COVID-19 News Briefs for Wednesday, July 22, 2020

July 22, 2020

 European leaders overcame enormous political differences to agree Tuesday on a coronavirus recovery package. At their first face-to-face gathering since the start of the pandemic, the leaders of 27 EU nations approved a landmark $859 billion plan to counter Europe’s worst financial crisis since World War II. With a combined population of about 450 million, the EU as a whole has now beaten back the virus with some flare-ups reported. The Europeans made a point, even after sometimes acrimonious talks, of emphasizing unity going forward with prime beneficiaries of grants being countries such as Italy and Spain, which were among those hit the hardest by the virus

 Because of measures taken to combat the coronavirus, Southern Hemisphere countries, from Chile to South Africa to New Zealand, are reporting far lower numbers of influenza cases

 The economic-rescue plan that the US federal government created in March — Paycheck Protection Plan — was meant to reduce job losses, mostly at companies with fewer than 500 workers. If the companies maintained their employment levels, the government would ultimately forgive their loans and in all, the PPP saved between 1.5 million and 3.5 million jobs, according to a new study by researchers at MIT, the Federal Reserve, and the ADP Research Institute. The study supports the evidence that direct subsidies to businesses to keep people employed have worked. Countries that have enacted aggressive versions of those subsidies, like Germany, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, have kept unemployment fairly low.

 Sweden’s top health authority says people who have had coronavirus are likely to be immune for at least 6 months after being infected, whether they’ve developed antibodies or not. In new guidance published on Tuesday, the Swedish Public Health Agency said it’s now considered safe for individuals who’ve been infected to come into contact with people in high-risk groups. But the agency also said that people deemed to be immune can still act as carriers of the virus in society, and must therefore continue to observe social distancing and hygiene guidelines

 As of this week, coronavirus cases are rising in 41 American states, and in many regions the situation has never been worse. Hospitalizations are nearing a record national high and deaths are the highest they have been since late May. But amid this devastating wave, 1 region has managed to get the virus under control: the Northeast. New cases there remain below their April peak, and the region has 5 of the country’s 9 states with flat or falling cases. In just over 2 months, states along the East Coast, from Delaware to Maine, have gone from the country’s worst hot spot to something resembling Europe. As in Italy and Spain, the Northeast was devastated by a rush of infections and deaths, and state leaders responded, after initial hesitation, with strict lockdowns and large
investments in testing and contact tracing. Northeasterners also mostly followed the rules, including wearing masks and have supported tough measures to bend the curve

 The US will pay Pfizer nearly $2 billion for a December delivery of 100 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine the pharmaceutical company is developing and could buy another 500 million doses under an agreement signed. The vaccine would have to be safe and effective and approved by the FDA and this agreement is part of the White House administration’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine program, under which multiple Covid-19 vaccines are being developed simultaneously with the aim to deliver 300 million doses of a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine by January 2021. Under the initiative, the government will speed development and buy vaccines — before they are deemed safe and effective — so that the medication can be in hand and quickly distributed once the FDA approves or authorizes its emergency use after clinical trials. The contract bring to 5 the number of potential coronavirus vaccines that are under development with US funding. Nearly 2 dozen are in various stages of human testing around the world, with several entering final test to prove if they really work

 United Airlines said that it lost $1.63 billion in the second quarter as revenues plunged 87%, and that it would operate at one-third of capacity through September as Covid-19 continues to impact air travel. 6,000 employees have volunteered to take severance packages and last week, the airline warned 36,000 employees could be furloughed in October

 Pro sports openings: MLB Opening Day on July 23; NBA Season Resumes on July 30; NHL Season Resumes August 1

 The Rio Grande Valley, a Texas border area with a culture of multi-generational family gatherings and celebrations, has been devastated by the coronavirus. Deaths here are multiplying and all the 2,000 hospital beds are full. The valley’s Covid-19 death rate was 17 per 100,000, exponentially more than the state of 3 per 100,000. Strong family traditions of gathering for holidays and celebrations have led to the loss of grandparents, parents, and children as young as 15

 California’s confirmed coronavirus cases have topped 409,000 — surpassing New York for the most in the nation. However, New York’s 32,250 deaths are by far the highest in the country, and its rate of confirmed infections of about 2,100 per 100,000 is twice California’s rate. California is by far the most populous US state, at nearly 40 million people, while New York has about 19.5 million

 A group of parents and lawyers is suing California to force schools to offer in-classroom learning this fall. The Center for American Liberty is calling on the courts to overturn Governor Newsom’s order preventing most school districts from starting the school year in the classroom

 UC Berkeley and UC Merced had hoped to open August 26 with a mix of online, in-person, and hybrid classes. But they reversed their plans as Covid-19 infections began their record-shattering increase throughout California, with cases now topping 409,000 and deaths nearly 7,900. In LA County, half of new cases were among those ages 18 – 40. The UC reversals follow other decisions to do likewise by several California campuses, including USC, Pomona College, and Occidental College. Nationally, the proportion of colleges and universities planning for in-person classes has declined from about two-thirds in May to about half today

 The dilemma of trying to protect people from brutal weather while coping with the pandemic is particularly complex in the desert regions of the Inland Empire where temperatures have reached 121 degrees and many cooling centers have closed because of Covid-19. As of July 10, only 15 of 60 cooling centers in Riverside County were operating, and San Bernardino has not opened any cooling centers this year. While much is not known about the coronavirus, it has become clear that it spreads more quickly indoors than outdoors. But for many people with no other escape from the heat, and with many indoor spaces closed, the cooling centers are becoming the only options and those shelters that are open must calculate how to keep people as safe as possible

 LA County reported an additional 3,266 positive cases and 64 deaths. Totals are now 164,870 cases and 4,213 deaths. Dr. Ferrer said that out of 1.5 million tested, the positivity rate is now 10%. The 7-day average in cases is now the highest ever and continues to see a steep increase among Latinos and those living at the poverty level. Also, young people are now accounting for the largest increases in cases and hospitalizations, while the rates of cases and deaths for adults 65+ continues to decrease. Dr. Ferrer also said that the health department will be taking applications for school reopening waivers from individual school districts and additional information is on the LA County Public Health website. City Breakouts (Cases/Deaths): City of LA 67,232/1,967; Long Beach 6,843/160; Carson 1,083/36; El Segundo 92/0; Gardena 745/34; Hawthorne 1,185/29; Hermosa Beach 138/2; Inglewood 1,700/71; Lawndale 403/8; Lomita 155/7; Manhattan Beach 238/4; PV Estates 65/2; Rancho PV 205/12; Redondo Beach 359/9; Rolling Hills 4/0; Rolling Hills Estates 30/2; Torrance 908/54

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 Hill.com; WebMD; AP, Politico, Newsweek, Reuters, 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