Coronavirus live updates: CDC asks states to prepare to distribute vaccine as early as Nov. 1 - The Washington Post

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling state health officials to be ready to distribute a coronavirus vaccine to health-care workers and other high-priority groups as soon as Nov. 1, heightening fears that the agency is under pressure to approve a vaccine before Election Day. Some scientists warn that granting emergency authorization to a vaccine before clinical trials are complete could pose safety dangers and inflame anti-vaccination sentiment — but others say that doing so could save thousands of lives.

Here are some significant developments:

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September 3, 2020 at 7:11 AM EDT

What the country is reading during the pandemic: Dystopias, social justice and steamy romance

This year, perhaps as never before, our reading habits reflect our precarious reality. As the country has muddled through a deadly pandemic and a racial reckoning under a cloud of exhaustion and dread, we’ve used books to escape the present, inform our beliefs and educate our homebound children. We’ve found catharsis in apocalyptic science fiction and comfort in romance; advice in self-help guides and a moment of peace, thanks to children’s activity books. Most strikingly, since the death of George Floyd in May, we’ve flocked to books about race and social justice.

Data collected from publishers, libraries, associations, data firms and readers of our website provide a snapshot of book trends during the spring and summer of 2020. Together, these literary choices mirror our collective mood.

The Washington Post asked readers in early May and mid-August about the books that resonated with them. What follows comes from more than 1,600 submissions.

Read the full story here.

By Stephanie Merry and Steven Johnson

September 3, 2020 at 6:41 AM EDT

Love or hate them, pandemic learning pods are here to stay — and could disrupt American education

Some love them. Some hate them.

But nobody working in education today can escape pandemic learning pods: the increasingly popular phenomenon in which families band together and hire a private tutor to offer in-person learning to a small group of children.

Teachers throughout the nation are sketching out schedules and pondering whether they can squeeze in pod tutoring after virtual school. They are weighing health risks, deciding on ground rules — should all pod students wear masks? — and asking parents how much they will pay (a lot, it turns out). Sometimes, they are quitting their jobs to lead pods instead.

Read the full story here.

By Hannah Natanson

September 3, 2020 at 6:01 AM EDT

Fauci: Sending college students home after outbreak erupts is ‘the worst thing you could do’

Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies during a July hearing in Washington. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/AP)

Sending college students home after an outbreak erupts on campus is “the worst thing you could do,” Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said Wednesday, as universities continued to be plagued by alarming infection rates.

Many colleges that welcomed students back just a few weeks ago have already switched to online instruction, and in some cases told students that they must move out of their dorms and return home. Fauci told NBC’s “Today” show that it was important to ensure that infected students are placed in isolation, “but don’t have them go home, because they could be spreading it in their home state.”

The decision to resume in-person instruction at many residential colleges this fall — only to reverse course when social gatherings predictably led to large clusters of cases — has been widely panned, with critics pointing out that students returning to their hometowns once their campus becomes a hot spot could easily end up spreading the virus in their communities. Some schools with a surge in cases are now opting to keep dorms open while temporarily halting face-to-face classes — such as San Diego State University, which put sports and in-person classes on hold Wednesday after reporting 64 infections in the first week of classes.

At the University of Illinois, where more than 700 students have tested positive in less than two weeks, administrators announced a ban on “gathering in small or large groups under any circumstances.” Students will effectively be subject to the equivalent of stay-at-home orders and banned from leaving their rooms for anything besides essential activities — attending class, purchasing groceries, solo outdoor exercise, religious services and medical visits. The college also plans to aggressively crack down on parties.

“We have been encouraged that the vast majority of our students have been compliant, and we believe this effort will require noncompliant students to make the choice to either comply or leave campus,” Chancellor Robert Jones said in a statement.

By Antonia Farzan

September 3, 2020 at 5:26 AM EDT

Photo shows students jammed together at Florida high school

This tweet was posted on Monday, the first day of the 2020-2021 school year in many school districts in Florida, where the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) ordered most districts in the state to open or lose state funding.

Kelly J. Schulz, spokeswoman for Volusia County public schools, confirmed that the photo was taken Monday at Spruce Creek High School.

Health experts have urged school districts to reopen with appropriate measures, such as social distancing and the wearing of masks at all times, to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Some districts in the state, however, are only recommending the use of masks, not requiring them.

Read the full story here.

By Valerie Strauss

September 3, 2020 at 5:01 AM EDT

British government insists testing regime is working well despite some traveling 100 miles to be swabbed

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock leaves 10 Downing Street in London on Sept. 2, 2020. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted Thursday that the country’s coronavirus testing system is working “well” despite British media reporting that people are being forced to travel up to 100 miles to visit a test center because of shortages or lack of access locally.

“At the moment, the system works well. Of course there are operational challenges from time to time, but it works well,” Hancock told Sky News as he promised more widespread testing.

One doctor told the BBC that she was concerned patients would not be able to travel long distances to be tested at designated drive-through centers, especially if they felt unwell and were suffering from symptoms of the coronavirus such as a fever or cough.

The government defended its approach, saying high-risk areas where more cases of the virus have been recorded are given priority. Hancock expressed hope that a new a 500 million pound ($665 million) fund to conduct trials of a saliva test that provides results in 20 minutes could help with testing issues.

The government has ramped up testing in recent months to slow the rate of transmission, but critics have frequently accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of being too slow to implement lockdown measures and provide easy access to testing and adequate protective wear for key workers earlier in the health crisis.

Britain remains the worst-hit country in Europe, with more than 41,602 lives lost amid the pandemic.

By Jennifer Hassan

September 3, 2020 at 4:47 AM EDT

New clusters pop up in Singapore migrant dormitories after hundreds of thousands tested and cleared

Migrant workers who recovered from covid-19 in May were housed in tightly packed dormitories. (Edgar Su/Reuters)

Less than a month ago, Singapore said that hundreds of thousands of workers living in migrant dormitories had been tested and declared coronavirus-free. But new clusters are surfacing once again — with 43 new cases in three dormitories reported Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Coronavirus cases exploded in the overcrowded dormitories that house Singapore’s low-paid foreign workers this spring, even as the country was lauded for its success in containing the pandemic. Migrant laborers make up the majority of the 56,908 infections that Singapore has reported to date, while constituting a third of the labor force.

In mid-August, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower announced that it had tested more than 300,000 migrant workers, many of them living in dormitories, and quarantined 22,500 people while clearing the rest to return to work. The agency pledged to monitor sewage for signs of a new outbreak and said that workers would have to report their temperatures to the government twice a day.

Some of the new safety protocols appear to have helped authorities discover the new clusters before the outbreak got any worse: The country’s Ministry of Health said Wednesday that 14 of the people to test positive were already being quarantined because of potential exposure, while the other 29 were detected through the routine testing that is conducted biweekly for workers in dormitories.

“This allows us to pick up cases early, including asymptomatic ones, so that we are able to ring-fence them quickly to prevent further transmission, by aggressively containing, tracing and isolating the close contacts,” the agency said.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Wednesday that the government would “have acted more aggressively and sooner on the migrant worker dormitories” during the initial outbreak if there had been greater awareness that people without symptoms could transmit the virus, Reuters reported.

By Antonia Farzan

September 3, 2020 at 4:22 AM EDT

Video of Australian police arresting pregnant woman for inciting anti-lockdown protest goes viral

A viral video of police officers in Australia arresting a pregnant woman in front of her partner and two children at home has sparked controversy after being shared to Facebook on Wednesday.

Zoe-Lee Buhler, 28, was at home in her pajamas when officers wearing masks entered with a search warrant and said they were arresting her for incitement in relation to a Facebook event she had created to promote an anti-lockdown protest in the city of Ballarat in Victoria on Saturday.

The protest’s information page asked attendees to wear masks and abide by social distancing measures but to challenge the government on its stringent lockdown policies and alleged police misconduct as authorities grapple to contain the coronavirus in the state.

“Excuse me, incitement for what?” Buhler can be heard saying in the video. “I didn’t realize I was doing anything wrong.”

Buhler then offers to delete the post, calling the arrest “ridiculous” as officers say they will be seizing computers and mobile devices at the property.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Buhler said she had planned the protest because she was concerned about the impact lockdown measures were having on the economy and the mental health of others.

“Now is not the time to protest about anything. Because to do so is not safe,” State Premier Daniel Andrews said Thursday.

“Arresting people preemptively for the act of organizing peaceful protests or for social media posts is something that happens all too often under authoritarian regimes, and it should not be happening in a democracy like Australia,” Elaine Pearson of Human Rights Watch tweeted, as many on social media also expressed concern about the arrest.

Victoria has been under stringent lockdown measures since July following a second wave of infections. At present, it is recording about 100 new cases most days, compared with over 700 during last month, with authorities saying the lockdown is working.

By Jennifer Hassan

September 3, 2020 at 3:49 AM EDT

Britain is promoting strict coronavirus quarantines but has issued hardly any fines

Passengers arrive at Heathrow Airport in London on Aug. 21. (Andy Rain/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

LONDON — The British government has made a big show this summer about its coronavirus quarantine list — and generated lots of drama.

The ever-growing list of countries identified as novel coronavirus hot spots has prompted diplomatic outrage from British allies, who threaten reciprocal travel restrictions. It has stirred travel and airline industry leaders to complain that Britain is killing their sectors by hanging up a “closed” sign. And it has set off panicky scrambles of British holidaymakers trying to rush home before mandatory 14-day quarantines take effect.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain must be “absolutely ruthless about this, even with our closest and dearest friends and partners around the world.”

But the enforcement numbers don’t suggest ruthlessness. Since June, when Britain began requiring self-isolation for people traveling from countries where the virus is spreading at a rapid rate, police have fined only three people for ignoring the rules in England and Wales.

Read the full story here.

By William Booth and Karla Adam

September 3, 2020 at 3:25 AM EDT

Mexico has world’s highest number of health worker deaths, new report says

A health-care worker is seen outside a hospital in Mexico City last month. (Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images)

At least 1,320 health-care workers in Mexico have died after contracting covid-19 — the highest total of any nation, according to a new Amnesty International report.

The human rights organization found that at least 7,000 health-care workers worldwide have died from the virus, with the United States, Britain and Brazil following Mexico for the highest number of deaths. Rising numbers of fatalities have also been reported in countries such as India and South Africa that have witnessed their outbreaks worsen in recent months.

At least 97,632 coronavirus infections have been reported among health-care workers in Mexico, according to Amnesty. The organization notes that Mexico is among the only countries keeping an anonymized tally of health-care worker fatalities, which also contains information about the workers’ ages, gender and job role. That transparency, while commendable, “may also go some way to explaining the disturbing figures from Mexico relative to other countries,” the report states.

Mexico’s understaffed and under-resourced hospitals have come under increasing strain since cases began surging this spring. The country ranks eighth globally for the number of reported cases but has the fourth-highest total of deaths. According to Amnesty, cleaners at hospitals are particularly vulnerable to infection, in part because their work tends to be outsourced.

“For over seven thousand people to die while trying to save others is a crisis on a staggering scale,” Steve Cockburn, Amnesty’s head of economic and social justice, said in a statement. “There must be global cooperation to ensure all health workers are provided with adequate protective equipment, so they can continue their vital work without risking their own lives.”

By Antonia Farzan

September 3, 2020 at 2:56 AM EDT

Tactics of fiery White House trade adviser draw new scrutiny as some of his pandemic moves unravel

Amid the Trump administration’s troubled response to the coronavirus pandemic, senior White House aide Peter Navarro has refashioned himself as a powerful government purchasing chief, operating far beyond his original role as an adviser on trade policy.

But U.S. officials say the abrasive figure’s shortcomings as a manager could influence how well prepared the United States is for a second wave of coronavirus infections expected this fall.

Navarro’s harsh manner and disregard for protocol have alienated numerous colleagues, corporate executives and prominent Republicans. In a previously undisclosed incident, the White House Counsel’s Office in 2018 investigated Navarro’s behavior in response to repeated complaints and found he routinely had been verbally abusive toward others. Navarro narrowly avoided losing his job, but the abuse has continued as the White House has grappled with the pandemic, multiple administration officials said.

Read the full story here.

By David Lynch, Carol D. Leonnig, Jeff Stein and Josh Dawsey

September 3, 2020 at 2:37 AM EDT

Immigrant parents in Sweden to lose their children for locking them home during pandemic, court rules

Pedestrians walk through a public square in Sweden, where the government has taken a relatively hands-off approach to the pandemic. (Erika Gerdemark/Bloomberg)

Swedish authorities have ruled that three children whose immigrant parents locked them indoors over fears of the coronavirus should remain in protective custody and not go home.

Ranging in age from 10 to 17, the children “were prohibited from leaving the apartment” from March to early July, their legal representative, Mikael Svegfors, told Agence France-Presse.

He said that the parents “come from another part of the world” and are not fluent in Swedish, which led to confusion and a clash of cultures. Unable to understand the local news in Sweden, where the government took a more hands-off approach to the pandemic and did not impose a hard lockdown, the parents instead followed updates from their home country, where much more stringent restrictions were in place.

The ruling from the administrative court in the southern Sweden city of Jonkoping said that the children were kept isolated from one another, and ate meals while locked in their separate rooms. The court also said that the front door had been nailed shut with wood planks, something the parents deny.

Swedish radio reported that the parents plan to appeal the ruling, according to the Guardian. They argue that the children were free to leave at any time, but were being home-schooled while schools remained open and attendance remained mandatory for students under 16.

Sweden has reported a relatively high number of coronavirus cases for its size, and 57.2 deaths for every 100,000 people — giving it a slightly higher per capita fatality rate than the United States. But the number of new infections has been slowing steadily over the course of the summer, as has the number of deaths reported each day.

By Antonia Farzan

September 3, 2020 at 2:05 AM EDT

Housing industry groups eye potential lawsuits challenging Trump’s eviction order

Bronx residents protest evictions outside a housing court Aug. 10. (Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images)

Landlords, home builders and other housing industry groups are weighing how to respond to the Trump administration’s new policy protecting renters from eviction, with some even considering lawsuits and other legal actions challenging the moratorium as soon as it takes effect.

The mounting opposition stems from the fact that the federal government has not put aside any new aid to reimburse landlords at a time when their tenants are at risk of falling behind on their rent. Such money probably must come from Capitol Hill, where lawmakers for months have been at odds over another round of coronavirus aid — leaving housing industry advocates fearful about their future finances under the moratorium.

Read the full story here.

By Tony Romm

September 3, 2020 at 1:34 AM EDT

Over 1,000 students at the University of South Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus

The University of South Carolina allowed students to return to campus on Aug. 9 and resumed classes on Aug. 20. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

More than 1,000 students at the University of South Carolina tested positive for the coronavirus in the month of August, bringing the positivity rate for the most recent reporting period to nearly 28 percent, according to the university’s data dashboard.

By comparison, the World Health Organization has advised countries against reopening when positivity rates are higher than 5 percent.

That total is nearly double the 553 cases that had been detected when the university last updated its data a week ago, WLTX reported.

Over the weekend, a crowded pool party in an apartment complex near campus raised concerns after the fire chief described a scene that was “like Mardi Gras,” with about 200 mask-free revelers. On Tuesday, USC President Bob Caslen said that students’ off-campus behavior had been “both disappointing and unacceptable,” and that the number of active infections was “larger than we expected at this point.”

Nine sorority and fraternity houses have been placed under quarantine, and 15 students have been suspended for throwing off-campus parties, Caslen said.

As the Charleston Post and Courier reported, the university has reported more coronavirus cases than the Universities of Florida, Mississippi, Virginia and Washington combined. The only college that appears to have reported a higher tally of infections is the University of Alabama, which had logged 1,201 cases by Aug. 27, compared with 1,192 at USC as of Aug. 31.

There are no plans for USC to close down, Caslen said at a Wednesday town hall, according to the paper. He expressed hope that the alarming case count would serve as a wake-up call and help the school get the outbreak under control.

“If I don’t test, I don’t have any positives,” he said. “If I don’t have any positives, you don’t make them news and no one pays attention.”

By Antonia Farzan

September 3, 2020 at 12:54 AM EDT

Analysis: Why vaccine nationalism is winning

Governments have failed to unite in the fight against covid-19. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the race to develop a vaccine against the novel coronavirus. Rather than consolidate efforts, many countries are striking out on their own.

The fragmented forces of vaccine nationalism won another victory this week: U.S. officials told The Washington Post that the United States would not participate in the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) Facility, a global effort to help develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine backed by the World Health Organization.

The U.S. absence is a major blow for a project seeking to overcome unequal access to immunization. More than 170 countries are in talks to participate in Covax. But America is not alone in going it alone. Following the U.S. example, many other countries are pursuing unilateral plans, focused on producing a vaccine for priority use or buying up potential vaccines from other nations.

Read the full story here.

By Adam Taylor

September 3, 2020 at 12:26 AM EDT

Universities can’t use privacy laws to withhold data on coronavirus outbreaks, experts say

Matthew Claflin and Sara Norton hang out on the quad at the University of Alabama in mid-August in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Vasha Hunt/AP)

University of Alabama faculty members were threatened by department leaders Aug. 24 with “serious consequences” if they shared news of coronavirus infections on campus.

Arizona State University, which boasts one of the largest student enrollment numbers in the country, divulged its first case count in the past week amid public pressure after the school’s president refused to.

With coronavirus clusters popping up around campus in August, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill told its student newspaper it would not reveal the number of people infected in the outbreaks.

As students file onto campuses across the country for in-person classes, these universities and others tightened transparency, wielding one or a combination of two significant federal laws: FERPA, a federal law protecting the privacy of student education records, and HIPAA, a federal health privacy rule.

But these laws do not apply to withholding overall coronavirus campus data, three legal experts told The Washington Post.

Read the full story here.

By Meryl Kornfield