August 13 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Melissa Macaya, Ed Upright and Zamira Rahim, CNN

Updated 12:13 a.m. ET, August 14, 2020
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3:02 p.m. ET, August 13, 2020

Coronavirus task force member says testing capacity and testing needs are 2 different things

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Adm. Brett Giroir testifies during a House subcommittee meeting in July.
Adm. Brett Giroir testifies during a House subcommittee meeting in July. Kevin Dietsch/AFP/Getty Images

On a call with reporters Thursday, Adm. Brett Giroir, a member of the White House coronavirus task force and the Trump official overseeing coronavirus testing, said he was concerned about data misrepresenting where he believes the United States to be in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I want to start by trying to clarify exactly where we are today as a nation,” Giroir said on the call, organized by the US Department of Health and Human Services. “I’m very concerned about the statistical shell games that are being played with the data that are misrepresenting the actual situation on the ground in the country right now.”

Giroir asserted it is clear that the number of cases are decreasing and “that decrease is real.”

He said that the seven day average of new cases, compared with the previous seven days, is down 9%.

Giroir is confident, he said, because percent positivity is going down and hospitalizations are going down. Mortality, however, is lagging – and that is because it is a lagging indicator.

The second point Giroir made, which he said he had often seen misrepresented, is the number of tests that are needed.

“You beat the virus by smart policies supplemented by strategic testing. You do not beat the virus by shotgun testing everyone all the time," he said.

Strategic testing involves making sure everyone sick in the hospital gets tested rapidly, the vulnerable are protected, public health surveillance is supported when necessary, and that reopening is being supported with a number of different measures.

 

3:05 p.m. ET, August 13, 2020

A group of parents are suing the California governor over in-person learning restrictions

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

A group of parents are suing California Gov. Gavin Newsom over in-person school restrictions. Christine Ruiz has two sons with autism, and she said that without specialized learning, they are falling behind.

The lawsuit is alleging that students will not receive equal access to education.

Ruiz said her two sons with autism are “hands on learners” who work with a “highly educated special education teacher, professional behavioralists, speech therapists, occupational therapists and without that team to do that hands-on learning they’re just languishing at home.”

“There’s no type of education going on. My children cannot sit in front of a computer screen and do Zoom meetings all-day long,” Ruiz told CNN’s Brianna Keilar.

She worries about the regression she is seeing compounded with escalating behaviors and how that will impact the future outlook of her children.

Jesse Petrilla, another parent suing Gov. Newsom, added that the virtual learning restriction also creates a larger gap between the working class and affluent families.

“This creates such an inequality between the working class and affluent parents who can afford private schools, tutors or childcare,” Petrilla said. “We just believe the negative effects, far outweigh the risks."

According to California’s county-by-county school reopening restrictions, the Covid-19 infection rate cannot be over 100 in 100,000. Currently, in the counties Ruiz and Petrilla live in, the infection rate is well above that threshold, Keilar reported.

Ruiz lives in Los Angeles County, which has 88 incorporated cities. She argues that there “should not be a blanket statement for all schools. The city I live in has low Covid numbers.”

Petrilla, who lives in Orange County, said, “We need a micro approach to this. This should be a local decision. There are districts that have no cases. There are districts that have very few cases, that wouldn’t meet that threshold.”

Watch the full interview:

2:38 p.m. ET, August 13, 2020

Fauci says the number of coronavirus cases and deaths "don’t lie"

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, said if you look at the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the United States, “they don’t lie.”

“You can't run away from the numbers. You can't run away from the numbers of people who’ve died, the number of people getting hospitalized, the surges we’re seeing,” Fauci said during a National Geographic panel on Thursday. "How long we're going to have to be doing this depends totally on us. If we keep running away from the reality of the need to do it, it could linger on and linger on."

Fauci said he hears a lot about herd immunity, but “a lot of people are going to die if you do that.”

“We can be part of the solution, as opposed to passively saying, just let it happen. I don't find that to be acceptable," he said. "We can do things without necessarily stopping all the things that are important. We can open the economy. We can get jobs back at the same time as still practicing good public health measures."

2:20 p.m. ET, August 13, 2020

Covid Tracking Project says hospitalization data has been "erratic" since switch to HHS

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Since the Trump administration asked hospitals to report its data directly to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Covid Tracking Project (CTP) has found the data to be “erratic,” “spotty and difficult to interpret.”

The change went into effect on July 15. CTP “compared the HHS’s counts of currently hospitalized Covid-19 patients, published from July 20 to August 5, to the same metric compiled by The Covid Tracking Project from each state’s publicly available data.” 

“The data have continued to be erratic: In some states, the HHS reports far more hospitalized patients than the state does, and in others, the two sets of data rise and fall at different rates,” CTP said in a post on their website.

CTP collects data from all 50 states and US territories. CNN utilizes testing and hospitalizations data from the organization.

The organization found that in six states — Maine, Arkansas, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Delaware — “HHS data is, on average, at least 150 percent higher than the data from these states’ dashboards.” 

As a nation, from July 20-26, CTP found that “HHS reported an average of 24 percent more currently hospitalized patients nationwide than was reported by the states.”

HHS said it was taking over the hospitalization data because the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was posting the information too slowly. "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 said in July. 

CTP noted that the switch “has likely been difficult for many hospitals.” HHS requires more data points to be reported and sometimes states have to fill-out two reports with the same data – one for the state and one for HHS. 

Some background: Nearly three dozen public health advisers sent a July letter to the US government saying they are extremely concerned” and “troubled” about the change in how hospitals report Covid-19 data. The letter said hospitals were “scrambling” to keep up with the daily Covid-19 reporting requirements to HHS. 

But CTP said reporting directly to HHS could be a good thing, “we expect hospitals to report more reliable information to the HHS than to their state health departments, or to report to only the HHS and not their state health departments, because the HHS-reported data is used to inform allocation of remdesivir, PPE, and other supplies.”

CTP will continue to track both sets of hospitalization data and remains optimistic that the data set will become more reliable over time. “Hospitalization data used to be a reliable metric demonstrating the stress Covid-19 is causing state health systems. Now, these data are spotty and difficult to interpret. We encourage states to be transparent about when they are encountering issues with hospital reporting and why,” CTP said.

 

2:08 p.m. ET, August 13, 2020

Biden and Harris receive first joint health briefing from experts on Covid-19

From CNN’s Sarah Mucha

Joe Biden and his running mate, US Sen. Kamala Harris, are briefed by health experts on Thursday.
Joe Biden and his running mate, US Sen. Kamala Harris, are briefed by health experts on Thursday. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris received their first joint health briefing from experts on Covid-19 Thursday.

“This is what I get four times a week, a briefing on the state of the coronavirus and what we should and shouldn’t be doing,” Biden told reporters ahead of their meeting.

Harris added that she was “looking forward to it.” 

“These are some of the brightest minds, not only in our country but internationally. And as the vice president has been saying since the beginning of this pandemic, it should be the public health professionals that are leading policy in our country to address this lethal pandemic,” Harris said. 

Asked by a reporter how the first few days have gone with Harris on the ticket, Biden replied, “It’s been great.” 

“It’s been great. It’s been great, she and her husband and — Jill and her husband were friends before this and I think have become closer friends. We had a great, great day but we’re going to talk today,” Biden said. 

Watch:

1:49 p.m. ET, August 13, 2020

Illinois surpasses 200,000 Covid-19 positive cases 

From CNN’s Brad Parks and Kay Jones

Illinois has surpassed 200,000 total Covid-19 positive cases, with an additional 1,834 new cases being reported today by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The state now has a total of 200,427 cases with a 4% positivity rate being reported over the past seven days. 

There are 24 new deaths being reported today, bringing that total to 7,696.

Hospitalizations have increased the past few days, with 1,628 hospitalized with 383 in intensive care units due to the virus.

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

1:51 p.m. ET, August 13, 2020

US needs to make sure it never again is "this underprepared for an emergency," former CDC director says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testifies before a House subcommittee in May.
Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testifies before a House subcommittee in May. Alex Wong/Getty Images

There are weaknesses at every level of public health in the US, and there needs to be a reset in the approach to it, said Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and current CEO of Resolve to Save Lives.

“We definitely need a reset in our approach to public health in this country,” Frieden said during a Washington Post Live event on Thursday. “There’s no doubt that there are weaknesses at every level.”

Some of these weaknesses are the result of decades of underfunding, he said, and some due to difficulties at the intersection of public health and health care systems.

“But we need to move forward,” Frieden said. “We need to make sure that we never again are this underprepared for an emergency.”

Even in years that don’t have emergencies, there are still a number of health care problems that need to be addressed, such as outbreaks and preventable illnesses.

“There’s so much that we can do, if we rely on, invest in and improve public health,” he said.

This is why Frieden said he believes there needs to be a fundamental change to the funding of public health programs.

1:36 p.m. ET, August 13, 2020

"Bottom line is, I'm not pleased with how things are going," Fauci says

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a National Geographic panel on Thursday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a National Geographic panel on Thursday. National Geographic

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, said Thursday that he was not pleased with the state of the pandemic in the US.

“Bottom line is, I'm not pleased with how things are going," he said during a National Geographic panel.

Fauci said states such as California, Florida, Texas and Arizona have turned their situations around and they are “having now, less deaths, less hospitalizations, less cases.”

But he warned it’s not all good news across the country.

“When you look at other parts of the country – this is the thing that's disturbing to me – is that we're starting to see the inkling of the upticks in the percent of the tests that are positive,” he said.

“We know now, from sad past experience, that that's a predictor that you're going to have more surges,” he said.

1:09 p.m. ET, August 13, 2020

The pandemic has had a "broad impact" on mental health issues, according to CDC survey

From CNN’s Andrea Kane

A new survey by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that almost 41% of respondents are struggling with mental health issues stemming from the coronavirus pandemic – both related to the pandemic itself and the measures put in place to contain it, including physical distancing and stay-at-home orders.

“Markedly elevated prevalences of reported adverse mental and behavioral health conditions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic highlight the broad impact of the pandemic and the need to prevent and treat these conditions,” the study authors wrote.

The findings were reported Thursday in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the CDC.

In an online survey of more than 5,400 adults living in the US conducted during the last week of June, 40.9% of respondents reported at least one mental or behavioral health condition:

  • 31% said they’d experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression
  • 26% said they’d experienced trauma or stressor-related disorder symptoms
  • 13% said they’d started or increased substance use
  • 11% said they’d seriously considered suicide in the last 30 days

But the mental health issues were not shouldered equally by everyone.

For example, at least one adverse mental or behavioral health symptom was reported by 75% of 18-to-24 year olds, 52% of 25-to-44 year olds, 52% of Hispanics, as well as 54% of essential workers, 67% of unpaid caregivers for adults, and 66% of those with less than a high school diploma. The percentage among those with existing mental health conditions was even higher.

And the percentage of those who reported having seriously considered suicide in the 30 days before completing the survey was significantly higher among respondents age 18-24 (25.5%), Hispanics (18.6%) and Blacks (15.1%), self-reported unpaid caregivers for adults (30.7%), and essential workers (21.7%).

In all, while symptoms of mental or behavioral health conditions varied significantly among subgroups, unpaid caregivers for adults fared the worst.

“Unpaid caregivers for adults, many of whom are currently providing critical aid to persons at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, had a higher incidence of adverse mental and behavioral health conditions compared with others,” the study authors wrote.

These findings align with previous studies, which found symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders increased considerably in the US between April and June of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.

The study authors concluded: “Periodic assessment of mental health, substance use, and suicidal ideation should evaluate the prevalence of psychological distress over time. Addressing mental health disparities and preparing support systems to mitigate mental health consequences as the pandemic evolves will continue to be needed urgently.”