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U.S. Cases Rise 0.8%; California Expands Testing: Virus Update

An employee holds a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab test kit at a Covid-19 testing shipping container during a news conference at the Volkswagen AG headquarter factory in Wolfsburg, Germany, on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. Volkswagen AG is installing facilities for voluntary Covid-19 tests at sites across Germany, stepping up efforts to protect its sprawling industrial operations as infection rates rise across Europe. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg (Bloomberg)

New U.S. federal guidelines on who should be tested for coronavirus drew criticism from the governors of New York and California, while the top Trump administration official overseeing testing defended the shift.

Italy, the former European epicenter of the pandemic, reported the most new infections in over three months. Greece had a record-high number of new cases, and France said daily infections reached a four-month peak.

Moderna presented new safety data from an early trial that provides the first evidence that its vaccine stimulates the immune systems of older people. The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, will postpone its annual gathering of business and political movers and shakers to early summer 2021.

Key Developments:

• Global Tracker: Cases top 23.9 million; deaths pass 820,000

• Fires roil California’s virus fight just as outbreak was easing

• Virus in vacant apartment suggests role of toilets in spread

• Phantom U.S. companies got more than $1 billion in virus aid

• Some countries don’t want to wait for superpowers’ vaccines

• A U.K. pivot on masks in schools angers Boris Johnson’s Tories

• Vaccine Tracker: Where we are in the race for protection?

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on coronavirus cases and deaths.

California Plans Site to More Than Double Testing (4:30 p.m. NY)

California is working with PerkinElmer Inc. to build a laboratory testing site with a full supply chain that will enable the state to add as many as 150,000 tests per day, more than doubling its current capacity, Governor Gavin Newsom said at a press briefing.

The agreement comes with a guarantee that tests will have a 24- to 48-hour turnaround time, helping California vastly improve its processing from the current average turnaround of five to seven days, he said. The state has identified a site and “will be moving forward very very quickly,” Newsom said.

The governor also said he doesn’t agree with new CDC guidelines shifting testing away from asymptomatic people. “That is not the policy guideline that we will embrace or adopt in the state of California,” he said.

N.Y., NJ. Targeted in DOJ Nursing Home Review (4:15 p.m. NY)

The Trump administration said orders by four states led by Democratic governors requiring nursing homes to admit coronavirus patients may have caused the disease to spread, resulting in the deaths of thousands of elderly residents.

The Justice Department said that New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan mandated that people be accepted by the elder-care facilities “often without adequate testing.” In a statement on Wednesday, the department said it’s seeking data which will be used to determine if investigations should commence.

U.S. Cases Rise 0.8% (4 p.m. NY)

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased 0.8% as compared with the same time Tuesday to 5.8 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The increase matched the average daily gain over the past week. Deaths rose by 0.8% to 179,150.

• Illinois reported 37 more Covid-19 deaths, up from 29 a day earlier and the highest count since July 7. The state reported 2,157 cases, up from 1,680 on Wednesday.

• Florida reported 608,722 cases, up 0.5% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 0.6% in the previous seven days. Deaths reached 10,733, an increase of 153, or 1.4%.

• Arizona reported 187 new virus cases, a 0.1% increase to 199,459 that was below the prior seven-day average of 0.3%. The state recorded 104 deaths, the most in a week, bringing the toll to 4,896.

Illinois Has Most New Cases Since July 7 (3:12 p.m. NY)

Illinois reported 37 more Covid-19 deaths on Wednesday, up from 29 a day earlier and the highest count since July 7, according to an emailed statement. The state reported 2,157 coronavirus cases, up from 1,680 on Wednesday. Illinois’s seven-day positivity rate was at 4%, down from 4.1% reported on Tuesday

Positive Test Halts California Senate (2:44 p.m. NY)

California’s Senate halted its session Wednesday after a person in the chamber tested positive for Covid-19.

All senators and staff were asked to “hold in place,” remain in their offices or continue working remotely as the situation was addressed, according to a note sent to workers. The move comes at a key time for the legislature, with all bills required to pass by Aug. 31.

The state reported more progress in its fight against the outbreak Wednesday, with 6,004 new cases, a 0.9% increase and less than the 14-day average of 6,646. The average rate of positive tests over 14 days fell to 6.1% from 6.3%. Hospitalizations dropped 1.3% to 4,365 patients, a two-month low.

French New Cases Hit Four-Month High (2:03 p.m. NY)

France reported 5,429 new Covid-19 cases over the past 24 hours, a four-month high that comes after similarly important surges in recent days. Prime Minister Jean Castex will hold a press conference on Thursday to address the health situation as infections rise.

Greece Reports Record New Cases (1:50 a.m. NY)

Greece reported a record-high 293 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to 9280. The number is the highest daily increase since the beginning of the pandemic. The average age of people who tested positive is 39. The country also recorded five new deaths, bringing the total to 248.

Cuomo Blasts CDC Guidance as ‘Propaganda’ (12:59 p.m. NY)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday said the state won’t follow recent guidance on the coronavirus from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calling it “political propaganda.”

The CDC this week said that people who have potentially been exposed to the virus and are asymptomatic don’t need to be tested. The agency, contrary to its previous recommendations, also said that people traveling from hot spots no longer need to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“We’re not going to follow the CDC guidance,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said on a conference call with the media.

He accused Republican President Donald Trump of using the agency to “forward his political agenda,” saying it’s “frightening and it is alarming.”

“The only plausible rationale is they want fewer people taking tests because, as the president has said, if we don’t take tests you won’t know that people are Covid-positive and the number of Covid-positive people will come down,” Cuomo said. “But it totally violates public health standards, and rationale and just fosters his failed policy of denial.”

The state will continue with its travel advisory requiring mandatory quarantine, and Cuomo cautioned New Yorkers and private companies against following the CDC guidance.

Cuomo urged New Yorkers to instead follow state recommendations, and to seek advice from public health experts and epidemiologists.

The number of positive coronavirus cases in the state remained low, with 0.79% of the 71,000 tests conducted on Aug. 25 coming up positive. There were 492 hospitalizations and three virus-related deaths, according to state data.

North Carolina State Football Delays Opener: Yahoo (12:05 p.m. NY)

North Carolina State University’s season opening game against Virginia Tech has been pushed back to Sept. 26, according to a Yahoo report, marking another setback for efforts to push ahead with the college-football season.

The NC State Wolfpack were scheduled to start their season on Sept. 12 in Blacksburg, Virginia, but a cluster of Covid-19 cases forced the athletic department to temporarily pause all activities Monday.

Arizona Cases Continue Decline as Deaths Rise (12 p.m. NY)

Arizona on Wednesday reported 187 new virus cases, a 0.1% increase to 199,459 that was below the prior seven-day average of 0.3%. The positivity rate fell to 4% after a one-day spike of 17.3% the day before. The state Department of Health Services recorded 104 deaths, the most in a week, bringing the toll to 4,896.

Italy Reports Highest Cases in 3 1/2 Months (11:30 a.m.)

Italy recorded 1,367 new cases Wednesday, the highest number in three months and a half, on the day the government ruled out a new lockdown.

Many of the new infections involve Italians returning from vacations either within the country or abroad. The Lombardy region said two out of three of the latest cases are holidaymakers returning from outside of Italy.

In response to the surge, Italy is ramping up testing in ports and airports, with a record 93,529 tests carried out Wednesday.

Florida’s Weekly Cases Continue to Decline (11:30 a.m. NY)

Florida reported 608,722 cases on Wednesday, up 0.5% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 0.6% in the previous seven days. The 7-day rolling case total was 24,675, the lowest since June 23, according to the health department report, which includes data through Tuesday.

Deaths reached 10,733, an increase of 153, or 1.4%, and the seven-day rolling total was 801, the lowest in more than a month. Deaths often trail infections by weeks, and generally take even longer to be reflected in the data.

Moscow Invites Residents to Join Vaccine Trials (10:58 a.m. NY)

Moscow is inviting all its residents to participate in Phase 3 testing of a Covid-19 vaccine that was approved for use earlier this month, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on his blog Wednesday.

Russia approved the use of the Sputnik V vaccine, which Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute is developing with the sovereign Russian Direct Investment Fund and the Defense Ministry, before it finished clinical trials. The testing will continue even as medical workers are vaccinated. Many members of the local elite, including one of President Vladimir Putin’s daughters, have already been inoculated.

The capital accounts for more than a quarter of Russia’s nearly 1 million cases.

Moderna Vaccine Produces Antibodies in Trial of Older People (10:51 a.m. NY)

Moderna Inc. presented new safety data from an early trial that provides the first evidence that its Covid-19 vaccine stimulates the immune systems of older people.

In a phase 1 trial, Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine produced “consistently high levels” of neutralizing antibodies -- a key component of the body’s protective response -- in older adults, the company said in a statement. Antibody levels produced in people more than 55 years old were comparable to those seen in younger adults, the company said in a statement.

The findings are important because older adults often don’t respond as well to vaccines as younger adults.

N.J. Gyms Can Open Sept. 1 (10:30 a.m. NY)

New Jersey’s 1,200 gyms can reopen on Sept. 1 at 25% capacity with spaced workout equipment, masking and other safety precautions, according to a senior official in Governor Phil Murphy’s administration.

The fitness centers’ return, in a state with almost 16,000 novel coronavirus deaths, will mark a major step toward full reopening after Murphy, a first-term Democrat, closed non-essential businesses on March 21. Indoor dining and theaters remain off-limits with no targeted opening date, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of Murphy’s 1 p.m. announcement.

White House Weighs Help for Airline Workers (10:11 a.m. NY)

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said the Trump administration is examining executive actions to help airline employees facing furloughs if Congress doesn’t provide assistance in a new round of stimulus.

American Airlines Group Inc. has said it will furlough and layoff about 19,000 employees on Oct. 1 if Congress doesn’t provide additional financial relief. The airline industry has been badly hurt by the coronavirus outbreak, which caused many Americans to cancel travel plans.

World Economic Forum Rescheduled (9:12 a.m. NY)

The WEF will move its annual meeting, normally held each January in the Swiss ski town of Davos, to early summer, according to a statement on Wednesday. While convening to discuss economic challenges was urgent, “the advice from experts is that we cannot do so safely in January,” the organization said.

Mnuchin to Testify on Virus Response (7:39 a.m. NY)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will testify before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis on Sept. 1, the panel said in a statement. The hearing will focus on questions of additional economic relief for children, workers and families and the implementation of existing stimulus programs, the panel said.

Mexico Heads for Worst Slump in a Century (7:37 a.m. NY)

Mexico remains on track for its worst recession in nearly a century after the coronavirus pandemic led to the biggest quarterly contraction in data going back to 1993.

Gross domestic product fell 17.1% in the second quarter compared to the three previous months, the national statistics institute reported on its website. The contraction was slightly less than the median estimate for a 17.2% drop from economists surveyed by Bloomberg and the 17.3% fall estimated in preliminary data last month.

China Test-Maker Rebuts Swedish Criticism (7:37 a.m. NY)

China’s BGI Genomics defended its Covid-19 tests after Swedish authorities said positive test results for about 3,700 people will be nullified.

A spokesperson said BGI’s tests -- supplied to more than 180 countries and regions -- are among the world’s most sensitive, and that a high rate of positive cases shouldn’t be seen as indicative of false results. Instead, BGI says, the tests pick up infected people who appear healthy.

“BGI prioritizes product quality” and “is willing to engage with clients and organizations at home and abroad in close communication,” the company said in emailed comments.

No New Lockdown for Italy, Health Minister Says (7:15 a.m. NY)

Italy has ruled out imposing a new nationwide lockdown despite an increase in coronavirus cases, as the country struggles to emerge from the worst recession in living memory.

The rise in contagion has been limited, with very low impact on health services, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “We have few cases and the situation is under control, with pressure on hospitals that is very low, minimal,” he said. The average age of people who’ve tested positive in the last week is 30, and most have mild symptoms or none at all, he said.

Tourism Slump Hits Thailand, Mauritius (6:53 a.m. NY)

There’s no relief in site for the global tourism industry: In Thailand, industry executives expect consolidation as hotel operators and airlines face a liquidity crunch. Hotel operators are likely to merge and local and overseas funds could step in to acquire assets, Dusit Thani Pcl Chief Executive Officer Suphajee Suthumpun said at a virtual conference.

Separately, tourist arrivals in Mauritius were 53% lower than a year earlier, official figures showed. Visitors for the six months through June fell to 304,881 from 650,082, with revenue from the sector down 48% to 16.1 billion rupees ($410 million).

Hungary Minister Vows to Fire Work-From-Home Diplomats (6:13 a.m. NY)

Hungarian diplomats asking to carry out their work from home during the coronavirus pandemic will be fired, according to Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.

“That’s not a game we play at the Foreign Ministry,” Szijjarto said in comments broadcast on his Facebook page. “If someone wants to play that game, that can be done outside the ministry.” The 41-year old Szijjarto, who’s been Hungary’s top diplomat for six years and is one of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s closest subordinates, is facing calls to quit himself after being photographed earlier this month vacationing on a luxury yacht.

Iran Toll Ticks Higher, Cases Stay Steady (6:02 a.m. NY)

The death toll in Iran crossed 21,000 even though daily fatalities dropped for a third day. The number of infections reached 365,606, with new cases declining slightly to 2,243 in the past 24 hours, according to the latest Health Ministry data. Iran had an average of 127 deaths and 2,189 new cases per day over the past week.

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