ORLANDO — Deaths in Florida from the coronavirus surpassed 10,000, while teachers and state officials argued in court over whether in-person schools should reopen this month.
Florida reported 174 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total confirmed deaths to at least 10,067 — the fifth-highest death toll in the nation.
The state reported an additional 4,115 confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 584,047.
The positivity rate for coronavirus testing in Florida has averaged about 11.4 percent during the past week.
There were 5,351 patients being treated for the disease in Florida hospitals on Wednesday, down from peaks above 9,500 patients in late July.
Meanwhile, Florida’s largest teacher’s union is seeking an injunction from a judge in Tallahassee to stop schools from reopening by Friday.
GOP lawmakers advance in-person voting plan in La.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana lawmakers are plowing ahead with a contested emergency plan to run the state’s fall elections during the pandemic, despite Governor John Bel Edwards’s intention to jettison the plan if it reaches his desk.
Republicans on the House and Governmental Affairs Committee voted in a near-bloc Wednesday to advance the emergency plan offered by GOP Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin to the full House for consideration. It eliminates most of the coronavirus-related reasons for a person to request an absentee ballot, requiring most people to vote in person, despite the virus outbreak, unless they have recently tested positive for COVID-19.
The rules have little chance of being used for the Nov. 3 presidential election or a Dec. 5 state election because Edwards, a Democrat, intends to block it.
The impasse likely will leave a federal judge to determine how Louisiana runs its fall elections, because of a pending lawsuit filed by voting rights advocates that seeks to widen mail-in voting options.
FDA emergency plan to OK plasma as treatment on hold
Last week, just as the Food and Drug Administration was preparing to issue an emergency authorization for blood plasma as a COVID-19 treatment, a group of top federal health officials, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci intervened, arguing that emerging data on the treatment was too weak, according to two senior administration officials.
The authorization is on hold for now as more data is reviewed, according to H. Clifford Lane, the clinical director at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. An emergency approval could still be issued soon, he said.
Donated by people who have survived the disease, antibody-rich plasma is considered safe. President Trump has hailed it as a “beautiful ingredient” in the veins of people who have survived COVID-19.
But clinical trials have not proved whether plasma can help people fighting the coronavirus.
NYC releases 1.46 million antibody test results
NEW YORK — New York City on Tuesday released more than 1.46 million coronavirus antibody test results, the largest number to date, providing more evidence of how the virus penetrated deeply into some lower-income communities while passing more lightly across affluent parts of the city.
In one ZIP code in Queens, more than 50 percent of people who had gotten tested were found to have antibodies, a strikingly high rate. But no ZIP code south of 96th Street in Manhattan had a positive rate of more than 20 percent.
Across the city, more than 27 percent of those tested had positive antibody results. The borough with the highest rate was the Bronx, at 33 percent. Manhattan had the lowest rate, at 19 percent.
The data is likely to renew discussion about whether some neighborhoods or communities in New York City may be nearing herd immunity — the point at which enough people have immunity that the virus is no longer able to spread widely within a community.
Pharmacists allowed to give childhood vaccinations
NEW YORK — Pharmacists in all 50 states are now allowed to give childhood vaccinations under a new directive aimed at preventing future outbreaks of measles and other preventable diseases.
Alex Azar, head of the US Department of Health and Human Services, took the step using emergency powers he has during the coronavirus epidemic, which was declared a public health emergency. The directive announced Wednesday will temporarily preempt restrictions in 22 states starting this fall.
The move is designed to help prevent vaccination rates from falling during the pandemic, Azar said.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report said orders for childhood vaccines from doctors’ offices plummeted in late March and early April as their offices closed or saw fewer patients, raising concerns vaccination rates would fall.
Drake students sent home for breaking ban on parties
Drake University has sent home 14 students who disobeyed the Iowa college’s ban on parties, Dean of Students Jerry Parker said in a message to the campus community.
As US colleges report clusters of coronavirus cases linked to parties both on and off campus, some are taking a tough stance on any rule breakers.
Drake says that anyone who attends a party will be banned from campus for at least two weeks.
That includes students living in dorms, who must relocate at their own expense. Hosts of off-campus parties will potentially face consequences for violating the university’s Code of Student Conduct.
“I want to be crystal clear: we are serious and we will not hesitate to take the necessary actions to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19,” Parker wrote.