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Midwest, School Reopenings, Summer Gardens: Your Weekend Briefing

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

1. New coronavirus cases are picking up at a dangerous pace in much of the Midwest and in areas that had seen apparent progress.

The seven-day average for new infections is hovering around 65,000 for two weeks in what amounts to a second wave of cases. The U.S. recorded more than 1.9 million new infections in July, nearly 42 percent of the more than 4.5 million cases reported nationwide since the pandemic began and more than double the number documented in any other month, according to a Times database.

States like California, which became the first in the U.S. to report more than 500,000 coronavirus cases, and Mississippi and Florida thought they had already seen the worst of it, only to find themselves on a frustrating seesaw. Above, a testing center in Los Angeles.

And yet rapid testing, which many health officials say is critical to containing the virus, remains an obstacle. Dr. Anthony Fauci told lawmakers on Friday that the U.S. would most likely have a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine by the end of 2020 or early in 2021.

2. The first school districts in the U.S. reopened their doors this week. Greenfield Central Junior High School in Indiana, above, had to quarantine students within hours.

In most of the country, schools that reopen classrooms will quickly face the question of what to do when students test positive. To deal with that likelihood, many schools and some states have enacted contact tracing and quarantine protocols, with differing thresholds at which they would close classrooms or buildings.

A new report about a coronavirus outbreak at a sleep-away camp in Georgia provides fresh reasons for concern. Of the 600 campers and staff members, nearly half became infected within a week of orientation. The camp took precautions but did not require campers to wear masks. Singing and cheering may have helped spread the virus.


3. Florida, already reeling from the virus, faces a new threat from Isaias.

The tropical storm is expected to be upgraded to a hurricane again after a downgrade late Saturday and may hit Florida’s coastline. The storm raked parts of Puerto Rico — killing one woman — and the Dominican Republic before battering the Bahamas early Saturday. Above, Lake Worth, Fla.

And we’re only in the very beginning of hurricane season. Emergency management officials have drawn up new and special plans to deal with people who are fleeing or have been displaced by storms.

Up the coast, officials in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina were closely monitoring the storm and warned that hospitals could be strained beyond capacity with a flood of new patients.


4. ByteDance, the Chinese internet giant that owns TikTok, has offered to sell all of the popular video app’s American operations.

The potential divestment is a bid to save the business from being banned by the Trump administration, a person with knowledge of the matter said. U.S. officials have questioned whether TikTok is susceptible to influence from the Chinese government and poses a national security threat.

It was not clear whether the White House would accept the divestment as sufficient response to its concerns. Microsoft and other companies have been in talks to buy TikTok, but a deal has not yet been reached. TikTok has said it has 100 million users in the U.S.

How did the wildly popular app become embroiled in politics? Here’s a primer.


5. The next election battleground: the post office.

President Trump’s long campaign against the Postal Service is intersecting with his assault on mail-in voting amid concerns that he has politicized oversight of the agency, leading to cost-cutting steps that appear to have led to slower and less reliable delivery. Above, a postal facility in McLean, Va.

Mr. Trump’s baseless claims about the potential for mail-in voter fraud led him to dangle the idea of delaying the election, a suggestion that lacks legal authority and could undermine confidence in an election that polls show him on course to lose. His Republican colleagues roundly dismissed the possibility of a delay.

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Meanwhile, Joe Biden is getting closer to selecting his running mate, with Representative Karen Bass of California and Susan Rice, the former national security adviser, among the leading contenders. One possible advantage for Ms. Bass: She has assured Democratic officials that she has no interest in seeking the presidency herself, according to lawmakers.


6. The threat of neo-Nazi infiltration of Germany’s state institutions is more extensive than officials realized. Now they’re struggling to uproot such infiltration.

Last month, the government disbanded an entire company of the nation’s special forces that had been infiltrated by extremists. But a group called Nordkreuz, or Northern Cross, shows that the problem of far-right infiltration has penetrated multiple layers of Germany society over the years as the authorities underestimated the threat or were reluctant to confront it.

“Between us, we were a whole village,” recalled Marko Gross, a police officer and one of about 30 Nordkreuz members, including a man who owned a military accessory shop, above. They were plotting to round up and kill political enemies and those defending migrants and refugees before they were uncovered by the authorities three years ago.


7. Riding the New York City subway may be safer than you think.

In countries where the coronavirus pandemic has ebbed, ridership has rebounded — and there have been no notable superspreader events linked to mass transit, according to a survey of transportation agencies conducted by The Times. (One caveat: Ridership in major cities is still well below pre-pandemic levels).

If the risks of mass transit can be addressed, that could have sweeping implications for many large American cities, particularly New York, where one of the biggest challenges in a recovery will be coaxing riders back onto public transportation.


8. Oh, how far Karens have fallen.

In 1965, it was the third-most-popular baby name in the U.S. In 2018, it was the 635th — and today it’s even less popular. In 2020, Karen is no longer “an easy name” and instead has morphed into a symbol of racism and white privilege.

Why the name Karen? Robin Queen, a linguistics expert, points to, of all people, Dane Cook, a comedian who, on a 2005 album, used the name to describe “one person in a group of friends that nobody likes.” Ms. Queen said the label was unlikely to hold on forever. “I would be surprised to find it around a decade from now,” she said.


9. “If you can’t enjoy weeding, you won’t be a happy gardener.”

That’s the wisdom of Timothy Tilghman, the head gardener at Untermyer Park and Gardens in Yonkers, N.Y., above, a 43-acre former estate on the Hudson River. It was an eerily quiet spring and early summer without visitors, a result of the pandemic, but there is still work to be done.

Our garden expert, Margaret Roach, spoke with Mr. Tilghman about his high-summer to-do list. It includes watering and weeding consistently (and observing and noting what needs fixing), removing deadheads and grooming, keeping edges tidy, mulching, and preparing future beds.


10. And finally, our Best Weekend Reads.

This week, we look at the social impact of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, the prospect of future travel, and Representative John Lewis on the legacy of the civil rights movement. Above, Mr. Lewis’s funeral this week.

For more ideas on what to read, watch and listen to, may we suggest these 12 new books our editors liked, a glance at the latest small-screen recommendations from Watching, and our music critics’ latest playlist. We’re also in peak blueberry season. This popsicle recipe may hit the spot.

Have a sweet week.


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

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