August 7 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Zamira Rahim and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:53 a.m. ET, August 8, 2020
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4:11 p.m. ET, August 7, 2020

Arkansas to allow absentee ballots for Covid-19 concerns, governor says

From CNN’s James Froio

During a news conference on Friday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced he is signing an executive order that will allow people with "COVID-related concerns about going to the polls in November" to qualify for absentee ballots. 

“I signed the executive order today, and at the request of the county clerks it will do one other thing, and that is that it will allow the county clerks to prepare the ballots in advance for counting them beginning on Election Day at 8:30 a.m., which is a current law," Hutchinson said.

"So currently, they have a week before that they can prepare the absentee ballots without opening up the envelope, but still getting prepared so that on Election Day it is quicker to count,” he added.

Some context: Mail-in voting and absentee ballots have become a point of controversy after President Trump, without evidence, claimed that mail-in voting is particularly susceptible to fraud, casting it as a lawless, unregulated exercise where ballots are stolen from mailboxes, voter signatures are routinely forged and even the ballots themselves are illegally printed.

Trump tweeted that "there is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent."

Facts First: While rare instances of voter fraud from mail-in ballots do occur, it is nowhere near a widespread problem in the US election system.

In both 2016 and 2018, approximately 25% of US voters cast mail ballots, which includes the handful of states that conduct elections entirely by mail and traditional absentee ballots.

Read the full fact check.

4:01 p.m. ET, August 7, 2020

There are two big problems with contract tracing in the US, former government official says

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

In this September 19, 2017 file photo, Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation speaks at The 2017 Concordia Annual Summit at Grand Hyatt New York.
In this September 19, 2017 file photo, Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation speaks at The 2017 Concordia Annual Summit at Grand Hyatt New York. Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit

There are two big problems holding America back when it comes to contact tracing and response for Covid-19: the length of time it takes to get a test result and the American drive for liberty, according to Dr. Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation and former United States Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator.

“First and foremost is that it is taking four, five, six, seven days to get a test result,” he said during an Aspen Ideas webinar on Friday.

Asking someone who they had contact with in the last 24 hours is completely different than asking someone who they had contact with in the 24 hours prior to getting their test a week ago, Shah said.

“Every effort to look at pandemic response, including the smallpox eradication campaign from decades ago, show that, you know, the timeliness of people’s recall is everything when it comes down to this,” he said.

The second problem is what Shah referred to as “the sort of American drive for liberty” – something he said he holds very dearly.

“But, at the time of a pandemic, threatens all of us,” he said. “Asking people to sacrifice a little bit of their privacy in order to keep the country safe from a disease that is otherwise out of control should be something that our leaders ask of all of us in a measured and appropriate way.”

Having initially been asked about the use of technology in contact tracing, Shah said that there are safe ways that technology can be used that can improve contact tracing “that really do not reflect a major sacrifice in privacy beyond what we already have granted simply for the conveniences of life.”

He highlighted the system in place if someone goes to South Korea, where someone is joined into a system when they land, gets a test, goes to where they are quarantining, where they are sent food and a care package, and test results are sent within hours. This is all tied into a system that allows people to very easily report their contacts, he said.

“That’s what you need to have everywhere in order for this to work,” he said.

3:24 p.m. ET, August 7, 2020

Houston municipal courts to suspend all jury trials through September due to the pandemic

From CNN’s Pierre Meilhan

Houston has extended the suspension of all jury trials in its municipal courts through Sept. 30 because of the spread of Covid-19, the city said Friday.

The city came to this conclusion “due to changing circumstances regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and to encourage the health and safety of the public and court staff members,” according to a statement from the city.

The decision was also made in conjunction with the Texas Supreme Court’s order. The city added that its municipal courts remain open for all other proceedings.

By the numbers: Harris County, where Houston is located, has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in Texas with over 80,000 cases so far.

3:13 p.m. ET, August 7, 2020

Georgia reports more than 4,100 new coronavirus cases

From CNN’s Dianne Gallagher and Pamela Kirkland

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported 4,177 new cases of Covid-19 and 92 deaths on Friday.

The statewide Covid-19 case total is now 209,004.

The total number of deaths attributed to Covid-19 in Georgia is now 4,117. 

Note: These numbers were released by the Georgia Department of Public Health and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

2:45 p.m. ET, August 7, 2020

US surgeon general: Do these 3 things to lower the positivity rate

From CNN's Gisela Crespo

Surgeon General Jerome Adams speaks during a round table on donating plasma at the American Red Cross national headquarters on Thursday, July 30, in Washington.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams speaks during a round table on donating plasma at the American Red Cross national headquarters on Thursday, July 30, in Washington. Evan Vucci/AP

US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams urged residents of Baltimore to take safety precautions to slow the spread of Covid-19 in that city.  

In a news briefing with Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, Adams said people can lower the positivity rate with "three Ws."

"We don't need to wait for a vaccine. We don't need to wait for a miracle therapeutic. New York City and the state of New York have a positivity rate of less than 1% right now. And they've done it with three things – what I call my three W's," he said.

The three Ws, according to Adams, are:

  1. "Wash your hands"
  2. "Watch your distance – meaning stay at least six feet from others and avoid crowded places."
  3. "Wear a face mask."

Baltimore is one of the cities the White House coronavirus task force warned this week about an uptick in coronavirus test positivity rates.

Adams reminded the public that Baltimore can lower its numbers of new coronavirus cases "in a matter of weeks" by following public health safety measures.

"It usually takes two to three weeks after you start doing the right thing before you see cases come down. And across the nation right now, we're actually seeing case numbers start to come down. But is another two to three weeks after that before you see hospitalizations go down, and another two to three weeks after that before you start to level off and come back down. I want everyone to understand that," he said. "As I look around the city, the majority of people are doing the right thing. We just need to stay the course and continue to normalize that positive behavior."

2:40 p.m. ET, August 7, 2020

France reports more than 2,200 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours

From CNN's Pierre Buet and Sharon Braithwaite

A medical technician administers a nasal swab to a woman People at a mobile testing site in Paris, Thursday, August 6.
A medical technician administers a nasal swab to a woman People at a mobile testing site in Paris, Thursday, August 6. Michel Euler/AP

France's health ministry reported 2,288 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours and 9,330 over the past week.

"Indicators are worsening, which confirms a more active circulation of the virus on the whole territory," the ministry said in a news release on Friday.

A total of 30,324 people have died from coronavirus in France since the beginning of the pandemic. The ministry has reported 12 deaths in the past 24 hours.

Some details: The health ministry said 5,011 people are currently hospitalized for coronavirus symptoms, with 136 new admissions in past 24 hours. There are 383 patients in intensive care units, with 20 new admissions in the past 24 hours.

More than 5.3 million Covid-19 tests have been done so far, including 593,640 in the past seven days. 

2:33 p.m. ET, August 7, 2020

California tops 10,000 coronavirus deaths

From CNN's Sarah Moon

California reported 142 new coronavirus deaths on Friday, bringing the statewide total to 10,011 deaths, according to data from the state's Department of Public Health. 

While California has the highest number of cases in the nation, the death toll is still well below that of New York and New Jersey.

The state has a total of 538,416 positive cases, including 8,436 new cases added on Friday. The health department also warned that there has been an underreporting of cases due to issues with the state’s electronic laboratory reporting system.

The positivity rate over a 14-day period is now 6.1%, according to the health department.

Note: These numbers were released by the California Department of Public Health, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

2:22 p.m. ET, August 7, 2020

Covid-19 vaccine before the election is "highly unlikely," senior administration official says

From Jim Acosta

French engineer-virologist Thomas Mollet looks at 24 well plates adherent cells monolayer infected with the Sars-CoV-2 virus at the Valneva SE Group headquarters in Saint-Herblain, France, on July 30.
French engineer-virologist Thomas Mollet looks at 24 well plates adherent cells monolayer infected with the Sars-CoV-2 virus at the Valneva SE Group headquarters in Saint-Herblain, France, on July 30. Jean-Francois Monier/AFP/Getty Images

It is "highly unlikely" a Covid-19 vaccine would be ready by election day, a senior administration official close to the coronavirus task force told CNN. 

"Metaphysically possible. But highly unlikely," the official said. 

The official added there is reason to be hopeful for a vaccine in the coming months as progress continues to be made. 

"There will be lots to talk about, for sure," the official continued. "The trials are going very well."

A vaccine could come in early 2021, around inauguration day in January, said the official who also described that timeline as "optimistic."

More about vaccine timing: Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he is cautiously optimistic that human trials of a coronavirus vaccine being developed by Moderna might show whether it’s both safe and effective by late fall or early winter.

Fauci — who as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases helps lead federal vaccine development efforts — has repeatedly said he hoped the vaccine could start to be available by early next year, and then widely available in the spring and summer of next year if things go well.

President Trump on Thursday suggested a vaccine could be available by Election Day, saying he is “optimistic that it’ll be probably around that date.”

2:24 p.m. ET, August 7, 2020

Fauci says he'll repeat the importance of public health principles "until I'm exhausted"

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said he will continue to repeat himself “until I’m exhausted” on the importance of public health principles for fighting Covid-19.

Speaking during a webinar with the Brown School of Public Health, Fauci said there are five or six things every American can do to help bring Covid-19 case numbers down, which he calls the “fundamental principles.”

“Universal wearing of a mask, physical distancing, avoid crowds, outdoor better than indoor, washing your hands and hand hygiene – and if you're in a situation where it applies to you, stay away from bars,” he said. “I’m just going to repeat it again until I'm exhausted. Those things work."

Fauci said the message needs to be strong: The fundamental principles he outlines are not in conflict with opening up the country. 

“If we can somehow get the country unified to do that together, I don't think we need to go into the fall and the winter thinking we're going to have a catastrophe. We could go into the fall and the winter, coming out of it looking good, if we do certain things," Fauci said.