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Coronavirus, Remdesivir, Unemployment: Your Thursday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering some promising initial news about a treatment for Covid-19, the sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden, and a plan to pay college athletes.

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Credit…Gilead Sciences Inc, via Reuters

Initial results showed the experimental drug remdesivir could speed recovery in patients infected with the coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Wednesday.

In a federal trial, the time to recovery averaged 11 days among those who received the drug, and 15 days for those who got a placebo. The improvement “doesn’t seem like a knockout 100 percent,” Dr. Fauci said, but “it is a very important proof of concept, because what it has proven is that a drug can block this virus.”

Here are the latest updates from the U.S. and around the world, as well as maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Global greenhouse gas emissions are on track to fall nearly 8 percent this year, the largest drop ever recorded, the International Energy Agency reported today. But the group’s executive director warned, “The only way to sustainably reduce emissions is not through painful lockdowns, but by putting the right energy and climate policies in place.”

  • Dozens of decomposing bodies were discovered in trucks parked outside a funeral home in Brooklyn. It was unclear whether the people had died of the coronavirus.

  • A bridge club in Colorado was a social draw for retirees. Now, with four members dead from the virus, its future is unclear.

  • Should the virus mean straight A’s for everyone? High schools are debating whether to issue grades.

  • Tom Moore, the World War II veteran who recently raised more than $37 million for Britain’s medical workers by walking laps in his yard, is 100 today.

The details: We’ve compiled expert guidance on several subjects, including health, money and travel.

In the years since the 2009 financial crisis, many states moved to tighten access to unemployment and cut benefits.

Related: The Labor Department reported today that 3.8 million new unemployment claims were filed last week, bringing the six-week total to more than 30 million. Here are the latest financial updates.

Trump administration officials have pushed U.S. intelligence agencies to hunt for evidence to support an unsubstantiated theory that the coronavirus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, current and former American officials told The Times.

Republicans have sought to blame China for the pandemic. Scientists say the overwhelming probability is that the virus passed from animal to human in a nonlaboratory setting, as was the case with H.I.V., Ebola and SARS.

Response: Spokesmen for the White House and the National Security Council declined to comment. An official from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said that the intelligence agencies had not agreed on an origin theory but were tracking down information.

Yesterday: Our chief White House correspondent, Peter Baker, writes: “The total number of coronavirus cases in the United States exceeded one million. The American death toll surpassed that of the Vietnam War. And the economy was reported to have shrunk by nearly 5 percent. But the White House on Wednesday declared its response to the crisis ‘a great success story.’”

Another angle: President Trump’s executive order declaring the slaughtering and processing of beef, chicken and pork to be “critical infrastructure” followed weeks of lobbying by the meat industry.

The app used in Norway, above, sends location and Bluetooth data to central servers to be used by the government health authorities. A new law says the information has to be deleted every 30 days.

Joe Biden assault allegation: The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has faced growing pressure to address an accusation by Tara Reade, a former aide, that he sexually assaulted her in 1993. His campaign has called it “untrue.”

Cash for college athletes: The N.C.A.A. outlined a plan that would let athletes earn money from the use of their names, images and likenesses. If approved, the rules are expected to take effect at the start of the 2021-22 academic year.

Late-night comedy: Vice President Mike Pence defended his decision not to wear a mask during a visit to the Mayo Clinic, saying he wanted to look health care workers “in the eye and say thank you.” Jimmy Kimmel asked, “What kind of a mask was he planning to wear, Spider-Man?”

What we’re reading: This profile of Marie Kondo in Fast Company magazine. “There’s a lot more to her than just tidying up,” says Carole Landry of the Briefings team.

We’ve started an email newsletter, At Home, with our recommendations for what to read, cook, watch and do while staying inside. Sign up here.

Raymond Zhong, a Times technology reporter, is part of a group of American journalists who were recently expelled from China. Below is a condensed version of his Times Insider article on his two years of reporting in the country.

Getting access to regular people in China might be the part of foreign correspondents’ jobs that the Chinese authorities find hardest to control, though they certainly try. With a dose of charm and persistence from a reporter, people do open up, despite the country’s rigid curbs on speech.

But even face to face with people in China, it could be tough to have real conversations. People ended interviews when they started to seem hazardous — too personal, too political. This is how the authoritarian system keeps a lid on criticism: It gives everyone reason to think that personal matters are political, that they can get in trouble just for talking about their own lives and opinions.

Often enough, though, I found people in China who were relieved that someone was finally listening: hog farmers pleading for aid from the local government after their herds were devastated by an incurable plague, truckers whose incomes had been gutted by new, Uber-like apps that brought Silicon Valley efficiency to their happily inefficient industry.

I’m leaving China more convinced than ever of how much ordinary people can teach us about a place — which might be one reason the government was so eager for us to leave.


That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Chris


Thank you
To Melissa Clark for the recipe, and to Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about Joe Biden’s presidential campaign and the coronavirus pandemic.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Francis or one of his predecessors (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Kara Swisher, who became a Times Opinion contributor in 2018, will be the host of a twice-weekly podcast that will make its debut in the fall.