August 10 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, August 11, 2020
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11:22 a.m. ET, August 10, 2020

California's health director steps down

From CNN's Stella Chan

Former California Department of Public Health Director and State Health Officer Dr. Sonia Angell speaks during a news conference at the California Department of Public Health on February 27 in Sacramento, California.
Former California Department of Public Health Director and State Health Officer Dr. Sonia Angell speaks during a news conference at the California Department of Public Health on February 27 in Sacramento, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California’s health director and state public health officer resigned from her post on Sunday, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Dr. Sonia Angell sent an email to staff announcing her departure:

 “Since I joined this Department as Director and State Public Health Officer in October 2019, we have been responding to emergencies, from E-cigarette and Vaping Associated Lung Injury, to the Public Safety Power Shutoffs and wildfires, and now to a global infectious disease pandemic. We have done all this, even as we have continued to deliver on the Department’s core public health functions. It is with deep appreciation and respect for all of this work that I share with you my own plans to depart from my position, effective today,” Dr. Angell wrote.

“I want to thank Dr. Angell for her service to the state and her work to help steer our public health system during this global pandemic, while never losing sight of the importance of health equity,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

State Health and Human Services Agency Secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly said he was "grateful to Dr. Angell for her service to the people of California during this unprecedented public health crisis. She has worked tirelessly for all Californians, always keeping health equity in mind. Her leadership was instrumental as Californians flattened the curve once and in setting us on a path to do so again.”

Sandra Shewry will be appointed acting California Department of Public Health Director and Dr. Erica Pan will assume the role of acting State Public Health Officer, according to the CDPH.

California has the dubious distinction of being the state with the most number of coronavirus cases.

The state is currently battling a technical glitch in its disease reporting database (CalREDIE) causing an underreporting in coronavirus cases. Gov. Newsom has launched an investigation. 

He will hold a press conference today at 12:00 p.m. PT.

11:45 a.m. ET, August 10, 2020

Georgia lawmaker says teachers are fearful of whistleblowing about Covid-19 concerns in their schools

From CNN's Pamela Kirkland

Georgia state representative Beth Moore speaks during a virtual press conference on August 10.
Georgia state representative Beth Moore speaks during a virtual press conference on August 10. Georgia Democratic Party

Georgia state representative Beth Moore said she’s received messages from hundreds of anonymous teachers and students since Friday about concerns of Covid-19 and schools. 

During a virtual news conference hosted by the Georgia Democrats, Rep. Beth Moore said she posted a video on her social media on Friday asking teachers, students, and school administrators to anonymously send their concerns related to school reopening in the state.

She said she did so after hearing about a student in Paulding County, Georgia who was suspended for posting a picture of her crowded school hallways on Twitter. That suspension was later rescinded.  

“I’ve been receiving emails from teachers in dozens of different school districts. From Fulton County, to Cherokee, to Paulding, to Gilmer counties. I think the theme that is emerging from these messages is that teachers are fearful of whistleblowing,” Rep. Moore said. 

She read a portion of an email from a high school English teacher in Forsyth County, Georgia who was concerned about class size.

Rep. Moore said the email read, in part, “every class, I teach 5, has 30 to 31 students, except for one that has 33. No masks are required. I am scared to death.”

Watch her interview on CNN:

10:32 a.m. ET, August 10, 2020

WHO official: "we can outsmart the virus"

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

Social distancing signs are seen in Blackburn town center on July 17 in Blackburn, England.
Social distancing signs are seen in Blackburn town center on July 17 in Blackburn, England. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Covid-19 is brutal in its simplicity and its cruelty, but there are things that can be done to outsmart it, according to World Health Organization officials.

“When we talk about what is the virus trying to do and the virus being an enemy, the virus doesn’t have a brain. We’re the ones with the brains,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, during a news conference in Geneva on Monday.

Ryan described the virus as a simple biologic entity that can enter a human cell and instruct that cell to make more viruses, which can at minimum infect someone else; or in the worst case, kill the person.

“It’s brutal in its simplicity. It’s brutal in its cruelty,” Ryan said. “But it doesn’t have a brain. We have the brains. And I think Maria may outline how we can outsmart something that doesn’t have a brain, but we’re not doing such a great job right now.” 

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for coronavirus, elaborated on how this can be done, saying that the goal of the virus is to reproduce, find individuals to pass between but not kill too many, as it Is unable to pass to another person if it kills its host.

“There’s many, many things that we can do right now with the tools that we have right now, to outsmart this virus,” she said.

While work on therapeutics and vaccines will continue, at this point chains of transmission can be broken, she said.

These include social distancing, contact tracing, quarantining infected individuals, the use of masks when physical distancing isn’t possible, and hand washing.

“If we do all of these things, we can outsmart the virus, and we can prevent this virus from passing from one individual to another,” she said, adding that everyone on the planet needs to understand that they have a role to play in breaking chain of transmission.

10:02 a.m. ET, August 10, 2020

9 of the 12 Florida counties starting in-person schooling this week had a positivity rate above 5%

From CNN's Rosa Flores and Sara Weisfeldt 

As the legal battle over the reopening of Florida public schools continues, at least 12 county public schools systems are planning to reopen this week and offer in-person instruction, according to Mark Richard, Florida Education Association attorney.

According to Richard and the school district websites, the school districts opening this week are Baker, Bradford, Dixie, Franklin, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Suwannee, Martin, Calhoun, Hardee, Union and Wakulla.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said last month that officials in counties with a positivity rate higher than 5% might consider keeping schools closed; and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx agreed with Redfield’s take on the matter on CNN’s State of the Union with Dana Bash on August 2.

On Saturday, 9 of 12 counties reopening schools this week had a positivity rate above 5%, according to the latest data available from the Florida Department of Health. The same data showed that in the past two weeks, all 12 counties on some days exceeded 5% positivity rate, with some counties far exceeding that metric. For example, Baker County had a 36.9% positivity on Friday and Bradford had a 42% positivity rate on Thursday.

9:55 a.m. ET, August 10, 2020

Mnuchin on stimulus negotiations: "We're prepared to put more money on the table"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin speaks to members of the press at the U.S. Capitol on August 7 in Washington, DC.
Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin speaks to members of the press at the U.S. Capitol on August 7 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the administration is prepared to put more money on the table as stalled stimulus negotiations continue on Capitol Hill, but couldn’t say when his team would meet with Democrats.

 “We’re prepared to put more money on the table,” he said during an appearance on CNBC, adding, “We’re not stuck at the $1 trillion dollars, but we’re not going to go to unlimited amounts of money that don’t make sense.”

Mnuchin declined to say when negotiators would be meeting, but said he heard House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer over the weekend, and “if we can get a fair deal, we’ll do it this week.”

“I’m not gonna comment on the specifics of the logistics of negotiations because I don’t think that’s helpful,” he said when pressed on when they would meet next.

One area where they were willing to compromise is food assistance for children: “I listened to the Speaker over the weekend. She’s right. We started low on food. We realize there’s a lot of kids out there and that there is an issue,” he said, adding that they will “go down the list” on further issues. 

He reiterated the administration’s position against funding for state and local governments after the President’s executive action slashed the federal unemployment benefit from $600 to $400, requiring states to pay for 25%.

Trump told reporters late Sunday it will depend on the state and the federal government could pick up the entire cost if governors make a request, but the action received criticism from many governors.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer roundly criticized the move and how it will impact states with “severe holes in our budgets” and suggested it shows he’s more focused than winning the election than fighting the virus.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it “laughable.” And Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine told CNN he’s not sure if his state will take the federal money.

Mnuchin said House-passed legislation with $1 trillion of aid to state and local governments was an “absurd number.”

He claimed “all 100%” is coming from the federal government and claimed states had “plenty of money.” 

“The 25% isn’t really coming from the states because we’re authorizing them to use money out of the $150 billion we just sent them… I have from every single state how much money they have left over. They have plenty of money,” he said. 

He suggested states would get that money back in additional legislation.

 Mnuchin said he would be on Monday’s governors call and had spoken with many of them amid widespread concern from governors regarding the President’s executive actions. 

The closed call is at 3:00 p.m. ET.

9:49 a.m. ET, August 10, 2020

Covid-19 is “proving exceptionally difficult to stop,” WHO says

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

Covid-19 is proving exceptionally difficult to stop, and it is important to identify where the human-animal barrier was breached, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme, said during a news conference in Geneva on Monday.

“This virus is proving exceptionally difficult to stop,” Ryan said, saying that it was important to reflect on what is known about the virus, in terms of the ease of spread, the multiple transmission modes and the existence of asymptomatic and presymptomatic transmission.

“This is not an easy virus and not an easy virus, either, to detect. It’s not an easy virus to stop,” he said.

Ryan explained that it is difficult to detect and distinguish between Covid-19 and other syndromes without adequate and immediate testing which is being seen in countries where both Covid-19 and influenza are circulating at the same time.

An epidemiologic investigation will start in Wuhan, because that’s where the first clusters of cases were picked up, he said, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that is where Case Zero was, according to Ryan. 

“If you follow the data and the science, you will find, hopefully, the point at which the disease crossed the species barrier,” he said.

Finding Case Zero helps to distinguish this crossing of the barrier between species.

“It is important that we find that, because as long as the animal-human breach has not been discovered, there’s always a chance that that barrier can be breached again," he said.

Although finding this breach is important, it can take some time, according to Ryan, who said It took years for MERS, and has never been fully established for SARS.

 The world is at greater risk for these species breaches, Ryan said.

“We are pressuring the biologic system. We live in a biome. We live in a world of biology. And we are creating – actively creating – the pressures that are driving the breaches of those barriers,” he said. “And we need to do better at managing the risks associated with that.”

9:44 a.m. ET, August 10, 2020

US stocks move cautiously higher after Trump's executive action

From CNN’s David Goldman

US stocks advanced slightly Monday morning as Wall Street tried to gauge how much President Trump’s recent executive actions would stimulate the economy.

Trump announced this weekend he would go around Congress to deliver aid to Americans affected by the pandemic. But a close read of the actual text of the executive actions he signed Saturday suggests that even if they are deemed constitutional, they will not quickly deliver the aid Trump promised. They may not deliver much at all.

Here's how things looked at the opening:

  • The Dow was up 110 points, or 0.4%
  • The S&P 500 rose 0.2%
  • The Nasdaq was 0.2% higher
9:41 a.m. ET, August 10, 2020

"Take the pressure off this virus, the virus will bounce back," WHO official says

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

WHO Health Emergencies Programme Director Michael Ryan attends a press conference on July 3 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
WHO Health Emergencies Programme Director Michael Ryan attends a press conference on July 3 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Fabrice Coffrini/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

There was always a chance that Covid-19 would flare up again, even after it was suppressed, and countries need to focus on their response to these flare-ups, according to World Health Organization officials.

“There was always a likelihood that diseases, that we have said – it would spike and there would be flare ups of the virus – because until the virus has gone, there’s always a chance of flare-ups,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, during a news briefing in Geneva on Monday.

Countries really need to focus their response on the inevitable flareups, Ryan said – how fast and how effectively they respond to them, and if they are able to shut them down as quickly as possible, and move on to the next flare-up.

“I know that’s not what people want to hear, but that is the reality,” he said.

Once the virus has been bought down to a low level and these flare-ups do occur, how quickly a country or area is able to respond to them, and how localized they can be in their response, really comes down to how well they have invested in the ability to do things such as surveillance, quarantine and contact tracing, according to Ryan.

While viruses often show seasonality when there are not control measures in place, Covid-19 has not shown this. But, what it has “clearly demonstrated is you take the pressure off the virus, the virus bounces back,” Ryan said.

“That’s the reality. That’s the fact. You can call that a second wave, you can call that a second spike, you can call that a flare-up. You can call it anything you like. Take the pressure off this virus, the virus will bounce back,” he said.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19, agreed with Ryan.

Everyone on the planet should know what their role is in the fight against Covid-19 and manage their own risk, she said.

“We know if the virus has an opportunity to spread, it will, and it hasn’t gone away,” she said.

There is no indication of seasonality. The virus hasn’t gone away and that the majority of the population remains susceptible to infection, she said.

“So, we have to do everything that we can to prevent infections and save lives,” Van Kerkhove said. “Do it all. Physical distance, wear a mask where appropriate, make sure you practice respiratory etiquette, avoid crowded settings, follow national guidance, be informed. All of this needs to be done every day.”

9:47 a.m. ET, August 10, 2020

Cutbacks at Postal Service raise fears of slowed mail-in ballots ahead of November election

From CNN's Jeremy Herb and Jessica Dean

A US Postal Service truck drives down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, on April 23.
A US Postal Service truck drives down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, on April 23. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration is making new inroads into the operations of the US Postal Service, raising fears that the agency is degrading services ahead of a surge of votes being cast through the mail in the November election.

As President Trump has launched a relentless attack on vote-by-mail elections, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has inserted himself into the Postal Service's finances and a major Trump donor was selected to lead the USPS —steps critics warn have opened up the independent government agency to undue political influence.

New Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who took over in June, is under pressure to reverse dramatic cost-cutting measures and prepare the Postal Service for a flood of mail-in ballots this fall.

Last week, Mnuchin struck a loan deal with the Postal Service giving him access to details of its 10 biggest service contracts, likely including Amazon — a move that could give the administration new ammunition to push the USPS to agree to one of Trump's pet projects, raising its shipping prices.

And in another sign of Mnuchin's involvement in the Postal Service's dealings, the Treasury secretary received briefings from the USPS Board of Governors to discuss the appointment of DeJoy as postmaster general earlier this year, a source familiar with the matter told CNN, an irregular arrangement that has not happened in past appointments.

In heated discussions with DeJoy on Wednesday, Democrats demanded that the Postal Service repeal cutbacks that have slowed the mail already, months before the November elections. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told CNN on Thursday that Democrats called on DeJoy "to pull back on these cutbacks on overtime and employees, so all the mail can be delivered on time on Election Day."

"We pushed it. It's gotta be 100%, not 94%, not 97%," Schumer said, adding: "We don't fully trust them — with everything Trump has said about the Post Office -- and they're Trump appointees."

In a letter to DeJoy on Thursday, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the postmaster general had confirmed the cutbacks in their Wednesday meeting, and they again called on him to reverse them.

Some background: The moves that have unfolded just six weeks into DeJoy's tenure have cast new doubts about the ability of the Postal Service to handle what is shaping up to be a major increase in mail-in voting in November as the country grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Democrats charge that the service cuts smack of political influence when they come at the same time that Trump is falsely claiming mail-in voting will result in massive fraud.

Read more here.