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US records 8 million total virus cases; swing states' surge worries election officials
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US records 8 million total virus cases; swing states' surge worries election officials

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Rising coronavirus cases in key presidential battleground states are the latest worry for election officials and voters a little more than two weeks before Election Day.

The United States on Friday surpassed 8 million recorded Covid-19 cases -- a milestone that comes as daily infection rates are rising, which experts say is setting the country up for a very difficult winter.

The country has recorded more than 8,015,000 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. That total is likely a vast undercount, largely because of a low testing capacity early in the pandemic, researchers have said in several reports.

The country's one-week average of new daily cases has moved above 53,000 -- an increase of more than 55% in just over a month, Johns Hopkins data show. Confirmed virus cases and deaths are on the rise in the swing states of Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Read the full reports, then scroll onward to see 8 updated charts and maps showing virus spread in our state and nation.

Federal health officials on Friday unveiled a plan to get yet-to-be-approved coronavirus vaccines to nursing home residents free of charge, enlisting two national pharmacy chains to help.

Such a vaccine is not yet available, and that led to skepticism from some long-term care experts. The distribution program is contingent on the Food and Drug Administration authorizing a vaccine, which does not appear to be imminent.

Under the voluntary program, trained staff from CVS and Walgreens would deliver the vaccines to each nursing home and administer shots.

Other developments today

  • Puerto Rico’s governor has announced that more people will be able to visit restaurants, gyms, theaters and casinos as the U.S. territory relaxes some pandemic-related restrictions.
  • Mar del Plata has become an epicenter in a coronavirus surge through Argentina’s interior that has given it the fifth-highest confirmed case total in the world.
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatened to force Greater Manchester into the most severe level of COVID-19 restrictions after local officials refused to accept the government’s financial package to implement measures targeted at areas with the highest infection rates. In Belgium, where the virus is surging, a night-time curfew is being imposed and cafes, bars and restaurants will be closed for a month.
  • The Trump White House has installed two political operatives at the nation’s top public health agency to try to control the information it releases about the coronavirus pandemic as the administration seeks to paint a positive outlook, sometimes at odds with the scientific evidence.

  • The U.N. health agency says the world’s largest randomized trial of COVID-19 treatments found “conclusive evidence” that remdesivir, a drug used to treat U.S. President Donald Trump when he fell ill, has little or no effect on severe cases.

Stories to watch for this weekend

  • The shift from in-person to remote learning is giving some teachers unprecedented video access into their students’ homes. Child welfare advocates say that’s a good thing, because the teachers may be the only adults outside the household with a glimpse into challenges at home.
  • Rural Jerauld County in South Dakota didn't see a single case of the coronavirus for over two months stretching from June to August. But in the last two weeks, its rate of new cases per person soared to one of the highest in the nation. Doctors in small towns worry that infections may overwhelm tight-knit communities with limited medical resources.
  • The outbreak this month in Russia is breaking all the records set in May, when authorities imposed a lockdown to slow the spread. But, as governments across Europe move to reimpose restrictions, the central government in Russia has left those decisions up to regional authorities. Some have shut night clubs or limited the hours of bars and restaurants, but very few measures have been implemented in Moscow, the epicenter of the new surge.
  • After struggling to ramp up coronavirus testing, the U.S. can now screen several million people daily, thanks to a growing supply of rapid tests. But the boom comes with a new challenge: keeping track of the results.

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