Florida's Hillsborough County votes to begin school year remotely
From CNN's Annie Grayer
The school board of Hillsborough County Schools in Florida voted Thursday to start the school year with four weeks of remote learning. The board will then reconvene on Sept. 8 to reevaluate the plan.
The motion passed 5-2, but the deliberation leading up to the vote went on for just over five hours.
Prior to this decision, the district had already decided to delay the start of school by two weeks.
Hillsborough County — which includes the city of Tampa — is the eighth largest school district in the country. With Hillsborough’s decision, nine of the 10 largest school districts in the country will be starting in an all-online format.
An official summary of the meeting has not been published yet, but the district announced the decision in with this tweet:
3:58 p.m. ET, August 6, 2020
Key coronavirus model projects nearly 300,000 people could die in the US by December
From CNN's Amanda Watts
Researchers behind an influential model at the University of Washington are now projecting that the US death toll could reach nearly 300,000 by December 1 – but that can be changed if consistent mask-wearing occurs.
“America’s Covid-19 death toll is expected to reach nearly 300,000 by December 1; however, consistent mask-wearing beginning today could save about 70,000 lives, according to new data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine,” a statement said.
According to Johns Hopkins University, 159,433 people have died in the United States since the pandemic began. “The US forecast totals 295,011 deaths by December,” the IHME statement said.
The model doesn’t have to come true, said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray: “The public’s behavior had a direct correlation to the transmission of the virus and, in turn, the numbers of deaths.”
“Starting today, if 95% of the people in the US were to wear masks when leaving their homes, that total number would decrease to 228,271 deaths, a drop of 49%. And more than 66,000 lives would be saved,” the statement says.
In its previous forecast, published July 7, IHME projected there would be 230,822 US deaths from Covid-19 by November.
“Since July 15, several states have added mask mandates. IHME’s statistical analysis suggests that mandates with no penalties increase mask wearing by 8 percentage points. But mandates with penalties increase mask wearing by 15 percentage points,” the statement said.
This new model assumes that 50% of school districts will have online school in the fall. When schools make their final decisions, this will impact the forecast and IHME “will incorporate them into our future revisions of forecasts.”
3:56 p.m. ET, August 6, 2020
Masks must be worn in all child care centers and camps in Michigan
From CNN’s Rebekah Riess.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive order requiring face coverings to be worn in all child care centers and at camps, according to a release from her office.
Michigan has seen Covid-19 outbreaks at these locations, and by requiring face coverings, child care centers and camps “can remain open while keeping children and staff members safe," the governor said in a news release.
Face coverings are not required for child care centers located in a region in phase five of Michigan’s reopening plan, the release added.
The new order requires all staff and children ages 2 and up to wear a face covering on a school bus or other transportation. Additionally, all staff and children ages 4 and up have to wear a face covering in all indoor common spaces. All staff and children 12 and older are required to wear a face covering in classrooms, homes, cabins, or similar indoor small-group settings, the release said.
More details: The governor also strongly encouraged all children ages 2 and up wear face coverings when indoors.
According to the release, these rules align with the existing rules on face coverings that already apply to pre-K-12 schools across Michigan.
“Masks continue to be one of the best ways to contain the spread of Covid-19, and they can be safely worn by most of us over the age of two,” Michigan’s chief medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said. “It will take all of us, of all ages, doing our part to continue slowing the spread of this disease and to protect our families and communities.”
3:37 p.m. ET, August 6, 2020
For contact tracing to work, it has to be communicated properly to those who need it, organization says
From CNN's Naomi Thomas
Contact tracing is a vitally important tool for reducing the spread of Covid-19, but it has to be communicated properly to communities in order for it to work, according to the global health organization Vital Strategies, led by former US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden.
“Those who are 50+ and from racial and ethnic minority communities are disproportionately affected; hence, it is key that the appropriate communication channels and message delivery are adopted for successful community engagement with these demographics,” the Contact Tracing Community Messaging Toolkit says.
Vital Strategies published the toolkit on Thursday after carrying out 12 sets of focus group interviews, where 88 people participated in the research for the report. The groups were comprised of English- and Spanish-speaking Black and Latinx immigrants in New York City and Philadelphia.
“Focus group research revealed that while trust in national government is low, there is an opportunity to imbue trust with local communities by engaging people through local community members and community organizations in contact tracing efforts,” the toolkit says.
The toolkit highlights the need for trusted messengers, local messaging and media planning in order to have successful contact tracing in these communities.
The main three sources of information and communication mentioned by focus group participants were community-based organizations, word of mouth and government websites.
There is a lack of trust in government, “primarily due to political and racial tensions, long-standing systemic health and, and social inequities facing ethnic minority groups,” but many of the focus group participants indicated that they trusted information from community health centers, primary doctors, local health departments and the CDC.
This is why people who are communicating the information about contact tracing must be trusted and respected in the communities.
The way messages are delivered is also important, with different groups and different ages preferring varying modes of communication, ranging from text messages to newspapers.
Messaging also has to be local. It has to be relatable to those who campaigns are trying to reach, and take language considerations into account.
Media buying, when it comes to spreading information about contact tracing, must be audience-focused – so that it is able to reach all audiences and hard-to-reach groups directly.
The toolkit also details the Be The One campaign, which is a “concept that centers the individual’s participation in contact tracing as the key to helping their communities.”
Be The One was the concept that resonated most with the focus groups, according to the toolkit’s news release, “as it centers on the individual's participation in contact tracing as the key to helping their communities.
While the toolkit was developed with contact tracing in mind, it can also be used to support other public health and social measures, Vital Strategies said.
2:39 p.m. ET, August 6, 2020
Florida's governor would not shut down youth sports if athletes test positive for Covid-19
From CNN's Rosa Flores and Sara Weisfeldt
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to “give the fans what they want” when it comes to sports returning to schools and college campuses this upcoming school year.
DeSantis made the remarks during a news conference in Jacksonville Thursday where he pushed for the return of girls and boys sports in his state.
“The governor’s office, we’re 100% supportive of getting the kids back into competition,” DeSantis said. “Obviously you do it with care and with safety… to be shut down, that’s not an option here.”
DeSantis said “there is a risk out there” with sports. But, he doesn’t foresee youth sports teams operating in an “NBA style bubble.”
Instead, when an athlete develops symptoms, that athlete would be isolated and tested. And the athlete could then return 10 days after displaying symptoms.
“What I would not do is just… shut down everything else. I mean I think if everyone else is fine, you got to just keep going,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis said the vast majority of youth either have zero or mild symptoms. The governor said that as a father, if his children were old enough to play sports, he would want them to play.
“I would want them playing,” DeSantis said. “If they bring something back to the house, I mean, as much as I wouldn't want that, I would rather take that risk, than to deprive them of the opportunity. You know, to do things like this. But that's just me as a father, the calculation I would make.”
2:37 p.m. ET, August 6, 2020
4 positive Covid-19 cases reported in Georgia high schools
From CNN’s Dianne Gallagher
Four students from three Georgia high schools who attended classes in person this week have tested positive for Covid-19, Columbia County School District Superintendent Sandra Carraway told CNN.
The district started the new school year for those who chose to attend in person classes on Monday. The students who tested positive attended Evans High School, Lakeside High School and Harlem High School.
Carraway said a number of students identified as having close contact with the students who tested positive are now quarantining at home. She declined to provide the number of students being quarantined due to potential exposure.
More details: High schools in Columbia County are operating on A/B schedules to reduce the number of students at each school on any given day. The district told CNN that it requires all high and middle school students to wear face coverings in school property during transition periods and in any setting where social distancing is not possible.
Carraway said students health and safety is their top priority.
She added that the district has contact tracing, cleaning and messaging plans in place. The district sent a message to parents on Wednesday reiterating that students who don’t feel well should stay home. It also noted that anyone waiting for Covid-19 test results, regardless of whether they have symptoms, should not come to school until they receive results.
2:28 p.m. ET, August 6, 2020
Here's the latest on new coronavirus cases in Florida
Florida on Thursday reported at least 7,650 news coronavirus cases and 120 additional deaths, according to the latest data released by the Florida Department of Health.
Where things stand: There are now 510,389 total cases in Florida, including out-of-state residents, the health department reported. At least 7,747 people have died from coronavirus in the state to date, the department's data shows.
2:38 p.m. ET, August 6, 2020
US State Department lifts worldwide "Do Not Travel" advisory
From CNN's Jennifer Hansler
The State Department lifted its global level 4 travel advisory Thursday after more than four months of warning US citizens against traveling abroad.
The State Department issued the level 4 "Do Not Travel" advisory – the highest level of travel advisory — on March 19, urging US citizens not to travel overseas due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The State Department will return to its previous system of assigning country-specific advisories since health conditions are "improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others," according to a note from the department. This will "give travelers detailed and actionable information to make informed travel decisions."
“This will also provide U.S. citizens more detailed information about the current status in each country,” the statement added. “We continue to recommend U.S. citizens exercise caution when traveling abroad due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic.”