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U.S. COVID-19 cases rise in 27 states

Dr. Amesh Adalja, Senior Scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, joins Yahoo Finance’s Zack Guzman to discuss a new poll that shows alarming coronavirus vaccine skepticism.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: I want to shift over to the focus on the update we're getting on the coronavirus front there. Cases yesterday in terms of new daily case count came in at 43,380. 43,380 new cases reported, which was up more than 5,000 versus the seven day ago average. That's the biggest rise that we've seen since mid-July, if you go back and kind of factor for Labor Day distortions there. It has more people concerned, as more economies here move to reopen as well as schools bringing back students, what could happen here.

So joining us to discuss that is Dr. Amesh Adalja, Senior Scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. And Dr. Adalja, first up, I mean, it's happening right here in New York. We're seeing the city, we just reported the most new cases we've seen since May. So very much in line with what we're seeing play out at a national level, but we've also been the first major city to reopen all schools. So I guess the question there, since we had about a half million students coming back in here from ages three all the way up through high school, how big of a piece of the pie do you think that schools reopening is playing here versus some other risks out there that experts are trying to parse through in this potential second wave?

DR AMESH ADALJA: So if you look at New York City, it's actually interesting. There's actually only nine zip codes where you're seeing this increase. And you're not seeing that increase related to schools, you're seeing this in neighborhoods where masking is low, where social distancing is low, and it isn't really being driven by the schools. So I do think that there are other factors at play, and we know that schools are something that have to be handled very cautiously. But so far, it's been good with schools in general that we haven't seen large outbreaks linked to the opening of schools, especially when you're looking at the K through sixth grade level. But it is something we have to watch, and each part of the country is going to have different dynamics. But so far, it seems to be driven more by adult behavior than it does children's behavior.

ZACK GUZMAN: When you talk about adult behavior, I wonder how much of that might be kind of stemming from confusion out there. We saw that play out on the debate stage earlier this week when President Trump was talking about Dr. Fauci and how he claimed he had kind of reversed his thinking around masks. Masks continue to be one of those topics, for whatever reason, it's still pressed out there. And an interesting new survey here, I guess a data look from researchers at Cornell looked at who might be spreading some of these ideas out there are conversations around misinformation stemming from the data here, and they targeted President Trump saying that he made up about 38% of overall misinformation conversations out there. When you think about what kind of direction we've been getting from the CDC, the FDA or out of the White House here, how much of that do you think is to blame for some of the confusion on the part of businesses or consumers out there trying to navigate this crisis?

DR AMESH ADALJA: I think it's a major component. We know that there's been actually, I would say, almost a concerted disinformation campaign from the White House to minimize what this virus means and to take the wrong actions and then try and defend those wrong actions. And what we've seen is mixed messaging, undermining of expertise, undermining of people that are supposedly running the response, the CDC and the task force. So this is, if you're in the public, you're not going to have a clear message from the government, and that's not what you need in an emergency. You want to have clear messages that are actionable that are based on evidence and that reflect expertise. But what we've seen here is the opposite. So in general, I think it's actually a disgusting situation that the president is one of the major sources of misinformation on this life threatening cataclysm that we're facing.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and I mean, you know, not to say that changing positions might be wrong if you get new data that could come out and say, all right, look, we've learned this, and that's what we've seen, at least out of Dr. Fauci and the way that he's updated his thinking there, and he's explained that. But I guess maybe to pushback on the idea that things constantly reopening might lead to crisis, and I mean, we've had this discussion here on this show with the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri when they were inviting fans back to NFL stadiums. They haven't necessarily seen an outbreak disaster scenario like some medical experts were warning about.

Of course, we did get the update that the Titans Steeler game is going to be postponed after new players there, a player and a team employee, had tested positive for the virus today. That would bring the total infections for the team to 11, so they're going to postpone that game. But we haven't necessarily seen as huge outbreaks in Dallas or Kansas City, some of these other cities that have been hosting stadiums and fans up to about 20,000 fans almost in some of these stadiums. So what does that mean to you? Does that necessarily, I guess, signify that some of these safety protocols that were put in place are actually working or that maybe the fears aren't as bad so long as people do wear masks and follow all these protocols in place?

DR AMESH ADALJA: I think mass gatherings are going to be very difficult to have, and I think it's good. It's reassuring that they've been able to have NFL games with fans in certain areas and not see any uptick in cases related to that. And I do think it reflects the fact that you have to put some kind of plan in place. You have to pre-think about all of the different scenarios and try and minimize the risk of the virus. The virus is clearly in those stadiums. It's hopefully being kept at bay because people are following social distancing, because they're wearing face coverings and because of all of the other steps that are put into place by the NFL. But it's not ironclad, and I think we have to continue to look at this and learn the lessons from them. And if it can be replicated other places, that's great, but I think we have to be prepared that this isn't always going to be as lucky as it's been so far with the NFL.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, I mean, when we looked at the Kansas City case, one test positive. One fan did test positive, and they had about 10 fans that came into contact that were asked to quarantine. So I mean, those protocols were followed even though that fan technically wasn't supposed to be allowed into the suite since he did not report the test, and that data were supposed to be there before he was allowed into the stadium.

But regardless, I mean, when we think about just to circle back to the trust in the process here, specifically as we await kind of the data in these Phase III trials regarding these vaccine candidates. More and more polls coming out, this latest one here from [INAUDIBLE] Harris shared with Axios indicating that more Americans here, 75%, said they worry about politics rather than science driving the process here, and that could lead to a lot of those out there, a majority saying that they would not want to get a vaccine. So what do you say to that and how, you know, everything we were just discussing about mixed messaging could actually have real life consequences here even if we do get a vaccine that's safe that could be administered?

DR AMESH ADALJA: I think the issue is really that there's been so much misinformation out there that it is something that we have to understand that the general public is going to have problems dealing with it. This is something that we've seen from the very beginning, and it's not surprising to me that there is some reticence, because we've seen hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma issues really be colored by politics, and I think this is what we have to expect when we have this much disinformation and this much political meddling, and it's unfortunate, because a vaccine that doesn't get into people's arms is not going to be an effective vaccine.