A 25-year-old Reno man is the first reported coronavirus patient to be reinfected in the United States, scientists say. Unlike the world’s first presumed case of reinfection in Hong Kong, this patient developed more severe symptoms when he got sick in late May after a mild case in April, according to the newly released study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed. Scientists with the medical school at the University of Nevada at Reno and the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory used advanced testing that sequenced the genetic strains, finding they were distinct between the infections.
Groups representing nearly every public health department called Friday for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reverse “haphazard” changes the agency recently made to its public testing advice.
The Food and Drug Administration’s chief spokeswoman, who has been in the job less than two weeks, was removed from her role as of noon Friday, part of continued fallout from a White House news conference featuring inaccurate claims that convalescent plasma dramatically reduced mortality for patients with covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
MGM Resorts notified 18,000 furloughed workers — roughly one-fifth of its U.S. workforce — that their jobs have been cut for now, the casino giant confirmed.
The University of Notre Dame plans to resume in-person teaching next week after school officials determined that the threat of a wider outbreak of coronavirus cases in the campus community is receding. And the University of Virginia said it has resolved to teach undergraduates face to face after Labor Day.
Alabama tops 1,300 cases since classes began last week
By Meryl Kornfield
In one of the largest reported campus outbreaks of the coronavirus, the University of Alabama has now tallied more than 1,000 infections on its three campuses after announcing positive tests for 492 students and 51 faculty and staff members Friday.
No students have been hospitalized, and isolation housing is still mostly vacant, the school said.
Classes began Aug. 19.
The rising case count is concerning to the university population and surrounding communities alike. The city of Tuscaloosa announced a shutdown of bars and suspension of bar services in restaurants for two weeks to slow the spread of the virus. The school also put a moratorium on in-person student events and restricted access to Greek houses.
The total number of 1,368 confirmed infections of students on Alabama campuses is more than 3 percent of the school’s 2019 enrollment of 38,103.
The virus has continued to spread seemingly unabated at schools offering in-person instruction.
The University of Kansas counted 474 coronavirus cases, more than half of which — 270 — were tied to Greek life. The positivity rate for sorority and fraternity members is about 10 percent, several times the rate of the overall student population. County health officials had quarantined nine Greek houses this week. “This is not our usual fall,” Chancellor Douglas Girod said in a video update Thursday.
At Georgia College and State University, where 535 cases had been reported as of Friday, the campus workers union staged a die-in protest Friday. “We will not stand for the insufficient policies and procedures for re-opening during the COVID-19 pandemic, which have resulted in the reckless endangerment of the Georgia College and Milledgeville communities,” Avery James, a union member and Georgia College graduate assistant, wrote to The Washington Post.
North Carolina State University identified two new coronavirus clusters Friday, the latest of more than two dozen since classes began Aug. 10. The school administration called the situation “untenable” Wednesday and announced that it would vacate dorms within 11 days.
She fled detention and torture in Nicaragua for asylum in the United States. Under a pandemic-era policy, the government put her on a plane back home.
By Kevin Sieff
She was one of the most recognizable activists in Nicaragua, protesting a government that has jailed and killed its opponents. Her photo ran in national newspapers; one called her the “face of the rebellion.” Her video of police firing at student protesters went viral. Her confrontations with the government were cited by the U.S. State Department.
Valeska Alemán, 22, paid a price for that notoriety. She was detained twice. Interrogators pried off her toenails. When she decided to leave the country, the United States seemed a natural destination: The Trump administration has been vocal in its opposition to Nicaragua’s crackdown — and its support of the country’s young protesters.
But by the time Alemán arrived at the U.S. border in July, the administration had launched a pandemic-era policy that sends Nicaraguans directly back to their country without letting them apply for asylum. Seventeen days after crossing into Texas, she was put on a plane back to Managua with more than 100 other Nicaraguans, almost all of them opponents of President Daniel Ortega.
Her backpack was full of documents to show U.S. immigration officials that the government appeared ready to kill her. The officials wouldn’t look at them. When she landed back in Nicaragua, it felt as if she was carrying a ticking bomb, proof that she was trying to flee and accuse the government of abuse.
“I thought, ‘Okay, so they’re going to throw me straight back in jail,” Alemán said. ” I’m going to be tortured all over again.’ ”
Moderna failed to disclose federal support in vaccine patents, researchers say
By Christopher Rowland
Moderna, the Massachusetts biotech company leading the global race to develop a coronavirus vaccine, has failed to disclose government financial support in any of the 126 patents it has filed in its 10-year history, in apparent violation of federal law, according to a new report by activist researchers.
Moderna was founded in 2010 and has yet to win market approval of a drug. But its vaccine technology, which has been developed with a combination of U.S. taxpayer support and a large share of private investment, allowed it to be the first company to test its SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in humans.
With a boost of nearly $1 billion in research and development money from the Trump administration, it has initiated Stage 3 clinical trials in tens of thousands of people and is sprinting toward seeking an emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration before the end of the year. It also has a contract to sell 100 million doses to the United States for another $1.5 billion. The key protein used in the vaccine was co-invented by the National Institutes of Health.
Officials should wear masks to encourage widespread use, new guidance says
By Meryl Kornfield
Government officials who don face coverings themselves can better encourage people to wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to new guidance.
Partisan bickering over mask mandates has made it more difficult to encourage widespread use of masks, according to a paper published Friday by global public health organization Vital Strategies and Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Face coverings are one of several effective tools public health experts know works for reducing the transmission of the virus.
The advice suggests that communities could buoy mask-wearing by clarifying mandates and echoing that masks are part of a “new normal.”
It also discourages calling attention to those who defy mask requirements, citing a Pew Research Center study in June that found that while two-thirds of Americans reported wearing masks all or most of the time, their perception was that a minority of the country does.
The paper says government leaders should enact mandates in their jurisdictions in a way that doesn’t create a “confusing patchwork of regulations,” but the guidance doesn’t go as far as recommending mask-wearing nationwide.
Despite repeated insistence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health experts to wear facial coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, people have flouted the guidance or even called it confusing.
To clarify masking advice, the CDC published illustrations Friday, including visual instructions for how to wear and wash a mask properly.
The agency has changed recommendations about masks as scientific consensus has evolved — adding to the uncertainty.
On top of that, some Republican officials refused to wear masks at the start of the pandemic.
Congress left town and let jobless benefits lapse. Unemployed Americans say they won’t forget it.
By Eli Rosenberg and Heather Long
Shawn Gabriel, a single father of two in Parma, Ohio, has learned what it means to struggle since he lost his construction job in March. His landlord sent him an eviction notice after he was a few days late on August rent.
Gabriel keeps looking for work, but for now his family is living off of $189 a week that he gets in unemployment benefits, which is not enough to cover his $950 rent, let alone food, electric, Internet and other expenses.
But the bulk of his frustration has been reserved for one place: Congress, whose members left town in August after letting the $600-a-week unemployment bonus that millions of people like Gabriel have been relying on expire.
“Most of them are rich. They don’t struggle. They get paid,” Gabriel said. “I think they should have come to an agreement.”
Coronavirus cases in some European countries are rising again, but with fewer deaths. For now.
By Michael Birnbaum, Chico Harlan and James McAuley
Coronavirus cases are surging again in Europe after months of relative calm, but the second wave looks different from the first: Fewer people are dying, and the newest and mostly younger victims of the pandemic need less medical treatment.
Unlike the initial hit of the pandemic this spring, which overwhelmed hospitals and turned nursing homes into grim mortuaries, the European resurgence of recent weeks has not forced as many people into medical wards.
But the increase is widespread, and it is unsettling societies that had hoped the worst was behind them. Paris on Friday joined some other French jurisdictions in imposing a citywide mask requirement, with cases spiking. France, Germany, Spain and others posted caseloads in recent days that had not been seen since April and early May. Spain has been hit particularly hard, with per capita cases now worse than in the United States — a notable marker in Europe, which after the initial springtime spike had generally controlled the virus more successfully than America.
And with almost every European country planning a return to in-person schooling, many starting next week, public health officials are holding their breath for the impact.
Epidemiologists say the best masks for the general public are surgical or reusable cloth masks. Health-care workers need N95 respirators, the personal protective equipment used in hospitals that provide a tight seal around the mouth and nose, because they’re in contact with infected patients for prolonged periods of time.
Most people won’t need to protect against that level of exposure, according to Saskia Popescu, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at George Mason University.
Every day, readers send in questions about the pandemic — asking about everything from when to wear masks to what the continued outbreak will mean for elections this fall.
First presumed U.S. reinfection case reported in Nevada
By Meryl Kornfield
A 25-year-old Reno man is the first reported reinfected coronavirus patient in the United States, scientists say.
Unlike the world’s first presumed reinfection case in Hong Kong, which was publicized Monday, this patient developed more severe symptoms when he got sick in late May after a mild case in April, according to the study. Scientists with the medical school at the University of Nevada at Reno and the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory used advanced testing that sequenced the genetic strains, finding they were distinct between the infections.
The study has not been peer-reviewed, and its authors acknowledged the findings could not be generalized.
But the Reno case contrasts with immunologists’ expectations that the immune system would respond to the novel virus as it does with other coronaviruses: that the virus-fighting cells would be able to remember the pathogen from a previous illness and attack, either killing the infection or staving off more severe symptoms.
Scientists still say, for now, that this case is out of the norm, as confirmed infections across the world surpassed 24 million.
“We are going to see reinfections,” Michael Mina, an immunologist and epidemiologist with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, tweeted. “That’s normal. The important thing is that the vast majority will hopefully/likely be asymptomatic or mild and reinfection will serve (as it should) to simply boost immune memory!”
“This is a natural and part of immune learning,” he added.
Researchers in the Netherlands and Belgium also shared reinfection cases this week.
August 28, 2020 at 7:00 PM EDT
New Jersey school district switches to remote learning after hundreds of teachers request leave
By Lateshia Beachum
Freehold Regional High School District in Englishtown, N.J., will switch to remote learning Sept. 10 after its plans for hybrid in-person instruction were thwarted when teachers and staffers submitted workplace-accommodations and leave requests, according to Superintendent Charles B. Sampson.
At least 250 educators put in such requests because of coronavirus-related concerns, NJ.com reported.
“The source of the issue lies with the haphazard approach to reopening schools from state officials,” Sampson said in a Wednesday letter, pointing a finger at Gov. Phil Murphy (D) for introducing remote-learning options.
“He opened the door to a cascading series of events that placed intense staffing pressures on schools committed to opening as they struggle to remain open as neighboring districts shutter their doors,” Sampson said. “This approach has also pitted school districts and communities against one another.”
Remote instruction at other school districts has created a ripple effect that has led faculty and staff members who work in the Freehold district to seek leaves of absence to meet their own family demands, according to Sampson.
“The majority of our parents wished for students to return to our buildings and we worked diligently to ensure they could in the safest way possible,” he said. “Unfortunately, the statewide piecemeal approach for the reopening of schools has put many school districts in this situation.
The school district plans to be adequately staffed for hybrid learning to begin Oct. 19.
In the meantime, teachers and students will start lessons using Google Meet.
August 28, 2020 at 6:18 PM EDT
Secret Service copes with coronavirus cases in aftermath of Trump appearances
By Carol D. Leonnig
When President Trump gave a speech to a group of sheriffs in Tampa late last month, his decision to travel forced a large contingent of Secret Service agents to head to a state that was then battling one of the worst coronavirus surges in the nation.
Even before Air Force One touched down on July 31, the fallout was apparent: Five Secret Service agents already on the ground had to be replaced after one tested positive for the coronavirus and the others working in proximity were presumed to be infected, according to people familiar with the situation.
The previously unreported episode is one of a series of examples of how Trump’s insistence on traveling and holding campaign-style events amid the pandemic has heightened the risks for the people who safeguard his life, intensifying the strain on the Secret Service.
British study finds ‘no deaths in otherwise healthy school-age children’ hospitalized with covid-19
By Miriam Berger
Healthy school-aged children statistically have an extremely low chance of dying of covid-19, according to a new study in the British medical research journal BMJ, though the risk of needing critical care is slightly higher for children who are Black, obese or under a month old.
The study, published Thursday, analyzed the files of 651 children below the age of 19 admitted to 138 hospitals across the United Kingdom between mid-January and early July. All participants either tested positive for the novel coronavirus upon entering the hospital or were already hospitalized when the infection was confirmed.
The findings echoed previous studies that children infected with the coronavirus develop “less severe” cases of the disease covid-19 compared to adults, the authors concluded. Eighteen percent of children needed critical care, though the risk of requiring it was slightly higher for Black children, as well as for obese patients and babies.
The higher prevalence of severe sickness among Black children was likely due to higher incidences of infections in Britain’s Black communities, Liz Whittaker of Imperial College London told the BBC. In May, the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics found that Black Britons were four times as likely to die of covid-19 as White ones, a trend attributed to preexisting health conditions and economic disparities.
The BMJ study also found a “strikingly low” fatality rate for children with the disease. Just six of 627 children (the number of children for whom complete data was available) died while infected with covid-19. All six of these children had “profound comorbidity,” or a serious preexisting condition, researchers concluded. The fatality rate of children — 1 percent — is far below that of all patients surveyed during this same period — 27 percent.
“There have been no deaths in otherwise healthy school-age children,” the study’s author, Calum Semple from the University of Liverpool, told the BBC.
The study found that “fever, cough, shortness of breath, nausea, and vomiting” were the most common symptoms children presented. Among older children a sore throat, stomach pain and a headache were also prevalent.
Based on these findings, the study’s authors said that headache, sore throat, fatigue and muscle pain should be added to the World Health Organization’s list of symptoms, according to the BBC.
August 28, 2020 at 5:30 PM EDT
India passes coronavirus milestone: The largest number of daily cases in the world
By Joanna Slater and Niha Masih
NEW DELHI — It took more than five months for India to reach the bleak milestone of 1 million cases of the novel coronavirus.
The next million came in just 21 days. The third million was faster still: 16 days.
The increase in cases is unlikely to ebb any time soon, experts say, as a galloping outbreak spreads to new parts of the country and political leaders continue to reopen the economy. This week, India recorded the highest one-day jump in new cases — more than 77,000 — anywhere in the world since the pandemic began.
Dow jumps more than 160 points, erasing its 2020 losses
By Taylor Telford
U.S. stocks chalked up another week of gains Friday, with the Dow erasing its 2020 losses.
The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 161.60 points, or 0.6 percent, to settle at 28,653.87, which put the blue-chip index in positive territory for the year and pulled it within a few percentage points of the all time high set in February. The Standard & Poor’s 500 closed up 23.46 points, or nearly 0.7 percent, to close at 3,508.01, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite added 70.30 points, or 0.6 percent, to finish at 11,695.63.
Both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq have notched five straight weeks of gains, with the broad index on track for its best August since 1986.
As the market closes in on the end of the month, investors are keeping an eye on how the expiration of coronavirus-related aid, such as the $1,200 stimulus checks and $600 weekly unemployment benefits, will impact consumer spending.
Biden knocks Trump for holding ‘super spreader event’
By John Wagner
Biden on Friday knocked President Trump for holding what he characterized as a “super spreader event on the South Lawn,” referring to the president’s convention acceptance speech the night before at the White House.
More than 1,500 supporters gathered for Trump’s speech to cap off the Republican National Convention, and most were not wearing masks, even as they were seated closely together in white folding chairs.
“Mr. President, Americans are canceling weddings and holding funerals without family,” Biden tweeted on Friday. “They’re sacrificing so more Americans don’t have to die. But instead of leading by example, you hosted a super spreader event on the South Lawn. When will you take the presidency seriously?”