8:23 PM - October 26, 2020
8:23 PM - October 26, 2020

Lower Merion elementary school closing for 2 weeks

A Lower Merion elementary school is closing for two weeks after a staff member tested positive for the coronavirus.

Merion Elementary will be closed until Nov. 9, principal Toby Albanese said in a letter to parents Monday. He said the district had consulted with the Montgomery County Office of Public Health after a staff member reported a confirmed case Sunday night.

“As a result of this collaboration and as a precautionary measure against the transmission of the virus,” the school will close, Albanese said. He said anyone in the county who needs to quarantine would be notified by health officials or the district within 48 hours.

Since it began returning children to classrooms a month ago, Lower Merion has reported three cases involving students and four cases involving school staff, all at separate school buildings.

This is the district’s first school closure this fall. Spokesperson Amy Buckman said county health officials reviewed “unique circumstances” surrounding the confirmed case and recommended the school close to prevent further transmission.

— Maddie Hanna

5:42 PM - October 26, 2020
5:42 PM - October 26, 2020

Temple University will delay start of spring semester

A COVID-19 safety sign on the Temple University campus in August.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
A COVID-19 safety sign on the Temple University campus in August.

Similar to some other colleges, Temple University announced Monday it would delay the start of the spring semester for undergraduate and graduate students by eight days and cancel spring break.

“This will give students who leave campus for the winter break at least two full weeks after New Year’s Day to self quarantine, either at home or in off-campus housing before the start of spring classes,” Provost JoAnne A. Epps said in a message to the campus.

And it will limit travel during the semester, she said. Multiple positive cases occurred among students after spring break earlier this year.The semester will begin Tuesday, Jan. 19, the school said.

Temple has not yet announced its plans for spring classes. Earlier this fall, the university moved most in-person instruction online amid an outbreak of coronavirus cases. The university has 90 active cases as or Monday, according to its dashboard.

— Susan Snyder

12:24 AM - October 27, 2020
12:24 AM - October 27, 2020

Penn State students may face fines, discipline over football gatherings

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Those who participated in large gatherings at off-campus apartment buildings in State College on Saturday may face fines and discipline.

State College and Pennsylvania State University police are looking through video of the gatherings held during Penn State’s away football game against Indiana, with the intent to issue citations to those in attendance and refer students to the university for discipline, the borough said in a press release.

The gatherings at the Penn Towers, the Here, and the Rise student apartment complexes in downtown State College violated the borough’s ordinance limiting social groups to no more than 10. They also violated the Secretary of Health’s orders, the borough release noted.

The announcement comes as Penn State is just five days away from its first home football game against Ohio State on Halloween night.

More than 100 people attended each gathering, and there appeared to be no physical distancing and limited mask-wearing, the borough release said. Police, who were called to the gatherings toward the beginning of the Penn State game, dispersed the crowds, the borough said.

“These illegal gatherings put the health, safety and welfare of our community at risk and puts undue strain on the local healthcare system,” the borough said.

The apartment complexes also have agreed to restrict access to common areas in their buildings and are assisting with the police investigation, the borough said.

— Susan Snyder

5:06 PM - October 26, 2020
5:06 PM - October 26, 2020

Stocks have their worst day in a month as virus cases surge

The Wall Street street sign is framed by a giant American flag hanging on the New York Stock Exchange in September.
Mary Altaffer / AP
The Wall Street street sign is framed by a giant American flag hanging on the New York Stock Exchange in September.

U.S. stocks fell sharply Monday as a troubling increase in coronavirus counts put investors in a selling mood. The skid came as doubts mount on Wall Street that Washington will come through with more stimulus for the economy before Election Day.

The S&P 500 slid 1.9%, its biggest single-day decline in more than a month. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 650 points after having been down more than 960 during the heaviest selling. Technology companies drove much of the broad sell-off, though losses in communications services, financial and industrial stocks helped weigh down the market. Energy stocks also dropped in tandem with crude oil prices.

Stocks also fell across much of Europe and Asia. In another sign of caution, Treasury yields pulled back after touching their highest level since June last week.

“It’s kind of a perfect storm,” said Ross Mayfield, investment strategy analyst at Baird. “The record case numbers and the kind of rolling lockdowns across Europe are getting the headlines. Oil is down on some supply and demand issues. Stimulus seems more and more unlikely by the day, at least pre-election.”

The S&P 500 fell 64.42 points to 3,400.97. The Dow slumped 650.19 points, or 2.3%, to 27,685.38. The Nasdaq composite lost 189.34 points, or 1.6%, to 11,358.94. Smaller company stocks also took heavy losses, knocking the Russell 2000 index down 35.29 points, or 2.2%, to 1,605.21.

— Associated Press

4:14 PM - October 26, 2020
4:14 PM - October 26, 2020

While doctors fear virus spread from Trump rallies, Pa. says investigators can’t trace ‘definitively’ if events cause outbreaks

While a group of Philadelphia-area doctors have called on President Donald Trump to cancel his campaign rallies because of the risk of spreading COVID-19, a Pennsylvania Department of Health spokesperson said there’s no way to “determine definitively” if an individual event, like a campaign rally, has caused an outbreak of cases.

“There is not current evidence from our regular case investigation and contact tracing efforts that indicates outbreaks from these events, but we will continue to monitor,” said Maggi Mumma, a department deputy press secretary.

Part of the state’s case investigation process involves interviewing people who have tested positive for COVID about where they’ve been and who they’ve come into contact with during their “infectious period,” Mumma said. That includes asking people whether they have attended large gatherings recently.

The state publishes weekly data from these interviews. For the week of October 4 to October 15 — the most recent data available — 33% of the state’s 8,580 confirmed COVID patients responded to a question about whether they had attended a mass gathering.

Of that 33%, 16.3%, or 424 people, said that they had attended a large event 14 days before their symptoms started. State health officials noted in the most recent data analysis that businesses and mass gatherings are “possible sites for transmission,” but added that less than half of the patients asked about their visits to businesses or mass gatherings responded to the question, and said it’s “essential” Pennsylvanians answer the phone when case investigators call and provide “full and complete information” to them.

— Aubrey Whelan

2:22 PM - October 26, 2020
2:22 PM - October 26, 2020

N.J. officials say goal is to vaccinate 70% of adults within six months of approval

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks at an event in Blackwood, N.J. last week.
HOGP / AP
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks at an event in Blackwood, N.J. last week.

New Jersey officials began unveiling a vaccine distribution plan, with Gov. Phil Murphy and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli saying that initial shipments of any future vaccines will go to frontline workers and vulnerable populations.

The rollout will be informed by guidelines from the National Institute of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, local health departments, hospitals, and other stakeholders.

State officials also will be working to combat what he termed “vaccine skepticism.”

“We are committed to building trust in the vaccines in all communities,” Murphy said.

Once a vaccine has been approved, the goal will be to vaccinate 70% of the adult population within six months, Persichilli said. But Murphy cautioned that such a plan would depend on federal funding, and that absent such funding it could take years to vaccinate so many people.

Allison Steele

2:15 PM - October 26, 2020
2:15 PM - October 26, 2020

Amid COVID-19 spike, local health officials urge people to respond to contact tracing

Health Secretary Rachel Levine urged Pennsylvanians to respond to all questions from contact tracers, saying the information is critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

More than 70% of people from Oct. 11 through Oct. 17 did not completely answer questions about if they had been to a business or mass gathering in the previous two weeks. Of those who did respond, more than 50% reported going to a restaurant, 13% to a bar, 11% to a fitness center, 7.5% to a salon or barbershop, and about one in four reported going to another business.

“Each of us has a collective responsibility to protect our families and our communities and to protect those most vulnerable to COVID-19,” Levine said during a press briefing Monday. “We can control COVID-19.”

Across the river in New Jersey, both Gov. Phil Murphy and health commissioner Judith Persichilli urged residents to cooperate with contact tracers, saying that more than half of those who are contacted do not provide the names of recent contacts.

When reached by tracers, Persichilli said that some COVID-19 patients are opting to call the people they were in contact with themselves, rather than share that information.

“While that might seem like a nice gesture or a personal touch, it’s hindering the work of contact tracers,” she said.

— Ellie Silverman and Allison Steele

2:05 PM - October 26, 2020
2:05 PM - October 26, 2020

'We’re in a tough spot now’: New Jersey reports more than 1,200 new cases

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he has tested negative for the coronavirus for the fourth time since learning of a potential exposure last week. He returned to work this week but said he will continue holding news briefings virtually through the week out of an abundance of caution.

Murphy was exposed to the coronavirus earlier this month when he and his wife had outdoor drinks with Mike DeLameter, his deputy chief of staff, who later tested positive. A second senior staff member, advisor Dan Bryan, also tested positive but subsequent tests came back negative. DeLamater is recovering at home, Murphy said.

Infections in New Jersey continue to spike, with officials reporting 1,223 new cases and seven deaths. The statewide transmission rate is 1.23, meaning each case is resulting in more than one additional infection.

In Newark, the state’s largest city, a dramatic spike in cases led Mayor Ras Baraka to order non-essential businesses and restaurants to end indoor service after 8 p.m. starting Tuesday.

“The numbers are surging,” Murphy said of the statewide data. “we’re in a tough spot right now.”

— Allison Steele

1:55 PM - October 26, 2020
1:55 PM - October 26, 2020

Philly-area doctors press for Trump to cancel events, citing COVID-19 increases after rallies

Supporters wait for President Donald Trump during a campaign stop at the Lancaster Airport in Lititz, Pa., Monday, October 26, 2020
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Supporters wait for President Donald Trump during a campaign stop at the Lancaster Airport in Lititz, Pa., Monday, October 26, 2020

As President Donald Trump has pressed ahead with several rallies in Pennsylvania in the last stretch of campaigning before next Tuesday’s general election, dozens of local physicians have urged him to cancel such large gatherings, citing data analyses that found COVID cases spiked in counties around the country after Trump rallies were held there.

Seventy-five doctors led by the Committee to Protect Medicare, a healthcare advocacy PAC, first signed a letter last week asking Trump to cancel a campaign rally in Erie. This Monday, CTP’s state lead, Max Cooper, an emergency physician in Chester, and Meaghan Reid, an emergency physician in Drexel Hill, hosted a Zoom press conference again asking the president to cancel his rallies here.

“It’s the second time we’ve asked the president to avoid visiting our state — this time we hope he understands that public health must come before politics,” Reid said. “Our most recent 14 day volume is the highest ever. President Trump’s campaign rallies will increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 to more people [The rallies] are packing thousands of people together in the middle of a pandemic that is killing 1,000 Americans every single day.”

The physicians cited a recent data analysis in USA Today that showed COVID-19 cases rose at a faster rate after Trump rallies in at least five counties around the country, including Lackawanna and Dauphin Counties in Pennsylvania.

And an analysis published by two physicians in STAT earlier this month looked at new coronavirus case numbers in 14 cities and townships before and after Trump held rallies there. They found that cases spiked in seven of those cities after the rallies — including after a rally in Old Forge in Lackawanna County.

Authors of both analyses said that it’s not possible to definitively say that Trump rallies are causing spikes in COVID cases. The limitations of counties' current contact tracing capacity; the fact that Trump rallies draw crowds from around a region, not just the county in which they’re held; and other factors that can lead to spikes in cases, like schools re-opening, make finding the source of a case spike in a single county extremely difficult.

Simply hosting large gatherings of unmasked people, though, as COVID cases are rising around the country, goes against public health recommendations and puts people in danger, Cooper said.

“All of us have a duty to practice behaviors to prevent unnecessary sickness and death, starting at President Trump himself,” Cooper said. “President Trump’s rallies endanger health and safety, and do not justify the risk to the individuals [attending].”

— Aubrey Whelan

1:35 PM - October 26, 2020
1:35 PM - October 26, 2020

Philly reports more than 1,000 new cases since Friday

Philadelphia has recorded 1,020 new cases of COVID-19 since Friday, amid a spike cases in the city and across Pennsylvania.

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said last week that the recent rise in cases is a cause for concern, with cases rising in every neighborhood.

The case count reported Monday represents lab results reported to the city since Friday.

The city also reported six additional deaths due to the coronavirus. A total of 1,859 residents have died of the virus and the city has had a total of 42,584 cases since March.

— Laura McCrystal

1:00 PM - October 26, 2020
1:00 PM - October 26, 2020

New COVID-19 cases, positivity rates, and hospitalizations all rising in Pa.

Pennsylvania is still seeing a “fall resurgence” of the coronavirus, Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said Monday, as the state reported more than 1,000 newly confirmed cases for the 21st day in a row.

Indicators of the pandemic’s rise — daily case counts, percent positivity of those tested, hospitalizations — are all increasing. Levine urged Pennsylvanians to continue public health measures like wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding gathering, to curb the spread.

“We need to use all the tools in our toolbox in order to work to control the spread of COVID-19,” Levine said. “We cannot rely on any strategy that relies on ‘herd immunity,’ that means basically letting it burn, and that is not a good public health strategy to follow.”

The state reported 1,407 new cases Monday, days after Friday’s largest one-day total of 2,219 cases.

These increases are being seen across age groups, Levine said. Over the past week, the state has reported nearly 2,200 new cases of COVID-19 among school-aged children, the percent of cases among 13 to 18-year-olds is higher than it was at the beginning of the pandemic, and officials are seeing cases in those 50-year-old and younger.

Cases are also increasing among those in longterm care facilities. There have been more than 800 new cases of COVID-19 among long term care facility residents in the last week with two dozen facilities reporting coronavirus cases in the last week for the first time.

Pennsylvania’s rate of positive test results over the past seven days is at 5%, the benchmark that epidemiologists say indicates a troubling level of community spread. There are also 30 counties with percent positives above 5%, Levine said.

Although the number of hospitalizations —1,104 — is far less than the more than 3,000 people hospitalized during the pandemic’s peak, Levine said officials expect hospitalizations to continue to rise and called the increases “concerning.”

However, Levine also said health care systems are better prepared to respond now than they were in the spring, citing improved treatments such as remdesivir and dexamethasone, a steroid used to decrease inflammation.

10.5% of people currently hospitalized for COVID-19 are on a ventilator, down from about 30% during the spring.

“We have learned much better who really needs to be on a ventilator and who it would be better actually not put on a ventilator,” Levine said. “Patients are sick, but our medical care is much better and that’s really good.”

— Ellie Silverman

12:50 PM - October 26, 2020
12:50 PM - October 26, 2020

Newark to begin nightly curfew on most businesses to combat COVID-19

People wait in a line to get tested for COVID-19 at an urgent care clinic in Newark, N.J., Monday, Oct. 26, 2020.
Seth Wenig / AP
People wait in a line to get tested for COVID-19 at an urgent care clinic in Newark, N.J., Monday, Oct. 26, 2020.

Newark, N.J., is instituting a nightly curfew on most business beginning Tuesday, an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19 as infections continue to rise in New Jersey’s largest city.

All stores except supermarkets, pharmacies, and gas stations must close at 8 p.m. nightly beginning Oct. 27, Mayor Ras. J. Baraka announced Monday. Restaurants and bars must close end indoor service at 8 p.m., but can continue outdoor service and takeout until 11 p.m.

The order also requires appointments for service at barbershops, beauty parlors, nail salons, and related establishments, and all gyms must clean and sanitize for the first 30 minutes of each hour.

The new rules will remain in place until at least Nov. 10.

“This is not the first time COVID-19 has threatened our city and its residents at this magnitude and once again, we will meet this challenge with determination and guided by data,” Baraka said in a statement. “We are Newark strong and can get through this together. We did it once before and we can do it again.”

— Rob Tornoe

11:01 AM - October 26, 2020
11:01 AM - October 26, 2020

Experts say this is what it will take to convince people a vaccine is safe

Juan Diego Ramirez, MPH, a clinical research coordinator at Penn Medicine, speaks to Enelida Gomez, a nurse in Philadelphia, before she receives the second dose of Moderna’s investigational mRNA COVID-19 vaccine as part of a clinical trial at Penn Medicine.
Daniel Burke, For Penn Medicine
Juan Diego Ramirez, MPH, a clinical research coordinator at Penn Medicine, speaks to Enelida Gomez, a nurse in Philadelphia, before she receives the second dose of Moderna’s investigational mRNA COVID-19 vaccine as part of a clinical trial at Penn Medicine.

There’s a good chance we’ll have a coronavirus vaccine available by late this year or early next.

That would be a remarkable scientific achievement, one that would provide the first real hope of taming a new, deadly virus that has upended all aspects of American life — if people are willing to take it.

But polls show decreasing support for getting vaccinated as battles between science and politics have weakened trust in government agencies that evaluate and recommend vaccines. Public health officials are already talking about how best to convince people to take a vaccine, assuming that at least one that finishes testing proves safe and effective.

The issue is so important that a committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that was asked to set priorities for allocating early, scarce vaccine doses included chapters in its report earlier this month on the possibility that demand would be too low. The group emphasized the importance of “evidence-based” communication about vaccines so they actually are used.

— Stacey Burling

10:51 AM - October 26, 2020
10:51 AM - October 26, 2020

Bucknell temporarily cancels in-person classes, restricts off-campus travel

Bucknell rowers cheer for their teammates in a women's varsity heavyweight eight semifinal race in 2019.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Bucknell rowers cheer for their teammates in a women's varsity heavyweight eight semifinal race in 2019.

Bucknell University has canceled in-person classes for a week and restricted travel off-campus, following an uptick in coronavirus cases.

The more-than-3,700-student campus in Lewisburg currently has 10 active cases, according to its coronavirus dashboard.

All classes through Nov. 1 will be conducted remotely, said president John C. Bravman in a message to the campus on Sunday.

He also said any student who travels more than 30 minutes off campus for any reason will not be permitted to return to campus or take in-person classes for the rest of the fall semester.

All students will be tested this week and next week, he said.

“We have every intention of completing our semester here in person,” Bravman wrote in a message to the campus. “The measures we are taking now are intended to be temporary and designed to give us the best possible chance of staying on campus through Nov. 20.”

— Susan Snyder

10:26 AM - October 26, 2020
10:26 AM - October 26, 2020

El Paso imposes curfew as coronavirus cases overwhelm hospitals

Residents in the Texas border city of El Paso have been urged to stay home for two weeks as a spike in coronavirus cases overwhelms hospitals, prompting the state to dedicate part of the city’s civic center as a makeshift care center for the ill.

El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego on Sunday night issued a stay home order with a daily curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Violators could be fined $500 under the order, but the curfew does not apply to people who are going to or from work or out for essential services, including grocery stores and healthcare.

Despite rising case counts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, governors Wolf and Murphy have both said they would look for other solutions before resorting to new restrictions.

— Associated Press

9:00 AM - October 26, 2020
9:00 AM - October 26, 2020

Pennsylvania, New Jersey to give COVID-19 updates amid upswing in new cases

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine meets with the media at The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Harrisburg, Pa.
Joe Hermitt / AP
Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine meets with the media at The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Harrisburg, Pa.

Officials in Pennsylvania and New Jersey will offer coronavirus updates on Monday. Here’s a schedule of how to watch and stream:

— Rob Tornoe

7:00 AM - October 26, 2020
7:00 AM - October 26, 2020

Pennsylvania on pace to surpass daily case numbers from first peak of the pandemic

Chrystal Handford (left) gives a COVID-19 test to Ashley Latimer (right) at the Community-Accessible Testing & Education truck in the parking lot at Concilio in Philadelphia, Pa. on September 27, 2020.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Chrystal Handford (left) gives a COVID-19 test to Ashley Latimer (right) at the Community-Accessible Testing & Education truck in the parking lot at Concilio in Philadelphia, Pa. on September 27, 2020.

COVID-19 continues to spike in Pennsylvania, even as President Donald Trump plans three rallies in the state on Monday.

Pennsylvania reported 2,043 new cases on Saturday, the third-straight day with more than 2,000 cases (the Department of Health didn’t release numbers on Sunday). The commonwealth is now averaging 1,668 new cases a day over the past seven days, just shy of the pandemic high of 1,685 new daily cases set back in mid-April.

Meanwhile, New Jersey reported 1,994 new cases on Saturday, the most the state has seen in a single day since May. New Jersey is now averaging 1,242 new cases a day over the past seven days, a nearly 130% increased over the past month.

After a slight increase in the average number of new cases in the end of September, Delaware has managed to keep the number of new cases relatively flat throughout October.

On a positive note, hospitalizations in all three states — while rising — remain low compared to the peak of the pandemic, as the increase in new cases is being driven largely by a spike in cases among younger people.

Here’s where things stand through Monday, according to an Inquirer analysis of data from each local health department:

  • Pennsylvania: Averaging 1,668 new cases a day, an 18% increase over last week’s average (1,413 a day) and about 116% higher than the average this time last month (770 a day).
  • New Jersey: Averaging 1,242 new cases a day, a 36% increase over last week’s average (912 a day) and nearly 130% higher than the average this time last month (541 a day).
  • Delaware: Averaging 129 new cases a day, a slight decrease compared to last week’s average (135 a day) and nearly 28% higher than the average this time last month (101 a day).

— Rob Tornoe

6:45 AM - October 26, 2020
6:45 AM - October 26, 2020

New wave of cases and hospitalizations strain U.S. health systems

With coronavirus hospitalizations surging in much of the United States and daily cases hitting all-time highs, the pandemic is putting new strain on local health systems, prompting plans for makeshift medical centers and new talk of rationing care.

In Texas, authorities are scrambling to shore up resources in El Paso, where intensive care units hit full capacity on Saturday and where COVID-19 hospitalizations have nearly quadrupled to almost 800 in less than three weeks. In Utah, the state hospital association warned that if current trends hold, it will soon have to ask the governor to invoke “crisis standards of care” — a triage system that, for example, favors younger patients.

New reported infections nationwide surpassed 80,000 for the first time ever Friday and again Saturday, as hospitalizations push past 40,000 and daily death tolls begin to climb. This new wave of infections, expected to intensify as winter draws closer, is spread wider than the spring surge that devastated East Coast states and the summer wave that slammed the South and the Southwest.

This past week brought the highest number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic started. Dozens of states have seen a seven-day average of more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people, with more than 700 per 100,000 in North Dakota — population-wise, that would be the equivalent of Florida reporting more than 20,000 cases during the same time period.

“We are set up for just a perfect storm — a conflagration,” said Megan Ranney, an emergency medicine professor at Brown University. “Right now, you can talk about there being lots of little burning fires across the country. And then Thanksgiving will be the wind that will whip this fire up into an absolute human disaster for our country.”

— Washington Post

6:30 AM - October 26, 2020
6:30 AM - October 26, 2020

Weekend roundup: White House chief of staff says 'we’re not going to control the pandemic’

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows glances as he responds to reporters questions outside the West Wing on the North Lawn of the White House, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, in Washington.
Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows glances as he responds to reporters questions outside the West Wing on the North Lawn of the White House, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, in Washington.
  • Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who spent a week in the ICU battling coronavirus, said on ABC Sunday he was “a little bit surprised” Pence wasn’t self-quarantining after a number of close aides tested positive. Pence tested negative, according to White House, but symptoms can take as long as 14 days to appear after exposure, according to the CDC.
  • White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNN Sunday that “we are not going to control the pandemic,” causing a stunned Jake Tapper to shoot back, “But why not make efforts to contain it?” Meadows said instead the Trump administration is focusing on therapeutics and the development of a vaccine “to make sure that people don’t die from this.”
  • The United States has nixed a plan to offer early access to the coronavirus vaccine to actors to portray Santa Claus in exchange for promoting it publicly, the Wall Street Journal Reported. Ric Erwin, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, told the newspaper the news was “extremely disappointing.”
  • Scott Gottlieb, the director of the Food and Drug Administration during the first two years of the Trump administration, is calling for a national mask mandate to combat the spread of the virus. “Mandating masks has become divisive only because it was framed that way by some politicians and commentators,” Gottlieb wrote in the Wall Street Journal.