June 16 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan and Steve George, CNN

Updated 2:11 AM ET, Wed June 17, 2020
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11:33 a.m. ET, June 16, 2020

Steroid reduces risk of dying in sickest coronavirus patients, preliminary study results suggest

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

The widely available steroid drug dexamethasone may be key in helping to treat the sickest Covid-19 patients in the hospital who require ventilation or oxygen, according to researchers in the United Kingdom. Their findings are preliminary, still being compiled, and have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal — but one outside expert called this a "breakthrough."

The two lead investigators of the Recovery Trial, a large UK-based trial investigating potential Covid-19 treatments, announced to reporters in a virtual press conference on Tuesday that a low-dose regimen of dexamethasone for 10 days was found to reduce the risk of death by a third among hospitalized patients requiring ventilation in the trial.

"That’s a highly statistically significant result," Martin Landray, deputy chief investigator of the trial and a professor at the University of Oxford, said on Tuesday.

"This is a completely compelling result. If one looks at the patients who did not require ventilators but were on oxygen, there was also a significant risk reduction of about one-fifth," Landray said. "However, we didn’t see any benefit in those patients who were in hospital, had Covid, but whose lungs were working sufficiently well -- they were not taking either oxygen or on ventilators."

Landray added that "there are outstanding questions" and people treating Covid-19 at home should not be taking dexamethasone on the back of these results.

"We have not studied patients in the community," Landray said. "We show no effect in the patients who are not on oxygen and we did not study the patients who are not in hospital."

About the trial: The dexamethasone arm of the Recovery Trial — which closed last week and researchers are now compiling its data — included about 2,100 hospitalized Covid-19 patients who were randomized to receive dexamethasone and about 4,300 hospitalized Covid-19 patients who were randomized to receive the usual standard of care at their hospitals.

In the trial, dexamethasone was provided at a dose of 6mg once a day for up to 10 days, administered either as an injection or taken orally. The researchers reported no serious adverse events among the patients taking dexamethasone, but the results are preliminary.

"At this stage, we found no clear adverse effects of doing this. Let’s recognize that there are sort of two messages here. In the people who required oxygen or ventilation, it clearly works, and the benefits are biggest for those on ventilators. In the people in hospital with Covid who do not require oxygen -- so, their lungs are working moderately well -- then actually there’s no benefit," Landray said on Tuesday.

He continued: "In the trial, our focus was on mortality, which obviously a drug can affect in either direction, but the overall results in the patients on oxygen and ventilation was a clear, clear benefit. We’ve looked, for example, were there deaths due to other forms of infection, which are sometimes considered a risk? And the answer is no, there was no excess of any other particular cause of death."

9:28 a.m. ET, June 16, 2020

Harvard drops standardized test requirement for admission to class of 2025

From CNN's Laura Ly

A general view of Harvard University campus is seen on April 22 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
A general view of Harvard University campus is seen on April 22 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Harvard is dropping its standardized testing requirement for applicants to the undergraduate class of 2025 due to challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has created insurmountable challenges in scheduling tests for all students, particularly those from modest economic backgrounds, and we believe this temporary change addresses these challenges,” a statement on the college’s website reads. 

The school also said that students who are limited in the activities they can participate in, and students who are only able to present pass/fail grades for the spring semester due to the pandemic will not be disadvantaged in the application process.

Some background: Throughout the pandemic, an increasing number of universities have announced they are dropping the SAT and ACT requirement for fall 2021 admissions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, the University of California announced it is suspending ACT and SAT tests as an admissions requirement until 2024.

9:24 a.m. ET, June 16, 2020

Spain announces billions in spending to help economy recover after Covid-19 lockdowns

From CNN's Tim Lister and Al Goodman in Spain

Spanish Education Minister Isabel Celaa, left, and Treasury Minister and Government's spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero address a press conference after the weekly Cabinet Meeting held at Moncloa Palace in Madrid on June 16.
Spanish Education Minister Isabel Celaa, left, and Treasury Minister and Government's spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero address a press conference after the weekly Cabinet Meeting held at Moncloa Palace in Madrid on June 16. Chema Moya/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The Spanish government has announced details of further public spending to kick-start the economy, after more than three months of severe restrictions due to the coronavirus. 

At a news conference Tuesday in Madrid, government chief spokeswoman María Jesús Montero announced that some 16 billion euros ($17 billion) would be disbursed to Spain's 17 regional governments over the next few months, beginning in July. She described it as "the largest transfer of resources ever made to regions."

How the money will be dispersed, according to Montero:

  • At least 9 billion euros will go to the health sector, to add staff and increase capacity to handle any new outbreaks of the coronavirus
  • 5 billion will aim to compensate people for loss of income
  • 2 billion euros will go to education. Part of the education spending will be to improve online teaching, including the purchase of 500,000 computers and tablets for schools

The government has also approved a final installment of 15.5 billion euros in state credit guarantees to companies and the self-employed, focusing on the tourism and car industries.

This would be in addition to the 69 billion euros already provided in financing guarantees to Spanish business.

Montero also said the government would announce an ambitious plan to revive Spain's vital tourism sector later this week. 

Spain plans to relax quarantine requirements for European visitors starting on July 1, but whether that will apply for British visitors is still unclear because of the UK's own requirement that visitors, including Spaniards, self-quarantine for two weeks on arrival.  

The Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, María Reyes Maroto told the news conference that the new experiment this week of having a "secure air corridor" between the Balearic Islands — which include Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza — and Germany was "proving very useful from a security point of view to test the protocols [to prevent the spread of Covid-19."]

Despite the government spending, which will take public borrowing well above 100% of GDP, Spain's central bank is forecasting a deep recession this year.

Last week it predicted the economy would shrink between 9% and 11.6% in 2020.

9:11 a.m. ET, June 16, 2020

US retail sales surged 17.7% in May, crushing estimates

From CNN’s Nathaniel Meyersohn

People line up at a store inside the Mall of America before it opens on June 10 in Minneapolis.
People line up at a store inside the Mall of America before it opens on June 10 in Minneapolis. Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

America's retail sales surged 17.7% in May, as shoppers headed back to newly reopened stores that had closed their doors for months. 

The increase was far better than economists had expected.

Industry sales in May were expected to climb 8% from April, according to consensus estimates from Refinitiv. 

8:52 a.m. ET, June 16, 2020

UK government announces Covid-19 "summer food fund" for children following Manchester United star's campaign

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

Marcus Rashford of Manchester United is pictured during a match in Manchester, England, on January 11.
Marcus Rashford of Manchester United is pictured during a match in Manchester, England, on January 11. Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

The UK government has reversed its decision to not extend free school meal vouchers throughout the summer holidays.

The announcement comes after a prominent English football player criticized the UK over a lack of free meals for children over the summer.

Britain provides free school meal vouchers for low-income families but the program was due to finish at the end of the current academic year in July.

Manchester United and England star Marcus Rashford had pleaded with lawmakers to extend the scheme through the summer for low-income families.

A spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday that there would now be a so-called summer food fund.

The spokesperson added that Johnson understood the issues families were facing during the pandemic and that the expected costs for the fund were expected to be around 120 million pounds (about $152 million).

Johnson initially rejected the idea. Rashford then wrote to lawmakers urging them to "put their rivalries aside" and make a U-turn as many families continue to struggle with the economic impact of the coronavirus.

Following up on the open letter he published Monday, Rashford wrote an article in The Times newspaper asking MPs to "help us break the cycle of hardship" of child poverty in the UK.

Downing Street's comments were first reported by Reuters and confirmed by CNN.

Rashford reacted to Tuesday's announcement on Twitter:

"I don’t even know what to say," Rashford said in the tweet.

"Just look at what we can do when we come together, THIS is England in 2020."

8:47 a.m. ET, June 16, 2020

Most UCLA classes will be online this fall 

From CNN's Stella Chan

An aerial view shows the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) campus in Los Angeles, California, on May 1.
An aerial view shows the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) campus in Los Angeles, California, on May 1. Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Only 15 to 20% of fall classes at the University of California Los Angeles will be offered on-site or in a hybrid format, the university announced Monday.

The courses include those that would be difficult to offer remotely including labs, performing arts and clinical health classes. The majority of classes will be online only.

Here are other changes the school is making:

  • The residence halls will house a limited number of students, and some rooms will be designated for quarantine.
  • The university will aim to offer housing to as many first-year students as feasible; some of these offers will be determined by lottery. 
  • Physical distancing, “de-densifying classrooms and other spaces,” and frequent cleaning of facilities are among infection-control procedures.
  • Face coverings are recommended while on campus.
  • Daily symptom checks will be required for everyone coming to campus or living in campus housing.
  • Testing and contact-tracing protocols for Covid-19 will also be in place.

“The health of our students, staff, and faculty is of paramount importance and guides our planning process,” Emily Carter, the university's executive vice chancellor and provost, said in a release. “As previously announced, the UCLA COVID-19 Future Planning Task Force has been hard at work, identifying options and recommendations for the fall. I appreciate their thoughtful work, the options they presented, and their recommendations.”

8:04 a.m. ET, June 16, 2020

Hong Kong will allow gatherings of up to 50 people this week

From Isaac Yee and Phoebe Lai in Hong Kong

Hong Kong will allow groups of up to 50 people to gather starting on Friday as coronavirus restrictions in the city continue to be eased by the government.

“The Executive Council has decided that the group size for gatherings can be relaxed to 50 persons at the most, it will come into effect at midnight on the 19th of June,” said Professor Sophia Chan, the Secretary for Food and Health on Tuesday. She added that “We have considered the latest public health risks, we have also tried to strike a balance on economic needs and public expectation on resuming social activities as soon as possible.”

Chan said the government is also lifting the limit on the number of customers allowed per table inside catering and restaurant businesses. Chan stressed that restaurants will still need to follow certain rules, such as ensuring tables are at least 1.5 meters apart.

“Under the suppress and lift strategy, we are now in the lift stage, if the epidemic remains stable, and where public health risks permit, we will try to relax the measures as far as possible," Chan said.

The relaxed restrictions will be in effect for two weeks starting on Friday and will cover July 1, the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover, a day where large scale protests and rallies are usually held.

8:02 a.m. ET, June 16, 2020

It's just past 1 p.m. in London and 8 a.m. in New York. Here's the latest on the pandemic.

Medical staff stand by outside a sports center in Beijing, on Tuesday, June 16, where testing is being carried out on those who live nearby or who have visited the Xinfadi Market, which has been linked to a new coronavirus cluster.
Medical staff stand by outside a sports center in Beijing, on Tuesday, June 16, where testing is being carried out on those who live nearby or who have visited the Xinfadi Market, which has been linked to a new coronavirus cluster. Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 8 million people worldwide and killed at least 437,000. Here's what you need to know:

Beijing extends lockdowns as coronavirus spreads: Health officials in China's capital have disinfected more than 30,000 restaurants and sealed off several residential neighbourhoods as Beijing aims to contain a surge in cases.

German tracing app goes live: The warning app can tell users when they are near other people who have tested positive with coronavirus. But Germany has not made using the app mandatory, with many citizens skeptical over privacy concerns.

More than 52,000 dead in UK: At least 52,110 have died with Covid-19 in the country, according to UK statistics bodies. The number of weekly deaths does appear to be falling across the nation.

MLB players test positive: Several Major League Baseball players have contracted coronavirus according to a letter leaked to USA Today. The news has emerged as negotiations continue between players and the league on baseball's return.

7:52 a.m. ET, June 16, 2020

African countries are still waiting for a surge in Covid-19 cases. Some health experts question whether it will happen

From CNN's David McKenzie and Brent Swails

Health workers prepare to screen fellow health workers for COVID-19 at a hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, on April 15.
Health workers prepare to screen fellow health workers for COVID-19 at a hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, on April 15. Michele Spatari/AFP/Getty Images

On January 28, at around one in the morning, Dr. John Nkengasong's cellphone rang in Addis Ababa.

Nigerian officials told Nkengasong, the Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that a recently arrived Italian businessman had tested positive for Covid-19.

He later recovered. But the force of infection, mostly coming from Europe, seeded the virus in countries throughout the continent, say health officials.

As imported cases increased, and community transmission began, the World Health Organization began sounding the alarm in press conferences and statements about an unfolding crisis on the continent. They said Covid-19 patients could quickly overwhelm the weak health infrastructure.

Melinda Gates, in an interview with CNN, went even further in April -- predicting that there would be bodies on the streets.

CDC Africa and WHO officials say that the warnings were important. Very little was, and still is, known about Covid-19 and nations needed to urgently prepare. But nearly five months on, across Africa, those catastrophic scenarios just haven't happened.

Read more here.