Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Beach access increases; treatment coming this week

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These individuals, from six to 95-year-old, fought the coronavirus and won.

USA TODAY

States across the country took steps this weekend to relax social distancing, particularly restrictions that were keeping people from exercising outdoors.

Access to beaches, parks, golf courses, boat ramps and more is on the rise across the country, even as leaders warn that restrictions could come back if coronavirus cases spike. These hints of normalcy come alongside grim reminders of the seriousness of the health crisis: The iconic Kentucky Derby has been rescheduled for the first time since World War II, possible therapies for the virus are still experimental, and the death toll continues to climb.

Our live blog is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news, and get updates in your inbox with The Daily Briefing.

Here are the most important developments of the day: 

  • The shipping industry is the latest business sector to face high-profile scrutiny for worker safety concerns: Multiple FedEx workers’ symptoms have turned fatal. The company says it has made several safety improvements at the hub where at least five fatalities have occurred, according to family members.
  • As the U.S. surpassed a milestone of 1 million known cases of COVID-19 last week, virus rates vary dramatically from one neighborhood to another, based in part on race and income, a USA TODAY analysis of ZIP code data shows.

In other news: You may have heard about something called a “Murder Hornet” being spotted in the U.S. It’s real. You should not panic.

A question you might have: Are researchers working on ultraviolet light “treatment” for COVID-19? Here’s our fact-check on the topic.

Britain PM Boris Johnson: Doctors discussed announcing my death

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent three days in the intensive care unit during his week-long hospitalization battling the coronavirus in April, said his condition was so critical that at one point doctors discussed how to announce his death to the nation.

“The bad moment came when it was 50-50 whether they were going to have to put a tube down my windpipe,” Johnson said in an emotional interview with the British newspaper The Sun. “That was when it got a bit . . . they were starting to think about how to handle it presentationally.”

Johnson, 55, was diagnosed with the virus on March 26 but acknowledged he was initially “in denial” about its seriousness. He was admitted to a London hospital April 5 and moved to the ICU the next day, getting “liters and liters of oxygen.” 

“It was hard to believe that in just a few days my health had deteriorated to this extent,” said Johnson, who named his newborn son after two doctors who helped save his life. He left the hospital April 12.

Johnson’s administration has been criticized for a lack of urgency in its response to the pandemic, which has killed 28,446 Brits. Only the U.S. (67,447) and Italy (28,884) have suffered more deaths.

The prime minister is expected to announce a plan to reopen the country and restart the economy this week. 

Potential COVID-19 treatment remdesivir will be available this week

Remdesivir, the first possible scientifically proven treatment for battling COVID-19, will become available for U.S. hospitals in the coming week, says the CEO of the biotech company producing the drug.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday morning, Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O’Day said the company had donated 1.5 million vials to the U.S. government, enough to treat 150,000 to 200,000 patients.

Federal health officials will outlay the drug “based on things like ICU beds, where the course of the epidemic is in the United States,” O’Day said. “They will begin shipping tens of thousands of treatment courses out early this week.”

Last week, early results from a global study conducted by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found patients given the experimental drug remdesivir recovered faster and may be less likely to die. Patients who received remdesivir had a 31% faster recovery time than those who received a placebo, the study found. 

– Mike Snider

Northeast states including New York and Delaware form PPE supply chain

Seven northeast states will create a regional supply chain for personal protective equipment and medical supplies in an effort to cut down on competition with each other and save money.

Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island will also develop policies for protective gear across their health care systems in the likelihood of a second wave of COVID-19. The move comes after the states banded together last month to form a regional council to coordinate a gradual easing of coronavirus restrictions.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy praised ongoing inter-state efforts Sunday, saying, “Regional cooperation matters so much. The notion of coordinating together as a region makes sense.”

– Dustin Racioppi and Alexis Shanes

Officials warn against beach crowding amid scattered protests

California authorities pleaded for beachgoers to follow social distancing rules over the weekend after Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday temporarily shuttered Orange County’s coastline, a move he said was prompted by overcrowded beaches last weekend.

At least in some places, officials were pleased with results. In San Diego, where people can exercise on the beach but not linger, Mayor Kevin Faulconer praised residents for heeding safety restrictions that public health officials have credited for slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

But even as Newsom and others seek a cautious, phased reopening of the state, protesters don’t want to wait. In Huntington Beach, police estimated 2,500 to 3,000 people gathered for May Day on a beachside street. They waved American flags and held signs. Most of them wore no masks and didn’t practice social distancing. 

– Joel Shannon and Mike Davis

Healthcare workers need care, too

More than 9,200 healthcare providers have been infected by the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The mental toll the virus is taking on the frontline workers is harder to quantify but no less real.

The suicide of Lorna Breen, an emergency room doctor in Manhattan who treated patients with COVID-19 and later contracted the disease herself, underscored the psychological risks hospital staffs face during the pandemic.

“We need to break the culture of silence and let people know it’s OK not to have it all together all the time,” said Dr. Jay Kaplan, an emergency room physician and wellness specialist in New Orleans.

– Rick Jervis

More airlines requiring face coverings

Spirit Airlines is the latest domestic airline to require passengers to wear face coverings to prevent spread of the coronavirus. Starting Monday, passengers on United, Delta and JetBlue will have to wear them as well. Spirit’s new policy will take effect on May 11, the same day as American, Southwest and Alaska. Frontier Airlines said it will require passengers to wear face masks starting May 8.

United said it would provide the required face coverings to passengers starting Monday. Spirit passengers will have to bring their own masks, and will have to wear them at the airport and throughout the flight. Very young children will be exempt. 

– Curtis Tate

Oklahoma mayor eases mask requirement after violent threats

The mayor of an Oklahoma city amended a face mask requirement Friday after businesses reported employees being physically threatened by patrons who didn’t want to wear masks.  According to the Stillwater News Press, Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce said the order had to be changed after just three hours.

“In the short time beginning on May 1, 2020, that face coverings have been required for entry into stores/restaurants, store employees have been threatened with physical violence and showered with verbal abuse,” Joyce said. “In addition, there has been one threat of violence using a firearm. This has occurred in three short hours and in the face of clear medical evidence that face coverings helps contain the spread of COVID-19.”

Official ousted after Facebook post about ‘culling the herd’ 

A Northern California city official was removed from office after posting on social media that, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the sick, old and homeless should be left to meet their “natural course.”

On Friday, the Antioch City Council voted unanimously to oust Ken Turnage II from his seat on the city planning commission after his Facebook post on “culling the herd” sparked outrage, according to NBC Bay Area reports.

The news outlet reports the now-removed post expounded on the ideas of herd mentality, before adding that in regard to homeless people, the virus would “fix what is a significant burden on our society and resources that can be used.”

Man arrested for camping on Disney’s Discovery Island

Florida deputies have arrested a man who had been living out his quarantine on a shuttered Disney World island.

Richard McGuire, 42, from Mobile, Alabama was arrested Thursday after camping on Walt Disney World’s Discovery Island, according to an arrest report obtained by USA TODAY. He was banned from all Disney properties and charged with a misdemeanor for trespassing. 

According to the report, McGuire had been sleeping in one of the island’s buildings and referred to the property as a “tropical paradise.” 

Disney World has been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus.

– Morgan Hines, Cara Kelly

More coronavirus headlines from USA TODAY:

State reopenings: Ohio takes small steps; Colorado OKs restaurants

Ohio’s loosening of stay-at-home orders Friday represents Gov. Mike DeWine’s cautious approach, starting with an easing of rules for hospitals, dentists and veterinarians, followed Monday with the opening of construction and manufacturing. Retail and customer service shops will remain shuttered until May 12.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen states — including Colorado and Louisiana — ushered in May by allowing restaurants, stores or some other business to reopen, but under tight restrictions to keep people apart. Find the latest on your state here.

More COVID-19 information:

Workers face “uphill battle” proving firms liable if they catch COVID-19 as economy reopens. Read more. 

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