Coronavirus live updates: Teachers could be exempt from quarantine rules; Fauci undergoes vocal cord surgery; Mass. requires flu vaccine – USA TODAY

As COVID-19 outbreaks at schools continue to pop up causing students and staff in some states to quarantine, a new study suggests that children may play a larger role in community spread of the new virus than previously thought.

Researchers in Massachusetts found that some children who tested positive for COVID-19 had significantly higher levels of virus in their airways than hospitalized adults in intensive care units, according to the study published Thursday.

The study comes as new federal guidance lists teachers as “critical infrastructure workers,” meaning they could be exempt from quarantine requirements after potential exposure to the virus if they show no symptoms. 

Elsewhere, Massachusetts will now require all of its students to get a flu shot in order to ease the potential impact the flu season could have on hospitals.

Some significant developments:

  • About 1.1 million Americans filed for unemployment last week.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci underwent surgery on his vocal cord Thursday morning to remove a polyp that had been causing hoarseness, media reports said.
  • Florida, one of the hardest-hit states from the coronavirus, surpassed 10,000 deaths from COVID-19.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has 5.5 million confirmed infections and more than 173,000 deaths. Worldwide, there have been more than 789,000 deaths and 22.4 million cases, according to John Hopkins University data.

📰 What we’re reading: How did the stock market hit a record while the U.S. economy is in one of the sharpest economic downturns since the Great Depression? Here’s what experts say about the rebound.

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

Another US senator tests positive, and this one’s a doctor

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday after being exposed to an individual with the coronavirus, his office said. Cassidy, a gastroenterologist, said he would quarantine for 14 days and notify everyone who may have come into contact with him.

“I am strictly following the direction of our medical experts and strongly encourage others to do the same,” Cassidy said in a statement.

Thirteen members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 or been diagnosed with the coronavirus

– Nicholas Wu

Airlines struggle over mask issue: Passenger care with safety

Two recent incidents involving young children who refused to wear face masks show how airlines are struggling to balance safety with compassionate treatment of all their customers during a pandemic.

JetBlue Airways forced a woman and her six children off a plane this week when her 2-year-old daughter wouldn’t keep her mask on. 

“It was horrible, the whole experience was traumatizing,” the mother, Chaya Bruck, told the New York Daily News from the airport in Orlando, Florida, where the Brooklyn family was stranded.

Last week, a Texas woman said Southwest Airlines booted her family off a plane after one of the children, a 3-year-old with autism, refused to wear a mask. Alyssa Sadler said her son became upset because he does not like to have his face touched.

All major U.S. airlines have mask rules and have banned at least a couple hundred passengers who have refused to comply. Typically, the violators are adults who argue that there is no government requirement to wear a mask – there isn’t; the Federal Aviation Administration has declined to impose one, leaving it up to the airlines. 

– Associated Press

How Notre Dame’s plans to reopen classes went awry

The University of Notre Dame thought it had a workable plan to bring students back to classes this fall.

But it apparently couldn’t control student behavior — the parties and non-compliance with safety protocols.

Now, the university is hoping it can contain the spread of the virus in the next two weeks to avoid sending everyone back home. The challenges and missteps could serve as a cautionary tale for other universities preparing to re-open their campuses.

It wasn’t just the parties. Calls to the university’s COVID hotline went unanswered, some students said. When they were able to get tests, results could take days. Some professors were outraged they weren’t notified that students in their classes had tested positive.

The university acknowledged mistakes this week. It did not “respond to all student calls in the personal way we pride ourselves on at Notre Dame,” it said in a letter to students.

–Allie Kirkman, South Bend Tribune

Teachers may be sent back to classrooms even after virus exposure under new Trump guidance

New guidance from the Trump administration could send teachers back into their classrooms after potentially being exposed to the new coronavirus, bypassing quarantine rules as “critical infrastructure workers.”

The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency issued a revised guidance on who qualifies as a critical infrastructure worker, listing teachers for the first time earlier this week. The document says it is advisory in nature, not a federal directive or standard.

If one of those workers remains asymptomatic and additional precautions are put in place, they can continue to work in person, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Some school districts in Tennessee and Georgia have already said they may employ this new guidance, drawing sharp criticism among some teachers who say they worry the practice could spread the virus to their students or colleagues. 

Reports: Fauci undergoes vocal cord surgery

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert who has provided Americans guidance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, underwent surgery Thursday to removed a polyp from his vocal cord, CNN and CNBC reported.

CNBC reported that Fauci is recovering at home, while CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta tweeted that Fauci texted him that we was doing OK and doctors told him “to curtail his talking for a while to allow his vocal cords to recover.”

Vocal cord polyps can cause hoarseness, which Fauci has said he’s struggled with in the past few months.

Big Ten parents set to protest for return of fall football

Six weeks after the Ivy League decided not to play fall sports, and one and a half weeks after the Big Ten and Pac-12 made the same call, a group of parents are planning to protest at Big Ten headquarters in the Chicago suburbs on Friday.

Ohio State football dad Randy Wade plans to lead a group of what he hopes will be dozens of other Big Ten football parents in a demonstration against the conference’s decision to postpone football to the winter or spring, presuming it’s safe to play then. 

Wade, whose son Shaun is a highly regarded cornerback for the Buckeyes, said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon that he had heard from “70-100 people” in the past few days from six of the conference’s 14 schools: Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana, Purdue, Iowa and Nebraska. How many will show up, he has no idea. He’s flying in from Jacksonville, Florida.

– Christine Brennan

Massachusetts now requiring flu vaccine for all students

State public health officials announced Wednesday that the flu vaccine will be required for all students 6 months or older who are attending Massachusetts child care, pre-school, kindergarten, grade school and colleges or universities.

The new vaccine requirement is an important step to reduce flu-related illness and the overall impact of respiratory illness during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Massachusetts Department of Health said. Students have until Dec. 31 to get the vaccine, unless they can provide a medical or religious exemption.

“It is more important now than ever to get a flu vaccine because flu symptoms are very similar to those of COVID-19 and preventing the flu will save lives and preserve health care resources,” said Dr. Larry Madoff, medical director for the state’s bureau of infectious disease and laboratory sciences.

– The Patriot Ledger staff

Thanks to bubbles, doctors have a new clue on why COVID patients aren’t getting enough oxygen

Doctors at Mount Sinai’s hospitals in New York may have uncovered a new clue as to why some COVID-19 patients can’t get enough oxygen despite being on ventilators — all thanks to the sound of tiny bubbles.

A transcranial Doppler tracks blood flow in the brain, and Dr. Alexandra Reynolds at Mount Sinai created a robotic version so doctors could perform the test safely with COVID-19 patients. A bubble study, during which saline containing tiny air bubbles is injected into a vein and tracked as it circulates, it is often used to test for stroke risk.

Normally, capillaries in healthy lungs will filter the bubbles out, but Reynolds noticed them reaching the brains of her COVID patients. COVID-19 can cause dangerous blood clots, so Dr. Hooman Poor, also at Mount Sinai, hypothesized that maybe the bubbles were bypassing the clogged blood vessels and passing through wide ones, flowing too quickly to absorb oxygen.

While more research is needed, Poor said the bubbles mystery might be “essentially the missing link” on why COVID patients aren’t getting oxygen.

The end of the house party? Airbnb bans parties and events worldwide

Airbnb announced a global ban on parties and events at Airbnb listings, with an occupancy cap of 16 people worldwide.

“This party ban applies to all future bookings on Airbnb and it will remain in effect indefinitely until further notice,” according to a company statement provided by Airbnb spokesperson Ben Breit on Thursday.

Parties have been a problem for the short-term rental company for some time, both before and during the coronavirus pandemic. One party at a New Jersey Airbnb in July attracted more than 700 people.

– David Oliver

1.1M more workers file for unemployment

A gauge of U.S. layoffs rose back above 1 million last week, signaling the recovery from COVID-19-induced recession will continue to be volatile as recent infection surges ease in some states but persist in others.

About 1.1 million Americans filed first-time applications for unemployment insurance, the Labor Department said Thursday, up from 971,000 the prior week. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg estimated that 920,000 workers sought jobless benefits.

A mind-boggling 57.2 million workers now have filed for unemployment over the past 22 weeks. Before the pandemic, the previous all-time high for weekly claims were 695,000 during a recession in 1982.

– Paul Davidson

WHO checking up on Russia’s vaccine claim

World Health Organization officials in Europe said they have begun discussions with Russia concerning the potential COVID-19 vaccine the country recently approved.

Russia claimed last week it had developed the world’s first successful vaccine, despite less than two months of human testing and not completing final trials. Now, WHO officials say they are in “direct discussions” with Russia about what will be needed for the agency to assess the potential vaccine.

President Vladimir Putin claimed the vaccine was safe and effective, saying even one of his daughters had been vaccinated. But Catherine Smallwood, a senior emergency official at WHO Europe, said her organization wants “to take our time to really understand where the vaccine’s at and to get as full information as possible on the steps that have already been taken.”

WHO’s Europe director, Dr. Hans Kluge, said the agency welcomed all advances in vaccine development but that every vaccine must submit to the same clinical trials.

Vaccine trials need diverse volunteers

Doctors and public health officials are calling on COVID-19 vaccine trials to include a large number of people of color to ensure their safety and effectiveness.

The first two large-scale vaccine trials began nationwide in late July, and at least three more will start before early fall. Each one will need 30,000 volunteers, half of whom will get an active vaccine and half a placebo. But early trials haven’t been diverse.

“We must make sure there is appropriate diversity in the clinical trials,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said in an recent interview with the editor of the scientific journal JAMA.

Even if everyone’s immune system reacts the same way to the virus, differences in care and underlying health may mean people of color respond differently to infection, Hahn said.

In addition to racial and ethnic diversity, most of the trials also are looking for people over 65. Older immune systems don’t work as well as they used to, and older people have been disproportionately sickened and killed by the virus that causes COVID-19.

– Karen Weintraub

Pelosi: USPS head has no plans to replace sorting machines or reverse other changes

The head of the U.S. Postal Service has no plans to reverse changes to infrastructure that lawmakers feared could disrupt mail-in voting in November, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

Pelosi said she spoke with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Wednesday and told him “his announcement is not a solution and is misleading.” DeJoy on Tuesday announced a pause in changes until after the election, but his statement did not address whether changes already in place would be reversed.

Democrats fear changes made under DeJoy’s tenure at the Postal Service have slowed the delivery of mail and could threaten the agency’s ability to handle a surge of mail-in ballots in the November election. Many states have expanded voting by mail to provide an alternative to in-person voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

– Nicholas Wu

‘Silent spreaders’ of COVID-19: Kids who seem healthy may be more contagious than sick adults, study says

A new study adds to growing evidence that children are not immune to COVID-19 and may even play a larger role in community spread than previously thought. 

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Mass General Hospital for Children found that among 192 children, 49 tested positive for the coronavirus and had significantly higher levels of virus in their airways than hospitalized adults in intensive care units, according to the study published Thursday in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Study author Dr. Alessio Fasano said some children exhibited symptoms, but others showed no symptoms and were brought in because they had been in contact with an infected person or lived in what was considered a high-risk area.

“Kids are a possible source of spreading this virus,” Fasano said. “And this should be taken into account in the planning stages for reopening schools.”

– Adrianna Rodriguez

Los Angeles mayor shuts off power at Hollywood Hills home that hosted large parties

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti authorized city officials to shut off utility services at a home in Hollywood Hills that hosted large parties in “flagrant violation” of a ban on large gatherings amid the coroanvirus pandemic.

“This house has turned into a nightclub in the hills, hosting large gatherings in flagrant violation of our public health orders,” Garcetti said Wednesday.

The city has not identified the home’s address or the owner, but New York Times technology reporter Taylor Lorenz on Wednesday tweeted that the home was rented by TikTok personalities Bryce Hall, Noah Beck and Blake Gray.

Garcetti’s order comes days after hundreds attended a party at a mansion without masks or social distancing. That party ended in a shooting that killed a woman and wounded two other people.

Report: Las Vegas casinos a likely hot spot for COVID-19 spread

Tourists visiting The Strip could be fueling the pandemic, according to a ProPublica investigation. An analysis of smartphone data during four days, a Friday to Monday in mid-July, revealed how most of the U.S. is connected to Las Vegas – a likely hot spot of COVID-19 spread.

During that time frame, about 26,000 devices were identified on The Strip, according to data mined by the companies X-Mode and Tectonix. Some of those smartphones then traveled to every state on the mainland except Maine.

Here’s a look at where those devices ended up during those same four days, according to Propublica: 

  • About 3,700 of the devices were spotted in Southern California. 
  • About 2,700 in Arizona, with 740 in Phoenix.
  • Around 1,000 in Texas.
  • More than 800 in Milwaukee, Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland.
  • More than 100 in the New York area.

The cellphone analysis highlights a reason the virus keeps spreading and shows how travel to Las Vegas could be fueling the pandemic, according to health officials.

– Ed Komenda, Reno Gazette Journal

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Contributing: The Associated Press