With Washington talks on emergency coronavirus aid having stalled, both sides are playing the blame game Thursday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted Republicans for not giving “a damn.” (Aug. 13)

AP Domestic

The United States Postal Service has warned almost every state that deadlines for early voting may mean some ballots cannot be delivered in time to be counted.

Many states have put new emphasis on early voting by mail because many voters may not want to go to the polls in person because of the pandemic. The warning, blamed by the USPS on changes to limit overtime and increase efficiency, has prompted charges that the move by the Trump administration is politically motivated. 

Though President Donald Trump has unleashed a barrage of attacks on “universal” mail voting,  few states are actually planning that in November: Only nine states and the District of Columbia so far plan to automatically send ballots to all voters. Even in these states, in-person voting will remain an option.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says people who have had COVID-19 within the past three months and come in close contact with someone who is actively infected do not need to quarantine or be tested again. 

Here are some significant developments:

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has 5.3 million confirmed infections and more than 168,000 deaths. Worldwide, there have been more than 766,000 deaths and more than million cases, according to John Hopkins University data.

📰 What we’re reading: Some people are listening to health experts, while others ignore them. What does that mean for the future of COVID-19 in America? The psychology behind following rules, explained.  

Postal service warns it may not be able to meet state deadlines for returning ballots

The U.S. Postal Service is warning that it may not be able to meet many state deadlines for returning early voting ballots for the November election. The issue is arising as states gear up for an expected avalanche of early ballot requests by voters fearful of going to the polls in person because of the pandemic.

The warnings, blamed on USPS changes this summer to limit overtime and increase efficiency, have gone out to almost every state, notably including such as Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona.

The warning letters to state election officials, first reported by The Washington Post, prompted immediate questions from the League of Women Voters and suspicion from the American Postal Workers Union that the warnings were politically motivated.

– Kevin McCoy, Donovan Slack and Katie Wedell

Screenings kids is not enough to keep COVID-19 from schools, experts say

A child returning to school this fall might go through the following morning routine: their parent checks them for COVID-19 symptoms, they take a socially distanced bus ride, and a faculty member, like a school nurse, conducts a final screening at the school entrance before letting them through the door.

As students return to class, many school districts have introduced routine symptom screenings into their reopening plans. But their effectiveness and feasibility in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in schools remain unclear.  

Screenings are limited for a variety of reasons, including that the novel coronavirus shares many symptoms with common illnesses like the flu and not everyone with COVID-19 will have symptoms, said Adam Karcz, director of infection prevention at Indiana University’s Riley Hospital for Children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t recommend universal health screenings or COVID-19 testing at schools because of these limitations. 

—Tiana Woodard, Indianapolis Star

People who recover from COVID-19 don’t need to get tested or quarantine for 3 months, CDC says

People who have had COVID-19 within the past three months and come in close contact with someone who is actively infected do not need to quarantine, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“People who have tested positive for COVID-19 do not need to quarantine or get tested again for up to 3 months as long as they do not develop symptoms again,” the new guidance says. “People who develop symptoms again within 3 months of their first bout of COVID-19 may need to be tested again if there is no other cause identified for their symptoms.”

But antibodies may begin to decline sooner than that. A June study in the journal Nature found that antibodies may begin to decrease within 2 to 3 months after infection.

“This science does not imply a person is immune to reinfection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the 3 months following infection,” CDC spokesperson Jason McDonald said in a statement. “The latest data simply suggests that retesting someone in the 3 months following initial infection is not necessary unless that person is exhibiting the symptoms of COVID-19 and the symptoms cannot be associated with another illness.”

Study hints, can’t prove, survivor plasma fights COVID-19

Mayo Clinic researchers reported a strong hint that blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors helps other patients recover, but it’s not proof and some experts worry if, amid clamor for the treatment, they’ll ever get a clear answer.

More than 64,000 patients in the U.S. have been given convalescent plasma, a century-old approach to fend off flu and measles before vaccines. It’s a go-to tactic when new diseases come along, and history suggests it works against some, but not all, infections.

There’s no solid evidence yet that it fights the coronavirus and, if so, how best to use it. But preliminary data from 35,000 coronavirus patients treated with plasma offers what Mayo lead researcher Dr. Michael Joyner on Friday called “signals of efficacy.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp says cities can now enforce mask mandates

After bitter battles with municipalities over mandatory mask ordinances, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has yielded to local city’s demands. Kemp is expected to sign an executive order on Saturday that allows cities like Savannah, Atlanta, Augusta and Athens to enforce the mask mandates that the governor had previously insisted had no power.

Until Friday, Kemp had strongly encouraged people to wear masks. He’d filed a lawsuit against Atlanta Mayor Kesha Lance Bottoms to drop her local mandate, but earlier this week Kemp dropped that suit.

Under the order, first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the ordinances for businesses will only be applicable if the owner agrees to it. Kemp also said people must be given a warning before being issued a citation. Kemp has not gone as far as making masks a statewide mandate.

– Rana L. Cash, Savannah Morning News

What we’re reading

New York to allow museums, aquariums, more to open

Bowling alleys, gyms, museums and other low-risk indoor cultural venues will soon be allowed to open in New York with strict COVID-19 rules, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.

Bowling alleys will be allowed to open Monday, being limited to 50% of occupancy capacity and forced to follow other rules, such as bowlers must have a face covering and every other lane will remain closed. Food and alcohol service will also be limited to wait service, reports USA TODAY Network’s New York State Team.

Museums, aquariums and other low-risk indoor cultural venues will be allowed to open in New York City on Aug. 24 with various COVID-19 restrictions, including operating at 25% occupancy capacity. In upstate communities, museums and other indoor venues opened previously.

The opening date and rules for gyms will be revealed on Monday, Cuomo said.

– David Robinson, New York State Team

Canada-US border closed for another month

The Canada-U.S. border will remain closed to nonessential travel for at least another month, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in a statement Friday, a day after Mexico announced a similar measure for its border with the United States. The land border restrictions aimed at controlling the coronavirus pandemic were first announced in March and have been renewed monthly. 

Essential cross-border workers such as health care professionals, airline crews and truck drivers are still permitted to cross. Americans and Canadians returning to their respective countries are exempted from the border closure.

– The Associated Press


Communities of color are dying at higher rates from the novel coronavirus than white Americans. Here’s how structural inequities play a role.


More COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

On Facebook: There’s still a lot unknown about the coronavirus. But what we do know, we’re sharing with you. Join our Facebook group, Coronavirus Watch, to receive daily updates in your feed and chat with others in the community about COVID-19.  

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Tips for coping: Every Saturday and Tuesday we’ll be in your inbox, offering you a virtual hug and a little bit of solace in these difficult times. Sign up for Staying Apart, Together here.

Contributing: The Associated Press


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