Cases in the Midwest began to surge during October. On Thursday, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, North Dakota, Montana, New Mexico and Colorado tallied new single-day highs for positive test results. Fourteen states exceeded their seven-day averages of new infections.
Here are some significant developments:
Two people involved with Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential campaign have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, officials announced Thursday. Neither person had contact with Biden or his running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris, for at least two days before their diagnoses, according to the campaign, but Harris has nevertheless canceled all her travel through the weekend.
Remdesivir, an anti-viral drug by Gilead Sciences, does not prevent deaths or shorten hospital stays for coronavirus patients, according to a World Health Organization study published Thursday.
Holding large family gatherings at Thanksgiving this year may be unwise, particularly if elderly relatives or out-of-state travel are involved, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, Anthony S. Fauci, told “CBS Evening News” on Wednesday. Fauci recommended Americans “bite the bullet” and keep their distance, adding that he would heed his own advice: His three children will not be coming home for Thanksgiving because his age puts him at an elevated risk.
A hospital in Mumbai has delivered more than 700 babies from coronavirus-positive mothers, and its experience is playing a key role in the global search to understand exactly how the virus affects pregnant women and newborns.
After 60 years, Peace Corps does not have a single volunteer in the field
By Carol Morello
Nina Boe’s life is as much in limbo now as it was the day in March when her work as a Peace Corps volunteer was put on hold and she was ordered to evacuate North Macedonia.
She has been living in New York ever since, interviewing for jobs that have not materialized. She misses her friends in Skopje, North Macedonia’s capital, who became like family, and cries after they call to keep in touch. But she has been advised it could be mid-2021 before she is recalled, and she does not know if she will ever return to North Macedonia as a Peace Corps volunteer.
“I want to see what happens,” she said. “Who knows? Maybe I’ll have a job. Maybe the reality of the pandemic means I won’t.”
Boe’s uncertainty about her future mirrors that of the Peace Corps itself, which traces its origin to a middle-of-the-night speech given by then-Sen. John F. Kennedy at the University of Michigan 60 years ago this week. Over the ensuing decades, it has sent some 250,000 mostly young Americans brimming with idealism to more than 140 countries, with the high-minded mission of promoting world peace and friendship.
Now, for the first time, the Peace Corps does not have a single volunteer in the field. About 7,000 American volunteers and trainees were pulled out of 61 countries in mid-March because of the spreading covid-19 health crisis, and their service contracts have ended. It is not known when any will be allowed to return. Nor is it clear how many of those whose tenure was interrupted will opt to go back into the Peace Corps, or how many have found jobs and moved on with their lives.
Biden signals in town hall openness to vaccine mandate — but details are murky
By Sean Sullivan
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden suggested early in his town hall with voters on Thursday that he would be open to a mandate for a safe coronavirus vaccine. But he acknowledged that enforcing it would be difficult.
“It depends on the state of the nature of the vaccine, when it comes out, how it’s distributed,” Biden said at the town hall hosted by ABC News in Philadelphia.
“How could you enforce that?” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos followed up.
“Well, you couldn’t,” Biden said. “That’s the problem.”
Biden has compared his stance to his calls for a mask mandate, which he says would require working with governors and other local officials to urge people to use them.
Biden said he would not look to fine people for not complying.
Trump again upends stimulus strategy, complaining that Mnuchin hasn’t ‘come home with the bacon’
By Erica Werner and Jeff Stein
President Trump called Thursday for even more stimulus spending than the $1.8 trillion that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin proposed in his talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, injecting yet more chaos into the unruly negotiations as the election nears.
“I would take more. I would go higher,” Trump said in an interview on Fox Business Network. He said he has communicated his views to Mnuchin and that “so far he hasn’t come home with the bacon."
Trump’s latest comments illustrate the fluid and disorganized state of affairs in the stimulus talks at a time when the economic recovery appears to be stalling less than three weeks from the election.
WHO study says remdesivir does not cut mortality rate, hospital stays
By Meryl Kornfield
Remdesivir does not appear to have an impact on a coronavirus patient’s chances of survival, the World Health Organization concluded Thursday.
The Gilead Sciences drug touted by President Trump after his visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center was one of several repurposed medicines selected for a study of therapeutics for covid-19 in more than 30 countries. Hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon regimens also appeared not to reduce the mortality rate or the length of hospital stays for coronavirus patients, according to the WHO’s research, which has not been peer-reviewed.
The study confirms previous research that remdesivir has not effectively reduced the risk of death for coronavirus patients. The new findings conclude that the drug is unlikely to change a hospitalized patient’s course, a departure from the belief that the therapeutic could shorten the time of recovery for less severe patients, as a study published Oct. 8 in the New England Journal of Medicine found.
Gilead already received emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration in May and expanded approval for the drug’s use for hospitalized coronavirus patients in August.
The drugmaker rebutted the data from the WHO in a statement to The Washington Post, saying that it “appears inconsistent, with more robust evidence from multiple randomized, controlled studies published in peer-reviewed journals validating the clinical benefit of remdesivir.”
“We are concerned the data from this open-label global trial has not undergone the rigorous review required to allow for constructive scientific discussion, particularly given the limitations of the trial design,” company spokeswoman Sonia Choi wrote.
The WHO on Thursday said the study was the world’s largest randomized control trial on covid-19 therapeutics.
Chris Christie, recovering from covid-19, says he should have worn a mask at the White House
By Colby Itkowitz
Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R) issued a statement about his recovery from covid-19, highlighting the severity of the disease and advocating the wearing of masks, in stark contrast to President Trump’s nonchalant attitude even after contracting it himself.
Christie was among those seen maskless and hugging guests a few weeks ago at a Rose Garden ceremony many suspect was the superspreader event that caused people in Trump’s immediate orbit to catch the coronavirus, including Christie.
Now that he’s recovered, Christie says all public officials should be advocating for every American to wear a mask and that “no one should be cavalier about being infected or infecting others.”
Christie shared that he’d spent seven days in intensive care and had a lot of time to think. He says he was wrong to not wear a mask at the White House, where Trump does not require it or even promote it.
“I hope that my experience shows my fellow citizens that you should follow CDC guidelines in public no matter where you are and wear a mask to protect yourself and others,” Christie said, referring to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which strongly advocates mask wearing.
The statement reads like a rebuke of the president, who emerged from his illness emboldened, continuing to downplay the coronavirus as something that will just go away and holding crowded events with no mask or social distancing requirements. But Christie, who was treated with a similar experimental antibody therapy as Trump, said getting sick made him understand how serious covid-19 is.
“Having had this virus, I can also assure those who have not had it of a few things,” Christie said. “It is something to take very seriously. The ramifications are wildly random and potentially deadly. No one should be happy to get the virus and no one should be cavalier about being infected or infecting others.”
In the statement, Christie also took the position that the nation should fully reopen, but that “every public official, regardless of party or position, should advocate for every American to wear a mask in public, appropriately socially distance and to wash your hands frequently every day.”
“It is never too late to start,” Christie said. “It will take leadership that both challenges and trusts the American people.”
CDC traces outbreak to indoor Florida hockey game
By Ruby Mellen
Indoor sporting events could increase the risk of transmission of the coronavirus, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The research published Thursday looked at an hour-long amateur hockey game in June at an indoor arena in the Tampa Bay area, with 22 players rotating off the bench. Players wore various kinds of helmets and face protecters, but cloth masks were not worn during the game nor in the locker room, where players spent around 20 minutes before and after the game.
Within days, the CDC found, 14 of the 22 players, as well as one rink staff member, had developed symptoms of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Thirteen of those 15 people tested positive for the virus. The study noted that the sport presented optimal conditions for transmission.
“Ice hockey involves vigorous physical exertion accompanied by deep, heavy respiration, and during the game, players frequently move from the ice surface to the bench while still breathing heavily,” the CDC wrote.
“The indoor space and close contact between players during a hockey game increase infection risk for players and create potential for a superspreader event, especially with ongoing community COVID-19 transmission,” it added.
The data comes as many parts of the United States are seeing record coronavirus case numbers. Scientists have in part linked the spikes to colder weather pushing people to gather indoors, where the virus spreads more easily.
Not even a pandemic can break rich cities’ grip on the U.S. economy
By Hamza Shaban
Adam Fawer has seen the ups and downs of living and working in New York City, including periods of deep economic pain that triggered massive job losses and the evisceration of small businesses. Now the chief operating officer of a health and fitness app, Noom, Fawer is trying to steer his company through the shocks of the coronavirus and ensuing recession.
For many Americans, the disorienting rush of the pandemic prompted a reevaluation of major life choices — such as where to live — as well as broader questions on whether it will diminish the dynamism and allure of New York and other “superstar cities” like it.
This elite class of American cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, comprise densely populated economic powerhouses with deep reserves of talent and wealth. But without an office to report to or neighborhood restaurants to frequent, the ultraexpensive rents and brutal commutes typical of superstar cities become harder to justify, especially as technology and necessity have opened pathways to work pretty much anywhere.
U.S. Army may keep up coronavirus safety rules even after pandemic ends, official says
By Kim Bellware
The U.S. Army has adopted several health and safety precautions in response to the coronavirus pandemic and might keep them in place indefinitely, even if an effective vaccine and sense of normalcy emerges, according to one Army official.
Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, told reporters this week that he predicts certain protocols, including ones around social distancing, will never return to their pre-pandemic norm.
“I would say we don’t back off of the covid-19 standards because it will also reduce the impact of flu and other illnesses,” Jette said, according to Defense One. “We think continuing to apply these same techniques would be further beneficial to the people and to the Army overall.”
U.S. Army officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Jette’s remarks.
Since the pandemic hit, the Army has worked to keep units distanced and has established quarantine protocols to mitigate the virus spread. On ammunition production lines, for instance, employees worked in staggered shifts and were physically spaced apart.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 18,423 reported cases of covid-19 in the U.S. Army; eight service members across the entire military have died, according to Defense Department data.
Sen. Cruz refuses to wear mask when speaking to reporters in hallway outside hearing room
By Donna Cassata
During a break in the hearing, Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) spoke to reporters in the hallway outside the hearing room. Reporters asked Cruz to wear a mask due to the coronavirus pandemic; he refused.
Graham wore a mask. Cruz said he was following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and standing six feet away.
The CDC recommends that “people wear masks in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household,” as the situation is riskier indoors than outdoors.
Cruz participated in the hearings remotely on Monday as he recently quarantined after exposure to Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who recently was infected with the coronavirus. Lee and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who also had tested positive, both spoke at the hearing without masks.
Coronavirus cases hit records in Europe, surpassing the United States
By Michael Birnbaum
Coronavirus infections in Europe set records this week, overtaking the number of cases in the United States per capita, and a top World Health Organization official warned Thursday that death rates on the continent in the winter could be five times more than previous highs if people are not strict about masks and social distancing.
The WHO is seeing “exponential increases” in daily cases in Europe, said Hans Kluge, the agency’s director for that continent, noting that at 8,000 deaths a day, covid-19 is now Europe’s fifth-leading cause of death. In just the past 10 days, a million new cases in Europe have been recorded, raising the total since the start of the pandemic to 7 million in the WHO’s 53 European member countries.
He said that by January, daily deaths could be “four to five times higher than what we recorded in April.”
Trump says nation is ‘doing fine.’ Throughout the U.S., the virus trendlines show otherwise.
By Kim Bellware
President Trump on Thursday continued to give a rosy assessment of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, saying the country is “doing fine” despite the overwhelming majority of states reporting a rise in the weekly average number of new cases.
During an interview with Fox Business’s “Varney & Co.,” Trump told host Stuart Varney the United States would not be reverting to the kinds of shutdowns seen in the spring when cases began to surge.
“We’re not doing any more lockdowns, and we’re doing fine,” Trump said. The decision to implement restrictions rests with state and local officials.
Trump has declined to implement pandemic restrictions that could help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and has instead left individual states to determine a response, sharply criticizing leaders whose restrictions limit business or popular recreation.
The president noted spikes in states like Arizona, Florida and Texas, praising the Republican governors for doing a “great job” in their pandemic response. This summer, Arizona and Florida in particular became hotspots for the U.S. outbreak. But as of Thursday, infection rates in both states are again on the rise: The rolling weekly average of single-day new cases was up 12 percent in Florida and 28 percent in Arizona, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.
The two states are part of a broader nationwide trend: At least 39 states on Thursday reported a rise in the weekly average of new daily cases, including troubling rises in states like Illinois and Colorado that until recent weeks had sustained a steady number of infections.
Trump economic advisers warned GOP donors of coronavirus in February, sparking stock sell-off, report says
By Hannah Denham and Jeff Stein
President Trump’s public downplaying of the novel coronavirus in late February contrasted with what senior economic advisers told Republican donors at the time, sparking a stock sell-off based on a warning sign that only elite investors were privy to, the New York Times reported Wednesday.
The Times says it obtained and independently confirmed portions of a document written by a hedge fund consultant who attended sessions in February with Hoover Institution board members, many of whom were Republican Party donors, and the president’s economic advisers.
Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, told the board on Feb. 25, according to that document, that the coronavirus was “contained in the U.S., to date, but now we just don’t know.” The day before, Tomas J. Philipson, senior economic adviser to the president, told those board members he could not yet estimate the effects of the virus on the American economy, according to the Times.
The hedge fund consultant’s document spread to select traders, launching a sell-off as investors parsed through the contradiction of the president minimizing the contagious nature of the coronavirus while wealthy party donors were warned otherwise by his aides, the Times reported.
“To many of the investors who received or heard about the memo, it was the first significant sign of skepticism among Trump administration officials about their ability to contain the virus,” the Times story says. “It also provided a hint of the fallout that was to come, said one major investor who was briefed on it: the upending of daily life for the entire country.”
In an email Thursday, Philipson described the Times’s reporting as “highly misleading at best” and “journalistic malpractice at worse.”
White House spokesman Judd Deere commented briefly on the story in an email Thursday: “It’s total fabrication.” He declined to comment on behalf of Kudlow.
Administration wants to exclude ‘anarchist jurisdictions’ from coronavirus safety grant
By Michael Laris
The Transportation Department said it will use a presidential memo calling for punishing “anarchist jurisdictions” when deciding which cities should get money under a coronavirus grant program.
The American Public Transportation Association said the declaration could undermine applicants for the pandemic safety grants from Seattle; Portland, Ore.; or New York City, the first three jurisdictions the Trump administration has deemed to be “permitting anarchy.”
President Trump has criticized elected officials in those cities for their handling of protests in response to the killing of George Floyd in police custody, racial injustice and Trump administration policies. The move also comes as critics have slammed the Trump administration — and the Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao — for not executing policies needed to subdue the coronavirus, which has caused more than 216,000 deaths.
Ottawa researchers find concerning levels of coronavirus in wastewater
By Paulina Villegas
Researchers in Ottawa tracking the spread of the coronavirus through wastewater say they have found alarmingly high levels of the pathogen in recent samples, contradicting plateauing case counts registered by the city’s testing system.
The latest data shows the presence of three to six times more of the virus than on Oct. 6, Alex MacKenzie, one of the researchers, told CTV News. He said the levels measured in October were twice as high as those found in the spring.
“We’re strapped to a rocket right now, unfortunately,” MacKenzie told CTV News.
Testing wastewater has become a common way to try to track the coronavirus’s spread in real time, because many people with the virus shed it in their stool. Scientists say the data includes infected people who have not been tested, making the technology a reliable indicator of the contagion.
Although some college campuses and sewage treatment plants in North America have used a scaled-down version of this method, Ottawa is among the first places on the continent to implement daily wastewater readings citywide, CTV News reported.
Five days a week, scientists from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and the University of Ottawa collect wastewater from 91 percent of Ottawa’s population and analyze it in a lab for the virus’s genetic material. The researchers said that although the fairly low level of the virus in stool and the harshness of wastewater on viral genetic material can lead to some variability in the data, they are working to improve their methodology.
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