August 31 coronavirus news

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4:25 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

Connecticut extends Covid-19 emergency declaration until February 2021

From CNN's Mirna Alsharif

Socially distanced desks, due to the coronavirus pandemic await the first day of school at the Newfield Elementary School on August 31, in Stamford, Connecticut.
Socially distanced desks, due to the coronavirus pandemic await the first day of school at the Newfield Elementary School on August 31, in Stamford, Connecticut. John Moore/Getty Images

Connecticut will extend its Covid-19 emergency declaration until February 9, 2021, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday afternoon.

Why this matters: The five-month extension ensures that the state can use emergency powers to quickly respond to outbreaks, safely reopen the economy, protect and recover jobs and rapidly procure personal protective equipment, Lamont said. 

What the state's numbers look like: The state also reported 384 new cases of Covid-19 and no new deaths, according to Lamont. Connecticut continues to have a positivity rate of less than 1% — around 0.8%, Lamont said.

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.

4:23 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

White House Task Force member calls report about herd immunity “irresponsible”

From CNN's Pamela Kirkland and Jeremy Diamond

Dr. Scott Atlas listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington on August 13.
Dr. Scott Atlas listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington on August 13. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

White House Coronavirus Task Force member, Dr. Scott Atlas, responded to a report by the Washington Post on Monday claiming he is a proponent of a controversial herd immunity strategy to combat Covid-19. The strategy would allow for the virus to spread through the US population in order to develop a resistance to it.  

“That was never a strategy that was advocated by me and the administration. The president does not have a strategy like that. I’ve never advocated that strategy. That whole discussion in the Washington Post was just really, sort of irresponsible,” Atlas said, speaking at a press conference with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday. 

Some background: Herd immunity is reached when 70% to 90% of a population becomes immune to a disease either through infection and recovery or vaccination. When that happens, the disease is less likely to spread to people who aren't immune because there just aren't enough infectious carriers to reach them. The Washington Post article claimed Atlas was the chief proponent of the herd immunity strategy. 

Atlas has explicitly denied that he is pushing a herd immunity strategy, but an administration official said all of the policies Atlas has pushed for are in the vein of a herd immunity strategy.

Atlas has rejected the need for widespread community testing, arguing that the administration should focus almost exclusively on protecting and testing elderly populations while pushing for the rest of the economy to return to normal, this official said. 

"Everything he says and does points toward herd immunity," the senior administration official said.

CNN has reported that several of the health professionals on the White House Coronavirus Task Force raised questions about Atlas, asking each other who he was and what his role would be. Atlas joined the task force earlier this month as an adviser. 

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

Coronavirus vaccine shortcuts could be a slippery slope, emergency room doctor warns

From CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas

Emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen says authorizing a vaccine before phase 3 clinical trials are complete is a "slippery slope."

“We all want for a safe and effective vaccine to be approved as soon as possible, but I am concerned about shortcuts being taken here and a slippery slope,” Wen told CNN on Monday.

This comes in response to US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn’s comments that that very scenario could be possible.

“We initially heard Dr. Hahn saying we need to wait until all the trials are in,” Wen said. “Then we heard him say, well maybe we can do emergency use authorization right after Phase 3, and now we're hearing that we don't even need to wait until Phase 3 trials are complete.”

Wen expressed concerns that this could undermine the public’s confidence in a vaccine, or result in a vaccine that is ineffective.

“The last thing that we want to do is to give a false reassurance to the American people – giving them a vaccine that doesn't actually protect them against coronavirus," she said.

3:59 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

MLB forced to postpone more games due to Covid-19 concerns

From CNN's Kevin Dotson

The Oakland Athletics and the Arizona Diamondbacks play during the second inning of the MLB game at Chase Field on August 17, in Phoenix.
The Oakland Athletics and the Arizona Diamondbacks play during the second inning of the MLB game at Chase Field on August 17, in Phoenix. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Major League Baseball has postponed the first two games of the Oakland Athletics’ upcoming three-game series with the Seattle Mariners that was set to begin Tuesday night in Seattle.

The MLB said the decision was made out of an abundance of caution to allow for additional testing and contact tracing within the Oakland organization.

Oakland’s scheduled game against the Houston Astros on Sunday was postponed after a positive Covid-19 test from within the Athletics’ organization.

"Major League Baseball will continue to provide updates as necessary," the MLB said in a statement.

3:49 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

This California university is telling students to vacate dorms just 1 week after starting classes

From CNN's Sarah Moon

Just one week after the start of the fall semester, California State University (CSU), Chico is canceling all in-person classes and telling students to vacate on-campus housing over a “rapid and alarming” coronavirus outbreak on campus.

Three days into the fall semester, which began last Monday with limited in-person classes, the university reported “a troubling number of positive COVID-19 cases on campus.”

As of Sunday, CSU Chico confirmed nearly 30 confirmed cases of the virus, which “impacts both classrooms and a majority of on-campus residence halls—with an even greater number of reported exposures that could have an exponential and devastating effect on campus,” according to the letter. 

The university is also asking all students who live on campus to move out by Sept. 6, CSU Chico President Gayle Hutchinson announced in a letter to its campus community on Monday.

“We understand the inconvenience of vacating campus housing so quickly, but Chico State’s residence halls have experienced rapid and alarming rates of COVID-19 cases and the well-being of students makes quick action imperative,” CSU Chico said.

Located in Northern California’s Butte County, CSU Chico is one of the California State University system’s 23 campuses.

3:45 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

ER doctor says 2 million Americans could die in effort to achieve Covid-19 herd immunity

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas, Faith Karimi and Jay Croft

Emergency physician and CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen said Monday that 2 million Americans could die in the effort to achieve herd immunity to coronavirus.

“If we're waiting until 60% to 80% of people have it, we're talking about 200 million plus Americans getting this,” Wen told CNN’s Brianna Keilar Monday.

“At a fatality rate of 1%, let’s say … that's 2 million Americans who will die in this effort to try to get herd immunity. Those are preventable deaths of our loved ones that we can just not let happen under our watch,” Wen said.

Wen added that much is still unknown about how long immunity to Covid-19 could last.

Remember: Herd immunity is reached when a majority of a population becomes immune to a disease either through infection and recovery or vaccination.

When that happens, the disease is less likely to spread to people who aren't immune because there just aren't enough infectious carriers to reach them.

Earlier this month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also explained the risks of herd immunity during a live Instagram session.

"If everyone contracted it, even with the relatively high percentage of people without symptoms ... a lot of people are going to die," Fauci said.

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.