A children’s theme park in Pennsylvania, a Chili’s in Louisiana and a sheriff’s office in Florida have become the latest places to highlight simmering tensions over COVID-19 regulations — tensions that have at times boiled over into violence.
At the theme park and Chili’s, teenage employees were allegedly assaulted after enforcing mask and social distancing regulations. This as the sheriff in Marion County, Florida, gained national attention for banning his deputies from wearing masks at work, along with visitors to his office.
Social distancing measures will continue to be a flashpoint until an effective treatment or vaccine is widely available — part of the reason the federal government is now gambling another $1.5 billion on biotech giant Moderna’s vaccine candidate.
Here are some significant developments:
📈 Today’s numbers: Wisconsin has reported its 1,000th death. New weekly case records were set in Indiana, North Dakota, Guam and Puerto Rico. Weekly record numbers of deaths were reported in Georgia, Tennessee and Puerto Rico. The U.S. has reported more than 5.1 million cases and more than 165,000 deaths. Worldwide, there have been almost 750,000 deaths and more than 20.5 million cases.
📰 What we’re reading: Outdoor dining may save restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic. But are diners at risk from cars plowing into them?
Poll shows broad support for Donald Trump’s immigration restrictions, little else
Americans across the political spectrum support temporary immigration restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but the nation remains divided when it comes to immigration enforcement, including President Donald Trump’s push to expand the southern border wall, according to a national survey released Thursday.
The Public Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos poll also highlights a growing disconnect between Trump’s hard-line immigration policies and the priorities of Republicans, who mostly support many of the immigration policies the president has tried to dismantle.
As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the U.S., a large majority of Republicans (81%), a plurality of Democrats (49%) and a majority of independents (62%) said the U.S. government has done right by temporarily enacting immigration restrictionsin an effort to slow the spread of the pandemic. The national survey was conducted in May, after the president issued travel restrictions against China, Europe, Mexico and Canada.
— Alan Gomez
After a unanimous vote Wednesday from the Seattle School Board, the state’s largest school district will begin the academic year remotely, The Seattle Times reported.
The school board, however, has directed the superintendent to explore the creation of outdoor classes. And the plan does little to explain what fall learning would look like for the system’s 50,000 children.
Most of those details will be negotiated between the teachers’ union and the district, such as parameters for how teachers spend their time, and support for students.
Still, the school system has until a Sept. 2 start date to iron out these plans.
— Elinor Aspegren
A recent survey serves as a small snapshot of a national problem that some fear may be exacerbated in the fall as children return to school for in-person instruction.
The national survey, released Wednesday and conducted by Orlando Health, found the vast majority of parents believe vaccines are the best way to protect their children from infectious diseases, but two-thirds are still nervous to take their kids to their pediatrician’s office due to COVID-19.
While it’s not certain if the new school year will bring about a new outbreak, doctors say it’s not out the realm of possibilities. Experts urge parents who have missed their child’s scheduled vaccinations to call their doctor and set up a plan to catch up.
— Adrianna Rodriguez
Viking Cruises cancels sailings for the rest of 2020
Viking Cruises has canceled its sailings through the end of the year, citing the ongoing uncertainty about the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to its customers Wednesday, Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen said the company would suspend its operations through Dec. 31, “at which time we believe the world will be in a better position, and international travel will be less complicated.”
In the letter, Hagen cited the inability to travel freely across borders with many countries limiting entry. Hagen suggested that the development of effective therapeutics and a vaccine would be key to the resumption of cruise operations.
— Curtis Tate
The grandmother of Brazil’s first lady died in a public hospital outside Brasilai on Wednesday after more than a month fighting COVID-19. Maria Aparecida Firmo Ferreira, 80, was the grandmother of Michelle Bolsonaro, who is married to Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. She had been hospitalized since July 1.
President Bolsonaro and Michelle Bolsonaro were diagnosed with COVID-19 last month. The president, who has recovered, has consistently downplayed the severity of the virus.
Brazil has more than 3.1 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 103,000 deaths, both totals second highest in the world behind the U.S.
More than 1,200 students at two Alabama schools are starting the fall semester at home after a person connected with both schools tested positive for COVID-19.
While 12 other Lawrence County schools were beginning traditional classes Wednesday, Superintendent Jon Bret Smith told the Decatur Daily that students from the elementary and middle schools in Moulton, located in north Alabama, would start the academic year taking classes online for two weeks.
School officials notified 10 people who were in contact with the person. Computers are being distributed for online classes.
US Postal Service says it’s ready to deliver 2020 election ballots
The Postal Service says it’s ready to fairly and properly deliver the November election to whoever wins it. The pandemic means more mail-in ballots than ever before, but the agency is “prepared and has ample capacity” to timely deliver election mail, two of its leaders said in an opinion piece published in USA TODAY.
Recent, viral social media posts have made claims of intentional slowdowns of mail service and other attempts to short-circuit the election process. President Trump has slammed the agency.
David Williams, executive vice president of the U.S. Postal Service, general counsel Thomas Marshall are bullish on their task, however. “The Postal Service remains fully committed to fulfilling our role in the electoral process by doing everything we can to handle and deliver election mail, including ballots, in a timely manner consistent with our operational standards,” the duo writes.
The 2020 Masters Tournament will go on, but without patrons. Augusta National Golf Club made the announcement Wednesday after postponing the tournament in March. The tournament is scheduled for Nov. 9-15.
“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,” club and tournament chairman Fred Ridley said in a news release.
According to the club, all 2020 ticket holders will be guaranteed the same tickets for the 2021 Masters. The club said it will communicate with all ticket holders and 2021 ticket applicants in September.
– Will Cheney, Augusta Chronicle
Employees fearing layoff are targets for phony pink slips
Job hunters have long been warned to watch out for fake texts from phony employers and those $30-an-hour job descriptions that sound too good to be true. Now, those who remain on the job must worry about the phony pink slip.
Fraudsters have been sending out large volumes of termination notices during the pandemic, according to Jessica Dore, an expert in technology risk management at the financial services firm Rehmann. A target might be asked to click on a link for information about a severance package – and end up downloading malicious code allowing backdoor access to information.
Experts recommend talking to the Human Resources department or your manager before clicking on any link involving a termination notice.
– Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press
Outdoor dining may be saving restaurants, but diners may be at risk
As an alternative to indoor dining, many cities have allowed eateries to set up tables in parking lots, on sidewalks or in fenced-in areas directly on streets to ease the coronavirus threat.
But a group that informally tracks incidents of vehicles crashing into buildings or crowds based on media or police reports, the Storefront Safety Council, so far has counted about 20 instances of cars or trucks barging into outdoor dining areas since restaurants reopened after COVID-19-related shutdowns. That compares to about four a year over the past eight years.
“In the best of times, there is some risk associated with sidewalk dining, curbside dining, and street closings,” said council co-founder Rob Reiter. “This is not the best of times.”
– Chris Woodyard
Florida sheriff bans masks for deputies, people they are dealing with
The sheriff in Marion County, Florida, has banned his deputies from wearing masks at work, and visitors to his office can’t wear masks either. The county set a single-day record Tuesday when 13 coronavirus-related deaths were reported.
But Sheriff Billy Woods defended his mask ban, citing “current events when it comes to the sentiment and/or hatred toward law enforcement in our country today. This is being done to ensure there is clear communication and for identification purposes of any individual walking into a lobby.”
– Austin L. Miller
Churchill Downs officials unveiled a 62-page operations plan Wednesday that will limit attendance for the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5 to less than 23,000 guests. The 146th running of the race in Louisville had been scheduled for May 2. The pandemic changed that.
The plan includes no general admission, and the infield will be closed. Reserved seating will be limited to a maximum of 40% occupancy, and standing-room-only tickets have been eliminated. Temperature checks, medical questionnaires, physical distancing and mandatory face coverings will be required upon entrance.
“The opportunity to safely welcome back a limited number of guests to Churchill Downs on the first week of September is a privilege that our team doesn’t take for granted,” said Churchill Downs racetrack president Kevin Flanery.
– Jason Frakes, Louisville Courier Journal
Moderna paid another $1.5 billion to crank out doses of candidate vaccine
Moderna Inc., a leader in the race for a COVID-19 vaccine, has received another $1.525 billion in federal funding to deliver 100 million doses of its candidate vaccine. The money comes on top of nearly $1 billion the biotech has already gotten for developing the science behind its vaccine, known as mRNA-1273. The U.S. government will also have the option to purchase another 400 million doses from the company. Americans who receive this vaccine will not have to pay for it, though “as is customary with government-purchased vaccines, healthcare professionals could charge for the cost of administering the vaccine.” Not everyone is enamored with the federal investment in Moderna, however.
“Moderna offers us the privilege of purchasing that same vaccine we already paid for with another $1.525 billion and an option to pay even more for additional doses,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas. “And there is no indication of how much Americans will ultimately pay themselves for the vaccine they have financed.”
– Karen Weintraub
Thousands of college students with weakened immune systems are navigating treacherous back-to-school dynamics. While many colleges and universities offered all classes online last spring, some aren’t doing the same this fall, leaving immunocompromised students stressed out, rearranging schedules and locked in lengthy exchanges with accommodation offices.
Samantha Price, a rising junior at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, has Type 1 diabetes. She said the school expects her to drop classes that won’t be offered online.
“That’s a problem because I shouldn’t have to sacrifice my classes of choice when an able-bodied student gets to go into class,” she says.
– Grace Hauck
The first North Carolina dog to tested positive for coronavirus has died, state health officials said. The Department of Health and Human Services said the 8-year-old male Newfoundland was taken to state Veterinary Hospital on Aug. 3 after showing signs of respiratory distress and died later that day. An autopsy was planned to determine if the infection was the cause of death.
The first dog to test positive in the United States was Buddy, a 7-year-old German Shepherd from Staten Island, New York, according to National Geographic. Buddy died July 11.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, say they have created a nasal spray that can help ward off the coronavirus – not as a cure or vaccine, but as an antiviral.
“Far more effective than wearable forms of personal protective equipment, we think of AeroNabs as a molecular form of PPE that could serve as an important stopgap until vaccines provide a more permanent solution to COVID-19,” said AeroNabs co-inventor Peter Walter, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF, in a news release.
Nanobodies in the spray are smaller than human antibodies, making them easier to manipulate in a laboratory setting, said co-inventor Aashish Manglik, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of pharmaceutical chemistry. Nanobodies, for this reason, are therefore less expensive and easier to mass produce. The researchers are currently working to get the spray manufactured and clinically tested.
– Elinor Aspegren
US immigration services to furlough two-thirds of its workers
The federal agency tasked with offering citizenship, green cards and visas to immigrants is planning to furlough about two-thirds of its workers at the end of the month after Congress failed to reach a deal on a coronavirus stimulus package. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services notified about 13,400 of its 20,000 employees they would be furloughed Aug. 30 due to budget shortfalls, which the agency hoped Congress would fill in its next relief package before negotiations stalled last week.
“In the past few months, USCIS has taken action to avert a fiscal crisis, including limiting spending to salary and mission-critical activities,” an agency spokesperson said. “Without congressional intervention, USCIS will have to take drastic actions to keep the agency solvent.”
The agency had asked Congress for $1.2 billion and the funds were expected to come through its next coroanvirus relief package. But after about two weeks of negotiations, talks dissolved with Democrats and the White House blaming one another for the stalemate.
– Christal Hayes
More COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
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Contributing: The Associated Press