September 15 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes, Zamira Rahim and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020
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11:36 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Trump says coronavirus could go away without a vaccine, mentions herd immunity

From CNN's Jason Hoffman 

US President Donald Trump continued to claim that coronavirus will “go away,” claiming it might disappear without a vaccine, while speaking at an ABC town hall on Tuesday

Trump also claimed “herd development” can help the disease dissipate, and some doctors, including Scott Atlas, have argued for that strategy.

“I'm not looking to be dishonest. I don't want people to panic, and we are going to be OK. We're going to be OK and it is going away, and it's probably going to go away now a lot faster because of the vaccine. It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it's going to go away a lot faster with the vaccine,” Trump said.

Herd immunity: When pressed about his claim that the virus might go away without a vaccine, Trump apparently argued for herd immunity, a strategy that has become controversial in recent weeks.

“And you'll develop, you'll develop herd, like a herd mentality. It's going to be herd developed and that's going to happen, that will all happen, but with a vaccine, I think it will go away very quickly,” Trump said. “But I really believe we're rounding the corner, and I believe that strongly.”

Trump then said that Dr. Scott Atlas, a coronavirus adviser to the administration, said herd immunity could have been helpful from the beginning of the pandemic, though Atlas has claimed he has never advised the President for a herd immunity strategy.

“You look at Scott Atlas, you look at some of the other doctors that are highly, from Stanford, look at some of the other doctors. They think maybe we could have done that from the beginning,” Trump said.

Atlas' comments: In an interview with the BBC earlier this month, Atlas said he had never recommended herd immunity as a strategy to fight the virus.

“I have never, literally never, advised the President of the United States to pursue a strategy of herd immunity, of opening the doors and letting people get infected," Atlas told the BBC. "I have never advised that, I have never advocated for that to the task force, I have never told anybody in the White House that that's what we should be doing."

11:11 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Trump: "There are a lot of people that think that masks are not good"

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez  

US President Donald Trump contradicted his administration’s top health advisers call for Americans to wear facial masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, saying during a town hall hosted by ABC on Tuesday that “there are a lot of people that think that masks are not good.”

Trump was asked why he hasn’t supported a national mask mandate and why he doesn’t wear one more often.

Trump said he does wear masks “when I have to.” He also blamed Democrats and Joe Biden for not instituting a national mask mandate, as though Biden was in office.

“They said at the Democrat(ic) National Convention they’re going to do a national mandate. They never did it, because they’ve checked out and they didn’t do it. And … Like Joe Biden. They said ‘We’re going to a national mandate on masks.’ … But he didn’t do it. He never did it.”

The President also argued that “there are a lot of people that think that masks are not good.”

Asked by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos for a specific example, Trump said waiters.

“They come over, they serve you and they have a mask. And I saw it the other day, where they were serving me and they’re playing with mask. I’m not blaming them … they’re playing with the mask … they’re touching it and then they’re touching the plate. That can’t be good,” Trump said.

Then Trump cited early statements from federal officials discouraging mask use, as though top federal health officials have not underscored to the public that science has evolved on the issue.

“They said very strongly, George, ‘Don’t wear masks.’ Then all of the sudden they went to wear masks. The concept of a mask is good, but … you’re constantly touching it. You’re touching your face. … There are people that think masks are good,” he added.

In July, Trump said he was “all for” wearing face masks, despite refusing to wear one in public. 

10:55 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Study says Covid-19 may have arrived in US in December -- earlier than thought

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe and Ray Sanchez

The deadly coronavirus may have circulated in the United States as early as December, about a month earlier than believed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to researchers with UCLA.

Their study, published last Thursday in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, found a statistically significant increase in clinic and hospital visits by patients who reported respiratory illnesses as early as the week of December 22.

The first known case of Covid-19 in the US was thought to be a patient in Washington who had visited Wuhan, China, according to the CDC. The case was reported in January.

Dr. Joann Elmore and colleagues looked through nearly 10 million medical records from the UCLA Health system, including three hospitals and 180 clinics.

Elmore said she started the search after receiving a number of emails from anxious patients in March through her clinic's patient portal at UCLA. Patients kept asking if the cough they had in January could have been Covid-19.

"With the outpatients, I found a 50% increase in the percentage of patients coming in complaining of a cough. It came out to over 1,000 extra patients above the average of what we would typically see," Elmore told CNN.

Read the full story here.

9:54 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Australian Defence Force member breaks hotel quarantine restrictions by "entertaining" a guest

From CNN's Hilary Whiteman 

An Australian Defence Force (ADF) member broke his quarantine restrictions in Sydney Tuesday by allowing a female guest in his hotel room, according to New South Wales police.

"Two Penalty Infringement Notices (PINs) have been issued after a serving member of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) entertained a guest while undertaking mandatory quarantine in a Sydney hotel overnight," a news release from NSW police read.

The ADF member was under mandatory hotel quarantine after returning from an overseas deployment, police said.

ADF officers were "conducting security" at the Sydney hotel around 12:45 a.m. "when they heard a female voice in the room."

The 26-year-old ADF member and 53-year-old woman, who was a guest staying at the hotel, were each fined 1,000 Australian dollars ($730) for failing to comply with coronavirus restrictions, NSW police said.

ADF officers later escorted the woman from the quarantine area and asked her to check out immediately and get a coroanvirus test before self-isolating at her home. The ADF member remains in hotel quarantine.

9:22 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Trump "failed to tell the public the truth that he knew" about coronavirus in February, Woodward says

President Trump "failed to tell the public the truth that he knew" about the novel coronavirus in February, veteran journalist Bob Woodward told CNN's Anderson Cooper Tuesday night.

Speaking on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," Woodward said the President knew the seriousness of the virus in February. Woodward went on to say that Trump could have warned Americans about the virus during his State of the Union speech that month.

"He gave the famous State of the Union speech to the Congress, 40 million people watched. He spent 15 seconds on it, saying we are doing everything that we can," Woodward told Cooper. "This is the moment a leader would say I got a warning. Trouble is coming. There are things we can do. But then he goes on and says, I didn't want to tell the truth, because I would panic people. That's not what people in this country do when they are told the truth."

Trump told Woodward he knew how deadly the virus was, telling the journalist on Feb. 7, "This is deadly stuff." In March, Trump admitted he kept that knowledge hidden from the public.

"I wanted to always play it down," Trump told Woodward on March 19, even as he had declared a national emergency over the virus days earlier. "I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."

In a new clip aired on "Anderson Cooper 360" Tuesday, Woodward asked Trump on March 19, "Was there a moment in all of this, last two months, where you said to yourself — you know, you're waking up or whatever you're doing and you say, 'Ah, this is the leadership test of a lifetime?'"

"No," Trump replied.

Woodward asked, "No?"

"I think it might be, but I don't think that," Trump said. "All I want to do is get it solved. There are many people that said that to me. They said, you're now a wartime President."

CNN's Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.


8:49 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Trump says he "up-played" coronavirus despite his own comments on wanting to "play it down"

From CNN's Jason Hoffman 

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a news conference at the White House in Washington on Thursday, September 10.
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a news conference at the White House in Washington on Thursday, September 10. Susan Walsh/AP

President Trump insisted that he didn’t downplay the coronavirus but rather “up-played it in terms of action taken” at ABC’s town hall set to air in full Tuesday night.

Responding to a question from an undecided voter at ABC’s town hall, Trump contradicts his own statements to journalist and author Bob Woodward where he said he “wanted to always play it down.”

“Well I didn’t downplay it, I actually in many ways, I up-played it in terms of action. My action was very strong because what I did with China, I put a ban on. With Europe, I put a ban on. And we would have lost thousands of more people had I not put the ban on,” Trump said. “So that was called action, not with the mouth but in actual fact. We did a very very good job when we put that ban on, whether you call it talent or luck, it was very important so we saved a lot of lives when we did that.”

Trump said last week that he was a cheerleader for the country and didn’t want to create a panic responding to the comments he made to Woodward.

“The fact is, I’m a cheerleader for this country, I love our country, and I don’t want people to be frightened. I don’t want to create panic, as you say,” Trump said on Sept. 9.


7:46 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Trump mental health official accuses media of overblowing dangers of Covid-19

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The assistant secretary of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, accused the media of being dishonest about the coronavirus pandemic and reiterated talking points about Covid-19 that President Trump has pushed for months, including that schools should reopen for in-person learning and that very few children are affected by Covid-19.

“I just wish that the media would get honest about its coverage of Covid,” MCance-Katz told embattled Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Michael Caputo in the HHS “Learning Curve” podcast Friday. “For children, this is not a life-threatening illness.”

McCance-Katz, who was appointed to SAMHSA by Trump in 2017, acknowledged that children do get the severe form of the virus “in rare cases,” but said “with a great, great majority of children this is not a serious illness,” something Trump has also repeated for months.

“And when we put them in school with safety measures in place, why can’t they go to school?” she burst out at one point in the interview.

Many studies have shown children do get Covid-19 and do die from it. They also can spread the virus to others. The American Academy of Pediatrics says more than 500,000 children have been diagnosed with the infection.

“So, lost in all of this response to Covid and nonstop 24/7 horrors of Covid and if you can't find something to talk about, it appears to me they make things up. It just does,” McCance-Katz said at another point in the interview, referring to media coverage of the pandemic.

McCance-Katz also expressed dismay with the way states have tried to handle the surging pandemic.

“There was no agreement to this nonstop restriction and quarantining and isolation and taking away anything that makes people happy,” she said. “You can’t go to a movie, you can’t go to a football game.”

McCance-Katz, a psychiatrist with a doctorate in infectious disease epidemiology from Yale, argued at one point that the shutdown last spring was too severe.

“I’m going to say it,” she said. “We shut down the entire country before the virus, in my opinion, had a chance to get around the entire country. … We used a sledgehammer when I think we needed a scalpel.”

She argued that getting the economy and schools reopened is integral for Americans’ mental health.

7:18 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Study finds some evidence convalescent plasma helps coronavirus patients

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

Nurse Lina Acevedo holds the plasma donated by a man who recovered from COVID-19 on August 14 in Bogota, Colombia.
Nurse Lina Acevedo holds the plasma donated by a man who recovered from COVID-19 on August 14 in Bogota, Colombia. Guillermo Legaria/Getty Images


A new study finds some evidence that infusions of convalescent plasma may help severely ill coronavirus patients survive better. 

Patients given the plasma treatments at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City were a little less likely to die and a little less likely to get worse in the hospital than patients not given the treatment, researchers reported Tuesday.

The US Food and Drug Administration has given emergency use authorization to the use of blood plasma for treating coronavirus. It’s an old approach. The idea is that the blood of survivors of a viral disease, in this care coronavirus, has antibodies and other factors that can jumpstart the immune response of someone more newly infected.

Dr. Nicole Bouvier and colleagues at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai looked at the cases of 39 patients with severe or life-threatening Covid-19. About half got plasma and the rest did not.

About 28% of those not treated needed more oxygen as time went on, compared to 18% of those treated with plasma, they reported in the journal Nature Medicine.

“Survival also improved in plasma recipients,” they wrote. There were not enough patients in the trial to put a firm number on the survival benefit. “Convalescent plasma is potentially effective against Covid-19, but adequately powered, randomized controlled trials are needed,” the team wrote. “In addition, the efficacy of passive antibody transfer relies heavily on the quality of the donor convalescent plasma.”

The treatment also seemed safe enough. “Among the 39 convalescent plasma recipients, no serious adverse events were judged to be directly caused by convalescent plasma transfusion,” the team wrote.

7:05 p.m. ET, September 15, 2020

More than 195,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

There are at least 6,601,337 cases of coronavirus in the US and at least 195,637 people have died from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

So far on Tuesday, Johns Hopkins has reported 47,685 new cases and 1,144 deaths.

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