10 things you need to know today: August 5, 2020

Novavax on Tuesday announced encouraging results in two preliminary trials of its experimental coronavirus vaccine. The company reached a $1.6 billion deal with the federal government to develop the vaccine, even though it has never brought a vaccine to market before. In one study, the drug appeared to protect monkeys from infection. In the other, 56 human volunteers given the potential vaccine produced high levels of antibodies to fight the virus, without dangerous side effects. “This is the first one I’m looking at and saying, ‘Yeah, I’d take that,'” said Dr. John Moore, a Weill Cornell Medicine virologist who was not involved in the studies. Novavax has said it can produce 100 million doses by the beginning of 2021. The company is one of several racing to develop a vaccine. [The New York Times]

A huge explosion killed at least 100 people near the port of the Lebanese capital Beirut on Tuesday, with more fatalities feared. More than 4,000 others were injured. The blast smashed windows in buildings in the surrounding area. The headquarters of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and CNN’s Beirut bureau were among the buildings damaged. Investigators reported that the source of the explosion was a fire at a warehouse that stored 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, which is used to make fertilizer and bombs. Prime Minister Hassan Diab vowed that those “responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price.” The blast shook the ground for miles. “What I felt was that it was an earthquake,” resident Rania Masri told CNN. [CNN, The Guardian]

Tropical Storm Isaias pushed up the East Coast on Tuesday, spawning tornadoes and killing at least six people. Two of the deaths occurred in Bertie County, North Carolina, where a mobile home park was devastated by one of the twisters. Several other people were missing. The storm, which made landfall in southeastern North Carolina as a hurricane, raced through Virginia and Maryland and into the Northeast, threatening parts of the Philadelphia area with flash floods and prompting New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to issue a tornado warning. The downgraded storm left more than 2 million homes and businesses without power from South Carolina to Connecticut. [Reuters, The Associated Press]

Voters in Missouri on Tuesday approved expanding Medicaid to about 230,000 low-income residents. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, 53 percent voted “yes” on the ballot measure; 47 percent voted “no.” Missouri is the sixth red state to expand Medicaid, and the second to do so amid the coronavirus pandemic, after Oklahoma. Gov. Mike Parson (R) opposed the expansion, saying it was too expensive. In Kansas, Rep. Roger Marshall defeated former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in the Republican Senate primary. Republicans had been worried that nominating Kobach, a controversial immigration hardliner, would make it harder to hold onto the seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, who is retiring. In Missouri’s 1st Congressional District Democratic primary, progressive activist Cori Bush defeated 20-year incumbent Rep. William Lacy Clay. [Politico, NPR]

President Trump encouraged Floridians to request mail-in ballots on Tuesday. Trump had threatened a day earlier to block Nevada’s plan to send mail-in ballots to voters due to the coronavirus crisis. Trump has claimed without evidence in recent weeks that mail-in voting would result in fraud, as well as delays. But on Tuesday he tweeted that Florida voters should request mail-in ballots. “Whether you call it vote by mail or absentee voting, in Florida the election system is safe and secure, tried and true,” Trump tweeted, “Florida’s election system has been cleaned up.” Experts say voter fraud is rare, especially when there are proper safety measures in place. Trump did not elaborate on why Florida, a key swing state, may be more secure than other states. [Donald J. Trump, Politico]

New York City’s health commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, resigned on Tuesday in protest of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in a city that was an early epicenter of the coronavirus crisis. “I leave my post today with deep disappointment that during the most critical public health crisis in our lifetime, that the health department’s incomparable disease control expertise was not used to the degree it could have been,” Dr. Barbot said in her resignation email sent to de Blasio, The New York Times reported. De Blasio responded by defending his leadership in confronting the outbreak, which killed more than 20,000 people in the city before easing in recent weeks. [The New York Times]

Walt Disney Co. reported Tuesday that its quarterly earnings fell by 40 percent to $11.7 billion as the coronavirus crisis forced the temporary closure of its theme parks. Wall Street had expected the entertainment giant’s earnings to come in at $12.4 billion. With the pandemic continuing, Disney said it would release Mulan on Disney Plus, shifting attention from its disappointing earnings to the promise of the company’s popular new streaming video service. The live-action remake of the Disney animated favorite will be available to stream for a $29.99 rental fee. Disney said it now has 100 million subscribers across its streaming offerings, which include Disney Plus, Hulu, and ESPN+. The company’s shares rose by 5 percent in after-hours trading. [Variety]

The White House and Democratic congressional leaders on Tuesday agreed to aim for a deal resolving key differences on the new coronavirus relief package by Friday. That would pave the way for a vote next week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows have been meeting almost every day for the past week trying to reach an agreement on renewing lapsed extra unemployment benefits and extending eviction restrictions. Both sides have touted progress at several points in the talks, but the agreement to set a timeline marked a rare concrete step toward a possible deal. The four plan to meet Wednesday to continue the negotiations. [The Washington Post]

President Trump on Tuesday signed legislation with nearly $3 billion in annual spending on conservation projects, outdoor recreation, and maintenance of national parks and other public lands. “There hasn’t been anything like this since Teddy Roosevelt, I suspect,” Trump said of the president who created many of the nation’s national parks, forests, and monuments more than a century ago. The new law, the Great American Outdoors Act, was overwhelmingly approved by Congress. The legislation’s supporters called it the broadest conservation package in decades. Others noted that the funding would not make up for an estimated $20 billion backlog in maintenance needed on federal lands. [The Associated Press]

The St. Louis Cardinals said no more players or staffers had tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday, boosting the team’s hope that it will be able to return to the field on Friday. The Cardinals had seven players and six staffers test positive in the previous five days, forcing the postponement of a week of baseball games. The Cardinals are the third team to be forced to halt play due to COVID-19 outbreaks. Cardinals all-star catcher Yadier Molina posted on Instagram in Spanish that he was infected “even after following the recommended prevention methods.” Shortstop Paul DeJong, who also tested positive, said that he “followed team protocalls,” too. The outbreaks have raised concerns about Major League Baseball’s ability to get through its shortened and delayed season. [The Associated Press]

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