Holidays are usually for gatherings but many get-togethers are complicated or canceled because of COVID-19.
The U.S. recorded more than 69,000 new cases Friday for the first time since July, andupdated virus projections are bringing the long-feared “winter surge” of COVID-19 cases into focus as health experts warn an increasing number of infections in the U.S. will soon mean more deaths.
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s latest model updates released this week contain spots of good news: 74,000 American lives can still be saved if mask use becomes nearly universal, and increased testing may explain why more young people are testing positive.
But the influential model still projects daily U.S. deaths will surpass 2,000 in January, even with states reimposing stricter orders.
The guidance also called out North Dakota specifically for its alarming death rate, following a well-documented lax approach to health mandates in the state: “North Dakota presently has one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the world,” a briefing on the model says.
The state joins South Dakota as having some of the lowest mask use rates in the nation. Rural counties across Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana sit among the top in the nation for new cases per capita over the last two weeks,
Some significant developments:
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 8.1 million cases and 219,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data. There have been more than 39.6 million confirmed cases around the world and nearly 1.1 million deaths.
📰 What we’re reading: Italy, once an epicenter for COVID-19, is worlds apart from the United States in its handling of the pandemic. “Italians have always looked up to the United States but what is happening now makes us watch in disbelief,” says one Italian professor.
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state
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Cases again surge at Notre Dame after parties
The University of Notre Dame announced a return to stricter rules on gatherings after cases at the school surged in recent days. Officials say off-campus tailgates and watch parties following a recent football home game are part of the reason for the increase in cases.
In a letter posted Thursday to the university’s COVID-19 website, Vice President for Student Affairs Erin Hoffmann Harding and Vice President for Campus Safety and University Operations Mike Seamon said the number of close contacts for each positive case had “increased substantially, with as many as 10 to 15 close contacts needing to quarantine.” At one time, the number of close contacts was only five per positive test.
The increase, he said, “would indicate they’re gathering in groups.”
In August, the university temporarily pivoted to online learning to stem a rash of cases.
— Andrew S. Hughes, South Bend Tribune
Man upset with mask mandate threatened Wichita mayor, police say
A retired firefighter who was upset with Wichita’s mask ordinance was arrested on suspicion of threatening to kidnap and kill the mayor of Kansas’ largest city, authorities said.
Police said the 59-year-old suspect who was arrested Friday could face a charge of criminal threat, the Wichita Eagle reported. Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple, a Democrat, said someone had read him text messages received by another city official that asked about the mayor’s address and threatened his life.
“He said he was going to kidnap me and slash my throat and he needed my address because I needed to see the hangman — me and everyone who, something about tyranny,” Whipple said. “It sounded like the person was very upset about pretty much mask mandates and he said something about not being able to see his mother because of COVID restrictions on elderly homes.”
Wichita police spokesman Charley Davidson said that no other local officials are believed to have been targeted.
— The Associated Press
The White House quietly told Tennessee early this week that “a statewide mask mandate must be implemented” to curb its growing spread of COVID-19, strong instructions that the White House and governor did not discuss publicly before the report emerged in a records request.
The Oct. 11 state report for Tennessee, where Republican Gov. Bill Lee has let counties decide whether to require masks in public, first came to light in a records request by WUOT-FM. The Associated Press obtained the report from the Knox County Health Department afterward.
“A statewide mask mandate must be implemented to stop the increasing spread among residents in rural and urban areas of Tennessee,” the item in a list of recommendations states.
– Associated Press
6M households missed their rent or mortgage payment in September
Persistent layoffs are slowing momentum in the labor market, which bodes poorly for the broader U.S. recovery as millions of out-of-work Americans delay their mortgage and rent payments.
More than 6 million households failed to make their rent or mortgage payments in September, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Research Institute for Housing America, a sign that the economic fallout from the pandemic is weighing on jobless Americans as Congress stalls on relief measures.
In the third quarter, the percent of homeowners and renters behind on their payments fell slightly from the prior quarter. Still, the overall amount remains high, experts caution.
– Jessica Menton
New York movie theaters can reopen with limited capacity, Cuomo says
Theaters will be able to reopen outside New York City in counties that are below a 2% infection rate on a 14-day average and have no COVID hot spots, which would rule out Rockland and Orange counties, as well as a few counties upstate, including Broome. Theaters will be allowed to reopen at 25% capacity with up to 50 people per screen.
The announcement comes after movie theaters have been pressing to reopen in New York, where infection rate is among the lowest in the nation.
– Joseph Spector, New York State Team
Alabama coach Nick Saban cleared after testing positive for COVID-19
After testing positive earlier this week for COVID-19, Alabama coach Nick Saban has been cleared to resume normal activities and will be on the sideline when the No. 2 Crimson Tide play No. 3 Georgia, the university said Saturday.
“Upon evaluation today, Coach Saban remains completely asymptomatic,” Alabama team physician Dr. Jimmy Robinson said in a statement. “To address the potential for a false positive, the SEC Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force Protocol allows for follow-up testing to clear the individual’s return to activity. That protocol requires three negative PCR tests 24 hours apart.”
Saban was tested on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and each test was negative, Robinson said.
– Paul Myerberg
Nearly 10% of Vatican’s Swiss Guard positive for COVID-19
The Vatican says someone who lives in the same Vatican hotel as Pope Francis has tested positive for the coronavirus, adding to the 11 cases of COVID-19 among the Swiss Guards, who serve as ceremonial guards at papal Masses, guard the Vatican City gates and protect the pope.
The Vatican said Saturday that the resident of the Domus Sanctae Marthae has moved out temporarily and is in isolation, as are all the people who came into direct contact with him.
The hotel serves as a residence for Vatican-based priests as well as visiting clerics and lay people. Francis chose to live there permanently after his 2013 election, shunning the Apostolic Palace, because he said he needed to be around ordinary people. The hotel has a communal dining room and chapel where Francis celebrates Mass each morning.
At 83 and with part of a lung removed when he was in his 20s due to illness, the pope would be at high-risk for COVID-19 complications.
– Associated Press
A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Friday shows 16 states set records for new cases in a week while one state had a record number of deaths in a week.
New case records were set in Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming, and also Guam. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Wisconsin.
– Mike Stucka
Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, regional director for the World Health Organization in Europe, warns that the daily death toll on the continent could reach five times its April peak by January 2021.
And on Friday, the WHO warned that intensive care units in a number of European cities could reach maximum capacity in the coming weeks if the number of infections is not slowed.
New restrictions went into effect in several European nations in an effort to staunch the resurgence of the pandemic, including:
- In Paris and eight other French cities, restaurants, bars, movie theaters and other establishments were being forced to close no later than 9 p.m. to try to reduce contact among people. The country was deploying 12,000 extra police officers to enforce the new rules.
- In Britain, a three-tier regional approach to battle the pandemic introduced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week went into effect, with each level bringing in progressively tighter restrictions.
- In Northern Ireland a “circuit breaker” lockdown lasting four weeks came into force Friday in an attempt to quickly tamp down the spread of the virus. All pubs and restaurants must close except for takeaway services, and schools will close for two weeks for an extended half-term holiday.
- Italy’s northern Lombardy region, where the European coronavirus outbreak began in late February, has taken new measures to contain rebounding infections, limiting bar service and alcohol sales, banning contact sports and closing bingo parlors. Southern Campania has taken similarly strict measures, including a shutdown of schools for two weeks. After parents protested, the regional governor backed off Friday and allowed daycare centers to remain open.
– Associated Press
An open letter from the frontrunner COVID-19 vaccine producer published Friday ends any expectations a vaccine might be available before Election Day.
Pfizer Inc. CEO Albert Bourla’s letter says the earliest the company could apply for authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine is the third week of November.
The CEO of the other frontrunner, Moderna’s Stéphane Bancel , said at a biotechnology conference on September 30 that it would not have enough safety data to apply for Food and Drug Administration authorization of its vaccine until November 25.
The other two COVID-19 vaccine candidates in final stage clinical trials in the United States, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, are both on hold as possible adverse events are investigated.
— Elizabeth Weise
Trump vows to deliver vaccine to nursing homes at no cost
Americans living or working in long-term care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted care living centers, will receive COVID-19 vaccinations for free — if and when they become available, the Trump administration said Friday.
The administration announced a partnership with the nation’s two largest drug store chains, CVS and Walgreens, “to provide and administer” the vaccines with “no out-of-pocket costs” for the recipients.
Trump, 74, vowed a vaccine would be available before the end of the year, despite his own federal health experts saying that timeline is highly unlikely, and that senior citizens would be “first in line.”
The president made the announcement at an event billed as “Protecting America’s Seniors” in Fort Myers, Florida. Trump is trying to shore up support among senior citizens, a key voting bloc that helped him win four years ago but which recent polling suggests has eroded in recent months.
– Courtney Subramanian and Nathan Bomey
How can I stay safe indoors from the coronavirus during cold seasons?
What makes congregating indoors so dangerous? Dr. Lewis Nelson, professor and chair of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, said one of the main reasons there’s a higher risk of transmission indoors than outdoors is lack of ventilation. Additionally, indoor public places have more surfaces.
“If I were to smoke a cigarette (inside), you would see the smoke particles linger,” he said. “Whereas outdoors the smoke kind of leaves.”
Ventilation can be increased by opening a window, turning on a fan or even adding a portable air filter to a room. Most portable air filters can’t filter out virus particles if they don’t have HEPA filtration, but they still facilitate air circulation. Reducing the number of people in an indoor space also helps. Read more here.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
COVID-19 widespread testing is crucial to fighting the pandemic, but is there enough testing? The answer is in the positivity rates.
COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press.
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