Fauci debunks online theories about COVID mortality rates; NYC delays start of in-class learning

California’s latest reopening plan drew scrutiny, Florida’s governor vowed no more lockdowns, and New York City delayed in-school learning Tuesday, one day after the nation reached 6 million confirmed cases of coronavirus.

A new month could bring new hope to Californians who suffered through their deadliest COVID-19 month in August. The state reported 3,707 deaths connected to COVID-19 in the last month, up 18% over July. But infection and hospitalization rates have been in decline in recent weeks, and average daily deaths also began dropping, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis.

In Iowa, the nation’s latest hot spot, Iowa State University is planning to have around 25,000 fans at its home opener Sept. 12. White House coronavirus experts have warned Iowa leaders that the state has the country’s steepest outbreak and suggested the state should close bars in 61 counties and test all returning college students.

Nationally, Dr. Anthony Fauci debunked theories that some COVID deaths aren’t real and warned Americans to keep a lid on group parties this Labor Day weekend.

And globally, the vast majority of China’s student population has returned to classrooms – including the city of Wuhan, the pandemic’s fist epicenter, where schools opened Tuesday for more than 1 million youths. 

Some significant developments:

  • Just three weeks after surpassing 5 million confirmed coronavirus infections, the U.S. on Monday quietly rolled past 6 million cases.

  • Detroit held its own Memorial Day on Monday to honor the 1,500-pus city residents who have died from COVID-19. 

  • AstraZeneca will begin a Phase 3 clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. with plans to enroll 30,000 adult volunteers.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has 6 million confirmed cases and over 183,000 deaths. Globally, there are 25 million cases and more than 851,000 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University data. A USA TODAY analysis of the data through late Monday shows Iowa, Montana and South Dakota set records for new cases over a seven-day period. Arkansas and Hawaii had a record number of deaths over seven days. – Michael Stucka

📰 What we’re reading: An online class by any other name? College students pay rent, enroll – then find courses aren’t being offered in-person. It’s very frustrating.

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Elementary school students attend a class on the first day of the new semester in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on September 1, 2020.
Elementary school students attend a class on the first day of the new semester in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on September 1, 2020.

Florida’s governor is emotional in saying nursing home visits will resume 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, his voice cracking with emotion, announced Tuesday that he will lift the state’s ban on family visits to nursing homes.

DeSantis at one point had to take a long pause to gather himself as he wondered aloud whether imposing a ban on visits of loved ones to seniors in nursing homes might have contributed to the agony that the state has incurred over the coronavirus.

DeSantis vowed never to have another lockdown in Florida. “I hear people say they’ll shut down the country, and, honestly, I cringe,” he said.

He also says he’s looking at reopening bars and nightclubs.

Fauci refutes theories minimizing COVID-19 death toll 

White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday rejected online theories retweeted by President Donald Trump claiming that only 6% of COVID-19 fatalities are actually because of the virus. Fauci explained on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that a recent CDC guidance indicates that was the percentage of victims who had no underlying health issues.

“That does not mean that someone who has hypertension or diabetes who dies of COVID didn’t die of COVID-19. They did,” Fauci said. More than 180,000 Americans really have died from the virus – there should “not be any confusion about that,” Fauci said.

NYC delays in-classroom learning until Sept. 21

New York City’s schools will delay the start of in-person classes until Sept. 21, averting the threat of a teacher strike and putting the nation’s largest school district on track to be the nation’s only major urban district to start fall term with kids in classrooms. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the deal Tuesday, saying that the start of school would be pushed back to make sure teachers had enough time to plan and prepare for managing a blended learning model. Some children will learn at home full-time, and others will learn at home and also come to school buildings a couple days a week. Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said independent medical experts had signed off on the latest reopening plan.

“We can now say that New York City’s public school system has the most aggressive policies and greatest safeguards of any school system in the United States of America,” Mulgrew said.

Erin Richards

California’s latest reopen plan draws criticism

California has embarked on a new, tiered plan for reopening businesses that has some crying foul. Critics say the system doesn’t take into account that some businesses can operate safely even in counties with relatively high numbers of COVID-cases. And it hits some businesses harder than others even when it appears they perform similar services. Gyms remain closed and Legoland, classified as a theme park, must stay shut. SeaWorld San Diego, classified under zoos and museums, is a go.

“While certain businesses are allowed to open … many others continue to be greatly limited, hampered or even closed,” San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond said. “The state continues to change the targets and move the goalposts.”

Chris Woodyard

August was California’s deadliest COVID-19 month

August was the deadliest month of the COVID-19 pandemic in California despite the state’s  progress in reducing infections, hospitalizations and deaths, a Los Angeles Times analysis found. California reported 3,707 deaths connected to COVID-19 in August, up 18% over July. California has experienced more than 700,000 cases, the most in the U.S. However, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi are among numerous states with more infections per capita, according to federal data. California’s infection and hospitalization rates have fallen steadily for more than a month, and the average number of daily deaths is also in decline, the Times notes.

Don’t be fooled by promises of in-person classes 

Almost all colleges are offering some online instruction even if they’re publicly saying their classes are in-person, said Katie Felten, of the Davidson College Crisis Initiative, a group tracking colleges’ responses to coronavirus. The fine print may be buried on colleges’ websites, and some students say they were blindsided with the details after they signed leases or moved into campus housing.

Some schools have been changing course on the fly. North Carolina State canceled in-person classes but initially told students they could stay on campus. Then, last week, Chancellor Randy Woodson told students they would have to vacate campus housing.

“The rapid spread and increasing rate of positive cases have made our current situation untenable,” Woodson said. 

Chris Quintana

Fauci: Americans need to avoid superspreader events over Labor Day

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Labor Day weekend will be key in determining whether the U.S. gets a “running start” at containing the coronavirus this fall. Fauci said Monday that he has a “great deal of faith in the American people” to wash their hands, practice social distancing, wear masks, avoid crowds and congregate outside during the weekend celebrations. He said it’s important to avoid a surge in coronavirus cases like those seen after the Memorial Day and July 4th holidays.

He made the comments on a White House conference call with governors, the audio of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Korean study shows children far from immune, can spread virus

A South Korean study of 91 children who tested positive for the coronavirus found that 22% did not show any symptoms. And one-fifth of the children who showed no symptoms – and about half of those who did show symptoms – were still shedding virus three weeks after they were infected, according to the study, which appeared with an editorial in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. Shedding virus means that virus can be detected in a person, though that person may not necessarily be able to infect others.

“If there is anyone on the planet who believes children are immune to the (new) coronavirus, this should lay that to rest,” said Roberta DeBiasi, a co-author of the editorial and division chief for infectious diseases at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. “Yes, children can get infected. Yes, children can get sick. Yes, children can spread the virus.”

– Mark Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

China is all in: Wuhan students return to school

Children returned to school Tuesday in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the world’s initial coronavirus epidemic forced months of lockdowns. The city, however, has not seen new cases of local transmission for weeks. State media reported 1.4 million children in the city reported to 2,842 kindergartens, primary and secondary schools as part of a nationwide return to classes. Almost all students across the nation of 1.4 billion people have now returned to in-person classes.

Hawaii visitors must fill out online ‘Safe Travels’ form before travel

Hawaii’s government is requiring all travelers to fill out its online “Safe Travels” application beginning Tuesday. The forms collect health and contact information to assist in public health monitoring. It’s part of a screening process that includes temperature checks and secondary screening for travelers with symptoms or temperatures of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

“I am pleased to launch this digital app, which will allow our travelers to provide their required health and travel information before they arrive at the airport,” Gov. David Ige said in a news release. “It will also help us keep in contact with those who are required to be in quarantine. This is an important step in preparing to reopen our economy.” Here’s how it works.

– David Oliver

Moratorium on foreclosures in Oregon extended to Dec. 31

Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order Monday preventing foreclosures for homeowners and businesses through Dec. 31. The previous moratorium was set to expire Monday. The Oregon Legislature’s Emergency Board allocated $55 million for rent assistance through December and $20 million for affordable housing. The U.S. Congress also has passed about $82 million in housing-related services, including rent and utility assistance.

“Every Oregonian deserves a warm, dry, safe, affordable and accessible place to call home,” Brown said. “That’s especially true during a pandemic, when physical distancing and limiting trips away from home are critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19. Extending the moratorium on foreclosures will ensure that more Oregonians do not lose their homes this year, and that businesses can continue to provide vital goods and services to our communities.”

– Bill Poehler, Statesman Journal

Iowa State to welcome about 25K fans at home opener

Iowa State plans to allow some fans to attend its season opener at Jack Trice Stadium on Sept. 12. The Cyclones are expecting about 25,000 fans and social distancing and mitigation strategies will be in place.

“If our mitigation actions are successful, we will allow all season ticket purchasers to attend the Oklahoma game Oct. 3,” Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said in a letter to fans Monday. “However, if we determine that mitigation measures were not followed adequately at the first game, we will have no fans at future games (beginning with Oklahoma).”

The announcement comes the day Ames was identified as the country’s worst coronavirus “hot spot” city by the New York Times. Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa, was second while the state of Iowa was tabbed as the worst “hot spot” state.

– Travis Hines, Des Moines Register

Disney’s Polynesian Village won’t reopen until next summer

Walt Disney World is postponing the reopening of its Polynesian Village Resort until next summer as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hammer hotel occupancy in central Florida. Disney has postponed the reopening of the Polynesian Village multiple times. As of late June, it was supposed to reopen on Aug. 12; as of July, it was supposed to reopen on Oct. 4.

Two other Disney World Resorts, the Beach Club Resort and BoardWalk Inn, will remain closed indefinitely. Disney’s resorts had closed along with Disney World in mid-March. Disney World’s theme parks reopened in mid-July.

Hotel occupancy in Orlando continues to be among the lowest in the country, according to STR, which tracks hotel occupancy data. As of the week ending Aug. 22, occupancy in the Orlando market was 29.3%, well below the national average of 48.8%.

– Curtis Tate

Georgia governor extends coronavirus restrictions

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday extended the state’s coronavirus restrictions, including a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people unless they can maintain six feet apart, until Sept. 15. The governor also extended Georgia’s state of emergency to Oct. 10. “COVID-19 hospitalizations in Georgia are at their lowest since July 6. Cases reported yesterday were at their lowest point since June 22,” Kemp said in a statement.

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19 news: Fauci on Labor Day weekend safety; Iowa State football

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