October 12 coronavirus news

By Adam Renton and Steve George, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, October 13, 2020
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12:19 p.m. ET, October 12, 2020

Achieve herd immunity by "protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it," WHO director-general says

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks at a briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, on October 12.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks at a briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, on October 12. World Health Organization

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said exposing people to the virus to achieve herd immunity is "not an option."

“Allowing a dangerous virus that we don't fully understand to run free is simply unethical,” Tedros said, adding that herd immunity is a “concept used for vaccination.”

“For example, herd immunity against measles requires about 95% of the population to be vaccinated. The remaining 5% will be protected by the fact that measles will not spread among those who are vaccinated,” Tedros said. “In other words, herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it."

“Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic. It is scientifically and ethically problematic," he added.

Allowing the virus to circulate unchecked "means allowing unnecessary infections, suffering and death,” Tedros said.

11:18 a.m. ET, October 12, 2020

There were 20% more deaths than expected in the US from March to August, research finds

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

There were 20% more deaths than expected in the United States from March 1 through August 1, with Covid-19 officially accounting for about two-thirds of them, according to new research published Monday in the medical journal JAMA. 

“Although total US death counts are remarkably consistent from year to year, US deaths increased by 20% during March–July 2020,” said the research, authored by Dr. Steven Woolf and colleagues at the Virginia Commonwealth School of Medicine. “Covid-19 was a documented cause of only 67% of these excess deaths.”

There were at least 1,336,561 deaths in the US between March 1 and August 1, the study said – a 20% increase over what would normally be expected. 

New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Arizona, Mississippi, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island and Michigan were the ten states with the highest per capita rate of excess deaths. The increase in absolute deaths varied from 22% in Rhode Island and Michigan to 65% in New York.

New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts – the three states with the highest death rates – accounted for 30% of US excess deaths, but had the shortest epidemics, according to the researchers.

“States that experienced acute surges in April (and reopened later) had shorter epidemics that returned to baseline in May, whereas states that reopened earlier experienced more protracted increases in excess deaths that extended into the summer,” the researchers said. 

Of the approximately 225,530 excess deaths, at least 150,541 – or 67% – of them were attributed to Covid-19.

Analysis found that there were increases in deaths related to causes other than Covid-19, including the US mortality rate for heart disease, which increased between the weeks ending March 21 and April 11, “driven by the spring surge in Covid-19 cases;" and mortality rates for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, which increased twice.

The second increase, between the weeks ending June 6 and July 25 – “coinciding with the summer surge in sunbelt states.”

“Some states had greater difficulty than others in containing community spread, causing protracted elevations in excess deaths that extended into the summer,” the authors said.

They also added that excess deaths attributed to something other than Covid-19 could be a reflection of deaths from unrecognized or undocumented cases or deaths among noninfected patients who faced disruptions caused by the pandemic.

The study did have some limitations, including that it relied on provisional data, inaccuracies in death certificates, and assumptions that were applied to the model. 

3:51 p.m. ET, October 12, 2020

North Dakota has fewer than 20 staffed ICU beds available as Covid-19 cases surge, public health official says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health nurses work at a drive-thru Covid-19 testing center in Bismarck, North Dakota, on September 8.
Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health nurses work at a drive-thru Covid-19 testing center in Bismarck, North Dakota, on September 8. Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune/AP

Covid-19 cases are rising in North Dakota, and the health care system in the state may not be well-equipped to handle this surge, a public health official warns.

“Right now, the hospitals have less than 20 beds available across the state,” said Renae Moch, director of Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health, adding that it’s concerning because some hospitals are struggling to meet the demand for care.

Moch later clarified to CNN that there are fewer than 20 staffed ICU beds available in the state. According to state data, 20 staffed ICU beds were available as of 1 p.m. local time Sunday

“We have some hospitals in very rural areas that are having difficulty meeting the demand, and having to send patients to different areas across the state of North Dakota, and even had to send out of state at some point to Sioux Falls [South Dakota] and also Billings, Montana.”

Moch says it’s been a challenge to “make a difference in the number of cases” without a state mandate to enforce coronavirus safety measures. 

“We have been given the message from the state level that personal responsibility is the way to go when it comes to wearing masks and social distancing," she told CNN. "People are continuing to operate kind of as they had before Covid even was here. And that's leading to a lot of our numbers increasing.”

Public health officials are also having trouble contact tracing in this environment due to a lack of cooperation from the public, Moch says.

“So we're dealing with people maybe saying they don't have any close contacts. If they have been to a wedding or large gathering they're not giving us that information. So that gives us a real hard time to try to do the contact tracing work and contain some of the spread there.”

CORRECTION: This post has been updated to correct the spelling of Moch's last name.

11:08 a.m. ET, October 12, 2020

US coronavirus death rates are high – even compared to other countries with high death rates

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

The United States has experienced high coronavirus death rates during the pandemic, even when compared to other countries with high Covid-19 mortality, according to a study published Monday in the medical journal JAMA.

Alyssa Bilinski, a PhD candidate at Harvard University, and Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, vice provost of global initiatives and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, compared US coronavirus death rates through September 19 to those of 18 other countries with varying pandemic responses.

They found that after May 10, the US had more deaths per 100,000 people than other high mortality countries included in the comparison.

Bilinski and Emanuel categorized South Korea, Japan and Australia as low mortality countries, with fewer than 5 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people. If the US had comparable death rates to Australia since the beginning of the pandemic, it would have had 187,661 fewer deaths, the study shows.

Moderate mortality countries, with fewer than 5 to 25 deaths per 100,000 people, included Norway, Finland, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Switzerland and Canada. Bilinski and Emanuel note that if the US had comparable death rates to Canada since the beginning of the pandemic, it would have had 117,622 fewer deaths.

High mortality countries, with deaths greater than 25 per 100,000 people, included the United States, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain and Belgium. The US was faring better than some high mortality countries, but only in the early stage of the pandemic. The comparison shows that if the US had comparable death rates to France beginning May 10, it would have had 96,763 fewer deaths.

Note on the study's findings: One limitation of the study included difference in mortality risk among countries.  Bilinski and Emanuel suggest that multiple factors may have contributed to US death rates during the pandemic, including weak public health infrastructure and inconsistent pandemic response in the US.

10:49 a.m. ET, October 12, 2020

Hospitals in parts of England have seen a "seven-fold increase" of Covid-19 ICU patients, health official says

From CNN's Amy Cassidy in Glasgow

People walk in Liverpool, England, on October 9, ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s expected announcement of a new three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions.
People walk in Liverpool, England, on October 9, ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s expected announcement of a new three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions. Peter Byrne/PA/Getty Images

The coronavirus situation is “building up nationally” across England, with hospitals in northern regions especially at risk of being overwhelmed by ICU patients, UK health officials warned during a data briefing on Monday.

“In the last four weeks, hospitals in the northwest and the northeast [of England] have witnessed a seven-fold increase in Covid patients in their Intensive Care Units,” Steve Powis, the medical director for the National Health Service (NHS) England, said.

“If infections continue to rise, in just four more weeks they could be treating more patients than they were during the peak of the first wave,” Powis warned.

Several so-called “Nightingale” hospitals, which were specially built across the country to combat the first coronavirus wave, have been told to prepare for more patients.

Some context: The data briefing took place ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s expected announcement of a new three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions, with several areas in the north expecting to face the strictest measures. 

The UK’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam warned the virus is already spreading southwards.

"It has changed in a matter of just a few days...That is clearly a matter of great concern to me,” Van-Tam said.

He also warned that although infections were initially highest among 16- to 29-year-olds, they are “creeping up” among the older generations, adding the pattern is likely to continue across the rest of the country. 

Powis added that “the claim that without taking further action the elderly can somehow just be fenced off from risk I’m afraid is proving to be wishful thinking."

He did stress that people should still use the National Health Service for non-coronavirus medical needs but said controlling infections within communities is necessary to maintain current services and avoid having to once again cancel non-urgent surgeries.

The UK reported 12,872 new positive cases as of Sunday.

10:27 a.m. ET, October 12, 2020

Belgian hospitals start canceling non-urgent surgeries as coronavirus cases rise

From CNNs James Frater

People wait outside a Covid-19 test point in Brussels, Belgium, on October 8.
People wait outside a Covid-19 test point in Brussels, Belgium, on October 8. Zheng Huansong/Xinhua/Getty Images

The growing number of coronavirus patients has forced several hospitals across Belgium to reduce, cancel and postpone non-urgent operations to free up resources. 

Due to an influx of patients with Covid-19 in the last 48 hours, University Hospital Leuven (UZ Leuven) had “to reduce a limited number of non-emergency surgical procedures,” Sara Van Daele, Spokesperson for UZ Leuven told CNN. 

“We aim to guarantee the regular patient care and planned procedures as much as possible,” Van Daele said, adding, “however, the increasing number of COVID patients inevitably impacts surgical procedures and the capacity of our ICU.”

In a statement, Ziekenhuis Netwerk Antwerpen the largest hospital network in Belgium said, “Planned operations are being carried out,” but that the network is, “not scheduling some non-urgent operations.”

In Brussels, which has recorded the highest rate of infection, one hospital is already at capacity, “We have enough beds available to take care of Covid-patients but because we have reached maximum capacity in our ICU Covid, we cannot accept new Covid patients,” Florence Feys, Spokesperson for Cliniques Saint-Jean in Brussels told CNN. 

The situation in the Northeast of Belgium is similar. CHU de Liège is “already full with existing and Covid patients which is increasing each day,” Louis Maraite Director of Communications for CHU de Liège told CNN. To reduce the pressure and concentrate the priorities of the nursing staff, we are cancelling 30% immediately, but in the next few days it will be up to 70percent of our non-essential surgical cases,” added Maraite.

On average, over 4,000 people are testing positive for Covid-19, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic according to the latest figures published by the Belgian public health authority, Sciensano.

Over the seven-day period from Oct. 2 to Oct. 8, on average 4,153 people tested positive, this is an increase of 89% from the week before.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) with 356 infections per 100,000 Belgium is now the second-worst country in Europe after the Czech Republic, which has 433 cases per 100,000. 


9:38 a.m. ET, October 12, 2020

US stocks open higher

 From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

US stocks started the week higher led by gains in tech stocks. The Nasdaq Composite is rallying the most Monday morning, opening up 1.4%

It’s an otherwise slow start to the week with the Columbus Day holiday. Earnings season kicks off this week as well.

That said, stocks continue to be very sensitive to any stimulus headlines. After weeks of volatility, there could be more choppy trading on news out of Washington again this week.

Here's where things opened:

  • The Dow opened 0.4%, or 100 points, higher.
  • The S&P 500 rose 0.8%.
9:45 a.m. ET, October 12, 2020

"Imperative" political pressure not lead to "premature authorization" of antibody treatment, Doggett says 

From CNN's Sierra Jenkins and Elizabeth Cohen

Rep. Lloyd Doggett speaks at a press conference in Washington, DC, on March 5.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett speaks at a press conference in Washington, DC, on March 5. Samuel Corum/Getty Images

In a letter sent Friday to top US health officials, Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat from Texas and chair of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, expressed his concerns regarding the safety, effectiveness, transparency and affordability of Regeneron’s antibody treatment. 

The letter, addressed to US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, US Department of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Operation Warp Speed Chief Adviser Moncef Slaoui, Doggett explained the need for scientifically proven and independently reviewed emergency use authorizations (EUAs) and regulatory approvals.

The congressman’s letter, shared exclusively with CNN, comes after President Trump posted a video to his Twitter account on Wednesday saying the treatment’s emergency use authorization is “all set.”

Also on Wednesday, Regeneron applied to the FDA for an EUA for its Covid-19 antibody therapy.

Doggett also stated that the President has reportedly spoken directly with Hahn to urge immediate authorization, adding: “It is imperative that political pressure not lead to premature authorization.”  

“Taxpayers deserve access to a treatment whose development they funded after it satisfies science-led safety standards,” Doggett said in a press release. He added that “it is essential to guarantee strong guardrails to protect safety, access, and affordability.”

The letter notes American taxpayers have invested more than $500 million in the treatment, which went to research, development and manufacturing operations.

Doggett submitted written questions concerning the EUA process, manufacturing, distribution and pricing for the health officials to address.

Doggett requested a commitment to publicly release all clinical trial data, safety and efficacy data, and any accompanying analysis at least a week prior to any authorization or approval; a commitment to providing unredacted manufacturing agreements between the federal government or subcontractors and Regeneron; and unredacted research and development funding agreements between the federal government or its subcontractors and Regeneron.

“[American taxpayers] have assumed all of the risk in this endeavor, and in return, taxpayers should receive a safe, effective, and affordable product,” Doggett said. 

9:14 a.m. ET, October 12, 2020

New York City issues more than $150,000 in fines for Covid-19 violation

From CNN's Alec Snyder and Kristina Sgueglia

The New York City government announced 62 summonses and over $150,000 in fines since Friday during pandemic-related closures and restrictions, the city said in a Sunday tweet.

The penalties — which were levied by “City agents in the Red, Orange and Yellow zones" — included five issued to religious congregations.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that the fines for mass gatherings in violation of state rules would be up to $15,000 a day, and the fines for not wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing could be $1,000 a day.

The violations and fines come as the city grapples with a Covid-19 resurgence in some Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods. Officials are seeking to contain with a three-tier approach that includes the closure of non-essential businesses and schools in some areas.

CNN has reached out to the NYC Finance Department and Mayor Bill de Blasio for more details.