The latest on the coronavirus pandemic from around the U.S. and the world.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health issued its first $1,000 fines on Monday to two people who Gov. Ned Lamont said failed to comply with the travel advisory for residents who return home from states with high COVID-19 infection rates.

The Democrat said the two unnamed people had flown back to Connecticut from Louisiana and Florida and neither filled out a health form that’s required from anyone entering from any state with a 10% or higher positive rate over a seven-day rolling average or a new daily positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents.

Besides not filling out a form, one of the people refused to quarantine for the required 14 days and was fined an additional $1,000. Lamont said a coworker had notified state officials that the person was not complying with Lamont’s executive order. Officials received a tip about the other person as well.

“Look, I hate to do it, but we’re going to be serious and show people we’re serious about this,” Lamont told reporters during his coronavirus briefing. “Overwhelmingly, people are doing the right thing. For those few of you who aren’t, please be on notice.”

Since Aug. 4, Puerto Rico and 34 states have been on the list, which applies to people entering New York and New Jersey as well.

Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, said the incidents happened a couple weeks ago. One person is from Windham County and the other is from Hartford County. Meanwhile, he said there are additional investigations currently underway concerning other possible violators.

Read the full story here.

Most Americans won’t get coronavirus vaccine until well into 2021

WASHINGTON — Even if the most optimistic projections hold true and a COVID-19 vaccine is cleared for U.S. use in November, the vast majority of Americans won’t be able to get the shots until spring or summer next year at the earliest.

That likely timeline, based on interviews and remarks from top specialists including Anthony Fauci of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, means businesses, schoolchildren and families will continue to wait.

In an interview, Fauci, who has also been involved with White House’s “Operation Warp Speed” vaccine program, said it may take until well into 2021 for vaccines to reach the much of the general public.

“I would hope that by the time we get well into the second half of 2021 that the companies will have delivered the hundreds of millions of doses they have promised,” said Fauci.

The reasons are many. U.S. health regulators will have only a tiny sliver of the usual safety and efficacy data. The leading products require two doses, which will limit how many people early supplies can help. And government health officials are still developing a plan for who will get the shots, how they’ll be distributed, and how their effectiveness and safety will be tracked afterward.

“For three, to six, to nine months, there will be more people wanting a vaccine than there are vaccines,” said Stephane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna Inc., the biotechnology company developing one of the furthest-along inoculations.

Bancel said he expects his company’s product may get an emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for “a very narrow population at very high risk.” Vaccines for the general population will need full FDA approval, which will likely take significantly longer, he said in an interview.

Those comments run counter to the timeline portrayed by President Trump, who has said a vaccine may be ready by Election Day on Nov. 3.

“I’m pushing everybody. If you had another president other than me, you wouldn’t be talking vaccines for two years. I will push it very hard,” Trump said last week during a radio interview with Geraldo Rivera. “But I’m not doing it for votes, I’m doing it because that’s the right thing to do and I’m doing it to save lives.”

Operation Warp Speed seeks to do what’s never been done before: research, develop and produce a vaccine for a new virus in months. It’s a monumental, risky undertaking that will probably result in billions of dollars of waste, but could shave years off of typical development timelines. But even if it’s successful, warp speed will move faster for some people than others. Two other key government officials described a gradually widening trickle of access over months and months, not the sudden, widespread availability of a vaccine.

About 74% of New York City students opt for some in-school learning, mayor says 

New York City schools will open in September with more than 700,000 students participating in a blended schedule of in-school and online instruction, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, shown in April, says all of the city’s 1,800 schools will be shut down if the citywide positivity rate exceeds an average of 3% over a seven-day period. Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Parents of about 74 percent of the city’s 1.1 million students have decided to send their children to school from one to three days a week, depending on a building’s space capacity. They can opt out and switch to all-remote learning at any time. Those who decided against in-school instruction can move to a blended schedule at various times during the academic year.

“We have proven we can beat back this disease now for two months,” de Blasio said at a news briefing on Monday. “Everyone is focused on health and safety in getting things ready.”

About 85 percent of the system’s 75,000 teachers intend to return, with the remaining 15 percent involved in remote teaching, de Blasio said. The hybrid schedule will feature classes with no more than 10 students, with improved ventilation and cleaning regimens.

Face coverings will be mandatory for all, while hand-washing and hand-sanitizer stations will be located throughout the school buildings.

Individual classes and schools may be closed temporarily if students or staff members are infected with the coronavirus. All of the city’s 1,800 schools will be shut down if the citywide positivity rate exceeds an average of 3 percent over a seven-day period. The city’s rate has remained below 3 percent for the past two months, and was 1% in the past day, de Blasio said.

Coronavirus may affect younger children differently than older ones

DALLAS, Ga. — The photos showed up on social media just hours into the first day of school: 80 beaming teens in front of Etowah High School near Atlanta, with not a mask on a single face and hardly six inches of distance between them – let alone the recommended six feet.

Amanda Seghetti, a mom in the area, said her parent Facebook group lit up when the pictures of the seniors were posted. Some people thought the images were cute. Others freaked out. Seghetti was in the latter constituency.

“It’s like they think they are immune and are in denial about everything,” Seghetti said.

Pictures of packed school hallways in Georgia and news of positive tests on the first day of classes in Indiana and Mississippi sparked the latest fraught discussions over the risk the coronavirus presents to children – and what’s lost by keeping them home from school. Friday brought reports of more infections among Georgia students, with dozens forced into quarantine in Cherokee County, among other places.

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In this photo posted on Twitter, students crowd a hallway, Tuesday on Aug. 4, at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga. Pictures of packed school hallways in Georgia and news of positive tests on the first day of classes in Indiana and Mississippi sparked the latest fraught discussions over the risk the coronavirus presents to children. Twitter via Associated Press

For months, parents and teachers, epidemiologists and politicians have chimed in with their views on the many still-unanswered questions about the extent to which the virus is a threat to children – and the extent to which they can fuel its spread.

A report from leading pediatric health groups found that more than 97,000 U.S. children tested positive for the coronavirus in the last two weeks of July, more than a quarter of the total number of children diagnosed nationwide since March. As of July 30, there were 338,982 cases reported in children since the dawn of the pandemic, according to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

President Trump has repeatedly maintained the virus poses little threat to children.

“The fact is they are virtually immune from this problem,” Trump said Wednesday in an interview with Axios.

Eight months after the World Health Organization received the first report of a “pneumonia of unknown cause” in China, much remains uncertain about the coronavirus and children.

Doctors are more confident that most children exposed to the virus are unlikely to have serious illness, a sentiment backed by a report published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that concluded children are far less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, than adults. But when children do fall seriously sick, the burden of illness is borne disproportionately: That same CDC report concluded that Hispanic children are approximately eight times more likely and Black children five times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than their white peers.

Early studies on children and the virus were small and conflicting. But accumulating evidence suggests the coronavirus may affect younger children differently than older ones.

Read the full story here.

Health officials are quitting or getting fired amid outbreak

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Vilified, threatened with violence and in some cases suffering from burnout, dozens of state and local public health officials around the U.S. have resigned or have been fired amid the coronavirus outbreak, a testament to how politically combustible masks, lockdowns and infection data have become.

The latest departure came Sunday, when California’s public health director, Dr. Sonia Angell, quit without explanation following a technical glitch that caused a delay in reporting virus test results — information used to make decisions about reopening businesses and schools.

Last week, New York City’s health commissioner was replaced after months of friction with the Police Department and City Hall.

A review by the Kaiser Health News service and The Associated Press finds at least 48 state and local public health leaders have resigned, retired or been fired since April across 23 states. The list has grown by more than 20 people since the AP and KHN began tracking departures in June.

As of Monday, confirmed infections in the United States stood at over 5 million, with deaths topping 163,000, the highest in the world.

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Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health discusses the state’s efforts concerning the coronavirus during a news conference at the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services in Rancho Cordova, Calif. in April. Angell announced she was departing from her role as director and state public health officer for the California Department of Public Health in a letter to staff that was released Sunday, August 9. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool, File

The departures of so many top leaders around the country make a bad situation worse, at a time when the U.S. needs good public health leadership the most, said Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

“We’re moving at breakneck speed here to stop a pandemic, and you can’t afford to hit the pause button and say, ‘We’re going to change the leadership around here and we’ll get back to you after we hire somebody,’” Freeman said.

Public health leaders from Dr. Anthony Fauci down to officials in small communities have reported death threats, intimidation and personal attacks on themselves or their families. Fauci has said his wife and daughters have received serious threats.

Read the full story here.

Big Ten Conference reportedly plans to cancel football season

The Big Ten Conference has voted to cancel the 2020 football season, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The newspaper, citing sources who were not authorized to speak on the matter publicly, said the official announcement would come Tuesday.

On Sunday, presidents and chancellors from the conference met via conference call, convening for a second consecutive day as the fate of the coming college football season looked increasingly tenuous amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Multiple news reports said the league was considering canceling fall sports, less than a week after it had released a 10-game, conference-only football schedule to begin Labor Day weekend.
A majority of the Big Ten presidents have been in favor of canceling the football season since Saturday, according to Yahoo! Sports, though it was not a unanimous sentiment held among the high-ranking decision-makers.

On his radio show Monday, sportscaster Dan Patrick said the conference voted 12-2 to cancel football and other fall sports, with Iowa and Nebraska voting to continue with the seasons as scheduled.

The move comes two days after the Mid-American Conference announced it was canceling fall sports for 2020, becoming the first league in Football Bowl Subdivision to make the move.
According to the Free Press, the Big Ten is trying to coordinate its announcement with the other Power Five conferences – the Pac 12, the Big 12 and the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences.

U.S. employers post more jobs in June, pull back on hiring

WASHINGTON — U.S. employers advertised more jobs in June compared with the previous month, but overall hiring fell, painting a mixed picture of the job market.

The number of jobs posted on the last day in June jumped 9.6% to 5.9 million, the Labor Department said Monday, a solid gain but still below the pre-pandemic level of about 7 million. And employers hired 6.7 million people in June, down from 7.2 million in May, a record high.

The figures suggest that restaurants, bars, retail shops, and entertainment venues — businesses that were subject to shutdown orders in April — continued to bring back workers at a healthy pace. Job openings in those industries also rose.

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Ahelp wanted sign shows at Illinois Air Team Test Station in Lincolnshire, Ill. in May. U.S. employers advertised more jobs in June 2020 compared with May, but overall hiring fell, painting a mixed picture of the job market. AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

But outside those categories, employers remain reluctant to bring on new workers, a trend that could weigh on the economy in the coming months. Hiring slowed sharply in manufacturing, construction, and health care services in June.

The government has previously reported that the nation gained 4.8 million jobs in June. That figure, however, is a net total, while Monday’s report, known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, provides gross hiring figures, without subtracting layoffs or quits.

On Friday, the government said employers added a net 1.8 million jobs, a solid gain but far below June’s increase and below the 2.7 million added in May. Employers slashed 22 million positions in March and April, and so far 42% of those lost jobs have been regained.

The number of people quitting their jobs, meanwhile, rose by one-quarter to nearly 2.6 million, a huge gain that is unusual in the depths of the recession, when workers typically try to hold onto their jobs. Many workers may be reluctant to remain in jobs that they believe put their health at risk. Economists also worry that many women and men are quitting jobs to look after children, a trend that could also hold back job growth.

 

Coronavirus cases among U.S. children jumped 40% in late July

Coronavirus infections among U.S. children grew 40% in the last half of July, according to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, bringing the total number of child infections to 8.8% of all U.S. cases.

The report, which aggregates data from 49 states, comes amid heated debate over whether schools should re-open in the fall. While the surge of infections contradicts President Donald Trump’s assertion that kids are “virtually immune,” the data also show that child infections make up a disproportionately small share of the overall outbreak in the U.S.

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Tannissa Jefferies, a physical education teacher at Saltillo Primary School, helps students arriving on their first day get to their proper hallway as they enter from the carpool line in Saltillo, Miss. on Aug. 6. Adam Robison/The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal via AP, File

Many parents are eager to get their kids back in classes. Yet COVID-19 is still surging in much of the country, and there is conflicting data about how COVID-19 is transmitted to and from children. Some schools that have already resumed classes have experienced outbreaks amid scenes of kids crowded together without wearing masks, raising fears that a full nationwide re-opening in September will cause a new spike of infection.

The study said 97,078 new child cases were reported from July 16-30, bringing the total number since the pandemic began to 338,982. The range of ages varied from state to state, with some including an age limit as high as 24.

California, Florida and Arizona had the highest number of total child cases in the U.S., with more than 20,000 each, the report found. By population, Arizona had the highest count, with more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 children, more than double the national average of 447.

Deaths among U.S. children from COVID-19 total 86, only 0.06% of total fatalities in the country and 0.03% of infections among children.

Another family sues Tyson Foods over Iowa outbreak

WATERLOO, Iowa — The family of a fourth worker who died from the coronavirus during an outbreak at Tyson Foods’ largest pork processing plant is suing the company over his death.

The lawsuit says that Isidro Fernandez, of Waterloo, Iowa, died April 26 from complications of COVID-19, leaving behind a wife and children.

The lawsuit is similar to one filed in June by the same lawyers on behalf of the estates of three other deceased Waterloo employees.

The lawsuits allege Tyson put employees at risk by downplaying concerns and covering up the outbreak to keep them on the job. They allege the company failed to implement safety measures, allowed some sick and exposed employees to keep working, and falsely assured the public that the plant was safe.

The company says the workers’ deaths are tragic but that it vigorously disputes the allegations. Tyson says that it worked during the pandemic to follow safety guidelines and has invested millions of dollars to keep workers safe.

Germany demands vaccine be available to everyone worldwide

BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister says it is critical that any vaccine developed for the coronavirus is made available to everyone around the world.

Heiko Maas spoke with his counterpart from South Korea, Kang Kyung-wha, during her visit to Berlin on Monday, and said they both agreed that “we need more worldwide coordination to shoulder the challenges, not less.”

Both South Korea and Germany have been lauded for being able to quickly and effectively slow the spread of the virus in their countries, but Maas cautioned that “we are still in the middle of the pandemic.”

He says “in order to overcome it, the question of how drugs and vaccinations are distributed after their development will be central.”

“It is a human imperative that they be made available quickly and to as many people as possible, and not just those who can afford it,” Maas said.

Virus not following seasonal patterns of other viruses

LONDON — The emergencies chief for the World Health Organization said that COVID-19 doesn’t seem to follow the seasonal patterns that some viruses exhibit, making it harder to control.

Unlike other respiratory viruses like influenza that spread mainly in the winter, the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating in the summer. That’s despite earlier predictions from some scientists and politicians it would fade in the heat.

“This virus has demonstrated no seasonal pattern as such,” said Dr. Michael Ryan at a press briefing on Monday. “What it has clearly demonstrated is that if you take the pressure off the virus, the virus bounces back,” he said. Ryan said the U.N. health agency continues to advise countries even where COVID-19 appears to be under control, such as those in Europe, to maintain measures to slow virus spread.

He called for countries where transmission remains intense, such as Brazil, to adopt measures so that communities have the necessary support they need to implement strategies like social distancing, wearing masks, and self-isolating if they have symptoms.

India sees more than 1,000 virus deaths in 24 hours

NEW DELHI — India has registered a record 1,007 fatalities in the past 24 hours as new coronavirus infections surged by 62,064 cases.

The Health Ministry says the total fatalities reached 44,386 on Monday.

The number of positive cases reported so far are 2,215,074. At least 634,935 patients were still undergoing treatment.

India has recorded more than 60,000 cases of the virus daily in the last four days and more infections than any other country in the world for six consecutive days. It has averaged around 50,000 new cases a day since mid-June.

Infections in India remain concentrated in 10 states that contribute nearly 80% of the new cases.

India has the third-highest caseload in the world after the United States and Brazil. It has the fifth-most deaths but its fatality rate of about 2% is far lower than the top two hardest-hit countries.

WHO predicts coronavirus deaths will hit 20 million this week

LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization predicted that the number of people infected by the coronavirus will hit 20 million this week, including about 750,000 deaths.

In a briefing on Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged that “behind these statistics there is a great deal of pain and suffering” but said there were still “green shoots of hope” no matter what stage in an outbreak a country or region might be. He offered no new strategies to combat the virus but said again that “leaders must step up to take action and citizens need to embrace new measures,” pointing to New Zealand as an example for the world. The country recently marked 100 days with no local spread of the virus.

Tedros said that recently adopted measures in countries including Britain and France, which have imposed targeted lockdowns and mask-wearing strategies in the last week, were a good example of specific strategies needed to curb a new upsurge in cases.

German teachers union calls for mandatory masks in classrooms

BERLIN — The head of the German Teachers’ Association is calling for coronavirus masks to be made compulsory in the classroom.

Heinz-Peter Meidinger told the newspaper Passauer Neue Presse that “whoever wants full lessons can’t avoid compulsory masks.”

In an interview published Monday, Meidinger pointed out that most of Germany’s 16 states require basic mouth and nose coverings in supermarkets, public transport and at large events, but not in schools.

So far, only Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, requires students and teachers to wear masks during lessons, though some others are considering such a move.

In Berlin, where students return to school Monday, masks are only required outside the classroom.

Sri Lanka reopens schools

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka reopened schools Monday, nearly five months after shutting them to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The government decision says state-run schools and government-approved private schools were to reopen in stages.

Students in grades 5, 10, 11, 12 and 13 should attend daily to prepare for government exams. Students in grades 1, 2, 3, 6, 7 and 8 must attend once a week while students in grades 4 and 9 must come two days per week.

The arrangement will continue until Oct. 9 when the school holiday is expected to start.

Schools were shut in mid-March when Sri Lanka detected its first COVID-19 patient, but health authorities say the outbreak has been under control in the Indian Ocean island nation.

Sri Lanka health officials say they have prevented community spread of the virus and current patients are tied to two known clusters.

The country has reported 2,841 patients with 11 deaths.


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