US death toll nears 200K; CDC’s new guidelines acknowledge danger of breath droplets; some NYC students back in class

The U.S. death toll climbed to within a few hundred of 200,000 on Monday as California became the fourth state to top 15,000 deaths, joining New York, New Jersey and Texas.

The pandemic has also strained California’s unemployment services, and state officials announced over the weekend that they will not accept new applications for two weeks in an effort to clear a backlog of nearly 600,000 claims that have not been processed for more than 21 days.

On the other coast, Maryland restaurants will be permitted to increase indoor dining capacity from 50% to 75% starting at 5 p.m. Monday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its coronavirus guidelines,  again, on how COVID-19 is spread. “It is possible that COVID-19 may spread through the droplets and airborne particles that are formed when a person who has COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes,” the updated guidelines say.

Some significant developments:

  • California surpasses 15,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths.

  • The U.S. isn’t the only country where COVID-19 restrictions have created unrest: Police in London clashed with protesters Saturday at a rally against coronavirus restrictions.

  • An eighth death has been linked to a coronavirus outbreak stemming from a wedding and reception in the northern part of Maine.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 6.8 million cases and 199,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Sunday shows seven-day, new case records were set in Montana, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Virginia and West Virginia. Globally, there have been more than 31 million cases and more than 961,000 fatalities. 

📰 What we’re reading: Didn’t hear from contact tracers about that guy coughing on your flight? You might not — even if he had COVID-19.

🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak, state by state

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

New York City welcomes back some students to classrooms

Some students in the nation’s largest school district returned to the classroom Monday as New York City schools opened their doors and kicked off their twice delayed reopening plan.

New York is one of the only major school districts in the U.S. to attempt to bring students back to the classroom in some capacity this year. Special education and pre-kindergarten students were the first to return Monday, while elementary, middle and high school students are set to return next week. The city intends to have students spend part of their time in in-person classes and part of their time learning virtually this academic year.  

Mayor Bill de Blasio delayed his school reopening plan for a second time last week as the effort has drawn criticism from some parents and teachers who worry about safety and staffing shortages.

New Zealand lifting most lockdown restrictions

New Zealand will lift its remaining lockdown restrictions across the country, except for in Auckland, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday.

New Zealand, which had been heralded for its pandemic response, re-imposed lockdown measures last month after a new outbreak of the coronavirus spread in Auckland. The outbreak now appears to be under control, and health authorities reported no new cases Monday.

Auckland will have some of its restrictions lessened, however, as the 10-person limit on gatherings will increase to 100 on Wednesday and then be phased out in two weeks, Ardern said. “While we have reasonable confidence we are on the right track, there is still a need in Auckland for that cautious approach,” she said.

UK has ‘in a very bad sense literally turned a corner’ on COVID cases

The United Kingdom’s top doctor said Monday that the country has turned a corner “in a very bad sense” and is now headed in the “wrong direction” with its rates of COVID-19.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty the country is facing an explosion in infection rates, with figures suggesting there will be an exponential growth in the disease unless action is taken. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly considering a two-week, nationwide lockdown to stem the outbreak.

Nearly 400,000 people in the U.K. have confirmed COVID-19 cases, and more than 41,000 have died.

Treatment for longtime COVID patients ‘like disarming a bomb’

A new treatment program originally intended for geriatric patients has showed promising results for so called “long-haul” COVID-19 patients. Dr. Noah Greenspan, a cardiopulmonary physical therapist and founder of the Pulmonary Wellness Foundation in New York City, said about 750 patients have enrolled in his COVID-19 Bootcamp program and many are reporting progress. Bootcamp patients are asked to walk for four minutes, in two two-minute intervals, increasing a minute each day. The program also incorporates breathing exercises and weight training, which could be as simple as lifting one’s arm over their head for a minute.

“Little by little, it’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle and disarming a bomb at the same time,” Greenspan said. 

– Adrianna Rodriguez

Cruise lines release report on plans for return to sailing

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian’s “Healthy Sail Panel” submitted a 65-page report to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of the agency’s request for public comment. The CDC’s current “no-sail” order is set to expire at the end of the month, although the industry trade group has issued a voluntary suspension through Oct. 31. The panel’s report contains 74 recommendations to prevent the introduction and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on board cruise ships, including testing, face coverings and temperature checks, among others. The recommendations were also published on each cruise company’s website.

“This is a very comprehensive approach with multiple layers to try to ensure safety on the ship,” Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration who co-chairs the panel, told USA TODAY.

Morgan Hines

CDC: Possible COVID-19 may spread through droplets, airborne particles

The CDC has updated its guidance regarding how COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, spreads, now noting the virus may spread through the droplets and airborne particles spread with coughs, sneezes, singing, talking or even just breathing. The updated guidance says, “There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet.”

CNN reported the guidance was updated Friday, the same day the agency reversed course on controversial testing guidance. According to the CDC, “indoor environments without good ventilation” increase the risk of infection via suspended droplets and airborne particles. 

– Jordan Culver

Giuliana Rancic, Vivica A. Fox miss Emmys after positive COVID-19 tests

Longtime E! host Giuliana Rancic and special correspondent Vivica A. Fox missed covering the virtual Emmys red carpet show Sunday after both tested positive for COVID-19. They were replaced on the show by Brad Goreski and Nina Parker. The veteran E! host Rancic, 46, released a video message for the “Live From the Red Carpet: The 2020 Emmy Awards,” saying her entire family had tested positive for the virus during preliminary testing for the show. She said she, husband Bill, 49, and 8-year-old son, Duke, were recovering at home.

“I do not take missing an award show lightly, but unfortunately this year is just so different,” Rancic said.

Fox, 56, also announced her absence through a statement read by Goreski: “During these unprecedented times, it’s more important than ever that we follow all safety and health rules and guidelines to protect ourselves and each other,” the statement said.

– Bryan Alexander

California pauses unemployment applications to clear backlog

As California’s death count surpassed 15,000 on Sunday, officials said they will not accept unemployment applications for the next two weeks to reduce a backlog. Nearly 600,000 Californians are part of a backlog where their unemployment claims have not been processed by the state’s Employment Development Department for more than 21 days, the state said in a news release. There are also 1 million cases where residents received payments but are awaiting a resolution to their modified claims.

The Employment Development Department has been hampered throughout the pandemic by outdated technology at a time when California is seeing an unprecedented wave of unemployment claims. While the department estimates that about 2.1 million residents were out of work statewide last month, California’s unemployment rate fell to 11.4% in August, down from 13.5% in July.

First few million vaccine doses will be ‘godsend,’ White House advisor says

Even a few million doses of vaccine would be sufficient for the U.S. to obtain “80% to 90% of the benefit” of mass vaccinations, White House coronavirus task force member Adm. Brett Giroir said Sunday. Giroir, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said a few million doses could be available in late November or December. Vaccinating nursing home workers, teachers, people with pre-existing conditions and the people surrounding them will be crucial to stemming the COVID-19 tide,, Giroir said.

“A vaccine as early as possible, even in a few million doses, will be a godsend in terms of outcomes, hospitalizations, morbidities and deaths,” Giroir said.

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19 news: US near 200K deaths; new CDC guidelines, virtual Emmys

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