COVID-19 In Brief

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. has 6.92 million confirmed cases and 201,411 deaths from COVID-19, the highest worldwide as of September 24 at 12:18 p.m. At Andover, there have been a total of two positive and ten indeterminate COVID-19 tests since the opening of school.

Economy: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in the U.S. has fallen to 8.4% due to reopenings and increased economic activity, down from its peak at 14.7% in April 2020. Some notable fields which observed job gains include retail, business services, leisure, education, and health services. The unemployment rate is still much higher than pre-outbreak, when it was hovering around 3.6% in January 2020, among the lowest on record since the 1950s.

Culture: Despite recommendations by the CDC, World Health Organization, and public health experts to wear masks in public spaces, protests across the world against mask requirements and other social restrictions continue, with protesters citing violations of civil liberties and the inability to breathe properly. On Wednesday, September 16, in Florida, anti-maskers marched through a Target store maskless, shouting “Take off your masks!” despite the local mandate of face coverings in businesses. In Indonesia, where face masks have been required in public since April 2020, a group of eight people who refused to wear masks were required to dig graves for COVID-19 victims at a local public cemetery. Other violators have been forced to perform activities such as cleaning streets under police supervision.

Community: As schools across the country reopen, school-related transmission has affected communities across the country. In Michigan, over 2,300 residents were infected due to school-related outbreaks, including 121 students and staff across 29 K-12 schools. In Georgia, nearly 2,500 students and 62 staff in the Cherokee County School District were forced to quarantine after students and teachers at their schools tested positive. Other districts, however, have remained silent and instructed staff to not disclose positive cases, citing privacy concerns.

Health: As of September 24, the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute in Moscow remains the only vaccine ever approved for widespread use against coronavirus. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the vaccine’s approval on August 11, but Russian scientists later clarified the vaccine still has to undergo Phase Three trials. Three weeks after Putin’s announcement, researchers published the results of the Sputnik V Phase 1/2 trials, showing promising results and few side effects. Meanwhile, Russia has secured deals and “expressions of interest” with countries such as Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and India for up to 1.2 billion doses of the vaccine. Four other COVID-19 vaccines across the world have been approved for emergency limited use as testing continues, while other candidates such as those by Moderna or BioNTech/Pfizer/Fosun Pharma remain in Phase Three trials.

Mass. COVID-19 Updates: As of September 24, 2020, Massachusetts has the seventeenth highest number of total COVID-19 cases in the U.S., at 126,863 confirmed cases and 9,150 deaths. The states with the highest number of total cases include California at 787,470 cases, Texas at 719,599 cases, and Florida at 682,370 cases. There are currently a total of 367 COVID-19 cases in the Town of Andover, 11 of which are active, confirmed cases. COVID-19 testing for residents in the Andover area is being offered at Lawrence General Hospital and the Holy Family Hospital Haverhill Campus. The Massachusetts Department of Education recently urged 16 school districts in “low-risk” COVID-19 communities to return to in-person schooling, as their guideline for remote learning applied only to “high-risk” areas. In Massachusetts, the peak of the pandemic has passed, as weekly averages of positive coronavirus tests remain under one percent. Governor Charlie Baker has paused the Reopening Massachusetts plan at Phase III as the state focuses on reopening schools and colleges.