COLUMBIA, S.C. — School district officials in South Carolina said Wednesday that a third grade teacher who was last in her classroom less than two weeks ago has died from COVID-19.
Richland School District 2 spokeswoman Libby Roof said in a news release that 28-year-old Demetria “Demi” Bannister was diagnosed with the virus on Friday and died Monday.
Officials say Bannister was a third grade teacher starting her fifth year of teaching at Windsor Elementary School in Columbia.
Bannister was at the school on Aug. 28, which was a week of teacher workdays before the school year began. She is the first teacher death reported in South Carolina since the school year started.
South Carolina reported just 250 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the lowest since June 3. But only 1,744 virus tests were reported, as the rate of positive cases remains above the 10% level which worried health officials.
Health officials said that positive rate still concerns them because it means the virus is still spreading, especially through people who show no symptoms.
Health officials are watching the numbers closely with a combination of Labor Day weekend events and parties and going back to school.
All school systems had to start the school year by Tuesday, and most districts are allowing students to attend classes in person at least one day a week.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK
— Coronavirus infections increase again at University of Georgia
— Dr. Fauci sticks with projection of coronavirus vaccine in 2021
— India adds another 89,706 coronavirus cases to daily tally
— A new book reveals Trump seemed to understand the severity of the coronavirus threat even as he told the nation it was no worse than seasonal flu.
— The National Institutes of Health director tells Congress that AstraZeneca’s suspension of its coronavirus vaccine study shows there will be “no compromises” on safety.
— Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s use of emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic has reached the Michigan Supreme Court.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
RICHMOND, Va. — Officials at a regional jail in Virginia announced Wednesday that the jail is on lockdown after approximately 70% of its inmates recently tested positive for COVID-19.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Pamunkey Regional Jail Superintendent James Willett said there have been no deaths or hospitalizations as a result of the positive tests.
Willett said it was learned on Monday that 124 of the 178 offenders tested were positive and 20 of the 129 staff members tested were positive for the virus.
Willett also said the “vast majority” of those who tested positive showed either mild symptoms or no symptoms.
PARIS — French health authorities said Wednesday that cases of infections from the coronavirus peaked for a second time in five days since the end of France’s lockdown in April with more than 8,500 new cases reported in 24 hours.
The 8,577 new COVID-19 cases was slightly below last Friday’s count of 8,975 cases.
Increased testing could partially account for higher numbers in recent weeks, and French authorities are now making testing easier by doing away with a doctor’s prescription for a COVID-19 test in favour of an online form to fill out. But relaxed social distancing measures since summer holidays and a return to work sites by many are also seen as contributors.
Hospitals nevertheless are currently not seeing the strain for beds experienced at the height of infections with a slow but steady increase in hospitalizations, now at just over 5,000 and nearly 600 in ICUs.
Nearly 30,800 people have died in France since the start of the pandemic, among the highest rates in Europe.
NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced New York City restaurants can resume indoor dining on Sept. 30 at 25% capacity with temperature checks for customers and other restrictions.
All customers will have temperature checks at the door and one member of each party must provide information for contact tracing, if necessary.
Customers can’t sit at bars, but can have drinks for table service, and restaurants must close at midnight. Tables must e 6 feet apart and customers must wear masks while not at the table.
“This may not look like the indoor dining that we all know and love, but it is progress for restaurant workers and all New Yorkers,” says Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Restaurants were among the hardest-hit businesses when New York City emerged as a pandemic hotspot in March. Thousands of city restaurants have been serving food outdoors this summer, but the industry has been pushing for indoor service heading into the cooler weather of fall.
ATLANTA — The University of Georgia is reporting more than 1,400 new coronavirus cases in the past week.
The numbers, reported Thursday, push the 39,000-student university close to 2,600 total infections in the past four weeks, according to the school. The university’s outbreak is now the fastest growing among colleges in Georgia publicly reporting numbers.
The surge is in Athens-Clarke County, which hosts the university campus. Clarke County is 23rd among U.S. counties for the most new cases per capita in the past 14 days, according to figures kept by The Associated Press.
A rising positivity rate suggests things could be getting worse, with 8% of tests coming back positive last week, compared to 5% the week before.
The growing outbreak at the university comes as case numbers across Georgia continue to fall.
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations humanitarian chief says the indirect consequences of the coronavirus pandemic are difficult for the most fragile countries.
Mark Lowcock told the U.N. Security Council “the indirect effects of the crisis will be higher poverty, lower life expectancy, more starvation, less education and more child death.”
He says the main indirect effects are economic — weakening commodity prices, declining remittances, disruptions to trade and lock down measures making it harder for people to survive, especially day laborers and many women.
Lowcock says the coronavirus impacts health and education and people in the most fragile countries, who are vulnerable to killer diseases such as measles, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDs.
ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. — Gyms are back open in Michigan after nearly six months.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement took effect on Wednesday. It allows for the reopening of fitness centers in a swath of the state that is home to 93% of Michigan’s population.
Gyms statewide face 25% capacity limits, and face coverings are required, including during exercise.
Alyssa Tushman says it was “surreal” to once again open the doors of the three Burn Fitness gyms she owns in Detroit’s suburbs.
In Rochester Hills, personal trainers led one-on-ones and in-person workouts while other trainers conducted classes via videoconference.
The National Institutes of Health director is telling Congress that AstraZeneca’s suspension of its coronavirus vaccine study shows there will be “no compromises” on safety in developing the shots.
AstraZeneca has put on hold its late-stage studies in the U.S. and other countries while it investigates if a British volunteer’s “potentially unexplained illness” is related to vaccination or a coincidence. The company gave no details on the illness, but NIH chief Dr. Francis Collins said it involved a “spinal problem.”
Collins pledged science will be behind decisions of if and when any coronavirus vaccine is good enough for widespread use. AstraZeneca’s shot is one of three vaccines in late-stage testing in the U.S.
The company’s announcement comes amid worries that President Donald Trump will pressure the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve a vaccine before it’s proven to be safe and effective.
O’FALLON, Mo. — A 34-year-old Missouri teacher has died after a three-week-long hospitalization with COVID-19.
AshLee DeMarinis taught social skills and special education at John Evans Middle School in the Potosi School District in eastern Missouri. Superintendent Alex McCaul announced her death in a letter dated Sept. 7 posted on the district’s Facebook page. The letter didn’t cite a cause of death.
DeMarinis’ sister, Jennifer Heissenbuttel, says DeMarinis died Sunday after battling the coronavirus. Heissenbuttel says her sister hadn’t begun teaching students when she became ill last month.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. political chief is warning the coronavirus pandemic has aggravated discrimination and other human rights violations that can fuel conflict and heightened the risk of losing progress in political and peace efforts.
Rosemary DiCarlo told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ March 23 call for a global cease-fire to deliver life-saving aid during the pandemic had an encouraging initial response, with temporary truces announced from Colombia and Ukraine to the Philippines and Cameroon.
“However, many expired without extensions, resulting in little improvement on the ground,” she said.
DiCarlo said U.N. envoys in conflict-torn Yemen, Libya and Syria are trying to promote peace efforts and cease-fires.
DiCarlo pointed to increased discrimination, including in access to health services, surging violence against women at home during lockdowns and “growing limitations being placed on the media, civic space and freedom of expression.”
“Social media platforms are used to spread disinformation about the pandemic,” DiCarlo said. “And there has been a rise in stigma and hate speech, especially against migrants and foreigners.”
ROME — Premier Giuseppe Conte is confirming Italian schools will reopen as planned Sept. 14, though some regions are pushing back the start because they haven’t yet conformed to anti-coronavirus norms requiring socially distanced desks and classrooms.
Conte warned there will be new rules, difficulties and positive cases in schools, but says the public health care system was prepared to intervene to trace contacts and order quarantines of entire classes, if necessary.
Students must wear masks entering and exiting the school and between classes but can remove them if their desks are spaced apart.
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says he’s sticking with his projection that a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine may be ready in early 2021. He says it’s possible it could be sooner, but “unlikely.”
The White House adviser on the coronavirus told “CBS This Morning “the more likely scenario is that we will know by the end of this calendar year and hopefully we’ll be able to start vaccinations in earnest as we begin early 2021.”
Fauci says it’s routine for late-stage vaccine studies to be put on hold because of side effects. A study by AstraZeneca of a potential coronavirus vaccine was recently paused for safety reasons after an illness from a shot in a recipient in Britain.
He says it’s “really one of the safety valves that you have on clinical trials such as this.”
Fauci adds people should remain vigilant about wearing masks, keeping physical distance and avoiding crowds to help prevent future surges.
The United States leads the world in coronavirus cases with 6.3 million and nearly 190,000 deaths.
PARIS — South Korea’s ambassador says his country managed to enforce a quick response to the coronavirus based on its previous experiences of major epidemics.
Ambassador Choi Jong-moon appeared Wednesday before a Senate commission of inquiry into how French authorities handled the COVID-19 pandemic. He detailed South Korea’s actions to fight the spread of the virus, including quickly ratcheting up testing and smart phone tracking apps.
Choi says South Korean authorities relied on a key 2015 law that allowed the KCDC agency, South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to boost staffing and funding.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s government has been under criticism over the lack of testing capacity and medical equipment.
South Korea, with a population of more than 50 million, has a total of 21,588 confirmed virus cases and 344 deaths Wednesday. France, a nation of 67 million, has reported more than 373,300 confirmed cases and 30,770 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
BERLIN — Germany’s worldwide travel warning for about 160 countries will be replaced by a more differentiated system in October.
The new system will introduce individual country-by-country assessments of the coronavirus situation, the German foreign ministry said Wednesday. Such assessments are already in place for most European countries and can change quickly according to the severity or dynamic of the pandemic.
Most countries will probably still be considered coronavirus risk zones for the time being, the foreign ministry said.
“If anything, the pandemic seems to be expanding right now,” says foreign Minister Maria Adebahr.
In March, Germany had put in place a travel warning for 200 countries. In June, Germany lifted that warning for most European countries to start the summer travel season.
Since then, parts of Croatia, Spain and France have been flagged as risk zones because of the fast re-occurrence of the virus.