More than 400 nurses at a Connecticut hospital began a two-day strike Tuesday over what union leaders called low wages and struggles to get enough personal protective equipment.

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Nurses and their supporters hold signs in the rain as they began a two-day strike Tuesday outside the William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, Conn. John Shishmanian/The Bulletin via Associated Press

Dozens of nurses hit the picket line outside the William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich in rainy weather and held signs saying “Nurses on strike for unfair labor practice” and “PPE over profits.”

The strike comes amid a breakdown in contract talks between the nurses’ union and hospital management, as well as rising coronavirus cases in Norwich and other eastern Connecticut communities. The hospital is operated by Hartford HealthCare. Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said he’s been in communication with both the union and hospital leaders.

“I’m doing everything I can to remind both parties how important it is we have Backus Hospital going out there … right where the pandemic looks like it’s probably flaring up a little bit,” he said, adding that there should be no issues with nurses obtaining proper personal protective equipment, given the stockpiles that have been amassed. “I’m very hopeful that they’re getting closer to the finish line. Keep those conversations going. We don’t want to wait another day.”

Statewide, the infection rate was 2.4% as of Tuesday, the highest it has been since June. It has been around 7% in Norwich in recent days. The number of people hospitalized statewide climbed by 17 since Monday to 172, and 25 were in New London County, where Backus is located. In contrast, there were 2,000 daily hospitalizations statewide in the earlier days of the pandemic.

“It’s not unexpected, but it’s incredibly unnerving and a little exhausting,” Lamont said of the state’s slowly increasing infection rate.

But he said the state has been bringing in testing to hot spots like Norwich and New London and urging residents to remain vigilant and continue social distancing and mask-wearing. He noted how that worked to bring the rate down in Danbury, where there was a recent uptick in cases.

The Backus Federation of Nurses, AFT Local 5149, and hospital management have been in contract negotiations since June. Unionized nurses voted to authorize a strike last month.

First lady unseen as Trump restarts campaign after COVID-19

WASHINGTON — President Trump and his wife received their positive COVID-19 tests on the same day. He’s already returned to campaigning, but there’s been no public sighting yet of the first lady.

Donald Trump, Melania Trump

Melania Trump was last seen Sept. 29 accompanying President Trump to Cleveland for his nationally televised debate with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Melania Trump last provided a health update over a week ago after saying her symptoms were mild, and the White House has not indicated when she will make her next public appearance.

What role she will play in the campaign’s final weeks remains an open question as Trump embarks on a schedule of daily rallies through the Nov. 3 election.

“My family is grateful for all of the prayers & support! I am feeling good & will continue to rest at home,” the first lady tweeted Oct. 5, three days after the president announced they both had the disease caused by the coronavirus and that they would quarantine.

“Thank you to medical staff & caretakers everywhere, & my continued prayers for those who are ill or have a family member impacted by the virus,” she said.

Mrs. Trump was last seen Sept. 29 accompanying the president to Cleveland for his nationally televised debate with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Before that trip, she attended a Sept. 26 gathering in the White House Rose Garden that is now believed to have been a “super spreader” event for the virus. The president introduced Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett to scores of guests who sat close together, many without face coverings. Several guests later tested positive for COVID-19.

The first lady’s office provided no update Tuesday on her condition. The president’s campaign referred questions to the White House.

A possible upside for the White House in the positive test results is that they overshadowed the release of audio recordings by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former confidante and adviser to the first lady, in which Mrs. Trump was heard complaining about having to decorate the mansion for Christmas. She also was heard downplaying the conditions in which migrant children were housed in U.S. detention centers after the administration separated them from their families at the Mexico border.

Q&A: How long can I expect a COVID-19 illness to last?

It depends. Most coronavirus patients have mild to moderate illness and recover quickly. Older, sicker patients tend to take longer to recover. That includes those who are obese, or have high blood pressure and other chronic diseases.

The World Health Organization says recovery typically takes two to six weeks. One U.S. study found that around 20 percent of non-hospitalized individuals ages 18 to 34 still had symptoms at least two weeks after becoming ill. The same was true for nearly half of people age 50 and older.

Among those sick enough to be hospitalized, a study in Italy found 87 percent were still experiencing symptoms two months after getting sick. Lingering symptoms included fatigue and shortness of breath.

Dr. Khalilah Gates, a Chicago lung specialist, said many of her hospitalized COVID-19 patients still have coughing episodes, breathing difficulties and fatigue three to four months after infection.

She said it’s hard to predict exactly when COVID-19 patients will return to feeling well.

“The unsettling part of all this is we don’t have all the answers,” said Gates, an assistant professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

It’s also hard to predict which patients will develop complications after their initial illness subsides.

COVID-19 can affect nearly every organ, and long-term complications can include heart inflammation, decreased kidney function, fuzzy thinking, anxiety and depression.

It is unclear whether the virus itself or the inflammation it can cause leads to these lingering problems, said Dr. Jay Varkey, an Emory University infectious diseases specialist.

“Once you get over the acute illness, it’s not necessarily over,” he said.

Panel to study unexplained illness that paused vaccine trial

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Johnson & Johnson executives say it will be a few days before they know more about an unexplained illness in one participant that caused a temporary pause in its late-stage COVID-19 vaccine study.

“It may have nothing to do with the vaccine,” Mathai Mammen, head of research and development for Janssen, Johnson & Johnson’s medicine development business, said Tuesday.

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This September 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the company. Cheryl Gerber/Courtesy of Johnson & Johnson via AP, File

Mammen says they don’t yet know whether the ill study participant received their experimental vaccine or a dummy shot. He says Johnson & Johnson gave information on the case to the independent monitoring board overseeing the safety of patients in the study, as the research protocol requires. It will recommend next steps.

The study of the one-dose vaccine called ENSEMBLE will include up to 60,000 people from multiple countries. The company expects to complete enrollment in the study in two or three months.

Johnson & Johnson isn’t disclosing the nature of the illness, which it learned of Sunday and disclosed Monday night. Such pauses are not uncommon in long clinical studies, as some participants come down with an unrelated illness.

Unlike a study hold imposed by government regulators, a pause is initiated by the sponsor of the drug trial and often can be quickly resolved.

Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo tests positive for COVID-19

LISBON, Portugal — Cristiano Ronaldo has tested positive for the coronavirus, the Portuguese soccer federation said Tuesday.

The federation said Ronaldo was doing well and had no symptoms. It did not say when he tested positive.

Ronaldo played in the 0-0 draw at France in the Nations League on Sunday, and also in the 0-0 draw against Spain in a friendly last week.

Read the rest of the story here.

Singapore marks milestone in virus fight with no new local cases

Singapore recorded no new local cases of Covid-19 for the first time since February, as the city-state rebounded from an outbreak in migrant worker dormitories that at one stage contributed to more than a thousand infections a day.

There were no cases in the community as well as in the foreign worker dormitories, according to a statement Tuesday from the Ministry of Health. This was the first time that no new cases were reported in the workers’ dorms since late March. The country still saw four new imported cases.

The major milestone comes two months after Singapore declared dormitories where some 300,000 migrant workers live clear of the virus, though some infection clusters continued to persist after that. Already, the outbreak among the more than 54,000 workers has forced a rethink of Singapore’s management and reliance on its low-wage labor force, having been one of the earliest examples of the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups.

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A security guard hands out disposable gloves to a man outside the supermarket section of the Mustafa Center on Saturday, May 16, 2020 in Singapore’s Little India district. AP Photo/YK Chan

In the rest of the country, virus cases were kept at low levels through mandatory mask-wearing and other social distancing measures as the economy largely re-opened in June. The country has ramped up containment strategies, including contact-tracing and targeted testing, and has also launched clinical trials of a Covid-19 vaccine.

The benchmark Straits Times Index was up 0.3% as of 3:57 p.m in Singapore versus the broader Asian stock gauge’s gain of 0.1%.

At the dormitories, authorities have allowed the majority of laborers to return to work. To cut the risk of renewed infections, dormitories are putting in place measures, such as having staggered pick-up and drop-off timings as well as minimizing mixing between blocks. The workers are also required to go for regular testing.

Singapore is currently in the second of a three-phased economic reopening that has seen shops and restaurants resume operations in June after a partial lockdown was imposed in April. Officials are expected in the coming weeks to give a road map to phase three, the so-called stage where limited-sized social, cultural, religious and business gatherings or events would resume until a vaccine is developed.

Since the June reopening, authorities have also eased restrictions on the number of people gathering for weddings and wakes, as well as allowed cinemas and hotels to reopen. It is also exploring ways to safely open its borders after the virus outbreak led to record losses at the nation’s flag carrier and decimated traffic at Changi Airport.

2nd COVID-19 vaccine trial paused over unexplained illness

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — A late-stage study of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate has been paused while the company investigates whether a study participant’s “unexplained illness” is related to the shot.

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This September 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the company. A late-stage study of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate has been paused while the company investigates whether a study participant’s “unexplained illness” is related to the shot, the company announced Monday. Cheryl Gerber/Courtesy of Johnson & Johnson via Associated Press

The company said in a statement Monday evening that illnesses, accidents and other so-called adverse events “are an expected part of any clinical study, especially large studies,” but that its physicians and a safety monitoring panel would try to determine what might have caused the illness.

The pause is at least the second such hold to occur among several vaccines that have reached large-scale final tests in the U.S.

The company declined to reveal any more details about the illness, citing the participant’s privacy.

Temporary stoppages of large medical studies are relatively common. Few are made public in typical drug trials, but the work to make a coronavirus vaccine has raised the stakes on these kinds of complications.

Companies are required to investigate any serious or unexpected reaction that occurs during drug testing. Given that such tests are done on tens of thousands of people, some medical problems are a coincidence. In fact, one of the first steps the company said it will take is to determine if the person received the vaccine or a placebo.

The halt was first reported by the health news site STAT.

Final-stage testing of a vaccine made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University remains on hold in the U.S. as officials examine whether an illness in its trial poses a safety risk. That trial was stopped when a woman developed severe neurological symptoms consistent with transverse myelitis, a rare inflammation of the spinal cord, the company has said. That company’s testing has restarted elsewhere.

Johnson & Johnson was aiming to enroll 60,000 volunteers to prove if its single-dose approach is safe and protects against the coronavirus. Other vaccine candidates in the U.S. require two shots.

Patriots show no positive virus tests, hope to practice Wednesday

The New England Patriots returned no coronavirus positives on Monday, according to reports, and the team is now hoping to begin a second round of preparation for the Denver Broncos with a Wednesday afternoon practice.

After a wild nine-day stretch during which two games had to be rescheduled due to positive COVID-19 tests, the Patriots were given Monday and Tuesday off by Coach Bill Belichick.

The team is now scheduled to be back at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday to begin what the Patriots hope will be a normal week leading up to Sunday’s 1 p.m. game against the Broncos in Foxborough – unless further positive tests would change those plans.

The teams were supposed to play this past Sunday, but due to the lack of practice time for the Patriots after Stephon Gilmore’s positive test, the game was moved to Monday at 5 p.m. When defensive lineman Byron Cowart tested positive over the weekend, the NFL switched the game to next Sunday.

Read the full story here.

UK unveils 3-level lockdown plan

LONDON — The British government carved England into three tiers of coronavirus risk on Monday in a bid to slow a resurgent outbreak, putting the northern city of Liverpool into the highest risk category and shutting its pubs, gyms and betting shops.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the three-tier national system was designed to “simplify and standardize” a confusing patchwork of local rules, as the country faces a “crucial phase” in which hospitals are now filling up with more COVID-19 patients than in March, when he ordered a national lockdown.

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Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson ponders his message during a coronavirus briefing in Downing Street, London, on Monday. Toby Melville/Pool Photo via Associated Press

“These figures are flashing at us like dashboard warnings in a passenger jet, and we must act now,” he said.

Shops, schools and universities would remain open in all areas. Johnson told lawmakers that the goal of the new system was to save lives and prevent hospitals becoming overwhelmed without “shuttering our lives and our society” through a new national lockdown.

But pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses pushed back, with some industry leaders threatening a legal challenge against the rules and arguing that they are not to blame for rising infections.

After falling during the summer, coronavirus cases are rising in the U.K. as winter approaches, with northwest and northeast England seeing the steepest increases. Liverpool has one of the country’s most severe outbreaks, with about 600 cases per 100,000 people, even more than the hard-hit European cities of Madrid and Brussels.

Under the new measures, areas in England are classified at medium, high or very high risk, and placed under restrictions of varying severity.

Areas in the lowest tier will follow existing national restrictions, including a 10 p.m. curfew on pubs and restaurants and a ban on more than six people gathering. In areas at high risk, members of different households are barred from meeting indoors.

The “very high” risk tier will face restrictions including closing pubs — apart from those that serve meals — and, if local authorities want, other venues such as gyms and casinos.

Liverpool was the only area put into the top category Monday, but Johnson said authorities were still talking with other local leaders across the north of England.

Pubs, gyms, leisure centers, betting shops and casinos in Liverpool will close beginning Wednesday.

Read the full story about the United Kingdom here.

China vows to test all 9 million people in eastern city

BEIJING — China’s government says all 9 million people in the eastern city of Qingdao will be tested for the coronavirus this week after nine cases linked to a hospital were found.

The announcement Monday broke a string of weeks without any locally transmitted infections reported in China.

The National Health Commission said authorities were investigating the source of the infections found in eight patients at Qingdao’s Municipal Chest Hospital and one family member. The commission said the whole city will be tested within five days.

China, where the pandemic began in December, has reported 4,634 deaths and 85,578 cases, plus nine suspected cases that have yet to be confirmed.

The last reported virus transmissions within China were four patients found on Aug. 15 in the northwestern city of Urumqi in the far western Xinjiang region. All the cases reported since then were in travelers from outside the mainland.

WHO leader warns against herd immunity solution

LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization warned against the idea that herd immunity might be a realistic strategy to stop the pandemic, calling such proposals “unethical.”

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing on Monday that health officials typically aim to achieve herd immunity — where the entire population is protected from a virus when the majority are immune — by vaccination. Tedros noted that to obtain herd immunity from measles, for example, about 95% of the population must be vaccinated.

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In this photo released by WHO, World Health Organisation on Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, wearing a mask to protect against coronavirus, gestures during a special session on the COVID-19 response. Christopher Black/WHO via AP

“Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it,” he said. “Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak,” he said, calling the strategy “scientifically and ethically problematic.”

Tedros said that WHO estimates less than 10% of the population has any immunity to the coronavirus, meaning the vast majority of the world remains susceptible.

Tedros also noted countries had reported record-high daily figures of COVID-19 to the U.N. health agency for the last four days, citing surges in Europe and the Americas in particular.


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