August 17 coronavirus news

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12:11 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Defense Department contract awarded to scale up Covid-19 convalescent plasma treatment

From CNN's Jen Christensen

Plasma Technologies, LLC has signed a defense contract worth $750,000 to develop scaled-up Covid-19 convalescent plasma technologies, according to an announcement on the Department of Defense website Monday.

The contract with the DoD’s Joint Acquisition Task Force is to develop a new convalescent blood plasma process that makes more serum-derived products, and faster.

Convalescent plasma – antibody-filled blood plasma from patients who recovered from the disease – is a medical treatment that has been around since the Victorian era. Studies show the treatment has worked to fight severe flu, MERS, and SARS, and now doctors are testing to see if it works in Covid-19 patients.

So far, more than 66,000 Covid-19 patients have been treated with this approach through the US Food and Drug Administration’s expanded access program, according to the UScovidplamsa.org, a program run by Mayo Clinic. But, like blood, convalescent plasma is in limited supply and must come from donors.

Plasma Technologies, a South Carolina-based company, developed a novel plasma separation process that can produce larger quantities of the immunoglobulin and other plasma proteins. The contract will help the company try this technique on a larger scale and establish proof of concept, according to the Defense Department.

“Combating novel viruses requires novel solutions,” Douglas Bryce, joint program executive officer for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense, was quoted as saying on the Department of Defense website. “We are eager to determine if convalescent plasma and this innovative separation process will be valuable tools that can be used to enhance the nation’s COVID-19 response, through this cooperative agreement.”

There are at least 12 convalescent plasma treatments under investigation according to BIO, the association that represents major biotech companies.

 

11:54 a.m. ET, August 17, 2020

New York's infection rate is the lowest since start of the pandemic, governor says

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

People line-up to take a Covid-19 test in the Sunset Park neighborhood on August 13 in New York City.
People line-up to take a Covid-19 test in the Sunset Park neighborhood on August 13 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York’s .7% infection rate is the lowest since the pandemic began, and one of the lowest infection rates in the country, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

The state is averaging 1% or under since June, which the governor said is “exactly where we want to be."

Six more people have died from coronavirus, Cuomo said Monday.

Hospitalizations are up slightly but basically flat, he said. Intubation and intensive care admissions are also flat.

12:03 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

New York governor says gyms can reopen with certain restrictions

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press briefing in New York City on August 17.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press briefing in New York City on August 17. Pool/NY1

Gyms can open as soon as August 24 with 33% capacity and mask mandates, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

Guidance on gym reopening will be issued Monday, he said, adding that it will also outline other health requirements that have to be maintained with regards to ventilation.

Local governments must inspect gyms before they reopen or within two weeks of their opening to make sure facilities are meeting all requirements. Gyms must open by September 2, he said.

“That variation is to give localities time if the localities need it,” he said, adding “if the localities can get the inspections done or be ready to inspect, then they can open up August 24th, if a locality cant get ready to do inspections, then they get another week they can do it September 2nd.”

Local government can determine whether gyms can hold indoor classes.

12:00 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Czechs make face masks mandatory again indoors

From Tomas Etzler in Prague and Sharon Braithwaite in London 

Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtěch announced Monday that face masks will be mandatory again starting Sept. 1 in most indoor places, including all public transport, shops, office buildings, post offices, indoor events, and in common areas of schools such as hallways. 

Face masks will not be mandatory in restaurants, offices or school classrooms.

These are the current coronavirus numbers, according of the Ministry of Health:

  • There are at least 5,816 active cases of Covid-19.
  • There are at least 104 people who are currently hospitalized
  • At least 397 people have died from coronavirus.
  • At least 13,799 people have recovered from Covid-19 infections.

11:31 a.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Here is how New York City is preparing to reopen schools

From CNN's Melanie Schuman

A public school stands on the Upper East Side on August 7 in the Manhattan borough of New York City.
A public school stands on the Upper East Side on August 7 in the Manhattan borough of New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday a new Department of Education hotline for principals to call in an effort to expedite the delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies.

He said that when schools reopen, the schools chancellor will do unannounced, spot inspections in addition to the monitoring and unannounced safety checks by other staff.

During the city’s daily news conference Monday, the mayor showed a video detailing what the city has done to prepare for school.

Here are some the things the mayor said the city is doing:

  • On supplies: PPE will be provided including four million face masks, 3.5 million bottles of hand sanitizer and 80,000 canisters of wipes.
  • On cleaning efforts: 7,350 maintenance staff will be on hand to clean, and 210,000 signs will be posted to encourage good practices. The city will use electrostatic disinfectant for surfaces. Rooms without adequate ventilation will not be used.

The city now has better numbers for how many students have chosen remote learning mode as well as the number of teachers who have requested medical accommodations according to Richard Carranza, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, who did not provide the actual numbers. Those teachers will instruct via remote learning and the city is working with unions on the plan. Carranza also said that wherever possible students who are doing remote learning will have instruction from a teacher or teachers within their school.

There will be daily time built in to the schedule for collaboration and coordination for teachers to help ensure those in remote learning and those in schools receive comparable instruction.

Plans for special education are still in development including team teaching.

11:17 a.m. ET, August 17, 2020

New York City mayor says the city has done aggressive outreach in neighborhood that saw a Covid-19 outbreak

People wait to receive a COVID-19 test at a temporary testing site at Sunset Park in Brooklyn, New York, on August 13.
People wait to receive a COVID-19 test at a temporary testing site at Sunset Park in Brooklyn, New York, on August 13. Wang Ying/Xinhua/Getty

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said today during his daily press briefing the city has done aggressive outreach in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, which saw an outbreak of more than 200 Covid-19 cases last week.

The mayor said there has been a large outreach including door knocks, robocalls, actual phone calls and testing — 5,200 tests since July 29. He did not provide updated case numbers.

Individual households with specific problems are working with the city’s test and trace team to separate within the households and prevent further spread within the community. The mayor said these particular households have 90% compliance.

However, de Blasio added, several hundred gathered in illegal spaces in the same neighborhood recently including two illegal raves which were broken up by the sheriff, according to the mayor who said people will be held accountable.

Here are some of the latest coronavirus numbers from NYC:

  • 57 people were admitted to hospitals for suspected cases of coronavirus, which is under the threshold of 200.
  • 264 people are in the public hospitals intensive care units, which is under the threshold of 375.
  • One percent have tested positive, which is well under the threshold at 15%.

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

12:00 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

New study finds racial disparity in Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

A patient is taken from an ambulance to the emergency room of a hospital in the Navajo Nation town of Tuba City in Arizona on May 24.
A patient is taken from an ambulance to the emergency room of a hospital in the Navajo Nation town of Tuba City in Arizona on May 24. Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Black, Latino, American Indian and Alaskan Native people were disproportionately hospitalized for Covid-19, according to a new analysis published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. 

“This analysis identified considerable disparities in the prevalence of Covid-19 across racial/ethnic subgroups of the population in 12 states,” said the researchers from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.  

In a nearly two-month period from late April to late June, there were 48,788 cumulative Covid-19 hospitalizations in the states that reported race and hospitalization data — Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

“The share of the hospitalizations of White patients was substantially smaller vs. their share of the population in all 12 states,” the authors found. 

The authors found that the opposite was true for Black patients — their percentage of hospitalizations exceeded the percentage of their representative proportion of state population. This was highest in Ohio, where Black patients accounted for 31.8% of hospitalizations and are 13% of the population. Minnesota, Indiana and Kansas also had particularly high rates of hospitalizations for Black people compared to the population.

Of the 11 states that reported the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations for Hispanic patients, 10 had hospitalizations for Hispanic patients that were higher than their representative proportion of the state population. This was most pronounced in Virginia, where Hispanic people accounted for 36.2% of hospitalizations, compared with 9.6% of the population. Utah and Rhode Island also had high levels of hospitalizations compared with percentage of the population. 

Only eight states reported hospitalization data for American Indian and Alaskan Native populations, but in some of these states there was a substantial disparity. For example, in Arizona, this group account for 4% of the state’s population but 15.7% of the hospitalizations. In Utah, this group accounted for 0.9% of the state’s population, but 5.0% of hospitalizations.

Asian populations were the only group for which the pattern was largely reversed. In six out of 10 states that reported data, hospitalization proportions were lower than population representation. For example, in Massachusetts, the Asian population compromised 7% of the population but only 4% of hospitalizations. 

These findings are consistent with data from previous research, according to the authors. The study has some limitations, including that it did not adjust for age, sex, underlying conditions and socioeconomic factors within racial/ethnic groups that are likely related to Covid-19 hospitalization.

 

11:03 a.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Maryland establishes hotline to report potential Covid-19 violations

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Several of Maryland’s state agencies banded together to set up a toll-free Covid-19 prevention line for citizens to report concerns about potential situations, where coronavirus precautions are being ignored, according to a statement from Maryland State Police.

According to the statement, the new statewide toll-free hotline and corresponding email address can be used anonymously 24-hours-a-day to report situations of concern where “prevention guidelines are being ignored and the potential for the spread of COVID-19 is high.” 

Information provided to the hotline will be forwarded to local health department officials and depending on the circumstances, teams of local officials from agencies, including the health department, liquor board, and law enforcement, will “assess the situation and take the appropriate action,” according to the statement.

“Individuals violating the Governor’s Executive Order could be charged with a violation of that order, which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail, a $5,000 fine, or both,” the statement said.

12:00 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

At least 5 Florida students under quarantine after coronavirus exposure

From CNN’s Rosa Flores and Sara Weisfeldt

At least five students and two teachers from Bradford County School District in Florida have been placed on quarantine due to exposure to Covid-19, according to David Harris, the district's assistant superintendent.

Harris said two classrooms were impacted and were assigned to remote learning. 

The Bradford County School District reopened last week.

This is the second school district in Florida that has been impacted by Covid-19 since schools reopened last week. Martin County School District has quarantined 151 students as of Monday morning.