The latest on the coronavirus pandemic from around the U.S. and the world.

Could the U.S. really see a coronavirus vaccine before Election Day?

A letter from federal health officials instructing states to be ready to begin distributing a vaccine by Nov. 1 – two days before the election – has been met, not with exhilaration, but with suspicion among some public health experts, who wonder whether the Trump administration is hyping the possibility or intends to rush approval for political gain.

The skepticism comes amid growing questions about the scientific credibility of the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and their vulnerability to political pressure from President Trump.

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Nurse Kathe Olmstead gives volunteer Melissa Harting of Harpersville, N.Y., an injection July 27 as a study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway in Binghamton, N.Y. Hans Pennink/Associated Press, file

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert and a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, told CNN on Thursday that it is unlikely but “not impossible” that a vaccine could win approval in October, instead of November or December, as many experts believe.

“And I would assume, and I’m pretty sure, it’s going to be the case that a vaccine would not be approved for the American public unless it was indeed both safe and effective,” he said.

Similarly, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed, the administration’s project to hasten the development of a vaccine, told NPR that it is possible but “extremely unlikely” a vaccine will be ready before the election.

Read the full story here.

Filming of ‘The Batman’ halted after positive virus case on the set

Warner Bros.’ highly anticipated revival “The Batman” was halted after a member of the production tested positive for COVID-19. It is one of the most high-profile sets to be hobbled by the health crisis.

Filming on “The Batman,” starring Robert Pattinson, shown last year, has been halted because of a positive coronvirus test on the set. Jordan Strauss/Invision/Associated Press

Warner Bros. declined to comment on who was infected, but Vanity Fair reported that it was the movie’s star, Robert Pattinson. A representative for Pattinson was unavailable for comment.

Filming, which had restarted in Britain on Sept. 1, is now paused, the Burbank-based studio confirmed. It did not provide other details on how or where the person got infected, and whether anyone else had been exposed.

The action movie is one of the biggest productions to get back to filming since a global shutdown of the industry in March. “The Batman,” the latest reboot of the DC Comics character, had been on hold since March, when countries initiated restrictions on gatherings in the wake of the pandemic.

The new hiatus shows the difficulties Hollywood faces in trying to resume filming as the pandemic persists. Studios, which have major movie productions not only to complete but to get under way, have been delaying release dates for films.

Most of the activity in Los Angeles has involved shoots for commercials and other small productions, but some crew members have been pushing for more stringent safety protocols.

Stars such as “The Rock” have recently disclosed that they contracted COVID-19. Actor Tom Hanks was the first international celebrity to announce a positive test result for the coronavirus in March. He and his wife, Rita Wilson, contracted the virus in Australia, where they were hospitalized and recovered.

“The Batman” had been set for release on June 25, 2021, but that has since been pushed back to Oct. 1, 2021. Universal Pictures also had to scale back some of its filming plans on “Jurassic World: Dominion,” one of the first major movies to return to filming, after three British crew members working in Malta tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, it has been able to resume filming without issue.

The “Avatar” sequels have already resumed filming in New Zealand, where the disease has almost been eradicated.

Roughly one-third of Big Ten athletes with COVID-19 have myocarditis, Penn State doctor says

Cardiac MRI scans revealed that roughly a third of Big Ten athletes who tested positive for the coronavirus appear to have myocarditis, according to Penn State’s director of athletic medicine.

“What we have seen is when people have been studied with cardiac MRI scans – symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID infections – is a level of inflammation in cardiac muscle that just is alarming,” said Wayne Sebastianelli, Penn State’s director of athletic medicine, shown in 2011. Matt Rourke/Associated Press

The sobering comment by Wayne Sebastianelli, the school’s director of athletic medicine, came Monday as pressure for the conference to play football this fall came from President Trump, fans and parents.

“When we looked at our COVID-positive athletes, whether they were symptomatic or not, 30 to roughly 35 percent of their heart muscles (are) inflamed,” Sebastianelli said during a State College Area school board of directors meeting. “And we really just don’t know what to do with it right now. It’s still very early in the infection. Some of that has led to the Pac-12 and the Big Ten’s decision to sort of put a hiatus on what’s happening.”

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle that can lead to arrhythmia, cardiac arrest and death, especially in a person who doesn’t know they have it and performs rigorous exercise. Cardiovascular experts are becoming increasingly aware that COVID-19 can affect the heart and urge cardiac screening for athletes who are recovering from the virus. Two high-level athletes – Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez and Indiana offensive lineman Brady Feeney – made headlines when they experienced heart issues. Myocarditis causes about 75 deaths per year in athletes from 13 to 25, according to the Myocarditis Foundation.

“You could have a very high-level athlete who’s got a very superior VO2 max and cardiac output who gets infected with COVID and can drop his or her VO2 max (also known as maximal oxygen uptake) and cardiac output just by 10 percent, and that could make them go from elite status to average status,” Sebastianelli said. “We don’t know that. We don’t know how long that’s going to last. What we have seen is when people have been studied with cardiac MRI scans – symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID infections – is a level of inflammation in cardiac muscle that just is alarming.”

There were no details on the players or schools involved, but the conference’s 14 schools are in Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland. Despite the economic consequences that will ensue in each place with no fall football seasons, presidents and chancellors from each school – and not Commissioner Kevin Warren – voted 11-3 not to play.

In an open letter last month, Warren wrote that the decision was “based on sound feedback, guidance and advice from medical experts” and mentioned myocarditis as a topic in meetings of presidents, chancellors, athletic directors and health advisory board members. Warren wrote that there is “simply too much we do not know about this virus.”

The Big Ten announced its decision to postpone the fall sports season on Aug. 11.

Trump and top aides ditch masks after saying patriots wear them

Donald Trump and his top aides are conducting near-daily public events without wearing masks, disregarding government guidelines as well as the president’s short-lived effort to encourage Americans to cover their faces out of patriotism.

Trump first publicly wore a mask on July 11 during a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, to acclaim from aides. He wore them sporadically through the summer, including while visiting his ailing brother, Robert Trump, in the hospital on Aug. 14.

But as of late, he’s gone bare-faced. Trump twice attended large Republican National Convention events last week without wearing a mask. Almost no one else wore one, either.

He has since traveled to New Hampshire, Louisiana, Texas, Wisconsin and, on Wednesday, North Carolina, in each case meeting with local officials and residents without wearing a mask. His top aides also generally don’t wear face coverings.

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President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf arrive at Andrews Air Force Base after a trip to Kenosha, Wis., Tuesday, Sept. 1, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Trump’s rejection of masks mirrors his broader rebuke of public health practices to fight the virus, which has killed more than 183,000 Americans. Trump at one point retweeted a Fox News personality who ridiculed Joe Biden for wearing a mask, and in May the president called a reporter “politically correct” for wearing one. But he pivoted sharply in July as cases of the virus surged, leading to the Walter Reed photograph.

It didn’t last. As he urged Americans to reopen the country and brave the coronavirus themselves by returning to work and school, Trump set his own mask aside.

He has said he personally doesn’t need one because he and those around him are tested regularly, though the tests are not 100% accurate. His refusal to regularly cover his face has helped make masks a partisan issue, with surveys showing Democrats are still likelier to wear one in public than Republicans.

Scores of health officials, including the U.S. Surgeon General and the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have urged Americans to wear masks. Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and a White House senior adviser, wore a mask Wednesday during an event in Michigan.

“It’s his own task force that’s recommending this, and it’s his own CDC that’s recommending it,” said Amesh Adalja, a scholar at Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security who studies pandemics. “It’s hypocritical if he expects the population to be able to do that, because the task force he constituted is recommending it, yet he’s not doing it.”

Biden has pointedly worn a mask when he’s in public. “Why do you wear a mask?” he said Wednesday. “To protect your neighbor, to keep someone else from getting sick and maybe dying.”

Read the full story here.

Arkansas reports largest single-day deaths

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas reported its largest single-day increase in deaths from the coronavirus, while the number of cases at the University of Arkansas’ Fayetteville campus increased to nearly 400.

The Department of Health reported 27 new deaths Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 841. However, the department says 13 of the deaths were late reports.

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Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force in Little Rock, Ark. on Aug. 17. Birx was in Arkansas Arkansas to speak with Gov. Asa Hutchinson and health officials about the state’s pandemic response. Associated Press/Andrew DeMillo

The University of Arkansas has been conducting testing on its campus through Thursday, which Dr. Jose Romero, the state’s health secretary, has said will give the state a better sense of the prevalence of the outbreak there. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he expected more than 1,000 test results from college students to come in over the next week.

The state reported 615 new confirmed cases, bringing its total to 62,112.

Pandemic learning pods are here to stay — and could disrupt American education

Some love them. Some hate them.

But nobody working in education today can escape pandemic learning pods: the increasingly popular phenomenon in which families band together and hire a private tutor to offer in-person learning to a small group of children.

Teachers throughout the nation are sketching out schedules and pondering whether they can squeeze in pod tutoring after virtual school. They are weighing health risks, deciding on ground rules — should all pod students wear masks? — and asking parents how much they will pay (a lot, it turns out). Sometimes, they are quitting their jobs to lead pods instead.

Read the full story.

Consider wearing a mask during sex, Canada’s chief public health officer says

Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, has urged people to take precautions such as wearing face masks and refraining from kissing during sex with new partners to reduce the risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus.

In a statement, Tam said that the pandemic had made sex “complicated,” Reuters reported. She said the circumstances are especially difficult for those whose sexual partner was not living in the same household as them or for people who were classified as high-risk individuals, making them more susceptible to the infection.

“Like other activities during COVID-19 that involve physical closeness, there are some things you can do to minimize the risk of getting infected and spreading the virus,” she said. She advised citizens that to make more sensible decisions, they should avoid face-to-face closeness as well as alcohol.

“The lowest risk sexual activity during COVID-19 involves yourself alone,” Tam said.

At least 9,182 people have died of COVID-19 in Canada, and the country has more than 131,000 confirmed infections. A karaoke bar in Quebec City was linked to a recent outbreak.

Australian woman arrested, charged with inciting others to break pandemic restrictions

MELBOURNE, Australia — A pregnant woman says she didn’t know she had broken any law when she was handcuffed by police in front of her children in her Australian home and led away in pajamas for allegedly inciting activists to demonstrate against pandemic lockdown.

Zoe Buhler’s partner helped her livestream the arrest on Wednesday at her home where she lives with two children aged 3 and 4 in the Victoria state city of Ballarat. The video has been viewed millions of times.

The 28-year-old has since been charged with using social media platforms to incite others to break pandemic restrictions by attending weekend rallies.

Britain’s testing criticized

LONDON — The British government says it is investing in a coronavirus test that gives results in as little as 20 minutes, as critics say tests for the virus are being rationed because the system can’t cope with demand.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the government is expanding trials of two new tests — a no-swab saliva test and another that gives results in minutes. It’s also running a trial on the benefits of repeat testing of people without symptoms.

Britain has hugely expanded its testing capacity since the start of the pandemic, but critics say it is still not doing enough to find and isolate people with the coronavirus.

Anyone with symptoms is eligible for a test, but the BBC reported Thursday that people who enter their postcode into the government’s website are sometimes being directed to drive-through centers hundreds of miles away.

Hancock insisted the system was working well despite some “operational challenges.”

The government says it has the capacity to perform almost 350,000 tests a day, though only abut 180,000 are actually being processed daily.

Human trials of vaccines underway

LONDON — Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline say they are beginning human trials of a potential vaccine for COVID-19 after positive results from preclinical testing.

The drugmakers said Thursday they plan to test the vaccine on 440 adults at 11 sites in the U.S., with the first results expected in early December. If these tests are successful, the companies plan to begin large-scale trials later that month.

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline say they plan to seek regulatory approval for the vaccine in early 2021 if data from the trials supports it.

The two companies in July announced plans to collaborate with the U.S. government to produce up to 100 million doses of the vaccine, with the government taking an option to purchase up to 500 million more doses in the future. The British government has agreed to buy up to 60 million doses.

Actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson describes his family’s COVID-19 ordeal

LOS ANGELES — Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson says he and his family tested positive for the coronavirus.

Johnson announced their diagnosis in an 11-plus minute video on Instagram on Wednesday.

The actor says he was shocked after hearing their positive tests. He called the ordeal “one of the most challenging and difficult things we’ve had ever to endure.”

The actor said he along with wife, Lauren Hashian, and two young daughters contracted the virus, but have now recovered.

He says his daughters “bounced back” after having sore throats for a couple days. But for Johnson and his wife, he says they both had a “rough go.”

San Diego State University halts in-person classes

SAN DIEGO — San Diego State University has halted in-person classes for a month after dozens of students were infected with the coronavirus.

The school announced Wednesday that about 200 course offerings, some of them lab classes, will move to virtual learning. On-campus housing will remain open.

San Diego County health officials say there have been 64 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 among SDSU students since classes resumed last week. Some, but not all, of the infections were linked to other cases at the university. Some involve students who live off-campus.

California State university at Chico also halted classes this week.

University of Illinois students under increased restrictions as cases climb

URBANA, Ill. — The University of Illinois is ramping up enforcement of restrictions on student activity after more than 330 COVID-19 cases in two days on the school’s Urbana-Champaign campus, school officials said Wednesday.

In an email to students, Chancellor Robert Jones said he expects all undergraduates to “limit their in-person interactions to only the most essential activities” for the next two weeks starting Wednesday evening.

“These include things like taking twice weekly COVID-19 tests, attending class, purchasing groceries and food, going to work, engaging in individual outdoor activity, attending religious services and seeking medical attention,” Jones wrote.

The University of Illinois isn’t the only university in the state seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases. Illinois State University in Normal is reporting about 1,025 students have tested positive since the start of the fall semester two weeks ago, nearly 5% of the student body.

Since students returned to the Urbana-Champaign campus Aug. 16, more than 1,000 people on campus have tested positive. University officials say about 800 people are currently in quarantine.

Cases in Georgia decline, except among college students

ATLANTA — With more than 3,000 public university students and employees across Georgia testing positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 1, some schools are taking action to slow the spread of the respiratory illness.

Georgia Tech is encouraging students to convert to single rooms, moving out roommates over coming weeks to reduce exposure to the coronavirus. Both Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia announced they are renting more off-campus rooms to isolate or quarantine students who have been infected or exposed to the virus.

The University of Georgia reported 821 new infections for the week ended Saturday, a number that President Jere Morehead said Wednesday is “concerning.” He urged students to “continue to make every effort to prioritize their health and safety by taking the proper steps to avoid exposure to this virus.

Around 4% of all cases recorded in Georgia in the last month have been associated with university campuses, according to figures kept by The Associated Press. The number could be higher because some schools, including the state’s largest — Georgia State University — are not posting full reports publicly.

The rising campus infection numbers come as new cases in the rest of Georgia decline. The total number of cases rose to near 275,000 Wednesday, according to state data, but the average number of cases has fallen below 2,000 a day.


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