July 9 coronavirus news

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12:47 a.m. ET, July 9, 2020

Hong Kong authorities warn of "exponential growth" in new Covid-19 cases

Authorities in Hong Kong, a city lauded for its quick and effective coronavirus response, are now warning of potential "exponential growth" in new Covid-19 cases after a surge in local transmissions.

Since Sunday, 65 patients have been diagnosed -- including 31 locally transmitted cases in what has been dubbed a "third wave" of the pandemic in the global financial center.

Taxi drivers, restaurant workers, a medical clinic employee and a retirement home resident -- some of the people most vulnerable to the virus and likely to spread it -- have been diagnosed.

"It is possible there could be a major outbreak," Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, the head of Hong Kong's Center for Health Protection (CHP) Communicable Disease Branch said Wednesday. "There could be a sudden exponential growth of cases."

Hong Kong has recorded only 1,324 coronavirus cases and seven virus-related fatalities since the pandemic began.

The city's success in containing Covid-19 has been attributed to the government's vigilant enforcement of quarantine for overseas arrivals, efficient contact tracing and residents' willingness to practice good hygiene, wear masks and practice social distancing.

While the new caseload and total number of people diagnosed with Covid-19 is very low compared to the United States and Brazil, experts say the latest rise shows the virus still poses a threat despite even the most stringent anti-epidemic controls.

"This virus will find every chink in your armor," said Dr. Sarah Borwein, a Hong Kong-based physician experienced in infectious diseases and epidemiology. "We've seen that in Beijing, in Singapore, in South Korea and now in IsraelAustralia and elsewhere."

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11:55 p.m. ET, July 8, 2020

Border community straddling Australia's two most populous states cleaved in two by lockdown

From CNN's Angus Watson in Albury, Australia, and Nectar Gan in Hong Kong

As Australia shut the border between its two most populous states to contain the spread of the coronavirus, tens of thousands of people living close to the dividing line have found their community cleaved in two.

Located on each side of the Murray River separating New South Wales and Victoria, the twin cities of Albury and Wodonga, more commonly referred to as Albury-Wodonga, have long operated as one community and one economy.

Many of their 100,000 residents cross the border every day. The two cities even share the same hospital, located in Albury on the NSW side but covered by Victoria's health system.

But that border was sealed on Wednesday, as authorities scrambled to prevent a second wave of infections spreading across the country. Over the past few weeks, Victoria has struggled to contain a sudden reemergence of coronavirus in Melbourne, as case numbers there continued to rise.

Authorities blocked major roads between Victoria and NSW after midnight -- the first time the border has closed since the Spanish flu pandemic a century ago.

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11:55 p.m. ET, July 8, 2020

Ohio State pauses all voluntary workouts following latest positive coronavirus tests

Ohio Stadium, also known as the Horseshoe, at The Ohio State University.
Ohio Stadium, also known as the Horseshoe, at The Ohio State University. Shutterstock

The Ohio State Department of Athletics has announced that the school has paused all voluntary workouts, “following the results of its most recent Covid-19 testing of student-athletes.”

The school is not sharing infection data publicly because "it could lead to the identification of specific individuals and compromise their medical privacy," the athletics department said in its statement.

The pause affects men’s and women’s basketball, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball.

“If a student-athlete tests positive for Covid-19, he/she will self-isolate for at least 14 days and receive daily check-ups from the Department of Athletics medical staff. Student-athletes living alone will isolate in their residence. If they have roommates, they will self-isolate in a designated room on campus," the statement said.

Earlier Wednesday, the University of North Carolina suspended its football program’s voluntary workouts after 37 players and staff tested positive for Covid-19.

11:55 p.m. ET, July 8, 2020

Coronavirus was likely spreading widely across the US as early as February, model suggests

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Coronavirus was probably spreading widely across the US in February, new modeling data suggests, and it only took a few imported cases from other countries to set off rapid spread inside the borders.

While direct imports from China and other countries may have been responsible for the early introduction of Covid-19 to the US, most spread was state to state, researchers led by a team at Northeastern University in Boston reported.

“We estimate widespread community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in February, 2020,” a team led by Northeastern’s Laboratory for the Modeling of Biological and Socio-technical Systems wrote on MedRxiv, a pre-print server. The work has not been peer-reviewed.

“Our results indicate that many states were seeded from domestic sources rather than international,” the team wrote. “For most of the continental states, the largest contribution of imported infections arrived through domestic travel flows.”

The US announced restrictions on travel from China on January 31. The researchers say their modeling study suggests the restrictions came far too late.

“Importations from mainland China may be relevant in seeding the epidemic in January, but then play a small role in the COVID-19 expansion in the US because of the travel restrictions imposed to/from mainland China after January 23, 2020,” they wrote.

“Domestic sources account for 85% of the virus introductions in Nebraska, 86% in New Mexico, 86% in Arkansas, and 95% in North Dakota."

The model contrasts with evidence from several studies that suggest there was already a significant number of infections in the US by the time the travel restrictions were announced on January 31, the researchers wrote.

11:55 p.m. ET, July 8, 2020

Fauci defends Pence's optimism on coronavirus, says he's doing "a very good job"

From CNN’s Shelby Lin Erdman

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington, DC, on June 30.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington, DC, on June 30. Al Drago/Pool/Getty Images

The United States' leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said White House coronavirus task force leader Vice President Mike Pence is doing “a very good job.”

Fauci and task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx regularly sound the alarm about the pandemic at briefings or in interviews, while Pence has touted what a good job the Trump administration is doing.

“He is trying in his role as the vice president to really, in a certain sense, also point out some of the things that are going well,” Fauci told the Wall Street Journal in a podcast Wednesday. 

“So, he's a person who's an optimistic person and he's doing a very good job as the leader of the task force, I must say.

“I look at the data, I analyze the data and I give my best opinion based on the evidence."

Fauci said there are many facets to the task force discussions, and he and his colleagues are primarily focused on public health. Pence, he said, has other concerns.

“There’s the issue and the need, from an economic standpoint, to get open," Fauci said. "So all of that goes into the mix and then you see the kind of recommendations that go out but you know as a member of the task force, I’m telling you that we have a serious situation that we really do need to address.”

Fauci said the public health and economic policies need to work in tandem. Other health experts worry that President Donald Trump has pushed his economic priorities at the expense of American lives. So far, more than 132,000 Americans have died from Covid-19. 

“We shouldn't think of it as one against the other because once you start thinking there’s public health and there's the economy opening it looks like they're opposing forces,” Fauci said. 

“So, what we're trying to do is to get the public health message, if heard and implemented, be actually a gateway to facilitate opening and an easier way instead of there’s guys are on this side and those guys and ladies are on the other side.”