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R-0 may be the most important scientific term you’ve never heard of when it comes to stopping the coronavirus pandemic.

USA TODAY

The United States was on the brink of 6 million coronavirus cases Sunday while the global number surpassed 25 million. And those numbers are likely just a small fraction of the true penetration into the world population, experts say.

Any slowdown in the U.S. outbreak appeared minor: There were more than 47,000 new cases and almost 1,000 additional deaths reported Sunday. And with many elementary and secondary schools as well as universities now opening their doors, the numbers may not drop appreciably any time soon.

The pandemic onslaught is taking its toll on health care workers and other front line responders, the World Health Organization warns.

“The front line responders working tirelessly to save lives during the pandemic deserve time to rest,” WHO said in a statement Sunday. “Talk to your colleagues or supervisor if you think you may be experiencing burnout.”

Some significant developments:

  • Navajo Nation health officials say the confirmation of a new death brings the number of fatalities from coronavirus to 500. 
  • Italy has nearly doubled its daily tests this month amid a surge in new infections, mostly among young people returning from vacation. 

📈 Today’s numbers:  The U.S. death toll was approaching 183,000. Globally, more than 843,000 people have died, according to John Hopkins University data

📰 What we’re reading: Families have shunned airlines, hotels, cruises and other crowded vacation options this summer. Instead, they have opted for more personal transportation choices, including boats – lots of boats

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

Labor Day warning: Family gatherings can be as dangerous as big crowds

Images of packed beaches, lakes and bars have made the rounds on traditional and social media for much of the summer, drawing scorn from those concerned about the COVID-19 outbreak. But experts say also troubling are the growing instances of case clusters arising from smaller gatherings. Social functions of various sizes among relatives, friends and co-workers are drawing scrutiny as public health experts sound the alarm ahead of Labor Day weekend.

“People don’t think of it in the same way as the Trump rally in Tulsa, a bunch of people on the beach or in the bars, but these small events add up to a lot,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco.”It’s just invisible.”

Jorge L. Ortiz

‘Decision fatigue’ takes toll as pandemic rolls on

Six months since the United States declared the coronavirus pandemic a state of emergency, millions of isolated Americans are at their wits’ end, exhausted from making a seemingly endless series of health and safety decisions for themselves and their loved ones. Researchers call the phenomenon decision fatigue. As you become fatigued, you may be inclined to avoid additional decisions, stick to the status quo or base a decision on a single criteria, experts say.

“It’s a state of low willpower that results from having invested effort into making choices,” said Roy Baumeister, a psychology professor at Florida State University. “It leads to putting less effort into making further choices, so either choices are avoided or they are made in a very superficial way.”

Grace Hauck

India’s one-day new case count shatters global record

India is fast becoming a pandemic hot spot, registering a record 78,761 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours. That is the worst single-day spike in the world, although the health ministry noted that the nation also set a record with more than 10 million tests. India now has reported 3.5 million cases, more than all other nations except for the U.S. and Brazil. The boom in India comes amid government efforts to ease restrictions nationwide. The Health Ministry on Sunday also reported 948 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities to 63,498.

University of Virginia set to begin in-person classes after two week delay

The University of Virginia says it plans to offer in-person instruction for the fall semester beginning with the opening of residence halls Thursday. UVA officials in Charlottesville said they had initially delayed the start of in-person undergraduate classes by two weeks to assess the spread of COVID-19 and to see how other schools have fared since opening.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that UVA has reported 67 total positive COVID cases since Aug. 17 among students, faculty and staff. Of those, 23 were students who reported a positive test on Thursday, the school’s highest single-day total. Twenty-five students, faculty or staff have been hospitalized.

A look at how other colleges are faring:

  • The University of Alabama reported an additional 481 students have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to more than 1,000 infections since students returned to campus. The university system said no students are hospitalized. 
  • In West Lafyette, Indiana, Purdue University has reported 80 confirmed cases for COVID-19 since Aug. 1, including 60 confirmed in the past week since the school, with an enrollment of around 40,000, reopened. At least three houses with more than 100 students combined — a fraternity, a sorority and cooperative house — are on lockdown and arranging classes remotely at the start of the semester.

FDA expands use of remdesivir without research to back it up

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration late Friday allowed the drug remdesivir to be used on all patients hospitalized with COVID-19, although no published research supports such widespread use. The approval allows doctors freedom to prescribe the antiviral earlier. But it comes less than a week after the agency approved use of convalescent plasma without published scientific support, fueling concerns the agency is yielding to political pressure.

“It seems to be a pattern of approval without science, without data, without evidence,” said Dr. Eric Topol, vice president for research at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California and a national expert on the use of data in medical research.

In May, the FDA allowed remdesivir to be used for hospitalized adults who need oxygen, but not those sick enough to require ventilation. A government study published that month in the New England Journal of Medicine found those patients recovered faster than those who hadn’t gotten the drug, though there was no evidence that it saved lives.

Earlier this month, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study of less severely ill hospitalized adults, showing that five days of treatment with remdesivir was better than standard care, though “the difference was of uncertain clinical importance.” Read more here

– Karen Weintraub

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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Contributing: The Associated Press

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