June 29, 2020

China is taking the fast track to approving a COVID-19 vaccine — and potentially putting lives in danger along the way.

China's Central Military Commission approved military use of an experimental coronavirus vaccine, Chinese vaccine developer CanSino Biologics announced Monday. It's unclear whether military members will be mandated to use the vaccine, but even an approval for optional use is worrisome considering the vaccine had only just been approved for human trial, Reuters reports.

CanSino's vaccine has already gone through two phases of experimentation, and had been deemed safe and showed some efficacy in humans, CanSino said. But it would have to undergo a third phase of widespread human testing to actually be deemed an effective and safe vaccine. It had just won approval to begin that third phase of trials both in China and abroad, with human trials scheduled to begin in Canada. But the Chinese military also moved to skip that necessary safety phase, allowing the use of the vaccine for the military for one year, CanSino said.

"The Ad5-nCoV is currently limited to military use only and its use cannot be expanded to a broader vaccination range without the approval of the Logistics Support Department," CanSino told Reuters, citing the department that okayed the military use in the first place. The vaccine is one of eight under development in China that were approved for human trial, and was developed jointly with China's Academy of Military Science. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:40 a.m.

Italy has hit an incredible milestone in its fight against COVID-19.

As of Wednesday, Bergamo, Italy's Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital has no more COVID-19 cases in its ICU ward, Italy's wire service ANSA reports. It's the first time the hospital can say that since it admitted its first coronavirus case on Feb. 23, 137 days ago.

Bergamo is at the center of Italy's Lombardy region, which was one of the earliest and hardest hit spots in coronavirus pandemic. Italy at one point had the most COVID-19 cases and deaths in the world, and Lombardy led that count, ABC News notes. Nearly 35,000 people have died in Italy due to COVID-19, giving it the fourth highest death toll of any country.

Meanwhile the U.S. has taken over as the coronavirus capital of the world, and shows no sign of slowing down. Where Italy announced 193 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the U.S. reported a record 62,751 — and proportional differences between the two countries' populations don't explain away any of that. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:37 a.m.

Another 1.31 million Americans filed initial unemployment claims last week, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

This number of new claims was less than economists expected, as experts were projecting there would be about 1.39 million claims, CNBC reports. Last week, the number of new jobless claims was a bit more than economists expected, topping 1.4 million. This news on Thursday somewhat lessened "concerns of a renewed downturn in the labor market," Bloomberg writes.

Additionally, continuing unemployment claims on Thursday fell "sharply," CNBC reports, declining by 698,000 to 18.06 million. Still, CNBC notes that this is the 15th week in a row that new initial unemployment claims have topped one million; before the coronavirus pandemic, the record for most claims filed in a week was 695,000.

These new numbers come after last week, the Labor Department released a better-than-expected jobs report for June, which showed 4.8 million jobs were added and the unemployment rate declined to 11.1 percent. Experts were quick to note, though, that this unemployment survey was taken in June prior to COVID-19 cases surging in numerous states. Brendan Morrow

8:04 a.m.

The total number of U.S. coronavirus cases reached 3 million on Wednesday as officials confirmed a record 60,000-plus new cases over the previous 24 hours, and the national death toll rose above 132,000. States in the South and West continued to report spiking new infections. California and Texas both reported more than 10,000 new cases on Wednesday. U.S. deaths, which had been trending downward, rose by more than 900 for the second straight day, the highest level since early June, Reuters reports. Hospitalizations also have increased in the states where infections have jumped, including Florida, where 56 intensive care units this week reached capacity, and Arizona, where ICUs are rapidly filling up, too. Infections have risen in 42 of the 50 states over the past two weeks, according to Reuters. Harold Maass

8:04 a.m.

A "massive search operation" is underway for the mayor of Seoul, who has been reported missing, The Associated Press reports.

South Korean police on Thursday said they're searching for Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon after he was reported missing by his daughter, according to Reuters. She says Park left "a will-like" message before he left their home, and she called police after not being able to reach him on his phone, which officials say is turned off, the AP reports. A signal from Park's phone was reportedly last detected in Sungbuk.

A government official confirmed to the AP that Park, who was elected mayor of South Korea's capital in 2011, didn't come to work on Thursday and canceled his schedules. Police say the search operation for Park consists of 150 officers, as well as a drone and a police dog. Brendan Morrow

7:08 a.m.

The Supreme Court will reveal Thursday morning whether Congress, New York state prosecutors, and ultimately the American public will be able to see what's in the tax documents President Trump has worked so hard to keep secret. But on Wednesday night, the White House finally addressed another, lower-profile accounting of Trump's finances, his annual financial disclosure report, that was supposed to be handed in more than a week ago. The filing, required under federal ethics rules, is the only official document publicly detailing Trump's personal finances.

A White House official told The New York Times that Trump had requested an extension because the report was "complicated" and Trump has "been focused on addressing the coronavirus crisis and other matters." This is Trump's second coronavirus extension: The partial disclosure of his assets, debts, and family business performance was actually due in May, but all White House employees had been given a 45-day extension, until June 29, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Vice President Mike Pence filed his disclosure report by that deadline.

Trump's delay follows conversations between ethics officials and his representatives over a draft of the disclosure report, people briefed on the matter tell the Times. The Office of Government Ethics and Trump Organization declined requests for comment on the filing. Peter Weber

5:44 a.m.

It turns out "closing schools was a lot easier than reopening them" during the coronavirus pandemic, Myah Ward and Renuka Rayasam note at Politico. But Johns Hopkins University — which has made checking COVID-19 infection and death data easy with its coronavirus map — is trying to help, launching another site Thursday to help Americans track how different states plan to reopen schools this fall, plus guidelines from health and education agencies and organizations.

According to this new education tracker, run by the Johns Hopkins eSchool+ Initiative, 43 states and territories have released plans for reopening their schools. The site reviews each plan based on 12 criteria, including coronavirus protection measures, academics, and choices offered to students, teachers, and staff.

The goal of the tracker is to give parents, teachers, staff, school district leaders, and policymakers one place where they can access and compare reopening plans, Annette Anderson, deputy director of JHU's Center for Safe and Healthy Schools, tells Politico. "At the end of the day, it's about trying to make sure that when we reopen, that the reopening benefits all." Peter Weber

4:33 a.m.

The Ventura County Sheriff's Department said late Wednesday that actress Naya Rivera is missing and the subject of a search at Lake Piru, northwest of Los Angeles. Rivera, 33, rented a pontoon boat at the reservoir Wednesday afternoon and her 4-year-old son was found alone in the boat, asleep and wearing his life jacket. Rivera's wallet and ID were also in the boat. The son, who got back in the boat after a swim with his mother, "is in good health," said Capt. Eric Buschow of the sheriff's department. The search, suspended Wednesday night, will continue Thursday with divers and air units.

Rivera played Santana, a cheerleader, on 113 episodes of the TV musical comedy Glee, and dated Glee co-star Mark Salling, who killed himself in 2018 after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography. The son is from her marriage to actor Ryan Dorsey. Peter Weber

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