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For the first time since late July, the tally of newly reported coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 64,000 on Thursday and Friday. In 44 states and the District of Columbia, caseloads are higher than they were one month ago, and many of the new infections are being reported in rural areas with limited hospital capacity.

More than 8,000,000 cases have been reported nationwide since February, and at least 216,000 people in the United States have died of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Here are some significant developments:
  • Pfizer will not apply for emergency use authorization for a coronavirus vaccine until late November, backtracking on earlier assertions that the pharmaceutical company would have it ready this month.
  • A person would need to sit next to an infectious passenger in a commercial flight for at least 54 hours to get infected, a Defense Department study found.
  • Health-workers across the Midwest are issuing dire warnings that hospitals and health-care facilities are “bursting at the seams” amid a surge in coronavirus cases. Eight hospitals in the Kansas City area in Missouri had to temporarily stop accepting ambulances Wednesday night.
  • After President Trump announced he would send $200 each to older Americans to help pay for medicine, aides and Medicare officials scrambled to draft a plan. But the president’s promise has raised questions over whether such discounts card are legal, or even possible.
  • Europe set a record this week for new coronavirus infections, overtaking the United States in cases per capita, and a top World Health Organization official warned Thursday that death rates on the continent this winter could be five times worse than the April peak if people are not strict about masks and social distancing.
October 16, 2020 at 11:00 PM EDT
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Should you get a coronavirus test if you think you have a cold? There may be ‘no right answer.’

By Elizabeth Chang

If you fell ill last winter, it probably didn’t really matter whether your sore throat and sniffles were the result of a cold or the flu. This year, with covid-19 added to the mix of look-alike winter maladies, it’s more important to know which virus is causing your illness, because the coronavirus is so contagious and can result in such serious outcomes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that people with any symptoms of covid-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, be considered for testing. However, not all experts agree that those with mild symptoms resembling a cold should.

October 16, 2020 at 10:15 PM EDT
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Italian governor says covid-19 means no parties for Halloween, which is ‘a huge American stupidity’ anyway

By Adam Taylor

Vincenzo De Luca, the forthright Italian governor who heads the southern Campania region, said that the rise in coronavirus cases in the country should curtail any planned Halloween parties.

“Halloween is this huge stupidity. A huge American stupidity which we have imported into our country,” De Luca said in a video posted to his Facebook page, where he has over 1 million fans, according to a translation by Reuters News Agency.

To stop late-night parties, the governor said, he would be imposing a 10 p.m. curfew on the weekend surrounding Oct. 31. It would be a “total curfew,” he explained, meaning transiting home after this time would not be allowed.

“With these numbers, you cannot joke,” De Luca said, adding that the aim was to keep up to 90 percent of the economy running by people taking simple measures like wearing masks and no “irresponsible outings at night.”

De Luca is a popular center-left politician in Campania, a region that includes Naples, and he easily won reelection in September. In March, he had threatened strong action after rumors of students planning a graduation celebration. “We’ll send the police,” he said. “We’ll send them in with a flamethrower.”

October 16, 2020 at 9:30 PM EDT
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Here’s what happened when unemployment benefits ran out, study shows

By Hannah Denham

When the $600 weekly unemployment benefits expired at the end of July, millions of households were left to burn through their savings and choose between spending on rent, utilities and groceries.

Researchers at the JPMorgan Chase Institute and the University of Chicago analyzed banking data from roughly 80,000 households receiving unemployment, outlining how the uptick in jobless benefits boosted unemployed people’s spending and savings — and how Americans are plunged into poverty without the safety net.

After the weekly supplement expired, the federal government instituted a $300 weekly benefit through the Lost Wages Assistance program, but it was slow to distribute its limited funds to eligible households. And by Oct. 7, according to the study, those funds were already depleted for at least 36 states.

Unemployed spending increased by 22 percent with benefits and slid by 14 percent in August when the $600 weekly supplement expired, according to the study. And between March and July, unemployed people doubled their liquid savings, but two-thirds of that savings disappeared just in August.

Researchers pointed out that the fall in spending by unemployed people is impactful enough on aggregate consumption that the broader economy could suffer without the additional stimulus aid — talks of which are potentially stalled for another month.

“Eventually, without further government support or significant labor market improvements, jobless workers may exhaust their accumulated savings buffer, leaving them with a choice to further cut spending or fall behind on debt or rent payments,” the study reads. “Policymakers can support aggregate consumption and financial stability among the unemployed by renewing some form of government support.”

October 16, 2020 at 8:45 PM EDT
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Roughly 10 percent of Vatican Swiss Guard, colorful pope protectors, test positive for virus

By Adam Taylor

Eleven members of the Vatican Swiss Guard have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days, according to a statement released by the organization Thursday night, raising concerns about the spread of the virus in the home of the 83-year-old pope.

The guards, a popular sight for visitors to the Vatican because of their colorful traditional garments, have served as the de facto military of the tiny Catholic city-state since the early 16th century, and in their modern role they function as bodyguards for the pope. Vatican rules allow for up to 135 Vatican guards, and Swiss Catholics who are under 30 years old can serve.

During their two-year tours of duty, the guards live communally in the Vatican. Thursday’s statement said that the guards who tested positive were immediately isolated and that new restrictions had been implemented.

The Vatican, a sovereign enclave surrounded by the Italian city of Rome, strengthened its mask mandates to be in line with Italy last week. Coronavirus cases had been surging in Italy recently, with a record 7,332 new cases announced Wednesday. The Lazio region surrounding the Vatican is the worst-hit in this wave of cases.

Pope Francis, considered at high risk because he had a lung removed because of an earlier illness, has frequently been photographed without a mask during the pandemic. As he greeted crowds Wednesday, he again did not wear a face covering, apologizing for not getting too close to visitors. “Excuse me if I greet you from afar,” he told the crowd.

October 16, 2020 at 8:00 PM EDT
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Pubs, central to cultural life in Northern Ireland, close to control covid-19

By Amanda Ferguson

BELFAST — Bittles, a destination whiskey bar in the center of Belfast, was firebombed during the decades of sectarian violence known as the Troubles. Proprietor John Bittles recalls being warned by police that he should get a weapon to protect himself, that militants might show up ready for a shooting.

The coronavirus era, he said, has been worse.

The roughly 1,200 pubs of Northern Ireland were forced to close on Friday, again, to beat back the coronavirus. They will remain shuttered for at least a month, part of a “circuit breaker” to limit social contact and slow transmission. Schools will be closed for an extended half-term break, as well.

October 16, 2020 at 7:15 PM EDT
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Virus surge continues in Europe with record daily increases in multiple countries

By Adam Taylor

The virus’s surge in Europe continued Friday, with a number of countries announcing record numbers of new cases, along with the announcement of new restrictions designed to slow its spread:

  • France reported 25,086 new cases Friday, a drop from the record high of 30,621 the day before but significantly higher than a week ago. The country is deploying 12,000 extra police officers to enforce a new 9 p.m. curfew due to start Saturday.
  • Britain announced 15,650 new cases, a drop from the 18,980 announced the day before. Parts of northern England have been placed under restrictions that closed pubs and bars, though Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure to institute a nationwide lockdown.
  • Italy announced 10,010 new cases Friday, breaking the record of 8,804 set the day before, while the government resisted new restrictions.
  • Germany announced that 7,334 new cases had been registered the day before, making it the second day in a row that the country set a had record for daily cases. The country’s federal and state governments this week agreed to new restrictions, including mandates for bars to close early.
  • Belgium announced new restrictions Friday that would close bars and restaurants for a month and impose a midnight curfew. The day before, it had set a record for daily cases with 8,271.
  • Spain announced 15,186 new cases, though it said only 6,591 had been detected over the previous 24 hours.
  • Greece, which had largely been spared from the worst of the virus earlier in the year, also hit a record high with 508 new cases.
October 16, 2020 at 7:03 PM EDT
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As pandemic-related violence spreads, retailers offer workers conflict resolution training

By Darren Sands

Retail workers can receive training to deal with shoppers who refuse to wear masks, the National Retail Federation announced Friday, after a spate of clashes with people who didn’t want to abide by the measure to reduce the risk of transmission of the novel coronavirus.

The trade group is partnering with the Crisis Prevention Institute, which specializes in verbal de-escalation trainings, to offer a certification in conflict avoidance and resolution, according to a company release.

The training, which is conducted online, arrives just in time for the holiday season, and comes amid concern that untoward behavior from customers who choose not to comply could continue as retailers prepare for increased traffic.

Demand for de-escalation training has doubled since the start of the pandemic, the institute’s president Susan Driscoll told the New York Times.

Retail workers often have to be the first line of defense against customers who make the general public — and themselves — less safe when not wearing a face covering. It’s unclear if the training leads to better compensation for workers, but the advantage for retailers is that it gives customers an added sense of security, Bill Thorne, executive director of the National Retail Foundation’s nonprofit arm, told the Times.

The training arrives just in time for the holiday season, and comes amid persisting questions about safety measures, and heightened anxiety over the effects of the economic downturn facing the United States. Some retailers have fared better than others, but a recent spike in cases has only added to the overwhelming sense of uncertainty gripping the public over the spread of the virus heading into winter.

October 16, 2020 at 6:35 PM EDT
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Pfizer coronavirus vaccine will not be ready until late November, after Election Day

By Carolyn Y. Johnson

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer on Friday dashed prospects for a coronavirus vaccine being approved before the election with an open letter explaining the company would not apply for regulatory clearance for its vaccine candidate until the third week of November at the earliest.

President Trump has for months suggested a vaccine could be imminent, raising concerns that political pressure could force a vaccine through the regulatory process prematurely so that it would be approved by Election Day without evidence that it is safe and effective. Friday’s announcement from Pfizer, which designed its trial to allow earlier and more frequent peeks at the data than the others in late-stage testing, puts those concerns to rest.

Chief executive Albert Bourla wrote in the letter that while the company projects it may have enough data to determine whether the vaccine is effective in October, there will not be sufficient safety follow-up to satisfy criteria laid out by the Food and Drug Administration until late November.

October 16, 2020 at 5:53 PM EDT
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Trump administration partners with CVS, Walgreens to distribute coronavirus vaccines

By Hannah Denham

The Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed program, which oversees developing coronavirus vaccine candidates, announced a new partnership Friday with CVS Health and Walgreens to distribute the vaccines to high-risk groups, once available.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement that the partnership will prioritize free and easily accessible vaccinations for long-term care residents and staff, including skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, residential care homes and adult family homes. The program will prioritize rural areas without easy access to a pharmacy, according to a government release.

“Protecting the vulnerable has been the number one priority of the Trump Administration’s response to COVID-19, and that commitment will continue through distributing a safe and effective vaccine earliest to those who need it most,” he said.

CVS Health and Walgreens will work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Defense Department and HHS to administer the vaccinations. The two pharmacy chains will oversee the scheduling and coordination of on-site clinic dates with facilities, which is expected to include three total visits over the course of two months.

According to the release, CVS Health and Walgreens will receive and manage vaccines and necessary supplies, ensure that the vaccine is maintained in the right cold-chain conditions, administer the vaccine on site, report required vaccination data to public health authorities within 72 hours of each dose, and adhere to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services policy for the coronavirus testing of facility staff members.

Long-term care facilities can opt in to the vaccination program starting Oct. 19, with the idea that at least one approved coronavirus vaccine will be available by the end of 2020, the release said.

October 16, 2020 at 5:26 PM EDT
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CDC: Black, Hispanic people continue to die at disproportionately high rates

By Meryl Kornfield

As the nation experienced surges in some regions from the coronavirus during the spring and summer, Hispanic people were the only racial and ethnic group that saw an overall increase in deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday.

The number of Latino coronavirus-related deaths jumped from 16.3 percent in May to 26.4 percent in August, according to a CDC analysis of more than 114,000 U.S. deaths between May and August. The report echoed previous assessments by the agency that race and age are leading risk factors for death among coronavirus patients. Nearly 80 percent of those who died during the spring and summer months were over the age of 65. About half were White, one-quarter were Latino and more than 18 percent were Black — even though Latino and Black people make up a smaller portion of the population.

The latest geographic shift in coronavirus outbreaks and deaths from the Northeast to the West and South, where Hispanic people account for a higher percentage of the population, did not entirely account for the increase of the mortality rate for Hispanic patients, the CDC found.

“Inequities in the social determinants of health can lead to increased risk for SARS-CoV-2 exposure among some racial and ethnic groups,” according to the report, which added that people who are racially and ethnically underrepresented are more likely to live in multigenerational or multifamily homes, work in-person jobs, have limited access to health care and experience discrimination.

The findings are not surprising, Uché Blackstock, an emergency medicine physician and Yahoo News medical contributor, told The Post, but they intensify frustration with the national response to the pandemic. Blackstock said disparities will only continue to grow if left unabated.

“I’m not seeing much action on the part of the federal government, even the state and local government, to address these inequities,” Blackstock said, “so I really worry about how much more death and suffering needs to happen before the appropriate agencies step in.”

The fact that people with minority backgrounds were placed in the same vulnerable category as the elderly illustrates how systemic racism affects health, Blackstock said.

October 16, 2020 at 4:28 PM EDT
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President of N.C. university dies of covid-19 complications

By Susan Svrluga

The president of St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, N.C., died Thursday of complications from the coronavirus, the school announced.

Irving Pressley McPhail became president of the private historically Black university in July.

McPhail self-quarantined about three weeks ago after he feared he may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus, said James Perry, a former Florida Supreme Court justice and the chairman of the school’s board of trustees.

October 16, 2020 at 3:53 PM EDT
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More than 8,000 air passengers arrive in Hawaii on first day of the state’s new travel program

By Marisa Iati

Roughly 8,300 visitors arrived in Hawaii on Thursday, the first day of a program that is meant to ease the pandemic’s devastating effect on the state’s tourism-based economy, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

The thousands of out-of-state passengers still represented only about one-third of the daily domestic air traffic from the same month last year, the newspaper reported. About 30 flights landed in Honolulu from out-of-state Thursday, compared with roughly 100 on an average day before the pandemic began, state Department of Transportation spokesman Tim Sakahara told the Star-Advertiser.

Under the Safe Travels Hawai‘i program, visitors can bypass the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine period if they have received a negative result on a diagnostic test for the coronavirus within 72 hours of departure on the final leg of their trip. The quarantine was instituted in March in an attempt to keep visitors from bringing the virus to the Hawaiian islands.

While the state experienced a surge in visitors Thursday, Sakahara warned that the increase could reflect pent-up demand for travel more than it predicts traveler loads for the coming weeks.

“A lot of travelers who were coming Oct. 12, 13 or 14 rescheduled to come in today so that they could participate in the pre-arrivals testing program,” he told the Star-Advertiser.

October 16, 2020 at 3:09 PM EDT
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Entire high school student body told to quarantine after possible coronavirus exposure

By Marisa Iati

An entire student body in Lamar County, Miss., has been asked to self-quarantine after an unspecified number of coronavirus cases were linked to the local high school, the Mississippi Free Press reported.

Superintendent Steven Hampton instructed roughly 600 students at Sumrall High School to stay home for two weeks starting Friday because of infections traced to nonschool activities, the news outlet reported. The school will conduct virtual learning until in-person classes resume Oct. 29.

“At this time, Sumrall High School has reached the (Mississippi State Department of Health) conditions to consider the dismissal of school,” Hampton told parents Thursday, according to the Free Press.

Hampton did not immediately respond to an email from The Post.

Between one and five coronavirus cases connected to Sumrall High School were confirmed during the week ending Oct. 9, and 26 students were quarantined, according to a report from state health officials. The report did not indicate whether any new infections were found this week.

Across Mississippi, more cases linked to schools were confirmed during the week ending Oct. 9 than in any other week since schools started to reopen in late July, the Free Press reported.

New daily coronavirus cases have been rising in Mississippi since mid-September, according to data tracked by The Post. The number of infections has fluctuated more in Lamar County, which on Friday reported a seven-day average of 229 cases per 100,000 people.

October 16, 2020 at 2:38 PM EDT
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E.U. leaders met in the middle of the pandemic. Two had to leave early to quarantine.

By Michael Birnbaum

At a European leaders’ summit that ended Friday, the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus was on stark display as two leaders had to rush out of their meeting room after each was notified of having been in contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin was the latest to depart early Friday, exiting the oval meeting room in Brussels that the 27 leaders of the European Union had tried to turn into a virus-free cocoon to negotiate thorny issues such as the pandemic response and Brexit.

The Finnish leader attended a parliamentary committee meeting in Helsinki on Wednesday with a lawmaker who tested positive for the coronavirus. Marin flew home to Helsinki, where she planned to take a coronavirus test and quarantine.

She joined European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in viral purgatory, after von der Leyen on Thursday rushed out of the meeting not long after it started. A member of her front office tested positive. It is her second quarantine this month.

Leaders met virtually starting in March, but they resumed their regular in-person conclaves in July after discovering the difficulty of handling controversial subjects by secure video link. The meetings always implied a risk, but the leaders decided it was worth it.

As a second wave of the pandemic washes over Europe, the meetings seemed increasingly risky. One scheduled for last month had to be postponed for a week after European Council President Charles Michel quarantined after his security guard tested positive.

And now Brussels, the typical location for the meetings, is one of the worst hot spots in Europe, with more than 1,000 cases diagnosed each day over the past week in the city.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen had warned against holding the summit in person.

“There are some discussions where one needs to be brought a little closer to each other. And then there are other meetings where you can do it as a video conference,” she told Danish reporters after touching down in Brussels, the Associated Press reported.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell skipped this week’s meeting because they were quarantining.

For now, E.U. leaders plan to go back to virtual discussions, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after the summit.