Chicago schools to start remotely in fall

Chicago’s mayor on Wednesday announced that the nation’s third-largest school district will not welcome students back to the classroom to start the school year, and will instead rely on remote instruction. The city’s decision to abandon its plan to have students attend in-person classes for two days a week once the fall semester starts Sept. 8 followed strong pushback from the powerful union representing Chicago teachers and as districts nationwide struggle with how to teach their children during the coronavirus pandemic. When Chicago officials announced their hybrid-learning plan last month, they said it was subject to change depending on families’ feedback and data tracking the spread of the coronavirus. On Wednesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot attributed the change in plans to a recent uptick in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the city.

HHS secretary to lead rare trip to Taiwan

The United States’ top health official, Alex Azar, will lead a delegation on a trip to Taiwan, a rare high-level visit to the island by a U.S. official that is likely to further fray ties between Beijing and Washington. Azar, the secretary of health and human services, will be the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit since 1979, the year the United States severed its formal ties with Taiwan and established diplomatic relations with the Chinese government in Beijing. No date was given for Azar’s trip to Taiwan, a self-ruled island that the Chinese government claims as its territory. But in a statement, the health department billed it as an opportunity to strengthen economic and public health cooperation with Taiwan and to highlight its success in battling the coronavirus pandemic. As of Tuesday, the island of 23 million had reported just 476 coronavirus cases and seven deaths.

Florida second state to top 500,000 cases

Florida reported another 5,409 COVID-19 cases Wednesday, pushing the state over half a million confirmed infections. That makes Florida second only to California in confirmed cases. Florida now has 502,739 cases, while California health officials on Tuesday listed almost 520,000 cases. The number of reported test results in Florida was under 61,000 for the third straight day, likely a result of test sites that were closed due to Tropical Storm Isaias. A total of 57,272 results were recorded Tuesday, compared to 88,244 a week earlier.

Cases fall in counties that require masks

Kansas counties that have mask mandates in place have seen a rapid drop in cases, while counties that only recommend their use have seen no decrease in cases, the state’s top health official said Wednesday. Dr. Lee Norman, the state health department’s top administrator, said that overall statewide the numbers of new cases is favorable, but that the reduction of new cases is entirely in the counties that require masks be worn in public spaces. After Gov. Laura Kelly put a mask mandate in place last month, 15 counties stayed with the mandate while 90 counties abandoned it, Norman said at a news conference. Norman pointed a graph showing the seven-day rolling average of cases per 100,000 people comparing counties with the mask mandates with those counties that abandoned it. The favorable trend line down was entirely in the counties that required the use of masks, while the trend line for those without one was flat, he said. “All improvements in case development comes from those counties wearing masks,” Norman said.

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