Florida lifts all COVID-19 restrictions on businesses, allows restaurants to operate at full capacity.
Florida is lifting all COVID-19 restrictions on business, including bars and restaurants, effective immediately, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Friday (Sept. 25). The new rules mean that bars and restaurants can operate at full capacity indoors. "There will not be limitations from the state of Florida," DeSantis said in a news conference. Local governments can have additional restrictions, such as restrictions on capacity, but only if they provide economic and health justifications for the additional restrictions, according to The Hill. In addition, local governments cannot limit capacity by more than 50%. COVID-19 cases in Florida are down significantly compared to what was seen in the summer months, according to The New York Times. However, the state has a COVID-19 positivity rate of about 12%, which is above the 5% that the World Health Organization says is needed to reopen safety, the Times reported. Overall, the state has recorded more than 695,000 cases and nearly 14,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
US is still in the first wave of the pandemic, Fauci says
The U.S. has now surpassed seven million cases of COVID-19, less than a month after reaching six million cases, according to The New York Times. The virus has led to more than 202,800 deaths in the U.S., according to The Johns Hopkins dashboard. The U.S. is still in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, as cases never dropped to a low baseline, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said, according to CNN. "Rather than say, 'A second wave,' why don't we say, 'Are we prepared for the challenge of the fall and the winter?'" Fauci said. Places that have brought down COVID-19 cases should now work to prevent "surges that inevitably will occur if you're not doing the kinds of public health measures that we're talking about," Fauci said, according to CNN.
United Airlines offers rapid COVID-19 testing to some passengers
United Airlines has become the first U.S. airline to launch a pilot COVID-19 testing program for some of its passengers. The airline plans to offer rapid COVID-19 testing for United passengers traveling from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Hawaii, Live Science reported. Beginning Oct. 15, customers on these flights will have the option to take a COVID-19 test at the airport or to submit a self-collected mail-in test before their trip, according to a statement from the company. For now, the tests are limited to flights from SFO to Hawaii, but United is looking to expand COVID-19 testing to other destinations and U.S. airports later this year, the statement said. The news comes as airlines around the world are pushing for COVID-19 tests as an alternative to travel restrictions and lengthy quarantines for travelers.
Coronavirus cases surge in Canada
Coronavirus infections have been surging in Canada, according to Reuters. "It's all too likely we won't be gathering for thanksgiving but we still have a shot at Christmas," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during a national broadcast yesterday (Sept. 23). Canadian Thanksgiving is on October 12. "Together we have the power to get the second wave under control," Trudeau said. The country is "at a crossroads" and "individual action" will decide the path it will take, the Public Health Agency said in a statement, according to Reuters. In the worst-case scenario, cases could rise more than 1,000 per day to more than 155,700 by Oct. 2, with deaths rising to 9,300, the agency said. Canada has now reported more than 149,900 cases and 9,294 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard.
COVID-19 vaccine rollout in US may take until next summer, FDA will issue tougher standards for vaccine authorization
— It may take until next summer to get most Americans vaccinated against COVID-19, according to predictions from top U.S. health officials. At a Senate committee hearing on Wednesday (Sept. 23), Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that officials expect to have 700 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine on hand by late March or early April, according to The Washington Post. (The most advanced clinical trials are testing a two-dose regimen of a coronavirus vaccine, and so 700 million doses would be enough for all Americans to receive two doses.) However, it may take several more months to get those doses to the public, Redfield said. "To how long I felt it would take to get those 700 million doses into the American public and complete the vaccine process … I think that’s going to take us April, May, June, possibly July, to get the entire American public completely vaccinated," he said.
— The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to issue new standards that COVID-19 vaccines will be required to meet before they can earn "emergency use authorization" in the U.S., Live Science reported. The new standards address concerns that a COVID-19 vaccine might be given the green light before completing necessary tests of its safety and effectiveness. The stricter standards will make it unlikely that a vaccine is authorized before Election Day on Nov. 3, according to The Washington Post.
Lufthansa plans to make rapid coronavirus antigen tests available to passengers in October
Lufthansa plans to make rapid coronavirus antigen tests available to passengers in October and are considering opening test centers at airports in the U.S. and Canada, according to Reuters. Antigen tests detect the presence of viral proteins and deliver quicker results than the traditional PCR tests that detect the presence of the virus’ genetic material. Airports and airlines worldwide have been urging countries to accept negative coronavirus test results rather than impose travel restrictions and quarantines, according to Reuters. “You know that companies like Abbott or Roche are bringing these tests to the market and we are definitely looking into this,” Bjoern Becker the senior director of product management, ground & digital services for the Lufthansa Group, told Reporters on a call, according to Reuters. “You will see us applying them for new products within the next few weeks in October,” he said. “That’s definitely the next thing to come.”
US reaches 200,000 COVID-19 deaths, CDC issues guidelines for celebrating fall and winter holidays
— The coronavirus pandemic has reached another bleak milestone in the United States: More than 200,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the country as of Tuesday (Sept. 22), according to Johns Hopkins University. After the virus first appeared in the U.S. in late January, it took four months to reach the first 100,000 deaths, which was reported on May 27, and another four months to reach the second 100,000 deaths, according to Bloomberg. COVID-19 is on track to be the third leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2020, behind heart disease and cancer, Live Science reported.
— The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new guidelines for celebrating fall and winter holidays, including Halloween, Dia de los Muertos and Thanksgiving, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the agency says that many traditional Halloween activities "can be high-risk for spreading viruses," and the guidelines urge people to avoid traditional trick-or-treating and crowded indoor parities. Instead, the CDC encourages low-risk activities for Halloween, such as carving or decorating pumpkins with members of the same household, having virtual Halloween costume contests and setting up a scavenger hunt for candies in and around your house with members of your household, rather than going door-to-door.
The UK announces new restrictions as coronavirus cases rapidly increase
Similar to other countries in Europe, the U.K. has been seeing a rapid increase in coronavirus cases, with 4,368 new cases reported yesterday (Sept. 21), according to Public Health England. "We always knew that while we might have driven the virus into retreat, the prospect of a second wave was real. I'm sorry to say that, as in Spain and France and many other countries, we've reached a perilous turning point," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, according to the BBC. Johnson announced new restrictions for England that could last up to six months. Under the new restrictions, weddings will be limited to a maximum of 15 people, shop staff, taxi drivers and passengers will have to wear face masks, hospitality venues must close at 10 p.m., all pubs, bars and restaurants will be restricted to table service only, according to the BBC. Anyone who breaks mask or gathering laws will be fined 200 pound sterling (256 dollars) for the first offense, according to the BBC. There will be “significantly greater restrictions” later if necessary, Johnson said. After meeting with leaders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on Tuesday morning, Johnson said similar restrictions will be put in place across the U.K. The U.K. has now recorded 398,625 cases of the virus and 41,788 deaths, according to Public Health England.
CDC walks back on guidance regarding airborne spread of COVID-19
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) appeared to issue new guidance on airborne transmission of COVID-19 only to walk back on those statements a few days later. Earlier this week, the CDC updated its website to acknowledge the airborne spread of COVID-19, stating that "there is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes)," Live Science reported. But on Monday (Sept. 21), the agency deleted those references to airborne spread, saying that "a draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency's official website." The CDC added that it is "currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted."
The US nears 200,000 COVID-19 deaths
The numbers: There have now been more than 31 million COVID-19 cases reported worldwide and more than 961,300 deaths; In the U.S. there have been more than 6.8 million cases reported and more than 199,500 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Dashboard. In India, there have been more than 5.4 million COVID-19 cases and more than 87,800 deaths; In Brazil, there have been more than 4.5 million cases and more than 136,800 deaths; In Russia, there have been more than 1.1 million cases and more than 19,400 deaths; In Peru, there have been more than 768,800 cases and more than 31,300 deaths.
CDC reversed controversial coronavirus testing guidelines
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reversed controversial COVID-19 testing guidelines that were posted to the agency's website last month, reportedly over the objections of its own scientists. On Aug. 24, the CDC updated its testing guidelines to say that being exposed to a person with COVID-19 didn't necessarily warrant a test for those who are low-risk or not showing any symptoms, Live Science previously reported. Now, the agency has reverted back to previous guidelines, saying that close contacts of a person infected with SARS-CoV-2 should be tested, Live Science reported. That's because people can transmit the virus before, or without ever showing any symptoms. If you have been in close contact with an infected person, such as within 6 feet (1.8 meters) for at least 15 minutes and do not have symptoms, "you need a test," the CDC's guidance now reads.
The CDC's highly criticized testing guidance was posted despite objections from CDC scientists
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) abruptly changed its COVID-19 guidance to say that being exposed to a person with the disease doesn't necessarily warrant a test if you're not in a high-risk group or showing any symptoms, Live Science previously reported. The sudden change was highly criticized by public health officials. Now, it turns out, the change wasn't written by scientists at the CDC who seriously objected to the changes, but was posted anyway, according to a New York Times report. Officials told the Times that the Department of Health and Human Services rewrote the recommendation and posted it to the site without it going through the CDC's scientific review process. “That was a doc that came from the top down, from the H.H.S. and the [White House] task force,” a federal official told the Times. “That policy does not reflect what many people at the C.D.C. feel should be the policy.”
Flu season may be mild this year
Flu season may be pretty mild this year thanks to measures taken to stop the spread of COVID-19, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the report, published Thursday (Sept. 17) in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the researchers note that flu activity in the U.S. right now is at "historical lows," and that data from the Southern Hemisphere — which has just gone through its winter — showed "virtually no influenza circulation." However, nothing is certain when it comes to the flu season, especially during the middle of a pandemic. So it's still important to prepare for both flu and COVID-19 this fall and winter, and to get a flu shot, the report says.
WHO official warns of a 'very serious situation' as cases rise in Europe
Coronavirus cases in Europe have been increasing dramatically, with more than 300,000 new cases reported last week, according to CNBC. In the past two weeks, more than half of European countries reported greater than a 10% increase in cases and seven of those countries reported a two-fold increase, Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization's regional director for Europe said at a press briefing today, according to CNBC. “We have a very serious situation unfolding before us,” Kluge said. “Weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March.” France recorded 9,784 new cases on Wednesday, just below their record of 10,561 new cases recorded on Saturday, according to CNBC. The number of new cases has been increasing rapidly in Spain; the country recorded 11,193 new cases yesterday, according to The New York Times. Other countries including the U.K., Italy and Turkey are also seeing increases in cases.
People who wear eyeglasses may be at lower risk of catching COVID-19, early study suggests
People who wear eyeglasses may be at lower risk for catching COVID-19 than those who don't wear glasses, early research suggests, Live Science reported. Researchers in China analyzed data from 276 hospital patients in China's Hubei province and found that only 6% said they wore glasses for more than 8 hours a day because they had nearsightedness or myopia, according to the report published Wednesday (Sept. 16) in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology. But previous research found that the estimated rate of myopia in Hubei was much higher at about 31.5%. The new study "is provocative and raises the possibility that use of eye protection by the general public might offer some degree of protection from COVID-19," Dr. Lisa Maragakis, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study, wrote in an editorial accompanying the study.
But it's too early to recommend everyone wear eyeglasses, goggles or face shields, in addition to wearing face masks to protect against COVID-19, she said. The study has a number of limitations including that it was very small and included patients in a single hospital. The study only found an association and did not prove a "cause-effect" relationship between wearing glasses and being protected from COVID-19, Maragakis said. The researchers didn't study why glasses may reduce the risk of COVID-19 but they hypothesize that people who wear glasses touch their eyes less, reducing the chances the virus will transfer from their hands to their eyes, according to the report. Previous research has shown that eye cells have receptors that allow the virus to enter the body, according to the report.
A small wedding in Maine led to seven deaths, all among people who did not attend
A small, rural wedding held in Maine has now led to more than 175 COVID-19 cases and seven deaths, including six deaths among residents of the Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center in Madison, Maine, according to The Washington Post. All of the deaths were among people who did not attend the wedding, showing just how easily large gatherings can cause super-spreader events. The cases that have stemmed from the wedding that took place on Aug. 7 in the Big Moose Inn outside Millinocket continues to grow across the state, according to the Post. Guests at the wedding were not following social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines.
This wedding isn't the only super-spreading event that has led to a large number of cases, according to the Post. Between 10 to 20% of people who are infected with the novel coronavirus are responsible for 80% of the spread, Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, said at a news briefing Thursday, according to the Post.
More than 75% of US children who are dying from COVID-19 are minorities
More than 75% of children in the U.S. who are dying from COVID-19 are minorities, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between February 12 and July 31, a total of 391,814 COVID-19 cases were confirmed or probable among children under the age of 21, according to the study. Among 121 children under the age of 21 who died of COVID-19 before August, 94 of them (78%) were Hispanic, Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native, according to the study. Children under the age of 21 "should be monitored for complications," the authors wrote. Careful monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 infections, deaths and other severe outcomes among children "remains particularly important as schools reopen in the United States." These disparities are also well-documented among adults. The coronavirus' death toll among adults in the U.S. is twice as high in people of color than for White Americans, according to The Washington Post.
COVID-19 may eventually become a seasonal illness
COVID-19 may eventually become a seasonal illness like the flu, according to a review published Tuesday (Sept. 15) in the journal Frontiers in Public Health. But that's only when a population achieves herd immunity; in other words, a sufficient number of people become immune to the virus to prevent constant spread, according to a Live Science report. But until then, COVID-19 will likely spread year-round, a finding that highlights the importance of following public health measures to control the virus, according to the report.
"COVID-19 is here to stay and it will continue to cause outbreaks year-round until herd immunity is achieved," study senior author Hassan Zaraket, of the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, said in a statement. "Therefore, the public will need to learn to live with it and continue practicing the best prevention measures, including wearing of masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene and avoidance of gatherings."
The novel coronavirus can infect brain cells, a new study finds
A new study finds that SARS-CoV-2 can infect brain cells and use the cells’ internal machinery to copy itself, according to a Live Science report. The new study is the first to provide direct evidence that the new coronavirus can infect brain cells, but hasn’t yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, according to the report. The findings were posted Sept. 8 to the preprint database bioRxiv. The coronavirus had previously been linked to various forms of brain damage from deadly inflammation to encephalopathies, brain diseases that can cause confusion, brain fog and delirium. The researchers conducted a three-part experiment to see whether SARS-CoV-2 could break into brain cells, according to the report. They examined autopsied brain tissue from three patients who died from COVID-19, they conducted experiments in mice infected with COVID-19 and experiments in organoids, a group of cells grown in a lab dish to mimic the 3D structure of brain tissue, according to the report.
In the autopsied tissue, the researchers found the virus had infected some neurons in the cerebral cortex. In the organoids, the researchers found that the virus could enter neurons through the ACE2 receptor, the protein on human cell surfaces that the virus uses to enter, trigger infection and hijack the cell's’ machinery to make copies of itself. But it’s not clear if this is also taking place in people.
Eating out may be riskier for catching COVID-19 than riding public transportation or getting a haircut, according to a report
Eating out may be riskier for catching COVID-19 than riding public transportation or getting a haircut at a salon, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The researchers analyzed information from 314 adults who tested for COVID-19 in the U.S., Live Science reported. About half of the participants tested positive, while the other half tested negative, according to the report. People who tested positive for COVID-19 were twice as likely to report dining at a restaurant in the 14 days prior to becoming sick than those who tested negative, according to the report. And when the researchers excluded people who had a known contact with COVID-19, they found that those who tested positive were nearly three times more likely to report dining at a restaurant, and nearly four times more likely to report going to a bar or coffee shop, than those who tested negative, according to the report. No other activities from the survey linked with an increased risk of COVID-19. The authors note that one limitation of their study is that it did not distinguish between indoor and outdoor dining, according to the report.
US will stop coronavirus screenings for international travelers, CDC says
Starting on Monday (Sept. 14), the federal government will stop coronavirus health screenings for international travelers, according to a statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This means flights from certain countries won't be required to redirect and land in one of 15 designated airports, according to the statement. The health screening is currently conducted for those arriving from or have recently traveled to China, Iran, the Schengen region of Europe, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Brazil.
"We now have a better understanding of COVID-19 transmission that indicates symptom-based screening has limited effectiveness because people with COVID-19 may have no symptoms or fever at the time of screening, or only mild symptoms," the CDC wrote in the statement. "Transmission of the virus may occur from passengers who have no symptoms or who have not yet developed symptoms of infection."
Resources will now be redirected toward other mitigation efforts to reduce disease transmission, the agency wrote. These mitigation efforts include "health education for passengers" and "robust illness response at airports," according to the statement.
Scientists praise AstraZeneca's decision to pause coronavirus vaccine trials after participant develops neurological symptoms
Scientists praised AstraZeneca’s decision to pause its coronavirus vaccine trials after a participant developed a serious neurological condition, according to The New York Times. This pause “ought to be reassuring,” Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health said at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, according to the Times. An independent safety review will be conducted to determine if the vaccine caused the condition or the participant developed it coincidentally. The participant, a woman in the U.K., developed neurological symptoms often seen with a condition called transverse myelitis where the spinal cord becomes inflamed, according to a Live Science report.
Coronavirus may dice heart muscle fibers into tiny pieces
The new coronavirus may wreak havoc on heart cells. In a new study that examined infected heart cells in lab dishes, the researchers saw that the virus appeared to slice heart muscle fibers into small, precisely sized fragments, Live Science reported. The finding, posted to the preprint database bioRXiv on Aug. 25, is unlike anything researchers have seen before — no other disease is known to affect heart cells in this way, the authors said. What's more, an analysis of autopsy samples of heart tissue from three COVID-19 patients hinted that the same phenomenon may happen in people as well. The new finding may explain how COVID-19 inflicts damage to the heart. However, the study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, and more research is needed to confirm the findings in people.
AstraZeneca pauses coronavirus vaccine trials due to an unexplained illness
AstraZeneca paused global clinical trials of its candidate coronavirus vaccine that was developed with the University of Oxford after an unexplained illness in one of the participants, according to CNN. However, it's not yet clear if this illness was a serious adverse effect of the vaccine or a chance occurrence. "This is a routine action which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials, while it is investigated, ensuring we maintain the integrity of the trials," the company said on Tuesday (Sept. 9) in a statement to CNN.
"In large trials, illnesses will happen by chance but must be independently reviewed to check this carefully. We are working to expedite the review of the single event to minimize any potential impact on the trial timeline. We are committed to the safety of our participants and the highest standards of conduct in our trials," according to the statement.
The company is currently conducting clinical trials to test its vaccine in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Latin America, Asia, Europe and Africa, according to CNN. It is one of three vaccines in phase 3 trials in the U.S., according to CNN.
AstraZeneca was one of eight companies that signed a pledge this week saying they wouldn't push for government approval for coronavirus vaccines until they were thoroughly tested for safety and efficacy.
More than half a million children in the US have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic
More than half a million children have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic, according to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). That represents about 9.8% of all cases in most states (one state did not provide age demographics data). Between Aug. 20 to Sept. 3, there were 70,630 new cases of COVID-19 in children, an increase of 16%. In 23 states and NYC, children made up 0.7% to 3.7% of total reported hospitalizations and 0.3% to 8.3% of children who had COVID-19 ended up hospitalized, according to the report. Mortality remains low among children, who only make up 0% to 0.3% of all COVID-19 deaths in the 42 states that reported on this data. In 18 of those states, zero children have died from COVID-19. Of the child COVID-19 cases, 0% to 0.2% resulted in death.
“These numbers are a chilling reminder of why we need to take this virus seriously,” AAP President Dr. Sara “Sally” Goza said in a statement. “While much remains unknown about COVID-19, we do know that the spread among children reflects what is happening in the broader communities. A disproportionate number of cases are reported in Black and Hispanic children and in places where there is high poverty. We must work harder to address societal inequities that contribute to these disparities.”
Nine pharmaceutical companies issue pledge to not push out a coronavirus vaccine until thoroughly evaluated
Nine pharmaceutical companies issued a pledge on Tuesday (Sep. 8) that they would not push out a coronavirus vaccine until it was thoroughly tested for safety and efficacy, according to The New York Times. This follows fears that a coronavirus vaccine could be approved before it’s thoroughly tested or ready due to political intentions, as President Trump has repeatedly claimed that a vaccine could be available before Election Day on Nov. 3, according to the Times. “We believe this pledge will help ensure public confidence in the rigorous scientific and regulatory process by which Covid-19 vaccines are evaluated and may ultimately be approved,” the companies said in a statement, according to the Times. The nine companies that took the pledge were Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, BioNTech (developing the vaccine in collaboration with Pfizer), GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novavax and Sanofi.
“With increasing public concerns about the processes that we are using to develop these vaccines and even more importantly the processes that will be used to evaluate these vaccines we saw it as critical to come out and reiterate our commitment that we will develop our products, our vaccines using the highest ethical standards and the most scientific rigor processes,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said on The Today Show on Tuesday. All the companies in this pledge are saying that “we will only submit for authorization when we have evidence of safety and efficacy that are coming from a well-designed phase 3 study,” he added. Pfizer could know by the end of October if their candidate vaccine is safe and effective, he said.
Russia's coronavirus vaccine candidate prompted an immune response in early trials
A coronavirus vaccine candidate developed in Russia prompted an immune response and didn't cause serious adverse reactions in early trials, according to new data released today in the journal The Lancet. This data was released weeks after Russia announced that it had approved its vaccine for the general population (but had actually only approved it for a small group of people), drawing criticism from public health experts who said there was not enough data to prove the vaccine was safe and effective.
Between June 18 and Aug. 3, the researchers enrolled 76 healthy participants between 18 and 60 years old to be given the candidate vaccine, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, in one of two Russian hospitals, Live Science reported. In total, 18 volunteers received one formulation of the vaccine, another 18 received another and 40 people received both. "Both vaccine formulations were safe and well tolerated," the researchers wrote in the paper. None of the participants had serious adverse effects, the researchers wrote.
The vaccine generated an immune response in all participants, prompting the immune systems to produce neutralizing antibodies (molecules that can latch onto the virus and block it from infecting cells) and other immune cells, such as T cells, against the coronavirus.
The researchers noted in the paper that neutralizing antibody levels were lower than those reported for the University of Oxford vaccine and other vaccines, such as Moderna's based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. But the level of neutralizing antibodies was comparable with the amount of neutralizing antibodies that the body develops naturally in patients who recover from COVID-19.
Fauci urges Americans to continue coronavirus mitigation strategies as the U.S. heads into Labor Day Weekend
As Labor Day weekend approaches, public health experts are worried that coronavirus cases in the U.S. will surge again. Previous surges were recorded after Memorial Day and the 4th of July, according to CNBC.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the directory of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases urged Americans on Wednesday to continue coronavirus mitigation strategies as Labor Day approached, according to CNN:
“The issue that we're facing right now is we're entering in a day or two right now into the Labor Day weekend and we know from prior experience that when you get into holiday weekends — the Fourth of July, Memorial Day — there's a tendency of people to be careless, somewhat, with regard to the public health measures that we keep recommending over and over again,” Fauci said in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday. "So I really want to use this opportunity almost to have a plea to the people in this country to realize that we really still need to get our arms around this and to suppress these types of surges that we've seen. We can do it."
“You can have an enjoyable weekend, but you can do a couple of fundamental things that we talk about all the time,” he said. “Masks, distance, avoiding crowds, outdoors much more than indoors, washing your hands — those types of simple things.”
The U.S. is seeing an "unacceptably high" number of coronavirus cases as it heads into the fall, Fauci said. Currently, the country is recording roughly 40,000 new cases a day, a number that needs to drop below 10,000, Fauci said during the interview with MSNBC, according to CNBC.
Actor Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson reveals he tested positive for COVID-19 along with his entire family
Actor Dwayne Johnson has revealed that he and his family tested positive for COVID-19. In a video posted on Instagram, Johnson, also known as The Rock, said that his family had been under "lockdown" since March, but recently decided to have some close family friends over to their house. It was after this gathering that he developed the illness along with his wife and two young daughters, according to The Washington Post. "I wish it was only me who tested positive, but it wasn't, it was my entire family, so this one was a real kick in the gut," Johnson said.
Johnson's children had mild symptoms, developing "a little sore throat" for a few days, he said. But he and his wife, Lauren Hashian, "had a rough go" with the virus, the Post reported.
Fortunately, Johnson said that he and his family have now recovered. "I am happy to tell you guys that we as a family are good … we are on the other side, we are no longer contagious and we are, thank god, we are healthy," he said. "We are counting our blessings right now because we are well aware that it isn't always the case you get on the other end of COVID-19 stronger and healthier."
Johnson urged his fans to be cautious about gatherings, even with close friends. "If you guys are having family and friends over to your house, you know them, you trust them, they've been quarantining just like you guys, you still never know. You never know," Johnson said. He added that his family will now require anyone coming over to their house to take a COVID-19 test first.
CDC said vaccines might be ready by October or November and sent planning documents to public health agencies to prepare
— Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent planning documents to public health agencies across the U.S. to prepare for two coronavirus vaccines that they didn’t identify but referred to as “Vaccine A” and “Vaccine B,” according to The New York Times. The time between doses, storage temperatures and other technical details seem to be similar with Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which are the furthest (phase 3) in U.S. clinical trials, according to the Times. In earlier clinical trials conducted on a smaller group of people, the candidate vaccines developed by both companies didn’t show any serious adverse effects and both prompted the immune system to make neutralizing antibodies, which prevent the virus from entering cells, according to a previous Live Science report. Though both vaccines have gone through these early tests, it's not yet confirmed in a large group of people that they’re safe and effective. In the planning documents, the CDC said the unidentified vaccines might be ready by October or November, according to the Times. Some experts are worried that vaccines will be rushed out before the election. “It’s hard not to see this as a push for a pre-election vaccine,” Saskia Popescu, an infection prevention epidemiologist in Arizona told the Times.
— By the Numbers: There have now been more than 26 million cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide and more than 863,700 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., there have now been more than 6.1 million cases of COVID-19 reported and more than 185,700 deaths; In Brazil, there have now been more than 3.9 million cases of COVID-19 reported and more than 123,700 deaths; In India, there have now been more than 3.8 million cases of COVID-19 reported and more than 67,300 deaths, according to the dashboard.
New analysis provides further evidence that certain corticosteroids can help save critically ill COVID-19 patients
A new analysis of data from seven clinical trials provides further evidence that cheap, widely available steroids can help save critically ill COVID-19 patients, according to a new Live Science report. The analysis was published today (Sep. 2) in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Based on the results, the World Health Organization updated its treatment guidelines for corticosteroids, recommending that those with a severe COVID-19 infection receive the drugs for seven to 10 days as their new standard of care. Those with mild infections shouldn't get steroids, however, because "current data indicated they would not likely derive benefit and may derive harm" from taking the drugs, according to the guidelines. The trials tested either dexamethasone or one of two other steroids, hydrocortisone and methylprednisolone. The steroids work by suppressing the immune response, reducing inflammation in the body, causing blood vessels to constrict and helping to reduce fibrosis, or the development of thick scar tissue, according to the report.
Fauci predicts there will be a 'safe and effective' coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases predicts that there will be a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year, according to NBC News. "I believe that by the time we get to the end of this calendar year that we will feel comfortable that we do have a safe and effective vaccine," Fauci said yesterday on NBC's "TODAY" show. In a number of vaccine trials, there is "enough data that you would really feel comfortable it was safe and effective for the American public," he said, according to NBC. Before the upcoming flu season, the U.S. should work hard to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, Fauci said. “What I'd really like to see is a full court press to get us way down as a baseline, so that when you get these cases in the fall, they won't surge up,” he said, according to NBC News.
New York City delays start of the academic school year
— A new visualization shows why face shields and masks with exhalation valves may not prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to a Live Science report. A group of researchers connected a mannequin's head to a fog machine and used a pump to expel vapor out of the mannequin's mouth, according to a Live Science report. This same group had previously shown that some cotton face masks reduced the spread of droplets after a cough to only a few inches from the face, Live Science previously reported. In this new study, published Tuesday (Sept. 1) in the journal Physics of Fluids, the researchers found that although face shields initially blocked droplets, small droplets easily moved around the sides of the visor and eventually spread over a large area, according to the report. They also found that coughing behind masks with exhalation valves, allows a stream of droplets to pass unfiltered through the valve, according to the report. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend either of those masks as alternatives to cloth masks, according to the report.
— New York City delayed the start of the academic school year for several days to prevent a teacher's strike and to allow more time for classroom preparation , according to The Washington Post. Previously, the more than 1 million students enrolled in New York City public schools would have started remotely and in-person learning on Sept. 10. Now, the children will start remote learning on Sept. 16 and in-person learning on Sept. 21. But more than 360,000 families have chosen to have their children remotely learn only, according to the Post. “It is a revision that still allows us to keep things moving forward on a tight timeline, but with additional preparation time,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said, according to the Post.
AstraZeneca starts enrolling for phase 3 trial in the U.S.
— AstraZeneca started enrolling 30,000 participants in a U.S.-funded phase 3 trial of its candidate vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, according to Reuters. The participants in the U.S. will receive either a placebo or two doses of the experimental vaccine developed by the University of Oxford. The candidate vaccine is already in late-stage trials in Britain, Brazil and South Africa and trials are planned for Japan and Russia, according to Reuters. All together, the plan is to enroll up to 50,000 participants in late-stage trials of the vaccine across the globe (including the phase 3 trial in the U.S.), according to the statement.
— U.S. company Novavax will supply 76 million doses of its candidate coronavirus vaccine to Canada, according to CNBC. The company expects to finalize the agreement which would supply Canada with the vaccine doses “as early as the second quarter of 2021,” as long as the vaccine gets a license from Health Canada, the company said, according to CNBC. The vaccine, caed NVX-CoV2373, is currently in phase 2 trials, according to CNBC.
Monkeys are in short supply for COVID-19 vaccine research, FDA commissioner says vaccines could be given approval before the end of phase 3 trials
— COVID-19 vaccines typically get tested in monkeys before they're tested in humans, but monkeys are in short supply, according to The Atlantic. Even before the pandemic, the U.S. was approaching a potential monkey shortage — and now, with a high demand for monkeys along with China's strict bans on the transport and sale of wildlife, there are not enough primates for vaccine research, according to a Live Science report. To conserve the nation's supply, labs are sharing primates across multiple studies by using them as a control group — a comparison group that does not receive the experimental treatment or vaccine being tested, according to the report.
— The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that coronavirus vaccines may be given emergency approval before rigorous clinical trials are complete, according to news reports. "It is up to the sponsor [vaccine developer] to apply for authorization or approval, and we make an adjudication of their application," Dr. Stephen Hahn, the FDA Commissioner told The Financial Times. "If they do that before the end of phase three, we may find that appropriate. We may find that inappropriate, we will make a determination." But approving vaccines too soon can be risky, public health officials have warned.
Only a couple of coronavirus vaccine candidates in the U.S. have advanced to phase 3 clinical trials, which are the most critical tests needed to prove, in tens of thousands of people, that a vaccine is both safe and effective at preventing COVID-19. Typically, a vaccine must pass these advanced trials before given approval — but the pandemic has pushed vaccine development to unprecedented timescales.
India now has the third-highest death toll from the coronavirus
— By the numbers: The global coronavirus case count has now surpassed 25 million, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. More than 846,800 people have now died from the virus worldwide. In the U.S., nearly 6 million people have been infected with the virus and more than 183,000 have died; in Brazil, more than 3.8 million people have been infected and more than 120,800 have died; In India, more than 3.6 million people have been infected and more than 64,400 have died, according to the dashboard.
— India now has the third-highest death toll from the coronavirus in the world, following the United States and Brazil, according to The New York Times. The country has been reporting more than 75,000 new infections a day for the past five days, according to the Times. The rise in cases comes as India continues to ease severe lockdowns it had put in place in the spring, but officials say the rise is also partly due to an increase in testing, according to the Times.
— Last week, a young adult in Nevada was confirmed to have been infected with the coronavirus twice, marking the first confirmed case of reinfection in the U.S., and the fourth in the world, according to a Live Science report. This past week, researchers reported cases of reinfection in a patient in Hong Kong and two patients in Europe; but in all three cases, the patients either developed a milder form of COVID-19 or were asymptomatic the second time around, according to NBC News. But according to the new case study, the 25-year-old Nevada patient developed more severe symptoms the second time he was infected. His case was published as a preprint on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) and hasn't yet been peer-reviewed. The researchers have submitted their paper to the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
Local health officials urge CDC to reverse change in COVID-19 testing guidance, University of Arizona says sewage screening may have prevented dorm outbreak
— Officials from local U.S. health departments are urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reverse a recent change the agency made to its COVID-19 testing guidelines. On Friday (Aug. 28), two groups that represent thousands of local health departments sent a letter to the CDC stating that they are "incredibly concerned" about the revised guidance, which now says that people exposed to COVID-19 don't necessarily need a test if they aren't showing symptoms. The change has been widely criticized since it appeared on the CDC's website earlier this week, Live Science previously reported.
"Changing testing guidelines to suggest that close contacts to confirmed [COVID-19] positives without symptoms do not need to be tested is inconsistent with the science and the data," according to the letter, from members of The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) and the Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC), which represent nearly 3,000 local health departments.
What's more "this abrupt change has caused confusion, consternation and undermined the credibility of the agency with public health professionals and the public alike," the letter said.
The letter urged the agency to "pull the revised guidance and revert back to the previous consensus policy where people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 are encouraged to get tested, know their status, and do all they can to physically distance and stop the spread."
— Officials at the University of Arizona (UA) say they may have prevented a COVID-19 outbreak in one of the university's dorms by screening sewage from the residences. The university has been screening wastewater for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as one strategy to help catch cases among the 5,000 students returning to campus this week, according to The Washington Post. Recently, a wastewater sample from one of the dorms came back positive, prompting staff to test all 311 people who live in the dorm, the Post reported. Two students tested positive, but were still asymptomatic. The university quickly quarantined the students to prevent further spread.
“Nobody would have known [about the cases] otherwise," Dr. Richard Carmona, a former U.S. Surgeon General who is leading UA's reopening effort, said in a news conference on Thursday (Aug. 27), according to AZCentral. "But with that early detection, we jumped on it right away, tested those youngsters and got them the appropriate isolation where they needed to be."
FEMA is working to distribute aid to people impacted by Hurricane Laura but taking precautions amid pandemic
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said it’s working to distribute aid to people in need who were in the path of Hurricane Laura, but that they were taking precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to NPR. Hurricane Laura made landfall in Texas and Louisiana early Thursday as a Category 4 storm, flooding roadways, scattering debris, leaving people without power and sending thousands to shelters, according to NPR. Though the storm was less catastrophic than predicted, it still significantly damaged communities, according to NPR. On Wednesday, more than 10,000 people left their homes for other shelters in Texas and Louisiana but due to COVID-19 concerns, many of those people sheltered in hotel rooms and college dorms, according to NPR. The pandemic has also made it more difficult to bring aid to people; people are delivering aid with limited contact and responders are using photographs and phone calls to assess damage rather than sending in-person inspectors, for example.
FDA authorizes new, rapid antigen test and health officials express concerns about misleading hand sanitizer containers
— The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized a new, rapid antigen test for COVID-19, which costs $5 and can diagnose an infection in 15 minutes, according to a Live Science report. The test, made by Abbott Labs, is the size of a credit card and does not require any lab equipment to run. Rather, the device has a similar design to some pregnancy tests, allowing health care providers to read test results directly from the testing card, the FDA said.
A patient is given a nasal swab, which is then inserted into the test card. The test is designed to look for small proteins on the surface of the coronavirus, according to an approval letter from the FDA. If such proteins are present in the sample, the test, known as the "BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card," will display a colored line to indicate a COVID-19 infection.
The test has demonstrated 97.1% sensitivity and 98.5% specificity, according to Abbott. When a test is sensitive, it means that it correctly diagnoses most people who are infected with the virus; whereas when a test is specific, it means it doesn't have many "false positives," according to a previous Live Science report.
— Health officials are concerned that people may accidentally ingest hand sanitizer products that are being packaged in misleading containers that are typically used in food and drinks, according to another Live Science report. On Thursday (Aug. 27), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers about these products, which have been packaged in a variety of potentially misleading containers, including beer cans, water bottles, juice bottles, vodka bottles and children's food pouches, the agency said in a statement. In addition, officials have found hand sanitizers with food flavors, such as chocolate and raspberry, according to the report. Hand sanitizers typically contain 60% to 70% alcohol, so can be toxic when ingested, particularly for young children who may develop alcohol poisoning, according to the report.
CDC abruptly switches its COVID-19 testing guidelines, frustrating public health experts
In an abrupt switch, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its COVID-19 testing guidance to say that being exposed to a person with the disease doesn't necessarily warrant a test if you're not in a high-risk group or showing any symptoms, according to a Live Science report.
But public health officials are criticizing this sudden change, which a federal health official told CNN was a result of pressure from upper ranks of the Trump administration. Current evidence on COVID-19 transmission has not changed: The virus continues to infect many people who don't end up developing any symptoms, and who can silently spread the disease to others.
"These testing recommendations make no scientific sense, unless there are plans to demand isolation of all known contacts of COVID-19," said Krys Johnson, an assistant professor of instruction in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Temple University in Pennsylvania.
It's not clear what percentage of COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic; some estimates say around 10 to 20%, but the CDC estimates about 40%. "If each of these people goes about their daily lives, this pandemic will continue to impact our country and daily lives for the foreseeable future, regardless of the advent of a vaccine," Johnson told Live Science in an email. "I actually didn’t believe it, for it seemed entirely bizarre,” California's Santa Clara County public health director Sara Cody said on Wednesday, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “The truth is that if you’ve been in contact with someone who is infected with COVID, you absolutely need to get a test.”
A wedding leads to an outbreak in Maine, COVID-19 cases surpass 24 million worldwide
— A wedding held on Aug. 7 in Maine led to at least 60 COVID-19 infections, including an outbreak at a jail, according to CBS News. A staff member at the York County Jail in Alfred attended the wedding and was one of the first at the jail to test positive. Since then, seven inmates, nine staff members and two York County government employees in that complex have tested positive for the virus, according to CBS News. Another outbreak made up of six cases at the Maplecrest Rehabilitation Center in Madison was also linked to the wedding, according to CBS News. "What we've learned about COVID-19 is that it can be the uninvited guest at every single wedding, party or event in Maine," Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said during a news conference yesterday, according to CBS News . "The virus is where we are, and then it comes home with us."
— The number of COVID-19 cases have now surpassed 24 million worldwide and deaths have reached more than 821,000, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. The U.S. has reported more than 5.8 million cases and more than 179,300 deaths, Brazil has reported more than 3.6 million cases and more than 116,500 deaths, India has reported more than 3.2 million cases and more than 59,400 deaths.
Two more patients in Europe were confirmed to have been re-infected with the coronavirus
Two people in Europe were recently confirmed to have been re-infected with COVID-19, according to Reuters. This comes two days after researchers announced the first confirmed case of reinfection in a Hong Kong patient, according to a previous Live Science report. The 33-year-old man in Hong Kong was infected with two genetically different strains of the coronavirus, months apart, according to the report. The other two cases, a patient in her 50s in Belgium and an elderly patient in the Netherlands (with a weakened immune system), were also reinfected with two genetically different strains of the coronavirus months apart, according to Reuters.
There will likely be reports of other reinfection cases, but they are probably exceptions, Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst told Reuters TV. The new coronavirus appears to be more stable than the influenza virus, he said. But “viruses mutate and that means that a potential vaccine is not going to be a vaccine that will last forever, for 10 years, probably not even five years. Just as for flu, this will have to be redesigned quite regularly,” he said.
A Boston conference held in February may have led to 20,000 COVID-19 cases, researchers say
A Biogen conference held in February at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf might have led to 20,000 COVID-19 cases, according to a new study. Previously, only 99 cases had been linked to the conference, according to The Boston Globe. In this new study, that has not yet been peer-reviewed but published into the preprint server MedRxiv, a group of researchers studied the genetic makeup of coronaviruses that infected 772 patients mostly residing in four Massachusetts counties. By studying mutations that naturally occur in virus genomes, they were able to pinpoint and track different introductions of the virus to the area.
The researchers found that the coronavirus had been introduced into the Boston area more than 80 times by international and domestic travelers between late January and early May, according to the Globe. More than one-third of the patients, or 289 of 772, had the virus variant that was traced back to the Biogen conference. The 20,000 number doesn't appear in the paper and is an extrapolation from the data that the researchers shared in interviews, according to the Globe.
At the start of the conference, only 15 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in the U.S., according to The Washington Post. It was a period when not much was known about the virus and before widespread social distancing and mask-wearing took hold.
"February 2020 was nearly a half year ago, and was a period when general knowledge about the coronavirus was limited," Biogen said in a statement on Tuesday, according to NBC Boston. "We were adhering closely to the prevailing official guidelines. We never would have knowingly put anyone at risk. When we learned a number of our colleagues were ill, we did not know the cause was COVID-19, but we immediately notified public health authorities and took steps to limit the spread."
"It speaks to the power of that virus to move from one person to another to another to another, if people wear masks, don’t social distance, don’t take seriously the fact that the fundamental strength of COVID-19 its ability to get from one person to the next," Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said in a press conference on Tuesday, according to NBC Boston.
University of Alabama reports 531 COVID-19 cases since campus reopened, Florida judge blocks state's requirement that public schools must offer in-person classes
— Since classes began on Aug. 19, the University of Alabama reported a total of 531 confirmed COVID-19 cases among students, faculty and staff, according to the Alabama Media Group's Al.com and the UA System's COVID-19 dashboard. It's not clear how many students were tested between Aug. 19 and Aug. 23 and the totals did not include entry testing, according to Al.com. Prior to reopening, the University of Alabama announced that re-entry testing had revealed a less than 1% positivity rate but according to the dashboard, the positivity test rate was 1.04% of nearly 30,000 tests taken.
— On Monday, a Florida judge blocked the state's requirement that public schools must offer in-person classes by August 31, according to CNN. Judge Charles Dodson said that Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran "arbitrarily prioritized reopening schools statewide in August over safety, and over the advice of health experts and that all districts complied in order to avoid loss of state funding," according to CNN. The Florida Education Association had sued Gov. Ron DeSantis and Corcoron with the purpose of allowing districts to make the safest decisions to reopening schools in-person without losing state funding, according to CNN. "This is a great day for public schools," FEA President Fedrick Ingram said at a news conference yesterday. "Sometimes, the good guys win, and today is that day."
A man in Hong Kong is the first with a confirmed reinfection with the novel coronavirus, researchers say
— A man in Hong Kong is the first with a confirmed reinfection with the novel coronavirus, according to a Live Science report. A group of researchers reported on a case of a patient who was infected with two genetically different strains of the coronavirus, months apart, according to a press release from the University of Hong Kong's Department of Medicine. The scientists found that the coronavirus that infected the patient, a 33-year-old-man in Hong Kong, the second time around had 24 different nucleotides, or building blocks, in its gene sequence than the virus that infected him the first time.
That likely means that the person didn't just continue to shed the same virus months after being infected, according to the study that was just accepted, but not yet published, in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. But this case shouldn't spark widespread fear. “What I think is really important is that we put this into context,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization's technical lead for coronavirus response and head of the emerging diseases and zoonoses unit, said during a news briefing in Geneva on Monday (Aug. 24), according to CNN. There's been more than 24 million cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide, and so "we need to look at something like this on a population level."
— China has been giving doses of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate, that has not yet completed all of the clinical trials needed to show whether it works, to "high risk" groups since late July, according to a Live Science report. The vaccine, developed by Beijing-based company Sinopharm, was approved for emergency use on July 22, Chinese health officials announced over the weekend. Medical workers, customs and border officials and others at high risk of COVID-19 exposure are eligible to receive the vaccine, according to the report. The Sinopharm vaccine is an inactivated form of SARS-CoV-2. The company published early results from its phase 1/phase 2 trials in the journal JAMA on Aug. 13, according to a Live Science roundup of candidate coronavirus vaccines. Participants did not show any "serious" adverse effects and developed neutralizing antibodies to the virus. However, the company has not yet completed a phase 3 clinical trial which is critical in understanding the effectiveness of a vaccine. They have already begun a phase 3 trial, which will involve up to 15,000 people in Abu Dhabi, according to the Live Science report.
FDA issued emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19
On Sunday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19, according to CNN. Convalescent plasma uses blood plasma donations — that contain antibodies that recognize the virus — from patients who have recovered from COVID-19. Last week, federal officials had announced that they needed more data that COVID-19 plasma therapy works before authorizing an EUA. No clinical trials have definitely shown that CP therapy helps COVID-19 patients recover, according to a previous Live Science report. But more than 70,000 patients have been treated with convalescent plasma, the FDA said, according to CNN.
Because of this lack of evidence, top disease experts in the U.S. had urged the FDA to not issue an EUA for CP therapy, according to the report. On Sunday, a source that's close to the White House Coronavirus Task Force told CNN that the FDA had reviewed additional data to determine whether or not to issue an EUA.
Extreme weather threatens states already battered by the coronavirus
— Extreme weather events are threatening states that are already battling high numbers of coronavirus cases, according to The Washington Post. Two tropical storms, Marco and Laura, are barreling toward the Gulf Coast and are expected to hit Louisiana and eastern Texas on Monday and Wednesday, respectively, according to the Post. “It should not be lost on any Louisianan that in addition to twin tropical weather threats, we still have to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said on Saturday, according to the Post. “COVID-19 does not become less of a threat because of tropical weather.” On the other side of the country, California’s Bay Area is facing large wildfires and many residents have already had to evacuate. Some residents have gone to shelters and virus testing centers have had to close, according to the Post. “People who currently have or who are recovering from COVID-19 may be at increased risk of health effects from exposure to wildfire smoke due to compromised heart and/or lung function related to COVID-19,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC website has a list of tips for keeping safe from COVID-19 during natural disasters and extreme weather. For example, in the case of an evacuation due to a hurricane, the CDC recommends preparing a "go kit" with items that are necessary during an emergency. "Include items that can help protect you and others from COVID-19, such as hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, bar or liquid soap, disinfectant wipes (if available) and two masks for each person,” according to the CDC. When in a shelter, practice social distancing and follow CDC guidelines to prevent infection such as washing your hands, covering coughs and sneezes, wear masks and avoid sharing food and drinks, according to the CDC.
— More than 23.2 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 806,100 deaths have been reported worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., more than 5.6 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 176,500 deaths have been reported; In Brazil, more than 3.5 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 114,200 deaths have been reported; In India, more than 3 million cases and more than 56,700 deaths have been reported, according to the dashboard.
France, Germany and Italy all recorded their highest daily coronavirus cases since the spring
— France, Germany and Italy recently all recorded their highest daily coronavirus case counts since the spring, and Spain is in the midst of an outbreak, according to The New York Times. Officials are warning that after having kept the virus at bay for months, Europe may now be entering a new phase of the pandemic. The numbers reported in Europe are still only about one-fifth those seen in the U.S. over the last week, according to the Times. But as summer comes to a close and people move inside and flu season begins, experts are worried that the virus is going to surge. The current increase in Europe and many other parts of the world are driven by young people, according to the Times.
— The U.S. reported nearly 48,700 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the seventh consecutive day where cases have been below 50,000, according to CNBC. “I think we’re seeing progress over the last four weeks, I hope that progress will continue, but I think none of us should turn away from the recognition that it’s key each of us recognize we want to make sure Covid stops with us,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield told reporters on a conference call Friday, according to CNBC. More than 10 states are reporting an increase in cases over a seven-day moving average, according to CNBC. U.S. cases have fallen by nearly 17% compared to a week ago, but some public health experts have questioned whether some of this decline is due to reduced testing, according to CNBC. The U.S. has now reported more than 5.6 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 175,600 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard.
Daycares aren't major spreaders of COVID-19 in Rhode Island, report finds
Since Rhode Island opened its daycares two months ago, there has been very little spread of COVID-19 within these settings, according to a new report published Friday (Aug. 21) in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. This success in Rhode Island is likely due, in part, to childcare programs' adherence to numerous safety measures that were required for them to reopen, officials said.
As of July 31, more than 650 daycares had reopened in the state, with a capacity for nearly 19,000 children, the report said. To reopen, daycares were required to reduce enrollment to no more than 20 people (including children and staff) and prevent mixing of staff and children between groups. In addition, daycares were required to have a universal mask policy for adults, screen staff and children daily for COVID-19 symptoms and enhance cleaning and disinfecting measures within their facilities.
The report found that from June 1 to July 31, there were 52 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 linked with daycare in the state. Of these, 30 cases were among children and 22 were among adults.
Cases occurred within 29 childcare programs, and of these, the vast majority had only a single case, with no "secondary transmission" (meaning the virus didn't spread to another person within the daycare). Just four of the state's 666 open daycare experienced possible secondary transmission of COVID-19, the report said.
The report provides data showing that "when things are done with vigilance and partnership with the public health community, that you can in fact … reopen child care and not have significant secondary transmission," CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, said in a news briefing on Friday.
"This is a great example of opening in a successful way in a community that had low transmission," added Erin Sauber-Schatz, lead on the CDC Community Interventions and Critical Populations Task Force for the COVID-19 response. Still, reopening could be more challenging in communities with more widespread transmission, she said.
The finding could have implications for the reopening of schools. "Many of the steps taken by childcare centers are the same steps that schools will be using to keep children, teachers and staff safe," Joseph Wendelken, a spokesperson for the Rhode Island Health Department, told the Providence Journal. "That means screening people for symptoms, doing regular environmental cleaning, and keeping people in stable groups, among other measures."
Fishing boat coronavirus outbreak provides first direct evidence that antibodies protect against re-infection
— A COVID-19 outbreak on a fishing boat has provided scientists with the first direct evidence that antibodies protect people from re-infection, according to a Live Science report. More than 100 of the 122 crew members on the boat were infected, but three sailors who had antibodies to the new coronavirus in their blood prior to the voyage — indicating that they had previously been infected — did not catch the virus a second time, according to the report. Although scientists had suspected that having antibodies, particularly so-called "neutralizing antibodies," against COVID-19 would confer protection, they didn't have studies conducted in humans to back that up. The authors say the findings could be good news for COVID-19 vaccine candidates, which are generally trying to get the immune system to produce neutralizing antibodies against the virus, according to the report. The study was posted to the preprint database medRxiv on Aug. 14 but it has not yet been peer-reviewed.
— The numbers: there have now been more than 22.7 million cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide and more than 794,200 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., there have now been more than 5.5 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 174,290 deaths; In Brazil, there have now been more than 3.5 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 112,300 deaths; In India, there have now been more than 2.9 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 54,800 deaths.
The FDA won't authorize the use of blood plasma to treat COVID-19 patients until more data can be reviewed
— The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) won't authorize the use of blood plasma to treat COVID-19 patients until more data about the treatment can be reviewed, federal officials announced, according to a Live Science report. Convalescent plasma therapy uses blood plasma donations (that contain antibodies that recognize the coronavirus) from people who recovered from COVID-19. No clinical trials have definitively shown that CP therapy helps coronavirus patients recover, according to the report. Because there isn't much evidence available, top disease experts in the U.S. urged the FDA not to issue a so-called emergency use authorization for the therapy, The New York Times reported. People who are currently receiving CP are doing so only through clinical trials. But because it is challenging to set up trials for CP, data showing whether it helps patients has been slow to come out, according to the report.
The COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to become more deadly than the 1918 flu pandemic
— The COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to become more deadly than the 1918 flu pandemic, a new study suggests. To compare the current pandemic with last century's, a group of researchers focused on a sliver of the world that was hard hit by both viruses, according to a Live Science report. In the spring, SARS-CoV-2 hammered New York City, causing more than 19,000 known deaths — and more than 4,600 probable deaths. They found that during the peak of the 1918 influenza outbreak in New York City, a total of 31,589 all-cause deaths (this included death from any cause) occurred among the 5.5 million residents that lived there at the time. The all-cause mortality in the peak of the influenza pandemic in 1918 was 2.8 times higher than during the same months in previous years. In contrast, for the early 2020 COVID-19 outbreak in New York City, they found that 33,465 deaths from all causes occurred among 8.28 million residents between March 11 and May 11. The all-cause mortality in those months of 2020 were 4.15 times higher than those months between 2017 and 2019.
That means that in the peak of the 1918 influenza pandemic in NYC about 287 per 100,000 people died a month from any cause in NYC, whereas during the early COVID-19 outbreak, about 202 per 100,000 people died a month in the city. So the all-cause mortality during the spring of 2020 was 70% of the all cause mortality during the fall of 1918, according to the report.
— Sweden recorded the highest death tally (from all causes) it's had in 150 years in the first half of 2020, according to CNN. The country registered 51,405 deaths between January and June of this year, which is 6,500 more deaths than the same period last year. That's the highest number of deaths the country has had between January and June since 1869, when there was a famine and 55,431 people died. When the coronavirus hit, Sweden didn't go into a lockdown and emphasized that people should be individually responsible, according to CNN. Still, only 7.3% of people in Stockholm developed antibodies to the virus, according to CNN. By early June, more than 4,500 people had died from the coronavirus in the country. Now, there's more than 5,800 people who have died from the virus.
— Russia says its coronavirus vaccine "Sputnik V," will soon be tested on 40,000 people in a phase 3 trial, according to CNBC. Production of the vaccine, which received domestic regulatory approval for a select group of people earlier this month, is expected to start in September, according to CNBC. Health experts are expressing concerns over how fast the vaccine was approved and how little data is available, according to CNBC.
Native Americans are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, Massachusetts will require flu shots for most students
— Native Americans have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study, which analyzed information on COVID-19 cases in 23 states from late January through early July, found that the rate of COVID-19 cases was 3.5 times higher in Native American and Alaska Native populations compared with the rate of cases in the white population. Although Native Americans make up 0.7% of the U.S. population, they account for 1.3% of COVID-19 cases reported to the CDC, the report said. The authors note that the study likely underestimated the actual rate of COVID-19 in the Native American population because the analysis was limited to states that had detailed information on patients' race/ethnicity, and these states represent only about one-third of the Native American population in the U.S.
In a statement the CDC said it has provided more than $200 million in COVID-19 funding to support tribes and tribal organizations in carrying out COVID-19 preparedness and response activities.
— Health officials in Massachusetts announced that all children attending child care, preschool, kindergarten, K-12, and colleges or universities will be required to get a flu shot by the end of the year, according to a statement from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The state is the first to require flu vaccines for children over age five, according to CNN. (Some states have flu shot requirements for children in daycare and preschool, according to CBS Boston.) The aim of the requirement is to reduce flu-related and respiratory illness amid the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said. "It is more important now than ever to get a flu vaccine because flu symptoms are very similar to those of COVID-19 and preventing the flu will save lives and preserve healthcare resources," Dr. Larry Madoff, medical director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences, said in the statement. Students will be required to get their flu shot by Dec. 31, 2020 unless the student has a medical or religious exemption. Homeschooled children in grades K-12 are also exempt, as are college students who are off campus and using entirely remote learning, the statement said.
Some colleges in the U.S. have already moved to remote learning over coronavirus worries, spikes in cases
— Iran, one of the worst-hit countries in the Middle East, has now recorded more than 20,000 deaths from the coronavirus, according to Reuters. In the past 24 hours, the country reported 153 of those deaths. There have now been more than 350,200 cases of COVID-19 in the country, according to Reuters.
— Some colleges in the U.S. have already stopped in-person classes due to surges in COVID-19 cases, according to CNN. The University of Notre Dame announced that all undergraduate classes will be remote for the next two weeks due to a spike in coronavirus cases, according to CNN. Michigan State University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill announced that their undergraduate classes will now be remote. Ithaca College also announced it was moving from in-person classes to remote classes for the entire semester, according to CNN.
Young people, who are now returning to campuses or will soon be returning to campuses across the country, are thought to have helped drive coronavirus cases this summer, according to CNN. As the students return, so do reports of infections. At Appalachian State University, a cluster of cases was reported associated with the football team and at Iowa State University, 175 students tested positive at move in, according to CNN.
— There have now been more than 22.1 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and more than 781,900 deaths. The U.S. has surpassed 5.4 million cases and has recorded 171,877 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard.
More than 21.9 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 776,000 deaths have been reported worldwide
— A new mathematical model offers guidance on how to minimize COVID-19 spread during potential large-scale evacuations that could take place due to hurricanes, according to a Live Science report. People evacuating from hard-hit counties should be directed to counties with relatively lower rates of viral spread — and those places should enforce social distancing and mask wearing, according to the report. If the counties prepare adequately, additional spread can be minimized, according to the research which has not yet been peer-reviewed. In the worst-case scenario that the researchers modeled, more than two million evacuees from counties where there's high transmission rates retreated to areas with similarly high rates, and their travel and interactions with others resulted in about 66,000 extra COVID-19 cases, according to the report. In the best-case scenario model, evacuees were systematically divided among low-transmission counties, resulting in only about 9,000 new cases.
— The numbers: More than 21.9 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide and more than 776,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., more than 5.4 million cases have been reported and more than 171,300 deaths; In Brazil, more than 3.3 million cases have been reported and more than 108,500 deaths; In India, more than 2.7 million cases have been reported and more than 51,700 deaths; In Russia, more than 930,200 cases have been reported and more than 15,800 deaths.
The FDA gives emergency use authorization to a new, quick saliva test for COVID-19
— The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given emergency use authorization to a new saliva test for COVID-19 that can be completed in just a few hours, according to a new Live Science report. Compared to the traditional nasal swab tests, this new test called SalivaDirect is cheap (about $10 per sample), less invasive (only requires a person to spit into a container) and can be performed without the need for certain testing components that have been in short supply during the pandemic, according to the report. SalivaDirect was developed by researchers at Yale School of Public Health and recently given to NBA players and staff to help confirm its effectiveness, according to the report. It doesn’t require any extra equipment and instructions for the test will be made immediately available to laboratories around the country, the FDA said in a statement. So far, studies of SalivaDirect have found that the test's accuracy is on par with that of nasal swab tests, the researchers said. It is the fifth saliva test for COVID-19 to receive emergency use authorization. Earlier saliva tests, such as one developed by Rutgers University researchers, require a special collection container to perform, Live Science previously reported.
Undergraduate classes at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill will now be remote following clusters of coronavirus cases
— The biotechnology company Novavax will begin its phase 2 clinical trials of its candidate COVID-19 vaccine soon, according to a Live Science report. The phase 2b clinical trial will include 2,665 healthy adults in South Africa and 240 adults with HIV who are medically stable but whose immune responses may be different from people without HIV, according to a statement from the company. Preliminary data that hasn't yet been peer-reviewed from the phase 1 trial of the candidate vaccine was published in a preprint server medRxiv on Aug. 6. Healthy volunteers given two doses of the vaccine showed only mild side effects, such as headache, fatigue and tenderness or pain at the injection site., according to the report. After receiving a second dose, all of the participants generated neutralizing antibodies, which can prevent the virus from entering cells. Novavax will continue to evaluate this immune response in the phase 2b trial in South Africa, as well as a phase 2 trial to be organized in the U.S. and Australia "in the near future," according to the statement. There are now 167 candidate vaccines in development to prevent coronavirus infections, according to a Live Science report on the most promising coronavirus vaccine candidates.
— The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill announced that all of its undergraduate classes will now be remote starting on Wednesday after 130 more students tested positive for the coronavirus last week, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. UNC has reported four COVID-19 clusters in three days in dorms, apartments and a fraternity house, according to the report. They tested a total of 954 students last week and 13.6% of them tested positive, which is nearly twice the percent testing positive in the previous three weeks, according to the report. Since February, there have been 324 confirmed cases (45 of those staff members) at UNC, but there's likely more that haven't been counted, according to the report. Graduate, professional and health affairs students will continue to take in-person classes, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.
Global COVID-19 cases exceed 21.7 million, New Zealand delays election amid a new cluster of coronavirus cases
— There have now been more than 21.7 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and more than 775,900 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., there have been more than 5.4 million cases and more than 170,000 deaths; In Brazil, there have been more than 3.3 million cases and more than 107,800 deaths; In India there have been more than 2.6 million cases and more than 50,900 deaths; In Russia, there have been more than 925,500 cases and more than 15,400 deaths, according to the dashboard.
— New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the country’s parliamentary election will be delayed by four weeks due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, according to CNN. The election was set to take place on September 19 but will now take place on October 17. New Zealand was recently praised for having gone 100 days without community spread, according to a Live Science report. But at 102 days, the country announced its first cases of local transmission among people who had not recently traveled our had contact with a known case, according to the report. As of Monday, the country confirmed 58 coronavirus cases related to the local community cluster in Auckland and another 20 cases among people who had traveled, according to CNN. On August 12, the city of Auckland was put under a strict level three lockdown. “Under Alert Level 3 you should continue to stay in your household bubbles whenever you are not at work or school,” according to the New Zealand government. The rest of New Zealand moved to Alert Level 2. “At Alert Level 2 the disease is contained, but there is a risk of community transmission,” according to the government webpage.
Brazil's First Lady tests negative, Stricter measures in Italy, Jordan seals off border
—Michelle Bolsonaro, wife of Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro, said today (Aug. 16) that she had tested negative for the coronavirus, about two weeks after contracting the virus that causes COVID-19, Reuters reported. Her grandmother died from COVID-19 last week, while the president came down with the disease in July and his fourth son, Jair Renan, has now tested positive for the disease. "Thank you for your prayers and for all your acts of love," Michelle Bolsonaro wrote on social media, according to Reuters. Brazil, which has the world's second-highest caseload, has to date reported more than 3.34 million COVID-19 cases and 107,852 related deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins virus dashboard.
—As coronavirus cases showed an uptick across Italy, the country decided to shut down discos and clubs while making masks mandatory in some outdoor settings — near bars and pubs, for instance — between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., The Guardian reported. The past week saw new infections double what they were three weeks ago, with younger people making up the bulk of them. These new rules will go into effect Monday and stay in effect through early September. To date, Italy has logged at least 253,915 COVID-19 cases and 35,396 related deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins virus dashboard. The focus, according to news reports, is for schools to be able to open relatively safely in September across Italy. "We cannot nullify the sacrifices made in past months. Our priority must be that of opening schools in September in full safety," Roberto Speranza, Italian health minister, said on Facebook, as reported by The Guardian.
—Also starting Monday (Aug. 17), Jordan will seal off Ramtha city near the Syrian border, after Jordan saw the largest daily rise in cases in fourth months, The Guardian reported. Half of the 39 cases recorded over the past 24 hours came from Ramtha city, according to the health ministry. Truck drivers and other individuals who are entering the kingdom at the Jaber border crossing (between Syria and Jordan) are the ones spreading the virus, officials say, as reported by The Guardian. Jordan has reported a total of 1,378 COVID-19 cases and 11 related deaths, which is the lowest infection rate in the region. Today, the prime minister Omar al Razzaz said that stricter measures would be implemented at the border over the next few days. "We don't want, God forbid, to have a second wave," Razzaz said, as reported by The Guardian.
Officials work with 4 states to deliver the first COVID-19 vaccine
Health officials are working with officials in four states and one city to figure out a plan to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as limited doses are available — something that could happen as early as the fall, The Washington Post reported. Officials in California, Florida, Minnesota, North Dakota and Philadelphia are being asked to develop plans for how to transport and store the vaccine, the Post said. Furthermore, those officials will be tasked with prioritizing which individuals will receive the first doses of the vaccine.
Storage is a "hot topic," the Post said, because keeping vaccines viable requires freezers; at least one of the vaccines under testing could require temperatures dropping to minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 degrees Celsius). For such vaccines, states should prepare mass vaccination clinics equipped with freezers, since doctors' offices likely won’t be able to store and administer the vaccines, the Post reported.
Officials are now saying that Operation Warp Speed — the administration’s initiative to speed up development of coronavirus vaccines and other countermeasures — could deliver tens of millions of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by January, the Post said.
Live Science is following all of the most promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates.
US sees decline in coronavirus testing for first time during the pandemic
Testing is one of the key criteria for containing the spread of the coronavirus causing COVID-19, officials have long said. With testing, contact tracing and appropriate quarantining, countries have slowed the spread of the virus. But over the last two weeks testing in the U.S. has been going down instead of up, The New York Times reported. About 733,000 people in the U.S. have been tested every day on average this month; that's down from the 750,000 daily average in July, according to the COVID Tracking Project, as reported by the Times. On Monday (Aug. 10), the seven-day average was 709,000 a day, which is the lowest in almost a month.
The downturn could be partly the result of fewer people seeking tests. But it could also be explained by "people's frustration at the prospect of long lines and delays in getting results," the Times said. In addition, the U.S. has not set up the infrastructure needed to test large swaths of the population rather than just those seeking tests.
The delays in getting test results could hamper other measures put into place to slow the virus spread, experts have said. A modeling study published June 16 in the journal The Lancet Public Health found that even the best contact-tracing strategy won't work if there are delays of three or more days in getting test results, Live Science previously reported.
"In our model, minimizing testing delays had the largest impact on reducing transmission of the virus; and testing infrastructure is therefore the most critical factor for the success of a contact-tracing system," Dr. Marc Bonten, senior author of the study and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, said in a statement at the time. "This means that as many infectious people as possible need to be tested, and policymakers might consider lowering the eligibility threshold for access to testing."
California becomes first state to surpass 600,000 coronavirus cases
California became the first state to surpass 600,000 coronavirus cases, according to ABC7. California has now reported more than 10,800 deaths related to the coronavirus, making it the third state with the worst death toll, according to The New York Times. But being the most populous state, California ranks 20th in number of cases per-capita and 28th in coronavirus deaths per-capita, according to the Times. Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday that California was "turning the corner on this pandemic," with a 19% decline in the number of people hospitalized over the last two weeks, according to the Times.
There have now been more than 20.9 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and more than 760,200 deaths
— There have now been more than 20.9 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and more than 760,200 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., there have now been more than 5.2 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 167,200 deaths; in Brazil, there have now been more than 3.2 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 105,400 deaths; In India, there have now been more than 2.4 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 48,000 deaths; In Russia, there have now been more than 910,700 cases of COVID-19 and more than 15,400 deaths, according to the dashboard.
— Vietnam has registered to buy Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine, according to Reuters. Vietnam has asked for 50 to 150 million doses of the vaccine, which has recently been approved in Russia to only a small group of people and is expected to be further tested in a phase 3 clinical trial scheduled to start this week, according to Reuters and a previous Live Science report. In the meantime, Vietnam will continue to develop its own COVID-19 vaccine, state broadcaster Vietnam Television said, according to Reuters. Last month, the country’s Ministry of Health announced Vietnam would have its own vaccine by the end of 2021. It’s not clear when the ministry expects to receive this vaccine from Russia, according to Reuters.
CDC warns against using masks with exhalation valves, Russia's coronavirus vaccine is only approved for a small number of people
— Masks with exhalation valves won't prevent the spread of infectious diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently said, according to a Live Science report. When a mask has a valve, respiratory droplets from the wearer are expelled into the air and could reach other people, according to the report. "This type of mask does not prevent the person wearing the mask from transmitting COVID-19 to others," the CDC says on its website. Many airlines have already banned customers from wearing masks with valves on flights, the Post reported. American Airlines is the latest airline to announce a ban, which takes effect on Aug. 19, according to a statement from the airline issued Wednesday (Aug. 12).
— Face masks play a critical role in helping to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, and could save tens of thousands of lives in the U.S. if everyone wore them in public, experts have said. Yes, some face masks are more protective than others. But that doesn’t mean wearing neck gaiters — stretchy pieces of fabric that people, especially runners, pull up to cover their nose and mouth — is worse than wearing no masks at all, as some recent news articles have suggested, according to a Live Science report.
These news articles were based on a study published Aug. 7 in the journal Science Advances, in which researchers tested a novel method for evaluating the effectiveness of face masks. In other words, it was a study conducted to test a methodology. However, the researchers did explore some mask effectiveness in a "proof-of-principle" test, to evaluate whether they could use this particular method to measure mask effectiveness. By testing a single neck gaiter on one participant, they found that it was ineffective, and even counterproductive, in stopping the spread of droplets.
But the public should "absolutely not" use this as evidence that neck gaiters are worse than wearing no mask at all, co-author Martin Fischer, a chemist and physicist at Duke University in North Carolina, said at a news briefing today (Aug. 13). "We tested one mask because we just had that mask lying around … there are plenty of other gaiters out there," some that could be more protective, he said. Even the way people wear them can change how protective they are, he added. More studies are needed, the researchers said.
— This week, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced that the country had approved a coronavirus vaccine, called "Sputnik V," seemingly for widespread use, according to a Live Science report. But it turns out the vaccine was only approved for use in "a small number of citizens from vulnerable groups," according to Science Magazine. The registration certificate issued by Russia's Ministry of Health actually covers only a small group including health care workers, according to Science Magazine. The certificate also states that the vaccine cannot be approved for widespread use until Jan. 1, 2021, although statements by various Russian health officials seem to contradict that clause, according to the Live Science report. A phase 3 clinical trial of the vaccine is scheduled to begin this week, according to the report.
US records deadliest day of the summer, new unemployment claims dip below 1 million
— The U.S. reported 1,500 new deaths on Wednesday, the highest number of daily deaths in the country since the middle of May, according to The Washington Post. For the past 17 consecutive days, the seven-day average of newly reported deaths has remained above 1,000, according to the Post. There are now more than 5.1 million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and more than 166,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Dashboard. Worldwide, there are a total of more than 20.6 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 750,000 deaths, according to the dashboard.
— The number of new people filing for state unemployment benefits has dropped below one million last week for the first time since March, according to The New York Times. The Labor Department reported today that 963,000 people filed for unemployment benefits last week and another 489,000 applied under a different federal program that covers independent contractors, self-employed people and people who don't qualify for the typical state unemployment insurance, according to the Times. These numbers are much lower than In late March, when nearly 6.9 million people applied for benefits in a single week, according to the Times. But, it's all relative. Prior to the pandemic, the worst recorded week was in 1982 when 695,000 people applied for benefits.
Cat coronavirus drugs could potentially help treat humans, vaping may increase the risk of getting COVID-19, at least in teens and young adults
— Two experimental drugs to treat a type of coronavirus that only infects cats could potentially help treat humans with COVID-19, Science News reported. This coronavirus that only infects cats can cause "feline enteric coronavirus," an infection that affects the gastrointestinal tract but doesn't typically cause symptoms, according to a Live Science report. But in about one in 10 infected cats, the virus can mutate after infecting the cat and gain entry to specific immune cells, spread through the body and cause severe inflammation that is typically fatal if left untreated. At that stage, the infection is called "feline infectious peritonitis virus," (FIPV), according to the report. Two experimental drugs have been designed to treat cats with FIPV, although neither has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for cats. The two drugs work by preventing the feline coronavirus from replicating in cat cells; it may also disrupt how SARS-CoV-2 replicates in human cells, according to the report.
— Vaping may increase the risk of getting COVID-19, at least in teens and young adults, a new study suggests. The researchers analyzed information from more than 4,300 U.S. teens and young adults, ages 13 to 24, who completed an online survey in early May, according to the study, published Aug. 11 in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Among those tested for COVID-19, e-cigarette users were five times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19, and those who used both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes were seven times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19, compared with those who did not use e-cigarettes or traditional cigarettes, according to a Live Science report. In addition, dual users were nearly five times more likely to report experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 at the time of the survey, regardless of whether they were tested, compared with non-users, according to the report. The researchers don't know what causes the link, but they have a number of hypotheses. Both smoking and vaping are known to damage the lungs and affect the immune system, which may increase the risk of developing a COVID-19 infection after exposure to the virus, according to the report. What's more, sharing vaping products or behaviors such as face and mouse touching that come with using an e-cigarette, could also increase the risk of infection, according to the report.
Coronavirus cases are surging in Germany and Spain, Paris Marathon cancelled
— Coronavirus cases are surging in Germany and Spain, according to the BBC. Germany recorded 1,200 new cases in the past 24 hours, the biggest daily increase in more than three months. The increase in cases is likely due, in part, to people returning from holidays, said Health Minister Jens Spahn, according to the BBC. Germany has reported a total of more than 219,700 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic and 9,213 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard.
Meanwhile, Spain is currently facing the highest infection rate in Western Europe, with 1,418 new infections recorded on Tuesday and 675 active outbreaks in the country, according to the BBC. "We are right at a point where things can get better or worse. This means we have to pull out all the stops to curb outbreaks before they become more serious," Salvador Macip, an expert in health sciences at Catalonia's Open University, told AFP news agency, according to the BBC. Spain has reported a total of 326,600 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic (the highest number in Western Europe) and 28,581 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard.
— The Paris marathon was canceled amid an uptick in cases in France, according to Reuters. The marathon was originally scheduled for April 5 but had been postponed to Nov. 15. “Faced with the difficulty that many runners, especially those coming from abroad, had in making themselves available... it was decided that it would be better... for those concerned if we organised the Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris in 2021," the organizers said in a statement, according to Reuters. France recorded nearly 5,000 new coronavirus cases from Saturday to Monday, according to France24, a French news television network. Paris and several other cities now require face masks in crowded outdoor zones. Face masks are mandatory nationwide in shops and banks, according to France24.
Russia approves COVID-19 vaccine despite incomplete human testing
— Russia has approved a vaccine for COVID-19 even though critical trials of the vaccine have not been completed, Live Science reported. The vaccine, called "Sputnik V," was approved Tuesday (Aug. 11), making Russia the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine. But data from early human trials of the vaccine have not been published and large studies of the vaccine, known as phase 3 trials, haven't started yet. The country plans to begin phase these trials on Aug. 12. Only phase 3 trials, which often include tens of thousands of people, can determine if the vaccine is effective at preventing COVID-19 infection. The early approval of Russia's vaccine has raised concerns about its safety and effectiveness. "Fast-tracked approval will not make Russia the leader in the [vaccine] race, it will just expose consumers of the vaccine to unnecessary danger," Russia's Association of Clinical Trials Organizations said in a statement, The Associated Press reported.
— The COVID-19 pandemic has generated a flurry of misinformation, hatching more than 2,000 rumors, conspiracy theories and reports of discrimination, according to a new study. Such false information can have serious consequences — the researchers of the new study found that COVID-19 related rumors were linked to thousands of hospitalizations and hundreds of deaths, Live Science reported. For the study, published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the researchers reviewed content on social media, including posts on Twitter and Facebook, as well as newspaper and TV reports, from December 2019 to April 2020. They identified more than 2,300 separate reports of rumors, conspiracy theories and stigma related to COVID-19 in 25 languages from 87 countries. About a quarter of the claims were related to COVID-19 illness, transmission or mortality, and an additional 19% were related to treatments and cures for the disease. For example, there were rumors that drinking bleach, eating garlic, keeping the throat moist, avoiding spicy foods, taking vitamin C and even drinking cow's urine could prevent or cure the disease. The authors recommend that governments and health agencies continue to publish accurate scientific information about COVID-19 on their websites. In addition, agencies should not only identify and debunk COVID-19 rumors, but also engage with social media companies to "spread correct information," they concluded.
New Zealand reports first local COVID-19 transmission in 102 days, Worldwide cases surpass 20 million
— New Zealand announced its first cases of local COVID-19 transmission in 102 days. On Tuesday (Aug. 11), New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country had confirmed four new cases of COVID-19 among people who had not traveled recently or had contact with a known case, according to CNN. The new cases were all in the same household. As a result, New Zealand will reinstate temporary COVID-19 restrictions in parts of the country, CNN reported. The strictest measures will be in Auckland, where the local cases were found. The restrictions mean that restaurants, bars and non-essential shops will close, as will schools; gatherings will be limited to 10 or fewer people and residents will only be allowed to leave their homes for essential activities like grocery shopping. The measures will be in place for three days, from Wednesday through Friday.
— Worldwide cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 20 million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Global cases have doubled in about six weeks, with more than 200,000 cases being reported each day, on average, according to The New York Times. The United States has the highest number of reported cases, with nearly 5.1 million cases, followed by Brazil with 3 million cases, and India with 2.2 million cases.
NIH announces new clinical trials testing monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19 prevention.
— Two new clinical trials in the U.S. will test whether so-called monoclonal antibodies can prevent COVID-19, according to a statement from the National Institutes of Health. Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made versions of the antibodies produced by a person's immune system to fight infection (in this case COVID-19.) One study, sponsored by biotech company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, will test whether a monoclonal antibody called REGN-COV-2 can prevent COVID-19 asymptotic adults who have close contact with confirmed cases of COVID-19. The study aims to enroll 2,000 adults. The second study, sponsored by Eli Lilly will test whether a monoclonal antibody called LY-CoV555 can prevent infection in people at high risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to living or working in skilled nursing or assisted living facilities. That trial will enroll up to 2,400 participants. Both studies are "randomized, placebo-controlled" trials, meaning that participants are randomly assigned to receive either the monoclonal antibody or a placebo.
Antonio Banderas tests positive for COVID-19, Governor of Guam also announces infection
— The actor Antonio Banderas has tested positive for COVID-19, according to CNN. Banderas announced on Monday (Aug. 10) that he was forced to celebrate his 60th birthday in quarantine owing to his positive test result. The actor added that he feels relatively well but a little more tired than usual. In a statement translated from Spanish, Banderas said he is "confident that I will recover as soon as possible following the medical indications that I hope will allow me to overcome the infectious process that I suffer and that is affecting so many people around the planet."
— The governor of Guam, Lourdes "Lou" Leon Guerrero, has also tested positive for COVID-19, officials announced Monday, according to The Washington Post. Leon Guerrero said she was exposed to a close relative who was infected with COVID-19. Although she initially tested negative for the infection, she tested positive three days later after developing symptoms, the Post reported. "I implore everyone to use my experience as a reminder of just how serious and contagious this virus is," Leon Guerrero said.
Nearly 100,000 U.S. children tested positive for COVID-19 in last two weeks of July, Scientists engineer 'decoy' as possible antiviral treatment
— More than 97,000 children across the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19 in just the last two weeks of July, according to a new report from American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. That translates to a 40% increase in child cases over the two-week period, the report said. The researchers collected information on reported COVID-19 cases in children in 49 states along with New York City, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam. A total of nearly 339,000 cases in children have been reported since the beginning of the pandemic in the U.S. Six states — California, Florida, Arizona, Tennessee, Illinois and Georgia — have reported more than 15,000 total cases. Most new cases were reported in the South and West. Children made up around 9% of all cases in the U.S., and between 0.6% to 3.7% of all hospitalizations, and 0% and 0.8% of all COVID-19 deaths, the report said.
— Scientists are attempting to engineer a molecular "decoy" to possibly treat or prevent COVID-19 infection. A new study finds that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, binds tightly to such a decoy, which is designed to resemble the receptor the virus uses to infect human cells, Live Science reported. However, the research is in its early stages, and no such decoy has ever been approved as a treatment for infectious diseases. "This would be something new, if it is successful," study author Erik Procko, an assistant professor of biochemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told Live Science
— A total of about 19.9 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide since the pandemic began, with cases expected to top 20 million this week, according to the World Health Organization. Cases are highest in the United States, with more than 5 million cases, followed by Brazil, with more than 3 million cases and India with more than 2.2 million cases.
Australia logs deadliest day, Brazil passes 100,000 deaths, New Zealand hits positive milestone
—The state of Victoria in Australia reported 17 deaths Sunday (Aug. 9), making it Australia's deadliest day during the pandemic, MSN reported. Meanwhile, the state reported 394 new COVID-19 cases, bringing its total to 14,659. Ten of the deaths there were linked to elderly care centers, Premier Daniel Andrews said during a media briefing, MSN reported. In total, Australia has recorded 21,084 COVID-19 cases and 295 related deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins virus dashboard.
—The pandemic seems to be at full steam across the globe. Brazil has become the second country, after the U.S., to surpass 100,000 deaths related to COVID-19, AFP reported. India has more than 2 million cases — which doubled in just 3 weeks — and 42,518 virus-related deaths, the AFP reported. And in South Africa, more than 10,000 people have so far died from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
—On a much more optimistic note, New Zealand has now gone 100 days without any community transmission of COVID-19, TVNZ reported. "Achieving 100 days without community transmission is a significant milestone. However, as we all know, we can't afford to be complacent," said Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand's Director-General of Health, as reported by TVNZ. "We have seen overseas how quickly the virus can re-emerge and spread in places where it was previously under control, and we need to be prepared to quickly stamp out any future cases in New Zealand." The total number of active cases has remained steady at 23, TVNZ reported.
US passes 5-million COVID-19 cases; Motorcycle rally to draw 25,000 to South Dakota
—The U.S. has passed another grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic: The country now has recorded more than 5 million cases of COVID-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus), according to Worldometer and The New York Times database. Three states have passed their own milestones, with cases there surpassing a half-million: California (556,185 cases), Florida (526,577) and Texas (504,298).
—Meanwhile, California surpassed 10,000 deaths related to COVID-19 on Friday (Aug. 7), becoming the third U.S. state to do so, after New York (32,831) and New Jersey (15,942), The Washington Post reported. Even so, the state's death rate, which is at about 261 per million, is much lower than that in New York (1,688 per million) and New Jersey (1,795 per million), according to Worldometer. As of Sunday (Aug. 9), California had logged at least 10,313 virus-related deaths.
—In South Dakota, which has logged at least 9,477 COVID-19 cases and 146 related deaths, a 10-day motorcycle rally is expected to draw some 25,000 people to the city of Sturgis, about half the number as last year, The New York Times reported. The Sturgis Motorcycle rally began on Friday (Aug. 7). As people crowded the streets driving recreation vehicles and bikes, the Times reported: "Few masks could be seen, and free bandannas being passed out were mostly folded, or wrapped around people's heads." The rally is expected to be among the largest public gatherings in the U.S. since the pandemic began, according to the Times. And while health experts have found that COVID-19 is less likely to transmit outdoors, especially with social-distancing measures and mask-wearing, drawing that many people to one place could be risky: It will also draw more people inside restaurants and stores, the Times said.
Boris Johnson says UK has 'moral duty' to reopen schools
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the country has a "moral duty" to reopen schools in September, he wrote in an exclusive article on The Mail. "This pandemic isn't over, and the last thing any of us can afford to do is become complacent," he wrote. "But now that we know enough to reopen schools to all pupils safely, we have a moral duty to do so."
Leading scientists and teachers had voiced concern about reopening, as there is evidence that cases are beginning to increase again, The Guardian reported. To date, the U.K. has logged at least 309,763 COVID-19 cases and 46,566 related deaths, with 871 new cases reported just yesterday, according to Worldometer.
"If schools are to reopen safely, the government will need to give them clarification about what they need to do to take account of the latest scientific evidence and advice, as well as sufficient time to review and, if necessary, adjust their reopening plans," said Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, which represents more than 300,000 teachers in the U.K., as reported by The Guardian.
Some researchers have said that school closures were an important means of controlling COVID-19 spread. "The evidence is clear that schools are important in the spread of Covid-19," said Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, according to The Guardian. "Our studies show that, across Europe, closing schools was the single factor most strongly associated with drops in infection rates."
Johnson expressed his resolve to keep schools open, saying that they would be the last sector to close.
"The PM [prime minister] has been clear that businesses including shops, pubs and restaurants should be forced to close first, with schools remaining open for as long as possible," a source told the PA News agency, a leading news organization in the U.K.
Childhood inflammatory illness tied to COVID-19 disproportionately impacts people of color
Hundreds of kids in the U.S. have become sick with an inflammatory syndrome tied to COVID-19, and most of them landed in the intensive care units of hospitals, a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed.
The mysterious inflammatory syndrome tied to COVID-19, which was first identified in May, has impacted people of color more so than any other children, according to the CDC report. As of July 29, a total of 570 individuals have come down with the illness, dubbed multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), according to reports from 40 state health departments, Washington, D.C., and New York City. The patients ranged in age from 2 weeks to 20 years old. More than 55% were male; about 40% were Hispanic or Latino; 33% were non-Hispanic Black; and 13% were non-Hispanic white, the report said.
Symptoms of the MIS-C can vary, but they tend to be similar to those found in Kawasaki disease, a rare childhood illness that causes inflammation in blood vessel walls, and in serious cases can cause heart damage, Live Science previously reported. Symptoms can include fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes and fatigue, the CDC said. While young kids tend to show symptoms that more classically resemble Kawasaki, teens and young adults show more of an overwhelming inflammatory response involving their heart and other organs.
According to the new CDC report, about two thirds of the patients had no preexisting underlying medical conditions, though about 25% had obesity. More than 63% had to be admitted to the ICU. The CDC researchers found that the most common symptoms reported by the 570 individuals were: abdominal pain (61.9%), vomiting (61.8%), skin rash (55.3%), diarrhea (53.2%), hypotension (49.5%) and conjunctival injection (bloodshot eyes, 48.4%). For most of the patients, the illness involved four or more organ systems, especially the heart, The New York Times reported.
All of the 565 patients tested for COVID-19 had positive tests. Ten of the patients died.
"As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, with the number of cases increasing in many jurisdictions, health care providers should continue to monitor patients to identify children with a hyperinflammatory syndrome with shock and cardiac involvement. Suspected MIS-C patients should be reported to local and state health departments," the CDC said in the report.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces school districts in New York can reopen in the fall
— Citing low infection rates across New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in a teleconference today that school districts across the state can reopen in the fall. "If anybody can open schools we can open schools," he said. "We're going to watch the infection rate between now and the day that schools open" for any spikes or concerns, and revisit the plan if need be, Cuomo added. All school districts are required to submit plans to the state for review.
Cuomo is also requiring school districts to submit remote learning, testing and tracing plans online, set dates for 3 to 5 discussion sessions with parents and the community before Aug. 21 and have at least one separate discussion with just teachers, according to his Twitter page. Students will be required to wear masks when social distancing is impossible and should have a mask with them at all times. If they do not, schools are required to provide a mask, according to his Twitter page.
— The coronavirus pandemic has now claimed more than 715,800 lives worldwide, including more than 160,000 in the U.S. alone. Wearing face masks could save another 66,000 Americans from dying of the virus by December, according to a new model, Live Science reported.
"It's rare that you see something so simple, so inexpensive, so easy for everybody to participate in can have such an extraordinary impact in the U.S. and also all over the world," Dr. Christopher Murray, the director of the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), said during CNN's Global Town Hall on Aug. 6.
The IHME model, which the White House frequently cited early in the pandemic, now forecasts another 134,854 deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus by December, which would bring the total to 295,011. But if, starting now, 95% of people in the U.S. wore masks every time they stepped foot out of their homes, the total number of projected deaths would drop 49% to 228,271, the scientists found. That's more than 66,000 lives saved in the U.S.
Africa has now reported more than 1 million cases of COVID-19
— Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tested negative for the coronavirus after initially testing positive, according to CBS News. The second test he took was a PCR test, whereas earlier on in the day he had taken an antigen test, according to a statement. "We do not have much experience with antigen tests here in Ohio. We will be working with the manufacturer to have a better understanding of how the discrepancy between these two tests could have occurred," according to the statement.
— There have now been more than 19.1 million COVID-19 cases reported worldwide and more than 715,500 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., there have been more than 4.8 million cases and more than 160,000 deaths; In Brazil, there have been more than 2.9 million cases and more than 98,400 deaths; In India, there have been more than 2 million cases and more than 41,500 deaths.
— Africa has now reported more than 1 million cases of COVID-19, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dashboard. There have been more than 22,000 deaths on the continent from the coronavirus, according to the dashboard. More than half of the COVID-19 cases are in South Africa, the country that was hardest hit but that has also done a lot of testing, according to The New York Times. The actual case count might be much higher as testing levels have been extremely low elsewhere on the continent, according to the Times.
At least four people in the U.S. have died after drinking hand sanitizer tainted with methanol
— At least four people in the U.S. have died after drinking hand sanitizer tainted with methanol and about a dozen or more experienced serious health effects such as vision loss, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This follows warnings from the Food and Drug Administration that dozens of hand sanitizer products contain methanol, a toxic substance that can cause nausea, vomiting, permanent blindness, seizures and even death, according to a Live Science report. Health officials have identified 15 adults in Arizona and New Mexico who were hospitalized for methanol poisoning after ingesting hand sanitizer, according to the report. Six patients experienced seizures while hospitalized, according to the report. Seven patients were eventually discharged from the hospital, and of these, three developed vision loss, including near blindness. Four patients died and another four remain hospitalized, according to the report.
— Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tested positive for the coronavirus in a screening prior to a visit with President Trump, according to The New York Times. He was tested as standard protocol and wasn't showing any symptoms, according to the Times. He did not meet with the president. Ohio now has about 1,200 new coronavirus cases a day, more cases than its first peak in April, according to the Times.
Study finds previous infections with common cold viruses can train immune system to recognize the novel coronavirus
— Previous infections with common cold viruses can train the immune system to recognize the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, according to a new study published Aug. 4 in the journal Science. Previous studies have shown that more than 50% of people never exposed to SARS-CoV-2 have immune cells known as T cells that recognize it, according to a Live Science report. In the new study, researchers analyzed blood samples collected from people before the pandemic and found they contained T cells that reacted to more than 100 specific sites on SARS-CoV-2. The researchers showed that these T cells also reacted to similar sites on four different coronaviruses that cause common cold infections, according to the report.
This may explain why some people have milder COVID-19 infections than others, according to the report. However, the authors stress that this hypothesis is "highly speculative" and requires more research to confirm because it’s unknown how much impact T cells have in fighting COVID-19, as it’s just one of many immune system molecules and cells that are part of the response, according to the report.
— Nearly 1.2 million people in the U.S. filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, according to data from the Department of Labor, NBC News reported. That’s a decline from the past two weeks but the 20th week in a row where unemployment claims exceeded 1 million, according to NBC News.
NYC will set up quarantine checkpoints at major bridges and tunnels into the city, a preliminary analysis suggests convalescent plasma therapy reduces mortality rate in COVID-19 patients
— New York City will set up quarantine checkpoints at the entrances of main bridges and tunnels into the city in order to screen travelers and residents coming in from states with high coronavirus case counts, according to CNBC. Back in late June, the Tri-state area had issued a 14-day quarantine for those traveling into New York, New Jersey or Connecticut from 9 states where the coronavirus case counts were on a rise. Since then, the list has grown to 30 states.
"Travelers coming in from those states will be given information about the quarantine, they will be reminded that it is required, not optional,” de Blasio said at a briefing today. “They’ll be reminded that failure to quarantine is a violation of state law and it comes with serious penalties.” These quarantine checkpoints will start screening on Wednesday, according to CNBC.
— COVID-19 patients treated with the blood of those recovered from the infection have a lower mortality rate than those given standard treatments alone, according to a preliminary analysis published in the preprint database bioRxiv. A group of researchers analyzed a dozen trials that included more than 800 participants in total where hospitalized COVID-19 patients were given this blood treatment, called convalescent plasma (CP) therapy, according to a Live Science report. These trials suggested that patients given convalescent plasma were less than half as likely to die as patients given other treatments, according to the report. Specifically, the mortality rate among patients given plasma was 13%, compared with 25% among patients given standard treatments, according to the report. However, the new study isn't yet peer reviewed and neither was some of the data that was analyzed in the study. What's more, only three of the 12 studies were randomized control trials (RCT), according to the report.
"The report provides a signal of hope that CP is beneficial, although unfortunately, it does not provide the confidence that is required to be able to responsibly recommend CP for the treatment of COVID-19," Dr. Mila Ortigoza, an instructor in the Departments of Medicine and Microbiology at NYU Langone Health, who was not involved in the research, told Live Science. "What the current study really highlights is the need to continue supporting ongoing RCTs of CP" to ensure that they enroll enough patients to provide "indisputable evidence" that the therapy really works, she said.
Phillippines goes back into lockdown after a surge of cases, global deaths from the virus exceed 700,000
— After a surge in new coronavirus cases and a dire warning from doctors that it could collapse the healthcare system, tens of millions of people in the Philippines are once again under lockdown, according to the BBC. The number of infections have increased five times since the country eased one of the world's longest lockdowns in June, according to the BBC. Now, their case counts have exceeded 100,000 and they tallied a record 5,032 new infections on Sunday. Overwhelmed hospitals have reportedly had to turn away patients, according to the BBC. People are now only allowed to leave their homes to buy essentials or to exercise outdoors and public transport and domestic flights have stopped, according to the BBC. Restaurants are only allowed takeaways.
— There are now more than 700,000 people who have died from COVID-19 worldwide since the start of the pandemic, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. There have been more than 18.5 million cases reported globally, more than 4.7 million of those cases in the U.S., more than 2.8 million in Brazil and more than 1.9 million in India, according to the dashboard.
A study published last week finds that in order to safely reopen colleges during a pandemic, students should be tested for the coronavirus every two days
— There have now been more than 18.3 million cases of COVID-19 reported and more than 696,000 deaths worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., there have now been more than 4.7 million cases reported and more than 156,200 deaths. Yesterday (Aug. 3), more than 47,800 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the U.S. and at least 602 new coronavirus deaths, according to The New York Times. In the last week, there have been an average of 60,194 new cases a day, a 9% decrease from the average from two weeks ago, according to the Times.
— As the school year approaches, students, teachers and parents await critical decisions on school re-openings across the country. A new study published Friday (July 31) in the journal JAMA Network finds that in order to safely reopen colleges during a pandemic, students should be tested for the coronavirus every two days, according to The Miami Herald. Only testing the students with coronavirus symptoms will not stop outbreaks, and colleges should use rapid and inexpensive tests (even poorly sensitive tests) to frequently screen students, the researchers said, according to The Herald. That, along with strict interventions to keep the transmission low, will allow colleges to contain the infections that occur and still be cost-effective, according to the study.
"This sets a very high bar — logistically, financially, and behaviorally — that may be beyond the reach of many university administrators and the students in their care," the authors wrote in the study. Testing a campus of say 5,000 students every two days during a short semester will require 195,000 tests, each costing between $10 and $50, according to the study.
Some colleges have already announced similar approaches. The University of Illinois will test students, faculty and staff twice a week for the virus if they participate in activities on campus; Boston University will test undergraduate students twice a week and graduate students once a week; and Cornell College will randomly test 3% of the student population of 1,000 every week, according to the Miami Herald.
The chances of catching COVID-19 on public transportation depend on where you sit, according to a new study
— The chances of catching COVID-19 on public transportation depend on where you sit, according to a new study conducted in China. Those closest to an infected person are, as expected, at the highest risk and those farther away are at a relatively low risk, according to a Live Science report.The study which involved thousands of passengers who traveled on China's high-speed trains, found that the rate of transmission from an infected person to others on the train varied from nearly 0% to 10%, depending on where the person sat. The study was published July 29 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
"Our study shows that although there is an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission on trains, a person's seat location and travel time in relation to an infectious person can make a big difference as to whether it is passed on," study lead author Dr. Shengjie Lai, a research fellow at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, said in a statement. "The findings suggest that during the COVID-19 epidemic it is important to reduce the density of passengers and promote personal hygiene measures, the use of face coverings and possibly carry out temperature checks before boarding." Other findings from around the world also suggest that wearing masks and social distancing on public transportation greatly lowers the risk of infection, according to the report. In Paris, for example, public health officials found that of the 386 recent clusters of COVID-19 between May and mid-July, none were linked to public transportation, according to The New York TImes. Similar findings were seen in Tokyo and parts of Austria, the Times reported.
— At least 45 hospitals in Florida have zero ICU beds available and 34 hospitals have 10% or less ICU capacity available, according to data from the Agency for Health Care Administration, CNN reported. Seven of those hospitals are in Miami-Dade County and five of those hospitals are in Broward county, according to CNN. Florida has now reported more than 491,800 cases of COVID-19 and more than 7,157 deaths among its residents, according to the Florida Department of Healths' COVID-19 dashboard.
No one can predict what the pandemic will look like in the fall, Fauci says
— As the school year approaches and flu season looms on the horizon, the U.S. continues to battle a worsening coronavirus pandemic. No one can predict how the pandemic will play out in the fall, the nation's top infectious disease expert said today, according to a Live Science report.
"I do not know...nor can anyone know what the fall is going to bring," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said today (Aug. 3) during a Q&A put together by the Journal JAMA Network. Back in the spring, when the coronavirus was mainly ravaging the northeast, there was talk of a "second wave" in the fall, Fauci said. That was assuming these numbers would have dropped down to a baseline...but they have not. There are "five easy things that one can do to try and turn that curve around so that as we enter the fall we're really at a low baseline," Fauci said. These handful of actions, we know from experience, can help blunt resurgences and prevent new ones from occurring, he said. The first is consistent — and correct — wearing of masks. The second and third are avoiding crowds and keeping distances of 6 feet (1.8 meters) or more between you and others, he said. The fourth is staying away from bars or places where people congregate and attending functions outdoors rather than indoors, he said. The fifth is washing your hands, according to the report. If left to its own devices, the virus "is going to keep resurging," Fauci said. The only way we can stop it is through such countermeasures, he added. "And it can be done. It's not inevitable" that the virus will resurge, he said.
— In the last two weeks, the number of new coronavirus cases increased by 175% in New Jersey, according to NBC News. New Jersey's rate of transmission is now at 1.48, whereas a month ago it was at 0.87, Gov. Phil Murphy said in a COVID-19 briefing today. "We believe that some of this increase is attributable to the number of indoor house parties and other events which we have been seeing across the state," he said. "And with the hot humid weather we've been experiencing we know that there have been many more such indoor parties taking place which have not made the news."
"We cannot be any clearer that indoor gatherings, especially large, crowded ones where social distancing isn't practiced and face masks aren't worn... just are not safe," he added. In response, Murphy announced tightening of indoor gathering restrictions today. There can now only be a maximum of 25 people gathering indoors, down from a maximum of 100, he announced today. But this change will not apply to weddings, funerals and memorial services and religious and political activities protected under the first amendment, he added. The New Jersey Department of Health reported 264 new cases in New Jersey today, bringing the total case count to 182,614.
Dozens of people tested positive for the coronavirus aboard the MS Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian cruise ship
—At least 5 passengers and 36 crew members aboard the MS Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian cruise ship, tested positive for the coronavirus, according to The Associated Press. All 41 people have been admitted to the University Hospital of North Norway in Tromsoe where the ship is docked, the cruise line has stopped all trips and apologized for procedural errors, according to the AP. Because the cruise ship stops at ports (people in a total of 69 municipalities in Norway may have been exposed), the passengers who were infected could have spread the virus to local communities, according to the AP. The Tromsoe-based Hurtigruten was one of the first companies — but not the only one — to start sailing its cruise ships again after all cruise ships stopped sailing in mid-March. At that time, more than 710 people were infected aboard the Carnival's Diamond Princess cruise ship and 13 people died, according to the AP.
— New guidelines from the Football Association (the national governing body for soccer in England) says that players who deliberately cough on opponents or referees can now be given yellow or red cards amid the pandemic, according to The Guardian. The referee should take action if "certain someone deliberately, and from close range, coughed into the face of an opponent or match official …” according to the document. This offense would be in the category of "using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures," according to the document. But if the incident wasn't severe enough, the referee should give the player caution for "unsporting behavior-shows a lack of respect for the game," according to the document. What's more, referees should remind players not to spit on the ground, according to The Guardian.
— There have now been more than 4.6 million cases of COVID-19 reported in the U.S. and more than 154,800 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. Worldwide, there have been more than 18.1 million cases reported and 689,900 deaths, according to the dashboard. In Brazil, there have been more than 2.7 million cases reported and more than 94,000d deaths; In India there have been more than 1.8 million cases reported and more than 38,000 deaths; In Russia there have been more than 854,600 cases reported and more than 14,000 deaths; In South Africa there have been more than 511,400 cases reported and more than 8,300 deaths, according to the dashboard.
Pastor in D.C. who said not to ‘cower in fear' over coronavirus tests positive
A pastor at a Catholic church in Washington, D.C., who told parishioners not to "cower in fear" over the novel coronavirus, has tested positive for it. The case of COVID-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus) prompted D.C. health officials to contact about 250 staff and parishioners to tell them to self-quarantine for 14 days, The Washington Post reported. On July 27, Monsignor Charles Pope of Holy Comforter St. Cyprian Catholic Church was admitted to the hospital with a high fever and low oxygen. That afternoon, a rapid diagnostic test showed he had contracted the coronavirus.
Just over a week earlier, Pope had questioned measures being taken to stem the coronavirus outbreak, measures that included limiting religious services, the Post said. In an article he wrote in the National Catholic Register, he said, "There is more to life than just not getting sick and not dying."
On the morning of July 27, Pope told a religious radio show that he considered those who chose not to return to in-person masses to be "lukewarm" Catholics, the Post reported. The pastor has since returned to the rectory, according to the Post article.
After declining in June, the virus has taken hold again in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia region. Just today, D.C. logged 69 new cases, Maryland had 909 and Virginia recorded 981, the Post said.
Coronavirus outbreak is 'extraordinarily widespread' in US, says Dr. Birx
Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, told CNN on Sunday that the deadly coronavirus is more widespread in the U.S. than when it was when the virus took hold of the country months ago.
"What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It's into the rural as equal urban areas," Birx said on CNN's "State of the Union," CNN reported.
The daily death toll from the coronavirus in the U.S. exceeded 1,000 on Saturday (Aug. 1), for the sixth straight day, The Washington Post reported. Because deaths don't happen immediately after a person is infected, or even hospitalized, these numbers lag behind case numbers. As such, the alarming number of deaths is expected to continue at high levels for weeks. "Overall, what this tells us is that now that deaths have started to increase, we can expect them to increase for several more weeks," Ellie Murray, an epidemiologist at Boston University, told The Post.
On "State of the Union," Birx urged Americans to follow health recommendations, such as mask-wearing and social distancing.
"To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus," Birx said. "If you're in multi-generational households, and there's an outbreak in your rural area or in your city, you need to really consider wearing a mask at home, assuming that you're positive, if you have individuals in your households with comorbidities." (A comorbidity means two or more illnesses occur in the same person. For the coronavirus, certain comorbidities, or underlying illnesses, have been linked with more severe infections.)
"This epidemic right now is different and it's more widespread and it's both rural and urban," Birx said.
Though Birx would not speculate on how many American's might die from the coronavirus by the end of the year, she did say the death toll is resting on measures taken by southern and western states, which have become hot spots for the virus, CNN reported.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which has been updating its models on coronavirus forecasts, is projecting 230,822 COVID-19-related deaths by Nov. 1 in the U.S.
She did point out that one of the big culprits for the surge involves social gatherings. "It's not super spreading individuals, it's super spreading events and we need to stop those. We definitely need to take more precautions," Birx said on CNN.
Rather than a "one size fits all" approach, Birx recommended that each state develop a "dramatically tailored" approach to containing the virus, based on what experts are seeing at the community level, in the hospitals, for example.
How many American deaths from COVID-19?, Mexico breaks case record, Trump condemns Fauci
—To date, at least 154,320 people in the U.S. have died as a result of COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins virus dashboard. And now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is forecasting that the death toll could reach 182,000 by the fourth week of August, according to an internal government document obtained by Yahoo News and reported by AOL. That CDC model also forecasts between 5,000 and 11,000 new deaths related to the disease in a single week ending Aug. 22, AOL reported. Meanwhile, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which has been updating its models on coronavirus forecasts, is projecting 230,822 COVID-19-related deaths by Nov. 1 in the U.S.
—Mexico logged a record 9,556 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, according to Worldometer. The last record was hit yesterday, when Mexico reported 8,458 new COVID-19 cases, according to the health ministry, The Guardian reported. To date, the country has recorded 434,193 cases and 47,472 related deaths. "The government says the real number of infected people is likely considerably higher than the confirmed cases," according to The Guardian.
—U.S. President Donald Trump condemned the country's leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said that the spike in U.S. cases compared with the sharp decline seen across Europe could be explained by different measures taken to control outbreaks. Whereas most European countries shut down their economies almost entirely (about 95%), the U.S. shut down just half of its economy, The Guardian reported. In a tweet, Trump wrote "We have more cases because we have tested far more than any other country, 60,000,000. If we tested less, there would be less cases. How did Italy, France & Spain do? Now Europe sadly has flare ups. Most of our governors worked hard & smart. We will come back STRONG!"
However, whereas many states in the U.S. did follow strict social-distancing and masking measures, others did not; and many of those states are showing surges in both cases, hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19, news agencies have reported.
Calif. surpasses 500,000 cases, US makes vaccine deal, Indiana school deals with COVID-19 case
—As of this morning, California has surpassed 500,000 COVID-19 cases, according to Worldometer. Though a high total, cases and deaths related to the disease are lower in per capita terms in California compared with other states: California is recording 12,703 cases per 1 million people in the state's population, compared with 21,901 per capita in Florida, 22,810 per capita in New York and 15,279 in Texas.
—French drugmaker Sanofi said it had an agreement with the U.S. government for up to $2.1 billion to provide the U.S. with 100 million doses of its experimental vaccine, The New York Times reported. "The global need for a vaccine to help prevent Covid-19 is massive, and no single vaccine or company will be able to meet the global demand alone," Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and global head of Sanofi Pasteur, the company's vaccine division, said in a statement, the Times reported.
Sanofi and its pharmaceutical partner, GlaxoSmithKline will use the federal funding to run clinical trials and to manufacture the vaccine. Sanofi is scheduled to begin trials to test vaccine safety in September, with later-stage trials to test how well (if at all) the vaccine works before the end of 2020, the Times reported. If all goes well, Sanofil said it could apply for FDA approval in the first half of 2021.
—One of the first school districts to reopen in the U.S. — Greenfield-Central Community Schools in Indiana — didn't last a day before having to struggle with the dilemma of how to handle COVID-19 cases in its classrooms. Just hours after classes resumed for the first time since the spring on Thursday (July 30), Greenfield Central Junior High School in Indiana found out a student had tested positive for COVID-19, The New York Times reported. Under the school's emergency protocol, the student was isolated and anyone with close contact with that student was ordered to quarantine for 14 days, the Times reported.
"We knew it was a when, not if," said Harold Olin, superintendent of the Greenfield-Central Community School Corporation, as reported by the Times. Even so, Olin added that he was "very shocked it was on Day 1."
Ancestors of the novel coronavirus may have been circulating in bats unnoticed for decades
— The ancestors of the novel coronavirus may have been circulating in bats unnoticed for decades. And those coronaviruses likely also had the ability to infect humans, according to a new study published July 28 in the journal Nature Microbiology. A group of researchers analyzed parts of the SARS-CoV-2 genome and compared them with similar coronavirus found in bats and pangolins, according to a Live Science report.
Adding evidence to support previous findings, they discovered that SARS-CoV-2 was most closely related to another bat coronavirus, known as RaTG13. To figure out the timeline of the SARS-CoV-2 lineage, the researchers examined the number of mutations present in regions of the SARS-CoV-2 genome that hadn't undergone recombination. They found that over a century ago, there was a single lineage that eventually would give rise to SARS-CoV-2, RaTG13 and Pangolin-2019 viruses, according to the report. At that time, the Pangolin-2019 virus diverged from the SARS-CoV-2 and the RaTG13 viruses. Then, in the 1960s or 1970s, this lineage split into two, creating the RaTG13 lineage and the SARS-CoV-2 lineage.
"The SARS-CoV-2 lineage circulated in bats for 50 or 60 years before jumping to humans," co-lead author Maciej Boni, an associate professor of biology at Penn State's Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics told Live Science. Near the end of 2019, "someone just got very unlucky" and came into contact with SARS-CoV-2 and that set off a pandemic.
— People who recover from COVID-19, even those who weren't hospitalized, may have lingering heart damage and inflammation even months after being infected, a small new study suggests, according to another Live Science report. A group of researchers analyzed data from 100 adults in Germany who had recently recovered from COVID-19 — about one-third of them had been hospitalized and the rest recovered at home, according to the report. On MRI scans taken more than two months after their diagnosis, about three-quarters of these patients showed signs of heart abnormalities, including inflammation of the heart muscle, or myocarditis. Many patients also had detectable levels of a protein in their blood called troponin that can indicate heart injury, such as damage after a heart attack, according to the report. But it's not clear if this type of heart involvement is permanent or dangerous in the long run, according to the report. These types of heart abnormalities occasionally occur with other respiratory diseases such as the flu and may be temporary and mild cases of heart inflammation often get better on their own, according to the report.
— The first COVID-19 patient in the U.S. to receive a double-lung transplant was discharged from the hospital this week, according to another Live Science report. After the coronavirus caused irreversible damage to her lungs, 28-year-old Mayra Ramirez underwent the transplant on June 5, Live Science previously reported. Ramirez must take anti-rejection medications for the rest of her life, but because she is young and healthy, "she'll continue to get stronger and stronger," her surgeon Dr. Ankit Bharat told The New York Times. Following Ramirez's transplant, Northwestern conducted a second double-lung transplant for Brian Kuhns, a 62-year-old coronavirus patient. "Mayra and Brian wouldn't be alive today without the double-lung transplants," Bharat said in the statement. "COVID-19 completely destroyed their lungs, and they were critically ill going into the transplant procedure making it a daunting undertaking." With both Kuhns and Ramirez now in recovery, Northwestern has two additional COVID-19 patients awaiting double-lung transplants, according to the report.
Coronavirus cases in New Jersey are rising, fueled by indoor gatherings
— Just a week ago, coronavirus cases in New Jersey were at their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic, but they're now rising again, according to The New York Times. In the past week, New Jersey recorded an average of 416 cases per day, up 28% from the average two weeks earlier, according to the Times.
Last week, the state recorded its lowest seven-day-average since the peak in April: 224. Now, this rise is, in part, fueled by young people gathering indoors on the Jersey Shore. A party that dozens of Long Beach Island lifeguards attended has been linked to 35 cases of the virus; a house party in Middletown has been linked to 65 new cases, mostly among teens; and a graduation party in Westfield resulted in 17 cases. “I just want to plead one more time to parents and kids,” Gov. Phil Murphy said on Monday. “Don’t congregate inside. Please don’t do that. If you’re going to gather, get outside. Wear a face covering. Stay away from each other.”
Still, New Jersey remains one of six states with the fewest number of coronavirus cases a day per 100,000 residents, and some of the increase can be linked to a lag in testing, officials said, according to the Times.
“We are now back — plus or minus — to where we were a month ago in the daily number of new cases. We can’t go backward. We can’t afford to go backward," Murphy said on Wednesday.
— The influential IHME model now projects that there will be 230,822 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. by the beginning of November. That's up by 11,000 from its previous estimate, according to CNN. The U.S. has now recorded more than 4.4 million cases of COVID-19 and 152,075 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard.
Herman Cain dies from the coronavirus, new study finds children has at least as much coronavirus in their noses and throats as infected adults
— Herman Cain, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 and was the former CEO of Godfather's pizza, died from the coronavirus, according to an announcement on his website. Cain, who was 74 years old, was hospitalized earlier this month and was treated with oxygen, according to CNN. "We knew when he was first hospitalized with COVID-19 that this was going to be a rough fight. He had trouble breathing and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. We all prayed that the initial meds they gave him would get his breathing back to normal, but it became clear pretty quickly that he was in for a battle," Dan Calabrese, the editor of his website wrote. "Although he was basically pretty healthy in recent years, he was still in a high-risk group because of his history with cancer."
In a post announcing Cain's diagnosis earlier this month, Calabrese wrote that it wasn't clear where Cain had picked up the virus, as he "did a lot of traveling," according to CNN. Cain had attended Trump's rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma and a photo he posted showed he was seated near others without wearing a mask, according to CNN.
— A new study found that infected children have at least as much coronavirus in their noses and throats as infected adults, and children under 5 can have up to 100 times as much virus in their upper respiratory tract as compared to adults, according to The New York Times. Though this doesn't necessarily mean that the children are spreading the virus to others, experts say these findings should be taken into consideration in the conversations being held to reopen schools, according to the Times. But the study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, had some limitations including that it was small, with 145 participants who had mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19. What's more, the researchers looked for viral RNA rather than the live virus itself, according to the Times. That means it's not clear how much of that viral RNA was infectious.
Johnson & Johnson's candidate coronavirus vaccine showed promise in challenge studies conducted on monkeys, the second vaccine in the U.S. to do so this week
— Johnson & Johnson's candidate coronavirus vaccine showed promise in monkey studies, the second vaccine to do so this week, according to The New York Times. Just one dose of the vaccine protected the monkeys from the coronavirus, according to a new study published today in the journal Nature. The group of researchers tested seven variants of their vaccine called Ad26 which is a weakened version of another virus armed with the genes that codes for the coronavirus spike protein. Six weeks after the monkeys were injected with the vaccine, they were injected with the coronavirus, according to the Times. Six of the seven variants of the vaccine partially protected the monkeys from the coronavirus and the virus could only replicate at low levels in their bodies, according to the Times. Five out of six monkeys that received the seventh variant, did not have any detectable levels of virus (the sixth had low levels of the coronavirus found in its nose). Johnson & Johnson started its phase 1 trial in humans last week and expects to start phase 3 trials in September, according to the Times. This week, another study published in The New England Journal of Medicine revealed that another candidate vaccine developed by Moderna, also showed promise in monkeys, according to The New York Times.
— There have now been more than 17 million cases of COVID-19 recorded across the globe and more than 667,800 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., more than 4.4 million cases have been recorded and more than 150,700 deaths. On Wednesday, more than 1,400 people died from the coronavirus across the U.S., which amounts to be about one death for every minute in the day, according to The Washington Post. That was the highest daily coronavirus death toll in more than two months, according to the Post. Florida, California, North Carolina and Idaho all broke its own daily records.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools will start with online learning in the fall
— A large school district in Florida, the Miami-Dade County Public Schools will start with online learning in the fall, superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced at a special meeting, according to NBC Miami. The school year will be delayed by a week and begin on Aug. 31. Officials will continue to monitor the pandemic, and if conditions improve, schools can then switch to in-class instruction in October, he said.
School closures in the U.S. last spring likely led to 1.37 million fewer cases of COVID-19 over a 26-day-period and 40,600 fewer deaths over a 16-day period, according to a new study published today in the journal JAMA. "States that closed schools earlier, when cumulative incidence of COVID-19 was low, had the largest relative reduction in incidence and mortality," the authors wrote. "However, it remains possible that some of the reduction may have been related to other concurrent nonpharmaceutical interventions." What's more, their findings may not be applicable today, as no precautions — such as mask wearing or smaller classes — were being taken back in the spring but they are being recommended for reopening now, according to The New York Times. The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines “emphasize making sure that the community numbers are reasonable before trying to open schools, and I think this manuscript sort of bolsters that a bit," lead author Dr. Katherine Auger, an associate professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital told the Times.
COVID-19 death toll reaches 150,000 in US, Republican Representative tests positive for virus, Some scientists are taking an unproven COVID-19 vaccine
— The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 150,000, according to data collected by The New York Times. As of Wednesday, there were 150,172 COVID deaths in the country, the Times reported. The death rate in the U.S. has continued to rise in recent weeks following a surge in cases in many parts of the country. On average, there were about 1,000 COVID-19 deaths reported per day over the past week in the U.S. Southern states have been hit particularly hard in recent weeks, with Texas, Arizona and South Carolina reporting the highest recent death rolls relative to their populations, the Times reported.
— Dozens of scientists have taken a DIY COVID-19 vaccine with no proof that it works, Live Science reported. The unproven vaccine was designed and distributed by members of the Rapid Deployment Vaccine Collaborative, a group of researchers and "citizen scientists," some of whom are affiliated with Harvard University and MIT, according to MIT Technology Review. Participants receive ingredients for the vaccine by mail, and self-administer the concoction into their noses. The vaccine was not authorized by the Food and Drug Administration or approved by an ethics board. There is no evidence that the vaccine induces a protective immune response or that it's safe. Self-experimenting with this vaccine is "not the best idea — especially in this case, you could make things worse" by triggering a dangerous side effect, George Siber, the former head of vaccines at the pharmaceutical company Wyeth, told MIT Technology Review.
— Congressional Representative Louie Gohmert, of Texas, confirmed Wednesday that he has tested positive for COVID-19, according to The New York Times. The Republican Rep. received the test because he was scheduled to travel with President Trump on Air Force One. Gohmert frequently refused to wear a mask, and had participated in several congressional hearings this week, the Times reported. Officials are now attempting to track down Gohmert's contacts. He was seen speaking with Attorney General William P. Barr on Tuesday (July 28), and Barr will be tested today, the Times reported.
At least 6,300 coronavirus cases have been linked to colleges across the U.S. since the start of the pandemic, a New York Times survey shows
— Since the start of the pandemic, at least 6,300 coronavirus cases have been linked to about 270 colleges across the U.S., according to a New York Times survey. These institutions include the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Central Florida and the University of Georgia, according to the Times. However, these statistics are not being tracked at a national level and there's no standardized way that colleges are reporting coronavirus cases and deaths, according to the Times. While some institutions listed case counts online or over the phone, others didn't answer or refused to answer because of privacy concerns, according to the Times.
— More than 16.7 million cases of COVID-19 and 661,200 deaths have now been reported worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., more than 4.3 million cases and more than 149,400 deaths have been reported; in Brazil, more than 2.4 million cases and more than 88,500 deaths have been reported; in India, more than 1.5 million cases and more than 34,100 deaths have been reported; in Russia, more than 827,500 cases and more than 13,600 deaths have been reported.
XPrize launches $5 million competition for improved COVID-19 tests
— A new XPrize competition calls on the "world's brightest minds" to develop faster and cheaper COVID-19 tests, with a $5 million total reward for the winners. The competition was launched Tuesday (July 28), and will last six months, with winners announced in early 2021, according to a statement from XPrize, the nonprofit behind the competition. The goal of the competition is to develop low-cost and easy-to-use COVID-19 tests that have a fast turnaround time, the statement said. Specifically, tests should cost no more than $15 each and have a turnaround time of no more than 12 hours, Live Science reported. There will be five winning teams, each receiving $1 million.
— CES, the enormous tech conference held annually in Las Vegas, will be an entirely digital event in 2021, according to a statement from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which runs the conference. "Amid the pandemic and growing global health concerns about the spread of COVID-19, it's just not possible to safely convene tens of thousands of people in Las Vegas in early January 2021 to meet and do business in person," Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CTA, said in the statement. The conference drew more than 171,000 attendees in 2020, according to Business Insider. Last month, the CTA said it still planned to hold some events for the 2021 conference physically in Las Vegas, but the new plan means that all events, including keynotes, product showcases and meetings, will be held virtually. The digital conference will run from Jan. 6 to Jan. 9, 2021.
An additional 128,605 children worldwide could die from malnutrition due to economic losses caused by the pandemic, according to a new commentary
— The COVID-19 pandemic will have profound impacts on childhood malnutrition and mortality in low and middle income countries, according to a new commentary published on July 27 in the journal The Lancet. Based on analysis of data applied to 118 low and middle income countries, there could be a 14.3% increase in moderate or severe wasting in children younger than 5 years of age due to economic losses amid the pandemic, according to the article. (Wasting, which refers to a low weight-for-height ratio, occurs when a person has not had enough food of good quality or had frequent or prolonged illness, according to the World Health Organization.) That would mean that an additional estimated 6.7 million children will undergo wasting in 2020 as compared to projections of 2020 without COVID-19, according to the commentary. Around 57.6% of these children are in South Asia and about 21.8% of these children are in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the authors. When these estimates are combined with a projected 25% reduction in coverage of nutrition and health services, the authors estimated that there will be an additional 128,605 deaths in children younger than 5 years of age in 2020 than there would've been without the pandemic. An estimated 52% of those deaths will be in sub-Saharan Africa, the authors wrote.
"Our projections emphasise the crucial need for the actions to protect child nutrition," they wrote. "The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to increase the risk of all forms of malnutrition. The wasting-focused estimates we present here are likely to be conservative, given that the duration of this crisis is unknown, and its full impacts on food, health, and social protection systems are yet to be realised."
— Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico are now added to the Tri-state area's quarantine list, bringing the total list up to 34 states (plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico), according to NBC Connecticut. People who have traveled to these areas and then arrive in Connecticut are required to quarantine for 14 days or they will have to pay a $1,000 fine, according to NBC Connecticut. In New York, the fine can reach up to $10,000, according to an executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. New Jersey isn't issuing fines. "The self-quarantine is voluntary, but compliance is expected," according to the New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub.
— The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has listed at least 77 hand sanitizers that contain dangerous levels of methanol, according to a Live Science report. Methanol is a toxic substance that can cause nausea, nerve damage and blindness when absorbed through the skin and death, if ingested, according to the report. The FDA keeps a running list of these sanitizers on its website and notes that the products pose a particular risk to young children, who may accidentally ingest them, and for adults who purposefully drink the products as an alcohol substitute, according to the report. These hand sanitizers likely became contaminated with methanol in the first place due to sloppy manufacturing processes, according to the report. Manufacturers may not be properly removing methanol that naturally arises during alcohol distillation or they may be violating FDA guidelines and using an already distilled high-methanol solvent as their base, according to the report.
More than two dozen Jersey Shore lifeguards test positive for the coronavirus
— More than two dozen lifeguards on Long Beach Island in New Jersey tested positive for the coronavirus, according to NBC News. Health officials believe that they were infected in social gatherings, particularly indoor parties, they partook in outside of work on July 12 and July 14, according to NBC. At least 12 of the cases were from Surf City and 17 from Harvey Cedars, according to NBC News. “We certainly have evidence that indoor parties associated with beach towns and other places have occurred,” Dr. Ed Lifshitz, director of the New Jersey Department of Health’s communicable disease service said, according to the WHYY and NBC News. Meanwhile, in California, 11 lifeguards tested positive for the virus in Newport Beach, according to NBC News. Again, health officials believe that the cases occurred because of community spread and not while they were working.
— The U.S. recorded more than 1,000 coronavirus deaths on Monday, according to The Washington Post. That brings the U.S. COVID-19 death toll to more than 148,000, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. The U.S. has now recorded more than 4.2 million cases, according to the dashboard.
Google employees will be allowed to work from home until summer 2021, Trump's security advisor tests positive for the coronavirus, less than a week after season starts, major league baseball faces a coronavirus outbreak
— Google employees will be allowed to work from home until July 2021, according to CNN Business. The company had previously announced that most employees would be working from home until the end of 2020, with some allowed back to the office sooner. Google has currently reopened 42 offices around the world, according to CNN Business. "To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we'll be extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021 for roles that don't need to be in the office," Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a memo to employees obtained by CNN Business. "I hope this will offer the flexibility you need to balance work with taking care of yourselves and your loved ones over the next 12 months."
— President Donald Trump's national security advisor Robert O'Brien who is 54 years old, has tested positive for the coronavirus and has mild symptoms, according to CNBC. “There is no risk of exposure to the President or the Vice President. The work of the National Security Council continues uninterrupted,” the White House said in a statement, according to CNBC. O'Brien had traveled to Europe and met with officials from several nations, according to CNBC. None of the officials appeared to be wearing masks, according to photos from those meetings, according to CNBC.
— Less than a week since this year's Major League Baseball season began, several players and coaches of the Miami Marlins tested positive for the coronavirus and had to postpone their home opener, according to The Washington Post. MLB also postponed Monday night's game between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees in Philadelphia where the Marlins had played this weekend, according to the Post. “[W]e have now experienced challenges once we went on the road and left Miami. Postponing tonight’s home opener was the correct decision to ensure we take a collective pause and try to properly grasp the totality of this situation," Derek Jeter, the Marlins’ chief operating officer, said in a statement, according to the Post. “We have conducted another round of testing for our players and staff, and our team will all remain in Philadelphia pending the results of those tests, which we expect later today.”
Moderna starts a large phase 3 trial of its candidate coronavirus vaccine today
— Moderna's phase 3 clinical trial, in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, began on Monday morning. This trial will enroll a total of 30,000 healthy people at about 89 test sites around the country, according to The New York Times. Half of the people will receive two doses of the vaccine, 28 days apart and the other half will receive saltwater placebo shots, according to the Times. "“Having a safe and effective vaccine distributed by the end of 2020 is a stretch goal, but it’s the right goal for the American people," Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the N.I.H., said in a statement. In early trials, Moderna's vaccine prompted an immune response and didn't cause any serious adverse effects, according to a previous Live Science report. Moderna's vaccine relies on a technology that hasn't been used in any approved vaccines to date: a piece of genetic material called messenger RNA (mRNA), according to the report. Traditional vaccines are made up of weakened or inactive viruses, or proteins of those viruses, to trigger an immune response; mRNA vaccines, on the other hand, are made up of genetic material that teaches cells to build these viral proteins themselves. On Sunday, Moderna announced it would receive up to $472 million more from the government to help pay for the trial, according to the Times.
— There have now been more than 16.2 million COVID-19 cases reported worldwide and more than 648,900 deaths, according to The Johns Hopkins dashboard. The U.S. has reported more than 4.2 million cases and more than 146,900 deaths; Brazil has reported more than 2.4 million cases and more than 87,000 deaths; India has reported more than 1.4 million cases and more than 32,700 deaths; Russia reported more than 811,000 cases and more than 13,200 deaths, according to the dashboard.
— Florida has now surpassed New York in the total number of reported coronavirus cases, according to NPR. In Florida, a total of 423,855 cases have been reported as compared to 411,736 in New York, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. The only state that surpasses those two is California, the most populous state with a total of 452,288 cases reported, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard and NPR. On Sunday, Florida reported 9,338 new cases among residents and 77 new deaths on Sunday, according to NPR. A couple of weeks ago, Florida reported 15,299 cases among residents in a day, the largest single-day increase recorded in any state since the start of the pandemic, according to NPR.
North Korea reports 1st possible COVID-19 case
North Korea is reporting what the country claims is its first suspected COVID-19 case in the border city of Kaesong. A person who defected to South Korea three years ago returned last week across the demarcation line, with coronavirus symptoms, BBC News reported. Though North Korea hadn't reported any cases until now, analysts have long suspected that to be unlikely, BBC News said.
"An emergency event happened in Kaesong city where a runaway who went to the south three years ago — a person who is suspected to have been infected with the vicious virus — returned on 19 July after illegally crossing the demarcation line," state news agency KCNA said, according to BBC News. North Korea's borders have been closed for six months to keep the virus out.
Just this month, the country's leader Kim Jong-un had hailed North Korea's handling of the virus a "shining success," BBC News reported.
"Everyone needs to face up to the reality of emergency," Kim was quoted as saying at a Workers' Party meeting Saturday, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Kim immediately locked down Kaeson, requiring anyone who had been exposed to the individual to be investigated and quarantined, the state media said, as reported by the WSJ.
Being one of the poorest and most isolated (and secretive) countries in the world, North Korea would be particularly vulnerable were the novel coronavirus to spread there, the WSJ said.
State media also identified the man as a 24-year-old with the surname Kim, the WSJ said.
Texas hospital sets up 'death panels' as COVID-19 cases surge
Hospitals are being overwhelmed in many parts of Texas, so much so in one rural town that the hospital has set up a "death panel" to decide which patients can be saved and which patients should be sent home to die, The Guardian reported. A committee at Starr County Memorial Hospital, which is the county's only hospital, will make these tough decisions to "alleviate the hospital's limited medical resources," so that doctors can put their efforts toward patients who are more likely than others to survive, according to The Guardian.
Cases in the county — which has a population of 64,000 — began to surge in early July, and as of July 24, the county has recorded 1,769 COVID-19 cases and up to 50 related deaths (some of these have yet to be confirmed as COVID-19 related), The Guardian said.
"The situation is desperate," Jose Vasquez, the county health authority, said during a news conference last week, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. "We cannot continue functioning in the Starr County Memorial Hospital nor in our county in the way that things are going. The numbers are staggering."
Social gatherings are being blamed for the outbreak.
"We are seeing the results of socialization during the 4th of July, vacations, and other social opportunities," wrote Starr county Judge Elroy Vera on the county's Facebook page. "Unfortunately, Starr County Memorial Hospital has limited resources and our doctors are going to have to decide who receives treatment, and who is sent home to die by their loved ones."
1,000 COVID-19 deaths a day in US
Yesterday, the U.S. logged 908 new deaths related to COVID-19, just a tad lower than the days prior. Before that, the U.S. had four consecutive days logging more than 1,000 daily deaths related to COVID-19, according to Worldometer. The number of infected individuals hospitalized has just about doubled over the past month as the disease caused by the novel coronavirus spreads rapidly through certain states, including California, Florida, Texas and Arizona, The Washington Post reported. On Friday (July 24), U.S. hospitals treated 59,670 people with COVID-19, not too far off from the record hit in mid-April, with 59,940 hospitalized, according to the COVID Tracking Project, the Post reported.
Genetic flaw could explain COVID-19 severity in some men
Men tend to be more vulnerable to serious COVID-19 infections than women are, and scientists have put forth various explanations for the gender difference. Now, a new study suggests that for four men a genetic mutation on the X chromosome that weakens the immune system may have played a role in the severity of COVID-19.
In the preliminary report, published July 24 in the journal JAMA, researchers ran genetic analyses on two sets of brothers, ages 21 to 32, from the Netherlands, The New York Times reported. The individuals were all in good health before getting infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 disease); they were admitted to the ICU between March 23 and April 25. One of the men, who was just 29 years old, died.
The researchers found that the patients (and other family members) had a mutation in a gene that helps cells make so-called interferons, or molecules that rev up the immune system to fight off invaders like the coronavirus. "Without this line of defense, the researchers speculated, the patients struggled to fight the infection," the Times reported.
The researchers aren't sure if the genetic mutation could help to explain the greater severity of COVID-19 on average in men. However, the mutation is on the X chromosome, and men have just one X (and one Y chromosome), meaning they don't have a spare of the gene to pick up the slack. Women, on the other hand, have two X chromosomes, and if the gene is flawed on one of the X's perhaps there's a healthy counterpart on the other X chromosome that can create enough interferons for a woman to stay healthy, the Times reported. That could give them the advantage over men in the fight against COVID-19.
Other ideas that have been put forth include: The X chromosome holds a lot of immune-related genes, something that could give women a more robust immune response against the coronavirus; perhaps, the virus hides out in the testes, which has an abundant expression of ACE2 receptors — the "doorways" that the novel coronavirus uses to get into human cells.
California surpasses NY in cases, Mixed messages on schools reopening
—California has surpassed New York in the number of COVID-19 cases to date, with 442,938 cases and 8,337 related deaths; that's compared to New York's 438,435 cases and 32,665 related deaths, according to Worldometer. Florida is not far behind, adding 12,444 new cases and 133 related deaths just yesterday (July 24) for a total of 402,312 COVID-19 cases and 5,653 related deaths. The U.S. has to date recorded more than 4.2 million cases and 148,521 related deaths.
—The U.S. government is sending mixed messages about whether schools should be reopened. On Thursday (July 23), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), under pressure from the White House, released their guidelines for reopening schools in the U.S. Apparently, the guidelines focus on the many benefits of in-person learning with little about the risks involved, The Washington Post reported. "Opening up our schools again is the best thing for our kids. It's also the best thing for working families," Vice President Mike Pence said Friday (July 24) at Marian University, a private Catholic school in Indianapolis, the Post reported. Even so, CDC Director Robert Redfield said exceptions to the reopening plan should be made for hot spots, which would include parts of at least 33 states.
—Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said in a private call to state and local leaders on Wednesday (July 22) that the positivity rate for COVID-19 — the percent of tests that come back positive — is increasing in 11 major cities, and that these cities should take "aggressive" steps to stem the outbreaks, The Center for Public Integrity reported. The cities include: Baltimore, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.
In a recording of the call obtained by Public Integrity, Birx said: "When you first see that increase in test positivity, that is when to start the mitigation efforts. I know it may look small and you may say, 'That only went from 5 to 5-and-a-half [percent], and we're gonna wait and see what happens.' If you wait another three or four or even five days, you'll start to see a dramatic increase in cases."
She added that some cities, such as San Antonio and Phoenix, are seeing declines in test positivity rate, but the outbreak in the Sunbelt seems to be moving north. "What started out very much as a southern and western epidemic is starting to move up the East Coast into Tennessee, Arkansas, up into Missouri, up across Colorado, and obviously we're talking about increases now in Baltimore," she said, as reported by Public Integrity. "So this is really critical that everybody is following this and making sure they're being aggressive about mitigation efforts."
A rural Texas county, overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, has formed a committee to determine which COVID-19 patients are most likely to die and send them home
— A rural Texas county, that only has a single hospital, has formed a committee to guide decisions on who to allocate scarce resources to treating, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The committee will determine which COVID-19 patients are most likely to die and send them home, Jose Vasquez, the county health authority said in a news conference on Tuesday, according to the Star-Telegram. “The situation is desperate,” Vasquez said, according to the Star-Telegram. “We cannot continue functioning in the Starr County Memorial Hospital nor in our county in the way that things are going. The numbers are staggering.” The hospital has been transferring COVID-19 patients to other counties or states, but hospital beds in those other places are also filling up, he said. “For all of those patients that most certainly do not have any hope of improving, they are going to be better taken care of within their own family in the love of their own home rather than thousands of miles away dying alone in a hospital room,” he said.
— There have now been more than 15.5 million COVID-19 cases in the world and more than 636,200 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. There have now been more than 4 million cases reported in the U.S. and more than 144,700 deaths; more than 2.2 million cases have been reported in Brazil and more than 84,000 deaths; more than 1.2 million cases have been reported in India and more than 30,600 deaths; more than 799,400 cases have been reported in Russia and more than 13,000 deaths, according to the dashboard.
The world has quieted down amid lockdowns, small study finds mothers who have COVID-19 are unlikely to pass the disease to newborns as long as they take certain precautions
— Amid widespread lockdowns and canceled events, the world has quieted down. A group of researchers from more than two dozen countries have reported that the seismic noise caused by humans has decreased by up to 50%, according to The New York Times. Just like earthquakes. human activity, such as heavy traffic, sports games, concerts, subways or factories can cause seismic signals which can be detected by machines called seismometers, according to the Times and the new study published Thursday (July 23) in the journal Science. Everyday human activity creates a “near-continuous” signal on seismometers in urban environments, the authors wrote. By analyzing data from more than 605 seismometers and stations across the globe, the researchers found that the quieting began in China in late January, then came to Europe and then the rest of the world in March and April, according to the Times. “The 2020 seismic noise quiet period is the longest and most prominent global anthropogenic seismic noise reduction on record,” the authors wrote in the study. Between March and May, seismic noise was reduced by up to 50%, they found.
— A small study found that mothers who have COVID-19 are unlikely to pass the disease to their newborn babies as long as they take certain precautions, according to a Live Science report. None of the 120 babies born to mothers with COVID-19 contracted the disease during childbirth or the period of two weeks after birth, even though most of the mothers breastfed, had skin-to-skin contact and shared a room, according to a new study published Thursday (July 23) in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. But the mothers took steps to prevent the spread including wearing surgical masks, washing their hands and breasts before contact with their babies, according to the report. "We hope our study will provide some reassurance to new mothers that the risk of them passing COVID-19 to their babies is very low," study co-lead author Dr. Christine Salvatore, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Weill Cornell Medicine-New York Presbyterian Komansky Children's Hospital in New York City, said in a statement. But the study was relatively small, and larger studies are needed to confirm the results, the authors said, according to the report.
U.S. surpasses 4 million COVID-19 cases
— There have now been more than 4 million COVID-19 cases reported in the U.S. and more than 143,800 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. Cases are increasing in most of the U.S.. Over the last 14 days, cases have grown in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Alabama, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Idaho, Georgia, California, Arkansas, North Carolina, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Alaska, Kentucky , Maryland, Washington, U.S. Virgin Islands, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, Puerto Rico, Nebraska, Minnesota, Washington, D.C., Illinois, Montana, Colorado, Oregon, Wyoming, West Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, according to The New York Times. New cases are mostly the same in Utah, New Mexico, South Dakota, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, Guam, Hawaii and Vermont, and new cases are mostly decreasing in Arizona and Delaware, according to the Times.
— Brazil reported a record 67,860 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the country's total infection count to 2.2 million people, according to The Washington Post. Nearly 83,000 people have died in Brazil from COVID-19 and the virus has spread to most of the country, the Post reported. More than 80% of Brazil's municipalities have reported coronavirus cases, the Post reported.
Belgium orders a new outdoor mask rule and unemployment claims rose last week for the first time since March
— Amid a rise in cases, Belgium is ordering a new mask rule for people at outdoor markets and on commercial streets to wear masks, according to The New York Times. Masks were already mandatory in indoor public places, according to the Times. Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes is also ordering restaurants, bars and hotels to collect customers' phone numbers to make it easier for contact tracing. In Belgium, new cases have doubled in the past week and hospitalizations have increased by 40%, according to the Times. Belgium, after having one of the world's highest per-capita death tolls mainly due to outbreaks in nursing homes, had tamed the virus with a strict lockdown and phased reopening, according to the Times. But now Belgium and many other European countries are fearing a second wave, the Times reported.
— Last week, 1.4 million people filed for unemployment in the U.S., according to AP News. That number rose last week for the first time since the start of the pandemic in the U.S. in March, according to AP News. Meanwhile, the $600 weekly federal aid payment is set to expire at the end of next week. The U.S. is nearing the 4 million mark with 3.9 million COVID-19 cases reported so far, according to The Johns Hopkins dashboard. The country had reported 143,193 deaths from the virus, according to the dashboard.
Worldwide COVID-19 cases surpass 15 million, California now has most cases of any U.S. state.
— The number of COVID-19 cases worldwide has surpassed 15 million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The United States still has the highest tally, with nearly 4 million cases as of Wednesday, followed by Brazil with 2.1 million cases, and India with 1.1 million cases. The worldwide death toll from COVID-19 is over 618,000, according to Johns Hopkins.
— California has now overtaken New York to become the state with the most COVID-19 cases, according to The Washington Post. As of Wednesday, California had reported a total of 409,598 cases compared with 408,886 cases in New York, according to data from Johns Hopkins. Cases in California have surged in recent weeks — on Tuesday, the state recorded more than 12,800 new cases compared with 705 in New York.
NY, NJ and CT add 10 more states to their quarantine list,Trump administration announces $1.95 billion coronavirus vaccine deal with contract with Pfizer and BioNTech
— New York, New Jersey and Connecticut added 10 more states to their quarantine list amid increasing cases across most of the U.S., according to NPR. The full list is now 31 states: Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. The quarantine applies to people arriving from states that have a positivity test rate of 10% or higher over a seven-day rolling average or states who has positivity test rates higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling average, according to NPR. More than 3.9 million COVID-19 cases and more than 142,000 deaths have now been reported in the U.S., according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard.
"As infection rates increase in 41 other states, our numbers continue to steadily decline, thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers and our incremental, data-driven opening,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement released yesterday. There were 2 COVID-19 deaths recorded in New York State on Monday, the lowest since the start of the pandemic and zero deaths reported in New York City.
— The Trump administration announced a $1.95 billion contract with Pfizer and the German biotech BioNTech to produce and deliver up to 600 million doses of its candidate coronavirus vaccine (with 100 million doses by December), depending on if the vaccine is successful in clinical trials, the Department of Health and Human Services announced, according to The New York Times. Americans would receive the vaccine for free, according to the Times. But before it can be distributed, it would at least need emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration, according to the Times. The company had previously said they planned to start a large trial with up to 30,000 participants later this month, according to CNBC. Regulatory review is set for as early as October, according to the Times.
The number of people who have had the coronavirus in the U.S. is likely 10 times higher than reported, new CDC data suggests
— Contract tracing should, in theory, help to slow the spread of the virus in the U.S., but cases in the country have been skyrocketing, according to a Live Science report. Experts told Live Science that states could improve their contact tracing programs. But to make contact tracing even more effective, they need to improve other containment strategies as well, including speeding up diagnostic testing, according to the report. What's more, contact tracing works best when people are social distancing and vulnerable populations can be reached and provided the resources needed to stay home if they are sick with COVID-19, which is only happening in a handful of places across the country, according to the report.
— The number of people who have had the coronavirus in the U.S. is likely ten times higher than reported, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Out of 16,025 people tested across 10 geographic locations in the U.S. between March 23 and May 12, the proportion of people who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies ranged from 1% in the San Francisco Bay area to 6.9% in New York City, according to the study which was published today in the journal JAMA Network. However, six to 24 times more infections were found per site than with the data that has been reported to date, according to the study. So the number of people infected with the coronavirus in the U.S. is likely 10 times higher than the number reported, according to the authors. These people may be the people who had mild or no illness, those who didn't seek medical help or get any tests but may have still continued to transmit the disease, the authors wrote.
— A new model that examines disease spread and prevention efforts suggests that if people did three simple things — washed their hands, wore masks, and socially distanced — it would prevent outbreaks of the virus, even without a vaccine or more treatments, according to CNN. The rates of contact in the study, published today in the journal PLoS Medicine, were based on interactions of people in the Netherlands but it would reflect other Western countries as well, the authors said, according to CNN. "We showed that self-imposed measures can prevent a large epidemic if their efficacy exceeds 50%," the authors wrote in the study. "We estimate that short-term government-imposed social distancing that is initiated early into the epidemic can buy time (at most 7 months for a 3-month intervention) for healthcare systems to prepare for an increasing COVID-19 burden." What's more, if people continue to social distance, wear masks and wash hands even after government social distancing measures are lifted, it can delay and diminish the peak of the curve, they found. However, the model has limitations, according to CNN. For example, it doesn't account for demographics, reinfection or the possibility that people already sick with the virus can pass it to others in a health care setting or home, according to CNN.
The European Union leaders have agreed to a $2 trillion deal to bring back the economy
— More than 14.7 million COVID-19 cases and more than 610,500 deaths have been reported worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. More than 3.8 million COVID-19 cases and more than 140,900 deaths have been reported in the U.S.; more than 2.1 million COVID-19 cases and more than 80,100 deaths have been reported in Brazil; more than 1.1 million COVID-19 cases and more than 28,000 deaths have been reported in India; and more than 782,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 12,500 deaths have been reported in Russia, according to the dashboard.
— The European Union leaders have agreed to a $2 trillion deal to bring back economies of countries that have been hard-hit by the virus, according to CNN Business. Earlier this month, the European Commission predicted the EU economy will shrink 8.3% in 2020, according to CNN. The European Commission will borrow money on financial markets and distribute a little under half of it as grants to the hardest hit EU countries and give the rest as loans, according to CNN.
— Public sector workers such as doctors, police and teachers in England will receive above-inflation pay rises, the Treasury announced, according to The Guardian. These pay raises will impact nearly 900,000 workers in England, according to The Guardian. For example, doctors and dentists will get an increase of 2.8%, police and prison officers an increase of 2.5%, teachers an increase of 3.1%, and the armed forces an increase of 2%, according to The Guardian. "These past months have underlined what we always knew – that our public sector workers make a vital contribution to our country and that we can rely on them when we need them," Chancellor Rishi Sunak said in a statement from the Treasury, according to The Guardian. "It’s right therefore that we follow the recommendations of the independent pay bodies with this set of real-terms pay rises."
A protein treatment may reduce the number of COVID-19 patients that need intensive care, according to non-peer-reviewed results and Oxford vaccine shows promise in early trials
— A treatment from UK-based biotech Synairgen may reduce the number of COVID-19 patients that need intensive care, according to preliminary results from a clinical trial that haven't yet been published or peer-reviewed. The treatment, which is inhaled, is a formulation of a protein called interferon beta which the body produces to warn the body of a virus, but which the coronavirus seems to suppress, according to the BBC. It is usually used as a treatment for multiple sclerosis.
Initial findings, conducted on 101 volunteers (half given the drug, half given a placebo) admitted to nine UK hospitals, suggest that the treatment reduced the risk of a hospitalized COVID-19 patient from developing severe disease, such as disease requiring ventilation, by 79%, the BBC reported. The company claimed that patients were twice or three times as likely to recover to a point where their everyday activities wouldn't be affected by the illness, according to the BBC. They also claimed that the trial showed "very significant" reductions in breathlessness among patients and reduced the average number of days a person spent at the hospital.
However, these results have not yet been reviewed. "These results are not interpretable. We need the full details and, perhaps more importantly, the trial protocol. The trial should have been registered and a protocol made available before any analysis was undertaken," Steve Goodacre, professor at The University of Sheffield told the BBC.
Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow agreed that it would be important for the results to be presented and peer-reviewed. "The results seem very impressive, and although accepted that the trial is small with just over 100 participants, a 79% reduction in disease severity could be a game changer," he told the BBC.
— Oxford University's coronavirus vaccine candidate showed promise in early trials, triggering participants to build up immune cells against the virus without causing any serious side effects, according to a Live Science report. The vaccine, called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 is made up of a weakened version of a common cold virus called an adenovirus that infects chimpanzees. The team genetically altered the virus so that it couldn't replicate and grow in humans, and they added genes that code for the so-called "spike" proteins that the coronavirus uses to infect human cells, according to the new study. The idea is that the vaccine will teach human immune cells to recognize the spike protein, so that if a person gets exposed to the coronavirus, their immune system can destroy it.
The team found that the experimental vaccine produced neutralizing antibodies — or antibodies that can not only latch onto the virus but also block it from infecting cells — in 91% of the participants (32 out of 35 tested) who received a single dose of vaccine and 100% in those who received two doses. The vaccine also raised the level of T-cells that recognize SARS-CoV-2. T-cells are a group of white blood cells that may directly kill the virus or ramp up other parts of the immune response to fight it.
Today, researchers in China also reported similar results in The Lancet for another experimental vaccine, also based on a weakened adenovirus. This group used an adenovirus that typically infects humans, rather than chimpanzees. The new study also didn't find serious adverse events. More than 90% of the participants in their phase 2 trial developed T-cell responses and about 85% developed neutralizing antibodies.
The Bahamas bars visitors from the U.S., at least 45 hospitals in Florida run out of ICU beds
— The Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced on Sunday that international commercial flights will not be allowed to enter the Bahamas (including flights from the U.S.,) starting on Wednesday (July 22). International commercial flights from the United Kingdom, European Union and Canada are still allowed, according to a tweet. International and domestic borders will be closed to all incoming and outgoing flights from Grand Bahama except for emergencies and to transport essential services and goods starting on Wednesday, he announced. Grand Bahamas has had an increase of 31 new coronavirus cases in the past two weeks after being COVID-19 free for over two months, Minnis said. “The increase in cases coincided with the re-institution of international flights and passenger sea transport,” Minnis said. “If efforts to decrease the number of cases are unsuccessful, other restrictive measures may be recommended, including a lockdown beginning Friday 24th of July,” Minnis said.
— There have now been more than 14.5 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and more than 606,700 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., there have now been more than 3.7 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 140,500 deaths; in Brazil, there are more than 2 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 79,400 deaths; In India, there are more than 1.1 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 27,400 deaths; In Russia there are more than 776,200 cases of COVID-19 and more than 12,400 deaths.
— Only about 19% of intensive care unit beds in Florida are currently free as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to climb in the state, according to CBS News. At least 45 hospitals in Florida did not have any available beds in intensive care units on Sunday. The number of new coronavirus cases reached over 10,000 for the fifth day in a row yesterday, according to CBS News. Yesterday, the state reported 12,523 new cases, bringing the total up to 350,047 cases in the state. There are currently more than 20,900 people hospitalized in Florida with COVID-19, according to the Florida Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard.
Older kids may be just as likely to spread COVID-19 as adults: study
A new study out of South Korea has found that only younger kids are less likely to transmit and catch COVID-19, while kids ages 10 and older behave like adults when it comes to COVID-19 transmission, according to the study published online in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. Children under 10 years of age were much less likely, the researchers found, to transmit the disease to others.
"I fear that there has been this sense that kids just won't get infected or don't get infected in the same way as adults and that, therefore, they're almost like a bubbled population," said Michael Osterholm, an infectious diseases scientist at the University of Minnesota, as reported by The New York Times.
In the study, the researchers looked at reports for 59,073 contacts of 5,706 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) index patients reported in South Korea between Jan. 20, 2020, when the country reported its first case, through March 27. An index case refers to the first person documented to test positive for the disease in a cluster. There were 10,592 contacts who lived in the same household with the index patients; of those contacts, 11.8% tested positive for COVID-19. Out of the 48,481 non-household contacts, just 1.9% had COVID-19.
"Higher household than non-household detection might partly reflect transmission during social distancing, when family members largely stayed home except to perform essential tasks, possibly creating spread within the household," the researchers wrote in their paper.
In terms of age, the researchers found that in households with an index patient who was between 10 and 19 years old, 18.6% of contacts ended up testing positive for COVID-19. According to the Times, kids under 10 were about half as likely to spread the disease to others.
There are limitations to the study, including the fact that the first person in a cluster to show symptoms and be tested isn't necessarily the index patient, the Time noted.
Scientists aren't entirely sure why kids seem to be less likely to transmit the novel coronavirus as well as being less likely to experience a severe disease from it. Compared with adults, children express fewer nasal ACE2 receptors, which serve as the entry point for the virus into cells, according to a May 20 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. One idea is that because they have fewer coronavirus "doorways," perhaps they are less likely to have a viral load that makes them sick or allows them to transmit it to other people.
FDA approves first 'pooled testing' with Quest Diagnostics
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration signed an emergency use authorization for the use of pooled sampling for COVID-19. The EUA was issued to Quest Diagnostics for its SARS-CoV-2 rRT-PCR test, in which up to four individual swab specimens — each from a different person — can be tested in one batch. "The Quest test is the first COVID-19 diagnostic test to be authorized for use with pooled samples," the FDA said in a statement. Pooled testing will allow more people to be tested quickly for COVID-19 using fewer testing resources, the FDA said. If the batch turns up a positive, each of those samples must be tested individually. If negative, that means no more testing is needed. That's why this strategy works best in low transmission areas, where most of the tests will turn out negative.
"While there is a concern that combining samples may make it more difficult to detect positives, since pooling in the laboratory dilutes any viral material present in the samples, Quest's validation data demonstrates that its test correctly identified all of the pooled samples that contained a positive sample," the FDA said in the statement.
85 infants test positive for coronavirus in Nueces County, Texas
Eighty-five babies under age 1 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Nueces County, Texas, said Annette Rodriguez, director of public health for Corpus Christi Nueces County, according to news reports. A baby boy under 6 months old tested positive for the virus and died there, the Nueces County medical examiner Adel Shaker told The Texas Tribune last week.
Over the past seven days, Nueces County — where Corpus Christi is located — saw a surge in cases that represented the fastest growth in coronavirus cases of any other metro area in the state, said Peter Zanoni, the Corpus Christi city manager, as reported by CNN.
"You can see the trend line is relatively flat until July, and this is where we have had that huge spike in cases, and this is why it's turned into a major problem for Nueces County," Zanoni added.
Kids in general seem to be less susceptible to catching the virus and less likely to have a severe case, though they aren't immune. Since the pandemic began in the U.S., more than 200,000 children (or 7.6% of total U.S. cases) have been infected, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. (Age ranges for what constitutes a child varied by state, with some capping it at 14, while others considered a child to be anyone under 17, 18, 19 or even 24 years old.) Of those cases, 63 have resulted in death, Live Science previously reported.
Nearly 300 children — many of them having been exposed to COVID-19 at some point — have developed multi-system inflammatory syndrome, in which the immune system attacks the body, typically after a case of COVID-19, Live Science reported.
Texas, where the infants have become infected, has recorded a total of 330,501 COVID-19 cases and 4,007 related deaths. Just yesterday (July 18), the state logged 7,945 new cases and 75 new COVID-19 deaths, according to Worldometer.
18 states in COVID-19 'red zone'
COVID-19 cases are increasing so much that 18 U.S. states have become hotspots for virus transmission. The states have now been placed in a "red zone," meaning they logged more than 100 new cases per 100,000 individuals last week, according to an unpublished report by the White House coronavirus task force and obtained by the Center for Public Integrity. (CPI) The 18 states (in alphabetical order) are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
The report, which has not been made public, recommends these states implement stricter protective measures, such as limiting social gatherings to no more than 10 people, closing bars and gyms and urging residents to wear masks, the Center for Public Integrity reported.
"The fact that it's not public makes no sense to me," Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told the CPI. "Why are we hiding this information from the American people? This should be published and updated every day." Jha said that he thought the information and recommendations were fine.
The report says that 11 states are in the "red zone" for test positivity, meaning more than 10% of diagnostic tests there are coming back positive. Georgia, which is in both red zones, doesn't seem to be following the recommendations of mask-wearing. In fact, quite the opposite: On Wednesday (July 15), Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed an order that bans locales in the state from requiring masks, the CPI reported
Those 11 states are: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas and Washington.
Many California schools can't reopen for in-person classes due to new COVID-19 restrictions, Governor Newsom says
— New COVID-19 restrictions in California will prevent many schools in the state from reopening for in person classes in the fall, according to an announcement from California Gov. Gavin Newsom. The new restrictions say that schools cannot open classrooms for students (and thus must use remote learning) if they are in counties on the state's "watch list," where cases are rising rapidly. Currently, this watch list includes 32 out of the state's 58 counties, according to The New York Times. Once a county gets off the watch list, schools in the area must wait two weeks before reopening, and even then will only be allowed to open if districts and public health officials in the area give the go-ahead, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. A number of California school districts — including those in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego — have already said they will start the school year with remote learning.
Newsom also said that schools that reopen will need to require all staff and students in grades 3 to 12 to wear masks; and students in grades K to 2 will be encouraged to wear them, according to The Chronicle. Older students who don't want to wear masks will be required to stay home, making California the first state to prohibit students from attending school if they don't wear a mask, The Chronicle reported.
— Despite a surge in COVID-19 cases in Florida, the state's governor, Ron DeSantis, said he won't require gyms to close, adding that he thinks a healthy lifestyle will put people at lower risk for severe COVID-19 complications, according to CNN. "If you are [in] good shape you have a very, very low likelihood of ending up in significant condition as a result of the coronavirus," DeSantis said in a news conference. Health officials have warned that while younger people and those without underlying health conditions are at lower risk of complications, they could still spread the virus to vulnerable populations, CNN reported.
India has now reported more than 1 million cases of COVID-19 and study finds delays in testing will significantly hamper efforts to control spread through contact tracing
— All schools in Britain will reopen in September, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday, according to The New York Times. Concert halls, theatres and stadiums might open up for visitors in the fall and indoor gyms and pools can reopen by the end of July, he said. There won't be any "significant return to normality," until at least November and "possibly in time for Christmas," Johnson said, according to The Times. Nightclubs and indoor playgrounds will remain closed and wedding receptions can only have up to 30 people, he said. The United Kingdom has confirmed more than 294,100 cases of COVID-19 and more than 45,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard.
— India has now reported more than 1 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 25,600 deaths, according to the dashboard. The country ranks third after the U.S. and Brazil in the most number of coronavirus cases worldwide. But the poorest in India are the hardest hit, according to CNN. India remains one of the world's most unequal countries, with the top 10% of the population holding 77% of the wealth, according to CNN. Poorer people in India were the hardest hit by the economic impact of lockdowns, according to CNN. What's more, they have unequal access to healthcare and many live in overcrowded urban slums where social distancing is impossible and the lack of running water and sanitation puts people at greater risk of getting the virus, according to CNN.
— Contact tracing is important for controlling the spread of COVID-19 , but a new study finds that delays in testing will significantly hamper the process, according to a Live Science report. Even the best contact-tracing strategy won't reduce the spread of the virus if there is a delay of three or more days when a person shows symptoms and when they are tested for COVID-19 and get test results, according to the report. The findings were published June 16 in the journal The Lancet Public Health. "In our model, minimizing testing delays had the largest impact on reducing transmission of the virus; and testing infrastructure is therefore the most critical factor for the success of a contact-tracing system," Dr. Marc Bonten, senior author of the study and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, said in a statement. "This means that as many infectious people as possible need to be tested, and policymakers might consider lowering the eligibility threshold for access to testing."
A new study didn't find evidence to suggest that a certain blood type would increase or decrease the risk of developing severe COVID-19
— The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended its no-sail order for cruises from U.S. ports until at least Oct. 1, according to The Washington Post. The original restriction was put in place on March 14, according to the Post. From March 1 until July 10, there were nearly 3,000 COVID-19 cases or coronavirus-like cases on cruise ships and 34 deaths, according to CDC data, the Post reported.
— A new study did not find any evidence to suggest that a certain blood type would increase or decrease the risk of developing severe COVID-19, according to CNN. In the new study, a group of researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston looked at records from patients who tested positive for the coronavirus at five hospitals in March and April. They found no association between the ABO blood type and COVID-19 severity, according to CNN. But their findings also suggested that people with blood types B and AB who were Rh+ were more likely to test positive for COVID-19 and people with blood type O were less likely, even if they had symptoms, according to CNN. But more study is needed to fully understand if there's something in certain blood types that might be protective or induce risk, the authors wrote. The new study was published in the journal Annals of Hematology.
— There have now been more than 13.6 million cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide and more than 586,400 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., there have been more than 3.5 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 138,000 deaths; In Brazil, there have been more than 1.9 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 75,300 deaths; In India, there have been more than 968,800 cases of COVID-19 and more than 24,900 deaths; In Russia, there have been more than 751,600 cases of COVID-19 and more than 11,900 deaths, according to the dashboard.
Researchers plan to recruit healthy volunteers for a challenge study to test experimental Oxford vaccine
— Researchers at Oxford University's Jenner Institute who are developing a candidate COVID-19 vaccine are hoping to start challenge studies on volunteers within months, according to The Guardian. These controversial challenge studies would deliberately expose healthy volunteers to the coronavirus after they have been given the experimental vaccine, according to a previous Live Science report. This would allow the trial to be completed within a couple of weeks with far fewer people than required in clinical trials in which people are given the vaccine and then monitored to see if it works in protecting people who naturally become exposed to the coronavirus, according to The Guardian. The Oxford vaccine has completed a phase 1 clinical trial with 1,000 British volunteers and tens of thousands of people globally are also being recruited for a phase 3 trial, according to The Guardian.
But the researchers are hoping to also complete the challenge study in parallel with the phase 3 trial or after the phase 3 trial is completed, according to The Guardian. The controversy lies in that there is no cure for the coronavirus, so if an inoculated healthy volunteer is exposed to the coronavirus, but the vaccine doesn't work, there is no treatment that doctors can easily provide to them. But a growing number of researchers are arguing that the risk for healthy people in their 20s is very low, according to The Guardian. A recent analysis suggested that the risk of death from COVID-19 for someone in their 20s is around one in 3,000, according to The Guardian.
— Target and CVS are now requiring customers to wear face masks at all stores across the country, according to CNN. Yesterday, Walmart, Kroger and Kohl's also announced that masks would be required in all their stores and on Tuesday, Best Buy announced it would also require masks in all their stores, according to CNN. If everyone wore face masks, the U.S. would get the coronavirus spread "under control" in weeks, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said on Tuesday, according to The Washington Post. Masks are one of the most effective measures to prevent virus spread, Redfield said, according to the Post. “I think if we could get everybody to wear a mask right now, I think in four, six, eight weeks we could bring this epidemic under control,” he said, according to the Post.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order that bans cities from requiring masks, as the state records its second-highest number of daily coronavirus cases
— Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order that bans cities from requiring masks, according to The Washington Post. Kemp’s order, which nullifies already existing mask mandates in more than a dozen cities or counties, came as Georgia recorded 3,871 new coronavirus cases yesterday, the second-highest the state has seen since the start of the pandemic, the Post reported. “It is officially official. Governor Kemp does not give a damn about us,” Savannah Mayor Van Johnson wrote on Twitter, the Post reported. “Every man and woman for himself/herself. Ignore the science and survive the best you can. In #Savannah, we will continue to keep the faith and follow the science. Masks will continue to be available!”
— Amid an uptick in cases , France will start requiring masks in all public indoor spaces starting next week, Prime Minister Jean Castex said today, according to The New York Times. Masks were already required on public transport in the country. Britain also announced this week that face coverings will be required in shops and supermarkets beginning at the end of next week, according to the Times.
— India recorded 32,695 new cases of the coronaviru on Thursday, the highest number of daily cases the country has seen since the start of the pandemic, according to NPR. The country now has more than 968,800 cases of COVID-19 (third most number of cases around the world, after Brazil and the U.S.) and more than 24,900 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In late March, India had put in place one of the first lockdowns in the world (and one of the strictest), but eased those restrictions in early June because of the damage it caused to the economy, according to NPR.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is now telling hospitals to send COVID-19 data to the agency, rather than to the CDC
— There have now been more than 13.4 million cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide and more than 580,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In Brazil there have been more than 1.9 million cases and more than 74,100 deaths; In India there have been more than 936,100 cases and more than 24,300 deaths; in Russia there have been more than 745,100 cases and more than 11,700 deaths; in Peru there have been more than 333,800 cases and more than 12,200 deaths, according to the dashboard.
— The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is no longer in charge of compiling COVID-19 data, according to a new Live Science report. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is now telling hospitals to send COVID-19 data to the agency, rather than to the CDC, which used to compile and share the data on publicly accessible databases, according to the report. The orders, posted to the HHS website, direct hospitals to send daily reports to the HHS about their total number of COVID-19 patients, admissions and related deaths from the previous day, their ICU bed occupancy, ventilators in use, staffing shortages and supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), among other information, according to the report. But some health experts are voicing concerns about how this decision may limit the amount of data available to the public, scientists and health officials as the pandemic continues to rage across the country, according to the report.
— Moderna's experimental COVID-19 vaccine, called mRNA-1273, showed promising early results in 45 participants, according to data published in The New England Journal of Medicine. All of the participants in the trial, after receiving two doses of the vaccine, developed neutralizing antibodies — proteins that can block the new coronavirus from infecting cells, according to a Live Science report. These findings back up the results that Moderna released in May that hadn't yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, according to the report. The vaccine appeared safe and generally well-tolerated by participants, although more than half of participants experienced some side effects which can also occur with the annual flu shot, including fatigue, chills, headache, muscle aches and pain at the injection site, according to the report. Some participants in the middle and high dose groups experienced a fever after the second injection, according to the report. The company has already started a Phase 2 trial and plans to start a larger Phase 3 trial in late July, according to the report.
The United States reported a record 67,417 new coronavirus cases yesterday
— The United States reported 67,417 new coronavirus cases yesterday, a new daily record for the country, according to CNBC. Daily cases in the U.S. have been averaging about 62,210 over the past week, which is up more than 21% from last week's average and more than three times the average from a month ago, according to CNBC. Texas, California and Florida made up nearly half of those new cases reported yesterday.
— More than 30 COVID-19 candidate vaccines are being tested in clinical trials, according to a Live Science report. But given that most vaccines take years to develop, how will we know when the first coronavirus vaccine that's approved will be safe and effective? Experts told Live Science that all candidate COVID-19 vaccines must pass through the same clinical trial phases as any other vaccine, before earning approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Provided that the trials include thousands of participants and thorough protocols to track side effects, the public can be confident that the approved vaccines are safe, they said, according to Live Science.
CDC says wearing face masks is a 'civic duty'
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is calling on all Americans to wear face masks in public settings. The agency has recommended masks for months, but in an editorial published Tuesday (July 14) in the journal JAMA, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield and colleagues cited new evidence that face coverings help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The authors pointed to a new report on cases of COVID-19 at a hair salon in Missouri, which showed that two infected hair stylists did not spread the disease to any of their 139 clients when the stylists and customers wore masks. The editorial also cited the case of a hospital system in Boston, which reduced COVID-19 transmission after a universal mask policy. "At this critical juncture when COVID-19 is resurging, broad adoption of cloth face coverings is a civic duty, a small sacrifice reliant on a highly effective low-tech solution that can help turn the tide favorably in national and global efforts against COVID-19," the authors wrote.
Florida and Alabama see record number of coronavirus-related deaths, the Tri-state area adds four states to its quarantine list
— Florida reported 132 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday, a record-number for the state, according to The New York Times. Alabama also set a record on Tuesday with 40 deaths, according to the Times. As of Monday, the U.S. is recording, on average, 724 deaths a day, whereas as the month began, the U.S. was averaging below 500, according to the Times.
— New Jersey, Connecticut and New York added four new states to its coronavirus quarantine travel advisory and removed Delaware from its advisory, according to NJ.com. People coming from the now 22 hotspot states that make up this list, are being asked to quarantine upon arrival to the Tri-state, according to NBC New York. States on the quarantine list are now: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, New Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio.
— Philadelphia is now prohibiting any large public event on public property, through February 28 of 2021, according to 6ABC. Mayor Jim Kenney's new order applies to special events and gatherings of 50 people or more on public property, according to 6ABC. Under this order, festivals, parades, concerts, carnivals, fairs and flea markets are prohibited as are residential block parties until further notice, Kenney announced today. This order, however, doesn't apply to demonstrations and first amendment-related activities, private events that are not advertised like family gatherings or weddings, recreational activities with fewer than 25 people and events taking place on private property such as performance venues, according to 6ABC.
43 new coronavirus cases linked to single house party in Michigan; cases across the country continue to surge
— In Michigan, 43 new coronavirus cases have been linked to a single house party, according to CNN. Health officials are asking anyone who attended the party, which took place between July 2 and July 3 to self-quarantine and monitor symptoms for 14 days, according to CNN. Most of the new cases were among young people between the ages of 15 and 25, according to a statement from Washtenaw County in Michigan. The health department also identified 66 exposed close contacts — or anyone who had face-to-face contact with a positive case for 15 minutes or more, not including family members in the same household, according to the statement. "This is a very clear example of how quickly this virus spreads and how many people can be impacted in a very short amount of time," Jimena Loveluck, a Health Officer at the Washtenaw County Health Department said in the statement. "We cannot hope to accomplish our goal of containing COVID-19 and preventing additional cases, hospitalizations and deaths without full community support and cooperation."
"We need people of all ages, including young people, to take COVID-19 seriously and follow public health guidelines and instructions. That means avoiding large gatherings without physical distancing or face coverings. It also means cooperating with the Health Department to complete case investigation and contact tracing," Loveluck said.
— There are now more than 3.3 million people who have been infected with the coronavirus in the U.S. and more than 135,600 who have died from the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. Cases continue to increase across the U.S. "Miami is now the epicenter of the pandemic," Lilian Abbo with the Jackson Health System said during a press conference, CNN reported. There are more than 2,000 patients hospitalized and hundreds in the intensive care units in Miami, according to CNN. “What we were seeing in Wuhan — six months ago, five months ago — now we are there," Abbo said. Meanwhile, Texas hospitals are running out of beds, ventilators, drugs and staff, according to The Texas Tribune. "It’s going to be a rough few weeks," John Henderson, president of the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals told the Tribune. "Most everything we’re seeing is worrisome or scary." Texas has now reported more than 264,300 cases of COVID-19 and more than 3,200 deaths, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services dashboard. Arizona ICU’s are nearly fully and the state has reported more than 2,500 new coronavirus cases on Sunday and over the past week, nearly 27% of tests in the state came back positive — the highest rate in the country, according to CBS News. "We have for the last three weeks been the worst in the entire country," Will Humble, the executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association and former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services told CBS News. "People sacrificed so much during the stay-at-home order with their jobs, and then when it wasn't phased, as we transitioned into a post-stay-at-home, we'd lost that progress."
Amid a continuing rise in coronavirus cases, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered many indoor operations to close
— Amid a continuing rise in coronavirus cases, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered indoor operations to close in restaurants, wineries, movie theaters, family entertainment, zoos, museums, and cardrooms, according to a tweet from Newsom. He ordered bars to close all operations. “The data suggests not everyone is acting with common sense,” Newsom said at a press conference Monday, according to CNBC. The state reported more than 8,300 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, according to CNBC. This order is one of the largest rollbacks since states began to reopen, according to CNBC. San Diego Unified and Los Angeles Unified School Districts — California's two largest school districts — announced today that the new school year will start online, according to a statement.
— An estimated 5.4 million people in the U.S. lost their health insurance between February and May during the coronavirus pandemic, according to The New York Times. A new study by the advocacy group Families U.S.A found that increase in uninsured laid-off workers over this period was almost 40 percent higher than the increase during the 2008-2009 recession, the Times reported. In Texas alone, the number of people uninsured leaped from 4.2 million to nearly 4.9 million, according to the Times. In the states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (37 states), 23% of laid off workers became uninsured; in the states that didn't (13 states), 43% of laid-off workers became uninsured, the Times reported.
NYC reports zero coronavirus deaths for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic
— There are now 12.9 million people who have been infected with the coronavirus worldwide and 569,697 who have died, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., 3.3 million people have been infected and more than 135,200 have died; in Brazil, 1.8 million people have been infected and 72,100 have died; In India, 878,200 have been infected and more than 23,100 have died; in Russia, 732,547 have been infected and more than 11,400 have died; in Peru more than 326,300 have been infected and more than 11,800 have died.
— On July 11, New York City reported zero coronavirus deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to NBC News. New York City hasn't had a single day without a death related to the virus since March 13, according to NBC News.
— The right kind of UV light, at the right kind of dosage, can kill SARS-COV-2, according to a Live Science report. But many at-home UV lights claiming to kill the new coronavirus likely won't work, according to the report. UV radiation can be classified into three types based on wavelength: UVA, UVB and UVC. The latter, with the shortest wavelength and highest energy, can act as a disinfectant, according to the report. UVC has been used for years and has proven effective in inactivating H1N1 influenza and other coronaviruses, according to the report. That being said, UVC can damage DNA which makes it very dangerous to human skin and eyes, Indermeet Kohli, a physicist who studies photomedicine in dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, told Live Science, according to the report. So UVC technology should primarily be operated by medical facilities and should be evaluated for safety and efficacy, she said.
Record 15,300 new cases in Florida, Globe sees record cases, and COVID-19 cluster in Sydney
—Florida recorded the highest single-day tally of new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, logging 15,300 new cases, according to Worldometer, which is tracking COVID-19 stats. The state also logged 45 new deaths related to the disease. In total, Florida has confirmed 269,811 COVID-19 cases and 4,242 related deaths. This past week, the Sunshine State reported an average of 73 coronavirus fatalities a day, The Associated Press reported. That number was at 30 just three weeks ago, the AP said.
—The world also had a record day for new cases. Over just 24 hours, the globe reported a total of 230,370 new cases of COVID-19, a record number, according to the World Health Organization, The Guardian reported. The countries contributing the most to that number were: the U.S., Brazil, India and South Africa. On July 10, the globe reported the previous record of 228,102 new cases, according to The Guardian. Global deaths from the disease have remained relatively steady with an average of 5,000 per day. To date, the world has seen nearly 12.86 million cases and 567,957 related deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins virus dashboard.
—A cluster of nine COVID-19 cases have been linked to a hotel in Sydney, Australia. The hotel, called Crossroads Hotel, said that anyone who had visited its pub, called Casula, between July 3 and July 10 should self-isolate, The Guardian reported. "Part of the concern is that this hotel is used by freight drivers who are transporting essential supplies across the country. So this is a really important issue for everyone across the country," said Michael Kidd, the deputy chief medical officer, as reported by The Guardian. "It is very important that anyone who was connected with that hotel does lock down." As of this evening, the original case of the cluster is not known, said Dr. Kerry Chant, New South Wales chief health officer, The Guardian reported.
Sunday, July 12, 9am 61 US marines in Japan test positive, causing concern on Okinawa
More than 60 U.S. marines at two bases on Okinawa Island in Japan have tested positive for COVID-19 since July 7, The Guardian reported. Thirty-eight of the cases were reported at at marine corps air station Futenma, and another 23 at Camp Hansen. Now, the governor of the island is telling the U.S. it needs to step up its disease-prevention measures.
"It is extremely regrettable that the infections are rapidly spreading among US personnel when we Okinawans are doing our utmost to contain the infections," Gov. Denny Tamaki said on the phone to Lt. Gen. H. Stacy Clardy, commander of III Marine Expeditionary Force, according to The Guardian. "We now have strong doubts that the US military has taken adequate disease-prevention measures."
About half of about 50,000 American troops in Japan live on Okinawa. Quarantining U.S. military members who arrive from the U.S. for staff rotations is another concern, as shortage of space on base has led to off-base hotel quarantines, The Guardian reported.
The U.S. Marines said it will now restrict off-base activities. Those who tested positive are now in isolation. To date, Okinawa has logged 152 COVID-19 cases and seven related deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins virus dashboard.
COVID-19 deaths now increasing in the US
Even as COVID-19 cases began to surge in the U.S., driven by a handful of states that had reopened early, the daily deaths were flat or even decreasing. An upturn was expected, as deaths do lag behind case numbers, and it's here, according to a report by The Associated Press.
An analysis by the AP with data from the Johns Hopkins virus dashboard found that the seven-day rolling average for daily deaths reported from COVID-19 has increased from about 578 two weeks ago to 664 on July 10. While that number is still below the daily deaths being reported in the U.S. during the pandemic peak in April, the numbers look worse when state numbers are analyzed. The majority of the states where deaths have increased are averaging about 15 new deaths per day, with a small subset of states driving the death surge in the U.S.
For instance, California has averaged about 91 deaths per day and Texas with 66, the AP reported. On July 10, Florida logged 92 deaths related to COVID-19, with 120 the day before, The Washington Post reported. Arizona, another state where cases have skyrocketed, reported 75 and 44 deaths on Thursday and Friday (July 9-10), respectively, according to the Post.
Experts contacted by the AP say that while they expect these deaths to continue to rise for the next few weeks, those deaths will likely not reach those seen in the spring. The AP noted several reasons for that hope: Testing is more widespread and outbreaks are better understood; lifestyles have changed, with many people wearing masks and social distancing, while doctors have a better handle on how to treat COVID-19 patients; and deadly viruses tend to wreak havoc right away on the most vulnerable populations, which have now already been hit by the virus.
Scottish pilot leaves Vietnam hospital after given 10% odds of survival
Stephen Cameron, who spent more than 2 months on life support after being infected with COVID-19, has been released from Cho Ray Hospital in Vietnam, The New York Times reported. Known as Patient 91, the 43-year-old Scottish pilot traveled to Ho Chi Minh City in February to start a job at Vietnam Airlines. Then, in March he contracted the novel coronavirus after hanging out at a bar that became Vietnam's largest outbreak.
For much of his 2-plus months in a medically induced coma, Cameron's body depended on an Ecmo machine, which extracts a patient's blood, infuses it with oxygen and then pumps it back into their body, BBC News reported. Meanwhile, multiple complications from the coronavirus ensued: His blood became sticky, causing blood clots; his kidneys failed, requiring him to go on dialysis; and his lung capacity dropped to just 10%, BBC News reported.
Many of his friends back home in the U.K. didn't think he would make it, and one — who was told Cameron had a 10% chance of survival — "gave up my apartment and started doing things somebody would do if I was coming home in a box," Cameron said, as reported by BBC News.
After spending 2 months in a medically induced coma, Cameron faces a long road to recovery, his doctors said.
"I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the Vietnamese people, the dedication and professionalism of the doctors," Cameron said in a video before departing on his flight home, the Times reported. "The odds say that I shouldn't be here, and so I can only thank everybody here for doing what they have done."
The country itself is considered a COVID-19 success story; it's the largest country to report zero deaths from the virus and no cases of local person-to-person transmission of the virus have been reported since the middle of April, according to the Times. To date, the country of 95.5 million has reported a total of 370 COVID-19 cases, according to the Johns Hopkins virus dashboard.
Small study finds the cases of broken heart syndrome increased amid pandemic and an "unknown pneumonia" in Kazakhstan is likely undiagnosed cases of COVID-19
— A Chinese embassy issued a warning about a deadly "unknown pneumonia" circulating in Kazakhstan, but authorities outside of China say these cases are likely undiagnosed cases of COVID-19, according to a Live Science report. The warning said that the unidentified pneumonia had killed more than 1,700 people in Kazakhstan, but authorities denied such an outbreak, according to the report. A statement from Kazakhstan's health ministry said that there were "viral pneumonias of unspecified etiology" in the country. However, the statement said that the classification of "unspecified" was used for cases of COVID-19 that had been diagnosed based on symptoms but not confirmed with lab testing, according to the report. Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said that the news of this outbreak "is certainly on our radar," and that the organization is working with authorities in Kazakhstan to investigate it but that the cases are likely undiagnosed COVID-19, according to the report.
— Cardiologists in Ohio have found that the number of patients experiencing Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or broken heart syndrome, increased four-to-five fold during the coronavirus pandemic compared with pre-pandemic levels, according to a small new study, Live Science reported. In the new study, researchers analyzed data from 258 patients who came to the Cleveland Clinic and Cleveland Clinic Akron General with acute coronary syndrome (ACS) between March 1 and April 30, corresponding to the time period when the pandemic was first taking off in the U.S. They then compared these patients with four control groups of ACS patients who came to the clinics before the pandemic. The researchers found that 7.8% of ACS patients were diagnosed with broken heart syndrome during the pandemic, compared with 1.5% to 1.8% before the pandemic. What's more, they found that patients who had broken heart syndrome during the pandemic stayed at the hospital for longer than those in the pre-pandemic groups, according to the report. The researchers didn't find any differences in mortality rates, however. "While the pandemic continues to evolve, self-care during this difficult time is critical to our heart health, and our overall health," senior author Dr. Grant Reed, director of Cleveland Clinic's ST-elevation myocardial infarction program, said in a statement. "For those who feel overwhelmed by stress, it's important to reach out to your health care provider."
Gilead Sciences say Remdesivir reduces risk of death in COVID-19 patients by 62%. But their results aren't from a randomized controlled clinical trial.
— The antiviral drug remdesivir might reduce the risk of death in COVID-19 patients by 62% compared to standard care, Gilead Sciences, the company that makes the drug, said today, according to CNBC. The analysis isn't yet published in a study and wasn't part of a randomized controlled clinical trial, but is being presented in the 23rd International AIDS (virtual) conference, according to the company. “While not as vigorous as a randomized controlled trial, this analysis importantly draws from a realworld setting and serves as an important adjunct to clinical trial data, adding to our collective understanding of this virus and reflecting the extraordinary pace of the ongoing pandemic,” Dr. Susan Olender at Columbia University Irving Medical Center said in a statement, according to CNBC. The company analyzed data from 312 patients enrolled in its phase 3 clinical trial and compared the data with 818 patients in real-world settings who received standard care, according to CNBC. However, different conditions between the clinical trial group and the real world group could have altered the results, according to CNBC.
— The U.S. reported more than 59,880 coronavirus cases yesterday, another daily record for the sixth time in 10 days, according to The New York Times. Alabama, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Oregon and Texas all set daily records yesterday, according to the Times. Florida with 120 new deaths and Tennessee with 22 new deaths both recorded their highest daily death toll yesterday, according to the Times.
WHO releases new guidance on airborne transmission, but it doesn't change much
— There are now more than 12.2 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and more than 555,500 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., there are more than 3.1million cases and more than 133,200 deaths tied to the virus.
— The World Health Organization (WHO) released updated coronavirus guidance on airborne transmission, but the institution's stance on the topic remains largely unchanged, according to a new Live Science report. In the new guidance, released Thursday (July 9), WHO said that airborne transmission — or spread through particles known as aerosols which hover in the air after a person has left the area — of COVID-19 in crowded, indoor locations with poor ventilation "cannot be ruled out." The new guidance comes after more than 200 scientists signed a letter urging WHO to acknowledge the role of airborne transmission with COVID-19. But it's not clear that airborne transmission is playing a big role in the spread of COVID-19, according to experts contacted by Live Science.
WHO says that COVID-19 is largely spread through droplet transmission, when droplets from coughs and sneezes are expelled from people's mouths and fall quickly to the floor or onto another person, according to the report. Still, WHO recommends people to "avoid crowded places, close-contact settings and confined and enclosed spaces with poor ventilation," and to wear fabric masks or face coverings in public places.
States that are facing surges in coronavirus cases should consider shutting down again, Fauci says
— States that are facing really high numbers of coronavirus cases should consider shutting down again, Dr. Anthony Fauci the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said on Wednesday, according to The Washington Post. “I think any state that is having a serious problem, that state should seriously look at shutting down,” he said in a Wall Street Journal podcast, according to the Post. “It’s not for me to say, because each state is different.”
— The pandemic is still accelerating, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization Director-General, said today, according to CNBC. “The virus can be brought under control,” he said in a member states mission briefing in Geneva, according to CNBC. “But in most of the world, the virus is not under control; it’s getting worse.” In the last six weeks, the total number of cases across the globe has doubled, he said, according to CNBC. “The virus has upended health systems in some of the world’s wealthiest nations, while some countries that have mounted a successful response have been of modest means,” Ghebreyesus said.
NJ now requires face masks outside, President Trump's rally likely led to a spike in new coronavirus cases
— New Jersey is now requiring people to wear face masks outdoors when social distancing isn’t possible, according to NJ.com. Face coverings have been required indoors in New Jersey since early April but were only strongly encouraged outside, according to NJ.com. The new order requires face masks outside when social distancing isn’t possible. “This is absolutely vital when individuals find themselves in a crowded situation — such as when walking down a packed boardwalk or in a line that is not properly spaced apart,” Gov. Phil Murphy said yesterday at a news briefing, according to NJ.com. But there are exceptions. For example, masks aren’t required if you’re walking alone or with family in the neighborhood, beach or park and can stand at least 6 feet from others, he said.
— President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa in late June likely led to a spike in new coronavirus cases, Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said on Wednesday, according to AP News. Tulsa County confirmed 261 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, a record-high and 206 cases on Tuesday, according to AP News. The week before the rally, Tulsa County reported 76 cases on Monday and 96 cases on Tuesday, according to AP News. “In the past few days, we’ve seen almost 500 new cases, and we had several large events just over two weeks ago, so I guess we just connect the dots,” Dart said, according to AP News.
— The U.S. reported 62,751 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, another record, according to The Washington Post. More than 3 million people have now been infected with the coronavirus in the U.S. and more than 132,300 have died, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard.
NYC schools will partially reopen in the fall, holding classes 3 days a week
— New York City schools will partially reopen in the fall, with children attending in-person classes up to three days a week and learning remotely the rest of the week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced at a press conference on Wednesday (July 8). The plan means there will likely be no more than a dozen people in classrooms at a time, down from the typical 30 students, according to The New York Times. "Our approach for the fall maximizes in person instruction while protecting health and safety of our students and educators," de Blasio said in a statement.
— Vice President Pence said in a news briefing that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will issue new guidance for school openings next week, according to The Washington Post. The announcement came shortly after the CDC's original recommendations were criticized by President Trump. The new guidance will involve five documents that will provide "even more clarity" on the topic of school reopenings, Pence said. Also at the briefing, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said that "there is a variety of unique circumstances for different schools," and that he and the CDC would be disappointed "if we saw that individuals were using these guidelines as a rationale for not reopening our schools."
Cases across the U.S. continue to surge, states run out of hospital capacity, Trump pushes for school openings in the fall
— There are now more than 11.8 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and more than 544,800 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. The U.S. has nearly 3 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 131,400 deaths; Brazil has more than 1.6 million cases and 66,700 deaths; India has more than 742,400 cases and more than 20,600 deaths; Russia has more than 699,700 cases and more than 10,600 deaths; Peru has more than 309,200 cases and 10,900 deaths; and Chile has more than 301,000 cases and more than 6,400 deaths, according to the dashboard.
— President Trump is pushing for schools to open in the fall, despite increasing numbers of coronavirus cases, according to CNN. "We hope that most schools are going to be open," Trump said at an event at the White House, according to CNN. He claimed that places wanted to stay closed because of "political reasons," according to CNN. "We're very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools, to get them open," he said. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases continue to increase across the U.S. Over the last 14 days, cases have increased in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Montana, Idaho, West Virginia, Florida, Delaware, Tennessee, Nevada, Alaska, Kansas, Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, California, New Mexico, Hawaii, Wisconsin, Texas, Ohio, Alabama, North Dakota, Oregon, Michigan, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Washington, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Iowa, North Carolina, Maryland and Illinois, according to data from The New York Times. Cases are not decreasing anywhere in the U.S. but case numbers remain mostly the same in Minnesota, Utah, South Dakota, Connecticut, New York, Virginia, Maine, Nebraska, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Arkansas, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, D.C., and Guam, according to the Times.
— On Tuesday, the U.S. reported more than 60,000 new cases of COVID-19, a single-day record for the country, according to CNBC. Recently, Arizona, California, Florida and Texas have been accounting for nearly half of all new U.S. daily cases, according to CNBC. Nearly 84% of Florida's intensive care unit beds are filled, according to CBS News. What's more, 25 out of Florida's 67 counties have at least one hospital with no ICU beds available, according to CBS News. Texas reported more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, a record-number of daily cases for the state, according to NPR.
Trump administration announces formal withdrawal from WHO
— The Trump administration has given formal notice that it will withdraw the United States from the World Health Organization, which is part of the United Nations, according to The New York Times. By law, the U.S. must give WHO a year's notice before withdrawing, and officials said the notice would take effect July 6, 2021. The U.S. is the largest funder of WHO, responsible for $426 million a year in the 2018-2019 budget period, Live Science reported. Many public health experts, as well as politicians, denounced the move. In a statement, Elizabeth Cousens, president of the United Nations Foundation (a private organization that promotes UN interests), called the move "short-sighted, unnecessary, and unequivocally dangerous."
Brazilian President tests positive for COVID-19
— The President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has tested positive for COVID-19, according to The New York Times. Bolsonaro took a coronavirus test on Monday evening after reportedly experiencing symptoms such as a fever, the Times reported. "Everyone knew that it would reach a considerable part of the population sooner or later. It was positive for me," Bolsonaro said on Brazilian TV channels on Tuesday (July 7), according to CNN. Bolsonaro has previously dismissed the threat of the new coronavirus, referring to the virus as a "little flu," appearing in public without a mask and encouraging the country to reopen, according to CNN. But after his positive test, Bolsonaro appeared on TV wearing a mask and urged people not to get close to him. Bolsonaro also said that a lung screening showed his lungs are "clean" so far, CNN reported. Brazil has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world (with 1.6 million cases), behind only the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University.
— After experiencing relatively few COVID-19 cases early on, the city of Melbourne, Australia has gone under lockdown again amid a spike in cases, according to The Washington Post. Residents of the city, which has a population of around 5 million people, will need to stay at home except for essential activities such as grocery shopping, exercise, medical care or work at certain businesses, and they won't be allowed to leave the city. The Australian state of Victoria, which includes Melbourne, was recently reporting just a handful of coronavirus cases each day, but over the last month cases have increased, and on Tuesday (July 7) it reported a record 191 cases, the Post reported.
Atlanta Mayor tests positive for COVID-19
— Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has tested positive for COVID-19, according to CNN. She broke the news in a post on Twitter, and said she has had no symptoms. Both Bottoms and her husband tested positive, but the pair has no idea how they were exposed, she said in an interview with MSNBC, according to CNN. "It's a shock … it leaves me at a loss for words," she said.
— The National Hockey League (NHL) announced that 35 of its players have tested positive for COVID-19 since June 8, according to The Hill. In a statement, the league said that 396 players had participated in voluntary, small-group workouts, known as Phase 2 activities, and of these, 23 had tested positive. In total, there have been more than 2,900 tests administered to the players participating in Phase 2 activities. The NHL said it is also aware of 12 additional players who have tested positive but were not involved with these practice activities. The news comes as the league announced that it will resume its season on Aug. 1 and will begin formal training camps on July 13, according to CNN.
Miami rolls back openings as COVID-19 cases rise
— As Florida continues to see an increase in COVID-19 cases, Miami-Dade County is rolling back some business openings. In a statement on Monday, the County's Mayor, Carlos Gimenez said that restaurants will be closed for in-person dining; and gyms and fitness centers, and short-term rentals would also need to close again. The emergency order takes effect Wednesday, July 8. "We can tamp down the spread if everyone follows the rules, wears masks and stays at least six feet apart from others," Gimenez said. On the July 4 holiday, Florida set a new record for daily cases in the state when it reported more than 11,400 cases, according to The New York Times.
— Harvard University has announced that up to 40% of its undergraduates, including all first-years, will be invited to live on campus during the fall semester. But in the spring, first-years would return home and seniors would be invited back to campus to complete their final semester, according to a statement from the university. All classes will be conducted online, even for students living on campus. Students will live in single bedrooms and use a shared bathroom. Students including sophomores and juniors who are not invited back to campus for the academic year will be given the opportunity to attend summer courses without tuition in 2021.
Scientists urge WHO to acknowledge role of airborne transmission in COVID-19
— More than 200 scientists are calling on the World Health Organization to better address the role of airborne transmission in the spread of the new coronavirus. In an upcoming paper in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, the scientists say there is growing evidence that the virus can spread through tiny aerosols that hang in the air, so-called "airborne transmission, according to The Washington Post. Currently, WHO maintains that the virus spreads primarily through droplet transmission, when droplets from coughs and sneezes are expelled from people's mouths and fall quickly to the floor, and airborne transmission is only a possibility only during certain hospital procedures, according to The New York Times. The paper asks the agency to revise its recommendations in light of the evidence for airborne transmission, which would allow the virus to spread easily in crowded, poorly ventilated areas. "We are hoping that WHO will come around and be more willing to acknowledge the important roles of aerosols," Donald Milton, one of the authors and a professor at the University of Maryland, told CNN.
— Broadway actor Nick Cordero died on Sunday (July 5) at age 41 after being hospitalized for three months with COVID-19, according to The New York Times. Cordero reportedly had no underlying health conditions, but had experienced a number of complications from the infection, including the need for a ventilator and a medically-induced coma, and the amputation of his right leg, the Times reported. Cordero received a Tony nomination for his role in "Bullets Over Broadway."
"Nick was such a bright light. He was everyone’s friend, loved to listen, help and especially talk. He was an incredible actor and musician," Cordero's wife, Amanda Kloots, wrote on Instagram. "Elvis [Cordero and Kloots' son] and I will miss him in everything we do, everyday," she said.
Black and Latino people face brunt of coronavirus, new data reveals
The racial disparities in who is taking the brunt of the novel coronavirus has become even more clear after The New York Times sued the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to obtain federal data on the matter. In the most comprehensive look at nearly 1.5 million Americans infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19) through the end of May, the Times found that "Black and Latino people have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus in a widespread manner that spans the country, throughout hundreds of counties in urban, suburban and rural areas, and across all age groups," the Times reported. Black and Latino people in the U.S. have been three times more likely to contract the virus and nearly twice as likely to die from it compared with white people, the Times said. Those numbers came from data on 640,000 infections in nearly 1,000 U.S. counties. However, race and ethnicity information was missing from more than half of the cases; in addition, another important piece of information — how the individual contracted the virus — was also missing.
Experts contacted by the Times revealed reasons why Black and Latino individuals would be more likely to be exposed to SARS-CoV-2. According to the Times, many of these individuals have frontline jobs that don't allow for work-from-home conveniences; they rely on public transportation; and they often live in tight quarters or in multigenerational homes (meaning a lot of people in a small area where social-distancing would be impossible and where one individual could spread the virus to several others).
"You literally can't isolate with one bathroom," said Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, head of Michigan's task force on coronavirus racial disparities, the Times reported.
For instance, a 26-year-old Latino woman spoke to the Times about her experience with the coronavirus. She gave only her first name, Diana, for fear her husband might lose his job, but said that in April her husband contracted the virus at a construction site where they live in Fairfax, Virginia. Diana and her brother, also a construction worker, soon caught the virus as well. The couple and brother have three children between them, meaning six family members lived in a two-bedroom apartment.
"We have to go out to work," Diana told the Times. "We have to pay our rent. We have to pay our utilities. We just have to keep working."
Read more about the racial disparities of coronavirus infections at the Times.
Study: Even without antibodies, you may be immune to coronavirus
Even if you tested negative for antibodies specific to the novel coronavirus, there's a chance you are still immune to the virus called SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), according to a study out of Sweden. In the study, the researchers at the Karolinska Institute tested 200 people for both coronavirus antibodies and T-cells — a type of white blood cell produced by the body's immune system to fight off intruders (like SARS-CoV-2). The researchers found that for every person who tested positive for antibodies, two people tested positive for the T-cells that identify and destroy SARS-CoV-2, BBC News reported. These T-cells were found in individuals who had mild or asymptomatic cases of COVID-19.
Like antibodies, T-cells identify certain pathogens and then hold onto that memory so that when those intruders pop up again the specific T-cells can target the virus and kill it, BBC News reported. The researchers aren't sure why individuals with negative antibody tests were showing such T-cells, but they speculated that perhaps the patients had mounted an antibody response that had since faded to at least the point where the antibodies weren't detectable.
The researchers also aren't sure what kind of immunity these T-cells might provide to individuals who are not also carrying SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies. It's likely that the individuals are protected from reinfection. However, the researchers noted that further studies are needed to figure out whether the T-cells provide what is called sterilizing immunity — meaning they block the virus completely so that not only is the person protected from getting sick but they also can't transmit the virus.
So what does this all mean? "Our results indicate that roughly twice as many people have developed T-cell immunity compared with those who we can detect antibodies in," study researcher Marcus Buggert, assistant professor at the Center for Infectious Medicine at the Karolinska Institute, said in a statement from the institute. The study was published to the preprint server bioRxiv, meaning it has yet to be peer-reviewed by others in the field.
Could smell tests help flag early COVID-19 infections?
From daycares to some workplaces to airports, many reopened establishments are using temperature checks to help identify those infected with COVID-19 before they spread it to others, However, as reported by Stat News, these checks are like "trying to catch tennis balls in a soccer net: way too many can get through." That's because a good chunk of those with the disease show no symptoms at all. In addition, those with fevers might not have the disease at all. Some scientists are suggesting that adding a smell test to these routine screenings could help to identify "My impression is that anosmia is an earlier symptom of Covid-19 relative to fever, and some infected people can have anosmia and nothing else," said Dr. Andrew Badley, head of a virus lab at the Mayo Clinic. "So it's potentially a more sensitive screen for asymptomatic patients."
In a study published to the preprint server medrXiv, Badley and colleagues found that people infected with COVID-19 were 27 times more likely than non-infected individuals to have lost their sense of smell, Stat News reported. Even so, these individuals were just 2.6 times more likely than the non-infected to have a fever or chills.
Here's why loss of smell may be an early sign of infection: Cells in the tissue that lines the nasal passages are covered with the receptors that the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) grabs onto in order to enter those cells. In that way, these nasal cells would be some of the first to be exposed to the virus and become infected before the virus enters the body and triggers an immune response that would cause a fever, Stat News reported.
"These support cells either secrete molecules that shut down the olfactory receptor neurons, or stop working and starve the neurons, or somehow fail to support the neurons," said Danielle Reed, associate director of Monell Chemical Senses Center, Stat News reported. Then, these olfactory neurons "either stop working or die."
Secret Service agents, NASCAR driver and 89 fraternity students test positive
—U.S. Vice President Mike Pence decided to forgo his travel on Tuesday (June 30) to Arizona due to factors related to the coronavirus, according to someone familiar with the situation, The New York Times reported. The decision came after Secret Service agents who were slated to accompany Pence tested positive for COVID-19 or were showing symptoms, according to the Times. Pence was expected to headline a "Faith in America" campaign rally in Tucson, Arizona, followed by a tour of Yuma, the Times said. Instead, he made a shorter visit, participating in a public health briefing at an international airport in Phoenix. To date, the state has logged 91,858 cases and 1,788 related deaths, according to Worldometer. The state is one of the hot spots in the U.S. where cases have surged after early reopenings.
—NASCAR racer Jimmie Johnson reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 and will therefore miss Sunday's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, The Washington Post reported. He is the first NASCAR racer to test positive. Though he wasn't showing any symptoms, he got a test after his wife showed allergy-like symptoms, according to the Post. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion won't be able to race again until he is symptom-free, has two negative COVID-19 tests 24 hours apart and he is cleared by a doctor, the Post said.
—At least 89 students at the University of Washington in Seattle have tested positive for COVID-19, NBC News reported. The students are part of the school's fraternities. That number could be higher, as at least 117 students living in 15 of the school's fraternity houses have reported that they have the virus. The school is trying to verify those cases. None of the students have been hospitalized, NBC News reported. "While we were pleased to see most of the houses had previously taken measures to reduce resident capacity by up to 50 percent this summer in response to COVID-19, those measures are not sufficient without vigilant, daily preventive measures, such as wearing face coverings, physical distancing and hand hygiene," said Dr. Geoffrey Gottlieb, chair of the university's Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases, NBC News reported.
UK to open pubs, Texas health system bursting at seams with surge in COVID-19
—Britain's prime minister Boris Johnson announced that bars (i.e. pubs) will open beginning at 6 a.m. Saturday (July 4), though he urges people not to "overdo it," The New York Times reported. Along with restaurants, hair salons and some other businesses that are also reopening, pubs will have to keep a 21-day record of all customers. In the instance of new cases, the government will be able to trace contacts and hopefully contain the outbreaks. About 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of London, Leicester will remain closed for business due to a regional outbreak of COVID-19, the Times said. The U.K. has the third highest death toll — 44,080 deaths — related to the coronavirus pandemic and the sixth highest case count in the world, with the country logging 285,268 COVID-19 cases to date, according to the Johns Hopkins virus dashboard.
—Nursing home residents will get COVID-19 tests every month in the U.K., the Times reported, while staff will be tested weekly. About 5,126 of the country's nursing homes (or 56%) have reported at least one case of the virus and 20% of residents — and 7% of staff — at those facilities have been infected with the coronavirus, according to a survey by the country's Office for National Statistics. At least 15,500 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19 to date, according to the survey.
—The state of Texas is dealing with a health care system now bursting at the seams, after cases have surged there. The number of new daily cases is three times higher in Texas than it was in April. Over the past week, the state has been averaging nearly 6,300 cases a day, The Washington Post reported. To date, 183,044 Texans have tested positive for COVID-19 and 2,585 have died as a result, according to Worldometer, which collects data on coronavirus cases. According to the Post, the surge in Texas has led to "overwhelmed testing centers, lines at emergency rooms and crowded intensive care units, where it is difficult to maintain adequate numbers of specialized staff."
Texas requires masks for most people, Nashville reverts to Phase 2 and nine more NBA players test positive for the coronavirus
— Texas is now requiring people in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases to wear masks or face coverings while inside or in outdoor public spaces when social distancing isn't possible, Gov. Greg Abbott announced today, according to The Texas Tribune. There are several exceptions to his order, which include children younger than 10 years old, people with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask, people who are eating, drinking or exercising outdoors, according to The Tribune. "COVID-19 is not going away," Abbott said in a video message. "In fact, it’s getting worse. Now, more than ever, action by everyone is needed until treatments are available for COVID-19." On Wednesday, Texas had 8,076 new cases of COVID-19, hitting another record with over 1,000 cases more than the previous day, according to the Tribune.
— Starting tomorrow, Nashville in Tennessee will revert back to a "modified version of Phase 2," Mayor John Cooper announced today. That means bars will close for at least 2 weeks; restaurants, gyms and high-touch businesses can open at 50% capacity, retail stores at 75% capacity and gatherings will be limited to 25 people, he wrote. Basketball courts, dog parks, splash pads, skate parks and recreational sports leagues can remain open. "All residents must continue to wear masks when leaving home. Residents 65+ or with underlying health conditions should remain at home," he wrote on Twitter. "Our top priority is the health and safety of our community, and it will continue to drive the decisions regarding the reopening of Nashville." There were more than 600 new cases reported in Nashville today, bringing the weekly total to over 2,000 in the city, according to News Channel 5 Nashville. Tennessee has now reported 46,890 cases of COVID-19, more than 1,500 more since yesterday, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.
— Nine more NBA players have tested positive for the coronavirus, the NBA and NBPA announced in a statement today, according to NPR. In tests conducted between June 24 to June 29, an additional nine players have tested positive for the coronavirus. That means that, in total, 25 out of 344 NBA players or 7% of the league have tested positive for COVID-19, according to NPR. The league is scheduled to start up again on July 30 in Orlando, Florida, according to NPR.
Florida recorded more than 10,000 new cases in a day, shattering records
— Florida recorded more than 10,000 new COVID-19 cases in a day, the highest the state has ever recorded, according to Reuters. In June, Florida reported over 95,000 new infections, a rise of 168%. The state has reported more new daily coronavirus cases than any European country at the height of their outbreak and more than any state besides New York, according to Reuters. New York had recorded 12,847 new infections on April 10, according to Reuters. Florida has closed bars and some beaches but Gov. Ron DeSantis has resisted enacting a statewide mask mandate or another lockdown, according to Reuters.
— Moderna's phase 3 trial of its potential coronavirus vaccine, expected to begin next week, has been delayed, according to STAT News. The company is making changes to the trial protocol, according to investigators, STAT reported. But it's possible that the trial, which will involve 30,000 people, will still begin in July, according to STAT. "Moderna has previously disclosed that the Phase 3 trial of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate mRNA-1273 is expected to begin in July," Moderna wrote in a statement on Twitter. "The trail is still expected to begin in July and we expect to be the first to start a Phase 3 trial. We have worked closely with NIH/OWS to align on the final protocol in order to begin the trial on time." Meanwhile, Pfizer and the German firm BioNTech plan to start a 30,000 patient trial of its coronavirus vaccine later this month, AstraZeneca and Oxford University plan to begin a similar size trial in August and Johnson & Johnson plans to begin such a trial in September.
More than 50,000 new coronavirus cases were reported in a single day in the U.S.
— For the first time, more than 50,000 new coronavirus cases were reported in a single day on Wednesday in the U.S., according to NPR. The U.S. has now reported more than 2.6 million cases of COVID-19 and 128,062 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. If the outbreak continues at this pace, the U.S. could eventually reach 100,000 cases a day, Dr. Anthony Fauci the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said on Tuesday in a testimony before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, according to NPR and CNBC.
— People in West Hollywood who don't wear masks will be fined $300, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's West Hollywood station announced today, according to NBC Los Angeles. The fine itself is $250 but it includes a fee of $50, which comes out to be $300 for the first offense. "Beginning this month, we will start issuing Administrative Citations for people who are not conforming to the order to wear a face cover/mask in public," LASD West Hollywood said on Twitter. "Our last option was to conduct enforcement by issuing an Administrative Citation, but the risk to the Community health is too great."
— There are now more than 10.7 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and more than 516,700 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. Brazil has reported more than 1.4 million COVID-19 cases and 60,600 deaths; Russia has reported more than 660,200 COVID-19 cases and 9,600 deaths; India has reported more than 604,600 COVID-19 cases and more than 17,800 deaths; the United Kingdom has reported more than 314,900 COVID-19 cases and more than 43,900 deaths, according to the dashboard.
NYC postpones plans to resume indoor dining, United Airlines adds nearly 25,000 flights to its August schedule, scientists identify new flu virus in pigs in China
— New York City is postponing plans to resume indoor dining, according to The Washington Post. “Indoor dining in NYC will be postponed until the facts change and it is safe and prudent,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today. Originally, NYC was going to reopen indoor dining on Monday, but officials decided against it amid the surges of coronavirus cases across the U.S., according to the Post. On June 29, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy also announced that indoor dining will no longer resume as planned this week due to spikes in other states.
— United Airlines will add nearly 25,000 domestic and international flights to its schedule in August, according to USA Today. That’s still 40% of the amount of flights United Airlines scheduled in August last year, according to USA Today. "We’re taking the same data-driven, realistic approach to growing our schedule as we did in drawing it down at the start of the pandemic," Ankit Gupta, United’s vice president of Domestic Network Planning, said in a statement, according to USA Today. "Demand is coming back slowly and we’re building in enough capacity to stay ahead of the number of people trav