coronavirus

Updated at noon ET

The U.S. Senate is holding a hearing Wednesday on the development of vaccines aimed at eradicating the coronavirus amid escalated political rhetoric regarding the potential effectiveness of a fast-tracked vaccine.

As President Trump has promised to expedite treatments against the virus that has killed nearly 190,000 Americans, he has appeared publicly rankled by critics who question his handling of the pandemic and those who are skeptical of the viability of a safe vaccine in such record time.

Drugmaker AstraZeneca has announced that it is pausing its COVID-19 vaccine trial because of a "potentially unexplained illness" in one of the trial volunteers.

The vaccine was developed by the University of Oxford in partnership with AstraZeneca. It's being studied in thousands of patients in the United States and the United Kingdom. The illness apparently occurred in a U.K. volunteer.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rolled out a new proposal for a smaller version of a pandemic relief aid bill, but it's unclear how much support the measure could garner even in his own party. And top Democrats opposed the plan, arguing it was "emaciated" even before it was officially released.

Nine drug companies pledged Tuesday that they will not submit vaccine candidates for FDA review until their safety and efficacy is shown in large clinical trials. The move is intended to bolster public confidence amid the rush to make a COVID-19 vaccine widely available, and counter fears of political pressure to have a vaccine before the November presidential election.

Heather Larson has enjoyed kayaking for several years. Before the pandemic, she'd often rent a kayak for the weekend and ride it at state parks in Illinois and nearby Wisconsin. But the Des Plaines, Ill., resident has had no luck finding one for the past three months.

Six months into schools' pandemic-driven experiment in distance learning, much has been said (and debated) about whether children are learning. But the more urgent question, for the more than 30 million kids who depend on U.S. schools for free or reduced-price meals, is this:

Are they eating?

The answer, based on recent data and interviews with school nutrition leaders and anti-hunger advocates across the country, is alarming.

For most of her 34 years, Stephanie Parker didn't recognize she had an eating disorder.

At age 6, she recalls, she stopped eating and drinking at school — behavior that won her mother's praise. "It could have started sooner; I just don't have the memory," says Parker. In middle school, she ate abnormally large quantities, then starved herself again in the years after.

Much of the country is facing a long, painful recovery from the coronavirus recession. But some communities are getting a head start.

Owensboro, Ky., has already recovered most of the jobs it lost this spring, even as the rest of the country is experiencing a painfully slow improvement in employment.

With precision, farm workers swiftly harvest rows of strawberries at an organic field in Salinas, Calif. It's hard work, even without a global pandemic and wildfires burning in the background.

Four major wildfires erupted across the state's Central Coast in mid-August, one near Salinas. Smoke blanketed the region, the sun glowed orange and ash rained down.

"It hurt our sinuses," said Jesús Ahumada, an agricultural foreman, in Spanish. "The smoke was so thick."

Several vaccines are currently in large-scale studies to see if they can prevent COVID-19, and more are on the way.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently sent guidance to states on how to prepare to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine. The agency asked for a distribution plan as soon as October and said that vaccination sites should be ready by Nov. 1. Those dates caught a lot of people off guard and set off some alarm bells that political pressure was tainting the process.

The pandemic is taking a big toll on the government's bottom line.

The federal government's accumulated debt burden is projected to be larger than the overall economy next year for the first time since 1946. Debt is expected to reach an all-time high of 107% of gross domestic product in 2023.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office expects the deficit to reach $3.3 trillion in the fiscal year ending this month. That's about 16% of GDP — a level not seen since the end of World War II in 1945.

The Trump administration says the U.S. will not participate in a global push to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, in part because the effort is led by the World Health Organization, which the White House describes as "corrupt" and has accused of initially aiding China in covering up the scope of the pandemic.

 

There’s no shortage of peanuts on Loyd Lasley’s farm. Come September, he hopes to harvest about 160,000 pounds of them. Many of the peanuts are roasted and put on shelves at the Made In Oklahoma booth at the state fair. 

With many state fairs across the country being canceled due to COVID-19, many small business owners like the Lasleys will miss out on sales. The family typically makes about $5,000 from sales at the fair every year. It’s not a lot, but it helps, Loyd says. 

In early August, José came home to the Chicago apartment he shares with his wife and five children. He'd just spent three months in the hospital after contracting the coronavirus.

"We were all so happy," says his daughter Alondra, describing that day. "Everybody in the hospital was like, he was about to die. There was no more hope for him. ... So now we're like, 'Thank God, he's still here with us.' "

Updated at 1:15 p.m. ET

Fewer than eight months ago, the U.S. had yet to experience its first confirmed case of a deadly disease that was sweeping through China and threatening to go global. Today, more than 6 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus and some 183,000 have died from it, according to a tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

Looking for a snapshot of coronavirus outbreaks in U.S. schools? The National Education Association has just launched a tracker of cases in public K-12 schools.

The tracker is broken down by state and shows schools and counties with known cases and suspected cases and deaths, as well as whether those infected were students or staff. It also includes links to the local news reports so users know where the virus data comes from.

For months after the pandemic hit, Caroline Wells and her husband were working remotely from their home in San Antonio while trying to ride herd on their two young children. She says the house has basically no yard, and it's on a busy street. So sending the kids outside to play was not happening.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered schools and businesses and altered life across the globe, but journalist Alexis Madrigal says comprehensive, rapid testing might be the key to a safe reopening.

"The key problem in the pandemic is we don't know who's contagious," Madrigal says. "And because of that, it is very hard to really grind transmission down to nothing."

Under normal circumstances, it could take years — if not decades — to bring a new vaccine to market. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all that. In May, the Trump administration launched Operation Warp Speed with the goal of delivering initial doses of a safe and effective vaccine by January 2021 — shortening the development time from years to months.

Across China, life has largely returned to normal. Domestic travel is picking back up as a coronavirus pandemic brought under control recedes from memory. Businesses and factories have reopened.

Except in Xinjiang. A sweeping, western region nearly four times the size of California, Xinjiang remains largely cut off from the rest of the country and its some 22 million residents under heavy lockdown, an effort officials say is needed to contain a cluster of more than 800 officially diagnosed cases.

On the first day of the Republican convention in Charlotte, N.C., more than five months after the coronavirus began spreading across the country, President Trump characterized the White House's response as "the exact right thing."

But, following a blueprint he has used for months, he also shifted responsibility for the pandemic response to the states. He accused many governors of having been "ill-prepared" for the pandemic, while praising others for doing a "fine job."

The Food and Drug Administration has given the green light to expand the use of blood plasma in treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

The emergency use authorization announced Sunday involves convalescent plasma — taking antibodies from the blood of people who have recovered from COVID-19. That plasma is then given to patients currently sick in hopes that the antibodies will help fight off the disease.

Leslie Cutitta said yes, twice, when clinicians from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston called asking whether she wanted them to take — and then continue — extreme measures to keep her husband, Frank Cutitta, alive.

The first conversation, in late March, was about whether to let Frank go or to try some experimental drugs and treatments. The second call was just a few days later. Hospital visits were banned, so Leslie Cutitta couldn't be with her husband or discuss his wishes with the medical team in person. So she used stories to try to describe Frank's zest for life.

An investigation by the nonprofit newsroom ProPublica found that despite years of warnings about the possibility of a pandemic, meatpackers didn’t heed guidance on how to prepare.

The report says infectious disease experts and emergency planners had modeled what might happen with the arrival of a highly contagious virus, including how an outbreak might create food shortages and plant closures.

And those experts repeatedly urged companies and government agencies to prepare.

State officials and federal agencies warn there's a new phone scam circulating: Callers posing as COVID-19 contact tracers are trying to pry credit card or bank account information from unsuspecting victims.

The grifters apparently are taking advantage of a genuine public health intervention that is crucial to stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus: contact tracing.

By the second week in July, COVID-19 cases in North Carolina were climbing fast.

With nearly 19,000 diagnoses over the previous two weeks, only five states recorded more new coronavirus cases than North Carolina did.

"Today is our highest day of hospitalizations and our second-highest day of cases," Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, announced on July 9, standing behind a podium in the state's Emergency Operations Center. "Please continue to treat the virus like the deadly threat that it is."

How Bars Are Fueling COVID-19 Outbreaks

Aug 18, 2020

From the early days of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, states have wrestled with the best course of action for the nation's imperiled bars and nightclubs. Many of these businesses find their economic prospects tied to a virus that preys on their industry's lifeblood — social gatherings in tight quarters.

Updated Tuesday at 4:11 p.m. ET

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published on Monday is the latest to confirm that the coronavirus disproportionately impacts communities of color in the U.S.

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