Virus Updates: US Open Starts With No Fans; FDA Issues New Hand Sanitizer Warning

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Leading the world in coronavirus cases, the United States surpassed 6 million confirmed infections on Sunday, just three weeks after reaching 5 million cases, according to a tally by NBC News.

Several U.S. states have recorded more infections than many countries in the world. California's more than 706,000 cases is only topped by the total number of reported infections in Russia, India and Brazil. California is followed by Texas and Florida, with over 636,000 cases and over 621,000 cases respectively.

As waves of schools and businesses around the country get the OK to reopen, some college towns are moving in the opposite direction because of too much partying and too many COVID-19 infections among students. The outbreaks since students began returning to campus in recent weeks have heightened tensions between schools and cities and led to recriminations between local politicians and university officials.

Meanwhile, public health officials continued to criticize the Trump campaign over the largely mask-free, socially un-distanced Republican convention event that President Donald Trump held on the White House lawn. They fear that some of Trump's guests may have been infected with the coronavirus and unknowingly infected others. 

As of Monday evening, the death toll in the United States has surpassed 184,000, according to NBC News.

The Ebb and Flow of New Coronavirus Cases and Deaths

The graphs below illustrate the distribution of new coronavirus cases and deaths in the U.S. While New York accounted for the lion’s share of new cases and deaths in March and April, its numbers have declined in May as some states have increased. Hover or tap to see new daily cases and deaths across the country. States with the most are ordered top to bottom.

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

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

A Zoom Thanksgiving? Health Experts on What Lies Ahead for US

As the Summer of COVID draws to a close, many experts warn that several factors could contribute to an increase in cases and suggest that American families should start planning for Thanksgiving by Zoom.

Here's one way it could go: As more schools open for in-person instruction and more college students return to campuses, small clusters of cases could widen into outbreaks in late September. Public fatigue over mask rules and other restrictions could stymie efforts to slow these infections.

A few weeks later, widening outbreaks could start to strain hospitals. If a bad flu season peaks in October, as happened in 2009, the pressure on the health care system could result in higher daily death tolls from the coronavirus. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has said that scenario is his biggest fear.

One certainty is that the virus will still be around, said Jarad Niemi, a disease-modeling expert at Iowa State University.

Get the full story here.

US Open Begins With No Fans

On Monday, the 2020 U.S. Open began without any spectators, and with one player dropping from the field because he tested positive for COVID-19.

The pandemic will loom over the 14-day tournament. How couldn’t it? In April, indoor practice courts housed a field hospital. Players’ entourages are limited to three people. Everyone on the grounds must wear masks.

Top-seeded Karolina Pliskova won her match, which was the first of the tournament to be played in Arthur Ashe Stadium, defeating Anhelina Kalinina in straight sets. Pliskova is ranked third but ascended in the seedings because the two women ahead of her, Ash Barty and Simona Halep, are skipping the tournament.

The men’s No. 1 seed, Novak Djokovic, is scheduled to lead off the night session in Ashe, taking his 23-0 record this season into a matchup against 109th-ranked Damir Dzumhur. That will be followed by 2018 champion Naomi Osaka against Misaki Doi.

FDA Warns of Hand Sanitizers Containing Methanol and Those Packaged to Look Like Food and Drinks

In recent weeks, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified over 100 products that contain methanol, a type of wood alcohol that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin.

Now the FDA has issued a new warning — this time, it's not about the contents of certain hand sanitizers, but about how they're packaged, NBC News investigative and consumer correspondent Vicky Nguyen reported Thursday morning on TODAY. The FDA advises to watch out for hand sanitizers packaged to look like food and drinks, specifically those "packaged in beer cans, children's food pouches, water bottles, juice bottles and vodka bottles."

Get the full TODAY story here.

Dr. Birx: ‘Wear Your Masks' When Visiting Friends and Family

Dr. Deborah Birx urged Americans to wear face masks even when visiting friends and family in private. “We find that when people gather together in private, as family members and neighbors, they make assumptions that there couldn’t be anybody that has infection there,” she said.

Dr. Deborah Birx urged Americans to wear face masks even when visiting friends and family in private. “We find that when people gather together in private, as family members and neighbors, they make assumptions that there couldn't be anybody that has infection there,” she said.

Philly Mayor Faces Criticism for Dining Indoors in Maryland

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney enjoyed a meal indoors at a Maryland restaurant on Sunday, and now he's being skewered by one of Philly's top chefs for that dining decision, NBC Philadelphia reported.

A photo of a maskless Kenney sitting inside a eatery made the rounds on social media websites on Sunday afternoon. It is not clear who took the photo. Limited indoor dining is allowed in Maryland based on the state's current COVID-19 guidelines. Baltimore, however, stopped the practice for some time before resuming again earlier this month.

Get the full story here from NBC Philadelphia.

Drive-Thru Memorial Honors Detroit Virus Victims

The city of Detroit turned an island park into an extraordinary memorial garden on Monday as cars packed with families slowly passed hundreds of photos of residents who died from COVID-19.

Mayor Mike Duggan declared a Detroit Memorial Day to honor the city's 1,500-plus victims of the pandemic. Hearses led solemn all-day processions around Belle Isle Park in the Detroit River, where more than 900 photos were displayed.

The region’s classical music station added gospel music to the playlist and read the names of the deceased.

Detroit’s director of arts and culture, Rochelle Riley, said the hope was that the memorial would “wake people up to the devastating effect of the pandemic” and also “bring some peace to families whose loved ones didn’t have the funerals they deserved.”

How Time Perception Changed for Some During COVID

Have you felt like the passage of time has been distorted, especially during the stay-at-home order? Then you aren’t alone. Some people felt it sped up, others felt it slowed down. And as it turns out, the way you felt really depended on your circumstances.

Have you felt like the passage of time has been distorted, especially during the stay-at-home order? Then you aren’t alone. Some people felt it sped up, others felt it slowed down. And as it turns out, the way you felt really depended on your circumstances.

Fauci: Labor Day Weekend Key for US Virus Fight

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, says Labor Day weekend will be key in determining whether the U.S. gets a “running start” at containing the coronavirus this fall.

Fauci said Monday he has a “great deal of faith in the American people” to wash their hands, practice social distancing, wear masks, avoid crowds, and congregate outside during the weekend celebrations. He said it’s important to avoid a surge in coronavirus cases like those seen after the Memorial Day and July 4th holidays.

He made the comments on a White House conference call with governors, the audio of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Vice President Mike Pence said he shared Fauci’s confidence in the American people to celebrate the holiday responsibly.

New Jersey, South Florida to Resume Limited Indoor Dining

Indoor dining will resume Friday with limited capacity in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced, NBC New York reports.

Restaurants will only be able to have 25% capacity under the new rules, which includes maintaining social distancing between tables. Masks will have to be worn except when eating or drinking.

“Reopening responsibly will help us restore one of our state’s key industries while continuing to make progress against #COVID19,” Murphy wrote in a tweet Monday announcing the updated regulations.

The announcement comes five months after the state shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. The outbreak in New Jersey has led to more than 190,000 positive cases, with over 14,000 fatalities.

Meanwhile, in Miami-Dade County, Florida, restaurants were allowed Monday to welcome back diners to indoor seating for the first time in almost two months, provided masks were worn and the establishments operated at 50% capacity. Most indoor dining has been banned in the county since early July to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“This does not mean this is over by a long shot,” Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in an online news conference. “While we’re heading in the right direction, we’re not out of the woods.”

Under the order allowing indoor dining, restaurants will be required to run their ventilation and air conditioning systems with fans “on," keep doors and windows open and limit no more than six people to a table.

The COVID-19 crisis has forced some businesses to charge customers more to cover the extra costs of doing business. Some customers say they understand the need for price increases, but not everyone is buying into it. Hair salons, dental practices and even golf courses are among the businesses tacking on a surcharge to make up for extra costs related to the pandemic.

S.C. Officials Shut Down 'Fully Loaded' Pool Party

City officials shut down a pool party Saturday at an apartment complex near the University of South Carolina, saying at least 200 people were crowded around without masks, violating rules meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Officials say they received a tip about a large pool gathering in the area. When they arrived they found the pool area “fully loaded," NBC affiliate WIS reported.

Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said he arrived at the Apartments at Palmetto complex around 6 p.m. Saturday and, after talking to a security guard and the complex manager, persuaded them to close the pool for several days.

Jenkins said one young man at the party told him, “I can’t catch COVID.”

”It was a perfect storm if anyone had the virus to be passed to one another,” Jenkins said.

Complex residents include a number of University of South Carolina students. No one was cited Saturday for violating the city of Columbia's mask ordinance.

FDA Willing to Fast Track Coronavirus Vaccine Before Phase 3 Trials End

The chief of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is prepared to bypass the full federal approval process in order to make a COVID-19 vaccine available as soon as possible, according to an interview in The Financial Times.

Insisting that the move would not be due to pressure from the Trump administration to fast track a vaccine, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn told the publication that an emergency authorization could be appropriate before phase three clinical trials are completed if the benefits outweigh the risks.

"It is up to the [vaccine developer] to apply for authorization or approval, and we make an adjudication of their application," Hahn told The Financial Times. "If they do that before the end of phase three, we may find that appropriate. We may find that inappropriate, we will make a determination."

The comments come a week after the FDA granted emergency authorization of convalescent plasma to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients, despite concerns among some health officials that data from clinical trials is too weak to support widespread application of the treatment yet. That announcement was on the heels of Trump accusing the FDA, without any evidence, of trying to hurt him politically by dragging its feet in approving new coronavirus vaccines and treatments. 

Read the full story here.

Tens of thousands of volunteers will take part in the study, with results being reported as soon as November.

Florida Sees Its Lowest Increase in Virus-Related Deaths Since June

In a promising sign for a state that has seen a huge outbreak in coronavirus cases, Florida reported just 14 virus-related deaths Sunday, while positivity rates throughout the state continued to show signs of stability.

Virus-related deaths among Florida residents rose to 11,119, the smallest increase the state has seen since June, while non-resident deaths were at 144, NBC Miami reports.

Many deaths reported by the state happened days or weeks earlier, as it takes time to confirm causes of death.

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