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In recently updated guidance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that people who have recovered from the coronavirus do not need to quarantine or seek testing for three months after they have recuperated.

The new recommendation, last updated Aug. 3, cautions that those who were previously infected should still socially distance and wear masks but says they don’t need to quarantine or be tested unless they develop symptoms.

Here are some significant developments:
  • Federal health officials are asking four states and one city — California, Florida, Minnesota, North Dakota and Philadelphia — to draft plans for how they would distribute a coronavirus vaccine when limited doses become available, possibly as early as this fall, officials said.
  • Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) offered rare Republican criticism of the Trump administration’s coronavirus response Friday, saying the federal government dismissed the virus’s threat and failed to take charge.
  • Nearly 41 percent of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse, a new CDC survey revealed.
  • Cruise ships, early incubators of the coronavirus, are preparing to return to sea in the Mediterranean.
  • Coronavirus cases are surging in nursing homes again.
  • President Trump said he opposes both election aid for states and an emergency bailout for the U.S. Postal Service because he wants to limit how many Americans can vote by mail in November.
  • Several European countries, including Greece and Spain, enacted new restrictions in an effort to contain outbreaks without having to revert to major shutdowns.

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August 14, 2020 at 10:15 PM EDT

‘Everything that can possibly be done has been done’: White House testing czar defends screening

Frustrated by criticism of the United States’ coronavirus testing capacity not meeting the national need, White House testing czar Adm. Brett Giroir booked an interview with CNN to defend the country’s screening for the virus.

“I really felt compelled to come on this afternoon after hearing Doctor [Ashish] Jha this morning, because just about everything he said was the opposite of what really is,” Giroir said of the director of the Global Health Institute at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who had spoken earlier on CNN.

“Admiral Giroir fundamentally misunderstands the purposes of testing, which is unfortunate, because he is our national testing czar, so you think he would have a better understanding,” Jha said, irritating Giroir.

In his earlier interview, Jha said the country wasn’t doing enough testing, especially for infected but asymptomatic people, meaning the people who could unwittingly infect others with the virus. But Giroir told CNN’s Pamela Brown that the level of testing of which Jha spoke was unrealistic.

“There is no physical way to do 5 million tests per day in this country,” Giroir said. “If there is a way to turn it from 1 million to 5 million today, let me know.”

Giroir said he called Jha to ask whether he has any ideas to increase testing.

“We want to increase testing,” he said. “I spend every day trying to increase testing. What I want people to understand though is that testing is not the panacea; it’s not the answer.”

“It needs to be in a supportive, strategic role,” he said in support of targeted testing, such as screening nursing home residents.

Brown pressed Giroir on the accessibility of testing, as many Americans have waited days for results.

“There is nothing else the administration can do to get more testing?” she asked, also mentioning the country’s positivity rate — which is about 7 percent of those tested, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization recommends countries lift restrictions only after positivity rates remain below 5 percent for two weeks.

“Everything that can possibly be done has been done,” Giroir responded.

He also said the country’s poor positivity rates could be attributable to other factors, such as people not complying with social distancing and mask-wearing.

By Meryl Kornfield
August 14, 2020 at 10:00 PM EDT

‘No way to spin that,’ Romney says of U.S. deaths, blaming Trump administration

Sen. Mitt Romney offered rare Republican criticism of the Trump administration’s coronavirus response Friday, saying the federal government dismissed the virus’s threat and failed to take charge.

“Short term, I think it’s fair to say we really have not distinguished ourselves in a positive way by how we responded to the crisis when it was upon us,” Romney (R-Utah) said in a video interview with the Sutherland Institute. “And the proof of the pudding of that is simply that we have 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the world’s deaths due to covid-19.”

“And there’s no way to spin that in a positive light,” Romney said.

The president often blames the country’s unusually high coronavirus deaths on testing, which does not account for the spikes seen this summer. Speaking Friday, Romney attributed the United States’ poor numbers to “a tendency on the part of the administration to dismiss covid-19 as a threat, not to consider how serious it could become.”

The administration also did not immediately move to “ring the alarm bells” and “have the federal government take responsibility” for such needs as the distribution of personal protective equipment, the manufacturing of essential supplies and the setting of business guidelines, the senator added.

The country’s response to the virus, he said, “was really, very, very disappointing.”

Romney stands out among colleagues for clashing openly at times with the president, including by casting the only Republican vote for Trump’s impeachment. He has also criticized the federal coronavirus response, saying in April: “The speed of our response looked slow compared to other people. That first phase will not stand out as a great moment in American leadership.”

“We didn’t look real strong, and that’s kind of an understatement,” he said then, avoiding direct criticism of Trump.

By Hannah Knowles
August 14, 2020 at 9:55 PM EDT

Britain mounted a heroic effort to build ventilators. But it never needed them.

LONDON — As the coronavirus pandemic spread unchecked in Britain in March, Boris Johnson issued a panicky “call to arms” to 100 of the country’s top industrialists. The prime minister said he needed tens of thousands of ventilators, stat, to save Britain’s intensive care units from being overwhelmed by patients unable to breathe.

The effort by participants was inspiring, but its practical impact was far less so. In keeping with the British government’s overall response to the virus, a heroic dash delivered late results.

The bulk of ventilators made by the consortium arrived months after the outbreak’s peak in April. Of the 11,683 machines manufactured by Penlon, the main British provider, only one was used on patients, as part of its approval process.

Read more here.

By William Booth and Christine Spolar
August 14, 2020 at 9:35 PM EDT

Amid virus restrictions, can small inns and B&Bs retain their warm and cozy vibe?

A stack of muffins on a tiered serving tray. A living room with pillow-strewn couches that invite you to curl up with a good book. A common dining table where strangers chat over breakfast. Attentive host-owners eager to suggest an itinerary, bring up extra firewood or linger in conversation.

What small inns and bed-and-breakfasts lack in big amenities, they make up for with personalized service and homey ambiance. That’s why many travelers prefer these small, owner-run accommodations to big, impersonal hotels.

But sanitation and social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic have innkeepers and guests alike rethinking “warm and cozy.” From how breakfast is served to in-room accoutrements to how guests and hosts mingle, smaller properties are facing a cultural revolution of sorts, and things are going to look a little different when the dust finally settles.

Read more here.

By Elizabeth Heath
August 14, 2020 at 9:11 PM EDT

Travelers on a budget struggle during pandemic

No one books a bed in a hostel for peace, quiet or privacy. Shared dorms, communal kitchens and affordable group activities organized by a front desk doubling as a bar encourage social interaction on the cheap. It’s a solo backpacker’s dream, light on the wallet and designed to make it easy to meet other travelers. It’s also a novel coronavirus nightmare.

Travel is affordable when people are grouped together; it’s why the budget traveler chooses to fly in the back of the plane, take the bus instead of renting a car, spend the night in a shared dorm. But as travel resumes in some parts of the world and peace of mind can be bought for the price of a first-class ticket or an isolated villa, the public health necessity to limit interactions with others could be revealing a whole new meaning to “social distance.”

By Sebastian Modak
August 14, 2020 at 8:44 PM EDT

Nursing homes in the Sun Belt weren’t ready

With three months to get ready and hundreds of millions of dollars in federal emergency aid, the people who run nursing homes in the Sun Belt and officials who regulate them had a chance to limit the spread of covid-19 among their residents.

But as the disease spiked throughout the South and Southwest beginning in June, their efforts came up short, according to figures compiled by state health agencies.

There are “significant deficiencies in infection control practices,” Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told nursing home operators in a call Thursday. Her own agency has been criticized over lax enforcement and flawed record-keeping.

By Will Englund
August 14, 2020 at 8:09 PM EDT

CDC asks 4 states and a city to draft vaccine distribution plans

Federal health officials are 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, officials said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Defense 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 and prioritize which individuals will get the first doses to protect against covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. The proposals will consider each location’s racial and ethnic makeup and population density.

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 United States is planning the largest vaccination campaign ever undertaken, a massive proposition requiring extraordinary coordination, planning and communication.

Read more here.

By Lena H. Sun
August 14, 2020 at 7:40 PM EDT

More than 90 percent of California students likely to start school online, Newsom says

More than 90 percent of students in California are expected to start the school year online, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Friday, echoing earlier estimates and underscoring how widespread distance learning will be this fall despite the Trump administration’s push to reopen schools.

“That’s what we’re preparing for, that’s what we’re disproportionately focused on,” Newsom said of online learning, noting that, for many, school is already in session.

He emphasized at a news conference that the goal is to eventually get students back in the classroom and acknowledged “gaps and inequities that need to be addressed” as, nationwide, millions of students without the proper devices and Internet access — including hundreds of thousands in California — risk falling behind.

“Our commitment, our default long-term, is in-person instruction,” Newsom said.

The share of students using distance learning may be closer to 95 or 97 percent, he said. County-by-county details are coming Monday.

California maintains a “watch list” of counties based their levels of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations, as well as their availability of ICU beds. The nation’s most populous state has the most-known coronavirus infections in the country and on Friday passed 600,000 cases.

However, California ranks in the middle for cases reported to date per 100,000 people. It ranks 11th, according The Washington Post’s tracking, in new cases reported per 100,000 people in the past seven days.

By Hannah Knowles
August 14, 2020 at 6:59 PM EDT

People who recovered do not need to be tested again for three months, CDC says

In recently updated guidance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that people who have recovered from the coronavirus do not need to quarantine or seek testing for three months after they have recuperated.

The new recommendation, last updated Aug. 3, cautions that those who were previously infected should still socially distance and wear masks but says they don’t need to quarantine or be tested if they “have been in close contact” with someone who tests positive, unless they develop symptoms.

A CDC spokesperson told The Washington Post the update was made based on research that suggested people were continuing to test positive after they had recovered, as they continue to shed dead virus. Shedding of virus that is not live would not infect others.

“Contrary to media reporting today, this science does not imply a person is immune to reinfection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the 3 months following infection,” the spokesperson, Jason McDonald, said in an email.

The agency told The Post that it is still evaluating recent studies but that current research indicates the duration of infectiousness in most people is no longer than 10 days after symptoms begin and no longer than 20 days for those with severe illnesses or immune deficiencies.

“CDC will continue to closely monitor the evolving science for information that would warrant reconsideration of these recommendations,” McDonald said.

Little is known about immunity from the coronavirus. Research has indicated patients can build antibodies to the virus — proteins in the blood that indicate a previous infection. But those who recover from the coronavirus may rapidly lose antibodies within months, according to a June study of Chinese patients published in the journal Nature Medicine.

By Meryl Kornfield
August 14, 2020 at 6:17 PM EDT

In Big Ten cities, a fall without college football is a crushing economic blow

The players won’t play, the marching bands will remain silent and the large stadiums across the Big Ten will sit empty this fall, leaving a hole for college football fans who build their year around a dozen or so Saturdays. But the true impact stretches far beyond the locker rooms and stadium turnstiles.

The cancellation of the fall season promises to wallop businesses that count on those fall weekends for survival, and the economic impact will probably measure in the tens of millions of dollars in many of the small towns across the sprawling conference.

“We’re like a lot of businesses: We rely on the back-to-school and football season to really be our big moneymaking months,” said Michael Weber, vice president of Weber’s Boutique Hotel in Ann Arbor, Mich.

By Rick Maese
August 14, 2020 at 5:47 PM EDT

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 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 United States isn’t committed to embarking on such ethically fraught trials but has begun the process to create a stock of coronavirus strain that could be used to infect people, in case such trials become necessary, Fauci said. He called it a “Plan C or Plan D,” a preliminary step being taken because creating a strain that meets exacting regulatory standards will take months. Large, 30,000-person trials that are testing the effectiveness of experimental vaccines are likely to yield results sooner and provide much-needed safety data.

“You generally do [human challenge trials] 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.”

By Carolyn Y. Johnson
August 14, 2020 at 5:12 PM EDT

UNC-Chapel Hill reports two clusters in student housing

Less than a week into the start of classes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, school officials announced Friday that there were two clusters of coronavirus cases in student housing.

The university said in an alert sent to students and staff that the clusters, which are five or more cases within the same buildings, were identified at Ehringhaus Community, a freshman dorm, and Granville Towers, apartments owned by the university.

The school didn’t say how many infections are part of the outbreaks. A spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post.

The news of the clusters comes as other schools bring back students and report surges in cases.

The University of Notre Dame tallied 29 confirmed cases Friday, more than double its count two days ago, according to a schoolwide tracker.

One of the main concerns for students, parents and administrators is the spread of the virus in student housing, especially in communal spaces or where residents may share close contact.

Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger announced Friday that the school would “drastically scale back” student housing, meaning all classes will need to be held virtually.

Some have called for schools to reconsider reopening in-person. Before the clusters were identified at UNC, the Orange County Health Department told school administrators to implement virtual instruction for the first five weeks of fall and “consider” going online for the rest of the semester, according to a letter obtained by the school’s student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel.

By Meryl Kornfield
August 14, 2020 at 4:46 PM EDT

Spain and Greece issue more restrictions on bars and gatherings as virus counts increase

Several European countries ended the week with rising coronavirus cases and new restrictions in place in an effort to contain outbreaks without having to revert to major shutdowns.

  • Greece on Friday extended a midnight curfew on bars and restaurants, as well as a 50-person cap on public gatherings in areas with increasing coronavirus cases. Greece reported 262 new positive infections on Wednesday — its highest daily count yet — and 204 on Thursday. Compared with other countries in Europe, Greece stayed clear of a major outbreak. Since reopening this summer for tourism and holidays, however, cases have climbed, and officials are raising the alarm. “I especially want to appeal to our young people,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Friday, the Guardian reported. “Be careful, take care of yourselves, you are not invincible and those who are not invincible, even more so, are your parents and your grandfathers and grandmothers. I won’t tire of repeating this … so we don’t find ourselves in the unpleasant position of having to take more drastic measures than we would want to.”
  • Spain on Friday issued a ban on nightclubs, late-night-drinking, and smoking and drinking in public after the country recorded 2,935 new cases and 8,000 since Wednesday. Spain was one of the epicenters of the virus in March and April, and the country went into a strict lockdown to flatten its curve. Since reopening, however, the tourism-reliant country has seen stark spikes in new cases again. More than 28,000 people have officially died of covid-19 there.
  • Italy on Friday announced that holidaymakers returning from Spain, Greece, Croatia and Malta would now have to be tested for the virus, amid growing concern in Europe over the case counts in those countries.
  • On Friday, Germany expanded its travel warning for Spain, marking the whole country except for the Canary Islands now as high-risk and requiring covid-19 tests for all returnees.
By Miriam Berger
August 14, 2020 at 4:08 PM EDT

The pandemic will make movies and TV shows look like nothing we’ve seen before

Across the entertainment industry, casts and crew are beginning to return to work after a five-month hiatus.

In states with loosened restrictions, such as Georgia and New York, production is starting to crank up under tight controls that alter how sets operate. Instead of crew members freely mingling, they’re being divided into “pods” that limit how production departments such as wardrobe or lighting can associate. Covid-19 officers monitor the health of the cast and crew to determine who is allowed on set. “Zones” dictate where those cast and crew can go.

These changes might seem technical, but they hint at the far-reaching effects the virus will have on final screen products. Interviews with 12 executives, writers, agents and producers across the Hollywood spectrum suggest a dramatically transformed world of entertainment. Until a vaccine comes along, they say, covid-19 will change what Americans watch as dramatically as it has where they work, shop and learn. Forget the new normal — movies and TV are about to encounter the new austerity.

By Steven Zeitchik