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.
With so much at stake, some are asking: Why take the risk at all? And in many cases, it comes back to money.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill already is reporting several outbreaks after a week of in-person classes. On Monday, the dean of the university’s Gillings School of Global Public Health called on UNC to put all courses online.
“The number of clusters is growing and soon could become out of control,” Dean Barbara Rimer wrote on the website of the public health school. “After only one week of campus operations, with growing numbers of clusters and insufficient control over the off-campus behavior of students (and others), it is time for an off-ramp. We have tried to make this work, but it is not working.”
Money, Rimer wrote, factored into the university’s reopening plans, but finances will take a hit no matter what decision leaders make.
“People do not like to talk about money in higher ed, as though we should be above money, but we cannot pay scholarships, salaries, resources and building maintenance without money,” she wrote.
Colleges already lost billions of dollars when they pivoted to digital instruction in the spring, in the form of refunded room-and-board payments and expensive technology for online courses. University leaders have warned another semester – or year – of online courses could be even worse, especially for colleges without large endowments.
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.
Meanwhile, public health officials are urging the public to get flu vaccines, saying they’re even more important than ever because of COVID-19. The flu shot isn’t always effective, but it’s much better than nothing. And it’s hard to know how the flu will interact with COVID-19.
Also, a group of researchers from University of Southern California tracked the common order of how COVID-19 symptoms progress in a new study. It usually starts with fever then cough.
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; in the U.S., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants Congress back to deal with mail-in voting and the USPS.
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 775,000 deaths and more than 21 million cases, according to John Hopkins University data.
📰 What we’re reading: “But it comes down to the smell test and it’s really not a good look when you’re getting millions in government contracts on top of PPP money.” Some contractors double-dipped government funds, receiving relief money and contracts.
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.
“We’re finding that the majority of community spread right now is happening from parties, either indoors or outdoors, where people are with their families or friends and believe there’s no one there…has COVID,” Birx told reporters on a visit to Little Rock, Arkansas. “And yet there is someone there that has the virus and they don’t know they have the virus because a significant number are asymptomatic.”
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: Trump and USPS, oleander ‘cure’; flu shot, symptoms