Coronavirus live updates: CDC attempts to clarify testing guidelines; Hawaii tourist arrivals plummet by 98%; Maryland OKs school reopenings

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday attempted to clarify controversial testing guidelines published Monday that said people with no symptoms “do not necessarily need a test” – even if they were exposed to an infected person.

In a statement, Director Robert Redfield said those who come in close contact with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 patient could be tested, even if they don’t show symptoms.

“Everyone who needs a COVID-19 test, can get a test,” he said. “Everyone who wants a test does not necessarily need a test; the key is to engage the needed public health community in the decision with the appropriate follow-up action.”

But even his Thursday statement falls short of previous guidance, in which the CDC recommended contacts of those infected with the virus be tested specifically because of the threat of asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic transmission.

Also the number of new coronavirus cases may be falling in three Western states, but there is no holding back when it comes to testing.

California and Nevada say they are going to increase testing. California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a deal that also will lower the costs of tests and lead to faster results. Oregon's rate of positive coronavirus cases has fallen to the point that it almost meets Gov. Kate Brown's threshold for reopening schools.

Nationally, economists estimate weekly unemployment claims will slightly dip from the 1.1 million who applied the week before. 

A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data show new case records were set in Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas and North Dakota, and also Guam. Record numbers of deaths were also reported in Alaska and Arkansas, Guam and Virgin Islands.

Some significant developments:

  • At the RNC, Vice President Mike Pence said the administration marshaled all its forces against COVID and had a "seamless partnership" with the nation's governors.
  • Amid Hurricane Laura, many Texans are staying in hotels, not shelters, as protection from the coronavirus. Texas is offering testing at some shelters.
  • Disneyland says it is ready to reopen as soon as it gets the go-ahead from California.
  • A stay-at-home order for the island Oahu went into effect Thursday morning. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says the order will last for two weeks. 

📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has more than 5.8 million confirmed infections and 180,000 deaths. Worldwide, there have been more than 828,000 deaths and 24.3 million cases, according to John Hopkins University data. 

📰 What we're reading: Can employers force their workers to get a COVID-19 vaccination? it's a prickly subject.

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to the Daily Briefing.

University of Arizona officials find virus after testing a dorm's wastewater

The University of Arizona found early signs of COVID-19 in a student dorm this week by testing wastewater and were able to head off an outbreak, school leaders announced Thursday.

Researchers at the school have looked for traces of the virus in wastewater samples taken from the greater Tucson area since March and have gathered samples from 20 buildings on the UA campus since school started.

Earlier this week, data collected from the dorms found higher viral loads in wastewater samples taken from Likins Hall. A team led by Dr. Ian Pepper, director of the UA's Water and Energy Sustainable Technology Center, tested the samples five more times to confirm the findings, said UA President Dr. Robert Robbins. 

The university on Wednesday tested the entire dorm, about 311 people, and found two positive cases, Robbins said. The two individuals, who were asymptomatic, are now in isolation, preventing further spread in Likins Hall.

– Paulina Pineda and Rachel Leingang, Arizona Republic

Hawaii tourist arrivals fall nearly 100% in July, state report says

Tourist arrivals in Hawaii declined by almost 98% in July compared to a year ago, according to a report released Thursday by state officials.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority said a total of 22,562 people traveled to the state in July by air. That number was 995,210 in 2019.

Most of the visitors in July traveled from the U.S. mainland, with only about 2,000 international travelers. The total number of arrivals for the first seven months of 2020 dropped nearly 65%.

California gym receives $15K gift as it faces fines for defying state orders

A gym in Ventura, California, ordered to close indoor operations because of COVID-19 restrictions remains open inside despite the possibility of fines gym owners say could add up to $3,000 a day.

BSF Fitness's fight has been supported by a $15,000 donation from Godspeak Calvary Chapel, the Newbury Park church engaged in its own fight against COVID restrictions.

BSF opened in mid-May before state and local officials eased COVID restrictions on gyms. The business remained open indoors in July after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered churches, fitness centers, hair salons and other businesses in Ventura County and other regions on a state watch list to hold only outside operations.

– Tom Kisken, Ventura County Star

Maryland schools can now fully reopen, Gov. Larry Hogan says

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday authorized all schools to fully reopen after meeting a set of COVID-19 guidelines.

"The authority to reopen continues to rest with county school systems, but nearly everyone agrees that there is no substitute for in-person instruction. It is essential that we all work together on flexible hybrid plans to safely get some of our kids back into classrooms," Hogan said on Twitter.

The state's 24 school districts will begin the school year online, but 16 have said they will try to get groups of students back into classrooms as early as mid-September, the Baltimore Sun reported. The other eight districts said the first semester will be entirely online-only, the newspaper reported.

CDC walks back controversial COVID testing guidelines after backlash

Director Robert Redfield attempted to clarify recently changed CDC guidelines for COVID-19 testing after receiving backlash from infectious disease experts. 

He said in a statement Thursday that the agency was focusing on testing individuals with symptomatic illness, significant exposure, vulnerable populations, essential workers and "those individuals who may be asymptomatic when prioritized by medical and public heath officials." 

The clarification still falls short of previous guidance, in which the CDC recommended contacts of those infected with the virus be tested specifically because of the threat of asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic transmission.

Redfield said the updated guidelines were coordinated in conjunction with the White House Coronavirus Task Force and task force experts, however, one leader said he was absent from the meeting. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN he was undergoing surgery and wasn't present at the August 20 task force meeting where these controversial updated guidelines were discussed. 

"I was under general anesthesia in the operating room and was not part of any discussion or deliberation regarding the new testing recommendations," Fauci said. 

FDA warns against hand sanitizers packaged in food, drink containers 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers about alcohol-based hand sanitizers that are being packaged in food and drink containers.

The agency discovered that some hand sanitizers are being packaged in beer cans, children’s food pouches, water bottles, juice bottles and vodka bottles. The FDA also found that some hand sanitizers contain food flavors, such as chocolate or raspberry.

“I am increasingly concerned about hand sanitizer being packaged to appear to be consumable products, such as baby food or beverages,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn. “These products could confuse consumers into accidentally ingesting a potential deadly product.”

He also added that it’s dangerous to add scents with food flavors as children could eat the hand sanitizer and get alcohol poisoning.

“Manufacturers should be vigilant about packaging and marketing their hand sanitizers in food or drink packages in an effort to mitigate any potential inadvertent use by consumers,” Hahn said.

Abbott Laboratories receives FDA  emergency-use authorization

Abbott Laboratories has received emergency-use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a $5 coronavirus test that can deliver results in 15 minutes. The test is the size of a small greeting card and can be administered by a school nurse, a doctor or other medical professional.

Abbott said it will ship millions of the tests in September and plans up to 50 million by October. That would significantly increase the nation’s supply of tests to detect the virus that causes COVID-19.

The antigen test uses technology similar to a pregnancy test. A medical worker takes a nasal swab, inserts the sample into a slot and closes the card. The card displays one line for a negative result or two lines for a positive.

The FDA authorized Abbott's antigen test for use on patients within seven days of experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. It's not authorized for home use.

The FDA said antigen tests generally have lower sensitivity than lab-based PCR tests, so people who test negative with an antigen test may need a PCR test to rule out a coronavirus infection. Abbott said its antigen test has a sensitivity – a measure of whether the test correctly identifies a case – of 97.1%.

Mental health and college sports:Medical experts warn it is being overlooked, especially in Black athletes

California, Nevada to boost testing; Oregon reports lower COVID-19 case count

California will more than double its coronavirus testing to up to 250,000 people a day, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced. It has a $1.4-billion contract with a Massachusetts company aimed at providing faster results and lower costs. In reporting 6,004 new cases, Newsom tweeted Wednesday that the state continues to see "modest declines" in case counts.

Nevada, too, says the number of new cases has decreased since peaking above 1,400 on July 15. Officials say the decrease is due at least in part to the state's face-covering mandate and limits on large gatherings. It is also increasing testing in its high-population areas of Reno and Las Vegas.

In Oregon, officials note not only that the case counts are falling, but that the rate of positive tests also has declined. It stands at 5.1%. If it falls to 5%, one of Gov. Kate Brown's requirements for reopening schools will have been met.

Disneyland 'ready' to reopen once it gets approval from California officials

Disneyland is ready to let the magic begin anew. All it needs is a go-ahead from California officials.

The head of Disney's theme parks said Disneyland is ready to open once California releases its health and safety guidelines for theme parks, a move that's been hampered by a more full retreat of cases of the coronavirus. 

Orange County, where Disneyland resides, was removed on Sunday from a list of counties on California's monitoring list for coronavirus.

Disney World in Orlando, Florida, has been fully open since July 15, after closing for nearly four months.

– Curtis Tate

COVID-19 cases may be falling in many states, but not unemployment

Though the number of Americans testing positive for the coronavirus may be ebbing in some cities, the economic damage drags on.

About 1 million workers filed initial applications for unemployment insurance last week, economists estimate, a slight dip from the 1.1 million who applied the week before. 

The number seeking unemployment aid for the first time has been volatile, slightly dipping and rising, yet remaining stubbornly high – far above the previous record of 695,000 weekly claims set during an economic downturn in 1982. 

The see-sawing numbers reflect the stops and starts occurring throughout the U.S. economy, as businesses gradually reopen in some parts, while others roll back or halt re-openings as COVID-19 cases spike.

– Charisse Jones

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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Contributing: The Associated Press