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Coronavirus updates: US reaches 8M cases; nursing home residents will get free vaccines, Trump says; Fauci warns Thanksgiving is 'risky'

The U.S. is now the only country to reach 8 million cases of the coronavirus — less than a month after reaching 7 million — amid a surge that has resulted in higher case counts in 41 states over the last week, according to a USA TODAY analysis.

Due to COVID-19 cases surging nationwide, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, cautioned against throwing large celebrations for Thanksgiving, calling it "a risk" to gather in indoor settings with people from out-of-town. His own family, he shared, is canceling plans.

And on Thursday, President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden talked coronavirus during dueling town halls.

On ABC, Biden said he would support making a COVID-19 vaccine mandatory. But, he acknowledged, that he can't force people to get the vaccine when it's available. Meanwhile, on NBC, Trump said he didn't remember whether he tested negative the day of his debate against Biden on Sept. 29. 

Some significant developments:

  • The New England Patriots had to pause activities due to coronavirus concerns again. Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts reopened its facility after four positive tests had been re-run and returned negative.
  • A CDC report finds that indoor sports may be "super-spreader" events after one player infected 14 others at a Florida recreational indoor hockey game.
  • The effectiveness of remdesivir has been put into question after a massive World Health Organization study of more than 10,000 patients in 30 countries found ”little or no effect.”
  • Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told the public to remain vigilant in an appearance Friday on ABC, his first since being released from the hospital for COVID-19.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Canada-US border will stay closed until America gets control of the coronavirus outbreak.

📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 8 million cases and 217,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data. There have been more than 38.9 million confirmed cases around the world and nearly 1.1 million deaths. A USA TODAY analysis found 14 states set records for new cases in a week while two states had a record number of deaths in a week. 

📰 What we're reading:  The pandemic and the ensuing recession have taken a toll for students, but they hit particularly hard for community college students who already face many obstacles on their path to getting a degree. 

🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state

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

Chicago Public Schools sees largest enrollment drop in 2 decades amid COVID-19

Enrollment in Chicago Public Schools dropped 15,000 students this year from last — the largest single-year decrease in more than two decades, according to the district Friday.

The decline is driven by fewer new students enrolling in the earliest grades, including a 44 percent decline in Black students enrolled in pre-k compared to last school year, according to the district.

"While we’re seeing similar trends across the country, the stunning decline among Black children enrolled in pre-k casts a somber light on how the pandemic and remote learning negatively impact our youngest learners," CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade said in a press release.

Student attendance this year has improved over remote learning engagement last spring, but overall attendance is down to 91.4% compared to 95.3% last school year, according to the district. Black students have seen the largest decline in attendance, followed by a decline in attendance among Latinx students. Attendance among Asian students declined slightly, and attendance of white students remained unchanged.

— Grace Hauck

Trump vows to deliver vaccine to nursing homes at no cost

Americans living or working in long-term care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted care living centers, will receive COVID-19 vaccinations for free — if and when they become available, the Trump administration said Friday.

The administration announced a partnership with the nation's two largest drug store chains, CVS and Walgreens, "to provide and administer" the vaccines with "no out-of-pocket costs" for the recipients.

Trump, 74, vowed a vaccine would be available before the end of the year, despite his own federal health experts saying that timeline is highly unlikely, and that senior citizens would be "first in line."

The president made the announcement at an event billed as "Protecting America's Seniors" in Fort Myers, Florida. Trump is trying to shore up support among senior citizens, a key voting bloc that helped him win four years ago but which recent polling suggests has eroded in recent months.

– Courtney Subramanian and Nathan Bomey

Report: New England Patriots cancel practice after positive test

Only a day after Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore returned from the COVID-19 list to practice, the New England Patriots had to pause activities due to coronavirus concerns once again.

The team canceled its Friday practice and media session after a positive test, ESPN reported, as the team awaits a positive test confirmation for a second individual.

On Sunday, the Patriots are scheduled to play the Denver Broncos, who they were supposed to originally face Oct. 10.

– Chris Bumbaca

Crisis averted: False positives for Indianapolis Colts

Hours after the Indianapolis Colts shut down its facility because “several members of the organization” tested positive for coronavirus, the team revealed that four positive tests had been re-run and returned negative.

Indianapolis will reopen its facility and practice Friday afternoon. Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals remains scheduled.

"All is well," team owner Jim Irsay teased in a tweet shortly before the Colts' second announcement.

— Chris Bumbaca

22 million Americans lost their jobs during the 'coronavirus recession'. Who were they?

Early this year, more than 22 million Americans lost their jobs — according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While slightly more than half have gotten their positions back, many economists fear a full recovery is two or more years away.

Almost 900,000 lost their jobs in Ohio. Over the past several weeks, The Cincinnati Enquirer, part of the USA TODAY network, spoke with workers and small business owners from Greater Cincinnati, asking how the downturn has affected their lives, their work – and their upcoming votes.

“I went from Neverland to being stuck in my parents’ basement,” Ben Shipp, 26, said, after his dream internship at Disney World ended abruptly.

Read more of their stories here.

— Alexander Coolidge, Cincinnati Enquirer

Infections surge in Europe, record daily case counts

Coronavirus cases around the world have climbed to all-time highs of more than 330,000 per day. In addition to the United States, concern is largely focused around Europe — as Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, regional director for the World Health Organization in Europe, warns that the daily death toll on the continent could reach five times its April peak by January 2021.

Well after Europe seemed to have largely tamed the virus that proved so lethal last spring, newly confirmed infections are reaching unprecedented levels in Germany, Czech Republic, Italy and Poland. Most of the rest of the continent is seeing similar danger signs, forcing many places to reimpose tough restrictions eased just months ago.

"These projections do nothing but confirm what we always said: the pandemic won’t reverse its course on its own, but we will," Kluge said on Oct. 15.

How can I stay safe indoors from the coronavirus during cold seasons?

What makes congregating indoors so dangerous? Dr. Lewis Nelson, professor and chair of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, said one of the main reasons there’s a higher risk of transmission indoors than outdoors is lack of ventilation. Additionally, indoor public places have more surfaces.

“If I were to smoke a cigarette (inside), you would see the smoke particles linger,” he said. “Whereas outdoors the smoke kind of leaves."

Ventilation can be increased by opening a window, turning on a fan or even adding a portable air filter to a room. Most portable air filters can’t filter out virus particles if they don’t have HEPA filtration, but they still facilitate air circulation. Reducing the number of people in an indoor space also helps. Read more here. 

– Adrianna Rodriguez 

Michigan woman beats coronavirus after nearly 200 days in the hospital

Deanna Hair, a 67-year-old Ann Arbor resident, and her husband began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms after a trip to Palm Springs, California. Both tested positive on March 31. While her husband's symptoms were mild, Hair developed a fever and cough, and four days later began vomiting.

Her condition worsened, with new problems arising each day in a new organ. While hospitalized, she had infections in her chest and belly, pneumonia in her lungs, and became septic when her kidneys started to fail, said Michigan Medicine pulmonologist Dr. Philip Choi. 

In June, two months after Hair was admitted to the hospital, she tested negative for COVID-19 twice — and was eventually moved out of intensive care. And after 196 days — the longest a patient has stayed at Michigan Medicine — Hair was wheeled out. 

Finally arriving at the car, her husband helped her inside, gave her a long embrace and whispered, "You made it." 

– Adrianna Rodriguez

Fauci: Having a big Thanksgiving celebration is 'a risk'

You may need to cancel any big Thanksgiving plans this year, warns Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ leading infectious disease expert.

Speaking to “CBS Evening News,” Fauci cautioned against “gathering together in an indoor setting” with large groups of out-of-town guests. “It is unfortunate because that’s such a sacred part of American tradition — the family gathering around Thanksgiving,” he said. “But that is a risk.”

He added that his own family is canceling its Thanksgiving plans due to his age putting him at a higher risk of COVID-19.

WHO study finds remdesivir has 'little to no' benefit for COVID-19 patients

The effectiveness of remdesivir, an experimental drug that was part of President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 treatment plan, has been put into question after a massive World Health Organization study of more than 10,000 patients in 30 countries found ”little or no effect.”

Researchers, per the pre-print study, also studied hydroxychloroquine, the controversial anti-malarial drug repeatedly touted by Trump despite warnings by public health officials, anti-HIV medication lopinavir, which was used in the SARS outbreak, and interferon.

None of the medications had major benefits for mortality levels, ventilation rates or hospitalization length.

The drug’s manufacturer Gilead, in a statement, questioned the findings, calling their data “inconsistent” and citing other studies that proved the drug’s effectiveness. The FDA granted the drug an emergency use authorization in late August.

Chris Christie says he was 'wrong' not to wear mask at White House ceremony

Former Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday he was "wrong" not to wear a mask in the days before testing positive for COVID-19, but that he felt at that time that he was in a "safe zone" because of frequent testing. 

Having spent a week being treated for the disease caused by the coronavirus – in an intensive care unit – Christie said he had a chance for greater reflection about his actions and the virus.  

"It is something to take very seriously. The ramifications are wildly random and potentially deadly," Christie said in a statement, first reported by the New York Times. "No one should be happy to get the virus and no one should be cavalier about being infected or infecting others." 

Christie's position and his message to the public is at odds with President Donald Trump, whom he helped prepare for a debate and was also hospitalized with COVID-19. Trump has said he feels great, has entertained large, mask-less crowds at campaign rallies and urged the public, "don't be afraid of COVID." 

– Dustin Racioppi, Trenton Bureau

Donald Trump uses son's COVID-19 diagnosis to push for reopening schools

Barron Trump’s positive test for COVID-19 has become part of his father’s push to physically reopen schools.

“It happens,'' President Donald Trump told a crowd at a campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa of his 14-year-old son testing positive for the coronavirus. "People have it, and it goes. Get the kids back to school. We’ve got to get them back to school.

Melania Trump said Wednesday that after an initial negative test, 14-year-old Barron Trump tested positive for COVID-19, but is now negative.

"I don’t even think he knew he had it because they’re young and their immune systems are strong and they fight it off 99.9 percent. And Barron is beautiful, and he’s free, free,” Trump said.

An outbreak of the virus in the White House that infected the President, first lady Melania Trump and other White House insiders has raised concerns that thousands may have been exposed to COVID-19 through Trump's inner circle.

– Josh Peter and Joel Shannon

Alabama coach Nick Saban says he's 'feeling great' after COVID diagnosis

Alabama football coach Nick Saban said on his Thursday night radio show that he was “feeling great” after testing positive the previous day for the coronavirus but did not make any specific references to any additional testing.

”I’m missing everybody,” Saban said in a remote appearance from his Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home. “I still don’t have any symptoms. I don’t have a fever. The oxygen tests they do didn’t show any problems.”

Saban did not make any reference to the results of his daily test on Thursday but did seem to hold the door slightly open for a possible return to the sideline for Saturday's game against Georgia. 

“I would hate not to be at the game Saturday if that’s what this turns out to be,” he said.

– Cecil Hurt, The Tuscaloosa News

Coronavirus study: Air on planes is safer than homes or operating rooms

A new study conducted for the Department of Defense adds credence to the growing belief that airline passengers face minimal risk of contracting coronavirus when flying.

The study found the risk of aerosol dispersion – transmission of the virus through the air – was reduced 99.7% thanks to high air exchange rates, HEPA-filtered recirculation and downward ventilation found on modern jets.

Investigators looked at the impact of an infected passenger on others seated in the same row and those nearby in the cabins of Boeing 767s and 777s. Those two aircraft types are widebodies typically used for long-haul flights where a virus would be expected to spread more easily.

The study was conducted by a team that included members from United Airlines, Boeing, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, National Strategic Research Institute and research firms. It was prepared for two military agencies that move people and cargo, the U.S. Transportation Command and the Air Force's Air Mobility Command.

– Chris Woodyard

COVID outbreak hits Georgia election warehouse

Election officials said nearly a quarter of the workers in a warehouse where election supplies are kept and voting equipment is readied for Georgia’s most populous county have tested positive for COVID-19.

But Fulton County Elections Director Rick Barron said Thursday that the positive tests for 13 of the 60 workers at the county election preparation center shouldn’t delay election operations.

Barron said the county is working to hire replacement staff and implement more mitigation measures, including daily rapid testing. The state Department of Public Health said Georgia had 1,686 cases and 23 deaths reported Thursday.

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press.