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The Latest: UCLA health expert: CDC should trace Trump

LOS ANGELES — Anne Rimoin, an infectious diseases expert at the UCLA, called for full involvement of the CDC in the contact tracing around President Donald Trump.

Rimoin says samples could be taken from people who are infected. By taking genetic material of the virus and sequencing it, scientists can build a “road map of who spread it to whom and reconstruct a much better timeline.”

White House doctor Sean Conley has refused to say when Trump last tested negative, saying he doesn’t want to “go backwards.” Rimoin says that’s exactly what contact tracing requires. Knowing how long the president was infected, and others around him, can help identify who was exposed.


Rimoin calls it “irresponsible and reckless” not to trace and “break trains of transmission to save lives right now and to learn more about super-spreading.”

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Virginia Gov. Northam has mild symptoms 2 weeks after virus diagnosis

— 15 vaccine clinical trials underway in Africa

— India has 61,267 new cases, its lowest daily increase since Aug. 25

— Despite decades of warnings about the fragile supply lines bringing protective gear from overseas factories to America’s health care workers, the U.S. was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic.

— Some survivors and kin of those who have died are angry over Trump’s advice not to fear COVID-19.

— White House blocks FDA guidelines on bringing potential vaccines to market that would almost certainly prevent approval before election.

— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam says he’s developed mild symptoms of the coronavirus a little less than two weeks after he and the first lady tested positive.

Northam told The Washington Post that he had some cold-like symptoms over the weekend and had lost his sense of taste and smell.

The Democratic governor, who is a physician, says he feels fine otherwise. While discussing his own illness, Northam says he was alarmed that President Donald Trump was playing down the severity of the disease even after being diagnosed with the virus.

In a tweet Monday, the president said of COVID-19, “Don’t let it dominate your life.” More than 210,000 Americans have died from the virus.

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has loosened coronavirus-related crowd restrictions for indoor and outdoor events.

No indoor venue can hold more than 3,750 people and no outdoor venue can exceed a cap of 7,500 people. The new rules take effect Friday.

The state health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, cautioned officials “can and will dial back these new limits” if events are linked to outbreaks.

Wolf’s previous limits of 25 people indoors and 250 outdoors were thrown out by a western Pennsylvania federal judge. But the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the governor’s limits on Oct. 1 while that decision is appealed.

The Democrat called Tuesday’s shift “a gradual adjustment to our lives as we

Spam calls are hindering efforts to contact trace and track Covid-19

Nine months into a pandemic that has killed 210,000 people in the United States, health officials are imploring residents to answer their phones. The caller may be a disease tracker trying to save you from the deadly coronavirus.



a man talking on a cell phone: Joseph Ortiz, a contact tracer in New York City, gathers information as he heads to a potential patient's home.


© John Minchillo/AP
Joseph Ortiz, a contact tracer in New York City, gathers information as he heads to a potential patient’s home.

Contract tracing involves identifying sick people, isolating them and then tracing everyone with whom they’ve been in contact and putting those people into quarantine.

But many people wary of spam calls and phishing scams are not answering calls from unknown numbers, undermining efforts by contact tracers to reach people exposed to Covid-19. And some states such as Louisiana are sending letters to those people who don’t answer — not the most effective way when time is of the essence.

Without a federal contact tracing program, health departments have set up a patchwork of procedures. Some have worked with phone companies to ensure the name of the health department shows up on caller ID. For example, in Washington, DC, it shows up as DC Covid 19 Team.

Still, others appear as unknown numbers and are getting mistaken for spam calls. And even when they show up with the specific departments, some are still going unanswered.

“Hello? Yes, it’s you we’re looking for,” Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted, echoing the Lionel Richie song. “Contact tracing is a critical tool in getting our city back on its feet. Answer the call.”

The governor of Ohio is voicing the same message. State health officials say while they have 113 health jurisdictions and don’t collect the percentage of calls answered on a state level, local jurisdictions have reported less cooperation with tracers now than they did earlier in the pandemic.

“If you receive a call from a contact tracer — answer the call,” Gov. Mike DeWine said. “Contact tracing is incredibly important as we work to stop the spread of Covid 19.”

Robocalls have made things more complicated

In the age of identity theft, many Americans are rightly suspicious about sharing their personal information with strangers. And robocalls have not made things easier.

The number of robocalls received in the United States dipped in the early months of the pandemic, then ticked back up as call centers reopened.

In September alone, there were 3.8 billion robocalls recorded nationwide by tracking service YouMail. That’s about 127 million per day and an average 12 calls per person. With the desperate wait for coronavirus treatments and vaccines, scammers preying on pandemic fears are using such calls to offer bogus testing or seek personal information.



a group of people sitting at a desk in front of a television: Workers conduct coronavirus contact tracing from an office at the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County.


© Lynne Sladky/AP
Workers conduct coronavirus contact tracing from an office at the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County.

That has made people even more reluctant to share personal details by phone. For example, 45% of New Jersey residents with coronavirus reached by contact tracers refused to provide information for various reasons.

“This is about public health. No one is on a

The White House Is Failing to Contact Trace Its Own COVID Outbreak: Report

In the wake of the president’s positive coronavirus test on Thursday night, the administration has claimed that it has initiated a “full contact tracing” program that is “consistent with CDC guidelines.” But according to a new CNN report, the White House that failed to protect a non-compliant president from the pandemic is failing to trace its own outbreak, a crucial, post-infection step that can significantly limit the spread of the virus if properly executed.



a clock tower lit up at night: Getty Images


© Getty Images
Getty Images

Similar to White House staffers’ negligence prior to Trump’s positive test — he went to an indoor buffet with donors on Thursday hours after officials reportedly learned of Hope Hicks’s diagnosis — the administration has not provided guidance to those exposed or infected by the president and his inner circle. Chris Christie, the president’s debate coach who tested positive this weekend, said that the administration gave no formal directions on contact tracing. And another source admitted that “the scale of the potential contagion at the White House has made it difficult to mount the type of contact tracing that will be required in the coming days,” according to CNN.

The White House Medical Unit, the 30-person team responsible for the health needs of the president and close advisors, was already overworked attempting to keep Trump healthy despite his pandemic carelessness. To engage in contact tracing on top of their previous workload would be a major addition, and according to the report “a person familiar with the matter said a full CDC contact tracing team hadn’t yet been mobilized.” Another federal official told the New York Times that a Centers for Disease Control team was on standby to help, but the White House had yet to call them in. Meanwhile, the White House is doing little to aid local health agencies. The Washington Post reported Saturday that public-health officials in Minnesota, Ohio, and New Jersey had yet to hear from the administration

regarding the information of those in attendance, leaving them on their own to find out who may have been exposed to the virus.

Rather than mobilize the resources of the CDC, the administration — which exposed hundreds of people between the debate on Tuesday, the rally in Minnesota on Wednesday, and the indoor buffet on Thursday — is reportedly going for a fast-and-loose that mimics their initial pandemic response. According to one source who spoke with CNN, the White House is relying on the president’s celebrity as a fallback for contact tracing. “People would know if they come into contact with Trump,” the person said.

However, the scale of the problem — and the fact that infected people can infect family members while asymptomatic — frustrates this effort to allow the news cycle to do the contact tracing. (Over 200 people attended his campaign fundraiser at his golf club in New Jersey on Thursday.) While contact tracing is a laborious effort, it is not impossible: Benjy Renton, a Middlebury senior and digital director at the school’s newspaper, has set