Nursing home cases hit new high; UNC Chapel Hill reverts to online classes

The coronavirus is hitting hard again in nursing homes, with the number of new infections climbing to a weekly high, according to a new report. Most of the new cases are in Sunbelt states. Showing again the virus does not discriminate between the old and the young, one of the […]

The coronavirus is hitting hard again in nursing homes, with the number of new infections climbing to a weekly high, according to a new report.

Most of the new cases are in Sunbelt states.

Showing again the virus does not discriminate between the old and the young, one of the first major universities to welcome students back on campus, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is reversing course after outbreaks of the coronavirus and going to online classes only.

The experience at UNC could serve as an early warning sign for other campuses around the country as they contemplate reopening classes.

It’s not just classes that are a problem but socializing, President Donald Trump’s top expert said Monday. Dr. Deborah Birx, on Monday said families and friends holding parties are a big cause of outbreaks.

On the national front, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling back the House to weigh action on U.S. Postal Service changes that Democrats fear could slow mail delivery, including mailed-in ballots in the presidential election.

And a new study shows the order in which most people get COVID-19 symptoms. What’s first? Fever and coughs, followed by a litany of other flu-like symptoms.

Here are some significant developments:

  • The virtual Democratic Convention begins Monday. There will be no crowds, little pageantry and entirely uncharted waters at the remote event this year.

  • Five months into the coronavirus pandemic, Michigan and Maryland top 100,000 cases.

  • New Zealand has delayed its election because of COVID.

  • Uh oh. Pepperoni is the latest American staple to be in short supply amid the pandemic. ?

? Today’s numbers: The U.S. has 5.4 million confirmed infections and more than 170,000 deaths. Worldwide, there have been more than 776,000 deaths and more than 21 million cases, according to John Hopkins University data.

‘Taken a step back’: Nursing home cases hit new high

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

UNC Chapel Hill returning to online cases after COVID-19 outbreak

Only a week after classes resumed, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Monday became the first major college to pivot back to online classes.

At least four clusters of outbreaks of COVID-19 have been identified since Aug. 10 in student living spaces. Undergraduate courses will go remote on Wednesday as density is reduced in dorms.

UNC was one of the first and largest universities to bring students back to campus for in-person classes. It was under close scrutiny as a potential harbinger for other institutions planning on resuming face-to-face instruction this month or next.

“As much as we believe we have worked diligently to help create a healthy and safe campus living and learning environment, we believe the current data presents an untenable situation,” wrote the university’s chancellor, Kevin Guskiewicz, and its provost, Robert Blouin, in a message to the campus.

The university’s athletic department issued a statement saying the switch back to online classes won’t interfere with its intention to field a football team this season.

Colleges that are reopening campuses this fall know they’re bringing a higher risk of coronavirus to their community. The questions aren’t really about if or when, but about how bad outbreaks could be.

– Chris Quintana

Pelosi seeks House vote to block U.S. Postal Service changes

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling on House lawmakers to return this week to vote on a bill that would block the changes that the Trump administration has made to the U.S. Postal Service.

Pelosi and other Democrats say the changes will cause a slowing of the flow of mail and potentially jeopardize the November election. Pelosi’s request comes after a testy few days over the Postal Service and whether it’s up to handling an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots this year because of increased vote-by-mail eligibility amid the coronavirus outbreak.

COVID-19 slowed, but didn’t stop, this top NFL player

Dallas Cowboy’s Ezekiel Elliott was lucky. His symptoms from a bout with COVID-19 — a cough, shortness of breath and heavy breathing — were mild. They lasted only a couple of days.

But the running back played it safe during the road back from the illness in June.

“I’d probably say I didn’t work out for a month,” Elliott said Monday after the Cowboys’ first padded practice. Noting potential organ damage that can arise as a complication of COVID-19, he added “you’ve got to make sure your heart and lungs are working all together before you get back out there.”

He quarantined at home for a month, passing the time playing online games.

And now, after being given permission to exercise, he’s back on the field. As a top player, that’s mighty good news for the Cowboys. He had 301 rushes and 54 receptions last season.

Despite a brush with a potentially deadly illness, Elliott expects to be just as productive this year. His goal couldn’t be more simple: “Just win a Super Bowl and everything else is going to fall in place after that.”

— Jori Epstein

This is how COVID-19 symptoms usually progress, study says

Fever and cough, then aches and pains, followed by nausea and vomiting, and then diarrhea. That’s the most likely order of how COVID-19 symptoms develop, a group of researchers from University of Southern California found in a new study.

“This order is especially important to know when we have overlapping cycles of illnesses like the flu that coincide with infections of COVID-19,” one of the study’s authors, Peter Kuhn, said in a statement. “Doctors can determine what steps to take to care for the patient, and they may prevent the patient’s condition from worsening.”

The study, published in Frontiers in Public Health, relied on data from more than 55,000 coronavirus cases from China from February, as well as an additional data set of nearly 1,100 cases from December to January. The researchers also compared the coronavirus results with a data set of influenza cases from the 1990s.

Maskless partiers raise concern at Georgia university

Video shared on social media showed a massive crowd of students without masks on partying to mark the start of the new semester at a Georgia university Saturday night.

Sylvia Carson, a spokesperson for University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, told CNN that the group congregated at off-campus housing but that the school was still “disappointed that many of our students chose to ignore COVID-19 public health guidance by congregating in a large group without social distancing or face coverings.”

The school requires masks be worn inside its buildings and facilities, CNN reported, and there is no statewide mask mandate in Georgia.

It isn’t just the University of North Georgia. An entire sorority house is under quarantine and isolation at Oklahoma State University after 23 members of Pi Beta Phi tested positive for COVID-19. Only one member was symptomatic as of Saturday.

President Donald Trump’s top coronavirus adviser, Dr. Deborah Birx, on Monday said families and friends holding parties is helping fuel the virus’ spread, the Associated Press reported.

COVID-19 rips through California motel rooms of guest workers who pick nation’s produce

A monthlong investigation by CalMatters and The Salinas Californian, part of the USA TODAY Network, has uncovered reports of six COVID-19 outbreaks among California’s guest agricultural workers, sickening more than 350 people.

Reporting found at least one person has died and companies haven’t always notified local public health departments when they have an outbreak.

The six outbreaks have occurred in four of the state’s breadbasket counties.

The farmworkers are so tightly packed into housing that they are one breath away from infection. Yet, unlike other congregate living facilities such as nursing homes, neither federal nor state officials have issued specific safety or reporting requirements aimed at keeping guest workers safe.

The outbreaks involve seven different employers, including three of the five largest guest worker employers in California.

“The big problem is you don’t know who’s infected,” said Dr. Max Cuevas, CEO of Clínica de Salud del Valle de Salinas, a chain of clinics on the Central Coast that treats low-income farmworkers. “The folks that were working in ag, that’s the predicament and environment they’re in. They’re exposed to other individuals that might be infected.”

– Jackie Botts, CalMatters, and Kate Cimini, The Salinas Californian

France deploys riot police to enforce masks

The French government sent riot police to the Marseille region to help with enforcement of mask mandates as the country has seen scattered instances of violence by some people refusing to cover their faces.

New rules went into effect Monday in more areas of the country that require masks be worn outdoors, following similar orders in Paris.

More than 100 police officers were sent to the Marseille region, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said Monday. The region expanded its mask requirements to include farmers markets and more neighborhoods on Friday.

France has seen a rising case count in recent days: Sunday tallied 3,015 new cases, one of the single-day biggest jumps since lockdown orders lifted in May,

Cotton mask or neck fleece? How effective different kinds of masks are.

The body of evidence continues to grow that masks protect not only those around them, but the person wearing them. With so many choices, what’s your best option?

In a recently published study, researchers from Duke University evaluated the effectiveness of 14 different types of masks by estimating how many droplets traveled through the mask during normal speech.

The solid dots represent results of 10 trials for a mask by one speaker. The hollow circles represent the relative counts for four speakers.

– Karina Zaiets and Karl Gelles

Report: Studies show signs of lasting COVID-19 immunity

The New York Times reported Sunday that scientists are beginning to see signs of lasting immunity of COVID-19, even after someone only has mild symptoms of the novel disease.

The findings have been published in a number of new studies, some that have yet to be peer-reviewed, but the data is encouraging that antibodies and some immune cells are present months after an infection.

“Things are really working as they’re supposed to,” Deepta Bhattacharya, an immunologist at the University of Arizona, told the Times.

The DNC and RNC may further complicate coronavirus stimulus talks

Bitter negotiations for a new coronavirus stimulus deal dissolved into an ugly blame game by the time lawmakers left Washington last week with no deal, no progress to report and no plans to return until September. By the end, the two sides refused to even meet.

The disaster of those failed discussions hangs over both parties as they shift their attention to two weeks of national political conventions, and likely pushes a deal until sometime well after Labor Day.

That means that, while political leaders party, unemployed Americans will have to do without the bolstered benefits that have allowed them to make ends meet; cash-strapped state and local governments will be left in the lurch; and uncertainty will continue to linger over a series of executive orders made by President Donald Trump that aimed to offer some relief.

– Michael Collins, Christal Hayes and Nicholas Wu

Get your flu shot this year, health experts warn

Getting a flu vaccine this year is even more important because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The flu shot isn’t always effective, but it’s much better than nothing, said Dr. Sheila Doron, an infectious disease physician and hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

Getting vaccinated can help keep the pressure off hospitals, too.

“The worst-case scenario is we have a very active flu season that overlaps with the respiratory infection of COVID-19,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a recent conversation with Cardiology Magazine. “Worst-case because that would really complicate matters from a diagnostic standpoint, from a therapeutic standpoint, and the standpoint of putting a lot of stress on the health care system.”

– Karen Weintraub

Report: Trump pushes for unproven COVID cure backed by MyPillow CEO

Axios reported Sunday that President Donald Trump wants the Food and Drug Administration to approve an extract from the oleander plant to be marketed as a dietary supplement or approved as a COVID-19 cure despite any evidence of the extract’s efficacy.

The report says Trump showed support for the extract’s approval in an Oval Office meeting in July. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and MyPillow founder and CEO Mike Lindell both have shown support for the extract, too, Axios reported, and Lindell recently invested in a company that makes the product.

Lindell is a vocal supporter of Trump and helped organize the White House meeting, Axios reported.

The numbers: Maryland, Michigan hit 100,000 cases; Ohio new cases drop

As the United States reported 170,000 deaths, several states reached milestone numbers about five months into the pandemic, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data shows.

Maryland reported its 100,000th case and Hawaii reported its 5,000th case, the data shows. Hawaii and the Virgin Islands set records for new cases in a week, while North Dakota and Puerto Rico reported record numbers of deaths in a week.

Michigan also quietly surpassed 100,000 cases – when both confirmed and probable cases totaled 100,724 on Friday.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases in Ohio dropped to their lowest level in weeks on Sunday. Only 613 cases were reported Sunday afternoon, along with only two deaths.

– Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press; Patrick Cooley, The Columbus Dispatch

Nancy Pelosi calls House lawmakers to vote on bill that blocks USPS changes

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the House to return into session later this week to vote on a bill that would prevent changes the Trump administration has made to the Postal Service, alterations Democrats say will cause a slowing of the flow of mail and potentially jeopardize the November election.

Pelosi, in a Sunday statement, said the “lives, livelihoods and the life of our American Democracy” are under threat from President Donald Trump, who last week said he opposed giving the Postal Service more money while at the same time acknowledging the lack of funding may hamper the office’s ability to process mail-in ballots.

Pelosi wants the House to vote later this week on Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s Delivering for America Act, which prohibits changes to Postal Service operations in place on Jan. 1, 2020.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to reconvene the Republican-controlled Senate to act on Maloney’s bill. Pelosi did not specify when the House would return, but a senior Democratic aide said it’s likely lawmakers would vote Saturday.

– William Cummings

Los Angeles school district launches COVID-19 testing, tracing program

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the country’s second-largest school district, is a launching a massive COVID-19 testing and tracing program Monday for all staff, students and their families “to help prepare for an eventual return to school campuses,” officials announced Sunday.

“The goal is to get students back to school as soon as possible while protecting the health and safety of all in the school community,” Superintendent Austin Buetner wrote in an opinion article in the Los Angeles Times.

The announcement comes two days before students begin the school year virtually.

New Zealand postpones elections because of new COVID-19 outbreak

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday chose to delay New Zealand’s national elections by four weeks as the country deals with a new coronavirus outbreak in its largest city. The election had been scheduled for Sept. 19 but will now be held on Oct. 17.

Under New Zealand law, Ardern had the option of delaying the election for up to about two months. Opposition parties had been requesting a delay after the virus outbreak in Auckland last week prompted the government to put the city into a two-week lockdown and halted election campaigning.

Ardern said she wouldn’t consider delaying the election again, no matter what was happening with any virus outbreaks. Opinion polling indicates Ardern’s liberal Labour Party is favored to win a second term in office.

Arizona schools open in-person instruction for some students Monday

Arizona schools are primarily opening virtually this month. But Gov. Doug Ducey has required that schools open physically in some capacity starting Monday for students with no other place to go. The criteria for students who qualify to take advantage of the in-person services are broad, and many districts and charter operators will open up their campuses to any student who needs a safe place to go.

But space is limited, and districts and charter school operators are prioritizing these services for students with disabilities, English-language learners, students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, children in foster care, students without reliable access to technology and students whose parents are essential workers.

The support is intended to provide students with a space to study, a reliable Internet connection to access their virtual classes and adult supervision during normal school hours. The programs are expected to continue until schools reopen for in-person learning.

Lorraine Longhi, The Arizona Republic

Pepperoni is latest COVID-19 shortage

Small pizza shops across the nation are reporting higher prices for pepperoni, according to Bloomberg, which found a South Dakota shop is paying $4.12 a pound compared to $2.87 in January 2019.

Emily, a New York City pizza shop, is paying $6 a pound, up from $4 earlier this year, chef and co-owner Matthew Hyland told Bloomberg. “It’s an American right to have pepperoni on pizza,” Hyland told Bloomberg.

The small pizza restaurants said they weren’t passing the higher costs along to customers at this time. According to Bloomberg, large pizza chains including Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Little Caesars and Papa John’s haven’t experienced shortages or price increases as they buy ingredients with long-term contracts.

– Kelly Tyko

More COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19 news: UNC, Trump, USPS, oleander ‘cure’; flu shot, symptoms

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