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Coronavirus 2020 Outbreak: Latest Updates

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This article was last updated Oct. 20 at 5:55 p.m. ET.

The United States leads the world in cases of COVID-19. We'll provide the latest updates on coronavirus cases, government response, impacts to our daily life, and more.

What is the latest news?

Trump Adviser’s Tweet About Facial Coverings Draws Fire

Oct. 20, 5:55 p.m.

Reaction was swift after White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Scott Atlas put out a tweet on Saturday questioning whether facial coverings help curb the spread of the virus.

Twitter removed the tweet, saying it violated the platform’s policies. Then the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out a statement criticizing the tweet, widening the ongoing conflict between the agency and the White House.

The tweet from Atlas listed locations where he implies face masks didn’t work. 

The tweet said, “"Masks work? NO: LA, Miami, Hawaii, Alabama, France, Phlippnes, UK, Spain, Israel. WHO:'widesprd use not supported' + many harms; Heneghan/Oxf CEBM:'despite decades, considerble uncertainty re value'; CDC rvw May:'no sig red'n in inflnz transm'n'; learn why."

On Sunday, Twitter took down the tweet and replaced it with a note saying "This Tweet is no longer available," along with a link to Twitter's rules and policies explaining why the company removes or limits certain posts that spread misinformation.

In a statement sent to Yahoo News,  the CDC disputed the tweet, though it did not name Atlas directly.

“CDC guidance on masks has clearly stated that wearing a mask is intended to protect other people in case the mask wearer is infected. At no time has CDC guidance suggested that masks were intended to protect the wearers,” the statement said.

“Growing evidence increasingly shows that wearing masks in community settings reduces transmission among individuals in that community,” the statement continued. “There are laboratory studies, animal studies, community and epidemiological studies, as well as policy studies that show masking reduces transmission in communities by blocking exhaled respiratory droplets.”

Atlas came back with a second tweet on Saturday in which he said: "That means the right policy is @realDonaldTrump guideline: use masks for their intended purpose — when close to others, especially hi risk. Otherwise, social distance. No widespread mandates."

The second tweet was rebuked by Dr. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, who tweeted: “#Masks work?   YES! And even though cases/hospitalizations are increasing, we can control #COVID19 by wearing masks when we can't distance, avoiding crowds especially indoors, good hygiene, and smart testing of contacts and to identify/isolate those asymptomatic but infectious”

Atlas is a physician and the Robert Wesson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, according to his university bio.

The Yahoo News story called Atlas “a primary enabler of the anti-mask message who has pushed questionable health concepts such as herd immunity.

Melania Trump Cancels Plan to Attend Campaign Rally

Oct. 20, 4:50 p.m. 

First lady Melania Trump will not attend her husband's campaign rally in Pennsylvania on Tuesday because she's still recovering from the coronavirus, her spokeswoman said.

"Mrs. Trump continues to feel better every day following her recovery from COVID-19, but with a lingering cough, and out of an abundance of caution, she will not be traveling today," said Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's chief of staff, according to CNN.

CNN said the Pennsylvania rally would have been the first lady's first in-person campaign appearance outside of the August GOP National Convention. The president has hit the campaign trail since his recovery from the coronavirus, and his children have all campaigned, too.

Trump announced Oct. 2 that he and his wife both tested positive for coronavirus. It's believed they and at least a dozen other people contracted the virus Sept. 26 at a White House event for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Melania Trump recovered at home and the president entered Walter Reed Medical Center for a few days.

Melania Trump wrote a personal essay describing her experience with coronavirus, which appeared on the White House website.

“I was very fortunate as my diagnosis came with minimal symptoms, though they hit me all at once and it seemed to be a roller coaster of symptoms in the days after. I experienced body aches, a cough and headaches, and felt extremely tired most of the time. I chose to go a more natural route in terms of medicine, opting more for vitamins and healthy food,” she said.

Ireland Announces 6-Week Lockdown Restrictions

Oct. 20, 3:05 p.m.

Ireland announced an emergency lockdown that will start at midnight on Wednesday and last for 6 weeks, according to The Telegraph.

The restrictions include some of the toughest across Europe in an effort to slow a surge in COVID-19 cases. Residents will be banned from traveling more than 3 miles from their homes other than for work or essential travel, and pubs and restaurants will be closed other than for takeout meals.

“The evidence of a potentially grave situation arising in the weeks ahead is now too strong,” Michael Martin, the prime minister of Ireland, said in a national address on Monday night.

“If we pull together over the next 6 weeks, we will have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way,” he said. “The journey will not be easy, but the future is in our hands.”

Non-essential retail will also be closed, including salons and gyms, but schools and essential services such as construction will remain open. Hotels can remain open if they provide rooms for essential workers. Public transportation will operate at 25% capacity.

The Level 5 restrictions mark the highest level of COVID-19 restrictions in the country. Health officials recommended moving to Level 5 about 2 weeks ago, but government officials declined.

On Sunday, Ireland broke its daily record of coronavirus cases for the fifth time in 9 days, The Telegraph reported. The country now has the 12th highest rate of cases among 31 countries in Europe.

Under the lockdown guidelines, people can't visit each other's homes, and gatherings will be banned other than weddings and funerals limited to 25 guests, according to The Guardian. People who live alone or parent alone can meet with another household as part of a “support bubble.”

Later this week, officials will announce details about fines for those who break the 3-mile travel limit, the news outlet reported.

Periodic lockdowns could become necessary, Martin suggested.

“We work to suppress the virus when it is growing, and we work to reopen as much of our society and economy as possible when it is safe to do so,” he said. “Until we have a safe vaccine, we must continue in that pattern.”

CDC Recommends Barring Travelers Without Masks

Oct. 20, 11:08 a.m.

Public transportation operators “should refuse boarding” to passengers who don't wear a face mask to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the CDC said Monday in updated guidelines.

The CDC reemphasized current guidelines for wearing masks on planes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride shares and said masks should be worn in airports, bus terminals, train stations, and seaports as well.

“Operators should ensure that any person on the conveyance wears a mask when boarding, disembarking, and for the duration of travel,” the CDC wrote.

Transportation companies and operators should inform people about mask requirements during the booking process and that “failure to comply will result in denial of boarding,” according to the CDC. A reminder should also occur at the time of boarding.

At that time, public transportation operators should allow only those with face masks to board, continue to monitor those on board, and “at the earliest opportunity, disembark any person who refuses to comply,” the CDC wrote.

Companies can have masks available for those who don't have a mask. Exemptions can be given for children under age 2 and people with a disability or hearing impairment that prevents them from wearing a mask.

While at a public transportation location or while traveling, passengers and employees should wear masks other than brief periods for eating, drinking, taking medication, or verifying identity during a security screening, the CDC wrote.

Individual airlines and transportation companies have created their own mask requirements this year and have sometimes banned passengers for not wearing a mask. However, airports and other transportation hubs have asked for guidance on wearing masks during the full travel experience, particularly inside airports and in crowded security lines.

“There simply cannot be an economic and jobs recovery unless travel is able to broadly resume, and the universal embrace of mask-wearing and other hygiene measures is the thing that is going to enable that to happen,” Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, told USA Today.

Dow called the CDC's new update “helpful and clear” and said it would be particularly useful during the holiday travel season.

The “face-covering requirement, along with enhanced disinfection practices and health acknowledgement forms, are key components in our multi-layered approach to protecting the well-being of our employees and the traveling public,” Airlines for America, a trade group that represents major airlines in the U.S., told CNBC.

Fauci Not Surprised Trump Got COVID-19

Oct. 19, 2:26 p.m., updated at 3:42 p.m. 

Anthony Fauci, MD,  told 60 Minutes he was “absolutely not” surprised President Donald Trump came down with the coronavirus after hosting a White House event at which social distancing rules were widely ignored.

During the interview aired Sunday night, CBS Chief Medical Correspondent Jon LaPook, MD, asked Fauci, “Were you surprised that President Trump got sick?”

“Absolutely not,” Fauci said. “I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask. When I saw that on TV, I said, 'Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come out of that, that's got to be a problem.' And then sure enough, it turned out to be a superspreader event.”

Trump hosted a Sept. 26 Rose Garden event to honor Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Few attendees wore face masks and most sat close. More than a dozen people who attended tested positive for the coronavirus, including first lady Melanie Trump and former N.J. Gov. Chris Christie. 

Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and the most prominent medical expert on the coronavirus.

During the 60 Minutes interview, Fauci said he was upset with Trump for including a quote from him in a campaign ad. He said the quote was taken out of context and was not intended as praise for Trump.

“I do not and nor will I ever, publicly endorse any political candidate,” Fauci said. “And here I am, they're sticking me right in the middle of a campaign ad. Which I thought was outrageous. I was referring to something entirely different. I was referring to the grueling work of the (coronavirus) task force that, 'God, we were knocking ourselves out 7 days a week. I don't think we could have possibly have done any more than that.'"

When asked if he was angry, Fauci said, “I got really ticked off.”

For his part, Trump on Monday shot back at Fauci. During a conference call with his campaign staff, with reporters listening, Trump said, according to The New York Times, “People are tired of hearing Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong.”

Trump, the Times said, called Fauci a “nice” guy, but added, “Every time he goes on television, there's always a bomb, but there's a bigger bomb if you fire him. This guy's a disaster.”

When 60 Minutes' LaPook asked if the White House was controlling when Fauci could speak to the media, Fauci said: “You know, I think you'd have to be honest and say yes. I certainly have not been allowed to go on many, many, many shows that have asked for me.”

He added that the restriction “isn't consistent.”

Rapid Test Results May Go Unreported, Officials Say

Oct. 18, 5:05 p.m.

With a growing number of COVID-19 rapid tests available, the U.S. can test millions of people each day, but many of the results may be unreported, according to The Associated Press.

All testing sites are required to report positive and negative results, but not all sites have the reporting process in place, according to the AP, including schools and assisted living facilities.

“Schools certainly don't have the capacity to report these tests,” Jeffrey Engel, senior advisor for COVID-19 at the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, told the AP.

“If it's done at all, it's likely going to be paper-based, very slow and incomplete,” he said.

At the beginning of the pandemic, diagnostic tests were processed at commercial laboratories and hospitals, and the results were sent to state health departments. Now that rapid antigen tests are available for doctor's offices, clinics, and other testing sites, public health officials are finding it tougher to track the tests.

More complications arise because states use different testing and reporting practices. In mid-September, more than 20 states didn't release rapid test results or had incomplete data, according to a report by Kaiser Health News and USA Today.

At the time, states reported a mix of policies. Some didn't report all of their antigen test results, and some didn't count positive results as COVID-19 cases. About half of the states said their antigen test results were underreported, they told the news outlets.

As more rapid tests are shipped this fall to schools, colleges, and nursing homes, the gap will likely increase, the AP reported. In some states, testing sites are sending faxes or paper reports to public health departments, which delays the results seen in daily updates.

“It's definitely a challenge because now we have to do many more things manually than we were with electronic reporting,” Kristen Ehresmann, director of infectious diseases at the Minnesota Department of Health, told the AP.

How many people have been diagnosed with the virus, and how many have died?

According to Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 40.48 million cases and more than 1.11 million deaths worldwide. More than 27.74 million people have recovered.

How many cases of COVID-19 are in the United States?

There are more than 8.21 million cases in the U.S. of COVID-19, and more than 220,180 deaths. More than 3.27 million Americans have recovered from the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

WebMD Health News

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