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Coronavirus 2020 Outbreak: Latest Updates

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This article was updated on Aug. 5, 2020, at 5:32 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?

Four Dead From Swallowing Hand Sanitizer, CDC Says

Aug. 5, 5:32 p.m. ET.

Fifteen people became sick with methanol poisoning after swallowing alcohol-based hand sanitizers in New Mexico and Arizona from May 1 until June 30, and four of the people died, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

In addition, three people developed visual impairment, the CDC said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The CDC report comes one day after the FDA warned people not to use more than 100 brands of hand sanitizers because they may contain methanol, a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or when drunk.

The CDC said it launched the study in New Mexico and Arizona after receiving reports of methanol-poisoning by drinking hand sanitizer. The problem may be occurring other states, the CDC said.

The 15 patients all "had a history of swallowing alcohol-based hand sanitizer products,” which is something a person with a history of alcoholism might do, the CDC said. Thirteen of the 15 were male and the mean age was 43.

Health authorities say people should wash their hands often to curb their coronavirus risk and should use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. 

In April, President Trump asked at a news conference whether injecting disinfectants might help treat the coronavirus. 

The CDC conducted a study after those remarks and found that that 39% of respondents had washed their food with bleach or engaged in other “high-risk practices” to fight the coronavirus. Four percent of the study group had drunk or gargled diluted bleach solutions, soapy water, and other cleaning and disinfectant solutions.

In Reversal, Chicago School System to Start Year With Remote Learning

Aug. 5, 5:32 p.m. ET.

Chicago Public Schools announced Wednesday that students in the nation’s third-largest school district will take classes remotely in the first quarter because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier, CPS said it wanted to start the year with a hybrid model of in-class and remote learning. But complaints by teachers and the results of “a myriad of surveys” led school officials to change their minds, CPS said in a statement posted to its website.

“While many families expressed a desire to begin the year in a hybrid model, a large number of families did not feel comfortable sending their children back to school—approximately only one in five African-American and Latinx families planned to send their children back to school in person this fall,” school system CEO Janice K. Jackson and Chief Education Officer LaTanya D. McDade said in the statement.

“Our decision to begin the school year remotely is a reflection of the feedback we received in response to our preliminary framework.”

The school district will decide before the second quarter whether it’s safe to switch to a hybrid model, the statement said. The first day of school in Chicago is September 8 and the first quarter ends November 9.

President Trump has urged school systems to start the year with in-class education because it will help the economy. The CDC has urged the same thing, saying children need to go to school for their social and mental growth. 

But many large school districts like Los Angeles, Atlanta and San Diego have announced that students will start the school year learning virtually. The New York City Public Schools plans to hold in-person classes this year.

CPS says it’s working to help students in low-income families by providing them with computers and high-speed internet service in their homes.

At the start of the 2019-20 school year, CPS had 355,156 students enrolled in 642 schools. The system employees more than 30,000 people, including more than 20,000 teachers.

 

L.A. County Public Health Department Prohibits Gatherings

Aug. 5, 2:59 p.m.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued an order Tuesday to prohibit gatherings, such as parties, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The order, included at the bottom of the department's Tuesday update on new coronavirus cases and deaths, doesn't provide details about the types or sizes of gatherings.

“All events and gatherings, unless specifically allowed by Health Officer Orders, remain prohibited,” according to the announcement.

The order was made in response to a large party at a mansion in the Beverly Crest neighborhood, which had hundreds of attendees, according to NBC4 News in Los Angeles. Based on photos, people at the party weren't following social distancing guidelines, and few people wore face masks.

Police received complaints from neighbors and responded to the calls, but since the party was a private event, it wasn't disbanded. Several hours later, a woman was killed and others were injured when someone opened fire at the party. The mansion was a rental property, according to Fox 11 in Los Angeles.

“When people gather with people outside of their household it increases the risk of COVID-19 spread,” according to the department's statement. “The more individuals interact with others at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the risk of those individuals becoming infected with COVID-19.”

Violation of the order is considered a crime that could be punishable by fines or imprisonment, according to another statement released to news outlets on Tuesday afternoon. The “highest risk” scenarios for transmitting the coronavirus are large gatherings where people can't stay 6 feet away from others and where they don't wear face masks, according to the statement.

“The consequences of these large parties ripple throughout our entire community because the virus can quickly and easily spread,” the department said. “We must all do our part to slow the spread of this virus so that we may continue on our recovery journey.”

Experts: COVID-19 an Ongoing 'Forest Fire,' Not Seasonal Wave

Aug. 5, 12:50 p.m.

The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to rage on like a forest fire rather than ebb and flow like the seasonal flu, according to Business Insider.

In the spring, epidemiologists and virologists who study infectious diseases predicted the coronavirus might fade in the summer and return with a “second wave” in the fall, but they haven't seen it slow down.

“There's no evidence there's going to be a decrease in cases, a trough,” Michael Osterholm, PhD, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, told the news outlet. Osterholm and colleagues at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy wrote a popular report in April that suggested what a second wave might look like.

“It's just going to keep burning hot, kind of like a forest fire looking for human wood to burn,” he added. “Now we see there are no waves.”

In the April report, the second-wave theory was based on what happened during the 1918 flu and 2009 H1N1 flu pandemics. Two other scenarios said that the first wave of the coronavirus could be followed by a cycle of smaller waves or that there could be a “slow burn” of ongoing cases. So far, none of the scenarios have played out as previously predicted.

Instead, this pandemic is “one long-term fire” and more like a “fast burn” with peaks and valleys in different cities at different times, Osterholm said.

“In April, we were still looking at whether this was a pandemic where we'd see true waves -- where you see big increase in cases and then a trough and then a second, bigger wave for reasons completely beyond human behavior -- which has historically happened with other influenza pandemics,” he said.

In reality, the pandemic will likely be “one big wave,” according to Reuters.

“We are in the first wave. It's going to be one big wave. It's going to go up and down a bit,” Margaret Harris, a World Health Organization spokeswoman, said during a press briefing.

“The best thing is to flatten it and turn it into just something lapping at your feet,” she added.

Instead of counting on seasonal changes, she said, people should continue to follow social distancing practices, wear face masks, and avoid crowds to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“People are still thinking about seasons,” she said. “What we all need to get our heads around is this is a new virus.”

Clorox Wipes Shortage Will Last Until 2021

Aug. 5, 11:15 a.m.

Clorox, the largest global manufacturer of disinfectants and cleaners, said wipes and other products will continue to face shortages into next year due to high demand.

In March, as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, consumers began buying large quantities of disinfectant products to clean surfaces at home, and wipes have been in particularly high demand. Clorox dominates 45% of the market on wipes, and although the company has increased production, it's still not enough, according to CNN Business.

“Given the fact that cold and flu sits in the middle of the year, and then we expect the pandemic to be with us for the entirety of the year, it will take the full year to get up to the supply levels that we need,” Linda Rendle, the president and CEO-elect of Clorox, told analysts in a call on Monday.

Benno Dorer, the company's outgoing CEO, specifically said that wipes shortages will continue through next year.

“Disinfecting wipes, which are the hottest commodity in the business right now, will probably take longer because it's a very complex supply chain to make them,” he told Reuters.

The company typically creates excess supplies for flu season, the news service reported, but it hasn't been able to keep up with the sixfold increase in demand for disinfectants. Other parts of the Clorox portfolio -- such as Glad trash bags and Burt's Bees lip balm -- have been in short supply as well.

Dorer said in May that wipes would likely be restocked by the summer, but the demand has continued to increase. Wipes use a material called polyester spunlace, he said, which is also used to make personal protective equipment such as medical face masks, medical gowns and medical-grade wipes.

“That entire supply chain is stressed,” Dorer said. “We feel like it's probably going to take until 2021 before we're able to meet all the demand that we have.”

WHO: There's No 'Silver Bullet' for COVID-19

Aug. 4, 4:58 p.m.

No single thing will stop the spread of the coronavirus, the World Health Organization's director-general said Monday.

“There's no silver bullet at the moment, and there might never be,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, MD, told reporters.

The WHO declared the coronavirus pandemic a global health emergency more than 6 months ago. At that time, fewer than 100 cases had been reported across the world. Now more than 18 million cases and nearly 700,000 deaths have been recorded, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

“For now, stopping outbreaks comes down to the basics of public health and disease control,” he said. “Testing, isolating, and treating patients, and tracing and quarantining their contacts. Do it all.”

Although several vaccine candidates have entered late-stage clinical trials, widespread vaccine distribution likely won't occur for some time, he said. Many countries will need to continue certain practices, such as wearing masks and social distancing, for some time to come.

“Keep safeguards and monitoring in place because lifting restrictions too quickly can lead to a resurgence,” Tedros said.

The WHO launched a mask challenge this week to encourage people to send in photos of themselves wearing a mask. Public health officials and elected leaders should encourage others to carry a mask with them at all times and to use it in public places, he said.

"As well as being one of the key tools to stop the virus, the mask has come to represent solidarity,” Tedros said. “By wearing a mask, you're sending a powerful message to those around you that we are all in this together.”

Fauci Says Schools Should Open With Safety as a Priority

Aug. 4, 1:40 p.m.

Anthony Fauci, MD, says he favors K-12 students returning to the classroom for education, but he stressed “the primary consideration” in making that decision should be the safety of students and staff.

Fauci said students need the psychological and nutritional benefits of being in the classroom and parents need to "dramatically modify their work schedule,” CNN reported.

"The primary consideration should always be the safety, the health, and the welfare of the children, as well as the teachers and the secondary effects for spreading (to) the parents and other family members," said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Colleges should require people to be tested for the coronavirus before they arrive on campus and then quarantine for 14 days, Fauci said.

"If done properly, it would not be a risk, but then again, you've got to be careful when you get people coming in from outside," he said. "But I think if they maintain the guidelines that are put together for people coming back, that they should be fine."

Whether to reopen schools has become a friction point as the coronavirus sweeps the nation. As of Tuesday morning, there were more than 4.7 million cases in the United States and more than 155,000 deaths.

President Donald Trump wants schools to reopen to help boost the national economy. 

The CDC director says school reopening is important for the nation's public health and that the long-term benefits for children outweigh the health risks. CDC guidelines on school reopening say children need to get back to class because schools offer nutrition and socialization some students may not receive at home.

Despite the CDC guidance, many school systems across the nation are choosing to start the school year with all-virtual education.

COVID Sidelines 260 Teachers in Georgia's Biggest School District

Aug. 4, 11:32 a.m.

As it prepares to start school, Georgia's largest school district reported that 260 teachers are absent from planning sessions because they've tested positive for COVID-19 or are in quarantine because of possible exposure, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Gwinnett County Public Schools in suburban Atlanta began in-person planning sessions for teachers last Wednesday. Classes are scheduled to begin Aug. 12, with teachers expected to report to the classroom to deliver virtual instruction to the students at home.

The school district has 24,900 employees, the district's website says. It's the biggest in Georgia and the 12th-biggest in the nation, with a projected enrollment of 180,000 students at 141 schools.

“Through tracing, we know that the majority of these cases are the result of community spread, meaning we have people who have called in to report who have not been at school or work,” system spokesperson Sloan Roach said.

Gwinnett County has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 cases in the state, with around 18,000 confirmed cases, including 4,000 in the last 2 weeks, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. The county has 240 deaths and close to 2,000 hospitalizations.

“Given the number of COVID cases in Gwinnett, we would expect to see positives among our employees based on the community spread in our county,” Roach said.

The county school board first planned to give parents the option of in-class or virtual classes, but decided to go with all-virtual classes in July. 

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

According to Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 18.57 million cases and more than 701,500 deaths worldwide. More than 11.17 million people have recovered.

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

There are more than 4.77 million cases in the U.S. of COVID-19, and more than 156,800 deaths. More than 1.52 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 Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 04, 2020

Sources

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