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

The coronavirus pandemic appears to be leveling off in most of the United States, with new cases, deaths and hospitalizations all down over the past week, but the plateau leaves the country with high and persistent infection numbers and worries of a post-Labor Day surge in some areas.

The number of new cases reported daily peaked above 70,000 in July and has been falling since. The decline now seems to be slowing, with the daily number hovering near 40,000 for more than a week, a review of nationwide data showed Tuesday. That is one sign that the infection may be leveling off.

Although that is good news, the numbers suggest continued high levels of infection and a long road ahead, particularly as cold weather and the flu season approach. Without a vaccine or a major advance in treatment, significant reductions in new cases would probably require voluntary or mandated changes in behavior that experts say are unlikely six months into the public health crisis.

Although the pandemic has meant the loss of jobs, wages, schooling and lives, large numbers of Americans have resumed many elements of their daily routines, and many still decline to wear masks or avoid crowds.

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said he no longer thinks it makes sense to talk about “waves” of virus spread. Instead, he said, there will be spikes followed by plateaus.

“This is just one big forest fire of coronavirus, and it will burn hot wherever there is human wood to burn,” he said. “If you don’t put the fire out completely, and then you walk away from it, it’s going to start burning again in days.”

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Amid virus surge, South Dakota governor pushes tourism with CARES Act funds

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s administration announced Tuesday that it is using federal coronavirus relief funds to pay for a $5 million tourism ad campaign aimed at drawing people to the state, even as it emerges as one of the nation’s top hot spots for COVID-19 infections.

The 30-second spot, which premiered on Fox News alongside Noem’s speech at the Republican National Convention last month, features the governor saying that “with our breathtaking landscapes and wide-open spaces, we’re a place to safely explore.” But the state currently ranks second in the country for new cases per capita over the last two weeks, with 439 new cases per 100,000 people.

Donald Trump, Kristi Noem, J.B. Pritzker, Ron DeSantis, Mike DeWine

President Trump speaks to then-Gov.-elect Kristi Noem, R-S.D., during a meeting at White House in 2018. At the governor’s request, the South Dakota Department of Tourism aired a Fox News ad, narrated by Noem, that advertises the state as a place open for visitors despite the coronavirus pandemic. Evan Vucci/Associated Press

The ad is narrated by Noem. It offers dramatic footage of South Dakota scenery such as Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park, then concludes with the governor introducing herself and pitching a visit to South Dakota.

The state has counted 124 infections among people who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August but has not released an estimate on secondary infections linked to rallygoers. Health officials across 12 states have found more than 300 people with infections who attended the rally, including a Minnesota man who died.

Noem spokesman Ian Fury defended using the federal coronavirus funds for the ads, saying that the state “should absolutely be promoting tourism” because it is vital to South Dakota’s economy. After agriculture, it is the state’s largest industry.

“That’s how people put food on the table,” he said.

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Skyrocketing Indian virus cases could eclipse U.S. outbreak

The novel coronavirus seemed like a distant problem in Boisar, a small factory town about two hours from Mumbai, until Daniel Tribhuvan died.

The 35-year-old tutor started feeling feverish in April, while bringing his father home from a chemotherapy appointment in the Indian financial capital. When a test confirmed Tribhuvan was infected, the local health system’s reaction was shambolic. After he checked into a public hospital, the first thing they did was try to palm him off to a private facility in Mumbai. The ambulance turned around halfway when they discovered he couldn’t pay. Back at the public hospital, a doctor didn’t see him for three days, and when an elderly man occupying a bed nearby died, his body wasn’t collected for 12 hours. After a week, Tribhuvan’s blood-oxygen levels were dangerously low. He died on May 17, becoming Boisar’s first confirmed fatality from covid-19.

“I think he would have survived if the system was good,” Samuel Tribhuvan, Daniel’s older brother, said in a recent interview at Boisar’s local administrative office, inside a rundown building that also houses a liquor store and a portrait studio. “This is the worst place where we could get the coronavirus.”

Six months after the start of the pandemic – as the developed world tries to restore some semblance of normalcy – the virus is arriving with a vengeance in India’s vast hinterland, where 70% of its more than 1.3 billion citizens live. The country is now adding more than 80,000 confirmed infections per day, with about 71,000 deaths so far, numbers experts say are likely being under-counted. On Monday it galloped past Brazil to become the world’s second-biggest outbreak, a sobering preview of what could happen once the coronavirus spreads in earnest across other poor, densely populated places from Nigeria to Myanmar. With such a vast reservoir of potential hosts and minimal ability to contain infections, it seems inevitable that India will at some point overtake the U.S. to have the most cases globally.

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An Indian boy cries as a medical worker prepares to collect his swab sample for COVID-19 test at a rural health centre in Bagli, India, on Monday. India’s coronavirus cases are now the second-highest in the world, behind only the United States. Associated Press/Ashwini Bhatia

The result is likely to be a human and economic catastrophe, risking untold numbers of deaths and the reversal of years of rising incomes and living standards – developments that helped lift millions of people from grinding poverty into something like the middle class. The broader effects won’t be confined to the subcontinent.

With a gross domestic product last year of almost $3 trillion, India is the world’s fifth-largest economy and a crucial node in global supply chains. Despite the troubled state of its own medical system, it is by far the largest producer of both vaccines and the generic drugs that healthcare systems around the world rely upon. And with Asia’s economic giant, China, turning increasingly inwards, companies from Walmart to Facebook had been investing heavily in India, betting on its rising consumer market. India’s trouble containing the virus, therefore, could weigh on any global recovery from the coronavirus – either epidemiological or economic.

With infections gathering pace, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing criticism for not doing more to help the state and local-level officials on the front lines of fighting the virus, who face an excruciating choice. Failing to stop its spread could mean the collapse of already-fragile healthcare systems, potentially leaving thousands to die untreated. But the distancing measures that most experts see as essential to doing so will worsen an economic contraction that’s already among the world’s most severe, making it even more difficult for India to resume its progress toward broader prosperity and hampering the global recovery. That could ultimately cause just as many deaths, whether from malnutrition, other infectious diseases, or even suicide.

As the virus spreads throughout India, “the most immediate thing that will happen is people will die,” said Vivekanand Jha, executive director of the Indian branch of the Sydney-based George Institute for Global Health. “The second is that the people who have not died will lose their livelihoods.”

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Computer glitches disrupt classes as schools nationwide return online

MIAMI — As millions of American youngsters start the school year with online classes at home because of the coronavirus, they are running into technical glitches and other headaches that have thrust many a harried parent into the role of teacher’s aide and tech support person.

A ransomware attack forced schools in Hartford, Connecticut, to postpone the start of online and in-person classes this week. Seattle’s system crashed last week, and a Zoom outage caused it to shut down for more than two hours in August. An online learning program used in Alabama and other places recently crashed. North Carolina’s platform went down on the first day of classes last month.

Erik Rasmussen, a Falls Church, Virginia, resident who has three children taking online classes, said he regularly copes with computer glitches and short attention spans. The divorced dad has his children half the time.

“You put your kids in front of the computer, and then I go to do my work, but kids are kids — they’re going to turn off the video function and start playing a game,” he said.

Summer break gave school districts time to iron out kinks that cropped up when the virus forced them to switch to online classes in the spring. But the new school year already has been plagued by some of the same problems.

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Andrew Burstein, 13, logs onto 8th grade class with Don Estridge High Tech Middle School from his home in Delray Beach, Fla., during the first day back for Palm Beach County Schools on Aug. 31. Burstein said it took about an hour to log into school but after the delay he had no issues. Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, File

Florida’s largest school district, in Miami-Dade County, had assured parents that it had consolidated different programs into one platform that would be easier to navigate. But software glitches and cyberattacks disrupted the first week of the new school year that started Aug. 31.

A high school student was arrested and accused of orchestrating a series of network outages. School administrators believe other people may be doing the same.

Christy Rodriguez, 36, said her third- and fourth-grade boys’ classes struggled with connection problems during the first week of school.

“Four full days were lost,” she said. “Either somebody is not able to go on, or the screen goes blank, or the teacher can’t hear the kids, so the teacher then just logs off and then sends a message to the parents.”

Rodriguez said she has been forced to work until late at night because her children need help fixing connection problems.

“The teachers are frustrated. The kids are frustrated. I hope that they soon open up schools,” she said.

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COVID-19 may cause prolonged gut infection, scientists say

COVID-19 patients have active and prolonged gut viral infection, even in the absence of gastrointestinal symptoms, scientists found.

The coronavirus may continue to infect and replicate in the digestive tract after clearing in the airways, researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong said in a statement Monday. The findings, published in the medical journal GUT, have implications for identifying and treating cases, they said.

SINTX Technologies Announces New Antiviral Test Results

Illustration of SARS-CoV-2 showing spikes on the outer surface of the virus. Graphic: Business Wire

SARS-CoV-2 spreads mainly through respiratory droplets — spatters of virus-laden discharge from the mouth and nose, according to the World Health Organization. Since the first weeks of the pandemic, however, scientists have said infectious virus in the stool of patients may also play a role in transmission.

A February study of 73 patients hospitalized with the coronavirus in China’s Guangdong province found more than half tested positive for the virus in their stool.

“We used to think of SARS-CoV-2 as just a pulmonary or respiratory disease,” said Siew Chien Ng, assistant dean of medicine and associate director of the university’s Centre for Gut Microbiota Research, in an interview Tuesday. “But over the last couple months, a lot of evidence has emerged that SARS-CoV-2 also affects the intestinal tract.”

Ng and colleagues scientists studied stool samples from 15 patients to better understand the virus’s activity in the gastrointestinal tract. They found active gut infection in seven of them, some of whom had no nausea, diarrhea or other digestive symptoms. Patients’ stool continued to test positive about a week after their respiratory samples were negative, Ng said. One patient was still positive after 30 days, she said.

Ng and colleagues plan to conduct further tests to demonstrate virus particles from stool are capable of causing disease after finding surrogate biomarkers that indicate they are infectious.

It’s not yet known how SARS-CoV-2 makes its way to the gastrointestinal tract to cause an infection there, according to Ng. It’s possible some infectious particles survive the stomach’s acidic environment.

McConnell says Senate to vote on trimmed-down virus aid proposal

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, under pressure from GOP senators in tough reelection races, said Tuesday the Senate would vote on a trimmed-down Republican coronavirus relief package, though it has a slim chance of passage in the face of Democrats’ insistence for more sweeping aid.

“The Senate Republican majority is introducing a new targeted proposal, focused on some of the very most urgent healthcare, education, and economic issues,” McConnell said in a statement.

The GOP leader acknowledged the package he will be putting forward “does not contain every idea our party likes.” And he said it was far less than what Democrats are seeking.

“Yet Republicans believe the many serious differences between our two parties should not stand in the way of agreeing where we can agree,” he said.

The move comes as lawmakers straggle back to Washington for an abbreviated preelection session, as hopes are dimming for another coronavirus relief bill — or much else.

Several Republican senators in tough reelection bids are eager to show constituents they are working to ease the pandemic’s strain on jobs, businesses and health care. But many Senate Republicans are resisting more spending.

Talks between top Democrats and the Trump administration broke off last month and remain off track, with the bipartisan unity that drove almost $3 trillion in COVID-19 rescue legislation into law this spring replaced by toxic partisanship and a return to Washington dysfunction.

Expectations in July and August that a fifth bipartisan pandemic response bill would eventually be birthed despite increased obstacles has been replaced by genuine pessimism. Recent COVID-related conversations among key players have led to nothing.

Read the full story here.

Young adults blamed as UK sees sharp spike in virus cases

LONDON — The British government faced pressure to act fast Tuesday to keep a lid on daily new coronavirus infections after a sharp spike across the U.K. that has been largely blamed on party-going young adults disregarding social distancing.

Daily new coronavirus infections are now about double the level of just last week and on Monday hit nearly 3,000 for the second day running. That’s prompted speculation the British government is considering tightening some restrictions, such as reducing the number of people gathering indoors in England from the current limit of 30.

Government ministers and scientists took to the airways to urge Britons not to let down their guard.

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People sit outside a pub on the south bank of river Thames in London, Monday, Aug. 31. AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali

“We’ve been able to relax a bit over the summer … but these latest figures really show us that much as people might like to say ‘Oh well, it’s gone away’ — this hasn’t gone away,” said Dr. Jonathan Van-Tam, the government’s deputy chief medical officer.

He said while the rise in infections is “much more marked” among people between 17 and 21, he was concerned about a “more general and creeping geographic trend” across the U.K.

“People have relaxed too much,” he said. “Now is the time for us to re-engage and realize that this is a continuing threat.”

The U.K. has Europe’s worst death toll from the virus, recording more than 41,500 deaths within 28 days of testing positive. The actual toll is believed to be far higher as the government tally does not include those who died without having been tested.

The spike in U.K. cases follows big daily case increases in Spain and France, both of whom have seen the number of COVID-19 patients being hospitalized rise over the summer. Spain saw an average of 8,800 new cases a day over the weekend, and France has been recording over 5,000 a day.

The worry is that the U.K. will also start seeing a big increase in those virus patients being hospitalized and dying.

“While young people are less likely to die from this disease, be in no doubt that they are still at risk,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told lawmakers, adding that six months after getting infected, some previously fit people are still laid low by chronic fatigue, muscle pain and breathing difficulties.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government has faced strong criticism for its mixed messages since it started easing the coronavirus lockdown in late spring. It spent much of the summer encouraging people to eat out to help the hard-pressed hospitality sector and is now making the case that workers should return to their offices to help hard-hit businesses in city centers.

Hopes fading for coronavirus deal as Congress returns

WASHINGTON — At least there won’t be a government shutdown.

But as lawmakers straggle back to Washington for an abbreviated pre-election session, hopes are dimming for another coronavirus relief bill — or much else.

Talks between top Democrats and the Trump administration broke off last month and remain off track, with the bipartisan unity that drove almost $3 trillion in COVID-19 rescue legislation into law this spring replaced by toxic partisanship and a return to Washington dysfunction.

Expectations in July and August that a fifth bipartisan pandemic response bill would eventually be birthed despite increased obstacles has been replaced by genuine pessimism. Recent COVID-related conversations among key players have led to nothing.

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As lawmakers straggle back to Washington for an abbreviated pre-election session, hopes are fading for a pandemic relief bill, or much else. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

Democrats seem secure in their political position, with President Donald Trump and several Senate GOP incumbents lagging in the polls. Trump is seeking to sideline the pandemic as a campaign issue, and Republicans aren’t interested in a deal on Democratic terms — even as needs like school aid enjoy widespread support.

Poisonous relationships among key leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows give little reason for confidence about overcoming obstacles on the cost, scope and details of a potential relief bill. Pelosi recently referred to Meadows as “whatever his name is,” while the Meadows-run White House during a press briefing ran a video loop of Pelosi’s controversial visit to a San Francisco hair salon.

Trump said Monday that Democrats “don’t want to make a deal because they think that if the country does as badly as possible … that’s good for the Democrats.”

“I am taking the high road,” he told reporters at the White House. “I’m taking the high road by not seeing them.”

All of this imperils the chances for another round of $1,200 direct payments delivered under Trump’s name, the restoration of more generous unemployment benefits to those who’ve lost their jobs because of the pandemic, updates to a popular business subsidy program, and money to help schools reopen and states and local governments avoid layoffs.

Read the full story here.

Retiree in Austria got a $1,200 U.S. virus relief check

BERLIN — A retiree in Austria says he received a U.S. government coronavirus relief check for $1,200, despite not having lived in America for over half a century.

The check, with President Donald Trump’s name on it, is part of a massive federal stimulus program. But the money also has been sent to people who aren’t eligible — including deceased U.S. taxpayers.

Austrian public broadcaster ORF reports the 73-year-old man from Linz, who worked as a waiter in the United States for two years in the 1960s, was able to cash the check.

His wife, who never worked or lived in the United States, got one too.

ORF reports banks in Austria confirm they’ve cashed dozens of checks for residents of the Alpine country. It’s unclear how many were entitled to the money.

Hong Kong to further ease virus measures

HONG KONG — Hong Kong is further relaxing social distancing measures, as the territory’s number of new coronavirus cases dwindles.

Hong Kong reported another six cases of the virus on Tuesday.

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Security officials wearing face masks stand guard outside the Great Hall of the People before an event to honor some of those involved in China’s fight against COVID-19 in Beijing, Tuesday, Sept. 8. AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

From Friday, the limit on public gatherings will be relaxed to four people, up from two people. Most indoor and outdoor sports facilities, as well as museums will be allowed to re-open.

The city has seen its coronavirus cases dwindle after a surge in locally-transmitted infections in July. Hong Kong has reported a total of 4,896 infections since the pandemic began, with 99 deaths.

Hong Kong officials said Tuesday that the city is in talks with 11 countries about setting up travel bubbles, which would allow residents to travel internationally even amid the pandemic.

Such travel bubbles would include a pre-flight coronavirus test that will be mutually recognized by both Hong Kong and the partnering country.

Austria wants to keep schools, ski resorts open

BERLIN — Austria’s leader says he wants to keep both ski resorts and schools open this winter as the country tries to keep coronavirus infections down while supporting the tourism industry.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said during a visit to Slovenia on Tuesday that the government will do everything to ensure that safe skiing is possible. The Austrian ski resort of Ischgl became an early European hot spot as the pandemic took off in March.

The Austria Press Agency reported that Kurz said that “we must try to lead as normal a life as possible in all areas of our life” and added that “winter tourism and skiing will be possible.” Asked whether skiing areas might have to be closed so that schools can remain open longer, he said: “I would not like to play schools the economy off against each other.”

Kurz said that post-skiing partying won’t be possible in the way it was previously, but didn’t give details.

India reports highest single-day total deaths from virus

NEW DELHI — India has reported 1,133 deaths from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, its highest single-day total.

The Health Ministry on Tuesday also reported 75,809 new cases, raising India’s reported tally to nearly 4.3 million — second only to the United States and maintaining an upward surge amid an ease in nationwide restrictions to help mitigate the economic pain.

The country’s death toll now stands at 72,775.

The rise in cases is partly due to increased testing. The number of daily tests conducted across the country has risen to more than a million. Nearly 3.3 million people in India have recovered from COVID-19 so far.

The pandemic has been economically devastating for India. Its economy contracted nearly 24% in the second quarter, the worst among the world’s top economies.

South Korea’s newest virus cases centered in Seoul

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 136 new cases of the coronavirus, mostly in the greater capital area, where authorities have tightened dining restrictions and shut down certain businesses to slow the viral spread.

The figures released by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday brought the nation’s reported cases since the pandemic began to 21,432. Five patients, between the ages of 75 and 90, died in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 341.

KCDC said 100 of the new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, where restaurants are currently required to provide only deliveries and takeouts after 9 p.m.

After-school academies and indoor sports facilities such as fitness centers and billiard clubs have also been ordered to close to slow the spread of the virus.


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