Thursday, September 24, 2020

Fauci gets security; Americans want required face masks

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During his briefing on COVID-19 response,

USA TODAY

It’s time to hit the reset button: Shut it down and restart. That’s what more than 150 health professionals are urging government leaders in an open letter published earlier this week.

“Tell the American people the truth about the virus, even when it’s hard. Take bold action to save lives — even when it means shutting down again,” the letter, spearheaded by the nonprofit U.S. Public Interest Research Group, says.

Public health leaders argue in the letter that the U.S. reopened too quickly, nonessential businesses should close again, Americans should mostly stay home, and government officials need to invest more in testing, contact tracing, and personal protective equipment capacities.

“If you don’t take these actions, the consequences will be measured in widespread suffering and death,” according to the letter addressed to President Donald Trump, federal officials and governors. 

Here are some significant developments today:

  • The World Health Organization says a record number of virus cases have been reported in the last 24 hours. Friday’s situation report lists 284,196 new cases across the globe, the higher than the previous record set six days ago. A quarter of the new cases come from the U.S.
  • Republicans promised another round of $1,200 bonus checks and money for schools Thursday, while Democrats dug in to protect the $600 weekly unemployment benefit bonus.
  • The CDC unveiled new guidelines Thursday for schools planning to reopen this fall as well as for people who have mild to moderate COVID-19. They now need to isolate for only 10 days after their symptoms begin.
  • After slowly dropping for over four months, the number of Americans filing new unemployment claims pushed higher last week with 1.4 million new claims.  

📈 Today’s stats: The U.S. has surpassed 4 million confirmed cases and has more than 144,000 deaths, according to John Hopkins University data. Worldwide cases have surpassed 15 million with more than 633,000 deaths.

📰 What we’re reading: When will a vaccine be available to the general public? To understand when pre-COVID-19 life in the U.S. can resume, USA TODAY created a panel of experts who estimate we’re almost halfway to an available vaccine. 

Our live blog is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news, and get updates in your inbox with The Daily Briefing.

CDC report finds ‘prolonged illness’ is common

COVID-19 patients face a significant likelihood of lingering symptoms, even if they weren’t sick enough to go to the hospital, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Friday.

The report found about a third of 274 respondents who were symptomatic when tested “had not returned to their usual state of health when interviewed 2–3 weeks after testing.”

The report follows widespread reports from “long-haulers” who report life-altering symptoms for weeks or months after first getting sick.

Common lingering symptoms include fatigue, cough, and headache, the report says. It found that young adults and people with no underlying conditions were among those who reported long-term illness. 

Congressional staff member dies of COVID-19

A staff member for Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., died of COVID-19 in a Florida hospital, the congressman announced in a statement released Friday.

Buchanan expressed his condolences and hailed Gary Tibbetts, who had worked for the congressman since 2011, as a “consummate professional and true public servant in every sense of the word.” Tibbetts is the first congressional aide known to have died from COVID-19. 

– Nicholas Wu

Barron Trump’s school isn’t fully reopening in the fall

Despite President Donald Trump’s pleas for schools to reopen, his son’s private school in the Maryland suburbs will not be welcoming students back fully onto its campus in the fall.

St. Andrew’s Episcopal School said it was considering whether to take a hybrid model approach, allowing some students back to campus some days, or be fully remote to start the school year.

“As we prepare to make a decision the week of August 10 about how to best begin the school year, we will continue to follow guidance of appropriate health officials and refine both our hybrid and distance learning plans,” the school said in a letter to parents.

Under its hybrid model, students in grades 7 to 12 would rotate weekly between on-campus and remote learning. According to the New York Times, Barron, 14, Trump’s youngest child, has attended the school for three years.

McDonald’s to require customers wear masks at all US restaurants

McDonald’s will require customers to wear masks or face coverings when entering its 14,000 restaurants nationwide starting Aug. 1. The fast food giant is the latest business to announce it will mandate masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19 as cases spike. 

“While nearly 82% of our restaurants are in states or localities that require facial coverings for both crew and customers today, it’s important we protect the safety of all employees and customers,” McDonald’s said in its statement Friday.

– Kelly Tyko

No space for bodies: Mississippi county to bring in refrigerated cooler 

Authorities faced with limited space to store bodies awaiting autopsies are now bringing in a refrigerated cooler to help as the coronavirus pandemic surges in a Mississippi county. 

Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart said Thursday that without a morgue space is running out to store victims of homicides, car crashes and other fatalities that require autopsies. 

The surge in coronavirus cases and deaths in the county is also having an impact as bodies can no longer be sent to hospital morgues for temporary storage. Private facilities are also at capacity, the coroner said. 

– Justin Vicory, Mississippi Clarion Ledger

DC adds quarantine requirement for nonessential travelers from hot spots

Washington, D.C., will require travelers coming to the city to self-quarantine for 14 days if they are arriving from a high-risk area on nonessential travel.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday that the self-quarantine requirement would take effect next week. Maryland and Virginia, which border D.C., are exempt from the order, but other states that see a seven-day moving average of new COVID-19 cases at 10 or more per 100,000 people will be affected.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut jointly announced self-quarantine requirements last month for travelers arriving from states with high numbers of positive cases. Their hot-spot list has grown to 31 states. Many other states have quarantine requirement. Read the full list here if you’re planning travel.

Fauci says he has security after threats to him, family

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, recently talked about heightened threats to him and his family and his security detail. Fauci made the comments on CNN’s “The Axe Files” podcast and said that many of the threats come from people who are angry and believe, “I’m interfering with their life because I’m pushing a public health agenda.”

In April, media outlets reported that the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Marshals Service had stationed agents at HHS to protect Fauci. 

The longtime head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said he has been a target since the early days of the HIV/AIDS pandemic as the first government official speaking out about the virus. He said he received hate mail then but could largely ignore it. The backlash he’s received during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, is of a different magnitude, he said.

“The kind of not only hate mail but actual, serious threats against me are not good,” Fauci said. “It’s tough. Serious threats against me, against my family, my daughters, my wife. I mean, really? Is this the United States of America? But it’s real. It really is real.”

Fauci added: “We are all trying to open up American again in a way that is safe, that we can do it in a measured fashion. But the hostility against public health issues is difficult to not only understand but difficult to even process.”

In a recent interview with the business news outlet MarketWatch, Fauci also said he would not eat inside a restaurant or get on a flight given the current state of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.

Read this: Straight-talking Anthony Fauci has been the nation’s voice on the coronavirus. Who is he?

24 million Americans fear missing next rent payment

Days from the end of enhanced unemployment benefits and a federal eviction moratorium, 24 million Americans say they have little to no chance of being able to pay next month’s rent, a U.S. Census Bureau survey shows.

A disproportionate share of those in danger come from Black and Hispanic households, two groups who have borne the brunt of negative health and economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Congress works to negotiate a new stimulus, experts warn the time to ward off an eviction and foreclosure crisis has almost run out.

“We’re about to fall off a massive cliff and see a major spike in evictions,” said Alanna McCargo, vice president of housing finance policy at the Urban Institute.

A look atAmericans’ confidence in being able to pay August rent:

– Kevin Crowe, Theresa Diffendal and Carlie Procell

Poll: 3 in 4 Americans want mask wearing required

An overwhelming 3 out of 4 Americans support requiring people to wear masks in public, a new poll found.

Almost 90% of Democrats as well as nearly 60% of Republicans support requiring masks outside of people’s homes. The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll was conducted before President Donald Trump, who had been dismissive of wearing masks despite public health officials’ support, tweeted earlier this week that wearing a face covering is patriotic.

Although partisan rhetoric around masks has undermined what public health officials say is a simple step that can save lives, 95% of Democrats and 75% of Republicans say they’re wearing face coverings when leaving the house. 

The poll also found about two-thirds of Americans disapprove of how Trump is handling the pandemic.

Coronavirus is tearing through Latino communities – and it may get worse

The coronavirus’ continued rampage through the southern and western United States is almost certain to leave an especially deadly trail among Latinos, who not only represent a significant percentage of the population in those regions but often face structural conditions that make them more vulnerable.

A new study published Thursday, the first nationwide analysis of COVID-19 cases and deaths among Latinos, concludes that crowded housing arrangements and high-risk jobs in industries like meatpacking, poultry and hospitality are among the major reasons Latinos have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

As the virus extracts a heavy toll on California, Texas and Florida — the three states with the largest Latino populations — the death count among the country’s biggest minority group could be staggering.

“My prediction is that it’s very likely because the policies and practices that are needed to prevent infections and deaths are not in place,’’ said Carlos Rodriguez-Diaz, the study’s lead author.

– Jorge L. Ortiz

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R-0 may be the most important scientific term you’ve never heard of when it comes to stopping the coronavirus pandemic.

USA TODAY

CDC guidelines for schools: Wear masks, wash hands, don’t touch

Parent check-list for back-to-school: Label your child’s face mask with permanent marker. Have them practice putting on and taking off their mask without touching the cloth. Make a labeled, resealable plastic bag to store their mask during lunch time. Those are among the suggestions the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has for school administrators and parents as families prepare for school to resume in the fall.

Students should wear masks, wash their hands frequently and socially distance to protect against COVID-19 as schools reopen this fall, CDC urged in new guidance documents for administrators published Thursday. “It is critically important for our public health to open schools this fall,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield in a release.

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CDC, the nation’s top public health agency, has faced considerable political pressure from President Donald Trump and others to get schools reopened.

A key consideration for school administrators, CDC said, was COVID-19 transmission rates in their communities. But the CDC guidance offered no specific metrics for what transmission rates would require specific actions.

– Elizabeth Weise

GOP backs more stimulus checks, funds for schools in new aid package

Senate Republicans were scrambling Thursday to finalize a $1 trillion coronavirus relief package that will include another round of $1,200 stimulus checks and additional funding to help schools recover from the pandemic.

GOP leaders and the White House said late Wednesday that they had agreed on key parts of the legislation, which will serve as a starting point for negotiations with Democrats, who have already passed their own bill in the House.

But Republicans are still struggling to put the finishing touches on the package. Congress and the White House are under pressure to clinch a deal on a fresh pandemic aid package; a federal program of expanded unemployment benefits is set to run out within days.

One item that will be missing from the GOP plan is Trump’s demand for a payroll tax cut. Republicans abandoned that proposal even though Trump had suggested he might not sign any bill that doesn’t include it.

New CDC guidelines: People with mild to moderate COVID-19 only need to isolate 10 days

People who have had mild to moderate COVID-19 can come out of isolation after 10 days and don’t need to be retested before going back to work, new CDC guidelines say. Symptoms, not testing, are the guide. If patients had a fever, it needs to have been gone for at least 24 hours. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention document, published Wednesday, says symptoms are a better gauge of how infectious someone is so they are “not kept unnecessarily isolated and excluded from work or other responsibilities.” 

The document acknowledges that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is so new that doctors are still gathering evidence for how it works. As more data becomes available, the medical community is gaining a better understanding of how people who are infected can avoiding passing on the disease. The new guidelines reflect the latest thinking.

– Elizabeth Weise

Trump cancels Jacksonville portion of RNC due to COVID-19

President Donald Trump announced Thursday he is canceling the Jacksonville portion of the Republican National Convention because of the coronavirus pandemic, a major setback in his effort to energize his struggling bid for reelection. “The timing for this event is not right,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “There’s nothing more important in our country than keeping our people safe.” 

Trump said that he would deliver remarks to formally accept his party’s nomination for president but offered no detail on where or when that will happen. The abrupt decision was not only a significant blow to his campaign but also raised questions about the president’s narrative that the country is ready to reopen for business.

Trump said convention delegates will still gather in North Carolina, where the official business of the convention was set to take place, and formally nominate him for reelection.

Late Thursday, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez reaffirmed that his party will hold its national convention next month in Milwaukee, with a mostly virtual event. Delegates will vote remotely. Joe Biden has said he intends to accept the nomination in Milwaukee

– John Fritze, Courtney Subramanian, Michael Collins and Bill Glauber

Florida, Texas among states with deadliest weeks 

A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Wednesday shows 12 states set records for new cases over a seven-day period while six states had a record number of deaths over the period. New case records were set in Alaska, California, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Florida, Idaho, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

In Florida, the week’s death toll was 824, more than twice the number of any week during the spring COVID-19 surge. Still, Gov. Ron DeSantis continued to press for in-classroom learning when schools open, some in less than three weeks. DeSantis stressed that young people face the least risk from the virus. 

“It is our kids who have borne the harshest burden of the controlled measures instituted to protect against the virus,” DeSantis said Wednesday.

– Michael Stucka

More COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

On Facebook: There’s still a lot unknown about the coronavirus. But what we do know, we’re sharing with you. Join our Facebook group, “Coronavirus Watch,” to receive daily updates in your feed and chat with others in the community about COVID-19.  

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Contributing: The Associated Press

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