Wednesday, October 28, 2020

March on Washington; masks; 6-foot distance rule


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R-0 may be the most important scientific term you’ve never heard of when it comes to stopping the coronavirus pandemic.


Face masks, sanitizers and temperature checks were in abundance Friday at a racial justice rally that drew thousands to Washington, D.C. Buses from COVID hot spots were discouraged as organizers suggested the would-be rallygoers opt for virtual marching online.

In Britain, a study by clinical researchers said the 6-foot rule of social distancing was outdated and should be based on a variety of factors, including the setting, activity, degree of ventilation and use of face coverings. In some cases, they said, that might mean relaxing the social distance rules.

Elsewhere, college football, certainly, is going to look different this fall amid the pandemic. The new normal means significant limitations on the number of fans able to attend games – if they are able to attend, at all – and also decisions on whether tailgating is permitted prior to kickoff.

As for K-12 schools, urban districts, almost 80% will open remote-only, according to a new report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education, an education research organization in Washington. Those districts often serve communities of color, which have been disproportionately hammered by the virus. Polling shows many Black parents would prefer to learn from home.

Some significant developments:

  • Americans and Brits are none too pleased with how their governments have responded to the pandemic, survey shows.
  • In state and federal prisons, more than 1,000 inmates and staffers have died.
  • Officials at the University of Arizona said they found the coronavirus in a dorm’s wastewater and were able to prevent an outbreak.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 5.8 million confirmed infections and 181,000 deaths. Worldwide, there have been more than 832,000 deaths and 24 million cases, according to John Hopkins University data

📰 What we’re reading: They’re inaccurate and not everyone with COVID has a fever. So, why are we still doing temperature checks?

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to the Daily Briefing.

California governor issues new 4-tier framework for reopening businesses

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced a new framework for reopening California businesses that were shuttered in July amid soaring coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. He called the system “more stringent” but “more steady,” as it will allow counties to modify their activity based on the spread of COVID-19. 

Case rates and test positivity are the crucial metrics to be used by the state within a four-tier system to determine allowable reopening. Newsom said this is a simpler approach than what’s currently used, with a commitment to health equity.

The four tiers include:

• Purple (widespread): Most non-essential indoor business operations are closed; more than 7 daily new cases per 100,000 residents; a positivity rate of 8% or higher

• Red (substantial): Some non-essential indoor business operations are closed; 4-7 daily new cases per 100,000 residents; a 5-8% positivity rate

• Orange (moderate): Some business operations are open with modifications , 1-3.9 daily new cases per 100,000 residents; a 2-4.9% positivity rate

• Yellow (minimal): Most businesses open with modifications; less than 1 daily new case per 100,000; a positive rate of less than 2%.

If a county fails to meet their current tier’s metrics for two weeks, they will move back to the prior tier, Newsom said.

Heath and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said the announcement is about a framework, not reopening. “This is just an important message to remind people that we’re not out of the woods,” Ghaly said.

– Nicole Hayden, Melissa Daniels, Palm Springs Desert Sun

Thousands at D.C. rights rally take temperature checks, don face masks 

As thousands converged on Washington on Friday to march for law enforcement reform and voting rights, event organizers took temperature checks at the main entrance and required the use of face masks. Hand-washing stations were made available.

Buses from COVID hot spots were discouraged from attending the March on Washington as organizers pointed to their virtual march programming, where people from around the country could tune in to hear the speeches.

“We are socially distant, but spiritually united,” Martin Luther King III said, as he spoke to the crowd from the Lincoln Memorial.

Minneapolis native Rebecca Anderson Fly, 63, said her family took precautions against COVID 19, including driving two days instead of flying and staying in an Airbnb instead of a hotel. She said she’d had her temperature checked at least three times on the way in.

“It’s worth the risk,” Fly said. “It is absolutely a historical event that hopefully won’t have to happen again.”

– Grace Hauck

Study: 6-foot social distance rule should be revised based on activity, air flow 

Six feet of social distance might not be enough to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, according to a new study by a British medical journal, but in some cases may be more than is necessary.

The report issued this week by The BMJ includes a chart applicable to a range of activities and calls for a more “nuanced model” for social distance based on the setting, activity, degree of ventilation and use of face coverings.

“Rigid safe distancing rules are an oversimplification based on outdated science and experiences of past viruses,” the team, led by Oxford clinical researcher Nicholas Jones. In some cases like singing, coughing and sneezing, the report says, some droplets can travel as far as 24 feet.

“Instead of single, fixed physical distance rules, we propose graded recommendations that better reflect the multiple factors that combine to determine risk,” the team writes.

This, they say, would affect not only highest risk situations, but also “greater freedom in lower risk settings, “potentially enabling a return toward normality in some aspects of social and economic life.”

14-day quarantine ordered for 8 Greek chapters at Indiana University 

All Greek houses, as well as the Evans Scholars and Christian Student Fellowship houses at Indiana University, have been directed to suspend organizational activities because of positive COVID-19 tests. In addition, the Monroe County Health Department has notified the members of eight Greek chapter houses that they need to quarantine themselves.

The suspension of organizational activities – with the exceptions of dining and housing for live-in members – is to remain in place until at least Sept. 14, 2020. This suspension stems from what an IU press release described as an “alarming increase of positive tests.” The release did not provide specific numbers. IU residence halls are not included in the suspension, according to the IU release.

The 14-day quarantine applies to the IU chapter houses of the following Greek organizations: Alpha Delta Pi, Alpha Sigma Phi, Beta Theta Pi, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Phi Gamma Delta, Phi Kappa Psi, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and Theta Chi.

About 2,600 students live in Greek, Evans Scholars and Christian Student Fellowship houses on IU’s Bloomington campus, according to the news release. Total enrollment for the campus is about 42,000.

– Michael Reschke, Bloomington Herald-Times

Florida drops to 3rd place in national COVID-19 cases as Texas surges

For the first time since July 25, Florida no longer claims the second highest number of coronavirus cases in the nation, according to a coronavirus tracking site operated by Johns Hopkins University.

With 691,821 confirmed cases as of Friday, California leads the nation. It is the most populous state in the country, followed by Texas and then Florida.

Florida, with 611,991, dropped into third place behind California and Texas, with 614,549, after cases in the Lone Star State continued to spike in recent days while those in Florida have held steady.

But Texas’ hold on the No. 2 spot is tenuous. On Friday morning, it had reported only about 650 more cases than Florida.

– Jane Musgrave, the Palm Beach Post

LA to file criminal charges for Hollywood Hills violations of large party ban

Los Angeles plans to file criminal charges over recent parties in the Hollywood Hills, held despite a city ban on large gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.

City attorney Mike Feuer plans to announce a crackdown Friday against so-called party houses, including one reportedly rented by TikTok celebrities Bryce Hall and Blake Gray. 

Mayor Eric Garcetti last week authorized the city to shut off water and power to the home after they repeatedly held large and raucous parties in violation of public health orders aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. He says with bars closed in town, large house parties can become “super spreaders.”

Los Angeles County has recorded nearly 237,000 coronavirus cases and more than 5,700 confirmed deaths, making it the hardest-hit county in the state.

More than 1,000 inmates, staff, have died of the coronavirus in state, federal prisons

More than 1,000 inmates and staff at state and federal prisons have died from COVID-19 while new cases among prisoners, which had slowed in June, has reached an all-time high, according The Marshall Project.

The project, which is aided by The Associated Press in its reporting of prison-related coronavirus cases, said 927 prisoners had died as of Aug. 25, a 4% increase in a week. The number of inmate cases hit 108,118, representing a 5% increase from the previous week.

At least 72 deaths have been reported among prison staff out of 24,029 cases.

“The growth in recent weeks was driven by big jumps in prisoners testing positive in Florida, California and the federal Bureau of Prisons as well as outbreaks in Arkansas, Hawaii and Oklahoma,” The Marshall Project reported Thursday.

Overprescribing antibiotics to treat COVID-19 could lead to ‘medical hell’

Infectious disease experts are concerned that overprescribing antibiotics to treat COVID-19 could lead to drug-resistant bacteria and expose patients to dangerous side effects.

Calvin Kunin, an emeritus professor of medicine at Ohio State University and a former president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said one drug touted by President Donald Trump could lead to widespread resistance: azithromycin.

“Azithromycin is a very, very valuable drug,” he said. “You remove azithromycin, and what do you have left? I call this the road to medical hell.”

Trump endorsed the drug in April as a medication that “can clean out the lungs,” especially when paired with another of his favorite drugs, the anti-malaria hydroxychloroquine. After Trump made his announcement, use of these two drugs spiked.

Prescriptions of the drug combination increased dramatically – up 539% in one week alone – from mid-March to mid-April, according to, a Cambridge, Massachusetts subsidiary of Swoop, which provides health care data and analytics. Read more about this story at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  

– John Fauber and Daphne Chen, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Americans, Brits not impressed by national coronavirus responses

The USA and United Kingdom stand out in a new survey as two nations whose populations are split over how well their governments have handled the pandemic.

Across 14 mostly European countries, people were canvassed for attitudes about whether their leaders did a good job responding to the coronavirus: 52% of Americans and 54% of Britons have a negative or “bad” impression, according to the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan “fact tank” that carried out the survey of advanced economies. 

This compares with a median of about 7-in-10 – 73% – who give their nation’s coronavirus response a positive or “good” review in Denmark, Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea, Italy and Sweden. More than half of those surveyed in Belgium, France, Japan and Spain look favorably on the job their government has done responding to the pandemic, the surveyed says.

– Kim Hjelmgaard

In-person vs. in-school learning: What is America doing?

Dr.  Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has said reopening schools is best for kids, but districts shouldn’t bring people together if the rate of local positive virus cases exceeds 10%. 

“You go in, people get infected, and – boom – you get shut down,” Fauci said in a webinar hosted by Healthline, a medical news website.

America’s schools are lurching into a new pandemic school year over the next few weeks.

Among urban districts, almost 80% will open remote-only, according to a new report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education, an education research organization in Washington. Those districts often serve communities of color, which have been disproportionately hammered by the virus. Polling shows many Black parents would prefer to learn from home. Read more.

– Erin Richards

To test, or not to test? CDC alters guidelines for asymptomatic people, again

Following criticism from the medical community, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention walked back looser guidelines on testing that were issued earlier this week. Some scientists said the change was made for political rather than scientific reasons. 

Before Monday, the CDC website said testing was recommended “for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the virus that causes COVID-19.

Monday, that was changed to say that someone who was in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes but didn’t have symptoms does not “necessarily need a test.”

Guidance released Thursday by CDC Director Robert Redfield says those who come in contact with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 patient can be tested, even if they don’t show symptoms.

– Elizabeth Weise and Adrianna Rodriguez

How college football schools are handling attendance and tailgating

The challenge of playing college football during a pandemic is requiring schools to adjust the traditional game day experience for activities inside and outside stadiums this fall. 

The new normal means significant limitations on the amount of fans able to attend games – if they are able to attend, at all – and also decisions on whether tailgating is permitted prior to kickoff.

Many schools are opting to have stadiums empty. Others are allowing fan attendance, albeit with significantly limited percentage of the seats to be filled. Most will have bans on the pregame gatherings outside the stadium that could make social distancing difficult. Read more on where each of the Power Five schools stand.

– Tom Schad

Navajo Nation reports 499th death, plus 4 new COVID-19 cases

Navajo Nation health officials have reported four new confirmed cases of COVID-19 with one more additional death. That brings the total number of people infected to 9,601 with the known death toll now at 499 as of Thursday.

Navajo Department of Health officials said 93,565 people have been tested for the coronavirus and 7,027 have recovered.

The Navajo Nation lifted its stay-at-home order on Aug. 16, but is asking residents to leave their homes only for emergencies or essential activities.

Much of the Navajo Nation has been closed since March as the coronavirus swept through the vast reservation that extends into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.

University of Arizona officials find virus after testing a dorm’s wastewater

The University of Arizona found early signs of COVID-19 in a student dorm this week by testing wastewater and were able to head off an outbreak there, school leaders announced Thursday.

Researchers at the school have looked for traces of the virus in wastewater samples taken from the greater Tucson area since March and have gathered samples from 20 buildings on the UA campus since school started.

Earlier this week, data collected from the dorms found higher viral loads in wastewater samples taken from Likins Hall. A team led by Dr. Ian Pepper, director of the UA’s Water and Energy Sustainable Technology Center, tested the samples five more times to confirm the findings, said UA President Dr. Robert Robbins. 

The university on Wednesday tested the entire dorm, about 311 people, and found two positive cases, Robbins said. The two individuals, who were asymptomatic, are now in isolation, preventing further spread in Likins Hall.

– Paulina Pineda and Rachel Leingang, Arizona Republic

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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Contributing: The Associated Press


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