Texas surpasses staggering 10K deaths; Florida tourism drops by 60.5%; grieving daughter blasts Trump at DNC

A woman whose father died from the coronavirus blamed President Donald Trump and his administration

A woman whose father died from the coronavirus blamed President Donald Trump and his administration in a fiery speech during the first night of the four-day Democratic National Convention. 

And, clusters of COVID-19 have led the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to suddenly pivot to online classes a week after welcoming students back on campus. The university’s football team, however, still plans to play this fall.

And Texas surpassed 10,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths Monday, a new report shows that U.S. nursing homes are seeing a surge in infections and a steep rise in deaths.

Some significant developments:

  • A group of researchers from the University of Southern California tracked the common order of how COVID-19 symptoms progress in a new study. It usually starts with fever, followed by a cough.

  • Cotton mask or neck fleece? Check out how effective these 15 different kinds of masks are.

  • Nursing homes see an all-time high in COVID-19 infections, according to a new report.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has 5.4 million confirmed infections and more than 170,000 deaths. Worldwide, there have been more than 774,000 deaths and more than 21.8 million cases, according to John Hopkins University data.

📰 What we’re reading: New coronavirus cases are emerging at schools. How much you know depends on where you live.

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to the Daily Briefing.

Trump, Arden spar over New Zealand’s new cases

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hit back against her U.S. counterpart’s criticism of new COVID-19 cases in New Zealand, calling President Donald Trump’s comments “patently wrong.”

Trump said Monday that New Zealand was seeing a “big surge” in virus cases after “it was like front page, they beat it.”

Arden, however, was critical of Trump’s characterization of the new case count.

“I think for anyone who’s following COVID and its transmission globally will quite easily see that New Zealand’s nine cases in a day does not compare to the United States’ tens of thousands,” she told reporters.

New Zealand, with a population of 5 million, added 13 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, while the U.S., with a population of about 330 million, added more than 35,000 cases on Monday, Johns Hopkins University data show. Throughout the pandemic, New Zealand has also reported just 22 virus deaths compared to more than 170,000 in the U.S.

Some good news: National Zoo is on baby panda watch

Months after the pandemic kept visitors away for months, the National Zoo is getting a bit of good news in the form of a pregnancy.

Mei Xiang, a 22-year-old giant panda in the nation’s capital, is pregnant and could give birth any day this week, zookeepers on baby watch said.

“We need this! We totally need this joy,” said zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson. “We are all in desperate need of these feel-goods.”

Mei has successfully given birth to three cubs before, but zookeepers are cautiously optimistic as panda births are inherently tricky and Mei’s age could complicate matter further. 

In China: Partiers pack Wuhan water park; state-owned company says vaccine will be ready by end of year

Thousands of partygoers, many without masks, packed a water park in Wuhan over the weekend as life returns to a new normal in the epicenter where the new coronavirus first appeared late last year.

The AFP reported that many crammed into pools in yellow rubber dinghies or waded in the water for an electronic music festival at the park.

Meanwhile, a major state-owned pharmaceutical company in China said it would have a coronavirus vaccine commercially available before the end of the year.

The vaccine would require two shots less than a month apart and cost less than $140, Liu Jingzhen, the chairman of SinoPharm, told a Chinese Communist Party newspaper. Liu told the paper that he had been injected with the vaccine

DNC convention: Woman whose father died of COVID blames Trump; virtual event one for history books

The opening night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention was unlike others before it. Performers and speakers gathered virtually, coming to Americans’ living rooms from states across the nation amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

And COVID-19 was a major topic throughout the night. A woman whose father voted for President Donald Trump, but who also died from COVID-19, offered blistering criticism of the president’s management of the health crisis.

“My dad was a healthy 65-year-old. His only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that, he paid with his life,” Kristin Urquiza said. “The coronavirus has made it clear that there are two Americas: the America that Donald Trump lives in and the America that my father died in.”

Former first lady Michelle Obama, who headlined the first day of speeches, also said that Trump badly mishandled pandemic, which has cost more 170,000 lives and left millions unemployed. Obama added that Trump lacks the judgment and moral compass needed to lead the country through the crisis.

– Christal Hayes

Texas tops 10K deaths, trailing only New York, New Jersey and California

Texas surpassed 10,000 coronavirus deaths Monday, a staggering figure health experts say likely undercounts the actual toll of the virus in the Lone Star State. Only New York, New Jersey and California rank above Texas in total COVID-19 deaths.

“It’s a tough milestone, but I’m glad to see the state making progress in many areas,” Dr. Mark McClellan, one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s medical advisers on reopening the state’s economy, told the Austin American-Statesman of the USA TODAY Network. “There’s still a long way to go, though.”

He added that state officials should increase access to COVID-19 testing and work to further decrease new cases to help health care professionals manage the virus. 

A USA TODAY analysis as of Tuesday also found that new weekly case records were set in Hawaii, Kansas, Guam and Virgin Islands. Record numbers of deaths were reported in North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Puerto Rico.

– Nicole Cobler, Austin American-Statesman; Mike Stucka, USA TODAY

FDA flags accuracy issue with TaqPath, a widely used coronavirus test

Potential accuracy issues with a widely used coronavirus test could lead to false results for patients, U.S. health officials warned.

The Food and Drug Administration issued the alert Monday to doctors and laboratory technicians using Thermo Fisher’s TaqPath genetic test. Regulators said issues related to laboratory equipment and software used to run the test could lead to inaccuracies. The agency advised technicians to follow updated instructions and software developed by the company to ensure accurate results.

The warning comes nearly a month after Connecticut public health officials first reported that at least 90 people had received false positive results for the coronavirus. Most of those receiving the false results were residents of nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

A spokeswoman for Thermo Fisher said the company was working with FDA “to make sure laboratory personnel understand the need for strict adherence to the instructions for use.” She added that company data shows most users “follow our workflow properly and obtain accurate results.”

First US coronavirus cases in mink found at 2 Utah farms

Officials on Monday confirmed the first U.S. cases of mink infected with the coronavirus following outbreaks in Europe. Five infected mink have been identified at two large farms in Utah, the Department of Agriculture announced. Testing began after the farms reported unusually high mortality rates among the small animals raised for their fur prized in coats and other clothing.

The Utah mink farms have also reported cases among workers. Infected humans can spread the virus to animals during close contact, but there is no current evidence that animals spread the disease to humans, authorities said. Officials are investigating how the disease spread to the farms.

The impacted farms in Utah have been quarantined to stop the spread of the virus. The state is one of the top mink breeders in the country, said state veterinarian Dr. Dean Taylor. 

More than 1 million minks were killed on Dutch farms with outbreaks to prevent the spread of the disease. There are no similar plans in Utah, Taylor said.

UNC students try to make sense of coronavirus cancelations

First they came to campus, ready to begin classes after the University of North Carolina said the coronavirus would not stop in-person learning here. Then, after just one week, the virus took hold. And regular classes were halted, leaving students to face yet another state of confusion caused by COVID-19.

Chapel Hill on Monday became the first major university to pivot to online classes after reopening in person. The reversal took one week. Since the university started courses in person Aug. 10, it has reported at least four clusters of outbreaks of COVID-19 in student living spaces. Undergraduate courses will go remote Wednesday, and the university said it will reduce the density in its dorms.

Students at Chapel Hill, the majority wearing masks when possible, jogged, ate dinner with friends and planned their next steps on Monday evening. That’s where things got confusing. The announcement earlier in the day had an air of inevitability, multiple students told USA TODAY.

– Jordan Culver

Florida tourism falls by 60.5% amid ongoing coronavirus pandemic

Florida’s vital tourism industry suffered an estimated 60.5% drop in visitors as the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard during the second quarter, with international travel off more than 90%.

And the outlook remains dim for the state following the decline of nearly 20 million visitors from April through June. The tourism industry must combat ongoing negative perceptions of Florida’s handling of COVID-19, international travel bans, people slow to return to entertainment venues and double-digit unemployment.

During the second quarter, roughly 13 million people — almost all traveling from other states — came to Florida as businesses were shut down in April and amid harried reopening efforts in May and June, according to numbers posted Sunday by the Visit Florida tourism-marketing agency.

– Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

Oklahoma State sorority house under quarantine after 23 confirmed cases

An entire sorority house is under quarantine and isolation at Oklahoma State University. The university confirmed Saturday that 23 members of Pi Beta Phi tested positive for COVID-19. OSU officials learned of the positive cases Friday night.

Only one member was symptomatic as of Saturday, said Monica Roberts, OSU director of media relations. No members are allowed to leave the off-campus sorority house. One member who lives outside the chapter house tested positive and is now in isolation.

“This was expected,” Roberts said. “When you bring back 20,000 students, there will invariably be more cases related to campus. We’ve prepared for this for five months and have protocols in place to manage the situation. Our priority is the safety and well-being of our campus community and transparency in communications.”

– Nuria Martinez-Keel, The Oklahoman

‘A step back’: Nursing home cases reach all-time high, report says

A new report finds that coronavirus cases in nursing homes have surged to a new weekly high and the CEO of the industry association that sponsored the study warned “we’ve definitely taken a step back.”

The report by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living found 9,715 COVID-19 cases during the week of July 26, based on an analysis of the most recent federal data available. The figures edged the previous high of 9,421 cases in the last week of May.

Nearly four in five of coronavirus infections were at facilities in Sunbelt states, where total nursing home cases nearly tripled since mid-June, according to the report. 

Deaths are on the upswing with 1,706 COVID-19 fatalities during the week ending July 26, a 22% increase from the previous week, but still well below the 3,130 deaths reported in the last week of May. 

Community spread and slow testing turnaround that delays identifying the virus in vulnerable homes remain persistent problems, said Mark Parkinson, CEO of both the association and the center, 

“Unfortunately, we’ve definitely taken a step back,” Parkinson said. 

– Ken Alltucker

More COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus news: UNC-Chapel Hill cancels; FDA on TaqPath test issue

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