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
27 Posts
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7:41 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

Teen girl with underlying health conditions dies of coronavirus in California, officials say

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

A teenage girl in Southern California has died from the coronavirus, Orange County health officials announced Wednesday. 

The girl had "significant underlying medical conditions," officials said in a news release without providing further details about the child or her health conditions.

We are deeply saddened by this loss of life and send our condolences to her friends and family during this very difficult time," Dr. Clayton Chau, the acting county health officer, said in a statement. 

Across the state, more than 638,000 people have tested positive for the virus, including 63,000 cases among children younger than 18, state data show. 

The number of Covid-19 cases among children nationwide recently increased 90% over four weeks, according to data released last week by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"We've had 90 deaths in children in the United States already, in just a few months," Dr. Sean O'Leary, vice-chair of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases, told CNN last week.

Read the full story here:

7:31 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

Europe recording 26,000 daily new virus cases since restrictions eased, says WHO

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in Dublin

Europe has been reporting more than 26,000 daily new coronavirus cases on average since governments started relaxing measures implemented to stop the spread of the disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The increase can be explained in part by the fact that "authorities have been easing some of the restrictions and people have been dropping their guard," WHO Europe chief Hans Kluge said during a news conference on Thursday. 

Kluge said that with 3.9 million coronavirus cases, the region accounts for 17% of the global total. While Europe made great strides in suppressing the virus after it was hit "early and hard," Kluge affirmed that the "risk of resurgence has never been far away."

He said that "new cases have been steadily increasing every week in the region" since restrictions began easing. Europe recorded 40,000 more cases in the first week of August compared to the first week of June, when cases were at their lowest, he added.

Kluge said that the key challenge was "that localized outbreaks and clusters are now occurring with greater frequency, often in closed settings." The WHO Europe chief said that these outbreaks should not interfere with the plans for children to return safely to school, and announced a meeting for all 53 countries in the region on ensuring safe, high-quality education.

Suggested measures include opening schools in areas with low virus levels, adjusting schedules and keeping students numbers low in areas with widespread cases.

A new season: Kluge said it was "critical that countries monitor flu activity and restore and reinforce routine surveillance to include both viruses, and that they promote flu vaccination for at-risk groups." He emphasized the greater stores of knowledge countries have for dealing with the virus in the fall.

Kluge said he was "very concerned that more and more young people are counted among reported cases," telling Europe's youth that they "have their part to play" in suppressing the virus and advising against large gatherings. 

7:20 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

Costa Rica to allow US residents from 6 northeastern states entry next month

From CNN's Jennifer Landwehr in Chicago and Sharif Paget in Atlanta 

People arrive at Juan Santamaria airport where they are greeted by a tour operator with a sign saying "Welcome to Costa Rica, Pura Vida" in San Jose, on August 3.
People arrive at Juan Santamaria airport where they are greeted by a tour operator with a sign saying "Welcome to Costa Rica, Pura Vida" in San Jose, on August 3. Ezequiel Becerra/AFP/Getty Images

Costa Rica has announced that US residents flying from six northeastern states will be allowed entry next month to help revitalize its tourism sector, which has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Starting in September, Costa Rica will allow six weekly flights for residents from New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and Connecticut, the country’s tourism minister Gustavo Segura said at a news conference on Wednesday. 

“In these six states there has been a very positive evolution of the pandemic and their epidemiological indicators are of high quality, even comparable to the same indicators in Costa Rica,” Segura said.

People entering Costa Rica must show an official identification from one of the six US states, Segura said. Travelers must also present a negative Covid-19 test result taken no more than 48 hours before the flight and have travel insurance to cover any possible medical care.

“This gradual opening is still slight, but it is a message of hope not to lose strength and to understand that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Segura said.

7:05 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

EU concludes talks to buy 225 million vaccine doses

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

The European Commission has concluded exploratory talks with German firm CureVac to purchase a potential Covid-19 vaccine, the Commission said in a statement Thursday.

"The envisaged contract with CureVac would provide for the possibility for all EU Member States to purchase the vaccine, as well as to donate to lower and middle income countries or re-direct to European countries," the statement reads.

The Commission will have a contractual framework in place "for the initial purchase of 225 million doses on behalf of all EU Member States, to be supplied once a vaccine has proven to be safe and effective against COVID-19."

The European Commission "will have an agreement soon with CureVac. This is the 4th company with which we enter into an agreement," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted Thursday, referring to the previous steps with Sanofi-GSK, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.

6:58 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

Sweden records highest death tally in 150 years in first half of 2020

From CNN's Hilary McGann

Sweden recorded its highest death tally in 150 years for the first half of 2020, according to the country’s official statistics office. 

Between January and June this year, 51,405 deaths were registered in the country -- more than 6,500 fatalities (or 15%) over the same period in 2019. 

This is the highest number of deaths in Sweden during the first half of the year since 1869, when the country was struck by famine and 55,431 people died.

The country also experienced the lowest population increase since 2005, with a surplus figure of 6,860 in 2020 that was less than half that of the previous year. 

Immigration figures also saw a reduction of 34.7% from the same period in 2019, with the figures primarily dropping in the second quarter between April and June. 

The background: Unlike most countries, Sweden did not go into a lockdown when the pandemic spread across Europe in early spring. Instead, there was an emphasis on personal responsibility, with most bars, schools, restaurants and salons remaining open. 

By early June, the country’s coronavirus death toll was at more than 4,500. According to Johns Hopkins University, it now stands at 5,802. 

6:17 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

US is seeing hopeful trends in new cases but official says that could quickly change if people aren't careful

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

It's been a devastating summer across the US with tens of thousands of American deaths recorded and millions of new coronavirus infections.

But thanks in part to safety protocols like masks and social distancing, new case trends are now "going in the right direction," said Adm. Dr. Brett Giroir, the Trump administration official overseeing US coronavirus testing.

Despite the hopeful signs, now isn't a time to let up or ease measures, he cautioned.

"This could turn around very quickly if we're not careful," Giroir said. "We saw that early on after Memorial Day and the couple weeks afterward that sort of started the current outbreak."

The surge in cases over the summer came weeks after states lifted restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. Much of the progress made during stay-at-home orders was quickly lost, officials said, as some Americans celebrated the start of summer by packing beaches and parties with little distance between them. 

It's unclear what could happen next, but experts have offered grim predictions as flu season approaches. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, said the consequences of reopening the country too quickly could be devastating, noting Americans already saw what happened when states skipped over the guideposts.

Meanwhile, states across the South and West continue to report the most daily infections when adjusted for population.

Read the full story:

5:54 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

The odds of catching Covid-19 on an airplane are slimmer than you think, scientists say

From CNN's Tamara Hardingham-Gill

Sitting squeezed between strangers on board an aircraft might feel like a risky position during these uncertain times.

But according to some experts who point to the very few documented cases of in-flight transmission, the chances of catching Covid-19 while on board a flight are actually relatively slim.

Fear of flying during the pandemic has drastically reduced global air traffic, which has also been restricted due to border closures. If new scientific claims are borne out, the perceived heightened risk of boarding an airplane could be unfounded.

In one case, about 328 passengers and crew members were tested for coronavirus after it was learned that March 31 flight from the US to Taiwan had been carrying 12 passengers who were symptomatic at the time. However, all the other passengers tested negative, as did the crew members.

And while there have certainly been cases of infected passengers passing the virus on to an airplane's crew or fellow travelers in recent months, the transmission rates are low.

One explanation for the apparently low risk level is that the air in modern aircraft cabins is replaced with new fresh air every two to three minutes, and most planes are fitted with air filters designed to trap 99.99% of particles. 

Read the full story here:

5:23 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

Many leaders used Covid as cover to dent democracy. Trump may be the first to openly admit it

From CNN's Luke McGee

In the months since Covid-19 swept the globe, leaders the world over have been accused of exploiting the pandemic for political gain while laying waste to democratic norms. Few, if any, have gone as far as to reveal those plans publicly. 

A notable exception is President Donald Trump, who has openly admitted that he is trying to block much-needed funding for the US Postal Service because he wants to limit the number of Americans who can vote safely by mail in November's election. 

The reason? Trump says postal ballots will hurt his campaign, and has repeatedly made the unfounded claim that widespread mail-in voting will result in the "most fraudulent election in history."

By refusing to take steps to allow as many Americans as possible to participate in the election -- and by openly casting doubt over the legitimacy of the poll -- Trump is embracing tactics used by authoritarian leaders in countries with compromised democratic institutions, experts said.

"On one hand, he is claiming that postal voting could delegitimize the election while openly admitting that he opposes funding the post office to suppress the vote," said Nic Cheeseman, professor of democracy at the University of Birmingham. "It's a move from the populist playbook: blame someone else for the thing you yourself are doing."

Trump's moves come at a time when some countries are expanding the availability of mail-in ballots and other early voting initiatives in an effort to allow people to take part in elections without risking their health at polling stations. 

Read the full story here:


4:58 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

FDA warns about UV lights to disinfect coronavirus and other germs

From CNN Health’s Maggie Fox

Lamps that use ultraviolet light to kill germs can inactivate coronavirus, but they are not all safe and it is not clear how good a job they do at killing the virus, the US Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.

The FDA said ultraviolet-C (UVC) wavelengths are better than UVA and UVB light at destroying viruses, but UVC lamps still have their limits.

“The effectiveness of UVC lamps in inactivating the SARS-CoV-2 virus is unknown because there is limited published data about the wavelength, dose, and duration of UVC radiation required to inactivate the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” the FDA said in a newly posted statement.

 Plus the lamps only work in limited circumstances. 

“It is important to recognize that, generally, UVC cannot inactivate a virus or bacterium if it is not directly exposed to UVC. In other words, the virus or bacterium will not be inactivated if it is covered by dust or soil, embedded in porous surface or on the underside of a surface,” the FDA said. 

There’s been an explosion of products on offer to fight coronavirus, including germicidal lamps. The World Health Organization warns against trying to use them to disinfect human skin, including the hands.

In addition, some UVC lamps generate ozone, which can irritate airways.

“Some UVC lamps contain mercury. Because mercury is toxic even in small amounts, extreme caution is needed in cleaning a lamp that has broken and in disposing of the lamp," the FDA added.