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A photo posted to Twitter last week of a largely maskless crowd at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga., sparked a discussion about just how safe reopened Georgia schools really are. Twitter via AP hide caption

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Twitter via AP

A photo posted to Twitter last week of a largely maskless crowd at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga., sparked a discussion about just how safe reopened Georgia schools really are.

Twitter via AP

Barely a week after Georgia reopened its public schools amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a school district north of Atlanta has ordered 925 students, teachers and staff to self-quarantine after dozens tested positive for the coronavirus. The district also announced the temporary closing of one of its hardest-hit high schools.

Cherokee County School District Superintendent Brian Hightower said in a statement Tuesday that there had been 59 positive COVID-19 tests among students and staff since the Aug. 3 reopening.

"We are not hesitating to quarantine students and staff who have had possible exposure – even if the positive test was prompted by possible exposure rather than symptoms, as all positive cases can lead to the infection of others," Hightower said.

He said Etowah High School would be closed to in-person learning effective at the end of classes on Tuesday. At the end of Monday, about 300 of the school's 2,400 students, or 12.5%, were under quarantine, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The superintendent's statement came a day after Gov. Brian Kemp said at a news conference that the reopening of the schools had gone well.

Although the governor has encouraged the wearing of masks, which have been shown to significantly reduce the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, he has insisted he will not require them. On Monday, Kemp ruled out any directive requiring students to wear masks, leaving that decision instead to district superintendents.

The Cherokee schools, with more than 42,000 students, opted not to mandate masks. It's a decision that some parents have applauded. Georgia Public Broadcasting reports that about a dozen of them staged a rally on Tuesday in Canton, Ga., in support of the district.

It's not clear how many Georgia schools mandate masks, as they are not required to report that information, a spokeswoman for the state's department of health told NPR.

Cherokee public schools spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby said the district had "made clear" that "we anticipated positive tests among students and staff could occur, which is why we put a system into place to quickly contact trace, mandate quarantines, notify parents and report cases and quarantines to the entire community."

In an email to NPR, Jacoby added, "It's worth noting that this level of public reporting is not required in any way, but is keeping with our longstanding commitment to transparency."

In a news conference on Monday alongside U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams at a new mega COVID-19 testing site at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Kemp, a Republican, praised what he described as the mostly smooth opening of the schools, with the exception of some photos shared on social media of crowded hallways of unmasked students.

Last week, a picture of hallways packed with students at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga. – with all but a few not wearing masks — made the rounds on social media. Six students and three staff later tested positive for the coronavirus, and the school was closed for two days to be disinfected.

"I think quite honestly this week went real well other than a couple of virtual photos," Kemp said at Monday's news conference. "But the attitude from what they're telling me was good."

He acknowledged, however, there will "definitely" be COVID-19 cases "when you open anything," adding that's why testing and making sure schools have adequate masks and cleaning equipment is important.

Last month, Kemp sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms after her directive that city residents wear masks in public amid skyrocketing cases in the capital – a stricter standard than the governor himself had issued. The lawsuit argued that Bottoms "does not have the legal authority to modify, change or ignore Governor Kemp's executive orders."

The Big Ten, one of the so-called Power Five NCAA conferences, is postponing fall sports because of the coronavirus. Charlie Neibergall/AP hide caption

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Charlie Neibergall/AP

The Big Ten, one of the so-called Power Five NCAA conferences, is postponing fall sports because of the coronavirus.

Charlie Neibergall/AP

Updated 6:32 p.m. ET

Two major college conferences — the Big Ten and Pac-12 — each announced Tuesday they were sidelining college football and other fall sports because of the coronavirus, just weeks before schools were scheduled to play their first games.

The Big Ten, which includes universities with powerhouse sports programs, such as Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State, said it will look at holding some competitions in the spring.

The Pac-12, which includes elite sports programs Stanford, UCLA, USC and University of Oregon, announced shortly after the Big Ten, adding that officials reached a unanimous decision to call off athletic competition through the calendar year.

"Our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty and staff," said Morton Schapiro, chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and president of Northwestern University, in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.

In addition to football, the Big Ten's decision postpones fall sports such as cross-country, field hockey, soccer and women's volleyball. Under the college schedule, basketball is categorized as a winter sport.

News that the Big Ten would postpone or cancel the 2020-21 football season was first reported by the Detroit Free Press on Monday.

"The health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports has been our number one priority since the start of this current crisis," said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement.

"Our student-athletes, fans, staff and all those who love college sports would like to have seen the season played this calendar year as originally planned, and we know how disappointing this is."

The Pac-12 also said that when conditions improve, a return for impacted sports would be considered after January.

All of the Power Five conferences – the Big Ten, Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference, Pac-12 and Big 12 – had previously announced their schools would be playing almost entirely within their own conferences for the upcoming season, hoping to preserve a popular fall ritual and fulfill TV contracts that bring in billions of dollars each year.

The Big Ten was among the first Football Bowl Subdivision conferences to adopt the conference-only plan — and now, it's among the first to abandon it.

Other Power Five conferences could follow suit, but the SEC commissioner said late Tuesday his conference still intends to play.

Sportscaster Dan Patrick announced on his radio program Monday, "The ACC and the Big 12 are on the fence. The SEC is trying to get a delay to have teams join them."

Patrick added that a source told him that the SEC is seeking exclusive television contracts and might bring in other schools, including some from the ACC and from Big 12 conference, to play games.

The setback for fall sports comes days after the U.S. surpassed 5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases — by far the most in the world, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center.

College head coaches speak out

Not everyone in the Big Ten agreed with the decision.

As rumors of the move circulated on Monday, Nebraska head football coach Scott Frost told reporters that his university "is committed to playing ... no matter what that looks like." Frost even left the door open to playing outside his conference, adding, "we're prepared to look for other options."

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh also pushed for playing games, saying, "This virus can be controlled."

"I'm not advocating for football this fall because of my passion or our players desire to play but because of the facts accumulated over the last eight weeks since our players returned to campus on June 13," Harbaugh wrote in a statement.

He also outlined several benchmarks that he says the Michigan program has met since football players returned to campus in June, including "zero positive tests among the coaches and staff over the entire eight weeks of testing" and "zero pauses in our training."

"This isn't easy. This is hard," Harbaugh said. "We respect the challenge that the virus has presented. however we will not cower from it."

Alabama coach Nick Saban agreed, telling ESPN on Monday that players would be safer living under the structure of his football program — if the season remains intact.

"I know I'll be criticized no matter what I say, that I don't care about player safety," said Saban, who coaches in the SEC.

"Look, players are a lot safer with us than they are running around at home. We have around a 2% positive ratio on our team since the Fourth of the July. It's a lot higher than that in society," Saban said. "We act like these guys can't get this unless they play football. They can get it anywhere, whether they're in a bar or just hanging out."

Making "tradeoffs"

The Big Ten is sidelining fall sports less than a week after the conference announced plans to hold a 10-game, conference-only schedule that could kick off as early as Sept. 5.

But as news about the looming change emerged, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican, sent a letter Monday to the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten, telling them, "We should not cancel the college football season."

"Life is about tradeoffs," Sasse, a former president of Midland University in Fremont, Neb., wrote, adding that "these young men need a season."

"There are no guarantees that college football will be completely safe — that's absolutely true; it's always true. But the structure and discipline of football programs is very likely safer than what the lived experience of 18- to 22-year-olds will be if there isn't a season," Sasse wrote.

Trump tweets

On Monday afternoon, President Trump lent his support to college athletes, coaches and fans who are urging conference officials to allow football games to go ahead.

"Play College Football," Trump said in one tweet.

"The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled," Trump said in another tweet that used the hashtag "WeWantToPlay."

The latter was a retweet of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, one of several top players who are expressing their desire to take the field — and who are calling for measures they say would provide safety and equity for players.

The measures include establishing universal health and safety procedures to protect college athletes among all NCAA conferences, allowing those who don't want to play to opt out and guaranteeing eligibility whether a player chooses to play or not.

The Big Ten announced its decision one day after the Mountain West Conference, which includes Colorado State and Boise State, announced "the indefinite postponement of all scheduled fall sports contests and MW championship events" citing virus concerns.

Over the weekend, the Mid-American Conference announced it was postponing "all scheduled fall contests, as well as MAC championships, due to the concerns related to the COVID-19 global pandemic."

The MAC Council of Presidents vote was unanimous.

However, MAC officials said the hope is to hold competition from the fall sports in the spring semester of 2021, including for football, men's and women's cross-country, men's and women's soccer, and women's volleyball.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, seen here in May, said Tuesday that the country had four new cases of COVID-19. The government moved quickly to contain the outbreak and increased alert levels throughout the country. Hagen Hopkins/AP hide caption

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Hagen Hopkins/AP

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, seen here in May, said Tuesday that the country had four new cases of COVID-19. The government moved quickly to contain the outbreak and increased alert levels throughout the country.

Hagen Hopkins/AP

More than three months after its last case of community spread, New Zealand has four new cases of the coronavirus from an unknown source. The island nation, seen as a global exemplar in the battle to contain the coronavirus, moved quickly to identify the source of transmission and halt further spread.

All four cases are members of the same family, who live in South Auckland, the government said Tuesday.

The first case identified in the cluster was a person in their 50s with no overseas travel history. The person has been symptomatic for five days and was confirmed positive on Tuesday. The six members of the person's household were then tested: three tested positive and three negative.

While the cases are all in one household, more than one workplace was affected, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a late evening press conference on Tuesday in which she announced a heightened state of alert for the country.

All close contacts of the four cases will remain in self-isolation for 14 days, and casual contacts of the infected individuals will self-isolate until they have a test result. Testing for the virus is free in New Zealand.

"This case is a wake-up call against any complacency that may have set in. We cannot afford to let this virus spread," New Zealand's director-general of health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, said in a statement. "We have seen how quickly it can lead to a wider resurgence in communities overseas. Places that have had COVID-19 under control have seen flare-ups and gone back into a full lockdown."

"We are working to not let that happen here. We've done this before and we can do it again," he added.

Auckland is moving to Alert Level 3 for at least three days, and the rest of New Zealand to the lower Level 2. The country had been at Level 1 since June 9, during which life largely returned to normal. Its border remains closed to foreign nationals.

"These three days will give us time to assess the situation, gather information, make sure we have widespread contact tracing so we can find out more about how this case arose and make decisions on how to respond to it," the prime minister said.

"We are asking people in Auckland to stay home to stop the spread," Ardern continued. "Act as if you have COVID and as if the people around you have COVID. At Level 3, you are asked to stay at home in your bubble, other than for essential movements such as going to the supermarket or local recreation."

minhealthnz YouTube

Under the newly heightened measures, people in Auckland must work from home unless they are essential service workers, and schools and childcare facilities are closed, except for the children of essential workers. Travel into Auckland is barred except for those who live there.

Public venues in the city are to close, including libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, playgrounds and markets. Gatherings of no more than 10 people are permitted. Bars and restaurants in the city may only open for takeout.

Auckland residents are now urged to wear masks when out and about. Just a few days earlier, Bloomfield had suggested Kiwis add masks to their emergency kits but said there wasn't any need to use them at the moment.

In the rest of the country, Level 2 means that people can still go to work and school but are urged to maintain social distance, wash hands frequently, wear a mask and keep track of where they've been and who they've seen. Gatherings are limited to 100 people.

"We had all hoped not to find ourselves in this position again," Ardern said. "But we had also prepared for it. And as a team, we have also been here before. We know if we have a plan and stick to it, we can work our way through very difficult and unknown situations."

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the approval of Russia's coronavirus vaccine during a government meeting on Tuesday. Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the approval of Russia's coronavirus vaccine during a government meeting on Tuesday.

Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday that Russia has become the first country to approve a vaccine to prevent coronavirus infection, saying one of his daughters has already received a dose of the new prophylaxis even though that it is still under development.

The announcement of the new vaccine, dubbed Sputnik-V, has been met with initial skepticism, as it has yet to complete Phase III trials in which large numbers of people are given doses to determine whether it is safe and effective in a general population.

Speaking in a teleconference from his residence outside Moscow, Putin said the vaccine had been "registered," referring to a bureaucratic procedure undertaken by the Russian Health Ministry, which amounts to regulatory approval.

"One of my own daughters has tested the vaccine," Putin said, speaking in a teleconference from his residence outside Moscow. "All she experienced was a slightly elevated temperature and [she] feels just fine."

He did not say which of his two daughters, both in their mid-30s, received the inoculation.

Putin said the vaccine, developed by Russia's Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, is based on other coronaviruses that cause harmless colds and has been tested on several dozen people, including military personnel and researchers themselves. Putin said it would be available to the general public on Jan. 1.

Russia is among the countries hit hardest by the pandemic, with nearly 900,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 15,000 COVID-19 deaths, as of Tuesday, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Although the official number of cases has steadily declined in recent weeks, the country still has the fourth highest number of cases.

Putin is eager to show progress in fighting COVID-19, which he initially downplayed, and even the name of the vaccine, which hearkens back to Soviet Russia's first artificial satellite in 1957, is reminiscent of a Cold War-era scientific triumph.

Reactions from experts — even from inside Russia — have ranged from cautious to skeptical, with some suggesting that the high-level haste in pushing an as-yet unproven vaccine may have more to do with politics than science.

On Monday, the Moscow-based Association of Clinical Trials Organizations (ACTO) asked the Health Ministry to delay the vaccine's registration until after Phase III trials were completed.

The researchers said fewer than 100 people had been tested — and that the early registration of the vaccine could expose end consumers to unnecessary danger.

"This is a Pandora's Box and we don't know what will happen to people injected with an unproven vaccine," ACTO Executive Director Svetlana Zavidova said in a letter to Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko on Monday.

A spokesman for the World Health Organization said the United Nations agency was "in close contact with the Russian health authorities" about possibly pre-qualifying the vaccine under a program designed to facilitate access to medicines deemed by the WHO to have met "unified standards of quality, safety and efficacy."

Speaking to reporters at an online news conference from Geneva, Tarik Jasarevic of the World Health Organization noted that "pre-qualification of any vaccine includes the rigorous review and assessment of all the required safety and efficacy data."

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, while on a trip to Taiwan on Tuesday, was asked about the Russian vaccine.

"The point is not to be first with a vaccine," Azar cautioned. "The point is to have a vaccine that is safe and effective for the American people and the people of the world."

Matthew Schmidt, an expert on Russia at the University of New Haven, said the way the new vaccine has been tested "undermines public faith in it."

"Cheating on the scientific process hurts the perception of vaccine safety everywhere," he said.

"Even if it works, it's unlikely to be widely adopted in the rest of the world," Schmidt said. "The fears that it's unsafe could even stoke the anti-vaccine movement and drive up the number of people who refuse to be inoculated because it will feed conspiracy theories, in the U.S. and elsewhere."

NPR's Lucian Kim in Moscow contributed to this report.

At Least 97,000 Children Tested Positive For Coronavirus In Last 2 Weeks Of July

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At least 97,000 children tested positive for the coronavirus in the last two weeks of July.
beastfromeast/Getty Images

At least 97,000 children tested positive for the coronavirus during the last two weeks of July, according to a new review of state-level data by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Children's Hospital Association. The increase represents a 40% surge in the nation's cumulative total of child cases.

"I think it's showing that, yes, kids can get infected and can spread the infection," said Dr. Sean O'Leary, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children's Hospital Colorado and vice chair of the Committee on Infectious Diseases for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The report comes as schools across the country grapple with when and how to reopen safely — with those decisions becoming increasingly politicized. President Trump has attempted to pressure the nation's K-12 schools to reopen, threatening to withhold federal funds and falsely claiming in an interview last week on Fox & Friends that "children are almost, I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease."

This new report reiterates that children are not, in fact, immune to this disease.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, at least 340,000 children have tested positive for the coronavirus, representing roughly 9% of U.S. cases to date. The rise in child cases, according to the report, was largely fueled by states in the South and West, including Missouri, Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, Montana and Alaska.

The report comes with a few important caveats. The uptick in cases is due, in part, to an increase in testing. Different states also define a "child" differently. For data reporting purposes, a majority of states use an age range between 0-17 and 0-19, but, in Tennessee and South Carolina, the cutoff is 20. In Alabama, it's 24. Also, according to the report, the number of positive tests among children could be far higher because of incomplete reporting from New York and Texas. In fact, Texas provided age distribution for just 8% of its confirmed COVID-19 cases and was excluded from many of the report's findings.

If there is good news in such a report, it's that, in spite of the uptick in child infection rates, the data also show that most children do not get critically ill with the disease and that, among the states that reported hospitalization data, the current hospitalization rate for children remains low, at 2%. What's less clear is how effectively children would spread the virus in a classroom setting, not only to friends and classmates but to teachers and school staff.

Data from South Korea suggest that children younger than 10 may not spread the disease easily, but that teenagers do — perhaps as effectively as adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers another cautionary tale, for schools considering reopening: In late June, the disease spread quickly among staff and children at a Georgia sleepaway camp. In a matter of days, at least 260 campers and teen staffers tested positive. Interestingly, of the campers tested, the youngest campers, ages 6 to 10, had the highest infection rate: Fifty-one percent tested positive.

In recent weeks, school districts across the country have announced their plans for the fall. Last week, Chicago became the latest big-city district to announce it would not yet allow students to return to classrooms because of a recent surge in coronavirus rates there.

"While Chicago remains in a better place than many other regions of the country," said Dr. Allison Arwady, the Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner, "these recent trends are very concerning."

But in many communities, the decision to reopen schools is being driven by politics, not local public health conditions. In Florida and Texas, some public health officials have been reportedly sidelined by state leaders who have been outspoken in their desire for schools to reopen quickly.

In a recent review of school reopening plans and local voting trends, Jon Valant of the Brookings Institution found no relationship statistically between reopening decisions and counties' new COVID-19 cases per capita. Instead, he found that "on average, districts that have announced plans to reopen in person are located in counties in which 55% voted for Trump in 2016, compared [with] 35% in districts that have announced plans for remote learning only."

Last week, students at Georgia's North Paulding High School posted photos and videos showing packed hallways at the school and few students wearing face coverings. Though the district is in an outer suburb of Atlanta, where infection rates remain relatively high, schools reopened for in-person instruction last week. This weekend, though, the school reported that six students and three staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus and that in-person classes would temporarily move online to give the school time to disinfect.

What does all this mean for schools?

"In places where there is really good control of the virus," O'Leary said, "with mitigation measures in place, I think it's reasonably safe to open schools. We're never going to get to zero risk."

New York City is a prime example of a school district that plans to reopen its schools partially this fall because the broader community followed safety guidelines and dramatically reduced infection rates, with 1% of coronavirus tests now turning out positive.

But in places where the virus is still spreading widely, O'Leary said, these new data are an important reminder that reopening schools may not be safe. If the coronavirus is circulating in a community, he said, it is inevitable it will follow students and staff to school.

Indiana Education Head On Reopening Schools: Contact Tracing Is A 'Beast'

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Charo Woodcock cleans a classroom at McClelland Elementary School in June in Indianapolis. Students across Indiana are already back in school in a mix of in-person and online instruction. Darron Cummings/AP hide caption

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Charo Woodcock cleans a classroom at McClelland Elementary School in June in Indianapolis. Students across Indiana are already back in school in a mix of in-person and online instruction.

Darron Cummings/AP

In Indiana, school has started up for many students — or will in the next week. It's one of a majority of states where local districts will make most of the decisions about what school will look like this year.

Many districts across the state are bringing students back in person but are also offering online learning for those nervous about returning. Schools have already recorded positive coronavirus cases since reopening and had to adjust their plans, including shutting down temporarily.

In person or online, staggered schedules and hybrid models, different criteria for when to open and when to shut back down — plans are changing "nonstop, which is frustrating for everybody involved," says Jennifer McCormick, who heads the Indiana Department of Education.

For students and staff who attend in person, and their families, contact tracing is key to keeping coronavirus cases down, public health experts say.

But McCormick tells NPR that in particular has been one of the biggest challenges.

"That contact tracing is a beast," she tells Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition. "And in order to manage that and have the people to do it is really hard. And then on the other end of that, you're making calls to families that don't know if it's legit and don't really want to sometimes participate."

McCormick talked with NPR about challenges Indiana is facing as it brings students back to classrooms. Here are excerpts:

Is [opposition to contact tracing] part of the political resistance that we've seen to the basic public health advice here? You call up some people and they say, "I'm not going to participate because this is all bogus. This is all some kind of conspiracy."

Some of that happens, yes. Other [times] when you call a parent and say, "Is your child Susie and her birthday is X, Y, Z?" sometimes you hear a click on the other end of that because you really get into personal information that someone really doesn't know who you are on the other end of that phone. And I don't blame parents. I'm a mother. And I know if someone called me and wanted personal identifying information, regardless of who they said they were, I would be a little reluctant.

And then, yes, we're in Indiana and we still have pockets of Indiana that think [the coronavirus epidemic is] fake and they're not going to wear a mask and they're not going to participate and how dare you call them. So we have all of that happening in Indiana.

Can every school district in this state afford the extra expenses of trying to open safely?

We're trying to open safely, but we're also trying to, for the most part, offer the dual platforms, whether it's remote or on site. And so that gets very expensive. Schools have added additional staffing. PPE is extremely expensive for staff and for students. We have specialized cleaners that we've purchased, the hardware and some of the things that go for remote learning, those costs. So it has been extremely expensive and some districts can absorb that easier than others. Some got more federal assistance with the CARES Act than others. So we're trying ... to get as much flowing through our department to that local district [in need of funds].

Listen to the full audio interview at the link above.

NPR's Ryan Benk and Catherine Whelan produced and edited the audio interview.

A mural in Chennai, India, celebrates workers on the front lines against the coronavirus pandemic. The global case count crossed the 20 million threshold on Monday, with the U.S., Brazil and India in the lead. Arun Sankar/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Arun Sankar/AFP via Getty Images

A mural in Chennai, India, celebrates workers on the front lines against the coronavirus pandemic. The global case count crossed the 20 million threshold on Monday, with the U.S., Brazil and India in the lead.

Arun Sankar/AFP via Getty Images

More than 20 million people worldwide have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Monday evening, nearly five months to the day after the World Health Organization declared it a global pandemic.

This is according to data from Johns Hopkins University, which puts the total number of deaths globally at nearly 734,000.

On Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, acknowledged that "behind these statistics is a great deal of pain and suffering" and urged governments and citizens worldwide to do their part to suppress the virus.

"I know many of you are grieving and that this is a difficult moment for the world," he said. "But I want to be clear, there are green shoots of hope and no matter where a country, a region, a city or a town is – it's never too late to turn the outbreak around."

The U.S. leads the world with more than 5 million coronavirus cases and 163,400 deaths.

After surging in July, infections remain widespread in much of the U.S., especially in the South, West and parts of the Midwest. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday that 11 states had recorded more than 10,000 new cases in the previous week.

The country is logging more than 1,000 deaths per day, or about 40 people an hour, as NPR's Allison Aubrey has reported. The coronavirus is on track to become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. this year, following cancer and heart disease.

Two other countries have case counts in the millions: Brazil is at more than 3 million and India surpassed the 2 million mark last week.

They are followed by Russia, South Africa, Mexico and Peru.

While many countries in Europe and Asia were largely able to bring the virus under control earlier this spring, cases have surged there and in other parts of the world.

The Philippines has overtaken Indonesia as the coronavirus hot spot in Southeast Asia. Mexico has the world's third highest death toll after the U.S. and Brazil. Australia is struggling with a COVID-19 resurgence, and has greatly restricted the city of Melbourne in an effort to slow the spread.

Ghebreyesus said that there are two elements to addressing the pandemic effectively: leaders taking action, and citizens embracing new measures.

He cited several examples of countries that have successfully clamped down on the virus. He called New Zealand, which has gone more than 100 days without community transmission, as a "global exemplar."

In Rwanda, he said, a "similar combination of strong leadership, universal health coverage, well-supported health workers and clear public health communications" helped make progress.

Many countries are using all available public health tools to respond to new spikes, he said. For example, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson put parts of northern England under stay-at-home orders and French President Emmanuel Macron mandated masks in busy outdoor areas.

Ghebreyesus encouraged all countries to focus on rapid case identification, contact tracing, clinical care, physical distancing, mask wearing and good hygiene practices to slow the spread of the virus.

"Whether countries or regions have successfully eliminated the virus, suppressed transmission to a low level, or are still in the midst of a major outbreak," he said. "Now is the time to do it all, invest in the basics of public health and we can save both lives and livelihoods."

Gov. Gavin Newsom, pictured in April, warns President Trump's executive action on unemployment benefits would lead to painful cuts across the state's budget. Rich Pedroncelli/AP/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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Rich Pedroncelli/AP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gov. Gavin Newsom, pictured in April, warns President Trump's executive action on unemployment benefits would lead to painful cuts across the state's budget.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

California's coffers are nearly exhausted, and forcing the state to cover a part of extended unemployment benefits would cause "enormous economic strife and enormous stress," Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Monday.

Despite the state's robust reserves at the start of the year, Newsom said, President Trump's latest executive action would put the state in a perilous position.

Over the weekend Trump bypassed Congress, signing an executive action that would extend now-expired unemployment payments to $400 a week for those whose jobs have vanished in the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the plan requires states to provide a quarter of the payments.

That is just not possible, according to Newsom, who added it would cost $700 million a week to get checks in the hands of all of the state's unemployed residents.

"There is no money sitting in the piggy bank of the previous CARES Act to be reprioritized or reconstituted for this purpose," Newsom said. "Simply, it does not exist."

Since mid-March, which marks the start of the statewide shutdown, more than 8 million people have applied for unemployment insurance.

Newsom added: "It would create a burden, the likes of which" the state has never experienced.

It would also lead to painful cuts across the state's budget, the governor warned, calling the executive action "unusual."

"Usually the federal government fronts the money, recognizing the scarcity of resources during an economic crisis," he said.

Newsom also touched on the abrupt departure of the state's top Department of Public Health official. Dr. Sonia Angell resigned as the department's director and state public health officer on Sunday.

Angell was the first Latina to hold the position, and her resignation comes less than a year since landing the job.

While she did not elaborate on the sudden move, it comes after a disastrous week for the department. A couple of glitches in the state's daily coronavirus case reporting system indicated infections had gone down, when in reality the numbers were much higher. Still, those figures were used by various municipalities to determine whether to reopen businesses and schools.

"Decisions were made, and we're moving forward," Newsom responded on Monday when asked about Angell. "No one's trying to hide that, no one's trying to mask that. We're owning that."

Two people have been chosen to replace Angell. One will be acting health director, while the other will be the acting public health officer.

California And Texas Health Officials: Mistrust A Major Hurdle For Contact Tracers

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Harris County Public Health contact tracers are seen at work as they try to help stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in Houston, Texas, on July 22. Adrees Latif/Reuters hide caption

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Adrees Latif/Reuters

Harris County Public Health contact tracers are seen at work as they try to help stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in Houston, Texas, on July 22.

Adrees Latif/Reuters

Contact tracing has been one of the key tools in the fight against the coronavirus. Now, as the virus has infected more than 5 million Americans, the U.S. has at least 41,122 contact tracers — but that's not even half what public health experts said would be needed to help contain the spread.

Contact tracers call each person who has tested positive and track down their contacts to inform them of their risk so they can quarantine. They also often connect people with services so they can safely isolate.

In addition to staffing shortages and testing bottlenecks, those who are on the job are running into other big challenges, including the difficulty of getting people to cooperate, health officials say.

Elya Franciscus, an epidemiologist with Harris County Public Health in Houston, estimates that about half of those contacted by her department's contact tracers are not fully cooperative.

In the Los Angeles area, a few businesses have proven problematic — with outsize effects, says Michael Osur, assistant director and chief health strategist of the Riverside County Department of Public Health.

Some businesses have even told staff that if they cooperate with health officials, they'll be terminated, Osur says.

In these excerpts from their interview on NPR's All Things Considered, Franciscus and Osur describe the misinformation that's fueled the lack of cooperation and what can be done.

Let's talk about the issue of trust. When you call people and say, tell me everybody you've had close contact with in the last few days, are they willing to share that information?

Michael Osur: They're willing to tell us about their family contacts, who lives in the house. But they're not willing to share their friends, who they saw, the stores they went to. And that's been a huge problem because much of our spread has been through those informal barbecues, get-togethers and other places these people have been that we are having a hard time tracking down.

Elya Franciscus: It's the same thing in Harris County. ... They'll say, oh, "I went to a party and there were 30 people, but I'm not going to give you their names." When we try to get into the nitty-gritty ... "what bar did you go to?" they won't tell us because then they're afraid we're going to shut that bar down.

Do you run into that sort of thing, one in 10 calls, half the calls? Can you quantify it?

Franciscus: I would say for Harris County is upwards of 50%. I would say half are very cooperative. Another 25% are semi-cooperative and the other 25% are absolutely unwilling to share anything. There's so much misinformation being put out right now. Our contact tracers are being called names; they're being cursed at, derogatory language is being used, because there [have] been seeds of mistrust thrown into the community. ... They think that the numbers are inflated. We've heard multiple people say that we're getting paid to make up results. So it's so difficult to combat all of this.

Osur: Most of the businesses will be very cooperative. But some of the businesses that hire the food processors or the farm workers, they are completely uncooperative and have told their staff who are positive if they cooperate with us, they'll be terminated. So we have two or three businesses that have had major outbreaks that we can't get into at all. And that's been a huge problem.

Do you think there's anything you can do to build more trust and make contact tracing more effective and make people more responsive?

Osur: We are hiring appropriate people to do the contact tracing — race, ethnicity, language. ... They're part of our community. And I think we've not done a good job saying that, "The tracers are you. They can help you be healthy and be safe."

Listen to the full interview at the audio link above.

Connor Donevan, Christopher Intagliata and Apoorva Mittal produced and edited the audio interview.

Residents exercise Sunday at Hagley Park in Christchurch, New Zealand. The country's border remains closed to foreign nationals, and New Zealanders returning home are forced to follow a strict 14-day quarantine. Mark Baker/AP hide caption

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Residents exercise Sunday at Hagley Park in Christchurch, New Zealand. The country's border remains closed to foreign nationals, and New Zealanders returning home are forced to follow a strict 14-day quarantine.

Mark Baker/AP

Updated at 4:51 p.m. ET Tuesday

New Zealand went 101 days without any community transmission of the coronavirus, and life in the country largely returned to normal – an experience far different from the havoc that the virus is causing elsewhere in the world.

"Achieving 100 days without community transmission is a significant milestone, however, as we all know, we can't afford to be complacent," Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand's director-general of health, said in a statement Sunday.

Indeed, on Tuesday authorities said four new cases had popped up without a clear indication of how they were spread.

Even so, the country's approach has been largely successful. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, had called New Zealand "a global exemplar" in a statement Monday.

Experts point to New Zealand's quick work in isolating any cases that emerged.

"We got on top of the clusters and isolated them before there were too many of them," epidemiologist Brian Cox at the University of Otago in Dunedin told NPR. "Once we realized it was a cluster epidemic, we worked really hard to isolate people that were infected and quarantine the rest of the people in that person's network. And we managed to achieve that for all the clusters that had developed."

Cox said, "It was a lot of hard work, and we did that at the moment we went into lockdown." By the end of the country's strict lockdown, all of those clusters had been contained.

The New Zealand Ministry of Health's daily report had become remarkably boring amid the global pandemic. Monday's report: "There are no new cases of COVID-19 to report in New Zealand today. It has been 101 days since the last case of COVID-19 was acquired locally from an unknown source. Two additional cases are reported as having recovered, so there are now 21 active cases of COVID-19 in managed isolation facilities. New Zealand's total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 remains at 1,219."

The country's leaders continued to urge caution. The government asked people to use the NZ COVID Tracer smartphone app to log where they've been in case contact tracers need to reach them. New Zealanders were encouraged to add masks to their emergency kits in case of a future outbreak, though "there's no need to use them now," Bloomfield said in a Facebook Live discussion last week.

While the authorities were finding no new cases, Radio New Zealand's Colin Peacock said life was really quite ordinary.

"Shopping, movies, entertainment, going to bars," he said. "We can dance as close as we like to each other in nightclubs as late as we like. So everything is just fine in that regard, and business is carrying on as normal."

New Zealand's border remains closed to foreign nationals, and Kiwis returning home are forced to follow a strict 14-day quarantine.

The big difference in daily life? "That closed-down border," Peacock said, with New Zealand being an island nation in more than one sense.

NPR's Ashley Westerman contributed to this report.

Purdue Pharma, with headquarters in Stamford, Conn., was forced into bankruptcy last year by the opioid crisis. Pressure on the opioid front comes even as drug firms are producing medicines and providing services, including testing and vaccine development, needed to help slow the coronavirus pandemic. Drew Angerer/Getty Images hide caption

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Purdue Pharma, with headquarters in Stamford, Conn., was forced into bankruptcy last year by the opioid crisis. Pressure on the opioid front comes even as drug firms are producing medicines and providing services, including testing and vaccine development, needed to help slow the coronavirus pandemic.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

As drug firms race to position themselves as key players in the coronavirus fight, the industry faces a renewed wave of civil lawsuits stemming from its role in the nation's deadly opioid epidemic.

Thousands of cases that ground to a halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic are moving forward again as local, state and federal courts reopen around the United States.

"I think it's quite serious," said Rebecca Haffajee, who studies opioid litigation for the Rand Corp. and the University of Michigan. "There have been delays associated with COVID, but I actually don't think there's an end in sight for a lot of these defendants."

Pressure on the opioid front comes even as drug firms are producing medicines and providing services, including testing and vaccine development, needed to help slow the pandemic.

"These companies are and have argued that they are essential businesses" during the coronavirus crisis, Haffajee noted.

But some of the nation's biggest companies — including CVS, Johnson & Johnson, McKesson and Walgreens — remain mired in legal and financial uncertainty tied to their decades-long manufacture and sale of prescription opioids.

The highly addictive medications have contributed to the overdose deaths of more than 230,000 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fallout from the opioid crisis has already forced two companies, Purdue Pharma and Insys Therapeutics, into bankruptcy.

Mallinckrodt, a maker of generic opioids, announced last week it is considering filing for Chapter 11 protection, in part because of opioid liabilities.

Nevertheless, Haffajee said, "the goal is not necessarily to put these pharmacies, these manufacturers and these distributors out of business altogether."

"That would actually be bad for public health and for the health care industry."

Companies look to pivot away from opioid scandal

In addition to financial and legal uncertainty, years of opioid litigation have meant devastating public relations blows for some of the drug industry's highest profile companies as well as their owners.

They were once viewed as philanthropists and champions of public health, but court filings have revealed the role executives played in downplaying the risk of prescription pain medications to boost profits.

Just last year, Oklahoma's attorney general described Johnson & Johnson as a "drug kingpin" for its role pushing medical opioids. A state judge in that case ruled the company must pay $465 million in damages.

In a separate case, the company also agreed to pay two Ohio counties $20.4 million to settle opioid claims.

Johnson & Johnson has denied any wrongdoing in these cases, and now the company appears eager to pivot, recasting itself as a major player in the race for a coronavirus vaccine.

"We're facing arguably one of the most serious health challenges the world has ever faced, but we're doing our absolute very best to make sure we can navigate our way through," CEO Alex Gorsky said in a webcast to investors this summer.

Last week Johnson & Johnson announced a $1 billion deal with the federal government aimed at producing millions of doses of a vaccine now in development.

Pressure grows to reach a settlement

But a series of legal developments in recent weeks complicate the drug industry's efforts to put the opioid scandal behind it.

At the end of July, the Justice Department filed civil and criminal claims against Purdue Pharma, makers of Oxycontin, worth more than $13 billion, according to Reuters, complicating that company's structured bankruptcy proceedings.

Last week, a federal judge in Ohio ruled that a major case against pharmacy chains can go forward. Local governments in that suit claim corner drugstores dispensed huge quantities of opioids without proper safeguards against diversion and misuse.

Meanwhile, a court in Tennessee scheduled a jury trial for next month involving drug-makers Endo and Mallinckrodt. Local governments in that case are seeking opioid-related damages of roughly $2.5 billion.

"They're going to have to answer for what they've done," said Gerard Stranch, an attorney representing Tennessee communities ravaged by the addiction crisis.

As civil and criminal cases move forward, pressure is growing to reach a national settlement of opioid-related cases similar to the Big Tobacco payouts of the 1990s.

The goal is to cap the drug industry's total liability and end financial instability for firms while accelerating payouts to cash-strapped communities.

Several proposed settlements unveiled last year, involving Johnson & Johnson, Teva and others, still haven't been finalized.

Stranch predicted companies would need to increase their offers of compensation before local governments agree to cut deals.

"They're not going to be allowed to just walk away and say, well, a couple hundred million dollars is the best we can do," he said.

But even the drug industry's fiercest critics also acknowledged firms lack the cash to compensate Americans harmed by prescription opioids and the addiction crisis fully. By some estimates, the opioid crisis is costing communities hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

"Even if you took all their money, you're not going to be able to right the harm they've done," Stranch said. "The amount of damage is simply too great."

Officials at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga have suspended in-person learning for at least two days following a cluster of virus cases was discovered at the school. Above a crowd of students packs a hallway on Aug. 4. Twitter via AP/AP hide caption

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Twitter via AP/AP

Officials at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga have suspended in-person learning for at least two days following a cluster of virus cases was discovered at the school. Above a crowd of students packs a hallway on Aug. 4.

Twitter via AP/AP

A coronavirus outbreak has been discovered at the Georgia high school that drew national attention last week after photos and videos of crowded hallways and unmasked students went viral on social media.

Nine people at North Paulding High School tested positive for the coronavirus after the first week of in-person instruction, according to officials in Paulding County, an outer suburb of Atlanta.

The school is now "temporarily switching" to virtual learning for two days while its facilities are being disinfected, according to a letter from Brian Otott, the county school district superintendent.

Extracurricular activities are also canceled. The school had been planning to hold softball and volleyball games on Monday and Tuesday.

"I apologize for any inconvenience this schedule change may cause, but hopefully we can all agree that the health and safety of our students and staff takes precedence over any other considerations at this time," the letter states.

Parents, guardians and students will be informed Tuesday evening if digital learning will continue, or if students will be allowed to return to the school on Wednesday.

Otott's weekend letter announcing the canceling of two days of in-person classes came on the heels of one from Saturday that was sent by North Paulding High School Principal Gabe Carmona, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

"At this time, we know there were six students and three staff members who were in school for at least some time last week who have since reported to us that they have tested positive," Carmona's letter stated.

Otott originally defended his decision to reopen schools, citing conditions outlined by the Georgia Department of Education's health recommendations. In a note last week, he admitted a photo posted on social media of crowded hallways "does not look good" but also added the scenes were taken out of context, as The New York Times reported.

Two students were suspended for sharing images and videos on social media that showed throngs of students — most of them without protective facial coverings — filling school corridors last week.

That prompted a backlash, including from people who said school officials were attempting to silence the students.

Audio obtained by WGCL-TV, a CBS affiliate in Atlanta, appeared to have a school official warning North Paulding students last week that they could face "consequences" if they share images that are deemed "negative."

"Anything that's going on social media that is negative or alike without permission — that's photography, that's video, that's anything — there will be consequences," a man can be heard saying in the recording.

A few days later, in a letter dated Aug. 7, Otott announced the school district was rescinding the suspensions "following a review of the situation."

One of the students who publicly acknowledged sharing the images, Hannah Watters, said she posted her video "out of concern and nervousness."

"I was concerned for the safety of everyone in that building and everyone in the county because ... guidelines that the CDC has been telling us for months now weren't being followed," Watters told CNN.

In a subsequent interview with the cable network, Watters said she, her family and friends have been receiving screenshots of group chats that include threatening messages, including one that reads, "I know where this girl lives" and another saying, "We're going to jump every girl named Hannah in the tenth grade."

The situation in Georgia is unfolding as school districts across the country face unprecedented challenges in figuring out how to reopen safely. The number of confirmed infections in the United States has now topped the 5 million mark.

A recent joint report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association estimate some 97,000 children tested positive for the virus in the U.S. in the last two weeks of July.

The Trump administration has pressured schools to fully reopen in the coming weeks. However, last month Randi Weingarten, the head of the powerful American Federation of Teachers, said the union would support educators going on "safety strikes" if school health precautions were not met.

Weingarten added that the AFT will allow local unions to make the final decision on whether to order any strikes.

The U.S. surpassed 5 million coronavirus cases on Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. still leads the world in coronavirus cases. Brazil, the country with the second-most infections, has just over 3 million. Wilfredo Lee/AP hide caption

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Wilfredo Lee/AP

The U.S. surpassed 5 million coronavirus cases on Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. still leads the world in coronavirus cases. Brazil, the country with the second-most infections, has just over 3 million.

Wilfredo Lee/AP

Updated at 3:10 p.m. ET

The U.S. has hit 5 million confirmed coronavirus cases — just 17 days after crossing the 4 million mark — as lawmakers and states continue to grapple with how to chart a path back to normal as the pandemic continues to rage on.

The grim milestone was reached on Sunday, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University. It came after President Trump announced Saturday that he would take executive action to extend coronavirus relief efforts that expired after negotiations with Congress stalled out.

The last time the country surpassed a million new cases, many states had been seeing record surges of new infections, including California, Florida and Texas. An NPR analysis shows that cases in at least 33 states were on the decline last week.

But those figures do not offer a full picture of the crisis.

Two hard-hit states that reported declines saw recent interruptions to testing efforts. In California, where COVID-19-related deaths stand at more than 10,000, state health authorities say a technical glitch caused underreporting of test results. In Florida, state officials closed down testing sites in multiple counties in preparation for Hurricane Isaias.

In Texas, officials this weekend reported a seven-day average testing positivity rate of nearly 19.5% — the state's highest since the pandemic started.

The U.S. continues to have more coronavirus deaths than any other nation. With more than 162,400 deaths, the U.S., with about 4% of the world's population, accounts for roughly 22% of the worldwide death toll from COVID-19. Brazil, the country with the second-most cases, is currently at just over 3 million cases and more than 100,000 deaths.

A dire prognostication released last week by researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation — one of the leading modelers of the pandemic — projected COVID-19-related deaths in the U.S. roughly doubling to 300,000 by December. That would make COVID-19 the third-leading cause of death in the country in 2020.

The researchers behind the model have said that while cases may have peaked in the hardest-hit states, they don't expect dramatic declines anytime soon. That's because of what one researcher described as a "roller coaster phenomenon," meaning when cases go up, individuals wear masks and take precautions, but when cases go down, they ease up, allowing cases to rise again.

It's a dynamic that has been front of mind for educators and governors across the nation as they weigh options for the coming academic year. Many states have put plans in place to allow in-person instruction. States like California and New York have imposed strict circumstances on when schools can allow students in the classroom.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said schools would not be able to reopen unless they are in a region that's in Phase 4 reopening and where the 14-day average daily infection rate remains below 5%. On Friday, Cuomo said schools across the state had met those benchmarks, allowing them to resume in-person instruction.

Teachers, however, have largely been hesitant to return to the classroom. An NPR/Ipsos poll released last week found that 82% of K-12 teachers said they were concerned about returning to the classroom this fall, with two-thirds admitting a preference to primarily teach online.

But nearly seven months after the U.S. reported its first case of the coronavirus, others appear ready for a break from COVID-19-related restrictions. In South Dakota, for example, thousands of bikers have arrived from across the nation for the 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

The state is one of the few in the country without mask requirements or restrictions on public gatherings, worrying public health officials, given that an estimated 250,000 people are expected to attend the rally over the course of nine days. The state's Department of Health is not offering coronavirus testing during the rally.

Pien Huang and South Dakota Public Broadcasting's Lee Strubinger contributed to this report.

In a statement, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said the court's decision "is a critical step towards keeping families safely in their homes." Zach Gibson/Getty Images hide caption

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In a statement, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said the court's decision "is a critical step towards keeping families safely in their homes."

Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Virginia's Supreme Court has granted a request from Gov. Ralph Northam to temporarily stop evictions proceedings, extending protections for tenants who can't pay their rent through the beginning of September.

In a 4-3 ruling Friday, the court agreed to a moratorium on eviction proceedings through Sept. 7, declaring that public safety concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic constituted a "judicial emergency."

"The ease with which the COVID-19 virus can spread, the risks associated with traveling to and appearing in the courthouse for those ... with certain health conditions that disproportionately afflict the economically disadvantaged, and the inability of many citizens to access the courts remotely or to hire lawyers who can argue on their behalf, may 'substantially endanger' or 'impede' the 'ability of [tenants] to avail themselves of the court,' " the majority wrote in their decision.

Northam praised the decision on Friday. The Democratic governor had requested the moratorium in a July 24 letter to the court's chief justice, Donald Lemons, as congressional efforts to provide relief for renters stalled, allowing for the expiration of federal protections for Americans facing economic hardships due to the pandemic.

Virginia had used some $50 million in federal coronavirus aid to fund rent-relief programs.

"As the ongoing Congressional stalemate leaves hundreds of thousands of Virginians without federal housing protection or unemployment relief, this is a critical step towards keeping families safely in their homes," Northam said in a statement following the decision.

The court's moratorium begins Monday, granting time for Virginia's legislature to take up potential relief efforts in a special session later this month.

In a dissenting opinion, the chief justice said relief efforts fell to "the legislative branch and its responsibility to provide sufficient appropriations to fund rent relief efforts and with the executive branch to effectively administer such programs."

"If there is to be a subsidy, it is properly the responsibility of the legislative and executive branches. The judicial branch should not put a heavy thumb on the scales of justice and deny property owners access to the courts and enforcement of their long-established rights under the law," Lemon wrote.

Another dissenting justice, D. Arthur Kelsey, contended that a spate of evictions due to the pandemic did not constitute a judicial emergency, arguing that "the alleged inability of a tenant to pay rent" did not affect the operation of or access to courts.

Kelsey also argued that the decision infringed on the rights of landlords, taking away their ability to seek legal redress or action against nonpaying tenants.

"It does not matter whether the landlord will eventually get paid everything that he is owed (a highly optimistic supposition at best) or whether he can collect future rents if the tenant becomes employed or starts receiving government subsidies. What the landlord wants is possession of his property. He does not want to continue in a breached lease against his will," Kelsey wrote.

2 Out Of 3 Churchgoers: It's Safe To Resume In-Person Worship

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A parishioner sits after Mass last month at a Catholic church in New York City. An overwhelming majority of U.S. adults believe that houses of worship should be subject to the same restrictions on public gatherings that apply to other institutions. John Minchillo/AP hide caption

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A parishioner sits after Mass last month at a Catholic church in New York City. An overwhelming majority of U.S. adults believe that houses of worship should be subject to the same restrictions on public gatherings that apply to other institutions.

John Minchillo/AP

Five months after the coronavirus forced houses of worship across the country to close their doors, a new survey finds that two-thirds of regular churchgoers feel it's now safe to resume in-person worship.

The Pew Research Survey nonetheless found that an overwhelming majority of U.S. adults also believe that houses of worship should be subject to the same restrictions on public gatherings that apply to other organizations or businesses in their local area. Although Republicans are somewhat more likely than Democrats to favor special treatment for houses of worship, they still oppose such exemptions by a 2-to-1 margin.

Among the respondents to the Pew survey who said they previously attended worship services at least once a month, 6% said their congregations were operating just as they had before the coronavirus outbreak. About half the respondents said they have personally engaged in worship only online or via television.

About 8 in 10 of all U.S. adults surveyed by Pew don't expect their church attendance or nonattendance habits to change as a result of the pandemic. Of those who do anticipate a change, some said they will be more inclined to attend church when life returns to normal, with a smaller margin saying they will be less likely to go back to worship.

The strong support for reopening houses of worship suggests that Americans are eager to resume their routines, though important distinctions remain, especially along racial lines.

"White Christians are much more confident that it is safe to go to religious services right now than Black and Hispanic worshippers," says Claire Gecewicz, the primary researcher on the Pew survey.

The greater reluctance to go back to church among people of color is not surprising, given that they have been hit much harder by the COVID-19 pandemic. Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be essential workers, so they have faced more exposure to the coronavirus on the job. In addition, many people of color live in extended family households. A return to in-person worship would expose them to even greater risk of infection.

With respect to religious groups, the Pew survey found that Catholics and evangelical Protestants are more ready than other Christians to return to regular worship. Catholics are obligated under church teachings to attend Mass weekly. Evangelical Protestants may be generally less deferential to governmental authority.

Due to the low COVID-19 infection rates across the state, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that all New York school districts may reopen this fall. Spencer Platt/Getty Images hide caption

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Due to the low COVID-19 infection rates across the state, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that all New York school districts may reopen this fall.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Schools across New York state will be allowed to open for in-person learning this fall because of low coronavirus infection rates, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday.

"We've been smart from day one. We do the masks, we do the social distancing, we've kept that infection rate down," Cuomo said during the announcement. "And we can bring the same level of intelligence to the school reopening that we brought to the economic reopening."

Last month, the governor announced that schools can reopen if they are in a region that's in Phase 4 reopening and where the 14-day average daily infection rate remains below 5%. That's now true for the whole state.

It's up to the discretion of local school districts to decide whether they want to have in-person learning. The choice goes away if infection rates spike, Cuomo said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last month that the city's schools would open in the fall with a mix of in-person and distance learning.

New York was once the state with the largest coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. Then, new cases dropped to about 800 per day in mid-July, compared to about 10,000 in mid-April. According to the governor's office, of the 70,170 test results reported to state health officials on Thursday, 714, or 1%, were positive.

The New York State Department of Health will review reopening plans submitted by school districts to ensure they meet the department's guidelines. Cuomo said districts will be notified Aug. 10 of the department's decision.

The governor also announced that school districts must publicly post their plans for distance learning and for testing and contact tracing, and hold three to five public meetings with parents before Aug. 21 and at least one with teachers.

Teachers have expressed concerns about returning to their classrooms too early.

"We have been clear all along: Health and safety is the most important consideration in reopening school buildings. Viral infection rates tell only one part of the story," said Andy Pallotta, president of New York State United Teachers, which represents more than 600,000 members.

"Many educators and parents have anxiety about local school district reopening plans that have been submitted to the state — if they even have been yet, with 127 districts that didn't bother to submit them by last week and 50 considered incomplete by the state," Pallotta said. "Right now, there may be some areas where parents and educators are confident in their district's plan, but in many others, we know they aren't. No district should consider themselves ready to reopen buildings until their plans are safe and everything in that plan meant to keep the school community safe is implemented."

Other large school districts, such as Chicago, Los Angeles and San Diego, have decided to stick with distance learning for the beginning of the school year.

Coronavirus patients play a game of carrom inside the COVID-19 Care Centre at CWG Village Sports Complex in New Delhi on Thursday. Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times via Getty Images hide caption

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Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Coronavirus patients play a game of carrom inside the COVID-19 Care Centre at CWG Village Sports Complex in New Delhi on Thursday.

Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

India is now the third country to record more than 2 million coronavirus cases. The country is enduring a terrible surge in new cases — 62,538 were reported on Friday alone. Only the U.S. and Brazil are reporting more.

India passed 1 million confirmed cases just three weeks ago.

So far, India's fatality rate from COVID-19 is relatively low, at just over 2%. Around 41,500 people have died from the disease — fewer than in the U.K., for instance, where more than 46,400 deaths have occurred, out of around 310,000 cases as of Friday.

But India's fatality statistics might be artificially low because only a small portion of all deaths that occur in India — reportedly around 22%, as of last year — are medically certified.

In India's outbreak, the western state of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is located, has been hit the worst, with around 480,000 cases reported. But the coronavirus has also infected hundreds of thousands of people in southern states such as Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

"The virus has moved from megacities like Mumbai and Delhi to smaller towns and rural areas, where health care is already scant," NPR's Lauren Frayer reports. "Experts say it's months away from hitting its peak."

Despite reaching the daunting benchmark, it's possible India's cases are undercounted, because of the lack of widespread testing in one of the world's largest and most populous countries. On Thursday, only 639,042 coronavirus tests were conducted in the country, according to India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The U.S. has posted similar daily testing figures in the past month – but the U.S. population is far smaller, with 330 million people compared to India's 1.3 billion.

As the world awaits a COVID-19 vaccine, a large vaccine maker in India announced on Friday that it will produce up to 100 million doses of a future vaccine and price each dose at $3 or less, for sales in India and to low- and middle-income countries.

The Serum Institute of India says its plan is supported by $150 million in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

"The funding will support at-risk manufacturing by SII for candidate vaccines from AstraZeneca and Novavax," the company says.

Wilkin Soto works on a customer at the Castillo Barbershop, in Lawrence, Mass., on June 5. The pace of hiring has slowed from June, when employers added a record 4.8 million jobs. Elise Amendola/AP hide caption

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Elise Amendola/AP

Wilkin Soto works on a customer at the Castillo Barbershop, in Lawrence, Mass., on June 5. The pace of hiring has slowed from June, when employers added a record 4.8 million jobs.

Elise Amendola/AP

Updated at 8:45 a.m. ET

U.S. employers added 1.8 million jobs last month, as the unemployment rate dipped to 10.2%.

The pace of hiring slowed from June, when employers added a record 4.8 million jobs. That suggests a long road back to full employment for the tens of millions of people who have been laid off during the coronavirus pandemic.

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"There are still a lot of people on the sidelines," said Sarah House, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities. "That's going to have a big impact on what we see in terms of consumer spending over the coming months."

The monthly report from the Labor Department tracks job gains between the middle of June and the middle of July. Much of the improvement occurred in late June. Since then, the labor market appears to have lost steam, as infections from the virus continued to climb. Homebase, which makes scheduling software for some 60,000 small businesses, found there were fewer employees working at the end of July than at the beginning.

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"It looks like a lot of the improvement in the second half of July really began to slack off," House said.

That increases pressure on lawmakers to reach agreement on a new round of pandemic relief. Supplemental unemployment benefits of $600 per week expired at the end of July. Economists warn that without some additional help for the unemployed, the country could sink into an even deeper recession.

Friday's report showed significant job gains in restaurants, retail, health care and local government. Restaurant jobs accounted for more than a quarter of the total increase, although employment in the industry is still well below pre-pandemic levels.

Forecasters said the reported gain in local government jobs may have been artificially inflated by seasonal adjustments. Ordinarily, many school employees drop off the job rolls in July before being rehired in the fall, and government statisticians try to adjust for that. This year, those layoffs came earlier in the school year, so the July adjustment may have overcompensated.

A Cooking Camp Chef's Recipe For Remote Education: Make It Ambitious

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Wiley James, 10, prepares a meal as part of an online cooking camp run by a chef in Austin, Texas. Ben James/NPR hide caption

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Ben James/NPR

Wiley James, 10, prepares a meal as part of an online cooking camp run by a chef in Austin, Texas.

Ben James/NPR

A lanky, long-haired kid stands in front of a stack of shelves lined with more than a dozen varieties of canned beans. He's 10, and his name is Wiley. He's got a shopping list in his hand and a mask on his face. This is the first time he's been in a grocery store in over five months. His cart is loaded with onions, limes, yogurt, bell peppers, feta cheese. Now he needs chickpeas, and although he's peering at a can with a picture of chickpeas on the label, his brow is furrowed.

"It just says garbanzo beans," he says. "What are garbanzo beans?"

He places the can in his cart, gives the cart a shove, and moves on in search of chili powder.

Wiley is my son, and one measure of how much the world has changed in the last half year is that the list of what he needs for summer camp does not include a sleeping bag, a flashlight, or even bug spray.

He needs a can of chickpeas.

That's because Wiley — who lives in western Massachusetts — is about to join 30 other kids from as far away as Vancouver, Canada, San Jose, Ca. and Washington D.C. in a radical project: they will cook dinner for their families for an entire week.

The location of summer camp 2020 is each of these kid's own kitchen.

Welcome to Dinner Club. The menu this week includes Indian butter chicken, Greek salad with falafel, and fish tacos — every dish made entirely from scratch.

Dinner Club is conceived and taught by Pascal Simon, known to her students as Chef Pascal. The German-born chef has been teaching baking classes for kids out of her home kitchen in Austin, Texas, for a decade. She's had a popular following for years among foodie families and homeschoolers in the city. Simon says that up until a few months ago her classes were mostly focused on "cute stuff" like cookies, Pop Tarts, and French macaroons. A popular offering every summer was called "Cupcake Camp."

Then came the pandemic.

Simon had only ever taught in person, a dozen kids packed into her kitchen. Her classes were about hands-on proximity, tactile problem-solving, and community-building. She says the weekend the world shut down she threw herself a pity party. She had never once been on Zoom.

The Monday after shutdown, Simon began offering online baking classes to any kid who signed up, initially for free. She expected classes to be lightly attended by former students, but within weeks she had up to 45 kids signing up from across North America. The cooking sessions were energetic and chaotic, with Simon picking up numerous new teaching skills on the fly.

But new skills weren't enough. Although parents appreciated the classes and frequently expressed amazement at what their stuck-at-home kids were accomplishing, these same parents also had a problem.

Cupcake fatigue.

"Who needs more cupcakes?" Simon says, her voice rising in exasperation. "Who needs a weeklong of cupcakes?"

The reporter's son and 30 other kids from as far away as Vancouver, Canada, San Jose, Ca. and Washington D.C. cooked dinner for their families for an entire week. Ben James/NPR hide caption

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Ben James/NPR

The reporter's son and 30 other kids from as far away as Vancouver, Canada, San Jose, Ca. and Washington D.C. cooked dinner for their families for an entire week.

Ben James/NPR

She pivoted and started focusing on dinners. This meant knives, hot pans, safe food handling. It also meant that Chef Pascal's students were doing something highly relevant — even necessary — for their families. She even made the kids do their own dishes between other tasks.

"There's nothing better for a parent," Simon says, "than when you come home, or come out of your office, and dinner's ready and the dishes are done."

She pauses a moment.

"I think the dishes done is almost better than the dinner."

In late July, we position the laptop at the far end of the kitchen counter, and Wiley logs on to his first day of Dinner Club. Chef Pascal greets the students individually. Within fifteen minutes, each child on the Zoom screen has raw chicken on a cutting board and a knife in their hand.

"If your chicken is already cut up, I'm sorry," Chef Pascal says. "I told your parents not to do that."

An hour later, our kitchen smells incredible. The butter chicken that night is perfectly tender after simmering in cream, tomatoes, cumin, garam masala, and other spices. My wife and I look at each other across the table.

"Wiley," she says. "This is really good."

On the following night, the legume also known as garbanzo makes a star appearance. The falafels are crispy on the outside, silky within. I find myself competing for these falafel balls with Wiley's older brother. He's 14 and has gone more-or-less nocturnal since the shutdown, doing little more than DMing friends while watching Breaking Bad on a continuous loop.

Dude scarfs the falafels right up.

On day three of Dinner Club, eight-year-old Juliet Wilson starts off with a question.

"Chef Pascal, are we only making the chicken fajitas, the tortillas, and the guacamole and pico?"

There's a pause, and then comes Simon's deadpan response.

"Only. Yes, Juliet. We're only making the tortillas, the guacamole, the pico de gallo, and the fajitas."

Wiley cracks up. Only. The exchange sums up just about everything that's good about this week. Not just Chef Pascal's dry sense of humor and her genuine appreciation of her students, but also the sheer ambition of their collective undertaking. Because — make no mistake — this class is exhausting. Each night, when Wiley's done, his feet hurt so bad he soaks them in ice, moaning and complaining. Then he starts talking about what he's going to cook the next day. (For the record, although Wiley tries to keep up, my wife and I will do a significant amount of dishes this week.)

As it turns out, Wiley's not the only cook with foot trouble!

"I did not know that my feet could hurt so much," says Hazel Griffin, age 10. She and her twelve-year-old brother Eamon — they're both from Austin like the chef — participated in three weeks of Dinner Club this summer. Prior to June, they'd hardly cooked at all. Hazel says there's been some stress and bickering between them. Cooking, she says, can be really hard.

"But if you have a partner and you guys get along" — Hazel casts a sidelong gaze at her brother — "then it can be a lot easier."

Eamon nods. "When your parents actually like the food," he says, "the look on their face is enough to keep you wanting to come back. Even if it is hard, even if it is stressful."

There's an essential thing that Chef Pascal gets about teaching remotely during a pandemic. It's that kids who are bored or scared or distracted — kids who've had every ritual and routine stripped from their lives — those kids don't need excessive comforting or sympathy.

Those kids need a challenge.

Back in our kitchen, Wiley holds a clumpy, deeply-creased ball of what's supposed to be tortilla dough up to the screen. He hits the space bar, unmuting himself.

"Is this good?" he asks.

"Wiley, when you press into it," Chef Pascal responds in her Zoom-inflected German accent, holding up her smooth ball of dough, "imagine this is like a little baby bird, and you just very gently press into it. Don't poke it, just very gently. Does it bounce back?

Wiley performs the maneuver. He says, "Sort of."

"Okay. Sort of is not quite ready, so keep kneading it a little bit longer."

Then another face breaks onto the screen. It's Hazel Griffin.

"Chef Pascal," she says, "can you please slow down? My cat got out and I need to go grab him."

Wiley presses his palms into the dough and once again cracks up.

People walk in Stockholm on July 27, most without the face masks that have become common on the streets of many other countries as a method of fighting the spread of the coronavirus. Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images

People walk in Stockholm on July 27, most without the face masks that have become common on the streets of many other countries as a method of fighting the spread of the coronavirus.

Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images

Sweden's gross domestic product took its largest tumble in a single quarter in modern history during the second quarter of this year, despite the country's decision to not shut down its economy.

The nation's GDP fell 8.6% during the three-month period ending in June, according to preliminary figures from Statistics Sweden. Yet, Sweden's economic output declined at a lower rate than that of many other European countries.

"The decrease in GDP is the largest single quarter drop in the directly comparable time series starting 1980," the government agency said in a release.

David Oxley, senior Europe economist at Capital Economics, said that the sharp contraction of the Swedish economy during the second quarter "confirms that it has not been immune to COVID, despite the government's well-documented light-touch lockdown."

Sweden's relaxed approach to the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in global scrutiny. Unlike many countries in the world, Sweden didn't order a strict lockdown. Instead of closing down its economy, the country issued comparatively light restrictions — banning gatherings of over 50 people and otherwise asking people to maintain social distancing as best they can.

Swedish government officials have insisted that saving the economy was never the purpose of their controversial coronavirus strategy. Its aim was to save lives and reduce pressure on the country's health care system.

However, Sweden has counted nearly 82,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and its death toll stands at 5,766, according to data from John's Hopkins University.

That's far higher than its neighbors Denmark (617), Norway (256) and Finland (331), and at more than 56 deaths per 100,000 people, Sweden has a higher mortality rate than the U.S.

It is next to impossible to say what effect, if any, the country's response had on its economy, since there are so many factors at play. It is clear, however, that the Swedish economy has fared much better during the second quarter than many other European economies.

Spain's economy recorded the highest decline among the 27 European Union members during the second quarter, its GDP fell 18.5% compared to the previous quarter.

Its neighbors Portugal (14.1%) and France (13.8%) experienced similarly large contractions of their respective economies during the second quarter. Even Germany, the continent's largest economy, recorded a double-digit drop (10.1%) when compared to the first three months of the year. The Baltic country of Lithuania (5.1%) reported the lowest decline.

The EU as a whole saw its GDP decline 11.9% during the past quarter as the virus spread across the continent. The euro zone, consisting of the 19 countries that make up the bloc's monetary union, reported the GDP dropped 12.1% over the same three-month period.

"We expect our economy to shrink between 4-10% in 2020," Karin Olofsdotter, Sweden's ambassador to the United States, told NPR in April.

Furthermore, Sweden's unemployment rate rose to 9.4% in June, the highest figure since 1998, and up more than 2 percentage points from the beginning of the year.

To mitigate the pandemic's economic effects, the Swedish government has enacted several legislative measures during the crisis, including a nearly $31 billion stimulus package in March.

"It's a very serious threat," Olofsdotter said. "We are just as worried as you about the world economy."

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, here in June, said this week that the state's troubled unemployment portal was designed to discourage people applying for benefits. The portal launched in 2013 under then-Gov. Rick Scott, now a U.S. senator. Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images hide caption

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Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, here in June, said this week that the state's troubled unemployment portal was designed to discourage people applying for benefits. The portal launched in 2013 under then-Gov. Rick Scott, now a U.S. senator.

Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images

Updated at 6:18 p.m. ET

Amid staggering job losses in March and April, Florida's unemployment system was the slowest in the country to process claims. Residents described nightmarish experiences as they tried to get benefits. By April 20, just 6% of Floridians who had applied for unemployment benefits had received a check.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said that result was by design.

"Having studied how [the unemployment system] was internally constructed, I think the goal was for whoever designed, it was, 'Let's put as many kind of pointless roadblocks along the way, so people just say, oh, the hell with it, I'm not going to do that,' " DeSantis told a Miami CBS affiliate this week.

Florida's online system, known as CONNECT, debuted in October 2013 during the administration of DeSantis' fellow Republican Rick Scott, now a U.S. senator.

DeSantis said he wasn't sure if it was Scott's intention to discourage people from applying for benefits, but that the system was certainly designed to produce that outcome.

"It was definitely done in a way to lead to the least number of claims being paid out," he said.

The system cost $77.9 million to build and had problems from the start, crashing frequently and proving difficult to log in to.

"A lot of these unemployment systems throughout the country, you know, weren't very good, but a lot of them were like 40, 50 years old," DeSantis told CBS4 in Miami. "Ours wasn't really old. I mean, ours was really five, six years ago. And it should have been done better for that price tag to produce better results."

The state's Senate Democratic Caucus said Wednesday that about 1.45 million Floridians continue to wait for payments.

State Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Democrat from Miami, has also alleged that the system was specifically designed to fail — to make the state's leaders look better.

"The system was implemented in a way for it to be a total failure," Taddeo told The Associated Press in April. "Why? Because it would keep the politician looking good by pretending that less people are filing for unemployment when the reality is, even before the pandemic, people were having a really hard time not only applying but in getting benefits."

Scott's office disputed DeSantis' allegations.

"As we've said many times, this is obviously false. Real leaders work to solve problems and get the job done. That's what Sen. Scott is focused on," Scott's press secretary Sarah Schwirian said Thursday in a statement to NPR.

The rivalry between DeSantis and Scott goes back to at least 2018. As Scott prepared to leave the governorship, he made 84 last-minute appointments. Most were retracted by DeSantis when he came into office. Scott left Tallahassee before DeSantis was sworn in as governor, a sign the two men didn't get along. The two are possible rivals for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, and both style themselves as close to President Trump.

Jennifer Riley in Ormond Beach, Fla., says it took 12 weeks after she was laid off in late February to receive an unemployment payment.

"You couldn't really get through on the phone. I sent maybe 60 different emails to state representatives, legislators, random employees of [the state unemployment office] that I found on the Internet," she says. She has no idea what finally allowed her payments to be processed.

Riley eventually found an on-call position as an occupational therapy assistant at a school, which would start when and if brick-and-mortar schools reopen and allow in-person therapy.

When she filled out the form on the CONNECT portal to report that she had accepted a position, but that she had not started work and would not be paid for months, her unemployment benefits were immediately cut off. It took her another five weeks to get them reinstated.

"It's been a nightmare, and Florida's in worse shape than ever with COVID," she says. "I don't know where it's headed."

Riley continues to look for a steadier job than the on-call position. She's heard DeSantis' remarks that the portal's problems happened under Scott's watch.

"And he's right, but it was also investigated after DeSantis took office. He was told [about all the issues] ... and he did nothing about it," she says.

Democratic state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez testified in June before the U.S. Senate's Finance Committee about the Florida system's failures.

Rodriguez told senators that DeSantis had been aware of the system's shortcomings since at least January 2019, because there had been "audit after audit," one of which was "sitting on the governor's desk" when he took office.

NPR member station WLRN reported on Rodriguez's testimony:

"Florida entered this crisis with one of, if not the least prepared unemployment systems," Rodriguez said. "No state provides a fewer number of weeks. ...

"We're near the bottom in weekly benefits, capped at $275 and have major gaps in eligibility," Rodriguez told senators. "Add to that an application and payment system infamous for its failures, and how persistent those failures are, having endured, unchanged, through several gubernatorial terms, successive audits and prior federal intervention."

In June, two top-ranking Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, called on the U.S. Department of Labor's inspector general to investigate the state's failure to provide payments to its out-of-work residents.

"While all states have seen record increases in the number of its residents applying for unemployment, the state of Florida's performance has proved uniquely poor in its abject inability to assist millions of Florida residents who have applied for and continue to await unemployment benefits," the senators wrote.

NPR's Greg Allen contributed to this report.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in July. The State Department has lifted its global health advisory warning against international travel. Pool/Getty Images hide caption

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Pool/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in July. The State Department has lifted its global health advisory warning against international travel.

Pool/Getty Images

The State Department has lifted its Level 4 global travel advisory, the highest warning against U.S. citizens traveling internationally, citing changing conditions in the coronavirus pandemic.

"With health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others, the Department is returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice (with Levels from 1-4 depending on country-specific conditions), in order to give travelers detailed and actionable information to make informed travel decisions," the department said in a news release.

"We are closely monitoring health and safety conditions across the globe, working in partnership with the CDC and other agencies," it added. "As always, we will regularly update our destination-specific advice to U.S. travelers as conditions evolve."

The previous advisory had been in place since March 19.

While the U.S. has decided to relax its universal advisory, many nations are restricting U.S. citizens from entering because of the high number of coronavirus cases still being reported within U.S. borders.

Some of the most popular travel destinations for U.S. tourists, including Canada, Mexico and the European Union, have imposed strict restrictions.

Dozens of countries remain under the State Department's Level 4 travel advisory for issues ranging from the coronavirus to terrorism.

The novel coronavirus, first detected at the end of 2019, has caused a global pandemic.

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