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President Donald Trump visited North Carolina Monday to tout the rapid progression of possible vaccines to treat coronavirus. (July 27)

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The death toll from COVID-19 was nearing 150,000 on Tuesday as congressional leaders delved into the details of a GOP stimulus package dismissed as too thin by Democrats and too fat by conservative Republicans.

The ray of hope: The National Institutes of Health and a biotech company called Moderna began the first large-scale American test for a potential vaccine Monday. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called it “a truly historic event in the history of vaccinology.”

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, urged Tennessee to shut down bars and limit indoor restaurant dining to help curb an explosion of infections among young people. Gov. Bill Lee said no.

Major League Baseball’s commissioner, Rob Manfred, downplayed an outbreak that infected at least 11 Miami Marlins players and forced postponement of two games Monday. Manfred said the team could return to action as soon as Wednesday.

“I don’t put this in the nightmare category,” he said. “We built the protocols to allow us to continue to play. “

Here are some significant developments:

  • Senate Republicans unveiled a $1 trillion coronavirus stimulus package Monday that includes another round of $1,200 payments, more help for small businesses and schools planning to reopen. But a major stumbling block is a proposed sharp decrease in the $600 weekly unemployment bonus Democrats consider crucial.
  • The head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention says he has been injected with an experimental COVID-19 vaccine in an attempt to persuade the public to follow suit when one is approved.
  • Robert O’Brien, Donald Trump’s national security adviser, has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The U.N. says coronavirus-linked hunger is leading to the deaths of 10,000 children a month because of fears of contamination and movement restrictions, according to the Associated Press.

📈 Today’s stats: The U.S. has more than 4.2 million confirmed cases and over 148,000 deaths. Worldwide, there have been almost 16.5 million cases and more than 654,000 deaths, according to data maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

📰 What we’re reading: Another coronavirus stimulus check: How much would they be? When would I get it? Who qualifies? What we know about the next round of payments.

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

Tennessee rejects White House recommendation to shut down bars

Dr. Deborah Birx, a White House adviser who is among the top coronavirus officials in the nation, said Monday that Tennessee should close bars and limit indoor restaurant dining to prevent a looming escalation of the outbreak among young people. Moments later, Gov. Bill Lee said he “appreciates their recommendations” but won’t follow them or give county mayors the authority to do so locally.

“I’ve said from the very beginning of this pandemic that there’s nothing off the table,” Lee said. “I’ve also said that we are not going to close the economy back down, and we are not going to.”

Tennessee on Monday broke records for new coronavirus cases and deaths over a seven-day period, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data shows. New cases for the week leaped to 16,735 – more than five times the worst week seen in the spring. And deaths rose to 131, more than double the worst week of the spring.

Brett Kelman, Nashville Tennessean

Head of China CDC gets injected with experimental vaccine

The head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention says he has been injected with an experimental coronavirus vaccine in an attempt to persuade the public to follow suit when one is approved. 

“I’m going to reveal something undercover: I am injected with one of the vaccines,” Gao Fu said in a webinar Sunday hosted by Alibaba Health, an arm of the Chinese e-commerce giant, and Cell Press, an American publisher of scientific journals. “I hope it will work.”

The Associated Press reported earlier this month that a state-owned Chinese company injected employees with experimental shots in March, even before the government-approved testing in people — a move that raised ethical concerns among some experts. Gao did not say when or how he took the vaccine candidate, leaving it unclear whether he was injected as part of a government-approved human trial. He did not respond to requests for comment.

‘Large majority’ of Las Vegas casino employees will be fired, MGM says

Shares of MGM Resorts were falling over 6% in afternoon trading Monday after Las Vegas casinos notified their staff that if they weren’t recalled from furlough by August 31, they would subsequently be fired. Major employers are required under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act) to notify their workers when there are expected to be mass firings. MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts, Tropicana and other casino operators sent out such notifications.

MGM told its employees that it had originally hoped the casino closures would be brief and full operations could be restored. But the pandemic has progressed, and based on currently available data, it doesn’t look like “it will be safe to restart shows prior to August 31, 2020.” That means the “large majority” of employees in the entertainment and sports division will be fired on that date.

– Rich Duprey, The Motley Fool

COVID-19 hospitalizations rise in Georgia after five days of decline

Georgia continued to stagger under a heavy load of COVID-19 cases Monday with deaths trending up statewide. The number of confirmed patients in hospitals across Georgia rose, wiping out what had been five days of declining hospital patients.

The number of cases being reported each day remains elevated, but has shown signs of plateauing in recent days after spiraling upward since early June. Georgia passed 3,500 deaths from the pandemic. Its seven-day average of deaths at the highest level on Monday since coronavirus infections began.

FDA issues new warning to avoid nearly 90 hand sanitizers

The Food and Drug Administration issued another warning Monday to not use certain hand sanitizers that may contain methanol or wood alcohol, a toxic substance when absorbed through skin or ingested. The FDA is continuing to update its “do-not-use list of dangerous hand sanitizer products,” which included 87 varieties of hand sanitizer that should be avoided, some which have already been recalled, and other products being recommended for recalls as they may contain the potentially fatal ingredient.

“Practicing good hand hygiene, which includes using alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available, is an important public health tool for all Americans to employ,” FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn said in a statement. “Consumers must also be vigilant about which hand sanitizers they use, and for their health and safety we urge consumers to immediately stop using all hand sanitizers on the FDA’s list of dangerous hand sanitizer products.”

– Kelly Tyko

MLB commissioner: Miami Marlins coronavirus situation no ‘nightmare’

Major League Baseball is concerned about the Miami Marlins’ recent outbreak of COVID-19 cases, but it isn’t yet enough to consider shutting down the season, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Monday. Appearing on MLB Network, Manfred said officials knew there would be positive tests at some point and its testing plan was built to handle an incident such as the Marlins’ — in which a total of 14 players and staff members tested positive.

“That’s why we have the expanded rosters,” he said. “That’s why we have the expanded pools of additional players. We think we can keep people safe and continue to play.”

After learning three players had tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, the Marlins made the decision as a team to play their game in Philadelphia — raising concerns that MLB’s policies weren’t properly followed. 

– Steve Gardner

GOP relief package, with stimulus checks, panned by both sides

Negotiations for a pandemic-relief plan began with both sides far apart as Senate Republicans unveiled a $1 trillion package – $2 trillion less than the proposal announced by House Democrats in May.

Almost immediately, the GOP package was criticized by conservative lawmakers as misguided and expensive and by Democrats as a late effort that falls short of the nation’s needs to weather the economic damage inflicted by a virus that has infected nearly 4.3 million Americans and killed more than 147,000.

The bill would include another round of $1,200 direct checks to millions of Americans, more help for small businesses and money to help reopen schools, but it would also reduce the $600 unemployment supplement that expires at the end of the month.

– Ledyard King and Nicholas Wu

More COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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Contributing: The Associated Press

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