This article was last updated Sept. 22 at 11:44 a.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.
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CDC Discourages Halloween Parties, Trick-or-Treating This Year
Sept. 22, 11:44 a.m.
The CDC is discouraging door-to-door trick-or-treating, costume masks and Halloween parties this year to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. The CDC posted guidance about holiday celebrations on Monday evening, including details about Halloween, Dia de los Muertos and Thanksgiving.
“Many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses,” the CDC wrote. “There are several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween.”
Virtual celebrations and household gatherings pose the lowest risk for spreading the virus, according to the guidance. The CDC recommends carving and displaying pumpkins, decorating houses and living spaces, hosting a virtual costume contest, having a Halloween movie night at home, setting up an outdoor Halloween-themed scavenger hunt that allows families to walk around with social distancing, or creating an at-home scavenger hunt for household members to search for treats together.
Moderate-risk activities include small outdoor gatherings with open-air activities, the CDC wrote, such as parades or costume parties where people can stay 6 feet apart. Families may consider participating in “one-way” trick-or-treating, where children can pick up individually-wrapped treat bags from homes at a distance — at the end of a driveway or the edge of a yard.
Other outdoor activities, such as pumpkin patches and movie nights, can work well as long as people follow social distancing guidelines, stay in their household group and wash their hands often.
Importantly, the CDC noted, costume masks aren’t a substitute for cloth masks that prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Wearing a costume mask over a cloth mask could make breathing difficult, so the CDC recommended a Halloween-themed cloth mask that has two or more layers of breathable fabric and covers the mouth and nose.
The highest-risk activities include traditional trick-or-treating, crowded indoor parties and hayrides where people sit close together with others not in their household. The CDC discouraged these activities and any events where people may hand treats directly to children or interact with each other for extended periods in close proximity.
The CDC also suggested checking state, local, territorial and tribal rules about holiday gatherings.
“When planning to host a holiday celebration, you should assess current COVID-19 levels in your community to determine whether to postpone, cancel or limit the number of attendees,” the CDC wrote.
U.K. Considers Strict Measures to Avoid Another Lockdown
Sept. 21, 5:55 p.m.
U.K. officials are implementing new measures this week to slow the surge in coronavirus cases in attempt to avoid another widespread lockdown.
The chief medical officers for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland recommended shifting the coronavirus alert level from 3 to 4 on its 5-tier alert system on Monday, according to the BBC. Level 4 requires social distancing, and Level 5 begins lockdown restrictions.
“After a period of lower Covid cases and deaths, the number of cases are now rising rapidly and probably exponentially in significant parts of all four nations,” they wrote in a statement.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is scheduled to make an announcement on Tuesday, according to the Financial Times, which will likely include a curfew for pubs and restaurants and stricter enforcement of social distancing rules.
“This country now faces a tipping point in its response, and it is vital everybody plays their part now to stop the spread of the virus and protect lives,” Matt Hancock, the U.K. health secretary, said during a briefing on Monday.
Various local lockdowns will go into place on Tuesday, according to the BBC, including several counties in Wales. The restrictions are meant to limit non-essential travel other than for work, school, groceries, or medications. Bars and pubs are closing earlier, and people are encouraged to socialize outdoors only.
Northern Ireland also announced a new ban on indoor gatherings, and no more than six people from two households can meet outdoors. The announcement came Monday after an urgent meeting among Northern Ireland officials and a call with Johnson, according to The Guardian.
Scotland will announce new lockdown restrictions in the next 48 hours, according to the BBC. During a daily coronavirus briefing on Monday, Nicola Sturgeon, the country's first minister, said “fast and urgent action” was necessary.
“I need to be absolutely straight with people across Scotland,” she said. “Additional restrictions will almost certainly be put in place in Scotland over the next couple of days.”
COVID-19 Can Spread on Long Flights, 2 Studies Say
Sept. 20, 11:26 a.m.
Long international flights could have greater potential for spreading the coronavirus among clusters of passengers, according to two new studies published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. The studies were released early and will be in the journal's November issue.
In one study, researchers looked at an outbreak on a 10-hour Vietnam Airlines flight from London to Hanoi, Vietnam, on March 2. They traced the 217 passengers, crew members, and close contacts, and found 16 people who contracted the coronavirus. Among those, 12 were passengers who sat in business class near “Case 1,” the only person on board who had symptoms. Seating proximity was associated with an increased risk of infection, they concluded.
“The risk for on-board transmission of SARS-CoV-2 during long flights is real and has the potential to cause COVID-19 clusters of substantial size, even in business class-like settings with spacious seating arrangements well beyond the established distance used to define close contact on airplanes,” wrote the researchers from Vietnam's National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.
The other four people who contracted COVID-19 were the sister of Case 1 and other people who were in close proximity to infected passengers.
“Although the international flight industry has judged the risk for in-flight transmission to be very low, long flights in particular have become a matter of increasing concern as many countries have started lifting flight restrictions,” they wrote.
In the other study, researchers looked at four passengers who had severe COVID-19 and had traveled on the same 15-hour flight from Boston to Hong Kong on March 9. The group of four included two passengers and two flight attendants who all had no symptoms during the flight but tested positive for the coronavirus within 5 to 11 days later.
The two passengers were a married couple who sat in window seats in business class. They developed symptoms after the flight and were hospitalized on March 14. One of the flight attendants had served the couple on the flight.
The researchers, who were from the University of Hong Kong and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, sequenced the patients' viruses and found that their virus genomes were “100% identical.” Most likely, the virus spread from one or both of the passengers to the flight attendants during the flight, they concluded.
“To prevent transmission of the virus during travel, infection control measures must continue,” they wrote.
Importantly, neither study could factor in current control measures, such as face masks, social distancing on flights, or symptom screening, since many of these new tactics weren't in place yet in early March. However, by studying 1,600 COVID-19 cases, the CDC has estimated that nearly 11,000 people were potentially exposed to the coronavirus on flights, according to The Washington Post.
In addition, more than 1,875 TSA officers have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 1, and the majority of them were screening officers at airport checkpoints. Now 215 TSA employees have active COVID-19 infections, according to the agency's latest update.
“As long as Covid-19 presents a global pandemic threat in the absence of a good point-of-care test, better on-board infection prevention measures and arrival screening procedures are needed to make flying safe,” wrote the researchers from Vietnam.
How many people have been diagnosed with the virus, and how many have died?
According to Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 31.36 million cases and more than 965,740 deaths worldwide. More than 21.53 million people have recovered.
How many cases of COVID-19 are in the United States?
There are more than 6.86 million cases in the U.S. of COVID-19, and more than 199,960 deaths. More than 2.61 million Americans have recovered from the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.