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Approving a vaccine in the U.S. usually takes years, but COVID-19 vaccines are moving through in record time. What does that mean?

USA TODAY

President Donald Trump denied on Tuesday night that he downplayed the threat of the coronavirus, even after telling Bob Woodyard during a recorded interview that he knew the virus was more deadly than the flu.

“Well, I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up-played it in terms of action,” Trump said during a televised town hall hosted by ABC News on Tuesday night. Trump, once again, said the virus would “disappear” with or without a vaccine through what he called a “herd mentality,” referencing herd immunity. 

Meanwhile, Texas is nearing 700,000 confirmed infections. The Lone Star State would become the country’s second, after California, to reach that total. As of Tuesday night, the state has 668,746 infections and 14,343 deaths.

Some significant developments:

  • India surpassed 5 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 82,000 deaths.
  • Pfizer, one of the frontrunners in creating a COVID-19 vaccine, reported its candidate has “potential” after expanding its trial over the weekend.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday the House will stay in session until a breakthrough is made on a coronavirus stimulus bill

📈 Today’s numbers: New case records were set in North Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Monday. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Tennessee and Guam. The U.S. has reported more than 6.6 million cases and 195,900 deaths. Globally, there have been more than 29.5 million cases and 934,000 fatalities.

📰 What we’re reading: Even as thousands of their employees fell ill with COVID-19, meatpacking executives pressured federal regulators to help keep their plants open, according to a trove of emails obtained by USA TODAY. Read more.

🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak, state by state

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.

India surpasses 5 million COVID-19 cases, including 90K in past 24 hours

India’s coronavirus confirmed cases crossed 5 million on Wednesday, still soaring and testing the country’s feeble health care system in tens of thousands of impoverished towns and villages.

The Health Ministry reported 90,123 new cases in the past 24 hours, raising the nation’s confirmed total to 5,020,359, about 0.35% of its nearly 1.4 billion population. It said 1,290 more people died in the past 24 hours, for a total of 82,066.

India’s total coronavirus caseload is closing in on the United States’ highest tally of more than 6.6 million cases and expected to surpass it within weeks.

India reported a record daily high of 97,570 cases on Sept. 11 and has added more than 1 million cases this month alone.

Anti-maskers ordered to dig graves for coronavirus victims in Indonesia

Eight people in Indonesia who refused to wear masks in public were ordered by a local official to dig graves for COVID-19 victims. As Indonesia faces an uptick of COVID-19 cases, leaders in Cerme, a district located in East Java, established stricter enforcement of social distancing and mask-wearing policies.

For the eight people who violated the local mask mandate, that meant digging graves. The district’s leader, identified by Indonesian news site Tribun News as Suyono, proposed the punishment due to a lack of gravediggers in the area.

“There are only three available gravediggers at the moment, so I thought I might as well put these people to work with them,” he told Tribun News. “Hopefully, this can create a deterrent effect against violations,” he said.

– Joshua Bote

DOJ: Texas woman fraudulently received nearly $2M in PPP loans

A Texas woman who received nearly $2 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic was arrested Tuesday by federal authorities on fraud allegations.

Lola Shalewa Barbara Kasali, of Houston, was charged with making false statements to a financial institution, wire fraud, bank fraud and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions, according to a U.S. Department of Justice statement.

Officials say Kasali, 22, allegedly submitted two fraudulent PPP loan applications for two businesses — Lola’s Level and Charm Hair Extensions — and claimed to have several employees and large payroll expenses.

“According to the charges, however, neither entity has employees nor pays wages consistent with the amounts claimed in the loan applications,” according to the statement.

After receiving more than $1.9 million in loans, Kasali transferred the funds into four additional bank accounts, officials said. Kasali is expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Christina Bryan in Houston on Wednesday.

Donald Trump denies downplaying coronavirus during ABC News town hall

President Donald Trump on Tuesday denied downplaying the threat from coronavirus, telling a television town hall that he “up-played it” despite his assertion in an interview earlier this year that he “wanted to always play it down.”

Trump made the remarks during a 90-minute town hall hosted by ABC News in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.

“Well, I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up-played it in terms of action,” Trump said in response to a question about an interview with journalist Bob Woodward in which he said he knew the coronavirus was more deadly and contagious than the flu but continued to compare the two. 

– John Fritze and David Jackson

Pfizer reports ‘potential’ with COVID-19 vaccine candidate, expands trial

Pfizer, one of the frontrunners in the quest for a COVID-19 vaccine, said its candidate vaccine is looking safe, and the company expects to have data next month on how well it is protecting people against the coronavirus. 

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Tuesday that he is intentionally revealing more information about the COVID-19 candidate vaccine than he would about any other vaccine under development because he wants the process to be open and transparent.

“Transparency is a must, particularly given this situation and the politicization of the vaccine,” he said in a Q&A with journalists.

The company had said Saturday that it was expanding its trial from 30,000 to 44,000 people to include teenagers, ages 16-18, as well as people with diseases such as HIV, and hepatitis A, B, or C. Tuesday, Bourla said the expansion took place because the vaccine appeared to be extremely safe, and the trial could be expanded without delaying the timeline for completion.

– Karen Weintraub

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2.3 million Americans lost health insurance before COVID-19 pandemic

During Donald Trump’s first three years in office, 2.3 million people became uninsured, according to a Capital & Main analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data released Tuesday.

They include hundreds of thousands of people in battleground states such as Florida, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina and Ohio, as well as Michigan and Minnesota. The number of uninsured grew by nearly 1.6 million people in 13 states identified as swing states by The Cook Political Report.

During his 2016 campaign, Trump promised to repeal and replace Obamacare and, once elected, he vowed everyone would have health insurance.

Health care was a major issue in the 2018 midterm elections and could remain a salient one in the general election only seven weeks away. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to massive job losses in a country where 55% of health care coverage is tied to employment. One study estimated that 5.4 million American workers lost their health insurance between February and May 2020.

Tuesday’s data release makes clear U.S. residents already were hemorrhaging health insurance even before COVID. By far, the largest growth in the number of uninsured was in Texas, where the count swelled by 689,000 between 2016 and 2019.

– Jessica Goodheart, Capital & Main

Nancy Pelosi: House will stay in session to reach coronavirus stimulus deal

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday the House will stay in session until a breakthrough is made on a coronavirus stimulus bill, while moderate lawmakers pressed leaders to come up with a relief deal before the November elections. 

“We are committed to staying here until we have an agreement, an agreement that meets the needs of the American people,” Pelosi said on CNBC Tuesday. 

Her words signaled relief talks between congressional Democrats and President Donald Trump’s White House may be salvaged even though the two sides don’t appear any closer to an agreement. Pelosi hasn’t budged on her desire for a sweeping multi-trillion-dollar plan for aid to schools, the unemployed and cash-strapped local governments. And Republican leadership didn’t appear any more open to recent Democratic proposals on Tuesday.

– Christal Hayes, Nicholas Wu and Ledyard King

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

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