August 31 coronavirus news

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3:35 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

At least 260 coronavirus cases in 12 states are associated with South Dakota motorcycle rally 

From CNN Health’s Amanda Watts

There have been at least 260 Covid-19 cases associated with people who attended the motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, in early August.

CNN surveyed state health departments across the United States and has tallied cases in at least 12 states:

  • Colorado: 25 cases 
  • Michigan: 11 cases
  • Minnesota: 46 cases 
  • Montana: 7 cases 
  • Nebraska: 7 cases
  • New Hampshire: 8 cases
  • New Jersey: 3 cases 
  • North Dakota: 30 cases
  • South Dakota: 105 cases
  • Washington: 3 cases 
  • Wisconsin: 2 cases 
  • Wyoming: 13 cases 
  • TOTAL: 260 cases  

Some context: The rally ran from Aug. 7 through Aug. 10, with an estimated 460,000 attendee vehicles, the South Dakota Department of Transportation said.

3:27 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

Emergency use authorization of a coronavirus vaccine should not be done lightly, WHO scientist says 

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

Heather Lieberman, 28, receives a Covid-19 vaccination from Yaquelin De La Cruz at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida, on August 13.
Heather Lieberman, 28, receives a Covid-19 vaccination from Yaquelin De La Cruz at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida, on August 13. Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

World Health Organization officials cautioned countries rushing to develop coronavirus vaccines, saying emergency use authorization must be done with great care.

China and Russia say they will start deploying vaccines before completing late-stage clinical trials, and US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn has said if the US gets enough data from advanced trials, it might be possible to authorize a vaccine before the trials are completed.

Asked about what the three countries are planning, WHO officials said it’s important to make sure a vaccine is at least safe and works before using one broadly.

“The emergency use authorization or licensing is something that has to be done with a great deal of seriousness and reflection. It’s not something that you do very lightly,” WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said during a news briefing. 

While it is up to the national regulatory authority of every country to make decisions about approvals, WHO has on its website a guidance document that lays out step-by-step what the approach for their emergency use listing procedure would be, she said. 

Any country’s vaccine policy “must be guided by the highest possible ethical standard, the highest possible scientific standards,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program.

There are examples of vaccines that were rolled out before data collection was complete, Ryan added. Ebola is one. But data was carefully collected even as groups rushed to vaccinate people during recent Ebola outbreaks.

“You need to maintain monitoring,” Ryan said.

3:27 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

NHL reports no Covid-19 cases for 5th straight week

From CNN's Kevin Dotson

Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks stretches along with Max Pacioretty of the Vegas Golden Knights before the start of Game One of the Western Conference First Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on August 11, in Edmonton, Alberta.
Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks stretches along with Max Pacioretty of the Vegas Golden Knights before the start of Game One of the Western Conference First Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on August 11, in Edmonton, Alberta. Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

The National Hockey League announced that after five weeks of play in the league’s “bubbles,” there still has not been a positive Covid-19 test result in either of the hub cities of Toronto or Edmonton.

Every member of each remaining team’s traveling party was tested on a daily basis between Aug. 23 and Aug. 29. The NHL season resumed with 24 teams participating and has now progressed into the Stanley Cup playoffs with eight teams still competing.

3:11 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

New Jersey to allow movie theaters and some indoor entertainment to reopen Friday with restrictions

From CNN’s Evan Simko-Bednarksi

Movie theaters and indoor performances venues in New Jersey can reopen with restrictions on capacity starting Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced in a tweet from his verified account.

Following the governor’s announcement, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli emphasized the importance of ventilation for all indoor businesses.

"Effective ventilation is important to indoor spaces," she said, adding that businesses should inspect their air conditioning and heating systems. She also said that restaurants should consider purchasing a HEPA-rated particulate filtration system.

"Please — do not go out to eat if you aren't feeling well," she added.

Asked if he would reinstate indoor dining restrictions if Covid-19 trends worsened, Murphy said he would, but with the supporting data.

"I certainly hope not to, and it would be a sustained increase," he said. 

"It wouldn't be (due to) one day or even a couple of days (of increased infections)," Murphy said, adding that he would want to have "some qualitative sense around the data as to whether or not it was coming from the indoor dining steps that we've taken as opposed to some out of control party in somebody's basement."

Persichilli said the state has had over a thousand positive tests over the past three days. The state's positivity rate is currently at 1.41%, she said.

At least 484 New Jerseyans are currently hospitalized with Covid-19, Persichilli said, with 103 in intensive care.

The state reported 8 new deaths Monday, 3 of which occurred in July, 5 of which occurred in August. The state has confirmed a total of 14,165 deaths from Covid-19 since the outbreak began, an another 1,780 probable deaths from the disease.

Note: These numbers were released by the state’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.

2:39 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

West Virginia reports 138 new Covid-19 cases at correctional facility as cases rise in the state

From CNN’s Nakia McNabb

Officials in West Virginia are reporting rising Covid-19 numbers in several parts of the state, including more than 100 cases at a corrections complex. 

Gov. Jim Justice announced 138 new Covid-19 cases at the Mount Olive Correctional Complex. 

“Mount Olive continues to be quarantined and medically isolating inmates as necessary. At South Central Regional Jail, there are eight active cases and two staff cases,” said Justice.

West Virginia long term care facilities are also seeing a rise in Covid-19 cases with 36 new outbreaks. 

Gov. Justice addressed the rising number of cases in Logan, Kanawha and Monroe Counties, citing at least 12 additional deaths as of Friday, bringing the state total to 214. 

In order to mitigate the rising number of cases in these three counties and to avoid further spread during the return to school next week, the governor announced widespread testing for all students and faculty in the school system’s sports program. All athletes, coaches and band members will be tested before the start of the season.

“There is no person out there in one of these counties that wants our kids out on the field playing a game with kids that have tested positive. So in this situation without a question it will assist us in every way. If we have a team or kids on the team that test positive we can't play. And we shouldn't play. That's all there is to it, same way as the band, same way as volleyball” said Justice.
2:09 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

Biden brings up coronavirus death toll in campaign speech: "Do you really feel safer under Trump?"

Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden. Source: Pool

Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden pointed to the US's coronavirus death toll during a speech in which he asked Americans if they "feel safer under Trump."

The US surpassed six million cases of coronavirus today. More than 183,000 people have died in the US since the pandemic began, according to the latest tally from Johns Hopkins University.

"More than 180,000 lives in just six months. An average of 1,000 people dying every day in the month of August. Do you really feel safer under Donald Trump?" Biden asked during a speech in Pittsburgh.

He went on to address Trump directly.

"Mr. Trump, you want to talk about fear?" Biden asked. "Do you know what people are afraid of in America? They're afraid they're going to get Covid. They're afraid they're going to get sick and die and that is in no small part, because of you."

"Do you really feel safer under Trump?" Biden asked again.

1:43 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

High percentage of frontline healthcare workers who have Covid-19 may not know they have it

From CNN Health’s Andrea Kane

Many frontline health care workers who care for Covid-19 patients may be infected and not even know it, researchers led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday. And because the infections are undetected, they can potentially be spread to patients, coworkers, and others in the community.

Their survey of more than 3,200 health workers found 6% had antibodies to coronavirus, indicating they had been infected with the virus. But 69% of them had never been diagnosed with such an infection, 44% did not believe they had ever been infected and 29% said they never had any symptoms.

“A high proportion of SARS-CoV-2 infections among healthcare personnel appear to go undetected,” the team at academic medical centers across the country, including the CDC Covid-19 Response Team, wrote in the CDC’s weekly report.

“Consistent with persons in the general population with SARS-CoV-2 infection, many frontline HCP [health care personnel] with SARS-CoV-2 infection might be asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic during infection, and infection might be unrecognized, " they continued.

More on the study: The researchers analyzed blood samples taken between April 3 and June 19 from 3,248 frontline health care workers at 13 academic medical centers across the country. The samples were tested for antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and participants were asked about potential symptoms of Covid-19, previous testing for a coronavirus infection, and their use of personal protective equipment in the week prior.

Participants who reported always wearing a face covering — a surgical mask, N95 respirator, or powered air purifying respirator — while caring for patients had lower infection rates compared with those who did not.

But personal protective equipment wasn’t always available. In eight of the 13 medical centers, more than 10% of participants reported a PPE shortage. Shortages of N95 respirators were those most commonly reported —5% of those surveyed said there was a shortage where they worked.

“A higher percentage of participants who reported a PPE shortage had detectable SARS-CoV-2 antibodies (9%) than did those who did not report a PPE shortage (6%),” the researchers wrote. “A high proportion of personnel with antibodies did not suspect that they had been previously infected.”

Requiring face coverings, having teams dedicated exclusively to caring for patients with coronavirus, better screening and testing might all help, the team concluded. 

1:52 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

Canadian Prime Minister says he will not rush vaccine approval

From CNN’s Paula Newton

Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, waits to speak at the National Research Council of Canada Royalmount Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre facility in Montreal on Monday, Aug. 31.
Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, waits to speak at the National Research Council of Canada Royalmount Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre facility in Montreal on Monday, Aug. 31. Andrej Ivanov/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government will not give in to pressure and rush vaccine approval, despite what some other countries are doing. 

“Canada will always put the safety of Canadians first and foremost and that’s true on vaccines on it is on everything else,” said Trudeau during a press conference Monday in Montreal. 

Trudeau pointed out that the Canadian government has been under pressure for months to approve testing methods and therapeutic drugs on a more rapid timetable but that Health Canada has refused to do so citing safety and efficacy concerns. 

“We will not see testing protocols approved until they are safe for Canadians. We will not move forward on a vaccine until we are confident it is safe for Canadians. Other countries will make their own decisions and have already in regards to testing,” he said. 

Some more context: Monday the Canadian government announced new agreements with Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, adding to agreements with Pfizer and Moderna to reserve millions of doses of experimental COVID‑19 vaccines. Canadian officials say they are in negotiations to secure other vaccines so that a ‘diverse portfolio’ of vaccine candidates is developed over the next few months. 

Canadian officials say they do not expect a viable vaccine to be distributed until early next year at the earliest. 

Trudeau also announced nearly $100 million in funding for a new biomanufacturing facility in Montreal in order to increase vaccine manufacturing to about 2 million doses per month by next year. This is intended to help Canada to domestically produce enough doses of an eventual vaccine. 

1:27 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

NY lawmakers want bills passed to allow mail-in ballot drop boxes during pandemic

From CNN's Ganesh Setty

During a news conference with other community leaders on Monday, New York State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried called for the passage of their two bills that would allow the state board of elections to introduce mail-in ballot drop boxes amid the pandemic and ongoing postal service delays. 

“New Yorkers deserve to have confidence in the integrity of our elections and know their vote has been counted,” said Hoylman. “Now we have a federal administration that is openly hostile to the postal office and openly hostile to expanding voting rights, and working to dismantle this institution.”

“Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Donald Trump has tried for years to undermine our elections with false claims about voter fraud,” he continued. 

Hoylman pushed for the state to pass the bills as soon as possible to avoid the same fate of New York’s June primary, pointing to the more than 84,000 absentee ballots that were invalidated in New York City. They accounted for 21% of the all ballots received by the city’s board of elections, said the senator. 

He called on the legislature to either convene to pass the bill, or have Gov. Andrew Cuomo authorize the ballot drop-boxes via executive order. 

On Aug. 20, Gov. Cuomo signed a package of election reforms that would allow voters to both request an absentee ballot due to Covid-19 and have ballots postmarked on election day be counted by the state board of elections.  

So far, 33 states along with Washington, DC, have authorized the use of ballot drop-boxes, said Hoylman. 

The ballot box prototype unveiled Monday would be monitored by either local law enforcement or election officials and would include a tamper-proof seal, he explained. 

Each one would cost around $6,000 and serve every 15 to 20 thousand registered voters, said Hoylman, which would amount to 650-865 boxes in NY for a total cost of four to five million dollars. 

The boxes could be placed in high-traffic areas including libraries, schools, and possibly even near ATM machines, he said. 

“What is the cost in not assuring voters that their ballot is going to be counted in November,” he asked. 

According to the state senate and assembly websites, both bills are still in committee.