TUESDAY, Aug. 11, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- The Trump Administration is weighing a new rule that would temporarily block an American citizen or legal permanent resident from returning to the United States from abroad if authorities believe the person might be infected with the coronavirus.
President Donald Trump has already imposed sweeping rules that ban entry by foreigners into the United States, citing the risk of allowing the virus to spread from hot spots around the world. But so far those rules have not applied to American citizens and foreigners who have established legal residence here, The New York Times reported.
Now, a draft regulation proposes giving the federal government the power to do so in individual, limited circumstances, the Times reported. Federal agencies have been asked to submit feedback on the proposal to the White House by Tuesday, the newspaper said.
The draft of the proposal, parts of which were obtained by the Times, does state that any order blocking citizens and legal permanent residents must "include appropriate protections to ensure that no constitutional rights are infringed." And it adds that citizens and legal residents cannot be blocked as an entire class of people, the newspaper reported.
Whether the Trump administration has the legal authority to block citizens and permanent residents from returning to their own country is unclear, the Washington Post reported. But one official said the administration is contemplating a public health emergency declaration that would keep out potentially infected Americans.
If enacted, this would be the first time the administration has tried to restrict the hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who cross the border between the United States and Mexico legally every day, the Post reported. The administration has restricted nonessential travel, but those crossing for school, work, business or medical appointments are generally not restricted.
Medical experts have warned that such restrictions would make little difference in controlling the pandemic, since there is already widespread community transmission in the United States, the Post reported. The country's outbreak is the world's worst, with more than 5 million confirmed cases.
Meanwhile, Russia on Tuesday become the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine, even though large-scale testing of the vaccine is still incomplete, the Post reported. Russian officials have pledged to vaccinate millions of citizens, raising global alarm that the country is jumping dangerously ahead of final testing that would determine if the vaccine is safe and effective.
"Of course, what counts most is for us to be able to ensure the unconditional safety of the use of this vaccine and its efficiency in the future. I hope that this will be accomplished," Putin said at a meeting with government members, adding that his own daughter had already been given the vaccine, the Post reported.
As schools reopen, COVID cases among kids on the rise
With millions of American children soon returning to school, a new study shows that at least 97,000 kids were infected with COVID-19 during the last two weeks of July.
According to the new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association, at least 338,000 U.S. children had tested positive through July 30, the Times reported. That means that more than a quarter of those cases had come up positive in the second half of July alone.
Already, some schools have tried to reopen and then had to order quarantines or close after COVID-19 cases were reported among students and staff, the Times reported. North Paulding High School in Georgia, which gained national attention last week after videos of crowded hallways made their way onto social media, announced Sunday it would switch to online instruction for Monday and Tuesday after at least nine coronavirus cases were reported there.
In the new report, states in the South and West accounted for more than 7 of 10 infections. The count could be higher because the report did not include complete data from Texas and parts of New York State outside of New York City.
Missouri, Oklahoma, Alaska, Nevada, Idaho and Montana were among the states with the highest percentage increase of child infections during that period, the report found.
There were differences in how states classified children: Most places cited in the report considered children to be no older than 17 or 19. But in Alabama, the age limit was 24, while it was only 14 in Florida and Utah, the Times reported.
Though public health officials say that most children do not get severe illness, a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that a new, more dangerous COVID-19 condition known as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children has struck children of color far more often than whites.
From early March through late July, the CDC received reports of 570 young people -- ranging from infants to age 20 with the condition, the Times reported. Of those, 40 percent were Hispanic or Latino, 33 percent were Black and 13 percent were white. Ten died and nearly two-thirds were admitted to intensive care units, the report found.
New model shows 300,000 dead
Meanwhile, a new model predicted that nearly 300,000 Americans could die of COVID-19 by December if more people don't wear masks or practice better social distancing.
However, if 95 percent of people were to wear a face mask in public, some 66,000 lives could be saved, they added.
"We're seeing a rollercoaster in the United States," institute director Christopher Murray said in a statement. "It appears that people are wearing masks and socially distancing more frequently as infections increase, then after a while as infections drop, people let their guard down and stop taking these measures to protect themselves and others which, of course, leads to more infections. And the potentially deadly cycle starts over again."
In other pandemic news, the U.S. State Department has lifted its 5-month-old blanket warning against international travel for Americans. Instead, the department will now issue travel recommendations by country.
Why the change? "Health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others" influenced its decision, the state department said in a statement.
"We continue to recommend U.S. citizens exercise caution when traveling abroad due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic," the agency's statement said.
Despite the lifting of the travel warning, many other countries are currently restricting American citizens from entry because the United States has far more coronavirus cases than any other nation in the world, the Post reported.
By Tuesday, the U.S. coronavirus case count surpassed 5 million as the death toll exceeded 163,000, according to a Times tally.
According to the same tally, the top five states in coronavirus cases as of Tuesday were: California with over 574,000; Florida with nearly 537,000; Texas with almost 515,000; New York with over 426,000; and New Jersey with more than 186,800.
Nations grapple with pandemic
Elsewhere in the world, the situation remains challenging.
Australia logged a record daily death toll on Monday, following weeks of rising case numbers there, the Post reported.
In the Australian state of Victoria, authorities confirmed more than 300 new infections and 19 deaths over the last 24 hours, the Post reported. But there were hopeful signs that the peak of the outbreak might be over. The number of new daily cases in Victoria has been falling significantly since the middle of last week, the newspaper said. A strict lockdown imposed on the state's capital, Melbourne, more than a week ago may start affecting case numbers soon.
Things continue to worsen in India. On Tuesday, the country passed 2.2 million infections and over 45,200 deaths, a Johns Hopkins tally showed. The surge comes weeks after a national lockdown was lifted, and it's prompted some parts of the country to revert back to stricter social distancing measures.
Brazil is also a hotspot in the coronavirus pandemic, with over 3 million confirmed infections by Tuesday, according to the Hopkins tally. It has the second-highest number of cases, behind only the United States.
Cases are also spiking wildly in Russia: As of Tuesday, that country reported the world's fourth-highest number of COVID-19 cases, at over 890,790, the Hopkins tally showed.
Worldwide, the number of reported infections passed 20 million on Tuesday, with over 736,000 deaths, according to the Hopkins tally.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.