US coronavirus: Case rates are ticking up after weeks of decline

New daily cases averaged about 39,700 over a week as of Thursday. That average has risen the past few days, to 13% higher than the week before, data from Johns Hopkins University show.

This comes after weeks of decline from a summer surge. It’s well below the summer peak average of 67,300 on July 22.

“We really need to see flu vaccination uptake increased across the Northern Hemisphere … especially this year,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead for coronavirus, said Friday. “Because we have a tool against flu … that will help, and it will particularly help vulnerable populations.”

Health experts have said Covid-19 colliding with flu season could strain health care capacity, partly because in normal years many Americans are hospitalized with flu.
A possible silver lining: The nation’s top infectious disease expert says the US won’t necessarily see the worst of flu seasons.
Coronavirus measures may help blunt flu season, experts say
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, pointed Thursday to the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s late winter, and where Australia has experienced an almost non-existent flu season.

A new study published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also suggests that measures taken against Covid-19, like social distancing and teleworking, could lead to a mild flu season.

“The key point here is still this: No. 1, if we don’t want to see a double whammy (of Covid-19 and flu), get your flu shot,” Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, epidemiologist and former Detroit health commissioner, said Friday.

“No. 2, make sure you wear a mask. No. 3, keep practicing safe social distancing.”

More than 6.6 million Covid-19 infections have been officially reported in the US since the start of the pandemic, and at least 197,633 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins.

The country has averaged 838 Covid-19 deaths a day over the past week — a rate below where it was weeks ago. Daily deaths hovered above 1,000 for 25 straight days from late July into mid-August.

Report: White House nixed plan to distribute 650 million face masks through USPS

The US Postal Service had planned to distribute 650 million face coverings for the Trump administration in April to curb coronavirus, according to newly obtained internal documents reviewed by CNN.
Washington Post: WH nixed plan to distribute 650 million face masks through USPS
But the White House scrapped those plans to avoid sparking “concern or panic” among Americans, senior administration officials told The Washington Post.

The documents obtained by the transparency group American Oversight show the Postal Service was doing this in partnership with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the Department of Health and Human Services, and “a consortium of textile manufacturers.”

USPS was planning to ship the masks in April and to prioritize areas “which HHS has identified as experiencing high transmission rates of Covid-19,” according to a draft USPS release.

A separate draft media response statement said the packages would include “five reusable face cloths, which can be used up to 15 times each.”

The scrapped plan provides a fresh look at how the White House was responding to the pandemic in its early days. When reached by CNN, the White House declined to comment.

Controversial testing guidance didn’t go through CDC scientific review, sources say

A controversial update to the CDC’s testing guidance last month was not written by CDC scientists and was posted online before it had undergone the normal scientific review process, two sources confirmed to CNN.
Controversial coronavirus testing guidance came from HHS and didn't go through CDC scientific review, sources say
Details about the testing guideline changes were first reported Thursday by The New York Times.
The document, which included guidance about testing people without Covid-19 symptoms, was sent to the CDC by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the two sources told CNN. It was supposed to go through a vetting process that includes a director of science, fact-checking, cross-checking, and several back-and-forths for scientific review — a process that can take several days.

As the document was going through the process, one of the sources told CNN they woke up one morning and saw that the unaltered document had been posted on the CDC’s website in its original form and including some errors.

A positive test sends college freshman to the Covid dorm
The new guidance said some people without symptoms may not need to be tested, even if they’ve been in close contact with someone known to have the virus.

Previously, the CDC had said viral testing was appropriate for people with recent or suspected exposure, even if they were asymptomatic.

A senior federal health official close to the process had previously told CNN that the sudden change in Covid-19 testing guidance was the result of pressure from the Trump administration, saying, “It’s coming from the top down.”

In a statement Thursday night, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told CNN, “The guidelines, coordinated in conjunction with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, received appropriate attention, consultation and input from task force experts.”

The guidance is expected to see more changes. Redfield testified on Wednesday that the CDC will “clarify” changes made to its guidance about testing people who do not have symptoms.

CNN’s Holly Yan, Amanda Watts, Paul P. Murphy, Devan Cole, Naomi Thomas, Christina Maxouris, Jamie Gumbrecht, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Nick Valencia contributed to this report.