CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus Live Updates: Read The Latest Updates On The Pandemic

Stay up to date as we cover the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its effects across the world.

Since Chinese officials implemented the first coronavirus lockdown in the city of Wuhan in January, there have been more than 31.9 million cases of COVID-19 across the planet.

More than 977,000 people have died from the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Efforts to curb the outbreak have led to the global disruption of daily life and the economy, as schools and workplaces shuttered in hopes of slowing transmission. After months of precautions and lockdowns, governments have begun to reopen their economies.

HuffPost reporters around the world are tracking the pandemic and its effects.

Read the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic below. (To see the latest updates, you may need to refresh the page. All times are Eastern. For earlier updates on the pandemic, go here.)

CDC Staffers Voice Worry Over Trump Admin Meddling In Public Health Messaging ― 9/28/2020, 11:45 a.m. ET

In recent months, several incidents have heightened concerns among Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials that the Trump administration intends to transform the agency by ensuring its health guidance to Americans matches the president’s cheery messaging about the coronavirus pandemic.

The Washington Post reported Monday that morale is low at the agency following President Donald Trump’s public condemnations of CDC Director Robert Redfield, Health and Human Services spokesman Marc Caputo alleging without evidence that CDC staffers are working to oppose the president, and various efforts by Caputo and others to alter the CDC’s “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports” in ways that favor Trump politically.

The report says the CDC currently faces a credibility crisis that could become worse if, as some staffers suspect, the Trump administration moves to replace Redfield with a director who is even more deferential to Trump’s self-serving wishes. Scott Atlas, a Trump pandemic adviser and Stanford University professor with no public health experience, reportedly may be Trump’s pick to replace Redfield if the director were to resign or be fired. Some staffers said they would resign if Atlas took over the role. 

Monday’s report paints a picture of an agency facing an onslaught of political influence from an executive branch obsessed with manipulating the message.

“The worst is the silence,” one CDC scientist told the Post. “You can’t explain what’s going on, correct mistakes, clarify things quickly before they spin up and out of control.”

― Ja’han Jones

Fauci Calls Florida Fully Reopening Bars And Restaurants ‘Very Concerning’ ― 9/28/2020, 11:20 a.m. ET

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert on the White House coronavirus task force, said Monday that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to allow bars and restaurants to fully reopen is “very concerning.”

“That is something we really need to be careful about, because when you’re dealing with community spread and you have the kind of congregate setting where people get together ― particularly without masks ― you’re really asking for trouble,” Fauci said when asked about the move during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

DeSantis, a Republican, signed an executive order Friday to allow bars and restaurants to immediately begin operating at 100% capacity.

As of Monday, Florida has recorded the third-highest total number of coronavirus cases in the U.S., with more than 700,000, and the fifth-highest number of virus-linked deaths at more than 14,000.

Florida was one of the hot spots during the early summer, but has seen a sharp decline in new cases in recent weeks. Public health experts have warned that the upcoming flu season coupled with the coronavirus crisis could lead to a spike in hospitalizations.

“Now’s the time actually to double down a bit,” Fauci said Monday. “And I don’t mean close. ... We’re not talking about shutting anything down. We’re talking about commonsense-type of public health measures that we have been talking about all along.”

― Hayley Miller

UK Students Only Allowed Home At Christmas ‘If Public Follows Lockdown Rules’ — 9/28/20, 6:30 a.m. ET

Thousands of university students across the U.K. will only be allowed to return home to their families at Christmas if the public follows the new coronavirus lockdown rules, a senior government minister has said.

The British government is under pressure to guarantee young people are not confined to their campuses over the festive period because of COVID-19 outbreaks at their universities.

Thousands of students are currently self-isolating in their rooms following a surge in cases at institutions in cities including Glasgow, Manchester and Edinburgh, HuffPost UK reports.

Culture minister Oliver Dowden told Sky News: “I very much want students to be able to go home at Christmas, and if we all pull together and observe these new rules, we follow the guidance, then we will be able to get to a point where that should be possible.”

More than 17 million people – a quarter of the U.K. population – are now under tougher coronavirus restrictions after new measures were introduced on Sunday.

Britain recorded 5,693 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, down on the 6,042 reported a day earlier, data published on the government’s website showed.

— Ned Simons and James Martin

Nobel Prize Winners Float Radical Plan To ‘Save Christmas’ In France —9/28/20, 6:25 a.m. ET

Two Nobel Prize-winning economists have called for a nation-wide “Advent lockdown” in France to “save” the traditional year-end holiday period.

Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, two economists who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2019, say the economic cost of a pre-emptive lockdown from Dec. 1 to Dec. 20 would be less than canceling traditional year-end celebrations.

As part of their plan, people would be encouraged to do Christmas shopping in November, while the final two weeks of school would be taught remotely, reports HuffPost France.

The aim would be to limit contamination during traditional family gatherings by reducing virus transmission in the weeks before the year-end break.

Writing in France’s Le Monde Newspaper, Duflo and Banerjee say the measures would also reduce the likelihood of more drastic lockdowns after the holiday period.

France’s health minister has downplayed a national pre-emptive lockdown before Christmas and instead said he will continue to monitor data on a day-to-day basis.

— James Martin

U.N.’s Failures On Coronavirus Underscore Need For Reforms — 9/27/2020, 2:35 p.m. ET

The United Nations’ failure to bring countries together to contain the coronavirus — which has claimed nearly 1 million lives globally — prompted renewed calls for the world body to undergo reforms.

“The pandemic is a clear test of international cooperation — a test we have essentially failed,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said last week in the first-ever virtual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.

There is a “disconnect between leadership and power,” he told world leaders and warned that in the 21st century’s interconnected world, “solidarity is self-interest.” “If we fail to grasp that fact, everyone loses,” he said.

The General Assembly highlighted the growing inequality between rich and poor countries and the escalating difficulty of getting the U.N.’s 193 member nations to agree on major issues — let alone unite on reforms.

Tensions were on display at a U.N. Security Council meeting when the U.S. and China — two of the council’s five veto-wielding permanent members — accused each other of mishandling and politicizing the coronavirus.

Read more from The Associated Press here.

— Hayley Miller

Florida Orders All Restaurants Open While NYC Moves To Permanent Outdoor Dining — 9/25/2020, 1:30 p.m. ET

Florida moved to reopen all restaurants in the state on Friday, while New York City will move to allow permanent outdoor dining.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the reopenings on Friday, allowing all restaurants in the state to open immediately and at full capacity. The order also prevents cities and counties from ordering restaurants to close without citing economic or health reasons for doing so. The announcement came the same day Florida surpassed 14,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

Also on Friday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that outdoor dining ― which allows restaurants to serve customers on sidewalks or curbs ― would remain a permanent fixture, WNYC reported.

“I want us to go for the gold here,” de Blasio said. ” I really want us to take this model and make it a part of the life of New York City for years and generations to come … I really think it’s going to help restaurants survive.”

New York City, once the epicenter in the United States for the virus, has seen a steady drop in daily cases.

— Sebastian Murdock

Virginia Governor And His Wife Both Test Positive For Coronavirus — 9/25/20, 10:10 a.m. ET

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and his wife, Pamela Northam, have confirmed cases of COVID-19, the governor announced Friday. The pair were tested after a staff member who works in their living quarters developed symptoms and tested positive for the virus.

The governor is not experiencing any symptoms, while his wife is experiencing mild symptoms.

Both will self-isolate for at least 10 days, with Northam continuing to work from home. 

“As I’ve been reminding Virginians throughout this crisis, COVID-19 is very real and very contagious,” Northam said in a statement. “The safety and health of our staff and close contacts is of utmost importance to Pam and me, and we are working closely with the Department of Health to ensure that everyone is well taken care of. We are grateful for your thoughts and support, but the best thing you can do for us — and most importantly, for your fellow Virginians — is to take this seriously.” 

The news comes two days after Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) announced that he had the virus, after spending months questioning the efficacy of masks and refusing to issue a statewide mask mandate.

— Sara Boboltz

France’s Daily Cases Hit Record High, Hospitalizations Due To COVID-19 Also Rise — 9/25/20, 9 a.m. ET

France has recorded 16,096 new daily cases of COVID-19, according to data published Thursday — a new high since the launch of large-scale testing in the country.

Cumulative cases now total 497,237, the second-highest in Western Europe, behind Spain. Public Health France said 52 people died during the same period, taking the total death toll to 31,511.

The number of patients hospitalized for coronavirus has gone above 6,000 for the first time in more than two months, but that number is still more than five times lower than the 32,292 peak reached on April 14. And there are now 1,043 patients in intensive care units, levels not seen since June 8.

In its weekly update, also published Thursday, Public Health France reported an “exponential increase in intensive care admissions” and an “increase in the circulation of SARS-CoV-2 among those 65 and over,” HuffPost France reports (in French).

France’s prime minister has warned that there could be a repeat of the situation at the peak of the crisis in March if the government does not act to prevent the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

— James Martin

Ohio Governor Recommends All Residential Colleges Test Some Asymptomatic Students For COVID-19 — 9/24/20, 3:30 p.m. ET

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said Thursday that all colleges and universities with residential campuses should test at least 3% of their asymptomatic students for COVID-19.

“We are now recommending that all residential colleges and universities regularly test a sample population of their asymptomatic students,” DeWine tweeted. “Some schools are already doing this.”

He added: “Screening asymptomatic students really gives college presidents and their staff an idea of the spread on their campuses. Our expectation is that each campus plan to screen at least 3% of their at-risk population.”

Sample testing is voluntary and not required for repopulating campus, according to the governor’s COVID-19 guidance for higher education. Colleges can test asymptomatic students weekly or monthly and may choose them “based on the pattern of positive cases seen across the campus,” the guidance said. Examples: students selected from within a specific dorm, office building or academic discipline where there have already been positive cases.

Higher education campuses accounted for at least 88,000 coronavirus cases and at least 60 deaths as of Sept. 10, according to a New York Times survey of more than 1,600 U.S. colleges and universities.

Dozens of colleges saw spikes in recent weeks as dorms reopened and classes started on campus. Ohio saw more than 4,300 cases at 40 colleges and universities. Ohio State University and the University of Dayton accounted for more than half the cases.

— Sanjana Karanth

New York State Will Evaluate Safety Of Coronavirus Vaccines Itself, Governor Says — 9/24/20, 2:15 p.m. ET

New York will assemble a panel of experts to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines independent from the federal government, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.

The Clinical Advisory Task Force will be led by the state’s department of health and will step in to evaluate the drugs once federal officials have made their assessment. Although New York officials do not control whether drugs are cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, the state plans to play a major role in distributing a vaccine, and its leaders could potentially hamper access to drugs it deems unsafe.

“The people of this country don’t trust this federal government with this vaccine process,” Cuomo said at a news conference Thursday, citing polling data showing that Americans are now divided on whether they would trust a vaccine. In May, 72% adult respondents had said that they would likely get a vaccine if it were available that day, according to the Pew Research Center. This month, however, that number has dropped to 51%

“Frankly, I’m not going to trust the federal government’s opinion. I wouldn’t recommend to New Yorkers based on the federal government’s opinion,” Cuomo said. “I want to make sure we know it’s safe to take.”

— Sara Boboltz

U.S. Unemployment Numbers Remain High, 6 Months Since Pandemic Shutdowns — 9/24/20, 9:25 a.m. ET

The number of Americans newly seeking unemployment rose slightly last week to 870,000, more than six months since the COVID-19 pandemic forced much of the economy to shut down, illustrating how the economic effects of the pandemic continue to wreak havoc on workers and businesses.

Many workers’ unemployment benefits have been delayed because state agencies have been working through a backlog of applications, and some state agencies have had to pause applications due to fraud.

Read more from the Associated Press.

— Marina Fang

Students May Be Told To Stay On Campus For Christmas, UK Health Minister Says  — 9/24/20, 4:50 a.m. ET

Students in Britain could be told to stay at their universities and not return home for Christmas to avoid them infecting their parents and grandparents, U.K. health secretary Matt Hancock said Thursday.

Hancock said he had learned not to rule things out when asked if such a measure could be introduced.

“One of the challenges we have is making sure people are as safe as possible, and that includes not spreading [coronavirus] between the generations,” he said in a BBC interview.

Hancock’s comments came after 124 students at Glasgow University in Scotland tested positive. At least 600 people are now self-isolating, HuffPost U.K. reported.

Britain has the highest COVID-19 death toll in Europe, with a total close to 42,000. The number of new cases rose by more than 6,000 on Wednesday. 

In a separate development, U.K. finance minister Rishi Sunak is expected to announce more job protection plans on Thursday, including a new wage subsidy scheme to encourage part-time returns to work instead of full furlough pay.

— Ned Simons and James Martin

Justin Trudeau Says Canada Is In Second Wave Of Infections — 9/24/20, 4:35 a.m. ET

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that it’s likely Canadians have lost the chance to gather together for Thanksgiving, but there’s still hope for Christmas.

In the face of rising COVID-19 infections, Trudeau delivered a rare national address, asking people to be resilient in the face of a second wave that he said was “already underway.”

In a throne speech earlier to mark the opening of Canada’s new parliamentary session, the government pledged to protect incomes during the pandemic.

Trudeau had previously set expectations that the speech, a non-binding document that serves to outline the government’s agenda, would be a blueprint for the “economic recovery of our generation.” It included proposals to extend wage subsidies through to next summer and create a national child-care system, HuffPost Canada reported.

Canada’s COVID-19 cases have spiked in recent days, with an average of 1,123 new cases reported daily over the past week, compared with a daily average of 380 cases in mid-August. Total infections have reached 147,753 while 9,243 people have died, according to the latest government data.

— Zi-Ann Lum and James Martin

The Metropolitan Opera Is Canceled Until September 2021 — 9/23/20, 12:41 p.m. ET

New York City’s Metropolitan Opera, one of the largest performing arts organizations in the U.S., said Wednesday it has canceled its entire 2020-21 season and will not resume in-person performances until next September, “based on the advice of health officials who advise the Met and Lincoln Center.” 

“Because of the many hundreds of performers who are required to rehearse and perform in close quarters and because of the company’s large audience, it was determined that it would not be safe for the Met to resume until a vaccine is widely in use, herd immunity is established, and the wearing of masks and social distancing is no longer a medical requirement,” the organization said in a statement.

The cancellation spells major trouble for arts and culture in the city, especially performing arts, which often require close, confined spaces. Most arts and cultural institutions, a major driver of the New York City economy, have remained dark since March and will likely not reopen any time soon. Broadway is currently closed through January 2021.

In response to the current racial reckoning, the Met’s 2021-22 season will open with the premiere of Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut up in my Bones,” which the Met says is the first opera by a Black composer to be performed on its stages.

— Marina Fang

Spain’s Work-From-Home Rules Will Make Employers Pay For Expenses — 9/23/20 12:15 p.m. ET

The Spanish government has agreed with unions and business leaders that employers must cover working expenses for millions of people working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the proposal, which takes effect Oct. 13, companies will have to pay all expenses that employees may incur while working from home, including computer equipment and furniture. Employees can also ask for flexible working hours.

“This has been the most difficult and complex negotiation that we have carried out,” Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz said, per HuffPost Spain.

The benefits will only apply to employees who stay home for at least 30% of their work schedule, and employers will have the right to monitor workers’ online presence while respecting privacy.

More than 3 million people in Spain worked remotely during the country’s strict lockdown. Spain has confirmed more than 682,000 cases of COVID-19, the highest number of cases in Western Europe, and more than 30,000 people have died in the country since the start of the pandemic. 

— James Martin

Fauci Calls Trump’s Claim About COVID-19 And Elderly People ‘Very Disrespectful’ — 9/23/20 9:05 a.m. ET

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert of the White House’s coronavirus task force, pushed back on President Donald Trump’s attempt to downplay the coronavirus on Monday by suggesting it only affects “elderly people with heart problems and other problems.”

“You know, it’s very disrespectful to me because I’m in my 70s,” Fauci, chuckling, told CNN when asked to respond to Trump’s comments.

He went on to contradict Trump’s brazen lie that “virtually” no young people are affected by the virus, warning that elderly people aren’t the only group with underlying conditions that put them at risk.

“It can be serious in young people,” Fauci said. “Quantitatively, for sure, it’s much, much, much less serious as a group in young individuals. But ... there are a number of people in our society of substantial proportion who have underlying conditions.”

“So don’t just think the elderly are the problem,” he continued. “There are plenty of younger people who have underlying conditions that put them at risk.”

More than three-quarters of the total virus-linked deaths in the U.S. have been people 65 and older, according to data released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 32,000 people between ages 45 and 64 have died, at least 5,000 people between 25 and 44 have died, and at least 390 people under the age of 24 have died.

― Hayley Miller

Arkansas Reports More Than 3,600 Cases At Public Schools — 9/23/20, 8:39 a.m. ET

More than 3,600 students, teachers and staff members at public schools in Arkansas have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday, according to data released by state officials, who have been collecting the data since schools in the state reopened last month.

Over 3,000 cases have also been reported at colleges and universities across the state.

As schools across the country have begun to reopen in recent weeks, many have reported new outbreaks and have struggled to contain the virus. It’s difficult to get a precise count of the number of cases at schools, according to The New York Times, as data collection has been scattershot, depending on the state or school district. Many states are releasing some form of school-level data, but some school districts have been reluctant to disclose COVID-19 cases for privacy concerns. According to the available data, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee have reported the most school-related cases so far.

— Marina Fang

Johnson & Johnson Enters Late-Stage Trials For Single-Dose Vaccine — 9/23/20 7:35 a.m. ET

Johnson & Johnson on Wednesday will begin a massive final study to try to prove if a single-dose vaccine can protect against the coronavirus.

The study will test the shot on 60,000 volunteers in the U.S. and other countries, making it one of the world’s largest coronavirus vaccine studies to date.

A handful of other vaccines in the U.S. — including shots made by Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. — are already in final-stage testing.

Read more here.

― Hayley Miller

Boris Johnson Warns Of Second U.K. Lockdown In National TV Address — 9/22/20 3:45 p.m. ET

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has used a TV address to the nation to warn of “unquestionably difficult months to come” and said the U.K. could still be “forced into a new national lockdown.”

Signaling that new restrictions, which include working from home where possible and a curfew for hospitality venues, could be in place for six months, he recalled a “spirit of togetherness” when the virus first swept the U.K. in March.

“Never in our history has our collective destiny and our collective health depended so completely on our individual behavior,” he said, after outlining the devastating health and economic consequences a second lockdown could have.  

He also confirmed that more police will monitor rule-breakers, with fines as high as $12,500 for breaches, and the military could be called in to “backfill”, HuffPost UK reported.

Johnson’s message to the nation follows the British government’s chief scientific and medical advisers warning there could be 50,000 U.K. cases a day by mid-October with a daily death toll of 200 or more by mid-November if the current growth in the rate of infection is not halted.

— Rachel Wearmouth and James Martin

California Sees Coronavirus Positivity Rate Drop Below 3% For First Time — 9/22/20 1:30 p.m. ET

Just under 3% of people tested for the coronavirus in California were confirmed positive — the lowest positivity rate the state has seen since it began tracking such metrics in the spring, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

Health officials are still cautious, as it can take a few weeks for cases to show up in testing or hospitalizations after holiday weekends, such as Labor Day, when people tend to gather in larger groups.

The state is still seeing an average of 3,400 confirmed cases of the coronavirus daily. Hospitalizations have dropped by about 23% in the last two weeks.

“This disease has not gone away — quite the contrary,” Gov. Gavin Newsom warned at a press conference on Monday, urging people to continue wearing face masks and social distancing.

It remains to be seen how coronavirus cases will fare in the state moving into the fall, as more schools are set to reopen in person and more businesses are able to have limited indoor service. The governor encouraged people to get their flu shot to avoid overwhelming hospitals with a “twin-demic” of the flu and coronavirus cases.

— Sarah Ruiz-Grossman

COVID-19 Death Toll In U.S. Surpasses 200,000 — 9/22/20 11:50 a.m. ET

More than 200,000 people have now died of COVID-19 in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. has recorded the most cases of the coronavirus worldwide — with more than 6.6 million infections — as well as fatalities. India and Brazil, which have the second- and third-highest cases in the world, have reported over 5.5 million infections and more than 4.5 million infections to date, respectively.

Globally, the COVID-19 death toll has surpassed 965,000. More than 31 million people have been infected worldwide.

— Hayley Miller

UK Tightens Restrictions, Walks Back On Return-To-Office Plans — 9/22/20 8:05 a.m. ET

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that the military could be deployed in England to enforce new coronavirus restrictions.

Speaking to U.K. lawmakers on Tuesday, Johnson said there would be “greater police presence” on the streets and “the option to draw on military support where required.”

Johnson also walked back on his push to persuade people to return to their offices, instead telling them to work from home if they can, HuffPost U.K. reported.

Face masks will become required for bar staff, shop workers, waiters and taxi drivers. Pubs, bars and restaurants in England will have to close by 10 p.m. each night and must operate as table service only from Thursday. Businesses will be fined and could even be closed if they breach the rules.

The moves come after the government’s chief scientific and medical advisers warned that the country could see 50,000 cases a day by mid-October and a daily death toll of 200 or more by mid-November if the current rate of infection is not halted.

The United Kingdom has the highest official COVID-19 death toll in Europe and the fifth largest in the world.

— Ned Simons and James Martin

CDC Reverses Guidelines Stating Coronavirus Is Airborne Virus — 9/21/20 12:55 p.m. ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reversed an update made to its coronavirus guidance that stated that COVID-19 is an airborne virus. The health agency said that update, posted to its website on Friday, was made in error.

“A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website,” the CDC said in a statement posted to its website on Monday. “CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted.”

The CDC’s guidance has reverted back to its previous language, which describes the virus as capable of spreading from an infected person to others who are “nearby” through respiratory droplets.

The World Health Organization has not determined whether the coronavirus to be airborne, either, though in July it said it “cannot be ruled out.” As of Monday, the WHO’s online guidance states that the virus’s droplets “are relatively heavy, do not travel far and quickly sink to the ground.”

— Nina Golgowski

Coronavirus Can Spread Through The Air, CDC Says In Updated Guidelines — 9/21/20 11:30 a.m. ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its coronavirus guidance to acknowledge that COVID-19 is an airborne virus capable of lingering for an extended period and traveling farther than 6 feet.

Friday’s revision says transmission of the virus through tiny droplets called aerosols is “thought to be the main way the virus spreads.” The agency’s previous warning said the virus mostly spreads through large droplets encountered at close range.

“There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes),” the CDC’s new guidance says. “In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk.”

The CDC update advises keeping a distance of at least 6 feet from others, “whenever possible.” It also recommends the use of air purifiers to help reduce airborne germs in indoor spaces.

“Airborne viruses, including COVID-19, are among the most contagious and easily spread,” the health agency’s website states.

― Nina Golgowski

UK To Face 50,000 COVID-19 Cases A Day Within Weeks, Top Scientist Says — 9/21/20 7 a.m. ET

Britain could see 50,000 daily cases of COVID-19 by mid-October and 200 deaths a day by mid-November if the current rate of infection is not halted, Chief Scientific Officer Patrick Vallance said at a snap public briefing in Downing Street on Monday.

The news comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Friday that a second wave “is coming” to the U.K. Last week, the R0 rate of the virus, which shows whether the pandemic is growing, jumped to between 1.1 and 1.4, HuffPost U.K. reported.

On Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to guarantee that pubs would be open this weekend. However, he also said the country would not return to the full lockdown seen in March, stressing that restrictions would be “different to last time.”

Nearly 42,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the U.K., the highest COVID-19 death toll in Europe and the fifth largest in the world. New cases are rising by at least 6,000 per day in Britain, and hospital admissions are doubling every eight days.

— Rachel Wearmouth and James Martin

W.H. Task Force Member: A Few Million Early Doses Of Vaccine Could Make ‘Enormous Impact’ — 9/20/20, 3:30 p.m. ET

A coronavirus vaccine likely won’t be available to all Americans until mid-2021, but even a few million doses in November or December could have an “enormous impact” on the number of hospitalizations and fatalities, Assistant Health Secretary Adm. Brett Giroir said Sunday.

“From my perspective, even a few million doses early in November or December, if we have 5 or 10 percent of the population that we can vaccinate, we can get 80 or more 90 percent of the benefit,” Giroir, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“For example, if we could vaccinate workers in nursing homes, we could protect the elderly and the vulnerable from disease,” he added. “That would make an enormous impact on mortality, if we could vaccinate our teachers and those with preexisting conditions or those surrounding those people. ... A vaccine as early as possible, even in a few million doses, will be a godsend in terms of outcomes, hospitalizations, morbidity and deaths.”

Giroir and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testified last week that hundreds of millions of doses of a safe and effective vaccine would likely be available in the second or third quarter of 2021.
During a news briefing Friday, Trump pledged 100 million doses of a vaccine by the end of 2020, contradicting the CDC’s predictions. In the best-case scenario, the CDC estimated 35 million to 45 million doses could be available by late December.

Democrats and some public health experts have expressed concerns that Trump will threaten the integrity of vaccine development by pressuring the Food and Drug Administration to hasten its approval.

Giroir said Sunday that a vaccine would only be approved once the data has shown it’s effective and safe.

“I just want to assure the American people that, when a vaccine is authorized by the FDA, it will be based on science and data,” he told CNN. “If I’m prioritized, I will be in line. If my granddaughter’s prioritized, she will be in line. We can have confidence that, when that happens, it will be safe and effective, but not before. We have to let the evidence and the data drive it.”

― Hayley Miller

CDC Backtracks On Controversial Coronavirus Testing Guidance — 9/18/20, 2:15 p.m. ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says that people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 should get tested themselves, even if they have no symptoms — backtracking on a controversial change made in August. The new guidance reflects the advice that medical experts have been giving for months. 

The CDC sparked alarm in the health care community last month when it said — reportedly against its own scientists’ strenuous objections — that it was not necessary for people to get tested after being around someone who has the virus. Critics had worried that the guidance would lead to the unchecked spread of COVID-19.

On Friday, however, the agency reversed course and added another precaution: Close contacts should self-quarantine for 14 days even if they test negative, staying away from other household members as much as possible. “Close contact” is defined as being within 6 feet of a person who’s sick for 15 minutes or longer.

— Sara Boboltz

British Government Refuses To Rule Out New National Lockdown — 9/18/20 6:35 a.m. ET

The U.K. government has refused to rule out a second national lockdown to deal with a surge in coronavirus cases.

When asked about the possibility of a two-week nationwide lockdown, U.K. health secretary Matt Hancock said: “The last line of defense is full national action and I don’t want to see that. But we will do whatever is necessary to keep people safe in a very difficult pandemic.”

Hancock’s comments came as new measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus came into effect in northeast England, taking the total number of people across the U.K. in lockdown to more than 10 million, HuffPost UK reported.

The latest figures published on Thursday showed there were a further 3,395 lab-confirmed cases of the virus in the U.K. and 21 more people had died. That brings the total death toll in the U.K. to 41,705. In separate figures published by the statistics agencies, 57,500 cases have been recorded where COVID-19 was mentioned on a death certificate.

Elsewhere, Israel today entered a second nationwide lockdown as daily infections there topped 4,500.

— Léonie Chao-Fong and James Martin

Global Tally Of Coronavirus Infections Tops 30 Million — 9/18/20, 3 a.m. ET

More than 30 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to official tallies.

Johns Hopkins University released the figures on Thursday, which showed the U.S. still leading the globe with more than 6.6 million cases of the coronavirus.

Surging rates of infections in India, including more than 97,000 in a 24-hour period this week, have added to ongoing concern that the pandemic is far from being under control.

More than 944,000 people have died from COVID-19, including nearly 200,000 people in the U.S. alone.

The figures are almost certainly lower than the actual number of cases due to difficulties in testing early in the pandemic and the fact that many of those infected don’t show symptoms.

Nick Visser

Fan Who Attended Kansas City Chiefs’ Season Opener Tests Positive For Virus — 9/17/20, 1:30 p.m. ET

A fan who attended last Thursday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans has tested positive for COVID-19, the Kansas City Health Department announced Thursday.

Ten other fans who may have been exposed to that person have been told to quarantine.

The Chiefs said they’ve used video footage from inside Arrowhead Stadium to identify and notify other guests and service staff who may have come in contact with the person. While fans were required to wear masks while inside the stadium, photos from the event show not everyone in attendance complied.

Officials limited attendance to 22% of stadium capacity, or around 16,000 fans. 

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas expressed confidence prior to the game that the event could be held safely, while conceding that statistically someone with COVID-19 would enter the stadium.

“I’m not dramatically concerned that we’ll get that many more cases out of Arrowhead Stadium,” Lucas told Yahoo News. “I think the protection should work but it’s something that we’ll continue to watch each week.”

— Ryan Grenoble

‘Saturday Night Live’ Will Return With ‘A Limited Studio Audience’ — 9/16/20, 3:28 p.m. ET

After several Zoom-produced shows this past spring, “Saturday Night Live” will return in October with live shows and “a limited studio audience,” NBC announced Wednesday.

In recent weeks, several other late night comedy shows have returned to their studios, including NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” both filmed in New York City’s Rockefeller Center, like “SNL.” But none have invited audiences back yet.

In a press release, NBC said the show’s crew “will work closely with” the office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to determine COVID-19 safety procedures. State officials have gradually allowed some film and television production to resume.

The long-running sketch comedy show’s 46th season will premiere on Oct. 3, with five consecutive new shows.

— Marina Fang

Supreme Court Will Continue Remote Oral Arguments — 9/16/20, 1:34 p.m. ET

When the U.S. Supreme Court begins its new term in October, it will continue to hold oral arguments over teleconference, as it did in the spring, a spokesperson for the high court announced Wednesday.

The justices and attorneys for the cases will participate remotely, and the arguments will be livestreamed.

In May, millions of Americans were able to listen live to the oral arguments for the first time in the history of the court, which had long resisted allowing live audio access to its proceedings.

— Marina Fang

CDC Director: Masks Are ‘The Most Important, Powerful Public Health Tool We Have’ — 9/16/20, 1:15 p.m. ET

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention again urged Americans to wear face masks as much as possible and stressed their effectiveness in containing the spread of the coronavirus, in contrast to President Donald Trump’s lax attitude toward masks.

“These face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have, and I will continue to appeal for all Americans, all individuals in our country, to embrace these face coverings. I have said if we did it for six, eight, 10, 12 weeks, we would bring this pandemic under control,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said during a Senate hearing on Wednesday. “We have clear scientific evidence they work and they are our best defense.”

Redfield went on to speculate that masks may even be more effective than a COVID-19 vaccine, particularly for people who don’t respond to a vaccine. 

“I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine, because it may be 70%, and if I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine is not going to protect me,” he said. “This face mask will.”

Read more here

— Marina Fang

Big Ten Will Resume College Football, After Pressure From Fans And Trump — 9/16/20, 10:06 a.m. ET

The universities in the Big Ten Conference will resume college football starting the weekend of Oct. 23-24, after pressure and protest from players, fans and leaders pushing to reopen institutions, including Trump.

Players and staff will be required to undergo daily COVID-19 testing. Any player who tests positive will not be allowed to play for at least three weeks. Each school will be required to “designate a Chief Infection Officer (CInO) who will oversee the collection and reporting of data for the Big Ten Conference.” Those officials will monitor the data, such as the teams’ positivity rates, and use them to determine whether the season can move forward. Teams with a positivity rate of 5% or higher will be mandated to stop games and practices for at least a week.

In August, league officials initially said they would not allow games to resume until at least 2021, citing the advice of public health experts, who have warned that high-contact sports like football provide greater risk of spreading COVID-19.

Over the last month, a number of colleges and universities in the U.S. have reported new outbreaks, and have had to reverse plans for in-person classes.

— Marina Fang

CDC Rolls Out Vaccine Plan — 9/16/20, 9:42 a.m. ET

Federal health agencies on Wednesday rolled out a plan for distributing COVID-19 vaccines free of charge for all Americans, possibly beginning later this year, as questions mount about whether the Trump administration is rushing out a vaccine to benefit the president’s reelection chances.

For most vaccines, each person would need two doses, three to four weeks apart, according to the plan from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other federal health agencies and the Department of Defense. Anticipating shortages, officials would initially prioritize the vaccine doses for essential workers and people who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 before expanding access to anyone.

The plan also gives states and municipalities one month to present a plan for distributing the vaccines locally.

Read more about the plan here.

— Marina Fang

Volunteers Taking Pfizer’s Vaccine Report Mild, Moderate Side Effects — 9/15/20, 4:50 p.m. ET

Pfizer said participants in its study for a potential vaccine were experiencing mild to moderate side effects in the late stages of its trial.

Over the weekend, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CBS News there is a “good chance” researchers will know by the end of October whether the drug is effective. 

“We started already manufacturing and we have already manufactured hundreds of thousands of doses, so just in case we have a good study readout, conclusive, and FDA, plus the advisory committee, feels comfortable that we will be ready,” he said on “Face the Nation.”

More than 12,000 people received a second dose of the vaccine currently being developed with Germany’s BioNTech, Pfizer executives said on an investor call. The company is now requesting permission to expand its trial to include up to 44,000 people. 

In an interview with CNBC released Tuesday, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates estimated that, of the many companies racing to develop a vaccine, Pfizer is likely closest to the finish line.

— Sara Boboltz

No Live Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade This Year, NYC Mayor Says ― 9/14/20 11:40 a.m. ET

The iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will not be held live this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday.

The annual parade, which boasts dozens of giant balloons and floats, typically draws millions of spectators along its 2.5-mile route through Manhattan. But this year, the streets will be noticeably quieter.

“It will not be the same parade we’re used to,” de Blasio said during a press conference Monday. “It will be a different kind of event. They’re reinventing the event for this moment in history, and you will be able to feel the spirit and the joy of that day on television, online. Not a live parade, but something that will really give us that warmth and that great feeling we have on Thanksgiving Day.”

De Blasio did not elaborate on the details, but he said Macy’s would reveal more at a later date.

“In this case, it’s really important to keep these traditions continuing, to make sure that that history is unbroken,” de Blasio said. “We’ll keep going forward, and then next year, again, I look forward to things coming back in all their greatness so we can enjoy them together in person again.”

In a statement Monday, Macy’s said it planned to “reimagine” the parade as it did with its July 4 fireworks display. The department store chain did not disclose the locations of its fireworks displays this year to avoid crowds gathering to watch.

— Hayley Miller

COVID-19 Patients Are Twice As Likely To Have Eaten In Restaurants Before Getting Sick, CDC Study Finds — 9/14/20 9:40 a.m. ET

A monthlong investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that a sampling of adults who tested positive for COVID-19 were roughly twice as likely to have dined at a restaurant within the two weeks before the onset of illness than those who tested negative for the virus.

The findings, published Friday, follow a review of symptomatic outpatients who sought testing at 11 U.S. health care facilities during the month of July. The review included 154 symptomatic participants who tested positive for the virus and 160 control participants who were symptomatic but tested negative.

Participants were not asked as part of the survey whether they had dined indoors or outdoors.

The report did not find a significant difference in positivity rate when it came to the patients who participated in activities other than dining at a restaurant, such as going shopping, going to a gym or office or using public transportation. This difference with restaurant dining is believed to come down to mask-wearing.

“Exposures and activities where mask use and social distancing are difficult to maintain, including going to places that offer on-site eating or drinking, might be important risk factors for acquiring COVID-19,” the CDC’s report states. “As communities reopen, efforts to reduce possible exposures at locations that offer on-site eating and drinking options should be considered to protect customers, employees, and communities.”

— Nina Golgowski

Italian Schools Finally Reopen After 6-Month Closure — 9/14/20 7:15 a.m. ET

More than 5.6 million students in Italy are expected to return to their desks on Monday for face-to-face school lessons after a six-month shutdown, the longest in Europe.

The Italian government shut the nation’s schools in early March after the country found itself at the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. But efforts to make classrooms safe again have been mired in controversy.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, whose son will also start school on Monday, admitted that “at the beginning, there are going to be problems” with the resumption of classes, HuffPost Italy reported.

Many of the new 2.4 million single desks needed to guarantee social distancing have failed to arrive on time, unions have said, while thousands of teaching positions remain vacant and older staffers have expressed concerns about the heightened risks they face.

Fifty-nine percent of all Italy’s primary and secondary school teachers are over the age of 50, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, making the education system particularly vulnerable to coronavirus outbreaks.

More than 35,000 people have died of COVID-19, the largest death toll in the European Union, and the recent increase in new cases has raised fears of a second wave.

— James Martin

Infectious Disease Expert Warns Of ‘Really Hard Road Ahead’ — 9/13/20 12:10 p.m. ET

The rate of coronavirus cases and deaths nationwide has declined in recent days, but the U.S. is far from out of the woods, according to Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Osterholm told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that he agreed with Dr. Anthony Fauci’s assessment that Americans should prepare to “hunker down” during the fall and winter.

“We will, with the colleges and universities opening, with the spillover that’s occurring with even more pandemic fatigue, ... we’re going to see these numbers grow substantially,” Osterholm said.

President Donald Trump said a vaccine could be ready as early as November, but Osterholm said any “meaningful” vaccine likely won’t be available to the majority of Americans until the beginning of 2021.

“And then it’s still going to take us months to vaccinate the population of just this country,” Osterholm said. “We really have another 12 to 14 months of a really hard road ahead of us,” he added. “And that’s what I’m concerned about today. ... What is our national plan? We don’t have one.”

— Hayley Miller

New U.K. Data Shows Pandemic Is Probably Growing Rather Than Shrinking — 9/11/20 1:50 p.m. ET

The rate of reproduction of the coronavirus — called the R rate in the U.K. or R-naught in the U.S. — has risen dramatically above 1.0 across most of the United Kingdom and could be as high as 1.7, British scientists said Friday. 

Official estimates by U.K. government scientists put the key figure — which shows how quickly the virus is spreading — between 1.0 and 1.2 across the whole of the country.

An R rate above 1.0 is likely to spark fresh demands for new lockdown measures in Britain as it means that the pandemic is growing rather than shrinking, HuffPost UK reported.

Separate research also suggested that coronavirus cases in England were doubling every seven to eight days at the beginning of September, with the highest rates among 18- to 24-year-olds.

“What we are seeing is evidence of an epidemic in the community and not a result of increased testing capacity,” said Professor Paul Elliott from the School of Public Health. “This is a critical time, and it’s vital that the public, our health system and policymakers are aware of the situation as we cannot afford complacency.”

It comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the legal limit on social gatherings in England would be cut from 30 to six from Monday. 

The U.K. reported 3,539 new cases on Friday – the highest in almost four months. The rise brings the total number of people in the U.K. infected with COVID-19 during the pandemic to 361,677. 

— Rachel Wearmouth and James Martin

For more on the pandemic, go here.

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