Friday, September 18, 2020

New York party boat busted; 90-minute swab also detects flu; stimulus negotiations resume

In the United Kingdom, the Department of Health and Social Care says two new tests will be able to detect COVID-19 and other winter viruses – including the flu – in just 90 minutes.

In the U.S., authorities shut down an illegal party on a New York City cruise ship for multiple violations, including a lack of social distancing.

And in Washington, slow, grinding negotiations are set to resume between Congressional leaders and White House officials on a proposed $1 trillion stimulus package after the $600 weekly unemployment benefit expired.

Meanwhile, the hits to retail keep coming: Lord & Taylor and, separately, Tailored Brands, the parent company of Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Banks, have filed for bankruptcy.

Here are some significant developments:

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded almost 155,000 deaths and about 4.7 million cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, there have been about 690,000 deaths and 18 more than million cases. 

📰 What we’re reading: UV light is being touted as one way to sanitize. These are the facts.

Our live blog is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news, and get updates in your inbox with The Daily Briefing

Coronavirus in Georgia: summer camp, schools, family heartbreak

Hundreds of employees in Georgia’s largest school district have either tested positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus, officials said. As of Thursday, 260 employees were “excluded from work” due to coronavirus.

Also in Georgia, a rising high school senior is mourning the loss of both his parents after they lost their lives to COVID-19 in the same week. Justin Hunter, 17, said neither of his parents had any preexisting conditions and that they “were a regular family just trying to stay safe during the pandemic.”

Just last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 260 campers and staff tested positive for coronavirus – shortly after one teen staffer began showing symptoms at a Georgia sleepaway camp. As of Sunday, there have been 193,177 cases and 3,840 deaths from COVID-19 in Georgia, according to the state’s department of public health.

– N’dea Yancey-Bragg, Adrianna Rodriguez

By the numbers: 5 new death records

A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Sunday shows five states set records for deaths in the week ending Sunday: Arkansas, California, Georgia, Idaho and Montana, and also Puerto Rico. No state records for new cases were set. The United States has reported 4,667,955 cases and 154,860 deaths.

– Michael Stucka

COVID on cruise ships: Illegal NYC party busted, 40 infected in Norway

Authorities shut down an illegal party on a New York City cruise ship over the weekend, according to the NYC Sheriff’s Office. In addition to violating the the coronavirus social distancing provisions, the department said the party also violated the liquor laws.

Empire Cruises’ Liberty Belle ship was intercepted in Manhattan late Saturday, and the owners and captain were arrested, the sheriff’s department account tweeted

Also, in Norway, 40 people (36 crew members and four former passengers) tested positive for the coronavirus – after sailing together on Hurtigruten’s MS Roald Amundsen cruise ship. All have since been admitted into a Norwegian hospital.

– Hannah Yasharoff and Morgan Hines

Want to get on the water?: What to know and how to go about renting a boat in the age of COVID-19

WHO continues to study origins of COVID-19

In a Monday briefing, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said the WHO is continuing to study “the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19.”

According to the WHO, the first human cases of COVID-19 were reported in December 2019 – by officials in Wuhan City, China.

An international team, which will include researchers and scientists from China and around the world, will use WHO groundwork to begin epidemiological studies in Wuhan, “to identify the potential source of infection of the early cases,” he said.

New 90-minute COVID tests in Britain also can detect flu

Millions of rapid coronavirus tests will be brought to British hospitals, care homes and laboratories starting next week, the United Kingdom’s Department of Health and Social Care announced Monday. In just 90 minutes, the two new tests will be able to detect COVID-19 and other winter viruses – including the flu.

“We’re using the most innovative technologies available to tackle coronavirus,” said British Health Secretary Matt Hancock in a statement. “Millions of new rapid coronavirus tests will provide on-the-spot results in under 90 minutes, helping us to break chains of transmission quickly.”

450,000 of the first new test – 90-minute LamPORE swab tests – will be available starting next week, supplied by Oxford Nanopore. In September, the second test – which uses DNA to detect the virus – will be rolled out with 5,000 DNA machines, supplied by DnaNudge, to provide 5.8 million tests in the coming months.

Birx: Rural areas not immune to ‘extraordinarily widespread’ pandemic

The U.S. is in a new and far more widespread phase in its fight against the coronavirus than when it first raced across the nation in the spring, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator said Sunday. Dr. Deborah Birx, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” warned that rural America should not feel immune to the virus, which has thus far been more damaging in urban areas. She said the national death toll, which some experts have estimated could double to more than 300,000, depends on how well southern and western states promote mitigation.

“It is extraordinarily widespread,” Birx said. “This epidemic right now is different and it’s more widespread and it’s both rural and urban.”

– John Bacon

Bankruptcy filings: Lord & Taylor; Men’s Wearhouse join the list

Office workers aren’t buying as many clothes. The retail industry is feeling the burn. 

Lord & Taylor, one of America’s oldest department stores, has filed for bankruptcy. Separately, Tailored Brands, the parent company of Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Banks, filed too.

The forced closure of non-essential stores in March pushed them to the brink. These two chains join a growing list of retailers slammed by the pandemic.

Michigan GOP state senator tests positive for COVID-19

A Republican state senator who sponsored a bill to limit the emergency powers Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has used to address the pandemic has tested positive for the coronavirus. State Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, said in a written statement Sunday that said he does not have “any significant symptoms,” and “will be self-isolating according to medical guidelines.”

Barrett has been a vocal critic of Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He sponsored a bill to repeal the 1945 law she has used to maintain a state of emergency, which allows Whitmer to restrict business operations and require people to wear masks in public places.

The senator told the Detroit Free Press his test result doesn’t change his stance on how Whitmer has handled the pandemic. He said he has been “pretty rigid” about wearing a mask in enclosed public places.

A Republican lawmaker in Florida, state Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay), was hospitalized Sunday due to lung damage from COVID-19.

– Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press; Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon, Florida Today

Las Vegas’ Electric Daisy Carnival canceled, rescheduled for May 2021

Las Vegas’ Electric Daisy Carnival, the sold-out, three-day electronic dance music festival, will not take place in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event had been rescheduled from May to Oct. 2-4 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The event has been moved to May 21-23, 2021. Founder Pasquale Rotella wrote on Instagram on Sunday that he concluded he couldn’t safely handle an estimated 450,000 attendees.

“This whole experience has truly been a wild ride. Here I am, a rave promoter, finding myself talking to biopharmaceutical companies about diagnostic tests for a novel virus while working with Nevada’s most prominent government officials,” Rotella wrote. “I’ve felt a lot of pressure wanting to come through for all of you & after taking time to exhaust every possible option, I can feel confident knowing this is the right decision.”

– Bryan Alexander

Delta flight delayed after passengers refuse to wear a face mask

After two travelers refused to wear face masks, a Delta flight headed to Atlanta from Detroit Metro Airport on Thursday had to turn around and head back to the gate

According to a Delta statement, the plane “returned to the gate following two customers who were non-compliant with crew instructions. After a short delay, the aircraft departed to Atlanta.” Face masks, or appropriate coverings, are required for customers and employees of Delta. The rule applies on aircraft, at lobby check-in, in Delta Sky Clubs, in boarding gate areas and on jet bridges.

– Chanel Stitt, Detroit Free Press

Indiana student tests positive for COVID-19 on first day of school 

A junior high school in Greenfield, Indiana, received news on the first day of class that a student tested positive for the coronavirus, according to an email sent to families Thursday evening. The student attended part of the first day of classes at Greenfield Central Junior High School. 

The school district told families that its “Positive COVID-19 Test Protocol” was enacted as soon the school was alerted by the local health department. The student was immediately isolated and all close contacts were identified. 

Superintendent Harold Olin wouldn’t say how many students were identified.

“Because we are able to narrow this list, there is no reason to disrupt the educational process for the larger group that is served within the school,” Olin said in an email. 

– Arika Herron and Elizabeth DePompei, Indianapolis Star

Lowe’s giving out COVID-19 relief grants for small businesses

Monday is the deadline to apply for Lowe’s next round of small-business emergency relief grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000. The nonprofit Local Initiatives Support Corporation, also known as LISC, is giving away the mo thanks to the home improvement chain’s $55 million contribution. 

The company said the grants will “provide immediate relief for critical needs such as rent, payroll and operational expenses to keep businesses running.” Of the $55 million, $30 million will focus on small businesses owned or led by minorities and women, and $25 million will support enterprises in rural communities, the company said in a news release.

– Kelly Tyko

MLB, NFL players opt out of season due to COVID-19

More pro baseball and football players have opted out of their 2020 seasons because of the pandemic. Sunday afternoon, New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes didn’t show for a Sunday afternoon game. The team later announced he has dropped out for the season. “We will support him in that decision,” New York Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen told reporters after the game. “It was surprising, without question.”

Saturday, New England Patriots’ veteran tight end Matt LaCosse became the eighth player on the team to pull out for the season. The Patriots have had the most opt-outs in the NFL.

In college football, a group of Pac-12 athletes released a statement Sunday threatening to opt out of the 2020 season. They said they’re being asked to play without “enforced health and safety standards, and without transparency about COVID cases on our teams, the risks to ourselves, our families, and our communities.”

What we’re reading

More COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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Contributing: Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID updates: Birx on coronavirus; WHO looks at Wuhan; NYC party boat

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