A version of this story appeared in the July 30 edition of CNN’s Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.

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It’s been six months since the World Health Organization declared the spread of Covid-19 a public health emergency of international concern.

On January 30, when WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the announcement, signaling the desperate need for a coordinated, global response to the crisis, there were only 98 confirmed cases outside China, and zero deaths.

In the weeks since, the world has seen more than 660,000 people succumb to the virus. Nearly a quarter of those deaths have been recorded in the United States, where the toll surpassed 150,000 yesterday.

“We must remember that these are people, not numbers,” Tedros said back in January.

That message is more important than ever, as the existential threat of the pandemic becomes the backdrop to our daily lives and staggering new records lose their shock value.

Another warning from Tedros has become increasingly relevant: We must combat the spread of rumors and misinformation.

Yet President Donald Trump, his friends in Congress, members of his Cabinet, senior staff and supporters are still setting out to undermine the fact-based approaches – such as mask wearing and social distancing – that might get the virus under control and restore normal life, Stephen Collinson writes.

“Unlike many countries in the world, the United States is not currently on course to get control of this epidemic,” scholars at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security warned in a new report. “It is time to reset.”

The economic toll of the pandemic is becoming clear. In just a few months, the virus has managed to wipe out years of gains and push millions of people around the world into new economic hardship.

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED

Q: Q: Is it safe to get a flu shot in the fall?

A: Robust clinical studies say the answer is: No. Despite this clear evidence, Trump, this week, went out of his way to promote hydroxychloroquine, retweeting a series of videos that were later removed by Twitter for containing false and misleading information about the anti-malarial drug.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, has said he agrees with the Food and Drug Administration that “the overwhelming prevailing clinical trials that have looked at the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine have indicated that it is not effective in coronavirus disease.”

According to one recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, unusual heart rhythms and elevated liver-enzyme levels were more frequent in patients receiving hydroxychloroquine alone or in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin.

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WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY

A hotspot within a hotspot. In south Texas, Covid-19 is ravaging entire families

Rolando and Yolanda Garcia were doing everything they could to protect themselves from the coronavirus. They rarely ventured out of their home in the Rio Grande Valley. One of their children described them as “retired home bodies.”

After the Memorial Day weekend, more businesses started reopening and more people started venturing out in larger numbers. Priscilla Garcia believes her parents were infected with Covid-19 during a trip to their neighborhood grocery store. A few weeks later, the high school sweethearts were both dead. But they weren’t the only ones in the family to get sick.

More than 600 people have died of the coronavirus in the Rio Grande Valley. It’s become a hotspot within a hotspot as Texas struggles to contain a spiraling outbreak.

Rolando and Yolanda Garcia were children when they met in San Juan, a south Texas border town. They became high school sweethearts, and went to their senior prom together.

Inside Brazil’s cult of hydroxychloroquine

Following the advice of Brazil’s health ministry, Sgt. Jonas Mendonça’s doctors gave him hydroxychloroquine, along with antibiotics, fever-reducing antipyretics and adrenaline to treat his Covid-19 symptoms, according to relatives.

“In the last two days [the doctors] were very hopeful,” said his daughter. “The fever was over. The pulmonary and respiratory condition was evolving. It was good.”

Yet he died suddenly. “God’s will,” Thais said.

In Brazil – home to South America’s worst coronavirus outbreak, where as many as 50,000 new cases have been recorded per day – the drug is at the heart of a febrile scrap over politics and faith. Science has shown it doesn’t work, but Brazil’s Health Ministry and President insist it does – luring many in Brazil with false hope, Nick Paton Walsh reports.

We’re only just beginning to learn how Covid-19 affects the brain

One of the more puzzling aspects of the novel coronavirus is just how many organ systems are impacted through the course of the disease. We’ve heard about the heart, lungs and respiratory symptoms, but a growing mystery is its impact on the nervous system.

A report in April suggested more than a third of 214 Covid-19 patients studied experienced neurological complications ranging from loss of smell to stroke. The virus can lead to delirium, brain inflammation, stroke and nerve damage. In a University College London study published earlier this month, 10 out of 43 patients had “temporary brain dysfunction” and delirium, while 12 had brain inflammation, eight had strokes and eight had nerve damage.

How this virus damages the brain and nerves still isn’t totally clear. But as two physicians dedicated to the study of the nervous system, Dr. Minali Nigam and Dr. Sanjay Gupta wanted to find some answers.

Welcome to the NBA bubble – at Disney World

For the next two-and-a-half months, the top basketball players in the US will all be residing at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

But it’s not necessarily the treat you might think; in fact some – like the Lakers’ LeBron James and the Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard – have compared it to a prison sentence, both using slang on social media, saying they were off “to do a bid.”

It’s probably not the kind of gratitude the NBA was expecting when they wrestled with the biggest logistical challenge ever faced in the 74-year history of the league: how to resume and finish up a season during a global pandemic in a country which has struggled in the fight against Covid-19, Don Riddell writes.

ON OUR RADAR

  • Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday that he felt weak and might have “mold in the lung” after catching Covid-19. His wife has now tested positive too.
  • The Middle East is grappling with a heatwave during Eid and as coronavirus cases rise in a number of countries.
  • Herman Cain, a onetime Republican presidential candidate and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has died after contracting the coronavirus.
  • The entire Rutgers University football program is under quarantine and has temporarily halted all in-person activities, all the result of individuals attending a gathering.
  • Bill Gates says other nations had better coronavirus responses than America.
  • Canada is cracking down on those traveling through the country to get to Alaska.
  • Her mission to help vulnerable elders has found a new urgency after the Navajo Nation’s struggle with Covid-19.
  • “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston has appealed to his fans to “keep wearing the damn mask,” after revealing that he contracted Covid-19.
  • Serena Williams has helped to donate 4.25 million face masks to schools in need.

TOP TIPS

Dr. Anthony Fauci has laid out five principles that could help stop coronavirus infections from surging. Speaking on MSNBC on Wednesday, Fauci said the measures were the only way to suppress outbreaks that are emerging in states such as Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Indiana. “It is very important to get ahead of the curve, because what we are seeing now is what actually took place a couple of weeks ago,” he said.

The principles are:

  1. Universal wearing of masks
  2. Avoiding crowds
  3. Physical distancing of at least 6 feet
  4. Typical hand hygiene
  5. Avoiding bars or closing them where possible

TODAY’S PODCAST

“President Duterte likes to say he likes to govern using violence and fear. That’s certainly been exacerbated by Covid.” – Maria Ressa, Philippine journalist and CEO of Rappler

Be sure to set a good example by wearing your own mask – make sure it’s on correctly and that you actually wear it every time you go out the door. – Laura Jarrett, CNN anchor