Virus Updates: Fla. Tops 10K COVID Deaths; CDC to Monitor Sewage for Outbreaks

On Tuesday, the University of Notre Dame and Michigan State became the latest colleges to cancel in-person classes because of the coronavirus as colleges struggle to contain outbreaks and students continue to congregate in large groups without masks or social distancing.

A new NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll out Tuesday found that only 44% of Americans will get a vaccine when one is available, with differences in opinion largely split along political party lines, NBC News reports.

Meanwhile, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee summoned Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to testify on Friday to address nationwide mail delays in the midst of the pandemic. Democrats and some Republicans say the issues endanger millions of Americans who rely on the Postal Service for prescription drugs and other needs.

Nationwide more than 173,000 people have died from the coronavirus, and over 5.5 million people have been infected, according to a tally by NBC News.

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

Deaths in Florida Surpass 10,000 From Virus

Deaths in Florida from the coronavirus surpassed 10,000, while teachers and state officials argued in court over whether in-person schools should reopen this month.

Florida reported 174 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total confirmed deaths to at least 10,067 -- the fifth-highest death toll in the nation.

The state reported an additional 4,115 confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 584,047. The positivity rate for coronavirus testing in Florida has averaged about 11.4% during the past week.

There were 5,351 patients being treated for the disease in Florida hospitals on Wednesday, down from peaks above 9,500 patients in late July.

Meanwhile, Florida’s largest teacher’s union is seeking an injunction from a judge in Tallahassee to stop schools from reopening by this Friday.

CDC Wants State and Local Sewage Systems Tested for Coronavirus

The federal government is teaming up with local health departments to begin testing sewage systems for the coronavirus in an effort to catch the virus before it spreads rapidly, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, CNBC reports. 

The CDC in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other federal government agencies will begin working with state, local, territorial and tribal health departments to collect data on the sewage samples, an effort they call the National Wastewater Surveillance System, or NWSS, according to CDC guidance updated on Monday. 

While wastewater testing is not intended to replace clinical testing, it can help communities where Covid-19 tests are “underutilized or unavailable,” the CDC says. The data could provide information on how widespread the virus is in the local population, and could aid local officials in their decision making.

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Tracking the Outbreak: Where Are Coronavirus Cases Increasing and Decreasing?

As the U.S continues to emerge from coronavirus lockdowns and governors ease restrictions on social gatherings and business activities, several states are seeing an upward trend in the number of COVID-19 cases. See all states here

Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

FDA Flags Accuracy Issue With Widely Used Coronavirus Test

The Food and Drug Administration is warning about potential issues with a widely used test for coronavirus that can lead to false results. The regulators flagged the issues to doctors and lab technicians working with a popular test from Thermo Fisher.

Thermo Fisher’s test is one of the standard tools used to screen for COVID-19, run on large, automated machines found in many U.S. hospitals and laboratories. The FDA flagged two separate issues that could potentially result in false results: the chemical mixing process and computer software that runs on the company's machine.

The warning comes nearly a month after health officials in Connecticut warned that the test had delivered false positive results to at least 90 people tested for the virus. Most of those receiving the false results were residents of nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

Thermo Fisher has provided new instructions for mixing. And a software update fixes the second problem, the FDA said. For all positive results, FDA said labs should review the instrument settings.

Thermo Fisher said in a statement that its data shows the issues are rare and most users get accurate results by following company directions.

The agency's warning over Thermo Fisher's TaqPath test underscores the complexity of COVID-19 tests and how easily they can be skewed by faulty processing and equipment.

No test is 100% accurate and all medical tests are expected to deliver a certain small portion of false results. Less is known about the accuracy of COVID-19 tests because of how quickly they were rushed through the regulatory process because of the pandemic.

As coronavirus spreads across the globe, many in the United States are wondering how they can get tested. Here is the process.

FDA Puts Emergency Authorization of COVID-19 Blood Plasma Treatment on Hold: Report

The Food and Drug Administration's emergency authorization for blood plasma as a treatment for the COVID-19 has been put on hold over concerns that the data on the treatment was too weak, The New York Times reports, citing two senior administration officials.

H. Clifford Lane, the clinical director at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Times an emergency approval could still be issued but more data needs to be reviewed for now.

Last week, Mayo Clinic researchers reported a strong hint that blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors helps other patients recover, but there's no solid evidence yet that it fights the coronavirus. Preliminary data from 35,000 coronavirus patients treated with plasma offers only what Mayo lead researcher Dr. Michael Joyner called “signals of efficacy.”

Several top health officials, including National Institute of Health Director Dr. Francis S. Collins and Dr. Anthony Fauci, intervened on the emergency approval, saying the data from the Mayo Clinic research was not strong enough to warrant an emergency approval, according to the Times.

Nevada Workers Who Lost Jobs to COVID-19 Roll Dice on Proposed Ordinance to Get Them Back

The bartenders, nurses and airport, casino and convention workers who help power Nevada's economy rallied Tuesday in Las Vegas for a "Right to Return" ordinance that would require businesses to hire back employees who were laid off or furloughed because of the coronavirus crisis, NBC News reports.

"Every one of those workers should have the right to come back to their previous jobs when business resumes," the Save Our Jobs union coalition said in a statement. "They have lost their jobs through no fault of their own."

Save Our Jobs represents about 87,000 workers across the state, and the ordinance it is asking the Clark County Commission to place on the Sept. 1 agenda would ensure that employers don't hire someone new before asking a former employee to return.

While the language is still being finalized, the coalition said it would cover both union and nonunion workers.

Nevada was among the hardest-hit states because 2 of every 5 jobs in the state were in the leisure, retail and hospitality industries, Business Insider reported.

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