NEW DELHI — The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus eclipsed 1 million on Tuesday, nine months into a crisis that has devastated the global economy, tested world leaders’ resolve, pitted science against politics and forced multitudes to change the way they live, learn and work.

“It’s not just a number. It’s human beings. It’s people we love,” said Dr. Howard Markel, a professor of medical history at the University of Michigan who has advised government officials on containing pandemics and lost his 84-year-old mother to COVID-19 in February.

Virus_Outbreak_Milestones_One_Million_Deaths_83443

Cemetery workers place the coffin containing the remains of Jose de Arimateia, 65, who died from COVID-19 complications, into a niche at the municipal cemetery in Nova Iguacu, Brazil. The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus has eclipsed 1 million. Associated Press/Silvia Izquierdo, file

“It’s our brothers, our sisters. It’s people we know,” he added. “And if you don’t have that human factor right in your face, it’s very easy to make it abstract.”

The bleak milestone, recorded by Johns Hopkins University, is greater than the population of Jerusalem or Austin, Texas. It is 2-1/2 times the sea of humanity that was at Woodstock in 1969. It is more than four times the number killed in the 2004 earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

Even then, the figure is almost certainly a vast undercount because of inadequate or inconsistent testing and reporting and suspected concealment by some countries.

And the number continues to mount. Nearly 5,000 deaths are reported each day on average. Parts of Europe are getting hit by a second wave, and experts fear the same fate may await the U.S., which accounts for about 205,000 deaths, or 1 out of 5 worldwide. That is far more than any other country, despite America’s wealth and medical resources.

Read the full story here.

Cuomo warns of hot spots throughout New York

NEW YORK — Coronavirus is rising fast again in New York –  and a handful of neighborhoods are by far getting hit the hardest.

Virus_Outbreak_State_Budgets_68742

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said of the spike in coronavirus cases in a handful of neighborhoods, “We need to get to the bottom of these clusters.” Hans Pennink/Associated Press

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a sharp increase in positive tests for coronavirus, especially in hot spots in Brooklyn, Orange County, Rockland County and the Southern Tier.

“It’s Yom Kippur and we honor that, but whether you are Jewish, Catholic or Muslim, public health is public health, and I have no issue,” Cuomo said.

The state recorded an overall 1.5 percent positive test rate Sunday, which is more than a 50 percent increase over previous recent daily rates. Brooklyn had a shocking 2.6 percent daily positive test rate. Orange and Rockland counties were even higher.

The top 10 ZIP codes in the state had an average 15 percent positivity rate. That includes an alarming 17 percent rate in 11219 in Brooklyn, namely Borough Park. Upstate Spring Valley clocked in at an eye-popping 30 percent, and Kiryas Joel had 22 percent.

Even though the ZIP codes represent just 2 percent of the state’s population, they contributed 25 percent of the entire state’s new positive cases.

“We need to get to the bottom of these clusters,” Cuomo said grimly.

The governor went on to suggest that targeted enforcement efforts would aim to quickly limit the increases, whether they are tied to religious events or lack of compliance with regulations requiring mask-wearing and social distancing.

“These rules apply to all religious gatherings and all events equally,” he said.

He said if the numbers keep heading the wrong way, the state will have to crack down on mask-wearing rules and gatherings of all kinds, even though he conceded that many people will chafe at the increased enforcement.

Cuomo said he suspects Labor Day gatherings may have also played a role in the spiking positive test rates as well as the start of universities, colleges, high schools and elementary schools.

Cuomo pointed out that New York is still a relative bright spot in the nation and the world, which is experiencing a major upturn in the pandemic as the weather turns cooler in the Northern Hemisphere.

WHO to roll out faster COVID-19 tests for poorer nations

GENEVA — The World Health Organization announced Monday that it and leading partners have agreed to a plan to roll out 120 million rapid-diagnostic tests for the coronavirus to help lower- and middle-income countries make up ground in a testing gap with richer countries — even if it’s not fully funded yet.

Virus_Outbreak_WHO_Vaccines_56733

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, said of the tests, “These tests provide reliable results in approximately 15 to 30 minutes, rather than hours or days, at a lower price with less sophisticated equipment.” Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via Associated Press

At $5 apiece, the antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests received a WHO emergency-use listing last week. The program initially requires $600 million and is to get started as early as next month to provide better access to areas where it’s harder to reach with PCR tests that are used often in many wealthier nations.

The rapid tests look for antigens, or proteins found on the surface of the virus. They are generally considered less accurate — though much faster — than higher-grade genetic tests, known as PCR tests. Those tests require processing with specialty lab equipment and chemicals. Typically that turnaround takes several days to deliver results to patients.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the program as “good news” in the fight against COVID-19.

“These tests provide reliable results in approximately 15 to 30 minutes, rather than hours or days, at a lower price with less sophisticated equipment,” he said. “This will enable the expansion of testing, particularly in hard-to-reach areas that do not have lab facilities or enough trained health workers to carry out PCR tests.”

“We have an agreement, we have seed funding and now we need the full amount of funds to buy these tests,” he said, without specifying.

Dr. Catharina Boehme, chief executive of a non-profit group called the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, said the rollout would be in 20 countries in Africa, and would rely on support of groups including the Clinton Health Initiative. She said the diagnostic tests will be provided by SD Biosensor and Abbott.

Peter Sands, the executive director of the Global Fund, a partnership that works to end epidemics, said it would make an initial $50 million available from its COVID-19 response mechanism. He said the deployment of the quality antigen rapid diagnostic tests will be a “significant step” to help contain and combat the coronavirus.

CDC’s credibility is eroded by internal blunders and external attacks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was created to stop deadly pathogens. It battled malaria and polio. It helped eradicate smallpox. It sent intrepid disease doctors to Africa to fight Ebola. Over the course of seven decades, it became the world’s most admired public health agency.

The CDC had been preparing for decades for this moment – the arrival of a virus rampaging across the planet, inflicting widespread death and suffering.

But 2020 has been a disaster for the CDC.

The agency’s response to the worst public health crisis in a century – the coronavirus pandemic – has been marked by technical blunders and botched messaging. The agency has endured false accusations and interference by Trump administration political appointees. Worst of all, the CDC has experienced a loss of institutional credibility at a time when the nation desperately needs to know whom to trust.

This harsh assessment does not come from political or ideological enemies of the CDC. It comes from the agency’s friends and supporters – and even from some of the professionals within the agency’s Atlanta headquarters.

“Since late February, the CDC has lost massive amounts of credibility,” said Jody Lanard, a physician who worked for nearly two decades as a pandemic communications adviser consulting with the World Health Organization.

With a budget just under $8 billion, the nation’s chief public health agency is responsible for everything from investigating disease outbreaks to figuring out how best to prevent the leading causes of death in the United States, such as heart disease and cancer.

“It’s been a terrible year for the CDC,” said Ross McKinney Jr., chief scientific officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges. “There’s no question that their credibility and effectiveness have been damaged by a combination of external threats, leadership that has been perceived to be ineffective and mistakes they have made internally.”

Robert Redfield

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert Redfield speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the Department of Education July 8, in Washington. Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

Career staff members remain proud of the expertise, talent and professionalism that the agency can bring to bear in a crisis. But they see the agency’s situation clearly. One veteran researcher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record, said Friday that morale is at an all-time low.

CDC Director Robert Redfield, appointed by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in 2018, is a well-known AIDS researcher who had never led an organization so large and complex. While his credentials are solid, he does not cut an effective, confidence-inspiring figure on television. He often speaks in a monotone, his eyes frequently closed.

President Trump directly contradicted the CDC chief this month after Redfield testified to Congress that a coronavirus vaccine would not be widely distributed until the middle of next year, similar to what other top officials have said. Trump said Redfield was “confused.”

Read the full story here.

U.S. to ship millions of tests in push to reopen K-12 schools

WASHINGTON — President Trump planned to announce Monday that the federal government will begin distributing millions of rapid coronavirus tests to states this week and urging governors to use them to reopen schools for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The move to vastly expand U.S. testing comes as confirmed new COVID-19 cases remain elevated at more than 40,000 per day and experts warn of a likely surge in infections during the colder months ahead. It also comes just five weeks before the November election, with Trump facing continued criticism for his handling of the crisis.

The tests will go out to states based on their population and can be used as governors see fit, but the administration encourages states to place a priority on schools. A senior administration official with knowledge of the plans told The Associated Press that 6.5 million tests will go out this week and that a total of 100 million tests will be distributed to governors over the next several weeks.

Virus_Outbreak_Wisconsin_95959

In this Aug. 26, 2020, file photo, first-grade teacher Jessica Johnson asks students if they’ve been sick or near anyone who’s been sick before the start of the first day of school at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School, in De Pere, Wis. Sarah Kloepping/The Post-Crescent via AP, File

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to get ahead of the president’s announcement.

The official said the administration is emphasizing testing in schools because it’s important to the physical, social and emotional development of students to be back in classrooms to the degree that’s possible. The Abbott Laboratories tests would allow teachers, for example, to be tested on a weekly basis, or for parents to know whether their symptomatic child has COVID-19, the official said. In some cases, states could undertake some baseline surveillance, like testing a proportion of students per week or per month to make sure that the incidence of COVID-19 is low.

The tests will come from a previously announced supply of 150 million ordered from Abbott. The company’s rapid test, the size of a credit card, is the first that does not require specialty computer equipment to process. It delivers results in about 15 minutes.

Rapid, convenient testing is considered essential to reopening the U.S. economy. But the effort has been plagued by problems since the earliest days of the outbreak.

First, the government lost pivotal weeks distributing, then correcting a flawed test developed by U.S. scientists. Then, for months private labs and hospitals struggled to ramp up testing capacity due to shortages of key supplies, including testing chemicals.

The issue is politically sensitive for Trump as he grapples with the pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans. For months, Trump has prodded state and local leaders to open schools this fall.

Read the full story here.

19 inmates at Honolulu jail test positive

HONOLULU — The Hawaii Department of Public Safety has said that 19 inmates tested positive for COVID-19 a day after officials declared that an outbreak in an Oahu jail was under control.

Hawaii Public Radio reported the confirmed infections followed a round of testing at the Oahu Community Correctional Center.

The department says 131 of 150 inmates tested tested negative and that tests on 22 staff members were negative. The department adds that there have been 310 inmates overall at the Oahu jail who have tested positive for the coronavirus and that 93 staff have tested positive.

Officials say mass testing continues at other Hawaii lockups.

Kansas governor moves meditation room

TOPEKA, Kan. — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has moved a Kansas Statehouse meditation room created by Republicans as a place for prayer and reflection to a less-visible space to create more room for her staff and enable them to follow social distancing.

The new meditation room is on the northwest side of the building’s basement floor, down an out-of-the-way hall. The meditation space was until earlier this month on the Statehouse’s second floor, where Kelly and her staff have their offices.

Kelly spokeswoman Lauren Fitzgerald says the change ensures that the governor’s expanding constituent-services staff can follow social distancing.

But Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican and frequent Kelly critic, suggested the governor “increased government so much that staffers need to take over a long-standing room for prayer.”

British parliament orders alcohol sales restricted

LONDON — British politicians will have to curb their late-night drinking after authorities in Parliament ordered alcohol sales restricted as part of anti-coronavirus measures.

Bars and restaurants in the U.K. have been ordered to shut at 10 p.m. under restrictions imposed last week to curb the spread of COVID-19. But catering facilities in Parliament were exempt under a loophole that allows workplace canteens to keep longer hours.

But after a backlash a parliamentary spokesman clarified Monday that “alcohol will not be sold after 10 p.m. anywhere on the parliamentary estate,” though food can be sold during late-night sessions of Parliament.

Some lawmakers had pointed out that the anomaly would do little for politicians’ public image.

Health Minister Helen Whately said members of Parliament “shouldn’t be sitting round late at night drinking. We have got a job to do when we are there.” Opposition Labour Party legislator Wes Streeting tweeted: “This is ridiculous and makes parliament look ridiculous. This has got to change immediately. We can’t have one rule for parliament and one rule for everyone else.”

Macron defends new French restrictions 

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has justified new restrictions in the country to limit the spread of the virus as restaurant and bar owners forced to shut down expressed anger at the measures.

The virus situation in French big cities is “serious and worrying,” Macron said in comments reported by government spokesperson Gabriel Attal on Monday.

New restrictions focus on areas where health authorities report a “rapid and significant” spreading of the epidemic, Attal said.

Bars and restaurants in Marseille, France’s second-biggest city, closed on Sunday evening for at least one week, prompting demonstrations against the government order.

Milder restrictions have been ordered in 10 other cities including Paris, with gyms shut down, public gatherings of more than 10 people banned and bars ordered to close at 10 p.m.

Finance minister Bruno Le Maire promised business owners “we will stay by your side and we will keep deploying arrangements to allow you to overcome that extraordinarily difficult moment.”

French authorities have reported a steady increase in new infections and hospitalizations in recent weeks. The country has reported a total of 31,727 virus-related deaths, one of Europe’s highest tolls.

At least 4 EU officials in self isolation after possible exposure

BRUSSELS — The coronavirus has forced at least four senior EU officials into self-isolation in recent days.

EU council president Charles Michel went into quarantine last week and EU commission spokeswoman Dana Spinant said Monday that three members of the college of commissioners also went into self-isolation “by prudence.”

The EU commissioners propose laws and make decisions on the EU’s executive arm’s policies.

Spinant did not identify the three commissioners.

12 passengers on ship in Greece test positive

ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities say 12 crew members of a Maltese-flagged cruise ship on a Greek island tour with more than 1,500 people on board have tested positive to the coronavirus and have been isolated on board.

The Mein Schiff 6, operated by TUI Cruises, began its trip in Heraklion on the southern Greek island of Crete on Sunday night with 922 passengers and 666 crew members on board. It had been due to sail to Piraeus, the country’s main port near the Greek capital Athens, and later to the western island of Corfu.

Greece’s Shipping Ministry says that sample tests for the coronavirus were carried out on 150 of the crew members and 12 of them were found to be positive. The passengers had undergone coronavirus tests before boarding and were not part of the sample testing.

Those who tested positive for COVID-19 have been isolated on board, and the cruise ship was headed to Piraeus. It was not immediately clear when it would arrive.

Russia reports more than 8,000 new cases

MOSCOW — Russian health officials have reported over 8,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time since mid-June.

The 8,135 new confirmed cases brought the country’s total to nearly 1.16 million, the fourth largest caseload in the world. Almost 27% of Monday’s new cases — 2,217 — were registered in Moscow.

The number of daily new cases started to rapidly grow this month in Russia, which had earlier lifted most of the virus-related restrictions and resumed air traffic with several countries.

Officials have repeatedly dismissed rumors of a second lockdown, saying the growth in the autumn was expected and Russia’s health care infrastructure was prepared for it.

Last week Moscow authorities asked the elderly to stay at home starting from Monday, and employers to allow as many people as possible to work from home amid the surge of new cases.

Russia was the first country in the world to approve a vaccine against the virus last month. The move elicited criticism from experts worldwide as the shots have only been tested on a few dozen people and further studies are needed to establish the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.

Brits face large fines for failure to isolate after positive tests

LONDON — People across England face tough new fines if they fail to self isolate after testing positive for COVID-19.

Starting Monday, those who fail to follow the rules face a $1,200 fine, which increases to 10,000 pounds for repeat offenders. The Department of Health and Social Care says those who test positive also will be fined if they knowingly provide false information to contact tracers.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the government will “not hesitate” to introduce further measures to restrict the spread of the coronavirus.

The House of Commons on Wednesday may consider an amendment to existing legislation that would give Parliament the right to vote on any new restrictions.

Britain already has Europe’s worst death toll from the pandemic, with about 42,000 confirmed deaths. But those who are calling for tighter restrictions are being challenged by critics who fear further damage to the economy.

In addition to national restrictions, about one-quarter of the U.K.’s 65 million people are living under tighter local restrictions to fight local outbreaks.

India tops 6 million confirmed cases

NEW DELHI — India’s confirmed coronavirus tally reached 6 million cases on Monday, keeping the country second to the United States in number of reported cases since the pandemic began.

The Health Ministry on Monday reported 82,170 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, driving the overall tally to 6,074,703. At least 1,039 deaths were also recorded in the same period, taking total fatalities up to 95,542 since the pandemic began.

New infections are in India are currently being reported faster than anywhere else in the world. The world’s second-most populous country is expected to become the pandemic’s worst-hit country in coming weeks, surpassing the U.S., where more than 7 million infections have been reported.

Even as infections mount, India has the highest number of recovered patients in the world. More than 5 million people have recovered from COVID-19 in India and the country’s recovery rate stands at 82%, according to the Health Ministry.

Little Rock teachers union says members will not teach in person

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Little Rock teachers union says its members won’t show up for in-person classes due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus in schools.

The Little Rock Education Association said Sunday its members are willing to teach classes virtually, but accused district administrators of not doing enough to prevent the virus’s spread. It was unclear how many teachers planned to participate in the action.

“At this juncture, LREA members believe that our schools are not safe for in-person instruction and that the risk to our students, our staff members and our community is too great,” the association said in a news release.

The superintendent of the state-controlled 21,000-student district said it was taking additional steps to ensure schools stay open for in-person instruction. Arkansas is requiring its public schools to stay open for in-person classes five days a week, though they can also offer virtual or hybrid options. Schools reopened Aug. 24.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: