NJ Scraps 'In-Person Learning' Order As Unions Push Back; Texas COVID-19 Positivity Rate Nears 25%: Live Updates

Summary:

  • California reports 6,212 "backlogged" cases, along with 5,433 new ones
  • CA hospitalizations fall 19.4%
  • NJ scraps in-person school mandate
  • Texas positivity rate hits new record high north of 23%
  • Brazil, Philippines review Russian vaccine
  • Australia suffers deadliest day yet; first day north of 400 new cases in 3
  • Duterte says he would personally take Russian vaccine
  • Tokyo confirms 222 new cases
  • South Korea tightens some restrictions amid mild uptick
  • German health minister "skeptical" of Russian vaccine

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Update (1600ET): California just reported 6,000 cases that it said were from a "backlog" that was undercounted due to a computer glitch.

Other figures from the day include a notable drop in hospitalizations. Even with the additional cases, the daily total in the Golden State was still lower than yesterday.

  • CA REPORTS 5,442 HOSPITALIZATIONS, DOWN 19.4% IN LAST 14 DAYS
  • CALIFORNIA SEES 11,645 VIRUS CASES, INCLUDES 6,212 FROM BACKLOG
  • CA SAYS LATEST CASE COUNT INCLUDES BACKLOG FROM DATA DELAY

A glitch in California's CalREDIE data reporting system recently failed to process up to 300,000 coronavirus records. The state’s top health official resigned after that scandal. Meanwhile, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said earlier this week that the backlog of data was cleared over the weekend, and Smith said the problem is unlikely to impact the integrity of the data now that it’s been corrected

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Update (1500ET): In a move that shows the power of teachers' unions have to get their way even at the expense of students, NJ Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday that he would scrap his order that children return to classrooms at the beginning of the new school year. This will affect all 2,500 public schools in the state.

Certain districts may have "legitimate and documentable reasons" for not meeting state-mandated health and safety standards. Those can "begin their school year in an all-remote fashion," he said.

The governor didn’t immediately name any potential districts or estimate how many people might not be able to meet these standards.

Trump is now laying out a back to school plan of his own.

The decision, announced at a Trenton news conference on Wednesday, comes on day after a powerful group representing school administrators joined with the NJ Education Association, the state's biggest teachers' union, to raise alarms about classroom safety.

Meanwhile, Arizona reported 148 new deaths, the most since July 30, and 706 new cases (+0.4%), which is lower than the prior seven-day average of 0.6%.

Florida cases accelerated slightly with the state reported a 1.5% increase to 550,901 total cases, up 1.5% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 1.3% over the prior 7 days. Texas’s positivity rate surged to a record 23.9% as questions swirled about how a backlog of un-run tests might be impacting the state's COVID numbers. Tests processed has fallen by nearly half in Texas from the states' peak, and though hospitalizations are also on the decline, many are worried that too many cases are going undiagnosed.

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Russian authorities are engaging with the WHO about the possibility of "preapproving" Russia's first COVID-19 vaccine, which has only been tested on a few hundreds people. However, while western governments and officials like Dr. Scott Gottlieb express skepticism, other countries suffering from untrammeled outbreaks are trying to find ways to engage.

Responding to these criticisms, Russia's Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said allegations that Russia's COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe are "groundless" and "driven by competition."

Local press reports that Brazil's Parana state is in talks to produce a Russia-approved COVID-19 vaccine, despite not having completed mass clinical trials. However, it's unclear whether Brazil's regulators would grant this approval.

During yesterday's Moscow conference dedicated to introducing the adenovirus-vaccine to the world, the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund explained that it had already received orders for a billion doses.

"Together with our foreign partners, we are ready to produce more than 500 million doses of the vaccine per year," fund CEO Kirill Dmitriev explained. Everything produced in Russia will be used domestically, and doses produced abroad will be consumed abroad, he said.

Already on Wednesday, Philippine scientists were set to meet representatives of the Gameleya Research Institute, which spear-headed testing of the vaccine with Moscow's state medical college. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has already congratulated Russia on its vaccine, and offered to be "injected in public" to allay fears surrounding safety.

Meanwhile, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said during a radio interview that he’s “very skeptical” about Russia's COVID-19 vaccine, which is cleared for use but could be dangerous to use."

"It’s not about being first, it’s about having an effective, tested and therefore safe vaccine," said Spahn on DLF radio.

British newspaper the Telegraph warned in an editorial published with Wednesday's edition that the world should be skeptical of Russia's vaccine since it has only undergone limited testing for safety and efficacy. Despite the Gameleya Institute's solid track record for producing vaccines, a legacy that Putin leaned on heavily during Tuesday's press briefing, the editorial warned to be wary of "political" ploys.

The epidemiology it is using is similar to that at Oxford University where scientists are also said to be close to success. But the requisite protocols for determining whether the Russian vaccine is both safe and effective do not yet appear to have been carried out. The numbers involved in clinical trials are also low which makes efficacy hard to establish.

Furthermore, the fact that the Russians have called the vaccine Sputnik 5 after the Soviet satellite that stole a march on the Americans in the Sixties by sending animals into space and returning them to Earth indicates a political agenda.

Tokyo confirmed 222 new coronavirus infections, compared with 188 the previous day and 197 on Monday.

One day after confirming its first domestic cases in 102 days, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her cabinet would decide Friday on "next steps" re: any new COVID-19 restrictions.

South Korea, meanwhile, confirmed 54 new cases, up from 34 a day ago, pushing total infections in the country to 14,714 with 305 deaths. In response, the government strengthened social distancing rules in funeral homes and wedding halls to prevent the contagion's spread.

Finally, one week after Melbourne extended a temporary lockdown in response to the outbreak in Victoria, Australia recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic on Wednesday, and the biggest daily rise in infections in three days, denting hopes that a second wave gripping the state of Victoria may be stabilizing. Victoria reported 21 deaths, two more than the previous deadliest day earlier this week. The country reported also reported 410 new cases in the past 24 hours, snapping a stretch of 3 days with fewer than 400 cases.