Skip to main content

Live

An illustration of SARS-CoV-2.
(Image: © Shutterstock)

Among the top news today: The U.S. has hit its highest 7-day average number of new cases since the start of the pandemic and Europe continues to a battle a second wave of the virus. For other info: U.S. case counts, coronavirus symptoms, our kids guide, comparison with seasonal flu and treatments in the works.

Refresh

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 told The Financial Times. "If they do that before the end of phase three, we may find that appropriate. We may find that inappropriate, we will make a determination." But approving vaccines too soon can be risky, public health officials have warned.

Only a couple of coronavirus vaccine candidates in the U.S. have advanced to phase 3 clinical trials, which are the most critical tests needed to prove, in tens of thousands of people, that a vaccine is both safe and effective at preventing COVID-19. Typically, a vaccine must pass these advanced trials before given approval — but the pandemic has pushed vaccine development to unprecedented timescales.

India now has the third-highest death toll from the coronavirus

By the numbers: The global coronavirus case count has now surpassed 25 million, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. More than 846,800 people have now died from the virus worldwide. In the U.S., nearly 6 million people have been infected with the virus and more than 183,000 have died; in Brazil, more than 3.8 million people have been infected and more than 120,800 have died; In India, more than 3.6 million people have been infected and more than 64,400 have died, according to the dashboard. 

India now has the third-highest death toll from the coronavirus in the world, following the United States and Brazil, according to The New York Times. The country has been reporting more than 75,000 new infections a day for the past five days, according to the Times. The rise in cases comes as India continues to ease severe lockdowns it had put in place in the spring, but officials say the rise is also partly due to an increase in testing, according to the Times.

— Last week, a young adult in Nevada was confirmed to have been infected with the coronavirus twice, marking the first confirmed case of reinfection in the U.S., and the fourth in the world, according to a Live Science report. This past week, researchers reported cases of reinfection in a patient in Hong Kong and two patients in Europe; but in all three cases, the patients either developed a milder form of COVID-19 or were asymptomatic the second time around, according to NBC News. But according to the new case study, the 25-year-old Nevada patient developed more severe symptoms the second time he was infected. His case was published as a preprint on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) and hasn't yet been peer-reviewed. The researchers have submitted their paper to the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Local health officials urge CDC to reverse change in COVID-19 testing guidance, University of Arizona says sewage screening may have prevented dorm outbreak

— Officials from local U.S. health departments are urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reverse a recent change the agency made to its COVID-19 testing guidelines. On Friday (Aug. 28), two groups that represent thousands of local health departments sent a letter to the CDC stating that they are "incredibly concerned" about the revised guidance, which now says that people exposed to COVID-19 don't necessarily need a test if they aren't showing symptoms. The change has been widely criticized since it appeared on the CDC's website earlier this week, Live Science previously reported.

"Changing testing guidelines to suggest that close contacts to confirmed [COVID-19] positives without symptoms do not need to be tested is inconsistent with the science and the data," according to the letter, from members of The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) and the Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC), which represent nearly 3,000 local health departments.

What's more "this abrupt change has caused confusion, consternation and undermined the credibility of the agency with public health professionals and the public alike," the letter said.

The letter urged the agency to "pull the revised guidance and revert back to the previous consensus policy where people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 are encouraged to get tested, know their status, and do all they can to physically distance and stop the spread."

— Officials at the University of Arizona (UA) say they may have prevented a COVID-19 outbreak in one of the university's dorms by screening sewage from the residences. The university has been screening wastewater for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as one strategy to help catch cases among the 5,000 students returning to campus this week, according to The Washington Post. Recently, a wastewater sample from one of the dorms came back positive, prompting staff to test all 311 people who live in the dorm, the Post reported. Two students tested positive, but were still asymptomatic. The university quickly quarantined the students to prevent further spread.

“Nobody would have known [about the cases] otherwise," Dr. Richard Carmona, a former U.S. Surgeon General who is leading UA's reopening effort, said in a news conference on Thursday (Aug. 27), according to AZCentral. "But with that early detection, we jumped on it right away, tested those youngsters and got them the appropriate isolation where they needed to be."

FEMA is working to distribute aid to people impacted by Hurricane Laura but taking precautions amid pandemic

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said it’s working to distribute aid to people in need who were in the path of Hurricane Laura, but that they were taking precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to NPR. Hurricane Laura made landfall in Texas and Louisiana early Thursday as a Category 4 storm, flooding roadways, scattering debris, leaving people without power and sending thousands to shelters, according to NPR. Though the storm was less catastrophic than predicted, it still significantly damaged communities, according to NPR. On Wednesday, more than 10,000 people left their homes for other shelters in Texas and Louisiana but due to COVID-19 concerns, many of those people sheltered in hotel rooms and college dorms, according to NPR. The pandemic has also made it more difficult to bring aid to people; people are delivering aid with limited contact and responders are using photographs and phone calls to assess damage rather than sending in-person inspectors, for example.

FDA authorizes new, rapid antigen test and health officials express concerns about misleading hand sanitizer containers

— The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized a new, rapid antigen test for COVID-19, which costs $5 and can diagnose an infection in 15 minutes, according to a Live Science report. The test, made by Abbott Labs, is the size of a credit card and does not require any lab equipment to run. Rather, the device has a similar design to some pregnancy tests, allowing health care providers to read test results directly from the testing card, the FDA said.

A patient is given a nasal swab, which is then inserted into the test card. The test is designed to look for small proteins on the surface of the coronavirus, according to an approval letter from the FDA. If such proteins are present in the sample, the test, known as the "BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card," will display a colored line to indicate a COVID-19 infection.

The test has demonstrated 97.1% sensitivity and 98.5% specificity, according to Abbott. When a test is sensitive, it means that it correctly diagnoses most people who are infected with the virus; whereas when a test is specific, it means it doesn't have many "false positives," according to a previous Live Science report.

— Health officials are concerned that people may accidentally ingest hand sanitizer products that are being packaged in misleading containers that are typically used in food and drinks, according to another Live Science report. On Thursday (Aug. 27), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers about these products, which have been packaged in a variety of potentially misleading containers, including beer cans, water bottles, juice bottles, vodka bottles and children's food pouches, the agency said in a statement. In addition, officials have found hand sanitizers with food flavors, such as chocolate and raspberry, according to the report. Hand sanitizers typically contain 60% to 70% alcohol, so can be toxic when ingested, particularly for young children who may develop alcohol poisoning, according to the report.

CDC abruptly switches its COVID-19 testing guidelines, frustrating public health experts

In an abrupt switch, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its COVID-19 testing guidance to say that being exposed to a person with the disease doesn't necessarily warrant a test if you're not in a high-risk group or showing any symptoms, according to a Live Science report

But public health officials are criticizing this sudden change, which a federal health official told CNN was a result of pressure from upper ranks of the Trump administration. Current evidence on COVID-19 transmission has not changed: The virus continues to infect many people who don't end up developing any symptoms, and who can silently spread the disease to others. 

"These testing recommendations make no scientific sense, unless there are plans to demand isolation of all known contacts of COVID-19," said Krys Johnson, an assistant professor of instruction in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Temple University in Pennsylvania. 

It's not clear what percentage of COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic; some estimates say around 10 to 20%, but the CDC estimates about 40%. "If each of these people goes about their daily lives, this pandemic will continue to impact our country and daily lives for the foreseeable future, regardless of the advent of a vaccine," Johnson told Live Science in an email.  "I actually didn’t believe it, for it seemed entirely bizarre,” California's Santa Clara County public health director Sara Cody said on Wednesday, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “The truth is that if you’ve been in contact with someone who is infected with COVID, you absolutely need to get a test.”

A wedding leads to an outbreak in Maine, COVID-19 cases surpass 24 million worldwide

— A wedding held on Aug. 7 in Maine led to at least 60 COVID-19 infections, including an outbreak at a jail, according to CBS News. A staff member at the York County Jail in Alfred attended the wedding and was one of the first at the jail to test positive. Since then, seven inmates, nine staff members and two York County government employees in that complex have tested positive for the virus, according to CBS News. Another outbreak made up of six cases at the Maplecrest Rehabilitation Center in Madison was also linked to the wedding, according to CBS News. "What we've learned about COVID-19 is that it can be the uninvited guest at every single wedding, party or event in Maine," Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said during a news conference yesterday, according to CBS News . "The virus is where we are, and then it comes home with us."

—  The number of COVID-19 cases have now surpassed 24 million worldwide and deaths have reached more than 821,000, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. The U.S. has reported more than 5.8 million cases and more than 179,300 deaths, Brazil has reported more than 3.6 million cases and more than 116,500 deaths, India has reported more than 3.2 million cases and more than 59,400 deaths.

Two more patients in Europe were confirmed to have been re-infected with the coronavirus

Two people in Europe were recently confirmed to have been re-infected with COVID-19, according to Reuters. This comes two days after researchers announced the first confirmed case of reinfection in a Hong Kong patient, according to a previous Live Science report. The 33-year-old man in Hong Kong was infected with two genetically different strains of the coronavirus, months apart, according to the report. The other two cases, a patient in her 50s in Belgium and an elderly patient in the Netherlands (with a weakened immune system), were also reinfected with two genetically different strains of the coronavirus months apart, according to Reuters. 

There will likely be reports of other reinfection cases, but they are probably exceptions, Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst told Reuters TV. The new coronavirus appears to be more stable than the influenza virus, he said. But “viruses mutate and that means that a potential vaccine is not going to be a vaccine that will last forever, for 10 years, probably not even five years. Just as for flu, this will have to be redesigned quite regularly,” he said.

A Boston conference held in February may have led to 20,000 COVID-19 cases, researchers say

A Biogen conference held in February at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf might have led to 20,000 COVID-19 cases, according to a new study. Previously, only 99 cases had been linked to the conference, according to The Boston Globe. In this new study, that has not yet been peer-reviewed but published into the preprint server MedRxiv, a group of researchers studied the genetic makeup of coronaviruses that infected 772 patients mostly residing in four Massachusetts counties. By studying mutations that naturally occur in virus genomes, they were able to pinpoint and track different introductions of the virus to the area. 

The researchers found that the coronavirus had been introduced into the Boston area more than 80 times by international and domestic travelers between late January and early May, according to the Globe. More than one-third of the patients, or 289 of 772, had the virus variant that was traced back to the Biogen conference. The 20,000 number doesn't appear in the paper and is an extrapolation from the data that the researchers shared in interviews, according to the Globe.

At the start of the conference, only 15 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in the U.S., according to The Washington Post. It was a period when not much was known about the virus and before widespread social distancing and mask-wearing took hold.

"February 2020 was nearly a half year ago, and was a period when general knowledge about the coronavirus was limited," Biogen said in a statement on Tuesday, according to NBC Boston. "We were adhering closely to the prevailing official guidelines. We never would have knowingly put anyone at risk. When we learned a number of our colleagues were ill, we did not know the cause was COVID-19, but we immediately notified public health authorities and took steps to limit the spread."

"It speaks to the power of that virus to move from one person to another to another to another, if people wear masks, don’t social distance, don’t take seriously the fact that the fundamental strength of COVID-19 its ability to get from one person to the next," Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said in a press conference on Tuesday, according to NBC Boston.

University of Alabama reports 531 COVID-19 cases since campus reopened, Florida judge blocks state's requirement that public schools must offer in-person classes

— Since classes began on Aug. 19, the University of Alabama reported a total of 531 confirmed COVID-19 cases among students, faculty and staff, according to the Alabama Media Group's Al.com and the UA System's COVID-19 dashboard. It's not clear how many students were tested between Aug. 19 and Aug. 23 and the totals did not include entry testing, according to Al.com. Prior to reopening, the University of Alabama announced that re-entry testing had revealed a less than 1% positivity rate but according to the dashboard, the positivity test rate was 1.04% of nearly 30,000 tests taken.

— On Monday, a Florida judge blocked the state's requirement that public schools must offer in-person classes by August 31, according to CNN. Judge Charles Dodson said that Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran "arbitrarily prioritized reopening schools statewide in August over safety, and over the advice of health experts and that all districts complied in order to avoid loss of state funding," according to CNN. The Florida Education Association had sued Gov. Ron DeSantis and Corcoron with the purpose of allowing districts to make the safest decisions to reopening schools in-person without losing state funding, according to CNN.  "This is a great day for public schools," FEA President Fedrick Ingram said at a news conference yesterday. "Sometimes, the good guys win, and today is that day."

A man in Hong Kong is the first with a confirmed reinfection with the novel coronavirus, researchers say

— A man in Hong Kong is the first with a confirmed reinfection with the novel coronavirus, according to a Live Science report. A group of researchers reported on a case of a patient who was infected with two genetically different strains of the coronavirus, months apart, according to a press release from the University of Hong Kong's Department of Medicine. The scientists found that the coronavirus that infected the patient, a 33-year-old-man in Hong Kong, the second time around had 24 different nucleotides, or building blocks, in its gene sequence than the virus that infected him the first time. 

That likely means that the person didn't just continue to shed the same virus months after being infected, according to the study that was just accepted, but not yet published, in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. But this case shouldn't spark widespread fear. “What I think is really important is that we put this into context,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization's technical lead for coronavirus response and head of the emerging diseases and zoonoses unit, said during a news briefing in Geneva on Monday (Aug. 24), according to CNN. There's been more than 24 million cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide, and so "we need to look at something like this on a population level."

— China has been giving doses of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate, that has not yet completed all of the clinical trials needed to show whether it works, to "high risk" groups since late July, according to a Live Science report. The vaccine, developed by Beijing-based company Sinopharm, was approved for emergency use on July 22, Chinese health officials announced over the weekend. Medical workers, customs and border officials and others at high risk of COVID-19 exposure are eligible to receive the vaccine, according to the report. The Sinopharm vaccine is an inactivated form of SARS-CoV-2. The company published early results from its phase 1/phase 2 trials in the journal JAMA on Aug. 13, according to a Live Science roundup of candidate coronavirus vaccines. Participants did not show any "serious" adverse effects and developed neutralizing antibodies to the virus. However, the company has not yet completed a phase 3 clinical trial which is critical in understanding the effectiveness of a vaccine. They have already begun a phase 3 trial, which will involve up to 15,000 people in Abu Dhabi, according to the Live Science report. 

FDA issued emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19

On Sunday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19, according to CNN. Convalescent plasma uses blood plasma donations — that contain antibodies that recognize the virus —  from patients who have recovered from COVID-19. Last week, federal officials had announced that they needed more data that COVID-19 plasma therapy works before authorizing an EUA. No clinical trials have definitely shown that CP therapy helps COVID-19 patients recover, according to a previous Live Science report. But more than 70,000 patients have been treated with convalescent plasma, the FDA said, according to CNN. 

Because of this lack of evidence, top disease experts in the U.S. had urged the FDA to not issue an EUA for CP therapy, according to the report. On Sunday, a source that's close to the White House Coronavirus Task Force told CNN that the FDA had reviewed additional data to determine whether or not to issue an EUA. 

Extreme weather threatens states already battered by the coronavirus

Extreme weather events are threatening states that are already battling high numbers of coronavirus cases, according to The Washington Post. Two tropical storms, Marco and Laura, are barreling toward the Gulf Coast and are expected to hit Louisiana and eastern Texas on Monday and Wednesday, respectively, according to the Post. “It should not be lost on any Louisianan that in addition to twin tropical weather threats, we still have to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said on Saturday, according to the Post. “COVID-19 does not become less of a threat because of tropical weather.” On the other side of the country, California’s Bay Area is facing large wildfires and many residents have already had to evacuate. Some residents have gone to shelters and virus testing centers have had to close, according to the Post. “People who currently have or who are recovering from COVID-19 may be at increased risk of health effects from exposure to wildfire smoke due to compromised heart and/or lung function related to COVID-19,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The CDC website has a list of tips for keeping safe from COVID-19 during natural disasters and extreme weather. For example, in the case of an evacuation due to a hurricane, the CDC recommends preparing a "go kit" with items that are necessary during an emergency. "Include items that can help protect you and others from COVID-19, such as hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, bar or liquid soap, disinfectant wipes (if available) and two masks for each person,” according to the CDC. When in a shelter, practice social distancing and follow CDC guidelines to prevent infection such as washing your hands, covering coughs and sneezes, wear masks and avoid sharing food and drinks, according to the CDC.

— More than 23.2 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 806,100 deaths have been reported worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., more than 5.6 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 176,500 deaths have been reported; In Brazil, more than 3.5 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 114,200 deaths have been reported; In India, more than 3 million cases and more than 56,700 deaths have been reported, according to the dashboard.

France, Germany and Italy all recorded their highest daily coronavirus cases since the spring

— France, Germany and Italy recently all recorded their highest daily coronavirus case counts since the spring, and Spain is in the midst of an outbreak, according to The New York Times. Officials are warning that after having kept the virus at bay for months, Europe may now be entering a new phase of the pandemic. The numbers reported in Europe are still only about one-fifth those seen in the U.S. over the last week, according to the Times. But as summer comes to a close and people move inside and flu season begins, experts are worried that the virus is going to surge. The current increase in Europe and many other parts of the world are driven by young people, according to the Times. 

— The U.S. reported nearly 48,700 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the seventh consecutive day where cases have been below 50,000, according to CNBC. “I think we’re seeing progress over the last four weeks, I hope that progress will continue, but I think none of us should turn away from the recognition that it’s key each of us recognize we want to make sure Covid stops with us,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield told reporters on a conference call Friday, according to CNBC. More than 10 states are reporting an increase in cases over a seven-day moving average, according to CNBC. U.S. cases have fallen by nearly 17% compared to a week ago, but some public health experts have questioned whether some of this decline is due to reduced testing, according to CNBC. The U.S. has now reported more than 5.6 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 175,600 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard.

Daycares aren't major spreaders of COVID-19 in Rhode Island, report finds

Since Rhode Island opened its daycares two months ago, there has been very little spread of COVID-19 within these settings, according to a new report published Friday (Aug. 21) in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. This success in Rhode Island is likely due, in part, to childcare programs' adherence to numerous safety measures that were required for them to reopen, officials said.

As of July 31, more than 650 daycares had reopened in the state, with a capacity for nearly 19,000 children, the report said. To reopen, daycares were required to reduce enrollment to no more than 20 people (including children and staff) and prevent mixing of staff and children between groups. In addition, daycares were required to have a universal mask policy for adults, screen staff and children daily for COVID-19 symptoms and enhance cleaning and disinfecting measures within their facilities.

The report found that from June 1 to July 31, there were 52 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 linked with daycare in the state. Of these, 30 cases were among children and 22 were among adults. 

Cases occurred within 29 childcare programs, and of these, the vast majority had only a single case, with no "secondary transmission" (meaning the virus didn't spread to another person within the daycare). Just four of the state's 666 open daycare experienced possible secondary transmission of COVID-19, the report said.

The report provides data showing that "when things are done with vigilance and partnership with the public health community, that you can in fact … reopen child care and not have significant secondary transmission," CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, said in a news briefing on Friday.

"This is a great example of opening in a successful way in a community that had low transmission," added Erin Sauber-Schatz, lead on the CDC Community Interventions and Critical Populations Task Force for the COVID-19 response. Still, reopening could be more challenging in communities with more widespread transmission, she said.

The finding could have implications for the reopening of schools. "Many of the steps taken by childcare centers are the same steps that schools will be using to keep children, teachers and staff safe," Joseph Wendelken, a spokesperson for the Rhode Island Health Department, told the Providence Journal. "That means screening people for symptoms, doing regular environmental cleaning, and keeping people in stable groups, among other measures."

Fishing boat coronavirus outbreak provides first direct evidence that antibodies protect against re-infection

— A COVID-19 outbreak on a fishing boat has provided scientists with the first direct evidence that antibodies protect people from re-infection, according to a Live Science report. More than 100 of the 122 crew members on the boat were infected, but three sailors who had antibodies to the new coronavirus in their blood prior to the voyage — indicating that they had previously been infected — did not catch the virus a second time, according to the report. Although scientists had suspected that having antibodies, particularly so-called "neutralizing antibodies," against COVID-19 would confer protection, they didn't have studies conducted in humans to back that up. The authors say the findings could be good news for COVID-19 vaccine candidates, which are generally trying to get the  immune system to produce neutralizing antibodies against the virus, according to the report. The study was posted to the preprint database medRxiv on Aug. 14 but it has not yet been peer-reviewed.

The numbers: there have now been more than 22.7 million cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide and more than 794,200 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., there have now been more than 5.5 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 174,290 deaths; In Brazil, there have now been more than 3.5 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 112,300 deaths; In India, there have now been more than 2.9 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 54,800 deaths.

The FDA won't authorize the use of blood plasma to treat COVID-19 patients until more data can be reviewed

— The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) won't authorize the use of blood plasma to treat COVID-19 patients until more data about the treatment can be reviewed, federal officials announced, according to a Live Science report. Convalescent plasma therapy uses blood plasma donations (that contain antibodies that recognize the coronavirus) from people who recovered from COVID-19. No clinical trials have definitively shown that CP therapy helps coronavirus patients recover, according to the report. Because there isn't much evidence available, top disease experts in the U.S. urged the FDA not to issue a so-called emergency use authorization for the therapy, The New York Times reported. People who are currently receiving CP are doing so only through clinical trials. But because it is challenging to set up trials for CP, data showing whether it helps patients has been slow to come out, according to the report. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to become more deadly than the 1918 flu pandemic

— The COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to become more deadly than the 1918 flu pandemic, a new study suggests. To compare the current pandemic with last century's, a group of researchers focused on a sliver of the world that was hard hit by both viruses, according to a Live Science report. In the spring, SARS-CoV-2 hammered New York City, causing more than 19,000 known deaths — and more than 4,600 probable deaths. They found that during the peak of the 1918 influenza outbreak in New York City, a total of 31,589 all-cause deaths (this included death from any cause) occurred among the 5.5 million residents that lived there at the time. The all-cause mortality in the peak of the influenza pandemic in 1918 was 2.8 times higher than during the same months in previous years. In contrast, for the early 2020 COVID-19 outbreak in New York City, they found that 33,465 deaths from all causes occurred among 8.28 million residents between March 11 and May 11. The all-cause mortality in those months of 2020 were 4.15 times higher than those months between 2017 and 2019. 

That means that in the peak of the 1918 influenza pandemic in NYC about 287 per 100,000 people died a month from any cause in NYC, whereas during the early COVID-19 outbreak, about 202 per 100,000 people died a month in the city. So the all-cause mortality during the spring of 2020 was 70% of the all cause mortality during the fall of 1918, according to the report.

— Sweden recorded the highest death tally (from all causes) it's had in 150 years in the first half of 2020, according to CNN. The country registered 51,405 deaths between January and June of this year, which is 6,500 more deaths than the same period last year. That's the highest number of deaths the country has had between January and June since 1869, when there was a famine and 55,431 people died. When the coronavirus hit, Sweden didn't go into a lockdown and emphasized that people should be individually responsible, according to CNN. Still, only 7.3% of people in Stockholm developed antibodies to the virus, according to CNN. By early June, more than 4,500 people had died from the coronavirus in the country. Now, there's more than 5,800 people who have died from the virus.

— Russia says its coronavirus vaccine "Sputnik V," will soon be tested on 40,000 people in a phase 3 trial, according to CNBC. Production of the vaccine, which received domestic regulatory approval for a select group of people earlier this month, is expected to start in September, according to CNBC. Health experts are expressing concerns over how fast the vaccine was approved and how little data is available, according to CNBC.

Native Americans are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, Massachusetts will require flu shots for most students

— Native Americans have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study, which analyzed information on COVID-19 cases in 23 states from late January through early July, found that the rate of COVID-19 cases was 3.5 times higher in Native American and Alaska Native populations compared with the rate of cases in the white population. Although Native Americans make up 0.7% of the U.S. population, they account for 1.3% of COVID-19 cases reported to the CDC, the report said. The authors note that the study likely underestimated the actual rate of COVID-19 in the Native American population because the analysis was limited to states that had detailed information on patients' race/ethnicity, and these states represent only about one-third of the Native American population in the U.S.

In a statement the CDC said it has provided more than $200 million in COVID-19 funding to support tribes and tribal organizations in carrying out COVID-19 preparedness and response activities.

— Health officials in Massachusetts announced that all children attending child care, preschool, kindergarten, K-12, and colleges or universities will be required to get a flu shot by the end of the year, according to a statement from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The state is the first to require flu vaccines for children over age five, according to CNN. (Some states have flu shot requirements for children in daycare and preschool, according to CBS Boston.) The aim of the requirement is to reduce flu-related and respiratory illness amid the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said. "It is more important now than ever to get a flu vaccine because flu symptoms are very similar to those of COVID-19 and preventing the flu will save lives and preserve healthcare resources," Dr. Larry Madoff, medical director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences, said in the statement. Students will be required to get their flu shot by Dec. 31, 2020 unless the student has a medical or religious exemption. Homeschooled children in grades K-12 are also exempt, as are college students who are off campus and using entirely remote learning, the statement said. 

Some colleges in the U.S. have already moved to remote learning over coronavirus worries, spikes in cases

—  Iran, one of the worst-hit countries in the Middle East, has now recorded more than 20,000 deaths from the coronavirus, according to Reuters. In the past 24 hours, the country reported 153 of those deaths. There have now been more than 350,200 cases of COVID-19 in the country, according to Reuters.

— Some colleges in the U.S. have already stopped in-person classes due to surges in COVID-19 cases, according to CNN. The University of Notre Dame announced that all undergraduate classes will be remote for the next two weeks due to a spike in coronavirus cases, according to CNN. Michigan State University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill announced that their undergraduate classes will now be remote. Ithaca College also announced it was moving from in-person classes to remote classes for the entire semester, according to CNN.

Young people, who are now returning to campuses or will soon be returning to campuses across the country, are thought to have helped drive coronavirus cases this summer, according to CNN. As the students return, so do reports of infections. At Appalachian State University, a cluster of cases was reported associated with the football team and at Iowa State University, 175 students tested positive at move in, according to CNN.

— There have now been more than 22.1 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and more than 781,900 deaths. The U.S. has surpassed 5.4 million cases and has recorded 171,877 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard

More than 21.9 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 776,000 deaths have been reported worldwide

— A new mathematical model offers guidance on how to minimize COVID-19 spread during potential large-scale evacuations that could take place due to hurricanes, according to a Live Science report. People evacuating from hard-hit counties should be directed to counties with relatively lower rates of viral spread — and those places should enforce social distancing and mask wearing, according to the report. If the counties prepare adequately, additional spread can be minimized, according to the research which has not yet been peer-reviewed. In the worst-case scenario that the researchers modeled, more than two million evacuees from counties where there's high transmission rates retreated to areas with similarly high rates, and their travel and interactions with others resulted in about 66,000 extra COVID-19 cases, according to the report. In the best-case scenario model, evacuees were systematically divided among low-transmission counties, resulting in only about 9,000 new cases.

The numbers: More than 21.9 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide and more than 776,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., more than 5.4 million cases have been reported and more than 171,300 deaths; In Brazil, more than 3.3 million cases have been reported and more than 108,500 deaths; In India, more than 2.7 million cases have been reported and more than 51,700 deaths; In Russia, more than 930,200 cases have been reported and more than 15,800 deaths. 

The FDA gives emergency use authorization to a new, quick saliva test for COVID-19

— The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given emergency use authorization to a new saliva test for COVID-19 that can be completed in just a few hours, according to a new Live Science report. Compared to the traditional nasal swab tests, this new test called SalivaDirect is cheap (about $10 per sample), less invasive (only requires a person to spit into a container) and can be performed without the need for certain testing components that have been in short supply during the pandemic, according to the report. SalivaDirect was developed by researchers at Yale School of Public Health and recently given to NBA players and staff to help confirm its effectiveness, according to the report. It doesn’t require any extra equipment and instructions for the test will be made immediately available to laboratories around the country, the FDA said in a statement. So far, studies of SalivaDirect have found that the test's accuracy is on par with that of nasal swab tests, the researchers said. It is the fifth saliva test for COVID-19 to receive emergency use authorization. Earlier saliva tests, such as one developed by Rutgers University researchers, require a special collection container to perform, Live Science previously reported.

Undergraduate classes at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill will now be remote following clusters of coronavirus cases

— The biotechnology company Novavax will begin its phase 2 clinical trials of its candidate COVID-19 vaccine soon, according to a Live Science report. The phase 2b clinical trial will include 2,665 healthy adults in South Africa and 240 adults with HIV who are medically stable but whose immune responses may be different from people without HIV, according to a statement from the company. Preliminary data that hasn't yet been peer-reviewed from the phase 1 trial of the candidate vaccine was published in a preprint server medRxiv on Aug. 6. Healthy volunteers given two doses of the vaccine showed only mild side effects, such as headache, fatigue and tenderness or pain at the injection site., according to the report. After receiving a second dose, all of the participants generated neutralizing antibodies, which can prevent the virus from entering cells. Novavax will continue to evaluate this immune response in the phase 2b trial in South Africa, as well as a phase 2 trial to be organized in the U.S. and Australia "in the near future," according to the statement. There are now 167 candidate vaccines in development to prevent coronavirus infections, according to a Live Science report on the most promising coronavirus vaccine candidates.

— The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill announced that all of its undergraduate classes will now be remote starting on Wednesday after 130 more students tested positive for the coronavirus last week, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. UNC has reported four COVID-19 clusters in three days in dorms, apartments and a fraternity house, according to the report. They tested a total of 954 students last week and 13.6% of them tested positive, which is nearly twice the percent testing positive in the previous three weeks, according to the report. Since February, there have been 324 confirmed cases (45 of those staff members) at UNC, but there's likely more that haven't been counted, according to the report. Graduate, professional and health affairs students will continue to take in-person classes, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. 

Global COVID-19 cases exceed 21.7 million, New Zealand delays election amid a new cluster of coronavirus cases

— There have now been more than 21.7 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and more than 775,900 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., there have been more than 5.4 million cases and more than 170,000 deaths; In Brazil, there have been more than 3.3 million cases and more than 107,800 deaths; In India there have been more than 2.6 million cases and more than 50,900 deaths; In Russia, there have been more than 925,500 cases and more than 15,400 deaths, according to the dashboard.

— New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the country’s parliamentary election will be delayed by four weeks due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, according to CNN. The election was set to take place on September 19 but will now take place on October 17. New Zealand was recently praised for having gone 100 days without community spread, according to a Live Science report. But at 102 days, the country announced its first cases of local transmission among people who had not recently traveled our had contact with a known case, according to the report. As of Monday, the country confirmed 58 coronavirus cases related to the local community cluster in Auckland and another 20 cases among people who had traveled, according to CNN. On August 12, the city of Auckland was put under a strict level three lockdown. “Under Alert Level 3 you should continue to stay in your household bubbles whenever you are not at work or school,” according to the New Zealand government. The rest of New Zealand moved to Alert Level 2. “At Alert Level 2 the disease is contained, but there is a risk of community transmission,” according to the government webpage. 

Brazil's First Lady tests negative, Stricter measures in Italy, Jordan seals off border

Michelle Bolsonaro, wife of Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro, said today (Aug. 16) that she had tested negative for the coronavirus, about two weeks after contracting the virus that causes COVID-19, Reuters reported. Her grandmother died from COVID-19 last week, while the president came down with the disease in July and his fourth son, Jair Renan, has now tested positive for the disease. "Thank you for your prayers and for all your acts of love," Michelle Bolsonaro wrote on social media, according to Reuters. Brazil, which has the world's second-highest caseload, has to date reported more than 3.34 million COVID-19 cases and 107,852 related deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins virus dashboard.

—As coronavirus cases showed an uptick across Italy, the country decided to shut down discos and clubs while making masks mandatory in some outdoor settings — near bars and pubs, for instance — between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., The Guardian reported. The past week saw new infections double what they were three weeks ago, with younger people making up the bulk of them. These new rules will go into effect Monday and stay in effect through early September. To date, Italy has logged at least 253,915 COVID-19 cases and 35,396 related deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins virus dashboard. The focus, according to news reports, is for schools to be able to open relatively safely in September across Italy. "We cannot nullify the sacrifices made in past months. Our priority must be that of opening schools in September in full safety," Roberto Speranza, Italian health minister, said on Facebook, as reported by The Guardian.

—Also starting Monday (Aug. 17), Jordan will seal off Ramtha city near the Syrian border, after Jordan saw the largest daily rise in cases in fourth months, The Guardian reported. Half of the 39 cases recorded over the past 24 hours came from Ramtha city, according to the health ministry. Truck drivers and other individuals who are entering the kingdom at the Jaber border crossing (between Syria and Jordan) are the ones spreading the virus, officials say, as reported by The Guardian. Jordan has reported a total of 1,378 COVID-19 cases and 11 related deaths, which is the lowest infection rate in the region. Today, the prime minister Omar al Razzaz said that stricter measures would be implemented at the border over the next few days. "We don't want, God forbid, to have a second wave," Razzaz said, as reported by The Guardian.

Officials work with 4 states to deliver the first COVID-19 vaccine

Health officials are working with officials in four states and one city to figure out a plan to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as limited doses are available — something that could happen as early as the fall, The Washington Post reported. Officials in California, Florida, Minnesota, North Dakota and Philadelphia are being asked to develop plans for how to transport and store the vaccine, the Post said. Furthermore, those officials will be tasked with prioritizing which individuals will receive the first doses of the vaccine. 

Storage is a "hot topic," the Post said, because keeping vaccines viable requires freezers; at least one of the vaccines under testing could require temperatures dropping to minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 degrees Celsius). For such vaccines, states should prepare mass vaccination clinics equipped with freezers, since doctors' offices likely won’t be able to store and administer the vaccines, the Post reported.

Officials are now saying that Operation Warp Speed — the administration’s initiative to speed up development of coronavirus vaccines and other countermeasures — could deliver tens of millions of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by January, the Post said.

Live Science is following all of the most promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

US sees decline in coronavirus testing for first time during the pandemic

Testing is one of the key criteria for containing the spread of the coronavirus causing COVID-19, officials have long said. With testing, contact tracing and appropriate quarantining, countries have slowed the spread of the virus. But over the last two weeks testing in the U.S. has been going down instead of up, The New York Times reported. About 733,000 people in the U.S. have been tested every day on average this month; that's down from the 750,000 daily average in July, according to the COVID Tracking Project, as reported by the Times. On Monday (Aug. 10), the seven-day average was 709,000 a day, which is the lowest in almost a month.

The downturn could be partly the result of fewer people seeking tests. But it could also be explained by "people's frustration at the prospect of long lines and delays in getting results," the Times said. In addition, the U.S. has not set up the infrastructure needed to test large swaths of the population rather than just those seeking tests.

The delays in getting test results could hamper other measures put into place to slow the virus spread, experts have said. A modeling study published June 16 in the journal The Lancet Public Health found that even the best contact-tracing strategy won't work if there are delays of three or more days in getting test results, Live Science previously reported

"In our model, minimizing testing delays had the largest impact on reducing transmission of the virus; and testing infrastructure is therefore the most critical factor for the success of a contact-tracing system," Dr. Marc Bonten, senior author of the study and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, said in a statement at the time. "This means that as many infectious people as possible need to be tested, and policymakers might consider lowering the eligibility threshold for access to testing."

California becomes first state to surpass 600,000 coronavirus cases

California became the first state to surpass 600,000 coronavirus cases, according to ABC7. California has now reported more than 10,800 deaths related to the coronavirus, making it the third state with the worst death toll, according to The New York Times. But being the most populous state, California ranks 20th in number of cases per-capita and 28th in coronavirus deaths per-capita, according to the Times. Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday that California was "turning the corner on this pandemic," with a 19% decline in the number of people hospitalized over the last two weeks, according to the Times.

There have now been more than 20.9 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and more than 760,200 deaths

— There have now been more than 20.9 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and more than 760,200 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., there have now been more than 5.2 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 167,200 deaths; in Brazil, there have now been more than 3.2 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 105,400 deaths; In India, there have now been more than 2.4 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 48,000 deaths; In Russia, there have now been more than 910,700 cases of COVID-19 and more than 15,400 deaths, according to the dashboard.

— Vietnam has registered to buy Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine, according to Reuters. Vietnam has asked for 50 to 150 million doses of the vaccine, which has recently been approved in Russia to only a small group of people and is expected to be further tested in a phase 3 clinical trial scheduled to start this week, according to Reuters and a previous Live Science report. In the meantime, Vietnam will continue to develop its own COVID-19 vaccine, state broadcaster Vietnam Television said, according to Reuters. Last month, the country’s Ministry of Health announced Vietnam would have its own vaccine by the end of 2021. It’s not clear when the ministry expects to receive this vaccine from Russia, according to Reuters.

CDC warns against using masks with exhalation valves, Russia's coronavirus vaccine is only approved for a small number of people

— Masks with exhalation valves won't prevent the spread of infectious diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently said, according to a Live Science report. When a mask has a valve, respiratory droplets from the wearer are expelled into the air and could reach other people, according to the report. "This type of mask does not prevent the person wearing the mask from transmitting COVID-19 to others," the CDC says on its website. Many airlines have already banned customers from wearing masks with valves on flights, the Post reported. American Airlines is the latest airline to announce a ban, which takes effect on Aug. 19, according to a statement from the airline issued Wednesday (Aug. 12). 

— Face masks play a critical role in helping to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, and could save tens of thousands of lives in the U.S. if everyone wore them in public, experts have said. Yes, some face masks are more protective than others. But that doesn’t mean wearing neck gaiters — stretchy pieces of fabric that people, especially runners, pull up to cover their nose and mouth — is worse than wearing no masks at all, as some recent news articles have suggested, according to a Live Science report

These news articles were based on a study published Aug. 7 in the journal Science Advances, in which researchers tested a novel method for evaluating the effectiveness of face masks. In other words, it was a study conducted to test a methodology. However, the researchers did explore some mask effectiveness in a "proof-of-principle" test, to evaluate whether they could use this particular method to measure mask effectiveness. By testing a single neck gaiter on one participant, they found that it was ineffective, and even counterproductive, in stopping the spread of droplets.

But the public should "absolutely not" use this as evidence that neck gaiters are worse than wearing no mask at all, co-author Martin Fischer, a chemist and physicist at Duke University in North Carolina, said at a news briefing today (Aug. 13). "We tested one mask because we just had that mask lying around … there are plenty of other gaiters out there," some that could be more protective, he said. Even the way people wear them can change how protective they are, he added. More studies are needed, the researchers said.

— This week, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced that the country had approved a coronavirus vaccine, called "Sputnik V," seemingly for widespread use, according to a Live Science report. But it turns out the vaccine was only approved for use in "a small number of citizens from vulnerable groups," according to Science Magazine.  The registration certificate issued by Russia's Ministry of Health actually covers only a small group including health care workers, according to Science Magazine. The certificate also states that the vaccine cannot be approved for widespread use until Jan. 1, 2021, although statements by various Russian health officials seem to contradict that clause, according to the Live Science report. A phase 3 clinical trial of the vaccine is scheduled to begin this week, according to the report.

US records deadliest day of the summer, new unemployment claims dip below 1 million

— The U.S. reported 1,500 new deaths on Wednesday, the highest number of daily deaths in the country since the middle of May, according to The Washington Post. For the past 17 consecutive days, the seven-day average of newly reported deaths has remained above 1,000, according to the Post. There are now more than 5.1 million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and more than 166,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Dashboard. Worldwide, there are a total of more than 20.6 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 750,000 deaths, according to the dashboard.

— The number of new people filing for state unemployment benefits has dropped below one million last week for the first time since March, according to The New York Times. The Labor Department reported today that 963,000 people filed for unemployment benefits last week and another 489,000 applied under a different federal program that covers independent contractors, self-employed people and people who don't qualify for the typical state unemployment insurance, according to the Times. These numbers are much lower than In late March, when nearly 6.9 million people applied for benefits in a single week, according to the Times. But, it's all relative. Prior to the pandemic, the worst recorded week was in 1982 when 695,000 people applied for benefits.

Cat coronavirus drugs could potentially help treat humans, vaping may increase the risk of getting COVID-19, at least in teens and young adults

— Two experimental drugs to treat a type of coronavirus that only infects cats could potentially help treat humans with COVID-19, Science News reported. This coronavirus that only infects cats can cause "feline enteric coronavirus," an infection that affects the gastrointestinal tract but doesn't typically cause symptoms, according to a Live Science report. But in about one in 10 infected cats, the virus can mutate after infecting the cat and gain entry to specific immune cells, spread through the body and cause severe inflammation that is typically fatal if left untreated. At that stage, the infection is called "feline infectious peritonitis virus," (FIPV), according to the report. Two experimental drugs have been designed to treat cats with FIPV, although neither has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for cats. The two drugs work by preventing the feline coronavirus from replicating in cat cells; it  may also disrupt how SARS-CoV-2 replicates in human cells, according to the report.

— Vaping may increase the risk of getting COVID-19, at least in teens and young adults, a new study suggests. The researchers analyzed information from more than 4,300 U.S. teens and young adults, ages 13 to 24, who completed an online survey in early May, according to the study, published Aug. 11 in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Among those tested for COVID-19, e-cigarette users were five times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19, and those who used both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes were seven times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19, compared with those who did not use e-cigarettes or traditional cigarettes, according to a Live Science report. In addition, dual users were nearly five times more likely to report experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 at the time of the survey, regardless of whether they were tested, compared with non-users, according to the report. The researchers don't know what causes the link, but they have a number of hypotheses. Both smoking and vaping are known to damage the lungs and affect the immune system, which may increase the risk of developing a COVID-19 infection after exposure to the virus, according to the report. What's more, sharing vaping products or behaviors such as face and mouse touching that come with using an e-cigarette, could also increase the risk of infection, according to the report.

Coronavirus cases are surging in Germany and Spain, Paris Marathon cancelled

— Coronavirus cases are surging in Germany and Spain, according to the BBC. Germany recorded 1,200 new cases in the past 24 hours, the biggest daily increase in more than three months. The increase in cases is likely due, in part, to people returning from holidays, said Health Minister Jens Spahn, according to the BBC. Germany has reported a total of more than 219,700 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic and 9,213 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard.

Meanwhile, Spain is currently facing the highest infection rate in Western Europe, with 1,418 new infections recorded on Tuesday and 675 active outbreaks in the country, according to the BBC. "We are right at a point where things can get better or worse. This means we have to pull out all the stops to curb outbreaks before they become more serious," Salvador Macip, an expert in health sciences at Catalonia's Open University, told AFP news agency, according to the BBC. Spain has reported a total of 326,600 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic (the highest number in Western Europe) and 28,581 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard.

— The Paris marathon was canceled amid an uptick in cases in France, according to Reuters. The marathon was originally scheduled for April 5 but had been postponed to Nov. 15. “Faced with the difficulty that many runners, especially those coming from abroad, had in making themselves available... it was decided that it would be better... for those concerned if we organised the Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris in 2021," the organizers said in a statement, according to Reuters. France recorded nearly 5,000 new coronavirus cases from Saturday to Monday, according to France24, a French news television network. Paris and several other cities now require face masks in crowded outdoor zones. Face masks are mandatory nationwide in shops and banks, according to France24.

Russia approves COVID-19 vaccine despite incomplete human testing

— Russia has approved a vaccine for COVID-19 even though critical trials of the vaccine have not been completed, Live Science reported. The vaccine, called "Sputnik V," was approved Tuesday (Aug. 11), making Russia the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine. But data from early human trials of the vaccine have not been published and large studies of the vaccine, known as phase 3 trials, haven't started yet. The country plans to begin phase these trials on Aug. 12. Only phase 3 trials, which often include tens of thousands of people, can determine if the vaccine is effective at preventing COVID-19 infection. The early approval of Russia's vaccine has raised concerns about its safety and effectiveness. "Fast-tracked approval will not make Russia the leader in the [vaccine] race, it will just expose consumers of the vaccine to unnecessary danger," Russia's Association of Clinical Trials Organizations said in a statement, The Associated Press reported

— The COVID-19 pandemic has generated a flurry of misinformation, hatching more than 2,000 rumors, conspiracy theories and reports of discrimination, according to a new study. Such false information can have serious consequences — the researchers of the new study found that COVID-19 related rumors were linked to thousands of hospitalizations and hundreds of deaths, Live Science reported. For the study, published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the researchers reviewed content on social media, including posts on Twitter and Facebook, as well as newspaper and TV reports, from December 2019 to April 2020. They identified more than 2,300 separate reports of rumors, conspiracy theories and stigma related to COVID-19 in 25 languages from 87 countries. About a quarter of the claims were related to COVID-19 illness, transmission or mortality, and an additional 19% were related to treatments and cures for the disease. For example, there were rumors that drinking bleach, eating garlic, keeping the throat moist, avoiding spicy foods, taking vitamin C and even drinking cow's urine could prevent or cure the disease. The authors recommend that governments and health agencies continue to publish accurate scientific information about COVID-19 on their websites. In addition, agencies should not only identify and debunk COVID-19 rumors, but also engage with social media companies to "spread correct information," they concluded. 

New Zealand reports first local COVID-19 transmission in 102 days, Worldwide cases surpass 20 million

— New Zealand announced its first cases of local COVID-19 transmission in 102 days. On Tuesday (Aug. 11), New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country had confirmed four new cases of COVID-19 among people who had not traveled recently or had contact with a known case, according to CNN. The new cases were all in the same household. As a result, New Zealand will reinstate temporary COVID-19 restrictions in parts of the country, CNN reported. The strictest measures will be in Auckland, where the local cases were found. The restrictions mean that restaurants, bars and non-essential shops will close, as will schools; gatherings will be limited to 10 or fewer people and residents will only be allowed to leave their homes for essential activities like grocery shopping. The measures will be in place for three days, from Wednesday through Friday.

— Worldwide cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 20 million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Global cases have doubled in about six weeks, with more than 200,000 cases being reported each day, on average, according to The New York Times. The United States has the highest number of reported cases, with nearly 5.1 million cases, followed by Brazil with 3 million cases, and India with 2.2 million cases. 

NIH announces new clinical trials testing monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19 prevention.

—  Two new clinical trials in the U.S. will test whether so-called monoclonal antibodies can prevent COVID-19, according to a statement from the National Institutes of Health. Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made versions of the antibodies produced by a person's immune system to fight infection (in this case COVID-19.) One study, sponsored by biotech company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, will test whether a monoclonal antibody called REGN-COV-2 can prevent COVID-19 asymptotic adults who have close contact with confirmed cases of COVID-19. The study aims to enroll 2,000 adults. The second study, sponsored by Eli Lilly will test whether a monoclonal antibody called LY-CoV555 can prevent infection in people at high risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to living or working in skilled nursing or assisted living facilities. That trial will enroll up to 2,400 participants. Both studies are "randomized, placebo-controlled" trials, meaning that participants are randomly assigned to receive either the monoclonal antibody or a placebo. 

Antonio Banderas tests positive for COVID-19, Governor of Guam also announces infection

— The actor Antonio Banderas has tested positive for COVID-19, according to CNN. Banderas announced on Monday (Aug. 10) that he was forced to celebrate his 60th birthday in quarantine owing to his positive test result. The actor added that he feels relatively well but a little more tired than usual. In a statement translated from Spanish, Banderas said he is "confident that I will recover as soon as possible following the medical indications that I hope will allow me to overcome the infectious process that I suffer and that is affecting so many people around the planet."

—  The governor of Guam, Lourdes "Lou" Leon Guerrero, has also tested positive for COVID-19, officials announced Monday, according to The Washington Post. Leon Guerrero said she was exposed to a close relative who was infected with COVID-19. Although she initially tested negative for the infection, she tested positive three days later after developing symptoms, the Post reported. "I implore everyone to use my experience as a reminder of just how serious and contagious this virus is," Leon Guerrero said.

Nearly 100,000 U.S. children tested positive for COVID-19 in last two weeks of July, Scientists engineer 'decoy' as possible antiviral treatment

— More than 97,000 children across the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19 in just the last two weeks of July, according to a new report from American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. That translates to a 40% increase in child cases over the two-week period, the report said. The researchers collected information on reported COVID-19 cases in children in 49 states along with New York City, Washington D.C.,  Puerto Rico and Guam. A total of nearly 339,000 cases in children have been reported since the beginning of the pandemic in the U.S. Six states — California, Florida, Arizona, Tennessee, Illinois and Georgia — have reported more than 15,000 total cases. Most new cases were reported in the South and West. Children made up around 9% of all cases in the U.S., and between 0.6% to 3.7% of all hospitalizations, and 0% and 0.8% of all COVID-19 deaths, the report said.

— Scientists are attempting to engineer a molecular "decoy" to possibly treat or prevent COVID-19 infection. A new study finds that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, binds tightly to such a decoy, which is designed to resemble the receptor the virus uses to infect human cells, Live Science reported. However, the research is in its early stages, and no such decoy has ever been approved as a treatment for infectious diseases. "This would be something new, if it is successful," study author Erik Procko, an assistant professor of biochemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told Live Science 

—  A total of about 19.9 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide since the pandemic began, with cases expected to top 20 million this week, according to the World Health Organization. Cases are highest in the United States, with more than 5 million cases, followed by Brazil, with more than 3 million cases and India with more than 2.2 million cases. 

Australia logs deadliest day, Brazil passes 100,000 deaths, New Zealand hits positive milestone

—The state of Victoria in Australia reported 17 deaths Sunday (Aug. 9), making it Australia's deadliest day during the pandemic, MSN reported. Meanwhile, the state reported 394 new COVID-19 cases, bringing its total to 14,659. Ten of the deaths there were linked to elderly care centers, Premier Daniel Andrews said during a media briefing, MSN reported. In total, Australia has recorded 21,084 COVID-19 cases and 295 related deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins virus dashboard.

—The pandemic seems to be at full steam across the globe. Brazil has become the second country, after the U.S., to surpass 100,000 deaths related to COVID-19, AFP reported. India has more than 2 million cases — which doubled in just 3 weeks — and 42,518 virus-related deaths, the AFP reported. And in South Africa, more than 10,000 people have so far died from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. 

—On a much more optimistic note, New Zealand has now gone 100 days without any community transmission of COVID-19, TVNZ reported. "Achieving 100 days without community transmission is a significant milestone. However, as we all know, we can't afford to be complacent," said Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand's Director-General of Health, as reported by TVNZ. "We have seen overseas how quickly the virus can re-emerge and spread in places where it was previously under control, and we need to be prepared to quickly stamp out any future cases in New Zealand." The total number of active cases has remained steady at 23, TVNZ reported. 

US passes 5-million COVID-19 cases; Motorcycle rally to draw 25,000 to South Dakota

—The U.S. has passed another grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic: The country now has recorded more than 5 million cases of COVID-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus), according to Worldometer and The New York Times database. Three states have passed their own milestones, with cases there surpassing a half-million: California (556,185 cases), Florida (526,577) and Texas (504,298). 

—Meanwhile, California surpassed 10,000 deaths related to COVID-19 on Friday (Aug. 7), becoming the third U.S. state to do so, after New York (32,831) and New Jersey (15,942), The Washington Post reported. Even so, the state's death rate, which is at about 261 per million, is much lower than that in New York (1,688 per million) and New Jersey (1,795 per million), according to Worldometer. As of Sunday (Aug. 9), California had logged at least 10,313 virus-related deaths. 

—In South Dakota, which has logged at least 9,477 COVID-19 cases and 146 related deaths, a 10-day motorcycle rally is expected to draw some 25,000 people to the city of Sturgis, about half the number as last year, The New York Times reported. The Sturgis Motorcycle rally began on Friday (Aug. 7). As people crowded the streets driving recreation vehicles and bikes, the Times reported: "Few masks could be seen, and free bandannas being passed out were mostly folded, or wrapped around people's heads." The rally is expected to be among the largest public gatherings in the U.S. since the pandemic began, according to the Times. And while health experts have found that COVID-19 is less likely to transmit outdoors, especially with social-distancing measures and mask-wearing, drawing that many people to one place could be risky: It will also draw more people inside restaurants and stores, the Times said.

Boris Johnson says UK has 'moral duty' to reopen schools

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the country has a "moral duty" to reopen schools in September, he wrote in an exclusive article on The Mail. "This pandemic isn't over, and the last thing any of us can afford to do is become complacent," he wrote. "But now that we know enough to reopen schools to all pupils safely, we have a moral duty to do so." 

Leading scientists and teachers had voiced concern about reopening, as there is evidence that cases are beginning to increase again, The Guardian reported. To date, the U.K. has logged at least 309,763 COVID-19 cases and 46,566 related deaths, with 871 new cases reported just yesterday, according to Worldometer.

"If schools are to reopen safely, the government will need to give them clarification about what they need to do to take account of the latest scientific evidence and advice, as well as sufficient time to review and, if necessary, adjust their reopening plans," said Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, which represents more than 300,000 teachers in the U.K., as reported by The Guardian.

Some researchers have said that school closures were an important means of controlling COVID-19 spread. "The evidence is clear that schools are important in the spread of Covid-19," said Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, according to The Guardian. "Our studies show that, across Europe, closing schools was the single factor most strongly associated with drops in infection rates."

Johnson expressed his resolve to keep schools open, saying that they would be the last sector to close.

"The PM [prime minister] has been clear that businesses including shops, pubs and restaurants should be forced to close first, with schools remaining open for as long as possible," a source told the PA News agency, a leading news organization in the U.K.

Childhood inflammatory illness tied to COVID-19 disproportionately impacts people of color

Hundreds of kids in the U.S. have become sick with an inflammatory syndrome tied to COVID-19, and most of them landed in the intensive care units of hospitals, a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed.

The mysterious inflammatory syndrome tied to COVID-19, which was first identified in May, has impacted people of color more so than any other children, according to the CDC report. As of July 29, a total of 570 individuals have come down with the illness, dubbed multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), according to reports from 40 state health departments, Washington, D.C., and New York City. The patients ranged in age from 2 weeks to 20 years old. More than 55% were male; about 40% were Hispanic or Latino; 33% were non-Hispanic Black; and 13% were non-Hispanic white, the report said. 

Symptoms of the MIS-C can vary, but they tend to be similar to those found in Kawasaki disease, a rare childhood illness that causes inflammation in blood vessel walls, and in serious cases can cause heart damage, Live Science previously reported. Symptoms can include fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes and fatigue, the CDC said. While young kids tend to show symptoms that more classically resemble Kawasaki, teens and young adults show more of an overwhelming inflammatory response involving their heart and other organs.

According to the new CDC report, about two thirds of the patients had no preexisting underlying medical conditions, though about 25% had obesity. More than 63% had to be admitted to the ICU. The CDC researchers found that the most common symptoms reported by the 570 individuals were: abdominal pain (61.9%), vomiting (61.8%), skin rash (55.3%), diarrhea (53.2%), hypotension (49.5%) and conjunctival injection (bloodshot eyes, 48.4%). For most of the patients, the illness involved four or more organ systems, especially the heart, The New York Times reported

All of the 565 patients tested for COVID-19 had positive tests. Ten of the patients died. 

"As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, with the number of cases increasing in many jurisdictions, health care providers should continue to monitor patients to identify children with a hyperinflammatory syndrome with shock and cardiac involvement. Suspected MIS-C patients should be reported to local and state health departments," the CDC said in the report.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces school districts in New York can reopen in the fall

— Citing low infection rates across New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in a teleconference today that school districts across the state can reopen in the fall. "If anybody can open schools we can open schools," he said. "We're going to watch the infection rate between now and the day that schools open" for any spikes or concerns, and revisit the plan if need be, Cuomo added. All school districts are required to submit plans to the state for review. 

Cuomo is also requiring school districts to submit remote learning, testing and tracing plans online,  set dates for 3 to 5 discussion sessions with parents and the community before Aug. 21 and have at least one separate discussion with just teachers, according to his Twitter page. Students will be required to wear masks when social distancing is impossible and should have a mask with them at all times. If they do not, schools are required to provide a mask, according to his Twitter page.

— The coronavirus pandemic has now claimed more than 715,800 lives worldwide, including more than 160,000 in the U.S. alone. Wearing face masks could save another 66,000 Americans from dying of the virus by December, according to a new model, Live Science reported.

"It's rare that you see something so simple, so inexpensive, so easy for everybody to participate in can have such an extraordinary impact in the U.S. and also all over the world," Dr. Christopher Murray, the director of the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), said during CNN's Global Town Hall on Aug. 6.

The IHME model, which the White House frequently cited early in the pandemic, now forecasts another 134,854 deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus by December, which would bring the total to 295,011. But if, starting now, 95% of people in the U.S. wore masks every time they stepped foot out of their homes, the total number of projected deaths would drop 49% to 228,271, the scientists found. That's more than 66,000 lives saved in the U.S.

Africa has now reported more than 1 million cases of COVID-19

— Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tested negative for the coronavirus after initially testing positive, according to CBS News. The second test he took was a PCR test, whereas earlier on in the day he had taken an antigen test, according to a statement. "We do not have much experience with antigen tests here in Ohio.  We will be working with the manufacturer to have a better understanding of how the discrepancy between these two tests could have occurred," according to the statement.

— There have now been more than 19.1 million COVID-19 cases reported worldwide and more than 715,500 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., there have been more than 4.8 million cases and more than 160,000 deaths; In Brazil, there have been more than 2.9 million cases and more than 98,400 deaths; In India, there have been more than 2 million cases and more than 41,500 deaths.

— Africa has now reported more than 1 million cases of COVID-19, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dashboard. There have been more than 22,000 deaths on the continent from the coronavirus, according to the dashboard. More than half of the COVID-19 cases are in South Africa, the country that was hardest hit but that has also done a lot of testing, according to The New York Times. The actual case count might be much higher as testing levels have been extremely low elsewhere on the continent, according to the Times.

At least four people in the U.S. have died after drinking hand sanitizer tainted with methanol

— At least four people in the U.S. have died after drinking hand sanitizer tainted with methanol and about a dozen or more experienced serious health effects such as vision loss, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This follows warnings from the Food and Drug Administration that dozens of hand sanitizer products contain methanol, a toxic substance that can cause nausea, vomiting, permanent blindness, seizures and even death, according to a Live Science report. Health officials have identified 15 adults in Arizona and New Mexico who were hospitalized for methanol poisoning after ingesting hand sanitizer, according to the report. Six patients experienced seizures while hospitalized, according to the report. Seven patients were eventually discharged from the hospital, and of these, three developed vision loss, including near blindness. Four patients died and another four remain hospitalized, according to the report.

— Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tested positive for the coronavirus in a screening prior to a visit with President Trump, according to The New York Times. He was tested as standard protocol and wasn't showing any symptoms, according to the Times. He did not meet with the president. Ohio now has about 1,200 new coronavirus cases a day, more cases than its first peak in April, according to the Times.

Study finds previous infections with common cold viruses can train immune system to recognize the novel coronavirus

— Previous infections with common cold viruses can train the immune system to recognize the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, according to a new study published Aug. 4 in the journal Science. Previous studies have shown that more than 50% of people never exposed to SARS-CoV-2 have immune cells known as T cells that recognize it, according to a Live Science report.  In the new study, researchers analyzed blood samples collected from people before the pandemic and found they contained T cells that reacted to more than 100 specific sites on SARS-CoV-2. The researchers showed that these T cells also reacted to similar sites on four different coronaviruses that cause common cold infections, according to the report.

This may explain why some people have milder COVID-19 infections than others, according to the report.  However, the authors stress that this hypothesis is "highly speculative" and requires more research to confirm because it’s unknown how much impact T cells have in fighting COVID-19, as it’s just one of many immune system molecules and cells that are part of the response, according to the report.

— Nearly 1.2 million people in the U.S. filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, according to data from the Department of Labor, NBC News reported. That’s a decline from the past two weeks but the 20th week in a row where unemployment claims exceeded 1 million, according to NBC News. 

NYC will set up quarantine checkpoints at major bridges and tunnels into the city, a preliminary analysis suggests convalescent plasma therapy reduces mortality rate in COVID-19 patients

— New York City will set up quarantine checkpoints at the entrances of main bridges and tunnels into the city in order to screen travelers and residents coming in from states with high coronavirus case counts, according to CNBC. Back in late June, the Tri-state area had issued a 14-day quarantine for those traveling into New York, New Jersey or Connecticut from 9 states where the coronavirus case counts were on a rise. Since then, the list has grown to 30 states. 

"Travelers coming in from those states will be given information about the quarantine, they will be reminded that it is required, not optional,” de Blasio said at a briefing today. “They’ll be reminded that failure to quarantine is a violation of state law and it comes with serious penalties.” These quarantine checkpoints will start screening on Wednesday, according to CNBC.

— COVID-19 patients treated with the blood of those recovered from the infection have a lower mortality rate than those given standard treatments alone, according to a preliminary analysis published in the preprint database bioRxiv. A group of researchers analyzed a dozen trials that included more than 800 participants in total where hospitalized COVID-19 patients were given this blood treatment, called convalescent plasma (CP) therapy, according to a Live Science report. These trials suggested that patients given convalescent plasma were less than half as likely to die as patients given other treatments, according to the report. Specifically, the mortality rate among patients given plasma was 13%, compared with 25% among patients given standard treatments, according to the report. However, the new study isn't yet peer reviewed and neither was some of the data that was analyzed in the study. What's more, only three of the 12 studies were randomized control trials (RCT), according to the report. 

"The report provides a signal of hope that CP is beneficial, although unfortunately, it does not provide the confidence that is required to be able to responsibly recommend CP for the treatment of COVID-19," Dr. Mila Ortigoza, an instructor in the Departments of Medicine and Microbiology at NYU Langone Health, who was not involved in the research, told Live Science. "What the current study really highlights is the need to continue supporting ongoing RCTs of CP" to ensure that they enroll enough patients to provide "indisputable evidence" that the therapy really works, she said.

Phillippines goes back into lockdown after a surge of cases, global deaths from the virus exceed 700,000

— After a surge in new coronavirus cases and a dire warning from doctors that it could collapse the healthcare system, tens of millions of people in the Philippines are once again under lockdown, according to the BBC. The number of infections have increased five times since the country eased one of the world's longest lockdowns in June, according to the BBC. Now, their case counts have exceeded 100,000 and they tallied a record 5,032 new infections on Sunday. Overwhelmed hospitals have reportedly had to turn away patients, according to the BBC. People are now only allowed to leave their homes to buy essentials or to exercise outdoors and public transport and domestic flights have stopped, according to the BBC. Restaurants are only allowed takeaways.

— There are now more than 700,000 people who have died from COVID-19 worldwide since the start of the pandemic, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. There have been more than 18.5 million cases reported globally, more than 4.7 million of those cases in the U.S., more than 2.8 million in Brazil and more than 1.9 million in India, according to the dashboard. 

A study published last week finds that in order to safely reopen colleges during a pandemic, students should be tested for the coronavirus every two days

— There have now been more than 18.3 million cases of COVID-19 reported and more than 696,000 deaths worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. In the U.S., there have now been more than 4.7 million cases reported and more than 156,200 deaths. Yesterday (Aug. 3), more than 47,800 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the U.S. and at least 602 new coronavirus deaths, according to The New York Times. In the last week, there have been an average of 60,194 new cases a day, a 9% decrease from the average from two weeks ago, according to the Times.

— As the school year approaches, students, teachers and parents await critical decisions on school re-openings across the country. A new study published Friday (July 31) in the journal JAMA Network finds that in order to safely reopen colleges during a pandemic, students should be tested for the coronavirus every two days, according to The Miami Herald. Only testing the students with coronavirus symptoms will not stop outbreaks, and colleges should use rapid and inexpensive tests (even poorly sensitive tests) to frequently screen students,  the researchers said, according to The Herald. That, along with strict interventions to keep the transmission low, will allow colleges to contain the infections that occur and still be cost-effective, according to the study.

"This sets a very high bar — logistically, financially, and behaviorally — that may be beyond the reach of many university administrators and the students in their care," the authors wrote in the study. Testing a campus of say 5,000 students every two days during a short semester will require 195,000 tests, each costing between $10 and $50, according to the study.

Some colleges have already announced similar approaches. The University of Illinois will test students, faculty and staff twice a week for the virus if they participate in activities on campus; Boston University will test undergraduate students twice a week and graduate students once a week; and Cornell College will randomly test 3% of the student population of 1,000 every week, according to the Miami Herald.

The chances of catching COVID-19 on public transportation depend on where you sit, according to a new study

— The chances of catching COVID-19 on public transportation depend on where you sit, according to a new study conducted in China. Those closest to an infected person are, as expected, at the highest risk and those farther away are at a relatively low risk, according to a Live Science report.The study which involved thousands of passengers who traveled on China's high-speed trains, found that the rate of transmission from an infected person to others on the train varied from nearly 0% to 10%, depending on where the person sat. The study was published July 29 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

"Our study shows that although there is an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission on trains, a person's seat location and travel time in relation to an infectious person can make a big difference as to whether it is passed on," study lead author Dr. Shengjie Lai, a research fellow at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, said in a statement. "The findings suggest that during the COVID-19 epidemic it is important to reduce the density of passengers and promote personal hygiene measures, the use of face coverings and possibly carry out temperature checks before boarding." Other findings from around the world also suggest that wearing masks and social distancing on public transportation greatly lowers the risk of infection, according to the report. In Paris, for example, public health officials found that of the 386 recent clusters of COVID-19 between May and mid-July, none were linked to public transportation, according to The New York TImes. Similar findings were seen in Tokyo and parts of Austria, the Times reported.

— At least 45 hospitals in Florida have zero ICU beds available and 34 hospitals have 10% or less ICU capacity available,  according to data from the Agency for Health Care Administration, CNN reported. Seven of those hospitals are in Miami-Dade County and five of those hospitals are in Broward county, according to CNN. Florida has now reported more than 491,800 cases of COVID-19 and more than 7,157 deaths among its residents, according to the Florida Department of Healths' COVID-19 dashboard

No one can predict what the pandemic will look like in the fall, Fauci says

— As the school year approaches and flu season looms on the horizon, the U.S. continues to battle a worsening coronavirus pandemic. No one can predict how the pandemic will play out in the fall, the nation's top infectious disease expert said today, according to a Live Science report.

"I do not know...nor can anyone know what the fall is going to bring," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said today (Aug. 3) during a Q&A put together by the Journal JAMA Network. Back in the spring, when the coronavirus was mainly ravaging the northeast, there was talk of a "second wave" in the fall, Fauci said. That was assuming these numbers would have dropped down to a baseline...but they have not. There are "five easy things that one can do to try and turn that curve around so that as we enter the fall we're really at a low baseline," Fauci said. These handful of actions, we know from experience, can help blunt resurgences and prevent new ones from occurring, he said. The first is consistent — and correct — wearing of masks. The second and third are avoiding crowds and keeping distances of 6 feet (1.8 meters) or more between you and others, he said. The fourth is staying away from bars or places where people congregate and attending functions outdoors rather than indoors, he said. The fifth is washing your hands, according to the report. If left to its own devices, the virus "is going to keep resurging," Fauci said. The only way we can stop it is through such countermeasures, he added. "And it can be done. It's not inevitable" that the virus will resurge, he said.

— In the last two weeks, the number of new coronavirus cases increased by 175% in New Jersey, according to NBC News. New Jersey's rate of transmission is now at 1.48, whereas a month ago it was at 0.87, Gov. Phil Murphy said in a COVID-19 briefing today. "We believe that some of this increase is attributable to the number of indoor house parties and other events which we have been seeing across the state," he said. "And with the hot humid weather we've been experiencing we know that there have been many more such indoor parties taking place which have not made the news."

"We cannot be any clearer that indoor gatherings, especially large, crowded ones where social distancing isn't practiced and face masks aren't worn... just are not safe," he added. In response, Murphy announced tightening of indoor gathering restrictions today. There can now only be a maximum of 25 people gathering indoors, down from a maximum of 100, he announced today. But this change will not apply to weddings, funerals and memorial services and religious and political activities protected under the first amendment, he added. The New Jersey Department of Health reported 264 new cases in New Jersey today, bringing the total case count to 182,614.

Dozens of people tested positive for the coronavirus aboard the MS Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian cruise ship

—At least 5 passengers and 36 crew members aboard the MS Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian cruise ship, tested positive for the coronavirus, according to The Associated Press. All 41 people have been admitted to the University Hospital of North Norway in Tromsoe where the ship is docked, the cruise line has stopped all trips and apologized for procedural errors, according to the AP. Because the cruise ship stops at ports (people in a total of 69 municipalities in Norway may have been exposed), the passengers who were infected could have spread the virus to local communities, according to the AP. The Tromsoe-based Hurtigruten was one of the first companies — but not the only one —  to start sailing its cruise ships again after all cruise ships stopped sailing in mid-March. At that time, more than 710 people were infected aboard the Carnival's Diamond Princess cruise ship and 13 people died, according to the AP.

— New guidelines from the Football Association (the national governing body for soccer in England) says that players who deliberately cough on opponents or referees can now be given yellow or red cards amid the pandemic, according to The Guardian. The referee should take action if "certain someone deliberately, and from close range, coughed into the face of an opponent or match official …” according to the document. This offense would be in the category of  "using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures," according to the document. But if the incident wasn't severe enough, the referee should give the player caution for "unsporting behavior-shows a lack of respect for the game," according to the document. What's more, referees should remind players not to spit on the ground, according to The Guardian.

— There have now been more than 4.6 million cases of COVID-19 reported in the U.S. and more than 154,800 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. Worldwide, there have been more than 18.1 million cases reported and 689,900 deaths, according to the dashboard. In Brazil, there have been more than 2.7 million cases reported and more than 94,000d deaths; In India there have been more than 1.8 million cases reported and more than 38,000 deaths; In Russia there have been more than 854,600 cases reported and more than 14,000 deaths; In South Africa there have been more than 511,400 cases reported and more than 8,300 deaths, according to the dashboard.

Pastor in D.C. who said not to ‘cower in fear' over coronavirus tests positive

A pastor at a Catholic church in Washington, D.C., who told parishioners not to "cower in fear" over the novel coronavirus, has tested positive for it. The case of COVID-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus) prompted D.C. health officials to contact about 250 staff and parishioners to tell them to self-quarantine for 14 days, The Washington Post reported. On July 27, Monsignor Charles Pope of Holy Comforter St. Cyprian Catholic Church was admitted to the hospital with a high fever and low oxygen. That afternoon, a rapid diagnostic test showed he had contracted the coronavirus.

Just over a week earlier, Pope had questioned measures being taken to stem the coronavirus outbreak, measures that included limiting religious services, the Post said. In an article he wrote in the National Catholic Register, he said, "There is more to life than just not getting sick and not dying."

On the morning of July 27, Pope told a religious radio show that he considered those who chose not to return to in-person masses to be "lukewarm" Catholics, the Post reported. The pastor has since returned to the rectory, according to the Post article.

After declining in June, the virus has taken hold again in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia region. Just today, D.C. logged 69 new cases, Maryland had 909 and Virginia recorded 981, the Post said. 

Coronavirus outbreak is 'extraordinarily widespread' in US, says Dr. Birx

Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, told CNN on Sunday that the deadly coronavirus is more widespread in the U.S. than when it was when the virus took hold of the country months ago. 

"What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It's into the rural as equal urban areas," Birx said on CNN's "State of the Union," CNN reported

The daily death toll from the coronavirus in the U.S. exceeded 1,000 on Saturday (Aug. 1), for the sixth straight day, The Washington Post reported. Because deaths don't happen immediately after a person is infected, or even hospitalized, these numbers lag behind case numbers. As such, the alarming number of deaths is expected to continue at high levels for weeks. "Overall, what this tells us is that now that deaths have started to increase, we can expect them to increase for several more weeks," Ellie Murray, an epidemiologist at Boston University, told The Post. 

On "State of the Union," Birx urged Americans to follow health recommendations, such as mask-wearing and social distancing. 

"To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus," Birx said. "If you're in multi-generational households, and there's an outbreak in your rural area or in your city, you need to really consider wearing a mask at home, assuming that you're positive, if you have individuals in your households with comorbidities." (A comorbidity means two or more illnesses occur in the same person. For the coronavirus, certain comorbidities, or underlying illnesses, have been linked with more severe infections.)

"This epidemic right now is different and it's more widespread and it's both rural and urban," Birx said.

Though Birx would not speculate on how many American's might die from the coronavirus by the end of the year, she did say the death toll is resting on measures taken by southern and western states, which have become hot spots for the virus, CNN reported.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which has been updating its models on coronavirus forecasts, is projecting 230,822 COVID-19-related deaths by Nov. 1 in the U.S. 

She did point out that one of the big culprits for the surge involves social gatherings. "It's not super spreading individuals, it's super spreading events and we need to stop those. We definitely need to take more precautions," Birx said on CNN.

Rather than a "one size fits all" approach, Birx recommended that each state develop a "dramatically tailored" approach to containing the virus, based on what experts are seeing at the community level, in the hospitals, for example. 

How many American deaths from COVID-19?, Mexico breaks case record, Trump condemns Fauci

—To date, at least 154,320 people in the U.S. have died as a result of COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins virus dashboard. And now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is forecasting that the death toll could reach 182,000 by the fourth week of August, according to an internal government document obtained by Yahoo News and reported by AOL. That CDC model also forecasts between 5,000 and 11,000 new deaths related to the disease in a single week ending Aug. 22, AOL reported. Meanwhile, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which has been updating its models on coronavirus forecasts, is projecting 230,822 COVID-19-related deaths by Nov. 1 in the U.S. 

—Mexico logged a record 9,556 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, according to Worldometer. The last record was hit yesterday, when Mexico reported 8,458 new COVID-19 cases, according to the health ministry, The Guardian reported. To date, the country has recorded 434,193 cases and 47,472 related deaths. "The government says the real number of infected people is likely considerably higher than the confirmed cases," according to The Guardian.

—U.S. President Donald Trump condemned the country's leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said that the spike in U.S. cases compared with the sharp decline seen across Europe could be explained by different measures taken to control outbreaks. Whereas most European countries shut down their economies almost entirely (about 95%), the U.S. shut down just half of its economy, The Guardian reported. In a tweet, Trump wrote "We have more cases because we have tested far more than any other country, 60,000,000. If we tested less, there would be less cases. How did Italy, France & Spain do? Now Europe sadly has flare ups. Most of our governors worked hard & smart. We will come back STRONG!"

However, whereas many states in the U.S. did follow strict social-distancing and masking measures, others did not; and many of those states are showing surges in both cases, hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19, news agencies have reported.

Calif. surpasses 500,000 cases, US makes vaccine deal, Indiana school deals with COVID-19 case

—As of this morning, California has surpassed 500,000 COVID-19 cases, according to Worldometer. Though a high total, cases and deaths related to the disease are lower in per capita terms in California compared with other states: California is recording 12,703 cases per 1 million people in the state's population, compared with 21,901 per capita in Florida, 22,810 per capita in New York and 15,279 in Texas. 

—French drugmaker Sanofi said it had an agreement with the U.S. government for up to $2.1 billion to provide the U.S. with 100 million doses of its experimental vaccine, The New York Times reported. "The global need for a vaccine to help prevent Covid-19 is massive, and no single vaccine or company will be able to meet the global demand alone," Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and global head of Sanofi Pasteur, the company's vaccine division, said in a statement, the Times reported.

Sanofi and its pharmaceutical partner, GlaxoSmithKline will use the federal funding to run clinical trials and to manufacture the vaccine. Sanofi is scheduled to begin trials to test vaccine safety in September, with later-stage trials to test how well (if at all) the vaccine works before the end of 2020, the Times reported. If all goes well, Sanofil said it could apply for FDA approval in the first half of 2021.

—One of the first school districts to reopen in the U.S. — Greenfield-Central Community Schools in Indiana — didn't last a day before having to struggle with the dilemma of how to handle COVID-19 cases in its classrooms. Just hours after classes resumed for the first time since the spring on Thursday (July 30), Greenfield Central Junior High School in Indiana found out a student had tested positive for COVID-19, The New York Times reported. Under the school's emergency protocol, the student was isolated and anyone with close contact with that student was ordered to quarantine for 14 days, the Times reported. 

"We knew it was a when, not if," said Harold Olin, superintendent of the Greenfield-Central Community School Corporation, as reported by the Times. Even so, Olin added that he was "very shocked it was on Day 1."

Ancestors of the novel coronavirus may have been circulating in bats unnoticed for decades

— The ancestors of the novel coronavirus may have been circulating in bats unnoticed for decades. And those coronaviruses likely also had the ability to infect humans, according to a new study published July 28 in the journal Nature Microbiology. A group of researchers analyzed parts of the SARS-CoV-2 genome and compared them with similar coronavirus found in bats and pangolins,  according to a Live Science report

Adding evidence to support previous findings, they discovered that SARS-CoV-2 was most closely related to another bat coronavirus, known as RaTG13. To figure out the timeline of the SARS-CoV-2 lineage, the researchers examined the number of mutations present in regions of the SARS-CoV-2 genome that hadn't undergone recombination. They found that over a century ago, there was a single lineage that eventually would give rise to SARS-CoV-2, RaTG13 and Pangolin-2019 viruses, according to the report. At that time, the Pangolin-2019 virus diverged from the SARS-CoV-2 and the RaTG13 viruses. Then, in the 1960s or 1970s, this lineage split into two, creating the RaTG13 lineage and the SARS-CoV-2 lineage. 

"The SARS-CoV-2 lineage circulated in bats for 50 or 60 years before jumping to humans," co-lead author Maciej Boni, an associate professor of biology at Penn State's Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics told Live Science. Near the end of 2019, "someone just got very unlucky" and came into contact with SARS-CoV-2 and that set off a pandemic. 

— People who recover from COVID-19, even those who weren't hospitalized, may have lingering heart damage and inflammation even months after being infected, a small new study suggests, according to another Live Science report. A group of researchers analyzed data from 100 adults in Germany who had recently recovered from COVID-19 — about one-third of them had been hospitalized and the rest recovered at home, according to the report. On MRI scans taken more than two months after their diagnosis, about three-quarters of these patients showed signs of heart abnormalities, including inflammation of the heart muscle, or myocarditis. Many patients also had detectable levels of a protein in their blood called troponin that can indicate heart injury, such as damage after a heart attack, according to the report. But it's not clear if this type of heart involvement is permanent or dangerous in the long run, according to the report. These types of heart abnormalities occasionally occur with other respiratory diseases such as the flu and may be temporary and mild cases of heart inflammation often get better on their own, according to the report.

— The first COVID-19 patient in the U.S. to receive a double-lung transplant was discharged from the hospital this week, according to another Live Science report. After the coronavirus caused irreversible damage to her lungs, 28-year-old Mayra Ramirez underwent the transplant on June 5, Live Science previously reported. Ramirez must take anti-rejection medications for the rest of her life, but because she is young and healthy, "she'll continue to get stronger and stronger," her surgeon Dr. Ankit Bharat told The New York Times. Following Ramirez's transplant, Northwestern conducted a second double-lung transplant for Brian Kuhns, a 62-year-old coronavirus patient. "Mayra and Brian wouldn't be alive today without the double-lung transplants," Bharat said in the statement. "COVID-19 completely destroyed their lungs, and they were critically ill going into the transplant procedure making it a daunting undertaking." With both Kuhns and Ramirez now in recovery, Northwestern has two additional COVID-19 patients awaiting double-lung transplants, according to the report.

Coronavirus cases in New Jersey are rising, fueled by indoor gatherings

— Just a week ago, coronavirus cases in New Jersey were at their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic, but they're now rising again, according to The New York Times. In the past week, New Jersey recorded an average of 416 cases per day, up 28% from the average two weeks earlier, according to the Times. 

Last week, the state recorded its lowest seven-day-average since the peak in April: 224. Now, this rise is, in part, fueled by young people gathering indoors on the Jersey Shore. A party that dozens of Long Beach Island lifeguards attended has been linked to 35 cases of the virus; a house party in Middletown has been linked to 65 new cases, mostly among teens; and a graduation party in Westfield resulted in 17 cases. “I just want to plead one more time to parents and kids,” Gov. Phil Murphy said on Monday. “Don’t congregate inside. Please don’t do that. If you’re