September 24 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Tara John and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, September 25, 2020
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12:17 p.m. ET, September 24, 2020

Fauci: "There's good enough data to say that aerosol transmission does occur"

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies at a hearing in Washington, DC, on September 23.
Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies at a hearing in Washington, DC, on September 23. Alex Edelman/Pool/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, believes “there's good enough data to say that aerosol transmission does occur.”

Speaking to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday, Fauci explained, “Aerosol means the droplets don't drop immediately – they hang around for a period of time.”

“Generally if you have droplets that come out of a person, they generally go down within six feet. So, if you're six feet distance, you’re wearing a mask, you don't worry about that,” he said.

This becomes “very relevant” when you are inside where there is poor ventilation. 

Fauci said we shouldn’t be “getting bent out of shape,” about whether Covid-19 aerosolizes or not. “Act like it's occurring – and then do the same thing you've been doing otherwise.” 

“Which means: Wear the mask,” he added.

12:43 p.m. ET, September 24, 2020

Over 80% of Covid-19 cases in Africa could be asymptomatic, WHO warns

From CNN's Bethlehem Feleke in Nairobi

A health worker in Centurion, South Africa, tests someone for Covid-19 on July 23.
A health worker in Centurion, South Africa, tests someone for Covid-19 on July 23. Alet Pretorius/Gallo Images/Getty Images

While confirmed Covid-19 cases and death rates remain low in many African countries, early results in some communities suggest a higher number of infections than those reported, said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa.

"Preliminary analysis suggests that over 80% of cases in Africa are asymptomatic," she said during a press briefing Thursday. 

The swift action of governments on the continent to impose early lockdowns, and the public's general adherence to movement restrictions, created a "window of opportunity" to keep cases low, Dr. Moeti said. Since many countries have begun easing restrictions and opening economies back up, there has been an uptick of cases.

But experts are unable to conclusively explain the low death rates on the continent. "We don't know the exact factors that are causing it, we just know that some of the factors are more probable," said Dr. Sam Agatre Okuonzi from Uganda.

The panel described probable factors such as a majority youthful population, the frequency with which many Africans spend outdoors and the less movement and interaction in rural areas, as potential explanations. 

Another potential factor scientists are studying is the level of potential cross-immunity that has developed from exposure to previous coronaviruses. 

"Research is required to characterize the disease and the pandemic in Africa and this work is just beginning," Dr. Okuonzi said.

11:26 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

FDA chief still won't comment on Trump's threat to override vaccine rules

From CNN's John Bonifield

President Donald Trump and Dr. Stephen Hahn hold a briefing at the White House on August 23.
President Donald Trump and Dr. Stephen Hahn hold a briefing at the White House on August 23. Alex Brandon/AP

US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn on Thursday declined to comment on statements from President Trump that the White House could override the agency if it released tougher standards for the authorization of a Covid-19 vaccine candidate.

"We decline to comment," an agency spokesperson said, after an inquiry from CNN requesting a response from Hahn.

Some background: The FDA is considering new guidelines for the authorization of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to three sources familiar with the situation. The rules would allow additional time to evaluate the safety of the vaccine.

Calculations show the rules would push an emergency authorization of a vaccine beyond Election Day.

The President said Wednesday, "We may or may not approve" the guidelines, casting them "as a political move more than anything else."

In explaining his reasoning, the President said, "I have tremendous trust in these massive companies. ... When they come back and they say that we have something that works and absolutely works, and they're coming back with great numbers and statistics and tests and everything else that they have to come back with, I don't see any reason why it should be delayed further. Because if they delay it a week or two weeks or three weeks, that's a lot of lives you're talking about."

The FDA on Wednesday told CNN it was "respectfully" declining to comment when asked about President Trump's statement.

11:11 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

As a second coronavirus wave hits Europe, some schools blame outbreaks on partying

From Amy Cassidy in Glasgow

Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne is pictured in Switzerland on September 23.
Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne is pictured in Switzerland on September 23. Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone/AP

As Europe endures its second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of students in several universities across Europe are self-isolating following mass outbreaks of Covid-19 that local officials blame on partying.

Here's a look at some of the schools:

  • All 2,500 students at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, Switzerland’s most prestigious hospitality school, are quarantining following a “major outbreak” in infection, according to the Vaud Canton regional authority on Wednesday." The initial investigation shows that the organization of one or more parties would be at the origin of these numerous outbreaks of infection," the school said.
  • Meanwhile, in Scotland, several universities have reported recent outbreaks of Covid-19 in halls of residency, which is being linked to illegal gatherings during start of term celebrations known as “Freshers’ Week”. On Wednesday, 600 students at the University of Glasgow were told to self-isolate after 124 new cases were confirmed since the beginning of term.
  • And the principal of the University of St. Andrews, one of the UK’s most elite schools, asked students to go into voluntary lockdown last Friday following an uptick in cases “all linked” to one party during Freshers’ Week that “broke the law”, he said.
  • More than 500 students at Scotland’s Abertey and Aberdeen Universities have also been forced to quarantine, with local health boards investigating the outbreaks.

 

10:14 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

How Google Maps can show you how bad Covid-19 is near you

From CNN's Jordan Valinsky

Google Maps will soon show the number of Covid-19 cases in an area.
Google Maps will soon show the number of Covid-19 cases in an area. Google

Google Maps will soon show how prevalent coronavirus is in geographic areas with a new color-coded update.

Beginning this week, the Maps app will display seven-day averages of new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people. The chosen areas will show if cases are increasing or decreasing and be shaded with one of six colors to signify how many new cases were reported

Google is pulling data from three sources: Johns Hopkins University, the New York Times, and Wikipedia. They receive their data from the World Health Organization and other public or government health organizations. Information is available for all 220 countries that Google Maps works in. 

Read the full article here.

1:47 p.m. ET, September 24, 2020

Tennessee Department of Education releases data on learning loss among K-12 students

From CNN's Tami Luhby

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Tennesee's Department of Education released data on Wednesday showing significant learning loss for the state's K-12 students following the closure of schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year and through the summer.

According to the data projections, 3rd graders have an estimated 50% decrease in reading proficiency and an estimated 65% decrease in proficiency in math.

“This data highlights the immense challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has created for our students and educators,” said Gov. Lee in the release. “The vast majority of students learn best in-person with their teacher, and we’ll continue to help provide a safe environment for Tennessee students to get their educational journeys back on track.”

According to the release, these projections show that learning loss among Tennessee's students from March could be as much as two and a half times more than a normal "summer slide" academic loss. The learning loss has a more significant impact on younger students than older students, the release said, putting those younger students at risk of falling further behind as they progress in later school years.

"We know that increased time away from school has negative implications for students, which is compounded during extended building closures,” said Tennessee Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn.

The 2020-21 school year in Tennessee has a range of learning scenarios across its districts including in-person, hybrid, and all virtual.

1:47 p.m. ET, September 24, 2020

Schools in this Virginia county will allow some students to return for in-person learning in October

From CNN's Lindy Royce

Nearly 7,000 students in Virginia's Fairfax County Public School District will be allowed to return for in-person learning in October, after the school board approved the superintendent's plan for a "Cohort Model." The rest of the district's students will continue with virtual learning.

According to the cohort plan, select students can return to school buildings, in groups that stay together "throughout the school day, to minimize exposure for students, teachers and staff." 

The students include preschool classes and preschool autism classes, as well as English Learner Newcomers and other special needs students. According to the plan, it consists of 6,707 students and 653 teachers, about 3.5% of the districts population.

Fairfax County is the 11th largest school district in the country with more than 187,000 students. The decision to move school to an all-online model was made in July.

You can read the full plan here.

9:29 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

“Politics will play no role whatsoever in the approval of a vaccine,” Trump's HHS secretary says

From CNN Health's Andrea Diaz

Alex Azar attends a press conference at the White House on August 23.
Alex Azar attends a press conference at the White House on August 23. Pete Marovich/Getty Images

During an interview on NBC’s Today show Thursday, US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said he believes politics will not play a role in the approval of a vaccine for Covid-19.

"I want to reassure you, and the American people, politics will play no role whatsoever in the approval of a vaccine. There are many independent checks and the system that we have built in first," Azar said.

"There's an independent data and safety monitoring board that will determine, even if we see data out of these trials, according to pre specified statistical plans. Then the drug companies will decide if the data meets their standards, because they have their own ethical obligations. Then the FDA has published public transparent guidance and the tough standards they'll require for approval," he continued.

Additionally, when asked if there were any concerns about a second wave of the virus, Azar pointed out that it's an ongoing situation.

"You know, I don't think it's useful to talk about the second wave. Listen, we're in an enduring pandemic. And what's really important is that we not let down our guard as individuals, practice the three Ws: Wash your hands, watch your distance, wear your face coverings when you can't social distance, and stay out of settings where you can't do those things," Azar said.

9:22 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

Swedish Prime Minister calls rising number of coronavirus cases "worrying"

From Sharon Braithwaite in London

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven holds a press conference in Stockholm on May 29.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven holds a press conference in Stockholm on May 29. Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said the rising number of coronavirus cases in the country is "worrying." He made the comments during a briefing Thursday and his press secretary Gösta Brunnander confirmed them to CNN via email. 

Sweden is seeing "signs that the number of infections is increasing in certain areas in our country," Lofven said. "That's worrying. It requires that we tighten our behavior," he said, calling on his fellow citizens to adhere to the guidelines of social distancing and good hygiene.

Lofven also said the government would not hesitate to introduce new measures if needed to limit the spread of the virus.

Unlike most countries, Sweden did not go into a lockdown when the pandemic spread across Europe in early spring. Instead, there was an emphasis on personal responsibility, with most bars, schools, restaurants and salons remaining open.