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Among the top news today: The US continues to set grim records in number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Public health officials are warning against gathering with other households for Thanksgiving. For other info: U.S. case counts, coronavirus symptoms, our kids guide, comparison with seasonal flu and treatments in the works.

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US records highest daily death toll since early May

On Tuesday, the U.S. recorded more than 2,100 COVID-19 deaths, the highest single day death toll since early May, according to CNN. The highest single-day COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. was 2,603 people on April 15. 

The U.S. has now recorded more than 12.3 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 250,900 deaths, according to The COVID Tracking Project. The number of new cases have increased by 10.6% in the past week and there are currently more than 88,000 people hospitalized across the country. The U.S. is continuing to shatter its own records in cases and hospitalizations as it heads into the holiday season. The next couple of weeks is likely to get worse, according to CNN.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommended against travel for Thanksgiving this year. "The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with," the agency wrote in new guidance they posted last week. According to a survey by Axios-Ipsos released on Tuesday, about 61% of Americans changed Thanksgiving plans. For example, some decided to celebrate with only their own household members and some decided to have a smaller gathering, CNN reported. Still, last weekend, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recorded its busiest travel weekend since March, according to the Washington Post

More than 85,800 people are currently hospitalized in the US, a record high

There have been more than 12.2 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S. so far and more than 85,800 people are currently hospitalized, according to The Covid Tracking project. As the holidays approach, and the U.S. continues to set records in cases and hospitalizations, public health experts are warning against traveling and gathering with other households, Live Science previously reported. In the next couple of months, the U.S. could nearly double the number of coronavirus infections, reaching 20 million cases by January 20, a new model from the Washington University in St. Louis predicts, according to CNN. There were more than 3.1 million COVID-19 cases reported in the U.S. since the start of November, the most ever reported in a single month, according to CNN. More than 10,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the past week, according to CNN, and 248,897 people have died overall. Hospitalizations are at a record-high and experts are warning that as hospitals reach capacity, health care workers could soon need to make decisions on rationing care to patients, according to CNN. 

Oxford COVID-19 vaccine is up to 90% effective with the right dose, early data suggests

A third major coronavirus vaccine candidate has revealed promising results in late-stage trials, as researchers announced the so-called Oxford vaccine is around 70% effective in preventing COVID-19; and it can be 90% effective when given at a specific dose, according to a statement released on Monday (Nov. 23).

The news follows recent announcements from Pfizer and Moderna that their coronavirus vaccines were both around 95% effective. Though showing a relatively lower (but still promising) efficacy, the Oxford vaccine is cheaper and easier to distribute than the other two, Live Science reported.

The vaccine was developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca and is given in two doses, 28 days apart. The early results are based on 131 participants in late-stage trials who developed COVID-19 after receiving either the Oxford vaccine or a placebo. No serious safety concerns were found, and none of the participants who developed an infection after receiving the vaccine were hospitalized or had serious disease, according to the statement.

Dosing made a big difference in efficacy, the results suggest: In those who received two full doses, the Oxford vaccine was around 62% effective, but in those who first received a half dose and then a full dose, the vaccine was 90% effective, according to the statement. However, the actual data is yet to be released and peer-reviewed; the press release did not reveal how many participants received the vaccine and how many received the placebo in either of the groups, crucial data that could be important in interpreting these results. 

Pfizer expected to file for emergency approval of its coronavirus vaccine today

Pfizer announced that it will apply for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration today (Nov. 20), according to NBC News. An emergency use authorization is permission granted to unapproved medical products to be used in emergencies, such as in a deadly pandemic. Pfizer and BioNTech announced this week that their candidate coronavirus vaccine was around 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 among 170 participants in its late-stage clinical trial, Live Science previously reported. The phase 3 trial will continue for another two years and safety and efficacy data will continue to be collected; but the company now has enough safety and efficacy data to file for an EUA. Pfizer and BioNTech are expecting to have 50 million doses of their vaccine globally available this year and 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.

Pfizer is also planning to submit data to regulatory agencies worldwide in the coming days, according to NBC News. This week, Moderna also announced that an initial review of its late stage trial showed their candidate vaccine to be 94.5% effective, Live Science previously reported. Moderna is also planning to file for an EUA soon.

CDC urges Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommends against travel for Thanksgiving this year as cases of COVID-19 soar throughout the country, Live Science reported.

"We're alarmed with the exponential increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths" in the United States, Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC's COVID-19 incident manager, said in a news briefing today (Nov. 19). In just the last week, the country has logged more than 1 million COVID-19 cases.

"The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with," the agency said in new guidance posted today on its website.

If people do decide to travel, the CDC recommends that people always wear a mask in public settings, stay at least six feet apart from others and wash their hands often.

The CDC's new guidance also clarifies the definition of a "household," which it defines as people who have lived with you for the last 14 days. People who have been living away from home, such as college students, would not be considered part of their parents' household. If you are hosting members from outside your household (such as college students), the CDC advises people to take extra precautions, such as wearing masks within their own home. 

Coronavirus cases slightly drop in Europe, a sign that restrictions are working

Last week, new coronavirus cases dropped by 10% in Europe, a slight sign that restrictions are working, according to the New York Times. Two weeks ago, there were around 2 million new cases in Europe, whereas last week there were 1.8 million new cases, according to The World Health Organization. "It is a small signal, but it is a signal nevertheless," Dr. Hans Kluge, the WHO regional director for Europe, said at a news conference, the Times reported. The restrictions varied by country, but most schools remained open, many businesses closed and gatherings were limited in size, according to the Times. 

FDA authorizes first COVID-19 test that can be performed entirely at home

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the first fully at-home rapid COVID-19 test.

The test, made by Lucira Health in California, allows people to test themselves and get the results at home, within 30 minutes, Live Science reported. It requires a prescription from a health care provider.

Although the FDA has authorized hundreds of COVID-19 tests (including at-home tests), these earlier tests either needed to be administered by a health care provider or sent to a lab for analysis.

The new test "is the first that can be fully self-administered and provide results at home," FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, said in a statement. "This new testing option is an important diagnostic advancement to address the pandemic and reduce the public burden of disease transmission."

To use the test, people swab themselves inside both nostrils and then place the swab in a vial and swirl it around. The vial is placed in a battery-powered device with a light-up display. After a half hour, the display lights show if the person has tested positive or negative.

Lucira anticipates that each test will cost about $50, according to a statement from the company. The test should be available in the near future to patients in Northern California served by Sutter Health, and to patients of the Cleveland Clinic Florida in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, the statement said. The company expects the test to be available nationally by early spring 2021.

Pfizer and BioNTech say their vaccine is 95% effective in preventing COVID-19

The coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech is 95% effective at preventing COVID-19, the companies announced Wednesday (Nov. 18). They plan on filing for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration "within days."

Last week, Pfizer announced that an early analysis revealed its vaccine to be more than 90% effective at preventing an infection, greatly exceeding public health experts' expectations, Live Science reported. Since then, enough participants in the trial have become infected with the virus for a final analysis.

This final analysis was based on 170 participants who developed COVID-19. Of those participants, 162 of them were given a placebo — a saline solution that had no impact on preventing infection — and eight were given the vaccine. The results were consistent across different age groups, genders, races and ethnicities, according to the statement. For example, in people over the age of 65, who are at high risk of getting severe COVID-19, efficacy was over 94%. The analysis also found that 10 of the COVID-19 cases were severe; nine of the severe cases were among those who received a placebo and one was in a person who received the vaccine. 

An external independent data monitoring committee did not report any serious safety concerns in participants who received the vaccine.

Washington wedding with 300 people linked with more than a dozen COVID-19 cases

A large wedding in Washington State state has been linked with more than a dozen COVID-19 cases, with new cases popping up daily, according to health officials.

The wedding, which was held on Nov. 7 in the rural city of Ritzville, Washington, had more than 300 attendees, according to a statement from the Grant County Health District. Now, officials have linked 17 cases to the wedding, with more cases being added every day, the statement said. Infections in the wedding guests have also been linked with 2 subsequent outbreaks.

Officials are now urging attendees of the wedding to get tested for COVID-19 and to quarantine until Nov. 21.

"Our personal decisions affect the health of our family, friends and communities and it is now more critical than before to use all known COVID-19 precautions," the statement said.

COVID-19 restrictions in Washington limit the size of weddings to no more than 30 people, and starting this week, receptions or similar gatherings are prohibited indoors.

States and cities enact new restrictions as cases across the country continue to soar

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the country, states are starting to reimpose restrictions and mandates in an effort to curb the spread. Philadelphia is banning most indoor gatherings — both private and public — until the new year, according to NPR. Under the new "safer at home" restrictions that begin this Friday (Nov. 20), indoor gatherings of more than one household will be prohibited, high schools and colleges will become virtual, restaurants will go back to takeout, delivery and outdoor dining and businesses including bowling alleys, movie theaters and arcades will be required to close, according to NPR. 

On Monday (Nov. 16), California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced California is pulling the "emergency brake" on reopening and announced restrictions across much of the state, according to a statement. “We are sounding the alarm,” Gov. Newsom said in the statement. “California is experiencing the fastest increase in cases we have seen yet –faster than what we experienced at the outset of the pandemic or even this summer." 

Iowa's Gov. Kim Reynolds, who had long opposed statewide mask mandates, announced a limited mask mandate on Monday, according to ABC News. Under the new mandate, everyone who is two-years-old or older must wear masks in indoor public spaces if they're within six feet of people who are not from their household for 15 minutes or longer, according to ABC News. The restrictions also include limits to outdoor and indoor gatherings. 

Olympic officials 'very confident' that 2021 games in Tokyo will have spectators

Officials with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are "very confident" that next year's summer games can take place with spectators in the stadiums, according to news reports. 

On Monday (Nov. 16), IOC President Thomas Bach cited the prospect of a COVID-19 vaccine as well as improvements in rapid testing as reasons for the committee's confidence, The Washington Post reported.

Japan was scheduled to host the Olympic Games in the summer of 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic forced officials to postpone the competition until next year. The games are now set to start in Tokyo on July 23, 2021.

"In order to protect the Japanese people and out of respect for the Japanese people, the IOC will undertake great effort so that as many as possible — Olympic participants and visitors — will arrive here vaccinated, if by then a vaccine is available," Bach said. "This makes us all very confident that we can have spectators in the Olympics stadium next year and that spectators will enjoy a safe environment."

Moderna's experimental coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective, according to early results

Moderna's experimental coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective in protecting against infection with the coronavirus, according to early data released by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company Monday (Nov. 16). 

This comes a week after Pfizer's announcement that its vaccine is more than 90% effective, Live Science previously reported.Though the clinical trials from both companies are still in progress and final, peer-reviewed data hasn't yet been published, these results provide some hope as the U.S. faces a record-breaking surge of coronavirus case. Both candidate vaccines shatter public health experts' expectations on efficacy and far exceed the 50% efficacy requirement set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a vaccine to be approved, Live Science reported. These early results were based on an early analysis conducted by an independent Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB), appointed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The analysis was based on 95 participants in Moderna's phase 3 trial (that has more than 30,000 people enrolled) who developed COVID-19. 

Of these 95 cases, 90 were among participants who received a placebo and five were among those given the vaccine, suggesting that the vaccine is 94.5% effective in preventing COVID-19. Among the 95 cases, 15 were people who were 65 years old and older and 20 were among people from diverse communities, according to Moderna. What's more, in this group of participants, 11 had severe cases of COVID-19, but none of these severe cases were among those given the actual vaccine. The DSMB also didn't report any significant safety concerns in this group of people; adverse events were generally mild or moderate, according to the statement.

California, Oregon and Washington issue travel advisory recommending 14-day quarantine for those returning from out of state

The governors of California, Oregon and Washington have issued a travel advisory asking people entering these states or returning from travel outside these states to quarantine for 14 days after their arrival. The governors also urged residents not to travel (except for essential reasons such as essential work), and to limit their interactions to those in their immediate household. 

"If you do not need to travel, you shouldn't. This will be hard, especially with Thanksgiving around the corner. But the best way to keep your family safe is to stay close to home," Oregon Governor Kate Brown, said in a statement.

"Travel increases the risk of spreading COVID-19, and we must all collectively increase our efforts at this time to keep the virus at bay and save lives," California Governor Gavin Newsom said in the statement.

Amid a massive surge of COVID-19 in the U.S., gathering for Thanksgiving is not safe this year, public health experts say.

Amid a massive surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations across the U.S., gathering for Thanksgiving is not safe this year, public health experts say.

But if you must gather, there are ways to reduce the risk somewhat, Live Science reported. On Thursday (Nov. 13), the U.S. surpassed 150,000 new daily cases, a little over a week after the country first logged 6 digits in a single day, according to The COVID Tracking Project. More than 67,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, the highest number of hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic. Both cases and hospitalizations are rising rapidly and exponentially, shattering records set in the spring. "Most experts would agree that we're expecting to see a spike after Thanksgiving and that's a spike on top of already very discouraging and very scary numbers," said Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "By far the safest choice that anybody can make this Thanksgiving holiday and likely stretching into the other winter holidays that are coming up is to host your celebration virtually."

In other words, celebrate in-person only with people in your own household and invite everyone else virtually, he said. This is in line with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "If people are going to choose to still get together in person, there are some things you can do to lower your risk but nothing you can do to remove your risk completely," Gonsenhauser told Live Science.

Read more here.

Chicago issues new stay-at-home order

Officials in Chicago have issued a new stay-at-home order amid surging COVID-19 cases. The advisory, which goes into effect on Monday (Nov. 16), appears to be one of the first such orders in a major U.S. city since the beginning of the pandemic. 

According to the order, which was announced today by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, residents are advised to leave their homes only for essential activities, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, or for school or work.

Residents are strongly advised to avoid having guests over and to cancel traditional Thanksgiving celebrations.

"You must cancel the normal Thanksgiving plans, particularly if they include guests that do not live in your immediate household," Lightfoot said, according to CBS News. People are also advised to avoid travel. Those who must travel should either quarantine for 14 days upon return or receive a negative COVID-19 test before coming back, Lightfoot said.

The advisory will be in effect for 30 days. Chicago is one of many cities in the U.S. currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases. For the last three days in a row, Illinois has set a record for new daily COVID-19 case counts, according to CBS News. 

The US is shattering records as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations climb unabated

Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations across the U.S. are climbing unabated and shattering records. Just one week after the U.S. crossed the grim threshold of more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day, it recorded another record-breaking 145,835 new cases on Wednesday (Nov. 11), according to The Washington Post. On Wednesday, more than 65,000 people were hospitalized due to the virus nationwide, another record as the U.S. moves into winter months. The U.S. now has an average of 128,096 cases a day, which is a 69% increase from its average two weeks ago, according to a New York Times analysis. The average number of deaths a day has increased by 36% and the average number of hospitalized has increased by 37% from two weeks ago, according to the Analysis.

Cloth face masks protect you as well as those around you, CDC says

Cloth face masks offer two-way protection, benefitting both the wearer and those around them, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Previously, the CDC had emphasized the role of cloth face masks in blocking the release of infectious virus particles when the wearer coughs, sneezes or talks, thus protecting others from someone who has COVID-19.

But this week, the agency updated its guidelines to say that cloth masks also provide "filtration for personal protection," meaning the masks can filter out potentially infectious droplets from the air, and thus protect the wearer, Live Science reported

The CDC notes that the effectiveness of cloth masks at filtering particles has varied widely across studies, but masks with multiple layers of cloth and higher thread counts have shown superior protection compared with those that have a single layer and low thread count.

Coronavirus vaccine could be ready for all Americans by April, Fauci says

A coronavirus vaccine could be available to the general U.S. population by April 2021, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN Tuesday (Nov. 10).

This comes on the the heels of Pfizer's announcement that its experimental coronavirus vaccine, developed with German drug company BioNTech, may be more than 90% effective in preventing an infection.

While noting that this early vaccine data isn't yet published or peer-reviewed and the trial is still ongoing, public health experts reacted to the higher-than-expected efficacy rate with surprise and a cautious optimism, Live Science reported. And there are a handful of other experimental vaccines in late-stage trials, such as a similar one developed by Moderna; results from these trials are expected to be released soon. Anyone in the general public in the U.S. who wants a vaccine will likely be able to get one within the first four months of 2021, Fauci said. "We're talking probably by April, the end of April." 

Health care workers, elderly people and those who have underlying conditions that put them at higher risk for an infection will likely receive the vaccine earlier, Live Science reported.

FDA gives first emergency use authorization to a COVID-19 antibody drug

On Monday (Nov. 10), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the first emergency use authorization (EUA) for a COVID-19 antibody drug, according to Reuters. The monoclonal antibody drug developed by Eli Lilly & Co, bamlanivimab, was authorized to be given to coronavirus-positive patients who are at high risk of getting severe COVID-19 and/or being hospitalized, according to a statement from the FDA. This includes patients who are 65 years of age or older or patients who have certain chronic medical conditions and are at least 12 years of age. The drug, designed to treat mild to moderate coronavirus infections, needs to be infused in a hospital or health care setting, according to CNN.

The EUA was based on an interim analysis of a phase 2 clinical trial that found that bamlanivimab reduced COVID-19 related hospitalizations or emergency room visits in patients who are at high risk for disease progression when compared to a placebo, according to the statement. But the drug is not authorized for patients who are already hospitalized with COVID-19 or require oxygen therapy as it didn’t show any benefit for those people, according to the statement. Such monoclonal antibodies can actually worsen outcomes for hospitalized patients with COVID-19 who require oxygen or ventilation, according to the statement. A clinical trial was recently stopped after it was found that bamlanivimab didn’t seem to be helping hospitalized patients, according to Reuters. 

Bamlanivimab is a monoclonal antibody, or manmade protein, that is designed to block the coronavirus from attaching and entering cells, according to the statement. A similar treatment, developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc (also seeking an EUA for its treatment), was given to President Donald Trump after he was infected with the virus, according to Reuters. Eli Lilly expects to manufacture up to one million doses of the drug by the end of the year to be used worldwide through early next year, according to Reuters. Then, in the first quarter of 2021, the company plans to ramp up supplies even more, according to Reuters.

US tops 10 million coronavirus cases

The United States reached an astonishing milestone today: 10 million total coronavirus cases have been diagnosed since the start of the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. It took just 10 days for the country to go from 9 million to 10 million cases, according to The Washington Post. That's compared with the more than 3 months it took the country to reach its first million cases, the Post reported. 

The news comes amid skyrocketing daily case counts — the U.S. has reported more than 100,000 cases for five days in a row, according to the Post. The country's seven-day average for new daily cases also surpassed 100,000 for the first time, Live Science reported.

Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine is more than 90% effective, early data suggests

Early data suggests that Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine is more than 90% effective in preventing an infection with the virus that causes COVID-19, the company announced on Monday (Nov. 9). 

The vaccine, developed by Pfizer and German drug company BioNTech, is currently being tested in a large phase 3 clinical trial — the last and most critical stage of testing in which vaccines must prove to be safe and effective in a large group of people — that began in late July, Live Science reported

An external independent Data Monitoring Committee conducted an interim analysis of the trial by evaluating 94 participants who developed COVID-19 after receiving either the vaccine or the placebo — a control measure that has no impact on preventing the infection. The early analysis revealed that among these 94 participants, fewer than 10% of those who received two injections of the vaccine, 28 days apart, developed COVID-19. In other words, most of the cases, more than 90% of them, were among those who received the placebo. However, this 90% efficacy was announced in a press release, and the companies haven't yet released actual data on the trials. The data has not been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal. As the phase 3 trial continues, this percentage may vary, the company said in the statement. Though the results aren't yet conclusive, if the numbers hold up, they are much higher than expectations.

"Today is a great day for science and humanity," Dr. Albert Bourla, CEO and chairman of Pfizer, said in the statement. "We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen."

The US recorded at least 121,000 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, another grim record

On Thursday (Nov. 5) the U.S. reported more than 121,000 new cases of COVID-19, it's highest-ever daily case count. There are now more than 53,000 COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized across the U.S., according to The COVID Tracking Project. The U.S. has now reported more than 9.6 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 235,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. Over the past week, the U.S. has averaged 96,275 COVID-19 cases a day, about 54% higher than the average two weeks ago, according to a New York Times analysis

Woman with COVID-19 sheds infectious virus for 70 days

A woman with COVID-19 in Washington state shed infectious virus particles for 70 days, meaning she was contagious during that entire time, despite never showing symptoms of the disease, Live Science reported.

The 71-year-old woman had a type of leukemia, or cancer of the white blood cells, and so her immune system was weakened and less able to clear her body of the new coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2. Although researchers have suspected that people with weakened immune systems may shed the virus for longer than typical, there was little evidence of this happening, until now. 

The new findings suggest "long-term shedding of infectious virus may be a concern in certain immunocompromised patients," the authors wrote in their paper, published Wednesday (Nov. 4) in the journal Cell

"As this virus continues to spread, more people with a range of immunosuppressing disorders will become infected, and it's important to understand how SARS-CoV-2 behaves in these populations," study senior author Vincent Munster, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement.

The US records more than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time

On Wednesday (Nov. 4) the U.S. recorded more than 100,000 new cases of COVID-19 for the first time since the start of the pandemic, according to NBC News. The U.S. has now reported more than 9.4 million cases of COVID-19 and 233,736 deaths, according to The Johns Hopkins dashboard. Hospitalizations have been surging across the Midwest and Southwest, according to NBC News, with record-high numbers being reported in Missouri, Oklahoma, Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota and New Mexico. In the past week, the US had five days with the highest-ever number of new cases, according to CNN. The 7-day average for new infections is about 89,859, which is 108% higher than it was a month ago, according to CNN.

Denmark plans to cull its entire population of minks after a SARS-CoV-2 mutation was found spreading to humans

Denmark plans on culling its entire population of minks — more than 15 million — after reports that a SARS-CoV-2 mutation in minks was transferring to humans and threatening the efficacy of future vaccines, the country's prime minister, Mette Frederiksen said during a press conference on Wednesday (Nov. 4), according to The Guardian. There have already been 12 people infected with the mutated virus, Frederiksen said. 

 “We have a great responsibility towards our own population, but with the mutation that has now been found, we have an even greater responsibility for the rest of the world as well,” Frederiksen said, according to Reuters.  Police, army and home guard in Denmark — the world's largest producer of mink furs — will help with the culling, Frederiksen said, according to Reuters. Half of the 783 infected people in northern Denmark were infected from farms, according to The Guardian. The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration found COVID-19 infections on more than 200 mink farms across the country, according to the Guardian.

Researchers find possible cause of COVID-19 blood clots

A new study may explain why patients with COVID-19 have a higher risk of blood clots. The disease appears to spur the production of special antibodies known to trigger blood clots, Live Science reported.

These so-called "autoimmune antibodies" or "autoantibodies" attack a person's own tissues. Specific types of autoantibodies called "antiphospholipid autoantibodies" attack cells in such a way as to promote blood clots.  

In the study, published Nov. 2 in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers detected these autoantibodies in about half of patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, these autoantibodies were typically seen in people who have an autoimmune disorder known as antiphospholipid syndrome, or APS. This syndrome affects about 1 in every 2,000 people, and it triggers dangerous blood clots inpatients' arteries and veins.

"Now, we're learning that autoantibodies could be a culprit" in complications of COVID-19, study co-author Dr. Yogen Kanthi, an assistant professor at the Michigan Medicine Frankel Cardiovascular Center, said in a statement

New AI model may detect COVID-19 by analyzing coughs

A new artificial intelligence model may be able to identify asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 by analyzing people's coughs, Live Science reported. The model, developed by researchers at MIT, can detect subtle differences in coughs — unnoticeable to the human ear — that distinguish COVID-19 cases from healthy people.

The researchers used information from more than more than 70,000 people who used a website to record "forced coughs," that is, coughs people generate on command rather than natural coughs. Of these, 2,660 were from patients who had COVID-19, with or without symptoms. 

Overall, the AI model correctly identified 98.5% of people with COVID-19. For asymptomatic people, the model correctly identified 100% of people with COVID-19.

However, "whether or not this [model] performs well enough in a real-world setting to recommend its use as a screening tool would need further study," Dr. Anthony Lubinsky, the medical director of respiratory care at NYU Langone Tisch Hospital who was not involved with the study, told Live Science. 

The researchers are now seeking regulatory approval for the app that incorporates their AI model. 

The US is entering the "most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic," Dr. Deborah Birx warns

Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force issued a private memo to White House officials on Monday (Nov. 2) warning that the U.S. is entering the "most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic," The Washington Post reported. "This is not about lockdowns — It hasn’t been about lockdowns since March or April. It’s about an aggressive balanced approach that is not being implemented." Her warning is in stark contrast with President Trump's claims that the U.S. is "rounding the turn" when it comes to the pandemic, according to the Post. In the internal report, Birx says testing is "flat or declining" in many areas where cases are rising, in contrast to Trump who says rising cases are due to increased testing, according to the Post. She also warns against large campaign events attended by people not wearing masks, like those held by Trump, according to the Post. This week, she says, the U.S. will see more than 100,000 new cases a day. This warning from Birx, who has largely held back from criticizing the president or the Trump administration in public, suggests a growing concern among government scientists and public health officials, according to The New York Times

The U.S. has now recorded more than 9.3 million COVID-19 cases and more than 231,400 deaths, according to a Times analysis. In the past week, the U.S. averaged more than 85,500 cases a day, an increase of 44% from two weeks before, according to the Times.

COVID-19 rapid tests often miss asymptomatic cases

Rapid tests for COVID-19 are being used as a fast way to screen for COVID-19, but a new study finds that these tests often miss cases among people without symptoms. 

The study, from the University of Arizona, compared results from rapid tests with those of PCR tests, the latter of which is a slower but more sensitive testing method, according to The New York Times. The study found  that a rapid test made by the company Quidel detected more than 80% of coronavirus infections that were identified by PCR tests; but among people without symptoms, the rapid test detected only 32% of cases found by PCR, the Times reported.

The Quidel tests are approved only for people with symptoms, but U.S. officials have still encouraged the use of such tests for COVID-19 screening in asymptomatic people.

"The data for the symptomatic group is decent," Jennifer Dien Bard, director of the clinical microbiology and virology laboratory at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, told the Times. "But to get less than 50%  in the asymptomatic group? That's worse than flipping a coin."

However, some experts told the Times that the rapid tests may have missed some COVID-19 cases because, in those cases, levels of the virus were too low to spread it to others. They also note that the rapid tests can be used to screen people on multiple days to see if their infection status changes.

Nearly 50,000 people in the US currently hospitalized with COVID-19

As of Sunday, there were more than 47,000 people in the U.S. hospitalized due to COVID-19, according to CNN. The US recorded 99,321 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, its highest daily count since the start of the pandemic, according to CNN. The U.S. has now reported more than 9.2 million COVID-19 cases and more than 231,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the past week, the U.S. was averaging 82,829 new cases a day, according to The New York Times. That's an increase of 45% from the average two weeks earlier. Deaths have increased by 17% over the past two weeks, according to the Times.

“We’re at a point where the epidemic is accelerating across the country," Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner, told CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith” on Friday. "We’re right at the beginning of the steep part of the epidemic curve." 

"You’ll see cases start to accelerate in the coming weeks," and reach a peak around Thanksgiving, he said, according to CNBC. "December’s probably going to be the toughest month."

COVID-19 spreads more in households than previously thought

COVID-19 spreads in U.S. households more often than previously thought, according to a new study.

The study, published Friday (Oct. 30) in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, involved 191 people in Tennessee and Wisconsin who lived with someone recently diagnosed with COVID-19, Live Science reported. Of these, 102 people become infected within seven days of being enrolled in the study, for a "secondary infection rate" of 53%. (The secondary infection rate is the percentage of exposed people who catch COVID-19 from the first case.) 

Other studies looking at transmission of COVID-19 in households — mostly conducted in Europe and Asia — have found a secondary infection rate of 30% or lower. But the new study, which was conducted from April through September, is one of the first to look at COVID-19 transmission in U.S. households in a systematic way, with participants undergoing daily testing for COVID-19. 

US records record-breaking number of new COVID-19 cases

On Thursday (Oct. 29), the U.S. recorded a record 88,521 new COVID-19 cases, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. That's the highest number of daily cases the U.S. has recorded since the start of the pandemic. In total, the U.S. has now recorded more than 9.9 million cases and more than 228,600 deaths, according to the dashboard. On Thursday, nine states — Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota and Ohio —  reported their highest-ever daily count of new COVID-19 cases, according to CNN and Johns Hopkins.  In the past 14 days, COVID-19 cases in the US have increased by 42% and deaths have increased by 16%, according to The New York Times.

United Airlines offering free COVID-19 tests on certain flights from Newark to London

United Airlines will offer free COVID-19 tests on certain transatlantic flights and require that all passengers on those flights test negative before boarding, with the exception of young children. The pilot testing program will run from Nov. 16 through Dec. 11, and will be offered on certain flights from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to London Heathrow (LHR), the company said in a statement. The free tests will be given to all passengers over two years old, as well as crew members. Passengers who don't want to be tested will be placed on another flight. 

"Through this pilot program, we'll guarantee that everyone* on board has tested negative for COVID-19, adding another element to our layered approach to safety. 

Passengers will receive rapid COVID-19 tests at the airport on the day of their flight, and are required to schedule an appointment for their test.

United already offers COVID-19 tests to passengers traveling from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Hawaii, although in that case, the test is optional and passengers are required to cover its cost, Live Science previously reported.

COVID-19 cases surge across Europe, nations impose lockdowns and restrictions

As COVID-19 cases surge across Europe, many nations have reimposed lockdowns and restrictions, according to BBC News. Starting on Friday, people in France will only be allowed to leave their homes for medical reasons or for essential work, according to the BBC. France's daily coronavirus death toll is the highest it's been since April, according to the BBC. On Wednesday, France recorded more than 36,400 new cases and 244 deaths. Starting on Monday, Germany will shut down restaurants, bars, gyms and theaters. On Thursday, Germany recorded a record 16,774 infections and 89 deaths, according to the BBC. 

Belgium and the Czech Republic have the worst and second worst infection rate per capita across 14 days in Europe, respectively, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. The Czech Republic ordered a partial lockdown, Ireland went into a six-week national lockdown and Spain put a curfew in place, ordering everyone to stay home between 11 pm and 6 am.

"We are deep in the second wave," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, according to the BBC. "I think that this year's Christmas will be a different Christmas."

France and Germany announce new COVID-19 lockdowns

France and Germany announced new restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as cases surge across Europe. German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that bars, restaurants and theaters would close for four weeks beginning Nov. 2, according to The Washington Post. She said that the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units had doubled in Germany in the last 10 days, and that officials had been unable to perform contact tracing for the majority of cases, the Post reported.

France President Emanuel Macron also announced new lockdown measures, saying that people will only be allowed to leave their homes to buy essential goods, seek medical care or exercise, according to CNBC. Bars and restaurants will also close, and travel between regions of the country will be prohibited. France's lockdown will start Friday (Oct. 30) and go through Dec. 1, CNBC reported.

The US reported more than 500,000 new COVID-19 cases over the past week

The U.S. recorded more than 500,000 new COVID-19 cases over the past week, according to The New York Times. After the first case was confirmed on Jan. 21, it took the U.S. nearly three months to reach the first 500,000 COVID-19 cases, according to the Times. But in the early months of the pandemic, testing was very limited. Several states and cities are re-imposing stricter measures to counteract this rapid spread. El Paso, Texas enacted a two-week stay-at-home order and Chicago ordered a stop to indoor dining starting on Friday, according to the Times. In Newark, all nonessential businesses are now ordered to close at 8 p.m. every night. In the U.S., there have now been more than 8.7 million COVID-19 cases and more than 226,700 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. Across the globe, there have now been more than 44 million cases and more than 1.1 million deaths.

Famous equation used to search for alien life inspires new model on COVID-19 transmission

A famous equation used in the search for alien life has inspired a new model that estimates the odds of COVID-19 transmission, Live Science reported.

The new model — which is essentially a single equation with several terms multiplied together — estimates the risk of COVID-19 transmission through the air. The researchers, from Johns Hopkins University, were motivated in their work by another simple, yet historically significant mathematical formula known as the Drake equation, which estimates the chances of finding intelligent extraterrestrial life in our galaxy. Developed in 1961 by astronomer Frank Drake, the equation is based on just seven variables and provides an "easy-to-understand framework" for looking at something as seemingly unknowable as the number of alien civilizations, the authors said.

They wanted to provide a similar framework for understanding COVID-19 transmission risk. 

The new model, published Oct. 7 in the journal Physics of Fluids, breaks down COVID-19 transmission into three stages: the expulsion of virus-containing droplets from an infected person into the air; the dispersion of these droplets; and the inhalation of these droplets by a susceptible person. Overall, the model is composed of 10 variables involved in COVID-19 transmission, including the breathing rate of the infected and susceptible people, the amount of virus particles in the exhaled droplets and the amount of time a susceptible person is exposed, according to a statement from Johns Hopkins University.

At least 906 people banned from US airlines for not wearing masks

At least 906 people have been banned from U.S. airlines for not wearing masks, according to The Washington Post.  Delta Air Lines banned 460 people, United banned around 300 people and Alaska Airlines banned 146 people, according to the Post. The passengers banned from Alaska Airlines "won’t be able to fly with us as long as our mask policy remains in effect," the airlines said. It's unknown if JetBlue, American and Southwest airlines similarly banned people from flying for not wearing masks. The latter two said they don't release tallies of passengers and JetBlue didn't immediately respond to the Post. 

Airlines have been working to prevent the spread of the virus through instituting measures such as requiring masks, disinfecting cabins between flights and using HEPA air filtration systems, according to NPR. Now, some are also offering pre-flight rapid coronavirus testing. A recent study suggested that modern aircraft ventilation systems help prevent the spread of the virus, according to NPR. Experts say that a combination of aircraft filtration systems and mask mandates lowers the risk of being infected with the virus while flying, according to Vice. However, that report, funded by United Airlines and the U.S. Department of Defense, demonstrates a "best case scenario" that may oversimplify how people behave on aircrafts, according to Vice. 

Another recent study showed how a single international flight can be involved in an outbreak. A seven-hour flight to Ireland this summer, carrying 13 passengers who tested positive for the virus after the flight, has been linked to 59 COVID-19 cases in Ireland, according to a new report. Nine of those people wore masks during the flight, one (a child) did not and it's unknown if the other three did, according to the report.

7-hour flight to Ireland linked with 59 COVID-19 cases

A 7-plus-hour flight to Ireland has been linked with more than a dozen COVID-19 cases, even though many of the passengers were wearing masks and the flight was far from full.

Of the 49 passengers on the flight, 13 tested positive in the days following their travel, according to The Washington Post. The fight was only 17% full, and at least nine of the infected passengers reported wearing masks, the Post reported. Some of the infected passengers were multiple seats away from another positive case.

The passengers who caught COVID on the flight went on to infect 46 more people in Ireland, for a total of 59 cases linked to the flight.

The outbreak "demonstrates the potential for spread of SARS-CoV-2 linked to air travel," the researchers wrote in their report, published in the October issue of the journal Eurosurveillance. "Restriction of movement on arrival [such as with quarantines] and robust contact tracing are essential to limit propagation post-flight," they said.

The U.S. and Europe battle increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases

Europe is facing a second wave of the virus and more older people are becoming infected, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warned, according to CNN. At least 13 European countries reported high infection rates among people aged 65 and over last week, according to the ECDC’s latest report. But this rise in infections among the older population can be seen in almost all European countries in recent weeks, according to CNN. This trend is particularly worrying because older people are more likely to be hospitalized and are more likely to die from the virus. Almost 88% of all COVID-19 deaths in Europe, as of late August, was among those over the age of 65, according to the World Health Organization, CNN reported.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is also bracing for a third wave of COVID-19 infections that will likely be worse than the first two waves, according to Time Magazine. The U.S. has hit its highest 7-day average number of new cases since the start of the pandemic, according to CNN. On Sunday (Oct. 25), the U.S. reported the seven-day average of new cases to be 68,767, higher than the previous record of 67,293 cases that were reported on July 22, according to CNN.

On April 7, the U.S. recorded a weekly average of 9.7 infections per 100,000 people during the peak of the first wave and on July 19, the U.S. recorded an average of 20.5 infections per 100,000 residents during the peak of the second wave. On Oct. 24, the U.S. recorded an average of 23 infections per 100,000 residents, surpassing both peaks of the previous waves, according to Time Magazine. Cases have increased by an average of 32% in the last 14 days and deaths increasing by 12%, according to The New York Times.

There have now been more than 43.1 million cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide and more than 1.1 million deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., there have now been more than 8.6 million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and more than 225,200 deaths, according to the dashboard.

AstraZeneca will restart its vaccine trial in the U.S.

Drug company AstraZeneca will now resume its phase 3 trial of a COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, the company announced on Friday (Oct. 23). The trial was put on pause in early September after a participant in the U.K. developed neurological symptoms following vaccination, Live Science previously reported. Such pauses are routine in clinical trials and allow regulators to review safety information to make sure the adverse event was not related to the vaccine.

In a statement, AstraZeneca said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had reviewed safety data from the company's trial, and had authorized the trial restart. Other arms of the trial in the U.K. and other countries had already restarted.

"The restart of clinical trials across the world is great news as it allows us to continue our efforts to develop this vaccine to help defeat this terrible pandemic. We should be reassured by the care taken by independent regulators to protect the public and ensure the vaccine is safe before it is approved for use," AstraZeneca's Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot, said in the statement.

FDA approves Remdesivir to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Remdesivir to treat COVID-19 patients, making the antiviral the first COVID-19 treatment to receive federal approval, the agency announced in a statement yesterday (Oct. 22). “Today’s approval is supported by data from multiple clinical trials that the agency has rigorously assessed and represents an important scientific milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic," FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn said in the statement.

The FDA granted Gilead Sciences' Remdesivir emergency use authorization (EUA) in early May. Under the EUA, doctors could give the drug to hospitalized COVID-19 patients, but only after a long consent process with their families, according to NBC News. The new approval is expected to make this process easier and more efficient for doctors, according to NBC News. Under the new approval, the drug can be given to patients who are at least 12 years old and are hospitalized with COVID-19.

One clinical trial, funded by the National Institutes of Health, had found that Remdesivir could reduce the amount of time a COVID-19 patient with moderate illness spent at the hospital by about four days, according to NBC News. But other studies didn't show that the drug could lower mortality rates or benefit people with very severe COVID-19, according to NBC News. Rather, infectious disease experts have been saying that the drug works best if given early, according to NBC News.

All U.S. seniors could receive COVID-19 vaccine by end of January, top health official says; Moderna finishes enrollment of late-stage vaccine trial with 30,000 participants

— All seniors, health care workers, first responders and vulnerable individuals could be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of January, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, Live Science reported.

Azar said that by the end of the year, officials expect that there will be enough FDA-authorized vaccine to be able to vaccinate the most vulnerable individuals. "Then by the end of January, we expect we'll have enough to vaccinate all seniors as well as our health care workers and first responders. And by the end of March to early April, enough vaccine for all Americans who would want to take a vaccine," Azar said in a news briefing on Wednesday (Oct. 21).

However, this ambitious timeline rests on a critical factor: enough data to know that the vaccine is safe and effective. Not even the drug companies conducting late-stage phase 3 clinical trials know yet if their candidate vaccines meet those standards.

The question of "when" we will know whether those vaccines are safe and effective "will really be dependent on events in the trial. That's outside of anyone's control," Azar said. 

— Biotech company Moderna announced it has finished enrollment for its phase 3 clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine. The trial, which is being conducted in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, has enrolled 30,000 participants, according to a statement from the company. More than a third of participants are minorities, according to The Washington Post.

The vaccine, known as mRNA-1273, is being tested in a two-dose regimen, and more than 25,000 of the trial participants have already received both shots, the company said.

Both Moderna and Pfizer, which is also conducting a phase 3 trial of a different COVID-19, have said they expect to have data on the efficacy of their vaccines next month, which may allow the companies to seek authorization for their respective vaccines.

28-year-old volunteer in COVID-19 vaccine trial dies, but was reportedly part of the placebo group

A volunteer participating in AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford's coronavirus vaccine clinical trial has died in Brazil, according to recent news reports. The 28-year-old participant, a physician who treated coronavirus patients, was reportedly given the placebo rather than the vaccine, according to The Washington Post. Though not officially announced, the volunteer was reportedly in the control group of the trial according to unnamed sources cited by the Brazilian newspaper O Globo. (In a clinical trial, half the participants are typically given the experimental drug or vaccine and half are part of a control group and are given a placebo). 

AstaZeneca's international safety committee recommended that the coronavirus vaccine trial continue, according to the Post. Typically, an independent board reviews all adverse events and if it determines that it might have been caused by the vaccine, the trial is paused, according to the Post. A spokesman for AstraZeneca, though not commenting on the individual case, said there weren't any concerns to warrant a pause in the trial, according to the Post. "We can confirm that all required review processes have been followed," spokesman Brendan McEvoy said, according to the Post. “All significant medical events are carefully assessed by trial investigators, an independent safety monitoring committee and the regulatory authorities. These assessments have not led to any concerns about continuation of the ongoing study.”

Brief but frequent encounters may spread COVID-19, a prison case suggests

Having "close contact" with COVID-19 is usually defined as being near an infected person for at least 15 consecutive minutes. But a new report suggests that even very brief exposures — a minute or less — could spread the disease, if those exposures happen frequently.

The report, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), describes a correctional officer in Vermont who caught COVID-19 after exposure to infected prisoners, even though he was never around the infected people for more than a minute at a time, Live Science reported.

The correctional officer never spent 15 minutes straight close to the infected inmates, but he had multiple brief encounters with them. Specifically, during his 8-hour shift, the officer had 22 brief encounters (between 10 and 60 seconds each) with the inmates, totaling 17 minutes of cumulative exposure. 

In correctional settings, frequent close encounters between inmates and facility staff members are necessary, the authors said, and "public health officials should consider transmission-risk implications of cumulative exposure time within such settings," they concluded.

US about a week away from a "rapid acceleration" in COVID-19 cases

The U.S. is bracing for a third wave of COVID-19 infections as it moves into the frigid winter months, Live Science reported. The country is only about a week away from a "rapid acceleration" in COVID-19 cases, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said on CNBC on Monday (Oct. 19). 

Coronavirus cases have increased in the U.S. by 36% in the past two weeks, with an average of 60,160 new cases per day over the past week, according to a New York Times analysis. Coronavirus case counts are going up in 45 states and hospitalizations are increasing in 42, Gottlieb said. "We're facing a tough circumstance right now," he said. "It's going to be a difficult fall and winter."

New waves of the virus have also taken hold elsewhere. In Europe, COVID-19 cases have been rising exponentially, and governments have once again resorted to lockdowns — some of these lockdowns are as strict as the ones put in place in the spring. Ireland will enact a six-week long nationwide shutdown starting tomorrow, according to NPR. Wales will enact a "firebreak" lockdown that will require everyone to remain at home for two weeks starting on Friday, according to CNN.

UK announces plans to start coronavirus challenge trials early next year

Researchers in the U.K. will begin the first challenge study to deliberately expose people to COVID-19 early next year, Live Science reported

In typical vaccine trials, volunteers are given an experimental vaccine and then followed for months until a subset of them are naturally exposed to the virus. But by exposing every participant in a trial to SARS-CoV-2, challenge studies can shave months, if not years, off of the typical vaccine trial timeline. Such trials can be risky, as COVID-19 doesn't have a cure if things go wrong, Live Science previously reported

The new human challenge study will be led by researchers from the Imperial College London in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, clinical company hVIVO and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust,  according to a statement. The U.K. government will invest $43.4 million (33.6 million pounds) in the study, according to NPR.

In the study, the researchers will recruit healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 to 30 with no history of COVID-19 and no underlying health conditions or known risk factors for COVID-19 such as heart disease, diabetes or obesity. If given approval, the study will begin in January 2021 in London's Royal Free Hospital, where volunteers will be quarantined and given a lab-grown SARS-CoV-2 strain, according to NPR.

In the first part of this study, researchers will try to quantify the smallest amount of virus that a person would need to be infected with in order to develop COVID-19, according to the statement. Following this stage, the researchers will test a number of promising experimental vaccines to compare them and see how effectively they work to prevent COVID-19; they also plan to study potential treatments and the immune response, according to the statement.

CVS plans to hire 15,000 people this fall and winter to help with COVID-19 and flu cases

CVS Health is hiring 15,000 people to help the company respond to both flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic this fall and winter. More than 10,000 of the new positions will be for licensed pharmacy technicians, who can help process prescriptions, dispense medications  and administer COVID-19 tests, the company said in a statement. In addition, the increased staff could help administer COVID-19 vaccines when they become available, if authorities allow pharmacy technicians to give them, according to The New York Times

"As an integral part of the health care system, pharmacy technicians can help fill the urgent need to safely and quickly scale distribution of a vaccine and extend the capacity of the health care workforce to address the pandemic," the statement said.

Most of the new positions would be temporary, but could become permanent. The company plans to fill the positions as soon as possible, the statement said.

World hits 40 million COVID-19 cases, WHO warns of pandemic fatigue

There have now been more than 40 million cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. COVID-19 cases have been accelerating particularly in Europe and North America as the Northern Hemisphere moves into winter, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization director-general said in a briefing on Monday (Oct. 19). "As cases go up, the number of people needing beds in hospitals and intensive care also increases," he said. "Nurses and doctors have a much better understanding of how best to treat people with the virus than they did in the early days of the pandemic. However, when hospital capacity is reached and exceeded its a very difficult and dangerous situation for both patients and health workers alike."

It's important for governments to focus on the "fundamentals that help to break the chains of transmission" of the virus, such as actively finding cases, investigating COVID-19 clusters, isolating all cases, quarantining contacts, ensuring good clinical care and supporting and protecting health care workers and protecting the vulnerable, Ghebreyesus said. 

"We're in this for the long haul but there is hope that if we make smart choices together we can keep cases down , ensure essential services continue and children can still go to school," he added. "I know there is a fatigue but the virus has shown that when we let our guard down it can surge back at breakneck speed." Everyone has a part to play, he said. It's essential to continue physical distancing, mask wearing, hand hygiene, coughing into your arm rather than into the air, avoiding crowds, meeting people outside when possible and if you have to be inside with others, opening windows or meeting in well-ventilated places, he said.

Remdesivir didn't prevent COVID-19 deaths in large trial

The antiviral drug remdesivir did not prevent deaths from COVID-19 in a large new trial sponsored by the World Health Organization. Remdesivir received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration back in May and has since been used to treat thousands of U.S. patients with COVID-19, including President Donald Trump, Live Science reported. A previous study found that the drug reduced recovery time for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

However, the new study, which included more than 11,200 people from 30 countries, failed to find a benefit. The study was designed to test four drugs, including remdesivir, for the treatment of COVID-19 among hospitalized patients. But none of the drugs prevented deaths from COVID-19 compared with standard of care.

Still, some experts were critical of the study design, noting that patients were treated at more than 400 hospitals around the world, which had different treatment protocols that may have impacted survival.

The study was posted to the preprint database medRxiv and has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Pfizer will not apply for emergency use authorization on its coronavirus vaccine before the third week of November

Pfizer will not be applying for emergency use authorization for its coronavirus vaccine before the third week of November, according to a statement from Albert Bourla, the chief executive officer of Pfizer. This rules out the possibility that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready by Election Day on Nov. 3, as President Trump has been saying, according to The New York Times. "We are operating at the speed of science," Bourla said in the statement. "This means we may know whether or not our vaccine is effective by the end of October." But in order to know whether or not a vaccine is effective, enough people need to be infected with the virus naturally, so "this data may come earlier or later based on changes in the infection rates." An independent committee of scientists will review the complete data and tell Pfizer if the vaccine is effective, according to the statement. The company also needs to collect enough manufacturing and safety data before applying for emergency use authorization, according to the statement.

In order to get emergency use authorization in the U.S, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requiring that companies provide two months of data on safety of the potential vaccine following the final dose of it on half of the trial participants, according to the statement. "Based on our current trial enrollment and dosing pace, we estimate we will reach this milestone in the third week of November."

Hockey game turns into superspreader event

A recreational ice hockey game in Florida turned into a "superspreader" event when 14 out of 22 players developed COVID-19 after the game, including players on both teams, according to a new report. 

The game, which was held on June 16 at an ice rink in Tampa Bay, Florida, involved two teams of 11 players each, Live Science reported. None of the players wore cloth masks — either on the ice or in the locker rooms. The day after the game, one of the players developed a fever, cough, sore throat and headache, and tested positive for COVID-19. In the following four days, an additional 13 players developed symptoms of COVID-19 — eight players were on the same team as the initial case, and five players were on the opposing team.

The report, published Thursday (Oct. 15) in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, highlights the particular risk of indoor sporting events for spreading COVID-19, the authors said.

"The ice rink provides a venue that is likely well suited to COVID-19 transmission as an indoor environment where deep breathing occurs, and persons are in close proximity to one another," the report said. 

UK man develops sudden hearing loss after a severe case of COVID-19

A man in the U.K. developed sudden and permanent hearing loss in one ear after having a severe case of COVID-19, Live Science reported. His doctors are now warning others to lookout for this rare but serious complication, according to the report. The authors only found five other reports of sudden hearing loss tied to cases of COVID-19 in the literature.

Early identification of sudden hearing loss is important because the condition can potentially be reversed with prompt treatment using steroids, the authors wrote in the study published Tuesday (Oct. 13) in the journal BMJ Case Reports. However, for the U.K. patient, treatment only partially improved his hearing. That being said, the authors found only an association and can’t prove that SARS-CoV-2 directly causes hearing loss, Live Science reported. But they note that cells lining the middle ear have been found to have ACE-2 receptors, which SARS-CoV-2 uses to get inside cells.

Herd immunity strategy called 'dangerous' and 'flawed' in new letter signed by 80 researchers

The idea of using herd immunity to manage the COVID-19 pandemic is a "dangerous" and "flawed" approach, according to a new letter signed by 80 international researchers. The letter, published Wednesday (Oct. 14) in the journal The Lancet, appears to be a response to the Great Barrington declaration, a proposal published earlier this month by three researchers that calls for an end to COVID-19 restrictions in favor of a herd-immunity strategy. Such a strategy, the declaration says, would involve allowing young and healthy people to return to their normal lives and build up immunity to the virus, while protecting vulnerable populations.

The new letter, called the John Snow Memorandum, after the pioneer epidemiologist John Snow who first tied a London cholera outbreak to a contaminated water pump, calls this herd-immunity concept "a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence." Evidence shows it is not possible to restrict uncontrolled outbreaks of COVID-19 to particular sectors of society, according to the authors, who include experts in public health, epidemiology, virology, infectious diseases and other scientific fields. "Uncontrolled transmission in younger people risks significant morbidity and mortality across the whole population," they wrote.

What's more, understanding who is vulnerable to COVID-19 is complex, and even young and seemingly healthy people have developed long-lasting symptoms after infection with COVID-19, known as "long COVID," the authors said.

Reinfection with the coronavirus is possible but likely rare

It's possible for people to be reinfected with the coronavirus after having been infected once, but it's rare, according to The New York Times. There have been fewer than five cases of reinfection reported worldwide of the more than 38 million people who have been infected, according to the Times.

One of them was detailed in a new case study: A 25-year-old man in Nevada was reinfected with the coronavirus twice and became sicker the second time, according to a new case study published on Monday (Oct. 12) in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases. "If our patient is a case of reinfection, it is crucial to note that the frequency of such an occurrence is not defined by one case study: this event could be rare," the authors wrote in the paper. The researchers analyzed the genomes of the coronaviruses from both times he was infected and found that the viruses had differences in some of their genes, caused by natural mutations, Live Science reported when this case study was first published as a preprint in August prior to being peer-reviewed. The findings strongly suggested the patient was infected twice, with two slightly different versions of the coronavirus, rather than having a prolonged infection with a single virus, according to the report. 

The pandemic may cause 400,000 excess deaths in the U.S. by the end of the year, new report suggests

The pandemic may cause 400,000 excess deaths in the U.S by the end of the year, Live Science reported. That count includes people who died from COVID-19 and those who died because of disruptions caused by the pandemic, according to the study which was published Monday (Oct. 12) in the journal JAMA. For the study, the researchers analyzed U.S. deaths over a 5-month period this year and used this data to estimate excess deaths, or deaths beyond what would be expected based on historical trends, according to the report. 

From March 1 through Aug. 1, there was a 20% increase in U.S. deaths beyond what was expected, representing 225,530 excess deaths. Of these, two-thirds were directly attributed to COVID-19, while the rest were due to other conditions, such as infections that weren’t recognized or deaths due to postponing doctor visits, according to the report. Based on the 225,000 excess deaths found over a 5-month period, the total number of excess deaths for 2020 — compared with previous years — is likely to be greater than 400,000, Dr. Howard Bauchner, editor-in-chief of JAMA, and Dr. Phil Fontanarosa, executive editor of JAMA, wrote in an editorial accompanying the study.

CDC report finds 1 in 4 Americans don't wash their hands when they should

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that 1 in 4 Americans don't wash their hands when they need to, such as after blowing their nose, even amid the pandemic. The report examined surveys that asked about Americans' hand washing behaviors before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Live Science report. The report found that the vast majority of people wash their hands after using the bathroom.

In 2019, about 63% said they washed hands before eating at home, 55% said they washed their hands before eating at a restaurant and 53% said they washed their hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose, according to the report. During the pandemic, more people reported washing their hands in these situations, but the numbers were still not ideal — 74% said they remembered to wash their hands before eating at home, 70% said they remembered to wash their hands before eating at a restaurant and 71% said they remembered to wash their hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose, according to the report.

Top medical journal calls for leadership change in upcoming U.S. election over failed COVID-19 response

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), a top medical journal, has published an editorial calling the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic an "astonishing" failure, and urging leadership change in the upcoming presidential election, Live Science reported. The editorial, which was published Thursday (Oct. 8), says that U.S. leaders "have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy." 

"Our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent," the editors wrote. "We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs." 

It's the first time the journal has weighed in on a political race, according to CNN. It is not a political journal "but the issue here is around fact, not around opinion," co-author Dr. Eric Rubin, editor-in-chief of NEJM told CNN. 

Trump says he doesn't think he's "contagious at all," but the timeline doesn't add up

President Donald Trump said that he doesn't think he's "contagious at all," on Thursday (Oct. 8) morning on a call with Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo according to CNBC. He was first admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for treatment less than a week ago, making that claim suspect (he was admitted to the medical center last Friday and discharged on Monday). 

People "with mild to moderate COVID-19 remain infectious no longer than 10 days after symptom onset," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Persons with more severe to critical illness or severe immunocompromise likely remain infectious no longer than 20 days after symptom onset." For most people with COVID-19, isolations and precautions "can generally be discontinued," 10 days after symptom onset, if at least 24 hours have passed since the last fever and other symptoms have improved, according to the CDC. For "a limited number" of people, the virus can stay infectious for longer than 10 days, according to the CDC. 

Donald Trump was admitted to the hospital last Friday (Oct. 2) and White House officials said he first showed symptoms about a week ago, according to CNBC. His oxygen levels dropped twice, according to his physician Dr. Sean ConleyHe was given supplemental oxygen, the antiviral drug Remdesevir, a common steroid and Regeneron's experimental antibody treatment. On Wednesday (Oct. 6), Conley wrote in a memo that Trump has been fever-free for more than four days and symptom-free for more than 24 hours, according to CNBC. But the timeline of his infection and symptom onset isn't very clear, nor is the severity of his illness: Remdesivir is typically reserved for hospitalized patients, and steroids are only helpful for severe cases of COVID-19, according to a Live Science report. This may suggest that the president's case was serious, but most people who have severe COVID-19 spend longer in the hospital than Trump has.

Due to his recent diagnosis, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that the next Presidential debate, which was to be held next week in Miami, would be virtual, according to CNN. Trump said he would not attend a virtual event. "I am not going to do a virtual debate," Trump said on Fox Business, according to CNN. "I am not going to waste my time on a virtual debate." 

Eli Lilly requests emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 antibody therapy

Eli Lilly is seeking emergency use authorization (EUA) for its antibody therapy to treat COVID-19, the company announced on Wednesday (Oct. 7). The news comes as Eli Lilly released more data from its antibody trials, which it says shows the effectiveness of the therapy for certain patients.

The drug company has developed so-called monoclonal antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Monoclonal antibodies are man-made versions of antibodies naturally produced by the immune system. Eli Lilly has tested both a single monoclonal antibody therapy as well as a combination therapy involving two antibodies. The drugs are intended to treat patients who have not yet been hospitalized with COVID-19, but who are at risk for serious complications, according to The Washington Post.

Eli Lilly has previously released results from trials of its single antibody therapy, and today released results from its combination therapy. In a study of 112 people with COVID-19, the combination therapy appeared to reduce the risk of needing to go to the hospital or emergency room (ER) for COVID-19 symptoms. About 6% of patients who took a placebo ended up going to the hospital or ER, compared with just 1% of patients who took the combination therapy, according to STAT News. Still, the company did not release all of its data, and the findings have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The company has now submitted a request for EUA from the Food and Drug Administration for its single antibody therapy, and plans to request an EUA for its combination therapy next month, STAT News reported.

Eli Lilly's combination therapy is similar to the antibody cocktail President Donald Trump recently received to treat his COVID-19 infection, which was developed by the company Regeneron, according to STAT News.

Coronavirus can linger on human skin for about 9 hours, new study finds

The coronavirus can linger on human skin for about 9 hours, according to a new study from Japan, Live Science reported. SARS-CoV-2 remained viable on samples of human skin for about 9 hours, while a strain of the influenza A virus remained viable on human skin for about 2 hours, according to the report. These findings underscore the importance of washing hands and using hand sanitizer (which the researchers found was able to rapidly inactivate both viruses) to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to the report. The researchers created a skin model using samples of human skin taken from autopsies.

"This study shows that SARS-CoV-2 may have a higher risk of contact transmission [i.e. transmission from direct contact] than IAV because the first is much more stable on human skin [than the latter]" the authors wrote in their paper published online on Oct. 3 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. "These findings support the hypothesis that proper hand hygiene is important for the prevention of the spread of SARS-CoV-2."  But the researchers noted that they did not consider "infectious dose" of the coronavirus or the quantity of virus particles that are needed to be infected from contact with contaminated skin, according to the report.

White House blocks strict coronavirus vaccine guidelines from the FDA

The White House is blocking strict guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that would be used for the emergency use authorization of a coronavirus vaccine, according to The New York Times. The White House specifically objected to a guideline that would make it nearly impossible for a vaccine to be given emergency approval before the election on Nov. 3 (something Trump has been pushing for), according to the Times. The FDA is now trying to find other alternatives to making sure that the vaccines meet their strict guidelines, including sharing the guidelines with an outside advisory committee of experts. The idea is that this committee would meet before the vaccine is given emergency approval and enforce the guidelines despite the White House not agreeing to them, according to the Times. 

CDC acknowledges airborne COVID-19 spread

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its COVID-19 guidance to acknowledge that the virus can sometimes spread via "airborne transmission," or small droplet particles that linger in the air for long periods. The revised guidance follows the CDC's blunder last month, in which the agency seemingly acknowledged airborne spread only to delete the information from its website two days later, Live Science previously reported

But now, the new guidance appears finalized. The CDC's website states that "some infections [of COVID-19] can be spread by exposure to virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours. These viruses may be able to infect people who are further than 6 feet [1.8 meters] away from the person who is infected or after that person has left the space," Live Science reported.

Still, the agency's new guidelines stress that aerosols are not the main way that COVID-19 spreads. "Available data indicate that it is much more common for the virus that causes COVID-19 to spread through close contact with a person who has COVID-19 than through airborne transmission," the website says.

Bars in Paris ordered to close amid sharp rise in cases among young people

Amid a rise in COVID-19 cases among people aged 20 to 30, bars in Paris have been ordered to close starting on Tuesday (Oct. 6), according to The Guardian. Restaurants are allowed to stay open as long as they enforce stricter regulations such as recording the name and contact information of diners, only allowing six people per group and providing hand sanitizer for each table, according to The Guardian. “This morning we enter a new phase. We are adapting all the time to the development of the virus. These measures are aimed at slowing the spread of the virus because it is spreading too quickly,” the Paris police prefect, Didier Lallement said in a press conference, according to The Guardian. The Paris region was recently declared on “maximum alert,” amid this rise in infections. In the Île-de-France area, which is the area that includes and surrounds Paris, cases have risen to 270 per 100,000 people in all age groups and 500 to 100,000 people in the 20 to 30 age group, according to The Guardian. France has now reported 658,800 cases and more than 32,200 deaths, according to The Johns Hopkins Dashboard.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump test positive for the coronavirus

U.S. president Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Live Science reported. This comes a month before the 2020 presidential election and a couple of days after Trump's and former Vice President Joe Biden's chaotic first presidential debate in Ohio. The 74-year-old president, who spent months downplaying the severity of the coronavirus, mocking masks and pushing for the country to re-open, is in a high-risk group for contracting severe disease due to his age. 

The risk of hospitalization with COVID-19 for those between 65 and 74 years of age is 5 times higher than it is for those between the ages of 18 and 29, while the risk of death is 90 times higher, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!," Trump wrote on Twitter early Friday morning (Oct.2). 

Melania Trump, who is 50, wrote on Twitter early in the morning that they are quarantining at home and are "feeling good." Trump's personal physician, Dr. Sean Conley also released a memo early Friday saying they "are both well at this time, and they plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence."

NYC is biggest US city to open all public schools

New York City has become the biggest city in the U.S. to reopen all of its public schools, according to The New York Times. On Thursday (Oct. 1), the city's middle and high schools opened for students, following the opening of elementary schools earlier this week, the Times reported. By next week, about 500,000 students will have returned tso school, but another 480,000 have chosen to learn remotely. The openings come shortly after the rate of positive COVID-19 tests in the city increased slightly. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he will require remote learning for all students if the seven-day average for the rate of positive tests reaches 3%, the Times reported. 

Some experts say coronavirus vaccine trials for children should start soon

With a handful of coronavirus vaccines in late-stage clinical trials, adults could receive an approved vaccine in months, but it’s not clear what the effects of those same vaccines would be on children, Live Science reported. In the U.S., children have not yet been enrolled in coronavirus vaccine trials, The New York Times reported. Worldwide, there are only a handful of trials that include children, including an Oxford-AstraZeneca trial, according to the Live Science report. This isn’t unusual: vaccines typically get tested in adults before children to make sure they are safe and their risks minimized before they're given to kids, according to the report. But because children are generally at a lower risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 compared with adults, taking an untested vaccine could pose a higher risk than the virus itself, according to the report. However, that doesn't mean kids aren't being adversely impacted by the disease. And now that data from large trials on adults are becoming available, some experts are arguing that vaccine trials for kids should start soon, according to the report.

CDC plan to extend 'no sail' order for cruise ships overruled by White House

A plan from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that would have extended a "no sail" policy for U.S. cruise ships until early next year has been blocked by the White House, according to The New York Times. The current no-sail order expires on Wednesday (Sept. 30), and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, wanted to extend the policy until mid-February. But he was overruled by the White House coronavirus task force at a meeting on Tuesday (Sept. 29), the Times reported. This means U.S. cruise ships will be allowed to sail again after Oct. 31, when the cruise ship industry's voluntary ban on sailing ends. 

Several major cruise lines have established a Healthy Sail Panel, which has made recommendations on how to safely resume voyages. Some of the recommendations include testing cruise passengers before their trip and once again before they board, requiring masks for passengers, limiting the number of passengers and improving air filtration system on the ships, the Times reported. Still, cruise ships have been hot spots for the spread of the COVID-19, particularly early in the pandemic. From March 1 through July 10, there were nearly 3,000 cases of COVID-19 and 34 deaths related to cruises, the Times reported. One of the first COVID-19 superspreading events occurred onboard The Diamond Princess cruise ship, where more than 700 of the ship's passengers were infected.

Disney announces 28,000 employee layoffs

Disney announced it was laying off 28,000 theme park, experiences and consumer products division employees, according to CNBC. Around 67% of those employees were part-time, according to a statement from Josh D'Amaro, the head of parks at Disney. The theme parks in Florida, Paris, Shanghai, Japan and Hong Kong have opened with limited capacity but those in California have remained closed.

“As you can imagine, a decision of this magnitude is not easy,” D’Amaro wrote in the memo to employees that was obtained by CNBC. “For the last several months, our management team has worked tirelessly to avoid having to separate anyone from the company. We’ve cut expenses, suspended capital projects, furloughed our cast members while still paying benefits, and modified our operations to run as efficiently as possible, however, we simply cannot responsibly stay fully staffed while operating at such limited capacity.”

Tampa International Airport launches pilot COVID-19 testing program for all departing and arriving passengers

Tampa International Airport (TPA) will launch a pilot COVID-19 testing program, making it the first airport in the U.S. to offer COVID-19 testing to all departing and arriving passengers. The testing program, which starts on Oct. 1 and runs through Oct. 31, will offer both rapid antigen tests, which provide results in 15 minutes, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which provide results in about 48 hours, according to a statement from the airport. Testing will be available at a site inside the airport's main terminal, and will be offered seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., the statement said. All passengers who are flying or have flown within three days can opt to receive a test, provided they show proof of travel. Passengers purchase the test themselves — the PCR test costs $125 and the antigen test costs $57. For passengers who need a negative COVID-19 test result to avoid quarantine at their destination, it's recommended they take a PCR test three days before their departure, the statement said. The pilot testing program is being conducted in partnership with BayCare Health System, a medical group in Central Florida.

"We're going to build confidence on the part of the traveling public by giving them the opportunity to have a test done right here at the airport before they get on a flight," Joe Lopano, chief executive of Tampa International Airport, said at a news conference on Tuesday (Sept. 29), according to The Washington Post . "Only TPA is doing this, and we hope others will follow. Testing is the key to getting people back to travel."

The global COVID-19 death toll surpasses 1 million

At least 1 million people have now died from COVID-19, Live Science reported. This grim milestone comes eight months after the public first learned that a mysterious respiratory virus was infecting people in China. But the official tally is likely lower than the actual death toll of the virus, Dr. Mike Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization's health emergencies program said on Monday (Sept. 28). "When you count anything, you can't count it perfectly but I can assure you that the current numbers are likely an underestimate of the true toll of COVID," he said.

On Friday (Sept. 25), Ryan said it's possible the death toll could double to 2 million before vaccines become available, at least if countries don't work to stop the spread.

"It's certainly unimaginable, but it's not impossible, because if we look at losing 1 million people in nine months and then we just look at the realities of getting vaccines out there in the next nine months, it's a big task for everyone involved," he said, according to CNBC. "The real question is: Are we prepared, collectively, to do what it takes to avoid that number?" Still,  fatality rates have slowly declined over time because experts have started to understand how best to treat severe patients, for instance figuring out how to best deliver oxygen and giving the steroid dexamethasone, Ryan said, according to CNBC. 

COVID-19 rate in teens twice as high as that of younger children

The rate of COVID-19 infections among U.S. adolescents is nearly double that seen in younger children, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report analyzed information from more than 277,000 cases of COVID-19 among children ages 5 to 17 years old from March 1 through Sept. 19. The average weekly rate of COVID-19 infections were 37.4 cases per 100,000 among adolescents ages 12 to 17, compared with 19 cases per 100,000 for children ages 5 to 11. Overall, the weekly rate of cases in school-age children increased between March and July, plateaued between July and August, and decreased at the beginning of September, but may be increasing again, the report said.

Severe cases in school-age children were rare; only 1.2% of children were hospitalized, 0.1% were admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), and less than 0.01% died from COVID-19 during the study period. Nearly 30% of children who were admitted to the ICU or who died from COVID-19 had at least one underlying medication condition, the report said.

Global death toll from COVID-19 nears 1 million; 21 states in the U.S. report rise in cases

The global death toll from COVID-19 is nearing 1 million, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. There have now been more than 33 million cases worldwide and 998,489 deaths. In the U.S., there have been more than 7.1 million cases reported and more than 204,000 deaths; in India, there have been more than 6 million cases reported and more than 95,500 deaths; in Brazil, there have been more than 4.7 million cases reported and more than 141,700 deaths; in Russia there have been more than 1.1 million cases reported and more than 20,200 deaths. 

In the U.S., the number of new coronavirus cases have increased by at least 10% compared to the week before in 21 states, according to CNN. Dr. Chris Murray, the director of the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) warned of a major increase of cases in the fall and winter as people let down their guard and move indoors, according to CNN. The influential IHME model predicts a "huge surge" of cases starting in October that then accelerate in November and December, he said. The number of daily deaths could increase to up to 3,000 a day by late December, according to the model.

On Saturday, New York reported more than 1,000 new cases for the first time since early June, according to CNN. "It's vital that New Yorkers continue to practice the basic behaviors that drive our ability to fight Covid-19 as we move into the fall and flu season," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. "Wearing masks, socially distancing and washing hands make a critical difference, as does the deliberate enforcement of state guidance by local governments."

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