September 1 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Mike Hayes and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, September 2, 2020
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3:00 p.m. ET, September 1, 2020

Utah State University issues mandatory quarantine after detecting Covid-19 in the water system

From CNN’s Nakia McNabb

Workers test Utah State University students for COVID-19 on Sunday, August 30, in Hyde Park, Utah.
Workers test Utah State University students for COVID-19 on Sunday, August 30, in Hyde Park, Utah. Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal/AP

Utah State University school officials say they have found elevated amounts of Covid-19 in sewage samples collected from four residence halls on campus.

The university issued a safety alert on Sunday calling for mandatory testing and quarantine of all 287 students living in Rich, Jones, Morgan and Davis on-campus residence halls.  

The mandatory quarantine is effective immediately and will continue until the test results are returned. USU has also activated a Covid Care Team to arrange for resources to assist the affected students, including meal deliveries. 

Testing sewage samples provides an early alert warning for the campus to address potential cases and prevent the spread of the virus, said Amanda DeRito, a director with the university.

“Wastewater sample testing began July 1 and are collected daily. This testing isn’t new to Utah, it started shortly after the pandemic began and has been successful in monitoring the spread of the disease. The benefit of testing the water is that we get a snapshot into what is happening on campus and can quarantine even before a student becomes symptomatic. It is also less invasive,” DeRito said.

No other testing samples on campus taken this week show elevated levels of the virus and there are currently no reported positive tests for Covid-19 in the quarantined residence halls, according to a statement by the university. 

USU is working along with the Bear River Health Department to send the quarantined students the test results.

2:33 p.m. ET, September 1, 2020

Nurses are still seeing shortages in personal protective equipment, ANA says

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Nurses across the country are still struggling to get the personal protective equipment they need to safely treat patients during the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey shows.

Many are still re-using PPE, even though it’s not safe to do so, the American Nurses Association said Tuesday.

The nationwide survey of more than 21,000 US nurses, taken between July 24 and August 14, showed more than half had treated a patient with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 in the past two weeks. 

Here's what else the survey found:

  • More than 40% of the nurses said they experience widespread or intermittent shortages in PPE and more than half said the situation had stayed the same or had gotten worse since May.
  • The survey said N95 masks were in the shortest supply. The percentage of nurses who said their facilities require reuse of N95 masks rose from 62% in May to 68% in August.
  • More than half of those reusing N95 masks felt very or somewhat unsafe about these re-usage practices. 
  • More than half of the nurses who are reusing N95 masks – 58% of them – are using them for five or more days. This is a 15% increase since May. 
  • Nearly a quarter of nurses said that the N95 masks that they had did not fit them properly. 

“We cannot afford to have nursing profession that is not supported and one in which our nurses do not feel safe,” said Ernest Grant, president of the ANA, during a news briefing. “It is both a moral and strategic imperative for our nation’s leaders to do everything possible to arm and protect nurses and other critical responders.”

“These practices contribute to nurses burdens of mental and emotional stress,” he added. “Nurses say they feel unsafe given the ongoing issue with PPE and are concerned about the health of patients that they care for, their families and themselves.” 

1:56 p.m. ET, September 1, 2020

MLB postpones more games due to Covid-19 concerns

From CNN's David Close

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California. T
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California. T Ben Margot/AP/FILE

Major League Baseball has postponed another Oakland Athletics game. MLB had previously postponed the first two games of the team’s series with the Seattle Mariners and has now elected to reschedule the final game of the three-game set. 

The league says the decision to pull an additional game from the schedule is out of an abundance of caution and will allow more time for additional coronavirus testing. The league announced over the weekend that a member of the Oakland organization had tested positive for Covid-19. 

The A’s have had four games postponed since the reported Covid-19 positive test. 

7:33 p.m. ET, September 1, 2020

$5 rapid Covid-19 tests will be sent to states starting in mid-September, Giroir said

From CNN Health’s Jen Christensen

This image provided by Abbott Laboratories in August 2020 shows the company's BinaxNOW rapid COVID-19 nasal swab test.
This image provided by Abbott Laboratories in August 2020 shows the company's BinaxNOW rapid COVID-19 nasal swab test. Abbott Laboratories via AP

Admiral Brett Giroir, the head of US Covid-19 testing efforts, said Tuesday that the Trump administration will begin to send low-cost antigen tests to states starting in mid-September. 

This antigen test, called the BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag Card, uses a nasal swab and requires no instrument to read it. The test costs $5 a piece and Giroir said 48 million a month will be available in the United States. 

The administration, which purchased 150 million of the tests in a $760 million contract, will push the tests out in mid-September. The tests will go to assisted living senior centers and home health staff, but the “overwhelming majority” will be sent to governors to support the opening of schools and daycares and to support first responders and people who work in critical jobs. They will also encourage the tests be sent to first responders and people who have been displaced by natural disasters like the wildfires out West and the hurricanes in Louisiana. 

It is authorized to be used on people doctors or nurses suspect may have Covid-19 within the first seven days that the person shows symptoms. Giroir said the tests have a “remarkable sensitivity and specificity” in this context of 97.1% and 98.5% respectively. It has a false negative rate of under 3%.

The tests pairs with a free, optional smartphone app that a doctor and patient can download that matches to a unique barcode on the test. The provider can record the result of the test in the app and the result can be automatically sent to the public health system that tracks test results. The tests can also be used to test asymptomatic individuals in congregate settings like nursing homes, schools and workplaces.

Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the US Department of Health and Human Services said his department, along with the US Food and Drug Administration and Abbott Labs, have been working on an inexpensive point of care test that “literally for months.”

“I want to assure all of you that we will continue to build the testing ecosystem to support flattening the curve and saving lives,” said Giroir. “Full speed ahead in terms of quantity, quality and diversity of testing to support our national strategy.”

Antigen tests, which look for pieces of the virus, are not as reliable as traditional PCR tests that look for the virus’ genetic material, but they are quicker and less expensive. PCR tests for Covid-19 have had significant problems with supply chain problems and backups at labs that have, in some cases, significantly delayed test results.

1:49 p.m. ET, September 1, 2020

Democrats on House select panel identify problems with handling of PPP money

From CNN's Manu Raju

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Pool

As Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies before their panel, the House select committee on the coronavirus crisis released a report finding problems with the handling and implementation of the Paycheck Protection Program, aimed to help small businesses keep workers on their payrolls through low-interest, forgivable loans.

These are the problems the Democrats identified, as described in their press release:

  • "Over $1 Billion in loans went to companies that received multiple loans. Staff analysis identified 10,856 loans in which the borrower received multiple PPP loans, for a total of over $1 billion in outstanding loans. Of the 10,856 loans identified, only 65 would be subject to additional scrutiny based on the Administration’s stated plans to audit loans over $2 million. PPP rules prohibit companies from receiving multiple loans."
  • "More Than 600 loans totaling over $96 million went to companies excluded from doing business with the government. Staff identified 613 PPP loans, amounting to $96.3 million, provided to borrowers that are ineligible to receive PPP funds because they have been debarred or suspended from doing business with the federal government."
  • "More than 350 loans worth $195 million went to government contractors with significant performance and integrity issues. Staff found that SBA approved 353 PPP loans, amounting to approximately $195 million, to government contractors previously flagged by the federal government for performance or integrity issues."
  • "Federal database raises red flags for $2.98 billion in loans to more than 11,000 PPP borrowers. Select Subcommittee staff compared the federal government’s System for Award Management (SAM) database against the information companies used to obtain PPP loans to identify red flags, such as mismatched addresses. These flags implicated more than 11,000 borrowers and $2.98 billion in PPP loans."
  • "SBA and Treasury approved hundreds of loan applications missing key identifying information about the borrower. These PPP loan applications were approved despite incomplete or missing identifying information on the loan applications, including missing names and addresses."
1:32 p.m. ET, September 1, 2020

More than 183,700 people have died in the US from coronavirus

According to Johns Hopkins University's tally of cases in the United States, there have been at least 6,039,169 cases reported since the start of the pandemic. At least 183,733 people have died in the US from coronavirus.  

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases. 

So far on Monday, Johns Hopkins has reported 8,582 new cases and 136 reported deaths in the US.

1:10 p.m. ET, September 1, 2020

White House coronavirus task force report has dire warnings for Iowa

From CNN's Betsy Klein

In this Friday, Aug. 14 photo, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a news conference, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
In this Friday, Aug. 14 photo, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a news conference, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall/AP

A White House coronavirus task force report sent to officials in the state of Iowa this week warned of dire new case increases across rural and urban areas and called for a mask mandate, the closure of bars, and a plan from universities as the pandemic intensifies in the Midwest.

CNN has obtained the nine-page Aug. 30 report for the state, first reported by the Des Moines Register, from the Iowa Department of Public Health. The task force releases state-by-state reports each week to governors’ offices, and has so far declined to make them publicly available.

The report says that Iowa is in the task force-defined “red zone” and warns that the state has the highest rate of cases in the US, which increased by 77.4% from the previous week.

“Iowa is in the red zone for cases, indicating more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population last week, with the highest rate in the country. Iowa is in the red zone for test positivity, indicating a rate above 10%, with the 5th highest rate in the country,” the report says, an increase in both cases and test positivity over the last week.

The report offers recommendations to Iowa, including strongly encouraging a mask mandate. Iowa does not currently mandate masks.

“Mask mandates across the state must be in place to decrease transmission,” the report says.

It also says bars “must be closed” and indoor dining “must be restricted to 50% of normal capacity in yellow zone and 25% of normal capacity in red zone counties and metro areas."

In the report, the task force points to universities as a major factor contributing to the virus’ spread.

“University towns need a comprehensive plan that scales immediately for testing all returning students with routine surveillance testing to immediately identify new cases and outbreaks and isolate and quarantine,” the report says.

The three counties with the highest numbers of cases also have large student populations: Story County, home to Iowa State, and Johnson County, home to University of Iowa, as well as Polk County, which contains Iowa's largest metro area, Des Moines

The report comes less than two weeks before Iowa State University will welcome crowds to its stadium for its season opener football game.

Though social distancing will be observed, a letter from the school’s athletic director estimated “there will be approximately 25,000 fans at the first game." The task force report suggests red zone counties should limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

 The test positivity rate for Iowa State students in the second week of testing is 28.8%.

 At the University of Iowa, there have been 935 self-reported cases in students and employees since the semester began August 18.  

There are also concerns, per the task force’s report, about spread in nursing homes, calling the number of nursing homes with more than one resident testing positive “concerning.”

CNN has reached out to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office for comment as to whether she plans to heed these recommendations. Reynolds, a top ally of PresidentTrump, spoke at the Republican National Convention last week, and while she touted the administration’s response to the derecho storm earlier this month, she did not mention the pandemic.

2:19 p.m. ET, September 1, 2020

Florida governor to allow visitation at nursing homes — more than 5 months into pandemic

From CNN’s Rosa Flores and Sara Weisfeldt

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a new conference on the surge in coronavirus cases in the state held at the Jackson Memorial Hospital on July 13, in Miami, Florida.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a new conference on the surge in coronavirus cases in the state held at the Jackson Memorial Hospital on July 13, in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a limited reopening of visitations at nursing homes in his state. The announcement was made during a roundtable event in Jacksonville.

DeSantis said all visitations will be by appointment only, with residents designating up to 5 visitors each. Only 2 visitors will be allowed at one time. No minors will be allowed.

All visitors will have to wear personal protective equipment and pass a screening test, per DeSantis. And no facility can allow visitors unless 14 days have passed without the onset of a new positive Covid-19 case, in either a resident or a staff member.

Visitations at nursing homes and long-term care facilities were shut down in March by DeSantis.

12:56 p.m. ET, September 1, 2020

New York launches online portal for voters to request absentee ballots

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during the daily media briefing at the Office of the Governor of the State of New York on July 23.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during the daily media briefing at the Office of the Governor of the State of New York on July 23. Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of an online “absentee ballot portal” where voters can directly request an absentee ballot for the November election.

New York is allowing any voter concerned about Covid-19 risk exposure to request an absentee ballot, per executive order, the governor said. 

The move follows a swath of election reforms signed into law last month aimed at easing the mail in voting process

All registered NY voters can request a ballot here