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

WASHINGTON — The federal government is asking four states and one city to draft plans for how they would distribute a coronavirus vaccine when limited doses become available, possibly as early as this fall.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Defense Department and other agencies began working with officials in California, Florida, Minnesota, North Dakota and Philadelphia this week to develop plans to transport and store vaccine doses, and to prioritize who would receive them.

Those plans, which will take into account each location’s racial and ethnic makeup, population density and other factors, will be shared with other states to help with their own vaccine distribution planning. The discussions with states this week offer some of the first details of the federal government’s plans at a time when information shared by the administration has been limited and often confusing.

The race for a vaccine continues to unfold amid the backdrop of a crippling pandemic that shows few signs of abating.

As of Friday, at least 164,ooo Americans have died after becoming infected, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. The seven-day average for deaths remains above 1,000 per day, where it has remained since July 27. On average, more than 50,000 new U.S. cases have been diagnosed per day since July 6. On Friday, California became the first state to report more than 600,000 coronavirus cases.

The United States has begun planning the largest vaccination campaign ever undertaken, requiring extraordinary coordination, planning and communication. U.S. officials said this week that Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s effort to expedite development of coronavirus countermeasures, is on track to deliver tens of millions of vaccine doses by January.

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Study suggests, but can’t prove, that survivor plasma fights COVID-19

Mayo Clinic researchers reported a strong hint that blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors helps other patients recover, but it’s not proof and some experts worry if, amid clamor for the treatment, they’ll ever get a clear answer.

More than 64,000 patients in the U.S. have been given convalescent plasma, a century-old approach to fend off flu and measles before vaccines. It’s a go-to tactic when new diseases come along, and history suggests it works against some, but not all, infections.

There’s no solid evidence yet that it fights the coronavirus and, if so, how best to use it. But preliminary data from 35,000 coronavirus patients treated with plasma offers what Mayo lead researcher Dr. Michael Joyner on Friday called “signals of efficacy.”

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A doctor holds a bag of blood plasma donated by a COVID-19 survivor. Mayo Clinic researchers are reporting a strong hint that blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors helps other patients recover. But it’s not proof, and some experts worry if they’ll ever get a clear answer. Associated Press/Juan Karita

There were fewer deaths among people given plasma within three days of diagnosis, and also among those given plasma containing the highest levels of virus-fighting antibodies, Joyner and colleagues reported.

The problem: This wasn’t a formal study. The patients were treated in different ways in hospitals around the country as part of a Food and Drug Administration program designed to speed access to the experimental therapy. That so-called “expanded access” program tracks what happens to the recipients, but it cannot prove the plasma – and not other care they received – was the real reason for improvement.

Rigorous studies underway around the country are designed to get that proof, by comparing similar patients randomly assigned to get plasma or a dummy infusion in addition to regular care. But those studies have been difficult to finish as the virus waxes and wanes in different cities. Also, some patients have requested plasma rather than agreeing to a study that might give them a placebo instead.

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Canada U.S. border restrictions extended at least until September

TORONTO — The Canada-U.S. border will remain closed to non-essential travel for at least another month, Canada’s public safety minister said Friday.

The statement by Public Safety Minister Bill Blair came a day after Mexico announced a similar measure for its border with the United States.

The land border restrictions aimed at controlling the coronavirus pandemic were first announced in March and have been renewed monthly.

Madawaska/Edmundston International Bridge Maine DOT

Many Canadians fear a reopening. Canada has flattened the epidemic curve while the U.S. has more confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 than any other country.

Essential cross-border workers like health care professionals, airline crews and truck drivers are still permitted to cross. Much of Canada’s food supply comes from or via the U.S.

Americans who are returning to America and Canadians who are returning to Canada are also exempted from the border closure.

Canada sends 75% of its exports to the U.S. and about 18% of American exports go to Canada. The U.S. Canada border is world’s longest between two nations.

NJ governor says November election will be all-mail balloting

A New Jersey voter puts his mail-in ballot into a drop box in on the state’s primary election day on July 7. Associated Press/Seth Wenig

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey’s governor says the state will move to a nearly all-mail election this November, following the model it used for the July primary because of the coronavirus.

Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy said during an interview with CNN on Friday that all voters would get a ballot. It’s not clear if people who aren’t registered will get an application to register.

Murphy indicated the only in-person voting will be with provisional ballots. That means if voters want to cast their ballot in person, they’ll have to go to one of a reduced number of polling places and cast a ballot that will be counted only after officials determine the voter didn’t mail in a ballot.

If the July 7 primary model is used, voters can mail back their ballots to county boards of elections, deliver them there in person or use one of five drop boxes across the county.

The development comes a day after President Donald Trump acknowledged he’s starving the United States Postal Service of cash to make it harder to process millions of mailed-in ballots.

Andrew Lloyd Webber joins COVID-19 vaccine trial

Renowned British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is taking part in Oxford University’s COVID-19 vaccine trial in what he said is part of an effort to support London’s suffering theater industry.

“Just completed the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine trial,” Webber wrote on Twitter and Facebook on Thursday, a post accompanied by a photo of himself wearing a face mask and receiving what appears to be an arm injection from a nurse. “I’ll do anything to get theatres large and small open again and actors and musicians back to work.”

Webber, a recipient of numerous music and theater awards, has been critical of the British government and its shutdown of the arts industry. As on Broadway, stages in London closed in March as the pandemic struck. Webber’s current British revival production of “The Phantom of the Opera” is one of many shows suspended. Although Broadway will remain shut until at least January, some theaters in London are hoping to reopen in the fall with reduced capacity.

People worldwide have volunteered to take part in the Oxford study being conducted in partnership with drugmaker AstraZeneca. Preliminary results of the human trials have been positive. It is currently among the top contenders of more than 200 experimental vaccines under various stages of development globally.

As a backup, U.S. will prepare coronavirus strain for potential human challenge trials

U.S. researchers will create a strain of the coronavirus that could be used in possible controversial vaccine trials called human challenge experiments, Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said in an interview Friday.

The time-consuming process of creating a strain of virus up to exacting regulatory standards is a “plan C or plan D,” Fauci said, in part because large, 30,000-person trials testing safety and effectiveness of a vaccine are likely to yield results sooner.

“You generally do this if you don’t have enough infections in the community at any given time to get a signal from the vaccine,” Fauci said. “Unfortunately for us we don’t have that problem — we have a lot of infections.”

Typically, researchers test vaccines by inoculating people with an experimental vaccine or a placebo and wait to see if they get infected from natural exposures in the community. The idea of challenge trials, in which people would be exposed to the virus after an experimental vaccination, has gained traction among an organization called 1 Day Sooner, which has signed up volunteers eager to do something to speed up the scientific race for a vaccine. Reuters broke the news Friday that the United States would begin a first step toward preparing for such trials.

Human challenge experiments are scientifically difficult to design and interpret. Since volunteers for challenge trials tend to be young and healthy, it may be difficult to extrapolate any result to understand whether the vaccine would protect people truly at risk for the virus.

Cable technicians fear getting COVID-19 from customers who refuse to wear masks

When cable technicians make home visits these days, they make sure to wear masks. But all too often, the homeowners do not.

“Most customers I go to aren’t wearing masks anymore,” said a Comcast technician in Stockton, California, who asked not to be named for fear of losing his job.

The technician said he refuses to go inside and fix the TV or internet service if the client won’t wear a face covering. Some of his co-workers have gotten sick from the coronavirus and are under quarantine, he said, adding to his sense of caution. “It’s very concerning,” he said. “I have a family and a 14-month-old daughter at home to think of.”

The tension over masks is playing out across the retail landscape as businesses reopen and coronavirus cases soar. But nationwide, cable field workers are a particularly large and vulnerable group. While major retail and restaurant chains, like McDonald’s and Walmart, now require that consumers wear masks in stores, cable companies haven’t mandated that customers cover up inside their homes.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that household members wear masks during any in-home service visit. Some internet providers ask customers to wear face coverings but say it’s up to employees whether they feel safe to enter a home and should contact their supervisors if they don’t. Compliance has been spotty, making cable technicians uneasy

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Britons in France scramble to return home to beat new 14-day quarantine

LONDON ­— The British government on Thursday added France to its list of countries from which anyone arriving will be required to quarantine for 14 days, sparking a rush as Britons abroad scrambled to get home before Saturday to avoid the isolation period.

An increase in new coronavirus cases in France prompted the measure, the government said, adding that it was designed to prevent further infections. Britain remains the worst-hit country in Europe from the pandemic, with some 46,700 deaths.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News on Friday that the government had “no real choice but to act.” He estimated that about 160,000 British nationals were in France.

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People queue in line to check-in for a British Airways flight to Heathrow airport on Friday in Nice, France. Associated Press/Daniel Cole

France’s Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clement Beaune, warned of “reciprocal measures” and said Paris regrets Britain’s decision.

At least 30,392 people have died in France since the outbreak began, and the country reported 2,669 new coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours.

As thousands prepared to return to Britain on Friday, many took to social media to voice concerns over planned vacations, canceled flights and difficulties in getting home.

Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, which carries road vehicles and passengers through the rail tunnel under the English Channel, said the service was “very busy” and that there was no additional capacity.

“Do not turn up unless you have a booking. You won’t get on a crossing,” it said.

Malta, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Netherlands and Aruba were also added to Britain’s quarantine list Thursday, with the Foreign Office advising against “all but essential international travel.”

Britain has bought the rights to 340 doses of six experimental vaccines

LONDON — Britain has secured 90 million doses of two vaccines being developed to fight COVID-19.

The deals with Novavax, an American biotech company, and Janssen, a Belgian company owned by Johnson & Johnson, mean the U.K. has now acquired the rights to 340 million doses of six different experimental vaccines as the government seeks to hedge its bets on products that are still being tested to see if they are safe and effective.

Kate Bingham, chair of the government’s Vaccines Taskforce, told ITV there was no guarantee any of the vaccines would work “because there have been no vaccines against any human coronavirus.

“So what we’re doing is we’ve chosen six of the most promising vaccines across four different vaccine types and we’re hoping that one of those will work.’’

As cases rise in France, Germany establishes testing station near border

BERLIN — German authorities in the western state of Baden-Wuerttemberg have established a new coronavirus testing station at a highway rest stop by the French border after noting a strong increase in cases in the neighboring country.

The dpa news agency reported Friday that the center has started testing travelers at the Neuenburg-Ost rest stop, across the border from the French town of Chalampe. Travelers from designated risk areas are required to be tested upon return to Germany, and the center will also test any others who want to be checked.

France reported more than 10,000 new confirmed cases over the past week.

Baden-Wuerttemberg already has test centers at airports in Stuttgart, Friedrichshafen and Baden-Baden, as well as the Stuttgart main train station.

The Neuenburg rest stop center is the first such station outside Bavaria, which has had roadside testing since the end of July. They have generated so much interest that Bavarian officials have reported a backlog of cases, with about 44,000 people not yet informed of their results, including more than 900 who tested positive for COVID-19.

Baden-Wuerttemberg says it expects to be able to inform people within four days of their tests.

Man in his 20s youngest person to die of virus in Australia

SYDNEY — A man in his 20s has become the youngest person to die of the coronavirus in Australia.

He was among 14 new deaths and 372 new infections reported by Victoria state health officials Friday in an outbreak centered in Melbourne, the second-largest city.

And Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 188 elderly people had died over the past week as the virus ripped through aged-care homes in Melbourne. Officials say about 70% of Australia’s 375 virus deaths have been at aged-care facilities.

Morrison said that Australians had high expectations of the services and standards at nursing homes and other facilities like hospitals and schools.

He says, “On the days that the system falls short, on the days that expectations are not met, I’m deeply sorry about that, of course I am.”

He said the country was moving heaven and earth to defeat the virus and it would eventually win.

India’s death toll now 4th highest, behind the U.S., Brazil and Mexico

NEW DELHI — India’s coronavirus death toll overtook Britain to become the fourth-highest in the world with another single-day record increase in cases Friday.

According to the Health Ministry, India reported 1,007 deaths in the past 24 hours. Its total rose to 48,040 deaths, behind the United States, Brazil and Mexico.

India’s confirmed cases reached 2,461,190 with a single-day spike of 64,553 in the past 24 hours. More than 70% of people infected in India have recovered.

The daily increase in newly reported infections was around 15,000 in the first week of July but jumped to more than 50,000 in the first week of August. The ministry cited its testing efforts, with more than 800,000 tests in a single day, taking cumulative tests to more than 26 million.

Health experts say it needs to be higher, given India’s population of 1.4 billion.

India’s two-month lockdown imposed nationwide in late March kept infections low. But it has eased and is now largely being enforced in high-risk areas. The new cases spiked after India reopened shops and manufacturing and allowed hundreds of thousands of migrant workers to return to their homes from coronavirus-hit regions.

Subways, schools and movie theaters remain closed.

South Korea sees a daily spike is cases

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea is reporting 103 new coronavirus cases. It is one of the country’s biggest daily jumps in months, and officials are expressing concern that infections are getting out of control in the capital of Seoul and other major cities as Koreans increasingly venture out in public.

The figures released by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday brought the national caseload to 14,873 cases, including 305 deaths.

Eighty-three of the new cases were in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where authorities have struggled to stem transmissions. Infections were also reported in other major cities such as Busan, Gwangju and Ulsan.

Friday’s jump was driven by local transmissions, which health authorities said could worsen because of the increase in travelers during the summer vacation season.

Private school ordered to close

FRESNO, Calif. — A private school in California has been ordered to close after it reopened classrooms in violation of a state health order aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

Fresno County issued a health order Thursday against Immanuel Schools in Reedley. The K-12 school was told to close its classrooms until the county is removed from a state monitoring list for two weeks.

The school has about 600 students and it allowed students into classes Thursday without masks or social distancing. The school’s trustees and superintendent say they believe students’ development will suffer if they can’t be taught on campus.

Texas reports fewer hospitalized coronavirus patients

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas is reporting fewer than 7,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients for the first time in six weeks.

That encouraging sign Thursday was clouded by questions over testing as students return to school and college football teams push ahead with playing this fall. Testing has dropped off in Texas, a trend seen across the U.S as health experts worry that patients without symptoms aren’t bothering because of long lines and waiting days to get results.

Numbers from Texas health officials this week offer a hazy picture of how much testing has fallen. At one point this week, the infection rate in Texas was as high as 24%, only to suddenly drop Thursday to 16%.

Officials have not offered explanations about the wild swing in infection rates.


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