University of North Carolina temporarily suspends fall sports; Pope warns against the rich getting vaccine first

Eufemia Didonato

Florida, one of the hardest hit states from the coronavirus, just registered its 10,000th death due to COVID-19. 

It came after the state recorded 174 new deaths Wednesday, giving it a total that’s fifth highest among states around the country. It has recorded more than 584,000 cases of COVID-19 so far.

The virus, meanwhile, continues to play havoc with colleges’ attempts to reopen classes.

A day after officials at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill decided to pivot to online classes after at least four clusters of outbreaks in student living spaces, North Carolina State University reported its first cluster of positive cases in off-campus housing. Also Tuesday, the University of Notre Dame said it was moving to online classes for two weeks in hopes that infections won’t surge.

And sports fans who thought they could get a break from the coronavirus fallout can’t catch a break: new NFL rules will keep mascots and cheerleaders — as well as sideline reporters — off the field.

Some significant developments:

  • Pope Francis on Wednesday cautioned against prioritizing future coronavirus vaccines based on wealth: “How sad it would be if for the COVID-19 vaccine priority is given to the richest,” he said.

  • South Dakota health officials say a person tested positive for the coronavirus after spending several hours at a bar in Sturgis during the annual motorcycle rally that drew more than 460,000 vehicles. 

  • The U.S. stock market closed at an all-time high Tuesday, staging a stunning turnaround from the darkest early days of the coronavirus pandemic. How is this happening while the U.S. economy is in one of the sharpest economic downturns since the Great Depression? Here’s what the experts say.

  • The head of the U.S. Postal Service said he would pause operational changes at the agency until after the November election after lawmakers expressed fear the changes would hinder the collection of mail-in ballots.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has 5.4 million confirmed infections and more than 171,000 deaths. Worldwide, there have been more than 781,000 deaths and 22.1 million cases, according to John Hopkins University data.

📰 What we’re reading: Wearing a mask in public restrooms should be mandatory during the pandemic, researchers say, because there’s increasing evidence that flushing toilets – and now urinals – can release inhalable coronavirus particles into the air.

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

Report: Las Vegas casinos a likely hotspot for COVID-19 spread

Tourists visiting The Strip could be fueling the pandemic, according to a ProPublica investigation. An analysis of smartphone data during four days, a Friday to Monday in mid-July, revealed how most of the U.S. is connected to Las Vegas – a likely hot spot of COVID-19 spread.

During that time frame, about 26,000 devices were identified on The Strip, according to data mined by the companies X-Mode and Tectonix. Some of those smartphones then traveled to every state on the mainland except Maine.

Here’s a look at where those devices ended up during those same four days, according to Propublica: 

  • About 3,700 of the devices were spotted in Southern California. 

  • About 2,700 in Arizona, with 740 in Phoenix.

  • Around 1,000 in Texas.

  • More than 800 in Milwaukee, Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland.

  • More than 100 in the New York area.

The cellphone analysis highlights a reason the virus keeps spreading and shows how travel to Las Vegas could be fueling the pandemic, according to health officials.

– Ed Komenda, Reno Gazette Journal

University of North Carolina suspends fall sports until Thursday afternoon

Just 48 hours after saying a COVID-19 outbreak on campus wouldn’t affect plans to play football this fall, the University of North Carolina has suspended all athletic activities through at least Thursday afternoon. In addition, all recreational facilities on the Chapel Hill campus will be closed to students, coaches and staff.

“After consulting with our health experts and University leadership, we are taking this action to protect our students, coaches and staff,” UNC athletics director Bubba Cunningham said. “We want to make sure we continue to do everything we can to ensure that that our teams, campus and community remain healthy.”

The school welcomed students back to campus for in-person classes last week, but after at least four clusters of COVID-19 outbreaks, university officials reversed course and moved all classes online. 

– Steve Gardner

Georgia governor fires back at White House coronavirus report

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp defended his administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in fiery remarks Wednesday after a report from the White House coronavirus task force said Georgia led the nation last week in new cases per capita.

The White House report, dated Aug. 16, recommends several steps to curb the virus that Kemp has declined to take, including closing bars and issuing mask mandates in counties with 50 or more active cases. 

Kemp was among the first governors to ease earlier restrictions this spring, and while infections declined for weeks afterwards, they began to rise in June and peaked in late July.

First reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the report says “Georgia’s small gains are fragile and statewide progress will require continued, expanded, and stronger mitigation efforts, including in all open schools.”

Kemp insisted Wednesday that other markers he’s watching paint a different picture.

– Associated Press

Puerto Rico to be locked down for 24 hours every Sunday

Puerto Rico’s governor announced Wednesday that she will place the U.S. territory on a 24-hour lockdown every Sunday as part of stricter measures to fight a spike in coronavirus cases.

Gyms, theaters and bars will remain closed and only restaurants with outdoor areas will be allowed to seat people, but at 25% capacity. Gov. Wanda Vázquez said violators will be shut down for a month.

In addition, beaches will remain open only to those doing exercise such as runners and surfers, and businesses, malls and banks will be allowed to operate at only 25% capacity.

The new measures go into effect Saturday and will remain in place until Sept. 11. Face masks remain mandatory.

“We have to adjust to living in a new reality,” Vázquez said, blaming the jump in cases on “careless” people.

– Associated Press

NFL to bar cheerleaders, mascots from field

Cheerleaders and mascots will not be allowed to be on the field during NFL games this season.

The league-wide policy was part of new protocols unveiled Wednesday in conjunction with the NFL Players Association, a person familiar with the decision told USA TODAY Sports’ Jarrett Bell. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Previously, some of these decisions were being left to individual teams.

Sideline reporters and pregame panelists also will not be allowed on the field level, per the agreement.

– Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz

Study casts doubt on viral transmission by breast milk

A new study casts doubt on whether a virus can be transmitted by breast milk.

The study found only one of 64 samples of breast milk from 18 women in the U.S. who had become infected with the virus tested positive. Further tests found that the virus couldn’t replicate, making it unable to potentially infect a breast-fed infant.

The study by was conducted jointly by researchers at the University of California campuses in San Diego and Los Angeles and the results were published Wednesday in the online edition of the medical journal JAMA.  

 “We hope our results and future studies will give women the reassurance needed for them to breastfeed. Human milk provides invaluable benefits to mom and baby,” said Dr. Grace Aldrovandi, co-principal investigator of the study and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital.

Report: Local Chinese officials withheld early virus data from Beijing

Chinese government officials were involved in a coverup about the coronavirus, but not at the national level, says a U.S. intelligence report obtained by the New York Times.

Officials in the Wuhan and Hubei provinces in central China, where the virus first appeared, attempted to keep China’s central leadership in Beijing from knowing key information about the early outbreak, concludes the report compiled by several U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA. Local officials feared reprisal from the central government. 

The report, prepared in June with a mix of classified and unclassified data, backs the overall view that Communist Party officials hid important information from the World Heath Organization even as they sought to get details on the outbreak themselves from recalcitrant local officials.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly accused China of a coverup, alleging the virus could have been stopped much faster if it had been more forthcoming.

Florida records a grim milestone, more than 10,000 COVID-19 deaths

Deaths in Florida from the coronavirus surpassed 10,000, while teachers and state officials argued in court over whether in-person schools should reopen this month.

Florida reported 174 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total confirmed deaths to at least 10,067 – the fifth-highest death toll in the nation. The state reported an additional 4,115 confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 584,047. The positivity rate for coronavirus testing in Florida has averaged about 11.4% during the past week.

There were 5,351 patients being treated for the disease in Florida hospitals on Wednesday, down from peaks above 9,500 patients in late July.

Meanwhile, Florida’s largest teacher’s union is seeking an injunction from a judge in Tallahassee to stop schools from reopening by this Friday.

 – Associated Press

Film festivals go virtual making films more accessible than ever

Dreamed of actually snagging tickets to screenings at a major film festival? Because of the coronavirus pandemic, you make be able to see the films from your living room.

The festivals are where critics and insiders get early peeks at movies either slated for theaters or those hoping to receive the kind of breakout attention that will get them there. Because of the virus, the festivals have gone virtual – streamed to living rooms.

The New York Film Festival is kicking off Sept. 25 with an opening night featuring Steve McQueen’s “Lovers Rock,” and will premiere two other of the Black filmmaker’s works, “Mangrove” and “Red, White and Blue,” part of the same anthology. Also on tap: Chloe Zhao’s anticipated “Nomadland” with Frances McDormand, Sam Pollard’s documentary “MLK/FBI,” and the documentary “Time,” about a woman trying to get her husband released from his 60-year prison sentence.

Jeff Friday, founder of the American Black Film Festival, which runs through Aug. 30, has already seen the positives of making the move to virtual. Usually, 10,000 film fans show up for his annual June event in Miami; this year, he’s predicting 200,000 people interested in streaming more than 90 films celebrating Black cinema, as well as panel discussions featuring Oscar-winning filmmaker Barry Jenkins, “Candyman” director Nia DaCosta, Mary J. Blige, Lena Waithe and Gabrielle Union.

Brian Truitt

LGBTQ bars turn to crowdfunding to try to save their businesses

Bars that cater to members of the LGBTQ community are not just bars: they serve as community hubs and safe spaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer folks. So when they had to shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, those spaces were lost. Fighting back, some have launched crowdfunding campaigns to stay afloat until they are full back in business.

The owner of Harlem’s Alibi Lounge, one of the only Black-owned LGBTQ bars in New York City, unveiled a campaign in May that has raised more than $166,000 and counting.

Julius’ Bar — part of the National Register of Historic Places, the oldest gay bar in New York City and one of the oldest continually operating bars in the city overall — has raised more than $97,000 via a GoFundMe campaign since early July.Its Greenwich Village neighbor, the Stonewall Inn, has raised more than $320,000 on the platform.

“When, all of a sudden, a pandemic like COVID-19 tells you that you have to isolate, that you have to stay home and if you go to a bar, you go to a restaurant, you could be at a high risk to be exposed to the virus, it makes people not even think twice,” said Alibi Lounge owner Alexi Minko. “They decide, ‘Well, in that case I am not going to a bar, I’m not going to a restaurant until I know that it’s safer.’ ”

– Alex Biese, Asbury Park Press

Many furloughed workers aren’t being recalled to their jobs

Many furloughed workers were not being immediately called to report back to duty, a new study finds. In an analysis of its small business clients, payroll service Gusto found that only 37% of workers who were initially furloughed in March and 47% of those who were furloughed in April had returned to their jobs by July. Furthermore, among those furloughed in March who were able to go back to work, nearly 25% had their wages reduced.

Furloughed workers are counted as unemployed when determining the jobless rate, which means the fate of those still in limbo could drive unemployment up or down in the coming months.

Since April, the jobless rate has slowly declined, but if a large number of furloughed workers are able to return to their employers, we could see those numbers drop even more. That would spell good news for an economy that’s stuck in a recession. On the other hand, a large chunk of furloughed workers could be permanently laid off in the coming months, too.

– Maurie Backman, The Motley Fool

HHS: Pharmacists in 50 states can now give childhood vaccinations

Pharmacists in all 50 states are now allowed to give childhood vaccinations under a new directive aimed at preventing future outbreaks of measles and other preventable diseases.

Alex Azar, the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, took the step using emergency powers he has during the coronavirus epidemic, which was declared a public health emergency.  The directive announced Wednesday will temporarily preempt restrictions in 22 states starting this fall.

The move is designed to help prevent vaccination rates from falling during the pandemic, Azar said.

Separately, Massachusetts officials announced Wednesday that they will require flu vaccinations for all students, from child care to college. The vaccinations are required by Dec. 31. Home-schooled students and those who are studying entirely remotely are exempted.

– Associated Press

NYPD creates Asian Hate Crimes Task Force after spike in racist assaults

The New York Police Department announced its created a task force specifically to deal with a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.

There have been 21 reported anti-Asian hate crimes leading to 17 arrests since March around the time the pandemic intensified in the United States, which Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison told reporters is higher than normal Tuesday. 

“This increase was cultivated due to the anti-Asian rhetoric about the virus that was publicized and individuals began to attack Asian New Yorkers either verbal attack or physical assault,” Harrison said. “We saw a spike in every borough throughout the city.”

– N’dea Yancey-Bragg

Bargoer may have spread COVID-19 at huge Sturgis bike rally

A patron who spent hours inside a bar during the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota, which ended last Sunday, has tested positive for COVID-19, health officials confirmed. 

The person spent nearly six hours at One-Eyed Jack’s Saloon on Aug. 11. State officials are encouraging anyone at the bar to monitor themselves for any symptoms of the coronavirus. 

The 2020 Rally drew more than 460,000 vehicles during the 10-day event, according to a count South Dakota transportation officials released Tuesday. The event was scaled down, but face coverings were not required during the event. 

– Michael Klinski, Sioux Falls Argus Leader

Pope Francis warns against the rich getting priority for vaccines

Pope Francis on Wednesday cautioned against prioritizing future coronavirus vaccines based on wealth. Deviating from his planned weekly public address, he said that “we must come out better” from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“How sad it would be if for the COVID-19 vaccine priority is given to the richest,” he said. “The pandemic has laid bare the difficult situation of the poor and the great inequality that reigns in the world.”

The pontiff added that the vaccine should be “universal and for all,” rather than “the property of this nation or another,” not naming any countries in particular.

Wedding reception leads to Maine’s first outbreak from a social gathering

At least two dozen Maine residents tested positive for COVID-19 after a wedding reception in rural Maine — the state’s first outbreak linked to a social gathering.

About 65 people attended the indoor event at the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket, said Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long. About 18 people in attendance — and around 10 others who came into contact with attendees —  all tested positive, according to WABI-TV in Bangor, Maine.

The owner of the Big Moose Inn could face a $10,000 fine if the state’s executive orders limiting group gatherings to 50 were violated, officials said.

During pandemic, are little kids OK? Survey shows COVID-19 is taking a toll

During the pandemic, people are talking a lot about children missing classes, graduations and proms. What has received far less attention, child development experts say, is the impact the pandemic is having on the youngest children: babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergartners.

Birth to age five is a critical time for child development, research shows, and new data from the Rapid Assessment of Pandemic Impact on Development Early Childhood Household Survey Project (RAPID-EC Project) shows caregiver distress is cascading down to young children in ways science shows can be toxic in the short- and long-term. 

The project has been conducting weekly surveys since April and has found caregivers of young children are experiencing distress, material hardship and loss of emotional supports. Since the project’s data is sequential, it also is able to show a chain reaction. When a family is stressed about meeting basic needs, the next week they report more emotional distress, and the week after report increases in their child’s emotional distress.

“if you can’t buy food or you can’t pay your rent, that you are experiencing the kind of stress that is going to be toxic to your children,” said RAPID project director Phil Fisher.

– Alia E. Dastagir

Report: Nearly 80 teachers resign or retire in one Utah county

Nearly 80 teachers in Utah’s Salt Lake County have resigned or retired as in-person classes are set to resume at schools this year, the Salt Late Tribune reported.

The Tribune tallied 79 teachers who left their posts due to concerns about COVID-19. At least 16 of the resignations came in the last week, the newspaper reported.

Salt Lake County has the highest number of virus cases in the state, and teachers leaving the classroom told the newspaper that they’d rather resign or retire now than return in the fall, risking their own health or the health of their students.

“We’re just being told to jump in like nothing is wrong,” Jan Roberts, a teacher of 32 years who just retired, told the Tribune. “It’s not OK.”

North Carolina State University reports first cluster of COVID-19 cases

Health officials have identified a COVID-19 cluster at another North Carolina university.

A statement from North Carolina State University confirmed on Tuesday that Wake County health officials identified of COVID-19 cases at off-campus housing east of the Raleigh, North Carolina, campus.

The school said several people who have tested positive as part of this cluster have been identified, including some who are N.C. State students. Contact tracing has been initiated with direct communication to anyone known to have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the school.

The school said reports indicated a party or some type of gathering was hosted at the location on or around Aug. 6. The notice said it was not known how many people were at the gathering, but encouraged anyone who attended to visit their personal healthcare provider or Student Health Services.

Survey: Parents are going into debt paying for meals, at-home school expenses

Switching from in-person to online schooling has been hard on many families – and on their budgets.

About one-quarter of parents say they’ve gone into debt to pay for their kids’ at-home school expenses, and many blame the cost of their kids’ breakfasts and lunches when they switched to learning remotely from home.

A survey from Credit Karma examines how this school year could affect household finances. More than half of parents say they expect to spend slightly to significantly more on school supplies, the survey of more than 1,000 parents found.

The reasons for the debt are higher grocery prices and the sudden switch to at-home schooling in March.

– Aimee Picchi, Special to USA TODAY

Hawaii delays program allowing travelers until October

Hawaii Gov. David Ige has hinted about it for weeks as COVID-19 cases in the state surged, and on Tuesday he made it official: The state won’t reopen to tourism until October at the earliest.

The planned Sept. 1 start of a program that would allow out-of-state visitors to bypass Hawaii’s strict 14-day quarantine upon arrival by presenting a negative COVID-19 test at the airport has been delayed until at least Oct. 1, Ige said late Tuesday.

“We will continue to monitor the conditions here in Hawaii as well as key markets on the mainland to determine the appropriate start date for the pre-travel (COVID-19) testing program,” he said.

The delay, the second since the program was announced in June, will affect passengers who bet on the Sept. 1 reopening and bought airline tickets to Hawaii, airline flight schedules and, of course, Hawaii’s decimated tourism industry.

– Dawn Gilbertson

More COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID news: Sturgis rally case; Florida deaths at 10K; Pope on vaccine

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