Coronavirus Live Updates The latest news and updates related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The novel coronavirus, first detected at the end of 2019, has caused a global pandemic.

Coronavirus Live Updates

Latest news and updates on the pandemic

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, shown here at a news conference in June, has tested positive for the coronavirus. Steve Helber/AP hide caption

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, shown here at a news conference in June, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Steve Helber/AP

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and first lady Pamela Northam have tested positive for the coronavirus, the governor's office announced Friday. The couple underwent PCR tests Thursday, after a staff member of the governor's residence was diagnosed.

The governor does not have symptoms, but Pamela Northam "is currently experiencing mild symptoms," a statement from the governor's office says. The Northams will self-isolate for the next 10 days as their health is monitored. Northam will continue to work from the governor's mansion.

"As I've been reminding Virginians throughout this crisis, COVID-19 is very real and very contagious," Northam said. "The safety and health of our staff and close contacts is of utmost importance to Pam and me, and we are working closely with the Department of Health to ensure that everyone is well taken care of."

He urged citizens of his state to be mindful of not transmitting the disease, stating, "the best thing you can do for us β€” and most importantly, for your fellow Virginians β€” is to take this seriously."

NPR's Sarah McCammon contributed to this report.

University of Oregon are the current Pac-12 Champions, beating Stanford University in Dec. 2019. Tony Avelar/AP hide caption

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University of Oregon are the current Pac-12 Champions, beating Stanford University in Dec. 2019.

Tony Avelar/AP

The Pac-12 has changed its mind about playing football, voting unanimously to start the 2020 season on Nov. 6.

The reversal by the Pac-12's CEO group on Thursday comes about a month after the conference decided to halt all sports until Jan. 1 at the earliest in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement Thursday, officials said their concerns over players' health and safety had been assuaged after arriving at a deal with COVID-19-test maker Quidel. New tests provided by the company, they said, will allow regular testing of players ensuring their well being.

"From the beginning of this crisis, our focus has been on following the science, data and counsel of our public health and infectious disease experts," said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.

"Our agreement with Quidel to provide daily rapid-results testing has been a game-changer in enabling us to move forward with confidence that we can create a safe environment for our student-athletes while giving them the opportunity to pursue their dreams," Scott added.

In May, the company's initial coronavirus test met the FDA's minimum of 80% sensitivity, meaning it could generate a false negative result 20% of the time, Science Magazine reported. But in July, the company shared data showing its COVID-19 antigen test has 96.7% sensitivity within five days of the onset of patient symptoms.

The conference, which includes elite sports programs Stanford, UCLA, USC and University of Oregon, will play a seven-game football season with the Pac-12 Championship Game scheduled for Dec. 18. No fans will be in the stands.

Further details about the football schedule will be released in the coming days, according to the statement.

The move follows a similar decision by the Big Ten, which announced on Sept. 16 that it plans to play, starting in late October.

Both conferences, which rake in millions for universities, faced immense pressure to return to the field, even in light of the potential medical risks to student athletes. As NPR's Tom Goldman reported, "There was growing concern about heart inflammation called myocarditis in athletes who tested positive. It can cause arrhythmias and sudden death in athletes taking part in strenuous exercise."

Sports cardiology expert Dr. Jonathan Drezner from the University of Washington told Goldman that health officials remain concerned about the risks.

"We're still concerned that it can be an issue, and there will be more, you know, cases of confirmed myocarditis in young athletes who are infected with COVID," Drezner said. But, he added, "if we can identify them, then we can hopefully manage them very safely."

The Pac-12 will also resume its basketball and winter sport seasons. The conference will reconsider as early as January the idea of letting fans attend.

Data Begin To Provide Some Answers On Pregnancy And The Pandemic

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A pregnant woman waits in line for groceries at a food pantry in Waltham, Mass., during the coronavirus pandemic. Charles Krupa/AP hide caption

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A pregnant woman waits in line for groceries at a food pantry in Waltham, Mass., during the coronavirus pandemic.

Charles Krupa/AP

Pregnant women had mountains of concern at the beginning of the pandemic, and doctors didn't have many answers. Now, months after COVID-19 began sweeping across the globe, new studies and CDC reports are out.

While there is still much that is unknown, the picture is beginning to be more clear.

Dr. Denise Jamieson, chair of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory Healthcare and member of the COVID-19 task force at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, tells NPR's Sacha Pfeiffer that the recent findings "should be somewhat reassuring" to pregnant women and their families.

"However, I still think there are many reasons to be vigilant about COVID-19," she says. "It's still really important that pregnant women take measures to protect themselves, and it's also really important that pregnant women have access to COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they're available."

Here are excerpts from her interview on All Things Considered, in which Jamieson discusses how COVID-19 can affect pregnancies and newborns, including the isolation that comes from quarantining as a new parent.

There was a fear that if a pregnant woman was COVID-positive, she might pass that along to her baby, either in utero or during childbirth. Do we know if that happens?

[The virus that causes COVID-19] seems to be able to cross the placenta and infect fetuses during pregnancy. However, the good news is that this doesn't seem to happen very often, and there isn't evidence that when this happens there is an association with birth defects the way we found with viruses like Zika.

And those babies are generally OK, despite being infected?

For the most part, the babies, yes, have done well.

There were some women wondering if they should avoid getting pregnant during the pandemic. Would you advise that? To wait until it's over to try and have a baby?

I would not recommend to delay in pregnancy. I think women can take measures to avoid COVID during pregnancy and to protect themselves during pregnancy and when to get pregnant is such a personal and complicated decision, and this pandemic will probably be with us for a while. I would not advise delaying pregnancy solely on the basis of the COVID pandemic.

Have you found that the experience of being pregnant or having a baby during the pandemic has compromised or reduced the joy of pregnancy and delivery for any women?

I hope it hasn't substantially reduced the joy of having a baby, but I do worry that with restrictions on visitation in the hospital, and then also the social isolation after women go home from the hospital, I do think it's fundamentally changed the experience of having a baby. ... I look forward to a day when the pandemic is over, and we have a safe, available and effective vaccine, and we don't have to social distance.

Lauren Hodges, Art Silverman and Patrick Jarenwattananon produced and edited the audio version of this story.

Many people who normally take on jobs as poll workers are in higher-risk groups for the coronavirus, leading to fears of a widespread shortage of poll workers. Here, New York City Board of Election employees and volunteers help voters at the Brooklyn Museum polling site during the New York Democratic presidential primary in June. Angel Weiss/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Many people who normally take on jobs as poll workers are in higher-risk groups for the coronavirus, leading to fears of a widespread shortage of poll workers. Here, New York City Board of Election employees and volunteers help voters at the Brooklyn Museum polling site during the New York Democratic presidential primary in June.

Angel Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to encourage unemployed New Yorkers to work at polls during the Nov. 3 election and has signed an executive order that relieves people who receive unemployment benefits from having to report part-time income they get from an election board.

The order, which Cuomo signed as part of a recent extension of New York's COVID-19 pandemic emergency, is in effect now through Nov. 3. It applies to any work that jobless people perform for state and local election boards β€” as long as they earn $504 or less each week.

A large contingent of people who normally take on jobs as poll workers are of retirement age, meaning they're also in higher-risk groups for the coronavirus. Many of them are staying away from the polls this year, leading election officials to worry that some locations could be closed or severely understaffed, in an election season that has drawn intense interest.

During the primaries that were held earlier this year, some precincts around the U.S. were sharply reduced or consolidated due to the pandemic. In one famous example, polling places in Milwaukee β€” with a population near 600,000 β€” were cut from 180 to just five.

The desperate national call for poll workers has resulted in more than 500,000 people signing up to help, according to the advocacy group Power the Polls. A new NPR feature also offers guidance for anyone wanting to know how to sign up to work at the polls.

"In many states, you need to be a registered voter to work on election day, and most voter registration deadlines are early-to-mid October," NPR's Clare Lombardo reported.

Earlier this week, Cuomo said he might send National Guard personnel or state employees to help carry out election duties and staff polling places.

"If you need people to help administer, then tell us and we'll help you get the bodies," the governor said in a news conference, urging local election boards to request help.

20 HRS AGO

Pandemic Sparks New Businesses

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Derwood Selby opened an outdoor market in Philadelphia, selling fresh produce and his signature olive oils and balsamic vinaigrettes. Emma Lee/WHYY hide caption

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Derwood Selby opened an outdoor market in Philadelphia, selling fresh produce and his signature olive oils and balsamic vinaigrettes.

Emma Lee/WHYY

When Derwood Selby found out in March he had lost his job as a food and beverage supervisor at a Philadelphia hotel, his first reaction was relief: He was burned out, and had been itching to move on to something else.

Then, reality hit.

"I started sweating," said Selby, 53. "How the heck was I going to get some money?"

Unemployment benefits bought him some time to think. The state payout, combined with the federal payment of $600 a week, gave Selby enough to pay rent and even start to save a little.

"When the six [hundred] came, I was like, 'Cool! This works,'" Selby said.

Pretty soon, he found himself thinking seriously about an idea he had a few years ago: starting a business selling produce, along with his own line of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, at local farmers markets.

So instead of looking for a job, Selby enrolled in a small business class. He's calling his company Selby Signature, after a food-focused show he used to host on a local community access television channel.

"I don't plan on going back to work," Selby said. "This is my big break."

The pandemic, and the lockdowns officials instituted this spring to slow its spread, have taken a devastating toll on American businesses: Nearly 20% of all small businesses remained closed as of August, according to the Brookings Institution.

But there is another, perhaps surprising, trend.

As of mid-September, business applications nationwide are up 19% year over year, according to census data analysed by the Economic Innovation Group, a Washington, D.C. based think tank.

Applications from businesses likely to hire employees are up about 12% nationwide in that time frame.

"In the initial weeks of the pandemic, applications to start new businesses really fell off a cliff," said Kenan Fikri, research director at EIG. "By early June, applications to start new businesses climbed back up towards pre-pandemic trends. But then they kept on climbing."

'Maybe now is the time'

Self-employment also spiked during the Great Recession. However, applications from businesses likely to hire employees were depressed for years.

During the coronavirus pandemic, business applications from solo entrepreneurs and firms likely to hire employees are both surging.

There are a couple of possible reasons for that divergence. For one, the United States is coming off a decade-long economic expansion, and many people have nest eggs that make them more comfortable taking risks, said Fikri.

There's also the fact that the pandemic's complete disruption of everyday life has pushed society to rethink its norms, creating space for the new.

'I'm very proud'

While many people see financial opportunity in the pandemic, convincing lenders to share in that optimism can be a tougher sell.

"Without question, we are more cautious than we were a year ago," said Jim Burnett, executive director of West Philadelphia Financial Institution, which provides loans to new businesses. "It is going to be harder for the startup to get capital."

Derwood Selby has not applied for a loan, borrowing about $1,000 from friends and family instead.

On a recent Saturday Selby, dressed in a cowboy hat, held a soft launch for his produce stand at an outdoor market in North Philadelphia. He pitched potential customers on healthier nutrition as they browsed his avocados, tomatoes and bottles of cilantro and red onion olive oil sourced through a local winery.

This is my neighborhood, and I've got a business up and running," Selby said with a smile. "I'm very proud right now."

When A Tornado Hits A Toy Store: Photo Shows Reality Of Working From Home With Kids

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To paraphrase The Wizard of Oz, pay no attention to what's behind the curtain.

Gretchen Goldman, a scientist and mother, recently pulled back the curtain on her own life β€” and a lot of people paid a lot of attention.

CNN interviewed Goldman, a research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, to discuss President Trump's choice of David Legates to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It's what CNN viewers could not see on television that created a sensation.

During the interview, Goldman's husband snapped a picture of her speaking into her laptop's camera. From the waist up, she was wearing a crisp, tailored yellow jacket. But the picture revealed Goldman had on black running shorts and was sitting in the middle a living room turned upside down by her two toddlers.

"There's a Thomas the Train Engine toy that's there, there's a box of balls and other debris that's on the floor of my house," Goldman tells NPR's Morning Edition.

The picture went viral.

"It's resonating with people," she says. "Parents are being put in an impossible situation now working from home while managing the emotional and physical safety of their children β€” and it's laughably infeasible to do that."

Goldman said she's lucky to be able to work from home. But at the same time, she says, "It is absolutely exhausting to both work and care for children all day. You feeling like you failing at both and I've just really been amazed to see how many people really feel this struggle."

Goldman says she doesn't expect her workspace to look much better any time soon.

To hear Goldman's Morning Edition interview, click on the audio button above.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, pictured at a news conference earlier this month, said Thursday that "we're going to put together our own review committee headed by the Department of Health." Spencer Platt/Getty Images hide caption

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, pictured at a news conference earlier this month, said Thursday that "we're going to put together our own review committee headed by the Department of Health."

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he doesn't trust the Trump administration to deliver a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine because the approval process has become so politicized that its integrity can't be taken for granted.

At a news conference Thursday, Cuomo said state health officials will screen any federally approved vaccines.

"The first question is, is the vaccine safe? Frankly, I'm not going to trust the federal government's opinion," Cuomo said, adding, "New York state will have its own review when the federal government has finished with their review and says its safe."

The Democratic governor has often clashed with President Trump over the pandemic response.

"We're going to put together a group [of scientists] for them to review the vaccine," Cuomo said, adding that he wouldn't recommend New Yorkers get vaccinated until that state-run process is complete.

"I want to make sure we know it's safe to take," he said.

On Wednesday, the president said that if the Food and Drug Administration issues stricter guidelines for a COVID-19 vaccine, he might not approve them and accused the agency of playing politics.

"That has to be approved by the White House. We may or may not approve it. That sounds like a political move," Trump said during a press briefing at the White House.

Cuomo brought up Trump's comments during Thursday's announcement.

"The president is once again in a dispute with the FDA," Cuomo said. "The FDA says they want to make the approval more rigorous, more transparent. The president says they're trying to politicize it. Why would the FDA be politicizing the approval? Between the president and the FDA, only one entity is engaged in the political process and is headed for the Election Day. It's not the FDA."

The timing of a vaccine has increasingly been a source of contention. Trump has said a vaccine could be ready for widespread release as early as next month.

"We remain on track to deliver a vaccine before the end of the year and maybe even before Nov. 1," the president said early this month. "We think we can probably have it sometime during the month of October."

That's a timeline some of President Trump's own scientific advisers have called into question.

New York is still the state hardest-hit COVID-19, with more than 32,000 deaths so far, but stringent public health measures have sharply reduced infection rates. Roughly 1% of the state's coronavirus tests now come back positive, and the number of people dying each day has fallen into the single digits, with just two fatalities reported statewide on Wednesday.

United Airlines baggage tags are displayed on a table at San Francisco International Airport. The carrier says it's starting a pilot program next month that will offer rapid coronavirus testing at the airport or via a self-collected, mail-in test ahead of a flight. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images hide caption

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United Airlines baggage tags are displayed on a table at San Francisco International Airport. The carrier says it's starting a pilot program next month that will offer rapid coronavirus testing at the airport or via a self-collected, mail-in test ahead of a flight.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In another effort aimed at getting travelers back on planes, United Airlines will begin offering on-the-spot coronavirus testing to some passengers at the airport before they board their flight.

The tests will be offered to United customers going to Hawaii from San Francisco International Airport in a pilot program beginning Oct. 15. The rapid tests, developed by Abbott Laboratories, can provide results in 15 minutes. United customers also will have the option of a self-administered, mail-in test that they would need to submit within 72 hours before their flight.

The airline says it worked alongside the Hawaii government to ensure the test meets state requirements β€” so travelers who test negative for the coronavirus within 72 hours of their arrival will not be subject to Hawaii's mandatory 14-day quarantine for those coming to the state.

Hawaii's economy is largely dependent on tourism and has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to data from the industry group Airlines for America, carriers are flying 70% fewer flights to and from the Hawaiian islands, and travel into the state is down 94%.

United is the first U.S. airline to offer such on-the-spot, preflight coronavirus testing. If the pilot program is successful, United says it hopes to expand preflight testing to other airports across the country.

"Our new COVID testing program is another way we are helping customers meet their destinations' entry requirements, safely and conveniently," United Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist said in a statement. "We'll look to quickly expand customer testing to other destinations and U.S. airports later this year."

The airline notes that the coronavirus testing will complement "state-of-the-art cleaning and safety measures that include a mandatory mask policy, antimicrobial and electrostatic spraying" of airplane cabin interiors, and "hospital-grade HEPA air filtration systems."

Other airlines are working on developing their own coronavirus testing for passengers in hopes that enabling travelers to bypass quarantine requirements would spark an increase in air travel, especially to international destinations.

To try to boost business, airlines and travel trade groups have been calling on the U.S. government to establish a federal coronavirus testing program. They've also been pleading for a federal policy requiring passengers to wear face masks. The Trump administration has refused to implement such a regulation, leaving the U.S. carriers to enforce their own mask policies.

The airlines have also been calling on government officials in the U.S. and the European Union to establish a joint coronavirus testing program to kick-start international air travel, but no such agreement on testing protocols has been reached. Even though the EU reopened borders between nations this summer, it still restricts American travelers because of the stubbornly high coronavirus infection rate in the United States.

The German airline Lufthansa also announced Thursday that it will begin offering on-the-spot coronavirus testing to passengers boarding intercontinental flights in October. The routes on which the testing will be offered hasn't yet been determined, but many will likely be to the United States.

Dutch YouTube star turned model and singer Famke Louise performs on stage during a live show on television in the Netherlands. Famke Louise has come under fire recently for saying she would no longer participate in public campaigns to combat COVID-19. Paul Bergen/Redferns/Getty Images hide caption

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Dutch YouTube star turned model and singer Famke Louise performs on stage during a live show on television in the Netherlands. Famke Louise has come under fire recently for saying she would no longer participate in public campaigns to combat COVID-19.

Paul Bergen/Redferns/Getty Images

Several Dutch celebrities are being heavily criticized after announcing they would no longer take part in public efforts to combat COVID-19 and for their apparent support of a conspiracy theory suggesting that the government is using fear of the virus to control the population.

With the hashtag #ikdoenietmeermee ("I no longer participate"), the musicians and influencers, led by 21-year-old rapper and model Famke Louise, posted videos to social media saying they were opting out of campaigns to promote social distancing and the use of face masks.

In a video posted Monday to her 1 million Instagram followers, the rap artist spoke of the need to work together to "get the government back under control."

Later, on the popular talk show Jinek, Famke Louise sought to clarify her position. "I don't mind the 1.5m [5 foot] society," she said of those who practice social distancing. "It's about the principle that we live in a society where people need their freedom, in which people just want to have fun."

The YouTube star turned rapper was among a number of celebrities and influencers who had previously appeared in government-funded campaigns to promote public health measures aimed at containing the deadly coronavirus.

Others high-profile individuals in the Netherlands who signed on to the #ikdoenietmeermee hashtag include hip-hop star Bizzey, 35, and the singers Tim Douwsma, 32, and Thomas Berge, 30.

In a reference to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's recent comment that cheering soccer fans should "just shut up" to avoid spreading the virus, the celebrities in their videos said they were "no longer keeping their mouths shut."

According to some Dutch media, Famke Louise and the others had been persuaded to change their views by a group known as Viruswaarheid or "Virus Truth" that has sponsored anti-mask campaigns.

NRC.nl wrote that "in the background, the Virus Truth action group has been trying to mobilize the celebrities for some time."

Dutch News quoted a spokesman for Viruswaarheid as saying: "More and more Dutch celebrities" were coming forward to express "doubts about legality of the coronavirus measures" and that they were "considering going public."

However, the #ikdoenietmeermee campaign quickly showed signs of cracking under a backlash, with mocking memes being shared on social media showing doctors in operating rooms saying, "I'm out."

Health Minister Hugo de Jonge responded on Twitter with another hashtag, #ikdoewelmee, or "I do participate."

On Wednesday, Famke Louise herself removed her video and posted a lengthy note to her Instagram followers acknowledging that it was "all in all, not my best day."

"Nobody obliged me anything, but I thought I could make a difference. Having said that, I realize the seriousness of making unsubstantiated statements," she said. "I am not a scientist, doctor, virologist or politician and I have never claimed to be," she added, saying that it was never her intent that people take coronavirus measures lightly.

Singer Douwsma and others also removed their own videos, and Bizzey tweeted Thursday that he would have "nothing more to do" with the #ikdoenietmeermee campaign.

Fewer Students Are Going To Community College, Despite High Unemployment

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Students at Grand Rapids Community College pass out T-shirts to promote virtual student life offerings during the fall semester. Elissa Nadworny/NPR hide caption

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Students at Grand Rapids Community College pass out T-shirts to promote virtual student life offerings during the fall semester.

Elissa Nadworny/NPR

Enrollment at U.S. community colleges has dropped nearly 8% this fall, newly released figures show, part of an overall decline in undergraduate enrollment as students face a global pandemic and the worst economic recession in decades.

Often, enrollment in higher education spikes in times of high unemployment and recession as students seek additional job skills and postpone entering the workforce. But the pandemic has overturned those traditional calculations, according to preliminary data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which tracks college enrollment.

Hardest hit were community colleges, which traditionally serve lower-income students and those seeking additional career skills. The enrollment drop comes as many of those schools face a host of new financial pressures.

"Those are institutions that were already operating in many cases on very thin margins even before the pandemic," says Doug Shapiro, who leads the research center at the Clearinghouse. He says the community college numbers are "most worrisome" because of the students they tend to serve.

"It's a matter of critical concern if even these kinds of traditional on-ramps to higher education for low income students are becoming inaccessible," Shapiro adds.

Throughout the summer, community college presidents told me they didn't know what to expect when it came to fall enrollment, though several were optimistic. In past recessions, community colleges in particular saw a boost, from students either priced out of other institutions or seeking job training to pivot to another career.

"As time drags on and we're still seeing millions of unemployed," Shapiro says, "I just don't think that we're going to ever get to the point where many of them [potential students] are in a position, or confident enough about the future, to say this is a good time to go back to school."

Many community colleges are holding courses primarily online this fall, which may also be a big part of why enrollment has dropped, he explains. "Many of the students don't have good Internet access to begin with, much less a good place in which to study and not be interrupted at home."

In addition to community colleges, other types of institutions are also enrolling fewer students. Attendance in private, nonprofit four-year schools is down 3.8% from last year. Overall, public, four-year colleges are doing much better, with an enrollment drop of just 0.4%, but that flat line also depends on where a university is located: At rural, four-year publics, enrollment fell 4%.

There is some good news: Overall, enrollment in graduate programs is up about 4% from last year β€” most of that increase can be attributed to short-term programs like post-baccalaureates and certificates, a sign that perhaps recent college graduates wanted to stave off the job market just a bit longer.

The preliminary data from the Clearinghouse represents about 3.6 million students at 629 colleges β€” that's nearly 22% of all the schools that typically report. The organization will release numbers again in October as more colleges provide their fall data.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, here at an August news conference in St. Louis, says he and his wife, Teresa Parson, "are both fine" after testing positive for the coronavirus. Jeff Roberson/AP hide caption

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Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, here at an August news conference in St. Louis, says he and his wife, Teresa Parson, "are both fine" after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Jeff Roberson/AP

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, whose mask-wearing habits have been publicly inconsistent and who has declined to issue a statewide mandate for face coverings, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Republican governor's wife, Teresa Parson, has also tested positive.

In a brief video statement, Mike Parson said he is awaiting a second test to confirm the results.

"Myself and the first lady are both fine," Parson said. "I was tested; the preliminary results have come back as a positive result."

"Right now, I feel fine, no symptoms of any kind," he added.

The couple will follow quarantine protocols and will likely be separated for a few days, Parson said.

Parson's behavior has often contradicted advice from his own public health officials, appearing at functions without a mask and surrounded by people.

As recently as July 11, Parson told a group of cattle ranchers that the government should not interfere with their decision to wear or forgo a face covering.

"You don't need government to tell you to wear a dang mask," he said, as the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader reported, "If you want to wear a dang mask, wear a mask."

He made the comments at a steak fry function with the Missouri Cattlemen's Association sans mask, and photos of the event showed him ignoring social distancing guidelines.

The first couple's diagnosis comes as the state announced 1,580 new cases of COVID-19 and 83 more deaths from the disease. In all, just under 117,000 people in the state have been diagnosed with the disease and 1,947 have died.

The U.S. death toll has risen above 200,000.

Parson is up for reelection and was expected to debate Democratic opponent Nicole Galloway on Friday.

On Wednesday evening he urged Missourians to "do the best you can to protect yourselves."

He also cited the now-familiar mantra: "Social distancing, wear a mask, personal hygiene."

A view of the Metropolitan Opera ticketing office in 2018. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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A view of the Metropolitan Opera ticketing office in 2018.

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

New York's famed Metropolitan Opera announced on Wednesday that the house will remain closed until September 2021.

In a press release, the Met said that it had made its decision to cancel the rest of the 2020-21 season based on the advice of "health officials who advise the Met and Lincoln Center," and keeping in mind the hundreds of performers and staff members required for rehearsals and performances as well as its audiences.

The Met added that it will not be able to resume performances "until a vaccine is widely in use, herd immunity is established, and the wearing of masks and social distancing is no longer a medical requirement."

In the meantime, the Met says it will continue streaming free presentations of previous productions online, as it has since March.

The Met is the largest performing arts organization in the U.S. and this decision serves as a harsh reminder to music fans and performing organizations of all sizes across the country β€” not to mention other large institutions in New York City, including Broadway theaters β€” that safe reopening may be a long time away.

Approximately 1,000 Met performers and employees have not been paid in nearly six months. They also depend on the Met for health insurance.

The house's most vaunted star, soprano Anna Netrebko β€” who was scheduled to appear at the Met in two different operas in the 2020-21 season, including on its opening night β€” wrote on Instagram last Thursday that she was in the hospital with COVID-19 "and will recover soon." (She also noted that her husband, Yusif Eyvazov, has coronavirus antibodies.)

Two other Met performers, violist Vincent Lionti and assistant conductor Joel Revzen, have died of COVID-19.

The timing of the Met's announcement comes just two days after the New York Times published an investigative report showing that the opera company and its insurers paid its former, disgraced music director James Levine $3.5 million to settle acrimonious, competing court claims. Levine has publicly been accused of sexual abuse by nine men, and was fired by the Met in March 2018.

How A Florida Elections Official Is Leaning On Creativity During A Complicated Year

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Poll workers at the Miami-Dade County Elections Department deposit returned mail-in ballots into an official ballot drop box on primary election day on Aug. 18 in Doral, Fla. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

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Poll workers at the Miami-Dade County Elections Department deposit returned mail-in ballots into an official ballot drop box on primary election day on Aug. 18 in Doral, Fla.

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Chris Anderson, supervisor of elections in Seminole County, Florida, had a stylus problem.

He says it would have cost more than a quarter of a million dollars to purchase enough pens and styluses needed for the county's 328,000 voters. So, his department got creative.

"We quite literally went to every Dollar Tree in the county, and we bought as many Q-tips as we could," Anderson tells Morning Edition. "Five dollars will buy you 1,500 Q-tips. And we put aluminum foil tape around them and that serves as a conductor of the static electricity from your body to allow you to sign on an iPad."

Not only did the Q-tip trick save his department money but, Anderson hopes, it will also help keep voters and election workers safer in the face of COVID-19.

"One use for one voter. We limit the transmission of germs between voters and the election workers, and that's just another way we keep people safe as they vote here in Seminole County," he says.

That's just one of the ways Anderson has had to shift his approach as an elections supervisor in 2020. He talks with NPR's Noel King about why β€” between the pandemic, the surge in mail-in voting and the president, at times, questioning the legitimacy of the process β€” this election will require extra ingenuity.


Interview Highlights

You are getting something like 96 calls and texts a day from voters in Seminole County. What are they asking? What are they worried about?

They're concerned about COVID-19 safety. They're concerned about their vote-by-mail ballots. They're concerned overall about how the election process is going to take place in the midst of everything that is going on in the world today. ... They want to make sure that the things that they're receiving, both through phone calls and texts, that they are legitimate.

In light of COVID-19, are you encouraging people to vote by mail?

Absolutely. That was one of the first things. We were the first supervisor of elections office in the state of Florida to send out the mail ballot request form to every voter, because it was logical to say that the safest way to vote in the midst of this pandemic is to vote at home. So we knew if we pushed folks to vote by mail, that would limit them coming to the polling locations because at the polling locations, as you know, we have to do many different things β€” from room occupancy rate control to social distancing and a lot of different things of that nature in in-person voting β€” which could create some longer wait times. So if we can get folks to vote by mail it's very convenient, they don't have to wait and it can be safe.

What is the main thing keeping you up at night?

The main thing that's keeping me up at night is just making sure that voters have the right information, between now and Election Day. They're going to receive a lot of stuff in their mailbox. My advice to each and every voter across the country: If you have questions about your elections administration, contact your local administrator.

Marc Rivers and Ziad Buchh produced and edited the audio version of this story.

Sizzler USA has filed for bankruptcy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions. Here, drivers pass a closed Sizzler restaurant in Montebello, Calif. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Sizzler USA has filed for bankruptcy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions. Here, drivers pass a closed Sizzler restaurant in Montebello, Calif.

Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The venerable Sizzler USA family steakhouse chain has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, citing a business environment roiled by COVID-19 restrictions β€” and saying that not enough has been done to help restaurants survive.

"Our current financial state is a direct consequence of the pandemic's economic impact," Sizzler President Chris Perkins said, "due to long-term indoor dining closures and landlords' refusal to provide necessary rent abatements."

The company, which first opened 62 years ago, says it wants to keep all of its locations open. Sizzler says it hopes to renegotiate its leases over the next four months; it will also undergo a restructuring process aimed at reducing long-term debt.

Sizzler USA received between $2 million and $5 million in federal loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to ease job losses from the coronavirus and help keep small businesses afloat. That's according to data released by the U.S. Treasury Department.

"It is our ultimate goal to keep all Sizzler locations open for business throughout this process," the company said in a statement sent to NPR. It added that it intends to fulfill financial commitments to employees, franchised locations and vendors.

Sizzler, based in Mission Viejo, Calif., filed for voluntary Chapter 11 protection in a federal bankruptcy court for the Northern District in California. The filing directly affects the company's 14 restaurants it owns. There are also more than 90 franchised locations, which Sizzler says "will not be impacted during the Chapter 11 process."

During the pandemic, Sizzler has been selling takeout meals, including to-go versions of its popular salad bar. Some of its locations also offer outdoor dining. And like many restaurants struggling to find customers, Sizzler is offering delivery through third-party companies such as DoorDash, GrubHub, Uber Eats and Postmates.

Sizzler got its start in 1958, when founders Del and Helen Johnson offered steak dinners for 99 cents at their first restaurant in Culver City, Calif. Sizzler currently has 107 locations in 10 states β€” most of them in the West β€” and Puerto Rico. That's down from 2018, when the chain said it had 134 locations.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is pictured in a hearing on July 31. He is testifying on Wednesday alongside other top health officials in a Senate panel hearing. Pool/Getty Images hide caption

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is pictured in a hearing on July 31. He is testifying on Wednesday alongside other top health officials in a Senate panel hearing.

Pool/Getty Images

Updated at 1:37 p.m. ET

Amid criticism from Democrats that politics may be guiding decisions at the nation's top health agencies, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration told Congress on Wednesday that a coronavirus vaccine would not be approved until it met "vigorous expectations" for safety and effectiveness.

"Decisions to authorize or approve any such vaccine or therapeutic will be made by the dedicated career staff at FDA through our thorough review processes, and science will guide our decisions," FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn told senators.

Hahn continued: "FDA will not permit any pressure from anyone to change that. I will fight for science ... I will fight for the integrity of the agency, and I will put the interests of the American people before anything else."

Four of the top federal officials responsible for managing the coronavirus pandemic all testified before of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary of health who is in charge of coronavirus testing, and Hahn all were questioned.

The hearing follows confirmation that the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has topped 200,000 people.

Redfield told Congress that the CDC is in the process of conducting a large study to determine how widely the coronavirus has spread across the country.

"The preliminary results in the first round show that a majority of our nation, more than 90% of the population, remains susceptible," Redfield said.

Political overtones

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the committee's ranking member, called on Hahn and Redfield to testify earlier this month, citing what they called "political interference" in the public health agencies.

"It is painfully clear that the Trump administration won't stop the political interference which is threatening our response to this pandemic and putting lives in jeopardy on its own, so it is up to Congress to act," Murray wrote in a statement on Tuesday, introducing legislation that would create a task force to investigate such incidences.

There have been a number of controversial guidance changes from the CDC and FDA over the last few weeks.

In late August, for example, the CDC quietly stopped recommending that asymptomatic people be tested for the coronavirus. The CDC updated that guidance last week.

This week, the CDC posted and then removed guidance saying the coronavirus spreads through aerosol particles.

On Wednesday, Murray grilled Redfield about those changes. The CDC director sought to brush off the concerns, saying the agency sometimes modifies guidance based on new data and evolving science.

In response to a question from Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., about the aerosol guidance, Redfield said the document that appeared was a draft that had not been technically reviewed by career staff. It was taken down, he said, and replaced with the original document until the aerosol guidance could face scientific review and then be re-posted.

Hahn came under fire on the eve of the Republican National Convention for overstating the potential impact of an FDA authorization to treat the coronavirus with plasma. He later backtracked and apologized.

In his opening statement, Hahn anticipated that criticism, assuring senators and the public that science, not politics, guides his agency's decision-making. He raised the plasma authorization as an example of the FDA representing "science in action."

"Often we must make real-time decisions based on ever-evolving data concerning a previously unknown, highly contagious virus that we are still learning about, and sometimes it is necessary to reverse decisions as new data emerge," he said. "It is akin to how a doctor might approach a patient in an emergency situation, constantly updating a treatment plan when new data emerge."

Pursuit of a vaccine

There are also concerns about efforts to fast-track a vaccine for COVID-19 and the timeline for getting it to the general population.

On Friday, Trump insisted "every American" would have a vaccine by April. Redfield testified last week that it could be six to nine months after the FDA authorizes a vaccine before it is widely distributed. Potential vaccines are currently being tested.

On the campaign trail, Democratic nominee Joe Biden said last week, "I trust vaccines. I trust scientists. But I don't trust Donald Trump."

To that end, Hahn tried to temper concerns about the vaccine, laying out how the approval process will work. He told senators that vaccine sponsors will submit applications for approval or authorization. Career scientists will review safety and efficacy data and an independent advisory panel will weigh in. The data and the decision will be made public, he said.

"In the end, FDA will not authorize or approve a vaccine we would not feel comfortable giving to our families," Hahn said.

All the officials, including Fauci, said they would trust a vaccine if it was approved or authorized by the FDA after vetting by scientists.

Fauci also answered several basic questions about the vaccine.

He told Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who was presiding over his last HELP Committee meeting before retirement, that a vaccine will be available without cost to the public. Scientists do not know yet whether it will be effective for everyone and for how long immunity will last, and that two of the vaccines in development will require two doses β€” and another will require just one, Fauci said.

The officials also reiterated that even once a vaccine or vaccines are approved, it will be several months before they are practically available to everyone β€” and that because a vaccine will likely not be 100 percent effective, it will remain crucial for Americans to continue wearing masks, social distancing and taking part in testing and contact-tracing.

Redfield made that point at a hearing earlier this month and reportedly faced backlash from President Trump.

Asked on Wednesday by Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., whether Redfield had faced any political retribution, he responded: "I'm just going to stay with my comment that I'm going to present science and data as I see it."

After Aerosols Misstep, Former CDC Official Criticizes Agency Over Unclear Messaging

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A former CDC official criticizes the agency over its latest reversal, this time in guidance on how the coronavirus is transmitted. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images hide caption

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A former CDC official criticizes the agency over its latest reversal, this time in guidance on how the coronavirus is transmitted.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As of now, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization say the primary way the coronavirus spreads is by hitching a ride on respiratory droplets when people are in close contact.

Respiratory droplets form when someone sneezes, coughs, talks or sings, for example. They don't travel far and fall to the ground quickly.

But on Friday, the CDC website was modified to include smaller, aerosolized particles as a way the coronavirus is commonly spread. These are the tiniest particles expelled in breath that can linger in the air and travel distances farther than 6 feet.

On Monday, the agency took that update down, saying it was a draft that had been posted in error.

Dr. Ali Khan, who used to direct the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response at the CDC, says there was "nothing new" in the now-deleted update, which he characterized as saying "there's a minor role for airborne transmission."

The disease is "predominantly" spread by large particles from people near each other, he says. There's consensus in the scientific community that this seems to be the main mode of transmission.

Beyond that, Khan notes, there are a few other ways that people could, conceivably, contract the virus, researchers and health officials agree.

"Occasionally we get this disease from contaminated surfaces," Khan tells Steve Inskeep on NPR's Morning Edition. "And then there's a minor role, again, for these small particle aerosols. ... These are transmitted farther than 6 feet away, potentially around a corner, especially in poorly ventilated indoor spaces. And then, finally, there's a yet even more minor role, probably, for transmission via feces. So nothing new here."

Still, a number of environmental engineers and other infectious disease researchers have been critical in the past of both the CDC and WHO for, they say, being too slow to acknowledge the role this sort of fine aerosol might play in spreading the virus, especially indoors.

Khan is now the dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Here are excerpts from the interview:

What do you make of this unremarkable guidance being published and then withdrawn?

Confusing. So CDC's not perfect and certainly has made some mistakes this past year. But with due respect to the agency, it's hard to imagine that this is one of them, given the scrutiny that they've had in all of their messaging.

And for example, so just last week, we saw a flip-flop from CDC on testing of asymptomatic persons. We saw documented proof of manipulation of CDC's official publication. So, you know, it's not hard to understand people questioning that these changes may be deliberate interference by the [Trump administration]. ...

We've seen the deliberate undermining of public health over the course of this outbreak for political purpose. And we have seen numerous examples now of deliberate change of guidance that's not evidence-based.

Can we still trust what the CDC tells us then?

Unfortunately, it's becoming harder to trust what CDC tells us.

And this is extremely unfortunate because trust is the most important thing we need during a pandemic. As we tell people that, regardless of this minor role of aerosol transmission, we have the tools available to us today to stop this outbreak in its tracks with "test, trace, isolate." And please do our part [by] wearing a mask, washing our hands and socially distancing. And this trust is going to be even more important as we tell people to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated β€” hopefully sometime at the end of this year and into next year.

I want to know if the practical advice after all of this confusion is still basically the same, so far as you see it: See people outdoors, rather than indoors; 6 feet apart; wear a mask. That sort of thing.

Correct. The guidance doesn't change. So there's lots of nice, sophisticated aerobiology studies now that look at what happens when you sneeze and cough and how far these particles go and whether there's virus riding along in them.

But we know that if we wear our masks and we couple that with the public health strategy of testing, isolating and tracing people, that we can get this disease under control.

Taylor Haney produced the audio interview.

Police have charged a Massachusetts high school student and the youth's parents with allegedly hosting a house party with underage drinking, a gathering that led the town's high school to delay in-person classes by two weeks amid coronavirus concerns.

The family members, who live in Sudbury, were charged under the state's "social host" law, which penalizes anyone "who is in control of the premises and who furnishes alcohol or allows it to be consumed [by underage people] on those premises," with fines of up to $2,000, up to a year of imprisonment or both.

The party was held late Sept. 11 at a private residence where police say they broke up a gathering of at least 50 students thought to be underage and from Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School. There were no masks, and attendees did not appear to be practicing social distancing, police said.

The town's health board released a statement saying that there were "no known positive COVID cases involving these students at the time of this release." However, the town was not able to consult with the attendees of the party β€” many of them unknown β€” and therefore couldn't accurately assess the risk.

"As a result, the Board of Health and Lincoln Sudbury Regional School High School (LSRHS), in consultation with the school physician, collectively decided to delay in-person learning," the statement reads.

The high school was originally to begin in-person classes on Sept. 15 but will now keep students out of classrooms for at least two weeks. The health board is recommending that the partygoers be tested for the coronavirus and notify the town's health board and the school health office if they become symptomatic.

"These criminal charges are not unique to our town. The 'Social Host Law' is often charged when a department identifies gatherings allowing underage alcohol consumption," the Sudbury Police Department wrote in a Facebook post about the incident.

Last week in Attleboro, Mass., nearly 30 students were required to quarantine after possibly being exposed to the coronavirus after a high schooler was sent to classes even though the teen tested positive days earlier.

Other Massachusetts high schools have delayed in-person classes because students attended parties in Dedham, Reading and the Dover-Sherborn area.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines for a safe Halloween during the COVID-19 pandemic include new methods of doing classic spooky activities. ArtMarie/Getty Images hide caption

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines for a safe Halloween during the COVID-19 pandemic include new methods of doing classic spooky activities.

ArtMarie/Getty Images

In a year that's been plenty scary, this much is clear: Pandemic Halloween will be different than regular Halloween. Many traditional ways of celebrating are now considerably more frightful than usual, because now they bring the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

Accordingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued new guidelines on how to celebrate Halloween safely. No big surprise: Classic door-to-door trick-or-treating and crowded, boozy costume parties are not recommended.

The CDC's guidelines group Halloween activities into lower-risk, moderate-risk and higher-risk buckets.

The higher-risk category includes both door-to-door trick-or-treating and events where kids get treats from the trunks of cars in a big parking lot.

Also no-nos: indoor haunted houses where people will be crowded and screaming, which could send infectious particles flying. Going on hayrides with people who aren't in your household or fall festivals in rural areas also carry a risk of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. And using alcohol and drugs "can cloud [judgment] and increase risky behaviors," the CDC warns β€” though that's equally true in any season.

How to get your thrills instead?

The agency says this way of trick-or-treating poses a moderate risk (compared with the higher risk of the traditional style): Kids could pick up individually wrapped gift bags at the end of a driveway or yard while still preserving social distance.

You could also organize a small outdoor costume parade where everyone is 6 feet apart. An outdoor costume party would also be considered moderate risk, if people wear masks and stay 6 feet away from each other.

Haunted houses are out, and haunted forests are in. The CDC says an open-air scare-fest is moderately risky, so long as the route is one-way, people wear masks appropriately and stay 6 feet apart. But there's a caveat: "If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised."

What about apple picking and pumpkin patches? Risks can be reduced if people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or apples, wear masks and maintain social distance.

Also on the moderate-risk list: an outdoor scary movie night with local friends who are socially distanced. Again: The more screaming there is, the more space is needed for safe social distancing.

If you want to be really safe? Then you need to plan for either virtual activities or ones that you do largely with your own household.

The CDC's lower-risk activities include carving pumpkins with your household, or outdoors with friends while socially distanced. It also suggests a Halloween scavenger hunt: looking for witches, spiderwebs and black cats outside houses while walking around β€” or a scavenger hunt for treats in your own home.

And what about masks? A costume mask is no substitute for a cloth mask, according to the agency, but don't double up with one over the other because that can make it hard to breathe. Instead, consider a Halloween-themed cloth mask, the CDC suggests.

A costume mask can protect against spreading the coronavirus if it's like a regular cloth mask: two or more layers of breathable fabric covering the nose and mouth, without gaps around the face.

And remember this, friendly neighbors: If you think you might have COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who does, don't attend in-person Halloween activities β€” and certainly don't hand out candy to trick-or-treaters.

The U.S. hit a tragic milestone Tuesday, recording more than 200,000 coronavirus deaths. Here, Chris Duncan, whose 75-year-old mother, Constance, died from COVID-19 on her birthday, visits a COVID Memorial Project installation of 20,000 U.S. flags on the National Mall. The flags are on the grounds of the Washington Monument, facing the White House. Win McNamee/Getty Images hide caption

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Win McNamee/Getty Images

The U.S. hit a tragic milestone Tuesday, recording more than 200,000 coronavirus deaths. Here, Chris Duncan, whose 75-year-old mother, Constance, died from COVID-19 on her birthday, visits a COVID Memorial Project installation of 20,000 U.S. flags on the National Mall. The flags are on the grounds of the Washington Monument, facing the White House.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 200,000 on Tuesday β€” reaching what was once the upper limit of some estimates for the pandemic's impact on Americans. Some experts now warn that the toll could nearly double again by the end of 2020.

"I hoped we would be in a better place by now," said Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. "It's an enormous and tragic loss of life."

COVID-19 is now one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., which has reported more than 6.8 million coronavirus cases – more than any other country, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. More than 31 million cases have been reported worldwide, including more than 965,000 deaths.

Potential vaccines are currently being tested, but even if a successful candidate emerges, it would likely take months or even years for it to become widely available.

Many of the U.S. COVID-19 deaths likely would have been prevented by widespread use of face masks, social distancing and other measures, said Bob Bednarczyk, assistant professor of global health and epidemiology at Emory University in Atlanta.

"Seeing this number of COVID-19-related deaths is concerning because it shows we really have not done enough to control this pandemic, and we are experiencing a tremendous amount of unnecessary suffering," Bednarczyk said.

The disease was only given a formal name in February; one month later, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic β€” the first caused by a coronavirus. Since then, it has ravaged families and communities and wrecked economic dreams in the U.S. and around the world.

Rivers said that if mortality trends continue, "​COVID-19 will likely be the third-leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer" in the United States.

"For comparison, by the end of the year we will likely have seen more deaths from COVID-19 than we saw from diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease and suicide combined in 2017," she said.

The disease already exceeds the number of U.S. deaths from accidents and unintentional injuries, Bednarczyk said.

Firefighters in Littleton, Colo., move a patient on a gurney to an ambulance to take him to the hospital in May. Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images hide caption

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Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Death toll has far exceeded early predictions

The U.S. death toll is the highest in the world, by a large measure. Despite having less than 5% of the global population, the U.S. has suffered more than 20% of COVID-19 deaths worldwide.

In late March, Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's leading expert on infectious diseases, estimated that around 100,000 to 200,000 people in the U.S. might die as a result of the virus. Then, in early April, he predicted the toll could be far lower: 60,000 people.

Fauci cautioned that his more optimistic estimate was based on the American public adhering to physical separation and other restrictions in March and April β€” measures that, for a while at least, sharply reduced U.S. death toll projections.

But weeks after Fauci spoke, Georgia, Texas and some other states began relaxing their control measures.

"In late May, we were seeing around 1,000 to 1,400 deaths per day, but cases and deaths were declining and I was hopeful that things would continue to improve," Rivers said. "It's now September, and around 1,000 people are still dying in the U.S. every day, and that's been stable for weeks now."

The latest widely cited fatality projection for the U.S. indicates nearly 380,000 people will die from COVID-19 by the end of this year. The estimate comes from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, or IHME, a research center at the University of Washington.

While that projection is staggering β€” the loss of life could reach more than 445,000 by the end of 2020 if health and safety mandates are relaxed, the IHME said. Conversely, the estimate drops to fewer than 265,000 deaths if the use of face masks becomes universal in the United States.

"The U.S. population is getting numb to these numbers"

Huge figures such as those, Bednarczyk said, could contribute to another worrying phenomenon: pandemic fatigue.

"I am concerned that, by and large, the U.S. population is getting numb to these numbers," Bednarczyk said, "and grim milestones such as 200,000 deaths or nearly 7,000,000 confirmed cases will probably not get people's attention to spur more personal control measures."

Many of the first 100,000 people to die of COVID-19 in the U.S. were living in urban areas β€” densely populated places that are also transportation hubs. But the additional 100,000 deaths reflect a shift away from cities.

"It's easier for a virus to get into those locations and spread quickly," Bednarczyk said of cities. "However, as we continue through the summer and early fall, we are seeing a shift in cases to areas that were much less impacted in the spring. These rural settings have seen much higher spread of disease in the last two months, showing that nowhere is safe from the spread of this virus."

Images of Detroit-area residents who died from COVID-19 line a street during a drive-through memorial on Sept. 1 on Belle Isle in Detroit. The number of U.S. dead has crossed the 200,000 mark β€” and the figure could nearly double by the end of the year, experts say. Rebecca Cook/Reuters hide caption

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Rebecca Cook/Reuters

Images of Detroit-area residents who died from COVID-19 line a street during a drive-through memorial on Sept. 1 on Belle Isle in Detroit. The number of U.S. dead has crossed the 200,000 mark β€” and the figure could nearly double by the end of the year, experts say.

Rebecca Cook/Reuters

"We've seen hot spots move throughout the country," Rivers said. "In the spring, Northeastern states were particularly hard hit. Then through the summer, it was states in the South and Southwest, and now we see disease spreading rapidly in the Midwest."

As people grieve over friends and loved ones lost to the pandemic, they've also been forced to cope with other life-upending changes, such as losing their jobs or having to turn their homes into virtual classrooms.

Many schools and colleges are trying to find ways to reopen safely for in-person classes. As they welcome back students, some are also starting large-scale sporting events, such as college football.

"People are trying to find ways to live more normally during what has been a very long and difficult year," Rivers said.

"In places where there is a lot of virus circulating, it won't be safe to hold gatherings in person without mitigation measures," she added. "But by controlling the virus, and by doing things like wearing masks, moving events outside and observing social distancing, we can gain more flexibility to do things that are important to us."

Attempts to return to normalcy present a tricky situation, Bednarczyk said, noting the potential for large gatherings to become "superspreader" events that can cause dangerous secondary infections.

"The need for education is strong, but we won't know the impact of these in-person classes for a while, and by that time, it is possible that the virus will have greatly expanded its spread," he said. "My concern with things like college football games is as much for the players and coaches and staff who have to travel as it is for fans who may still gather to watch the games."

For six horrible weeks, from late April into May, more than 10,000 Americans a week died from COVID-19, including 17,055 deaths in the week that ended April 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The weekly death toll has fluctuated since then.

"For deaths, we still see that older adults and people with underlying health conditions are at highest risk of severe illness and death," Rivers said.

People attend a free concert at the Daytona Beach Bandshell on Labor Day weekend in Daytona Beach, Fla. For months, public health officials around the country have asked people to practice social distancing to slow the spread of the virus. Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images hide caption

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Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

From the earliest phase of the disease's arrival in the United States, COVID-19 has taken a horrible toll on minority communities, where people have died in disproportionate numbers compared with the general population.

According to the CDC, Black people in the U.S. have a coronavirus death rate that's 2.1 times higher than white people. Latinos and Native Americans also have higher death rates.

Six months into the pandemic, majorities of Black, Latino and Native American households are facing serious financial problems, compared with 36% of white households, according to a recent national poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Five U.S. states β€” New York, New Jersey, California, Texas and Florida β€” have reported more than 10,000 deaths each from the coronavirus. Globally, only 15 countries besides the U.S. have surpassed that tragic mark.

In terms of national population, the U.S. has seen more than 60 deaths per 100,000 people – slightly higher than the death rate in Mexico and lower than in Spain, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia and Peru, according to a mortality analysis by Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center.

While the U.S. has the highest number of reported coronavirus cases, India has been reporting new cases at an alarming rate. That country β€” which has a much larger population than the U.S. β€” has reported more than 50,000 new cases daily since late July, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins. The U.S. has seen its daily rate of new coronavirus cases fall below 50,000 since early August; since then, it has wavered around the 40,000 mark.

A man places a white rose on the ground last month at a memorial in downtown Los Angeles to honor the Angelenos who lost their lives due to the coronavirus. Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images hide caption

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Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

More can be done to reduce death toll, experts say

Both Rivers and Bednarczyk say the U.S. still has a chance to reduce the pandemic's tragic toll.

"The U.S. response has been chaotic, but there is always time to chart a better course," Rivers said. "I would like to see the U.S. continue to scale up diagnostic testing and case-based interventions like contact tracing."

Another positive step, she said, would be to use data collected from coronavirus case investigations "to identify high-risk settings and activities, so we can focus on those specifically."

Noting the lack of strong and consistent control measures in the country, Bednarczyk said, "It is still possible to prevent a much larger number of deaths if people consistently wore masks and practiced good physical distancing."

But he added, "I worry we'll see more gatherings without masks, which will keep allowing this virus to spread."

President Trump speaks in a prerecorded message played Tuesday during the 75th session of the U.N. General Assembly. UNTV via AP hide caption

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UNTV via AP

President Trump speaks in a prerecorded message played Tuesday during the 75th session of the U.N. General Assembly.

UNTV via AP

Updated at 12:50 p.m. ET

In a speech Tuesday to the U.N. General Assembly, President Trump once again sought to blame China for the COVID-19 pandemic and called on Beijing to be punished for its handling of the disease, which has killed nearly 1 million people worldwide – a fifth of them in the United States.

Trump, speaking in a video address from the White House to a sparsely occupied hall of mask-wearing delegates at U.N. headquarters in New York, referred to the disease as the "China virus" and implied that Beijing and the World Health Organization had worked in tandem to cover up the danger of the pandemic.

"In the earliest days of the virus, China locked down travel domestically while allowing flights to leave China and infect the world," the president said. "China condemned my travel ban on their country, even as they canceled domestic flights and locked citizens in their homes."

He added, "The Chinese government and the World Health Organization β€” which is virtually controlled by China β€” falsely declared that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission. Later, they falsely said people without symptoms would not spread the disease."

More than 200,000 Americans have now died from the disease β€” the world's highest death toll β€” since the first known case in the U.S. was identified in January.

In the earliest days of the pandemic, Trump praised WHO for its response, but as the coronavirus spread in the U.S., he became increasingly critical of both the U.N. body and Beijing for what he said was an effort to obscure the extent of the crisis.

Despite his own efforts to downplay the pandemic in its early days and criticism over his administration's slow response to combat it, the president defended the U.S. action on Tuesday, calling it "the most aggressive mobilization since the Second World War."

"We will distribute a vaccine, we will defeat the virus, we will end the pandemic, and we will enter a new era of unprecedented prosperity, cooperation and peace," Trump told the assembled delegates.

Earlier this month, the administration announced that the U.S. would not participate in the global coronavirus vaccine initiative, known as COVAX, that is co-led by the World Health Organization.

Trump's speech followed remarks by U.N. Secretary-General AntΓ³nio Guterres, who reiterated a theme he has hit on repeatedly in recent months β€” a warning against "vaccine nationalism." He advised against countries "making exclusive side deals" for vaccines.

"We need more international cooperation, not less" in the fight against COVID-19, Guterres said.

As Trump excoriated the United Nations and China, he also ticked off a campaign-style list of what he said were U.S. accomplishments: rebuilding the nation's economy, the fight against terrorism and the size and power of the American military.

"We have the most powerful military anywhere in the world, and it's not even close," he told the U.N. delegates.

Following Trump's speech, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin also addressed the General Assembly β€” both calling for a global effort to defeat the disease and calling on WHO to take a leading role in the fight.

In remarks that seemed aimed at Trump, Xi urged leaders to reject any attempt to politicize the pandemic.

"The virus will be defeated. Humanity will win this battle. Facing the virus we should put people and life first. We should mobilize all resources to make a science-based and targeted-response," Xi said, speaking in Mandarin.

"Facing the virus, we should enhance solidarity and get through this together," China's leader added. "We should follow the guidance of science, give full play to the leading role of the World Health Organization and launch a joint international response to beat this pandemic. Any attempt of politicizing the issue or stigmatization must be rejected."

Putin said that Russia, one of the countries hardest hit by the virus, is ready to provide its own vaccine, known as Sputnik V, which he has said will be ready for general distribution on Jan. 1. However, experts inside and outside Russia have greeted that news with skepticism, with some suggesting the haste in pushing an as-yet unproven vaccine may have more to do with politics than science.

"I would like to reiterate that we are completely open to partner relations and willing to cooperate," Putin said, adding, "We are ready to share experience and continue cooperating with all states and international entities, including in supplying the Russian vaccine, which has proved reliable, safe and effective, to other countries."

The NFL has fined San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and two other coaches for not following rules about keeping their faces covered. Here, Shanahan walks off the field after his team's Sept. 13 game against the Arizona Cardinals. MSA/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images hide caption

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MSA/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL has fined San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and two other coaches for not following rules about keeping their faces covered. Here, Shanahan walks off the field after his team's Sept. 13 game against the Arizona Cardinals.

MSA/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL has fined several head coaches $100,000 for not wearing face masks on the sidelines β€” a safety precaution that is required at games during the COVID-19 pandemic. The coaches' teams were also punished, with $250,000 fines.

The coaches include Pete Carroll of Seattle, Kyle Shanahan of San Francisco and Vic Fangio of Denver, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. A league source confirmed details about the fines to NPR on Tuesday morning.

The fines were issued after the NFL completed the second week of games, all of which have been played in stadiums that are either empty of fans or at sharply reduced capacity due to concerns about the possible spread of the coronavirus.

Carroll, Shanahan and Fangio have all worn neck gaiters during their teams' first two games, but each of them has often been seen with the covering pushed down below their chin.

Carroll's opponent in Sunday night's game was New England coach Bill Belichick, who wore a traditional face mask but also put his own spin on it. The coach, known for his unique style, sometimes pushed the mask down below his mouth β€” but he also shoved it far up toward his eyes.

The NFL's game-day safety protocols state, "All individuals with Bench Area Access, except for Players, shall be required to wear masks at all times. Coaches must wear either a mask, neck gaiter, and/or face shield to satisfy this obligation."

Those protocols were issued a week before the first pro football games. The measures also encourage players who aren't in the game to wear masks, and the policy reminds them to comply with any local regulations.

The mask requirement extends beyond the teams' bench area. Anyone with field access, from stadium personnel to media, must also wear masks or other face coverings at all times.

COVID-19 has killed nearly 200,000 people in the U.S. β€” the highest death toll in the world.

In this image taken from video, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement to the House of Commons on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic. House of Commons/AP hide caption

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House of Commons/AP

In this image taken from video, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement to the House of Commons on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic.

House of Commons/AP

After a quiet summer where life largely returned to normal, England now faces new restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in the House of Commons on Tuesday morning that pubs, bars and restaurants in England must close at 10 p.m. He also encouraged people who are able to work from home to do so, reversing a previous government position.

"This is the moment when we must act," Johnson said. "If we can curb the number of daily infections and reduce the reproduction rate to one, then we can save lives, protect the NHS [National Health Service] and the most vulnerable, and shelter the economy from the far sterner and more costly measures that would inevitably become necessary later on."

In addition, the prime minister said weddings will be limited to 15 people, though funerals are limited to 30. These measures follow rules imposed last week limiting social gatherings to no more than six people, indoors or out.

UK Parliament via YouTube

The U.K. government's COVID-19 dashboard shows that after a surge of cases and deaths this spring, a second wave of new cases began in August and has risen sharply this month. On Monday, the U.K. reported nearly 4,400 new cases.

The government's scientific advisers say that if the virus is left unchecked, the U.K. can expect to see 50,000 cases a day by mid-October and more than 200 deaths a day by mid-November.

"We have, in a bad sense, literally turned a corner," Chris Witty, England's chief medical officer, said Monday in a national telecast. "I think everybody will realize that at this point, the seasons are against us. ... This period of the next six months, I think we have to realize that we have to take this collectively very seriously."

There is skepticism about how much of an impact Johnson's new measures will have. For instance, in suburban London, the curfew would trim the operating time of some pubs only by 90 minutes. Meanwhile, the government continues to fail to meet the demand for coronavirus testing, raising concerns it won't be able to track the virus's spread this fall.

"We warned the prime minister months ago that testing needed to be fixed by the autumn," said Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, responding to Johnson in the House of Commons. "But the government didn't listen. They pretended it wasn't a problem. They didn't act quickly enough. Now the testing system isn't working just when we need it."

The novel coronavirus, first detected at the end of 2019, has caused a global pandemic.

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