Coronavirus updates: US borders with Canada, Mexico to remain closed; almost 200,000 people have died in the US

Michael James ,  Rachel Aretakis   | USA TODAY Show Caption Hide Caption COVID-19: How Herd I

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Michael James Rachel Aretakis   | USA TODAY
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The United States will soon reach its 200,000th confirmed death from COVID-19, a bleak milestone that coincides with several states hitting peaks in cases and uncertainty about whether to keep schools open. 

The U.S. is not alone in resurgent cases. Several nations in Europe are imposing more restrictions amid significant rises in cases. England, Denmark, Spain and Italy have all adopted new regulations to try and curb the latest spikes in cases, as well as deaths.

The ongoing spike is further exacerbated by the fear of "twindemic" as the annual flu season approaches

The news comes a day after U.S. health officials reversed controversial guidance on coronavirus testing on Friday and now recommends that people who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should get tested, even if they're not symptomatic.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention got rid of language posted last month on its website that said people don't need to be tested if they don't feel sick.

Some significant developments:

  • Disease investigators have released a list of places where possible COVID-19 exposures have happened in Southern Nevada, and dozens of popular hotel-casinos have been named.
  • President Donald Trump says all Americans will have coronavirus vaccine by April, but that's at odds with the CDC's timeline, which estimates a vaccine could be available by late spring or next summer.
  • Nearly half of U.S. households in the nation's four largest cities reported serious financial problems amid the pandemic, with 72% of Latino households reporting money problems, according to a new report.
  • Bed, Bath & Beyond has revealed the first 63 stores that will shutter amid the coronavirus. Stores in 29 states are slated to close with California and New York losing the most stores at six locations each. See a list here.
  • China and Russia are starting to roll out mass COVID-19 vaccines before clinical tests are complete. "The upshot is that by next year, China and Russia may have purchased significant geopolitical power by having bent the rules and rushed out their vaccines. It is also possible their vaccines may fail, at enormous human cost," the Washington Post reports. 

📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 6.7 million cases and 199,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Globally, there have been more than 30.6 million cases and 954,000 fatalities. New case records were set in Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Puerto Rico, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Friday.

📰 What we're reading: Didn't hear from contact tracers about that guy coughing on your flight? You might not — even if he had COVID-19.

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

Without readily available coronavirus testing with quick results – still a major hurdle across much of the country – the resulting confusion and proliferation of cases of COVID-19 and the flu could result in what some are calling a “twindemic,’’ which could overwhelm the health care system.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu has killed an average of 37,000 Americans per year since 2010. CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield has said he’s especially worried about the possible impact on the coronavirus crisis of an early peak to the flu season, which typically crests in January and February.

The chances for disease transmission are markedly enhanced as schools and colleges reopen, even when it’s still not certain how much children spread the coronavirus. Recent studies indicate they can be transmitters even if asymptomatic. 

“There’s a question about what role schools are going to play with COVID, but there’s absolutely no question what role schools play with influenza,’’ said Dr. John Swartzberg, professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology at the University of California-Berkeley. “Schools are the breeding ground for influenza.  Read more here.

 – Jorge L. Ortiz

The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says new cases of the coronavirus worldwide appear to have leveled off at about 2 million and 50,000 deaths every week.

While Dr. Michael Ryan says the global COVID-19 caseload was not rising exponentially, the weekly number of deaths was still very unsettling.

“It’s not where developing countries want to be with their health systems under nine months of pressure,” Ryan said.

He says there have been recent surges in Europe, Ecuador and Argentina. He adds a lack of large increases in African countries and other nations might reflect a lack of testing.

 – Associated Press

America's borders with Canada and Mexico will remain closed through Oct. 21, Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said Friday in a tweet. 

"We continue to work with our Canadian and Mexican partners to slow the spread of #COVID19," he wrote. "Accordingly, we have agreed to extend the limitation of non-essential travel at our shared land ports of entry through October 21."

Both borders were closed to all but essential traffic in mid-March after the coronavirus pandemic hit, with government officials announcing multiple extensions as case counts continued to rise, especially in the U.S. The most recent extension, announced in mid-August, was due to expire Sept. 21.

Neither extension comes as much of a surprise: All three countries have seen a rise in cases since August, but Canada lags far behind the U.S. and Mexico in both new infections and deaths.

– Jayme Deerwester

Medical debt is piling up as millions of unemployed Americans struggle to stay afloat after losing their health-insurance coverage following a historic wave of layoffs this year.

Cathy Munzer, 53, a single mother who lost her health insurance during the pandemic, said her medical bills are in collections after she fell behind on payments from being treated in an emergency room for kidney stones. 

“This is going to bankrupt me. My biggest fear is depleting my savings,” said Munzer, who was a yoga and fitness instructor at two major gyms in Manhattan before she was laid off. “What happens when unemployment runs out? How will I survive?”

In August, consumer finance company Credit Karma conducted an analysis of nearly 20 million members in the U.S. and found that they have a total of $45 billion of medical debt in collections, which averages to about $2,200 of debt per member.

Medical debt has been growing further during the pandemic, rising 7% from the end of last year and just over 3% from when the pandemic started, Credit Karma says. Experts expect it to continue to rise in the coming months since there’s a 180-day lag before unpaid medical debts can show up on consumers’ credit reports, according to Colleen McCreary, chief people officer at Credit Karma. Read more here. 

– Jessica Menton

President Donald Trump said Friday that every American will have access to a coronavirus vaccine by April, the latest in a series of ever more optimistic predictions about a vaccination program that has yet to secure FDA approval.

Several of Trump's critics expressed skepticism about the speed of delivery, citing logistical challenges as well as concerns that Trump will promise virtually anything in the weeks before the election and as the nation wrestles with a pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 Americans. Though several vaccine trials are underway, none have been approved and public health experts have noted the process takes months at best. 

Yet Trump nevertheless set a marker Friday for the vaccination, a hard deadline – even if the target comes six months after the election. To hit the goal, White House aides said the government would need to have 100 million doses produced by year's end. Read more here. 

– John Fritze, Michael Collins and David Jackson


Trump: Coronavirus vaccine is coming

President Donald Trump said during a campaign rally in Wisconsin on Thursday night that three potential coronavirus vaccines are in the final stage of clinical trials and a safe and effective vaccine will be out before the end of the year. (Sept. 18)

Two more college football games on Saturday have been postponed because of the coronavirus. Baylor’s season opener against Houston and Florida Atlantic’s opener against Georgia Southern have been affected by positive tests. Baylor says its unable to meet the Big 12 roster threshold of a minimum of 53 players available to play.

There's now been 16 Bowl Subdivision games postponed or canceled because of virus issues since Aug. 26.

The pandemic has impacted college basketball, with the start date delayed until Nov. 25. The marquee basketball tournament on Maui has been moved to North Carolina. Meanwhile, the Pac-12 is considering getting back into fall football.

– Associated Press

The agency that runs New York City's subway and bus systems implemented a $50 fine this week for the scofflaws who, even in a region with more than 25,000 coronavirus dead, refuse to follow rules requiring masks to be worn at all times on public transit.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials have promised to enforce the rule with a light touch — certainly far lighter than the city's famously zero-tolerance approach to parking violations. And they have dismissed criticisms that the fines are aimed at easing what officials have called an existential budget crisis brought on by the pandemic.

When recalcitrant riders are identified, MTA employees and New York City police have been instructed to provide a mask first and issue a ticket only as a last resort. Through Thursday, none had been issued, but MTA police reported about 1,700 instances of riders being given a mask, or of people being cautioned that they were wearing their mask improperly.

Still, even some riders who are irritated by masklessness on buses and trains were unsure about the idea of getting compliance through fines. Kathryn Lois, who rides the subway on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, decried the fine even as she noted three maskless people entering the station at 96th Street and Broadway within a span of about 5 minutes.

“We can’t afford it, not with everything else that’s been going on,” Lois said, referring to the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic. “It’s not fair.”

– Associated Press

Amid a rising number of COVID-19 cases in Europe, several nations are implementing new restrictions.

  • England: A ban on social gatherings of more than six people, including children, went into effect this week, and fresh nationwide lockdown restrictions appear to be in the cards soon.
  • Denmark: Officials announced a nationwide order lowering the size of approved gatherings from 100 to 50 and telling cafes, bars and restaurants to close at 10 p.m. instead of midnight.
  • Spain: A line of tents has been installed at the gates of a Madrid military hospital four months after similar structures for triaging patients were taken down. Spain’s Defense Ministry said the tents are empty, installed protectively ahead of the second wave taking hold on the Spanish capital.
  • Italy: The Sicilian town of Corleone, made famous by the fictional Mafia clan in "The Godfather," has ordered schools closed and a limited lockdown because of a coronavirus spike.

Meanwhile, Israel has returned to a full lockdown to contain a worsening coronavirus outbreak.

– The Associated Press

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