August 24 coronavirus news

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11:20 p.m. ET, August 24, 2020

FDA commissioner defends authorization of convalescent plasma

From CNN’s Jason Hoffman and Maggie Fox

US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn denied again on Monday that his agency had been pressured to authorize the use of plasma from coronavirus survivors as a Covid-19 treatment, but apologized for how he characterized data used in the decision. 

Some context: The White House announced the emergency authorization at a news briefing on Sunday, where President Donald Trump called the decision “historic.”

But Trump also suggested he pressured the agency. "I think there might have been a holdup, but we broke the logjam over the last week, to be honest," Trump said at the briefing.

FDA's response: Hahn told CNN Sunday he had not been pressured. In a series of tweets Monday, he repeated that assertion.

“Media coverage of FDA’s decision to issue emergency authorization for convalescent plasma has questioned whether this was a politically motivated decision. The decision was made by FDA career scientists based on data submitted a few weeks ago,” Hahn tweeted.

“They had confidence that convalescent plasma has potential to benefit many sick patients and the safety profile is well defined," he added. "The decision was based on significant data from the Mayo Clinic and other reliable sources plus a century of experience with convalescent plasma."

“We at FDA do not permit politics to enter into our scientific decisions. This happens to be a political season but FDA will remain data driven. On behalf of FDA‘s 18,000 career employees, I want to reassure the American public about this commitment. The convalescent plasma decision was made entirely by FDA scientists.”

But Hahn apologized for how he presented the data. He had previously said that the Mayo Clinic data showed use of convalescent plasma reduced the risk of death by 35%, and said that meant if 100 people got coronavirus, 35 would survive because of the treatment. 

But this was inaccurate; the study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, showed that 8.7% of patients who were treated within three days of diagnosis died, compared to 11.9% of patients who were treated four days or more after their diagnosis -- a difference of about 37%.

Those treated with plasma containing the highest levels of antibodies had a 35% lower risk of dying within a week compared to those treated with less-rich plasma. The study did not show the use of plasma reduced the overall death rate by 35%.  

“I have been criticized for remarks I made Sunday night about the benefits of convalescent plasma. The criticism is entirely justified. What I should have said better is that the data show a relative risk reduction not an absolute risk reduction,” Hahn acknowledged.
11:13 p.m. ET, August 24, 2020

Colombia joins a clinical study alongside US and Belgium to develop a coronavirus vaccine

From CNN's Stefano Pozzebon in Bogota, Colombia

Colombian Health Minister Fernando Ruiz seen during a news conference in Bogota, Colombia, on March 4.
Colombian Health Minister Fernando Ruiz seen during a news conference in Bogota, Colombia, on March 4. Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images

Colombia announced Monday it is joining a clinical study to develop a vaccine against coronavirus. 

The study will be conducted by multinational pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson across Colombia, the United States, and Belgium, according to Health Minister Fernando Ruiz.

About 60,000 volunteers between 18 and 60 years old in these three countries will take part in the study, which will consist of a single dose of the vaccine candidate. 

“We have been having conversations (with Johnson & Johnson) for weeks, and we are also speaking with other pharmaceuticals at this moment,” Ruiz said.  

Earlier this month, Colombian President Ivan Duque announced the country would not reach out to Russia for a vaccine, opting instead to work with the World Health Organization to secure as many vaccine doses as possible.

10:53 p.m. ET, August 24, 2020

University of Missouri has 159 active student cases of Covid-19

From CNN’s Jennifer Henderson

The University of Missouri has 159 active student Covid-19 cases, according to the school’s Covid-19 Dashboard.

A total of 168 student cases have been reported since the university began receiving data from the Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services on August 19.

Today was the first day of classes at the university.

9:23 p.m. ET, August 24, 2020

Fauci warns against early authorization of a coronavirus vaccine

From CNN’s Jim Acosta

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies during a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in Washington, DC on July 31.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies during a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in Washington, DC on July 31. Erin Scott/Pool/Getty Images

Any effort to authorize and distribute a coronavirus vaccine before it has been proven safe and effective in large trials could damage efforts to develop other vaccines, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Reuters Monday. 

Two sources have told CNN that White House officials have raised the possibility of an early emergency use authorization of a vaccine – before late-stage trials are finished. Michael Caputo, the assistant secretary for public affairs at the US Department of Health and Human Services, denied that there was any effort to fast-track vaccine development for political purposes. 

And Fauci said it would be a bad idea. “The one thing that you would not want to see with a vaccine is getting an EUA before you have a signal of efficacy,” Reuters quoted Fauci as saying. “One of the potential dangers if you prematurely let a vaccine out is that it would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the other vaccines to enroll people in their trial.” 

Several vaccines are being tested in the US and companies are working to ramp up production while testing is going on, so that if a vaccine is proven safe and effective it could be distributed immediately.

“To me, it’s absolutely paramount that you definitively show that a vaccine is safe and effective, both,” Fauci told Reuters. “We would hope that nothing interferes with the full demonstration that a vaccine is safe and effective.”

9:23 p.m. ET, August 24, 2020

Mexico reports more than 3,500 new coronavirus cases

From Karol Suarez in Mexico City

Free Covid-19 tests are carried out at this health kiosk near Mexico City, on August 20.
Free Covid-19 tests are carried out at this health kiosk near Mexico City, on August 20. Gerardo Vieyra/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Mexico’s health ministry has reported 3,541 new coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the total number in the country to 563,705.

The ministry also reported 320 new fatalities, taking the total number of coronavirus-related deaths in the country to 60,800.

It comes as the US ambassador to Mexico warned against nonessential travel on the US-Mexico border. Nonessential travel between the US and its two closest neighbors — Canada and Mexico — has been blocked amid spikes in confirmed coronavirus cases in the US.

Ambassador Christopher Landau said on Twitter Monday there were significant delays at some border crossings at the weekend for those attempting to enter the US from Mexico.

“The problem is that many [United States] citizens in the border region are apparently not taking these travel restrictions seriously, and are crossing the land border in both directions for NON-ESSENTIAL travel like shopping, eating out, and family visits. Such irresponsible behavior is exacerbating the health crisis. Remember, the land border is open to ESSENTIAL travel only,” Landau said. 

Mexico has the seventh-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world and is ranked third in terms of deaths. The US continues to lead the world in the number of coronavirus infections and deaths.

7:50 p.m. ET, August 24, 2020

Colombia surpasses 550,000 Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Stefano Pozzebon

Health workers transporting a Covid-19 patient wait at the entrance of the ICU of the general hosptial in Medellin, Colombia, on August 20.
Health workers transporting a Covid-19 patient wait at the entrance of the ICU of the general hosptial in Medellin, Colombia, on August 20. Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP/Getty Images

Colombia's total number of coronavirus cases reached 551,696 on Monday after registering 10,549 new cases, according to the country's health ministry.

There were also 296 new deaths recorded in the last 24 hours, raising the national death toll to 17,612, the ministry reported.

Colombia is the fourth country in Latin America with the highest Covid-19 cases, following Brazil, Peru, and Mexico, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

This comes as Bogota’s Mayor Claudia Lopez announced Monday that local lockdown will be lifted in the Colombian capital on Thursday, four days ahead of schedule. Some social distancing measures will remain in place in Bogota through the month of September, but most business owners will be allowed to reopen their businesses.

7:20 p.m. ET, August 24, 2020

51 new cases of Covid-19 reported at Georgia Tech

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch

A statue is masked inside a building on the first day of classes Monday, August 17, at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
A statue is masked inside a building on the first day of classes Monday, August 17, at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Jeff Amy/AP

Georgia Tech reported 51 new cases of Covid-19 as of Sunday, according to the school's dashboard.

The dashboard reports if the person was a student or staff member, when they were last on campus, and when their case was reported. 

The majority of the cases reported on Sunday were among students.

In total, the school has reported 302 cases since March.

7:21 p.m. ET, August 24, 2020

More than 100 USC students under quarantine after Covid-19 outbreak at off-campus housing

From CNN's Sarah Moon

More than 100 students from the University of Southern California are under a 14-day quarantine due to a coronavirus outbreak among students who live in the university’s off-campus housing, USC announced in a community health advisory on Monday.

The “alarming increase” of cases among students was reported just after the first week of fall semester, according to the letter. No students have been hospitalized at this point.

In the past seven days, 14 cases were identified through asymptomatic population testing and 29 cases were identified through contact tracing and testing of symptomatic and exposed individuals, the letter notes.

“This increase comes despite the continued state and county health guidance that significantly restricts in-person instruction and on-campus activities for universities located in counties that are on the state’s Covid-19 monitoring list, including Los Angeles County,” said USC Student Health Chief Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman in the letter. “It appears highly unlikely current conditions will significantly change in the weeks ahead.”

According to the letter, decisions to allow exceptions for certain classes and other activities that cannot be delivered in a virtual setting have not been made. Students are strongly discouraged to return to campus until further notice.

Earlier this month, USC announced that it will begin fall semester fully remotely and reversed its decision to allow some in-person classes.

The university also reported 44 confirmed cases linked to fraternity row late July.

6:29 p.m. ET, August 24, 2020

Brazil reports more than 17,000 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours

From Rodrigo Pedroso in São Paulo

A nurse observes a rapid coronavirus test on July 28 in Ilha de Marajo, Brazil.
A nurse observes a rapid coronavirus test on July 28 in Ilha de Marajo, Brazil. Pedro Vilela/Getty Images

Brazil’s health ministry has reported 17,078 new Covid-19 cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 3,622,861.

The ministry also reported 565 new coronavirus fatalities on Monday, raising the country’s death toll to 115,309.

More on the numbers: It comes as Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro held a “beating the Covid-19” ceremony Monday in Brasilia where he gathered physicians to give testimonies about the use of the hydroxychloroquine, a controversial anti-malarial drug with no scientifically proven effectiveness in treating coronavirus.

Bolsonaro did not mention the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in Brazil during the ceremony on Monday, nor did he comment on the high plateau of a daily average of 1,000 fatalities attributed to the coronavirus since June, according to data from the health ministry.

Brazil continues to be second only to the United States in the highest total number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the world.