August 31 coronavirus news

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12:03 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

US surpasses 6 million coronavirus cases

From CNN's Amanda Watts

A healthcare worker uses a swab to test a man at a Covid-19 drive-in testing location in Houston, Texas.
A healthcare worker uses a swab to test a man at a Covid-19 drive-in testing location in Houston, Texas. Adrees Latif/Reuters

There have been at least 6,002,615 cases of coronavirus in the United States and at least 183,203 people have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

JHU recorded the first case of coronavirus in the United States on January 21. Here's how we got to more than six million:

  • It took the country 99 days to reach 1 million cases on April 28. 
  • It then took 43 more days to reach 2 million cases on June 10.
  • It took another 28 days to surpass 3 million cases on July 8.
  • It took the US only 15 additional days to surpass 4 million cases on July 23.
  • It took the US 17 days to go over 5 million cases. 
  • It has taken the nation 22 days since then to reach 6 million cases. 

Only two other countries in the world have over 1 million reported Covid-19 cases – Brazil with roughly 3,862,000 cases and India with 3,621,000 cases.

11:18 a.m. ET, August 31, 2020

Cell phone location data could help predict Covid-19 trends, new research finds

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

Cell phone location data could be useful when it comes to predicting future trends in Covid-19 cases, according to new research published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. 

“Perhaps the most important observation of this study was that a decrease in activity at the workplace, transit stations, and retail locations and an increase in activity at the place of residence was associated with a significant decline in Covid-19 cases at 5, 10 and 15 days,” said the researchers, led by Dr. Shiv Sehra at Harvard Medical School.

For example, counties with the greatest use of cell phones in residential locations had a 19% lower growth rate of new cases at 15 days compared with those counties that had the lowest level of home usage.

The researchers also found that activity at grocery stores and areas that were classified as parks was not strongly associated with rates of growth in cases. However, assessing the direct effect of individual activities is difficult, they said.

The researchers used publicly available cell phone location data and new daily reported cases per capita in each US county to evaluate the association between cell phone activity on a given day, in a number of different locations, and the rate of growth in new Covid-19 cases five, 10 and 15 days later.

They found that there was a marked change in activities shortly before stay-at-home orders were issued in individual states, which included less activity in locations outside the home.

Urban counties with higher population levels and higher numbers of cases per capita had a greater increase in cell phone usage inside the home after stay-at-home orders, the researchers found.

However, as the time from the stay-at-home order increased, the use of cell phones at non-residential locations did as well. For example, the researchers said that, on average, there was a 0.5% increase per day at retail locations from the time of the initial stay-at-home order, which suggests “waning adherence to the orders over time.”

Keep in mind: The study did have some limitations, including a potential for selection bias. There could also be other differences at the county level, such as mask mandates during the study period.

11:09 a.m. ET, August 31, 2020

New York City delays lay-off notices, mayor says

From CNN's Melanie Schuman

Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York, speaks during a news conference at New Bridges Elementary School in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., on Wednesday, August 19.
Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York, speaks during a news conference at New Bridges Elementary School in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., on Wednesday, August 19. Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg/Getty Images

New York City will not issue lay-off notices Monday after discussions with municipal unions over the past several days, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference today.

It was the municipal labor unions who asked for more time according to the mayor. “They’ve come in good faith” and they want to ask the state legislature to convene to discuss borrowing authority, he added.

The city will hold on issuing the notices on a day-to-day basis.

What happens next: Without help from a stimulus plan from the federal government or borrowing from the state, “That’s put us in a really tough situation where we had to prepare for something we really don’t want to do which is widespread layoffs of city workers” the mayor said.

“Time has been ticking and there has been no resolution from Washington. We’ve looked to Albany so far without results” de Blasio continued. 

“I am hoping that this pause will lead to more progress in Albany because of the intense commitment of labor to getting this done.”

Granting long-term borrowing authority will save 22,000 municipal jobs according to the mayor.

10:32 a.m. ET, August 31, 2020

Former FDA commissioner says US should not model Sweden's Covid-19 response

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing concerning federal efforts to combat the opioid crisis on October 25, 2017 in Washington.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing concerning federal efforts to combat the opioid crisis on October 25, 2017 in Washington. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Sweden should not be America's model for pandemic response, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

Some people have pointed to Sweden as a successful model for the softening of guidelines – but Gottlieb wrote that the United States should continue focusing on containing the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

"Swedish government officials initially sought to let the virus run largely unchallenged in the general population while taking steps to protect the elderly. The Swedish view was that the country could reach herd immunity without jeopardizing the economy. But holding up Sweden as an enlightened model misreads important parts of its experience," Gottlieb wrote in the op-ed.

"Many Swedes pulled back from normal activities to shelter themselves from infection anyway, even younger and middle-aged people. The country experienced 5,821 Covid deaths in a population the size of North Carolina. And Sweden is far short of herd immunity, even as the country’s economic recovery ranks among the worst in its region," Gottlieb wrote.

"Yet embrace of the 'Swedish model; is based on assumptions that sidestep some of these facts. The biggest misconception is a belief that there’s a large reservoir of Americans who are already immune to Covid," Gottlieb wrote. "Confronting a dangerous pandemic requires containing spread wherever it is reasonably possible. Sensible measures such as universal masking, testing and widespread and rapid contact tracing can help. The best way to protect the vulnerable is to try to protect everyone."

9:38 a.m. ET, August 31, 2020

Nearly 6 million cases of coronavirus have been reported in the US

The US is inching toward 6 million cases of Covid-19. As of this morning, officials have reported more than 5,997,000 cases, according to the latest tally for Johns Hopkins University.

As cases keep ticking up, Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus response, is urging Americans to "do the right thing" until then by wearing masks and social distancing.

Here's a look at the timeline:

8:28 a.m. ET, August 31, 2020

What you need to know about coronavirus on Monday, August 31

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová

A version of this story appeared in the August 31 edition of CNN's Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.

The US Food and Drug Administration could consider an emergency authorization for Covid-19 vaccine, even before Phase 3 trials are over.

The agency's boss Dr. Stephen Hahn told the Financial Times that it's up to the vaccine developer to apply for authorization or approval. "If they do that before the end of Phase Three, we may find that appropriate. We may find that inappropriate, we will make a determination," Hahn told the newspaper.

At the moment, an OK from the FDA is what's needed to put a vaccine on the market. However, several prominent physicians and experts are calling for the creation of an independent commission to review data from coronavirus vaccine trials before a vaccine is allowed on the market.

The physicians cite public distrust of vaccines and criticism of government agencies during the pandemic. They say that while they trust the US scientific and ethical rigor, they think many Americans will be skeptical of the findings of an FDA committee, especially since some of its members work for pharmaceutical companies and government agencies, according to the roster currently on the FDA website. Adding a layer of independent review may reassure Americans that the shot is safe and effective.

Sign up to the newsletter here, or read the full story here:

8:26 a.m. ET, August 31, 2020

193 passengers and crew ordered to self isolate after seven people on holiday flight contract coronavirus

From CNN's Nina Avramova in London

At least seven passengers on a plane from Zante, Greece, to Cardiff, Wales, have tested positive for coronavirus after catching it from three infectious people on the flight.

All 193 passengers and crew on the TUI flight on August 25 have now been ordered self-isolate, according to a statement from Public Health Wales.

A passenger on the plane, Stephanie Whitfield, told the BBC the journey was a "debacle," and that many of those on board had removed their masks. "The flight was full of selfish 'covidiots,'" she added.

A TUI spokesperson said passenger health and safety "is always our priority" in an emailed statement sent to CNN. "We are concerned to hear of Mrs Whitfield's claims," it added.

"Our crew are trained to the highest standards and in line with European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) guidelines. Passengers are informed prior to travel and via PA announcements on the flight that they have to wear masks throughout and are not allowed to move around the cabin," reads the statement.

"Masks can only be removed when consuming food and drink," the TUI spokesperson said. "A full investigation is now underway as these concerns weren't reported during the flight."

8:02 a.m. ET, August 31, 2020

Paris ramps up free COVID-19 tests as virus leaves Tour de France organizers with a headache

From CNN's Fanny Bobille

The pack rides during the second stage of the Tour de France cycling race in Nice, southern France, on Sunday, August 30.
The pack rides during the second stage of the Tour de France cycling race in Nice, southern France, on Sunday, August 30. Thibault Camus/AP

The city of Paris said Monday it is working on ramping up free Covid-19 testing for Parisians.

Paris will establish three permanent laboratories and two mobile laboratories which will travel all over the French capital, the city of Paris said in a press release, adding that the tests would be free of charge.

On Friday, French health authorities warned that the coronavirus epidemic was "growing exponentially." They reported an increase of 7,379 new daily cases, the biggest since late March. The daily increase in cases has tripled in under a week, according to French health authorities.

The recent spike in new infections in France has left the organizers of the Tour de France with a real logistical challenge in how best to stage the 23-day event.

The world's toughest bike race began on Saturday; it will be watched by millions around the world and is due to finish on Paris' iconic Champs-Elysées.

Adding to organizers' worries, the Alpes-Maritimes region -- the site of the opening stages of the race -- has been declared a red zone because of a recent rise in Covid-19 cases.

To ensure the race can be completed, teams will be expelled from the 2020 event if two riders or members of staff show strong symptoms or test positive for Covid-19.

7:14 a.m. ET, August 31, 2020

SWAT tracer team deployed to address cluster at US university

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pictured speaking during a daily media briefing in New York City on July 23.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pictured speaking during a daily media briefing in New York City on July 23. Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

In person instruction at the State University of New York (SUNY) Oneonta has been suspended for two weeks after a coronavirus cluster developed at the school.

The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, said he had deployed a SWAT team of 71 contact tracers and 8 case investigators to address the outbreak.

Cuomo said the state is also setting up 3 free rapid testing sites in the city, which will be open to all residents. The site locations will be announced Monday.

"We have had reports of several large parties of our students at Oneonta last week and unfortunately, because of those larger gatherings, there were several students who were symptomatic of COVID and upon testing we found that 20 were positive for the COVID virus," said SUNY Oneanta chancellor Jim Malatras.

Five students in Oneonta have been suspended for holding parties against college policy, Malatras said. Additionally, three campus organizations have been suspended.

New York State guidance dictates that schools must go to "remote learning with limited on-campus activity for two weeks when 5 percent or 100 individuals test positive for COVID-19 within a two-week period," the Governor said in a press release.