October 17, 2020

For the first time since March, many New Yorkers can soon start returning to the movies.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Saturday announced that movie theaters in the state outside of New York City, and in counties with a low COVID-19 infection rate, can begin reopening next week, CBS News reports.

The New York theaters permitted to reopen starting on Oct. 23 must operate at 25 percent capacity, and they have to be in counties with an infection rate of below 2 percent and which don't have cluster zones.

Theater chains started to reopen their doors in other states earlier this year ahead of the release of Christopher Nolan's Tenet, which ultimately struggled at the box office while New York City and Los Angeles theaters stayed shuttered. As a result, film studios in recent weeks have been increasingly scrapping plans to release major blockbusters in 2020, although smaller titles remain on the calendar, and Wonder Woman 1984 is still slated for December.

The partial New York reopening of theaters comes after AMC, the world's largest movie theater chain, earlier this week warned that it could run out of cash by the end of 2020 if theater attendance doesn't improve. Brendan Morrow

8:51 a.m.

With the presidential election a week away, Democrat Joe Biden is the clear favorite. Yet "all of us — Republicans and Democrats, journalists and party operatives, political junkies and casual observers — are held hostage by memories of four Novembers ago," when President Trump scored his huge upset, Tim Alberta writes at Politico. "The bad news for Trump supporters: 2020 is nothing like 2016."

"We know what those polls suggest," Peggy Noonan observed in The Wall Street Journal. "But there is little air of defeat among Trump supporters and no triumphalism among Democrats. Trump supporters believe he will win because of his special magic, Trump foes fear he will win because of his dark magic. Pollsters and pundits stare at the data and wonder how to quantify his unfathomable magic."

Real Time's Bill Maher is nervous about the election, too, "but it's not election night, it's Nov. 4 to Jan. 20, and then after," he told Jimmy Kimmel on Monday's Kimmel Live. "It's impossible to imagine, I think, Trump losing and then and then saying, 'Well, we fought the good fight but the best man won, and I'm telling my staff to graciously allow Biden to take over.' No, he's never going to do that. He's going to lose — my prediction. Now, last time I didn't even say Hillary was going to win, when most people did. This time I do think Biden's gonna win by large numbers, popular vote and even the Electoral vote, and then Trump is gonna go apes--t."

Trump "doesn't do losing — other than three marriages, three casinos, four magazines, an airline, a football league, a charity, and a university, he's never lost anything," Maher deadpanned. "So he's not going to go gently into the night. That's what I worry about. And he's a master of 'It isn't written down, so I can do it.'" Watch Maher's explanation of how that might work with the Electoral College below. Peter Weber

8:44 a.m.

Researchers in the United Kingdom say they've observed a "significant" decline in the percentage of the population with COVID-19 antibodies, potentially pointing to "waning immunity."

Imperial College London scientists in the study found the prevalence of COVID-19 antibodies declined from six percent of the British population in June to 4.4 percent in September, Reuters reports. They came to the conclusion that there has been a "significant decline in the proportion of the population with detectable antibodies" by sending out finger-prick tests to a randomly selected group of over 365,000 people in England, according to CNN.

"On the balance of evidence I would say, with what we know for other coronaviruses, it would look as if immunity declines away at the same rate as antibodies decline away, and that this is an indication of waning immunity at the population level," Wendy Barclay, head of Imperial College London's Department of Infectious Disease, said, per Reuters.

The researchers were specifically looking for IgG antibodies in the study, and CNN notes that some other research has suggested "that other types of antibodies may persist longer than IgG does."

But Imperial College London's Helen Ward told BBC News the study suggests that "immunity is waning quite rapidly." Ward added in a statement, "We don't yet know whether this will leave these people at risk of reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19, but it is essential that everyone continues to follow guidance to reduce the risk to themselves and others." Brendan Morrow

7:44 a.m.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health on Monday ended one clinical trial of Eli Lilly's experimental COVID-19 antibody treatment after finding that the drug, "bamlanivimab, is unlikely to help hospitalized COVID-19 patients recover from this advanced stage of their disease." The trial was suspended Oct. 13 out of "an abundance of caution," but the NIH said Monday it had found no significant safety issue with the monoclonal antibody treatment.

Eli Lilly said it will continue testing bamlanivimab with the NIH on mild or moderately ill COVID-19 patients to see if it reduces hospitalizations and severe symptoms. Eli Lilly is also conducting its own separate trials.

Human bodies make antibodies to fight off infections, and Eli Lilly's experimental drug, like a similar treatment from Regeneron, features concentrated copies of one or two antibodies found to be effective at fighting of COVID-19. President Trump was given Regeneron's version when he was hospitalized with COVID-19, and public health experts have high hopes for monoclonal antibody treatments. Eli Lilly and Regeneron are both seeking emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Peter Weber

6:43 a.m.

"The election is just a week away, but the White House is making news for all the wrong reasons," a COVID-19 outbreak in Vice President Mike Pence's inner circle, Jimmy Kimmel said on Monday's Tonight Show. "Yeah, the only place the coronavirus is 'rounding the corner' is in the halls of the White House." And White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said the Trump administration is "not going to control the pandemic," he sighed. "They talk about COVID like it's a wild teen on Dr. Phil."

Yes, "Meadows went on CNN to reassure a worried nation that you're on your own," Stephen Colbert said at The Late Show. But while the virus is hitting a third peak nationwide, "the most infectious part of the country is the Trump administration." He laughed at how the White House is keeping the COVID-exposed Pence on the campaign trail by calling him an "essential worker," and explained the administration's proposed COVID-19 vaccine "quid pro ho ho ho" with mall Santas.

"It's interesting how zen Trump's people are about this," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. With migrant children, "they're like: 'Zero tolerance! One is too many! We have to deport!' But with a virus that's killing hundreds of thousands of Americans, they're like, 'Look, man, the virus is trying to make a better life in our lungs. Who are we to stop it?'" If you listen to Trump, though, he's just bored of the whole COVID thing. "I can safely say that I've never seen a world leader get bored of a crisis," Noah said. "But hey, shout-out to COVID for helping Trump understand what we've felt for the past five years every time we switch on the TV and heard his name. 'Trump, Trump, Trump, always Trump.'"

Jimmy Kimmel played a supercut of Trump's "COVID, COVD, COVID" rants. "I think I've figured it out: He's jealous of the virus," he said on Kimmel Live. "He's upset that COVID is getting more attention than he is."

"Election Day is eight days away, which means we're just a few short weeks away from the Supreme Court telling us who we elected," Seth Meyers joked, darkly, at Late Night. "At a campaign event in Maine yesterday, President Trump signed a pumpkin. So if someone could write a stimulus bill right above it, that would be great." Watch below. Peter Weber

4:18 a.m.

Borat showed up to taunt Jimmy Kimmel on Jimmy Kimmel Live last week, but Stephen Colbert got to interview Sacha Baron Cohen on Monday's Late Show. And Cohen had some new details about Borat Subsequent Moviefilm's most infamous scene, where Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's personal lawyer, puts himself in a compromising position with a young actress playing Borat's daughter, Tutar.

Giuliani "has denied that he was actually doing anything untoward toward this girl, this 24-year-old woman playing your 15-year-old daughter," Colbert said. "Do you have anything to say to Rudy Giuliani about going into a bedroom with a supposedly teenage girl to drink whisky and zip your pants up and down?" Cohen noted that Giuliani "said that he did nothing inappropriate, and you know, my feeling is if he sees that as appropriate, then heaven knows what he's intended to do with other women in hotel rooms with a glass of whisky in his hand."

Cohen explained that while the actress, Maria Bakalova, was in the hotel room with Giuliani, he was hiding in a custom-built box in the wardrobe, unable to see but supposed to be getting updates from his producer based on the cameras hidden in the room. "You don't want Maria left alone with Giuliani," Colbert suggested, and Cohen said Giuliani thought he was alone with her. "He brought a cop with him, an ex-policeman, and the policeman does a sweep of the entire hotel suite," he explained, and then Rudy's security guard left and "sits outside the room, ensuring that no one could come in and out — which is actually more scary when you think about it, for her." Things got even dicier when he turned on the phone, Cohen said.

Cohen also recounted what really happened when he interviewed Trump as another of his alter-egos, Ali G, and showed unreleased footage of Borat narrowly escaping a gun-rights rally after being recognized by undercover Black Lives Matter activists. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:21 a.m.

President Trump signed an executive order last week that could turn tens of thousands of nonpartisan career civil service jobs into "excepted service" positions, stripping federal scientists, public health experts, attorneys, regulators, and other policy professions of civil service protections. These career employees would essentially become political appointees whom the president could fire without cause or recourse.

Ronald Sanders, appointed by Trump to head the Federal Salary Council, cited this order when resigning Sunday, telling The Washington Post on Monday, "I don't want to sound too corny here, but it was just a matter of conscience."

Trump's order "is nothing more than a smoke screen for what is clearly an attempt to require the political loyalty of those who advise the president, or failing that, to enable their removal with little if any due process," Sanders wrote in his resignation letter. "I simply cannot be part of an administration that seeks ... to replace apolitical expertise with political obeisance. Career federal employees are legally and duty-bound to be nonpartisan; they take an oath to preserve and protect our Constitution and the rule of law ... not to be loyal to a particular president or administration."

Sanders, a lifelong Republican who has worked in federal personnel positions over four decades, said in his letter he "cannot in good conscience continue" to serve a president who "seeks to make loyalty to him the litmus test for many thousands of career civil servants." On MSNBC Monday night, Rachel Maddow applauded his letter a "very, very rare Trump administration profile in courage."

Trump's executive order "would be a profound reimagining of the career workforce, but one that may end up as a statement of purpose rather than anything else," the Post notes. "The order fast-tracks a process that gives agencies until Jan. 19 to review potentially affected jobs. That’s a day before the next presidential inauguration. An administration under Democratic nominee Joe Biden would be unlikely to allow the changes to proceed." Peter Weber

1:47 a.m.

You won't see his art hanging in a museum, but Phil Heckels' drawings of family pets are bringing joy to his friends — and raising money for a good cause.

Heckels lives in England, and about six weeks ago, he asked his son to make a thank you card. He worked on his own piece of art, drawing their dog Narla, and posted a picture of it on Facebook, joking that it was available to buy for just £299 (about $390). It wasn't a great drawing, and Heckles was shocked with seven friends asked him to sketch their pets.

Word spread and more requests started coming in from people, so Heckels, who works in commercial real estate, started a Facebook page with the tongue-in-cheek promise to create "extremely realistic pictures." Heckels told CNN he does "genuinely try quite hard to draw them" while also "having a laugh with it. People seem to be enjoying it and I'm certainly enjoying it."

When one client insisted Heckels accept payment, the artist instead asked that they donate to charity, and he has since launched a fundraiser for one of his favorite charities, Turning Tides, which helps the homeless. So far, Heckels, who estimates he's finished 220 portraits, has raised $15,000 for the organization. He told CNN his drawings have provided "a little bit of fun and a little bit of light," and he would "die a happy man if I could spend the rest of my life doing this." Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads