August 20 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Emma Reynolds, Ed Upright and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 0451 GMT (1251 HKT) August 21, 2020
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1:24 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

Fauci says pharma companies should aim for higher minority enrollment in vaccine trials

From CNN Health’s Elizabeth Cohen

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, wears a Washington Nationals protective mask during a hearing in Washington, DC on July 31.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, wears a Washington Nationals protective mask during a hearing in Washington, DC on July 31. Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US' top infectious disease doctor, told CNN on Wednesday that Phase 3 clinical trials for coronavirus vaccines should aim to include minorities at levels that are at least double their representation in the population.  

So far, that’s significantly higher than the participation levels of minorities in the trial being run by Moderna, the first US company to start a Covid-19 vaccine trial. 

The data: According to Census data, Black people represent 13% of the US population. Doubling that would mean 26% of participants should be Black for the trial. 

But so far, Black people represent only 4.5% of Moderna’s study participants, according to data obtained by CNN. 

Census data show Latinos represent 18% of the US population, and doubling that would mean 36% of participants should be Latino for the trial. However, only about 10% of Moderna’s trial participants are Latino. 

Importance of minority representation: Fauci made clear these levels are goals, not requirements. But sufficient numbers of minorities are crucial in order to determine safety and efficacy for these groups, which are disproportionately affected by the virus in the US.

Fauci said participation of minorities in the trials should “aim to match the burden of disease. We’d like to do that -- whether or not we get there I don’t know.” 

A study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, examining reports of nearly 600,000 coronavirus cases where race was indicated, found that while 13% of the population is Black, 22% of cases were Black. The report also found that while 18% of the US population is Latino, 33% of cases were Latino. 

 

12:55 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

South Korea's latest church-linked coronavirus outbreak is turning into a battle over religious freedom

From CNN's Paula Hancocks in Seoul

A South Korean religious group at the center of a new coronavirus outbreak has been accused by the government of withholding key information and obstructing public health authorities in their fight against the pandemic. 

It's the latest clash between a religious group and the government of President Moon Jae-in, who is attempting to stem South Korea's coronavirus outbreak while fighting off accusations he is curbing religious freedom.

What happened: The new outbreak has been linked to the Sarang-jeil Church in Seoul, which has reported hundreds of positive cases among its members, some 400 of whom have yet to be traced by the authorities.

Official reaction: Moon's government on Tuesday announced a ban on all religious gatherings in churches in Seoul and the surrounding metropolitan areas, in a move that provoked immediate pushback from conservative religious groups.

Police in the capital have been enlisted to help identify and track individuals connected to the church, with the government acutely aware that time is of the essence to contain the spread and enable contact tracing.

Church leader denies claims, tests positive: The church's pastor, Jun Kwang-hoon -- who is already facing criminal charges for allegedly violating quarantine and obstructing contact tracing -- has rejected claims the church obstructed contact tracing by concealing a list of its members.

While Jun and his church have attracted some sympathy from opponents of President Moon and conservative religious groups, his actions, along with photos of him sitting in the back of an ambulance after testing positive, wearing his mask like a chin strap, have sparked fury from others online.

Religious freedom: Underlying the latest controversy is the widespread suspicion many conservative religious groups have of President Moon, a liberal who has faced growing opposition from the right in recent months. 

"There is a tendency among some more conservative churches that the Moon government is against religious freedom," said Professor Tark Ji-il of Busan Presbyterian University, adding that there was "tension and conflict" between many churches and the authorities.

Read the full story:

12:20 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

More than a third of Japan's total virus cases were reported in August 

From journalist Kaori Enjoji in Tokyo 

People cross a road in Tokyo, on August 17.
People cross a road in Tokyo, on August 17. Carl Court/Getty Images

Japan has recorded at least 22,500 Covid-19 cases since August 1, more than a third of its nationwide total since the pandemic began.

In total, Japan has confirmed 59,213 cases and 1,157 deaths, according to the country's Health Ministry.

“We are right in the middle of a second wave. A third and fourth wave can be expected in the future,” President Kazuhiro Tateda of the Japanese Association for Infectious Diseases told a conference on Wednesday. “We need to reduce the number of seriously ill patients in order to protect our hospitals from falling into confusion.”

Some background: There is an increasing sense of dissatisfaction with the Japanese government's response to the virus and it comes as Japan appears to be on the brink of another major Covid-19 outbreak. For the past 12 days, the Health Ministry has recorded more than 900 daily infections and last Friday marked a new daily high of 1,601 new cases nationwide.

New cases: On Wednesday, Japan reported 1,085 Covid-19 cases and 16 new deaths. The number of patients in critical care has increased three-fold this month, from 80 patients on August 1 to 239 patients on Wednesday.

Heat wave: Meanwhile, a heat wave poses new challenges for mask wearers. The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said more than 12,800 people were taken to hospital with heatstroke from August 10-16, twice the number of people in the previous week.

Read more about Japan's coronavirus fatigue:

12:01 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

South Korea reports triple-digit virus cases for seventh consecutive day

From CNN's Jake Kwon in Seoul 

A medical worker, wearing protective gear, take samples from a police officer during Covid-19 testing at a temporary test facility in Seoul, South Korea, on August 19.
A medical worker, wearing protective gear, take samples from a police officer during Covid-19 testing at a temporary test facility in Seoul, South Korea, on August 19. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

South Korea reported 276 local and 12 imported Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip said in a news briefing.

Most of the cases were detected in the capital Seoul and its surrounding areas. 

It's the seventh consecutive day that South Korea has reported cases in the triple digits.

Church clusters: A South Korean religious group is at the center of the new coronavirus outbreak. As of 6 p.m. local time Wednesday, 630 people linked to the Sarang-jeil Church had tested positive, Kim said. 

The Health Ministry had acquired an additional list of visitors to the church, but there are around 700 people whose contact information has not been confirmed or are avoiding being tested, Kim said.

Kim added that the ministry is cooperating with the police and telecommunication companies to acquire their contact information. 

Protest outbreak: As of Wednesday noon, 53 people had tested positive in relation to a mass anti-government rally on August 15, which was banned by authorities. Among the infected from the protest were 33 people related to the Sarang-jeil Church, Kim said.

Since the first case related to the church was found on August 12, more than 1,600 Covid-19 cases have been reported in South Korea.

11:07 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Mexico reports more than 5,700 new Covid-19 cases

From journalist Karol Suarez in Mexico City

Mexico recorded 5,792 new cases of Covid-19 and 707 new deaths on Wednesday, according to the Health Ministry.

The total number of confirmed infections in the country now stands at 537,031, with 58,481 deaths.

Mexico has reported the third-highest number of deaths in the world from coronavirus, following the United States and Brazil, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Only Brazil and Peru have recorded more Covid-19 cases than Mexico in Latin America, according to JHU.

CNN is tracking worldwide coronavirus cases here:

10:46 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

President Trump again points out New Zealand's fresh coronavirus outbreak

President Donald Trump speaks during a White House news conference on Wednesday.
President Donald Trump speaks during a White House news conference on Wednesday. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

United States President Donald Trump highlighted New Zealand's fresh coronavirus outbreak for the second time this week, while claiming the US has done a good job of containing the virus.

"New Zealand had a big outbreak, and other countries that were held up to try and make us look not as good as we should look, because we have done an incredible job," Trump said at a news briefing on Wednesday.
"They’re having a lot of outbreaks, but they’ll be able to put them out, and we put them out."

New Zealand is currently grappling with a reemergence of cases, which came shortly after the country went more than 100 days with no local transmissions.

On Monday, Trump called New Zealand's surge in Covid-19 cases "terrible."

"Even New Zealand, did you see what's going on in New Zealand? 'They beat it, they beat it.' It was like front page, they beat it, because they wanted to show me something," he said.

In response, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she didn't see any real comparison between her country's current cluster and the tens of thousands of cases that are reported daily in the US.

"Obviously, every country is experiencing its own fight with Covid-19; it is a tricky virus, but not one where I would compare New Zealand's current status to the United States," she said.
"New Zealand's nine cases in a day does not compare to the United States' tens of thousands, and in fact does not compare to most countries in the world. I'm not concerned about people misinterpreting our status."

New cases: New Zealand recorded five new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, Director-General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said on Thursday.

That raises the country's total to 1,304 confirmed infections -- 101 of which remain active. New Zealand has also reported 22 coronavirus-related deaths.

The US has recorded at least 5,527,306 Covid-19 cases, including 173,114 related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

9:55 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Covid-19 cases are declining across the US but could "turn around very quickly," testing czar warns

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Adm. Dr. Brett Giroir testifies during a House subcommittee meeting on July 31.
Adm. Dr. Brett Giroir testifies during a House subcommittee meeting on July 31. Kevin Dietsch/Pool/AFP/Getty Images/File

Covid-19 cases are declining across the United States and it’s clear “trends are going in the right direction,” Adm. Dr. Brett Giroir said during a US Department of Health and Human Services telebriefing on Wednesday. 

“We have very good data -- theoretical and real data -- that the plans that we’re implementing are working, and will continue to work -- and will continue to work just about equivalently to a shutdown,” Giroir said. 

Giroir says wearing a mask, staying a safe distance away, and washing your hands along with testing “continues to yield results.”

But Giroir doesn’t want the news to lead to complacency because “this thing could turn around very quickly if we're not careful. We saw that early on after Memorial Day, and the couple weeks afterward that sort of started the current outbreak, and it takes many weeks to get control over this once you institute measures."  

Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at HHS, said new cases are down 22% since their peak in July -- but noted that “tragically,” deaths are the lagging indicator and still remain flat.  

More data: Giroir said of the 56 US jurisdictions, 80% (45 out of 56) are currently in a declining pattern when it comes to new cases. Six of the 56 are flat. He said five are in an upward trajectory -- Guam, Hawaii, California, Indiana and Vermont. 

9:33 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

France reports highest daily increase in Covid-19 cases since end of lockdown in May

From CNN's Eva Tapiero in Paris

France confirmed a new daily high in coronavirus cases since coming out of lockdown in mid-May, with 3,776 infections reported by the National Health Agency on Wednesday.

That brings France's total number of confirmed cases to 225,043.

While the latest data released by the French National Health agency shows a decreasing trend of people hospitalized and in intensive care units, the agency said in a statement that “in mainland France, all indicators continue to increase and transmission of the virus intensifies."

"It concerns all age groups and more particularly young adults,” the statement added.

Mandatory masks: Following the surge in the number of new Covid-19 cases, the French government will make it mandatory to wear masks in enclosed shared spaces such as corporate offices from September 1, Minister of Labor Elisabeth Borne announced on Tuesday.

11:42 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Fauci urges people to stop speculating about the pandemic and focus on facts 

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Dr. Anthony Fauci. George Washington University/Facebook

The US' leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said health care professionals must continue to “make recommendations and policy based on data and evidence.” 

“Speculations, anecdotal, those kinds of opinions, really need to be put aside,” he said while speaking during a George Washington University webinar on Wednesday. 

“Everything that we are talking about in the arena of public health, any intervention, it could be a diagnostic, a vaccine, a therapy -- it has to be made on the basis of sound scientific data and evidence.” 

Fauci said he and his public health colleagues do this every day, holding true to their ethical principles.  

"You don't change your ethics because of the situation you are in," he said. "There are certain things that are constant; science, data and really good evidence are constant," he said.  

"If the situation changes, the data may change and you make your decisions. What doesn't change are ethical principles. They are clear and immutable."