Coronavirus Newsbites

Trump -- defiant and dark as ever -- claims Biden would destroy America
President Donald Trump has spent the past four days trying to sell a reality that doesn’t exist and denying America’s dizzying coronavirus problems, in a week that culminated in one of the longest acceptance speeches in history.

Capping off the Republican National Convention on Thursday evening, the President proclaimed his efforts to combat the virus were centered on "the science, the facts and the data," yet he welcomed around 1,500 mostly maskless supporters to gather outside and sit shoulder to shoulder to watch his speech, many chanting, whistling and cheering. A senior White House official brushed off concerns about the lack of social distancing, telling CNN that “everybody is going to catch this thing eventually.”

The result was a made-for-television world in which the pandemic had largely faded, as Kevin Liptak writes; a world in which Trump repeatedly referred to the virus in the past tense, as if it were a battle already won.

Americans and Brits least happy with government responses

Governments' Pandemic Response
Americans and the British ranked equal last out of 14 advanced economies when asked if they thought their governments had handled the pandemic well, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Americans also come last, by a long way, when asked whether their nation was more united now than it was before the pandemic, Richard Allen Greene writes.

In the United States, fewer than two in 10 people (18%) said the country is more united now. That's a full 21 percentage points below the next lowest-ranking countries, Germany and France, where just under four in 10 (39%) respondents expressed that opinion. Denmark had the highest percentage saying their country was more united now, with more than seven in 10 (72%) giving that answer.

Another week, another million Americans file for unemployment. And still no new stimulus.
Another 1 million American workers filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Since March, there has only been a single week — at the start of August — with fewer than a million claims, when the pandemic started to take its toll on America's job market.

Meanwhile, a call between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Thursday did nothing to break the ongoing impasse over negotiations for an eagerly awaited new coronavirus stimulus package, leaving talks stalled as the pandemic continues to take a dire toll on public health and the economy.

This $5 rapid test is a potential game-changer in Covid testing
Abbott Labs got emergency approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for its rapid antigen test, which can detect a Covid-19 infection in 15 minutes.

The FDA's emergency use authorization is for Abbott's BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card. The size of a credit card, BinaxNOW will cost $5 and will come with a free mobile app that will let people who test negative display a temporary, date-stamped health pass that is renewed each time a new test is taken.

The antigen test, in which involves a nasal swab, uses the same type of technology as a flu test. Abbott says it anticipates producing 50 million BinaxNOW tests a month by October.

Pennsylvania Governor Calls For State To Legalize Marijuana, Citing Pandemic
Gov. Tom Wolf calls for some of the revenue from marijuana sales to go toward "repairing the harm done to crime victims and communities as a result of marijuana criminalization."

Marijuana has been legal for medicinal use in Pennsylvania since 2016, thanks to legislation Wolf signed. The state formally activated its medical marijuana program in 2018.

It's uncertain what kind of reception the Democratic governor's plan could meet in the Republican-led General Assembly. Wolf acknowledged that in recent months, Democrats' initiatives "have been stopped at every turn by the Republican majority focused on ignoring the public health crisis."

University Of Alabama Reports More Than 560 New COVID-19 Cases In 1st Week
More than 530 of those cases are at its flagship campus in Tuscaloosa, prompting Mayor Walt Maddox to order bars to close for two weeks.

... In-person classes began on Aug. 19, with face-covering mandates, physical-distancing requirements, gathering limits and other COVID-19 protocols in place.

... On Friday, it announced temporary directives restricting access and gatherings at Greek houses and residential facilities, and placed a 14-day moratorium on all in-person student events. On Monday, it announced that all campus dining halls are transitioning to grab-and-go food options only until further notice.

... The University of Alabama is far from the only campus grappling with a rise in cases after kicking off the fall semester.

Georgia Tech, where a fraternity house is on lockdown after a spike in cases among members, announced a slew of additional protocols related to cleaning, physical distancing, testing and contact tracing Monday. The school has reported dozens of new cases since classes began on Aug. 17, with 48 on Monday alone.

Also on Monday, the University of Southern California reported an "alarming increase" in cases during its first week, with more than 100 students quarantining due to potential exposure.

In a back-to-school season fraught with anxiety and risk, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Notre Dame and Michigan State University have opted to suspend in-person learning over coronavirus concerns.

More Than 200 Ohio State University Students Suspended For Violating Pandemic Rules
Member station WOSU was one of several outlets to report that school officials had issued 228 interim suspensions tied to off-campus parties.

... Officials warned students last week that those who did not adhere to requirements like wearing face masks, practicing physical distancing and limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people would face disciplinary action, regardless of whether misconduct happened on or off campus.

Being "placed on interim suspension, denied access to campus and removed from all but online classes" was listed as one potential consequence in the student conduct section of the university website.

... According to a COVID-19 data dashboard unveiled Tuesday, 80 students tested positive between Aug. 14 and 22. Twelve employees tested positive between Aug. 1 and 22. As of Monday, 34 students are in isolation and 29 are in quarantine on campus.

College campuses across the country are grappling with spikes in cases linked to large gatherings — and some, like Ohio State, are also taking disciplinary action against students.

In New York, Syracuse University announced last week it had issued 23 interim suspensions to students who violated its COVID-19 safety requirements. The president of St. Olaf College in Minnesota said 17 students who participated in an off-campus party are suspended for the fall semester. Purdue University in Indiana also suspended 36 students for partying.

And officials at other schools, including the University of Miami and the University of Connecticut, say they have revoked housing for students who have violated public health guidance.

As Coronavirus Infections Rise, Masks In Paris Become Mandatory In All Public Places
The French government announced Thursday that face masks will become mandatory everywhere in Paris and its suburbs, including all outdoor public spaces. The heightened mask requirement comes as the number of new COVID-19 cases in France jumped to more than 5,000 in the previous 24 hours — the highest increase since the country came out of lockdown in mid-May.

... Prime Minister Jean Castex, speaking at a press conference Thursday morning, said France had reached a critical threshold of 50 infections per 100,000 residents, a red line.

"We are in a period of epidemic growth," said Castex. "We want to do everything to avoid a new lockdown."

Castex said wearing a mask and keeping a safe distance from other people might not come naturally, but was not a burden.