The latest on the coronavirus pandemic

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Amy Woodyatt, Ed Upright, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 2:18 a.m. ET, August 22, 2020
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1:27 p.m. ET, August 21, 2020

Fighting Covid-19 now is both easier and harder than it was in 1918, WHO says

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

World Health Organization officials meet on August 21 in Geneva, Switzerland.
World Health Organization officials meet on August 21 in Geneva, Switzerland. World Health Organization

It’s both easier and more difficult the fight the coronavirus pandemic than it was to battle the 1918 influenza pandemic, World Health Organization officials said Friday.

“With more connectedness, the virus has a better chance of spreading,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing. “But at the same, we have also technology to stop it, and the knowledge to stop it,” he added. 

“We have a disadvantage — globalization, closeness, connectedness — but an advantage of better technology.” 

The 1918 flu pandemic took just under two years to pass, Tedros said. He said he hopes to finish this pandemic in “less than two years.”

After that, the H1N1 strain that killed tens of millions of people joined the regular, seasonal mix of influenza viruses. 

“It took three waves to infect most of the susceptible individuals, then settled down probably into a seasonal pattern,” Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO executive director of Health Emergencies Program. “Very often” a pandemic virus will settle into a seasonal pattern over time, he said. 

“But this virus is not displaying a similar wave-like pattern,” Ryan said

Instead of passing in waves that offer respites, coronavirus can be suppressed with strict measures but rebounds quickly, Ryan said. “Clearly, when the disease is not under control, it jumps straight back up,” he said. 

But the 1918 flu passed and so will this pandemic, he said.

“Human beings are resilient. We are a resilient species and we will get through this,” Ryan said.

3:06 p.m. ET, August 21, 2020

WHO will soon issue guidance on masks for children

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Students wear face masks while attending school on August 12  in Dortmund, Germany.
Students wear face masks while attending school on August 12 in Dortmund, Germany. Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images

The World Health Organization and UNICEF will be issuing guidance on the use of masks in children, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO infectious disease epidemiologist, said during a Friday briefing. 

Van Kerkhove said the guidance will be broken up by age range. The guidance will be for decision makers and educators “about when and where masks can be used.” 

Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO executive director of Health Emergencies Program, said “masks are a great tool” especially in the context of schools. But he warns they should not take the place of other public health measures.  

Ryan said getting kids back to school is a “complex equation,” and wearing masks is just one part of it. 

“The wearing of masks is not an alternative to social distancing. It’s not an alternative to hand washing. It’s not an alternative to decompressing class sizes. It’s not an alternative to all of the other measures,” he said.

“In fact it would decrease the benefits of masks if people closed physical distance, don’t wash their hands," Ryan added.

Van Kerkhove said the guidance should be issued in the coming days, if not sooner.

 

1:11 p.m. ET, August 21, 2020

SEC expands Covid-19 protocols ahead of season college football season

From CNN's Dan Kamal

Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey attends a press conference in Nashville on March 12.
Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey attends a press conference in Nashville on March 12. Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

The Southeastern Conference has announced expanded Covid-19 protocols for fall athletics, adding new cardiac evaluations and a third weekly test during weeks of competition. 

Initially, the SEC had mandated a cardiac evaluation following isolation for those athletes who tested positive. Now, the conference’s task force is expanding cardiac evaluation by requiring a troponin level, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram and a medical evaluation by a physician before an athlete can return to activity.

In addition, the SEC – at the recommendation of its medical guidance task force – will implement a third weekly rapid diagnostic test for athletes competing in sports with a high risk of close contact. 

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey release a statement:

“We remain vigilant in monitoring the trends and effects of Covid-19 as we learn more about the virus, and this cardiac evaluation enhances the effectiveness of the protocols already in place.
We are confident in our institutions’ ability to provide a healthy environment supported by rigorous testing and surveillance. Our student-athletes have indicated their desire to compete and it is our responsibility to make every effort to deliver a healthy and medically sound environment for providing that opportunity.”

The 14 members of the SEC have committed to honoring the scholarship of any student-athlete who opts out of playing in the fall of 2020 due to Covid-19 concerns.

12:43 p.m. ET, August 21, 2020

More New York Mets games postponed due to Covid-19 concerns

From CNN's David Close and Homero DeLaFuente

A New York Mets batting helmet is seen in the dugout on March 8 before a spring training game in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
A New York Mets batting helmet is seen in the dugout on March 8 before a spring training game in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Major League Baseball has announced two additional New York Mets games have been postponed due to Covid-19 concerns.

The team’s weekend home set versus the New York Yankees is off — which means four Mets games in total have now been postponed.

With two members of the Mets organization testing positive for coronavirus, the league says it wants to allow more time for additional testing and contact tracing before the team takes the field again. 

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball has released its latest Covid-19 testing figures from the past week, revealing 0.05% samples are new positives — an increase of .02% from the previous week.

The report, announced in conjunction with the players union, does not indicate which players tested positive.

Seven of the 12,485 samples were new positives: three players and four staff members.  

12:34 p.m. ET, August 21, 2020

Covid-19 vaccine will be a "vital tool," but the pandemic won't end on its own, WHO official says

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, attends a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland, on July 3.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, attends a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland, on July 3. Fabrice Coffrini/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, said Friday that "no country can just ride" out the coronavirus pandemic without a vaccine.

"No country can just ride this out until we have a vaccine," he said.

Tedros said he hopes a Covid-19 vaccine is available as soon as possible, adding it will be a “vital tool,” but there is no guarantee there will even be one. 

"And even if we do have a vaccine, it won't end the pandemic on its own. We must all learn to control and manage this virus using the tools we have now,” he said. 

Tedros said daily routines must be adjusted to keep everyone safe. This includes wearing masks and practicing good hand hygiene.  

Several countries are seeing an uptick in cases, Tedros said. 

“These countries are a cautionary tale for those that are now seeing a downward trend in cases. Progress does not mean victory," he said.

12:08 p.m. ET, August 21, 2020

CDC's ensemble forecast now projects nearly 195,000 US coronavirus deaths by September

From CNN's Jamie Gumbrecht

A mortician assistant prepares a funeral service for someone said to have died from Covid-19 at Ray Williams Funeral Home in Tampa, Florida, on August 12.
A mortician assistant prepares a funeral service for someone said to have died from Covid-19 at Ray Williams Funeral Home in Tampa, Florida, on August 12. Octavio Jones/Getty Images

An ensemble forecast published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now projects nearly 195,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by Sept. 12.

The new projections, published Friday, forecast 194,778 deaths by Sept. 12, with a possible range of 187,373 to 204,684 deaths.

“State- and territory-level ensemble forecasts predict that the number of reported new deaths per week will likely increase over the next four weeks in Minnesota and may decrease in 13 jurisdictions. Those with the greatest likelihood of a decrease over the next four weeks include Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, and South Carolina,” the CDC says on its forecasting website.

Unlike some individual models, the CDC’s ensemble forecast only offers projections about a month into the future. The previous ensemble forecast, published Aug. 13, projected roughly 189,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by Sept. 5.

At least 174,255 people have already died from Covid-19 in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

 

11:58 a.m. ET, August 21, 2020

Dallas schools will start the year virtually next month

From CNN's Annie Grayer

A student and parent wear backpacks carrying a Google Chromebook laptop and an Apple iPad for remote learning during a technology deployment event at Mockingbird Elementary School in Dallas on August 19.
A student and parent wear backpacks carrying a Google Chromebook laptop and an Apple iPad for remote learning during a technology deployment event at Mockingbird Elementary School in Dallas on August 19. Cooper Neill/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The Dallas Independent School District will start the academic year with full remote learning when students return to school on Sept. 8, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa announced.

Public schools in Dallas will be remote through at least Oct. 6.

“Not everybody is going to be happy with that decision, but it is what it is, and it’s the context that we’re in,” Hinojosa said when making the announcement.

“All of the medical professionals were unanimous in their recommendation that there should be no in-person learning on Sept. 8,” Hinojosa said, referring to the recommendation he received from county health officials that led him to make his decision.

With the decision from Dallas public schools announced, 64 of the 101 largest school districts in the US will be starting the school year remotely.

Boston Public Schools is the only school district of the 101 largest school districts that still has not made a final decision about its reopening. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the reopening of school is postponed until Sept. 21 and the options on the table are all remote or hybrid.

You can watch the announcement in the video below:

11:02 a.m. ET, August 21, 2020

Pence was asked about coronavirus deaths. "We mourn with those who mourn," he says.

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Vice President Mike Pence on CNN's "New Day" on August 21.
Vice President Mike Pence on CNN's "New Day" on August 21. CNN

As the US surpasses 174,000 deaths due to coronavirus, Vice President Mike Pence said, “We mourn with those who mourn.”

The US is now averaging 1,000 coronavirus deaths a day. When CNN's John Berman asked Pence about the death toll, he said:

“Never been a day gone by we haven’t thought about families who have lost loved ones in the midst of this pandemic."

Despite seeing significant surges in cases and deaths all across the country through the year so far, the Vice President emphasized that President Trump’s decision in January to suspend all travel from China has bought time for the US to work on a vaccine.

Since January, the US has recorded over 5 million cases.

Pence went on to criticize the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for his critique of President Trump.

“While we grieve with those who lost loved one, had we not stood up the response as Joe Biden wanted us to do, we would have lost hundreds of thousands of more Americans.”

Watch:

9:35 a.m. ET, August 21, 2020

Pence says there will be a vaccine "before the end of this year." Here's what we know.

Vice President Mike Pence said this morning that he believes the US will have a coronavirus vaccine before the end of 2020.

"We have many companies — several companies — that are in phase 3 clinical trials for a vaccine that I believe we'll have before the end of this year," he said on CNN this morning.

Pence added: "But we're also not waiting on that. We're actually manufacturing millions of doses of a vaccine so the moment the FDA says it's safe and effective, we'll be able to distribute it to the American people."

Some background: President Trump has suggested that a vaccine for the coronavirus could be ready before Election Day this year. And while It's possible that a vaccine could be approved by the Food and Drug Administration at some point in November, there is obviously no firm timeline or guarantee that one will be.

And even when one is approved, it will likely still be many months before it's widely available across the US. In interviews last month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infections disease expert, made clear that while a vaccine could be approved by or possibly before November, it would likely not be available widely until "several months" into 2021.

Watch: