A version of this story appeared in the August 19 edition of CNN’s Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.
The news that New Zealand will delay its election in the wake of a fresh outbreak caught the eye of another leader eyeing up his own electoral prospects in the coming months.
The editorial board for the student newspaper at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill didn’t mince words in its assessment of the school’s coronavirus response. The university was forced to cancel in-person classes after at least 130 students tested positive for Covid-19 in the first week of classes.
The university’s chancellor blamed off-campus activities for the outbreak, but the newspaper saw it differently. “We all saw this coming,” the Daily Tar Heel editorial board wrote. “Though these students are not faultless, it was the University’s responsibility to disincentivize such gatherings by reconsidering its plans to operate in-person earlier on.”
UNC is just one of many universities across the US experiencing outbreaks just days after students started returning to campuses. Indiana’s University of Notre Dame was forced to announce yesterday that all undergraduate classes will be remote for the next two weeks as it tries to get its own recent spike in cases under control.
The World Health Organization said yesterday young people are “increasingly driving” the pandemic.
“Many are unaware they’re infected with very mild symptoms or none at all. This can result in them unknowingly passing on the virus to others,” said WHO official Takeshi Kasai.
University of Kentucky, East Carolina University, Iowa State University, North Carolina State University and North Carolina State University also saw their experiments with a resumption of in-person classes backfire.
The pandemic has fundamentally changed higher education. More than 75% of the country’s 5,000 colleges are expected to be partially or fully online this fall, according to a count by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Stuck at home, many American students and their families are starting to ask whether the new normal is worth the money. And while some universities have cut campus fees or reduced tuition, the majority of schools, from state institutions including Temple University and the University of Massachusetts, to elite universities like Harvard and Stanford, are keeping tuition as is.
Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at New York University who opposes high tuition costs, believes students are right to be outraged. “Universities have backed themselves into a corner,” he told CNN. “We have raised tuition on average 2 1/2-fold over the last 20 years. I think Covid-19 was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, where families across America are saying, ‘Enough already. We’re not going to pay $58,000 for Zoom classes.’”
Masks aren’t a burden, they’re “a patriotic duty.” This was the message last night from Joe Biden, who promised to impose a national mask mandate as part of a beefed-up coronavirus strategy if he wins the US presidency in November.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED
Q: What precautions should I take when riding in a vehicle with someone from another household?
A: Lamps that use ultraviolet light to kill germs can inactivate coronavirus, but they are not always safe and it’s not clear how good a job they do at killing the virus, the Food and Drug Administration said in a newly-posted advisory.
Covid-19 hit the northern hemisphere as many places were coming out of flu season, according to Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser at WHO. A lot of the surge capacity used to manage critically sick Covid-19 patients initially came from resources available from dealing with the flu, he said.
“That highlights the reason it’s so important to get the flu vaccination rates up this year, even relative to previous years,” said Aylward. “We need that capacity potentially to manage Covid.”
You also want to avoid having a personal double whammy of getting both flu and Covid-19. And yes, it is possible to have both at the same time.
Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
More than 400,000 people have died from the coronavirus in North and South America, according to a tally by the Pan American Health Organization. The Americas now account for 64% of the world’s officially reported Covid-19 deaths, even though the region is home to only 13% of the global population.
The organization’s director Dr. Carissa Etienne said yesterday the US and Brazil were “the biggest drivers of the case counts” and warned the pandemic is causing a historic mental health crisis.
Strict lockdowns and restrictions have reduced the resources available for mental health support. Many people are turning to alcohol and drugs to cope with the pandemic, causing them to be more prone to mental health issues, Etienne warned.
Data from elsewhere is similarly worrying. Nearly a fifth of British adults likely experienced some form of depression during the coronavirus pandemic, according to official figures released yesterday — twice as many as before the pandemic hit.
Vaccine trials need more minority volunteers
The first coronavirus vaccine trial in the US is moving along at a good clip, but needs more member of minority groups to enroll if it is to succeed, officials told CNN’s Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.
While Black people and Latinos account for more than 50% of Covid-19 cases in the US, so far they make up only about 15% of participants in the nation’s first large-scale clinical trial to test a coronavirus vaccine, according to data obtained by CNN from a government official.
That discrepancy could potentially delay a vaccine from reaching the market. Federal law and National Institutes of Health policy mandate inclusion of minorities into clinical trials because vaccines and drugs might have a different effect on them than they do on White people.
Los Angeles schools launch huge Covid-19 testing program
The second-largest school district in the US will provide regular Covid-19 testing and contact-tracing to all students and staff and to families of those who test positive — a step the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) described as “unprecedented” but “necessary.”
LAUSD, which has more than 600,000 students, is beginning the new school year without in-person classes as Covid-19 continues to spread widely in California and the Los Angeles area.
Superintendent Austin Beutner told CNN the district is simply following the science: “If we want to keep schools from becoming a petri dish and we want to keep all in the school community safe, we need to test and trace at schools.” The hope, he said, is to build a foundation for when LAUSD schools open for in-person learning.
Australia strikes vaccine deal, but jab won’t be mandatory after all
Australia has secured a deal with the UK-based drug company AstraZeneca for access to a potential Covid-19 vaccine should trials prove successful. Under the deal, Australians would receive the vaccine for free.
Speaking to a local radio station, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia would have a target of 95% vaccination, which would account for people with health conditions that prevented them being vaccinated. “I would expect it to be as mandatory as you could possibly make it,” he told Melbourne radio station 3AW. However, he later clarified his comments, telling a Sydney radio station that the government would not make vaccination mandatory. “Nobody’s going to force anybody to do anything as a compulsory measure, but we will certainly be encouraging people to take this up,” he told the 2GB station.
One solution to slow testing: Sewage
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is not too shy to look at poop in order to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. Studies have shown the virus can be found in feces from people who are sick and also from people who don’t yet have Covid-19 symptoms. Since about 80% of US homes are connected to some kind of municipal sewer system, sewage can become a great tool to track the spread of the disease across the nation.
The CDC is hoping its new sewage monitoring program will complement America’s still-inadequate testing and contact-tracing, giving a good big picture of how widespread the infection is and giving communities a few extra days to prepare for surge capacity in hospitals or to make lockdown decisions.
A similar program has been tested in Germany earlier this year, but the idea of looking at sewage during epidemics isn’t brand new even in the US — it was used during polio outbreaks in the past.
ON OUR RADAR
- A recent batch of studies, many early stage and not yet peer-reviewed, show that humans have a “robust” immune response to Covid-19 that may protect them from further infection.
- Black, Latino, American Indian and Alaskan Native people were disproportionately hospitalized for Covid-19, according to a new analysis of 12 US states’ populations.
- A judge will decide whether a 175-guest wedding can happen in New York as a health chief says he fears the wedding could become a “super-spreader” event.
- Lebanon has registered a record number of new Covid-19 cases, prompting calls for a new lockdown in a country still reeling from a deadly port blast that damaged much of Beirut.
- Nigeria is gearing up to resume international flights in and out of the country nearly five months after shutting down its airports to curb the spread of Covid-19
- EasyJet is slashing its UK operations and Ryanair is cutting its upcoming flight schedule by a fifth, in the latest signs that travel companies are struggling to make a comeback from the coronavirus pandemic.
He also called for some self-care. “Dealing with strong emotions is another one of the skills we teach in resilience training. We’re talking about the resilience of the individual and being able to deal with adversity well in your life. A way of taking care of yourself is to be able to care for others and being able to take good care of yourself.”
Working all the time doesn’t make you a hero. In fact, it’s likely to make you less efficient and put you at a higher risk of burnout. Some companies are using clever ways in a bid to get workers to take time off.
Camping can inspire the most heavenly of thoughts. But in the middle of the pandemic, it inspires a sobering question as well: Is it safe? Here are some things to avoid, according to Dr. Matthew Sims, director of infectious disease research at Beaumont Health in Michigan.
“They’re on the edge of the abyss.” – CNN International Correspondent Ben Wedeman
From brain fog to the loss of smell to strokes, we’ve been hearing a lot about the neurological symptoms of Covid-19. CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta speaks to Dr. Chou about it in today’s podcast. Listen Now.