As the U.S. approaches 5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, the governors of six states announced Tuesday that they have formed a compact to purchase 3 million rapid, point-of-care coronavirus antigen tests.
The agreement between Maryland, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and Virginia is aimed to demonstrate to private manufacturers "that there is significant demand to scale up the production of these tests," Maryland Gov. Larry Horgan said in a statement.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, in an interview with Axios on Monday, defended his administration's effort to beat back the U.S. outbreak that has shown little signs of easing. "They are dying, that's true," Trump said. "It is what it is. But that doesn't mean we aren't doing everything we can."
The president on Monday said he was weighing executive action as Congress and the White House struggle to break the impasse over another emergency relief package to counter the coronavirus' impact on U.S. families and the economy.
Here are some significant developments:
Attorneys general from more than 30 states asked the federal government to allow more manufacturing of a crucial drug, remdesivir, on Tuesday.
New York City's health commissioner, who clashed with city officials on their COVID-19 response, resigned Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in a news conference.
As more schools across the country welcome students back to class this week, some are already temporarily reclosing because of COVID-19 concerns. Globally, the United Nations estimates more than 1 billion students worldwide have been affected by school closures.
In a letter addressed to congressional leaders, more than 100 CEOs in the U.S. expressed the importance of small businesses and called on leaders to provide another round of Paycheck Protection Program relief aid to small businesses.
📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 156,000 deaths and about 4.75 million cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday night, according to Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, there have been more than 698,000 deaths and 18.4 million cases.
📰 What we're reading: How a mysterious company tied to ‘Titanic’ villain landed government coronavirus contracts.
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California has undercounted COVID-19 cases, state health official says
The number of COVID-19 infections in California may not be accurate due to a technical problem in the state's system that tracks positive results and conducted tests, a top state health official said Tuesday.
Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the state's seven-day positivity rate reported on Monday has been "absolutely affected." Hospitalization data, however, has not been impacted, Ghaly said.
On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom reported that daily cases dropped by an average of 2,200 in the last week and the infection rate of 6.1% was significantly lower than the nearly 8% recorded last month.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves orders statewide mask mandate
Gov. Tate Reeves issued an executive order Tuesday that requires Mississippians to wear a face mask at public gatherings and when shopping for the next two weeks.
The announcement comes as coronavirus cases and deaths continue to surge and more than 1 in 5 COVID-19 tests in Mississippi are coming back positive, a staggering rate that indicates rampant infection.
Reeves said wearing a mask is irritating, but important to stop the spread of COVID-19.
"I hate it more than anybody watching today," Reeves said at a press conference.
– Giacomo Bologna, Mississippi Clarion Ledger
Six states form compact to buy 3M rapid COVID-19 tests
The governors of Maryland, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and Virginia have formed a compact to purchase 3 million rapid, point-of-care coronavirus antigen tests, the governors' offices announced Tuesday.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement that group purchase was aimed to demonstrate to private manufacturers "that there is significant demand to scale up the production of these tests," which can provide results in approximately 15 minutes.
"As the nation continues to face severe testing shortages and delays, this is the first interstate testing compact of its kind among governors during the COVID-19 pandemic," Hogan’s office said. "This interstate cooperative purchasing agreement will provide a unique platform to purchase tests and associated supplies in a sustainable and cost-effective manner."
Each state planned to purchased 500,000 antigen tests – which can quickly detect fragments of proteins found on or within the virus by testing samples collected from swabs – manufactured by Becton Dickinson and Quidel, the office said.
At least 45 people who were aboard cruise test positive for COVID-19
At least 45 people who were aboard Hurtigruten's MS Roald Amundsen cruise ship have tested positive for COVID-19.
Thirty-six crew members have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Øystein Knoph, spokesperson for Hurtigruten. Nine passengers have also tested positive for COVID-19 since it became clear that there was an outbreak on board, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
The nine passengers are from six counties around Norway. Thirty-three of the 36 crew members who tested positive are Filipino and the remaining three are Norwegian, German and French citizens.
Passengers from two separate voyages on the ship had already disembarked on July 24 and on July 31 to begin their voyages home before the cruise line contacted passengers about the initial COVID-19 cases.
– David Oliver, Morgan Hines and Hannah Yasharoff
NYC health commissioner who clashed with mayor on COVID-19 response resigns
Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the New York City health commissioner resigned Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in a news conference.
Barbot oversaw the department as the pandemic raged in New York City, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak in the spring. Her departure may not have come as a surprise to New Yorkers: Barbot stopped attending news conferences with the mayor in May after Barbot issued a public apology for an earlier disagreement with city officials.
"It had been clear certainly in recent days that it was time for a change," de Blasio said.
In a resignation email obtained by the New York Times, Barbot said she felt "deep disappointment that during the most critical public health crisis in our lifetime, that the Health Department’s incomparable disease control expertise was not used to the degree it could have been."
Barbot’s resignation was "a grave blow" and "major setback in our fight against the pandemic," Mark Levine, chair of the city council’s health committee, said in a statement. Dr. Dave Chokshi, a physician and associate professor at the NYU School of Medicine, will replace her, de Blasio said.
Bad data bogging down COVID-19 fight; US 'needs to change,' experts say
Epidemiologists are calling on the federal government to take leadership in providing better data considered essential to curbing the pandemic.
State and local health officials say providing better data isn’t so simple, citing meager budgets, stodgy technology and disjointed reporting systems. Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University’s medical school, warns that COVID-19 will be with us three years from now in some form. So will the demand for data.
“This virus isn’t disappearing,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University’s medical school. “We hope we get a vaccine soon. But even when we do, people will need data to see the impact of vaccinations.”
– Christine Vestal, Stateline
States want more firms to produce COVID-19 drug remdesivir
A bipartisan coalition of more than 30 attorneys general today asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to invoke a federal patent law to increase supply and lower prices of the COVID-19 drug remdesivir.
The group wants the federal government to license Gilead Sciences’ antiviral to other manufacturers to ease potential shortages and lower the drug's price. Gilead charges $3,120 for a five-day course for patients with private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Remdesivir supplies are "dangerously limited" and the price will "impede access to treatment" and strain state budgets, the attorneys general wrote in a letter to federal agencies.
"We cannot afford to leave the supply of this critical medication to chance and the whims of the marketplace when it was funded in part by taxpayer dollars," said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat.
– Ken Alltucker
Cities, states put squeeze on parties that ignore COVID-19 guidelines
Crackdowns on house parties and other large celebratory gatherings are continuing in parts of the country. In Chicago, Rosa Escareno, commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, tweeted that she is teaming with police and others to "tackle dangerous events, gatherings, parties at commercial and residential locations." During the first weekend of operations, 23 investigations resulted in five cease-and-desist orders for illegal public places of amusement and three immediate closures, according to local news reports.
In New Jersey, 35 Airbnb listings across the state have been suspended or removed from the website following complaints of house parties that flout restrictions. Gov. Phil Murphy expressed dismay over a party at a home in Alpine over the weekend. Murphy added that if it turned out that people were bused in from out of town, then it would not "end well" for the organizers of the party or the attendees, in terms of their health.
And in Michigan, health officials are calling on young people to act responsibly after more than 100 teens have tested positive for the coronavirus after some attended at least a half-dozen large indoor and outdoor gatherings, including graduation parties and prom-like events, health officials said Tuesday.
– Ricardo Kaulessar, NorthJersey.com; Mike Davis, Asbury Park Press; Christina Hall, Detroit Free Press
Football player's ominous struggle as colleges prepare to welcome students
Indiana University freshman offensive lineman Brady Feeney tested positive for the virus during screening conducted by the program last month. His mother, Deborah Rucker, in a Facebook post, says her son was isolated from his teammates and experienced breathing problems serious enough to warrant a visit to the emergency room. Indiana paid for Rucker to come to Bloomington to be near Feeney. Still, Rucker says schools can only do so much.
"After 14 days of hell battling the horrible virus, his school did additional testing on all those that were positive," Rucker wrote. "Now we are dealing with possible heart issues! ... Bottom line, even if your son’s schools do everything right to protect them, they CAN’T PROTECT THEM!!"
– Zach Osterman, Indianapolis Star
Financial crisis keeps more young adults financially dependent on family
The coronavirus pandemic has created a new set of financial obstacles for young millennials and Gen Zers. Most are unsure how their generations can navigate through the worst global economic crisis since the 1930s. Almost 60% of young Americans say the pandemic has derailed their goal of becoming financially independent from family or other support, according to a new report by The Harris Poll on behalf of TD Ameritrade.
“Even before the economic downturn, young Americans generally had anxiety about their finances due to stagnant wages, the rising cost of living and debt burdens,” says Keith Denerstein, director of investment products and guidance at TD Ameritrade. “Now that’s been exacerbated by the pandemic.”
– Jessica Menton
Some companies cashing out on crucial pandemic supplies
Taxpayers paid $2.4 million for ventilators and protective garb to a firm setting its sights on the global coronavirus pandemic. And the government appears to have grossly overpaid, a USA TODAY investigation suggests.
One deal involved paying about $17,000 apiece for 60 ventilators. One reseller says the units that were delivered wholesale for about $4,000 – and the government has cut deals for closer to $2,500 per unit. But trying to track down information about the company and its product exposes the tangled web the government has created for itself by relying on a growing number of middlemen, brokers and newcomers to secure emergency supplies.
"So $17,000 is a pretty huge margin," Bautista said. "Your ethics have to stretch to make $15,000 on something."
– Nick Penzenstadler
Donald Trump says pandemic in US is 'under control as much as you can control it'
The pandemic is under control in the U.S. and the administration has given governors "everything they need" to combat the outbreak, President Donald Trump said in an interview with Axios. He said some governors had failed to properly use federal assistance to curb outbreaks in their states. And he repeated his theme that the alarmingly high number of U.S. cases is a function of expansive testing.
"It's under control as much as you can control it. This is a horrible plague," Trump said. "I think you have to have a positive outlook, otherwise you would have nothing."
COVID-19 has claimed lives of 13 nuns at Michigan convent
Thirty nuns – more than half of the nuns living together in their Michigan convent – have become infected with COVID-19. Of those, 13 have died, including one who recovered, but then relapsed, authorities say.
Since the 1930s, the sisters have started schools and hospitals in the Detroit suburb of Livonia. For generations, they have taught toddlers and held the hands of the terminally ill as they took their last breaths. Now the survivors are mostly isolated and quarantined in the convent and allowed few visitors.
"They are reluctant to say they need anything," said Angela Moloney, president and CEO of the Catholic Foundation. "They are so self-sacrificing, they never think of themselves first. They're always saying, 'What can we provide the community?' "
– Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press
In New Jersey: 17 nuns from Sisters of Charity in Convent Station have died
UN chief: 1B students affected by 'largest disruption' in education history
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the "largest disruption of education ever," with more than 1 billion students affected by school closures in more than 160 countries, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says.
Students with disabilities, those in minority or disadvantaged communities, displaced and refugee students, and those in remote areas are at highest risk of being left behind, he said. The world was facing a "learning crisis" before the pandemic, he added.
"We are at a defining moment for the world’s children and young people," Guterres said.
Hawaii, Puerto Rico set records for deaths in a week
Hawaii and Puerto Rico set records for new cases in a week while four states had a record number of deaths in a week, A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Monday shows. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Arkansas, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina and Puerto Rico.
The Puerto Rico Health Department said it will investigate the crowds of people in shopping centers who are failing to follow safety and protection protocols.
– Mike Stucka
Census Bureau to end all counting operations a month early
The Census Bureau plans to end all counting operations by Sept. 30, a month earlier than planned, the bureau's director announced Monday. The bureau delayed its original date to complete the census from July 31 to Oct. 31 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement comes after President Donald Trump signed a memorandum on July 21 asking the bureau to not count undocumented immigrants to decide how many members of Congress are apportioned to each state.
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Deadline for NFL players to opt out of season due to coronavirus is Thursday
NFL players must make their decisions on whether to opt out of the 2020 season because of concerns over the coronavirus by 4 p.m. ET Thursday. The NFL owners and the NFL Players Association agreed to the terms Monday night, and the player body was notified of the arrangement shortly after, two people with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because the league and union had yet to announce the pact. The agreement letter was finalized Monday night. Originally, the NFLPA and owners had agreed to set the opt out deadline for seven days after the finalization of the modified Collective Bargaining Agreement.
But with final details of the economic aspects of the deal still unresolved, and as more than 40 players have opted out already, NFL owners wanted to nail down the opt out deadline. Teams worried that players who were unlikely to make rosters would simply use the opt out clause to ensure themselves a stipend of $150,000 to $350,000 rather than making the move with the health and safety of themselves and their families in mind.
More COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
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Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID updates: Trump Axios interview; remdesivir; school plans