Virus Updates: US Deaths Reach 160K; COVID-19's Impact on Kids' Brains

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The United States on Thursday reached over 160,000 deaths due to the coronavirus pandemic as confirmed cases near 5 million, according to a tally from NBC News.

Facebook removed a video post from President Donald Trump's page on Wednesday that included "false claims" from the president that children are "almost immune" to COVID-19. A few hours later, Twitter temporarily blocked the Trump campaign from tweeting from its account, until it removed a post with the same video.

Meanwhile, top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci confirmed the United States has the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, saying, "I mean the numbers don’t lie."

The U.S., which accounts for less than 5% of the world population, leads all other countries in coronavirus infections and deaths. The nation represents more than 22% of global coronavirus deaths and more than 25% of infections as of Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden announced Wednesday he will not travel to Milwaukee to accept his party's nomination later this month due to virus concerns. President Donald Trump also said he's considering delivering his Republican convention acceptance speech from the White House, which would mark an unprecedented use of public property for partisan political purposes. Congressional leaders in both parties publicly doubted Trump could go ahead with the plan.

Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.:

Facebook Will Allow Employees to Work Remotely Until July 2021

Facebook will allow its employees to continue working from home for the next year, the company told CNBC on Thursday. 

“Based on guidance from health and government experts, as well as decisions drawn from our internal discussions about these matters, we are allowing employees to continue voluntarily working from home until July 2021,” a company spokesman told CNBC in a statement. The news was first reported by Business Insider.   

The company will also provide its employees with an additional $1,000 bonus for their home office needs. The company provided employees with a similar bonus after shelter-in-place orders first went into effect earlier this year. 

Although employees will be allowed to work from home, the company said it will continue to reopen offices in restricted capacities in regions where government guidance permits and where there has been virus mitigation for approximately two months. It’s unlikely, however, that many Facebook offices will reopen in 2020, the spokesman said. 

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Fauci: Face Shields for Teachers Returning to Schools 'Can't Hurt'

Dr. Anthony Fauci says if you can wear a face shield to protect yourself and others from the coronavirus, you might as well do it.

The head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says he’s been asked by teachers worried about infection risks from kids in the classroom whether they should wear plastic face shields. They are now commonly used in hospital emergency departments, as well as dental and medical offices. Occasionally, supermarket shoppers also sport them.

“It certainly can’t hurt,” says Fauci, who has also promoted the use of cloth masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Fauci took questions from the media at a session sponsored by the nonprofit Alliance for Health Policy.

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There’s no formal recommendation yet to wear face shields because the science isn’t clear, Fauci said, but there is a certain logic to it: so the virus does enter the body through the mouth, nose and eyes.

Asked whether the coronavirus could become a fact of life for generations, Fauci said public health safeguards and an eventual vaccine will allow the world to successfully adapt.

He said the combination of public health measures — masks, hand washing, social distancing — and vaccines should mean that “you can very well control and essentially eliminate (the coronavirus) from any given country.”

“Remember, there’s only been one virus in the history of the planet that’s been eradicated and that’s smallpox,” he added.

Vaccines are under development and it’s unknown how effective they will be. But Fauci said he hopes it will be in the range of 70% to 80% effectiveness. A vaccine should be available in 2021, he said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says a possible coronavirus vaccine entering a phase three trial has been promising.

US Deaths Predicted to Reach Nearly 300K by Dec. 1

A widely cited University of Washington model predicts U.S. deaths from COVID-19 will reach nearly 300,000 by Dec. 1.

The forecast of 295,011 deaths is 137,000 more than the roughly 158,000 U.S. deaths reported so far. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model assumes that many states will impose new stay-at-home orders as deaths climb.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitors the model along with forecasts from about 30 other modeling groups. Combined, the models predict from 168,000 to 182,000 total COVID-19 deaths by Aug. 22.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine Tests Positive for Virus Before Trump Meeting

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tested positive Thursday for the coronavirus just ahead of a planned meeting with President Donald Trump.

The Republican governor's office said Thursday that he took the test as part of standard protocol before meeting Trump at an airport in Cleveland. He had planned to join the president on a visit to the Whirlpool Corp. plant in northwest Ohio.

His office said the 73-year-old DeWine had no symptoms, but was returning to Columbus. His office said he and his wife, Fran DeWine, will both be tested there. The first-term governor then plans to quarantine at his home in Cedarville for 14 days.

DeWine becomes the second U.S. governor to test positive for coronavirus after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced he contracted the virus last month.

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COVID-19 and Children: Doctors See Link Between Virus and Neurological Side Effects

 Nia Haughton, 15, occasionally struggles to find the right words, and her memory can be patchy, but as she describes her lengthy treatment in a London hospital, her account still has the power to shock, NBC News reports.

In early April, the British teen had been battling a cough and a high temperature for about 10 days, but when her condition significantly deteriorated her mother, Justina Ward, called for help.

The first emergency room to admit her recognized that her illness was both acute and complex, and transferred her to one of central London’s top children’s hospitals. Soon after her arrival there with several recognizable COVID-19 symptoms, she was sedated and placed on a ventilator inside an intensive care unit, where she remained for two weeks.

For days, her lungs labored to stave off collapse until the medical staff tried “proning” her for 16 hours a day. This approach allows oxygen to be blasted to the back of a patient’s lungs, and has been beneficial for many COVID-19 sufferers.

Nina eventually turned a corner before her condition worsened again. But this time it was her brain rather than her lungs that was affected. During this period, Nia’s voice and behavior appeared to regress to a younger version of herself. Pediatric neurologist Dr. Ming Lim of the Evelina London Children’s Hospital diagnosed her with encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain.

Lim said Nia’s diagnostic and antibody tests had both come back negative, but he had seen other patients with the same "COVID picture” of symptoms who had tested positive. He considered Nia’s neurological symptoms as a late-onset, secondary inflammatory illness associated with COVID-19.

“We worry that the long-term effect would be in essentially brain growth,” he said, a particular concern among children and young adults whose brains are still developing.

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Airbnb Sees Surge in Rural Bookings

While urban Airbnb hosts have suffered heavily along with traditional hotels and travel companies, Airbnb hosts in rural areas are seeing huge surges in business, CNBC reports.

These rural Airbnbs for local getaways are all the rage as Americans jump at opportunities to escape the confines of their homes and the stress of the ongoing pandemic.

According to Airbnb, hosts in rural areas of the U.S. earned over $200 million in June 2020, an increase of more than 25% from the same period a year ago. Airbnb also said more than nine of every 10 dollars earned by hosts for June trips inside the U.S. were for sites outside the 10 biggest American cities by population.

Airbnb’s data also supports hosts’ speculation that guests are choosing to stay local. In New York, for example, Airbnb hosts earned over $5.8 million from guests living within 300 miles during June, according to data from the company.

“Many families are looking to stay in short-term rentals because it gives you a little more control over your environment, a little more privacy,” a spokeswoman for Airbnb told CNBC. People can access these quieter areas by driving and still practice social distancing while going outdoors, she added.

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Nintendo Profits Surge as Lockdown Sparks Gaming Boom

Nintendo’s operating profits skyrocketed 428% in the fiscal first quarter, the company said Thursday, a wild jump that reflects just how much the video game industry has benefited from the coronavirus pandemic, CNBC reports.

The Japanese gaming giant reported operating profit of 144.7 billion yen ($1.4 billion) in the April-June quarter, smashing analyst expectations and representing a massive climb from the 27.4 billion yen it posted in the year-ago quarter.

Net sales meanwhile came in at 358.1 billion yen, up an impressive 108% from the 172.1 billion yen Nintendo reported in the same period last year. Sales of the company’s popular Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite consoles grew around 167% to 5.68 million units in the quarter.

Nintendo's “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” released in March, quickly became a hit and has sold 22.4 million copies as players looked for a form of escapism while stuck indoors.

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19 Dead Due to Coronavirus at Texas Nursing Home

Nineteen people at a Texas nursing home have died due to the coronavirus and 24 employees have been infected, officials said.

Missouri City said it received notification Wednesday about the deaths and infections at Paradigm at First Colony Nursing Home after Yolanda Ford, the city’s mayor, sent a letter to the state’s health department requesting notice about cases in the Houston-area city.

“The city is concerned about the individuals and families who are affected by the Paradigm cases,” Ford said.

There was no answer early Thursday at a telephone listing for the facility.

Nursing homes have been hit hard by the pandemic. Residents and staff represent a tiny share of the U.S. population but account for as many as 4 in 10 coronavirus deaths, according to some estimates.

Texas on Wednesday reported 236 new coronavirus deaths, pushing the total death toll to nearly 7,500. But hospitalizations in Texas dropped to 8,455, the lowest mark in a month.

1.2M Seek Jobless Aid After $600 Federal Check Ends

Nearly 1.2 million laid-off Americans applied for state unemployment benefits last week, evidence that the coronavirus keeps forcing companies to slash jobs just as a critical $600 weekly federal jobless payment has expired.

The Labor Department’s report marked the 20th straight week that at least 1 million people have sought jobless aid. Before the pandemic hit hard in March, the number of Americans seeking unemployment checks had never surpassed 700,000 in a week, not even during the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

The new jobless claims were down by 249,000 from the previous week after rising for two straight weeks.

Los Angeles Can Cut Utilities at Party Homes, Mayor Announces

Homes that are confirmed to be hosting parties by the Los Angeles Police Department will have their utilities cut, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Wednesday. The announcement came in the wake of reports of parties during the coronavirus pandemic in recent days, NBC Los Angeles reports.

The Department of Water and Power is now authorized to cut utilities within 48 hours after parties are confirmed by the LAPD, the mayor said.

"You're breaking the law," the mayor said in response to a question about the constitutionality of shutting off utilities on private property.

On Monday, a party in the Beverly Crest area featured hundreds of people seemingly not social distancing or wearing masks, but police were unable to take action to shut down the gathering. Later in the night, a 35-year-old mother of three lost her life when a shooting took place at the event.

NYC to Impose COVID-19 Checkpoints to Enforce Cuomo Quarantine Order, Mayor Says

Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City would start implementing checkpoints across the five boroughs to help enforce Gov. Andrew Cuomo's quarantine order for travelers from viral hotspots, citing the ongoing national COVID threat.

The measure announced Wednesday is the first significant effort by New York City specifically to help enforce the 14-day quarantine for travelers from 34 states and Puerto Rico, NBC New York reports. In revealing it, de Blasio said the state was "absolutely right" to impose the travel restriction in the first place. Cuomo announced it in late June.

The governor has said the quarantine itself is imperfect and Mayor de Blasio admitted New York City's new enforcement plan has some caveats as well. But the idea, the mayor said, is to send a strong message to people coming in.

"The checkpoints are going to send a very powerful message that this quarantine is serious. Even if we can't reach every single person I think it'll get the message across," de Blasio said. "We don't want to penalize people. We want to educate them, make sure they're following the rules."

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