August 31 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Mike Hayes, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, September 1, 2020
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7:21 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

Georgia governor extends coronavirus public gathering restrictions for two more weeks

From CNN’s Andy Rose

Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk through City Market in Savannah, Georgia, on Wednesday, August 19.
Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk through City Market in Savannah, Georgia, on Wednesday, August 19. Colin Douglas Gray/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp extended statewide limits on public gatherings for another two weeks.

The order continues to ban public gatherings of 50 or more people unless they can maintain six feet of social distancing. The new order announced Monday expires at the end of the day on Sept. 15.

Despite the extension, the governor’s office says the state is making progress in fighting coronavirus.

“Currently, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Georgia are at their lowest since July 6,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “Cases reported yesterday were at their lowest point since June 22.”

The governor also extended the state’s general state of emergency through Oct. 10.

10:32 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

AstraZeneca says it will “follow the science” as it enters Phase 3 trials in the US

From CNN’s Andrea Kane

British drug maker AstraZeneca – which announced Monday the US launch of Phase 3 trials for its coronavirus vaccine – said its “core values to follow the science" and "put patients first," according to a statement.

The statement come on the same day that the World Health Organization cautioned countries against rushing to develop coronavirus vaccines and to use great care in granting emergency use authorization. Those remarks appeared to be directed toward China, Russia and the United States.

Both China and Russia say they will start deploying vaccines before completing late-stage clinical trials, and US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn has said if the US gets enough data from advanced stage trials, it might be possible to authorize a vaccine before the trials are completed.

In its statement, AstraZeneca said, “At the heart of AstraZeneca’s core values is to ‘follow the science’ and adhere to the highest scientific and clinical standards, making the safety and efficacy of the vaccine of paramount importance. The Company’s submissions for market authorisation will meet the stringent requirements established by regulators everywhere around the world.” 

AstraZeneca, which developed the vaccine with the University of Oxford, also said it will enroll more than 50,000 volunteers globally, including 30,000 in the United States, as well as participants in “Latin America, Asia, Europe, Russia and Africa that will provide data for ethnically diverse populations.”

In US trials, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said he wants to see minorities enrolled at levels that are at least double their percentages in the population, or roughly 65%. 

Neither Moderna nor Pfizer/BioNTech – the two other drugmakers with coronavirus vaccine candidates in large-scale phase 3 trials in the US – have finished enrolling their stated goals of 30,000 volunteers each.

7:04 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

Brazil's Rio de Janeiro to reopen cultural centers tomorrow

From Journalist Rodrigo Pedroso

The city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is set to reopen cultural centers such as museums, amusement parks and libraries on Tuesday as the city enters the first part of the final phase in its reopening plan, the city announced Monday.

Theaters, stadiums and sunbathing on beaches will stay closed.

The move comes after Rio saw a decrease in new Covid-19 infections and deaths over the past two weeks. If cases and deaths continue to decline, the city expects to enter the second part of phase six, phase 6B, on Oct. 1.  

The latest numbers: On Monday, the state of Rio de Janeiro reported at least 329 new Covid-19 cases, bringing its total count to approximately 223,631.

The state’s Health Ministry also reported at least 38 new deaths, bringing that total to approximately 16,065 people.

The Rio de Janeiro state is the third-most severely impacted by the pandemic in the country, to date. Brazil is second only to the United States in terms of the highest total number of coronavirus cases and deaths globally.  

6:56 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

Florida governor and White House advisor discourage testing asymptomatic individuals

From CNN’s Renee Baharaeen

White House Coronavirus advisor Scott Atlas
White House Coronavirus advisor Scott Atlas The Florida Governor's Office

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and White House Coronavirus advisor Scott Atlas discouraged testing individuals with no coronavirus symptoms at a Monday roundtable event in Tallahassee, Florida. 

This comes after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised testing guidelines last week. The new recommendations suggest asymptomatic people may not need to be tested for Covid-19, even if they've been in close contact with an infected person.

“We really have to be careful about testing, and I think the CDC guideline now is very clear that asymptomatic people – that’s not a priority for a test. The CDC is not saying you cannot get a test. They’re just saying there’s a rationale for getting a test, and if you are concerned, you can contact your doctor or your local health official,” Atlas said.  

But, some experts are still concerned about asymptomatic spread. 

Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci 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.”

Atlas said that although asymptomatic spread can occur, symptomatic individuals are “super spreaders” of the virus.

6:31 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

Brazil reports nearly 46,000 new coronavirus cases

From Journalist Rodrigo Pedroso

Health workers give COVID-19 tests to workers at the Central Supply of Agricultural products, the largest food market in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, Aug. 24.
Health workers give COVID-19 tests to workers at the Central Supply of Agricultural products, the largest food market in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, Aug. 24. Eraldo Peres/AP

Brazil’s Health Ministry is reporting at least 45,961 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases in the country to approximately 3,908,272.

The ministry also reported at least 553 additional coronavirus deaths on Monday, raising the country’s death toll to approximately 121,381.

Even as new cases and registered deaths continue to rise in Brazil, a CNN analysis shows the rate of increase in both new cases and the number of deaths has notably decreased during the month of August.

Brazil continues to trail only the United States in terms of the highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths in the world, according to data held by Johns Hopkins University. 

6:11 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

Obesity leads to more severe Covid-19 disease, study finds

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Covid-19 patients who are obese face more serious disease than those without obesity, a new study finds. Nearly all intensive care patients who were studied ended up on a ventilator if they had severe obesity, the researchers founds.

Obesity is listed as a risk factor for severe disease by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health agencies. Dr. François Pattou, head of the Department of General and Endocrine Surgery at Lille University Hospital in France, along with colleagues set out to quantify the risk.

Back in April, Pattou’s team began to look at Covid-19 patients across Europe. They studied 124 patients admitted to intensive care units and compared them with 306 patients in the intensive care unit for reasons other than coronavirus.

They found about half of the patients with Covid-19 in ICU had obesity, defined as a body mass index or BMI over 30. A quarter of the patients had a BMI of 35 or above, Pattou found. But only around 10% of the patients had a BMI that was under 25, considered a healthy weight. 

When researchers compared this to the non-Covid patients in ICU, fewer were obese. “A quarter had obesity or severe obesity; a further quarter were overweight, and around half fell into the healthy weight range,” the European and International Congress on Obesity, where the findings will be presented, said in a statement.

Doctors know obesity puts patients at higher risk of severe illness from infectious respiratory diseases such as flu. Pattou’s study found that the higher a patient’s BMI, the worse the symptoms.

 "Several months into the Covid-19 pandemic, the increased risk posed by this virus to people living with obesity could not be clearer,” Pattou said in a statement.

“Our data show that the chances of increasing to more severe disease increases with BMI, to the point where almost all intensive care Covid-19 patients with severe obesity will end up on a ventilator."


6:07 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

Houston mayor warns about large gatherings ahead of Labor Day: Covid-19 "is still looking for you"

From CNN's Gisela Crespo

Mayor Sylvester Turner
Mayor Sylvester Turner Pool

Houston, Texas, Mayor Sylvester Turner on Monday encouraged residents to avoid large gatherings ahead of Labor Day Weekend, saying coronavirus "is still looking for you."

"You know what happened during Memorial Day and the Fourth of July weekend. People came together, and then the virus took off, and then you saw the numbers go up," Turner said during a news conference.

"As we approach Labor Day, let me encourage people to be mindful. The virus is still looking for you. And so, if you come together then you will give it a home," Sylvester added. 

The latest numbers: Sylvester said the positivity rate for new Covid-19 cases in Houston has decreased to 7.8% from 9.2% the week before.

"We are moving in the right direction," Turner said, urging people to continue public health measures such as wearing masks and social distancing for the city to reach the 5% positivity rate goal. 

5:56 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

Aggressive testing is the way to find asymptomatic infections at universities, Birx says 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

The only way to find those with asymptomatic infections of Covid-19 at universities is to do aggressive testing, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said over the weekend.

Birx said what she sees happening at schools “really gives us hope” that the universities will be able to find asymptomatic patients. 

Most university students won’t know that they’re infected, Birx said during a news briefing in Fargo, North Dakota, on Saturday.

“The only way to find them in the university setting is doing the aggressive testing that is happening here, followed by isolating those students to make sure that they don’t continue to spread the virus,” she said. 

Birx also said she hoped universities could use surge testing, adding that testing could be sped up through innovative methods like pool testing and new collection techniques such as using saliva instead of nasal swabs.

“That is all going to move forward here,” she said. 

5:46 p.m. ET, August 31, 2020

Birx's message to college students: Isolate on campus and don't carry coronavirus back home 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator WDAY

University students who get infected with coronavirus should isolate where they are and not carry the virus away from campus, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said over the weekend.

“To the college and university students, please isolate at your college,” Birx said during a news briefing Saturday. “Do not return if you’re positive and spread the virus to your family, your aunts, your uncles, your grandparents.”

Numerous coronavirus outbreaks have been detected as university and college students returned to campuses across the country to start the fall semester.

“We can prevent the spread from any university into the community and into the homes from where the students came if the students will isolate and ensure they don’t spread the virus,” Birx said.