What you need to know about coronavirus on Tuesday, August 4

Two more teenagers, between the ages of 14 and 17, have died from Covid-19 in Florida — bringing the total deaths of children and teens in the state to seven. More than 38,000 minors have contracted the coronavirus in Florida, a hotpot of the pandemic in the United States.

The deaths are a reminder that while younger people seem less vulnerable to the coronavirus, they are not immune. If the virus spreads more, more children will inevitably get sick and some may die.

The news adds urgency to the debate happening all around the world right now: how to safely reopen schools. Several studies published this week highlight the strategies that could be key in bringing students back to the classroom: scaled-up testing for cases, effective tracing of the contacts of those who test positive, and isolation of those who test positive or have symptoms.

Looking specifically at the United Kingdom, one group of researchers said the country’s test–trace–isolate strategy isn’t sufficient to reopen schools safely. One government adviser suggested the UK may need to choose between keeping pubs open or allowing schools to reopen it if it wants to keep coronavirus infection rates down.

Globally, more than 1.5 billion kids — 90% of the world’s students — have seen their schools and universities shut this year due to the pandemic, according to the United Nations. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that school closures could cause a “generational catastrophe” and said getting students back into schools as safely as possible must be a top priority once local transmission of Covid-19 is under control.

The US Centers for Disease Control pushed for reopening schools last month — but only in areas that weren’t seeing high transmission rates. Keeping schools shut may play an important role in squashing the pandemic in areas with high infection rates. A study published last week showed that school closures in the US from March to May might have led to a million fewer Covid-19 cases and saved more than 40,000 lives.

Some communities say they are not ready, even as some parents and officials push for students to return. Many educators and other parents are calling for in-person classes to be postponed, fearing a return to school buildings will help fuel further transmission of the virus.

In Georgia’s largest school district, thousands have now signed a petition asking for teachers to be allowed to work from home. As of last week, around 260 of the district’s employees had either tested positive for Covid-19 or been in contact with someone who did. “It’s a pandemic across the world. The globe. Everyone is dealing with the same thing. You can always catch up on education if need be, but you can’t teach a dead child,” one educator told CNN.

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED

Q: Can you get Covid-19 through your eyes?

A: We know that the coronavirus can enter the body through the nose and mouth — hence the constant recommendations from doctors to wear face coverings and practice social distancing. But there is also “emerging evidence” that people are catching the virus from droplets floating in the air, the World Health Organization said.

One of the ways those droplets can enter your body is through the eyes. It’s also possible to get infected by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, according to the CDC.

Does that mean you should wear goggles? Not necessarily. Experts say you should wear some sort of eye covering if you’re in high-risk situations where you’re likely to come into contact with the virus. And if you just want to be extra safe, goggles or a face shield can add an extra layer of protection. But for the average person, wearing a face mask and practicing social distancing should suffice.

Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.

WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY

They were praised for their handling of coronavirus. Now they are struggling

Several countries celebrated for their handling of the pandemic are seeing a resurgence in Covid-19 cases. They were looked upon as examples, hailed for their no-nonsense approach, their clear messaging, their slick test-and-trace regimes, and the resulting low infection and death rates.

Take Australia, where 5 million people in its second-largest city of Melbourne suddenly found themselves lining under some of the harshest restrictions ever imposed there after authorities declared a “state of disaster”. Two months ago, the country appeared to have the virus under control. The renewed outbreaks serve as a stark warning to global leaders of how quickly an apparent success story can unravel. Tara John and Emma Reynolds report.

Why you might have to wear a mask outdoors

Governments around the world are reaching for a new tool that many public health experts have been touting for months: stricter mask mandates.

In recent days, masks have become mandatory in all public spaces — indoors or outdoors — in Madrid, Greece, Portugal’s Madeira Islands and Hong Kong.

Those moves seemingly contradict the long-held understanding that Covid-19 is more dangerous indoors. But the reasoning behind the decisions is simpler than that: after months of mixed messaging from health authorities on face coverings, governments are opting for blanket rules to help make mask-wearing a cultural norm.

“There’s been a lot of confusion about where people should wear masks, and where there’s confusion, people just disengage and don’t wear them,” Melinda Mills, director of Oxford University’s Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, told CNN. “That’s why (some countries) are moving to a broad, blanket policy.

“I’m for clarity in public messaging, and in many countries, I think it’s been a mess,” she added.

Fauci steps up to defend Birx against Trump’s attack

Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, has defended his colleague Dr. Deborah Birx after she was criticized by President Donald Trump.

Trump has previously publicly attacked Fauci, but has so far refrained from undermining Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator. The President broke that silence on Monday, calling Birx “pathetic” after she warned on Sunday that the pandemic was “extraordinarily widespread” in the US.

Fauci backed Birx up on her comments during a virtual news conference yesterday, saying the community spread that many states are fighting is “much more difficult to get your arms around that and contain it.”

The UK’s troubled coronavirus response becomes more complicated

Brits have been left confused after the government rolled out coronavirus guidance that seems at odds with itself across England, pushing the four nations of the UK further apart, Luke McGee writes.

Employers in England can now ask staff to return to workplaces if they believe they are Covid-19 safe. When the policy was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month, he was accused of “passing the buck on this big decision to employers” by the UK’s Trades Union Congress. The TUC criticized the government for announcing such a move while the country’s widely-criticized test and trace infrastructure was “still patchy.”

Brits can now also take advantage of an eye-catching government scheme called “Eat Out to Help Out,” which is aimed at getting restaurants back on their feet. Throughout August, people dining out from Monday to Wednesday can get discounts on their meals. Both policies are part of a wider plan to get the UK economy moving after months of lockdown. But they come just as the Johnson warned that “the risk is starting to bubble up again” on the continent. Several localized mini-lockdowns have been implemented in England as fears of a second wave move from possible to probable.

ON OUR RADAR

TOP TIPS

6 tips on how to engage anti-vaxxers

With the prospects of a Covid-19 vaccine looking up, attention is also turning to the problem of anti-vax ideas. Although vaccine hesitancy is a complex problem with multiple causes, the number of conspiracy theories circulating about the coronavirus do not help. Jovan Byford has been researching conspiracy theories for over two decades, and has six rules for talking to conspiracy theorists in an effort to change their minds:

  • Acknowledge the scale of the task and arm yourself with patience
  • Recognize the emotional dimension
  • Find out what they actually believe
  • Establish common ground
  • Challenge the facts, value their argument.
  • Finally, be realistic

TODAY’S PODCAST

“If one of my students picked up a virus in my class and took it home and killed a loved one with it, I’m not sure how I’d go back to school and look at that child again.” — Rebecca Martinson, high school teacher

Across America, school districts are deciding whether to start the new school year in person. For many teachers, this uncertainty has left them anxious. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes us into the experience of two high school teachers from opposite sides of the country as they grapple with what they’ll do if they’re asked to return to the classroom. Listen Now.

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