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Coronavirus updates: West Virginia University suspends in-person classes; Trump asks reporter to remove mask; US nears 190K deaths – USA TODAY

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COVID-19 widespread testing is crucial to fighting the pandemic, but is there enough testing? The answer is in the positivity rates.

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After U.S. health officials warned Americans to continue social distancing and wearing masks on Labor Day weekend, the United States may report its 190,000th death from the new coronavirus on Tuesday or Wednesday.

In sports news, the American men are out at the U.S. Open after Frances Tiafoe, who had tested positive for COVID-19 in July, lost Monday to No. 4 Daniil Medvedev of Russia. The next Grand Slam event, the French Open, which begins later this month, will allow spectators, organizers announced Monday.

Meanwhile, we don’t know when a COVID-19 vaccine will arrive, but we’re starting to know how it will be distributed.

The swift —and so far positive — effort to create vaccines to fight COVID-19 has been remarkable, but it’s only half of the work, said Tinglong Dai, a professor of operations management who studies health care analytics at the Johns Hopkins University. Dai expects the vaccine supply chain to be “mind-bogglingly complex.”

Mapping coronavirus: Tracking the U.S. outbreak, state by state

Some significant developments:

  • Nine companies developing COVID-19 vaccines issued a letter Tuesday pledging to fully vet their candidate vaccines before asking for FDA approval to market them. Industry officials are worried that the political climate is tarnishing the process and will make people more hesitant to get a vaccine when there is one.
  • Senate Republicans plan to introduce a new coronavirus relief bill Tuesday and a procedural vote could come as early as this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. 
  • A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Monday shows two states set records for new cases in a week: North Dakota and West Virginia.
  • President Trump asked a Reuters journalist to remove his face mask while asking a question during a news conference Monday at the White House.
  • Spectators will be allowed at the French Open this month despite the growing number of coronavirus cases in the country, organizers said on Monday.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has 6.3 million confirmed cases and more than  189,200 deaths. Globally, there are more than 27.3 million cases and more than 893,000 fatalities.

📰 What we’re reading: As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, there have been many questions about what – or even where – the workplace will be in the future. For the next year or so, however, it seems likely that work is going to be pretty similar to what we’ve been experiencing. 

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.

Senate Republicans introduce new COVID-19 relief bill

Senate Republicans on Tuesday introduced a COVID-19 relief package they say targets urgent needs for the American people, but the proposal faces an uncertain path with members of both parties in opposition.

Democrats and Republicans failed to reach an agreement on another stimulus bill in July and August. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., spent weeks negotiating with the White House, but talks dissolved with both sides blaming the other.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday a procedural vote on the measure could come as early as this week, though he did acknowledge the bill is not perfect and doesn’t contain polices sought by members of both parties.

– Christal Hayes

Retiree in Austria gets coronavirus stimulus check from United States

An Austrian man who last worked in the United States in the 1960s received a $1,200 coronavirus relief check from the U.S. government, the country’s public broadcaster reported.

The man from Linz, who worked as a waiter in the U.S. for just two years, was able to cash the check. His wife, who never lived or worked in the U.S., also got a check, and the broadcaster ORF reports that banks in the country have cashed dozens of checks from Austrian residents.

Eligible families were to receive up to $1,200 for each adult as a part the CARES Act, passed in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there were issues with the roll out as many families reported they never received a check and more than a million dead people did.

West Virginia University suspends in-person classes — and 29 students — after ‘super spreader’ frat party

After a fraternity member at West Virginia University went to a party while knowingly infected with COVID-19, the university has suspended in-person classes for two weeks as positive cases among students continue to climb.

The university said its in-person classes will be held online through Sept. 25 “in direct response to a recent increase in positive COVID-19 cases in students on the Morgantown campus, as well as concern for the probability of increased cases that may arise following several reports of parties held this holiday weekend where groups should have been in quarantine.”

The university said in a news release that a member of the Theta Chi fraternity tested positive and was notified to isolate but attended a party at the fraternity house on Friday. The entire fraternity house had also been told to quarantine or isolate.

“We know that these parties act as super spreaders,” Dean of Students Corey Farris said in announcing the suspensions of 29 fraternity members. Almost 150 students on campus tested positive for the virus last week.

More news on COVID-19 at colleges and universities:

  • Salisbury University in Maryland has temporarily suspended 21 students for possible violations of COVID-19 policies.

Pharmaceutical companies pledge to keep politics out of vaccine science

The heads of nine biopharmaceutical companies issued a letter early Tuesday pledging to fully vet their COVID-19 candidate vaccines before asking for federal approval to market them.

The statement comes amid increasing concern among public health officials, scientists and doctors that the White House might bring significant political pressure to bear on the Food and Drug Administration to get a vaccine before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

All nine companies are individually or jointly developing a candidate COVID-19 vaccine supported at least in part with federal dollars, which so far amounts to more than $10 billion. They are: AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna Inc., Novavax Inc., Merck, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer Inc, which is developing a vaccine with BioNTech, another signatory.

– Karen Weintraub and Elizabeth Weise

Discipline against bad doctors plummets amid COVID-19

As hospitals filled with COVID-19 patients, state medical boards took a hands-off approach to doctor discipline: Emergency actions against doctors’ licenses dropped 59% from April through June of this year compared with the same period last year.  In April alone, emergency license suspensions and restrictions dropped 85%, according to federal data.

The drop in emergency license suspensions worries patient safety advocates because many hospitals still have compromised and vulnerable patients. That makes errors and complications more likely and dangerous. 

“It’s a perfect storm: A doctor shortage, doctors are strained by the stress of the pandemic, and sicker patients,” said Dr. David Sherer, a retired anesthesiologist and author of the book “Hospital Survival Guide.” Read more here.

– Jayne O’Donnell

Trump asks reporter to remove face mask 

President Trump asked a Reuters journalist to remove his face mask while asking a question during a news conference Monday at the White House. Trump told Reuters correspondent Jeff Mason “you’re going to have to take that off,” after he asked a question the president couldn’t hear clearly. 

“If you don’t take it off, you are very muffled,” Trump said. “So, if you would take it off, it would be a lot easier.”

Mason said he would speak louder instead of removing the mask, and after Trump said he sounded better, he repeated his question.

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President Trump asked a Reuters journalist to remove his face mask while asking a question during a news conference at the White House.

USA TODAY

Montana meth use up 34% in first months of COVID-19 pandemic

Laboratory results and law enforcement reports indicate methamphetamine use increased in Montana during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Missoulian reported Monday that Millennium Health found a 34% increase in urine samples testing positive for methamphetamine after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency March 13. The company compared results from Jan. 1 through March 12 with results from March 13 through May 31.

French Open, unlike US Open, will allow spectators 

Spectators will be allowed at the French Open this month despite the growing number of coronavirus cases in the country, organizers said on Monday.

They unveiled the health protocols for the clay-court grand slam, which will take place at Roland Garros in western Paris from Sept. 27 after being postponed from its May start due to the pandemic.

Hours after the FTF announced, top-ranked Ash Barty said she will not defend her French Open title because of concerns over traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Last year’s French Open was the most special tournament of my career so this is not a decision I have made lightly,” Barty, who won her first major title on the clay courts of Roland Garros, said in a statement Tuesday. “I wish the players and the French Federation all the best for a successful tournament.”

Pandemic preschool: How to navigate sending your kid into an unfamiliar building with masked strangers

Many child care centers and preschools that survived COVID-19 shutdowns are reopening their doors this fall, but the first day of class looks a little different this year, leaving some kids and guardians feeling anxious.

Minors account for about 8% of all cases in the U.S., and most have mild symptoms and fully recover within one to two weeks – quicker than most adults. However, a small percentage of children have been reported to have more severe illness, and researchers are still learning more about the role children play in asymptomatic spread of the disease.

To keep kids, families and staff safe, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that child care programs implement an array of new safety measures amid the pandemic, such as reducing class sizes, intensifying cleaning protocols, taking children’s temperatures each morning, requiring kids and staff to wear face masks, staggering drop-off and pick-up times, spreading nap mats out six feet apart, ending family-style mealtimes and more. Many states and counties have additional guidance.

– Grace Hauck

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Black patients’ outcomes improve when treated by Black physicians

Research suggests Black patients have better outcomes when treated by Black doctors and nurses. Yet, only 5% of doctors nationwide are Black, and only 2% are Black women, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Kay McField, a 51-year-old single mother in Jackson, Mississippi, is a patient at the Central Mississippi Health Services clinic on the campus of historically Black Tougaloo College.

“It’s meaningful to be taken care of by someone who looks like you, who understands you,” said Kay McField, a patient in Jackson, Mississippi. “Other doctors go into the exam room, and they don’t ask your name. And me, when I go there and be treated that way, I’m not going back no more.”

CDC to oversee ‘mind-boggingly complex’ vaccine supply chain

When a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, there’s a plan in place for its distribution from manufacturers to the American public. The process will be run by the CDC, which for decades has overseen vaccine distribution in the United States and ran the last national vaccination effort during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic.

Still, Tinglong Dai, a professor of operations management who studies health care analytics at the Johns Hopkins University, told USA TODAY he expects the vaccine supply chain to be “mind-bogglingly complex.”

  • Who will get it first? While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still finalizing plans, front-line medical workers, first-responders and people at high risk for severe disease are likely to get first dibs.
  • Who will pay for it? All the vaccine supplied in the initial phases will be purchased by the U.S. government and no one will be charged for the actual dose.
  • What about availability? The vaccine is expected to be in short supply, at least in the beginning, though CDC planning documents say significantly more will be available by January 2021.

– Elizabeth Weise

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

  • On Facebook: There’s still a lot unknown about the coronavirus. But what we do know, we’re sharing with you. Join our Facebook group, Coronavirus Watchto receive daily updates in your feed and chat with others in the community about COVID-19.  
  • In your inbox: Stay up-to-date with the latest news on the coronavirus pandemic from the USA TODAY Network. Sign up for the daily Coronavirus Watch newsletter. 
  • Tips for coping: Every Saturday and Tuesday we’ll be in your inbox, offering you a virtual hug and a little bit of solace in these difficult times. Sign up for Staying Apart, Together.

Contributing: The Associated Press.

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