Covid-19 News Briefs for Tuesday, September 29, 2020

September 29, 2020

 On Monday, the global death toll from the Covid-19 pandemic surpassed 1 million. The US has the most fatalities with a recorded 205,000 deaths. Ranking second is Brazil at more than 142,000, followed by India where more than 95,500 people have succumbed

 The World Health Organization has announced plans to deploy 120 million $5 affordable Covid-19 testing kits to poor and middle-income nations, starting with Africa

 Moderna has never brought an approved vaccine to the market, yet today it’s one of the leading candidates for the immunization shot and in August, the US government pre-ordered 100 million doses worth $1.5 billion from the biotechnology company. The vaccine is in Phase 3 clinical trials and Moderna expects to have the first authoritative data on the efficacy of the shot by November. American firm Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech promise to have vaccine data from Phase 3 trials by the end of October and unlike Moderna whose clinical trials are limited to the US, Pfizer/BioNTech are also testing their shot in Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey. But the new technology that has allowed both vaccine candidates to develop shots so fast could also prove a challenge: Their doses need to be kept at lower temperatures than most freezers allow, making shipping difficult

 Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday that kids need to be back in school in areas where the virus is not spreading badly. He called for hybrid learning involving in-person and online classes, depending on the spread of the virus in a community and other mitigation efforts, such as alternating classroom days, mask usage, and protecting teachers who fall into high risk categories. Parents and teachers will ultimately make up their own minds about whether to send children back in to school building, he said

 The federal government will begin distributing millions of rapid coronavirus tests to states this week and urged governors to use them to reopen schools for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The move to vastly expand US testing comes as confirmed new Covid-19 cases remain elevated at more than 40,000 a day and experts warn of a surge in infections during the colder months ahead. The tests will come from a previously announced supply of 150 million ordered from Abbott Laboratories — a rapid test, the size of a credit card, is the first that does not require specialty computer equipment to process and delivers results in 15 minutes

 Starting October 1, several private health insurers will no longer fully pay for virtual visits under certain circumstances — effectively reinstituting costs for patients reliant on the virtual care that has been heralded as a lifeline at a time when Covid-19 is still killing more than 700 Americans each day. The insurance giant UnitedHealthcare is ending a virtual visit benefit not related to Covid-19, and Anthem will also stop waiving the cost of copays, coinsurance, and deductibles for virtual visits not related to Covid-19  Following the temporary closures of the Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings team facilities due to Covid-19 precautions, NFL Commissioner Goodell issued a league-wide memo calling for all personnel to remain diligent in implementing health and safety protocols to the full extent.

 The Covid-19 pandemic has brought substantial layoffs to Walt Disney Co’s massive theme park operations. The Burbank-based company said Tuesday that it would lay off 28,000 employees at its domestic parks division, which includes Disneyland Resort in Anaheim and Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. The company’s parks
division has been severely hobbled by the coronavirus health crisis and in March, had announced it was furloughing more than 100,000 workers after the pandemic forced the company to shut down its theme parks. Walt Disney World has been operating with strict capacity limits and social distancing requirements. California
has not yet allowed theme parks including Disneyland to resume business

 As Covid-19 test positivity rates, hospitalizations, and deaths have fallen, more than half of California’s counties have been allowed to reopen some indoor business operations. However, health officials are watching the effective transmission number, which represents the average number of people who are infected by each person with Covid-19. A rate under 1 means Covid-19 cases will fall over time, while a rate over 1 means cases will increase, experts say. The Bay Area’s rate is 0.95, the highest since mid-August. The rate in five Southern California counties , excluding LA County, is approaching 0.97, the highest since mid-July. In LA County, the figure is 1.02, suggesting there may be an uptick in Covid-19 cases, but it was noted that the region has avoided a significant surge in cases after the Labor Day weekend

 Under California’s latest reopening plan, state officials require that counties meet certain benchmarks before allowing more businesses to reopen. Counties including LA and San Bernardino have stalled trying to log 7 or fewer new cases of coronavirus per 100,000 each day. This metric, known as the adjusted case rate , represents how many people are falling sick every day in a county and is the state’s attempt to strike a delicate balance that will avoid a surge in cases as restrictions are loosened

 A limited number of elementary schools will be able to apply for waivers to reopen transitional kindergarten through second-grade classrooms under a LA County Board of Supervisors decision Tuesday that gives priority to schools serving higher number of low-income families. LA County officials, citing high local Covid-19 case rates, have held back on allowing elementary schools to apply for waivers to reopen, which are allowed under state guidelines. But some school leaders, particularly private school operators, have been urging the county to rethink its position. This week, a coalition of private schools called on supervisors and public health officials to begin accepting waiver applications in which schools must demonstrate they have strict safety measures in place. The Palos Verdes Peninsula USD had also urged the county to begin accepting the applications. The county has allowed schools to offer small in-person classes for children with special needs and more than 500 schools are opened now under those rules

 LA County reported an additional 905 cases and 39 deaths. Totals are now 269,284 cases and 6,551 deaths. City Breakouts (Cases/Deaths): City of LA 109,405/2,780; Long Beach 11,843/245; Carson 1,853/62; El Segundo 131/1; Gardena 1,254/51; Hawthorne 1,950/46; Hermosa Beach 211/4; Inglewood 2,891/89; Lawndale 636/10; Lomita 240/9; Manhattan Beach 362/5; PV Estates 101/2; Rancho PV 311/13; Redondo Beach 559/11; Rolling Hills 12/0; Rolling Hills Estates 43/2; Torrance 1,438/70

Compiled by Charlene Nishimura

Media Sources: Los Angeles Times; New York Times; Washington Post; Wall Street Journal; Forbes Magazine; Business Insider; USA Today; CBS News; CNN; KTLA; OZY; ABC World News Tonight; Spectrum News 1; The; WebMD; AP, Politico, Newsweek, Reuters, STAT, televised briefings from the White House, Governor Newsom, LA County Health Department, Mayor Garcetti; City of Torrance press releases; Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce press releases