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Coronavirus 2020 Outbreak: Latest Updates

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This article was last updated Sept. 29?at 5:35 p.m.?ET.

The United States leads the world in cases of COVID-19. We'll provide the latest updates on coronavirus cases, government response, impacts to our daily life, and more.

What is the latest news?

Nursing Homes Face Accuracy, Funding Problems With Antigen Tests

Sept. 29, 5:35 p.m.

New rapid-result antigen tests touted by the Trump administration this week have caused headaches for nursing home staff who are grappling with accuracy and financial issues, according to The New York Times.

About 14,000 facilities received test machines from the federal government last month that would return COVID-19 results within 15 minutes. However, nursing home operators realized that they quickly ran out of the “starter kits” that came with the machines and needed to pay for more test kits — and that the test results weren’t always reliable.

Beyond that, federal regulations around the program have been tough, the newspaper reported. Nursing homes can be fined for failing to meet the daily reporting requirements, sometimes up to $10,000.

“My initial happiness over the machines has quickly turned to disillusionment,” Ben Unkle, the chief executive of Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay, told the newspaper.

“At the moment we’re in testing hell,” he said.

State officials weren’t included in conversations about shipments, according to The Washington Post, which means nursing homes often didn’t know they would receive a test machine until it arrived. Staff members weren’t trained on how to use the tests or interpret the results either.

At the state level, health officials haven’t been able to capture these test results in an organized way, so they’re often not included in daily counts. As a result, state dashboards are becoming more inaccurate, the newspaper reported.

“This is data we need, and there’s just no way of capturing it,” Rachel Levine, the health secretary for Pennsylvania, told the newspaper.

“We need a reporting structure and not just hundreds of faxes being randomly sent from nursing homes and other facilities,” she said.

In addition, nursing home workers have faced issues with false results. Antigen tests look for proteins that make up the coronavirus, rather than the coronavirus itself, which makes them less accurate and sensitive than the diagnostic tests analyzed in commercial labs. The frustration with false results could undermine public confidence in testing, the newspaper reported, but nursing home staff have reported that they’d rather retest residents than avoid testing altogether.

“I don’t want to overstate the problem because it’s not like we should throw out antigen tests,” Nirav Shah, director of Maine’s CDC, told the newspaper. “What we need is more testing, not less.”

Sharks Could Be Harvested for COVID-19 Vaccine, Wildlife Experts Say

Sept. 29, 5:03 p.m.

About half a million sharks could be killed to harvest squalene, a natural oil used in vaccines, to create coronavirus-related vaccines, several wildlife experts told The Daily Mail.

Squalene, an ingredient in several COVID-19 vaccine candidates, is made in a shark's liver. It's sometimes used to increase the effectiveness of a vaccine by creating a stronger immune response and has been incorporated in some current flu vaccines, the news outlet reported.

If one of the current COVID-19 vaccine candidates that uses squalene is approved, manufactured, and distributed worldwide, about 250,000 sharks could be killed to create a single-dose vaccine, according to Shark Allies, a California-based conservationist group.

If two doses are needed, about 500,000 sharks would be needed, the group said.

“Harvesting something from a wild animal is never going to be sustainable, especially if it's a top predator that doesn't reproduce in huge numbers,” Stefanie Brendl, the founder and executive director of Shark Allies, told The Daily Mail.

The group created an online petition to urge companies to use non-animal options. The Change.org petition has more than 25,000 signatures.

Shark Allies suggests using alternatives such as sugarcane, olive oil, yeast, or bacteria, according to The Miami Herald. Those sources can be more expensive and take longer to extract.

"We are not trying to slow down or hinder the production of a vaccine,” Brendl said. “We simply ask that testing of non-animal derived squalene is conducted alongside shark squalene so it can be replaced as soon as possible.”

U.S. 'Not in a Good Place' With COVID-19 Cases, Fauci Says

Sept. 29, 1:31 p.m.

Anthony Fauci, MD, ?says the United States is “not in a good place” entering the fall and winter because daily coronavirus case counts are regularly topping 40,000.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said the United States should have a baseline of around 10,000 new cases per day to get through the time before a vaccine becomes available.?

“We're not in a good place,” Fauci said Monday in an interview on Good Morning America. “You don't want to be in a position like that as the weather starts getting cold. So we really need to intensify the public health measures that we talk about all the time.”

Fauci said some states have tamped down the coronavirus through widespread testing and social distancing, but “there are states that are starting to show an uptick in cases and even some increases in hospitalization in some states. And, I hope not, but we very well might start seeing increases in deaths.”

The United States recently recorded its 200,000 coronavirus-related death -- about 20% of all the pandemic deaths in the world.?

Case counts are rising in the West and Midwest in states with low population density such as North and South Dakota, Wyoming, and Utah.

Wisconsin has averaged more than 2,100 new cases daily for the past 7 days, the state department of health services reported. Gov. Tony Evers declared a public health emergency a week ago, saying a spike in cases has been caused by students returning to campuses.?

Meanwhile, case counts in some Sun Belt states are dropping, but state and local officials are responding by loosening restrictions.?

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for example, recently allowed restaurants and bars to open up, though the state is still reporting hundreds of cases per day

“That is very concerning to me,” Fauci told GMA. “That is something we really need to be careful about because when you're dealing with community spread and you have the kind of congregate setting where people get together, particularly without masks, you're really asking for trouble.”

Global Death Toll for COVID-19 Passes 1 Million Mark

Sept. 29, 11:38 a.m.

The first coronavirus-related death occurred Jan. 11 in Wuhan, China, where the virus was first detected.

In the 8-plus months since, the virus has swept the world. The 1 millionth death occurred Monday, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, but nobody is sure exactly where. The pandemic has moved so fast that it's difficult to keep up with the numbers.

It's certain to get worse. Mike Ryan of the World Health Organization said a few days ago that the number of worldwide deaths could very well reach 2 million, even with a vaccine.

"Are we prepared to do what it takes to avoid that number?" Ryan asked, according to the BBC. He called on governments to do more and said, "Unless we do it all, the number you speak about is not only imaginable, but unfortunately and sadly, very likely."

The United States has recorded about 20% of the world's COVID-related deaths, with more than 205,000, according to Johns Hopkins. The U.S. has also reported the most cases, with more than 7.1 million.?

Health officials say the numbers are actually higher across the world because many people aren't tested and some deaths aren't counted because people die from underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, which can make them more vulnerable to the virus.

"It's a mind-numbing figure," UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement. "Yet, we must never lose sight of each and every individual life.?They were fathers and mothers, wives and husbands, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues. The pain has been multiplied by the savageness of this disease.? Risks of infection kept families from bedsides.?And the process of mourning and celebrating a life was often made impossible."

Guterres said the international community must follow science-backed methods to stem the virus' spread.?

"We can overcome this challenge," he said. "But, we must learn from the mistakes.?Responsible leadership matters.?Science matters.?Cooperation matters -- and misinformation kills."

Nations following the United States with the most deaths are Brazil with 142,000, India with 93,000, Mexico with 76,000, and the United Kingdom with 46,000.

China, where the virus started, is something of a success story. The world's most populous nation has reported only 4,700 deaths related to coronavirus, Johns Hopkins said.

After the outbreak in Wuhan, the city was locked down and China imposed tight restrictions on travel. But soon outbreaks occurred in Italy and Iran.?

The first coronavirus-related death in the United States was reported Feb. 29 in Seattle, though it later emerged that at least two other virus-related deaths had occurred earlier.?

By mid-April, the U.S. had more than 20,000 coronavirus-related deaths, the most in the world, and the hotspot had moved from the West Coast to New York City.

By late May, the U.S. had reported 100,000 deaths.

The good news: COVID-19 doesn't appear to be as deadly as feared. Anthony Fauci, MD, the United States' most prominent expert on infectious diseases, and other health leaders have put the COVID-19 death rate at about 0.6% -- 6 times that of a typical flu season.?

But the virus is infecting so many people that the number of deaths is staggering and only expected to rise as the Northern Hemisphere enters fall and winter.

S.C. Woman Dies of COVID-19 Weeks After Daughter

Sept. 28, 11:45 a.m.

The coronavirus took the lives of a mother and daughter in South Carolina less than a month apart.

Shirley Bannister, chair of the nursing department at Midlands Technical College in Columbia, died Sunday from complications of COVID-19, reported The State newspaper, citing school officials.

Her daughter, 28-year-old Demetria Bannister, died Sept. 7 from complications of the virus, just a few days after being diagnosed, The State said. She was an elementary school teacher in Columbia.

Midlands Technical College President Ronald L. Rhames said the school is mourning Shirley Bannister.

“She earned her nursing degree from Midlands Technical College as a teen, went on to earn a master's degree,” he said. “Shirley eventually returned to MTC to teach nursing and impact the lives of hundreds of future healers in our community as chair of the MTC Nursing Department. While her death is devastating, her impact is everlasting.”

Shirley Bannister tested positive days after her daughter's death. Relatives told The State that she had trouble getting tested, despite living with her infected daughter, because of lack of symptoms.

Shirley Bannister's brother, Dennis Bell, told CNN that his sister had asthma and diabetes. He said his sister and her daughter were very close.

"They'd go to dinner together, they'd go to the movies, go to concerts and things like that, and they planned events together," he said.

Demetria Bannister was a third-grade teacher at Windsor Elementary School, TV station WIS said.

“Known as Windsor's Songbird, Ms. Bannister used her musical talents to bring a great deal of joy to our school,” school principal Denise Quickel said.

“For our school's Attendance Matters kickoff in 2019 she wrote a song about the importance of coming to school to the tune of 'Old Town Road.' The song and video were a big hit with our school family. Ms. Bannister loved her students and never missed an opportunity to advocate for students and public education.”

COVID-19 Cases Going Up in Half of States

Sept. 27, 11:14 a.m.?

Two dozen states are reporting an increase in new daily coronavirus infections, including several states that are breaking record numbers, according to NPR.

Cases mostly trended downward throughout August and most of September after major peaks in July, and now the numbers are moving back up again. Overall, the U.S. reported more than 55,000 new cases on Friday, and the total tally pushed above 7 million this week. The national 7-day average is also increasing.

In Wisconsin, more than 2,800 new cases were reported on Saturday, marking a new record and breaking the previous high of 2,500 cases on Sept. 18, according to Fox 11 in Madison. More than 2,000 cases were reported 3 days in a row.

Gov. Tony Evers declared a new public health emergency and face covering requirement on Tuesday through Nov. 21. Cases declined in August, but the reopening of schools and colleges has led to an increase in cases among students between ages 18-24 in recent weeks.

“Wisconsin is now experiencing unprecedented, near-exponential growth of the number of COVID-19 cases in our state,” Evers said Friday in a video posted on Twitter.

“It is critical that we work together now to get this virus under control, not only to protect our campus communities but for the health and safety of Wisconsinites in every corner of the state,” he said.

In New York, daily cases passed 1,000 on Saturday for the first time since June 5, according to Bloomberg News.

South Dakota also reported its highest daily total on Saturday with more than 500 new cases. North Dakota, Utah, and Montana set records as well.

New Hampshire reported its first coronavirus-related death in 11 days on Saturday, which was associated with a long-term care facility, according to WMUR. The state reported 38 new cases, and health officials say community-based transmission is happening in every county.

Public health officials expect cases to increase even more throughout the fall, and state leaders are urging people to continue measures to slow the spread of the virus.

“Continue to practice the basic behaviors that drive our ability to fight COVID-19 as we move into the fall and flu season,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a Saturday update. “Wearing masks, socially distancing, and washing hands make a critical difference.”

How many people have been diagnosed with the virus, and how many have died?

According to Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 33.42 million cases and more than 1 million deaths worldwide. More than 23.19 million people have recovered.

How many cases of COVID-19 are in the United States?

There are more than 7.15 million cases in the U.S. of COVID-19, and more than 205,260?deaths. More than 2.79?million Americans have recovered from the disease, according to data compiled?by Johns Hopkins University.?

WebMD Health News

Sources

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