May 21 coronavirus news

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9:26 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Education expert: "We're going to have a mental health epidemic among our children in this country"

Geoffrey Canada, president of Harlem Children's Zone.
Geoffrey Canada, president of Harlem Children's Zone. Source: CNN

The coronavirus pandemic is going to leave a lasting impact on the mental health of children around the US, especially for those who are poor.

"I'm really worried that we're going to have a mental health epidemic among our children in this country. Just think about it. The poorest kids they know people who die, they know people who are sick. The very air you breathe, the people you pass on the street are suddenly dangerous to you. All of that trauma is going to come into our schools and into our classrooms, and we really need to prepare for this," Geoffrey Canada, president of Harlem Children's Zone, said during CNN's global coronavirus town hall.

Canada stressed that it is important for teachers to prepare for this harsh reality before schools reopen.

"We need to start thinking about this, but just think, I taught for 10 years and I've gotten my kids together, and now I have to keep all of my kids apart. That's a skill that we have to practice, and we need time for teachers to begin to practice the kind of monitoring, the talking, the engaging that doesn't really gather kids together in ways that we're used to," he said.

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9:27 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

What will be the "new normal" of education when schools start reopening?

Dr. Tanya Altmann, spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Dr. Tanya Altmann, spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics. Source: CNN

Dr. Tanya Altmann, spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, joined CNN's ongoing town hall to answer questions from viewers on what the "new normal" might look like in schools across the country.

How are parents supposed to feel safe sending their children with underlying health conditions back to school? We will all have to rely on everybody following the same rules, Altmann said -- meaning everyone must stay physically distanced, wear masks, and wash their hands. Parents with sick kids will have to promise not to send them to school. It all falls on us to keep each other safe.

How can preschools and day-care centers reopen when kids that young don't understand social distancing or safe practices? Educators may have to split kids into smaller classes, and keep them in small groups of six to 10 students at a time, Altmann said. "We can also give them their own toys to play, frequently wash them, and make sure they have the recess time outside, separate from other classes."

How can we teach physical education when we're sharing equipment? What about other school activities like choir? If the weather permits, doing things outdoors is one way to carry out these activities while lowering the risk of transmission.

"Maybe, instead of playing catch, people will be doing more soccer where they kick the ball, because you want to avoid touching the same balls, in terms of other kids," said Altmann.

She added that at the school where she works, they're thinking of holding choir and band in outdoor spaces or outdoor tents, instead of having students blow air at each other in an enclosed room.

Schools will have to adjust a lot of other activities -- for instance, they may need to add more school buses so kids can socially distance on board, and encourage parents to drive their children to school when possible.

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9:19 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

How to fly safely during the coronavirus pandemic 

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta warned viewers during CNN's global town hall "things are going to feel a lot different next time you go to the airport," but offered some practical advice on how to safely fly during the pandemic.

Here are some tips for flying safely:

  • Before you even arrive, pack hand sanitizer and use it to clean your hands as often as possible throughout your journey, said Gupta in a short video demonstrating his own trip to the airport.
  • As you make your way past the ticket counters and through security, try to touch as few surfaces as possible and wear a mask throughout your entire journey. "You wear the mask, again, to protect other people," he said. "The frontline workers are there all day. Another reason to try and be as safe as possible."
  • Once you are inside the concourse and headed for your gate, avoid crowded areas. If you have the time, skip the train that moves passengers between terminals and walk. 
  • On the aircraft, you can try to choose a window seat, which could reduce your exposure to passengers passing by in the aisle
  • Finally, you know that adjustable outlet that shoots cool air down down on to your seat? It's called a "gasper" and it's your friend.

"Turn it up as high as you can," Gupta said. "That's going to cause turbulent air in front of you and break up any clouds of virus."

Gupta acknowledged that nothing you do will make you totally safe, but these tips could reduce your risk of catching coronavirus while traveling.

"These are small things," he sad. "They may make a small difference, but it's easy to do and it's probably worth it."

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9:14 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

3 strategies schools need to figure out before reopening

Dr. Tanya Altmann, spokeswoman for American Academy of Pediatrics.
Dr. Tanya Altmann, spokeswoman for American Academy of Pediatrics. CNN

Dr. Tanya Altmann, spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, shared three key areas of concern schools around the United States must address before reopening their doors.

Altmann shared this insight Thursday night during CNN's global coronavirus town hall.

The three areas were as follows:

  1. Schools must keep the virus from entering the campus: "So that's going to be health checks and temperature screenings, staggered arrivals as you mentioned and limiting visitors on campus," Altmann said.
  2. Person-to-person transmission on campus must be reduced: "This is going to be smaller classrooms, less mixing of kids, close commonly touched areas, a lot of hand washing with assigned seats, disinfecting, avoiding shared supplies and also mass use is going to play a key role," she said.
  3. Addressing students who get sick: "We need to quickly test them, diagnose, isolate and then contact trace, which is a lot easier when there's fewer kids they've come into contact with throughout the day," Altmann added.

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8:58 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

The US is taking a "harm reduction" approach. How does this work?

Anderson Cooper, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and infectious disease epidemiologist Julia Marcus.
Anderson Cooper, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and infectious disease epidemiologist Julia Marcus. CNN

The United States is no longer just looking at mitigation and containment, but is also taking a "harm reduction" approach to co-existing with the virus, said infectious disease epidemiologist Julia Marcus on CNN's ongoing town hall on the coronavirus.

"Up until now, we have had an all-or-nothing approach where we have been telling people to stay home -- which is what we needed to do for the first couple of months," she said.
"Then we realized that this is something that we actually have to do for many months, if not years, so we have to find a way to do this sustainably."

Encouraging people to be outside is actually one way to reduce risk, she said; the risk of transmission is lower outdoors when people have more space, as long as people are still following common-sense guidelines like wearing masks and staying 6 feet apart.

Staying home is still the safest thing to do. But the harm reduction approach allows people more sustainable ways to resume daily life by engaging in low-risk behaviors, she said.

Here's how to do it properly:

  • To judge which activities are low-risk or high-risk, people need to consider three variables: proximity with others, the nature of the activity, and duration, said emergency physician Leana Wen during the town hall.
  • If you're gathering with friends, do it outdoors with some distance apart. Don't hug, kiss, or share utensils. If you're eating, takeout is still safer than going to a restaurant.
  • Risk is cumulative -- so don't go out and do everything all at once. If you're going to get a haircut, don't also go to a restaurant, Wen said.

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8:45 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Americans should "go out" for Memorial Day, Fauci says

Don't be surprised if you catch Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House's coronavirus, out hiking over Memorial Day weekend.

The country's leading infectious disease expert shared words of encouragement and guidance Thursday night during CNN's global coronavirus town hall, ahead of the holiday weekend.

"Memorial Day, it's a very important holiday. Hopefully the sun will be out. We'll be having people who want to get out there and get fresh air. You can do that. We're not telling people to just lock in unless you're in a situation where you have a major outbreak going on, we don't have too much of that right now in the country.
"Go out, wear a mask, stay 6 feet away from anyone so you have the physical distancing, and go out. Go for a run. Go for a walk. Go fishing. As long as you're not in a crowd and you're not in a situation where you can physically transmit the virus, and that's what a mask is for, and that's with the physical distance," Fauci said.

Fauci shared a bit of his plans, saying he will "go out for nice walks and hikes over Memorial Day and I'm going to do it with care, with a mask on."

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8:41 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Fauci says Americans could expect to see more scientists from coronavirus task force soon

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, tonight acknowledged there had been a "lull" in public appearances from himself and top scientists on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, but suggested Americans could expect to hear more from the group soon. 

"There was a period of time there was a little bit lull in being out there with the press but I believe that's going to change," said Fauci in a response to a question from CNN's Anderson Cooper on why Americans are no longer hearing from the group on a daily basis. 

Fauci has been absent from national television interviews over the last two weeks, as the White House moves ahead with reopening the economy.

“I think you're going to probably be seeing a little bit more of me and my colleagues,” Fauci said. “We've been talking with the communications people, and they realize we need to get some of this information out, particularly some of the scientific issues for which I'm predominantly responsible for, so hopefully we'll be seeing more of us, will get the opportunity to talk to you.”

Asked if the task force was still robust, despite the fact that it met for the first time today in six days, Fauci said the focus shifted to reopening and the economic impact, but the shift was not at the cost of studying scientific issues.

“We had a very good meeting today,” he said. “I was very pleased with it.”

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8:33 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Fauci discusses when and why someone should get a Covid-19 test

Covid-19 testing remains a crucial topic of discussion around the US as many people wonder whether they have contracted the virus.

One of these people is Nancy Isakson who submitted a video question for the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Thursday night during CNN's global coronavirus town hall.

Q: "Our county is now offering free coronavirus testing. There is a local lab that offers antibody testing for a cost. Both are available without a doctor's orders and without symptoms. Which one would you recommend getting or would you recommend getting both?"

Fauci: "That's a question that a lot of people are asking. If you want to know if you are infected, then clearly you want the test for infection, namely, the test that determines you have virus in you. If you're interested in knowing if you've been exposed and you have been infected and you've recovered, then the antibody test. Unless you have symptoms or have a reason to believe you have been exposed to someone, there really is no reason to have the test for the virus."

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8:53 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Fauci is "cautiously optimistic" about Moderna vaccine trial

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. CNN

The nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, joined CNN's ongoing town hall to discuss the promising early results of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine trial.

The biotech company partnered with the National Institutes of Health to develop the vaccine, and reported this week that volunteers are showing positive results. If future studies go well, the vaccine could be available to the public as early as January, according to Moderna's chief medical officer.

Here's how it works: This vaccine produces neutralizing antibodies, which bind to the virus, thus disabling it from attacking human cells and preventing infection.

The human body actually produces antibodies against coronavirus quite readily, Fauci said -- that's why a large number of people spontaneously recover from the virus by themselves.

The trial results: The Moderna trial vaccinated dozens of participants and measured antibodies in eight of them. All eight developed neutralizing antibodies to the virus at levels reaching or exceeding the levels seen in people who've naturally recovered from Covid-19, according to the company.

"Although the numbers were limited, it was quite good news because it reached and went over an important hurdle in the development of vaccines. That's the reason why I'm cautiously optimistic about it," Fauci said.

Read more about the trial results here.

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