Coronavirus updates: L.A. on the brink of reclosing; Jack Nicklaus has antibodies; Russian elites getting vaccine? – USA TODAY

Congress returns Monday to discuss the next coronavirus relief package as the additional $600 in weekly unemployment benefits is set to expire next week.

The National Football League also returns this week, with rookies reporting to training camps amid hopes the pro game can be a thing this fall.

“You might need to see these football players go to the ICU or end up dying for them to step back and cancel games,” said Ravina Kuller, an infectious disease expert.

Some players are wary, and we know stars are not exempt. Add Jack Nicklaus to the growing number of rich and famous – from Tom Hanks to Placido Domingo – who could not duck the dangerous infection that continues to set ominous records around the world.

Florida continues to experience gigantic numbers of new cases. And state leaders continue to push for in-classroom education in the new school year, just three weeks away for some districts. California is another state with starkly booming numbers, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said his city is “on the brink” of closing again.

In Britain, the government has purchased “early access” to 90 million doses of at least one vaccine candidate. In Russia, Bloomberg News reports that some corporate leaders have been vaccinated with an experimental drug.

Some recent developments: 

📈 Today’s stats: The U.S. has about 3.7 million cases and more than 140,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been 14.5 million cases and more than 600,000 deaths.

📰 What we’re reading: Houses of worship are figuring out how to safely practice their faith after religious gatherings have been repeatedly linked to outbreaks. Practices traditional to some religions, such as shaking hands, taking Communion and dipping the host in a chalice with wine, are ideal breeding grounds for the virus.

NFL, players close to deal for season, but COVID holds power of veto

The NFL and NFL Players Association are closing in on a deal to play the 2020 season that would culminate with Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa Bay. The league and players have continued to negotiate terms such as the number of preseason games and the frequency of COVID-19 testing. But infectious disease expert Ravina Kuller warns the plan could result in tragedy — the death of an NFL player.

“I’m a huge football lover,” Kuller said. “Steelers fan. I bleed yellow and black. And it pains me to see that football might not happen until next year. But those players’ health is at stake here.

Josh Peter

Report: Russian elite getting doses of experimental vaccine

Scores of Russia’s business and political elite have been given early access to an experimental vaccine against COVID-19, Bloomberg News is reporting. Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the effort, said top corporate executives, billionaire tycoons and government officials began getting shots developed by the state-run Gamaleya Institute in Moscow as early as April. The Gamaleya vaccine, financed by the state-run Russian Direct Investment Fund, last week completed a phase 1 trial involving military personnel. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who was hospitalized with the virus in May, said he wasn’t aware of any officials having received the vaccine – including President Vladimir Putin. 

“It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to use an uncertified vaccine on the head of state,” Peskov said on a conference call with reporters.

Two vaccine candidates show promise in early trials

Two candidate vaccines showed positive trial results Monday against the virus that causes COVID-19, making it more likely that a safe, effective vaccine can be developed quickly. There are currently about 17 candidate vaccines being tested in people around the world. The new results showed Oxford University and drug company Astra Zeneca’s candidate vaccine, AZD-1222, led to strong immune responses for nearly two months in a trial that continues to track more than 1,000 healthy adults, according to a paper published Monday in the Lancet. The second study published Monday in The Lancet showed 95% of volunteers who received a high dose of a Chinese vaccine candidate and 91% of those who received a low dose showed an immune response 28 days after the shot.

Karen Weintraub

Record number of lawsuits setting ground rules for 2020 election

A record number of lawsuits are setting the ground rules for this year’s election as COVID-19 concerns discourage traditional, walk-up voting. Democrats have fought to ensure mail-in ballots include postage, to count ballots postmarked – rather than received – by Election Day, to provide voters a way to remedy discrepancies in signatures that are rejected, and to allow community organizations to collect and deliver sealed ballots. Republicans are opposed to mailing ballots to all voters and group collection of absentee ballots.

“The ease of our ability to cast a vote that will be fairly counted depends in part on where you live,” said Richard Hasen, a law professor at University of California, Irvine and expert on election law. 

Bart Jansen

No Summer Olympics this week. Will they really happen next year?

The Olympics will not be conducting opening ceremonies Friday in Tokyo, and it’s not really certain that they will take place next summer, either. The Games have been delayed a year, but whether they can take place then, and what they might look like if they do, is very much up in the air. Current ideas include traveling “bubbles” of athletes from different nations competing in the same sport. Would there be spectators? Can they work financially if tourists can’t fill Tokyo hotels and fill stadiums and arenas?

“My own view is that they probably will be able to do it,” said Dr. Dermot Phelan, Director of Sports Cardiology at Atrium Health in Charlotte, North Carolina. “But I think it will look very different compared to any other Olympics.”

Christine Brennan

Britain signs deals with Pfizer, others for 90M doses of vaccine candidates

The British government has secured “early access” to 90 million vaccine doses from the a corporate alliance of BioNTech and Pfizer and other companies, the government said in a statement Monday. The deals, along with more “in the pipeline,” are part of the country’s  strategy to build a portfolio of promising new vaccines, the statement said.

Treatments containing COVID-19-neutralizing antibodies have also been secured from AstraZeneca to protect those who cannot receive vaccines. The statement also unveiled a new national website for volunteers to sign up to test drugs and vaccines. The aim is to get 500,000 signed up by October. The U.S. has a similar site – you can sign up here.

Loss of $600 weekly unemployment benefit could fuel foreclosures

The expiration of enhanced unemployment benefits comes at a critical time for mortgage borrowers. Policymakers return to Washington this week to debate whether the extra $600 in weekly unemployment payments will be extended beyond July to help shore up jobless people’s finances. Roughly half of millennial and Gen X mortgage borrowers say either they or someone in their household are receiving unemployment benefits, and many are concerned about paying their mortgage once the extra weekly benefits end, according to a new report from LendingTree. In Chicago, Simona Roganovic fears slipping into foreclosure on their family home.

“This argument that people don’t want to go back to work because they’re making more money on unemployment is ludicrous,” Roganovic, 39, says. “We don’t have work to go back to and we won’t for a long time.”

– Jessica Menton

Sign me up: 100,000 Americans volunteer to test vaccines 

At a time when some Americans are concerned about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, tens of thousands have already volunteered to help bring them into existence. As of last week, more than 107,000 people had signed up to take part in testing. More are still needed but the initial surge will go a long way toward filling the requirement for at least 30,000 volunteers each for the four companies that plan to launch Phase 3 clinical trials of their potential vaccines by early fall. You can sign up here.

“That’s why we’re optimistic that we’re going to be able to get the trials enrolled in an expeditious way,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “I think we can do what we need to do.”

Elizabeth Weise

Jack Nicklaus reveals he, wife had COVID in March

In a moment of weather-forced downtime at the Memorial Tournament on Sunday, tournament host Jack Nicklaus revealed in a conversation with Jim Nantz on the CBS broadcast that both he and wife Barbara Nicklaus had contracted COVID-19 earlier in the spring. Jack, who said he suffered from a cough and sore throat, tested positive four times while Barbara, who was asymptomatic, had three positive tests.

The Nicklauses tested positive for COVID-19 on March 13 and stayed in their southern Florida home until April 20. As of Sunday, both had taken tests that showed they had the antibodies. “Theoretically we can’t get it and can’t give it, and that’s a nice position to be in,” Nicklaus said.

Julie Williams, Golfweek

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‘We are at war’: Kentucky reports largest single-day increase

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced Sunday the commonwealth had 979 new cases of the coronavirus — the state’s largest single-day increase yet in the pandemic. The Bluegrass State now has at least 23,161 total cases. An additional three Kentuckians died due to COVID-19, Beshear said, bringing the statewide death total to 670. Thirty of Sunday’s new cases were in children aged 5 or younger, the governor’s office said.

“We have got to defeat this virus. We are at war, and we are in the trenches,” said Beshear, a Democrat, in a statement. “I have faith and I have trust in the people of Kentucky. But today and in the days ahead we’ve got to do a whole lot better. We’re going to have to take some more action.”

– Ben Tobin, Louisville Courier-Journal

Los Angeles mayor says city is ‘on the brink’ of new stay-at-home orders

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Sunday the city reopened too quickly and warned it is “on the brink” of new stay-at-home orders as coronavirus cases continued to spike in California. Garcetti said he agreed with a Los Angeles Times editorial that criticized the rapid reopening of California. Reopening decisions were made at the state and county levels, he said. When asked about issuing a second stay-at-home order, Garcetti said: “We’re on the brink of that.” California on Saturday reported its fourth-highest daily total of new confirmed cases.

Las Vegas hospitals add beds, staff as COVID-19 cases spike

Las Vegas hospitals are adding beds and staff to accommodate the increasing number of COVID-19 patients. The Clark County fire chief says hospital occupancy isn’t high enough to activate a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to use the Las Vegas Convention Center for up to 900 patients. But hospitals in Clark County added 441 staffed beds as of Thursday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports, and the Nevada Hospital Association says another 49 have been added in other parts of the state.

The intensive care unit at the state’s only public hospital was 95% occupied as of Wednesday, with about 1 in 3 of those patients diagnosed with COVID-19. State health officials report 35,765 people have tested positive for the virus statewide and at least 647 have died.

Barcelona shuts down beaches amid new coronavirus wave

Police in Barcelona closed down access to a large area of the city’s beaches over the weekend after too many sunbathers ignored authorities’ request to stay at home amid a new wave of surging coronavirus infections. Police blocked more people from entering the beach and used loudspeakers to recommend the crowds already on the sand disperse because they were too closely packed and could increase the contagion risk.

Barcelona and other areas of Spain’s northeastern Catalonia region have experienced the largest outbreaks in the country since the European country ended a strict three-month nationwide lockdown. Overall, Spain’s once-savage outbreak has claimed more than 28,400 lives. 

What we’re reading

More on the coronavirus from USA TODAY

Where a face mask is required: Many governors are instituting or renewing orders requiring people to wear face coverings in public as cases continue to rise. Is your state on the list? See it here

Coronavirus Watch: We have a few ways for you to stay informed. Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here, and come together and share the latest information about the coronavirus, coping with lifestyle changes and more by joining our Facebook group.

Where are states on reopening? More than half of all states, including California and Michigan, have paused reopening plans or are taking steps to halt the spread of COVID-19. Here’s the list.

What went wrong in Florida? Two months after Gov. Ron DeSantis boasted about proving the experts wrong by flattening the curve and getting COVID-19 under control, Florida has become the state that other states don’t want to become.

Contributing: The Associated Press