Coronavirus updates: White House ‘herd immunity’ strategy won’t work, scientists say; Spain is first EU nation at 900K cases; 216K US deaths

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Halloween is approaching. It won’t be the same amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak canceled the annual trick-or-treating event at his residence in an effort to protect visitors and his staff. In California, Beverly Hills city officials banned trick-or-treating and car-to-car trunk-or-treating in the city. That announcement comes a month after Los Angeles officials reversed a trick-or-treating ban, now only recommending against it.

Across the world, India reported its lowest daily increase of COVID-19 deaths in nearly three months on Thursday. There were 680 reported deaths in the past 24 hours, officials said. Last month, the daily death toll count was over 1,000.

Some significant developments:

  • First lady Melania Trump revealed that her 14-year-old son Barron Trump had COVID-19 but has now tested negative.
  • Alabama coach Nick Saban and athletics director Greg Byrne tested positive for COVID-19
  • Spain is the first European Union nation to reach 900,000 cases of the coronavirus.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 7.9 million cases and 216,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data. There have been more than 38.5 million confirmed cases around the world and 1 million deaths.

🗺️ 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.

Some states report biggest COVID surges this year, even more than summer

The latest coronavirus surge has states reporting coronavirus at a blistering pace, with North Dakota reporting cases at a speed a third faster, on a per-capita basis, than any U.S. state experienced in the worst of the spring or summer surges.

South Dakota and Montana are also ahead of the summer records while Wisconsin is not far below, a data visualization of Johns Hopkins University by University of Illinois computer scientist Wade Fagen-Ulmschneider shows.

This startling development comes as 14 states set records for new cases in a week, while four states had a record number of deaths in a week.

– Mike Stucka

Surveys: Americans torn between taking a vacation and avoiding COVID

Two surveys released this week found that many travelers are expressing hesitation about taking a trip.

Some 67% of those responding to an AAA Travel survey released Thursday say they are uncertain about whether to take a vacation. And online travel booking site Travelocity found 57% of Americans say they won’t travel for the year-end holidays this year.

The findings are in line with advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which offers a world map that indicates the coronavirus is a threat in just about every country, including the U.S.

– Chris Woodyard

Sharks are killed for effective vaccines. More may die for it.

Conservationist groups are concerned demand for a coronavirus vaccine will strain an already taxed resource: sharks. 

Shark liver oil contains the natural occurring substance squalene. Scientists use squalene for adjuvants nthat are added to vaccines to enhance immune response and increase effectiveness.

In many shark species, 50% to 80% of the weight of their liver is squalene, according to Dr. Corey Casper, president and CEO of the Infectious Disease Research Institute. A single shark could yield up to 300 grams of squalene, enough for about 30,000 doses of vaccine adjuvant. 

About 3 million sharks are harvested for their livers annually. In a worst-case scenario, Shark Allies estimates 500,000 more sharks will be needed to meet COVID-19 demand. Activists, such as Stefanie Brendl, founder of Shark Allies, are concerned that “more sustainable squalene sources are not being considered as an option.”

– Adrianna Rodriguez

White House’s ‘herd immunity’ strategy won’t stop COVID, scientists say

The idea that the public can infect its way out of the COVID-19 pandemic is “a dangerous fallacy unsupported by the scientific evidence,” 80 researchers said in a letter published in the Lancet.

They strongly denounced the idea, advocated by the White House, of achieving “herd immunity” against the virus that causes the disease by letting healthy people with a low risk of serious illness get infected. 

“The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk,” the declaration says.

A community is considered to have herd immunity when enough people have built up protection against a pathogen, either through natural infection or a vaccine. No one knows exactly how many people need to be protected to stop COVID-19 from spreading, but estimates range from 50-70% of the population. Current estimates put that percentage based on those who’ve been infected in the U.S. at about 10%.

– Elizabeth Weise

Baby boomers still confident on retirement despite pandemic

Despite the uncertainty spawned by the coronavirus pandemic, baby boomers are confident they will have a successful retirement and their lifestyle will be everything they planned. 

That’s according to a Charles Schwab survey, which found that 82% of boomers believe their savings will get them “all the way” or “most of the way” to living out their dreams in retirement.

The age group, aged 55 to 75, also believe their lifestyle will compare better than the generations before and after them. 

Over 84% of boomers anticipate their quality of life in retirement will be better than that of their parents. More than 80% of boomers also believe their retirement will be better than their children’s.

– Coral Murphy

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak cancels trick-or-treating at governor’s mansion

Trick-or-treating at the Nevada governor’s mansion has been canceled this year due to the pandemic, and state health officials are advising people marking Halloween and Día de los Muertos to avoid large gatherings.

Gov. Steve Sisolak announced that his official residence in Carson City will be decorated but the annual festivities will not take place to help keep staff and visitors safe.

“Participating in virtual activities is the safest option,” according to recommendations from Nevada’s COVID-19 response office.

Students walked to Wilkinson Elementary on Monday morning, Aug. 31, 2020 for the first day of school in Sarasota County.

Anti-mask parents raise $11,000 for lawsuit against Florida schools 

Parents in Florida have raised more than $11,000 to hire an attorney as the group’s organizers prepare to sue the Sarasota County School Board’s mask policy.

“We are taking action to have the mask mandate decision reversed immediately for the physical, emotional and social well-being of our children. The decisions made by the board are not in the best interest of the people they serve,” the petition accompanying the fundraiser states.

The petition sponsors did not respond to a request for further comment on Tuesday, and their legal strategy is not clear, although a post from an organizer said a lawsuit should be filed by Friday.  

The School Board’s current policy generally requires all students and staff to wear masks throughout the school day, with a handful of exceptions. Students are not required to wear the face coverings while exercising or eating, and as long as they are socially distanced from their classmates, they may take brief mask breaks during class.

– Ryan McKinnon, Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune

Survey: Americans ready to try nomadic van life due to coronavirus

According to a new survey from, Americans are considering getting rid of their homes in favor of van life and a cheaper, more nomadic experience.

The moving company review site asked hundreds of respondents about how they felt about van life and found that 52% of Americans are now more open to van life, in which practitioners live full or part time in modified vehicles with basic amenities like beds, storage, toilets, cookstoves and Wi-Fi, allowing occupants to work anywhere. 

So who are these would-be nomads?

“One interesting correlation from our data is that most of those who would consider van life because of COVID-19 were millennials,” the group said in a post on its website. “To break it down further, 31% of those considering van life because of the pandemic were in the 35-44 age range and 29% were in the 25–34 age range. One thing is clear: van life definitely isn’t as fringe as it used to be, especially among younger adults.”

– Jayme Deerwester

Alabama coach Saban tests positive

Alabama coach Nick Saban has tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently in isolation at home, the university announced Wednesday.

Saban, 68, is not experiencing any symptoms of the coronavirus, he said in a statement. The announcement comes just three days before No. 2 Alabama is set to meet No. 3 Georgia at home in one of the biggest games of the regular season. 

“I found out earlier this afternoon that I had tested positive for COVID-19. I immediately left work and isolated at home,” Saban said, adding that Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian “will oversee preparations at the complex while I work from home.”

Melania Trump says their son, Barron Trump, tested positive for COVID-19

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

“It was two weeks ago when I received the diagnosis that so many Americans across our country and the world had already received – I tested positive for COVID-19,” the first lady said in a statement. “To make matters worse, my husband, and our nation’s Commander-in-Chief, received the same news.”

She continued: “Naturally my mind went immediately to our son. To our great relief he tested negative, but again, as so many parents have thought over the past several months, I couldn’t help but think “what about tomorrow or the next day?”

“My fear came true when he was tested again and it came up positive. Luckily he is a strong teenager and exhibited no symptoms. In one way I was glad the three of us went through this at the same time so we could take care of one another and spend time together. He has since tested negative.”

Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s chief of staff and spokeswoman, told USA TODAY on Oct. 2 that Barron “has tested negative, and all precautions are being taken to ensure he’s kept safe and healthy.”

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

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