Pfizer says vaccine may be ready by end of October; Canada’s top doctor urges wearing a mask during sex

Amid reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling some health officials around the country to be ready to start distributing a coronavirus vaccine by November, the chairman and CEO of Pfizer said Thursday that the company may have an effective vaccine by the end of October. […]

Amid reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling some health officials around the country to be ready to start distributing a coronavirus vaccine by November, the chairman and CEO of Pfizer said Thursday that the company may have an effective vaccine by the end of October.

That timeline is “conceivable” but not likely, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told CNN Thursday.

Meanwhile, higher education continues to grapple with the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

At the University of Georgia, nearly 800 students tested positive for COVID-19 or reported positive tests last week, the first full week of classes, and the university has set aside or rented nearly 500 rooms on and off campus for students in quarantine or isolation. Iowa State University on Wednesday reversed its decision to allow 25,000 fans to its home-opening football game, and 30 out of 40 Greek houses at Indiana University-Bloomington were asked to quarantine after a spike in cases.

Some universities, however, are staying the course. University of South Carolina officials said they had no plans of shutting down campus even after reporting more than 1,000 confirmed cases among students.

Some significant developments:

📈 Today’s numbers: A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Wednesday shows three states – Minnesota, South Dakota and West Virginia – set records for new cases in a week while two states – Arkansas and West Virginia – had a record number of deaths in a week. The U.S. has 6.1 million confirmed cases and over 186,000 deaths. Globally, there are 26 million cases and more than 864,000 people have died.

📰 What we’re reading: Operation Quack Hack, the federal government’s initiative to clamp down on fake coronavirus medications and cures, has exposed a health underground in America brimming with distrust not only of mainstream medicine but the government itself. Read more here.

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

Feds hit by backlash over fake COVID-19 treatments

Providers of alternative medicines and treatment are mobilizing against the federal government in its attempt to stamp out fake cures against the coronavirus.

They are angry about government warning letters that they believe infringe on their right to free speech, free trade and people’s control over their health care. And they’ve got a good example to fight back: How can we trust the same government that signed off on opioids?

The backlash follows Operation Quack Hack, the federal government’s initiative to clamp down on fake coronavirus medications and cures.

“The health care system in this country is rigged against inexpensive, safe and effective natural remedies in favor of expensive pharmaceutical drugs,” said Clark Hansen, a naturopathic medical doctor in Arizona, in an email message to USA TODAY. 

– Michael Braga

A villain that Batman can’t defeat halts filming

Filming on the movie “The Batman” starring Robert Pattinson was halted after a member of the U.K. production team tested positive for COVID-19.

The shoot at Warner Bros. studio in Hertfordshire, England, came to a halt after resuming production three days ago. It is being directed by Matt Reeves. 

Production of “The Batman” was originally shut down in March by the coronavirus crisis.

– Bryan Alexander

Latinos, Blacks hit hardest by COVID outbreaks in meatpacking plants

Latinos, Blacks and recent immigrants, who account for eight out of 10 of the nation’s front-line meatpacking jobs, now account for 90% of the country’s meatpacking-related coronavirus cases, based on an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A two-month project by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting and USA TODAY looking at data from 21 states found the government has taken an even more hands-off approach to employee safety even as workers’ and activists’ calls for basic safety measures were met with months of inaction and indifference.

– Heather Schlitz, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Pandemic appears to be a factor for rising highway deaths

Speeding and traffic fatalities are both up in Vermont, and law enforcement officials think they know the reason: fewer cops to enforce traffic laws because of the coronavirus.

The state has seen 43 traffic deaths so far this year, up from 21 at the same point last year. And 125 lead-footed motorists were cited for speeding faster than 99 miles per hour through Sept. 1, up from 107 during the same period last year, reports the Barre Montpelier Times Argus.

Though there appears to be no single reason for the increase, the coronavirus could be a factor for having thinned the number of law enforcement officers on the highways

“When you drive around, people seem to be speeding more. They seem to be looking at their phones more. They do not see law enforcement out as much as they used to,” Bill Jenkins of the state Highway Safety Office said. “I think some people, unfortunately, got the message that they could do things that they shouldn’t be doing.”

Pfizer says it may have an effective vaccine by October

The chairman and CEO of Pfizer said Thursday that the company may have an effective coronavirus vaccine by the end of October.

“We may be able to say the product is safe and efficacious in the October time frame and submit immediately for approval and authorization,” Dr. Albert Bourla told the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations in a virtual meeting.

Bourla said the U.S.-based company, which is developing its vaccine in partnership with German biotechnology company BioNTech, has enrolled 23,000 participants in its Phase 3 clinical trial and aims to enroll 30,000 total. A “significant number” of participants have already started getting the second dose of the experimental vaccine, Bourla said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, he agency has told some state health officials to prepare to distribute the vaccine “in the near future.”

Canada’s top doctor: Consider wearing a mask during sex, avoid kissing

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, is warning Canadians to practice safe behaviors with their sex lives amid the pandemic.

“Sexual health is an important part of our overall health. However, sex can be complicated in the time of COVID-19, especially for those without an intimate partner in their household or whose sexual partner is at higher risk for COVID-19,” Tam said in a statement.

Among the measures that Tam suggested Canadians take to avoid their risk: Wearing a mask if they do have sex and avoiding kissing. “The most important step is to establish a trusting relationship with your sexual partner,” Tam added.

Number of Americans seeking jobless aid remains high

More than 833,000 Americans sought unemployment assistance last week as parts of the economy remained shuttered because of COVID-19 and millions of out-of-work people have gone more than a month without the additional $600 in jobless aid.  

About 833,352 Americans filed first-time applications for unemployment insurance during the week ending Aug. 29, the Labor Department said Thursday, a 7,591 rise from the prior week and slightly more than the 825,000 expected by economists at J.P. Morgan. Those figures are based on non-seasonally adjusted figures.

– Jessica Menton

Cyberattacks, outages hit Florida’s largest school district

Florida’s largest school district has been plagued with outages and cyberattacks as it reopens virtually amid the pandemic.

Students and teachers in recent days have both reported they can’t access the online platform used by Miami-Dade County schools, the Miami Herald reported. Moreover, Ron Steiger, the district’s chief financial officer, said Wednesday that a $15.3 million contract with the online platform at the center of the crisis was missing the signature of Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

District officials have determined the cyberattackers have demanded no ransom, and some of the attacks came from outside the U.S.

On Wednesday night, an email was sent to all secondary teachers asking them to use Microsoft Teams and Zoom until Sept. 11. The district will then assess if grades six through 12 will use the platform beginning Sept. 14 or stick with Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

Schools may not have enough teachers to get through the year

It’s more and more likely the nation won’t have enough teachers to staff schools even once reopening is safe amid the public health and economic crises caused by the pandemic, experts say.

A potential exodus of older educators susceptible to the coronavirus and those with existing health problems may fuel already high turnover. 

Many substitutes also may quit. Now, new restrictions on foreign visas will make it harder for some states to import teachers from other countries to work in already hard-to-staff positions.

And for those teachers willing to return to the classroom – whether virtually or in person – pink slips may be coming later this year as state tax revenue are decimated and budgets slashed.

– Bracey Harris and Neal Morton, The Hechinger Report

What we’re reading

Pandemic fear, uncertainty likely to hold back economy for decades

A new study suggests the COVID-19 pandemic has generated fears that are likely to dampen risk-taking and economic output for decades.

The crisis has increased the “perceived probability of an extreme, negative shock in the future,” and over time, the economic cost of that warier outlook is “many times larger” than the short-term damage, the study says.

The study, released at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s annual conference last week, attempts to quantify such long-term economic losses by assessing the toll taken by other economic upheavals, such as the Great Recession of 2007-09.

– Paul Davidson

University of South Carolina reports over 1K cases, doesn’t plan to shut down

More than 1,000 students at the University of South Carolina have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the university’s dashboard. But President Robert Caslen on Wednesday said he has no plans of shutting down the school, The State newspaper reported.

“We do not have any plans to close,” Caslen said during a virtual town hall. “The last thing I want to do is take this university, shut it down and dump the problem on the city of Columbia. I prefer to work through this if I can.”

One way school officials plan to do so is by testing more students. “We want to find them, we want to take care of them and we want to get them back into the classroom,” he said.

Meanwhile, other universities are pausing their in-person reopening plans as cases spike on their campuses. Here is the latest:

  • In California, San Diego State University is “temporarily shifting” its in-person classes to online instruction for four weeks starting Thursday. County and state officials reported 64 confirmed and probable cases among students since the semester began last Monday, NBC 7 San Diego reported.

  • The University of Wyoming also halted its fall return for five days after five students tested positive for the virus, officials announced Wednesday. The state’s only four-year university was scheduled to reopen on Labor Day. After the five-day period, President Ed Seidel will announce if students will return to campus or shift to online instruction.

  • Iowa State University reversed its decision to allow over 25,000 fans at its home-opening football game. Now, there will be zero fans in attendance. School officials came under sharp criticism after announcing their original plan on Monday, the same day the city of Ames was identified as the nation’s worst coronavirus hot spot. 

Actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, family test positive for COVID-19

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson took to Instagram on Wednesday for a candid announcement: He, his wife and two young daughters all tested positive for COVID-19.

“My wife Lauren, as well as my two baby girls and myself – we have all tested positive for COVID-19,” the actor shared in a video. “I can tell you that this has been one of the most challenging and difficult things that we have ever had to endure as a family and for me personally. … And I’ve gone through some doozies in the past.”

Johnson, 48, added that he wishes it was only him who contracted the virus.

The action star assured followers that he and his family are “on the other end” of the virus.

– Charles Trepany

United Airlines to furlough 16,370 workers amid COVID-19 recovery effort

United Airlines said Wednesday that it plans to furlough 16,370 employees in October, down from an earlier target of 36,000 after thousands of workers took early retirement, buyouts or long-term leaves of absence with the industry facing a slow recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Airline officials said the final number could come down further before Oct. 1, when a prohibition on furloughs ends. They said the furloughs would be postponed if Washington approves another $25 billion to help passenger airlines cover payroll costs.

Flight attendants will bear the brunt of the cuts: 6,920 are getting furlough notices. About 2,850 pilots, 2,010 maintenance workers and 1,400 management and support staff would also lose their jobs. The level of cuts, however, is 55% lower than the number of layoff warnings that United sent to employees in July. 

First COVID-19 death linked to massive South Dakota motorcycle rally

The first COVID-19 death associated with a massive biker rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, has been reported weeks after the event attracted more than 400,000 vehicles and drew widespread concern from public health officials.

The death was reported by Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann at a Wednesday briefing. Minnesota – South Dakota’s neighbor to the east – is tracking an ongoing outbreak of 50 cases tied to the August event, Ehresmann said. That outbreak only includes people who attended the event.

A Minnesota man who died was in his 60s and had underlying health conditions.  The rally went forward despite fears it could become a super-spread event

– Joel Shannon

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19 news: Dwayne Johnson; CDC vaccine; United Airlines; Pfizer

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