Vaccine could be ready by November; more colleges alter reopening

Laveta Brigham

Higher education continues to grapple with the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with more universities altering plans on Wednesday. That includes Iowa State University, which, two days after announcing plans to allow 25,000 fans to its home-opening football game, reversed its decision. Also Wednesday, 30 out of 40 Greek houses at […]

Higher education continues to grapple with the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with more universities altering plans on Wednesday.

That includes Iowa State University, which, two days after announcing plans to allow 25,000 fans to its home-opening football game, reversed its decision. Also Wednesday, 30 out of 40 Greek houses at Indiana University-Bloomington were asked to quarantine after a spike in coronavirus cases. School officials on Monday reported an 8% positivity rate among students living in Greek houses.

Some universities, however, are staying the course. University of South Carolina officials said they had no plans of shutting down campus even after reporting over 1,000 confirmed cases among students.

Some significant developments:

  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson revealed Wednesday that he, his wife and two young daughters all tested positive for COVID-19. 

  • A coronavirus vaccine may be ready to distribute by Nov. 1, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency has told some state health officials to prepare to distribute the vaccine “in the near future.”

? Today’s numbers: A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Wednesday shows three states — Minnesota, South Dakota and West Virginia — set records for new cases in a week while two states — Arkansas and West Virginia — had a record number of deaths in a week. The U.S. has 6.1 million confirmed cases and over 185,000 deaths. Globally, there are 26 million cases and more than 863,000 people have died.

? What we’re reading: Why volunteer for a vaccine clinical trial? Among the reasons: Duty, love and a willingness to experiment. Seven participants explain why they volunteered.

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to the Daily Briefing.

Number of Americans seeking jobless aid remains high

More than 833,000 Americans sought unemployment assistance last week as parts of the economy remained shuttered due to COVID-19 and millions of out-of-work people have gone more than a month without the additional $600 in jobless aid.  

About 833,352 Americans filed first-time applications for unemployment insurance during the week ending Aug. 29, the Labor Department said Thursday, a 7,591 rise from the prior week and slightly more than the 825,000 expected by economists at J.P. Morgan. Those figures are based on non-seasonally adjusted figures.

– Jessica Menton

Cyberattacks, outages hit Florida’s largest school district

Florida’s largest school district has been plagued with outages and cyber attacks as it reopens virtually amid the pandemic.

Students and teachers in recent days have both reported they can’t access the online platform used by Miami-Dade County schools, the Miami Herald reported. Moreover, Ron Steiger, the district’s chief financial officer, said Wednesday that a $15.3 million contract with the online platform at the center of the crisis was missing the signature of Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

District officials have determined the cyberattackers have demanded no ransom, and some of the attacks came from outside the U.S.

On Wednesday night, an email was sent to all secondary teachers asking them to use Microsoft Teams and Zoom until Sept. 11. The district will then assess if grades six through 12 will use the platform beginning Sept. 14 or stick with Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

Between COVID-19 and layoffs, schools may not have enough teachers to get through the year

It’s more and more likely the nation won’t have enough teachers to staff schools even once reopening is safe amid the public health and economic crises caused by the pandemic, experts say.

A potential exodus of older educators susceptible to the coronavirus and those with existing health problems may fuel already high turnover. 

Many substitutes also may quit. Now, new restrictions on foreign visas will make it harder for some states to import teachers from other countries to work in already hard-to-staff positions.

And for those teachers willing to return to the classroom — whether virtually or in person — pink slips may be coming later this year as state tax revenues are decimated and budgets slashed.

– Bracey Harris and Neal Morton, The Hechinger Report

Pandemic fear, uncertainty likely to hold back economy for decades

A new study suggests the COVID-19 pandemic has generated fears that are likely to dampen risk-taking and economic output for decades.

The crisis has increased the “perceived probability of an extreme, negative shock in the future,” and over time, the economic cost of that warier outlook is “many times larger” than the short-term damage, the study says.

The study, released at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s annual conference last week, attempts to quantify such long-term economic losses by assessing the toll taken by other economic upheavals, such as the Great Recession of 2007-09.

– Paul Davidson

University of South Carolina reports over 1K cases, doesn’t plan to shut down

More than 1,000 students at the University of South Carolina have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the university’s dashboard. But President Robert Caslen on Wednesday said he has no plans of shutting down the school, The State newspaper reported.

“We do not have any plans to close,” Caslen said during a virtual town hall. “The last thing I want to do is take this university, shut it down and dump the problem on the city of Columbia. I prefer to work through this if I can.”

One way school officials plan to do so is by testing more students. “We want to find them, we want to take care of them and we want to get them back into the classroom,” he said.

Meanwhile, other universities are pausing their in-person reopening plans as cases spike on their campuses. Here is the latest:

  • In California, San Diego State University is “temporarily shifting” its in-person classes to online instruction for four weeks starting Thursday. County and state officials reported 64 confirmed and probable cases among students since the semester began last Monday, NBC 7 San Diego reported.

  • The University of Wyoming also halted its fall return for five days after five students tested positive for the virus, officials announced Wednesday. The state’s only four-year university was scheduled to reopen on Labor Day. After the five-day period, President Ed Seidel will announce if students will return to campus or shift to online instruction.

  • Iowa State University reversed its decision to allow over 25,000 fans at its home-opening football game. Now, there will be zero fans in attendance. School officials came under sharp criticism after announcing their original plan on Monday, the same day the city of Ames was identified as the nation’s worst coronavirus hot spot. 

Actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, his family tested positive for COVID-19

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson took to Instagram on Wednesday for a candid announcement: He, his wife and two young daughters all tested positive for COVID-19.

“My wife Lauren, as well as my two baby girls and myself – we have all tested positive for COVID-19,” the actor shared in a video. “I can tell you that this has been one of the most challenging and difficult things that we have ever had to endure as a family and for me personally. … And I’ve gone through some doozies in the past.”

Johnson, 48, added that he wishes it was only him who contracted the virus.

The action star assured followers that he and his family are “on the other end” of the virus.

– Charles Trepany

United Airlines to furlough 16,370 workers amid COVID-19 recovery effort

United Airlines said Wednesday that it plans to furlough 16,370 employees in October, down from an earlier target of 36,000 after thousands of workers took early retirement, buyouts or long-term leaves of absence with the industry facing a slow recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Airline officials said the final number could come down further before Oct. 1, when a prohibition on furloughs ends. They said the furloughs would be postponed if Washington approves another $25 billion to help passenger airlines cover payroll costs.

Flight attendants will bear the brunt of the cuts, with 6,920 getting furlough notices. About 2,850 pilots, 2,010 maintenance workers and 1,400 management and support staff would also lose their jobs. The level of cuts, however, is 55% lower than the number of layoff warnings that United sent to employees in July. 

First COVID-19 death linked to massive South Dakota motorcycle rally

The first COVID-19 death associated with a massive biker rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, has been reported weeks after the event attracted more than 400,000 vehicles and drew widespread concern from public health officials.

The death was reported by Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann at a Wednesday briefing. Minnesota — South Dakota’s neighbor to the east — is tracking an ongoing outbreak of 50 cases tied to the August event, Ehresmann said. That outbreak only includes people who attended the event.

A Minnesota man who died was in his 60s and had underlying health conditions.  The rally went forward despite fears it could become a super-spread event.

– Joel Shannon

Report: CDC says ‘limited’ vaccine doses could be ready by November

The CDC is telling some health officials around the country to be ready to start distributing a vaccine to prevent the coronavirus by November, the New York Times reports.

That would be on the early side of what officials have laid out as a best-case scenario: that a vaccine will be ready by the end of the year. A COVID-19 vaccine could be available earlier than expected if ongoing clinical trials produce overwhelmingly positive results, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, told Kaiser Health News.

At least two clinical trials of 30,000 volunteers are now expected to conclude by the end of the year, but Fauci said an independent board has the authority to end the trials weeks early if interim results are overwhelmingly positive or negative.

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19 news: Dwayne Johnson; CDC vaccine; United Airlines furloughs

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