Coronavirus Pandemic

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US Virus Updates: Largest Calif. School Systems to Begin Online; Video Shows Huge Dance Party in Philly

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The United States was grappling with the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world on Monday, as Florida shattered the national record for a state’s largest single-day increase in new confirmed cases.

The Treasury Department reported Monday that the deficit hit $864 billion in June, an amount of red ink that surpasses most annual deficits in the nation's history and is above the previous monthly deficit record of $738 billion in April. That amount was also tied to the trillions of dollars Congress has provided to cushion the impact of the widespread shutdowns that occurred in an effort to limit the spread of the viral pandemic.

Meanwhile, officials in Houston, Texas, called on Gov. Greg Abbott to issue a stay-at-home order as hospitals strain to accommodate the onslaught of patients sick with the new coronavirus.

Deaths have also been rising in the U.S., especially in the South and West, though they are still well below the heights hit in April, according to a recent Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.

Nationwide, there have been more than 3.3 million cases of the coronavirus and over 136,900 deaths, according to a tally by NBC News.

Adm. Brett Giroir, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, called mask-wearing in public, which has been met with resistance in some states and by the president, “absolutely essential” to control the outbreak.

Dozens took to the streets over the weekend to protest Martin County, Florida's, new mask ordinance, including a COVID survivor who lost two friends to the disease. Commissioners said it passed as an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus through the county.

The World Health Organization warned that some who recover from COVID-19 may be able to catch the virus again and that antibodies may wane after several months.

Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.:


2 California School Districts to Begin Year Online; Gov. Orders Bars, Indoor Dining Closed Amid Surge

California’s two largest school districts, Los Angeles and San Diego, will begin the new school year next month but students will not return to campuses due to the threat of the coronavirus.

The districts said in a joint statement Monday they will start the school year with online instruction only but will plan for in-person learning as health conditions allow.

Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest district with about 730,00 students, begins instruction on Aug. 18.

San Diego Unified, which serves approximately 135,000 students, is set to start on Aug. 31.

The districts cited research and information about school safety experiences from around the world as well as state and local health guidance.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced he is ordering the closure of bars, wineries and indoor restaurant dining statewide as cases of the coronavirus continue to spike in California.

The governor made the announcement during his regular media briefing Monday afternoon.

Newsom's new order covers indoor operations for bars, restaurants, breweries, wineries, movie theaters, zoos, museums and cardrooms.

The state saw a 2.6% increase in COVID-19 cases since Sunday to more than 329,000. California's virus-related death toll surpassed 7,000 as 11 a.m. Monday, according to data published on the state's COVID-19 website.


Viral Videos Show Huge Dance Party in Philadelphia Despite Restrictions

A spokesperson for Philadelphia's mayor's office on Monday called for residents to report large gatherings after viral videos showed a crowd of people dancing in Southwest Philadelphia over the weekend at a cookout. Few of the dozens of people in attendance appeared to wear masks and the group was much larger than what's allowed to take place under the city's current COVID-19 restrictions, NBC10 reported.

Videos of the party emerged as Pennsylvania officials reported the state has passed 10,000 cases of the virus.

In southwest Pennsylvania, nearly 25 percent of new cases are from 19-24 year olds. In July, that percentage was 5 percent.

In southeastern Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, almost 17 percent of cases are in that age group, also up from 5 percent in July.


Chicago Marathon Canceled Over Pandemic

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon has been canceled for its 2020 race due to "the ongoing public health concerns brought on by the coronavirus pandemic," organizers announced Monday.

The race was set to step off on Oct. 11, but event organizers announced the decision "citing the challenges of staging an event of this scale at this time and out of concern for the safety of event participants, volunteers, event staff and spectators," NBC Chicago reported.

It's the latest big-city race to cancel its 2020 plans due to the coronavirus, following both the New York City and Boston marathons.

Read the full story.


FDA Expands List of ‘Toxic' Hand Sanitizers to 59 Varieties

The Food and Drug Administration has added dozens of hand sanitizers to a growing list of products that tested positive for methanol contamination.

Methanol, sometimes called wood alcohol, is not a suitable ingredient for hand sanitizers and can prove "toxic" when absorbed through the skin or ingested, according to the FDA.

The Food and Drug Administration has issued recalls for 59 hand sanitizers that contain methanol, a toxic chemical that can be fatal if ingested.

There are now 59 varieties of hand sanitizers in the FDA's updated list of toxic products. According to the agency's July 10 update, some of the products have already been recalled and others are being recommended for recalls.

All of the sanitizers flagged by the FDA appear to have been produced in Mexico.

Read the full story here with the list of affected products.


More Than 200 Schools Back Lawsuit Challenging Restrictions for International Students

More than 200 universities are backing a legal challenge to the Trump administration’s new restrictions on international students.

They argue that the policy jeopardizes students’ safety and forces schools to reconsider fall plans they have spent months preparing.

The schools have signed court briefs supporting Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as they sue U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in federal court in Boston.

The lawsuit challenges a recently announced directive saying international students cannot stay in the U.S. if they take all their classes online this fall. A judge is scheduled to hear arguments in the case on Tuesday. 

Read the full story.


Orthodox Jews Play Big Role in Plasma Donations

Members of the Orthodox Jewish community have made thousands of donations of plasma with coronavirus antibodies, contributing to a promising but yet unproven coronavirus treatment, NBC News reported.

Dr. Michael Joyner of the Mayo Clinic, who is leading a national study on the use of blood plasma in the battle against COVID-19, said that Jewish communities have accounted for half the supply used to treat 34,000 patients.

“Because we were ravaged by COVID so early on, we recognized that we had the opportunity to give back to the scientific community and to our fellow brothers who are suffering,” said Dr. Israel Zyskind, a pediatrician in a Brooklyn neighborhood with a high concentration of Hasidic Jews.

Plasma donated by the Orthodox Jewish communities is also being used to study why the virus is deadly for some but not others, NBC News reported.

Read the full story on NBCNews.com.


FDA Fast Tracks Two Coronavirus Vaccines

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted fast track status to two experimental coronavirus vaccines jointly developed by BioNTech and Pfizer, Reuters reported.

The pair of vaccines, BNT162b1 and BNT162b2, are the most advanced of four vaccines being developed by the German and U.S. companies in ongoing clinical trials. A bigger trial with up to 30,000 participants could happen as soon as this month.

If all goes as planned, the company expects to make up to 100 million doses by the end of this year and potentially more than 1.2 billion doses by the end of 2021, according to Reuters.

Read the full story on CNBC.com


National Hockey League Opens Training Camps Monday

NHL teams return to the ice Monday for the first time since March as the 24 that qualified for the expanded playoffs open two-week training camps.

Mixed with the excitement is the uncertainty of which and how many players might opt out and how the long layoff could contribute to injuries.

It’s a training camp unlike any in history, with players coming back from a four-month absence to compete for the Stanley Cup. It’s a two-week sprint from home cities to Toronto for Eastern teams and Edmonton, Alberta, for their Western counterparts. 

Already, a handful of players have opted out of participating and more could make the same decision before a Monday afternoon deadline. More than half the eligible players have already been skating at team facilities trying to get their legs under them, and ramping up for the resumption of the season takes another step with the start of organized workouts.


New York City Reports 0 COVID-19 Deaths for First Time Since March, But Infections Rising Among Young Adults

According to initial data reported by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, no one died from the virus in New York City on July 11. Officials recorded no confirmed deaths the day before as well, but did have two probable deaths.

The department's data shows there hasn't been a day without a coronavirus-related death since March 13, two days after the first reported death.

Each sign of progress in New York has come in the shadow of an ever-growing national spike that continues to plague the U.S. crisis, NBC New York reported.

And despite the positive milestone, infections are up in adults ages 20 to 29 in the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.

Health officials are now advising that New Yorkers wear a mask or face covering indoors at all times, even at work and in large spaces regardless if social distancing can be met, NBC New York reported.

Should Your State Reopen?

For states considering lifting quarantine measures, the official guidelines propose either a downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases within two weeks or a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests.

As shown below, when you compare yesterday’s new case count with that of two weeks ago, the number is often lower, simply because the counts fluctuate. Critics call the measures vague and ultimately because they aren’t binding, some states are choosing to reopen whether they meet the criteria or not.

Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC


Alaska Sets Daily Record With 116 New Coronavirus Cases

There were 116 new COVID-19 cases reported across Alaska Sunday, the highest daily increase so far in the state.

There was one new hospitalization and no new deaths reported in Alaska, The Anchorage Daily News reported.

The state Department of Health and Social Services said 93 of the new cases involved Alaska residents and 23 involved non-residents.

The new cases reported Sunday break a previous record set the day before, when the state reported 77 cases.


Texas Positivity Rate Reaches Record High

The positivity rate in Texas jumped to 16.33% Saturday, up from the previous high of 15.85%, recorded on April 12. An increase in the positivity rate indicates an increase in the spread of the virus, not an increase in testing for the virus.

The number eclipsed 10% on June 23 and has climbed steadily since that date, NBC DFW reported.

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