Archive for August 6th, 2020

Common Colds May Have ‘Primed’ Some People’s Immune Systems For COVID-19 – ScienceAlert

August 6th, 2020

A cold you got years ago may prove helpful if your body has to fight the new coronavirus.

According to a study published Tuesday, some people who’ve never been exposed to the new coronavirus may nonetheless have T cells that react to it. Scientists think that’s because those cells previously learned how to identify and fight coronaviruses that cause common colds.

A type of white blood cell, T cells are a crucial part of the body’s defence against a virus: They identify and destroy infected cells while also informing B cells about how to craft new antibodies. When you’re infected, your immune system generates both antibodies and these white blood cells.

Antibody levels can drop in the months following an infection, but memory T cells stick around for years and can help mount another attack should the same virus ever return.

Recent research suggests that T cells that remember how to fight other coronaviruses may give people an immunological head start against the new coronavirus.

“This could help explain why some people show milder symptoms of disease while others get severely sick,” Alessandro Sette, a coauthor of the new study, said in a press release. He cautioned, though, that it’s too soon to tell whether that preexisting immunological memory affects COVID-19 patients’ outcomes.

Some T cells recognise the new coronavirus without having seen it before

Sette’s team analysed blood samples collected between 2015 and 2018 from 25 people who, of course, had never had COVID-19. They found that those unexposed individuals had memory T cells that could recognise both the new coronavirus and the four types of common cold coronaviruses.

Those findings built on research Sette published in May, in which he described 10 people who had never been exposed to the new coronavirus yet had helper T cells capable of identifying and responding to it.

He also did a larger analysis looking at data from cohorts in the US, Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, and the UK, and concluded that white blood cells from 20 percent to 50 percent of unexposed people significantly react to the new coronavirus.

“Preexisting immune reactivity exists to some degree in the general population,” Sette wrote in the analysis.

Two other recent studies offer even more evidence for this conclusion.

The first, published last month, found that among 68 healthy Germans who’d never had COVID-19, more than one-third had T cells that reacted to the virus. The second, published in the journal Nature, found that more than half of a group of 37 healthy people who had never gotten COVID-19 had memory T cells that could recognise the new coronavirus.

The Nature study also examined 23 people who’d survived SARS – which is a coronavirus, too – and found that they still had SARS-specific memory T cells 17 years after getting sick. Those same T cells could recognise the new coronavirus as well.

People with cross-reactive T cells might mount a faster immune response

The likeliest explanation for these observations is a phenomenon called cross-reactivity: when T cells developed in response to one virus react to a similar, but previously unknown, pathogen.

That can give the immune system a leg up.

“You’re starting with a little bit of an advantage – a head start in the arms race between the virus that wants to reproduce and the immune system wanting to eliminate it,” Sette previously told Business Insider.

In the absence of cross-reactive T cells, your body has to mount its defence from scratch – which could impact how expediently your immune system can respond to the invading virus. Varying levels of cross-reactivity might therefore “translate to different degrees of protection,” Sette said.

“Having a strong T cell response, or a better T cell response may give you the opportunity to mount a much quicker and stronger response,” he added.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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‘Broken’ COVID-19 tracking leaves California with ‘no idea’ – Los Angeles Times

August 6th, 2020

The breakdown in California’s coronavirus test reporting system is disrupting pandemic response efforts across the state, leaving local officials in the dark about the spread of COVID-19 and blocking the ability of counties to get restrictions lifted until the system is fixed.

State officials have not yet provided details on when fixes will be made to the electronic system, called CalREDIE, that reports coronavirus test results to the state’s disease registry system. California, as a result, lacks an accurate count of coronavirus infections, leading health officials to freeze the state’s watchlist, with no counties added or removed.

“CalREDIE has broken,” said Peter Beilenson, director of Sacramento County’s Department of Health Services. “The bottom line is we don’t know the real caseload…. We don’t know if we are missing 250 cases [a day] or 50 cases,” he said of his local numbers. “We have no idea.”

The flawed picture has cast into serious doubt California’s pandemic outlook. On Wednesday, the state counted 5,300 new coronavirus cases, down from a peak of nearly 13,000 reported about two weeks ago. But the steep drop relies on the underreported data, and health officials remain unsure about the actual caseloads.


The system snafus come amid mixed signs about the state of the pandemic. While some hospitalization rates are down, the state’s death toll reached a grim milestone, topping 10,000 deaths. Orange County also reported its single-day highest COVID-19 death toll Thursday, adding 32 deaths for a total of 697. And White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx on Wednesday singled out California’s Central Valley as a worrisome region.

The lack of reliable infection rate data has led many counties to add disclaimers on their public health websites saying the information is unreliable. The data is also not being published on the state’s county data monitoring website, according to the California Department of Public Health. The state has not given a timetable for when the problem might be fixed.

The flawed data has not affected patient care or test results for individual patients, officials said.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services secretary, called the problem his department’s “top priority” and said a team of dozens had been working “around the clock” to make fixes.


“Having accurate data is critical for public confidence, contact tracing and hospital surge planning. We will not rest until this problem is resolved,” Ghaly said in a statement. “All Californians and local public health officials must have accurate data, and we pledge to share a full accounting of when these problems began and their magnitude as soon as we have a clear understanding — and the solutions to address them.”

The California Department of Public Health has directed all laboratories to report positive results directly to county health departments until the problem is resolved. Some county health departments are resorting to counting the testing results by hand to get accurate totals.

Local public health officials and experts are expressing growing frustration with the state’s response. Beilenson said state officials had not clarified how extensive the underreporting was or whether the missing data came from a single lab or multiple agencies. Some officials fear that weeks of data may be inaccurate.

UC San Francisco professor Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an expert in infectious diseases, said the inaccurate numbers potentially could affect federal aid because case numbers are examined before help is awarded. Low numbers, he said, could mean fewer federal resources.

“It’s a rationale that the feds can say, ‘Well maybe you don’t need this thing we have, or financial resources, because it doesn’t seem as bad,’” Chin-Hong said.


But one of the most damaging fallouts of the missed data, he said, might be a decline in public trust. Case numbers are one of the measurements used to determine what can open in a county and when social restrictions can be lifted, and the public watches them closely.

“We always put faith in computers, data dumps, and I think having someone discover this glitch makes us wonder: What other glitches are there?” Chin-Hong said. “Data is power, and if data are unreliable, it just makes us feel a little bit queasy.”

The CalREDIE system is relied on by officials to determine infection rates and to decide which counties land on the watchlist, a category that restricts them from opening many indoor activities. School reopenings may also be hindered by the inaccurate numbers. The counties now on the list, including Los Angeles, account for most of the state’s population.

Counties must be off the list for 14 days before they can reopen certain businesses. The inaccurate numbers also may affect state waivers that could allow some private and parochial schools to open for in-person classes.


Public health officials also rely on the system to trace contacts of infected people, and without accurate reports, the tracing cannot be done.

Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said in a news conference Thursday that the glitch has produced an undercount of positive cases in the county. With new information from the laboratories, L.A. County health officials hope to have a more accurate count by next week.

“But it might take us some time,” Davis said.

Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County’s health director, has urged residents who test positive to alert county health officials so they can conduct a contact tracing interview and identify those who may have been exposed so they can avoid infecting others.


“We are really worried about the fact that we’re losing some cases, and that may in fact result in some small increases in transmission in the weeks ahead,” she said.

In San Francisco, officials said the data problems are seriously affecting their ability to investigate new cases and trace contacts.

“The city will pause providing updated data on testing, cases, contact tracing metrics and associated key public health indicators until the statewide issue is resolved,” San Francisco’s COVID-19 Joint Information Center said Thursday.

Meanwhile, Alameda County, which has been hit hard by the pandemic, has decided to offer $1,250 to as many as 7,500 COVID-19 sufferers so they can isolate. The county’s supervisors unanimously approved the $10-million pilot program on Tuesday, but when it will start is unclear. The money will go to infected residents who do not receive unemployment or sick leave benefits.


Times staff writers Taryn Luna and Phil Willon contributed to this report.


Intel Suffers Apparent Data Breach, 20GB of IP and Documents Leaked on to Internet – AnandTech

August 6th, 2020

The Viral Loads of Asymptomatic Coronavirus Carriers Are Surprisingly High, Study Reveals – ScienceAlert

August 6th, 2020

People who are infected with the coronavirus carry similar levels of the pathogen in their nose, throat and lungs whether they have symptoms or not, a new study from South Korea showed Thursday.

The paper, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, is an important biological line of evidence in support of the idea that asymptomatic carriers can spread COVID-19.

Until now, experts have relied on inferring asymptomatic spread when people contract the virus without contact with a known carrier.

A team of researchers led by Seungjae Lee at Soonchunhyang University College of Medicine analyzed swabs taken between March 6 and March 26 from 303 people isolated at a center in Cheonan, following an outbreak among a religious group in another city.

The group ranged in age from 22 to 36 and two-thirds were women. Of the total, 193 were symptomatic and 110 were asymptomatic.

Among those who were initially asymptomatic, 89 never developed symptoms at all – about 30 percent of the total.

This finding itself helps gives a sense of what portion of infected people are truly asymptomatic rather than merely “presymptomatic,” a subject of confusion.

All were sampled at regular intervals after day eight of isolation, and the samples returned comparable values of the virus’ genetic material from the upper and lower airways.

The median time taken for the patients to return negative tests was marginally less for asymptomatic patients compared with symptomatic: 17 and 19.5 days, respectively.

The authors wrote their findings “offer biological plausibility” to reports of asymptomatic transmission.

But they added that their study only looked at the amount of viral genetic material present and did not attempt to follow the subjects to see if that translated to the spread of infectious virus.

© Agence France-Presse


Beirut explosion: Before-and-after images – BBC News

August 6th, 2020
Beirut grain silos at centre of blast siteImage copyright Reuters

The explosion at a portside warehouse in Beirut sent devastating shockwaves across the Lebanese capital, decimating seafront buildings and causing widespread destruction.

At least 137 people died and about 5,000 others have been injured. Satellite and aerial images show the extent of the physical damage to a city more accustomed to such scenes as a result of war than accident.

Interactive See how warehouses in Beirut’s port area were devastated by blast

5 August 2020

Satellite image of Beirut port area on 5 August 2020 after explosion

9 June 2020

Satellite image of Beirut port area on 9 June 2020

The Orient Queen cruise ship was docked in Beirut a few hundred metres from the warehouse when the explosion happened.

Damage from the blast caused her to take on water and capsize. One crew member died and another is still missing, according to the ship’s operators Abou Merhi Cruises. The company’s dockside offices were also wiped out by the force of the blast.

Ship damaged by blast
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The grain silos – the large white building on the dockside – took the brunt of the blast.

Genevieve Langdon, Professor of Blast and Impact Engineering at the University of Sheffield, said the grain inside the silo would have compacted under the enormous blast pressure, but would also have absorbed and deflected some of the blast.

“As the blast wave struck the silo wall, it probably dissipated a great deal of energy,” she said. “Without the grain silos in the way, we expect the damage in the area behind them would have been even worse.”

Streetview of port destruction
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Aid agencies estimate that around 300,000 people have been left homeless by the explosion and there are fears of food and medicine shortages.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) president Mego Terzian said warehouses storing medicines and vaccines in the port were damaged, and the country’s largest dialysis centre, in central Beirut, was completely destroyed.

He compared the aftermath of the blast to destruction caused during the country’s 1975-90 civil war.

“We lived difficult and similar experiences during the Lebanese war,” he told AFP.

Interactive See how the blast ripped apart portside warehouses

5 August 2020

Warehouses at Beirut port after blast, 5 August

November 2018

Warehouses at Beirut port, 2018

Lebanon’s maritime trade will now shift to the country’s second biggest city, Tripoli, so that the country can start to receive medical aid, foodstuffs, fuel and basic goods. Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan are reported to be sending field hospitals.

Port of Beirut in 2019 and 2020.
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The shopping centre, restaurants and souks in downtown Beirut, to the west of the blast area, didn’t escape damage. Windows and glass shopfronts were shattered by the explosion. The city’s governor, Marwan Abboud, said repairing public property and heritage buildings was likely to cost billions of dollars.

Souk shopping district, before and after blast damage

More on the explosion in Beirut


Worshippers at the Mohammad al-Amin Mosque, who had been celebrating Eid together only days ago, have started to clear the debris left by the blast.

A view of the damage at Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque after damage, 5 August 2020
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The clean-up also started at the Saint George Maronite Church.

Destruction inside the Saint George Maronite Church on 5 August 2020
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New Apple Leak Reveals iPhone 12 Design Shock – Forbes

August 6th, 2020

Trump re-imposes tariffs on Canadian aluminum, prompting Trudeau to vow retaliation – The Washington Post

August 6th, 2020

“Earlier today, I signed a proclamation that defends American industry by reimposing aluminum tariffs on Canada. Canada was taking advantage of us, as usual,” Trump said during a speech in Ohio.

“Several months ago, my administration agreed to lift those tariffs in return for a promise from the Canadian government that its aluminum industry would not flood our country with exports and kill all of our aluminum jobs, which is exactly what they did,” Trump said, adding that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had advised him to reimpose tariffs.

The Trump administration originally imposed tariffs on a range of Canadian aluminum and steel in the summer of 2018, sparking a tense trade war. The United States agreed to lift the tariffs in May 2019 in order to pave the way for congressional agreement to a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada. The deal, dubbed the new NAFTA, was ratified by the Senate in January.

In a statement, Lighthizer’s office said the United States is reinstating the 10 percent tariffs on non-alloyed unwrought aluminum because Canada was sending more aluminum to the U.S. than had been agreed.

Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland, called the move “unwarranted and unacceptable” and said the country would soon announce “dollar-for-dollar countermeasures.”

“In the time of a global pandemic and an economic crisis, the last thing Canadian and American workers need is new tariffs that will raise costs for manufacturers and consumers, impede the free flow of trade, and hurt provincial and state economies,” she said in a statement.

“Further, with the new NAFTA having come into force on July 1st, now is the time to advance North American economic competitiveness — not hinder it,” she added.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau also weighed in late Thursday, saying on Twitter that “We will always stand up for our aluminum workers. We did so in 2018 and we will stand up for them again now.”

Trump didn’t specify which U.S. job losses he was referring to. This spring, aluminum giant Alcoa Corp. said it would lay off 700 workers at a smelter in Washington state, citing falling aluminum prices amid a global glut of the metal. In a May letter to Trump, the state’s Congressional representatives blamed China for that excess production, not Canada.

Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, told The Washington Post in June that Canadian officials had been stressing to their American counterparts that “now more than ever, the free flow of goods, including aluminum, is going to be really important to the economic recovery of both of our countries.”

“I think that what’s really important to emphasize is that we are confident that our aluminum exports are not harming the U.S. market in any way,” Hillman said. “On the contrary, I think that the high quality and reliable supply of aluminum for the U.S. manufacturing sector is a great advantage to them, and you know, frankly, most of the U.S. industry agrees with us.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Thursday called the tariffs a “step in the wrong direction.”

“These tariffs will raise costs for American manufacturers, are opposed by most U.S. aluminum producers, and will draw retaliation against U.S. exports — just as they did before. We urge the administration to reconsider this move,” the chamber said in a statement.

The U.S. Aluminum Association, a group representing producers of the metal, also said it opposed the tariffs, and disputed the idea that Canadian imports had surged.

“While we understand that the president is attempting to help the aluminum industry, the volatility of implementing, removing and then re-imposing trade barriers threatens U.S. growth and investment at a time when domestic demand is already down nearly 25 percent year-to-date,” Tom Dobbins, chief executive of the industry group, said in a statement.

The association said that while imports from Canada of unalloyed aluminum did increase during the first half of the year, that was offset by declines in alloyed aluminum imports from Canada.

The Aluminum Association of Canada also panned the decision.

“This U.S. focus on Canada only distracts from the real problem facing the aluminum industry: unfairly subsidized Chinese aluminum production leading to global overcapacity,” the association said.

Canada’s Conservative Party called for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who now leads a minority government, to immediately impose retaliatory measures while attacking him for having “let down Canada’s aluminum workers.”

“The U.S. administration has been foreshadowing new tariffs on Canadian aluminum for weeks, so why didn’t the Trudeau government take action to protect Canadian workers?” a group of Conservative Party lawmakers said in a statement.

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Ohio governor tests negative for COVID-19 after positive result ahead of Trump meeting – Global News

August 6th, 2020

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tested negative for COVID-19 on Thursday after testing positive earlier in the day before he was to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump, according to a statement from his office.

His wife, Fran DeWine, also tested negative, as did staff members. They underwent a different type of test in Columbus; one considered to be more accurate than the rapid-result test which showed DeWine to be positive for COVID-19 just ahead of a planned meeting with Trump in Cleveland.

Read more: U.S. to reimpose tariff on some Canadian aluminum products, Trump says

DeWine, an early advocate among Republicans of wearing masks and other pandemic precautions, said he took a test arranged by the White House in Cleveland as part of standard protocol before he was to meet Trump at an airport. He had planned to join the president on a visit to the Whirlpool Corp. plant in northwest Ohio.

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Instead, he received the news he was positive, called his wife, Fran DeWine, and returned to central Ohio where he took the other test that showed him to be negative.

“A big surprise to me and certainly a big surprise to our family,” DeWine said at a late afternoon news conference broadcast from his porch on his farm in Cedarville in southwestern Ohio, where he planned to quarantine for 14 days.

Dewine, 73, said he didn’t know how he would have contracted the coronavirus and that he’s already been spending much of his time at his farm, keeping his distance from family members and staff.

1:56Coronavirus: Trump says he’s optimistic vaccine possible near U.S. Election Day

Coronavirus: Trump says he’s optimistic vaccine possible near U.S. Election Day

DeWine said he feels fine with no symptoms. His only health concern is asthma he’s had since he was a teenager, for which he uses an inhaler daily.

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He said he’d already received some “not nice texts” Thursday from people claiming the news proves that mask-wearing is pointless.

“The lesson that should come from this is that we’re all human, this virus is everywhere, this virus is very tough,” DeWine said before the negative result. “And yes you can contract it even when you’re being very, very careful and even when you’re wearing a mask.”

4:58Mask guidelines from infectious disease specialist

Mask guidelines from infectious disease specialist

But, the governor said, “the odds are dramatically better” of avoiding a positive test if people wear a mask.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

DeWine, in his first term as governor, is one of Ohio’s most familiar politicians, previously serving as a U.S. congressman, two-term U.S. senator, Ohio attorney general and lieutenant governor.

Trump offered DeWine his best wishes and said “he’ll be fine” in remarks after arriving at the airport, where he was greeted by Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, who tested negative.

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Read more: Coronavirus: It’s possible U.S. will have vaccine before Nov. 3 election, Trump claims

“A very good friend of mine just tested positive,” Trump said. He added that DeWine “has done a fantastic job.”

Husted said he’s been talking with DeWine via teleconference for weeks, and doesn’t expect changes in that routine or other aspects of DeWine’s job.

Trump’s visit to Ohio comes amid signs that he faces a tight race with former Vice President Joe Biden in a state he carried by 8 percentage points in 2016.

DeWine was the second U.S. governor to test positive for the coronavirus after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced he contracted the virus last month.

Read more: Testing in U.S. dropping as case count stays high, deaths rise

The number of positive cases in Ohio had decreased after the first surge, hitting a low in late May. But numbers again began to rise in mid-June as Ohio began to reopen businesses. More than 3,600 Ohioans have died.

In recent weeks, DeWine has pleaded with Ohioans to take personal responsibility over the virus’ spread across the state. He had resisted a statewide mask mandate until July 23. DeWine’s first try at a statewide requirement for wearing masks inside businesses — back in April — drew backlash that led him to rescind that directive the following day, a stutter among the aggressive moves that had won him early praise in his efforts to curb the virus.

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9:08Coronavirus: Ohio governor Mike DeWine on testing positive for COVID-19

Coronavirus: Ohio governor Mike DeWine on testing positive for COVID-19

Mask-wearing also has been a point of contention at the Statehouse, where many Democratic lawmakers have donned masks while many Republican lawmakers have not. DeWine has often found himself at odds with members of his own party on the policy.

Read more: CDC lifts travel warnings for 20 countries, Trump rescinds worldwide advisory

DeWine’s key health adviser during the pandemic, Dr. Amy Acton, left government this week. In the early months, she joined DeWine at daily briefings and was a popular figure. However, backlash against state restrictions helped lead to a protest at her home and her decision to step away from the spotlight.

Since early in the pandemic, DeWine has hosted his daily briefings from a room separate from where the press corps gathers at the Ohio Statehouse. He would appear on a television in front of the reporters, who could step up to a microphone and ask questions.

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DeWine held one of those briefings Tuesday but no other public events had been announced for this week besides his meeting with Trump. DeWine said he planned to give a previously scheduled coronavirus update Friday.

In at least two briefings, DeWine has shared how several friends had died from the virus, urging the public to think about their loved ones, especially grandparents. The governor has 23 grandchildren.

8:11Coronavirus: Trump promises they’ll defeat ‘China virus,’ says children ‘incredibly powerful’ against virus

Coronavirus: Trump promises they’ll defeat ‘China virus,’ says children ‘incredibly powerful’ against virus

Notably, DeWine and his wife had avoided political rallies or meeting with members of the White House since the pandemic began. In June, the governor was scheduled to appear at a former General Motors plant in Lordstown but decided against it when Vice President Mike Pence announced he was going. The facility is now occupied by Lordstown Motors, which plans to build electric pickup trucks there.

“Quite candidly, throughout this pandemic, (first lady) Fran and I have avoided crowds,” DeWine said. “We have not gone out to be close with a lot of people. So we’re not going to do that.”

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—Sewell reported from Cincinnati. Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Bexley, Ohio, contributed to this report. Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Chatham 7-year-old dies of COVID-19, Georgia’s youngest victim had no underlying health conditions – Savannah Morning News

August 6th, 2020

A 7-year-old Chatham County boy is the latest patient reported to have died from COVID-19, becoming Georgia’s youngest coronavirus victim, according to statements by Coastal Health Department officials on Thursday.

The individual was a 7-year-old African American male with no underlying conditions, who resided in Chatham County, according to a CHD spokesperson.

A date of death was not immediately available; there is often a delay of several days and sometimes weeks from when a person dies to when that death is reported to the state and confirmed.

Dr. Lawton Davis, CHD director, issued a statement following Thursday’s announcement of the seven-year-old’s death:

“To protect an individual’s privacy, the only information we release about a COVID-19-related death is the person’s age, gender, race, county of residence, and if the individual had underlying medical conditions. Every COVID-19 death we report is tragic, but to lose someone so young is especially heart-breaking. We know that older individuals and those with underlying conditions are at higher risk of complications, but this is a disease everyone should take seriously. Please watch out for each other, wear a mask in public, wash your hands often, and stay home if you’re sick. A community-wide crisis demands a community-wide response, and we all must do our part to keep each other safe.”

This is a developing story. Check for updates.


Apple confirms cloud gaming services like xCloud and Stadia violate App Store guidelines – The Verge

August 6th, 2020