August 19 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Jack Guy, Ed Upright, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020
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3:33 a.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Biotech and pharma firms join forces to increase production of Covid-19 antibody therapy 

From CNN's Jen Christensen

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. signage is displayed outside their headquarters in Tarrytown, New York, on June 12.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. signage is displayed outside their headquarters in Tarrytown, New York, on June 12. Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

American biotech company Regeneron and Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche are joining forces to increase the supply of Regeneron’s antibody therapy to fight Covid-19.

Under the collaboration, Regeneron is expected to increase its capacity for the antibody cocktail by at least three and a half times, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

The agreement will also allow Roche to distribute the antibody cocktail outside of the United States once it is approved for distribution in those markets.

Both Roche and Regeneron will manufacture the antibody therapy, which was originally created by Regeneron scientists. The companies will jointly fund and carry out the ongoing Phase 3 trial and the Phase 1 safety studies.

What is the therapy? The treatment is a double antibody cocktail called REGN-COV2.

Antibodies are proteins the body naturally makes to protect itself from a threat like Covid-19. Scientists combed through thousands of antibodies to figure out which ones fight the novel coronavirus most effectively.

In this case, Regeneron's scientists picked two antibodies, scaled them up and put them into a medicine that it hopes can be used to treat symptoms and possibly even work as preventative protection.

The drug is currently in late-stage clinical trials. Regeneron said in its shareholder call last quarter that it expects results from the trials sometime in September.

If the trials show positive results, Roche will be largely responsible for getting regulatory approval to distribute the drug internationally, and for carrying out any extra studies that might be required outside the US.

3:00 a.m. ET, August 19, 2020

China reports 17 new Covid-19 cases

A customs officer wearing a protective suit works in a mobile Covid-19 testing laboratory at Shanghai Pudong International Airport on August 7, in Shanghai, China.
A customs officer wearing a protective suit works in a mobile Covid-19 testing laboratory at Shanghai Pudong International Airport on August 7, in Shanghai, China. Yin Liqin/China News Service/Getty Images

China recorded 17 new symptomatic Covid-19 cases and no new deaths on Tuesday, according to the country's National Health Commission.

These cases were all imported from abroad, and were detected in the cities of Shanghai and Zhenjiang, and the provinces of Guangdong, Shandong and Shaanxi. 

The NHC also reported 14 confirmed asymptomatic cases, which China counts separately. Of these, 13 were imported, and one was locally transmitted.

2:31 a.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Cuba plans clinical trials of potential Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN’s Patrick Oppmann in Havana

A pedestrian wearing a face mask amid the coronavirus pandemic uses a parasol in Havana, Cuba, on August 10. 
A pedestrian wearing a face mask amid the coronavirus pandemic uses a parasol in Havana, Cuba, on August 10.  Ismael Francisco/AP

Cuban researchers will begin clinical trials of a potential vaccine against the novel coronavirus next week, according to a report from the state-run Prensa Latina news service released on Tuesday.

The potential vaccine, named “Sovereignty 01”, will be tested on 676 people between the ages of 19 and 80.

The trials will be carried out between August 24 and January 11, with the results available in February 2021, Prensa Latina reported. 

On Monday, Cuban state media showed images of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel meeting with vaccine researchers.

A 60-year-old US trade embargo makes it difficult for many countries to partner with Cuba or even sell medications to the island. This vaccine is being developed by Cuban government researchers at the Finlay Institute in Havana.

1:56 a.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Indigenous Brazilians re-block key highway in protest over Covid-19 response and land invasion

From CNN's Thaize Oliveira in Rio de Janeiro and Rodrigo Pedroso in Sao Paulo

The Kayapó Mekrãgnotire people re-block a key highway in protest over the Brazilian government's Covid-19 response and land invasion.
The Kayapó Mekrãgnotire people re-block a key highway in protest over the Brazilian government's Covid-19 response and land invasion. Kabu Institute

Indigenous Brazilian protesters defied a court order on Tuesday and blocked a key highway for the second time in 24 hours, after reopening it with federal police earlier in the day.

The Kayapó Mekrãgnotire people first blocked a major highway near the city of Novo Progresso in the northern state of Para on Monday, demanding health assistance, medical supplies and food to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

They also demanded the end of deforestation and illegal activities in their territories, according to a statement obtained by CNN from the Kabu Institute, an NGO created to manage indigenous villages and inspect the region's forests.

Later that evening, a federal judge ordered the protesters to clear the roadblocks or face a daily fine of 10,000 reais ($1,800)

By Tuesday morning, the indigenous protesters reopened the highway, but warned if the government failed to engage in talks regarding their demands, they would block it again. 

Brazilian Representative Joenia Wapichana released an official letter to Brazil’s Vice President Hamilton Mourão on Tuesday, urging him to open up a dialogue with the Kayapó Mekrãgnotire people regarding their demands.

Why they chose the highway: Indigenous leaders argue that proximity to the road brought coronavirus to their villages, the Kabu Institute told CNN Monday.

The first coronavirus cases among the Kayapó Mekrãgnotire occurred as a result of their contact with urban populations and the presence of illegal miners in their reserves. 

At least 21,000 indigenous people in Brazil have been infected with Covid-19 and more than 600 have died, according to the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB).

1:28 a.m. ET, August 19, 2020

US reports more than 44,000 new Covid-19 cases

The United States reported 44,091 new coronavirus cases and 1,324 virus-related deaths on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

That raises the national totals to at least 5,482,416 cases and 171,821 deaths.

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

Follow CNN's live tracker of US cases:

1:01 a.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Drake University students asked to leave campus for violating health and safety protocols

From CNN’s Jennifer Henderson

The Knapp Center on the campus of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, on June 23, 2018.
The Knapp Center on the campus of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, on June 23, 2018. Kirby Lee/AP

Fourteen students at Drake University in Iowa were asked to leave campus after violating health and safety protocols, according to a letter from the Dean of Students Jerry Parker.

The students will be off campus for at least 14 days, and several “are now facing repercussions through the Code of Student Conduct,” the letter said.

Returning students had to sign an agreement called the Drake Together Compact, which outlines Covid-19 protocols for the school year. One of the directives in this agreement bans students from hosting or attending a party on-campus or off-campus, punishable by disciplinary action.

“If we are going to get through the fall semester, it will come down to our decisions and our actions," Parker said in the letter.
"I want to be crystal clear: we are serious and we will not hesitate to take the necessary actions to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19, jeopardizing the health and safety of others.”
12:29 a.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Appalachian State University identifies coronavirus cluster associated with football team

The Appalachian State University logo on the goalpost during a game on October 19, 2019.
The Appalachian State University logo on the goalpost during a game on October 19, 2019. Mary Holt/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A coronavirus cluster has been identified at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, with links to the university’s football team, according to a news release from the school and the Appalachian District Health Department.

So far, seven students and four staff have tested positive and remain active cases, the release said.

The state defines a cluster as at least five positive cases within 14 days of each other, and with epidemiological links between them.

The 11 people identified in the campus cluster have been instructed to self-isolate, and their close contacts have been told to quarantine. The university's athletics department has suspended practice after consulting with the health department.

12:01 a.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Seoul to seek damages from church at center of fresh coronavirus outbreak

From CNN's Jake Kwon in Seoul

Public officials disinfect as a precaution against the coronavirus near the Sarang-jeil church in Seoul, South Korea on August 16.
Public officials disinfect as a precaution against the coronavirus near the Sarang-jeil church in Seoul, South Korea on August 16. Park Dong-joo/Yonhap/AP

The South Korean capital Seoul will seek damages from the church at the center of its current Covid-19 outbreak, Acting Mayor Seo Jeong-hyup said today.

In a briefing, Seo said the city government is reviewing the legal basis for the civil suit against the Sarang-jeil church and its Reverend, Jun Kwang-hoon.

Seo alleged that Jun and his church had wasted the city’s administrative resources and budget and complicated contact tracing efforts by "avoidance, falsehood, and noncompliance during the testing and epidemiological investigation."

Church cluster: On Monday, Seoul reported a cluster of cases related to the church in the city. A total of 568 people linked to the Sarang-jeil church have since tested positive for the virus, authorities said. 

Tuesday saw 283 local and 14 imported cases in South Korea, marking the country's sixth consecutive day of triple-digit new cases. 

Some 89% of the new cases were found in the Seoul metropolitan area, according to Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip.

“If Seoul’s disease prevention net falls, the nation’s prevention net falls too,” Seo said.

Church's denial: At a news conference Monday, Sarang-jeil church's legal team denied the allegations of wrongdoing levied against the church and Rev. Jun. The church's representatives said that they had fully cooperated with the authorities and said they would be suing the government for defamation.

11:38 p.m. ET, August 18, 2020

New Zealand reports 6 new cases, as army is deployed to guard isolation facilities  

From CNN's Zehra Jafree

Director-General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield speaks to media during a news conference at the Ministry of Health on August 17, in Wellington, New Zealand. 
Director-General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield speaks to media during a news conference at the Ministry of Health on August 17, in Wellington, New Zealand.  Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

New Zealand recorded six new coronavirus cases in the past day, Director-General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said at a news briefing on Wednesday. 

Five cases were locally transmitted, linked to a cluster in the country's most populous city, Auckland.

The sixth case was a person who recently arrived from overseas, and is in "managed isolation," Bloomfield said. 

These new infections raise the national total to 1,299 cases.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the latest figures "encouraging," and said, "we are not seeing a surge in community cases."

"The perimeter of the virus is not expanding exponentially and risks like daily doubling of cases as we saw during the first outbreak has not occurred over the past week. So far the rollout of our resurgence plan is working as we intended," Ardern said. 

Army deployed: Over the next six weeks, 500 more army personnel will be deployed to manage quarantine facilities, Ardern announced. This brings the total number of military personnel supporting New Zealand's Covid-19 response to around 1,200.

The country conducted more than 23,000 coronavirus tests on Tuesday, taking the total number of tests done since the pandemic began to 639,415.