coronavirus pandemic

Virus Updates: College Football Player Dies From COVID; Sturgis Rally May Have Caused 250K Cases

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The United States Congress returns from its break Tuesday, but hopes for another coronavirus relief bill from Washington remain dim. The legislation was supposed to deliver another round of $1,200 direct payments to most Americans, but no improvements have been made since talks between top Democrats and the Trump administration broke off last month.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell now says the Senate will vote on a trimmed-down Republican coronavirus relief package, though it also has a slim chance of passage in the face of Democrats’ insistence for more sweeping aid. 

Over the holiday weekend, the U.S. topped 190,000 coronavirus-related deaths, according to a tally by NBC News. With 6.3 million confirmed cases, the U.S. has the largest outbreak of any country in the world.

“This will not be the last pandemic,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday in calling for countries to invest in public health systems. He added that "when the next pandemic comes, the world must be ready, more ready than it was this time."

Prior to Labor Day weekend, several U.S. officials urged people to maintain social distancing practices during the unofficial last weekend of the summer. Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci warned states in the Midwest were at risk of experiencing a surge in virus cases, while President Donald Trump urged Americans to remain "vigilant" and wear masks. "We need everybody to be careful," he said Friday.

But a heatwave over the holiday weekend sent thousands of Californians to beaches as temperatures reached triple digits in much of the state, raising concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

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.:

College Football Player Dies From COVID-19

A football player at California University of Pennsylvania has died from complications with COVID-19.

Jamain Stephens, the son of former Steelers offensive tackle Jamain Stephens, was a senior at the university and played in 32 games on the defensive line throughout his college career, WPXI reports. His sudden death on Tuesday shocked his fellow teammates.

“He was an all around great guy and great teammate for our guys and that’s why it’s hitting them so hard," head coach Gary Dunn said. "He had really taken on a leadership role in our program especially during the pandemic – texting guys, always staying in touch with guys."

Dunn could not confirm Stephens' cause of death, but his high school, Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, said in a Facebook Tuesday he died from COVID-19.

Sturgis Rally May Have Caused 250,000 New Coronavirus Cases, Study Finds

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally held in South Dakota last month may have caused 250,000 new coronavirus cases, according to an economic study focused on the public health costs of “superspreading” events.

The 10-day rally attracted more than 400,000 people. Prolonged interactions between individuals at high frequencies, along with "minimal mask-wearing and social distancing by attendees," raised concerns that Sturgis would lead to increased transmission of coronavirus, according to a new study from the IZA Institute of Labor Economics.

The nonprofit company’s findings have not been corroborated by epidemiologists or public health officials.

IZA’s study looked at the cost a “superspreading event” — a single gathering that results in an influx of new infections — would take on public health. Researchers used cell phone data to show increased foot traffic at bars, restaurants, and other venues in the Sturgis area and extrapolated a possible infection count based on increased infection rates following the event.

Read the full story at

Drugmakers Make Joint Pledge on Vaccine Safety

Nine U.S. and European vaccine developers pledged in a joint statement Tuesday to "uphold the integrity of the scientific process as they work towards potential global regulatory filings and approvals of the first COVID-19 vaccines.”

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla explained on NBC's TODAY show that the "historic" pledge shows the companies "will stand with science" and develop their products "using the highest ethical standards."

The move underscoring the drugmakers' commitment to safety comes after the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that officials could bypass the normal approval process for a vaccine in favor of a faster timetable if they were convinced the benefits were worth it, Reuters reported.

And President Donald Trump said Monday that a vaccine could become available in October, hinting that “you could have a very big surprise coming up."

Bourla said on TODAY that Pfizer's vaccine effort with German partner BioNTech is "progressing well" with 25,000 participants and he expected to have an answer by the end of October on whether their vaccine is safe and effective. But that doesn't mean it would be approved that month, he said.

Other companies that made the vaccine pledge are GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna, Novavax and Sanofi.

Read the full story.

McConnell Says Senate to Vote on 'Targeted' Virus Aid

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate will vote on a trimmed-down Republican coronavirus relief package, though it has a slim chance of passage in the face of Democrats’ insistence for more sweeping aid.

McConnell's "targeted" bill would provide $105 billion to help schools reopen, enact a shield against lawsuits for businesses and others that are powering ahead to reopen, create a scaled-back $300-per-week supplemental jobless benefit, and write off $10 billion in earlier post office debt. There's $29 billion for a coronavirus vaccine, $16 billion for virus testing and $15 billion to help child care providers reopen. There is additionally $20 billion for farmers.

The package will also include a school choice initiative sought by Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz and others that would provide a tax break, for two years, for people who donate to nonprofit organizations offering private school scholarships.

But it won't contain another round of $1,200 direct payments going out under Trump's name. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., continues to demand $2.2 trillion, and while Trump's negotiators have signaled a willingness to inch further in her direction, a significant gap remains.

McConnell is under pressure from GOP senators in tough reelection races. Those senators are eager to show constituents they are working to ease the pandemic’s strain on jobs and businesses.

But many Senate Republicans are resisting more spending. Talks between top Democrats and the Trump administration broke off last month. 

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Hartford Postpones First Day of School After Ransomware Attack

Connecticut's capital city Hartford has postponed the first day of school on Tuesday after a ransomware virus caused an outage of critical systems.

Hartford Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez said the city was able to restore student information systems overnight but another system that communicates transportation routes for the bus company was still impacted, NBC Connecticut reported.

The city decided to cancel in-person and online learning as a result.

Read the full story.

West Virginia University Suspends in-Person Undergrad Classes Amid Spike in COVID-19 Cases

West Virginia University announced Monday that it would suspend in-person classes at its main campus because of concerns over a recent spike in coronavirus infections, NBC News reports.

The university said in-person undergraduate classes would be canceled Tuesday at its main campus in Morgantown and then shift to online-only instruction through Sept. 25. The school said graduate-level and professional courses would continue to be offered in person during the same period.

In a statement, university officials said the decision was made "in direct response to a recent increase in positive cases in students on the Morgantown campus, as well as concern for the probability of increased cases following several reports of parties held this holiday weekend where groups should have been in quarantine."

West Virginia University enrolls nearly 30,000 students across all its campuses and programs. The state had nearly 11,600 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of Monday afternoon, according to NBC News' tally.

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Seventeen students from Providence College became the latest group in the country to be suspended for violating COVID-19 restrictions. This incident follows students suspended from the SUNY system, Montclair University, Syracuse University and Michigan State, among others, for gathering or partying during the pandemic.

UNH President Calls Fraternity Party ‘Reprehensible' After 11 Confirmed Coronavirus Cases

More than 10 cases of COVID-19 have been traced to a fraternity party where people did not follow public health guidelines, the president of the University of New Hampshire said.

University and state health officials said Sunday that 11 people have tested positive for the virus so far following an Aug. 29 party at the Theta Chi fraternity, NBC Boston reports.

In a Sunday letter to the university community, UNH President James Dean said more than 100 students and non-students attended the "reprehensible" party at 5 Strafford Ave. in Durham.

"Let me be clear: this is reckless behavior and the kind of behavior that undermines our planning and will lead to us switching to a fully remote mode,'' Dean said in the letter.

Read the full story here

Biden Says He'll Take Coronavirus Vaccine

Joe Biden is willing to take a coronavirus vaccine — as long as scientists say it’s OK.

Speaking to reporters after a campaign stop in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Biden said first he’d want to see what the scientists said about any potential vaccine. But he said he would like to see a vaccine tomorrow, even if if would cost him the election by helping President Donald Trump.

Biden also called for “full transparency on the vaccine,” warning that Trump’s repeated misstatements and falsehoods with respect to the virus are “undermining public confidence.”

He said he's worried that “if we do have a really good vaccine people are going to be reluctant to take it.”

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