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Public health experts are reevaluating guidelines for safe social distancing amid growing evidence that the novel coronavirus can travel farther than six feet under certain conditions. A team of infectious-disease experts argues in a new analysis that six-feet protocols are too rigid and are based on outmoded science and observations of different viruses. Other researchers say six feet is a start — but only a start, warning that more space is almost always better, especially in poorly ventilated areas indoors.

Here are some significant developments:
August 27, 2020 at 11:30 PM EDT
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Sisters who lived through 1918 flu pandemic both survived coronavirus scares

By Jake Lourim

Early in a long, prosperous life, Anna Del Priore contracted the deadly flu in 1918, when she was about 6 years old. She survived, grew up, got married and raised two children.

When another pandemic arrived this year, she was 107 and particularly susceptible. At Brighton Gardens assisted-living facility in Middletown, N.J., Del Priore tested positive for the novel coronavirus in May.

But although she had a fever and a cough and needed oxygen at one point, she never went on a ventilator, never went to the hospital and recovered from a six-week fight.

“God made me better,” a smiling Del Priore said via FaceTime last week.

August 27, 2020 at 11:00 PM EDT
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Senators call for federal investigation of hydroxychloroquine use in nursing homes

By Debbie Cenziper

Fearing the experimental use of hydroxychloroquine went “unchecked” in nursing homes struck by the coronavirus, three U.S. senators are calling on federal authorities to determine whether providers improperly treated patients, failed to disclose serious side effects or faced any repercussions from regulators responsible for oversight of the industry.

In a letter sent Thursday to the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) pointed to state inspection reports that cited nursing homes for treating residents with the antimalarial drug without the consent of patients or their family members.

They also cited media accounts that chronicled the use of hydroxychloroquine in nursing homes across the country, including the 238-bed Southeastern Veterans’ Center outside of Philadelphia, where doctors administered a so-called “covid cocktail” to about 30 residents in April. The drug was given to 11 residents who not not been tested for the virus, as well as those who suffered from heart ailments and other underlying conditions, The Washington Post reported.

August 27, 2020 at 10:45 PM EDT
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Self-driving pods and outdoor terminals: How the pandemic could change U.S. airports

By Shannon McMahon

The airport experience has long been synonymous with stress: huge arrival areas, frantic security checkpoints, cramped trams shuttling groups between terminals — with, of course, lines at all of them. And when airports return to normal passenger volumes, the stress of a long line or a crowded terminal will no doubt be exacerbated by the potential presence of the novel coronavirus.

A leading airport architecture firm says there must be a better way to organize and transport passengers after the pandemic, and it is already proposing some high-tech options to get there.

“Being in confined spaces with others no longer feels comfortable for passengers,” says aviation architect Ty Osbaugh of Gensler, a global firm that has designed many airports, including San Francisco, John F. Kennedy, Los Angeles and South Korea’s Incheon. “Now is an opportunity to think, ‘What do we want the airport experience to be three years from now?’ ”

August 27, 2020 at 10:13 PM EDT
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The University of Arizona used wastewater testing to detect cases of coronavirus in a dorm

By Paulina Firozi

At the University of Arizona, officials say sewage surveillance helped them detect a pair of coronavirus cases after students moved back onto campus, a strategy that officials say may have prevented more people from being infected.

The school has started testing the wastewater for all of the campus dormitories, University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins said during a Thursday briefing.

On Tuesday night, he said, there was a signal in the waste.

A previous test of all the dorms’ wastewater had come up negative, but Robbins said Ian Pepper, director of the university’s Water and Energy Sustainable Technology Center, had now found “an increased viral load coming out of the wastewater” of one dorm, Likins Hall.

The next day, the university tested everyone in that dorm.

“We did test — I think there are 311 individuals in that dorm — and we did the antigen test, we did them all yesterday and found two positive cases,” Robbins said.

The infected individuals have been isolated and their contacts are being traced, Robbins said.

The school’s reentry testing results found that out of 10,126 antigen tests administered from July 31 through Aug. 26, there were 46 positive results, according to its online dashboard. The fall semester began Monday, with a mix of in-person and online classes.

Pepper told the Arizona Republic last month that he and his team plan to test wastewater samples from the school’s 20 dorms throughout the school year.

The Post reported in May that researchers say the virus can be found in untreated wastewater within days of infection and up to two weeks before a person would feel sick enough to get care.

Richard Carmona, the director of the university’s reentry task force and a former U.S. surgeon general, called the wastewater testing strategy “pretty slick.”

“Who would have ever thought of that, that monitoring the effluent from certain buildings and being able to then detect virus in that effluent before anybody is even sick, before you know it,” Carmona said during the briefing. “And that’s what happened just recently here.”

He said without the early detection through the wastewater testing, the cases may never have been known.

Carmona added: “If we had missed it, if we had waited until they became symptomatic, and they stayed in that dorm for days, or a week, or the whole incubation period, how many other people would have been infected?"

August 27, 2020 at 10:03 PM EDT
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Freshman TikTok star responds to Cornell student petition to expel her for flouting coronavirus rules

By Hannah Knowles

Colleges have been threatening students with stiff penalties for failing to practice social distancing and wear masks, blasting “selfish and reckless” behavior and issuing hundreds of suspensions. At Cornell University, however, it’s the students who are becoming the most vocal enforcers of coronavirus-era rules.

“Jessica Zhang has shown that she does not care to comply to public safety measures and wants to put other citizens at risk for the sake of her own entertainment,” reads an online petition from a “Concerned Student Coalition” that had gathered nearly 2,000 signatures by Wednesday night. It says Zhang — a freshman who happens to be a TikTok star with more than half a million followers — should be expelled for flouting coronavirus precautions while partying."

In a Thursday interview after this article’s publication, Zhang — an 18-year-old from Michigan, now quarantining off campus in a hotel — said the petition has spread falsehoods and unfairly smeared her character. She says Cornell has told her the petition will not affect her punishment, which she said was “confidential” and declined to share, but she wonders if her reputation is sealed before the start of class.

August 27, 2020 at 9:15 PM EDT
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The pandemic has forced New York pizza shop owners to rethink the signature slice — and just about everything

NEW YORK — Marc Carr, an HVAC technician, wore a white construction helmet and matching N95 mask as he approached Scarr’s Pizza on the Lower East Side. It was late May, and the popular shop was reopening after being closed for two months due to coronavirus concerns. He wanted two slices, but a greeter informed him that they were not yet ready for walk-ups; he had to call or order online. Also, they were only selling pies.

As Carr walked away, hungry, the worker fixed a sign on rope by the door.

“No slices for now,” it read. “Sorry :/”

August 27, 2020 at 8:32 PM EDT
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Four states set new single-day highs as Trump touts ‘very good job’ on pandemic

By Paulina Firozi

Four states across the country set new single-day records on Thursday for the number of new cases reported: South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota.

Those four states are also among the six, along with Indiana and Hawaii, that set new highs for seven-day new case averages, according to data tracked and analyzed by The Washington Post.

This comes as President Trump is set to give his speech at the conclusion of the Republican National Convention. More than 1,000 guests are expected to be in attendance during the South Lawn presidential address, where chairs have been placed just inches apart and most will not be tested for the novel coronavirus, The Post has reported.

The president told the New York Times ahead of his speech that he’s “done a very good job” of addressing the pandemic.

During his address on the third night of the convention, Vice President Pence, who chairs the White House coronavirus task force, also touted the president’s actions.

“President Trump marshaled the full resources of the federal government and directed us to forge a seamless partnership with governors across America in both parties,” Pence said. But as The Post has reported, the tension between state leaders and the federal government over resources and responsibilities has in part defined the crisis.

The new state highs signal the continued spread of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed at least 177,000 people in the United States, including in some states where Republican state leaders resisted early pandemic-related restrictions.

In Iowa, which recorded a new high of 1,477 cases — the largest single-day increase in the state since the pandemic began — Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) issued a new order to shutter all bars, breweries and nightclubs in six of the state’s most populous counties.

“I don’t make these decisions lightly, and it’s not lost on me that every business forced to close all through their hours and sales, even temporarily, plays a role in the lives of Iowa workers and our small businesses,” Reynolds said at a news conference. “But these actions are absolutely necessary.”

No statewide stay-at-home order was ever issued in Iowa.

In South Dakota, another state that’s had no statewide restrictions throughout the crisis, there was a new single-day high of 623 cases on Thursday.

Minnesota reported a single-day record of 1,154 new cases and North Dakota reported a new high of 333 new cases.

August 27, 2020 at 8:12 PM EDT
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An American allegedly broke Canada’s visitor ban — twice. Now he could face a $570,000 fine.

By Shannon McMahon

Banff National Park in Alberta is famous for its sweeping alpine views and the turquoise waters of Lake Louise. But a visit to Canada’s oldest national park is probably not worth a fine up to $570,000 ($750,000 Canadian dollars) and jail time.

That’s what one American tourist faces after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police say he breached quarantine to visit the area in late June. Canada’s U.S.-border closure has prevented nonessential American visitors from entering since March.

John Pennington, 40, of Kentucky was first cited and then arrested when police say he was twice found to be in violation of Canada’s provincial health orders after entering from Alaska, Cpl. Tammy Keibel told The Washington Post.

August 27, 2020 at 7:30 PM EDT
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More than 1,000 guests expected for Trump speech on South Lawn, where chairs are only inches apart

By Josh Dawsey

The overwhelming majority of attendees at tonight’s South Lawn convention speech will not be tested for the novel coronavirus, campaign and convention officials say.

More than 1,000 guests are expected on the South Lawn, where chairs have been placed next to each other, only a few inches apart, ahead of the president’s acceptance speech. A White House official said people expected to be close to the president for extended periods of time will be tested. An attendee on Thursday night said there was no temperature check or coronavirus test. Some guests arriving are wearing masks, but most are not, the attendee said.

Two officials said it would be impossible to administer coronavirus tests to so many guests. During Vice President Pence’s speech last night at Fort McHenry, attendees were not tested for coronavirus either, though temperatures were taken and they were questioned about recent travel and symptoms, attendees said.

Trump and Pence both went to the rope line where they mingled with guests and posed for photos, officials said, and the vice president’s family and White House and Cabinet officials mingled closely with other guests who had not been tested. That is more unlikely to happen tonight. Aides note that the events are outside, where spread is less likely to occur, according to scientists.

August 27, 2020 at 7:07 PM EDT
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White House announces deal to provide 150 million rapid coronavirus tests

By Lenny Bernstein and Seung Min Kim

The White House announced a deal Thursday with Abbott Laboratories to produce 150 million rapid coronavirus tests that will allow users to obtain results in 15 minutes from a small card.

The announcement of the $760 million deal came just hours before President Trump was scheduled to deliver his nomination speech at the close of the Republican National Convention.

“This is a major development that will help our country to remain open, get Americans back to work, and kids back to school!” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted late Thursday afternoon.

August 27, 2020 at 6:15 PM EDT
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Large U.S. covid-19 vaccine trials are halfway enrolled, but lag on participant diversity

By Carolyn Y. Johnson

Moderna and Pfizer, the companies leading the U.S. race for a coronavirus vaccine, disclosed this week they have enrolled more than half the people needed for the 30,000-person trials that represent the final phase of testing. But only about a fifth of participants are from Black and Hispanic communities, which have been hit hardest by the virus — lagging what several experts said should be the bare minimum of diversity.

An online registry that people can use to express interest in the vaccine trials — a list of about 350,000 volunteers — had only about 10 to 11 percent Black and Hispanic people as of late last week, according to James Kublin, executive director of the federal HIV Vaccine Trials Network, based at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. The HIV trials network is being repurposed to test coronavirus vaccines.

“We are working a bit uphill, in the Sisyphean task to get the studies representing the diversity [of the U.S.] — and that goes into the historical legacy of not just discrimination, but of outright unethical medical practices” on minority communities, Kublin said.

August 27, 2020 at 5:30 PM EDT
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Six feet may not be enough to protect against coronavirus, experts warn

By Ben Guarino

Public health experts are reevaluating guidelines for safe social distancing amid growing evidence that the novel coronavirus can travel farther than six feet under certain conditions.

A team of infectious-disease experts argues in a new analysis, published this week in the BMJ, that six-feet protocols are too rigid and are based on outmoded science and observations of different viruses. Other researchers say six feet is a start — but only a start, warning that more space is almost always better, especially in poorly ventilated areas indoors.

Factors such air circulation, ventilation, exposure time, crowd density, whether people are wearing face masks and whether they are silent, speaking, shouting or singing should all be part of assessing whether six feet is sufficient, experts say.

August 27, 2020 at 4:44 PM EDT
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No breakthrough on coronavirus relief talks from Pelosi-Meadows call

By Erica Werner

A conversation Thursday afternoon between Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Meadows failed to produce a breakthrough on stalled coronavirus relief talks.

“This conversation made clear that the White House continues to disregard the needs of the American people as the coronavirus crisis devastates lives and livelihoods,” Pelosi said in a statement after the call.

A Meadows spokesman had no immediate comment.

Negotiations involving Pelosi, Meadows, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin broke down earlier this month after hours of meetings left the two sides far apart.

At the time, Democrats said they were willing to go down a trillion dollars from their $3.4 trillion starting point — if the administration would come up a trillion dollars from Senate Republicans’ $1 trillion bill.

Pelosi said Thursday that she had offered to reduce the Democrats’ demands by an additional $200 billion and agree to an approximately $2.2 trillion bill.

“When they are ready to do that, they’ll let us know,” Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol after her conversation with Meadows. “I did not get that impression on that call.” In the past, Meadows has questioned the sincerity of Democrats’ offers.

Senate Republicans believe a $2 trillion bill could not pass their chamber. In fact, they had struggled to unite around the $1 trillion bill and are weighing options for an even narrower piece of legislation.

At an event Thursday in Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the talks were at a “stalemate.”

Many lawmakers and aides believe any action is unlikely until a Sept. 30 deadline, when funding for the government expires, approaches. To avoid a government shutdown, Congress will need to pass legislation extending agency funding, and some coronavirus relief provisions could be attached to that.

Meanwhile, Meadows said this week that the administration was weighing additional executive actions. President Trump took several steps on his own earlier this month that were aimed at alleviating some economic distress but have had a limited impact.

August 27, 2020 at 4:38 PM EDT
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Amid school closures, at least one-third of children worldwide can’t access remote learning, UNICEF says

By Miriam Berger and Antonia Farzan

At least a third of the world’s schoolchildren are unable to access remote learning when their schools are closed, according to new figures by UNICEF.

Experts and advocates are concerned about what that means for the long-term effect of the coronavirus pandemic, as schools and governments struggle to keep education on track.

Earlier this year, the vast majority of schoolchildren worldwide — more than 1.5 billion — were affected by lockdowns that closed schools, UNICEF said Thursday. Of those children, roughly 463 million were unable to access online instruction through radio, television or the Internet, the agency said.