m Covid-19 cases earlier today, there are areas in America where the virus appears, at least for now, to be under control.

New York, which recorded horrific daily death tolls in the early stages of the pandemic, now has the “lowest number of people we had in ICU units since the start,” according to the state’s governor Andrew Cuomo.

Andrew Cuomo
(@NYGovCuomo)

We need to protect the extraordinary progress New Yorkers have made.

Today’s infection rate of 0.78% is the lowest we have seen since the pandemic began.

What we are doing is working. We need to stay smart and stay cautious.

August 9, 2020

Of the 65,812 tests reported on Saturday, 515 were positive. That rate, 0.78%, is also the lowest since the start of the pandemic said Cuomo. However, there were still seven deaths from the virus recorded on Saturday and Cuomo urged New Yorkers to be “smart and stay cautious”.

Cuomo also dismissed Donald Trump’s executive action that says states will pay 25% of the weekly benefits going to the unemployed during the pandemic.

“Executive orders will not be a substitute for legislation,” Cuomo said. “You can’t now say to states who have no funding you have to pay 25% of the unemployment insurance cause.”

5.22pm BST17:22

Three months ago, the Republican governor of Missouri chose not to wear a mask in a shop, because he said he wasn’t going to let the government tell him what to do. Mike Parson visited a hardware store to celebrate its reopening after he lifted Missouri’s coronavirus lockdown over the objections of health professionals and mayors of major cities.

Parson said the worst of the pandemic was past and the economic impact of the shutdown was worse than the virus. As for masks, the governor dismissively claimed “there was a lot of information on both sides” over whether to wear one so he wasn’t going to require people to do so.

Three months later, Covid-19 is surging in Missouri and in many other parts of the midwest that imagined they had escaped the worst of the pandemic.

Health specialists predict a sharp increase in deaths across the region in the coming weeks that will be made significantly worse in some states by the politicians who followed Donald Trump’s lead in undermining medical advice and in questioning the value of masks.

You can read the full article below:

5.03pm BST17:03

Florida’s department of health reported 77 deaths from Covid-19 and 6,190 new cases of the virus on Sunday. Although the number of new cases has fallen since a few weeks ago when the state regularly had more than 9,000 new cases a day, it is still the 13th consecutive day with more than 6,000 new cases of the virus, according to CNN.

The state’s department of health says Florida has now recorded a total of 532,806 Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. Only five countries have recorded more cases than Florida, while the US total passed 5m earlier today.

4.44pm BST16:44

Senate minority whip Dick Durbin has said Democrats face a moral dilemma over whether to challenge Donald Trump’s latest executive actions in court.

While some have questioned the legality of the president’s actions, Durbin admitted a legal fight may not be worth it if it means delaying benefits for those in need.

“This is a moral dilemma, we want unemployed people to receive benefits, we never wanted them cut off at all, I’m not going to suggest we run out to court at this point,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

He also criticised Trump’s plan to reduce weekly unemployment benefits from $600 to $400 during the pandemic. “This country-club fix suggested by the president is going to be a cut in the unemployment benefits for 30 million Americans,” Durbin said.

Some Republicans have said the benefits discourage people from working, an accusation Durbin vehemently denied.

“These people are not lazy people,” he said. “We have five unemployed Americans for every available job. This urban legend, which I say is an urban lie, about people sitting at home, binging on Netflix and eating chocolate-covered cherries. Listen, I’ve met with these families, they are desperate to get back to work.”




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