While scientists around the world rush to find a vaccine for COVID-19, researchers in San Francisco developed an antiviral nasal spray that could fight the coronavirus.
Coronavirus infections have spiked in Texas as the state surpassed the 500,000 case marker Tuesday. While state hospitalizations have decreased, Gov. Greg Abbott said gatherings may have contributed to the surge in positive cases.
The federal government, meanwhile, is gambling another $1.5 billion that Moderna’s vaccine candidate will be safe, effective and available soon.
And Churchill Downs racetrack unveiled a plan to host next month’s Kentucky Derby before a live albeit scaled-down audience of 23,000. Last year’s race drew 150,729.
Here are some significant developments:
📈 Today’s numbers: Wisconsin has reported its 1,000th death. New weekly case records were set in Indiana, North Dakota, Guam and Puerto Rico. Weekly record numbers of deaths were reported in Georgia, Tennessee and Puerto Rico. The United States has reported more than 5 million cases and nearly 165,000 deaths. Worldwide, there have been almost 750,000 deaths and more than 20 million cases.
📰 What we’re reading: Outdoor dining may save restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic. But are diners at risk from cars plowing into them?
1 positive test keeps 1,200 Alabama students home from school
More than 1,200 students at two Alabama schools are starting the fall semester at home after a person connected with both schools tested positive for COVID-19. While 12 other Lawrence County schools were beginning traditional classes Wednesday, Superintendent Jon Bret Smith told the Decatur Daily that students from the elementary and middle schools in Moulton, located in north Alabama, would start the academic year taking classes online for two weeks. School officials notified 10 people who were in contact with the person. Computers are being distributed for online classes.
Postal Service says it’s ready to deliver 2020 election
The Postal Service says it’s ready to fairly and properly deliver the November election to whoever wins it. The pandemic means more mail-in ballots than ever before, but the agency is “prepared and has ample capacity” to timely deliver election mail, two of its leaders said in an opinion piece published in USA TODAY. Recent, viral social media posts have made claims of intentional slowdowns of mail service and other attempts to short-circuit the election process. David Williams, executive vice president of the U.S. Postal Service, general counsel Thomas Marshall beg to differ.
“The Postal Service remains fully committed to fulfilling our role in the electoral process by doing everything we can to handle and deliver election mail, including ballots, in a timely manner consistent with our operational standards,” the duo writes.
Masters 2020 will be played without guests
The 2020 Masters Tournament will go on, but without patrons. Augusta National Golf Club made the announcement Wednesday after postponing the tournament in March. The tournament is scheduled for Nov. 9-15.
“As we have considered the issues facing us, the health and safety of everyone associated with the Masters always has been our first and most important priority,” club and tournament chairman Fred Ridley said in a news release.
According to the club, all 2020 ticket holders will be guaranteed the same tickets for the 2021 Masters. The club said it will communicate with all ticket holders and 2021 ticket applicants in September.
– Will Cheney, Augusta Chronicle
Employees fearing layoff are targets for phony pink slips
Job hunters have long been warned to watch out for fake texts from phony employers and those $30-an-hour job descriptions that sound too good to be true. Now, those who remain on the job must worry about the phony pink slip.
Fraudsters have been sending out large volumes of termination notices during the pandemic, according to Jessica Dore, an expert in technology risk management at the financial services firm Rehmann. A target might be asked to click on a link for information about a severance package – and end up downloading malicious code allowing backdoor access to information.
Experts recommend talking to the Human Resources department or your manager before clicking on any link involving a termination notice.
– Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press
Outdoor dining may be saving restaurants, but diners may be at risk
As an alternative to indoor dining, many cities have allowed eateries to set up tables in parking lots, on sidewalks or in fenced-in areas directly on streets to ease the coronavirus threat.
But a group that informally tracks incidents of vehicles crashing into buildings or crowds based on media or police reports, the Storefront Safety Council, so far has counted about 20 instances of cars or trucks barging into outdoor dining areas since restaurants reopened after COVID-19-related shutdowns. That compares to about four a year over the past eight years.
“In the best of times, there is some risk associated with sidewalk dining, curbside dining, and street closings,” said council co-founder Rob Reiter. “This is not the best of times.”
– Chris Woodyard
Florida sheriff bans masks for deputies, people they are dealing with
The sheriff in Marion County, Florida, has banned his deputies from wearing masks at work, and visitors to his office can’t wear masks either. The county set a single-day record Tuesday when 13 coronavirus-related deaths were reported.
But Sheriff Billy Woods defended his mask ban, citing “current events when it comes to the sentiment and/or hatred toward law enforcement in our country today. This is being done to ensure there is clear communication and for identification purposes of any individual walking into a lobby.”
– Austin L. Miller
Churchill Downs unveils crowd plans for Kentucky Derby
Churchill Downs officials unveiled a 62-page operations plan Wednesday that will limit attendance for the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5 to less than 23,000 guests. The 146th running of the race in Louisville had been scheduled for May 2. The pandemic changed that.
The plan includes no general admission, and the infield will be closed. Reserved seating will be limited to a maximum of 40% occupancy, and standing-room-only tickets have been eliminated. Temperature checks, medical questionnaires, physical distancing and mandatory face coverings will be required upon entrance.
“The opportunity to safely welcome back a limited number of guests to Churchill Downs on the first week of September is a privilege that our team doesn’t take for granted,” said Churchill Downs racetrack president Kevin Flanery.
– Jason Frakes, Louisville Courier Journal
Moderna paid another $1.5 billion to crank out doses of candidate vaccine
Moderna Inc., a leader in the race for a COVID-19 vaccine, has received another $1.525 billion in federal funding to deliver 100 million doses of its candidate vaccine. The money comes on top of nearly $1 billion the biotech has already gotten for developing the science behind its vaccine, known as mRNA-1273. The U.S. government will also have the option to purchase another 400 million doses from the company. Americans who receive this vaccine will not have to pay for it, though “as is customary with government-purchased vaccines, healthcare professionals could charge for the cost of administering the vaccine.” Not everyone is enamored with the federal investment in Moderna, however.
“Moderna offers us the privilege of purchasing that same vaccine we already paid for with another $1.525 billion and an option to pay even more for additional doses,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas. “And there is no indication of how much Americans will ultimately pay themselves for the vaccine they have financed.”
– Karen Weintraub
High-risk college students fear being left behind during pandemic
Thousands of college students with weakened immune systems are navigating treacherous back-to-school dynamics. While many colleges and universities offered all classes online last spring, some aren’t doing the same this fall, leaving immunocompromised students stressed out, rearranging schedules and locked in lengthy exchanges with accommodation offices.
Samantha Price, a rising junior at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, has Type 1 diabetes. She said the school expects her to drop classes that won’t be offered online.
“That’s a problem because I shouldn’t have to sacrifice my classes of choice when an able-bodied student gets to go into class,” she says.
– Grace Hauck
HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’ gets real about COVID-19
Less than five minutes into the 15th season of HBO’s NFL reality series “Hard Knocks,” COVID-19 became the focus. Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn fired up Zoom on his laptop computer and delivered shocking news to his players.
“I can’t promise you that you’re not going to get infected. … I got infected,” said Lynn, 51. He is at least the third NFL coach to test positive, following Sean Payton of New Orleans and Doug Pederson of Philadelphia. Lynn counseled patience to his players.
“Fellas, this year is not like any year we’ve had in the National Football League,” Lynn said. “There’s going to be chaos. It’s going to be change and it’s going to come every single day. The goals, the objectives, will not change.”
– Jim Reineking
North Carolina dog dies after testing positive
The first North Carolina dog to tested positive for coronavirus has died, state health officials said. The Department of Health and Human Services said the 8-year-old male Newfoundland was taken to state Veterinary Hospital on Aug. 3 after showing signs of respiratory distress and died later that day. An autopsy was planned to determine if the infection was the cause of death. The first dog to test positive in the United States was Buddy, a 7-year-old German shepherd from Staten Island, New York, according to National Geographic. Buddy died July 11.
“Based on the information available, the risk of animals spreading the virus to people is considered to be low,” said a statement from Dr. Carl Williams, a North Carolina public health veterinarian.
Pac-12 joins Big Ten in not playing college football this fall
The Pac-12 has decided to not play its football season this fall over concerns that the sport carries too much risk for athletes, the conference said Tuesday, joining the Big Ten as the second member of the Power Five to elect not to play over the health issues raised by the coronavirus pandemic. Combined, the announcement by the two leagues less than two hours apart foreshadow a series of similar moves that may eventually lead to the cancellation of the entire Bowl Subdivision season.
“The health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports has been our number one priority since the start of this current crisis,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.
“Our student-athletes, fans, staff and all those who love college sports would like to have seen the season played this calendar year as originally planned, and we know how disappointing this is.”
All Pac-12 sports competitions will be postponed until at least Jan. 1, the league said. The decision came following a meeting of the Pac-12 CEO Group.
– Paul Myerberg
Scientists develop nasal spray to fight coronavirus
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, say they have created a nasal spray that can help ward off the coronavirus – not as a cure or vaccine, but as an antiviral.
“Far more effective than wearable forms of personal protective equipment, we think of AeroNabs as a molecular form of PPE that could serve as an important stopgap until vaccines provide a more permanent solution to COVID-19,” said AeroNabs co-inventor Peter Walter, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF, in a news release.
Nanobodies in the spray are smaller than human antibodies, making them easier to manipulate in a laboratory setting, said co-inventor Aashish Manglik, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of pharmaceutical chemistry. Nanobodies, for this reason, are therefore less expensive and easier to mass produce. The researchers are currently working to get the spray manufactured and clinically tested.
– Elinor Aspegren
US immigration services to furlough two-thirds of its workers
The federal agency tasked with offering citizenship, green cards and visas to immigrants is planning to furlough about two-thirds of its workers at the end of the month after Congress failed to reach a deal on a coronavirus stimulus package. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services notified about 13,400 of its 20,000 employees they would be furloughed Aug. 30 due to budget shortfalls, which the agency hoped Congress would fill in its next relief package before negotiations stalled last week.
“In the past few months, USCIS has taken action to avert a fiscal crisis, including limiting spending to salary and mission-critical activities,” an agency spokesperson said. “Without congressional intervention, USCIS will have to take drastic actions to keep the agency solvent.”
The agency had asked Congress for $1.2 billion and the funds were expected to come through its next coroanvirus relief package. But after about two weeks of negotiations, talks dissolved with Democrats and the White House blaming one another for the stalemate.
– Christal Hayes
Texas surpasses 500K confirmed cases of coronavirus
Texas surpassed 500,000 confirmed coronavirus cases Tuesday as Gov. Greg Abbott suggested family and neighborhood gatherings are behind a sharp rise in the rate of positive tests, which has climbed to record levels just as schools are beginning to reopen across the state. He also continued to say more testing in Texas is likely after dropping off in recent weeks, a trend seen across the U.S. even as deaths mount. Texas has reported more than 1,400 new deaths over the past week, including 220 on Tuesday.
Although health officials say there are encouraging signs in Texas — particularly hospitalization levels that have dropped more than 30% since July’s peak — infection rates have been increasing steadily. On Tuesday, the rolling average of positive cases over the past seven days jumped to 24%, by far the highest of the pandemic, according to figures from the state Department of Health Services.
More COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
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Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID news: Antiviral nasal spray; Texas cases spike; Ky. Derby plans