July 2 coronavirus news

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2:10 p.m. ET, July 2, 2020

US immigration agency braces for mass furloughs in August as pandemic pauses services

From CNN's Geneva Sands and Priscilla Alvarez 

The federal agency responsible for granting citizenship, providing immigration benefits, and processing visa applications is bracing to furlough thousands of employees in August — a move that could grind the US immigration system to a halt. 

US Citizenship and Immigration Services, a fee-funded agency, says it’s at a loss for money after having to close offices and put services on pause during the pandemic.

Over recent weeks, the agency has been preparing to furlough more than half of its workforce unless Congress provides additional funding. Notices went out to staff this week that can potentially be furloughed, according to an agency spokesperson. 

USCIS has been at the center of some of the Trump administration’s most significant immigration policies, including a litany of regulations intended to curb asylum in the United States.

The possible furlough of 13,400 of the agency’s nearly 20,000 employees risks disrupting USCIS operations.

“If you were to take a straight two-third cut, that’s going to slow everything to a crawl,” said Ur Jaddou, director of DHS Watch and former USCIS chief counsel. 

Michael Knowles, president of the American Federation of Government Employees local union that represents Washington, DC area employees, similarly expressed concerns over what the furloughs might mean for the agency and those who depend on its services. 

“It’s not in our national interest to let the immigration service fail. You need a functioning immigration service,” Knowles said. “The damage would be long lasting.”

How Congress is reacting: While USCIS is sounding the alarm over lack of funding, the agency has not submitted a formal funding request to Congress. 

“The Trump White House is responsible for requesting supplemental funding, but all they have sent Congress is a one-page letter that provides virtually no information on the shortfall or proposed remedies,” said Evan Hollander, communications director for the House Appropriations Committee. 

“Despite this egregious lack of communication, House Democrats are closely tracking USCIS’ financial difficulties and are prepared to discuss solutions as part of negotiations on the next phase of coronavirus response legislation,” he added.

A congressional aide told CNN that Democratic staff sent USCIS a proposal two weeks ago that lays out a plan to pay back the funds that might be appropriated, but haven’t heard back from the agency.

Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget in late June, urging action from the administration.

Leahy said he spoke with USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow who informally requested $1.2 billion in emergency funding to get USCIS through the end of the calendar year. But no formal request has come through. 

2:58 p.m. ET, July 2, 2020

Herman Cain did not meet with Trump at Tulsa rally, campaign says

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond

President Donald Trump arrives on stage to speak at a campaign rally at the BOK Center, Saturday, June 20, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
President Donald Trump arrives on stage to speak at a campaign rally at the BOK Center, Saturday, June 20, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Evan Vucci/AP/"FILE

Former 2012 Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain did not meet with President Trump at the Tulsa rally on June 20, Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh told CNN.

Cain tested positive for Covid-19 on June 29 and was hospitalized on July 1 after developing symptoms serious enough to be hospitalized, according to a statement posted on Twitter. He spent the night in an Atlanta-area hospital and is "awake and alert," according to the statement.  

“Contact tracing was conducted after the Tulsa rally but we do not comment regarding the medical information of individuals. Regardless, Mr. Cain did not meet with the President," Murtaugh said.

Cain, as a co-chair of Black Voices for Trump, was one of the surrogates at Trump's rally in Oklahoma.

Hear more:

1:59 p.m. ET, July 2, 2020

Indianapolis residents required to wear face masks in public

From CNN's Sheena Jones

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett issued a public health order requiring all residents to wear face coverings in public spaces, according to a statement from his office.

The mandate requires residents to wear face masks indoors and outdoors when in public spaces, according to the statement.

“This isn’t complicated. It’s a piece of cloth that could save your life and the lives of those around you. It is the right thing to do,” Hogsett said.

The order will go into effect July 9.

4:10 p.m. ET, July 2, 2020

New form of coronavirus spreads faster, but doesn't make people sicker, new study says

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

A global study has found clear evidence that a new form of the coronavirus has spread from Europe to the US. The new mutation makes the virus more infectious but does not seem to make people any sicker, an international team of researchers reported Thursday.

The mutation affects the spike protein — the structure the virus uses to get into the cells it infects. Now the researchers are checking to see if this affects whether the virus can be controlled by a vaccine. Current vaccines being tested mostly target the spike protein.

The study, published in the journal Cell, confirms earlier work suggesting the mutation had made the new variant of virus more common. The researchers call the new mutation G614, and they show that it has almost completely replaced the first version to spread in Europe and the US, one called D614. 

“Our global tracking data show that the G614 variant in Spike has spread faster than D614,” theoretical biologist Bette Korber of Los Alamos National Laboratory and colleagues wrote in their report. “We interpret this to mean that the virus is likely to be more infectious,” they add. “Interestingly, we did not find evidence of G614 impact on disease severity.”

What this means: This could be good news, said Lawrence Young, a professor of medical oncology at the UK’s University of Warwick, who was not involved in the study. “The current work suggests that while the G614 variant may be more infectious, it is not more pathogenic. There is a hope that as SARS-CoV-2 infection spreads, the virus might become less pathogenic,” he said in a statement.

About the study: The team tested samples taken from patients across Europe and the US and sequenced the genomes. They compared these genome sequences to what’s been shared publicly. Comparing these sequences helped them draw a map of the spread of the two forms. 

“Through March 1, 2020 the G614 variant was rare outside of Europe, but the end of March it had increased in frequency worldwide,” they wrote.

Even when the D614 form had caused widespread epidemics, in places such as Wales and Nottingham in England, as well as in Washington state, G614 took over once it appeared, they found. 

“The increase in G614 frequency often continues well after stay-at-home orders are in place and past the subsequent two-week incubation period,” they added.

The new version seems to multiply faster in the upper respiratory tract — the nose, sinuses and throat – which would explain why it passes around more easily, the researchers said. But tests on 1,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients showed those infected with the new version did not fare any worse than those who caught the original strain.

Other mutations often go along with the G614 mutation, but it’s not clear what effect they have. “The earliest sequence we detected that carried all 4 mutations was sampled in Italy on Feb. 20,” they wrote. “Within days, this haplotype was sampled in many countries in Europe. 

The G614 mutation can be neutralized by convalescent serum – the blood product taken from people who have recovered from a coronavirus infection, the researchers said. 

“But it will be important to determine whether the D614 and G614 forms of SARS-CoV-2 are differentially sensitive to neutralization by vaccine-elicited antibodies or by antibodies produced in response to infection with either form of the virus,” they added.

More work is needed, of course, to solidify the findings and to see what the changes mean for the epidemic and for patients, the researchers said. 

Hear more:

1:51 p.m. ET, July 2, 2020

At least 128,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US

From CNN's Amanda Watts and Renee Rigdon

There are at least 2,711,603 cases of coronavirus in the US, and at least 128,385 people have died from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally of cases.

On Thursday, Johns Hopkins reported 25,345 new cases and 323 reported deaths. 

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases. 

The US set a record number yesterday of new coronavirus cases in a single day, with more than 50,000 new infections reported.

At least 37 states are seeing an increase in new cases compared to the previous week, with 10 of those states seeing a 50% or more increase in cases, according to John Hopkins University data.

Here's a look at how new cases have continued to rise since the pandemic began:

1:44 p.m. ET, July 2, 2020

Miami police will fine those who don't wear masks in public

From CNN’s Hira Humayun

Miami Police Department
Miami Police Department

Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina announced today that the police will be issuing fines to those who do not wear masks in public, as part of the police’s enforcement of city and county orders and restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“That means we’ll be closing businesses that do not comply with the orders,” Colina said at a news conference on Thursday, adding, “That means that we will be issuing first a written warning then subsequently be issuing fines to people who do not wear masks while in public spaces.”

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez expanded the mandatory mask order in the county yesterday, according to a statement from his office. The order require masks in all indoor and outdoor public spaces.   

The Miami police chief also said 31 officers and six civilian employees have tested positive for Covid-19, and 115 people are quarantined due to the virus. Many of the officers who are sick were part of protest response teams, he added, saying, “that’s not acceptable.”

2:02 p.m. ET, July 2, 2020

Herman Cain hospitalized with coronavirus after attending Trump rally

From CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi and Jeremy Diamond

Former 2012 Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has been diagnosed and hospitalized Wednesday with Covid-19, according to his employer Newsmax and an official statement posted on Cain's Twitter feed. 

Cain, as a co-chair of Black Voices for Trump, was one of the surrogates at President Trump's June 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

"We are sorry to announce that Herman Cain has tested positive for COVID-19, and is currently receiving treatment in an Atlanta-area hospital," the tweet from Cain's account reads.

Cain tested positive for Covid-19 on June 29 and was hospitalized on July 1 after developing symptoms serious enough to be hospitalized, according to the statement posted on Twitter. 

He spent the night in an Atlanta-area hospital and is "awake and alert," according to the statement.  

Paris Dennard, pictured smiling right behind Cain in a picture on Cain's Twitter page from Trump's Tulsa rally, told CNN he has not been informed about Cain's positive diagnosis nor his hospitalization.

"No, I have not been informed," said Dennard, who is an adviser for Black media affairs at the Republican National Committee. "I have not seen the reports about Herman Cain."

Dennard said he himself has not been tested for coronavirus since the Tulsa rally because he has "exhibited zero symptoms" and is regularly wearing a face covering.

Some more context: At least eight Trump advance team staffers who attended the Tulsa rally tested positive for coronavirus.

After interacting with several colleagues who later tested positive, all of Trump's campaign staffers who attended his Tulsa rally quarantined the following week, CNN previously reported.

CNN has reached out to the Trump campaign for comment.

Cain is a contributor for Newsmax, a conservative media outlet. According to the outlet, Cain is doing well and is not on a ventilator.

CNN's DJ Judd contributed reporting

1:36 p.m. ET, July 2, 2020

German chancellor says Europe is facing "the most difficult situation in its history"

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

Christian Marquardt/Pool/Getty Images
Christian Marquardt/Pool/Getty Images

Europe is facing "the most difficult situation in its history'' due to the coronavirus crisis, with the pandemic testing the continent's ability to "stick together," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a joint video-press conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Speaking from Berlin on Thursday, as Germany resumed the Presidency of the European Union Council for the next six months, Merkel warned that the pandemic was "far from over" and that "we see every day that the virus is not gone."

Von der Leyen, speaking from Brussels, said that ''the launch of the German presidency came "at a crucial time,'' adding that ''the next six months will determine the future of Europe."

She called on EU member states to reach quick agreement on the 750 billion euro ($827 billion) recovery fund to counter the economic consequences caused by the coronavirus crisis, saying that the EU was "under extreme time pressure" and that "every day counts.''

More on this: The alliance will discuss the financial rescue plan at an extraordinary summit on July 17 and 18. However, the volume, financing and type of aid are still being disputed among the 27 member states. In addition to the coronavirus crisis, the summit will also deal with topics such as climate protection, digitalization and migration.

1:26 p.m. ET, July 2, 2020

US surgeon general says masks can be "an instrument of freedom"

From CNN’s Maria Cartaya

Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, U.S. Surgeon General, takes off a protective mask while speaking during a 'Wear A Mask' tour stop in Dalton, Georgia, on Thursday, July 2.
Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, U.S. Surgeon General, takes off a protective mask while speaking during a 'Wear A Mask' tour stop in Dalton, Georgia, on Thursday, July 2. Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Traveling with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on the "Wear a Mask" fly-around tour of the state ahead of the holiday weekend, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said a mask is “an instrument of freedom if we all use it to slow the spread of Covid-19.” 

“The fact is most people actually agree with wearing a mask, and if you look at surveys most people are doing it when they go out in public, but if you turned on the news you’d think nobody was wearing a face covering,” said Adams while speaking in Augusta, Georgia.  

“Right now the best advice that we have based on what we know about asymptomatic spread is that everyone in public should be wearing a mask or a face covering to protect those around you,” he said. 

Adams also spoke about the importance of vaccinations. “Vaccine hesitancy is a real concern in our country,” he said. 

“We need all of you to help people understand vaccines are safe and effective, and we need you to help engage communities where that hesitancy exists so that when we do get a safe and effective Covid vaccine we actually can get it to the people that need it the most,” Adams added.