CDC changes testing guidelines for asymptomatic people; University of Alabama has 560 cases; two reinfections in Europe

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has changed its COVID-19 testing guidelines. Now, the CDC says, people without symptoms “do not necessarily need a test” – even if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19.

In Hawaii, its most populous island is returning to stay-at-home orders in its fight against COVID-19, while Massachusetts is learning the startling story of the virus’ arrival through new genetic data.

Meanwhile, new research that has not yet undergone scientific peer review is tracking “superspreader events” that could help states decide what events or activities are safe during the ongoing pandemic.

Also Tuesday, Los Angeles County – the county with the highest number of infections in the U.S. – reported fewer than 1,000 cases for the first time since early June.

Some significant developments:

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 5.7 million confirmed infections and 178,000 deaths. Worldwide, there have been more than 820,000 deaths and 23.9 million cases, according to John Hopkins University data. 

📰 What we’re reading: College administrators nationwide are welcoming students back to campus with strict mask guidelines and plenty of online class offerings. But as schools reckon with the possibility of cancelling in-person fall semesters, students are taking matters into their own hands if their campus is forced to shut down.

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

Two more coronavirus reinfection cases reported — both in Europe

Two patients in Europe have been reinfected with COVID-19, further emphasizing the necessity of a vaccine as opposed to relying on herd immunity.

Both cases — one in the Netherlands, the other in Belgium — were reported by state broadcasters and were proven to be different strains of the virus, reported Reuters. The Dutch woman, Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans told broadcasters, had a weakened immune system.

“That someone would pop up with a reinfection, it doesn’t make me nervous,” Koopmans said, per Reuters. “We have to see whether it happens often.”

The news comes only days after researchers at the University of Hong Kong announced that a 33-year-old man was re-infected by a different strain of COVID-19 more than four months after his initial infection. 

University of Alabama cases skyrocket to over 500 in one week

After one week of in-person instruction, the University of Alabama has amassed 531 cases, putting the upcoming fall semester “in serious jeopardy,” according to Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox.

“As mayor, my first responsibility is to protect the health, safety and welfare of this community and of every person that is living here, studying here or working here.”

In order to curb cases in the area, Maddox ordered the shutdown of bars — both standalone and in restaurants — that went into effect Monday. The university is also limiting students’ activities on campus to address on-campus hot spots. 

– Gary Cosby Jr., The Tuscaloosa News

New genetic research tracks COVID-19 ‘superspreading events’

New genetic data helps tell the story of how COVID-19 arrived in Massachusetts, exploded across a hotel conference center, wormed its way into a nursing home, repeatedly struck a homeless shelter, and contributed to the virus’ march around the globe.

Although parts of the story have already been told and others remain elusive, genetic data from many of the COVID-19 infections in the Boston area in March and April helps fill some gaps.

The new research also tracks several “superspreading events” that may help public officials decide which activities are safe and which are dangerous, said Dr. Jacob Lemieux, who helped lead the study, which was posted online Tuesday but has not yet undergone scientific peer review. 

One of the “superspreading” events took place in late February at a conference of the biotech company Biogen, which specializes in treating neurological diseases.

– Karen Weintraub

CDC updates guidelines: People without symptoms do not need to get tested

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has changed its COVID-19 testing guidelines. Now, the CDC says, people without symptoms “do not necessarily need a test” — even if they’ve been exposed to the coronavirus.

Some health experts say the change can discourage people from getting tested. “It seems as though this new guidance is actively discouraging people from seeking testing, even if they have a known exposure,” Angela Rasmussen, a research scientist at Columbia Public Health in New York City, told NBC News. “We need more testing, not less.”

The CDC also changed its travel quarantine recommendation on Friday. It says that travelers returning from a trip outside of the U.S. or their state no longer need to quarantine for 14 days.

Scientists worry FDA could be ‘bullied’ into early approval of a coronavirus vaccine

After the Food and Drug Administration offered shaky data to justify its approval of blood plasma to treat COVID-19, some scientists are worried the agency could bow to pressure to approve a coronavirus vaccine before it’s fully tested.

Sunday, President Donald Trump announced the FDA had issued an Emergency Use Authorization for blood plasma. The president, the Health and Human Services Secretary and the head of the FDA all said the treatment reduced deaths in COVID-19 patients by 35%.

It did not, and scientists immediately questioned FDA’s claims about the data.

“You saw FDA be bullied by the president of the United States into approving something that they didn’t want to approve earlier, because he wanted them to do that,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, in an online interview Monday with the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

— Elizabeth Weise

Hawaii issues stay-at-home order in Oahu amid COVID-19 surge

Hawaii’s most populous island is returning to a stay-at-home order while officials strive to conduct 70,000 COVID-19 tests in two weeks amid a surge in cases. Oahu, where Honolulu is located, has seen daily triple-digit positive cases in recent weeks, an alarming spike after Hawaii had enjoyed the lowest infection rates in the nation per capita earlier in the pandemic.

With help from the federal government, Oahu officials will conduct mass testing across the island with the goal of testing 5,000 people daily for two weeks, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced Tuesday.

The tests will be free and no symptoms, health insurance or doctor referral will be needed, Honolulu Fire Chief Manuel Neves said.

Starting Thursday, Oahu will be under a stay-at-home order with gyms and dine-in restaurants to be closed. Religious services will be allowed to continue. So-called essential businesses such as grocery stores, banks and childcare facilities can remain open. Most schools have been providing online instruction.

Los Angeles County reports decline in daily number of confirmed infections

The nation’s county with the highest number of COVID-19 infections is seeing a decline in confirmed cases. The Los Angeles County Public Health Department confirmed 989 new infections Tuesday, marking the first time it has reported less than 1,000 daily cases since the beginning of June.

The number of daily confirmed cases from mid to late July was about 3,200, officials said. However, Los Angeles County remains on California’s coronavirus watchlist.

“Last week, we mentioned that we were showing progress on meeting the state’s benchmarks for getting off the watchlist, and we are grateful for everyone’s sacrifices that have resulted in slowing the spread,” the county’s public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.

“Because of the lessons we learned from our explosion of cases in July, I need to ask that we continue to significantly modify our actions if we want to keep community transmission rates low,” Ferrer said.

California has the most COVID-19 cases of any state with 673,095 infections, according to the state’s department of public health.

Montana suspends inmate transfers due to COVID-19 outbreaks

Montana officials said Tuesday they have suspended the transfer of state inmates out of three county jails because of COVID-19 outbreaks that have infected more than 90 inmates and staff.

At least 34 inmates at the Yellowstone County Detention Center in Billings and 53 inmates at two staff at the Cascade County Detention Center in Great Falls have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days.

The movement suspensions will remain until the jails see a “significant reduction in active virus cases,” said State Department of Corrections spokeswoman Carolynn Bright.

COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY

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Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID news: CDC testing guidelines for asymptomatic people

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