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

Catholic churches in California have been resuming baptism, First Communion and Mass services outdoors after a series of COVID-19 closures shut down indoor church services in most of the state. California churches were allowed to reopen late May with attendance limitations, but along with businesses and other public indoor spaces, were once again shuttered mid-July as COVID-19 cases surged across the state.


Robert Juarez receives his First Communion from the Rev. Obasi outside St. Frances X Cabrini Church in San Bernardino County, Calif., this month. Photo courtesy of Annmarie Juarez via Associated Press

Across the United States, parishes’ celebrations of sacraments and rites have been greatly impacted by the coronavirus, according to a survey of bishops conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

More than half of dioceses reported their celebrations of the following were “very much” affected: confirmations (81 percent), First Communions (78 percent), other sacramental preparation (64 percent), marriages (59 percent), baptisms (57 percent) and funerals (54 percent).

The survey’s findings, which were released in July, included responses from a total of 116 bishops and represent a 60 percent response rate. Dioceses responded during different periods of COVID-19 lockdown orders.

The report, “Ministry in the Midst of Pandemic: A Survey of Bishops,” also found, in response to the pandemic, bishops issued directives to address the celebration of sacraments, to suspend public Masses, and for parishes to comply with state and local government orders.


For the Rev. Arturo Corral, the early months of the pandemic caused a backlog of about 600 baptisms at Our Lady Queen of Angels. Known as “La Placita” church, the downtown Los Angeles parish is famous for celebrating baptisms, Corral said.

“The people who normally come for baptisms, they’d come with the whole family,” Corral said.

Now, only the parents and godparents are allowed for the outdoor baptism Masses. Corral said the outdoor celebrations have been happening since around late July.

The church baptizes an estimated 200 children during six or seven outdoor Saturday services every week. Their patio isn’t big enough for larger socially distanced groups.

Virus lockdown brings new misery to long-suffering Gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Ahmed Eissa, a father of two living in the Gaza Strip, was already struggling to make ends meet on $7 a day, dealing with frequent electricity cuts and worried that another war might break out.



A Palestinian man carries his shopping during a lockdown imposed following the discovery of coronavirus cases in the Gaza Strip on Thursday. Khalil Hamra/Associated Press

Then the coronavirus found its way into the impoverished Palestinian territory, just as Israel was tightening its blockade in a standoff with Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers, and a strict lockdown has confined everyone to their homes.

Now Eissa doesn’t know how he will feed his family.

“I don’t have savings and I don’t have a job, so no one would lend me money,” he said. “I won’t beg from anyone.”

The restrictions imposed by Hamas are aimed at averting what many fear would be an even bigger catastrophe: a wide-scale outbreak in a population of 2 million people confined to a territory where the health care system has been devastated by years of war and isolation.

The lockdown was triggered by the discovery this week of the first locally spread cases, after months in which infections were confined to quarantine facilities where all returning travelers were forced to isolate for three weeks. Authorities have not yet determined how the virus made its way into the general population.

Israel and Egypt imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. Israel, which has fought three wars and countless smaller battles with Hamas since the takeover, says the closures are needed to prevent the militants from importing and manufacturing arms. Critics view it as a form of collective punishment.


The blockade, the periodic fighting and a longstanding feud between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank have devastated the local economy, which suffers from roughly 50 percent unemployment.

In recent weeks, Hamas-linked groups have sent incendiary balloons and rockets into Israel in a campaign aimed at pressuring it to ease restrictions and allow large-scale development projects. In response, Israel launched airstrikes targeting Hamas military infrastructure, sealed off Gaza’s fishing zone and closed its sole commercial crossing. That forced Gaza’s only power plant to shut down for lack of fuel.

Most Gazans now get just four hours of electricity a day, leaving them without refrigeration, air conditioning or electric fans for hours on end as temperatures hover around 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Eissa’s wife, Majda, says it’s “unbearable.” They struggle to sleep at night because of the heat and humidity. Her daughters sleep on the tile floor because it’s cooler. They change rooms, they open and close windows, trying to catch the occasional breeze.

The water pump in their building runs on electricity, so the taps run dry when the power goes out.

California officials brace for third wave, fueled by young people, essential workers


SAN FRANCISCO – Even as California finally begins to see declines in both COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations, health officials and experts are preparing for a potential third surge of coronavirus cases fueled by two groups that already have been hit hard: low-wage essential workers and young people.

The summer spike in COVID-19 has started to ease, and governments soon will need to consider how they might begin to reopen the economy further. Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to outline his plans Friday.

California’s first effort at reopening was disastrous, with the spring’s worst weekly death counts doubling to nearly 1,000 during the summer. Last week’s total fell to about 900.

A woman wears a face mask while walking by a sign that reads “Relax think COVID free thoughts” in San Francisco in May. Associated Press/Jeff Chiu

There already are warning signs about what the fall may bring.

Even though most college campuses remain closed, there have been outbreaks recently, at USC and UC Berkeley for example, tied to fraternities. Large outbreaks persist at workplaces staffed by low-income employees, working in jobs like garment manufacturing and food processing that are largely staffed by Latinos.

A new surge in the pandemic is far from a certainty – but experts said it’s essential that California learn from the mistakes of the last reopening. Of the more than 12,600 California COVID-19 deaths so far, more than 8,800 have been reported since Memorial Day, around the time the economy began to reopen and some people got back to old routines.


“Where I’m worried that we’re going to see a ton of transmission is in middle schools, high schools and colleges,” said Dr. George Rutherford, UC San Francisco epidemiologist and infectious diseases expert. “We all saw the disastrous openings at the University of North Carolina, Notre Dame, Michigan State … and a couple weeks earlier in high schools in Georgia and other places. I think that’s really where a lot of the action is going to go on.”

Rutherford and others also have concerns about Latino workers and their families, who account for a disproportionate share of COVID-19 cases and deaths in California and will be placed at even greater risk when the economy reopens further. Businesses that employ low-income essential workers have come under scrutiny for their health and safety practices.

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Four people at RNC in Charlotte test positive for virus

CHARLOTTE, N.C.  — Four people who were at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte have tested positive for the coronavirus, health officials in North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County said.

WBTV reported Friday that those who tested positive at the event were immediately isolated.



President Donald Trump speaks during the first day of the Republican National Convention Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (Travis Dove/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

Nearly 800 people were tested who attended the event or who helped support it, the county said in a news release. Two attendees and two people supporting the convention tested positive.

County leaders said in a statement that those individuals “were immediately issued isolation instructions and any known close contacts were notified and issued quarantine instructions by Mecklenburg County Public Health.”

The Charlotte Observer reports that the disclosures come after county health officials raised concerned about a lack of social distancing and mask wearing at a Monday business meeting of the RNC in Charlotte. Strict coronavirus protocols were supposed to be followed.

The public may need to wait weeks for an “after-action” report detailing the true scope of convention-related infections. But Mecklenburg Public Health Director Gibbie Harris has said the convention posed no infection risk to the greater Charlotte area.

Read the full story here.

A university says it caught a dorm’s COVID-19 outbreak before it started. Its secret weapon: sewage.


As 5,000 students prepared for move-in day at the University of Arizona this week, the school warned they will periodically be tested for Covid-19. One test, though, doesn’t involve a nose swab. The university is regularly screening the sewage from each dorm, searching for traces of the virus.

On Thursday, officials said the technique worked – and possibly prevented a sizable outbreak on campus. When a wastewater sample from one dorm came back positive this week, the school quickly tested all 311 people who live and work there and found two asymptomatic students who tested positive. They were quickly quarantined.

“With this early detection, we jumped on it right away, tested those youngsters, and got them the appropriate isolation where they needed to be,” said Richard Carmona, a former U.S. Surgeon General who is directing the school’s reentry task force, in a news conference.

Researchers around the world have been studying whether wastewater testing can effectively catch cases early to prevent Covid-19 clusters. There are programs in Singapore, China, Spain, Canada, and New Zealand, while in the U.S., more than 170 wastewater facilities across 37 states are being tested. Earlier this month, officials in the U.K. announced testing at 44 water treatment facilities. The Netherlands has been collecting samples at 300 sewage treatment plants.

With colleges battling large outbreaks around the country, the University of Arizona — which is trying a mix of online and in-person courses — elected to test sewage from all 20 residence halls. Other schools are doing the same, including the University of California, San Diego and Syracuse University.

Capital One cuts card limits amid U.S. jobless-aid impasse

Capital One Financial Corp. is cutting borrowing limits on credit cards, reining in its exposure as the U.S. reduces support for millions of unemployed Americans.

The adjustments, which the company said it makes from time to time, set off a swift outcry on social media. Some customers have complained in recent days their limits have been slashed by a third to two-thirds, eroding their ability to borrow in an emergency during a pandemic or potentially hurting their credit scores.

“Capital One periodically reviews accounts based on a variety of factors and may make changes to existing credit lines,” the company said in an emailed statement. A spokesman declined to specify how many people are affected.

Capital One Financial Corp. signage is displayed outside a bank branch in New York on July 13, 2019. Bloomberg photo by Mark Abramson

Capital One, the third-largest U.S. credit card lender, pioneered the business of offering cards to people with riskier profiles, putting it at the vanguard of the industry’s response to downturns. Its management of credit is watched closely as a harbinger of what’s to come at other major banks.

Suspense mounted in the credit card industry in recent weeks as Congress and President Donald Trump’s administration deadlocked on extending $600 in additional weekly unemployment benefits. That assistance has helped millions of households keep up with debts as the pandemic sent unemployment soaring above 10 percent .

Democrats have sought to continue the payments into 2021 as well as other measures that go significantly beyond what Republicans favor. Trump signed an order Aug. 8 creating a temporary $300 weekly benefit using limited disaster relief funds. That drop means banks face a rising risk that some cardholders won’t be able to make ends meet through the pandemic, maxing out credit limits as they spiral into bankruptcy.

Read the full story here.

Wealthy nations applaud their leaders’ COVID-19 responses. The U.S. and Britain are exceptions.

A poll of 14 developed nations found majorities in most countries were pleased with how their governments had handled the coronavirus pandemic. More than 9 out of 10 respondents in Australia and Denmark said their countries have done a good job.

But there were two countries where a majority thought otherwise: the United States and Britain.

In the United States, 52 percent said they thought their government had done poorly, and 54 percent in Britain said the same.

Among U.S. respondents, 77 percent, a far higher share than in the other countries surveyed, said the pandemic had heightened political divisions. Spain came in next, at 59 percent.

High levels of division are unexpected during a crisis and could affect the fight against the novel virus, experts say.

“Typically, a tragic event like this would have the ‘rally around the flag’ effect and increase social cohesiveness,” said Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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Britain prepares ad campaign encouraging return to offices, but many workers want to stay home

After months of encouraging Britons to stay and work at home, the British government has a new message: Get back to your offices, if you don’t mind.

A new ad campaign is set to encourage employers to facilitate a safe resumption of office work, even though the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the country is rising.

The British government had gradually lifted its advice against working from offices in recent weeks, but to little avail — many workers stayed home. Efforts to speed up workers’ return to offices recently gained new urgency amid warnings that thousands of jobs in the retail and hospitality sectors are at risk unless workers return to city centers and financial districts quickly, according to the Financial Times.

Britons have been more reluctant than their European neighbors to return to offices. A mid-July survey by Morgan Stanley found that only 34 percent of British office workers had returned at that point, compared to more than 80 percent in France.

Britain’s coronavirus lockdown was imposed and lifted later than in other European countries, explaining some of the differences.

But almost 9 in 10 Britons who worked from home during the coronavirus lockdown recently said they are eager to continue doing so either occasionally or on a permanent basis, a study by Cardiff University and the University of Southampton found, according to the Press Association news agency.

British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps acknowledged Friday that a return to offices at the same time as students head back to school may pose challenges to public transport.

“We’ll be watching those very carefully and looking to, for example, in some cases, run additional services where we see those problems bubble up,” Shapps told the BBC from his home.

Merkel warns of pandemic difficulties to come

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel is cautioning that the coronavirus crisis will make life more difficult in the coming months than it has been over the summer and is calling on Germans to continue taking the threat seriously.

Germany’s response to the virus is generally viewed as relatively successful, but the country has seen a pickup in new infections in recent weeks, as have many others in Europe.

Merkel said Friday: “We have to expect that some things will be even more difficult in the coming months than in the summer.”

She said it is important to keep infections down as people increasingly meet indoors.

She told reporters in Berlin that “we will have to keep living with the virus.”

The long-time German leader said she had three priorities, including ensuring that children can continue access education despite the pandemic, ensuring economic revival, and maintaining social cohesion at a time when many in society are suffering hardship.

In India, virus continues to rage

NEW DELHI — India has recorded another high of 77,266 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, raising the country’s total to more than 3.38 million reported cases.

Nearly 47 percent of India’s virus cases were detected this month alone.

The Health Ministry on Friday also reported 1,057 deaths for a total of 61,529.

India has been recording more than 60,000 new infections per day for nearly three weeks. India’s previous highest daily count was 75,760 on Wednesday.

With up to 900,000 tests every day, India’s cumulative tests reached 39 million on Thursday, the ministry said.

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