August 17 coronavirus news

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3:10 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Fauci says Covid-19's long-term effects, especially in young people, are "really troublesome"  

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies before a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on July 31 in Washington, DC.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies before a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on July 31 in Washington, DC. Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images

The top infectious disease doctor in the US, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Monday, “We’d better be careful when we say ‘Young people who don’t wind up in the hospital are fine, let them get infected, it’s OK.’ No, it’s not OK."

“In individuals who are young and otherwise healthy, who don't require hospitalization but do get sick and symptomatic enough to be in bed for a week or two or three and then get better, they clear the virus – they have residual symptoms for weeks and sometimes months,” he said during a American Society for Microbiology briefing.  

Fauci said subsequent check-ups show that many “have a substantially high proportion of cardiovascular abnormalities, evidence of myocarditis by MRI and PET scans, evidence of emerging cardiomyopathies.” 

He said this is “really troublesome” because it is evolving on a day by day basis.   

“These are people that supposedly recovered from Covid-19,” Fauci said.  

“I'll guarantee you if we have this conversation again, six months to a year from now, we’ll be reviewing the literature about talking about the long-term deleterious effects of non-hospitalized patients,” Fauci said.

3:00 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Nigeria will reopen airports for international flights

From CNN's Stephanie Busari in Lagos

Passengers walk in the terminal building at the airport in Abuja, Nigeria, on July 8.
Passengers walk in the terminal building at the airport in Abuja, Nigeria, on July 8. Olatunji Obasa/Xinhua/Getty Images

Nigeria will reopen airports for international flights starting Aug. 29, Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika said in a Monday tweet. 

"Glad to announce the resumption of international flights from the 29th of August, 2020. Beginning with Lagos and Abuja as we did with the domestic flight resumption. Protocols and procedures will be announced in due course. We thank you for your patience," Sirika tweeted.

Airports have been closed since March 23, following the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority's announcement of a ban on all international flights in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus, with the exception of essential or emergency flights.

Nigeria, which is the most populous nation in Africa, has reported 49,068 confirmed coronavirus cases and 975 deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. 

2:10 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Former FDA commissioner calls US Covid-19 response "disappointing"

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Dr. Margaret Hamburg speaks onstage during NY Times Cities For Tomorrow Conference on July 21, 2015 in New York City. 
Former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Dr. Margaret Hamburg speaks onstage during NY Times Cities For Tomorrow Conference on July 21, 2015 in New York City.  Larry Busacca/Getty Images for New York Times

A former US Food and Drug Administration commissioner has called the US response to Covid-19 “disappointing” and said there was no good excuse for it because people have been practicing for this very scenario.

“There have been efforts now over a number of decades, truly, to better prepare our nation against a range of biological threats, to invest in certain critical resources, but also to practice against simulations of threats,” former FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said Monday during a American Society for Microbiology briefing.

“By every sort of assessment that had been done about preparedness, we had expected that, while hardly perfect, we would have been better prepared than we were,” she said.

“I think where dropped the ball was, you know, first the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] test turned out not to work well there were issues around that test,” Hamburg added. Though “surprising” the CDC had those issue, they were “undeniable,” she said.

There are a number of lessons to be learned — including “fundamental — about taking the threat seriously.”

And also the importance of strong leadership, along with “rapid and comprehensive response,” while using and engaging the tools of science and technology, she said.

1:45 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Texas' health department attributes recent spike in Covid-19 positivity rate to these 3 factors

From CNN’s Ashley Killough

A patient drops off a sample at a Texas Division of Emergency Management free COVID-19 testing site at Minute Maid Park August 8 in Houston.
A patient drops off a sample at a Texas Division of Emergency Management free COVID-19 testing site at Minute Maid Park August 8 in Houston. David J. Phillip/AP

The recent fluctuation in the Texas positivity rate is attributable to a myriad of coding errors by labs, an upgrade in the state's data processing system, and a decrease in demand at free community testing sites, according to Lara Anton, spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services.  

As CNN has reported, the positive infection rate jumped from 12% at the end of July to nearly 25% last week. It's now back down to 11.25%. The governor announced last week the state was investigating the massive spike.  

Anton told CNN on Monday that a large number of test results came in at the beginning of last week after a coding error was detected by the state in a major lab's reporting process. After that backlog of results started pouring in last week, this caused a spike in the positivity rate because the positive cases had gotten out of sync with other test results. 

Two days later, they got another backlog of results from a large hospital system, which decreased the rate. 

Over the weekend, a national pharmacy chain fixed a data error that also led to a decrease in the positivity rate. 

Additionally, a system upgrade on Aug. 1 started allowing the state to process more than 100,000 tests a day, which is also partly why the state is able to process these backlogs.  

Anton said the state is still investigating other potential factors that have caused data fluctuations in recent weeks and making sure other labs and hospitals don't have coding errors. It's unclear yet whether we'll see more backlogs pour in. 

1:11 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

300 Pizza Huts are closing after a giant franchisee goes bankrupt

From CNN’s Jordan Valinsky

Signage is displayed outside a Yum! Brands Inc. Pizza Hut restaurant on February 5, 2019 in Illinois.
Signage is displayed outside a Yum! Brands Inc. Pizza Hut restaurant on February 5, 2019 in Illinois. Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Up to 300 Pizza Hut restaurants are slated to permanently close following the bankruptcy of one the chain's largest franchisees.

NPC International, which filed for Chapter 11 in July, announced an agreement Monday with Pizza Hut's owner Yum! Brands to close roughly a quarter of its restaurants and sell the remaining locations. Specific restaurants and timing have not yet been determined, but NPC said a "substantial majority" of affected locations have dining rooms.

The agreement provides NPC with "flexibility to explore options for achieving a value maximizing outcome as it seeks to finalize the terms of a comprehensive financial restructuring and emerge from Chapter 11," it said in a release. A perfect storm of coronavirus-related shutdowns, a massive debt burden of nearly $1 billion and rising labor and food costs tipped NPC into bankruptcy. 

Pizza Hut said Monday that the 300 US locations "significantly underperform" compared with the rest of NPC's Pizza Hut locations, and it will help employees find jobs at nearby Pizza Hut restaurants. The chain has been shifting away from opening and operating restaurants with dining rooms. Instead, it is encouraging customers to order pick-up through its website or third-party apps.

"We have continued to work with NPC and its lenders to optimize NPC's Pizza Hut restaurant footprint and strengthen the portfolio for the future, and today's joint agreement to close up to 300 NPC Pizza Hut restaurants is an important step toward a healthier business," the pizza chain said in a statement.

NPC's 1,227 Pizza Hut locations account for 18% of the chain's 6,700 US locations. NPC's remaining portfolio includes 6,500 Wendy's restaurants in the US. 

2:01 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

A Florida school principal who survived Covid-19 is urging families to choose online learning

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

While Florida has ordered schools to reopen despite the rise in Covid-19 cases, Jimbo Jackson, principal of Fort Braden School in Tallahassee is urging parents to opt for virtual learning for their kids.

“I think our greatest concern is the safety of our staff and our students and our connected school families. With our recent state mandate to have face-to-face and brick-and-mortar learning, we have extreme concerns,” he explained.

The school lost two active staff members of the school along with a relative of a staff member and a former employee to coronavirus, according to Jackson.

“We're no longer just a number and just a statistic,” he said. “It’s hit really close to home.” 

Pointing to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for reopening schools and a high positivity rate among children under 18 that indicates high risk, Jackson says in-person instruction could pose health risks.

Jackson and his wife also contracted coronavirus in July, which has made him more aware of his role, he said.

“As a school principal and someone responsible for all of these folks, you know, in anticipation of nearly 450 kids and staff members returning to our campus on August 31st, we have a great concern about their safety. The last thing that I want is to have another employee or even worse, a child to become either seriously ill or possibly experience a fatal case of Covid-19.”
“Going through that personally and being fairly incapacitated for about 13 days has given me each more understanding,” he said. “As well as walking through the funerals and the memorial services with families of these three people that were very dear to us.”

Schools are a fundamentally social experience and children as young as four or five-year-old kindergarten students will have to be re-trained to not socialize, Jackson emphasized about in-person experience.

“To not have tag games or to not borrow supplies from each other, those are things that become really difficult to mitigate in a school social setting,” he said. “It will be a very difficult challenge.”

Watch:

12:48 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

More than 170,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Marlon Warren, a mortician assistant, prepares a funeral service for a man who died of COVID-19 at Ray Williams Funeral Home on August 12 in Tampa, Florida.
Marlon Warren, a mortician assistant, prepares a funeral service for a man who died of COVID-19 at Ray Williams Funeral Home on August 12 in Tampa, Florida. Octavio Jones/Getty Images

There are at least 5,408,268 cases of coronavirus in the US, and at least 170,131 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

So far on Monday, Johns Hopkins has reported 5,055 new cases and 79 reported deaths. 

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases. 

12:11 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Defense Department contract awarded to scale up Covid-19 convalescent plasma treatment

From CNN's Jen Christensen

Plasma Technologies, LLC has signed a defense contract worth $750,000 to develop scaled-up Covid-19 convalescent plasma technologies, according to an announcement on the Department of Defense website Monday.

The contract with the DoD’s Joint Acquisition Task Force is to develop a new convalescent blood plasma process that makes more serum-derived products, and faster.

Convalescent plasma – antibody-filled blood plasma from patients who recovered from the disease – is a medical treatment that has been around since the Victorian era. Studies show the treatment has worked to fight severe flu, MERS, and SARS, and now doctors are testing to see if it works in Covid-19 patients.

So far, more than 66,000 Covid-19 patients have been treated with this approach through the US Food and Drug Administration’s expanded access program, according to the UScovidplamsa.org, a program run by Mayo Clinic. But, like blood, convalescent plasma is in limited supply and must come from donors.

Plasma Technologies, a South Carolina-based company, developed a novel plasma separation process that can produce larger quantities of the immunoglobulin and other plasma proteins. The contract will help the company try this technique on a larger scale and establish proof of concept, according to the Defense Department.

“Combating novel viruses requires novel solutions,” Douglas Bryce, joint program executive officer for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense, was quoted as saying on the Department of Defense website. “We are eager to determine if convalescent plasma and this innovative separation process will be valuable tools that can be used to enhance the nation’s COVID-19 response, through this cooperative agreement.”

There are at least 12 convalescent plasma treatments under investigation according to BIO, the association that represents major biotech companies.

 

11:54 a.m. ET, August 17, 2020

New York's infection rate is the lowest since start of the pandemic, governor says

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

People line-up to take a Covid-19 test in the Sunset Park neighborhood on August 13 in New York City.
People line-up to take a Covid-19 test in the Sunset Park neighborhood on August 13 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York’s .7% infection rate is the lowest since the pandemic began, and one of the lowest infection rates in the country, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

The state is averaging 1% or under since June, which the governor said is “exactly where we want to be."

Six more people have died from coronavirus, Cuomo said Monday.

Hospitalizations are up slightly but basically flat, he said. Intubation and intensive care admissions are also flat.