Coronavirus updates: Infections force Georgia school to go online; Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine explains testing mess; US surpasses 5M cases

·11 min read

A Georgia high school will move to online instruction at least temporarily after an outbreak of COVID-19 during the first week of classes, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine remained bullish on testing despite his travails and the U.S. reached another astonishing milestone Sunday by surpassing 5 million confirmed cases.

The U.S. is home to one-quarter of the cases reported worldwide. And the numbers continue to rise: More than 56,000 new U.S. cases were reported Sunday, with more than 1,000 deaths. Nearly 163,000 Americans have died in just over six months.

All this as the world neared 20 million cases, a number experts widely believe is underreported due to insufficient testing.

President Donald Trump's decision to unilaterally act on the pandemic-driven recession with executive orders drew scalding criticism from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday. Trump, unable to cut a deal with Congress on a new stimulus package, signed an executive order and issued three memorandums Saturday. One would provide an additional $400 per week in unemployment benefits to millions of out-of-work Americans. Pelosi dismissed the package as an "illusion" and "unconstitutional slop."

Here are some significant developments:

📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has recorded almost 163,000 deaths and more than 5 million cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, there have been more than 728,000 deaths and nearly 19.8 million cases.

📰 What we're reading: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tested positive, then negative for COVID-19. That underscores how not all tests work the same way, nor do they always provide identical results. Even the same test taken twice can show contradictory outcomes. Here are answers to common questions on the subject.

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Several infected students, staff members at Atlanta-area schools

Several students and staff members at Atlanta-area schools that drew attention for crowding and scarce use of masks have tested positive for the coronavirus after the first week of classes, and now one of those schools is going online.

North Paudling High School west of Atlanta will switch to digital learning at least for Monday and Tuesday as its facilities are sanitized after nine students and staff members tested positive for the virus the first week of in-person classes. North Paulding had made headlines soon after students returned to school Aug. 3 when photos posted on social media showed hallways crowded with students, many of them not wearing masks.

“Hopefully we can all agree that the health and safety of our students and staff takes precedence over any other considerations at this time,” Paulding County Schools Superintendent Brian Ott said in a letter to parents Sunday. Parents will be told Tuesday evening whether in-person learning will resume later in the week.

The Cherokee County school system, another one in the Atlanta metro area where online photos had shown packed crowds, reported 12 students and two staff members across a dozen schools tested positive for the virus. Officials said more than 250 students with potential exposure had been sent home to quarantine for two weeks.

Nancy Pelosi derides Trump executive order as 'unconstitutional slop'

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Sunday slammed Trump's executive orders to extend some financial pandemic assistance to Americans as "an illusion." Pelosi, making the rounds in the Sunday morning news show, said Trump's payroll tax break would actually undermine Social Security and Medicare. And a plan to replace a $600 weekly jobless bonus with a $400 bonus is too complicated and won't reach the needy for weeks, Pelosi continued. She said Trump's executive order and other measures are not legal.

"What the president did is ... unconstitutional slop," Pelosi said.

New York state registers lowest COVID-19 positivity rate

New York, for weeks the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, took another major step in its recovery Sunday when the state reported its lowest positivity rate since the pandemic began.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the rate — the average number of positive results for every 100 tests — hit a record low 0.78% on Saturday. That figure once reached nearly 47% in early April, although testing was much more limited at the time. The rate had been around 1% since early June.

Both the state and New York City have been at some version of the final stage of reopening for at least 20 days, and Cuomo said the current number of ICU patients — 131 — was the state's lowest since March 16.

California church defies court order, holds indoor worship service

A Southern California church ignored a judge's temporary restraining order and held an indoor worship service Sunday.

Pastor Rob McCoy led the service at Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Ventura County’s Newbury Park. McCoy had vowed Friday to continue in-person services despite a judge’s order citing “an immediate threat to public health and safety due to the 2019 novel coronavirus.”

A livestream of the morning’s service showed McCoy and a musician standing without masks before at least two dozen worshipers — most of whom also were not wearing masks. It was not clear from the livestream if they were standing 6 feet apart.

MLB's St. Louis Cardinals' hiatus extended at least 3 more days

The St. Louis Cardinals, who have played a major league-low five games because of a coronavirus outbreak in their ranks, won't get back on the field until at least Thursday.

MLB has postponed their three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, which was supposed to start Monday, meaning the Cardinals will go at least 15 days between games and will have just 46 days to play the remaining 55 games on the schedule.

The Cardinals have had at least nine players and seven staff members test positive for COVID-19, and manager Mike Shildt said that has led to a "few visits to the ER." St. Louis has had 15 games suspended.

– Jesse Yomtov

Disney World, not overwhelmed by crowds, plans to trim operating hours

The magic is back at Disney World, but for fewer hours a day. After lower-than-expected attendance amid the coronavirus pandemic, Disney is scaling back operating hours at the Magic Kingdom and several other Florida theme parks effective Sept. 8. Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios are ending their day an hour earlier. Epcot is cutting back by two hours. Animal Kingdom is shaving an hour off on both ends of the day.

After being closed for nearly four months, Disney World reopened in July with restricted capacity and safety protocols such as mandatory masks and temperature checks upon arrival. But parks have experienced a falloff in visitors from out of state amid steep declines in long-distance travel.

Kim Willis

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine: His conflicting test results should not deter testing

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Sunday encouraged Americans to be tested despite his own conflicting test results last week.

DeWine tested positive hours before a planned meeting with President Donald Trump, which then had to be cancelled. He tested negative hours later. He told CNN's "State of the Union" the antigen test he took, aimed at getting a quick result, is different from the PCR test most Americans are getting, which he said is "very, very, very" accurate.

"What people should not take away from my experience is that testing is not reliable or doesn't really work," DeWine said, adding that testing is booming in his state. "We doubled our testing in the last four weeks. We need to double it again, then double it again."

US surpasses 5 million cases

The U.S. surpassed 5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, just 17 days after reaching 4 million cases.

Last week, President Donald Trump once again said the U.S. has the virus "under control," describing his administration's response to the pandemic as "incredible" in an interview with Axios aired Aug. 3 on HBO. This despite an average daily death toll hovering around 1,000, with almost 60,000 new cases being reported daily. Alabama has just hit 100,000 cases. South Carolina is 540 shy and Virgina is 811 short. Texas is about closing in on 500,000.

Trump's recurring theme has been to blame the high number of cases in the U.S. on the high rate of testing. Ominous hospitalization and death rates, however, are not a function of testing.

Khrysgiana Pineda and Mike Stucka

New Zealand: 100 days in row without local transmission of coronavirus

New Zealand continues to show the world how to stamp out the coronavirus. On Sunday, the island nation of 5 million people celebrated its 100th consecutive day without a locally transmitted case of COVID-19, the disease cause by the virus. The last such case was reported May 1, shortly after New Zealand relaxed its lockdown.

The South Pacific country imposed a strict lockdown, closing its borders to foreign nationals, after 100 people tested positive in late March. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's government instituted an aggressive test-and-tracing plan and maintained a consistent health message to the public.

During the past three months, the only new cases that have cropped up in New Zealand were among returning travelers who were quarantined at the border. The country has reported a little over 1,500 COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths.

Some schools may not notify parents of infection outbreaks

Thousands of American parents have already sent their children back to the classroom and millions more will soon join them amid fears about whether they’ll even be notified when coronavirus hits their campuses. Reporting by the USA TODAY Network also found little consistency in how schools and health departments plan to coordinate information and what, if anything, they will tell the broader public. Many of these gatekeepers have pointed to medical and educational privacy laws as reasons to withhold even basic counts of coronavirus cases.

“It's totally proper for schools to be telling parents the number of cases,” said Florida attorney Frank LoMonte, “and even, in exceptional cases, to reveal details about the individual afflicted student if there has been close physical contact, if that information is necessary for the health of others."

Jayme Fraser, Joel Ebert, Sommer Brugal, CD Davidson-Hiers and Thomas B. Langhorne

Brazil surpasses 100,000 deaths; some US states set weekly records

Brazil is now the second country with 3 million cases and also the second country to report 100,000 deaths, Johns Hopkins reports. A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Saturday shows three states set records for new cases in a week while two states had a record number of deaths in a week. New case records were set in Hawaii, Indiana and Virginia. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Arkansas and Nevada, and also Puerto Rico.

Mike Stucka

Young people struggle to find mental health support amid pandemic

Prevalence of depression among college students increased since the pandemic caused the closure of campuses this spring compared to fall 2019, according to a survey of 18,000 college students published by the Healthy Minds Network on July 9. And of the nearly 42% of students who sought mental health care during the pandemic, 60% said it was either much more or somewhat more difficult to access care.

Mental health among young people has been worsening for years. A 2019 analysis of teens reported 13% of U.S. teens ages 12 to 17 said in 2017 they had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year, up from 8% in 2007.

– Elinor Aspegren

What we're reading

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Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID news: Georgia school switches to online; US over 5 million cases