September 15 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes, Zamira Rahim and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020
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9:22 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Trump "failed to tell the public the truth that he knew" about coronavirus in February, Woodward says

President Trump "failed to tell the public the truth that he knew" about the novel coronavirus in February, veteran journalist Bob Woodward told CNN's Anderson Cooper Tuesday night.

Speaking on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," Woodward said the President knew the seriousness of the virus in February. Woodward went on to say that Trump could have warned Americans about the virus during his State of the Union speech that month.

"He gave the famous State of the Union speech to the Congress, 40 million people watched. He spent 15 seconds on it, saying we are doing everything that we can," Woodward told Cooper. "This is the moment a leader would say I got a warning. Trouble is coming. There are things we can do. But then he goes on and says, I didn't want to tell the truth, because I would panic people. That's not what people in this country do when they are told the truth."

Trump told Woodward he knew how deadly the virus was, telling the journalist on Feb. 7, "This is deadly stuff." In March, Trump admitted he kept that knowledge hidden from the public.

"I wanted to always play it down," Trump told Woodward on March 19, even as he had declared a national emergency over the virus days earlier. "I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."

In a new clip aired on "Anderson Cooper 360" Tuesday, Woodward asked Trump on March 19, "Was there a moment in all of this, last two months, where you said to yourself — you know, you're waking up or whatever you're doing and you say, 'Ah, this is the leadership test of a lifetime?'"

"No," Trump replied.

Woodward asked, "No?"

"I think it might be, but I don't think that," Trump said. "All I want to do is get it solved. There are many people that said that to me. They said, you're now a wartime President."

CNN's Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.


8:49 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Trump says he "up-played" coronavirus despite his own comments on wanting to "play it down"

From CNN's Jason Hoffman 

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a news conference at the White House in Washington on Thursday, September 10.
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a news conference at the White House in Washington on Thursday, September 10. Susan Walsh/AP

President Trump insisted that he didn’t downplay the coronavirus but rather “up-played it in terms of action taken” at ABC’s town hall set to air in full Tuesday night.

Responding to a question from an undecided voter at ABC’s town hall, Trump contradicts his own statements to journalist and author Bob Woodward where he said he “wanted to always play it down.”

“Well I didn’t downplay it, I actually in many ways, I up-played it in terms of action. My action was very strong because what I did with China, I put a ban on. With Europe, I put a ban on. And we would have lost thousands of more people had I not put the ban on,” Trump said. “So that was called action, not with the mouth but in actual fact. We did a very very good job when we put that ban on, whether you call it talent or luck, it was very important so we saved a lot of lives when we did that.”

Trump said last week that he was a cheerleader for the country and didn’t want to create a panic responding to the comments he made to Woodward.

“The fact is, I’m a cheerleader for this country, I love our country, and I don’t want people to be frightened. I don’t want to create panic, as you say,” Trump said on Sept. 9.


7:46 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Trump mental health official accuses media of overblowing dangers of Covid-19

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The assistant secretary of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, accused the media of being dishonest about the coronavirus pandemic and reiterated talking points about Covid-19 that President Trump has pushed for months, including that schools should reopen for in-person learning and that very few children are affected by Covid-19.

“I just wish that the media would get honest about its coverage of Covid,” MCance-Katz told embattled Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Michael Caputo in the HHS “Learning Curve” podcast Friday. “For children, this is not a life-threatening illness.”

McCance-Katz, who was appointed to SAMHSA by Trump in 2017, acknowledged that children do get the severe form of the virus “in rare cases,” but said “with a great, great majority of children this is not a serious illness,” something Trump has also repeated for months.

“And when we put them in school with safety measures in place, why can’t they go to school?” she burst out at one point in the interview.

Many studies have shown children do get Covid-19 and do die from it. They also can spread the virus to others. The American Academy of Pediatrics says more than 500,000 children have been diagnosed with the infection.

“So, lost in all of this response to Covid and nonstop 24/7 horrors of Covid and if you can't find something to talk about, it appears to me they make things up. It just does,” McCance-Katz said at another point in the interview, referring to media coverage of the pandemic.

McCance-Katz also expressed dismay with the way states have tried to handle the surging pandemic.

“There was no agreement to this nonstop restriction and quarantining and isolation and taking away anything that makes people happy,” she said. “You can’t go to a movie, you can’t go to a football game.”

McCance-Katz, a psychiatrist with a doctorate in infectious disease epidemiology from Yale, argued at one point that the shutdown last spring was too severe.

“I’m going to say it,” she said. “We shut down the entire country before the virus, in my opinion, had a chance to get around the entire country. … We used a sledgehammer when I think we needed a scalpel.”

She argued that getting the economy and schools reopened is integral for Americans’ mental health.

7:18 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Study finds some evidence convalescent plasma helps coronavirus patients

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

Nurse Lina Acevedo holds the plasma donated by a man who recovered from COVID-19 on August 14 in Bogota, Colombia.
Nurse Lina Acevedo holds the plasma donated by a man who recovered from COVID-19 on August 14 in Bogota, Colombia. Guillermo Legaria/Getty Images


A new study finds some evidence that infusions of convalescent plasma may help severely ill coronavirus patients survive better. 

Patients given the plasma treatments at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City were a little less likely to die and a little less likely to get worse in the hospital than patients not given the treatment, researchers reported Tuesday.

The US Food and Drug Administration has given emergency use authorization to the use of blood plasma for treating coronavirus. It’s an old approach. The idea is that the blood of survivors of a viral disease, in this care coronavirus, has antibodies and other factors that can jumpstart the immune response of someone more newly infected.

Dr. Nicole Bouvier and colleagues at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai looked at the cases of 39 patients with severe or life-threatening Covid-19. About half got plasma and the rest did not.

About 28% of those not treated needed more oxygen as time went on, compared to 18% of those treated with plasma, they reported in the journal Nature Medicine.

“Survival also improved in plasma recipients,” they wrote. There were not enough patients in the trial to put a firm number on the survival benefit. “Convalescent plasma is potentially effective against Covid-19, but adequately powered, randomized controlled trials are needed,” the team wrote. “In addition, the efficacy of passive antibody transfer relies heavily on the quality of the donor convalescent plasma.”

The treatment also seemed safe enough. “Among the 39 convalescent plasma recipients, no serious adverse events were judged to be directly caused by convalescent plasma transfusion,” the team wrote.

7:05 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

More than 195,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

There are at least 6,601,337 cases of coronavirus in the US and at least 195,637 people have died from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

So far on Tuesday, Johns Hopkins has reported 47,685 new cases and 1,144 deaths.

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases. 

6:47 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Review finds masks may not fit female and Asian health care workers correctly

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

Medical grade masks such as N95 respirators may not fit female and Asian health care workers as well as their male, Caucasian counterparts, researchers in Australia reported Tuesday.

It’s an especially important question because of the coronavirus pandemic and the researchers recommend more consistent testing of masks for health care workers, rather than having each worker check the fit.

Britta von Ungern-Sternberg from the Perth Children's Hospital and colleagues reviewed data and studies going back to 2003 on how well filtering facepiece respirators fit, and found the masks passed fit tests just 85% of the time for women, compared to 95% of the time for men.

They also found these rates were lower among Asians, (84%), than Caucasians, (90%). Fit test pass rates were particularly low in Asian females, with an average fit pass rate of 60%, they reported in the journal Anaesthesia. How well a mask fits is more important than the how well the material it is made of filters the air, the researchers said.

Health care workers are more likely than other people to become infected with coronavirus, the team noted. Inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) is sometimes to blame, and poorly fitting masks and respirators can be a factor.

The US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health standards requires N95 masks used in the US to meet a fit of 95%, defined by a fit test panel. The team notes that the dimensions of that test panel come from a group in which women and Asian people are underrepresented.

The researchers also compared mask “fit checks,” when a health care worker checks their own mask to make sure it’s fitting properly, to “fit tests,” which are more involved and costly but yield a more accurate assessment. Health care workers are supposed to check their masks every time they are used, but the researchers do not recommend replacing fit tests with fit checks.

Qualitative fit testing involves releasing sprays that test bitter or sweet test agents. If the mask-wearer cannot taste the bitter or sweet test agents, the mask is determined to fit. Quantitative fit testing involves actually measuring the concentration of substances inside and outside the mask to determine how well the mask fits and filters particles.

6:44 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Study hints Covid-19 may have been in the US as early as December

From CNN's Jen Christensen

Researchers believe they have found evidence that the novel coronavirus may have been circulating in the US as early as late December, about a month before the current timeline from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

Their study, published last Thursday in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, found a statistically significant uptick in clinic and hospital visits by patients who reported respiratory illnesses as early as the week of Dec. 22.

The first known case of Covid-19 in the US was thought to be a patient in Washington who had visited Wuhan, China, according to the CDC.

Dr. Joann Elmore and colleagues looked through nearly 10 million medical records from the UCLA Health system, including three hospitals and 180 clinics. Elmore said she started the search after receiving a number of emails from anxious patients in March through her clinic's patient portal at UCLA. Patients kept asking if the cough they had in January could have been Covid-19.

"With the outpatients, I found a 50% increase in the percentage of patients coming in complaining of a cough. It came out to over 1,000 extra patients above the average of what we would typically see," Elmore told CNN.

The number of patient visits to the ER for respiratory complaints, as well as the number of people hospitalized with acute respiratory failure between December 2019 and February 2020, were all up compared to records from the past five years. The uptick in cases started in the final week of December.

"Some of these cases could have been due to the flu, some could be for other reasons, but to see these kinds of higher numbers even in the outpatient setting is notable," Elmore said.

Elmore hopes this research shows that real time data collected on diseases like this could potentially help public health experts identify and track emerging outbreaks much earlier and potentially slow or stop the spread of disease.

Dr. Claudia Hoyen, an infectious disease specialist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center who did not work on the study, also believes it's possible Covid-19 may have been in the US much sooner than first realized.

Kristian Andersen, a professor in the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research, doesn't, however. "We know from the SARS-CoV-2 genetic data that the pandemic started in late November / early December in China so there's absolutely no way the virus could have been spreading widely in December 2019. From the same genetic data we know that widespread transmission didn't start in the United States until (around) February 2020," Andersen said in an email.

"The paper is picking up spurious signals and the hospitalizations are more likely from flu or other respiratory diseases," Andersen wrote.

6:39 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Brazil reports more than 36,000 new Covid-19 cases

Health agents of the City of Rio de Janeiro walk in an alley of Favela da Mangueira on September 3.
Health agents of the City of Rio de Janeiro walk in an alley of Favela da Mangueira on September 3. Bruna Prado/Getty Images

Brazil’s health ministry reported 36,653 new Covid-19 infections and 1,113 new coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday.

That brings the country’s total number of coronavirus cases to 4,382,263 and raises the death toll to 133,119.

According to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, Brazil is the third-worst hit country in the world in terms of cases, behind only India and the United States.

Brazil is second-worst in terms of deaths, with only the US having suffered more coronavirus fatalities so far.

6:33 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

WHO chief scientist says pre-Covid life may not return until 2022

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

It might not be until 2022 when the world can begin thinking about returning to "pre-Covid" life, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, chief science officer at the World Health Organization in Geneva, said Tuesday.

"We're looking at 2022 at least before enough people start getting the vaccine to build immunity. So for a long time to come, we have to maintain the same kind of measures that are currently being put in place with physical distancing, the masking and respiratory hygiene," said Swaminathan, speaking to reporters during a virtual meeting hosted by the United Nations Foundation.

"Those will have to continue after the vaccine starts getting rolled out, because we need 60% to 70% of the population to have immunity before you will start seeing a dramatic reduction in transmission of this virus," Swaminathan said. "We also don't know how long these vaccines will protect for — that's the other big question mark: How long does immunity last? And it's possible that you will need a booster."

Swaminathan added that health officials are currently looking to control the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, rather than eliminate it at this point.

While a timeline remains uncertain and difficult to predict, "I think it's safe to say that it could be 2022 when we will start thinking about going back to pre-Covid normal life," Swaminathan said.

Swaminathan added that she doesn't think the coronavirus will become a seasonal virus as time goes on, but instead we could expect to see "ups and downs" in cases and transmission.