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The U.S. has reached 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus. Now experts are looking ahead, and the forecast for the fall and winter isn’t good.

USA TODAY

New York state officials will conduct a review of any coronavirus vaccines approved by the federal government before recommending them to New Yorkers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

Cuomo said he feared President Donald Trump would strongarm the Food and Drug Administration into using insufficiently rigorous standards to approve vaccines. 

“We are going to put together our own review committee that will advise me, so i can look at the camera and I can say, ‘It is safe to take,'” Cuomo said.

In Houston, a new study indicates the coronavirus, which has infected almost 7 million people in the U.S. alone, may have mutated to a strain that’s more contagious, though not more deadly.

In Britain, the government is considering a plan to intentionally infect healthy volunteers to expedite a determination on which vaccine candidates are effective.

In Missouri, the city of St. Charles has banned music in clubs after 11 p.m., citing rowdy crowds spilling into streets. In other cities around the world, people are finding workarounds to make Oktoberfest a thing. Think “yodelgram.”

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Without masks and a vaccine, we could reach Herd Immunity from COVID-19, but deaths would skyrocket. We break down the science of it.

USA TODAY

Some significant developments:

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 6.9 million cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data, and more than 202,000 deaths, a total that exceeds the population of cities such as Little Rock, Arkansas, Fort Collins, Colorado, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Globally, there have been more than 32 million cases and almost  980,000 fatalities.

📰 What we’re reading: Fever. Chills. Body aches. Shortness of breath. Some people infected with COVID-19 have battled such symptoms for months, wondering if they’d ever feel better again. Now, finally, a treatment program originally intended for geriatric patients is bringing relief for long-suffering patients.

🗺️ Mapping coronavirus:Track the U.S. outbreak, state by state.

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.

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Pac-12 gives in, opts to resume football, other sports

The Pac-12, the lone holdout against playing amid the coronavirus pandemic among the Power Five conferences, gave in on Thursday and announced a return to athletic competition. Most significantly, the conference said the high-revenue sports of football and basketball would be back on Nov. 6 and Nov. 25, respectively. Other winter sports will return to action as well.

The Pac-12 and Big Ten had simultaneously announced they would postpone fall sports, most notably football, on Aug. 11, citing health concerns during the pandemic. But the SEC, ACC and Big 12 pressed on and decided to play. 

When the Big Ten changed its stance and opted to get back on the football field Oct. 24, the Pac-12 was left all alone, and there was little doubt it would resume play as well. The league’s new seven-game schedule will allow its teams to be considered for the College Football Playoff. Fans won’t be allowed at the conference games.

New York to review any vaccines approved by federal government

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will establish a state panel to review any vaccines that win federal approval before he will recommend the vaccines to New Yorkers. Cuomo expressed concern over bickering between President Donald Trump and the Food and Drug Administration over the standards that will be required for approval. Trump has said he might not approve more rigorous standards if the FDA attempts to enact them.

Cuomo said he hoped his state could become the first to become fully vaccinated. But he also said he wants to be able to assure New Yorkers the vaccines are safe.

“I’m not going to trust the federal government’s opinion and I wouldn’t recommend to New Yorkers based on the federal government’s opinion,” Cuomo said.

Growing concerns of a second wave in Europe

Britain is reporting its highest number of new coronavirus infections in a single day, 6,632. France recorded 52 deaths and more than 16,000 new cases in a 24-hour period. Spain just went over 700,000 total cases, the first European country to reach that mark.  

There are growing signs of a second wave of COVID-19 in the Old Continent, where the virus made its deepest imprint right after spreading beyond China. 

While the spike in confirmed infections can be partly attributed to increased testing, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacted to the rise in cases across all age groups by ordering pubs and restaurants closed by 10 p.m., and he warned stricter measures may be forthcoming if transmission is not suppressed. Britain has the highest death toll in Europe, with nearly 42,000 fatalities.

Michigan universities to teach remotely all year

The presidents of Michigan’s three largest research universities — the University of Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State — said Thursday that most students would probably taking classes online for the rest of the school year and won’t return to classrooms until next fall.

M. Roy Wilson of Wayne State in Detroit said the winter semester will look like the current term because the pandemic “is going to be with us for a while.”

Oktoberfest in the year of COVID: Yodelgrams and a reprieve for oxen

Oktoberfest devotees have known since April that there would be no massive festival in Munich, Germany, this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But now that the season has arrived, the lack of crowded tents filled with revelers dressed in dirndl skirts and lederhosen shouting “prost!” is having an impact. The loss of Oktoberfest, which had been scheduled to run from Sept. 19 through Oct. 4, is a huge hit for the Bavarian city, which last year saw 6.3 million guests drink 15.5 million pints of beer and consume 124 oxen, among other traditional foods.

All around the world, virtual fests are underway while many establishments host small parties. In the Washington, D.C., area, you can even get a “yodelgram.” Devils Backbone Brewing Co. says that’s when a “real-life, yodeling TikTok sensation arrives at your house, armed with Devils Backbone Oktoberfest beer and steins plus a custom yodel.”

Morgan Hines

United Airlines unveils passenger testing program

United Airlines will roll out a new COVID-19 testing program for passengers beginning Oct. 15. The airline said testing at first will only be available for passengers traveling to Hawaii from San Francisco International Airport. Why Hawaii? The airline, the first in the U.S. to offer rapid testing, has more flights to the state than any other U.S. carrier, and the Aloha State’s new testing requirements begin the same day as United’s. 

“We’ll look to quickly expand customer testing to other destinations and U.S. airports later this year,” said Toby Enqvist, the airline’s chief customer officer. Airlines and trade groups have been calling on the federal government to establish a testing program and require passengers to wear masks since this summer. All major U.S. airlines now have their own mask policies in place.

Jayme Deerwester

Soccer star tests positive, throws down against COVID-19

Global soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimović has tested positive for COVID-19, AC Milan announced Thursday. The club said the Swede, one of the premier strikers of the last two decades, tested positive ahead of Thursday night’s Europa League qualifying match against Bodø/Glimt. AC Milan “has informed the relevant authorities” and Ibrahimović is in quarantine at home, the team said in a statement. Ibrahimović’s teammates and club staff have tested negative. 

“Covid had the courage to challenge me,” Ibrahimović, who scored both his team’s goals in a game Monday, said in a Twitter post. “Bad idea.”

Chris Bumbaca

Missouri city, a la ‘Footloose,’ banning musical activities after 11 p.m.

A ban on “music activities” after 11 p.m. kicks in Friday in St. Charles, Missouri. The city has been overwhelmed with partiers denied entry to bars in St. Louis because of coronavirus restrictions. The ban has drawn mention of the 1984 movie “Footloose,” in which a small town bans dancing until a newcomer played by actor Kevin Bacon rolls into town and turns the tide.

“I feel a little bit like the movie ‘Footloose,’ but that’s not what this is about,” Mayor Dan Borgmeyer told KTVI-TV. The mayor blamed rowdy crowds that have spilled into city streets, resulting in fights and creating enough concern that police presence downtown at night has tripled in recent months.

Technology ready, but fast, at-home testing still not approved for sale

Nearly two months after federal regulators unveiled rules for at-home coronavirus tests, no company has federal approval to sell these fast and cheap tests even though the technology is ready. No company has been cleared to sell tests directly to consumers for widespread screening – a step some believe is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19. Gaining FDA authorization for these inexpensive, at-home tests is no easy task.

“The way to get this under control is if people find out as early as possible they are infected and then quarantine from others,” said Dr. Yukari Manabe, a Johns Hopkins University professor of medicine.

Ken Alltucker and Ramon Padilla

Welcome home: Grown children return to nest in pandemic economics

The coronavirus pandemic is putting pressure on many families with grown children. About two-thirds of parents say they are providing financial support to their adult children during the crisis, helping to pay for everything from groceries to health care expenses, a recent survey from Country Financial found. One in five has had their adult child move back home with them, according to the survey based on responses from more than 1,300 adults in mid-August.

“This trend of adult children moving back at home was something we saw a lot of out of the Great Recession,” says Troy Frerichs, vice president of investment services at Country Financial. “Now you are seeing it happen again.”

Aimee Picchi

Pandemic travel collapse exposes booking industry’s secrets

The coronavirus has exposed a secret underbelly of the travel business. Many travel agencies operate Ponzi-style schemes where one traveler’s deposit pays for a previous traveler’s tickets and accommodations. Everything ran smoothly as long as bookings continued to roll in. The pandemic blurred the already muddy line between business ethics and fraud and has led to not just fried nerves, but official complaints and legal action. Through public records requests, USA TODAY obtained consumer complaints related to COVID-19 filed with attorneys generals and other agencies in 20 states. Scott Keyes, who runs the website Scott’s Cheap Flights, said online travel agencies often save money by providing little customer service.

“If a catastrophic event happens like a worldwide pandemic,” Keyes said, “they’re really up a creek.”

– Nick Penzenstadler and Josh Salman

Children may not be vaccinated until late in 2021– or beyond

Children are not included in the ongoing trials for a COVID-19 vaccine, so it’s likely to be well into next year or beyond before they can get vaccinated against the coronavirus that causes the disease. The vast majority of children don’t get severely ill from COVID-19, but kids can still pass on the virus – to teachers, parents, grandparents, etc. Emory University School of Medicine pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Evan Anderson called for a rapid expansion of clinical trials to include children, ideally providing results in time for them to be vaccinated before the 2021 school year.

“We owe it to our children not to delay moving forward with initial studies to evaluate promising vaccine candidates,” Anderson said.

Karen Weintraub

Britain considering infecting healthy volunteers to test vaccines

Britain could become the world’s first country to intentionally infect healthy volunteers with the coronavirus in the world’s first “human challenge” trial to expedite a determination on which COVID vaccines work. The Financial Times reported that the government-funded studies could be announced next week and begin in January. British government officials would only say that discussions were underway for such a trial. The BBC said no deal had been signed as of Thursday. Britain has been struggling to neutralize an uptick in cases in recent weeks. Tighter restrictions, such as closing pubs at 10 p.m., went into effect across the country Thursday.

Prof Peter Horby of Oxford University told the BBC such a trial was a good idea and could quickly advance knowledge of the virus.

“I think the challenge trial has the potential to save thousands of lives and really bring the world out of the pandemic sooner,” Horby said.

Study: Coronavirus has grown more contagious

Researchers at Houston Methodist Hospital say a study of the second wave of the coronavirus to sweep across the city indicates a mutation that is more contagious than the original strain. The later infections show the virus still has the crown shape that gives the virus its name, but the newer version has more of the spikes that latch onto human cells. The study, which has not yet been subject to crucial peer review, found patients infected with the variant strain had more of the virus when diagnosed than the first round of patients in the spring. There was an upside: The study showed no indication that the mutation is any more deadly than the original. Outcomes remain primarily linked to pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

“We’ve now done molecular analyses of the two waves of the pandemic and one thing that stands out is the increase in the mutated strain’s frequency over a short period of time,” Dr. James Musser, the study’s author, told the Houston Chronicle. “Clearly, this strain is very different.”

University of Wisconsin to resume some in-person instruction

University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank said the Madison campus will begin to reopen Saturday following a two-week lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 among undergraduate students.

The university was only one week into the school year when leaders all but shut down campus facilities, moved classes online and quarantined two of the largest dorms, which house 2,220 students in total. There will be changes. The reopening will be gradual. Not all classes will start immediately and not all will return to fully in-person instruction. Classes that require specialized equipment will still be in-person or hybrid, but others may be modified.

– Devi Shastri, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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COVID-19 widespread testing is crucial to fighting the pandemic, but is there enough testing? The answer is in the positivity rates.

USA TODAY

Donald Trump suggests he’ll overrule FDA on COVID-19 vaccine

Hours after some of the administration’s leading health officials offered assurances that the search for a coronavirus vaccine would be conducted free of political interference, President Donald Trump on Wednesday undercut that notion and suggested he may overrule the Federal Drug Administration. Trump, who has predicted the arrival of a vaccine before the Nov. 3 election, questioned why the FDA would set a higher standard for granting emergency authorization for a vaccine, as the agency is reportedly planning on in an effort to gain public trust. 

The president said FDA guidance “has to be approved by the White House. We may or may not approve it.” Earlier in the day, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn addressed concerns of politics playing a role in the approval process, emphasizing that career scientists at the FDA drive decision making: “Science will guide our decisions,” Hahn said. “FDA will not permit any pressure from anyone to change that.” 

— Jorge L. Ortiz

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

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