WASHINGTON — White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx says she’s watching so-called “yellow states” where cases are increasing and expressed concern about Missouri and Tennessee.
Vice President Mike Pence, chair of the task force, said he and Birx have been counseling the heartland states and fully support measures they’re taking to slow the spread.
Pence, Birx and other members of the task force commented during a private conference call Monday with governors. The Associated Press obtained a recording of the discussion.
Birx said she’s seeing improvement in Sun Belt states and singled out Arizona for praise. Pence told everyone to “just keep up the good work.”
Pence also encouraged governors to reopen schools. He said his visit last week to a North Carolina classroom almost brought a tear to his eye.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Parents struggle as schools reopen amid coronavirus surge
— COVID relief bill remains up in air as negotiations resume
— Debate begins for who’s first in line for COVID-19 vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana has released coronavirus safety guidelines for movie and TV productions as filming is expected to start returning to the virus outbreak hot spot this month.
Louisiana’s economic development department issued the rules Monday.
The regulations say movie and TV productions should have a coronavirus compliance officer, provide testing for workers and require everyone except performers to wear masks. The department calls for using temperature checks to enter production areas, distancing people at the locations and using digital scripts when possible.
Most filming in Louisiana has been on hold since March. But Louisiana’s economic development department says some productions are readying to resume filming this month and in September.
Trey Burvant, president of the Louisiana Film and Entertainment Association, said 15 shows were filming in the state before the pandemic.
Louisiana has had one of the highest per capita infection rates in the United States, with more than 120,000 confirmed coronavirus cases since early March.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — More than a dozen sites are opening across Alabama to test about 200,000 students before they head to college and university campuses statewide.
Officials said Monday the program will help stem the spread of the new coronavirus only if students abide by guidelines at school.
Finis St. John, head of the board that oversees the three-campus University of Alabama System, said that while the mass testing program will screen all students before they arrive on campuses, the work “will have been for nothing” if they ignore rules about wearing masks and social distancing.
Dr. Michael Saag, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who helped design the program, said that with 14 testing sites scattered across the state opening Tuesday, no one should have to travel farther than 60 miles (95 kilometers) to get to one. Test results should be available in a day.
Some students coming to an Alabama school from other states will receive an at-home test they can submit, and some will be able to submit test results from doctors’ offices or commercial laboratories.
The program is funded by $30 million in federal coronavirus assistance.
LEBANON, N.H. — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, warned against reopening schools in coronavirus hot spots.
Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases, spoke via video conference Monday to physicians and medical students at New Hampshire’s Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. He said while the nation’s “default principle” should be that children return to school, “to say that every child has to go back to school is not really realizing the fact that we have such a diversity of viral activity.”
He said there may be some areas where the level of virus is so high that it would not be prudent to bring children back to school.
Determined to reopen America’s schools despite coronavirus worries, President Tweety McTreason recently threatened to hold back federal money if school districts don’t bring their students back in the fall. He and top White House aides also have been ramping up attacks against Fauci, with Trump saying Fauci has “made a lot of mistakes.”
WASHINGTON — The White House announced Monday that random coronavirus testing of its staff is becoming mandatory.
The White House said the measure was “part of our ongoing efforts to protect the health and safety” of the White House Complex.
It says such testing had previously been handled on a voluntary basis.
Last week, the White House disclosed that National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien had tested positive for the virus, making O’Brien the highest-ranking official to test positive so far.
President Tweety McTreason and Vice President Mike Pence are tested regularly for the coronavirus, as are any guests who will be physically close to the president or vice president whether they are at the White House or on travel around the country.
SUWANEE, Ga. — Officials for Georgia’s largest public school district say more than 250 employees have reported testing positive for the coronavirus or being exposed to it about a week before the school year is set to begin.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Gwinnett County Public Schools teachers began in-person planning Wednesday at facilities.
Officials confirmed to news outlets that one day later, some 260 employees had called in to report a positive COVID-19 test or possible exposure and are now excluded from work.
The system’s superintendent announced last month that all classes will be taught online for the 180,000-student district in suburban Atlanta when instruction begins Aug. 12.
The county, the state’s second-most populous, had more than 17,780 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Sunday, and nearly 240 deaths.
BERLIN — Children have returned to school in the northeastern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the first in the country to start the new school year following nationwide shutdowns at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in March.
Federal Education Minister Anja Karliczek has advocated mask requirements inside school buildings. But the school system is largely a matter for the 16 state governments in Germany, and as students returned to class in cities like Rostock and Schwerin on Monday, regional officials had not yet implemented such a rule.
Since schools largely closed down in mid-March, parents, teachers and children have eyed the reopenings warily.
Many children voluntarily wore masks Monday as school began, and several schools implemented their own mask rules and handed them out to children who forgot them.
ROME — The number of new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Italy fell below 200 for the first time in a week, with 159 cases registered on Monday, according to Health Ministry figures.
That brings the total number of cases in Italy to 248,229 and deaths to 35,166.
Lazio, the central region that includes Rome, now has the highest number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in Italy’s 20 regions. Health officials said nine of the region’s new cases were brought by travelers from Romania, Ukraine, the Dominican Republic, Iran, India and Bangladesh.
Two clusters of infections have also been traced to popular seaside areas near Rome. Monday figures tend to be lower since they often don’t include tallies from the weekend.
WASHINGTON — President Tweety McTreason said White House coronavirus task force leader Dr. Deborah Birx hurt the Trump administration when she said widespread virus infections in urban and rural America mark a “new phase” for the pandemic.
It was a rare rebuke of Birx. Trump accused her of taking “the bait” by responding to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who told ABC’s “This Week” that she had lost confidence in Birx because Trump appointed her and the president has been spreading disinformation about the virus.
Trump, in a tweet Monday, described Birx’s response to Pelosi as “pathetic.”
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Birx said her comments are driven by data and that she would stake her 40-year career on using data to implement programs to save lives.
ELWOOD, Ind. — A central Indiana school is shutting down two days after opening after at least one staffer tested positive for the coronavirus, while other districts in the state also are reporting positive tests among students and employees.
Elwood Junior Senior High School temporarily is closing this week, the Indianapolis Star reported Monday.
Several other people are in quarantine. No students were believed to have been in close contact with the staff members, according to the school district.
The Elwood district is northeast of Indianapolis and has about 1,500 students. The district started its academic year Thursday. Students will receive instruction virtually this week before resuming their normal schedules
PARIS — Some 340 passengers and crew are confined on a cruise ship in Tahiti after one traveler tested positive for the virus, the commissariat for French Polynesia said late Sunday.
All those aboard the Paul Gauguin cruise ship are being tested, and will be kept in their cabins pending the results, it said in a statement.
The South Pacific archipelago started reopening to tourists last month and required that all visitors get tested before arriving and test themselves four days after entering the territory.
A passenger aboard the Paul Gauguin reported a positive self-test last week, and a second test carried out by medics confirmed the infection Sunday, the statements said.
The person traveling with the sick passenger tested negative, and both were taken off the boat, the commissariat said.
BRANDON, S.D. — Thousands of fans packed the stands at a race track in South Dakota despite a rising number of coronavirus cases in the state.
The fans came Sunday night to Huset’s Speedway for the reopening of the track that has been closed for several years. The 9,000-seat speedway was at near capacity, with face masks nearly obsolete, the Argus Leader reported.
The popular All Star Circuit is owned by NASCAR legend Tony Stewart.
South Dakota health officials reported 88 newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus and one new death on Sunday.
The death toll from COVID-19 in South Dakota rose to 135 with the newly reported death. The number of confirmed virus cases has risen to 8,955 in the state.
CAIRO — Egypt’s churches are reopening their doors to the faithful on Monday for the first time in more than four months due to a coronavirus lockdown.
The Coptic Orthodox Church said in a statement that it would receive the faithful in its churches with restrictions that include social distancing and wearing masks.
Other churches are also reopening across the Arab World’s most populous county, which has seen a steady decline in coronavirus infections in the past two weeks.
Christians constitute around 10% of Egypt’s predominantly Muslim 100 million people.
Egypt on Sunday reported its lowest daily confirmed cases of coronavirus in more than two months, with 167 infections and 31 deaths.
Overall, Egypt has reported around 94,450 confirmed cases including 4,865 fatalities.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization says an advance team looking into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak has concluded its mission in China, and the U.N. health agency has agreed to details of the deployment of a larger team — notably to the suspected outbreak zone.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the “international team” will deploy to Wuhan, the city where the COVID-19 pandemic is believed to have erupted late last year. Tedros said “terms of reference” have been drawn up by the WHO and China, but he did not specify.
Dr. Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief, noted “gaps in the epidemiological landscape” and said the proper studies and data to collect would be assessed.
“The real trick is to go to the human clusters that occurred first and then to work your way back systematically looking for that first signal at which the animal human species barrier was crossed,” Ryan said.
“Once you understand where that the barrier was breached, then you move into the studies in a more systematic way on the animal side,” he added.