August 17 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Amy Woodyatt, Ed Upright, Veronica Rocha, Mike Hayes and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, August 18, 2020
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5:59 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Two dozen coronavirus cases tied to Maine wedding 

From CNN's Dave Alsup

At least 24 people tested positive for coronavirus in connection with a wedding reception in Millinocket, Maine, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency announced Monday it had opened up an investigation of the outbreak associated with the reception at the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket. The gathering occurred Aug. 7.  

Maine health officials have identified 18 people who attended the reception who tested positive and another 6 people testing positive after coming into close contact with event attendees.  

All those testing positive are residents of the state of Maine. 

6:21 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Wolf Blitzer to Jared Kushner: "1,000 Americans dying every day is not a success, right?"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

CNN's Wolf Blitzer sparred with senior advisor to President Trump, Jared Kushner, on Monday asking him if he still believed the federal government's coronavirus response represented "a great success story for the federal government" as the President's son-in-law claimed back in April. 

"I will just press you Jared, a thousand Americans dying every day is not a success, right?” Wolf Blitzer asked.

Kushner touted the administration's response and pointed to "a very strong rebound" in the US economy. 

"You want to keep that number as low as possible," Kushner said, in response to Blitzer's question. "One American dying everyday is too much but if you look at where we were back in April we had 2,500 Americans dying a day… But if you look at the case fatality rate obviously it’s gone down.”

Kushner predicted back in April that "by June a lot of the country should be back to normal" and said he was hopeful that "by July the country's really rocking again." 

Watch:

5:27 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Lebanon confirms record number of new Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Ghazi Balkiz in Beirut

Lebanon has registered a record 456 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing its total number of cases to 9,337, according to the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health.

Earlier Monday, the caretaker Minister of Public Health Hassan Hamad said there is a need for “a courageous two-week lockdown decision" or the situation will get out of control.

He also recommended people arriving in Lebanon to self-isolate at home for a week, even if they tested negative upon arrival.

These recommendations are not binding and the government is yet to make a decision whether to implement a lockdown or not. 

This morning, Dr. Firass Abiad, head of Rafik Hariri University Hospital, the main hospital tackling Covid-19 in Lebanon, said in a tweet that “Without resorting to a lockdown, the numbers will continue to rise, which will lead to exceeding the capacity of hospitals. This happened, catastrophically, in other countries. If we wait longer, and as the days go by, the gravity of the situation will be clear even to skeptics of COVID-19. Unfortunately, it will be too late.”

Lebanon has recently witnessed a spike of Covid-19 cases. This comes as the country is suffering from an economic collapse and dealing with the aftermath of the port blast that ripped through the capital killing about 170 people, wounding around 6,000 people and displacing about 300,000 people.

 

4:54 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

US Surgeon General says testing times are improving, but prevention matters more

From CNN Health’s Andrea Kane

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams holds up a mask while speaking as Georgia Governor Brian Kemp looks on during a press conference announcing statewide expanded COVID testing on August 10, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. 
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams holds up a mask while speaking as Georgia Governor Brian Kemp looks on during a press conference announcing statewide expanded COVID testing on August 10, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia.  Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

The federal government is working on delays in coronavirus testing, but the country needs to lean more on prevention, Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams says.

“It's important to know that a test result that comes back seven, 10, 14 days later, does not allow us to isolate and contact trace, which is something that we feel is important to contain the virus, so we're very cognizant of concerns about delays,” Adams said Sunday on INFocus, a Fox news magazine show focused on Indiana.

“As a public health physician, I want people to know that we feel tests are important, but we can't test our way out of this problem,” Adams added. “We need to lean on prevention, and that's making sure everyone's wearing a mask, washing their hands, and watching their distance from others.”

Adams said that about 50% of the testing done in the US is either point of care “which is 15 minutes or less” to get results, or in hospitals “which is 24 hours or less.”  

“So what we're really talking about is the 50% of tests that are done in private labs, and right now …the testing time on average across the country is now down to less than three days for the private labs and most private lab tests are coming back within two days,” Adams said.

“So this is a problem — it’s a problem for some labs and some people in particular. It's a problem we're working on, but we're continuing to drive down those cases.” 

When asked about Dr. Anthony Fauci’s comments that “we aren’t doing great” compared to other countries, Adams said, “I think that two things can be true at once: it can be true there are a lot of people out there doing the right thing and also true that we need to do better.”

Adams noted that the US has not seen the more than 1 million deaths that some health experts were predicting. “But that doesn't mean we can't and shouldn't do more. We must stay vigilant,” he said. According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 170,000 Americans have died of coronavirus, although the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 90% of cases have likely been missed.

Adams blamed the spike in numbers on spring and summer fever, which has people wanting to “hang out” with friends and family. “What I would say to folks is, we can get through this… and get to a place where we can safely reopen. But if people just ignore those basic public health measures, we’re going to continue to see spread increasing and we're actually going to lose choices and lose freedom, because we're going to be forced to shut down,” he said.

Adams said Indianapolis “has been on our radar screen” because more than 10% of people tested for coronavirus in Marion county have had positive test results — in the red zone. The same goes for Fort Wayne’s Allen county. 

“We want the people of the state to know we are concerned but also want them to know we have the tools to turn this around,” he said. 

Before becoming surgeon general, Adams was Indiana’s state health commissioner. 

4:35 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Illinois reports more than 1,700 new coronavirus cases

From CNN's Molly Silverman 

A sign alerts residents to a mobile COVID-19 testing site set up on a vacant lot in the Austin neighborhood on June 23, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. 
A sign alerts residents to a mobile COVID-19 testing site set up on a vacant lot in the Austin neighborhood on June 23, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois.  Scott Olson/Getty Images

Illinois Department of Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike reported that 1,773 people were newly diagnosed with Covid-19 over the last 24 hours. 

At least 12 additional people died due to Covid-19, Ezike said.

The total number of individuals in Illinois who have Covid-19 is 207,854 and there have been 7,756 Covid-19-related deaths, said Ezike.

At least 1,544 people are hospitalized due to Covid-19, with 340 of those hospitalized in the intensive care, and 126 on ventilators, Ezike said.

Remember: These numbers were released by the Illinois public health agency, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

4:28 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

The US has had the worst response to Covid-19 of any major country, expert says

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the briefing room of the White House on August 14, 2020 in Washington, DC.
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the briefing room of the White House on August 14, 2020 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The US has had the worst response to Covid-19 of any major country, Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Institute of Health, said Monday.

“I think it’s pretty fair to say we may have the worst response of any major country,” Jha said during a Center for American Progress webinar. While he said that it could be argued that Brazil’s response has been as bad or worse, competing with Brazil for that title is “not where you want to be.” 

“We didn’t get here overnight. This has really been one mishap after another,” Jha said. “The single factor that really differentiates us from everybody else is denialism that has pervaded our entire approach.” 

Jha said that the US has gone from believing that coronavirus was a hoax, to believing it was the flu, to now thinking the pandemic is nearly over because a vaccine is two months away. 

“One message,” he said. “The vaccine is not two months away and we are nowhere near done with this pandemic.” 

In January, the federal government and others denied the existence and importance of the virus, Jha said. In February, the country “largely flew blind,” with no testing capacity and no idea about the spread across the country. March brought awareness of how bad the situation was, but a response that was far too slow, costing lives. 

In April and May, when the country was supposedly shut down, he said, large parts of the country still allowed much activity and the White House was sending mixed messages about what needed to be done. June brought reopening “way too soon, in way too many places, and way too aggressively,” he said. 

“I think really by the end of July, the data were so overwhelmingly clear that we had messed up as a nation, once again, that there really have been some changes,” he said. 

Looking at the country today, while what Jha called the “super hot zones,” like Texas, Florida and Arizona, are starting to cool down. But too many cases are still being generated, he said.

Jha sees more challenges and “muddling along” in the coming weeks and months, with the pandemic being fought on a state-by-state basis. “What I’m worried about is that there will continue to be no real national strategy,” he said. “When things are bad in Florida, you can’t really protect New York or New Jersey or Washington state. We are all in this together.”  

4:00 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Birx says she wishes America's shutdown looked like Italy's

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx speaks to reporters in the rotunda of the State Capitol in Lincoln, Neb., Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, after meeting with Gov. Pete Ricketts and community and state health officials.
White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx speaks to reporters in the rotunda of the State Capitol in Lincoln, Neb., Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, after meeting with Gov. Pete Ricketts and community and state health officials. Nati Harnik/AP

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said Monday that she wished the US shutdown had looked like Italy's, which was under a total lockdown.

“I wish that when we went into lockdown, we looked like Italy. When Italy locked down, I mean, people weren't allowed out of their houses,” she said. “Americans don't react well to that kind of prohibition.”

In a roundtable discussion hosted by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Birx said she has learned what Americans are willing to do to combat the virus, and that we must meet people where they are.

She explained how the strategy worked for Arizona, where people were still able to go to malls and restaurants at reduced capacity, but gyms and bars were closed, mask mandates were implemented and gatherings of more than 10 people were prohibited. 

“People were interacting, people were out, but people, by just not doing those careful things, were able to drop the cases significantly, probably by more than 80%,” said Birx. 

She said that kind of behavioral change is something every American can do.

“Tens of thousands of lives can be saved if we wear masks, and we don't have parties in our backyards … taking those masks off.” 

“Somehow we always believe our family’s safe and our friends are safe. You cannot tell who's infected with the virus,” Birx added. “You need to keep your mask on.”

3:35 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Georgia reports more than 1,800 new Covid-19 cases and 25 deaths

From CNN’s Dianne Gallagher and Pamela Kirkland

People get tested for COVID-19 at a free walk-up testing site on July 11 in Atlanta.
People get tested for COVID-19 at a free walk-up testing site on July 11 in Atlanta. Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported 1,843 new cases of Covid-19 on Monday. The statewide case total is now 238,861.

Georgia DPH reported 25 new deaths. The total number of deaths attributed to Covid-19 in the state is now 4,727. 

There were also 46 new Covid-19 related hospitalizations recorded.

One thing to 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.

3:38 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Fauci: "We've got our work cut out for us" when it comes to vaccine hesitancy 

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

A lab technician sorts blood samples inside a lab for a COVID-19 vaccine study at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida, on August 13.
A lab technician sorts blood samples inside a lab for a COVID-19 vaccine study at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida, on August 13. Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

Vaccine skeptics and vaccine hesitancy can hurt efforts to protect Americans if and when a coronavirus vaccine comes out, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday. But he said the experience with getting people to trust in treatments and preventions for HIV/AIDS provide a roadmap for gaining trust.

“We have our work cut out for us,” Fauci said, speaking during an American Society for Microbiology briefing.

“Society is not just jumping around waiting to get a vaccine. It’s not,” Fauci added. “We have got to change that.” 

Fauci said clinical trial networks that get into the community, get the word out and generate enthusiasm will play a big role in improving the trust of Americans in an eventual coronavirus vaccine.

“Those same clinical trial groups that we built for HIV are now being used for the vaccine trials,” he said. 

Fauci said once the right distribution of people have been enrolled in trials, and the trials have shown a vaccine is safe and effective, the next step is to win confidence. That’s the time to “reach out the community, to be transparent and explain to them the individual and societal benefits,” he said.