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AP News in Brief at 6:04 p.m. EDT

| July 7, 2020 3:27 PM

Trump says he will pressure states to reopen schools in fall

President Donald Trump on Tuesday launched an all-out effort to reopen schools this fall, arguing that some are keeping schools closed not because of the coronavirus pandemic, but for political reasons against the will of families.

“We want to reopen the schools. Everybody wants it. The moms want it, the dads want it, the kids want it. It's time to do it,” Trump said at a White House event. "We're very much gong to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools.”

Trump did not immediately explain how he would pressure governors, but he repeated an earlier claim that Democrats want to keep schools closed for political reasons and not health reasons. He made the same claim Monday on Twitter, saying, “They think it will help them in November. Wrong, the people get it!”

At a White House roundtable hosted by Trump, speaker after speaker addressed the need to get students back in the classroom, both for academic and mental health reasons. They minimized the risk of the spread of COVID-19 among children but acknowledged that it was important to protect the vulnerable.

In making its case, the Trump administration has argued that keeping students at home carries greater risks than any tied to the coronavirus. Health officials say students need to be in schools this fall to continue their educational development and to access meal programs and services for mental and behavioral health.

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Brazil's President Bolsonaro tests positive for COVID-19

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said Tuesday he has tested positive for the coronavirus after months of downplaying its severity while deaths mounted rapidly inside the country.

The 65-year-old right-wing populist who has been known to mingle in crowds without covering his face confirmed the results while wearing a mask and speaking to reporters huddled close in front of him in the capital, Brasilia.

He said he is taking hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that he, like President Donald Trump, has been promoting even though it has not been proven effective against COVID-19.

“I'm, well, normal. I even want to take a walk around here, but I can't due to medical recommendations,” Bolsonaro said. “I thought I had it before, given my very dynamic activity. I’m president and on the combat lines. I like to be in the middle of the people.”

Brazil, the world's sixth-biggest nation, with more than 210 million people, is one of the outbreak's most lethal hot spots. More than 65,000 Brazilians have died from COVID-19, and over 1.5 million have been infected.

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Protective gear for medical workers begins to run low again

The personal protective gear that was in dangerously short supply during the early weeks of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. is running low again as the virus resumes its rapid spread and the number of hospitalized patients climbs.

A national nursing union is concerned that gear has to be reused. A doctors association warns that physicians’ offices are closed because they cannot get masks and other supplies. And Democratic members of Congress are pushing the Trump administration to devise a national strategy to acquire and distribute gear in anticipation of the crisis worsening into the fall.

“We’re five months into this and there are still shortages of gowns, hair covers, shoe covers, masks, N95 masks,” said Deborah Burger, president of National Nurses United, who cited results from a survey of the union's members. "They’re being doled out, and we’re still being told to reuse them.”

When the crisis first exploded in March and April in hot spots such as New York City, the situation was so desperate that nurses turned plastic garbage bags into protective gowns. The lack of equipment forced states and hospitals to compete against each other, the federal government and other countries in desperate, expensive bidding wars.

In general, supplies of protective gear are more robust now, and many states and major hospital chains say they are in better shape. But medical professionals and some lawmakers have cast doubt on those improvements as shortages begin to reappear.

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AMERICA DISRUPTED: Troubles cleave a nation, and a city

SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) — It was difficult to celebrate America in Saginaw this year. The deadly coronavirus had torn through the county. Unemployment had surged five-fold. Weeks of protest over racial inequality left many debating what should be hallowed and what must be changed.

But Tom Roy had given it his best. As the head of the July Fourth fireworks board, he struggled to save the display of red-rocketed flares and bursting peonies, fruitlessly seeking a venue that felt safe from the sickness.

He couldn't do it. So Saginaw canceled its festivities, upsetting many of Roy’s neighbors who lost an opportunity to unify a bitterly divided community for one night.

The dark skies over this mid-Michigan city were a plaintive marker of a nation utterly disrupted in a matter of months.

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US notifies UN of withdrawal from World Health Organization

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration has formally notified the United Nations of its withdrawal from the World Health Organization, although the pullout won’t take effect until next year, meaning it could be rescinded under a new administration or if circumstances change. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said he would reverse the decision on his first day in office if elected.

The withdrawal notification makes good on President Donald Trump’s vow in late May to terminate U.S. participation in the WHO, which he has harshly criticized for its response to the coronavirus pandemic and accused of bowing to Chinese influence.

The move was immediately assailed by health officials and critics of the administration, including numerous Democrats who said it would cost the U.S. influence in the global arena.

Biden has said in the past he supports the WHO and pledged Tuesday to rejoin the WHO if he defeats Trump in November. “Americans are safer when America is engaged in strengthening global health. On my first day as president, I will rejoin the WHO and restore our leadership on the world stage,” he said.

Trump is trailing Biden in multiple polls and has sought to deflect criticism of his administration's handling of the virus by aggressively attacking China and the WHO.

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Atlanta Mayor: No need for troops, despite governor's order

ATLANTA (AP) — The mayor of Atlanta said Tuesday that she doesn’t agree with the Georgia governor’s order to mobilize the National Guard in her city as a surge in violence became a political talking point.

Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency on Monday and authorized the activation of up to 1,000 Guard troops after a weekend of gun violence in Atlanta left five people dead, including an 8-year-old girl.

Kemp's office said troops will provide support at sites such as the Capitol, governor’s mansion and the state Department of Public Safety Headquarters — which was damaged by a group early Sunday — freeing up state law enforcement resources to patrol other areas of the city.

Some National Guard troops guarded those sites Monday night, but there was no visible presence of them by mid-morning Tuesday.

Kemp’s order says the Guard troops “shall have the same powers of arrest and apprehension as do law enforcement officers to be exercised with caution and only if the circumstances demand the exercise of such powers to protect the safety of persons or property.”

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At least 8 Mississippi lawmakers test positive for COVID-19

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — At least eight Mississippi lawmakers have tested positive for the coronavirus after working several weeks in a Capitol where many people stood or sat close together and did not wear masks.

Among those who have publicly acknowledged having COVID-19 are Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who presides over the 52-member Senate, and House Speaker Philip Gunn, who presides over that 122-member chamber.

The state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said Tuesday that there are also at least 11 other suspected cases of the virus among legislators and Capitol employees. In addition, Dobbs said the virus is spreading in social gatherings across the state. Dobbs said, for example, he was told about teenagers having a party on a Pearl River sandbar in Jackson during the July 4 weekend and about people going without masks in restaurants and other public settings.

“You can't put a lot of people together in the middle of the worst pandemic in a century and expect nothing bad to happen,” Dobbs said during a news conference. “It’s just absolutely an insane thought process.”

Mississippi legislators were at the Capitol for most of June and on July 1, wrapping up their annual session that was interrupted for several weeks by the pandemic.

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Trump donors among early recipients of coronavirus loans

WASHINGTON (AP) — As much as $273 million in federal coronavirus aid was awarded to more than 100 companies that are owned or operated by major donors to President Donald Trump's election efforts, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal data.

Many were among the first to be approved for a loan in early April, when the administration was struggling to launch the lending program. And only eight businesses had to wait until early May before securing the aid, according to the AP’s review of data released Monday.

The Trump-connected companies obtained the aid through the Paycheck Protection Program, which extends a lifeline to small businesses struggling to navigate the pandemic. Fast-food chains like Muy Brands, oil and gas companies and white-collar firms were all granted a slice of more than $659 billion in low-interest business loans that will be forgiven if the money is used on payroll, rent and similar expenses.

All told, the Trump supporters who run these companies have contributed at least $11.1 million since May 2015 to Trump’s campaign committees, the Republican National Committee and America First Action, a super PAC that has been endorsed by Trump, the AP review found. Each donor gave at least $20,000.

There is no evidence the companies received favorable treatment as a result of their ties to Trump, and the businesses account for just a fraction of the overall spending under the program.

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Mary Trump's book offers scathing portrayal of president

NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump’s niece offers a scathing portrayal of her uncle in a new book obtained by The Associated Press Tuesday that blames a toxic family for raising a narcissistic, damaged man who poses an immediate danger to the public.

Mary L. Trump, a psychologist, writes that Trump is a compulsive liar whose reelection would be catastrophic.

“By the time this book is published, hundreds of thousands of American lives will have been sacrificed on the altar of Donald’s hubris and willful ignorance. If he is afforded a second term, it would be the end of American Democracy," she writes in “Too Much and Never Enough, How My Family Created The World’s Most Dangerous Man.”

Mary Trump is the daughter of Trump’s older brother, Fred Jr., who died after a struggle with alcoholism in 1981 at 42. The book is the second insider account in as many months to paint a deeply unflattering portrait of the president following the release of former national security adviser John Bolton's bestseller last month.

In her book, Mary Trump, who is estranged from her uncle, makes several revelations, including alleging that the president paid a friend to take the SATs — a standardized test widely used for college admissions — in his place. She writes that his sister, Maryanne Trump, did his homework for him but couldn’t take his tests and he worried his grade point average, which put him far from the top of the class, would “scuttle his efforts to get accepted” into the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, which he transferred to after two years at Fordham University in the Bronx.

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Aggressive seaweed smothers one of world's most remote reefs

HONOLULU (AP) — Researchers say a recently discovered species of seaweed is killing large patches of coral on once-pristine reefs and is rapidly spreading across one of the most remote and protected ocean environments on earth.

A study from the University of Hawaii and others says the seaweed is spreading more rapidly than anything they've seen in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, a nature reserve that stretches more than 1,300 miles north of the main Hawaiian Islands.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE on Tuesday.

The algae easily breaks off and rolls across the ocean floor like tumbleweed, scientists say, covering nearby reefs in thick vegetation that out-competes coral for space, sunlight and nutrients.

“This is a highly destructive seaweed with the potential to overgrow entire reefs,” said biologist Heather Spalding, a study co-author and longtime Hawaii algae researcher. “We need to figure out where it’s currently found, and what we can do to manage it.”