The Food and Drug Administration authorized Tuesday the first rapid coronavirus test that users can take at home and get their results within minutes, a significant development as companies race to get an accurate, consumer-friendly diagnostic test to market.
The move comes as state leaders from both parties have stepped up restrictions and implemented new mask mandates, attempting to beat back a pandemic that has driven death rates to highs not seen since the summer.
Here are some significant developments:
Officials in Ohio and Los Angeles County, the most populous in the United States, said they would implement a host of new restrictions — including a curfew.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the chamber’s longest-serving Republican, tested positive for the coronavirus, his office announced Tuesday. The 87-year-old said he will quarantine at home.
Covid testing before flying could become the norm as airlines try to boost confidence and woo travelers
By Lori Aratani and Ian Duncan
With no federal mandates to follow, an increasing number of U.S. airlines and airports are offering preflight coronavirus testing to boost public confidence in flying during the pandemic and help restore their businesses.
The move mirrors what is already being done in countries around the world where preflight testing is seen as a way to reopen for business while helping control the spread of the virus.
More than 100 countries now require proof of a negative coronavirus test for entry, and in some cases travelers with negative results are allowed to skip otherwise mandatory quarantines. The International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations body that oversees aviation, issued new recommendations last week that acknowledged the potential of such programs. The organization’s approach leaves the decision regarding quarantines up to individual nations, but it said it would publish a manual in coming days to help governments develop policies.
Virginia House of Delegates to meet online in 2021 as coronavirus cases rise
By Gregory S. Schneider
RICHMOND — Virginia's House of Delegates will meet online for the 2021 legislative session that convenes in January, Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said Monday, citing the need to avoid a coronavirus pandemic that has been worsening across the state.
The House went virtual this summer for the first time during a special session that began Aug. 18 and tackled budget, coronavirus and criminal justice issues. That session stretched across 84 days — longer than the regular session set to open Jan. 13.
“I wish we could hold the session in person, I wish we could all be together,” Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) said in an interview. “But right now it’s too dangerous.”
Later Monday morning, Republican leaders in the House and Senate said they will use procedural methods to limit the length of next year’s General Assembly session to 30 days instead of a planned 46 days.
FDA authorizes first test users can take, get results at home
By Meryl Kornfield
The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized the first rapid coronavirus test that users can take at home and get their results within minutes.
The “All-In-One” single-use test kit by Lucira Health, Inc. is the latest nasal-swab test to be granted emergency use authorization but marks a significant development in at-home testing as companies have raced toward getting an accurate, consumer-friendly diagnostic test to market. The molecular test works by looking for the virus’s genetic material in a self-collected sample swab, offering results in 30 minutes or less on a light-up display.
After the agency updated guidelines in July specifying that an at-home test would need to be easy enough that a layperson could administer it, no company submitted applications for such products, the FDA told The Post in late October. Some officials worried the guidelines may be perceived by companies as overly difficult to overcome.
The test by Lucira, which was developing an at-home influenza test kit before the pandemic, met the agency’s burden for ease of use. The test will cost less than $50, according to the company’s website.
With winter approaching and a surge of infections in most states, the test could offer people the flexibility of getting tested for the virus without waiting in long lines at labs, doctor’s offices and other testing locations. The announcement could also lead the way for other at-home tests.
William Wan and Laurie McGinley contributed to this report.
Los Angeles County to enact curfew, other restrictions as cases mount
By Reis Thebault
Los Angeles County, the most populous in the United States, will implement a host of new restrictions — including a curfew — in an attempt to slow rampant spread of the coronavirus, officials announced Tuesday evening.
Beginning Friday, restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries must close from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., while all businesses allowed to operate indoors must limit their occupancy to 25 percent capacity. Outdoor dining will be limited to 50 percent capacity and personal care establishments — like salons, barbershops and tattoo parlors — must operate on an appointment-only basis. Outdoor gatherings are the only get-togethers allowed, and they must be limited to 15 people and three households.
The county is currently reporting nearly 2,900 new cases per day, according to its own five-day rolling average. If that number hits 4,500, or if hospitalizations increase from about 1,100 to more than 2,000, the county will enact another lockdown — keeping all but essential workers home for three weeks.
“Los Angeles County is at a critical moment to save lives and curb the spread of covid-19,” county public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “I urge our residents, businesses and community leaders to heed this warning and follow these heightened safeguards so that additional restrictions do not need to be imposed.”
The county’s announcement comes the day after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced California would be “pulling the emergency brake” and rolling back many of the state’s reopening steps as new infections spread there at record rates.
“The spread of covid-19, if left unchecked, could quickly overwhelm our health care system and lead to catastrophic outcomes,” Newsom said.
Sorority cancels 600-person farm party in Alabama amid backlash
By Meryl Kornfield
An off-campus party for hundreds of Kappa Delta sorority members at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa has been canceled, the school confirmed.
A vestige of large alcohol-laden blowouts held at colleges before the coronavirus pandemic, the “Farm Party”-themed function was planned for about 600 attendees — split into three phases of 200 people each to reduce capacity, with time to sanitize the venue between each round. The Tuesday night event, which was greenlit by the city and school, was first reported by the Daily Beast.
The school’s chapter of the sorority said in a statement Tuesday evening that it had followed "all local guidelines and protocols” for approval of the event, but decided to cancel "to protect the health and safety of our campus community, guests and our members.”
At a city council meeting last Tuesday, a representative of Casey Johnson of Special Events Management, one of the companies that helped organize the party, told city leaders that there would be coronavirus-specific precautions set up at the outdoor gathering on a 14-acre farm in a rural area: Attendees would be supervised, required to wear masks and have their temperatures checked.
But concerns still mounted from community members and faculty who questioned why such a large gathering was occurring as infections have surged: Alabama’s average for daily cases in a week doubled in the last month.
Michael Innis-Jiménez, an American studies professor at the school and a member of the campus’s workers union, told The Post he was “stunned” such an event was allowed to take place. The alcohol license for the event was approved by the city council in a 4-to-2 vote, and the school said the sorority could proceed if it followed “extensive rules and safety guidelines.”
Maryland governor tightens restrictions a second time as coronavirus infections continue to soar
By Ovetta Wiggins, Rebecca Tan, Julie Zauzmer and Dana Hedgpeth
With Maryland experiencing a record surge in coronavirus cases, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Tuesday issued an executive order that clamps down on the hours that restaurants and bars can operate and the number of people allowed in retail stores and at religious facilities.
The order requires bars and restaurants in Maryland to close at 10 p.m. for indoor service and reduces the capacity in retail stores and religious facilities to 50 percent. The action also rescinds an earlier order that allowed fans at racetracks, and college and professional football stadiums.
“We are in a war right now and the virus is winning,” Hogan said after announcing the latest restrictions.
What you need to know about the Moderna and Pfizer coronavirus vaccines
By Carolyn Y. Johnson and Aaron Steckelberg
The vaccines are made by different companies: One is being developed by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, and the other by biotechnology firm Moderna, in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Both drugmakers have moved at record speed and will seek regulatory clearance for their vaccines in the coming weeks.
The Census Bureau released advance data on October’s retail and food sales Tuesday, tracking just above last month’s sales, highlighting that the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is still a slow one.
According to the estimates, October brought $553.3 billion in sales, just a 0.3 percent increase from September and a 5.7 percent increase from a year ago. September’s numbers were revised to $551.9 billion — a 1.6 increase from August.
Compared with a year ago, adjusted numbers for department store sales were down nearly 12 percent. But there were also winning retailers with major gains last month, compared with the year before: E-commerce sales were up 29 percent, and grocery store sales were up 9 percent.
Major retailers posting quarterly earnings Tuesday reflected these consumer spending trends. Compared with a year ago, for the quarter ending Oct. 30, Walmart saw slowed growth in international sales but was buoyed by a 79 percent jump in e-commerce sales, as consumers spend online while staying home. Kohl’s net sales dropped 13 percent compared with a year ago and fell short of analysts’ expectations for its quarter ending Oct. 31.
Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist for MUFG, said in a statement Tuesday that the slowing of retail sales anticipates the coming second wave of lockdowns.
“Hopes for a reopened economy have been dashed as the virus cases continue to soar,” he said. “The markets have gotten too far out in front of themselves on betting that vaccines will lead to a more vibrant economy because it will take months before the population can be vaccinated enough to calm the public’s fear of going out to sporting events, movie theaters, shopping malls or amusement parks.”
The lowest-paid workers in higher education are suffering the highest job losses
By Danielle Douglas-Gabriel and Alyssa Fowers
Eugenia Bradford believed her job was safe. After all, she was the only administrative assistant for college advising services at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. Who else would schedule appointments or supervise work-study students if she were gone?
But weeks before the fall semester began in August, Bradford’s boss told her the department was downsizing and her position would be eliminated. The university offered to pay her through mid-October, but after that she was on her own. No more health insurance.
Colleges and universities are shedding jobs at an unprecedented rate. And some of the lowest-paid workers in higher education are bearing the brunt of the layoffs, mirroring broader trends of the most unequal recession in modern U.S. history. The financial crisis gripping the sector has far-reaching implications for the people and communities relying on colleges and universities to earn a living.
How Duke University curbed the spread of the coronavirus: Testing early and often
By Susan Svrluga
Although some colleges have had thousands of students test positive for the novel coronavirus, others have avoided outbreaks despite the obvious challenges of campus life amid a pandemic. Duke University stands out for its success this fall, even as nearby schools such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University quickly shut down amid surging cases early in the semester. By this week, only 139 students have tested positive at Duke since the beginning of August.
Duke’s approach was highlighted in an article released Tuesday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the CDC. The key takeaway, summarized by a Duke spokesman: Test early, test often, test everyone.
The university was able to limit transmission of the virus with a combination of strategies. Fewer students were allowed to live on campus, and those who did had single rooms. Before getting to Duke, students were required to self-quarantine for two weeks, sign a commitment to practice healthy behaviors such as wearing masks and social distancing, and get tested. On campus, people monitored their symptoms daily on an app, and the school launched an aggressive surveillance testing program to identify people who don’t have any symptoms of covid-19 but are infected with the virus so that they could be isolated and avoid spreading it. During the period in the case study for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average weekly per capita positive results among students was less than 1 percent, lower than that of Durham County, N.C., where the school is located.
By pooling groups of samples, the school was able to efficiently process many tests, as many as 2,500 a day, five days a week, said Thomas Denny, a professor at the Duke University School of Medicine and chief operating officer at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute.
“We were able to identify individuals who had very high viral numbers — and were truly asymptomatic,” he said, and move quickly to quarantine them and trace the people with whom they had been in contact.
Their strategy: “Test, test, test, and as soon as you get a signal, put a bubble around it.”
Analysis: New coronavirus cases reach highs in 31 states
By Philip Bump
Through Monday, The Post has tallied about 11.2 million coronavirus cases in the United States since the first infections were detected early this year.
Of those 11.2 million confirmed cases, 1 in 11 had been confirmed over the previous seven days.
The numbers are unquestionably grim. As of Monday, 31 states were seeing more cases added each day than at any previous point in the pandemic. The third surge of infections — following the one at the pandemic’s outset and the one that ripped through the South over the summer — has been the most pervasive. In about a third of states, there are now more people hospitalized with the virus than at any previous point.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, third in line for the presidency, tests positive for covid
By Colby Itkowitz
Iowa Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley, the president pro tempore of the Senate, which makes him the third in line of succession to the presidency, revealed Tuesday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.
“I’ve tested positive for coronavirus,” he tweeted. “I’ll b following my doctors’ orders/CDC guidelines & continue to quarantine. I’m feeling good + will keep up on my work for the ppl of Iowa from home. I appreciate everyone’s well wishes + prayers &look fwd to resuming my normal schedule soon.”
Grassley, 87, announced earlier in the day that he’d be quarantining after finding out he’d been exposed to someone who tested positive for covid.
Democrats beseech McConnell to restart coronavirus aid negotiations
By Mike DeBonis
The top two Democratic congressional leaders moved to kick-start negotiations on a sweeping coronavirus relief bill Tuesday, inviting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to rejoin talks in hopes of cutting a deal before lawmakers leave Washington next month.
“The time to act is upon us like never before. … For the sake of the country, we ask that you come to the table and work with us to produce an agreement that meets America’s needs in this critical time,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote to McConnell (R-Ky.) in a joint letter.
The appeal comes as coronavirus cases continue to reach new highs across the country and the total number of U.S. deaths approaches 250,000. Governors and mayors across the nation have started to reimpose lockdown measures, raising the prospect of new economic damage.
Talks on a sizable new coronavirus relief package, following up on the $2 trillion Cares Act passed in March, have gone hot and cold since the early summer. Hopes of cutting a deal before the election fizzled entirely when talks held largely between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin hit an impasse in late October, with Mnuchin accusing Pelosi of having “refused to compromise” and adopting an “all or none” approach.
Last week, Pelosi and Schumer renewed their calls for a new coronavirus bill by reiterating their demands for a multi-trillion-dollar bill, while McConnell held firm in his desire for a smaller, more “targeted” bill that would include less direct aid to state and local governments.
In their letter Tuesday, Pelosi and Schumer indicated that they would restart negotiations from their previous offer of $2.2 trillion. McConnell on Tuesday again dismissed the possibility of passing a bill of that magnitude and mocked Democrats in a tweet for their “fixation on a massive slush fund” for state and local governments.
He told reporters on Capitol Hill that he remained interested in “a more narrowly targeted proposal” similar to the roughly half-trillion-dollar proposal Senate Republicans floated earlier in the fall — one that addresses health-care needs, school reopenings and liability protections for businesses without billions of dollars in aid to states and cities.
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