August 7 coronavirus news

US President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in Bedminster, New Jersey, on August 7, 2020. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Trump threatens executive action if no stimulus is passed
03:16 - Source: CNN
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Covid-19 cases are stabilizing in Australian state of Victoria thanks to strict lockdowns

A lone passenger walks along a platform at Southern Cross Station in Melbourne, Australia on August 7.

The number of new Covid-19 patients identified each day in the Australian state of Victoria has begun to stabilize thanks to strict lockdown measures, the government said Saturday.

A total of 446 new cases and 12 deaths were recorded Friday, according to Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews. Sutton said that the government’s models showed the lockdown measures prevented about 20,000 cases.

In May, Australia was held up as a global model for its handling of the outbreak, which started with early measures to bar entry from high-risk countries. Stricter curbs on social gatherings, expanded testing, restaurant and bar closures followed as cases rose, with some states sealing their borders.

But Covid-19 cases in Victoria rose suddenly in recent weeks, with many new infections in aged care homes and among healthcare workers. Authorities responded by instituting some of the most stringent movement restrictions in Australia’s history.

Sutton said the government will not see the results of an even stricter lockdown for another week.

Public schools in Hawaii's Oahu will move to distance learning for first 4 weeks of academic year

Public schools on the Hawaiian island of Oahu are going to employ distancing learning for the first four weeks of this academic year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Hawaii Department of Education said in a statement.

Schools will begin preparing to transition to distance learning next week and then implement “full distance learning models” on August 17.

Authorities in Hawaii have identified 3,115 cases since the pandemic began. Of those, 2,741 are in Honolulu County on Oahu.

Vermont plans to allow for all school sports to move forward in some capacity

Middlebury's #8 Owen Palcsik and Stowe's #10 Jackson Seivwright battle for the ball during the Div. 2 Vermont boys soccer championship at South Burlington High School in Vermont on November 2, 2019.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott today said his administration is working with the Vermont Principals Association, the Superintendent’s Association of School Athletic Directors and Coaches, “with a goal that will allow for all sports to move forward in some fashion.”

“Like so many things during this crisis, fall sports won’t be exactly what we’re accustomed to,” Scott said.

Scott said his plan includes cross country running, soccer, field hockey, football, cheerleading, volleyball, bass fishing, and golf, and practice will start at the same time classes start, which is now Sept. 8.

This guidance will also cover Vermont’s recreational sports leagues, the governor said. 

“Kids, coaches, and parents should prepare themselves. Things will look much different, especially when it comes to high contact sports. Now again, this won’t be a normal season, but our goal is to offer a path forward for each of these sports, to give our kids some sense of normalcy and normal times,” the governor added.

Trump details potential executive actions if Congress doesn't reach agreement on relief package

President Donald Trump speaks at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in Bedminster, New Jersey, on August 7.

President Trump on Friday laid out the executive actions he would pursue “if Democrats continue to hold” a relief package “hostage.”

The actions would include a payroll tax deferment, extending unemployment benefits, extending an eviction moratorium and deferring student loan payments and forgiving their interest.

“My administration continues to work in good faith to reach an agreement with Democrats in Congress that will extend unemployment benefits, provide protections for evictions … and get relief to American families,” Trump said during a news conference. “Yet tragically, (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi and (Senate Minority Leader) Chuck Schumer continue to insist on radical left-wing policies that have nothing to do with the China virus.”

“If Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage I will act under my authority as President to get Americans the relief they need,” he continued.

Some context: Negotiations over the next stimulus package stalled on Capitol Hill today as Democrats and Trump administration officials walked away after talks broke down and devolved into partisan finger-pointing. 

All Princeton undergraduates will be fully remote for fall 2020 semester

Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey

Princeton University has decided to have all undergraduate students fully remote for the fall 2020 semester, according to an update sent by Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber on Friday.

According to Eisgruber’s letter, the decision was made due to the pandemic’s impact on New Jersey which “has led us to conclude that we cannot provide a genuinely meaningful on-campus experience for our undergraduate students this fall in a manner that is respectful of public health concerns and consistent with state regulations and guidance.”

Some context: Princeton had announced July 6 that it planned to welcome back first-years and juniors for the fall semester, and sophomores and seniors for the spring semester, however, that plan was always subject to change according to the public health situation.

“The health risks to the campus and surrounding populations appear greater now than they did just a month ago,” Eisgruber said in the letter. “Reopening efforts in New Jersey and elsewhere have demonstrated how difficult it is to contain the disease. Where schools and universities have started to bring back students, Covid cases have rapidly followed.”

According to the announcement, Princeton hopes to bring students back to campus in the spring, and said seniors in the class of 2021 will be its top priority.

Americans are moving around too much, coronavirus forecaster says

People in many parts of the US are moving around as much as they did before the pandemic started, a top disease forecaster said Friday.

That’s not good, said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which issues regular forecasts about the coronavirus pandemic.

More movement predicts more spread of the virus.

“If you look at the mobility data collected from cell phones in many parts of the country, we’re almost back to pre-Covid levels of mobility, so we’re just not being as cautious as other people are in other countries,” Murray told CNN on Friday.

Murray said that when cases start to come down, people tend to start interacting more, resulting in the up and down phenomenon many states have experienced with Covid-19 cases. 

“When things get bad in your own community, that’s when people start sort of being really worried,” Murray said. “That level of caution creeps in. That puts the brakes on transmission.”

There are other things people can do to slow the pandemic besides staying put, Murray said.

“Our view about this is that there should be a universal mask mandate in the US, that should come with some penalty if you’re caught without a mask, because we know penalties actually increase mask-wearing even more than just a mandate,” Murray said. 

The latest prediction: The IHME released a model Thursday projecting nearly 300,000 deaths in the US from coronavirus by Dec. 1. 

The model calculated that if 95% of the people in the US wore masks, that number could decrease to 228,271 deaths, saving more than 66,000 lives.

California releases guidance for reopening colleges and universities

California colleges and universities reopening this fall will need to follow guidelines issued on Friday by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), which includes the use of face coverings, social distancing and intensified cleaning protocols.

While indoor lectures are currently prohibited in counties on the state’s monitoring list, courses offered in specialized indoor settings like labs and studio arts will be permitted as long as substantial physical distancing measures are in place based on the nature of work performed in the space, the guidance says. 

Here’s what else the state said:

  • CDPH recommends closing nonessential shared spaces and prioritizing single room occupancy for housing, as well as limiting nonessential visitors and campus activities.
  • Grab-and-go options must be provided for meals and dining halls will need to serve individually plated meals instead of any self-serve or buffet-type stations, according to the guidance.

The newly released guidance also provides information on college sports.

“Teams must require masks for coaches, staff, media and any players not engaged in play at each match,” the guidance stated. Practice may only resume if athletes and staff get regular periodic Covid-19 testing. 

The state said competitions for high contact sports may be held without spectators only if the college can provide Covid-19 testing and results within 72 hours of a game.

“As colleges and other institutions of higher education plan to resume in-person instruction, it’s critical that campuses make modifications to reduce risk,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said in a news release. “This guidance aims to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among our students, families, and the communities where they study.”  

Some context: Many campuses in the state, including the University of Southern California and schools within the University of California system, have announced they will start the school year with mostly online classes.

Some coronavirus cases in California have been underreported due to glitch in registry system

A nurse seals a specimen bag containing a Covid-19 test swab at a mobile clinic on July 15 in Los Angeles, California.

A glitch in California’s disease registry system (CalREDIE) has created a backlog of 250,000 to 300,000 records causing an underreporting of some coronavirus cases, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a briefing on Friday.

While the majority of these records may be coronavirus results, Ghaly explained that it includes duplicate records, both positive and negative test results, and records for any other reportable diseases.

A server outage on July 25 created a delay in lab records going into the state’s lab reporting system, Ghaly said. While temporary technical changes were implemented to allow the records to flow into the system more quickly, these changes were not disabled later which caused a further delay in reporting lab data and creating an extensive backlog, he explained. 

The state also learned that they were not receiving data from one of its largest commercial lab for five days between July 31 through Aug. 4, “due to a certificate that the state neglected to renew timely,” Ghaly said.

According to Ghaly, Gov. Gavin Newsom has directed a full investigation into the issue.

“Throughout the pandemic, the CalREDIE data reporting system has been challenged by the volume of Covid-19 data,” Ghaly said. “Simply put, the CalREDIE system was not built for this volume of data.”

Ghaly expects to see a normalization of data in 24 to 48 hours. After working through the backlog, the state will have a better understanding of the statewide epidemiological curve and the future state of hospitalizations.

The glitch in the system did not impact any data on hospitalizations or deaths, according to Ghaly who believes the trend line has been “stabilizing and coming down.”

Italy extends coronavirus safety measures through September

The Italian government will extend its coronavirus safety measures until Sept. 7, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Friday during a news conference.

The council of ministers approved a decree related to the health emergency, which will be in force from Aug. 10 through Sept. 7.

“The new decree will find the extension until 7 September of the minimum precautionary measures that are currently in force,” Conte said. “We are in a situation of substantial stability with regards to the epidemiological curve, with slight signs of a resurgence of the number of infections.”

“The rate of infections in Italy is among the lowest in the European Union,” Conte added, recalling how bad the virus hit the country. 

Among the measures that will be extended, the obligation of wearing face masks in closed places accessible to the public, the one-meter distance rule on social distancing and the ban on gatherings.

6 football players at the University of Maryland opt out of season, coach says

University of Maryland head football coach Mike Locksley announced that six players would be opting out of the 2020 season due to the pandemic.

The players are defensive lineman Jalen Alexander, offensive guard Austin Fontaine, offensive lineman Johnny Jordan, quarterback Josh Jackson, defensive back Vincent Flythe and linebacker TJ Kautai.

Jackson, Jordan and Fontaine were starters last season.

“Obviously with the pandemic and the ability for players to opt out due to their concerns, we’re really as an institution and as a football program are very supportive of players whether they opt out or opt in,” Locksley told reporters today. “As we stated earlier with this ability put in place for these guys that we’re in complete support of each and every one of their decisions for their own individual reasons. We’ll continue to support those guys as best we can.”

Sharp increase in Covid-19 data in Virginia is due to backlog from previous 2 days, state says

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced that the Covid-19 data numbers posted today contain “a significant increase due to a data backlog from earlier in the week.”

The state reported 2,015 new cases Covid-19, but according to VDH, that number includes information that should have been reported on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, as well as the regular numbers for Friday.

“Late Thursday, VDH’s Office of Information Management, which helps manage VDH’s Covid-19 databases, identified and rectified the technical issue, which was a system performance configuration,” a statement from VDH said.

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

Chief adviser for Operation Warp Speed says US is focused on inclusion and diversity in vaccine trials

The chief adviser for Operation Warp Speed, Moncef Slaoui, attends a news conference at the White House on May 15 in Washington, D.C.

The chief adviser for Operation Warp Speed, Moncef Slaoui, said Friday that coronavirus vaccine trials will be representative of those most impacted by the virus.

“We are paying extreme attention to the inclusion in our clinical trials of the diversity of populations that are making up the US population, not only just from a demographic standpoint but also the diversity of population, as is reflected in the morbidity of the disease associated with Covid-19,” Slaoui said during a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine workshop.

Slaoui also addressed plans to distribute a vaccine, once it is approved. 

“We are extremely cognizant of the importance of making sure that the vaccines, if and when they become available, are appropriately allocated in the population, on the basis of data…and on the basis of need,” he said.

More details: Slaoui said his team’s role in the operation is to deliver up to 300 million doses in the US, beginning January 2021 or earlier.

They hope to have completed that process by mid-2021. He added that they have an agreement with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review all data “quickly, but totally independently.”

He said the aim is to receive full FDA approval of a vaccine, adding that it will be the FDA’s decision to grant emergency use authorization (EUA) of a vaccine, which would greenlight the vaccine for use before it receives full approval. The FDA has said that any vaccine that receives an EUA must meet efficacy requirements first.

US ranks near the bottom in assessment of global pandemic response

The US response to Covid-19 ranks near the bottom of the list of countries assessed by Foreign Policy Magazine.

The magazine’s Covid-19 Global Response Index puts the US among the six worst-performing countries in the world, alongside Turkey, Iran, Mexico and Indonesia.

China ranked last, in part, for its failure to report reliable test data, its minimal financial response, and its failure to communicate clearly and honestly with the public. 

But, the US got the lowest score for “fact-based communication.”

Foreign Policy described the US government as “relatively weak” in this category, as “it has engaged in misinformation as much as any country in the Index.” 

Best on the list is New Zealand with a perfect score. Senegal came in second.

How the scoring works: The index assesses 36 countries for pandemic performance based on its public health and financial response, along with how well the country’s leaders communicate using facts and science. The US came in at 31.

Countries that scored higher in the index generally have a lower death and case rate and a lower number of positive test results. Countries that reacted quickly and had a targeted response tended to have better outcomes, the index showed.

The magazine singles out President Trump specifically for “amplifying misinformation and conspiracy theories about the virus.”

It highlights his remarks during the July 4 celebration in which he claimed 99% of the cases are “harmless.”  

The US also got low marks for its lack of testing and for how little it has spent on emergency healthcare, compared to other countries.

The US’s financial response to the pandemic was just above the median. That score may not tell the whole story though, according to one of the authors of the index, Fouad Pervez. Just because the US has an unemployment system, doesn’t mean families can access that money, Pervez said. 

“Versus in a European country where they have the same policy, but the mechanism, it works, and people don’t lose their jobs or benefits, they just get less salary, but they get enough salary that they can put food on the table,” Pervez said. Pervez is the senior quantitative and policy analyst on the project.

Ohio State athletes write letter in support of safety protocols put out by the school

Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio

A group of athletes at Ohio State University issue a letter to fans voicing their support of the health and safety protocols set by the institution ahead of their upcoming season. 

The letter, released on social media on Friday, was in response to the #BigTenUnited statement which called for more safety assurances from the conference.

The OSU athletes’ letter showed support for their fellow conference athletes and their university, including Athletics Director Gene Smith. 

“We appreciate that the #BigTenUnited letter was intended to protect and voice concerns of the Big Ten student-athletes,” said Ohio State athletes in the statement. “However, we do not think it represents the efforts and actions of Ohio State adequately.”

Big Ten student-athletes released a unity letter earlier this week calling for more details to be given surrounding safety precautions for the fall sports season. 

“We feel comfortable and trust that the decisions by Gene Smith (Athletic Director), Dr. Borchers (Head Physician), our coaches, and health and safety professionals are made in our best interest,” added the OSU athletes. 

Football captains Tuf Borland and Wyatt Davis among others posted the letter to their social media expressing their views on the matter at hand. 

“We respect that these thoughts about safety and protocols may not be shared by all student-athletes across the country, but as Ohio State Buckeyes, we stand with the decisions of our athletic department and conference,” the statement said.

Read the letter:

MLB announces 13 positive Covid-19 tests in the past week

Major League Baseball announced that 13 people have tested positive for Covid-19 after one week of league testing. Seven of the positive results came from players, and six came from team staffers.

Here’s how that breaks down:

  • The MLB said it tested 13,043 people in the past week as part of their monitoring process. At least 13 of these 13,043 people tested positive – which is about 0.1%.
  • The MLB said it has performed 53,826 total monitoring tests. Of those, 71 came back positive, which is also about 0.1%.
  • So far, 19 different teams have had someone test positive.