August 3 coronavirus news

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11:35 p.m. ET, August 3, 2020

Trump uses campaign email to ask supporters to wear face masks

From CNN's Caroline Kelly

US President Donald Trump on Monday sent a campaign email, typically used for soliciting donations, to make a different request of his supporters: consider wearing a mask.

"We are all in this together, and while I know there has been some confusion surrounding the usage of face masks, I think it's something we should all try to do when we are not able to be socially distanced from others," the email, sent by the Trump campaign and signed by the President, read.

The rare move comes after Trump avoided wearing a mask in public for months until he tweeted a photo of himself wearing one in a stark messaging pivot in July -- though footage later surfaced of Trump not wearing a mask later that day.

The shift to encouraging mask-wearing was primarily motivated by floundering poll numbers, a source familiar with the President's thinking told CNN last month, and came nearly three months after he publicly announced new mask recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- and two months since he mocked his election rival Joe Biden for wearing one.

In Monday's email, Trump highlighted mask wearing as a potential means of accelerating a return to normal life, lamenting the effects of the coronavirus using a stigmatizing and inaccurate term for the virus.

"I don't love wearing them either. Masks may be good, they may be just okay, or they may be great," the email continued. "They can possibly help us get back to our American way of life that so many of us rightfully cherished before we were so terribly impacted by the China Virus."
Trump added, "My feeling is, we have nothing to lose, and possibly everything to gain, including the next chapter to our country, and to keep things open whether it be schools or businesses."

Read the full story:

11:17 p.m. ET, August 3, 2020

WHO director-general urges everyone to "do it all" to control Covid-19

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

At a press briefing in Geneva on Monday, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke about Friday’s meeting of the Emergency Committee on Covid-19.

“It was a sobering moment coming six months on from when the committee advised, and I agreed, that the outbreak constituted a Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” Tedros said.

He detailed the rise in cases since this initial meeting, going from fewer than 100 cases and no deaths outside China on January 30, to more than 17.5 million cases and 680,000 deaths.

Tedros said that in addition to the direct toll of Covid-19, it is also having a social, economic and political impact.

“The committee put forward a number of recommendations for countries to continue to implement to bring the virus under control,” he said.

According to Tedros, these range from sharing best practices, to enhancing political commitment, and leadership for national strategies.

Tedros also highlighted that a number of vaccines are in promising stages of development.

“However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment -- and there might never be,” he said. “For now, stopping outbreaks comes down to the basics of public health and disease control.”

He gave examples which, among others, included testing, isolating and treating patients, informing communities, keeping physical distance and wearing a mask -- urging everyone to “do it all.”

“And when it’s under control, keep going,” Tedros said.

This week, WHO is also launching a mask challenge with partners from around the world, Tedros said, where they are encouraging people to post photos of themselves wearing masks.

“As well as being one of the key tools to stop the virus, the mask has come to represent solidarity,” he said.

Wearing a mask sends a powerful message, he said, that everyone is in this together. 

10:39 p.m. ET, August 3, 2020

Australia to deploy 500 more soldiers to Victoria state to enforce stay-at-home order

From CNN's Isaac Yee

Australia’s Defense Department will deploy 500 more troops to enforce stay-at-home orders in the state of Victoria, according to State Premier Daniel Andrews.

“I can confirm there will be more than 500 additional ADF (Australian Defense Force) personnel come to Melbourne in the coming days, they will be accompanied by more than 300 additional authorized officers from the health department, they will continue to go out in teams to door knock,” Andrews said on Tuesday morning.

Andrews also announced new penalties for people found to be in breach of directions from the chief health officer, including a newly increased $3,540 on-the-spot fine for people who breach isolation orders, the largest instant penalty in Victoria.

Andrews added that people who conduct in “particularly selfish behavior” may also be taken to court, where they can be fined up to $14,290. 

Andrews said the new fines were being imposed because of the 3,000 door knocks on infected people -- who are meant to be self isolating -- 800 patients were not home.

Victoria’s Minister for Police Lisa Neville also warned that Victorian Police will be out in force to find people who are in breach of coronavirus restrictions, saying officers “will not hesitate” to fine people or even detain them in certain cases.

Victoria recorded 439 new Covid-19 cases and 11 fatalities in the past 24 hours, Andrews said. That brings the total number of cases reported in the state to 12,335 and the total death toll to 147.

Read more about coronavirus restrictions in Victoria here:

11:01 p.m. ET, August 3, 2020

Mexico reports more than 4,700 new Covid-19 cases

From journalist Karol Suarez in Mexico City

A woman buys goods at a bakery's in Mexico City downtown, on August 3.
A woman buys goods at a bakery's in Mexico City downtown, on August 3. Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images

Mexico recorded 4,767 new coronavirus cases and 266 deaths on Monday, according to the country's Health Ministry.

This brings Mexico's total to 443,813 cases and 48,012 recorded fatalities.

On Monday, the Mexican Education Minister Esteban Moctezuma also announced that the 2020-21 school year will begin with remote learning across the country. 

10:21 p.m. ET, August 3, 2020

Colombia's coronavirus death toll tops 11,000

From CNN's Stefano Pozzebon in Bogota

Colombia reported 367 new coronavirus-related deaths over the past 24 hours, bringing its total death count to 11,017, according to the country's Ministry of Health on Monday.

This is Colombia's second-highest single day death count, after recording 380 deaths on July 29.

The country also recorded 10,199 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, bringing the overall case total to 327,850.

CNN is tracking the global spread of coronavirus here:

7:48 p.m. ET, August 3, 2020

MLB "Field of Dreams" Iowa game postponed to 2021 because of coronavirus

From CNN's Jill Martin

The Field of Dreams baseball field located near Dyersville, Iowa.
The Field of Dreams baseball field located near Dyersville, Iowa. Brett Welcher/Shutterstock

Major League Baseball’s “Field of Dreams” game, which was to be played August 13 in Dyersville, Iowa, has been postponed until 2021, according to a source familiar with the planning. 

The game was scheduled to take place at the site where the iconic 1989 baseball movie was filmed.

Originally, the teams scheduled to play in the game were the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees. However, when the 2020 season was condensed from 162 games to 60 games because of the coronavirus pandemic, the St. Louis Cardinals replaced the Yankees.

  

7:31 p.m. ET, August 3, 2020

Testing and contact tracing key for reopening schools, two new studies suggest 

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

As nations around the world grapple with how to safely reopen schools amid the coronavirus pandemic — or whether to reopen at all — two new studies highlight strategies that could be key in bringing children back to the classroom: scaled-up testing for cases, effective tracing of the contacts of those who test positive, and isolation of those who test positive or have symptoms. 

Researchers in Britain found that schools could reopen safely so long as enough contact tracing is in place. Contact tracing strategies involve enough testing to find cases, isolating those people, then tracking down and quarantining their contacts. And a team in Australia found that even though schools remained open in New South Wales between late January and early April, children and teachers did not contribute significantly to the spread of Covid-19 — because good contact tracing and control strategies were in place. 

Both studies, published in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health on Monday, aim to help inform global discussions around reopening schools.  

The researchers at University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine ran a variety of scenarios to see just how much contact tracing would need to be done for schools to reopen safely.

“Our modelling suggests that with a highly effective test and trace strategy in place across the UK, it is possible for schools to reopen safely in September. However, without sufficient coverage of a test-trace-isolate strategy, the UK risks a serious second epidemic peak either in December or February,” UCL’s Jasmina Panovska-Griffiths, who led the UK study, said in a news release.

Her team’s study suggests that, depending on the scenario, between 59% and 87% of symptomatic people in the community would need to get tested at some point during their infection, their contacts would need to be traced and those with illness would need to be isolated in order to prevent an epidemic rebound. 

“It’s important to note that our model looked at the effects of school reopening alongside the loosening of the restrictions across society, as school reopening is likely to go hand in hand with more adults returning to work and other relaxed measures across society,” Griffiths added. “Therefore, our results are reflective of a broader loosening of lockdown, rather than the effects of transmission within schools exclusively, suggesting an effective test–trace–isolate offers a feasible alternative to intermittent lockdown and school closures to control the spread of COVID-19.”

The Australian researchers found that although 27 children or staff at 25 schools and daycares had attended while infectious with Covid-19, only 18 other people later became infected.

Through contact tracing, 1,448 close contacts were identified and called. They were told to get tested if they showed any symptoms. Overall, 633 did get tested. But just 18 of them tested positive — an attack rate of 1.2%.  

It’s possible some cases were missed, the researchers said, but they said others can use their studies as they decide whether and how to reopen schools.

7:01 p.m. ET, August 3, 2020

Trump signs executive order aimed at expanding telehealth beyond the Covid-19 pandemic

From CNN's Jen Christensen

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday aimed at expanding access to telehealth and improving rural health care.

In March, the Trump administration temporarily expanded benefits to reimburse doctors for certain telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries.

The policy proposal is aimed at making some of these changes permanent, but several of these steps would require congressional approval.

“Telehealth can never fully replace the gold standard in current care, but what it certainly can do is complement in-person care by furnishing one more clinical tool,” said Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

While telehealth technology has been around for a while, the practice hadn’t really taken off until the pandemic, according to a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pre-pandemic, on average, only 13,000 Medicare beneficiaries had a telemedicine visit in a week; whereas during the pandemic, between March and July to 10.1 million have had one.

The need to reduce staff and patients’ exposure to Covid-19 increased interest, plus now doctors get reimbursed for certain types of telehealth appointments. Several professional medical associations have also endorsed the practice.

Verma said that telehealth “solves a variety of problems,” making medical care more convenient and accessible.

During the pandemic the temporary rule has allowed Medicare patients to have doctor’s visits and even emergency visits by phone. It added 135 services that are reimbursed, including nursing home visits and mental health services. It also expanded the kinds of providers who can offer telehealth to include physical and occupational therapists, and speech and language pathologists.

The proposed rule would make those 135 services available through telehealth permanently, including office visits and mental health services. It also proposes to make telehealth for home health services permanently available. CMS is proposing allowing lower level emergency department visits, psychological testing and nursing facility discharge visits through telemedicine through the end of the calendar year when the public health emergency ends.

Verma said her department is asking for public comment about what telehealth services should be added beyond the public health emergency.

The executive order also launches a rural health action plan to encourage new models for care in those communities and requires CMS to work with the Department of Agriculture to promote better rural access to telehealth via broadband.

Verma said Congress will need to make changes in the law to make this expansion of telehealth permanent. “The legislative branch then has an essential role to play in following through on this historic opportunity,” Verma said. “Without a change to the statute, telehealth will refer to a rural benefit that can only be utilized from a health care facility, rather than from one’s home.” 

At the briefing, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that Congress has been reluctant to make changes to telehealth reimbursement rules in the past because of fears it would cost too much and because of concern too many patients might be tempted to seek more doctor visits. Azar suggested this use of telemedicine during the pandemic should provide real-world evidence that those fears are unfounded.

“We simply can't go back. People have gotten used to it,” Azar said. “Healthcare has caught up with the rest of the economy and how people interact, finally, and it should reduce overall cost in the system and we should get better health outcomes from this type of enhanced access for our beneficiaries.”

 

7:09 p.m. ET, August 3, 2020

Here's what Trump said about his tweet criticizing Birx

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez 

President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference on Monday, August 3, in Washington.
President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference on Monday, August 3, in Washington. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump was asked on Monday afternoon about his tweet criticizing Dr. Deborah Birx, in which he claimed that the coronavirus task force coordinator “took the bait” and “hit us.”

Asked what he meant in his tweet, Trump said during Monday’s White House press briefing, “Well, I think that we’re doing very well and we have done as well as any nation.”

The President expressed his frustration at media coverage of the US handling of the pandemic, saying that he doesn’t see other countries’ plunders in handling the pandemic while reading or watching the news.

“But I think we’re doing very well. I told Dr. Birx I think we’re doing very well. She was in my office a little while ago. She’s a person I have a lot of respect for. I think Nancy Pelosi’s treated her very badly, very, very badly, very nasty. And I’m just referring to the fact that I thought that, really, they should say the job we’ve done … I think we’re just doing very well,” Trump continued.

Earlier Monday, Trump lodge a rare criticism of Birx, writing on Twitter, "So Crazy Nancy Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Deborah Birx, going after her because she was too positive on the very good job we are doing on combatting the China Virus, including Vaccines & Therapeutics. In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!"

Trump’s criticism followed Birx sounding the alarm during an appearance on CNN, saying the pandemic has reached a new phase and is “extraordinarily widespread” in rural and urban communities.