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Many traditional Halloween activities are a risk to spreading COVID-19, so here are some suggestions the CDC has stay safe this spooky season.

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Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday it was beginning the final stage of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate trial as the company hopes to provide safe and effective protection with a single shot.

Other companies have already begun their late-stage trials, but Johnson & Johnson’s is the first vaccine candidate to reach Phase 3 requiring only one dose, which could ease the challenges of vaccine distribution.

While Johnson & Johnson plans to enroll 60,000 participants worldwide, the FDA is also preparing to announce a higher standard for emergency authorization of a coronavirus vaccine in an effort to gain public trust, the New York Times and Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Washington, a public viewing for the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was to be held outdoors on the front portico of the Supreme Court to allow for social distancing.

Some significant developments:

  • The Miami-Dade County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to start a staggered reopening plan on Oct. 14 in the country’s fourth largest district. 
  • The CDC advised against traditional trick-or-treating this year amid the pandemic.
  • The NCAA Division 1 Board of Directors approved a plan Tuesday to move fall sports championships – including the FCS football championship – to spring 2021.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 6.8 million cases and 200,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Five states — Minnesota, Montana, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming — set records for new cases in a week through late Tuesday while Montana a record number of deaths in a week. Globally, there have been more than 31.5 million cases and 969,000 fatalities. 

📰 What we’re reading: Our travel writer David Oliver checked in at a few hotels to check out their coronavirus protocols. Here’s what he found.

🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak, state by state

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.

Part of NYC see virus uptick that is ’cause for significant concern’

Several neighborhoods in New York City have seen an uptick in coronavirus cases that is causing city officials “significant concern.”

New York’s health department identified multiple neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens that account for 20% of all cases citywide as of Sept. 19. The uptick in the areas began Aug. 1, the health department said Tuesday.

“At this point in time, these increases could potentially evolve into more widespread community transmission and spread to other neighborhoods unless action is taken,” the department said.

New York City was once the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., adding around 5,000 new cases a day in late March and early April, but the city’s new case counts have effectively flattened the past two months.

Late-stage trial of first single-shot vaccine candidate begins

The final stage of Johnson & Johnson’s trial for its vaccine candidate, which would require only one dose, is set to begin Wednesday, the company announced.

The trial will be one of the largest in the world, with 60,000 volunteers in the U.S., South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru expected to receive doses.

A few other companies already have vaccine candidates in the final stage of trials to show whether they’re safe and effective, but those require two shots.

“A single-shot vaccine, if it’s safe and effective, will have substantial logistic advantages for global pandemic control,” Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who partnered with Johnson & Johnson on the vaccine, told the Washington Post.

Ginsburg’s public viewing at Supreme Court to be held outdoors

Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was to return to the Supreme Court for the final time Wednesday, with family, friends, former law clerks, colleagues on the high court and the public prepared for one last goodbye.

After a brief ceremony just outside the courtroom, Ginsburg’s casket will be returned to the front portico of the court for two days of public viewing outdoors with appropriate social distancing to guard against the coronavirus.

– Richard Wolf

Gas tax hikes pile up as states become desperate for road repair revenue

Americans who want to stay socially distant during the COVID-19 pandemic now have another reason to think twice before going out for gas.

Several states have increased gas taxes in recent months to make up for sudden shortfalls in revenue devoted to road repairs. As Americans drive less during the pandemic due partly to social distancing and remote work arrangements, gasoline demand has fallen. That’s one key factor triggering the tax increases as lawmakers seek to limit the impact of lower revenue on road repair budgets.

The good news for motorists is this: They’re currently saving at the pump because the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the economy to slow, pushing down demand and prices for petroleum and gasoline, which is made from crude oil.

– Nathan Bomey

Miami-Dade County schools will reopen classrooms beginning Oct. 14

The Miami-Dade County School Board on Tuesday voted unanimously to gradually start in-person instruction on Oct. 14 after a record-breaking two-day meeting, the Miami Herald reported.

The staggered reopening plan will begin with students in Pre-K, kindergarten and first grade and students with special needs. All students can return to classrooms by Oct. 21. Families who prefer remote-learning – which accounts for 51% of the district’s families – can stick to that option, the newspaper reported.

The decision “reflected a collective effort from a community that has been appropriately concerned about the potentially disastrous impact of prematurely reopening physical classrooms,” United Teachers of Dade president Karla Hernandez-Mats told The Herald in a statement.

The decision comes after New York City, the country’s largest school district, began in-person instruction on Monday.

‘It’s been pretty rough’: As more schools offer in-person options, what happens to the students who stay virtual?

Virginia lawmakers demand answers on ‘troubling conditions’ at federal jails 

Four lawmakers have renewed bipartisan calls demanding answers for “troubling conditions” at two federal jails in Virginia, citing a lack of personal protective equipment and spoiled food being served to inmates.

Senators Mark R. Warner and Timothy M. Kaine and Reps. A. Donald McEachin and H. Morgan Griffith wrote a letter to the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons expressing frustration on the lack of correspondence to concerns they addressed in a May 21 letter. The concerns are regarding FCC Petersburg in Prince George County and United States Penitentiary Lee in Lee County.

“Given the close quarters and frequent person-to-person interaction, correctional staff and incarcerated individuals are especially vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. Lack of PPE also creates additional risk of community spread outside the facilities,” the letter says. “Relatedly, we have learned from facility staff that showers are restricted for individuals incarcerated at FCI Petersburg, a policy which further exacerbates sanitation and hygiene issues during a global pandemic.”

The lawmakers also say correctional officers were working 16-hour shifts without meal breaks, calling it “unacceptable and dangerous.”

– William Atkinson, The Progress-Index

FDA to impose higher standard for emergency authorization of vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration, whose autonomy has been questioned amid repeated interference from the Trump administration, is expected to announce a higher standard for emergency authorization of a coronavirus vaccine in an effort to gain public trust, the New York Times and Washington Post reported.

The new requirement would make it highly unlikely a vaccine would be available before the Nov. 3 election, contrary to what President Donald Trump has predicted.

Vaccine manufacturers will have to follow participants in Stage 3 clinical trials for at least two months after they receive a second shot of the vaccine candidate, the newspapers said. Surveys have shown many Americans are skeptical a new coronavirus vaccine would be safe and effective, with as many as half the respondents saying they would not get the immunization if it were available today.

The FDA granted emergency authorization to hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma, two treatments for the virus touted by Trump but questioned by public health experts. The vaccine guidelines, drafted by a team of career scientists at the FDA and being reviewed by the White House, could come as early as this week, the Times reported.

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Donald Trump on 200K coronavirus deaths in US: ‘It’s a shame’

Making his first remarks on the latest grim milestone in the nation’s battle with coronavirus, President Donald Trump on Tuesday lamented the loss of 200,000 Americans who have died from the disease, describing it as “a shame.”  

“It’s a horrible thing,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House as he left for a rally in Pennsylvania.

But, speaking later at a rally in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, Trump mocked his Democratic opponent Joe Biden for wearing a face mask – something his own administration has recommended – and asserted that his administration had done an “A-plus job” dealing with the pandemic.

During 90 minutes of remarks, Trump did not mention the death toll from the virus but instead blamed China for allowing it to become a pandemic, promised a vaccine will be widely available for Americans soon and criticized social distancing measures approved by state officials that his own public health experts have called for.

– John Fritze, Michael Collins and David Jackson

Bob Woodward ’embarrassed’ for Trump’s self-praise 

Veteran Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward reportedly said Tuesday that he was “quite frankly embarrassed” for President Donald Trump that he had given himself an A+ grade for his coronavirus response.

Woodward, speaking at an invite-only forum for the Citizen by CNN 2020 conference, said in his experience of covering nine different presidents he has “never seen anything like” Trump’s mangled handling of the ongoing pandemic.

Woodward recently released an explosive book on Trump titled “Rage,” which included the president telling the journalist in a recorded interview weeks before the first death in the U.S. that despite knowing how “deadly” and serious the coronavirus pandemic would be, he wanted to “play it down” and would to continue to do so. 

Trump additionally told Woodward in an interview on Feb. 7 about how much “more deadly” COVID-19 would be than the flu, a startling juxtaposition from the president’s public remarks at the time and in subsequent months.

– Savannah Behrmann

Trump administration supports relief bills to avoid airline worker layoffs

The Trump administration indicated Tuesday that it would support separate funding measures to provide more financial relief for airlines, a move that could stave off layoffs of thousands of workers and drastic cuts to flight schedules.

With talks for an overall additional stimulus deal stalled, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany encouraged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to send separate funding bills, including one for airlines.

“At this point, the onus is really on Speaker Pelosi,” McEnany said at the daily media briefing. “We encourage her to send one-off bills, perhaps airline funding or other elements that we could work through the process to get to the American people.” 

Despite many empty seats, airlines have kept flying with help from a $50 billion allotment that was part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that passed in March. 

– Chris Woodyard

Restaurant chain Sizzler files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing COVID-19 impact

Sizzler, the famous steakhouse started 62 years ago, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the latest business to suffer as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, Sizzler said it filed for voluntary Chapter 11 protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District in California on Monday. The restaurant chain will start a restructuring process to reduce debt and renegotiate its leases with landlords.

“Our current financial state is a direct consequence of the pandemic’s economic impact due to long-term indoor dining closures and landlords’ refusal to provide necessary rent abatements,” said Chris Perkins, president and chief services officer for Sizzler, in a statement.

The chain operates 107 locations across 10 states, including Puerto Rico, and has 485 employees.

– Brett Molina

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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  • Tips for coping: Every Saturday and Tuesday we’ll be in your inbox, offering you a virtual hug and a little bit of solace in these difficult times. Sign up for Staying Apart, Together.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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