September 16 coronavirus news

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9:57 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 

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

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

Responding to a question from an undecided voter at ABC’s town hall, Trump contradicted his own statements to journalist and author Bob Woodward in which 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.

9:56 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

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

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan attends a news conference at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on July 3.
World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan attends a news conference at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on July 3. Fabrice Coffrini/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

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.

9:55 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

WHO official says countries must choose between keeping bars or schools open

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, speaks during a Covid-19 press briefing in March.
Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, speaks during a Covid-19 press briefing in March.  Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Countries that are going into the winter months will have to choose between having bars and nightclubs open, or schools in session, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, said Tuesday.

“We have to sustain pressure on this virus, we have to reduce transmission at community level in order to lower the risk to those older and vulnerable people and to maintain an environment in which our children can continue to attend school,” Ryan said during a briefing in Geneva. 

“So, what is more important? Are children back at school? Are the nightclubs and the bars open?” he said. “I think these are decisions that we have to make in coming into the winter months.” 

Since there isn’t yet a vaccine, in order to keep children in school and protect older and vulnerable people, there is no alternative to sustained surveillance, test and trace, quick results, cluster investigation, isolation of cases and quarantining of contacts, Ryan said.

“I’m sorry to be boring, and I’m sorry to keep saying this over and over and over again, but there are no alternatives,” he said. “This is what we must do.” 

“If we are to serve our children and those older and vulnerable people in our population who might die this winter in these countries, then we must sustain these other activities and these cannot be sustained without government commitment to do this and society’s commitment to participate and be part of this,” he said.