| USA TODAY
COVID-19: How Herd Immunity works, why you still need to wear a mask
Without masks and a vaccine, we could reach Herd Immunity from COVID-19, but deaths would skyrocket. We break down the science of it.
The United States was on the verge Sunday of surpassing 200,000 coronavirus deaths as experts warned the total could double by year’s end.
The news comes as states grapple with opening restaurants, small businesses — and crucially, schools — amid signs that new cases are on the rise in some areas. Fatigue for social distancing, colder weather and continued contention over mask-wearing and reopening may compound COVID-19 cases and deaths as the year goes on.
“It’s hard for me to think of a positive scenario where things are going to get better in October and November,’’ said Dr. John Swartzberg, professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology at the University of California-Berkeley. “I don’t see behavior changing adequately. I don’t see testing ramping up. I see political winds continue to be oppressive to doing the right things.”
COVID-19 deaths have outpaced projections made as recently as May, when experts at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at University of Washington predicted about 180,000 deaths by October. Now, their prediction is estimated at around 410,000 deaths by January. The United States reached 100,000 deaths in May.
Some significant developments:
- The U.S. isn’t the only country where COVID-19 restrictions have created unrest: Police in London clashed with protesters Saturday at a rally against coronavirus restrictions.
- An eighth death has been linked to a coronavirus outbreak stemming from a wedding and reception in the northern part of Maine.
- 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.
- 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.
📈 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 million cases and more than 950,000 fatalities. New seven-day case records were set in Montana, Utah and Wyoming. Record numbers of deaths over a seven day period were reported in Montana, North Dakota, Virginia and West Virginia, according to a USA TODAY analysis of the data through late Saturday.
📰 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.
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak, state by state
This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.
Even a few million doses of vaccine would be sufficient for the U.S. to obtain “80% to 90% of the benefit” of mass vaccinations, White House coronavirus task force member Adm. Brett Giroir said Sunday. Giroir, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said a few million doses could be available in late November or December. Vaccinating nursing home workers, teachers, people with pre-existing conditions and the people surrounding them will be crucial to stemming the COVID-19 tide,, Giroir said.
“A vaccine as early as possible, even in a few million doses, will be a godsend in terms of outcomes, hospitalizations, morbidities and deaths,” Giroir said.
Britain’s government is upping the ante, increasing possible fines to $13,000 for refusing to self isolate. Health Secretary Mark Hancock told the BBC on Sunday the United Kingdom is “facing a tipping point” due to a sharp surge in coronavirus infections.
More than 19,000 fines already have been issued in England and Wales for alleged breaches of coronavirus laws, authorities said. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering a two-week mini lockdown in England — a “circuit breaker” — to stem a recent surge in cases. On Saturday, 4,422 new COVID-19 cases and 27 deaths were reported in the U.K.
“If everybody follows the rules then we can avoid further national lockdown,” Hancock said.
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,’’ capable of overwhelming the healthcare 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 the extent to which 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.”
– Jorge L. Ortiz
Baylor did not play its season opener Saturday against Houston and Florida Atlantic’s opener against Georgia Southern also was postponed due to positive tests. Baylor said it was 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.
America’s borders with Canada and Mexico will reopen Monday as planned. Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said in a tweet that the borders will remain closed through Oct. 21. “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
COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
In your inbox: Stay up to date with the latest news on the coronavirus pandemic from the USA TODAY Network. Sign up for the daily Coronavirus Watch newsletter.
On Facebook: A lot is still unknown about the coronavirus. But what we do know, we’re sharing with you. Join our Facebook group, Coronavirus Watch, to receive daily updates in your feed and chat with others in the community about COVID-19.
Tips for coping: Every Saturday and Tuesday we’ll be in your inbox, offering you a virtual hug and a little bit of solace in these difficult times. Sign up for Staying Apart, Together.