August 26 coronavirus news

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11:26 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

CDC director says new testing guidance reflects "updated recommendations" from the White House

From CNN’s Nick Valencia and Maggie Fox

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks to a House subcommittee in July.
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks to a House subcommittee in July. Erin Scott/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made controversial changes to its testing guidelines after “updated recommendations” from the White House coronavirus task force, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said earlier today. 

“These updated guidelines, coordinated in conjunction with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, received appropriate attention, consultation and input from task force experts,” Redfield said in a statement to CNN.
“We are placing an emphasis on testing individuals with symptomatic illness, individuals with a significant exposure, vulnerable populations including nursing homes or long term care facilities, critical infrastructure workers, healthcare workers and first responders, or those individuals who may be asymptomatic when prioritized by medical and public health officials."

The changed guidelines: The Trump administration has spent the day scrambling to explain the quiet changes made to the CDC website Monday.

The previous guidelines recommended testing anyone who had been in close contact with a confirmed case, even people who do not develop symptoms. The new guidelines said only some people should get tested.

Controversy over official approval: Earlier, Adm. Brett Giroir, who heads testing efforts for the task force, told reporters that task force members had weighed in on the change -- including Redfield and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert.

But Fauci later denied this to CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

11:06 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Ohio's Miami University recorded 125 cases in just 10 days. Many of them are student athletes

Ohio’s Miami University has reported 125 cases of Covid-19 since August 17, the Butler County General Health District confirmed in a statement. Many of these were student athletes and those they came in contact with.

The university said Monday that 27 athletes from various teams tested positive for the coronavirus after many of them attended an off-campus social gathering last week. They had all been asked to quarantine for contact tracing purposes.

"My concern for the health of all of our student-athletes is paramount," Director of Athletics David Sayler said. "I am disappointed that poor judgment has led to this quarantine order and put in jeopardy our efforts to have our teams study and practice together."

Now, all student athletes who have returned to the city and campus need to quarantine for 14 days, along with any coaches or staff who had contact with them, the university said.

Canceled sports events: The university announced on August 8 that it was canceling the Mid-American Conference and Championships due to Covid-19. Men’s and women’s cross-country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball were all impacted, the university said, adding no decision at that time had been made regarding winter sports.

Remote learning: Classes started on August 17 with undergraduate courses offered remotely. First-year students are scheduled to move in on September 14, with in-person instruction starting September 21.

10:41 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

The pandemic is making US drug shortages even worse, FDA says

From CNN's Andrea Kane

The coronavirus pandemic is worsening the United States' drug shortage problem, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Due to Covid-19, we've had the increasing demand for certain medications, and then we've also had an increase in hospitalizations, which has drained the supply. Patients wanting to stock up, and that's a normal reaction — that's been another reason," Valerie Jensen, associate director of the drug shortages staff at the FDA, said Wednesday on the podcast “FDA Insight”.
"And then sometimes, we've had some cases of slower manufacturing times due to labor shortages in some of the areas that have been harder hit."

Traditionally, Jensen said, drug shortages are rooted in manufacturing and quality problems involving sterile, injectable drugs especially older ones. Those are the very kinds of medications used by hospitalized patients, that are facing shortages and increased demand

There are also shortages of pharmacy drugs, like those for high blood pressure and antibiotics.

Jensen said the FDA had been in contact with more than 180 drug manufacturers since January, working to stabilize supply chains and monitor potential disruptions.

8:01 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

FDA grants emergency use authorization for Abbott’s rapid Covid-19 test

From CNN's Andrea Kane and Nadia Kounang

The BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card can detect Covid-19 infection in 15 minutes.
The BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card can detect Covid-19 infection in 15 minutes. Abbott

The US Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization Wednesday to BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card – a rapid antigen test made by Abbott that can detect Covid-19 infection in 15 minutes.

It uses the same type of technology as a flu test. 

“BinaxNOW uses proven Abbott lateral flow technology, making it a reliable and familiar format for frequent mass testing. With no equipment required, the device will be an important tool to manage risk by quickly identifying infectious people so they don't spread the disease to others,” the company wrote in a statement. 

The test accurately identifies positive cases 97% of the time, with a false negative rate of less than 3% when tested in symptomatic patients within the first seven days of symptom onset. It has a false negative rate of under 3%. 

"The massive scale of this test and app will allow tens of millions of people to have access to rapid and reliable testing," Joseph Petrosino, a professor of virology at Baylor College of Medicine, said in a statement released by Abbott.

"With lab-based tests, you get excellent sensitivity but might have to wait days or longer to get the results. With a rapid antigen test, you get a result right away, getting infectious people off the streets and into quarantine so they don't spread the virus," he said.

Some context: Petrosino’s labs have been leading efforts to provide Covid-19 testing for the college and Harris County, which includes Houston.

The company said the test, which is the size of a credit card, will cost $5 and will come with free companion mobile app so that people who test negative can display a temporary health pass that is renewed and date-stamped each time a new test is taken. Abbott says they anticipate producing 50 million tests a month by October. 

The BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card is the fourth antigen test to receive an EUA from the FDA.

Antigen tests, which look for pieces of the virus, are not as reliable as traditional PCR tests, which look for the virus’ genetic material, but they are a quicker, less expensive and less invasive. PCR tests have been beset by supply chain problems as well as back-ups at labs which have delayed results and frustrated patients, doctors and public health experts alike.

7:33 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Brazil reports more than 47,000 new coronavirus cases

From Fernanda Wenzel in São Paulo and Sharif Paget

Medical personnel treat a coronavirus patient in the Intensive Care Unit of the Santa Casa de Misericordia Hospital on August 13 in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Medical personnel treat a coronavirus patient in the Intensive Care Unit of the Santa Casa de Misericordia Hospital on August 13 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Silvio Avila/AFP/Getty Images

Brazil’s health ministry reported Wednesday 47,161 new Covid-19 cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 3,717,156.

The ministry also reported 1,086 new coronavirus fatalities, raising the country’s death toll to 117,666.

Calculations by CNN based on official figures show that average cases and deaths in Brazil — measured over a seven-day period — peaked in late July.

For new cases, the peak average was 46,393 on July 29. As of Aug. 26, that daily average had fallen to 37,214. 

There's been a slower decline in the average number of deaths — from a peak of 1,096 on July 25 to 938 on Aug. 26.

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

6:45 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Health care staff should get coronavirus vaccines first, CDC suggests

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Medics with Austin-Travis County EMS transport a patient to a hospital on August 4 in Austin, Texas.
Medics with Austin-Travis County EMS transport a patient to a hospital on August 4 in Austin, Texas. John Moore/Getty Images

Health care workers should be the first to get vaccinated against coronavirus if and when a vaccine becomes available, vaccine advisers suggested Wednesday. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) heard proposals Wednesday about which groups should be vaccinated first. 

The roughly 20 million essential health care workers are an obvious choice, Dr. Kathleen Dooling of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease at the CDC told the meeting. ACIP will eventually make recommendations about priorities for vaccinating people, and the independent National Academy of Medicine is also preparing a report.

Non-health care essential workers, with a population of around 60 to 80 million, should probably be vaccinated next, then adults with medical conditions who are at higher risk for severe Covid-19, a population of more than 100 million, and finally the 53 million people aged 65 and older.

The September ACIP meeting may vote on interim allocation of initial vaccine doses, Dooling said. 

6:05 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

California will defy new CDC testing guidelines, governor says

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference on August 26.
Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference on August 26. Pool/KCRA

California will not abide by new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that do not recommend Covid-19 testing for those without symptoms, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a news conference.

"I don't agree with the new CDC guidance period, full stop, and it's not the policy in the state of California. We will not be influenced by that change. We're influenced by those that are experts in the field that feel very differently. That is not the policy guideline that we will embrace or adopt here in California," Newsom said.

Nearly 11 million tests have been conducted in California but have leveled off at an average about 100,000 per day. Newsom announced a new partnership today aimed at increasing testing to an average of 250,000 each day.

Today, California Department of Public Health reported an additional 6,004 Covid-19 cases, bringing the state’s total to 679,099. Deaths increased by 150 to a total of 12,407.

The positivity rates continue to trend down slightly, with the seven-day rate at 5.8% and the 14-day rate at 6.1%.

"Hospitalizations and ICU is tracking in an encouraging and favorable direction," Newsom noted.

Note: These numbers were released by California Department of Public Health and the Los Angeles 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.

 

5:38 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

North Carolina has seen increase in percentage of positive cases due to clusters at university settings

From CNN’s Jennifer Henderson

Medical personnel handle coronavirus test samples on July 9 in Burlington, North Carolina.
Medical personnel handle coronavirus test samples on July 9 in Burlington, North Carolina. Gerry Broome/AP

North Carolina has seen an increase in the percentage of positive cases, according to the state’s Covid-19 dashboard and Dr. Mandy Cohen, the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

 “As we look at our the last week of what we are seeing in our trends, yes, largely we are seeing clusters coming from our university settings, largely these are happening off campus. We are seeing that at parties or at housing that is off-campus sorority or fraternity houses, other group houses. We're seeing some clusters on on campus universities in dormitory settings. We know that congregate living settings or settings for folks, large groups of folks live together are more likely to spread this virus," Cohen said.

North Carolina has 1,244 new cases of Covid-19 for a total of 158,985 lab confirmed cases, Gov. Roy Cooper said in a news conference today. 

There are 1,004 people hospitalized from Covid-19 and a total of 2,606 people have died from Covid-19, Cooper said. 

Note: These numbers were released by the North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

5:08 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Fauci says he was in surgery when task force discussed CDC testing guidelines

From CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies during a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on July 31 in Washington, DC.
Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies during a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on July 31 in Washington, DC. Kevin Dietsch/AFP/Getty Images

White House coronavirus task force member Anthony Fauci said he was in surgery and not part of the discussion during the Aug. 20 task force meeting when updated US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines were discussed. 

“I was under general anesthesia in the operating room and was not part of any discussion or deliberation regarding the new testing recommendations,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN. “I am concerned about the interpretation of these recommendations and worried it will give people the incorrect assumption that asymptomatic spread is not of great concern. In fact it is.”

Fauci had surgery on Thursday morning to remove a polyp on his vocal cord. He had general anesthesia and doctors advised him to curtail his talking for a while to allow his vocal cords to recover.

Some context: US Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Dr. Brett Giroir said during a phone call with reporters on Wednesday that the updated CDC guidance on Covid-19 testing was last discussed and approved by White House coronavirus task force members last Thursday.

Giroir said in the call that the updated testing guidelines originated from within the CDC and were written by multiple authors, adding that he, Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Stephen Hahn worked on them.

"The new guidelines are a CDC action. As always, guidelines received appropriate attention, consultation and input from task force experts, and I mean the medical and scientific experts," Giroir said, also mentioning CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. "All the task force experts advise on coronavirus-related matters.”

The updated guidelines were released on Monday. Previous CDC testing guidance said anyone who had close contact with someone with coronavirus should get tested, whether they have symptoms or not. The site was changed to say: “If you have been in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with a COVID-19 infection for at least 15 minutes but do not have symptoms, you do not necessarily need a test unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health care provider or State or local public health officials recommend you take one.”

A senior federal health official close to the process told CNN on Wednesday the changes came as a result of pressure from the Trump administration. "It's coming from the top down,” the source said.