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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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A hospital staff member carrying a suspected COVID-19 blood sample case to a medical center in Daegu, South Korea, on Sunday. Photo: Seung-il Ryu/NurPhoto via Getty Images

South Korean President Moon Jae-in raised the country's infectious disease alert level on Sunday to red, the highest possible, the New York Times reports, as the number of cases in the country jumped to 602 and the death toll to six.

Why it matters: South Korea now has more cases of COVID-19 than any country outside mainland China and only 32 fewer than the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the latest figures show.

  • The Korean Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention reported Saturday an eightfold increase in cases in four days. Most cases are in the southern cities of Daegu and Cheongdo, which authorities had just declared "special care zones" in the hope of stopping the spread of the virus, per the FT. But this did not happen.

Of note: More than half of those infected are connected to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a "secretive" religious sect, per The Guardian.

U.S. response: The State Department raised its travel advisory for South Korea on Saturday to level 2, recommending travelers exercise increased caution and prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations.

Go deeper: Coronavirus: The latest developments

Go deeper

SEC debunks conspiracy theories about meme stock mania

Photo: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The SEC issued its long-awaited report on the meme stock mania, which downplayed the narrative that a "short squeeze" was the primary driver behind GameStop's historic stock moves — and shot down conspiracy theories about the event.

Why it matters: The postmortem was highly anticipated, largely because of what it could hint about what the regulator thinks should be done in wake of the saga. But the report stopped short of specific policy recommendations.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Breaking Biden's diplomatic logjam

Expand chart
Data: Center for Presidential Transition via Congress.gov; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

The logjam for reviewing and confirming President Biden's ambassadorial picks is finally starting to break.

Why it matters: Biden is far behind his predecessors in the rate at which his ambassadorial picks have been confirmed. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a series of high-profile hearings and votes this week to finally begin chipping away at the backlog.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats brace for staredown over paid family medical leave

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senior House Democrats are braced for battle with the Senate over whether paid family medical leave — a key priority for progressives — will be included in President Biden’s final budget reconciliation bill, lawmakers and aides tell Axios.

Why it matters: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has indicated he wants to cut the program to reduce the bill's price tag. “Paid family and medical leave must be in the final package,” Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, told Axios on Monday.

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