August 26 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Amy Woodyatt, Ed Upright, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, August 27, 2020
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5:38 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

North Carolina has seen increase in percentage of positive cases due to clusters at university settings

From CNN’s Jennifer Henderson

Medical personnel handle coronavirus test samples on July 9 in Burlington, North Carolina.
Medical personnel handle coronavirus test samples on July 9 in Burlington, North Carolina. Gerry Broome/AP

North Carolina has seen an increase in the percentage of positive cases, according to the state’s Covid-19 dashboard and Dr. Mandy Cohen, the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

 “As we look at our the last week of what we are seeing in our trends, yes, largely we are seeing clusters coming from our university settings, largely these are happening off campus. We are seeing that at parties or at housing that is off-campus sorority or fraternity houses, other group houses. We're seeing some clusters on on campus universities in dormitory settings. We know that congregate living settings or settings for folks, large groups of folks live together are more likely to spread this virus," Cohen said.

North Carolina has 1,244 new cases of Covid-19 for a total of 158,985 lab confirmed cases, Gov. Roy Cooper said in a news conference today. 

There are 1,004 people hospitalized from Covid-19 and a total of 2,606 people have died from Covid-19, Cooper said. 

Note: These numbers were released by the North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

5:08 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Fauci says he was in surgery when task force discussed CDC testing guidelines

From CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies during a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on July 31 in Washington, DC.
Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies during a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on July 31 in Washington, DC. Kevin Dietsch/AFP/Getty Images

White House coronavirus task force member Anthony Fauci said he was in surgery and not part of the discussion during the Aug. 20 task force meeting when updated US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines were discussed. 

“I was under general anesthesia in the operating room and was not part of any discussion or deliberation regarding the new testing recommendations,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN. “I am concerned about the interpretation of these recommendations and worried it will give people the incorrect assumption that asymptomatic spread is not of great concern. In fact it is.”

Fauci had surgery on Thursday morning to remove a polyp on his vocal cord. He had general anesthesia and doctors advised him to curtail his talking for a while to allow his vocal cords to recover.

Some context: US Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Dr. Brett Giroir said during a phone call with reporters on Wednesday that the updated CDC guidance on Covid-19 testing was last discussed and approved by White House coronavirus task force members last Thursday.

Giroir said in the call that the updated testing guidelines originated from within the CDC and were written by multiple authors, adding that he, Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Stephen Hahn worked on them.

"The new guidelines are a CDC action. As always, guidelines received appropriate attention, consultation and input from task force experts, and I mean the medical and scientific experts," Giroir said, also mentioning CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. "All the task force experts advise on coronavirus-related matters.”

The updated guidelines were released on Monday. Previous CDC testing guidance said anyone who had close contact with someone with coronavirus should get tested, whether they have symptoms or not. The site was changed to say: “If you have been in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with a COVID-19 infection for at least 15 minutes but do not have symptoms, you do not necessarily need a test unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health care provider or State or local public health officials recommend you take one.”

A senior federal health official close to the process told CNN on Wednesday the changes came as a result of pressure from the Trump administration. "It's coming from the top down,” the source said.

3:36 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Trump's testing czar says coronavirus task force experts weighed in on CDC guideline change

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Adm. Dr. Brett Giroir, the White House coronavirus testing coordinator, testifies at a House Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill on July 31 in Washington, DC.
Adm. Dr. Brett Giroir, the White House coronavirus testing coordinator, testifies at a House Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill on July 31 in Washington, DC. Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images

Adm. Dr. Brett Giroir said during a phone call with reporters on Wednesday that White House coronavirus task force members were aware of the change in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testing guidelines. 

"The new guidelines are a CDC action. As always, guidelines received appropriate attention, consultation and input from task force experts, and I mean the medical and scientific experts," said Giroir, the White House coronavirus testing coordinator, mentioning CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, for instance. 

"All the task force experts advise on coronavirus-related matters," Giroir said.

 

2:49 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Expert says new CDC guidelines on testing is the "wrong move"

From CNN’s Andrea Diaz

New Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that seem to advocate for less coronavirus testing are probably the wrong move, an infectious diseases expert said Wednesday.

Testing is a cornerstone of controlling outbreaks of any infectious disease, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, chief of the Infectious Diseases Division at Massachusetts General Hospital, said on CNN Newsroom.

"I think we need to fully understand one of the best interventions we have against Covid-19 right now, in addition to masking and distancing, is testing, is the triad, is the things that we need to do. So, anything that advocates for less testing rather than more is probably the wrong move," Walensky said.

"I want to say where the CDC guidance really falls short is that they speak about antibody testing, speak about diagnostic testing and still seven months in, we don't have any guidance on surveillance testing," Walensky added. "When we have so much asymptomatic disease out there propagating new infections, we need to do surveillance testing."

Some more context: The CDC revisions suggest most people who do not have symptoms do not need to be tested, even after exposure to someone with the virus. 

What is important, Walensky said, is the timing of testing. 

"I think that the CDC guidelines, I question them, and would say that after exposure you do need a test," Walensky said. "I do advocate for calling your physician, calling a public health authority, to say when is the best time for me to get the test after I've been exposed."

2:13 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

New Jersey gyms and indoor amusement facilities can reopen next week at 25% capacity, governor says

From CNN's Brian Vitagliano

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a press briefing in Trenton, New Jersey, on August 26.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a press briefing in Trenton, New Jersey, on August 26. Pool/News 12 NJ

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday that he will be signing an executive order to allow New Jersey gyms to reopen on Tuesday, with a maximum indoor capacity of 25%. 

Additionally, fitness classes must adhere to one customer for every 200 square feet, all members and staff must wear masks, logs must be kept of all gym members and staff, six feet distance must be kept between all gym equipment and all equipment needs to be sanitized according to Murphy. 

“Gyms are among the most challenging of indoor environments as noted by multiple epidemiologist and experts even in the past several days and weeks, but given where we are in this fight, I know we are ready to take this next step forward," the governor said.

Indoor amusement facilities may also reopen on Tuesday, with details and protocols to follow, according to the governor.

Here's how the numbers look in the state:

  • New Jersey reported 288 Covid-19 positive tests on Monday. 
  • Daily positivity rate stands at 1.99%.
  • The rate of transmission stands at .8% which is down a bit according to Murphy. 
  • New Jersey recorded 11 deaths from Covid-19-related complications, bringing the total of New Jersey Covid-19 deaths to 14,134. 

Remember: These numbers were released by the New Jersey Governor’s office and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

1:24 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Louisiana will remain in phase 2 of reopening in part due to Hurricane Laura, governor says

From CNN's Devon M. Sayers in Atlanta

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks during a press conference on August 24 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks during a press conference on August 24 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Melinda Deslatte/AP

Louisiana will remain in phase 2 of reopening for Covid-19 for an additional two weeks, Gov. John Bel Edwards said today.

“The challenge is we are going to be blind for this week” because of suspension of testing due to the storm, the governor said at a press conference. 

1:19 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

What you need to know about the new CDC testing guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Edward R. Roybal campus is seen in Atlanta on April 23.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Edward R. Roybal campus is seen in Atlanta on April 23. Tami Chappell/AFP/Getty Images

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention abruptly changed its Covid-19 testing guidelines. Now, the center no longer recommends testing for most people without symptoms — even if they've been in close contact with someone known to have the virus.

Here's what we know so far about these new guidelines:

  • About the change: The CDC changed its site on Monday. Previously, it said "Testing is recommended for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection." But now, it says, "If you have been in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with a COVID-19 infection for at least 15 minutes but do not have symptoms, you do not necessarily need a test."
  • Some experts are baffled: Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University who was previously Baltimore's health commissioner, said the testing guideline changes make no sense. "These are exactly the people who should be tested," Wen said.
  • Pressure from the White House: A senior federal health official close to the process tells CNN the sudden change in CDC Covid-19 testing guidance was the result of pressure from the Trump administration. When asked by CNN whether the CDC was responding to pressure from the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services, the senior official said, "It's coming from the top down."
1:21 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Expert on new CDC guidelines: "I am worried that this is just a way to slow down testing"

From CNN's Andrea Diaz

Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease specialist and the associate dean of Emory University School of Medicine, said on CNN Newsroom this morning that he doesn't understand why the CDC changed its guidelines on testing. 

The CDC changed its Covid-19 testing guidelines to say some people without symptoms may not need to be tested, even if they've been in close contact with someone known to have the virus. Previously, the CDC said viral testing was appropriate for people with recent or suspected exposure, even if they were asymptomatic.

Del Rio said the CDC has not provided evidence to explain the changes. “I mean, the evidence that I'm aware of as of today is that close to 40% of the cases of the infections are asymptomatic and asymptomatic people transmit the infection,” Del Rio said.

“So, not testing — I mean, if you have been in contact with somebody for a few minutes, that's okay. But if you have been in contact for 50 minutes and that people doesn't have a mask, I think you need to be tested regardless if you have symptoms or not. We know especially young people going into the house and then transmit inside the household. So, the guidelines baffle me and I really don't understand them," he said. 

Del Rio added that he's concerned about politics influencing these decisions. He noted that President Trump has said in the past that more testing leads to the detection of more cases. 

"If we slowed down testing we will have a decrease in cases,” Del Rio said. “So I am worried that this is just a way to slow down testing and that would clearly be not good. We don't want to decrease the amount of testing. We want to decrease cases by decreasing transmission, not by decreasing testing." 

Medical correspondent calls new CDC guidelines 'ridiculous'

12:03 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Moderna says vaccine data shows it is well tolerated across all age groups

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

A syringe containing either the vaccine or a placebo is prepared for a participant in a Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial sponsored by Moderna at Accel Research Sites on August 4 in DeLand, Florida.
A syringe containing either the vaccine or a placebo is prepared for a participant in a Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial sponsored by Moderna at Accel Research Sites on August 4 in DeLand, Florida. Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Moderna’s experimental coronavirus vaccine appears to be safe and elicits an immune response in all age groups, including the elderly, a company official said Wednesday.

Data from the phase one safety trial of the vaccine showed only mild adverse effects, and generated an immune response in volunteers aged 18 to 71, Dr. Jacqueline Miller, therapeutic area head for infectious diseases at Moderna, told a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

The phase one trial was conducted in three age groups: 18 to 55, 56 to 70 and 71 plus years of age. Participants received two 100mg doses of the vaccine 28 days apart. 

Neutralizing antibodies – which inactivate the virus — were detected in all participants, including the upper age range, she told the meeting. All age groups also seemed to produce the same immune response – a good sign, as older people often have weaker responses to vaccines.

The most common adverse reactions were fatigue, chills, headache and myalgia. More reports of adverse symptoms observed after the second dose of the vaccine, but the majority of symptoms resolved within two days. 

ACIP advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how vaccines should be used in the population.