July 16 coronavirus news

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1:30 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

US Health Department directs CDC to add hospital data back to its website

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

The Department of Health and Human Services directed the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to re-establish on their website public hospital data after they were criticized because some of it was removed Wednesday.

"HHS is committed to being transparent with the American public about the information it is collecting on the coronavirus. Therefore, HHS has directed CDC to re-establish the coronavirus dashboards it withdrew from the public on Wednesday. Going forward, HHS and CDC will deliver more powerful insights on the coronavirus, powered by HHS Protect," said Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs Michael Caputo. 

As of now, the previously removed dashboard modules were back online. The CDC has also added language to their page announcing that they will not be updating this data past July 14. 

What this is about: Last night, some data was no longer available on the CDC.gov website after the Trump administration’s decision to reroute coronavirus hospital data first to the administration instead of sending it directly to the CDC.

As of this morning, raw inpatient and intensive care occupancy data up to July 7 was available for download from the site.

1:33 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Most Covid-19 patients surveyed had either a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, new CDC study finds

From CNN's Jen Christensen

Covid-19 can cause a wide variety of symptoms, but a new analysis of records by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that most patients seemed to share at least one of three symptoms: fever, cough or shortness of breath.

The report published Thursday covered 164 people with lab confirmed cases of Covid-19. The patients all had symptoms, and all were sick between January 14 and April 4.

Since Covid-19 was a new disease and since information about symptoms was limited, especially among patients that hadn’t been hospitalized, the CDC sent a further survey to patients identified by local health leaders. The patients were asked to report on a wide variety of symptoms and also asked to report on any additional symptoms that were not widely recognized. 

Among these patients, nearly all — 96% — had had either a fever, cough, or shortness of breath and about 45% experienced all three.

Cough was the most common symptom: 84% of surveyed patients said they had a cough, the team of CDC and state health officials found. Fever was the next most common symptom, with 80% of patients reporting they had a fever. Shortness of breath was more commonly associated with people who were hospitalized.

Patients also experienced a wide variety of other symptoms including muscle pain, chills, fatigue and headache. At least one stomach issue, most commonly diarrhea, was each reported by half of the patients. Some patients also reported GI symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.

A higher percentage of people who did not have to go to the hospital lost their sense of taste or smell. 

Remember: These results are not generalizable, since testing was restricted to certain patients during this time period and hospitalized patients are likely overrepresented in the sample of people surveyed, but the data does give doctors a better sense of who might need to be tested or even isolated to slow the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.


1:59 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

US travel bans came too late for New York City, CDC study finds

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

People visit an international terminal at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport on March 13. That was the day the United States restricted travel from Europe.
People visit an international terminal at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport on March 13. That was the day the United States restricted travel from Europe. Kathy Willens/AP

Travel bans meant to stop coronavirus from getting to the US from China came too late, according to a new analysis of cases from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The US restricted travel from China on February 2 and from Europe March 13, but by March 8, Covid-19 was already circulating among the community in New York City, and by March 15, community transmission was already widespread, the analysis found. 

What was circulating most closely matched the strain of the virus circulating in Europe, not China.

This study looked at data collected by the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene between March 1-20. It was early in the pandemic. It was only on March 8 that the department had announced that there was sustained community transmission.

The department examined specimens taken from people who went to the emergency room with flu-like symptoms. Of the 544 specimens tested, 36, or 6.6%, were positive for novel coronavirus.

Doing additional genetic sequencing of the samples, the strain of the virus more closely resembled the one circulating in Europe, rather than the one circulating in China. That means that the novel coronavirus was likely introduced to New York through Europe or by travelers from other US locations, the report said.

By the time the Trump administration had placed travel restrictions on Europe the importation of the virus and the community spread of the disease had already started in New York City, according to the report. Testing was limited at the start of the epidemic in New York City and that added to a number of cases going undetected that added to the spread of Covid-19.


1:53 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

These Texan counties are bringing in refrigerated trucks as morgues reach capacity

From CNN's Kay Jones, Jeremy Grisham, Faith Karimi and Steve Almasy

Refrigerated trailers arrive in San Antonio.
Refrigerated trailers arrive in San Antonio. City of San Antonio

With skyrocketing coronavirus hospitalizations in Texas, hard-hit counties are bringing in refrigerated trucks as morgues fill up.

The city of San Antonio and Bexar County has secured several refrigerated trailers to store bodies until they can be released to area funeral homes. 

"With the growing number of Covid-related deaths and many funerals on hold right now, hospitals are beginning to experience a backlog of deceased patients," Mario Martinez, metro health assistant director, said in a video interview released by the city.  

He said that they currently have two in operation with another three that will be operational by the end of the week. He also said that several local hospital systems have also placed order for and secured trailers. 

“This is a morbid topic and it’s not one we enjoy talking about but it really does underscore the severity of Covid-19 in our community,” Martinez said.

Meanwhile, the Dallas County morgue had to use an external refrigerated truck this week due to the increased caseload, the Medical Examiner's office told CNN.

“We have had to go to the external refrigerated truck once this week due to increased caseload, but today we are back with all cases inside," Dr. Jeffrey Barnard, the Dallas County Medical Examiner, said in a statement. "I anticipate that we will at some point have to use the truck again based on continuing increased volume.”

Dallas County Health and Human Services reported 485 total fatalities since the pandemic began, with 59 of those deaths occurring over the past week. There are 36,969 total cases throughout the county. 

CNN reported earlier that the counties of Cameron and Hidalgo are sharing a large refrigerated trailer to store bodies of coronavirus patients because of a lack of space at the morgues.

Note: The latest Dallas figures were released by Dallas County Health and Human Services, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.


1:17 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Spain records highest number of new Covid-19 cases since May 10

From CNN's Laura Pérez Maestro 

Health-care workers have a briefing at a temporary testing center in Getaria, Spain, on Wednesday.
Health-care workers have a briefing at a temporary testing center in Getaria, Spain, on Wednesday. Ander Gillenea/AFP/Getty Images

Spain recorded 580 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, the highest number since May 10, the Spanish health ministry’s data showed on Thursday. The total number of cases in Spain has now reached 258,855.

Fernando Simon, director of the Center for Health Emergencies, admitted at a news conference Thursday that there is a “slight upward trend, mainly due to the outbreaks in Aragon and Catalonia.”

The data shows that more than 70% of those new cases were registered in Catalonia and Aragon.

Simon confirmed that there are 158 outbreaks still active in Spain, "most of them under control." He highlighted that only “10% of those outbreaks are linked to seasonal workers but that they account for 40% of the cases.”

“We need to get used to seeing outbreaks linked to seasonal workers,” he said. “They are essential workers, and although the outbreaks might be controlled, they travel from region to region and cases around this activity will probably be constant." 

Simon also explained that the average age among the new cases "has gone down to 46 years old for men and 50 years old for women. In comparison with the 62-year-old average during the hight of the pandemic."

The Covid-19 death toll in the country rose by three in the last 24 hours and nine in the last seven days, in line with the past few weeks. A total of 28,416 people have died from coronavirus in Spain to date.

1:04 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

New York state helps set up Covid-19 testing sites in Houston

From CNN’s Sonia Moghe

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Thursday thanked New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his state for sending teams to help set up Covid-19 testing sites in Houston.

Speaking during a press call with Cuomo, Turner said there were long waits for testing in the Houston area.

“Testing is a big issue,” the mayor said. “This virus is having a disproportionate impact on communities of color and low income communities where even more testing is needed.” 

The two new testing sites are up and running in the northwest and southwest parts of Houston.

Cuomo tweeted photos of the testing sites:

1:00 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Florida reports new single-day record of Covid-19 deaths 

From CNN’s Rosa Flores and Dan Shepherd in Miami

A health care worker tests a person for COVID-19 at the test site located in the Hard Rock Stadium parking lot on July 15 in Miami Gardens, Florida.
A health care worker tests a person for COVID-19 at the test site located in the Hard Rock Stadium parking lot on July 15 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida is reporting at least 315,775 positive coronavirus cases across the state, showing an increase of at least 13,965 cases from the previous day, according to new numbers released by the Florida Department of Health.  

At least 8,626 people are currently hospitalized across the state.  

Total number of deaths in the state increased by 156, breaking a previous daily record of 132 that was set on Tuesday. During the pandemic, there have been a total of 4,677 coronavirus deaths in the state.

The 13.965 new coronavirus Covid-19 reported today marks the second highest daily total during the state’s pandemic. Sunday’s daily record of 15,299 still holds.

Note: These numbers were released by the state of Florida and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project. 

12:56 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

There are not enough contact tracers in California to handle onslaught of Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Stephanie Elam

Lucia Abascal interviews patients from her home while working as a contract tracer in San Francisco on June 25.
Lucia Abascal interviews patients from her home while working as a contract tracer in San Francisco on June 25. Paul Chinn/The San Francisco Chronicle/Getty Images)

To combat the rise in coronavirus cases in California, there needs to be enough contact tracing staff in regions where Covid-19 infections are increasing, the principal investigator for the state’s contact tracing program told CNN, but not all regions require an equal number of tracers. 

“They’re not, in their current level, they’re not in all places,” said University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford, who also leads the university’s contact tracing training program. “If we spread it evenly there still probably wouldn't be enough in the highest incidence areas.” 

Health officials, he said, cannot forecast how much contact tracing is needed in a region until public health departments are alerted to positive results, but the teams are scalable. “We can call in extra people if there's a surge,” Rutherford said. 

With 58 counties in the state, the number of contact tracers working in each county should be driven by the number of confirmed cases, not the county’s total population, he said.

“If you're in Modoc County, with zero cases, you don't need a big contact tracing team,” he said, adding that a regional approach in some parts of the state may be sufficient to cover areas without a lot of cases. “Six people could cover, you know, seven or eight counties.”

UCSF, with the assistance of the University of California, Los Angeles, operates a Virtual Training Academy for contract tracers and is working with the state to bolster its personnel who can follow up with people who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

Of the army of 10,000 contact tracers California has assembled in response to the pandemic, the academy has trained 6,700 people so far, he said. As potential tracers are identified by the state, they are quickly processed and begin training, which takes about a week.

And as the number of confirmed cases rises, so perhaps does the need for more contact tracers, who are making phone calls to reach those infected with the virus.

“Last weekend with its rush of cases in San Francisco, people were working overtime,” he said. “It was a major sweat to get it all covered, but we got it covered.”

12:50 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

McConnell on Kentucky mask mandate battle: "I'm not in that fight, but, I'm here to tell you, put it on"

From CNN's Ali Zaslav

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the media in Leitchfield, Kentucky, on Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the media in Leitchfield, Kentucky, on Thursday. WAVE

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, made clear Thursday he is not getting involved with the state Gov. Andy Beshear’s battle to mandate mask-wearing.

“I’m not in that fight,” McConnell said Thursday at a press event in Leitchfield, Kentucky. At the same time, McConnell still urged Kentuckians to wear a mask.

“I know there’s an argument going on here in the state over whether the governor can or cannot make you wear a mask,” he said. “I’m not in that fight. But, I'm here to tell you, put it on.”

“I want to encourage everybody regardless of who has the authority to require it or not require it, do it,” McConnell added.

“It's the right thing to do,” he continued, pointing to how Kentucky is “having something of a surge” in coronavirus cases.

What this is about: Last week, CNN reported Beshear’s executive order was temporary blocked the same day he requested it.

McConnell again argued Thursday that masks should not be a political issue.

“How this ended up becoming a factor in American politics is a little astonishing to me,” he said. “The coronavirus is not involved in American politics, at all.”