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California Coronavirus

California Coronavirus Update: Top Health Official Reveals State Has Been Underreporting New COVID-19 Cases; County Numbers Also Have “Discrepancies” – Deadline

On Tuesday, an unusual message was posted on the California state COVID-19 dashboard. It read, “Due to the issues with the state’s electronic laboratory system, these data represent an underreporting of actual positive cases in one single day.” There was no further information or clarification.

A few hours later, the state’s top health official, Dr. Mark Ghaly, shed some light on the issue.

“Over the past few days — the state system — we’ve discovered some discrepancies,” said Ghaly.

“We’re working hard and immediately to reach out to the labs that we work with to get accurate information in a manual process so that we can feed that to our county partners,” he added, “so that we can validate and make sure that our numbers are accurate.

“And of course, [we’re] working hard on the technology side across state government to make sure that the systems are robust and capable of accepting all of this information.”

California’s daily case count numbers have plummeted from a recent high of 9,032 on August 1 — the day local officials were informed of the issue — to 5,719 on Monday.

While Gov. Gavin Newsom did not reveal the data issues at his Monday news conference, he did repeatedly warn Californians not to let their guard down.

“The overall trend…is showing a decrease from where we were over a week ago,” said Newsom. “But one week does not make the kind of trend that gives us confidence to generate headlines. We are looking forward to that and need to see another few weeks of this kind of data to come in to feel more confident about where we are as a state.”

He also issued what now seems like a prescient warning saying, “This virus is not going away. It’s not just going to take Labor Day off. It’s not going to take Halloween off. Or the holidays off.”

“Until we have quality therapeutics, until we have a vaccine, we are going to be living with this virus,” predicted Newsom.

And it’s not just the state numbers that have been impacted.

“Many counties depend upon the state’s information to keep their own data up to date,” said Ghaly. “Many public health officials and public health offices that depend on the state’s data over the past few days have seen a drop in case numbers. We’ve been in communication with them about what these discrepancies are. They’re concerned, as we are. There is no doubt that, their ability to address in a specific way contact tracing and case investigation” has been impacted over the past few days.

Riverside County acknowledged the issue in a statement on Monday, which read in part:

Electronic laboratory reporting is not being submitted to CalREDIE’s system in a real-time manner. Riverside County’s positive cases in recent days may appear that the numbers are holding steady or flattening, but that’s simply not true, said Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari.

“This is an integration, technical issue,” Saruwatari said. “Simply put, there is a significant lag in how the information is being fed into the system. We’re anticipating significant increases in case reporting this week.”

The notice went on to say that local health officials had first been made aware of the reporting issue on Friday.

Two other counties, Sacramento and Placer, posted disclaimers to their COVID-19 dashboards. Placer added a message Monday and Sacramento added a warning early Tuesday, amid a few. Those counties had recently seen lower numbers.

A warning statement on Placer’s data dashboard reads, “Please note that CalREDIE, the statewide electronic disease reporting system, is experiencing serious unresolved processing delays.

“As such, new cases presented here are likely an underestimate of true incident cases being reported. This impacts many of our statistics, including case rates and percent increase estimates.”

These data challenges on case numbers do not have overlap with hospitalization and ICU data, he said.

The state reported 4,526 new cases on Tuesday and 113 new deaths. Hospitalizations were down 1.5 percent and COVID-related ICU patients dropped .9 percent.

Los Angeles County has also seen a recent large drop in daily cases.

On July 31, the county reported 2,651 new infections. That was a sharp drop from the all-time high in new daily cases, reported just two days before of 4,825.

Watch Ghaly’s presentation below.

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Coronavirus Update

Coronavirus update: U.S. death toll climbs to 155,000, as COVID-19 enters ‘dangerous new phase’ – MarketWatch

The U.S. tally for new confirmed cases of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continued its march toward 5 million, with the death toll topping 155,000, as White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx warned that the pandemic has entered a “new phase.”

Birx’s warning came after President Donald Trump continued to push his belief that the increase in cases was only a result of increased testing. He tweeted over the weekend that Dr. Anthony Fauci, his administration’s top infectious disease expert, was “Wrong!” for suggesting the U.S. failed to properly respond to the outbreak, while other countries did.

New COVID-19 cases reached 4.69 million in the U.S., with the death toll rising to 155,124, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 1.5 million people have recovered. New daily cases have increased in the past week in 13 states, the data show, and 13 states have seen more than a double-digit percentage of tests turn out positive for COVID-19.

The stock market continued to look past the new case and death tolls, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
+0.89%

rising solidly and the technology-friendly Nasdaq Composite
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+1.46%

rallying to fresh records. See Market Snapshot.

In an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, Birx said that COVID-19 is now “different” from what was seen in March and April, as it is now “extraordinarily widespread,” into both rural and urban areas. She urged all Americans to keep wearing masks, social distancing and take personal hygiene measures.

Don’t miss: Birx warns of pandemic’s dangerous ‘new phase’ as Pelosi assails her credibility.

Also read: Who is Deborah Birx — the doctor that both Trump and Pelosi are now suddenly criticizing?

Her dire outlook came hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on ABC’s “This Week,” said as a Trump appointee she had no confidence in Birx, who Pelosi believed should be doing more to refute the misinformation Trump was spreading about the pandemic.

On Friday, Fauci said the reason the U.S. continued to see the pandemic spread rapidly in the U.S. was because when the U.S. started shutting down in response the spread of COVID-19, the U.S. only “functionally” shut down about 50% of the country, while countries in Europe had shut about 95%+ of their countries.

Also read: Heated congressional hearing raises questions about coronavirus testing capacity, protests, Trump’s messaging.

And earlier last week, Johns Hopkins University said the U.S. needed to reset its response to COVID-19, as hospitalization rates matched or exceeded the numbers seen at the peak in the first U.S. hot spot in New York City in March and April. “It’s time to reset,” a report from the university’s Center for Health Security said.

Trump’s response on Saturday was emphatic:

Meanwhile, the White House, Senate Republicans and House Democrats have reportedly made progress on a new coronavirus relief bill, but have yet to reach an agreement on restoring the $600-per-week supplemental unemployment benefit although that benefit expired on Friday.

Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, was asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday whether the U.S. can improve its testing strategy, tried to put it “in context” by saying testing was being used “selectively.”

“Obviously, we want to increase testing, and we’ve done that,” Giroir said.

He emphasized that what was “incredibly important” to controlling the coronavirus was to wear masks, but that 85% to 90% of people had to wear masks and avoid crowds. When asked whether that means the U.S. should implement a national mask mandate, Giroir said it “really has to be voluntary by the American people,” whether it’s mandated by cities or states.

Regarding Trump’s continued touting of antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, despite trials showing it didn’t provide a benefit, Giroir said: “Right now, hydroxychloroquine, I can’t recommend that.”

He did say, however, that therapies such as Gilead Sciences Inc.’s
GILD,
+3.16%

remdesivir and steroids were effective, and that a vaccine was “really on the horizon.”

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization warned Monday that there might never be a “silver bullet” for the coronavirus, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). That comes after Dr. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota who predicted in January that the coronavirus would become the next pandemic, told MarketWatch that he believed Americans will be living with the coronavirus for decades.

Latest tallies

There are now 18.15 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 world-wide, the Johns Hopkins data show, and at least 690,624 people have died. More than 10.7 million people have recovered.

Brazil is second to the U.S. with 2.7 million cases and 94,104 deaths, but is first with nearly 2.1 million recovered.

India is third measured by cases at 1.8 million, followed by Russia with 854,641, South Africa with 511,485 and Mexico with 439,046.

The U.K. has 307,251 cases and 46,295 fatalities, the highest in Europe and fourth highest in the world. Mexico has risen to third in the world in deaths with 47,746.

China, where the illness was first reported late last year, has 88,065 cases, and 4,672 fatalities.

The Philippines, which saw its new caseload surpass 100,000, has ordered a renewed lockdown, and Australia’s Victoria state imposed a “state of disaster” as new restrictions were imposed across the region, according to an Associated Press report.

What’s the latest medical news?

Eli Lilly & Co.
LLY,
+1.69%

said Monday that it has started a Phase 3 trial for a treatment that aims to prevent COVID-19 infections in residents and workers in nursing homes. The trial, expected to enroll 2,400 people by September, will be conducted with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, with plans to release the late-stage data sometime in the fourth quarter.

Lilly is testing an experimental antibody it developed with the privately held AbCellera Biologics Inc. to see if it can prevent infections in people who live or work in a facility that has recently reported a case of the coronavirus. The antibody was identified in the blood sample of one of the first people in the U.S. to test positive for the virus.

Also Monday, AbbVie Inc.
ABBV,
+1.08%
,
Amgen Inc.
AMGN,
+1.09%

and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.
TAK,
+1.75%

4502,
+0.30%

said they have started enrolling patients in a clinical trial testing three of their drugs as treatments for severely ill and hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The companies are using a platform aimed at minimizing the number of clinical-trial participants and the time it takes to test those drugs under an umbrella group called the COVID R&D Alliance.

GlaxoSmithKline PLC
GSK,
+2.40%

GSK,
+3.63%

and Sanofi
SNY,
+1.44%

SAN,
+1.93%

said Monday that they are in advanced discussions with the European Union to supply up to 300 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. GlaxoSmithKline said the vaccine candidate uses Sanofi’s technology to produce an influenza vaccine, and Glaxo’s adjuvant technology.

What are companies saying?

• Avis Budget Group Inc.
CAR,
-2.00%

plans to offer $350 million in senior notes due 2027, joining the many companies issuing record amounts of debt during the pandemic. The 5.75% notes will be offered as additional notes under the debt dated as of July 2019, in which $400 million in 5.75% senior notes due 2027 were previously issued. The rental car company expects to use the proceeds from the notes offering to redeem $100 million of 5.50% senior notes due 2023, with the rest to be used for general corporate purposes. The company has said last week that it has $1.5 billion in liquidity at the end of the second quarter, and estimated that cash burn would be approximately $900 million, including $100 million in debt retirement.

• Clorox Co.
CLX,
-1.92%

reported a fiscal fourth-quarter profit and revenue that beat expectations, as it benefited from demand for cleaning products as a result of the pandemic, while providing an in-line outlook. Sales grew 21.9% to $1.98 billion to beat the FactSet consensus of $1.87 billion, as household and wellness sales, which includes cleaning and professional products, rose 33%. For fiscal 2021, the company expects EPS to be down in the mid-single-digit to be up in the mid-single-digit percentage range, while the FactSet consensus of $7.35 implies a 0.1% decline.

• Upscale department-store chain Lord & Taylor and its owner, clothing rental startup Le Tote Inc., have filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The filing Sunday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, Va., came less than a year after Le Tote bought the chain from Hudson’s Bay Co. in a $100 million deal. Lord & Taylor has 38 locations in the U.S., according to the filing, and about 650 employees. Some of the stores, which have been closed since March due to the pandemic, reportedly had new “store closing” signs put up Sunday. Department stores have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, and Lord & Taylor’s bankruptcy filing follows those by JCPenney Co.
JCPNQ,
-0.50%
,
Neiman Marcus Inc. and J.Crew Co.

• Mack-Cali Realty Corp.
CLI,
-8.39%

reported Monday adjusted funds from operations that missed expectations as revenue surprisingly fell, as the real-estate investment trust has experienced challenges as a result of the pandemic. Office collections averaged 96% during the quarter and 98% in July, while residential collections averaged 98% in the quarter and 99% in July. The company didn’t provide financial guidance given the uncertainties associated with the pandemic. Interim Chief Executive MaryAnne Gilmartin said the company has begun its search for a permanent CEO.

• Marathon Petroleum Corp.
MPC,
+0.96%
,
fresh from the sale of its gas stations to the owners of the 7-Eleven convenience store chain for $21 billion in the largest U.S. energy deal of the year, posted second-quarter earnings, showing a smaller-than-expected adjusted loss but revenue that lagged behind estimates. Revenue fell to $15.024 billion from $33.529 billion, below the $21.729 billion FactSet consensus. “Our second quarter results reflect a full three months of the challenges COVID has created for our business,” Chief Executive Michael J. Hennigan said in a statement. “We began April with demand at historic lows. Despite seeing some recovery during the quarter, demand for our products and services continues to be significantly depressed, particularly across the West Coast and Midwest.” The company is indefinitely idling its Gallup and Martinez refineries and evaluating a strategic repositioning of Martinez to a renewable diesel facility. It’s on track to deliver $1.4 billion capex cuts and at least $950 million of operating expense cuts.

• Menswear retailer Tailored Brands Inc.
TLRD,
-21.23%

, the parent company of Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sunday, The Wall Street Journal reported. The clothier has been hit hard by pandemic-related store shutdowns, reporting last month that first-quarter sales were down 60%. Since July 1, Tailored Brands has missed interest payments on bonds, slashed its corporate workforce by 20%, announced plans to close up to 500 stores and was notified that it will be delisted by the New York Stock Exchange. The company operated more than 1,400 stores in the U.S. and Canada as of Feb. 1, and employed more than 1,900 people.

• Tyson Foods Inc.
TSN,
+1.59%

reported third-quarter earnings that beat expectations. Beef sales fell to $3.65 billion from $4.16 billion last year, though the average price for beef rose 11.6%. Tyson attributed a reduced sales volume to lower capacity caused by a first-quarter fire at a production facility that led to its temporary closure. Average pork prices also rose, up 0.8%, with sales totaling $1.12 billion, down from $1.32 billion. Tyson chicken prices fell 2.4%, and chicken sales fell to $3.11 billion from $3.33 billion. Lower food-service demand hurt chicken sales, the company said. Tyson incurred COVID-19-related incremental expenses of $340 million during the quarter, including worker bonuses, testing and personal protective equipment. Tyson didn’t provide guidance due to the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

• Beyond Meat Inc.
BYND,
+6.68%

said Monday that its Beyond Burgers will be sold at Walmart Inc.’s
WMT,
-0.07%

warehouse chain Sam’s Club, and at BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings Inc.
BJ,
+0.35%

Beyond Meat began selling at Costco Wholesale Corp.
COST,
+1.16%

last summer. The news comes just days after rival plant-based burger maker Impossible Foods Inc. began rolling out its Impossible Burgers at nearly 2,100 Walmart Supercenters and Neighborhood Markets nationwide. Walmart is also selling Impossible Burgers on its website.

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Coronavirus getting

Getting a coronavirus vaccine in record time is hard. Distributing it to tens of millions may be equally daunting. – The Washington Post

Getting shots into the arms of millions of Americans is a massive undertaking, they say, requiring extraordinary coordination, planning and communication. But with only six months to the government’s target date for approving a vaccine, the administration has shared limited and often confusing information about its plans for distribution, making it difficult for overwhelmed state and local officials, including those who run immunization programs, to prepare.

“It’s probably the hardest thing they’re going to do,” Paul A. Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a member of a federal vaccine advisory group, said of the effort to distribute vaccines to every corner of America and immunize as many people as quickly as possible.

At a recent briefing for the advisory group by Operation Warp Speed, the administration’s effort to fast-track development of coronavirus countermeasures, Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, who oversees logistics, said the military would move vaccines onto trucks for distribution “the day after” the drugs received regulatory approval from the Food and Drug Administration, Offit recalled.

But Offit said that, based on the administration’s inability to develop a national testing strategy, secure adequate supplies of personal protective equipment and deliver a consistent message about wearing face masks, the question he wanted to ask Ostrowski but didn’t have the chance was basic: “Given that the administration efforts have largely been failures, what makes you think this will work?”

Other experts expressed similar worries.

“This is a slow-motion train wreck,” said one state official who has been involved in planning efforts and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. The official pointed in particular to the administration’s botched rollout of remdesivir, an antiviral medication that is one of the only approved treatments for covid-19 patients. “There’s certainly a lot of concern, and not being able to plan creates a significant amount of confusion,” the official said.

The National Governors Association, a policy group representing both Republican and Democratic executives, urged governors Monday to start planning for the vaccine effort now, noting the “high degree of uncertainty as to the exact processes and procedures that will be used for operations, administration, and logistics,” according to a policy memo.

“Immunizing the U.S. population against covid-19 will likely require the single largest vaccination campaign ever undertaken,” the memo said.

Administration officials said coordination efforts are underway to address these concerns.

“Our team is working relentlessly and deliberately to deliver substantial quantities of a safe and effective vaccine to Americans,” a senior administration official said at a briefing Thursday organized by the Health and Human Services department, the lead agency for the pandemic response. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity, part of the ground rules set by HHS officials.

HHS and the Defense Department have a “synergistic teamwork” in logistics and planning that allow officials to assess risk and potential delays, and “address them accordingly,” the official said.

Trump administration officials have repeatedly stressed the military’s role in vaccine distribution. But they have offered few specifics, and the military has never been significantly involved in a modern civilian vaccination campaign, experts said. Public health officials worry that the lack of clarity about the plan, or the military’s role, could undermine the increasingly tenuous confidence in vaccines and the public health authorities that tout them. That is especially true among underserved African American communities and other communities of color, where trust in medical and political systems is already strained, and where people are most at risk of getting severe illness and dying of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

About 7 in 10 Americans say they would get a vaccine to protect against the novel coronavirus if immunizations were free and available to everyone, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll in late May. But 1 in 7 Americans said they would not get it because they distrust vaccines in general.

Even if one or more vaccines are approved later this year or early next, as many hope, the logistics surrounding their distribution are formidable.

Multiple vaccines may be available at the same time, with different requirements for use and storage. Some may require two shots. Health-care providers and officials will need to make sure that someone getting the first dose of vaccine A gets the appropriate second dose of the same vaccine.

Until recently, federal officials had not spelled out whether they planned to create a new system for distributing coronavirus vaccines, or stick with the existing infrastructure. The traditional vaccination programs, operated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the states, routinely distribute millions of doses of childhood vaccines every year.

During the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, the CDC scaled up the system to distribute H1N1 vaccine to states. But overly optimistic projections of supply during the second wave of the pandemic in October 2009 resulted in high demand and only limited vaccine doses. By the time an adequate supply of vaccine arrived, demand had fallen.

Whatever systems are ultimately deployed, they will need to “track the supply, manage the allocation equitably around the country, deal with concerns with vaccine that arise, track adverse events, and communicate clearly and transparently,” said Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, which has released a report about enhancing public trust in coronavirus vaccination.

“There is so much planning to do, and not much time,” he said. “That preparation needs to be happening right now.”

State officials say they also don’t have a clear picture of how much responsibility they will have to shoulder at a time when the federal government has shifted virtually every aspect of the pandemic response to them.

“I feel like there’s an assumption they need to solve all these problems at the federal level, then communicate to the states, when that’s really not what needs to happen,” said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, which represents directors of public health immunization programs in the states and territories. “We’re not asking for answers. We’re asking to sit down at the table and work them out. … There’s just an assumption that we’ll get some contracts, and ‘yeah, everything will be great.’ ”

Kristen Ehresmann, director of the infectious-disease epidemiology division at the Minnesota Department of Health, likened the existing infrastructure to a dirt road “that got us to where we need to go.” For the coronavirus vaccine, the government can build on that, “pave the road, make it better,” she said. “But it doesn’t make sense to clear trees and create a new road.”

In its policy memo, the NGA called mass dispensing of a vaccine a “major undertaking.” State officials may need to lease warehouse space and secure freezers or refrigerators for vaccine storage, said Lauren Stienstra, a program director at the governors’ group.

“We would hate, after all the development for a vaccine, to have it expire or be mishandled somehow or become wasted as result of lack of planning,” she said.

State officials are also concerned about shortages of needles and vials, she said, noting an uptick in purchase of those items by some states. Given that states competed with each other for personal protective equipment, “our worry going into this scenario is that you will have state-on-state competition for things like syringes,” Stienstra said.

The administration’s plan has become somewhat clearer in recent days. Late last week, CDC outlined a distribution plan in a meeting with immunization groups that uses a model similar to the public health infrastructure used for the H1N1, or swine flu, pandemic, according to participants and the NGA memo.

In that plan, manufacturers would deliver vaccine to a central distributor, and states and territories would receive weekly allocations. Places that administer the shots — including private providers and clinics — would send requests for vaccine to state officials, who would prioritize and approve them.

The vaccine would then be sent directly from the central distributor to the receiving location “via contracts arranged by the Defense Logistics Agency,” according to the NGA memo.

Additional supplies of vaccine will be made to “select private partners (likely major retail clinics such as CVS and Walgreens) to expand access,” the memo said.

But the same day as the CDC meeting, senior administration officials described to reporters a process that seemed to give the Defense Department a more prominent role. Vaccine distribution would be a “joint venture” between the Defense Department and CDC that would “combine the best of both agencies,” one senior official said.

The official added: “The DoD is handling all the logistics of getting the vaccines to the right place, at the right time, in the right conditions.” When initial limited doses become available, officials aren’t going to wait for vaccine orders to arrive. “We are going to be pushing the vaccines out to, hopefully, to nursing homes, to seniors who are not ambulatory,” the official said, referring to priority groups at high-risk for covid-19.

Defense would also prepare kits of needles and syringes. He noted that in some cases, when suppliers have said it would take six weeks to get necessary metal to make needles, the government has sent a plane to pick up metal “and have it there in 48 hours.”

In this hybrid model, the CDC, which maintains a vaccine ordering and distribution system for routine immunizations, would be involved in tracking patients after vaccination, the official said. The government is also planning to award additional contracts to help “bring together both the CDC IT capabilities, as well as some new applications that we’re going to need that the CDC never had,” he said.

Jim Blumenstock, who oversees health security for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said the confusion stems from lack of information. What he knows comes from two telephone calls with Warp Speed’s Ostrowski and two webinars with CDC officials.

Information needs to be formally documented and shared so it won’t be misinterpreted or misunderstood, he said.

“We’re assuming at the end of the day, the delineation of lines of authority will be coordinated and transparent, and those of us in the field will have a clear understanding of how it’s going to play out,” he said. “Every day we have more confidence, but we still have a ways to go.”

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Coronavirus Epidemic

Birx Says US Coronavirus Epidemic Is in a New Phase – MSN Money

She and other top health officials in the Trump administration warn states of a deepening spread of the coronavirus, in both rural and urban areas.

Credit…Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Benedict Carey

Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the Trump administration’s coronavirus coordinator, said on Sunday that the nation was in a “new phase” of the coronavirus epidemic that was much more sprawling across the country than last spring’s outbreaks in major cities like New York and Seattle.

She recommended that people living in communities where cases are surging should consider wearing a mask at home, if they live with someone who is especially vulnerable because of age or underlying medical conditions.

“What we are seeing today is different from March and April — it is extraordinarily widespread,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union” news program. “It’s into the rural as equal urban areas. So everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune.”

Dr. Birx emphasized the significance of asymptomatic transmission, and said that the White House coronavirus task force was working to make sure Americans in affected communities understood this risk. “If you have an outbreak in your rural area or in your city, you need to really consider wearing a mask at home, assuming that you’re positive if you have individuals in your home with comorbidities,” like respiratory problems or diabetes.

Dr. Birx said that, in her recent travels, she had seen “all of America moving,” making it doubly important for people to understand the attendant risks, given that cases have surged in many popular holiday destinations. “If you’ve chosen to go on vacation into a hot spot, you really need to come back and assume you’re infected,” she said.

Infected people without symptoms can unwittingly seed numerous chains of infection. “By the time you wait for someone to come forward to the emergency room, you have widespread community spread,” Dr. Birx said.

In some communities seeing recent outbreaks, household transmission has been a huge factor, public health experts say.

Both she and Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, emphasized the importance of prevention methods, like wide-scale mask-wearing, hand-washing, and avoiding crowded indoor spaces like bars or restaurants and mass social gatherings.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Admiral Giroir said on Sunday that some of the efforts seemed to be helping in recent weeks to reduce the number of cases in Arizona, as well as in communities in Texas and Florida — all states that have been hard-hit this summer.

He repeatedly pointed to mask-wearing as perhaps the single-most effective preventive measure in communities experiencing outbreaks. “Wearing a mask is incredibly important but we have to have like 85 or 90 percent of individuals wearing a mask and avoiding crowds,” he said. “That is essentially — gives you the same outcome as a complete shutdown.”

Asked if he was recommending a national mask mandate, Admiral Giroir said, “The public health message is we’ve got to have mask-wearing.” He added: “If we don’t do that, and if we don’t limit the indoor crowded spaces, the virus will continue to run.”

Another guest on CNN on Sunday, Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said that, in many areas where cases are surging, the availability of tests was badly lagging. “In 18, 20 states, the number of tests being done is actually falling and falling because our testing system is under such strain that we just can’t even deliver the test today that we were doing two weeks ago,” he said. “That’s very concerning because when cases are rising, and your number of tests are falling, that’s a recipe for disaster.”

Admiral Giroir defended the nation’s testing program, noting it has exponentially been increased in recent months although there are still delays in getting results. He said that both testing and contact tracing efforts were crucial responses, but not particularly helpful in large, communitywide outbreaks.

“When you have a widespread, multifocal outbreak where many people are asymptomatic, testing and tracing are of limited utility versus public health policy measures like mask-wearing, like closing indoor crowded spaces,” Admiral Giroir said. “So, yes, contact tracing is important, but it’s much less important right now than the public policy mitigation measures.”

The admiral, a pediatrician, cautioned that there was still plenty of disinformation circulating on social media. Decisions by most doctors who prescribe drugs were “evidence-based and not influenced by whatever’s on Twitter or anything else,” he said. Asked about hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that President Trump continues to promote, Dr. Giroir was firm: “At this point in time, there’s been five randomized control, placebo-controlled trials that do not show any benefit to hydroxychloroquine. So at this point in time, we don’t recommend that as a treatment.”

He added that it was time to “move on” from hydroxychloroquine, and stressed that there are treatments showing more promise. The antiviral drug remdesivir, for example, has been shown to shorten recovery times in severely ill patients, and the steroid dexamethasone lowers the death risk among patients on ventilators. Administration officials have also been promoting the use of convalescent plasma as a potential treatment, although it is still unclear whether it will work against the virus, as well as giving billions of federal dollars to several drug companies that are pursuing vaccines on an accelerated timetable.

Still, despite encouraging signs in some states fighting to contain the recent outbreaks, Admiral Giroir said, the true cost of those infections will only be clear in the weeks to come. “We are very concerned and this is a very serious point,” he said, “and deaths will continue to increase for the next few weeks” because deaths tend to lag behind case counts.

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Coronavirus Nancy

Coronavirus: Nancy Pelosi criticises Deborah Birx – BBC News

Nancy Pelosi at new conference on 31 July

Image copyright
EPA

Image caption

Ms Pelosi reportedly described Dr Birx as “the worst”

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has attacked the White House coronavirus task force’s Deborah Birx, linking her to “disinformation” spread by President Donald Trump.

Dr Birx responded that she always based her decisions on scientific data.

She is a leading member of the task force, working alongside infectious diseases chief Anthony Fauci.

Mr Trump has regularly drawn criticism for his claims about Covid-19, many of which have been proved to be false.

What did Pelosi say?

Ms Pelosi made the comments on ABC’s This Week programme, in response to a question about a report on the Politico website that she had criticised Dr Birx in a meeting with other administration officials.

“I think the president has been spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his appointee, so I don’t have confidence there, no,” Ms Pelosi told ABC.

According to Politico, the House speaker used stronger words in her meeting last week with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

“Deborah Birx is the worst. Wow, what horrible hands you’re in,” she is quoted as saying to them. She also described Dr Fauci as a “hero”.

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Dr Birx (second L) pictured with other task force members at a White House briefing in April

Dr Birx told CNN’s State of the Union she respected Ms Pelosi, and thought the criticism was triggered by a New York Times article which suggested she was too ready to embrace overly optimistic assessments about the pandemic.

“This was not a pollyannish view. I’ve never been called pollyannish, or non-scientific, or non-data driven,” she said. “I will stake my 40-year career on those fundamental principles of using data to implement better programmes and save lives.”

In the same interview, Dr Birx said the US had entered a “new phase” in its fight against the pandemic, with the disease being “extraordinarily widespread”.

She cautioned people living in rural areas that they were not immune and must take precautions such as wearing face-coverings and social distancing.

She also urged Americans returning from holiday to assume that they were infected and to self-isolate – and she said people living in multi-generational households should consider wearing a mask while at home.

Why are Trump’s comments under scrutiny?

Dr Fauci has clashed with Mr Trump over the use of the drug hydroxychloroquine, which the president has promoted as being effective in fighting the virus.

There is no evidence of this, and regulators warn the drug may cause heart problems.

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Media captionDr Birx said irradiation by UV light was not possible as a treatment

Mr Trump has also discussed irradiating the bodies of coronavirus patients with ultraviolet light, a concept which Dr Birx said could not be applied as a treatment.

The US continues to have the highest number of cases of coronavirus in the world – more than 4.6 million – and more than 150,000 people have died with the virus there, more than in any other country.

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Coronavirus pandemic'

Coronavirus pandemic causes another health concern — closed public restrooms – The Washington Post

SEATTLE — When courier Brent Williams makes his daily deliveries around the city here, he runs into one persistent problem: There’s almost nowhere to use the restroom. Most public buildings are closed under the pandemic, and restaurants and coffee shops that have shifted to carryout service won’t let him use their facilities.

“It’s hard to find any place where I can use the restroom,” said Williams, speaking outside a ­library in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood that has reopened its ­restrooms to the public.

The library is one of five citywide to have opened their doors, and other parts of the city have almost no options for those who need to relieve themselves or wash their hands.

“I understand why some people downtown will duck into an alleyway,” he said. “There’s nowhere else to go, and I’m not going to do it in my pants.”

The lack of restrooms has become an issue for delivery workers, taxi and ride-hailing drivers and others who make their living outside of a fixed office building. For the city’s homeless, it’s part of an ongoing problem that preceded covid-19.

“It’s gone from bad to worse,” said Eric, who lives in an encampment near Interstate 5. (Eric asked to be identified by only his first name.) “It’s definitely much, much harder.”

A nearby pet supply store used to let homeless people use the restroom, but that changed during the pandemic. Conditions improved markedly when the city placed a portable restroom and handwashing station near the camp, but Eric said many more parts of town still lack similar amenities.

“It doesn’t smell like urine out here anymore,” he said. “Forty to 50 people having to [urinate] and [defecate] every day, what do you expect? I’m surprised we don’t see these [portable stations] all over the place.”

Seattle officials say the city has set up 32 portable toilets during the pandemic, bringing the total to 114 citywide. Another 107 restrooms are available at city parks. At the five reopened library restrooms, nearly 6,000 patrons have taken advantage of the facilities, according to the library system, which has been tracking usage.

But advocates for the homeless say the city has come nowhere close to meeting the need.

“All the public libraries, all the public buildings, all the coffee shops — we’re probably down thousands of restrooms,” said Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness. “There’s no way to make up for that with handwashing stations and a few port-a-potties.”

Eisinger’s group has asked throughout the pandemic for Seattle to reopen all public buildings for restroom use. Sabrina Register, spokeswoman for Seattle Public Utilities, did not answer emailed questions about reopening public buildings, or whether the city thinks its restroom supply is adequate.

She did note that Seattle has erected nearly 100 new shelter spaces in tiny house villages for the homeless, but added that “the need outweighs our available resources” during the pandemic.

Eisinger said some homeless people in the city have resorted to wearing adult diapers or using five-gallon buckets filled with cat litter. She pointed to the city’s recent hepatitis A outbreak — as well as that covid-19 can live in feces — as evidence that the city’s restroom shortage is a public health failure.

“This is a government responsibility, an obligation to the public to protect people’s health and safety,” she said. “This is a rich city in a rich county, and we still haven’t made available to people regular, dignified simple basics. It is better to meet folks’ needs on a regular basis than to wait until there is a public health crisis.”

The public restroom crisis is not limited to Seattle, nor did it begin during the pandemic. Those who study the issue say American cities have spent decades divesting from such facilities, leaving private businesses such as Starbucks and McDonald’s to pick up the slack.

“The government has basically given up on installing public toilets,” said Steven Soifer, a social work professor at the University of Mississippi who leads the American Restroom Association, which advocates for better public infrastructure. “It took something like the coronavirus to bring it out in the open.”

Private companies might require guests to buy something before using the restroom, advocates said, creating a barrier for homeless or otherwise marginalized people. In places where public urination laws are enforced, those who can’t pay may face repercussions.

“You’re criminalizing having a bladder,” said Taunya Lovell Banks, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law who recently wrote a law review article about the lack of public toilets. “If you’re caught by the police and ticketed, you have to register as a sex offender. It’s beyond the pale.”

Banks noted that businesses may be less likely to allow homeless people to use their facilities, and people of color also are less assured of gaining access. For female-bodied people, urinating discreetly in the absence of restrooms is not always possible.

“It’s a class issue, it’s a race issue, it’s a gender issue,” she said. “[During the pandemic,] middle-class white people who normally have greater access to toilets in public spaces are all of a sudden being denied access. Now they’re woke to it.”

Covid-19 has made things much worse. Market reports show that sales of urine funnels, external catheters and other restroom substitutes have skyrocketed during the pandemic.

Public urination is on the rise in New York City, and leaders in Montpelier, Vt., fear that closures have left the city without an adequate restroom supply. In Chicago, delivery drivers can’t use the restrooms at restaurants when they pick up food, leaving some to resort to urinating in alleys.

Governments and businesses alike are justifiably concerned about the risk of covid-19 transmission in restrooms. Research has found that flushing creates “toilet plumes” that can spread particles carrying the coronavirus.

Places that do have open restrooms often need to limit occupancy and clean them frequently. Soifer said some restrooms have blocked off every other urinal.

But closing restrooms is its own public health risk. If delivery drivers, for instance, don’t have a place to safely relieve themselves and wash their hands, they risk spreading infection via the food and packages they drop off. Waste that ends up in the streets also could contribute to the spread of covid-19 or other diseases.

Ben Valdez, a Los Angeles-based ride-hailing driver and an organizer with Rideshare Drivers United, said he carries an empty bottle in the car in case of emergency — along with lots of disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer.

“I literally have to plan my evening around being near a restroom,” he said “If I know I have no restroom available to me, I can’t drink anything or eat anything. I’ve had numerous occasions where I’ve had to decline a ride because I’ve been in that situation.”

Valdez said many gas stations now have “out of order” signs on their restrooms — likely an effort to limit transmission risk rather than an actual plumbing issue. Some hotels have limited access to lobby restrooms as well. With a driving radius that often reaches 100 miles, Valdez has found no institutions he can consistently count on to find a facility.

In San Francisco, officials have expanded the city’s Pit Stop program, which they think is a leading model for providing restroom access. The city set up 37 toilets to bolster the 24 already in place before the pandemic. The toilets are staffed by nonprofit partners, who clean them between each use and monitor for drug use and overdoses.

Since the city began staffing toilets, said Beth Rubenstein, spokeswoman for the San Francisco Public Works Department, the number of flushes per day went up “exponentially.” In neighborhoods where the Pit Stop toilets have been installed, the city has seen fewer calls for waste cleanup on the streets.

“It ensures cleanliness and safety,” Rubenstein said. “I know that the increased number of toilets [during the pandemic] has been very much used. Our essential workers use them as well, including our Public Works staff.”

Stateline is an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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Coronavirus Russia

Coronavirus: Russia plans mass vaccination campaign in October – BBC News

A scientist prepares samples during development of a vaccine against the coronavirus at a laboratory of Biocad in Saint Petersburg, Russia June 11, 2src2src

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

More than 100 possible coronavirus vaccines are being developed around the world

Russian health authorities are preparing to start a mass vaccination campaign against coronavirus in October, the health minister has said.

Russian media quoted Mikhail Murashko as saying that doctors and teachers would be the first to receive the vaccine.

Reuters, citing anonymous sources, said Russia’s first potential vaccine would be approved by regulators this month.

However, some experts are concerned at Russia’s fast-track approach.

On Friday, the leading infectious disease expert in the US, Dr Anthony Fauci, said he hoped that Russia – and China – were “actually testing the vaccine” before administering them to anyone.

Dr Fauci has said that the US should have a “safe and effective” vaccine by the end of this year.

“I do not believe that there will be vaccines so far ahead of us that we will have to depend on other countries to get us vaccines,” he told US lawmakers.

Scores of possible coronavirus vaccines are being developed around the world and more than 20 are currently in clinical trials.

Mr Murashko, quoted by Interfax news agency, said that the Gamaleya Institute, a research facility in Moscow, had finished clinical trials of a vaccine and that paperwork was being prepared to register it.

“We plan wider vaccinations for October,” he said, adding that teachers and doctors would be the first to receive it.

Last month, Russian scientists said that early-stage trials of an adenovirus-based vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Institute had been completed and that the results were a success.

Image copyright
EPA

Image caption

On 15 July Russian scientists announced that early-stage trials of a vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Institute had been completed

Last month the UK, US and Canada security services said a Russian hacking group had targeted various organisations involved in Covid-19 vaccine development, with the likely intention of stealing information.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said it was more than 95% certain that the group called APT29 – also known as The Dukes or Cozy Bear – was part of Russian intelligence services.

Russia’s ambassador to the UK, Andrei Kelin, rejected the accusation, telling the BBC that there was “no sense in it”.

In the UK, trials of a vaccine developed by Oxford University have shown that it can trigger an immune response and a deal has been signed with AstraZeneca to supply 100 million doses in Britain alone.

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Media captionCoronavirus vaccine: How close are we and who will get it?

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Australian Coronavirus

Australian coronavirus vaccine clears first phase of human trials – New York Post

July 31, 2020 | 1:56pm

A promising Australian coronavirus vaccine has cleared the first phase of human trials — and could be available in as soon as October, according to a report.

Developed by scientists in Adelaide, the injectable drug known as COVAX-19 is the first vaccine candidate in the country to successfully clear the “phase one” hurdle and could be ready for use in three or four months, according to 7news.com.au

The drug was shown to safely generate an immune response in 40 people earlier this month, according to Vaxine, the company behind the drug, and researchers from Flinders University.

COVAX-19 is also one of only a handful of potential vaccines that have progressed beyond phase one of human trials in the world, which one expert called exciting.

“Safety data from the clinical trials shows the vaccine isn’t showing any problems at all and is inducing the right type of immune response…It’s very exciting,” said Nikolai Petrovsky, a Flinders University Chairman and Research Director of Vaxine.

“Now we do much bigger clinical trials in a larger number of individuals to prove the vaccine is working.”

Phase two trials for COVAX-19 will include 400 to 500 volunteers and are scheduled to start in September.

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Coronavirus objects

Can coronavirus only live up to 9 days on objects, as Kenyan traders claim? – Africa Check

Claim

The Covid-19 virus cannot survive on an inanimate object for more than nine days.

Source: The second-hand clothing lobby group, the Mitumba Association of Kenya (July 2020)

correct

Verdict

Explainer: Scientific evidence relied on by the World Health Organization, drawn from studies and reviews, shows the virus which causes Covid-19 only survives on surfaces for at most nine days.

  • In pressuring the Kenyan government to lift the ban on second-hand clothes imports, a lobby group said clothes ship for an average of 45 days but the Covid-19 virus cannot survive that long, and so the imports pose no health risks.
  • Evidence shows the SARS-CoV-2 virus’s survival is similar to SARS-CoV-1, which causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, and ranges from two hours to nine days.
  • Experts say the virus is unlikely to survive on textiles beyond one to two days, and definitely not longer than nine days.

Researched by Vincent Ng’ethe


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Teresia Njenga, the chairperson of the Mitumba Association of Kenya, in a July 2020 press conference where she called for a ban on imports of popular second-hand clothes to be lifted. (Photo: KTN News)

Kenyan officials are under pressure to rescind a ban on imports of second-hand clothes, popularly known in the country as “mitumba”.

The government imposed the ban in March 2020, citing the Covid-19 pandemic

In 2019 the country imported 184,555 tonnes of second-hand clothing with an estimated value of KSh17.8 billion, according to official data.  It was one of the country’s top 20 imports.

Second-hand clothes dealers have criticised the ban as harsh, arguing that imported garments do not pose a public health risk.

“The latest scientific advice indicates that the importation of second-hand garments and shoes into Kenya poses no credible public health risk,” said Teresia Njenga, the chairperson of the Mitumba Association of Kenya.

This is because the goods are shipped “for 45 days on average” and in “sealed containers,” she told reporters in July 2020.

“The scientific evidence concludes that the Covid-19 virus cannot survive on an inanimate object for more than nine days. Additionally, in the period since March, the World Health Organization has not prohibited the movement of goods or commodities as a measure to contain the spread of Covid-19,” Njenga said.

We checked if the evidence fits these claims.

(Note: We have asked the organisation for the source of its claim on how long the new coronavirus survives and will update this report with their response.)

Survival of Covid-19 on surfaces similar to other coronaviruses

According to a team of global health experts at the Meedan Digital Health Lab, SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19, can survive from three hours to seven days. The lab works to simplify health and medical science.

According to April 2020 guidance by the World Health Organization, or WHO, the survival of the virus “on surfaces is similar to that of SARS-CoV1, the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars)”. This ranges from two hours to nine days.

To support this observation, WHO cited two studies. Africa Check contacted two of the experts involved. 

Typically little risk beyond 1-2 days, says expert

Dr Vincent Munster, chief of the virus ecology unit at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, co-authored an April 2020 paper, Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1. 

The paper found that SARS-CoV-2 remained viable for similar durations as SARS-CoV-1, the virus which causes Sars

Munster told Africa Check that there was “no risk associated with the importation of these or other goods”. This is because “typically SARS-CoV-2 cannot survive more than one or two days”.

‘Quite certain’ no risk of virus survival past 9 days

Dr Günter Kampf, professor at the Institute for Hygiene and Environmental Medicine at the University of Greifswald in Germany, co-authored a paper titled Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents. 

Published in February 2020, it found that the SARS-CoV virus survived for six to nine days on plastic at room temperature. “We expect a similar effect against the SARS-CoV-2,” the paper concluded.

Kampf told Africa Check that the information remained the same since the paper was published. “To my knowledge, a maximum of nine days is still correct,” he said.

Kampf referred us to a June 2020 paper on textiles, How long can nosocomial pathogens survive on textiles? A systematic review.

(Note: According to the WHO, nosocomial infections are those “acquired in hospital by a patient who was admitted for a reason other than that infection”.)

The paper found that a coronavirus which is a clinical isolate of the SARS coronavirus survived on a cotton gown for 24 hours. The paper however did not specify how long coronaviruses survived on synthetic fibres or mixed and other fibres.

Kampf told Africa Check that with all the data currently published, he was “quite certain” that the Covid-19 virus could only survive a maximum of nine days on all material tested.

Conclusion: Evidence Covid-19 won’t survive longer than nine days on textiles

In pushing for the lifting of  a ban on imports of second-hand clothes into Kenya, an industry lobby said that scientific evidence shows the Covid-19 virus cannot survive on an inanimate object for more than nine days.

The government stopped the popular imports in March 2020, citing the risk of infection with the new coronavirus. 

Research relied on by the World Health Organization and experts support the second-hand-clothing lobby’s claim. We therefore rate it correct. 

Further reading: 

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Coronavirus Update

Coronavirus update: Second stimulus may be more than $1,200 per person – AL.com

A letter from the Internal Revenue Service, signed by President Trump, notifies a family via U.S. Mail of an economic impact payment direct deposit made to their account

A letter from the Internal Revenue Service, signed by President Trump, notifies a family via U.S. Mail of an economic impact payment direct deposit made to their account in East Derry, N.H., Monday, April 27, 2020. The funds were provided as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.AP

The second round of coronavirus stimulus checks could go higher than $1,200, President Trump indicated Wednesday.

Speaking in Texas, the president indicated the next relief package could contain more money for individuals struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. When asked if the $1,200 payments from the first round were enough, Trump responded, “We’re going to see it may go higher than that, actually.”

“I’d like to see it be very high because I love the people, I want the people to get it, you know, the economy is going to come back,” Trump said. “We saved millions of lives but now we’re bringing (the economy) back … We gotta take care of the people in the meantime.”

The last round of stimulus checks provided $1,200 for individuals earning up to $75,000 with an additional $500 for dependent children. Couples earning up to $150,000 qualified for the full amount of $2,400. After that, payments drop based on income, capped at $99,000 for singles and $198,000 for couples.

The president didn’t indicate how much the future payments could be.

The next round of payments depends on a compromise being reached between the Senate and House and Republicans and Democrats – no easy feat. Time to reach a deal is running out. Unless it’s extended, this session of the Senate ends on Aug. 7.

Here are the latest coronavirus headlines:

California passes grim milestone

California has broken its own record for the most coronavirus-related deaths reported in a single day.

The state reported 174 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, marking the third time this month California has broken a single-day record. The previous record was set on July 22 when 158 deaths were reported.

Since the first COVID case was reported in February, 8,716 Californians have died of coronavirus. The U.S. has recorded 149,000 COVID deaths.

Congressman positive for coronavirus

U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, has tested positive for coronavirus.

Gohmert, 66, is now the 10th member of Congress to test positive for coronavirus. His positive test came a day after he attended a meeting with Attorney General Bill Barr and other colleagues, Politico reported.

A spokesperson for Barr said the AG would be tested for COVID following his possible exposure.

Georgetown University goes all virtual

Georgetown University announced it will start its fall semester online.

University President John DeGioia said new travel restrictions for Washington, D.C. that require people from coronavirus hotspots to quarantine for 14 days prompted the change.

All of the university’s undergraduate and graduate courses will start virtually, though select research projects will continue on campus. In-person courses will begin “as soon as health conditions permit,” DeGioia said.

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