August 13 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Melissa Macaya, Ed Upright and Zamira Rahim, CNN

Updated 12:13 a.m. ET, August 14, 2020
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3:48 p.m. ET, August 13, 2020

Georgia governor withdraws lawsuit over Atlanta mask mandate and Covid-19 restrictions 

From CNN's John Murgatroyd

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks at a news conference announcing expanded statewide testing on Monday.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks at a news conference announcing expanded statewide testing on Monday. Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is withdrawing his lawsuit against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the City Council regarding restrictions Atlanta put in place over coronavirus, including a citywide mask mandate. 

In a written statement, the governor said he would instead address the issue in a new executive order this Saturday. 

“I sued the City of Atlanta to immediately stop the shuttering of local businesses and protect local workers from economic instability. For weeks, we have worked in good faith with Mayor Bottoms, and she agreed to abandon the city’s Phase One roll-back plan, which included business closures and a shelter in place order. Unfortunately, the Mayor has made it clear that she will not agree to a settlement that safeguards the rights of private property owners in Georgia. Given this stalemate in negotiations, we will address this very issue in the next Executive Order," Kemp said.

Kemp referenced Bottoms concession on the city's phase one roll-back plan, but said she refused to compromise any further in mediation. 

"The Governor’s current Executive Order expires this Saturday, August 15, at which time he will issue a new order with relevant language," according to the statement.

3:18 p.m. ET, August 13, 2020

Concerned parent in Georgia asks governor to "re-evaluate" the openings of schools 

From CNN’s Nick Valencia

A Cherokee County parent has written an open letter to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, asking him not to “turn a blind eye” to the school district.

“The children in this beautiful state are not disposable, but that is exactly how you and the superintendent are regarding them,” Brandy Heath wrote in her letter.   

Some context: Heath is the mother of two children who attended face-to-face classes in the Cherokee County School District earlier this week. She has since pulled her kids back to distance learning. 

In her letter to Georgia’s governor, Heath claims that Kemp is not doing enough to protect the members of their community.  

“I ask you Mr. Kemp how you could possibly feel like the district of Cherokee County is doing a good job protecting not only our students but teachers,” Heath wrote.  

3:20 p.m. ET, August 13, 2020

Biden calls for national mask mandate

From CNN's Sarah Mucha

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, speaks in Wilmington, Delaware, on Thursday.
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, speaks in Wilmington, Delaware, on Thursday. Carolyn Kaster/AP

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden emerged from his and Sen. Kamala Harris' coronavirus health briefing from experts Thursday afternoon advocating that a mask mandate be instituted nationwide. 

"Every single American should be wearing a mask when they're outside for the next three months, at a minimum. Every governor should mandate — every governor should mandate mandatory mask wearing," Biden said, adding that experts advised it could save over 40,000 lives over the same time span. 

“It’s not about your rights,” Biden said, seeming to speak directly to Americans who have complained that compulsory mask wearing is a violation of their personal freedom. “It's about your responsibilities as an American."

"Be a patriot. Protect your fellow citizens," he implored. "Protect your fellow citizens. Step up. Do the right thing." 

Biden provided a quick readout of the public health briefing at the top of his remarks, noting that he and Harris spoke with the experts about school reopenings, the distribution of a vaccine, racial disparities that have become expounded as a result of the pandemic, as well as the continued lack of personal protective equipment for health professionals and testing capacity in the US.

The presumptive Democratic nominee has previously said he would support mandating mask-wearing nationally, but this is the first time he has presented the recommendation himself. 

3:16 p.m. ET, August 13, 2020

Senate will adjourn Thursday despite no deal on stimulus bill, McConnell says

From CNN's Ted Barrett, Kristin Wilson and Manu Raju

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pauses during a television interview on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pauses during a television interview on Tuesday. Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will adjourn for its August recess Thursday despite not reaching an agreement on a Covid-19 stimulus bill. 

The senior senator from Kentucky said the Senate will hold its usual pro forma sessions throughout the “state work period,” which ends Sept. 8, but that if a stimulus deal is reached, there would need to be bipartisan consent to allow the Senate to return to vote on it.

If that were to happen, senators would be given 24 hours’ notice to return.  

3:02 p.m. ET, August 13, 2020

Coronavirus task force member says testing capacity and testing needs are 2 different things

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Adm. Brett Giroir testifies during a House subcommittee meeting in July.
Adm. Brett Giroir testifies during a House subcommittee meeting in July. Kevin Dietsch/AFP/Getty Images

On a call with reporters Thursday, Adm. Brett Giroir, a member of the White House coronavirus task force and the Trump official overseeing coronavirus testing, said he was concerned about data misrepresenting where he believes the United States to be in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I want to start by trying to clarify exactly where we are today as a nation,” Giroir said on the call, organized by the US Department of Health and Human Services. “I’m very concerned about the statistical shell games that are being played with the data that are misrepresenting the actual situation on the ground in the country right now.”

Giroir asserted it is clear that the number of cases are decreasing and “that decrease is real.”

He said that the seven day average of new cases, compared with the previous seven days, is down 9%.

Giroir is confident, he said, because percent positivity is going down and hospitalizations are going down. Mortality, however, is lagging – and that is because it is a lagging indicator.

The second point Giroir made, which he said he had often seen misrepresented, is the number of tests that are needed.

“You beat the virus by smart policies supplemented by strategic testing. You do not beat the virus by shotgun testing everyone all the time," he said.

Strategic testing involves making sure everyone sick in the hospital gets tested rapidly, the vulnerable are protected, public health surveillance is supported when necessary, and that reopening is being supported with a number of different measures.


3:05 p.m. ET, August 13, 2020

A group of parents are suing the California governor over in-person learning restrictions

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

A group of parents are suing California Gov. Gavin Newsom over in-person school restrictions. Christine Ruiz has two sons with autism, and she said that without specialized learning, they are falling behind.

The lawsuit is alleging that students will not receive equal access to education.

Ruiz said her two sons with autism are “hands on learners” who work with a “highly educated special education teacher, professional behavioralists, speech therapists, occupational therapists and without that team to do that hands-on learning they’re just languishing at home.”

“There’s no type of education going on. My children cannot sit in front of a computer screen and do Zoom meetings all-day long,” Ruiz told CNN’s Brianna Keilar.

She worries about the regression she is seeing compounded with escalating behaviors and how that will impact the future outlook of her children.

Jesse Petrilla, another parent suing Gov. Newsom, added that the virtual learning restriction also creates a larger gap between the working class and affluent families.

“This creates such an inequality between the working class and affluent parents who can afford private schools, tutors or childcare,” Petrilla said. “We just believe the negative effects, far outweigh the risks."

According to California’s county-by-county school reopening restrictions, the Covid-19 infection rate cannot be over 100 in 100,000. Currently, in the counties Ruiz and Petrilla live in, the infection rate is well above that threshold, Keilar reported.

Ruiz lives in Los Angeles County, which has 88 incorporated cities. She argues that there “should not be a blanket statement for all schools. The city I live in has low Covid numbers.”

Petrilla, who lives in Orange County, said, “We need a micro approach to this. This should be a local decision. There are districts that have no cases. There are districts that have very few cases, that wouldn’t meet that threshold.”

Watch the full interview:

2:38 p.m. ET, August 13, 2020

Fauci says the number of coronavirus cases and deaths "don’t lie"

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, said if you look at the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the United States, “they don’t lie.”

“You can't run away from the numbers. You can't run away from the numbers of people who’ve died, the number of people getting hospitalized, the surges we’re seeing,” Fauci said during a National Geographic panel on Thursday. "How long we're going to have to be doing this depends totally on us. If we keep running away from the reality of the need to do it, it could linger on and linger on."

Fauci said he hears a lot about herd immunity, but “a lot of people are going to die if you do that.”

“We can be part of the solution, as opposed to passively saying, just let it happen. I don't find that to be acceptable," he said. "We can do things without necessarily stopping all the things that are important. We can open the economy. We can get jobs back at the same time as still practicing good public health measures."

2:20 p.m. ET, August 13, 2020

Covid Tracking Project says hospitalization data has been "erratic" since switch to HHS

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Since the Trump administration asked hospitals to report its data directly to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Covid Tracking Project (CTP) has found the data to be “erratic,” “spotty and difficult to interpret.”

The change went into effect on July 15. CTP “compared the HHS’s counts of currently hospitalized Covid-19 patients, published from July 20 to August 5, to the same metric compiled by The Covid Tracking Project from each state’s publicly available data.” 

“The data have continued to be erratic: In some states, the HHS reports far more hospitalized patients than the state does, and in others, the two sets of data rise and fall at different rates,” CTP said in a post on their website.

CTP collects data from all 50 states and US territories. CNN utilizes testing and hospitalizations data from the organization.

The organization found that in six states — Maine, Arkansas, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Delaware — “HHS data is, on average, at least 150 percent higher than the data from these states’ dashboards.” 

As a nation, from July 20-26, CTP found that “HHS reported an average of 24 percent more currently hospitalized patients nationwide than was reported by the states.”

HHS said it was taking over the hospitalization data because the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was posting the information too slowly. "Going forward, HHS and CDC will deliver more powerful insights on the coronavirus, powered by HHS Protect," said Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs Michael Caputo said in July. 

CTP noted that the switch “has likely been difficult for many hospitals.” HHS requires more data points to be reported and sometimes states have to fill-out two reports with the same data – one for the state and one for HHS. 

Some background: Nearly three dozen public health advisers sent a July letter to the US government saying they are extremely concerned” and “troubled” about the change in how hospitals report Covid-19 data. The letter said hospitals were “scrambling” to keep up with the daily Covid-19 reporting requirements to HHS. 

But CTP said reporting directly to HHS could be a good thing, “we expect hospitals to report more reliable information to the HHS than to their state health departments, or to report to only the HHS and not their state health departments, because the HHS-reported data is used to inform allocation of remdesivir, PPE, and other supplies.”

CTP will continue to track both sets of hospitalization data and remains optimistic that the data set will become more reliable over time. “Hospitalization data used to be a reliable metric demonstrating the stress Covid-19 is causing state health systems. Now, these data are spotty and difficult to interpret. We encourage states to be transparent about when they are encountering issues with hospital reporting and why,” CTP said.


2:08 p.m. ET, August 13, 2020

Biden and Harris receive first joint health briefing from experts on Covid-19

From CNN’s Sarah Mucha

Joe Biden and his running mate, US Sen. Kamala Harris, are briefed by health experts on Thursday.
Joe Biden and his running mate, US Sen. Kamala Harris, are briefed by health experts on Thursday. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris received their first joint health briefing from experts on Covid-19 Thursday.

“This is what I get four times a week, a briefing on the state of the coronavirus and what we should and shouldn’t be doing,” Biden told reporters ahead of their meeting.

Harris added that she was “looking forward to it.” 

“These are some of the brightest minds, not only in our country but internationally. And as the vice president has been saying since the beginning of this pandemic, it should be the public health professionals that are leading policy in our country to address this lethal pandemic,” Harris said. 

Asked by a reporter how the first few days have gone with Harris on the ticket, Biden replied, “It’s been great.” 

“It’s been great. It’s been great, she and her husband and — Jill and her husband were friends before this and I think have become closer friends. We had a great, great day but we’re going to talk today,” Biden said.