August 17 coronavirus news

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4:28 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

The US has had the worst response to Covid-19 of any major country, expert says

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the briefing room of the White House on August 14, 2020 in Washington, DC.
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the briefing room of the White House on August 14, 2020 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The US has had the worst response to Covid-19 of any major country, Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Institute of Health, said Monday.

“I think it’s pretty fair to say we may have the worst response of any major country,” Jha said during a Center for American Progress webinar. While he said that it could be argued that Brazil’s response has been as bad or worse, competing with Brazil for that title is “not where you want to be.” 

“We didn’t get here overnight. This has really been one mishap after another,” Jha said. “The single factor that really differentiates us from everybody else is denialism that has pervaded our entire approach.” 

Jha said that the US has gone from believing that coronavirus was a hoax, to believing it was the flu, to now thinking the pandemic is nearly over because a vaccine is two months away. 

“One message,” he said. “The vaccine is not two months away and we are nowhere near done with this pandemic.” 

In January, the federal government and others denied the existence and importance of the virus, Jha said. In February, the country “largely flew blind,” with no testing capacity and no idea about the spread across the country. March brought awareness of how bad the situation was, but a response that was far too slow, costing lives. 

In April and May, when the country was supposedly shut down, he said, large parts of the country still allowed much activity and the White House was sending mixed messages about what needed to be done. June brought reopening “way too soon, in way too many places, and way too aggressively,” he said. 

“I think really by the end of July, the data were so overwhelmingly clear that we had messed up as a nation, once again, that there really have been some changes,” he said. 

Looking at the country today, while what Jha called the “super hot zones,” like Texas, Florida and Arizona, are starting to cool down. But too many cases are still being generated, he said.

Jha sees more challenges and “muddling along” in the coming weeks and months, with the pandemic being fought on a state-by-state basis. “What I’m worried about is that there will continue to be no real national strategy,” he said. “When things are bad in Florida, you can’t really protect New York or New Jersey or Washington state. We are all in this together.”  

4:00 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Birx says she wishes America's shutdown looked like Italy's

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx speaks to reporters in the rotunda of the State Capitol in Lincoln, Neb., Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, after meeting with Gov. Pete Ricketts and community and state health officials.
White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx speaks to reporters in the rotunda of the State Capitol in Lincoln, Neb., Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, after meeting with Gov. Pete Ricketts and community and state health officials. Nati Harnik/AP

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said Monday that she wished the US shutdown had looked like Italy's, which was under a total lockdown.

“I wish that when we went into lockdown, we looked like Italy. When Italy locked down, I mean, people weren't allowed out of their houses,” she said. “Americans don't react well to that kind of prohibition.”

In a roundtable discussion hosted by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Birx said she has learned what Americans are willing to do to combat the virus, and that we must meet people where they are.

She explained how the strategy worked for Arizona, where people were still able to go to malls and restaurants at reduced capacity, but gyms and bars were closed, mask mandates were implemented and gatherings of more than 10 people were prohibited. 

“People were interacting, people were out, but people, by just not doing those careful things, were able to drop the cases significantly, probably by more than 80%,” said Birx. 

She said that kind of behavioral change is something every American can do.

“Tens of thousands of lives can be saved if we wear masks, and we don't have parties in our backyards … taking those masks off.” 

“Somehow we always believe our family’s safe and our friends are safe. You cannot tell who's infected with the virus,” Birx added. “You need to keep your mask on.”

3:35 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Georgia reports more than 1,800 new Covid-19 cases and 25 deaths

From CNN’s Dianne Gallagher and Pamela Kirkland

People get tested for COVID-19 at a free walk-up testing site on July 11 in Atlanta.
People get tested for COVID-19 at a free walk-up testing site on July 11 in Atlanta. Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported 1,843 new cases of Covid-19 on Monday. The statewide case total is now 238,861.

Georgia DPH reported 25 new deaths. The total number of deaths attributed to Covid-19 in the state is now 4,727. 

There were also 46 new Covid-19 related hospitalizations recorded.

One thing to note: These numbers were released by the Georgia 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.

3:38 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Fauci: "We've got our work cut out for us" when it comes to vaccine hesitancy 

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

A lab technician sorts blood samples inside a lab for a COVID-19 vaccine study at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida, on August 13.
A lab technician sorts blood samples inside a lab for a COVID-19 vaccine study at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida, on August 13. Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

Vaccine skeptics and vaccine hesitancy can hurt efforts to protect Americans if and when a coronavirus vaccine comes out, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday. But he said the experience with getting people to trust in treatments and preventions for HIV/AIDS provide a roadmap for gaining trust.

“We have our work cut out for us,” Fauci said, speaking during an American Society for Microbiology briefing.

“Society is not just jumping around waiting to get a vaccine. It’s not,” Fauci added. “We have got to change that.” 

Fauci said clinical trial networks that get into the community, get the word out and generate enthusiasm will play a big role in improving the trust of Americans in an eventual coronavirus vaccine.

“Those same clinical trial groups that we built for HIV are now being used for the vaccine trials,” he said. 

Fauci said once the right distribution of people have been enrolled in trials, and the trials have shown a vaccine is safe and effective, the next step is to win confidence. That’s the time to “reach out the community, to be transparent and explain to them the individual and societal benefits,” he said.

3:08 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

People in their 70s are testing coronavirus vaccine, Fauci says

From CNN's Amanda Watts

People in their 70s are being enrolled as volunteers in coronavirus vaccine trials because “there is no age limit” for these tests, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday.

Early stage safety trials only accepted volunteers who were 18 to 65, but more advanced trials need a broader study group, said Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Now that some studies have moved into later phases, “we are already enrolling people who are in their 70s,” Fauci said during a briefing with the American Society for Microbiology.

3:27 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

NHL reports third consecutive week of no Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Kevin Dotson

Calgary Flames' Dillon Dube is chased by Dallas Stars' Mattias Janmark during second-period NHL Western Conference Stanley Cup hockey playoff action in Edmonton, Alberta, on August 16.
Calgary Flames' Dillon Dube is chased by Dallas Stars' Mattias Janmark during second-period NHL Western Conference Stanley Cup hockey playoff action in Edmonton, Alberta, on August 16. Jason Franson/The Canadian Press/AP

The National Hockey League announced that it has received no new positive Covid-19 test results during the past week inside the league’s two hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton. 

Every member of each team’s traveling party was tested on a daily basis between Aug. 9 and Aug. 15. 

Since entering its two hub city “bubbles,” the league has not returned a positive test from any of the teams participating in the NHL’s return to play. 

The NHL season returned to play with 24 teams participating and has now progressed to the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 16 teams still competing.

 

3:10 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Fauci says Covid-19's long-term effects, especially in young people, are "really troublesome"  

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies before a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on July 31 in Washington, DC.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies before a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on July 31 in Washington, DC. Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images

The top infectious disease doctor in the US, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Monday, “We’d better be careful when we say ‘Young people who don’t wind up in the hospital are fine, let them get infected, it’s OK.’ No, it’s not OK."

“In individuals who are young and otherwise healthy, who don't require hospitalization but do get sick and symptomatic enough to be in bed for a week or two or three and then get better, they clear the virus – they have residual symptoms for weeks and sometimes months,” he said during a American Society for Microbiology briefing.  

Fauci said subsequent check-ups show that many “have a substantially high proportion of cardiovascular abnormalities, evidence of myocarditis by MRI and PET scans, evidence of emerging cardiomyopathies.” 

He said this is “really troublesome” because it is evolving on a day by day basis.   

“These are people that supposedly recovered from Covid-19,” Fauci said.  

“I'll guarantee you if we have this conversation again, six months to a year from now, we’ll be reviewing the literature about talking about the long-term deleterious effects of non-hospitalized patients,” Fauci said.

3:00 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Nigeria will reopen airports for international flights

From CNN's Stephanie Busari in Lagos

Passengers walk in the terminal building at the airport in Abuja, Nigeria, on July 8.
Passengers walk in the terminal building at the airport in Abuja, Nigeria, on July 8. Olatunji Obasa/Xinhua/Getty Images

Nigeria will reopen airports for international flights starting Aug. 29, Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika said in a Monday tweet. 

"Glad to announce the resumption of international flights from the 29th of August, 2020. Beginning with Lagos and Abuja as we did with the domestic flight resumption. Protocols and procedures will be announced in due course. We thank you for your patience," Sirika tweeted.

Airports have been closed since March 23, following the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority's announcement of a ban on all international flights in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus, with the exception of essential or emergency flights.

Nigeria, which is the most populous nation in Africa, has reported 49,068 confirmed coronavirus cases and 975 deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. 

2:10 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Former FDA commissioner calls US Covid-19 response "disappointing"

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Dr. Margaret Hamburg speaks onstage during NY Times Cities For Tomorrow Conference on July 21, 2015 in New York City. 
Former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Dr. Margaret Hamburg speaks onstage during NY Times Cities For Tomorrow Conference on July 21, 2015 in New York City.  Larry Busacca/Getty Images for New York Times

A former US Food and Drug Administration commissioner has called the US response to Covid-19 “disappointing” and said there was no good excuse for it because people have been practicing for this very scenario.

“There have been efforts now over a number of decades, truly, to better prepare our nation against a range of biological threats, to invest in certain critical resources, but also to practice against simulations of threats,” former FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said Monday during a American Society for Microbiology briefing.

“By every sort of assessment that had been done about preparedness, we had expected that, while hardly perfect, we would have been better prepared than we were,” she said.

“I think where dropped the ball was, you know, first the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] test turned out not to work well there were issues around that test,” Hamburg added. Though “surprising” the CDC had those issue, they were “undeniable,” she said.

There are a number of lessons to be learned — including “fundamental — about taking the threat seriously.”

And also the importance of strong leadership, along with “rapid and comprehensive response,” while using and engaging the tools of science and technology, she said.