Trump’s promise of a vaccine within the next few months startled Democrats and some medical professionals who worried the administration is dangerously speeding up the normal timeline for developing and testing a vaccine in an effort to win over voters.
Read more here.
— Hayley Miller
A wedding in Maine that violated public health guidance is now linked to three coronavirus deaths and 147 infections, according to the state’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The wedding reception, which had about 65 attendees, was held indoors on Aug. 7 in violation of the state’s rule that indoor gatherings can have no more than 50 people due to the pandemic. The wedding reportedly led to an outbreak at a county jail and another at a nursing home.
The three people who died did not attend the wedding, according to NBC News.
— Sebastian Murdock
The number of U.S. deaths due to the coronavirus is expected to double by Jan. 1, according to a new report by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
The latest grim projection shows that more than 400,000 Americans could die before the end of the year. So far, the virus has claimed the lives of more than 185,000 Americans.
“The worst is yet to come,” Dr. Christopher Murray, director of IHME, told reporters on a conference call Friday. “I don’t think perhaps that’s a surprise, although I think there’s a natural tendency as we’re a little bit in the Northern hemisphere summer, to think maybe the epidemic is going away.”
The IHME model, which has been cited by the White House coronavirus task force, said deaths could be reduced by 30% if more Americans wore face masks. That decrease could be hard to reach, however, with a president who refuses to take wearing masks seriously and has downplayed the pandemic from the start.
— Sebastian Murdock
A college professor in Buenos Aires, Argentina, collapsed and died Wednesday while teaching an online class. She had been battling symptoms of COVID-19 for weeks, local media reported.
Paola De Simone, 46, passed out while teaching a class via video conference at the Universidad Argentina de la Empresa. When students noticed something was wrong, they reportedly asked De Simone for her address so they could send medical help, but she only responded “I can’t” before passing out. She was later pronounced dead.
— Lydia O’Connor
New Zealand has reported its first death from coronavirus in more than three months.
Health authorities said a man in his 50s died at an Auckland hospital where he was being treated for the virus after a small outbreak in the city that began last month.
A lockdown in Auckland has been eased, but crowd sizes are limited across the country and masks mandated on public transport.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country will keep its current restrictions until at least mid-September.
“As with last time, a cautious approach is the best long-term strategy to get our economy open and freedoms back faster in the long term,” she said.
New Zealand has reported more than 1,700 cases and 23 deaths.
— PA Media
Silvio Berlusconi has been hospitalized in Milan with symptoms of coronavirus after revealing he had tested positive early Thursday.
HuffPost Italy reports (in Italian) that the four-time former prime minister of Italy is not in intensive care but in his “usual room on the sixth floor” where he has stayed during previous hospitalizations.
“[Berlusconi] was hospitalized last night. A small precautionary hospitalization was needed to monitor the progress of COVID-19 but he is fine,” Licia Ronzulli, a member of Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italia party said.
The 83-year-old has vowed to continue to campaign for local elections scheduled for Sept. 20-21.
Italy, a former global epicenter of the pandemic, has recorded over 270,000 confirmed cases and 35,500 deaths.
— James Martin
The British government’s flagship COVID-19 contact tracing program is facing fresh criticism after it posted its worst performance on a key target since the service began.
Independent scientific advisers to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson have repeatedly warned that stopping the spread of the disease requires more than 80% of “close contacts” of people with COVID-19 reached by the system to be identified and then told to self-isolate.
But figures for the latest weekly update show that just 69% of those “close contacts” — defined as being within two meters of a coronavirus carrier for more than 15 minutes — are actually being reached in England.
The new findings came as it emerged that capacity problems with the “Test and Trace” service mean that those requesting a test have been directed to centers hundreds of miles away. The government has now said it will limit the service to offer only test centers that are within a 75-mile radius.
The U.K. recorded 1,508 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, up from 1,295 a day earlier. The death toll climbed to 41,514, an increase of 10 from the day before.
— Paul Waugh
French Prime Minister Jean Castex has announced a “historic” 100 billion euro ($118 billion) economic stimulus plan to revive France’s economy.
The package equates to around 4% of gross domestic product, meaning that, as a percentage of GDP, France is plowing more public money into its economy than any other big European country.
HuffPost France reports (in French) that the focus is on job creation, getting young people into work and transitioning the economy to green energy.
Castex said the government plans to create at least 160,000 jobs next year. “This recovery plan aims to keep our economy from collapsing and unemployment exploding,” he said.
France’s recession has also been one of Europe’s deepest. The country has so far recorded 30,686 deaths from COVID-19 and 327,126 infections, the 14th highest number of cases globally.
— James Martin
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has tested positive for coronavirus after returning from a holiday on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia.
HuffPost Italy reports (in Italian) that Berlusconi doesn’t have a fever but is self-isolating in his house in the town of Arcore, north of Milan. Two of Berlusconi’s children have also tested positive, according to Italy’s ANSA news agency.
The 83-year-old four-time prime minister has vowed to continue to campaign for candidates from his center-right Forza Italia party at local elections scheduled for Sept. 20-21.
“Unfortunately, this too has happened to me, but I carry on fighting,” Berlusconi was quoted by his staff as telling supporters during a video meeting.
Sardinia has suffered a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in August as tourists from all over the country descended on its beaches.
Italy has been hit by one of Europe’s worst outbreaks of COVID-19 with over 270,000 confirmed cases and 35,500 deaths. The country had managed to contain the contagion since a peak in fatalities and infections in March and April, but has recorded a steady increase in new cases in August, with experts blaming gatherings associated with holidays and nightlife.
— James Martin
Iowa State University said Wednesday it will change its controversial decision to allow 25,000 fans to attend an upcoming football game. The game will now be played in an empty stadium.
The school had drawn widespread criticism when it said it would allow thousands of people into the stadium for the season opener ― set to be played Sept. 12 against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette ― amid the ongoing pandemic.
Athletic director Jamie Pollard announced the reversal in a statement.
“President [Wendy] Wintersteen shared with me on Tuesday evening that, after weighing feedback she has received from the community, she has decided to reverse the decision,” Pollard said. “As a result, we will play the season opener without fans.”
At a press conference shortly before Iowa State announced its reversal, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) defended the school’s decision to allow fans at the Sept. 12 game, urging those who felt unsafe not to go.
“If you have underlying conditions and you’re part of a vulnerable population, maybe I wouldn’t go to the Iowa State football game next week,” Reynolds said Wednesday.
The state has seen a recent spike in cases as college classes have started. The White House coronavirus task force warned of the dire increase in an Aug. 30 report.
“Iowa is in the red zone for cases, indicating more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population last week, with the highest rate in the country,” the report said. “Iowa is in the red zone for test positivity, indicating a rate above 10%, with the 5th highest rate in the country, an increase in both cases and test positivity over the last week.”
― Sebastian Murdock
As millions of renters face eviction due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order on Tuesday temporarily stopping certain evictions through the end of the year.
Renters covered under the CDC’s order must meet four criteria:
Have an income of $198,000 or less for couples filing jointly, or $99,000 for single filers.
Demonstrate they have sought government assistance to make their rental payments.
Affirmatively declare they are unable to pay rent because of COVID-19 hardships.
Affirm they are likely to become homeless if they are evicted.
States and municipalities have issued eviction moratoriums, but many are due to expire, while the economic effects of the pandemic could persist for years. Some housing advocates have called on elected officials to extend the moratoriums indefinitely.
— Marina Fang
Senior ministers in Spain have played down fears of a new lockdown after several regions recorded higher infection rates than at the peak of the pandemic.
Tuesday’s update from Spain’s health ministry raised the tally since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic by 8,115 cases to 470,973 overall, more than any other western European nation.
HuffPost Spain reports (in Spanish) that several regions, including Madrid, Andalusia and the Basque Country, have already exceeded their daily infection records, registering more positive cases at the end of August (around 3,500, 950 and 750, respectively) than at the end of March in the peak of the pandemic.
“Right now we are detecting almost the same number of cases as at the peak of late March and early April,” Fernando Simón, director of the Center for Health Alerts and Emergencies at the Spain’s Ministry of Health, said Monday.
However, the surge in infections has not led to heightened pressure on hospitals, while Spain’s mortality rate remains far below the March-April peak, when nearly 900 daily deaths were reported.
The latest data showed 159 deaths were registered in the past seven days, bringing the total up to 29,152.
The reduced death toll reflects the preponderance of new infections hitting younger people who display little or no symptoms of illness due to their stronger immune systems, whereas older people comprised most of the cases in March-April.
“From a public health perspective the current situation does not call for a new lockdown,” Health Minister Salvador Illa said. “If we do things right, if we follow the recommendations of experts, it won’t be necessary.
— Marina Velasco and James Martin
Australia has fallen into its deepest economic slump on record as coronavirus lockdowns paralyze business, with fresh outbreaks threatening any immediate recovery.
New data shows the country’s economy shrank 7% in the three months to end-June from a 0.3% decline in the March quarter. The country joins the U.S., Japan, U.K. and Germany in technical recession, defined as two straight quarters of decline.
More than a million people have lost their jobs since March when Australia shut down entire sectors of the economy.
“This crisis is like no other,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters in Canberra. “Today’s national accounts confirm the devastating impact on the Australian economy from COVID-19. Our record run of 28 consecutive years of economic growth has now officially come to an end.”
The figures come as Australia’s second most-populous state of Victoria remains in lockdown while international borders are shut too.
Australia has detected nearly 26,000 infections since the pandemic began. The national death tally rose to 663 on Wednesday after Victoria reported six deaths in the last 24 hours. Read more
— Reuters and HuffPost Australia
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed legislation late Monday that protects millions of tenants who may be struggling economically during the pandemic from eviction.
Under the legislation, tenants cannot be evicted before Feb. 1, 2021, as a result of rent owed due to a coronavirus-related hardship that occurred between March 4 and Aug. 31, 2020, according to a press release issued by Newsom’s office. If the hardship occurred between Sept. 1, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2021, tenants must pay 25% of the rent.
“COVID-19 has impacted everyone in California — but some bear much more of the burden than others, especially tenants struggling to stitch together the monthly rent, and they deserve protection from eviction,” Newsom said in a statement. “This new law protects tenants from eviction for non-payment of rent and helps keep homeowners out of foreclosure as a result of economic hardship caused by this terrible pandemic.”
Newsom called for a “real, federal commitment of significant new funding” to help renters and homeowners struggling to make ends meet during the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Extending the national eviction moratorium has been a highly contested component of the stalled congressional negotiations on a new economic stimulus package.
California has recorded the highest number of coronavirus infections of any state with more than 712,000 cases. August was California’s deadliest month of the pandemic with more than 3,700 reported deaths — an 18% increase from July, The Los Angeles Times reported.
— Hayley Miller
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been accused of “Trump playbook” tactics after he declared that “huge numbers” of Britons returned to work on Tuesday — despite not having any figures to back up his claims.
In remarks recorded by TV cameras, Johnson told senior ministers that many more workers were back at work, HuffPost UK reported.
“People are going back to the office in huge numbers across our country — and quite right, too,” Johnson said.
But as social media users pointed to empty streets and train stations in big cities, Johnson’s official spokesperson admitted that there were no publicly available statistics supporting the claim.
Asked for evidence for the “huge numbers” remarks, the spokesperson said: “It is too soon for us to be able to share figures with you on people returning to work today, [but] the message from the PM is he recognizes the importance that returning to work has in stimulating the economy.”
The spokesperson said that figures on the numbers of people using public transport had yet to be provided by the Department for Transport.
— Paul Waugh
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have committed to donating $300 million toward boosting election infrastructure to make the voting process safer and more reliable as the coronavirus pandemic continues, Axios reported Tuesday.
The bulk of the donation — about $250 million — will go to the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which will regrant funds to local jurisdictions nationwide to assist with staffing, training and acquiring the equipment needed for polling locations. The other $50 million will go to the Center for Election Innovation & Research, which focuses on ensuring the security of elections.
“The more I’ve focused on this election, the more important I’ve felt it is both to make sure local counties and states have the resources they need to handle these unprecedented conditions, and that people are aware that the infrastructure is in place to make every vote count so they can accept the result of the election as legitimate,” Zuckerberg, whose net worth reportedly surpassed $100 billion earlier this month, told Axios.
– Hayley Miller
The learning gap between disadvantaged pupils and their better-off peers has increased by 46% in the UK, a new survey has found.
The poll of nearly 3,000 school leaders and teachers added the figure likely to be an “under-estimate.” Teachers estimated on average that their pupils were three months behind in their studies, the survey said.
However, more than half (53%) of those teaching in the poorest schools in England reported their students were “four months or more” behind in their learning, compared to 15% of teachers in wealthier settings, HuffPost UK reports.
The majority of British pupils had been expected to learn at home throughout the 2019/20 summer term, but teachers reported that only 38% returned their last piece of set work in July, compared to 42% in May.
The survey comes as many students in the UK return to classrooms this week for the first time since lockdown.
— Chris York
Wearing a face mask in most workplaces has become mandatory in France, as figures reveal new COVID-19 infections surged by almost 50% in August, the highest monthly tally since the beginning of the outbreak earlier this year.
HuffPost France reports (in French) that employers will need to provide masks to workers, which will need to be worn in closed and shared spaces, meeting rooms and corridors. French companies will have around a week to adopt the strict new mask rules, Employment Minister Elisabeth Borne said Tuesday, with exceptions for staff working alone, or in open-plan workspaces where there were relatively few staff with big spaces between workers.
France’s cumulative total of COVID-19 infections has reached 281,025 versus 187,919 at the end of July. In August, new cases increased on average by a record 3,003 every day, a figure four times higher than July’s average increase of 746 per day.
The new school year also begins this week in France, with French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Jean Castex saying they will do everything to avoid a new national lockdown.
— James Martin
As students in many U.S. states return to school, including to some in-person classes, the infection rate for children and young adults has been rising across the country, according to data gathered by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
While the numbers vary depending on how each state has collected them, every state in the country has seen some form of an increase in the number of young people who have tested positive for COVID-19. The number of infections involving young people as a proportion of the total number of U.S. cases has been steadily rising since April, when it was about 2% of total cases, to 9.3% as of Aug. 20.
The infection rate for young people is also rising faster than it is for the population as a whole, the report found, showing that the impact of the virus on youths is more grave than initially expected. While children and young adults tend to experience milder symptoms of the virus, they can spread it to their parents, grandparents, teachers and other more at-risk adults.
— Marina Fang
At least 183,000 people nationwide have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus that was first documented in China in December. As of Monday, the U.S. continued to lead the world in the highest number of reported COVID-19 cases and deaths, with Brazil and India trailing behind it.
Read more here.
— Hayley Miller
More than 1,000 students and employees have tested positive for the coronavirus at the University of Alabama since the school resumed in-person classes two weeks ago.
According to a tracking dashboard that monitors positive cases on campus, the school recorded 481 cases from last Tuesday to last Thursday alone. The climbing figures come amid ongoing concerns about schools that have already started or are set to begin their fall semesters while the pandemic continues to ravage the U.S.
In response, the university formally admonished students and issued a two-week ban of off-campus parties and Greek housing meetings.
“The rise we’ve seen in recent days is unacceptable, and if unchecked, threatens our ability to complete the rest of the semester on campus,” UA President Stuart Bell said during a press conference. “Now is the time for action.”
— Nick Visser
The global tally of confirmed coronavirus cases topped 25 million for the first time this weekend, according to data released by Johns Hopkins University.
At least 846,000 people have died during the pandemic.
The U.S. still leads the world in terms of confirmed COVID-19 cases and has now passed 6 million positive tests. At least 183,000 people have died in the states due to the virus.
However, India, a nation of 1.3 billion people, has quickly become a new epicenter of the pandemic. The country reported more than 78,000 new cases on Saturday alone. The rate of growth there now outpaces both the U.S. and Brazil.
To date, India has tallied more than 3.5 million cases and 63,000 deaths.
— Nick Visser
Outbreaks of the coronavirus have been identified at four different sororities at Kansas State University, the Riley County Health Department said Friday.
Greek houses Alpha Delta Pi and Alpha Xi Delta have six cases each, while Kappa Delta and Chi Omega have five cases each.
The new infections come less than two weeks after a fraternity at the university, Phi Delta Theta, was found to have 13 cases of the virus.
More than 350 students at the university are in quarantine less than a month after classes began.
Statewide, Kansas has recorded more than 40,000 cases of the virus and 445 deaths.
Gayle Benson, the 73-year-old owner of both the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans, tested positive for COVID-19.
Benson tested positive at some point in the last few weeks, Saints senior vice president of communications Greg Bensel told The Times-Picayune in New Orleans Friday.
Bensel declined to disclose the extent of Benson’s symptoms.
Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell tested positive in July, the first NFL owner to do so, Yahoo Sports reported.
Saints head coach Sean Payton tested positive in mid-March.
— Ryan Grenoble
For more on the pandemic, go here.