Coronavirus Testing, Kamala Harris, Summer Cocktails: Your Weekend Briefing

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Here are the week’s top stories, and a look ahead.

1. Virus testing in the U.S. has fallen for the first time since the start of the pandemic, a sign the nation’s response has stalled.

Some 733,000 people have been tested each day this month on average, down from nearly 750,000 in July, according to the COVID Tracking Project. By some estimates, several million people may need to be tested each day to rein in the virus, including many who don’t feel sick. Above, testing in Los Angeles.

“We’re clearly not doing enough,” a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner said.

The troubling trend may in part reflect that fewer people are seeking out tests as known cases have leveled off at more than 50,000 per day, as well as a fundamental problem: The nation has yet to build a robust system to test vast portions of the population, not just those seeking tests.

Here’s the latest map and case count.

2. Fears are growing that a postal crisis will lead to uncounted votes in the U.S. presidential election.

Accounts of slowdowns and curtailed service are emerging across the country as Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general and a Republican megadonor, makes financial cuts that he says are intended to overhaul an agency suffering billion-dollar losses.

But postal workers warned the changes could disenfranchise record numbers of Americans who would be casting ballots by mail in November because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Postal Service told states that it might not meet some of their mail-in ballot deadlines.

On Saturday, President Trump accused Democrats of refusing to fund the Postal Service. House Democrats, who say Mr. DeJoy’s changes are threatening the integrity of the general election, have begun discussing bringing the chamber back early from its summer recess to address the issues.

Separately, Robert Trump, the president’s younger brother who shunned the spotlight, died at 71. He had been in poor health since last month.


3. With campus life diminished, why pay for “glorified Skype?”

That’s how one incoming freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison put it as he starts his fall semester remotely. With in-person learning put on hold for many, college students and their parents are demanding tuition rebates, increased aid and leaves of absence. Above, a deserted Northwestern University.

In other school news, a Korean study published last month is being re-evaluated after the researchers released additional data. The study suggested that children between the ages of 10 and 19 spread the coronavirus more than adults. But now it’s not clear who was infecting whom.


4. The Democratic National Convention kicks off on Monday night in Milwaukee with a mix of live and prerecorded speeches.

On the roster is Senator Kamala Harris, the daughter of two immigrants, who is seen by many Americans as the face of the country’s demographic future. Since joining the ticket last week, she has faced viral falsehoods and racist stereotypes perpetuated by President Trump.

As a rival in the Democratic presidential primary, Ms. Harris challenged Joe Biden’s record on race, particularly his opposition to busing in the 1970s. Now, as Mr. Biden’s running mate, the reaction was largely a sigh of relief across the spectrum of the Democratic Party. But it was historic most of all, and especially sweet for many Black women.

Ms. Harris will speak on Wednesday night and Mr. Biden is slated to formally accept the nomination on Thursday night.


5. Millions of Americans are still on unemployment, and Congress is in recess until early September without a deal for a new pandemic relief bill in sight.

States are scrambling to figure out how to carry out President Trump’s plan for federal aid to unemployed workers, which requires states to chip in a quarter of the cost. But the $400 weekly supplement looks more like $300 — and it is unclear when the money will start flowing.

Governors from both major parties balked at being asked to spend billions of dollars when tax revenues have plunged because of the economic collapse. Economists say the long-term financial damage to states may be greater than in the last recession.


6. A heat wave is scorching the Southwest and has forced intermittent power shut-offs in California. Thermometers are cracking 110 degrees Fahrenheit in some cities.

Californians used so much electricity trying to stay cool Friday night that, for the first time in 19 years, the agency that oversees much of the state’s power grid shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers for several hours to avoid a damaging overload. Above, Los Angeles yesterday.

The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for much of the West Coast. The sweltering heat comes as coronavirus cases are on the rise in California, creating a dilemma for those who could not stay cool at home.


7. A deal reached this week between Israel and the United Arab Emirates was made possible by shifting dynamics in the region.

The Arab Spring uprisings and the threats from a common enemy — Iran — created new realities in the Middle East that brought two longstanding enemies, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, into a closer alliance.

The agreement, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu normalized relations with the U.A.E. in exchange for suspending a promise to annex part of the West Bank, was a diplomatic coup for Israel. But for Palestinians, it swapped one nightmare for the perhaps even bleaker prospect of not being counted at all.


8. Bhutanese immigrants in New York City who drive for ride-sharing services are beginning to return to work. Archery, their country’s national pastime, is providing comfort.

Archery provides a way to exercise, socialize at a distance and offer prayers for the city’s speedy comeback. The group of about two dozen members gathers every weekend in a long field in New Jersey. They split into teams, say mantras to Buddha and then play for 12 hours.

Archery and New York City traffic can be similar challenges. “Both are games where you need to maintain focus,” one member said. “But the difference is that here, in this field, it is only the body that suffers. In the city, driving all day, it is the mind.”


9. It’s time to crack open a cold one.

The next time you reach for a beer, you may want to look to the rest of your bar. During a scorcher of a summer, beer just might be your perfect mixer: Beer-based drinks tend to be low in alcohol, high in flavor and relatively easy and inexpensive.

Rebekah Peppler, a Food contributor who has written about the merits of frozen drinks and Aperol spritzes, recommends a Tequila Soleil (kind of like a Negroni with a spritz), above, or a version of a Picon Bière (served with amaro and orange liqueur). To keep it bubbly, don’t add ice until the end.


10. And finally, our Best Weekend Reads.

Coco Gauff’s return to the tennis court, the jump-start of Hollywood’s blockbuster machine and the role of Black suffragists, above, are among the great stories featured this week.

For more ideas on what to read, watch and listen to, may we suggest these 10 new books our editors liked, a glance at the latest small-screen recommendations from Watching, and our music critics’ latest playlist.

Have an engaging week.


Will Dudding contributed to today’s briefing.

Your Weekend Briefing is published Sundays at 6 a.m. Eastern.

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