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10 per cent of Ontario public schools has a COVID-19 case with 74 more cases reported

The number of new COVID-19 cases in public schools across the province has jumped by 74 in its latest report, to a total of 749 in the last two weeks.

In its latest data released Monday morning, the province reported 48 more students were infected for a total of 430 in the last two weeks; since school began there has been an overall total of 736 cases.

The data shows there are 10 more staff members for a total of 106 in the last two weeks — and an overall total of 203.

The latest report also shows 16 more individuals who weren’t identified for a total of 213 in that category — and an overall total of 373.

There are 483 schools with a reported case, which the province notes is 10 per cent of the 4,828 public schools in Ontario.

Four schools are currently closed, according to the Ministry of Health figures, two in York Region and two in Ottawa.

Holy Name Catholic Elementary School in King City and Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Elementary School in Woodbridge are closed until Oct. 26.

In Ottawa, École secondaire catholique Franco-Cité, a French Catholic high school, closed after 15 people tested positive while St. Jerome elementary school closed after two staff tested positive.

There is a lag between the daily provincial data at 10:30 a.m. and news reports about infections in schools. The provincial data on Monday is current as of 2 p.m. Friday so it doesn’t include weekend reports. It also doesn’t indicate where the place of transmission occurred.

The Toronto District School Board updates its information on current COVID-19 cases throughout the day on its website. As of Monday at 9 a.m., there were 118 TDSB schools with at least one active case — 128 students and 43 staff.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board also updates its information on its website. As of Monday at 10:25 a.m., there were 68 schools with a COVID-19 case, with 68 students and 20 staff infected.

Epidemiologists have told the Star that the rising numbers in the schools aren’t a surprise, and that the cases will be proportionate to the amount of COVID that is in the community. Ontario reported 704 new cases overall on Monday — 244 in Toronto, 168 in Peel, 103 in York Region and 51 in Ottawa.



Cheyenne Bholla

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What is a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown, and how could it help curb rising Covid-19 cases?

Has it worked anywhere else?

The term ‘circuit breaker’ came to prominence in April to describe the steps taken by the Singaporean Government.

While the virus had been detected in the country in January, it took until spring for the state to implement a widespread lockdown measure, including restrictions on movement and gatherings, as well as the closure of schools and non-essential businesses.

The so-called circuit breaker was only supposed to last for roughly a month, but ultimately it lasted for almost three.

Although the measures were in place for longer than anticipated, Singapore’s response is hailed worldwide as a successful model.

On Oct 13, the country registered four new cases, all of which were imported. The term circuit breaker has come to mean different things in different countries.

As with Singapore, many countries have introduced what was intended to be a short, sharp lockdown only to extend it.

Not all circuit breakers involve widespread lockdowns.

Who has gone for the circuit-break option in the UK?

Pubs in central Scotland were ordered to close across several districts for 16 days. The new rules are enforce until October 26.

In Northern Ireland, a four-week circuit breaker is in place in an attempt to stall the rise in coronavirus infections.

Pubs and restaurants will have to shut unless they offer a takeaway service, but places of worship, shops and gyms can stay open.

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COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Will Be Challenging. States Rush To Plan Ahead : Shots

While coronavirus vaccine trials are ongoing and U.S. vaccine has yet to be approved, state health officials are planning ahead for how to eventually immunized a large swath of the population.

Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

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Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

While coronavirus vaccine trials are ongoing and U.S. vaccine has yet to be approved, state health officials are planning ahead for how to eventually immunized a large swath of the population.

Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Even the most effective, safest coronavirus vaccine won’t work to curb the spread of the virus unless a large number of people get immunized. And getting a vaccine from the manufacturers all the way into people’s arms requires complex logistics — and will take many months.

Now, public health officers across the country are rushing to finish up the first draft of plans for how to distribute a coronavirus vaccine if and when it is authorized, and they’re grappling with a host of unknowns as they try to design a system for getting the vaccine out to everyone who wants it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave state immunization managers only 30 days to draft a comprehensive COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan — and Friday is the day those plans are due.

The timing of vaccine research and planning is politically fraught, with the presidential election a few weeks away. When CDC announced the October deadline last month, critics worried that political pressure was tainting the process, since President Trump has repeatedly promised a vaccine will be ready soon.

“If you listen to the White House, [vaccine distribution] could be just a matter of weeks away,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Thursday. He and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson sent a letter to President Trump on behalf of the National Governors Association, asking for a meeting to talk through the many unanswered questions about the process.

“We need to know: What is the plan? What does the federal government do, what do you expect the states to do? When does it start? Who funds it?” Cuomo said. “Let’s figure it out now, because this virus has been ahead of us every step of the way — it’s about time this country catches up.”

Planning fast, with changing expectations

For dozens of public health officials across the country, the process over the past month has been like “herding a lot of cats,” says Claire Hannan, director of the Association of Immunization Managers. “It’s really cramming three to six months worth of strategic discussions […] into 30 days,” she says.

States need to lay the groundwork for distribution now, says James Blumenstock, vice president for pandemic response and recovery for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. That means deciding who’s in charge of responsibilities such as ordering supplies, signing up vaccine providers, training staff, running mass vaccination clinics and outreach campaigns, he explains. They’ll also need a data management system to track who received an initial vaccine dose, and to remind them to come back for their second dose.

“We have been working feverishly over the past few weeks,” says Decrecia Limbrick, assistant director of the Department of Health in Houston, which is one of several large cities that receives funding directly from CDC. “I think we’re ready to submit a plan — a ‘Version One’ of a plan.”

Then there are conflicting messages from the Trump administration. “Originally there had been talk about hurrying up and getting your plan done because the vaccine will be ready before the election,” says Kris Ehresmann, director of infectious disease for Minnesota’s Department of Health. When the Food and Drug Administration recently said that vaccine trials must allow two months after the last experimental dose is administered, that guidance “changes the timeline” again.

“It’s pretty much like being in a continuous earthquake,” she adds. “The ground is constantly moving.”

Overcoming logistical hurdles

Nobody knows which vaccine will be authorized first, when that will happen, which populations it will be authorized for, and how many initial doses will be available.

Adding to this uncertainty is the likelihood that the first coronavirus vaccines will be extremely challenging to handle. The CDC playbook notes the vaccines will likely require cold chain storage — possibly “ultra-cold” storage, which is colder than Antarctica — must be given in two doses a certain number of days apart, and could have a minimum order of 1,000 doses.

“For routine vaccines, [providers] will order 10 doses at the time or 20 doses at a time,” explains Michigan Department of Health and Human Services immunization director Bob Swanson. “It makes it more difficult to think about — how are we going to use a thousand doses for at risk populations across a rural county?”

Initially, the focus will be on the priority groups who will be first in line to get immunized. The specifics of who that will be are still getting worked out by a CDC advisory committee, although frontline health workers will almost certainly be at the top of the list. There are also concerns about distributing the vaccine equitably to communities that, for instance, speak different languages or are difficult to reach, especially at first when doses are limited.

As immunization managers look ahead to the coming year, different places around the country face a range of challenges.

Then there are seasonal issues. During a North Dakota winter, freezing temperatures and snowfall make outdoor drive-through clinics untenable, says Molly Howell, North Dakota’s immunization program manager, so they’re considering using warehouses or sporting venues for mass vaccination campaigns, so that people can gather indoors while maintaining physical distance. “Those are some of the ways that we’re trying to be creative about vaccinating people safely during the pandemic,” she says.

In Houston, officials are thinking ahead to the complications of the hot and humid summer. “If we get those hot days, we want to obviously ensure that we maintain the integrity of the vaccine,” says Limbrick of the Houston Department of Health, and they have to think about taking care of the medical staff who have to administer the vaccine in those conditions.

“After [health officials] push that button on Friday afternoon, on Saturday morning, they’re going to continue to work on their planning efforts going forward over the days and weeks and months ahead,” says Blumenstock of ASTHO. And when the first vaccine is authorized, “it’s going to be close to a year-long effort,” he says, to immunize everyone across the country who wants to be vaccinated.

Finding the money to execute plans

CDC director Robert Redfield told Congress last month that states are going to need around $6 billion dollars to distribute vaccines.

“This is going to take substantial resources,” Redfield told lawmakers. “The time is now for us to be able to get those resources out to the state[s].”

On Thursday, ASTHO and the Association of Immunization Managers wrote a letter formally requested $8.4 billion from Congress for these efforts.

The letter notes that so far CDC has distributed $200 million to states, territories, and a few large cities to fund the vaccine planning process — but describes this sum as “merely a down payment.” And with the election looming, the chances of a new COVID-19 relief bill getting through the legislature anytime soon are dim.

“The funding I don’t have control over, but I do have control over how we’re going to get vaccines out when they’re available,” says Swanson. “And I will tell you, public health is strong, and public health works hard, and immunizations are public health’s bread and butter.”

Michigan has received $5.9 million so far, and Swanson says that money has gone to getting the state’s immunization registry up to speed, and to local health departments for staffing.

The lack of clarity about funding troubles Dr. Kelly Moore, associate director of immunization education at the Immunization Action Coalition and the former director of Tennessee’s immunization program.

States need additional funds to be able to carry out the plans they’re submitting to CDC, she says. “They need to be able to invest in manpower, in I.T. systems and in the people to use them,” she explains, adding that those who are brought in to run the vaccination campaigns from other parts of the health department like STD clinics and family planning, will also need to be backfilled.

“A lot of things need to be paid for with these billions of dollars,” she says. “Even the best laid plans can’t be executed if you don’t have the resources to do so.”

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COVID-19: Outbreak at Kelowna church as three deaths reported over past three days

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Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Monday reported a five-case community outbreak linked to the Calvary Chapel Church in Kelowna.

This is the first community outbreak reported in over a week, though there continue to be community exposures in schools and other spaces.

The Calvary Chapel is located on the grounds of the Kelowna Christian School, however the outbreak only impacts people who attended the 10:30 a.m. service on Sept. 13 and 20.

Henry said there were 267 cases of COVID-19 reported between noon Friday and noon Monday (68/125/74) and three deaths. Those deaths occurred in Fraser Health, Vancouver Coastal Health and Island Health regions bringing that grim toll to 233.

Henry said the person who died on Vancouver Island was in his 50s with underlying conditions and died at home. She said it was not known he had COVID until after his death.

There are now 1,302 active cases of the disease in B.C., of which 69 were being treated in hospital including 22 in intensive care. Henry said there were 3,372 people in isolation and being monitored by health authorities across the province after being potentially exposed to COVID-19.

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Ontario’s COVID-19 cases dip slightly but ‘extremely concerning’ upward trend continues

Ontario is reporting a slight dip in the number of new COVID-19 cases after recording two days with more than 400 infections but the seven-day trend has once again increased.

Health officials reported 365 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, which is a slight dip from the 407 reported on Saturday and 401 on Friday.

Ontario reported one additional COVID-19-related death on Sunday, pushing the total number of fatalities to 2,827. According to the daily epidemiologic summary, the death reported was a health-care worker but no additional details were provided.

The number of lab-confirmed infections in the province now stands at 46,849, including 40,968 recoveries and deaths.

There are currently 63 people in the hospital being treated for the disease. Twenty of those patients are in the intensive care unit and 10 are breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.

Of the new patients on Sunday, the majority are between the ages of 20 and 39, with 187 new cases reported.

There were 66 new cases in people under the age of 19. In the 40 to 59 age group, there are 87 new cases. There are 34 new cases in people above the age of 60.

Ontario broke a new testing record in the previous 24 hour period, processing more than 40,120 swabs. Sunday’s positivity rate was 0.9 per cent.

Where are Ontario’s new COVID-19 cases?

The majority of Sunday’s new cases are concentrated in Ontario’s COVID-19 hotspots.

The regions reporting the most new cases include:

  • Toronto – 113
  • Peel Region – 108
  • York Region – 38
  • Halton Region – 24
  • Waterloo – 20
  • Durham Region – 19
  • Ottawa – 14

On Saturday, Elliott said Ontario’s recent spike in COVID-19 cases is “extremely concerning.” This time last month, Ontario was reporting around 100 new cases per day. The seven-day rolling average has now increased to 335, up from 312 on Friday. 

Elliott made the comment about Ontario’s spike in cases during a rare weekend press conference, where the government announced gathering sizes would be slashed across the entire province.

Gathering sizes are now capped at 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors for at least the next 28 days. The previous gathering limits were 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.

“We will never hesitate to protect the wellbeing of all Ontarians,” Elliott said. 

Elliott said the government would take further action if daily COVID-19 cases continue to increase.Ontario is reporting 365 cases of #COVID19 as 40,127 tests were completed, a new provincial record as we continue to expand lab capacity. Locally, Toronto is reporting 113 new cases, with 108 in Peel and 38 in York. 69% of today’s new cases are in people under the age of 40.

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Toronto school board confirms first case of COVID-19 in a student

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) confirmed that a student had tested positive for COVID-19 on the first day back for in-person classes for many secondary schoolers.

According to a letter sent to parents shared with the Star, the York Memorial Collegiate Institute announced Thursday that one of their students had tested positive for the virus.

“We have no reason to believe there is any cause for concern for students and their families as this student was very briefly at the school on Monday, was not at school today and will not return until cleared by TPH,” wrote Donna Drummond, principal of the public secondary school, in the letter.

As of Thursday, eight schools have announced COVID-19 cases in the Toronto region. All have one case each. Seven are staff members, and one a student.

TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird told the Star that, while Toronto secondary schools are opening their doors to all students on Thursday, students in Toronto’s Special Education Congregated Sites and Intensive Support Programs began their classes earlier on Tuesday.

The affected student went to school “briefly” on Monday before the start of full-time classes, Bird said.

The school is “working closely with Toronto Public Health (TPH) with regard to this case,” according to Drummond’s letter.

“As a precaution, an enhanced cleaning was conducted in the impacted areas but no further steps have been advised by TPH at this time,” Drummond said.

However, because the case was discovered before the first day of class, parents won’t be getting a letter from Toronto Public Health, she continued.

“We just wanted to let you know about this particular case as it must be reported to the Ministry of Education and Toronto Public Health.”

Alexander Brown, chair of the TDSB, said it’s not unexpected that there is a student case of COVID-19, and said the board continues to follow Toronto Public Health’s lead.

Local health units have the power to shut down schools if there are multiple, linked cases. That happened in Renfrew County on Wednesday after three staffers contracted the virus, forcing Fellowes High School in Pembroke to close until further notice.

Given the higher numbers of COVID-19 cases in urban centres such as Toronto, “parents are worried ‘is there going to be an outbreak at my school?’ Brown said. “Our concern at the TDSB — and it’s the concern of every board — is to keep the health and safety of kids and everyone in the building our priority, whatever that takes.”

Experts said earlier that it’s expected for schools to report COVID-19 cases as soon as they reopen. This doesn’t indicate in-class spread, but rather community cases from before classes reopened.

Earlier in August, several Ontario teachers unions advocated for smaller class sizes, including plans to shrink elementary classes down to 15 or 20 students. However, the Province struck down the idea.

Leslie Wolfe, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation in Toronto, told the Star: “I’m concerned for the wellbeing of students. I’m very concerned for the wellbeing of the adults who work with the students,” she said. Several of her union members are older, she continued, and Wolfe is “concerned for their health.



“I don’t think anyone will be surprised at the fact that there is a student case in the city of Toronto,” she said. “And I expect this will not be a one-off.”

—With files from Kristin Rushowy

Kevin Jiang

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UK economy grew by 6.6% in July as Covid-19 recovery continues — business live | Business

Economy 11.7% smaller than February back at 2013 levels

Full story: Covid-19 recovery continues

Experts warn UK economy faces tough times


Sunak: Welcome figures, but worries ahead


Services, manufacturing, construction and agriculture all grew

Economy shrank 7.6% in last quarter




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India didn’t prioritize mental health before Covid-19. Now it’s paying the price

“The worst are the headaches and the pain in my eyes,” said Paul, who lives in Kolkata, West Bengal. “I have had more panic attacks this year than in my entire life combined.”

Research conducted by the Suicide Prevention in India Foundation (SPIF) in May found that nearly 65% of 159 mental health professionals surveyed reported an increase in self-harm among their patients. More than 85% of therapists surveyed said they were experiencing caregiver fatigue, and over 75% said fatigue had impacted their work.

Another survey in April, by the Indian Psychiatric Society, showed that, of 1,685 participants, 40% were suffering from common mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, due to the pandemic.

The lockdown may have eased, but the situation isn’t improving. The report’s authors told CNN in August that there’s growing anxiety and uncertainty about when the pandemic will end.

Before Covid-19, India had the highest suicide rate in south-east Asia — now medical experts say the country’s mental health system is being pushed to the limit.

“The system was already creaking and overburdened, now with Covid, we are experiencing the catastrophe of increased demand, woeful supply, and fatigued frontline workers,” said Nelson Moses, founder of SPIF.

No words for mental health

India doesn’t have a long history of discussing mental health.

In 2016, a National Mental Health Survey conducted across 12 states documented a list of over 50 derogatory terms used for people suffering mental illness. “Usually, the public believes that individuals with psychiatric illnesses are incompetent, irrational and untrustworthy consequently, they have low marriage opportunities,” said one of the participants.

“People think that talking about your feelings makes you weak — there are a lot of misconceptions,” said 23-year-old Baldev Singh, a volunteer counselor with the MINDS Foundation, an Indian nonprofit that aims to reduce the stigma around mental health.

Experts say the historical reluctance to address mental health in India could be partly due to a lack of terminology. None of India’s 22 languages have words that mean “mental health” or “depression.”

“People think that talking about your feelings makes you weak — there are a lot of misconceptions.”Baldev Singh, volunteer counselor

While there are terms for sadness (udaasi), grief (shok) or devastation (bejasi) in Urdu and other Indian languages, the specific terminology to address different mental illnesses is lacking. That’s because the practice of psychiatry is largely Western, said Dr S.K. Chaturvedi, Head of department at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore.  “It is easier for people to talk about physical symptoms and illnesses than to express to their families that they are feeling low or depressed,” he said.

Growing up, Paul says her middle-class Indian family didn’t talk about negative feelings.

“Ever since I was a kid it was ingrained that we don’t talk about things that bother us.”

Problems were pushed aside and minimized, she said. “They might just compare it with someone else’s problem and make you feel guilty about it.”

Aritri Paul has spoken about her issues with mental health to encourage others to seek help.

Straining mental health system

The stigma around mental health may prevent some people from recognizing that they need help. For those who do want treatment, facilities are limited.

According to the 2016 National Mental Health Survey, 83% of people suffering mental health problems in India did not have access to adequate mental health treatment.

The same year, India had three psychiatrists for every million people and even fewer psychologists, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). For comparison, the US had 100 psychiatrists and almost 300 psychologists for every million people.

In many cases, access to mental health treatment in India depends on where you live.

“The divide basically comes in the urban versus rural, so if I look at Mumbai, I know that today I can just get up and go to a hospital in my own area,” said Pragya Lodha, the Mumbai Program Director for the MINDS Foundation.

For people in rural India, it’s much harder.

Sub-district hospitals cater to roughly 30,000 people or 15 to 20 villages. However, these hospitals typically don’t have mental health services, according to Amul Joshi, MINDS Foundation’s program director in Gujarat.

Some villagers may have to travel up to 60 kilometers (37 miles) to get treatment, said Joshi. That takes time — and money. “We sometimes pay for their travel to the hospital as an incentive. However, this means that treatment is usually limited to medication as people cannot keep going to the district hospital for therapy,” he said.

People in rural India tend to have other priorities.

“The struggle in rural communities is often about basics so mental health tends to take a backseat,” said Lodha.

The urban-rural divide

India was heading into harvest season when the government announced its nationwide lockdown in March. Farmers were confused about whether they could hire migrant workers amid the ban on cross-border movement, and whether crops could be transported to market, said Singh, the volunteer counselor.

“People have to deal with a lot of stress in villages — farmers have to deal with their produce going bad when they can’t take it to the market or distribute it in time,” said Singh, who lives in Nara Village, a rural farming community of around 2,000 people in Gujarat.

Singh said people in rural India are feeling more isolated than ever.

“In rural India, where people aren’t aware of mental health issues and can’t talk to their friends about their stresses, the situation is only getting worse.”Baldev Singh, volunteer counselor

“In urban India, this may have led to more dialogue among family members. In rural India, where people aren’t aware of mental health issues and can’t talk to their friends about their stresses, the situation is only getting worse,” he said.

Technology has become crucial to mental health intervention in many communities during the pandemic. However, online therapy is not often available to people in villages who don’t have access to smartphones or the internet.

The MIND Foundation trains volunteers — like Singh — to become “community leaders” to raise awareness of mental health and encourage people to seek help when they need it.

Government programs

Changing attitudes in a country of 1.3 billion people is an immense challenge. But in recent months, there have been signs of change.

Chaturvedi, from NIMHANS, is part of a central government initiative to address the mental health of migrants who were disproportionately affected by the lockdown that stretched for 68 days.

“(It’s) definitely proof of the fact that there is a shift in attitudes, and that people understand the importance of mental health,” Chaturvedi said.

Millions of migrant workers lost their jobs and became stranded in cities when lockdown rules closed workplaces and froze public transport. Some were forced to take shelter under bridges or other public spaces or walk hundreds of miles to get home.

Migrant laborers (were) displaced, forced to go back to their villages, ignored by the state machinery, treated as collateral damage,” Moses said. Sometimes they were unwelcome in their own villages, he added, due to fears they were carrying the virus.

“Thanks to Covid, everyone is in the same boat of despair and despondency.”Nelson Moses, founder of the Suicide Prevention in India Foundation

Under the direction of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, NIMHANS set up a helpline that refers prospective patients to mental health professionals. Separately, the government released guidelines on addressing the mental health issues of migrants and health care workers, and advice on identifying patients whose mental health had suffered during the pandemic. And the Health Ministry shared posters stressing the importance of wellness practices, such as yoga to improve mental health.

However, some mental health practitioners say these initiatives are insufficient. “These are helpful but seem to be reductive and appear to pay mere lip service,” said Moses.

Mental health experts say what’s needed is more funding. Of India’s total 2020-2021 budget, just 2% has been set aside for healthcare. And of that figure, less than 1% has been allocated to mental health.

Moses believes now is the time for the Indian government to start prioritizing mental health services.

“Never before have we witnessed more engagement surrounding mental health. Thanks to Covid, everyone is in the same boat of despair and despondency,” said Moses. “It has gone from (being) swept under the carpet to hitting the ceiling.”

Paul chose to speak about her panic attacks to raise awareness of a problem that often is ignored in India. “It is no longer acceptable to label mental health as “taboo,” and move on without addressing the issue,” she said.

“There needs to be a lot more communication … we need to start from ground zero in schools and colleges and rope in parents and make them comfortable with it, so that their children can be comfortable talking to them about their issues.”

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Sturgis Motorcycle Rally: First COVID-19 death reported


After the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally brought hundreds of thousands of people to the Black Hills of South Dakota, residents of the small town lined up to be tested for the coronavirus. (Aug. 25)

AP Domestic

The first COVID-19 death associated with a massive biker rally in Sturgis, South Dakota has been reported weeks after the event attracted more than 400,000 vehicles and drew widespread concern from public health officials.

The death was reported by Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann at a Wednesday briefing. Minnesota — South Dakota’s neighbor to the east — is tracking an ongoing outbreak of 50 cases tied to the August event, Ehresmann said.

A Minnesota man who died was in his 60s and had underlying health conditions. The 50-case outbreak only includes people who attended the event, Ehresmann said, noting that those infected individuals may have spread the virus to others.

Infections linked to the event have been reported among people in states from coast to coast. The rally went forward despite fears it could become a super-spread event. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem welcomed bikers and the tourist dollars they spend.

Watch: Sturgis tests for COVID-19 after motorcycle rally

Aug. 19: Warning issued after bar patron had COVID-19 at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that drew 460,000 vehicles

While the 2020 Rally was expected to be significantly smaller than previous years, it was down in size only 8% from 2019, and drew drew more than 460,000 vehicles, according to a count South Dakota transportation officials.

Noem tweeted ahead of the event: “I trusted my people, they trusted me, and South Dakota is in a good spot in our fight against COVID-19. The #Sturgis motorcycle rally starts this weekend, and we’re excited for visitors to see what our great state has to offer!”

Attendees were largely free of social distancing restrictions common elsewhere in the country during this year’s 10-day festival.

South Dakota has seen the bulk of cases tied to the rally, with the Department of Health reporting 105 tied to the rally. The city of Sturgis made coronavirus tests available to residents and city employees after the rally in an attempt to uncover people who had infections but no symptoms.

The rally ended on Aug. 16, and virus symptoms can take up to two weeks to present, according to the CDC. Severe illness or death can lag days or weeks behind the beginning of COVID-19 symptoms.

Contributing: Michael Klinski, Sioux Falls Argus Leader; The Associated Press


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UN General Assembly president welcomes Azerbaijan’s initiative to hold session on COVID-19

BAKU, Azerbaijan, Sept.1


President of the UN General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad Bande expressed gratitude to Azerbaijan for the initiative to hold a special session on cooperation between countries in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, Trend reports referring to TASS News Agency.

“The proposal to hold a special session on the pandemic by the General Assembly is a veritable platform to mobilize global efforts against the pandemic,” Bande said at a special meeting on the session’s organization.

“We thank Azerbaijan, as Chair of Non-Aligned Movement, for pushing for this important session,” he stressed.

The assembly’s president clarified that the session co-organizers have already produced the document draft which can be accepted at the end of the session.

“We trust that the special session will ensure greater involvement of world leaders toward a result-oriented response to the pandemic,” he added.

“This will further strengthen the General Assembly as a global partner in the fight against the pandemic and its impact on people’s livelihood,” Bande concluded.

The UN General Assembly’s special session on the fight against the pandemic officially opened on July 10, but it took the countries time to agree on aspects of its conduct in conditions of remote work.

Earlier, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry expressed its confidence that the special session will contribute to strengthening the solidarity of states in the fight against the pandemic, and reinforce international cooperation in finding an answer to this global threat.

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