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Coronavirus updates: ‘Witch City’ announces stricter Halloween guidelines; San Quentin ordered to cut prison population; Spain tops 1M cases

John Bacon

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Gun sales are up among women amid the coronavirus pandemic

Gun sales are up nationwide during the coronavirus pandemic and
women are looking for firearm protection.

One of the world’s most notorious prisons has been ordered to cut its population by half due to a coronavirus outbreak that has killed 28 inmates and resulted in more than 2,200 infections.

A California appeals court described the situation at San Quentin State Prison, north of San Francisco, as “the worst epidemiological disaster in California correctional history.” State prison officials are now deciding whether to transfer about 1,100 inmates from San Quentin or appeal the order.

Meanwhile, in Salem, Massachusetts, also known as “Witch City,” officials have announced stricter guidelines for Halloween to prevent gatherings. Businesses will shut down early, city officials will triple fines over the Halloween weekend and streets will be closed, NBC Boston reports.

Health experts fear that even small gatherings during Halloween, Thanksgiving and other holidays could cause a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Some significant developments:

  • Spain is the first country in western Europe to reach 1 million cases of COVID-19.
  • Boston public schools are switching to all-remote learning starting Thursday in response to a rise in coronavirus cases.
  • Former President Barack Obama, in his first campaign event for Joe Biden, slams President Trump’s response to the pandemic. 

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 8.3 million cases and 222,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 41 million cases and 1.1 million deaths.

🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.

Worked to death: Latino farmworkers have long been denied basic rights. COVID-19 showed how deadly racism could be. Read the latest installment in USA TODAY’s series, Deadly Discrimination

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

Former President Barack Obama gave a fiery speech Wednesday in Philadelphia that attacked President Donald Trump as incompetent and surrounded by “hacks,” while promoting his former vice president, Joe Biden, as someone who would better deal with the pandemic and heal the economy.

Obama, in his first in-person campaign event two weeks before the end of 2020 voting, noted 220,000 Americans died from COVID-19, millions of jobs were lost and said the country’s reputation is in tatters around the world under Trump.

“He hasn’t shown any interest in doing the work or helping anybody but himself and his friends, or treating the presidency like a reality show that he can use to get attention,” Obama said. “This is not a reality show – this is reality. The rest of us have had to live with the consequences of him proving himself incapable of taking the job seriously.”

– Bart Jansen

CDC redefines COVID-19 close contact, adds brief encounters

U.S. health officials Wednesday redefined what counts as close contact with someone with COVID-19 to include briefer but repeated encounters.

For months, the CDC said close contact meant spending a solid 15 minutes within 6 feet of someone who tested positive for coronavirus. On Wednesday, the CDC changed it to a total of 15 minutes or more – so shorter but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes over a 24-hour period now count.

The CDC advises anyone who has been in close contact with a COVID-19 patient to quarantine for two weeks.

The change may prompt health departments to do contact tracing in cases where an exposure might previously have been considered too brief, said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University infectious diseases expert.

It also serves notice that the coronavirus can spread more easily than many people realize, he added.

A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Wednesday shows 14 states set records for new cases in a week while six states had a record number of deaths in a week. New case records were set in Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming, and also Guam and Northern Mariana Islands. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The United States has reported 8,336,031 cases and 222,176 deaths.

– Mike Stucka

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll on Wednesday announced stricter coronavirus restrictions for Halloween to prevent gatherings.

The new guidelines include early business shutdowns, road closures and travel and parking restrictions in Salem, NBC Boston reported.

“We normally welcome throngs of visitors from around the globe to our community,” Driscoll said at a news conference. “This is just not the year and we want to send the message that, if you want to come to Salem, come in November, come next year.”

A woman in her 30s died from COVID-19 while on a Spirit Airlines flight in July, according to airport officials in Albuquerque, New Mexico.           

The late July flight from Las Vegas to Dallas-Fort Worth was diverted to Albuquerque when the crew reported an unresponsive female on board,  according to Stephanie Kitts, a spokesperson for Albuquerque International Sunport.

“Based on that report, and the fact that there was no mention of COVID at the time of the diversion, we treated this as we would any other medical incident,” Kitts said. Authorities responded and determined the woman was dead on arrival, she said.

– BrieAnna J. Frank and Mike Cruz, Arizona Republic

Spain became the first country in western Europe to accumulate more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 infections on Wednesday as the nation of 47 million struggles to contain a resurgence of the virus.

The health ministry said that its accumulative caseload since the start of the pandemic reached 1,005,295 after reporting 16,973 more cases in the past 24 hours.

The ministry attributes 34,366 deaths to COVID-19. Experts say that, as in most countries, the real numbers of infections and deaths are probably much higher because insufficient testing, asymptomatic cases and other issues impede authorities from capturing the true scale of the outbreak.

Both of Puerto Rico’s 911 call centers were shut down Wednesday night after several employees tested positive for the coronavirus, officials announced.

Public Safety Secretary Pedro Janer said people should call the island’s emergency management agency at 787-724-0124 or police at 787-343-2020 in an emergency. He said both agencies are operating 24 hours a day.

It is the first time Puerto Rico has shut down its primary and secondary 911 call centers. Janer said the buildings will be thoroughly cleaned and that he will soon announce when operations at the 911 call centers will resume. It was unclear how many employees tested positive.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Source: USA Today

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