September 16 coronavirus news

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7:33 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Trump confirms a White House staff member tested positive for coronavirus

From CNN's Jason Hoffman and Sam Fossum 

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House on Wednesday in Washington.
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House on Wednesday in Washington. Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump confirmed an earlier report that a White House staff member has tested positive for coronavirus.

“I heard about it this morning at a very small level yes. I heard about it this morning,” Trump said at a White House press briefing on Wednesday. “Last night I heard about it for the first time and it’s a small number of cases, maybe it’s not even cases,” he added, contradicting himself on when he was first made aware of the positive case.

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany later said that it was just one person who tested positive.

“It did not effect the event and press was not around the individual,” McEnany said, apparently referring to the President’s town hall event last night in Philadelphia.

“And it’s not anybody that’s near me,” Trump added. “It was one person, not a person that I was associated with.”

Trump did not answer when asked if it was at the event in Philadelphia.

The information stems from today's foreign print pool reporter, Raquel Krähenbühl, who wrote on Twitter earlier today that she was told the press pool was tested late today because: "It was a very busy morning. We had a couple of positives today."

It's unclear who told this to the foreign print pool reporter and the information has not been included in any pool reports seen by CNN. The White House declined to comment to CNN. 

Earlier White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters, "I don't comment on any health-related issues as it relates to the White House ever."

The suspected positive coronavirus case inside the White House come a day after visits from Trump allies and foreign delegations from Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for the signing of peace agreements. 

WATCH:

6:45 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Trump claims Redfield was "confused" in earlier vaccine testimony

From CNN's Allie Malloy and Jason Hoffman 

President Donald Trump speaks to the press during a news conference in the White House on Wednesday in Washington.
President Donald Trump speaks to the press during a news conference in the White House on Wednesday in Washington. Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump told reporters that he believes Dr, Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was “confused” when he said a Covid-19 vaccine wouldn’t be widely available in the US until the third quarter or second quarter of 2021. 

“I think he made a mistake when he said that. It’s just incorrect information,” Trump said when asked about Redfield’s comments to the Senate earlier today. 

Redfield told Congress earlier Wednesday on a vaccine: "If you're asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we're probably looking at late 2nd quarter/3rd quarter 2021."

Trump added on Redfield: “I believe he was confused” and continued to claim that a vaccine will be distributed “very soon” despite his public health officials testimony.

Trump also said the release of a coronavirus vaccine could happen by mid-October which is quicker than the vaccine distribution materials released today by the CDC outlined.

Trump said distribution of a vaccine will begin as soon as a vaccine is approved, which he said could be “sometime in October.”

“We think we can start sometime in October. So as soon as it is announced, we’ll be able to start. That will be from mid-October on. It may be a little later than that,” Trump said at a news conference at the White House on Wednesday. “We will be all set. As soon as it's given the go ahead and they are doing trials as you know and as soon as it's given the go ahead we will get it out, defeat the virus.”

The CDC’s vaccine distribution playbook says that for planning purposes, state and local health agencies should assume “limited COVID-19 vaccine doses may be available by early November 2020” if a vaccine is authorized or licensed by the FDA, but the supply may increase substantially in 2021.

Later in his briefing, Trump said a vaccine could be announced “fairly soon, regardless this month, next month, in a level of time nobody thought was possible.”

Today, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, said he still anticipates a vaccine would take until November or December before it’s proven safe and effective. 

‘‘I would still put my money on November/December,” Fauci said, during a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute panel on global pandemics.

On Tuesday, Trump said he thinks a vaccine could be ready in three to four weeks.

Chief of staff Mark Meadows echoed that claim on Wednesday.

"I have been on phone calls with individuals who have said that personally to me," Meadows said in response to a question from CNN, but said he would not give specific names because "it would affect markets and I'm not going to do that."

WATCH:

6:18 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Brazil reports more than 900 new Covid-19 deaths

From CNN's Sugam Pokharel

Brazil’s health ministry reported 987 new coronavirus-related deaths and 36,820 new Covid-19 infections on Wednesday.

The country has so far reported a total of 4,419,083 coronavirus cases, and the death toll stands at 134,106.

With over 4.4 million cases, Brazil is currently the third-worst hit country in the world in terms of cases, behind only India and the United States, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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

6:26 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

University of Georgia reports a 70% drop in Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Maria Cartaya

The University of Georgia released its weekly Covid-19 report today showing that cases have declined “more than 70% over the course of a week.”

The university reported a total of 421 positive tests between Sept. 7 to 13.

“Of those, 404 were students, 16 were staff, and one was a faculty member,” according to the report.  

On Wednesday, the school also announced that there will be no on-campus voting in the fall.   

“These data give us some cautious optimism that cases might have plateaued on our campus,” said Dr. Garth Russo, executive director of the University Health Center and chair of UGA’s Medical Oversight Task Force. “However, we are by no means out of the woods yet. We know that we had a short week due to the Labor Day holiday, and we hope that we will not see a spike in positive cases from activities that weekend. Each member of our campus community must remain diligent in our individual efforts to curb the spread of the virus if we want to keep these numbers on a downward trend."

The University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, has “nearly 50,000 students, faculty and staff,” according to the university.  

6:21 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Dr. Tom Frieden: US nearing 200,000 Covid-19 deaths is a "reflection of a failing national response"

From CNN's Leinz Vales

Former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Tom Frieden testifies during a hearing on Covid-19 Response before the Subcommittee on the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies of the House Appropriations Committee May 6 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Tom Frieden testifies during a hearing on Covid-19 Response before the Subcommittee on the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies of the House Appropriations Committee May 6 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Alex Wong/Getty Images

As the United States approaches 200,000 coronavirus deaths, Dr. Tom Frieden, a former US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, said Wednesday that the number of reported deaths are a "reflection of a failing national response."

"The actual number is higher because not all deaths have been identified and this is just a horrifying number," Frieden told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "It's more people than die from suicide or overdose or homicide or HIV. In fact, Covid is on track to be the number three leading cause of death in all of the US for this year."

The former CDC director said he's concerned that Americans will get "hardened" to the number of coronavirus deaths.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the US has reported at least 196,465 coronavirus deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

According to Johns Hopkins, 1,293 deaths were reported Tuesday, which is the highest one-day total since Aug. 19.

"If you look at Germany, one fifth are death rate," Frieden said. "If you look at South Korea, 80 times fewer deaths than we've had. These are lives that have been lost and jobs that have been lost because we haven't had an organized, consistent, coherent federal response."

5:55 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Mistrust in government is hindering Covid-19 surveillance efforts, expert says

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

Mistrust in government agencies is hindering Covid-19 surveillance efforts, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said Wednesday.

“It is very challenging in many areas today, where we're seeing people who do not want to participate in any kind of follow up with regard to surveillance, because of their distrust of government and the public health system,” Osterholm said during an American Public Health Association webinar.

Osterholm said that challenges in agencies, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and US Food and Drug Administration, have eroded trust in the whole public health system. 

“There has been more than enough public discussion of challenges about the validity of the information coming from those areas, that then often will translate into the public's trust of even state and local health departments and the compliance with contact tracers,” Osterholm said.

5:45 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Acute food insecurity is "doubling" due to Covid-19, says World Food Program expert

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

New Yorkers in need receive free produce, dry goods, and meat at a Food Bank For New York City distribution event at Lincoln Center on July 29 in New York.
New Yorkers in need receive free produce, dry goods, and meat at a Food Bank For New York City distribution event at Lincoln Center on July 29 in New York. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Public health experts have long warned that the Covid-19 pandemic could worsen the world's hunger crises. Now it appears that the number of people who face acute food insecurity has doubled, said Valerie Guarnieri, the World Food Program's assistant executive director. 

"Last year, we had anticipated — based on all of the assessments and all of the projections — that the number of people in a state of severe food insecurity this year would be 135 million," Guarnieri told reporters during a virtual meeting hosted by the United Nations Foundation on Wednesday. "As a result of Covid, we are now anticipating that that number will be 270 million — so basically a doubling of acute food insecurity as a result of Covid and the Covid compounding impact on pre-existing crises."

She said the World Food Program is looking to scale up its efforts to reach 138 million people who are food insecure this year. 

The Global Network Against Food Crises — launched by the European Union, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program — released a report on Tuesday detailing how the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are driving up acute hunger in vulnerable countries that were already facing food crises.

More details: The report notes that while currently the Democratic Republic of the Congo has the largest food crisis in absolute numbers, there has been a nearly 300% increase in acute food insecurity in Burkina Faso, a 73% increase in northern Nigeria, a 67% increase in Somalia and a 64% increase in Sudan.

 

5:09 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Illinois governor extends eviction moratorium due to the pandemic

From CNN’s Hira Humayun

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Source: Pool

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker spoke about the financial impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and impacts on housing in the state, saying he would extend the state’s eviction moratorium for an additional 30 days.

Pritzker said at a news conference on Wednesday that he would continue to work with leaders in the general assembly and Congress to advocate for more federal assistance to keep people in their homes.

“Over 100,000 Illinois tenants and homeowners applied for our assistance program. But we only have enough funds to support approximately 40,000 of them. And ours is the largest pandemic housing stability program in the nation. It is for that reason that I will be extending out eviction moratorium for an additional 30 days,” he said.

The governor also said there have been outbreaks of Covid-19 over the summer, tied to youth sports across the state and across the world.

“Over the summer we saw outbreaks across Illinois and around the world, tied to a variety of youth sports leagues. Those continue today even among the lowest risk youth sports,” Pritzker said.

Over the past two weeks, the governor said, nearly every region in the state has seen a stable or declining positivity rate. 

He said the Illinois Department of Public Health will continue to monitor the positivity over the next few says and that if the trend holds for three days, “we will remove the resurgence mitigations and return the entire region to phase four of the Restore Illinois Plan.” 

4:31 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

The wide spectrum of Covid-19 disease still puzzles Fauci

From CNN's Andrea Kane

Of all the viral diseases and emerging infections that he's encountered throughout his career, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he has “never seen anything with a range” like the novel coronavirus, which he said suggests factors other than underlying medical conditions affect disease severity. 

At least 40% of patients have no symptoms, while some stay ill for months on end, Fauci said. 

“It's just completely unique to see that degree of variability of a single microbe, which means there are things that are determining that, that we still at this point don't understand,” Fauci said.

“It isn't just whether you have an underlying disease or not – it's just not the case. It's something more than that,” he added during a virtual panel on the global pandemic sponsored by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. 

He said one of those factors may be “the rate of expression of ACE2 receptors.”  These are molecular doorways into cells that the novel coronavirus appears to favor. Some cells have more of these receptors than others do.

Fauci said this variability has created confusion. It’s helped fuel misunderstandings about who can spread the virus and when. 

"One of the things we're dealing with in this country is a real lack of understanding of the importance of everybody trying to prevent getting infected rather than inadvertently… propagating the outbreak," he said.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly described the number of patients who lack coronavirus symptoms. It is at least 40%.