Sunday, September 27, 2020

US deaths; NY antibody test; Paycheck Protection

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An apparently coronavirus-free luxury cruise ship was ending its 15-week odyssey in a Spanish port Monday while at home the U.S. death toll rose by almost 2,000 and political leaders bickered over lockdowns, bailouts and protests.

In Washington, a deal appeared close to provide an additional $300 billion for small businesses crushed by the stay-at-home orders. The deal would also provide more funding for hospitals and for testing. In New York, public health officials planned to kick off the most extensive antibody testing campaign in the nation.

In Pennsylvania’s capital city of Harrisburg a protest was planned Monday by opponents of  Gov. Tom Wolf’s restrictive stay-at-home order. Last week, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a bill that would reopen some businesses, but Wolf, a Democrat, has said he will veto it. Similar protests have been springing up across the nation in recent days as jobless numbers rise and patience thins.

The U.S. death toll surpassed 40,000 with more than 750,000 confirmed cases, according to John Hopkins University data. The number of worldwide cases was nearing 2.5 million with over 165,300 deaths.

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

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More of us may have had COVID-19 and didn’t know it

New research suggests that many people have had the coronavirus without symptoms, fueling hope that it will turn out to be much less lethal than feared. But without widespread antibody testing it would also make it difficult to know who around you may be contagious, complicating decisions about returning to work, school and normal life.

 In the last week, reports of “silent infections” have come from a homeless shelter in Boston, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, pregnant women at a New York hospital, several European countries and California. The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 25% of infected people might not have symptoms. Pentagon officials say it may be as high as 60% to 70% among military personnel.

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Pennsylvania latest state to see protests

Organizers of groups opposed to the shutdown of schools and businesses in Pennsylvania during the coronavirus crisis promised a socially distant rally at noon Monday at the Capitol to call for “restarting the economy.” Matthew Bellis co-founded a group called ReOpen PA that he says has amassed more than 18,000 members. He told KDKA radio that protesters plan to “circle the wagons around the state House to let them know, honk horns in their cars that we want to reopen PA.”

Gov. Tom Wolf released a phase-in plan last week aimed at reopening the state, but provided few details and no timeline. Limitations on mass gatherings will remain in place for the duration of the reopening process, and a “strong testing regime” must be in place in areas that are permitted to reopen.

Trump ‘OK’ with Las Vegas closures despite mayor’s outrage

President Donald Trump said he’s “OK” with Nevada’s closure of nonessential businesses, which has shuttered Las Vegas casinos, days after the city’s mayor called the shutdown “total insanity.” Trump gave qualified support Sunday to Nevada’s Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak’s closure amid the coronavirus pandemic. Nevada has 3,728 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 155 deaths. Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who identifies as an independent, called on Sisolak to allow businesses to reopen.

“They closed a big hotel down in Nevada that I have in Las Vegas. It’s a very severe step he took. I’m OK with it,” said Trump. “But you could call that one either way.”

– Bryan Alexander

New York state to begin mass antibody testing campaign 

New York state will begin antibody testing thousands of residents this week to try and determine the breadth of the coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday. Cuomo said a test was approved by the FDA and that testing will take place “in the most aggressive  way in the nation.”

Antibody testing reflects how many people have been infected by the virus. Health experts hope the antibodies provide people with defenses against COVID-19. Cuomo said new cases, hospitalizations and intubations all appear to be receding in his state. The most recent daily death toll, 507, was down almost 10% from the previous day and represented the lowest total in more than two weeks.

“All indications are that we are on the descent,” he said of the outbreak. “That is in all the numbers.”

Deal near on money for small businesses, hospitals, testing

A deal with Democrats to replenish an emergency small-business loan program could be hammered out Monday and Congress could approve additional funding for the program this week, President Donald Trump said Sunday. The program designed to keep paychecks going out to workers amid the economic shutdown caused by coronavirus was paused Thursday after it burned through its initial $350 billion. Democrats have been holding out, demanding the bill include money for hospitals and testing.

“We have some very good negotiations going on right now,” Trump said Sunday.

– William Cummings

Ship wraps up 15-week cruise with no reported virus cases

Several horror stories have emerged in recent weeks from cruise ships struggling to find welcoming ports while battling sometimes deadly waves of coronavirus. Not so the Costa Deliziosa, whose passengers began disembarking in Barcelona on Monday after traveling  the globe for 15 weeks while the new coronavirus spread on land. Owner Costa Crociere, an Italian company, says the ship has no cases of the COVID-19 virus on board. The boat sailed the last five weeks with virtually no human contact with the outside world. Hundreds of the boat’s 1,831 passengers, including 168 Spaniards, were expected to get off the boat in Spain and the rest were expected to do so in the next and last stop, in Genoa, Italy.

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Prince Philip applauds essential workers; Brits scramble for PPE

Queen Elizabeth II’s husband issued a rare public statement, praising those tackling the new coronavirus pandemic and keeping essential services running. Prince Philip, who turns 99 in June, applauded the “vital and urgent” work of medical and science professionals as well as people working in food production, garbage collection, and postal and delivery services.

The shoutout comes as hospital organizations are slamming Britain’s government for its failure to give medical staff appropriate clothing and equipment to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. With so many promises dashed, Chris Hopson of the NHS Providers told the BBC there is “relatively low confidence” that a shipment of 400,000 surgical gowns overdue from Turkey will arrive Monday. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says he’s hopeful “that later today that flight will take off and we will get those gowns.’’

When will a second wave hit, and what will it look like?

Before the first deadly phase of the COVID-19 pandemic has run its course, scientists are worried about the second wave of the disease. COVID-19’s sweet spot could be the same as influenza, roughly October to May, with a peak between October and November, modeling suggests. If it does behave like influenza, it will move to the Southern hemisphere for winter there, then return to the Northern hemisphere for its cold months. 

Until there’s a vaccine “it’s unfortunately not unlikely that we may see a second wave or even a third wave,” said Peter Marks, director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, which oversees vaccines. “I shudder to think of that, but I think we have to be realistic.”

– Elizabeth Weise

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Walmart, Sam’s Club to require employees to wear face masks

Walmart and Sam’s Club will require employees to wear masks or other face coverings starting Monday to prevent the spread of the virus.

Shoppers also will be encouraged to wear face masks as part of the retailers’ updated COVID-19 response. The retail giant announced the changes in a letter sent to employees that was posted on Walmart.com late Friday.

Employees can bring their own masks if they meet certain guidelines or the retailers say they will provide them after employees pass the daily health screens and temperature checks, which were first announced March 31.

– Kelly Tyko

More coronavirus headlines for USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

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