August 18 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Amy Woodyatt and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, August 19, 2020
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11:29 a.m. ET, August 18, 2020

The Americas account for 64% of global Covid-19 deaths

From CNN's Chandler Thompson

Graves cover an area of the Vila Formosa cemetery amid the new coronavirus pandemic in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Thursday, August 6.
Graves cover an area of the Vila Formosa cemetery amid the new coronavirus pandemic in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Thursday, August 6. Andre Penner/AP

The Americas account for 64% of the world's Covid-19 deaths, Dr. Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, said in a briefing Tuesday.

"The Americas have approximately 13% of the world's population, but 64% of officially reported global deaths, so far," Etienne said, adding that more than 400,000 people have died from the virus in North and South America.

"This virus is unrelenting and requires the same from us. We must be vigilant and keep transmission under control," Etienne said.

Etienne said the Americas has reached nearly 11.5 million total cases, with the US and Brazil as "the biggest drivers of the case counts."

11:19 a.m. ET, August 18, 2020

Study finds possible coronavirus spread on airplane

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Researchers in Germany have found possible evidence of the spread of coronavirus on a four-hour flight.

In March, early in the pandemic, two airline passengers developed coronavirus infections after sitting through a nearly five-hour-long flight, the researchers said. 

It all started with an infected hotel manager. A week before the flight, 24 travelers had contact with a hotel manager who later tested positive for Covid-19, according to research published in the journal JAMA Network Open on Tuesday. 

They all were among 102 passengers on the four-hour 40-minute Boeing 737-900 flight from Tel Aviv to Frankfurt. None of the passengers had received Covid-19 diagnoses before the flight. That early on in the pandemic, there were no mitigation measures in place and passengers were not asked to wear masks.

Researchers from the Institute for Medical Virology at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany examined 24 patients from a tourist group and tested them for coronavirus. Most of the other passengers were also contacted four to five weeks later for interviews. 

Seven members of the tourist group tested positive for Covid-19. Four were symptomatic during the flight, two were presymptomatic and one remained asymptomatic, according to the researchers. 

“We discovered 2 likely SARS-CoV-2 transmissions on this flight, with seven index cases,” the researchers wrote. The two people who may have been infected on the flight were sitting at the back of the plane, directly across the aisle from the seven infected passengers seated in a cluster.

“These transmissions may have also occurred before or after the flight,” the researchers wrote.  

Just over 90% of the other flight passengers completed interviews with the researchers. One passenger reported testing positive for Covid-19 four days after the flight, but did not recall having any symptoms. 

“The airflow in the cabin from the ceiling to the floor and from the front to the rear may have been associated with a reduced transmission rate,” the researchers wrote. “It could be speculated that the rate may have been reduced further had the passengers worn masks.”

The risk of transmission on a plane depends on a number of factors, including closeness to an index patient and movement of passengers and crew. 


5:12 p.m. ET, August 18, 2020

Nearly 600 Miami-Dade school employees have tested positive for Covid-19 since March

From CNN’s Rosa Flores and Sara Weisfeldt in Miami

Coral Gables Senior High School, part of the Miami-Dade County Public School District, is seen on Friday, July 10, in Coral Gables, Florida.
Coral Gables Senior High School, part of the Miami-Dade County Public School District, is seen on Friday, July 10, in Coral Gables, Florida. Johnny Louis/Getty Images

At least 578 Miami-Dade County Public Schools employees have tested positive for Covid-19 since March, according to the district’s communications office.

The information was provided to CNN in response to a records request.

A total of 5,157 tests were conducted, including testing of employees, spouses and dependents, according to data provided to CNN. The total number of spouses and dependents who tested positive was not provided to CNN. 

Some more context: Miami-Dade County Public Schools currently employs 41,229 people and is scheduled to reopen for virtual instruction on Aug. 31.

11:37 a.m. ET, August 18, 2020

Recruiting people of color in vaccine trials is important and hard work, public health doctor says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

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

If coronavirus vaccine trials want to recruit more people of color, teams will need to work on outreach and building trust, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

“That the means more physicians, nurses and health providers of color will have to talk to the general public. That means communicating to communities where we are which is much more difficult because of us being sequestered in our homes. It means in many ways reaching out in a very, very assertive, aggressive and proactive manner to identify people that could be part of these studies,” he told CNN’s Poppy Harlow.

Currently, researchers are saying they are struggling to recruit a sufficient number of minorities to join the clinical trials, which could delay the multi-billion-dollar effort to get a coronavirus vaccine to market in time.

Of the 350,000 people who've registered online for a coronavirus clinical trial, 10% are Black or Latino, according to Dr. Jim Kublin, executive director of operations for the Covid-19 Prevention Network.

That's not nearly enough, as study subjects in trials are supposed to reflect the population that's affected. Research shows that more than half of US coronavirus cases have been among Black and Latino people.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, gave the Moderna trial, the first in Phase 3 in the United States, a "C" grade for recruiting minorities.

To reach out to minorities and recruit them for clinical studies, "we have to undermine the structural foundations of racism," including housing segregation, unequal access to health care and income inequality, Benjamin said.

“It means putting people of color in leadership positions so that people in the room that are making those decisions can have the full scope of experiences that are necessary to make informed decisions,” he said.


11:02 a.m. ET, August 18, 2020

One-third of New York-area businesses wouldn't survive without government support

From CNN’s Matt Egan

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

About one-third of New York-area businesses would become insolvent without government support if current revenue levels persist, according to a New York Federal Reserve survey released Tuesday.

Thirty-four percent of service sector firms said their businesses would become insolvent in an average of eight months. And 32% of manufacturers said they would not be able to survive at current revenue levels without further support from government programs. Manufacturers said they would become insolvent in an average of just six months. 

The survey, which included companies based in New York, northern New Jersey and southwestern Connecticut, reflects deep concerns from companies about their finances.

About three-quarters of service-sector firms and manufacturers said they were either very or somewhat concerned about collecting payments from customers. And roughly two-thirds said they were very or somewhat concerned about maintaining adequate cash flow.

Most companies surveyed said they applied for and received Payment Protection Program loans as part of the federal government’s stimulus package. 

10:55 a.m. ET, August 18, 2020

Saliva tests are important, and the technique may work well for surveillance testing, official says 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Donal Husni/NurPhoto/AP
Donal Husni/NurPhoto/AP

Saliva tests are really important and the way they work makes them more amenable to surveillance testing, said Adm. Brett Giroir, the White House coronavirus testing coordinator, on Good Morning American on Tuesday.  

“I think it’s very important,” he said. 

Giroir noted some saliva tests, like SalivaDirect, which recently received emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration, and another in the works, don’t need swabs, don’t need special transport media and don’t need some of the chemical reagents used in other tests.

“So it skips many steps up front, so it makes it much more amenable to be used as a surveillance tool like in schools or universities,” he said. “And it also preserves some of the reagents that are relatively scarce.”  

Giroir said that more saliva tests will be available soon.


10:23 a.m. ET, August 18, 2020

Trump administration official says testing alone can't take on the coronavirus

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

Adm. Brett Giroir testifies in Washington, DC, on June 23.
Adm. Brett Giroir testifies in Washington, DC, on June 23. Kevin Dietsch/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Adm. Brett Giroir, the White House coronavirus testing coordinator, said on Tuesday that he is not dismissive of testing, but that it has to be part of a comprehensive plan that focuses on other coronavirus prevention measures.

“I’m not at all dismissive of testing, testing is critically important, and it plays an important role in surveillance, particularly going back to school,” Giroir said on Good Morning America.

“The only thing I’ve been trying to say is that it’s part of a comprehensive plan,” he said. People have to wear a mask, watch their distance and wash their hands," Giroir said, “That’s the core.” 

Still, he said, there are continued investments being made in testing, and point-of-care testing will be particularly important to supporting the reopening of schools and businesses.

10:54 a.m. ET, August 18, 2020

Mexican health ministry says the country is "in a decreasing phase" of Covid-19

From Karol Suarez in Mexico City

Face masks are laid out for sale in Mexico City, on Monday, August 17.
Face masks are laid out for sale in Mexico City, on Monday, August 17. Rebecca Blackwell/AP

Mexico's health ministry announced what it called "good news" Tuesday morning, saying the country is "in a decreasing phase" of the coronavirus outbreak.

"The trend is clear and proves that consistently in most of the country, the new cases are decreasing, the number of deaths, there is a decrease over the past six weeks, hospital beds are being unoccupied," the health ministry said in a government briefing Tuesday morning.

On Monday, Mexico recorded its lowest number of new cases since June, adding 3,571 new Covid-19 cases. The rolling average of new daily cases, measured over the week since Aug. 10, stood at 5,700. The average has fallen steadily from an all-time peak of 7,022 on Aug. 1. However, the daily average of deaths (measured across one week) from coronavirus peaked only on Aug. 11 at 702, and has fallen only slightly since then. 

Mexico has 525,733 total confirmed coronavirus cases and 57,203 deaths from the virus.

11:02 a.m. ET, August 18, 2020

UNC-Chapel Hill campus newspaper blasts leadership's response to Covid-19 in editorial

People walk at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on August 10.
People walk at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on August 10. Ted Richardson for The Washington Post/Getty Images

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's campus newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, criticized the administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic in an editorial after about 130 students tested positive for Covid-19.

"We all saw this coming. In his fall semester welcome message, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz wrote, 'As always, remember that it is our shared responsibility to keep each other safe. Every person you walk by on campus will be counting on you to diligently work to prevent the spread of the virus,'" the editorial said.

But University leadership should have expected students, many of whom are now living on their own for the first time, to be reckless. Reports of parties throughout the weekend come as no surprise. Though these students are not faultless, it was the University’s responsibility to disincentivize such gatherings by reconsidering its plans to operate in-person earlier on."

"The administration continues to prove they have no shame, and the bar for basic decency keeps getting lower."

The university on Monday abruptly decided it will no longer hold in-person classes on campus. The university will shift to remote learning starting Wednesday.

The Covid-19 positivity rate among students rose to 13.6% of the 954 students tested in the past week, and five employees also tested positive, according to the university's Covid-19 dashboard. As of Monday morning, 177 students were in isolation and 349 were in quarantine, both on and off campus.

"We’re angry — and we’re scared. We’re tired of the gaslighting, tired of the secrecy, tired of being treated like cash cows by a University with such blatant disregard for our lives," the editorial said. 

With reporting from CNN's Eric Levenson