The U.S. has reported more than 7 million cases of COVID-19 as of Friday, a milestone that comes days after leading experts projected the virus' spread was set to rapidly increase in coming months.
It has been eight months and four days since nation's first case was announced, and in that time the U.S. has become the hardest-hit country in the world for both cases and deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
But the U.S. death toll from the virus may almost double by Jan. 1 amid a "major winter surge," according to a projection by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, a source often cited by the White House and federal public health authorities. Among the factors that could drive such a surge: A restriction-weary public wearing masks and staying at home less.
Researchers warned states would likely need to reenact restrictions to combat the virus' spread. That recommendation came the same week as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted all virus restrictions on restaurants and businesses, saying "We’re not closing anything going forward."
Meanwhile in Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam and his wife tested positive for COVID-19, his office announced Friday, the same day that President Donald Trump is scheduled to hold a rally at an airport in the state.
Some significant developments:
A WHO official warned that it was "not only imaginable, but sadly very likely" that 2 million people worldwide would die from the virus before a vaccine is widely available.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have agreed to talk about a new coronavirus relief package, the New York Times reported. Meanwhile, House Democrats are working on passing a $2.4 trillion measure next week.
Current coronavirus outbreaks are heating up fast in smaller cities in the heartland, where anti-mask sentiment tends to run high.
Two former administrators of a Massachusetts veterans home have been charged over their handling of an outbreak where nearly 80 people died, the state attorney general said Friday.
United Airlines will roll out a new COVID-19 testing program for passengers beginning Oct. 15.
📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 7 million cases and 203,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Globally, there have been more than 32.3 million cases and over 985,000 fatalities. A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Thursday shows seven states — Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming, and also Puerto Rico — set records for new cases in a week while North Dakota had a record number of deaths in a week.
📰 What we're reading: Is it safe to travel this Holiday season? Or is this the year to skip it?
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak, state by state.
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US is nowhere near herd immunity, study finds
By the end of July, about 9% of American adults had been exposed to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to a new study of dialysis patients, the largest yet looking for evidence of the disease in people's blood.
That data shows the American public is a long way from achieving "herd immunity" – having enough infections to prevent further spread of the virus.
The infection rates varied from essentially zero in some states that avoided infection by mid-summer, to more than one-third of residents in parts of New York hard-hit in the spring.
The new study, published in The Lancet, is in line with previous, smaller studies, and also showed areas with high numbers of Black and non-white Latino residents had higher infection rates than mostly white communities.
— Karen Weintraub
WHO official: 2M deaths 'likely' before a vaccine widely available
The global death toll from the new coronavirus sits just below 1 million, but without further action to slow the spread, it will likely double before a vaccine is widely available, a World Health Organization official said Friday.
Dr. Mike Ryan, head the WHO’s health emergencies program, said that 2 million deaths was "not only imaginable, but sadly very likely" in the absence of increased testing, tracing, social distancing, mask wearing and other measures to slow the spread of the virus.
“The time for action is now on every single aspect of this strategic approach,” Ryan said.
Florida Gov. DeSantis lifts all virus restrictions on restaurants, businesses
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday he was lifting COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants and other businesses across Florida as he pushed to reopen the state's economy.
DeSantis also said any local government limitations affecting restaurants and other businesses would have to be justified by his administration.
“We’re not closing anything going forward,” DeSantis said, while insisting that the state is prepared with plans in place if infections increase again.
The Phase 3 order will allow theme parks to operate at full capacity and lift any restrictions on gatherings, although the state still is recommending people avoid crowded spaces.
Bars can go beyond 50% capacity, if local governments give them the green light, DeSantis said.
– John Kennedy, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Queen Elizabeth II to cut costs as royal family faces $45M hit from pandemic
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and her family are facing a $45 million hit from the coronavirus pandemic, partly due to a shortage of tourists, the monarch’s money-manager said Friday.
Releasing the royal household’s annual accounts, Keeper of the Privy Purse Michael Stevens said a lack of income from visitors to royal buildings was likely to bring a general funding shortfall of $19 million over three years.
He said the impact of the pandemic is also likely to cause a $25.4 million shortfall in a 10-year, $469 million program to replace antiquated heating, plumbing and wiring at Buckingham Palace, the queen’s London home.
2 charged in virus outbreak at Mass. veterans' home
Two former operators of a nursing home in Massachusetts for veterans, where almost 80 patients died from the virus, are now facing criminal charges, the state attorney general announced Friday.
The former superintendent and medical director of Holyoke Soldiers’ Home will each face 10 counts, including charges criminal neglect and causing serious bodily injury. Attorney General Maura Healey said Bennett Walsh and David Clinton were indicted by a grand jury, believed to be the first such case in the United States involving nursing home employees facing criminal charges for COVID-19 deaths.
At least 76 veterans at the home died due to COVID-19 after the operators made the “most disturbing” decision to consolidate two units into one, mixing COVID-positive patients with those that had no symptoms and allowing the virus to spread, Healey said.
Virginia governor, first lady test positive for COVID-19
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and first lady Pamela Northam tested positive for COVID-19, his office said in a statement Friday morning.
The two were tested after a staff member in their residence developed symptoms and later tested positive. According to a news release, Gov. Northam is asymptomatic while first lady Northam is experiencing mild symptoms.
"We are grateful for your thoughts and support, but the best thing you can do for us — and most importantly, for your fellow Virginians — is to take this seriously," Northam said.
US hit 200K deaths on Tuesday. By Friday, more than 3,000 more have died — the number of lives lost on 9/11.
The United States surpassed 200,000 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, and by the end of the week, the country has already lost more than 3,000 more people, roughly the death toll of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
As of Friday afternoon, an additional 3,147 people in the U.S. had died since the country hit the grim 200,000 mark, according to Johns Hopkins data. On 9/11, 2,977 people were killed in the attacks.
According to a projection by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, the U.S. death toll from the virus could almost double by Jan. 1, expected to reach approximately 371,500 by the end of the year.
NYC threatens new shutdowns in hot spot neighborhoods
New York City could see its first new COVID-19 shutdowns in months as the city's health department said certain hot spot areas may have nonessential businesses closed if their case numbers continue to rise.
Parts of Brooklyn and Queens were facing a rollback in reopenings after the neighborhoods have seen a spike in cases in the past month. The city said it was considering closing nonessential businesses and private schools and banning gatherings of 10 or more in the areas if cases do not come down by early next week.
The city also planned to send more inspectors to the areas to monitor compliance of mask wearing and social distancing. Fines could be issued for those refusing to wear masks, the health department said.
Pac-12, Mountain West conferences vote to play college football seasons
The Pac-12 will join the Big Ten in attempting to play football this fall, the league announced Thursday, reversing a decision made in August to postpone until the winter or spring at the earliest due to the health concerns posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Mountain West Conference followed a few hours later by announcing an Oct. 24 return, the ninth of 10 FBS conferences that now plan to complete their seasons by Dec. 20.
Pac-12 play will begin on Nov. 6 with a seven-game schedule consisting of only league games and culminating with the conference championship game on Dec. 18.
– Paul Myerberg
Health officials warn against Donald Trump's planned Virginia airport rally
A Virginia health official is warning that President Donald Trump's planned rally Friday poses a "severe public health threat" as 4,000 people are expected to attend.
Dr. Natasha Dwamena, a Department of Public Health district director, wrote a letter to the private company that leases the hangar where the rally is scheduled to take place. She said the rally at the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport would defy Gov. Ralph's Northam's order banning gatherings of more than 250 people.
The governor's top health and transportation aides also sent letters to airport officials to remind them they have "the authority to enforce" the state's law.
A conservative radio host and chairman of the Virginia delegation for the Trump campaign said Democrats are trying to block the rally for political reasons. "Panic has set amongst Virginia Democrats," John Fredericks said.
Rio de Janeiro delays annual Carnival parade for first time amid COVID-19
Rio de Janeiro delayed its annual Carnival parade for the first time in a century due to the coronavirus, officials announced Thursday. Rio’s League of Samba Schools, LIESA, said the spread of the coronavirus has made it impossible to safely hold the traditional parades that are a cultural mainstay and, for many, a source of livelihood.
“Carnival is a party upon which many humble workers depend. The samba schools are community institutions, and the parades are just one detail of all that,” Luiz Antonio Simas, a historian who specializes in Rio’s Carnival, said in an interview with the Associated Press. “An entire cultural and productive chain was disrupted by COVID.”
Rio’s City Hall has yet to announce a decision about the Carnival street parties that also take place across the city.
Brazil’s first confirmed coronavirus case was Feb. 26, one day after this year’s Carnival ended.
More than 824,000 Americans file for unemployment
A rebound in hiring that began this summer is sputtering amid regional flareups of the coronavirus, signaling that it may be years before the jobs market fully recovers.
More than 824,000 Americans filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week, the Labor Department said Thursday.
The newest round of 824,542 claims is significantly lower than the record high 6.2 million who filed first-time claims in early spring when most non-essential businesses closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
But the number of filings rose from the week before by 28,527. And in less than seven months, more than 57 million have sought unemployment assistance for the first time.
– Charisse Jones
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Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID news: 7 million US cases; Trump Virginia rally 'health risk'