New ‘pandemic potential’ found in China; Arizona delays opening of schools; kids sports march on

A new pandemic threat could be simmering in China while at home more states are tightening restrictions aimed at tamping down an alarming boom in coronavirus cases.

Arizona delayed the start for in-class learning for the 2020-21 school year. Oregon and Kansas are the latest states that will begin to require face masks in public.

“Modeling from the Oregon Health Authority shows that if we don’t take further action to reduce the spread of the disease, our hospitals could be overwhelmed by new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations within weeks,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said. “The choices every single one of us make in the coming days matter.”

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced late Monday that the state would pause its planned reopening for indoor dining and banned smoking and drinking at Atlantic City casinos set to reopen this week.

And in China, researchers are concerned about a new swine flu strain in pigs that could have “pandemic potential.”

Here are some major developments:

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top health officials will testify before Congress today on the state of the pandemic. 

  • Gilead Sciences, the maker of remdesivir that is shown to shorten recovery time for severely ill patients, said Monday it will charge $2,340 for a typical treatment course for people covered by government health programs in the U.S. and other developed countries. 

  • The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service are sticking to its July 15 deadline to file taxes. The IRS had postponed the tax-filing deadline from April 15 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a webcast Monday the surge of COVID-19 cases over the last few weeks is “very discouraging.”

📈Today’s stats: The number of confirmed cases globally is over 10.3 million, and the death toll is more than 505,500. There are more than 2.5 million cases in the U.S. and an excess of 129,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.

📰 What we’re reading: As coronavirus cases surge in Arizona and Gov. Doug Ducey orders bars, gyms and theaters to close again, this town’s mayor says he won’t cancel events nor require masks. “My response from the onset of COVID-19 pandemic has been that we will err on the side of freedom,” Eagar Mayor Bryce Hamblin said in a statement.

Our live blog will be updated throughout the day. For first-in-the-morning updates, sign up for The Daily Briefing.

Swine flu in Chinese pigs monitored for ‘pandemic potential’

A swine flu virus found in Chinese pigs has the potential to jump to humans and even spark a pandemic, researchers say.

The Chinese and British scientists, writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, urge immediate measures to control the virus in pigs and to closely monitor workers who handle them. The predominant G4 EA H1N1 virus has acquired increased human infectivity, the researchers say, which greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and “raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses.”

Martha Nelson, an evolutionary biologist at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center, told Science magazine the likelihood of this variant causing a pandemic is low. But Nelson warns that “influenza can surprise us, and there’s a risk that we neglect influenza and other threats” due to the COVID-19.

Arizona delays opening of public schools

Arizona schools will delay reopening for in-person classes this year until at least Aug. 17 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Doug Ducey announced, adding that “we’ll continuously reevaluate this target date.” The state’s schools usually open in early August. But a spike in COVID-19 cases across the state has schools facing difficult decisions – including whether to offer in-person classes at all. Schools can offer online instruction before the reopening date.

The state has more than 74,000 confirmed cases, with 3,000-plus new cases reported on five of the past seven days. People younger than 20 make up about 11% of the cases. 

“We were hopeful that schools could reopen and that with mitigation strategies that our schools could still offer in-person instruction,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said. “But more recently, it’s become more clear that’s not advised.” 

Lily Altavena, Arizona Republic

Hundreds of US kids developing serious inflammatory condition

At least 286 U.S. children have developed a serious inflammatory condition linked to the coronavirus and while most recovered, the potential for long-term or permanent damage is unknown, two new studies suggest. 

The papers, published online Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine, provide the fullest report yet on the condition, known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. It is considered uncommon and deaths are rare; six children died among the 285 in the new studies. Including cases in Europe, where it was first reported, about 1,000 children worldwide have been affected, a journal editorial said.

Youth sports march on despite boom in new cases

Many privately-run youth sports leagues and tournaments have largely carried on as the pandemic, even in recent coronavirus hot spot states such as Florida, Texas, Arizona and South Carolina. Jon Solomon, the editorial director for the Sports and Society Program at the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit think tank, believes many youth sports entities will continue to push forward unless or until government officials determine otherwise, even in states where the virus is spreading rapidly.

“There’s a lot of money at stake for these competitive organizations,” he said. “There are a lot of parents who are fine and they don’t necessarily see hospitalizations or positive tests within the people that they’re associating with. … It’s sort of like out of sight, out of mind.”

Tom Schad

Schools, students brace for outbreaks as fall semester nears

Colleges and universities are rolling out their plans for the fall semester as students and teachers brace for what could be a new burst of COVID-19 cases. Some schools will end the fall semester before Thanksgiving but forego the customary fall break to prevent students from leaving campus in October and returning with the virus. Some will stagger arrival dates, delay the start of classes to September and restrict access to residential and academic buildings. There are no national guidelines, and some experts have little faith the protocols will prevent outbreaks.

“The expectation would be that COVID-19 will run through campuses like wildfire,” said Dave Blake, an associate professor at Augusta University’s Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine. “That’s probably what’s going to happen if you don’t have really good surveillance testing procedures in place. And I don’t see universities setting those up in a way to do that and be effective.”

Suzanne Hirt

What we’re reading

Infection rates highest in lower-income, non-white neighborhoods

A USA TODAY analysis of ZIP code-level data shows neighborhoods with the highest rates of infection from the coronavirus are more densely populated, and they have lower household incomes and higher percentages of non-white residents. 

USA TODAY’s exclusive analysis draws from reported cases of COVID-19 by ZIP code of residence of those testing positive for the virus. It affirms a set of trends revealed by case counts available in April, when far fewer jurisdictions reported such granular data.

The data from more than 8,500 ZIP codes – about 26% of all U.S. ZIPs – was collected during the week of June 15 from 49 state, county and local health departments that publish data at that geographic level. 

Mark Nichols, Mitchell Thorson, and Carlie Procell

CDC official on coronavirus: ‘We are not even beginning to be over this’

The uptick in COVID-19 cases over the last few weeks is “very discouraging,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a webcast Monday.

“We are not even beginning to be over this,” she said.

In the outbreak’s early days in the U.S., the New York region bore the brunt of infections. Now, she said, infections are much more widespread, making it much harder to contain. 

The only way to bring infection rates down again, she said, is to stay physically distant from each other, wear masks, wash hands, and stay away from others after a possible exposure. “In terms of the weather or season helping us, I don’t think we can count on that,” she told Dr. Howard Bauchner, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, who was conducting the online interview.

“Face-covering is something that each one of us can do,” she said, advising people to wear a mask every time they leave home and around people they don’t live with. 

– Karen Weintraub

New Jersey bans smoking, drinking at Atlantic City casinos, halts indoor dining reopening

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday postponed the resumption of indoor dining, and banned drinking and smoking at Atlantic City’s casinos as they reopen this week, causing one casino to scrap plans to reopen anytime soon.

Murphy said he acted because of a lack of compliance over the use of face masks and social distancing as the coronavirus outbreak continues to rage in many parts of the country.

The decisions had an immediate effect: Atlantic City’s top-performing casino, the Borgata, dropped its plans to reopen soon. It had planned to hold an invitation-only “soft opening” on Thursday and open its doors to the general public starting July 6.

Now, neither of those things is happening for the immediate future, and it was unclear late Monday whether the one-two punch of a smoking and drinking ban would cause other casinos to also postpone their reopenings.

San Diego County to close all bars, wineries and breweries

Bars, wineries and breweries that don’t serve food in San Diego County have been ordered to close temporarily, county health officials announced Monday. The order goes into effect at midnight July 1.

“The pandemic is not over,” County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten said. “The virus is still pervasive in our communities. Now more than ever, it is vital that we all take precaution to guide our personal, as well as our collective health.”

The county had a new single-day record 498 new COVID-19 cases Monday, reported local broadcasting station KPBS. The closures comes as several California counties curtail plans to reopen some businesses after an increase in hospitalizations throughout the state.

Elinor Aspegren

NYC hotels allegedly weren’t following coronavirus cleaning procedures, according to TV news show

Major hotel chains have announced special cleaning protocols in light of the coronavirus, but a television news show investigation is raising questions about whether they are being followed.

The syndicated news show “Inside Edition” aired a report Monday that alleges two of the three hotels it checked in New York didn’t thoroughly clean rooms or change bed linens between visits. It identified them as the Hyatt Place Times Square and the Hampton Inn Times Square Central. A third hotel, the Trump International overlooking Central Park did better, but wasn’t perfect.

“Inside Edition” said its producers checked into the hotels and spotted pillows, bed sheets and bath towels with a harmless, washable spray that becomes visible under ultraviolet light. The producer mussed up the bed and room to make it appear a guest had spent the night. A clear, washable gel was applied to other surfaces that would commonly be touched by hotel guests, such as the TV remote control, thermostat and desktop.

– Chris Woodyard

Oregon, Kansas will begin requiring face masks in public this week

Oregon and Kansas are the latest states set to require residents to wear face masks in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Starting Wednesday, face masks in indoor public spaces will be required for all Oregonians, Gov. Kate Brown announced Monday. Brown said there has been an “alarming rate” of cases spread in urban and rural counties in the last month. 

“The upcoming July 4th holiday weekend is a critical point for Oregon in this pandemic, and we can all make a difference,” Brown said in a news release. She said she does not want to close businesses as other states have done.

In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly said she will issue an executive issue requiring face masks in public starting Friday. “The evidence could not be clearer — wearing a mask is not only safe, but it is necessary to avoid another shutdown,” Kelly told reporters Monday.

The order will require people to wear a mask around others. Specific guidance will be issued later this week, Kelly said.

IRS will not extend July 15 tax deadline

The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service announced Monday it would stick with its tax filing extension deadline of July 15. The agencies are encouraging people to file for an automatic extension of Oct. 15, if they cannot meet the July 15 deadline, by filling out this form. 

Earlier this year, the IRS postponed the tax-filing deadline from April 15 due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. States, however, may have different deadlines. Just last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said a further postponement to September was being considered. Those who expect to have to pay 2019 taxes might want to check their payment options.

– Josh Rivera

More on the coronavirus from USA TODAY

Coronavirus Watch: Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here. And come together and share the latest information about coronavirus, coping with lifestyle changes and more by joining our Facebook group.

How do you stay safe on flights during the pandemic? Experts say flying is safer than it was earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic because of airlines’ changes, but travelers can take precautions, too. Here’s how.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus update: Swine flu in China; Arizona schools; Kansas masks

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