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Coronavirus 2020 Outbreak: Latest Updates

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This article was updated on Aug. 13, 2020, at 6:05 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?

‘Wearing Face Masks Works,’ South Carolina Health Official Says

Aug. 13, 6:05 p.m. 

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has adamantly refused to issue a statewide face mask mandate, even while the number of cases and deaths grows rapidly. McMaster says that decision should be made by local leaders.

When local leaders do put mask orders in place, it’s effective in slowing down the spread of the coronavirus, according to data analyzed by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

“This new data shows us what we already knew, wearing face masks works,” Dr. Linda Bell, a South Carolina state epidemiologist, said in a news release. “We’re strongly supportive of these local leaders’ initiatives that are centered on protecting the health and wellbeing of their communities.”

The news release said 40% of state residents live in jurisdictions with face mask mandates.

Jurisdictions with mask requirements have shown a 15.1% drop in the total cases for the four weeks after the mandate was put in place compared to the four weeks before, the news release said. 

During the same time period, jurisdictions that don’t have mask requirements have recorded a 30.4% increase in total cases. 

“The residents in jurisdictions that acted first are seeing the benefits earlier,” Bell said. “This shows the sooner prevention measures are adopted, the sooner we all benefit.”

The DHEC information was released Wednesday. On Thursday, the governor urged more local governments to issue mask rules while repeating that it’s not something the state government should do.

“They need to consider having some,” McMaster said, according to The State newspaper. “They need to examine their situation and see what would work in their communities and then pass that and then enforce it, because they have complete authority to do that. It’s called home rule. They have the authority.”

Last month, McMaster issued an executive order requiring face masks in public buildings and other places where crowds gather. 

South Carolina has recorded more than 102,000 confirmed cases and 2,000 deaths. As of Tuesday, the positivity rate for testing was 19.6%, the DHEC news release said.

Father and Son Doctors Die of COVID-19 in Florida

Aug. 13, 5:35 p.m. 

The coronavirus pandemic in South Florida has taken the lives of a father and his son – both physicians -- within five weeks of each other.

Dr. Jorge A. Vallejo, 89, was admitted to Palmetto General Hospital on Father’s Day and died six days later, on June 27, the Miami Herald reported

His middle son, Dr. Carlos Francisco Vallejo, 57, was admitted to Cleveland Clinic Florida in Weston on Father’s Day. He died 42 days later, on August 1.

“We just lost basically both of our anchors of our whole entire family,” Jessica Vallejo, a local TV news reporter, said of her grandfather and uncle. “In my eyes, [my grandfather] was the American Dream.”

Father and son were both born in Cuba. Jorge Vallejo was already a physician when he, his wife, and their two sons fled to Florida in a raft in 1965, the family told the Herald. A third son was born in the United States.

The family settled in Hialeah, FL. Jorge learned English and became certified as an OB/GYN in the U.S. He delivered numerous babies, including eight of his nine grandchildren, the Herald reported. He worked until his wife’s death in 2005.

Carlos Vallejo, who practiced internal medicine, had immersed himself in the pandemic in South Florida, one of the largest hotspots in the pandemic. 

“He was on the front lines fighting COVID,” his son, Charlie Vallejo, told Fox News. “He was treating a lot of COVID patients in the hospital and in the rehab centers, and we believe that’s where he got the virus from initially.

“He was very cautious, he would wear his mask, he would wear his face shield, full [PPE], gown, everything, but you know there’s always that slight chance that you can still contract the virus. Unfortunately, he did.”

Previous Vaccines, Masks May Influence COVID-19 Spread

Aug. 13, 1:48 p.m.

Prior vaccinations and face masks could be part of the reason why the coronavirus affects different people in different ways, according to CNN.

Researchers are studying why the coronavirus seems to cause more harm to some people than others. Those who have had a variety of vaccines -- for the flu, hepatitis, and pneumococcus -- seem to have a lower risk of getting COVID-19.

“A good analogy is to think of your immune system as being a muscle. The more you exercise that muscle, the stronger it will be when you need it,” Andrew Badley, MD, an infectious disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic, told CNN.

Although scientists can't say for sure that other vaccines have boosted people's immunity to COVID-19, they think it's possible, the news outlet reported. One team of U.S. researchers has suggested that giving a measles, mumps, and rubella booster could prevent severe coronavirus symptoms, and another group found that countries that frequently give the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine for tuberculosis have had fewer COVID-19 deaths. The vaccine has offered broad protection against other infectious diseases, they said.

Face coverings could also play a role in the severity of disease, researchers told the news outlet. About 40% of people who contract the coronavirus don't show symptoms, according to the CDC, and masks could lower the viral load that leads to severe consequences.

“What the mask does is really reduce the amount of virus that you get in, if you do get infected,” Monica Gandhi, MD, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, told CNN.

“By reducing that ... you have a lower dose, you're able to manage it, you're able to have a calm response, and you have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all,” she said.

The U.S. has reported more than 5.2 million coronavirus cases and 166,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The current averages are 54,000 new cases and 1,000 new deaths per day.

“We have nothing to celebrate because we're going to 50,000 cases per day,” Rochelle Walensky, MD, the chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, told CNN.

“Even at 18,000 cases per day in mid-May, we were unable to really squelch this,” she said.

Schools Respond to Positive COVID-19 Cases

Aug. 13, 11:02 a.m.

As schools across the country reopen with in-person classes, districts are finding numerous COVID-19 cases and responding with quarantines, virtual school, and sanitization procedures.

More than 2,000 students, teachers, and staff have been quarantined across five states, according to CNN, and at least 230 positive cases have been reported.

The Cherokee County School District in Georgia, for instance, has issued a 2-week quarantine for 1,100 students, teachers, and staff across a dozen schools. Classes started on Aug. 3, and the district has reported 59 positive cases so far.

Georgia's largest school district, Gwinnett County, quarantined staff before the official school year started. More than 260 employees were told to self-isolate after 28 COVID-19 cases were identified. Students started virtual classes on Wednesday.

Schools in Alabama, Mississippi, Indiana, and Oklahoma have also enforced quarantines after finding positive cases, the news outlet reported.

On Wednesday, a middle school and an elementary school in Alabama began the school year online after an employee who worked at both schools tested positive, according to The Hill.

School administrators learned about the positive result on Tuesday afternoon and made a last-minute decision to shift online instead of holding in-person classes. They also notified 10 people who had been in contact with the employee to quarantine for 2 weeks. Classes will be held online until Aug. 26.

In Florida, several high school employees were told to isolate for 14 days after they were exposed to someone with COVID-19 at work, according to The Miami-Herald.

The school, located near Sarasota, will be fogged and sanitized. Teachers returned to schools on Aug. 3 for training and planning, and students are scheduled to begin on Monday.

The district has isolated six employees at other schools in recent days as well. At least four other incidents have been reported, according to the newspaper, including positive cases at a middle school and an elementary school.

No Spectators Allowed at 2020 Masters Tournament

Aug. 12, 6:15

Because of the coronavirus, no spectators will be allowed on the grounds of Augusta National Golf Club when the 2020 Masters tournament is played in November, club Chairman Fred Ridley said Wednesday.

“As we have considered the issues facing us, the health and safety of everyone associated with the Masters always has been our first and most important priority,” Ridley said in a statement. “Ultimately, we determined that the potential risks of welcoming patrons and guests to our grounds in November are simply too significant to overcome.”

The Masters, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments of pro golf, has always been played in April in Augusta, GA. On March 13, Ridley announced the tournament would be postponed from April to Nov. 12-15 because of the pandemic. 

Ridley said 2020 ticket holders will be guaranteed the same tickets for the 2021 Masters. Refunds will be provided if requested.

The winner of the 2007 Masters, Zack Johnson, told ESPN he was disappointed to hear the news.

"I really can't fathom it, but that being said, I can't fathom not having the Masters tournament this year," he said. "You want that energy. ... The relation there with the fans is much more intimate, and I want it back sooner than later."

The Masters is usually the first tournament of the year in the Grand Slam of golf, followed by the U.S. Open in June, The British Open in July, and the PGA Championship in August.

With a revamped schedule, the PGA Championship was played last weekend without spectators in San Francisco. Next month's U.S. Open will be played without spectators at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y. The British Open canceled its 2020 tournament.

In Reversal, N.J. Schools Allowed to Open With All-Remote Classes

Aug. 12, 5:40 p.m.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday said public school districts will be allowed to offer all-online classes if the districts can't meet state safety measures designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“Districts that cannot meet all the health and safety standards for safe in-person instruction will begin their school year in an all-remote fashion,” the governor said at a news briefing. “Public school districts will need to spell out their plans for satisfying these unmet standards, and a date by which they anticipate the ability to resume in-person instruction.”

Murphy's executive order was a shift from the state policy announced in June that said school districts must offer at least some in-class education, NJ.com reported.

Big school districts such as Jersey City, Elizabeth, Willingboro, and Bayonne plan to ask the state to allow them to start with all-remote classes, NJ.com reported. The Willingboro school district, for example, has concerns about the ventilation system, the district superintendent said, according to NJ.com.

Last week Murphy ordered that all students wear face masks in school. New Jersey has 2,500 public schools serving 1.4 million students.

The state's largest teacher union and groups representing school administrators called on the state to require all New Jersey schools to open remotely.

“Reopening schools for in-person instruction under the current conditions poses too great a risk to the health of students and schools staff,” a joint statement issued by the New Jersey Education Association.

“We fully support and share the governor's goal of moving to in-person instruction as soon as the science and data say we can do so responsibly and when the resources are available in our school buildings to do it safely. We wish it could be different, but the facts are not in our favor.”

  New Jersey was one of the hardest-hit states in the first months of the pandemic, but daily case counts and daily deaths have declined sharply. The state has recorded a total of 185,000 cases and almost 16,000 deaths.

Texas COVID-19 Testing Drops as Schools Prepare to Reopen

Aug. 12, 4:18 p.m.

The number of people in Texas getting tested for the coronavirus has dropped in recent weeks, which has prompted health officials to voice concerns as students return to school, according to The Texas Tribune.

About 36,000 tests were given daily during the first week of August, the news outlet reported, which is a 42% drop from the 62,000 daily average 2 weeks before.

The percentage of positive tests has also gone up during that time. During the first week of August, the average climbed up to 20% positive as compared with 14% 2 weeks before. On Saturday, more than half of the day's 14,000 tests were positive.

The decline in tests could be related to a drop in demand, particularly in cities that had long lines and days-long wait times for test results, Vivian Ho, a health economist at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine, told the news outlet.

“It's troubling because we can guess at some of the reasons, but we're not sure,” she said.

The drop is a problem for schools, she said, because districts don't have the resources to test students or control the spread of the coronavirus. Some states that restarted in-person classes this month have already recorded positive cases, quarantined hundreds of students, and shifted to distance learning while school buildings are cleaned.

“Opening the schools is a really complicated problem, and the best thing we can do is get the number of cases down so kids can go back to school safely,” Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Texas School of Public Health, told the news outlet.

“There are so many reasons why kids need to be in school, particularly younger kids, but we're finding out more and more they can get infected,” she said. “The concern is them bringing it home and spreading in the community and spreading to teachers.”

Illinois Strengthens Face Mask Rules in Businesses

Aug. 12, 1:26 p.m.

People in Illinois who assault employees in businesses that enforce face mask policies to prevent the spread of the coronavirus can now be charged with felony aggravated battery, according to USA Today.

The new rule expands the state's definition of “aggravated battery” to include attacks against workers who are supporting public health guidelines.

“It's clear there is still an even greater need to get people to wear masks -- especially to protect frontline workers, whether they're at the front of a store asking you to put on your mask or whether they're responding to 911 calls to save those in distress,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement.

“These rules, which provide multiple opportunities for compliance before any penalty is issued, are a commonsense way to enforce public health guidelines,” he said. “These rules will help ensure that the minority of people who refuse to act responsibly won't take our state backward.”

The new law goes into effect immediately. It also includes additional guidance for face coverings in businesses, schools, and child care facilities. First, establishments will receive a warning and be encouraged to comply voluntarily, but if they don't, patrons will be ordered to leave the location to reduce risks.

Businesses that continue to refuse to follow face mask guidelines can receive a fine between $75 to $2,500.

“We know that face coverings are key to helping prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it only works if everyone wears them,” Ngozi Ezike, MD, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in the statement.

As of Wednesday, Illinois has reported more than 196,000 coronavirus cases and more than 7,600 deaths, according to the department.

“We are seeing cases increasing each day and hearing about people not complying with the masking mandate,” Ezike said. “This rule is an effort to help keep all of us healthy and decrease the risk of contracting COVID-19.”

Fauci Expresses Doubts About Russia's COVID-19 Vaccine

Aug. 12, 11:16 a.m.

The new coronavirus vaccine touted by Russia this week hasn't completed late-stage clinical testing, which has cast a shadow of doubt on whether the vaccine is safe and effective, according to National Geographic.

Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, expressed his concerns about the vaccine as part of an interview for Stopping Pandemics, a virtual event that will air on the National Geographic channel Thursday.

“I hope that the Russians have actually definitively proven that the vaccine is safe and effective,” he told Deborah Roberts, the event moderator and an ABC News correspondent. “I seriously doubt that they've done that.”

Sputnik V, named after Russia's satellite that was launched in 1960, is still in Phase III of the three-phase clinical trial process that checks for safety, efficacy, and the best dosage of a vaccine. In May, researchers in Moscow said they began testing the vaccine on themselves, and a month later, the first phase of human clinical trials included 76 patients. So far, the scientists haven't published results -- either from human trials or preclinical trials that include animals or experiments on cells.

But on Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin said Russia's health ministry approved the vaccine and production will begin at two sites in Russia. The vaccine will be “gradually” introduced to the public, starting with medical workers who interact with coronavirus patients.

“We have to be grateful to those who have taken this first, very important step, very important for Russia and for the entire world,” Putin said in a statement.

Phase III trials are still ongoing, according to The Associated Press, which has caused alarm among scientists within Russia and in other countries.

“Fast-tracked approval will not make Russia the leader in the race, it will just expose consumers of the vaccine to unnecessary danger,” according to Russia's Association of Clinical Trials Organizations. The group urged officials to postpone vaccine approval until advanced trials are complete, the AP reported.

Three vaccine candidates are in late-stage clinical trials in the U.S., with a fourth on the way. The FDA has stated that it will only approve a vaccine with at least 50% efficacy, Fauci said.

“We have half a dozen or more vaccines,” he said. “So if we wanted to take the chance of hurting a lot of people or giving them something that doesn't work, we could start doing this, you know, next week if we wanted to. But that's not the way it works.”

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

According to Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 20.73 million cases and more than 751,800 deaths worldwide. More than 12.88 million people have recovered.

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

There are more than 5.24 million cases in the U.S. of COVID-19, and more than 166,900 deaths. More than 1.75 million Americans have recovered from the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. See a map of cases and deaths by state here.

What travel restrictions are there?

The State Department has urged all U.S. citizens to avoid any international travel due to the global impact of the new coronavirus.

If you are currently overseas, the department wants you to come home, “unless [you] are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period,” according to a statement.

“Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice,” the agency says.

In addition, the State Department says it will not issue any new passports except for people with a “qualified life-or-death emergency and who need a passport for immediate international travel within 72 hours.” The U.S. is banning all foreign travel to the United States from most of Europe for 30 days beginning midnight Friday, March 13. American citizens are not included in the ban. 

The U.S. has also temporarily suspended nonessential travel to Mexico and Canada.

 Carolyn Crist and Ralph Ellis contributed to this report.

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on August 13, 2020

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