US hopes for a more normal fall after 200,000 COVID-19 deaths

By | September 23, 2020

The U.S. COVID-19 death toll hit 200,000 Tuesday, but the rate of deaths has slowed, keeping hopes alive for a less disruptive fall.

The current coronavirus mortality rate in the United States is nowhere near what it was in April at the pandemic’s peak, when daily deaths would often surpass 2,000.

Keeping coronavirus transmission rates low in colder months will be difficult as more people are indoors and in smaller spaces, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, told CNN Tuesday. He added that he’d like to see the U.S. go into the fall and winter months “at such a low level that when you have the inevitable cases, you can handle them.”

As long as people continue to take the threat of infection seriously and follow social distancing guidelines, the U.S. will be able to decrease the COVID-19 mortality and case rates while waiting for a vaccine to become available, he said.

“I don’t want to really make this kind of a dark thing that ‘oh, my goodness, it’s inevitable that we are going to get into serious trouble,’” he said. “We can’t throw our hands up and say, ‘It’s hopeless, it’s going to happen anyway.’ That is unacceptable to take that approach.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laid out guidance for fall holidays Tuesday. The agency warned against door-to-door trick-or-treating to avoid increased coronavirus transmission but offered a list of alternative, low-risk activities. People could organize a “scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search” for members of their households and carve pumpkins outside. Neighbors should avoid handing out candy on their doorsteps but could participate in “one-way trick-or-treating,” where they put individually-wrapped goodie bags at the ends of their driveways or front yards for children to pick up as they go so as to maintain distance.

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Senate Democrats have introduced a bill to establish a task force meant to investigate whether the White House has interfered with government health agencies’ decisions in handling the pandemic. Findings by the task force would be released to relevant congressional committees and to the public.

“America will not defeat this virus if people do not have confidence that treatments, vaccines, and guidance are approved with only public health goals in mind,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday. “That confidence has been shaken, but this bill is a first step to restoring it.”

In speaking on The Daily Show Monday night, Fauci said the country’s “divisive state” is hindering efforts to stop the pandemic from advancing.

“Public health measures should be more of a gateway and a pathway to opening the country, as opposed to the obstacle to opening the country,” Fauci said. “What has evolved now is that, almost, people take sides, like wearing a mask or not is a political statement, and that’s really very unfortunate, totally unfortunate, because this is a purely public health issue.”

President Trump pledged to hold China accountable for its government’s role in setting off a chain of events that caused a pandemic in a prerecorded speech to the United Nations General Assembly. He struck a belligerent tone in his address, which contained a list of accusations against Beijing, from allowing travelers to spread what he called the “China virus” around the world to polluting the oceans.

“The Chinese government and the World Health Organization, which is virtually controlled by China, falsely declared that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission,” Trump said, calling on the U.N. to hold Beijing to account.

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China’s President Xi Jinping pushed back on Trump’s allegations in his speech Monday that China caused the pandemic, saying he has “no intention to fight either a Cold War or a hot one with any country.”

“We will continue to narrow differences and resolve disputes with others through dialogue and negotiation. We will not seek to develop only ourselves or engage in a zero-sum game,” Xi said.

Miami-Dade County Schools, the fourth-largest school district in the U.S., will allow students to return to classrooms on Oct. 14. Students will be permitted to attend classes in-person five days each week, but families can keep their children at home to learn virtually if they prefer. The reopening plan would bring in younger students from pre-K to first grade, students with disabilities, and those on a modified curriculum into schools first on Oct. 14, while the following grades will come in after that, finishing with grades 11 and 12, on Oct. 21.

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Tuesday that coronavirus restrictions will be tightened to curb an increasing number of new cases in England, the BBC reported. Staff in the hospitality industry will have to wear masks at all times, people should work from home whenever possible, pubs and restaurants must close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., and wedding ceremonies must be limited to 15 people.

Rule breakers will be subject to fines up to £10,000, roughly $ 12,700. Johnson said the restrictions could last “perhaps six months.”