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The secret to fighting COVID-19 could be in recovered patients. Here’s how antibodies could lead to a treatment for those fighting coronavirus.

USA TODAY

Infectious disease experts are cautioning that more data is needed before widely using blood plasma therapy as a possible treatment for COVID-19 after President Donald Trump announced its authorization Sunday.

As two big storms swirl toward the Gulf of Mexico, the COVID-19 threat is weighing heavily on plans for possible evacuations. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said he’s working with the federal government to use hotels and motels if large evacuations become necessary. The same thing is happening in California, as wildfires ravage the state. 

In Hong Kong, researchers say a man who had SARS-CoV-2 in late March later contracted a different strain of the virus, the first substantiated instance of this happening.

Some significant developments:

  • The NFL had 77 positive COVID-19 tests from 11 teams re-examined by a New Jersey lab after a number of false positives.
  • South Korea reported its 11th straight day of triple-digit daily jumps in cases.
  • The CDC removed its 14-day quarantine recommendation for travelers returning from a trip outside of the country or their state.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has 5.7 million confirmed infections and more than 176,000 deaths. Worldwide, there have been more than 809,000 deaths and 23.4 million cases, according to John Hopkins University data.

📰 What we’re reading: Delivering millions of vaccine doses will be a daunting task, and the federal government wants a system ready by Nov. 1. Freezer farms and UPS are part of the plan.

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

Judge rules against Florida’s school reopening order

A judge has ruled that Florida’s schools reopening order is unconstitutional. 

Circuit Judge Charles Dodson on Monday granted a request for a court order to bar enforcement of the directive from Gov. Ron DeSantis and state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran that would have reopened schools despite the coronavirus pandemic.  

Dodson wrote in his decision that the Florida Education Association established that irreparable harm would be caused if schools were to reopen on a date set by state officials. 

Schools should “reopen when the local decision-makers determine” it isto do so upon advice of medical experts without the threat of a financial penalty from the state affecting the decision, he wrote.

—James Call

How the GOP is trying to keep delegates safe at its convention 

The Republican National Convention has begun in a setting that planners believe will keep delegates and officials safe from the coronavirus — if they follow the rules.

Only 336 delegates, a far cry from the thousands that would have come, are in the Charlotte Convention Center for the week-long event.

Safety measures were guided by a 42-page health and safety plan developed by a hired doctor.

Attendees are supposed to six-foot social distancing and wear masks – though many were seen openly flouting those rules Monday morning.

They filled out a pre-travel health questionnaire and participate in a daily symptom tracker. . The Republican National Committee has also committed to contacting every participant five, 14 and 21 days after the event to check on potential symptoms.

In remarks to the delegates, Trump panned the state’s Democratic governor for restrictions put in place to try to prevent the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 175,000 people in the country and infected millions. Trump accused Gov. Roy Cooper of “being in a total shutdown mode,” and claimed the restrictions were aimed at trying to hurt his campaign.

Latest pandemic hot sellers: pepper spray, RV rentals

It was only a few months ago that store shelves emptied of hand sanitizer, toilet paper and flour. 

Now the hot items amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic may run more towards personal safety and COVID-safe vacation fun.

For instance, pepper spray and solar-powered phone chargers are selling well, retail sources say. And for those who yearn to hit the road, RV rentals are on fire, according to says Bill Parsons, group president of data and analytics and international at Envestnet|Yodlee.

The pepper spray sales uptick underscores the anxiety that consumers are feeling due to the virus and social unrest.

“It’s a sense of unease that everybody has,” says Kristin Cook, senior editor at retail deal site Ben’s Bargains, which saw a spike in demand for pepper spray and solar-powered chargers at the start of August. “For a while there it felt like everyone sort of decided we were over (the pandemic), but we’re seeing the anxiety-type purchases ticking up, as people realize this is will be more of a long haul.”

— Aimee Picchi

NJ college suspends 11 students for unsafe partying

Eleven students were suspended by Montclair State University in New Jersey for COVID-19 rule violations, according to communications sent to staff and students. 

A text message reading “Is the Next Message You Want to Get: Pack Your Bags and Go Home?” was sent to students this weekend. It said students had “gathered in large groups to party without masks and social distancing.  

“Please understand, there will be no second chances,” the text read. “Any student who violates the safety protocols will be immediately suspended from housing (possibly for the remainder of the year), will be referred to the Director of Student Conduct for disciplinary action and will be immediately de-registered from any courses or programs that have an on-campus component.”

It also warned there won’t be any refunds. 

According to spokesman Andrew Mees the university is one the few in the state to bring students not only back onto campus, but into the dorms.

– Julia Martin, Montclair Times

New York sets up COVID-19 testing at JFK, LaGuardia airports

New York will set up COVID-19 testing sites for incoming passengers at its two largest airports as part of the latest effort to stop travelers from bringing the coronavirus to the state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday the sites slated for John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in Queens, saying it will allow the state to more quickly determine whether incoming travelers have the virus at the center of a global pandemic.

New York was the hardest-hit state in the early days of the pandemic, with more than 24,000 state residents succumbing to confirmed COVID-19 cases since the beginning of March. 

– Jon Campbell, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

Almost half of NFL teams rule out spectators – but not Miami Dolphins

Fifteen of the NFL’s 32 teams have so far ruled out spectators to start the season, but the Miami Dolphins won’t be one of them.

The Dolphins are one of at least eight teams hoping to have a limited number of spectators, allowing up to 13,000 socially distancing fans to attend their home opener against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 20.

The same plan will be followed for the University of Miami’s home opener against UAB at the Dolphins’ stadium on Sept. 10.

Crowd size will be about 20% of the stadium’s 65,326-seat capacity, with the limitation imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Groups of spectators will be spaced 6 feet apart.

First case of coronavirus reinfection reported in Hong Kong

The first substantiated case of coronavirus reinfection was reported Monday by researchers at the University of Hong Kong, who say a 33-year-old man was infected by SARS-CoV-2 in late March and then was infected again by a different strain of the virus four and half months later while traveling in Europe.

While the case study suggests coronavirus reinfection is possible, experts have said more data is needed to determine if this is a more rare or common occurrence. However, it does underscore the importance of a vaccine instead of relying on herd immunity through mass infection.

“Since reinfection can occur, herd immunity by natural infection is unlikely to eliminate #SARSCoV2,” tweeted Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunobiology at Yale University. “The only safe and effective way to achieve herd immunity is through vaccination.”

Iwasaki also points out that while the man didn’t have enough antibodies to prevent reinfection, other elements of his immune system were able to defend against illness as he was asymptomatic.

From another expert: This is good news 

  • Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine expert at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, told JAMA that the man’s reinfection bodes well for vaccine development. Some natural infections, like the measles, protect against reinfection forever, as do their vaccines. With other infections like strep A and gonorrhea, natural immunity doesn’t last, and so it hasn’t made sense to develop a vaccine against them, he said. 
  • In this case, the man’s second infection was far milder than his first. He didn’t even know he was infected until he tested positive. That’s probably the best case scenario for a respiratory virus, Offit said, because it means that his natural immunity reduced the risk of a serious infection the second time. 
  • “That’s what you want. you want to know that when you’re infected or vaccinated, that you’re protected against moderate to severe disease,”  he said. “I feel really good about that observation.”

– News wires, Karen Weintraub

172 countries engaged in WHO global vaccine plan

The World Health Organization announced that 172 countries are looking to participate in COVAX, a global initiative aimed at working with vaccine manufacturers to provide equitable access to safe vaccines once licensed and approved.

The global vaccine plan includes nine candidate vaccines, with an additional nine under evaluation.

The news comes as countries that had gone weeks without community transmission are seeing clustered outbreaks. 

South Korea reported its 11th straight day of triple-digit daily jumps, forcing the country to ban larger gatherings, shut down nightspots and churches and removed fans from professional sports nationwide.

New Zealand’s prime minister says the two-week lockdown of the country’s largest city, Auckland, will last an extra four days as authorities try to stamp out an outbreak that appeared after 102 days without any community transmission of the virus.

COVID impacts how communities brace for wildfires, storms

With the onset of the coronavirus, states and organizations are working on a plan to shelter people displaced during the summer wildfire and hurricane season. 

Rather than eating and sleeping in large, open rooms, many of those displaced by the the wildfires are being sent to nearby hotels, said Nicole Maul, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, which operates numerous shelters up and down California in areas hit by wildfires.

The agency continues to use congregate centers, but accepts less evacuees to increase social distancing. They also cannot accept dropped-off donations and serve meals in individual packages instead of buffet style. 

Depending on expected landfall of Tropical Storms Marco and Laura, The Louisiana Department of Health tweeted Monday that COVID-19 testing will be paused through Tuesday, and may be extended through Wednesday, according to their tweet.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state plans to activate large shelters with congregate settings only “as a last resort,” and instead work with the federal government to use hotels and motels if large evacuations become necessary.

– Damon Arthur and Angelaydet Rocha, Redding Record Searchlight; John Bacon and Greg Hilburn, USA TODAY

WHO says plasma treatment still ‘experimental’ after Trump announcement

The World Health Organization says using plasma from the recovered to treat COVID-19 is still considered an “experimental” therapy and that the preliminary results showing it may work are still “inconclusive.”

WHO’s chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said the treatment is difficult to standardize since people produce different levels of antibodies and the plasma must be collected individually from recovered patients.

Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to WHO’s director-general, warned of numerous possible side effects, from a mild fever and chills to more severe lung-related injuries. U.S. infectious disease experts echo WHO’s caution. 

Trump called a news conference Sunday to announce his administration has granted emergency use authorization for treatment using blood plasma, though more than 70,000 patients have already received it on an experimental basis

“This is a powerful therapy,” Trump said, describing the authorization as “a very historic breakthrough.”

– David Jackson, Adrianna Rodriguez, Associated Press

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President Donald Trump announced Sunday the emergency authorization of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients, in a move he called “a breakthrough.” Other health experts said the treatment needs more study before it’s celebrated. (Aug. 23)

AP Domestic

Iowa reports first child death from COVID-19

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported the state’s first child death from COVID-19 on Sunday. The 5-year-old child died in June and had “significant underlying health conditions,” officials announced in a news release.

The department said the state’s medical examiner completed its investigation on August 6. Officials performed a number of tests that take months to complete but found that COVID-19 was the cause of the child’s death.

The announcement comes one day before some schools prepare to start the new year on Monday. Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered schools to reopen for at least 50 percent in-person instruction, despite a pandemic that has already killed 1,036 people and seen infections soar in recent days.

Florida surpasses 600,000 infections of COVID-19

Florida’s coronavirus caseload broke 600,000 Sunday as the number of new infections reported statewide continued slowing down.

The state Health Department reported Florida’s COVID-19 case count grew by 2,974 since Saturday to reach 600,571, a 0.5% increase, among the lowest recorded since the pandemic began in March.

While the Health Department typically receives fewer positive viral tests from labs during the weekend, the number of new cases it has reported daily has grown the statewide count by less than 1% each day since Aug. 16.

– Chris Persaud, Palm Beach Post

NFL has 77 apparently false positive COVID-19 tests from lab

The NFL had 77 positive COVID-19 tests from 11 teams re-examined by a New Jersey lab after false positives, and all those tests came back negative.

The league asked the New Jersey lab BioReference to investigate the results, and those 77 tests are being re-tested once more to make sure they were false positives.

Among teams reporting false positives, the Minnesota Vikings said they had 12, the New York Jets 10 and the Chicago Bears nine. Other teams may also include the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Detroit Lions and the Cleveland Browns. 

The number of positive COVID-19 tests from a specific facility that might actually be false demonstrates the precarious position the NFL is in less than three weeks from the regular-season opener.

Anyone testing positive for COVID-19 — even a false positive upon a retest — is required to have two more negative tests before being cleared to return. 

13 killed in stampede at Peru nightclub defying coronavirus restrictions

Thirteen people died in a stampede at a disco in Peru after a police raid to enforce the country’s lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Sunday. The stampede happened at the Thomas disco in Lima, where about 120 people had gathered for a party on Saturday night, the Interior Ministry said.

People tried to escape through the only door of the second-floor disco, trampling one another and becoming trapped in the confined space, according to authorities. After the stampede, police had to force open the door.

“I feel sorry for the relatives… but also anger and indignation with the business people who organized the event,” Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra said at a public event in the south of the country. He urged judicial authorities to punish those who had broken the law.

Some 23 people were arrested, and 15 of those tested positive for the new coronavirus and will be quarantined, Claudio Ramírez, a Health Ministry official, told reporters.

Joe Biden has not been tested for COVID-19, campaign says

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has not been tested for the coronavirus though he is confident he could not have been infected, his campaign said Sunday. 

“He has not been tested,” Kate Bedingfield, deputy Biden campaign manager, said on ABC News “This Week.” She added that  “moving forward should he need to be tested, he certainly would be. But he has not been tested yet.” 

Bedingfield said Biden, 77, has followed the “strictest protocols” to prevent exposure to the virus and was therefore confident he had not been infected. She said everyone is around Biden “is undergoing the appropriate testing.” 

“He has not had the virus,” she said. 

– William Cummings

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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Contributing: The Associated Press

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