July 7 coronavirus news

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4:05 p.m. ET, July 7, 2020

US Health Department is launching testing sites in Covid-19 hotspots around the US

From CNN's Curt Devine

In response to surges in coronavirus cases, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday the launch of new testing sites in three hotspots — Jacksonville, Florida; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Edinburg, Texas. The sites will offer 5,000 tests per city each day, according to an HHS press release

On a call with reporters Tuesday, US Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir acknowledged that wait times for test results at commercial labs are generally increasing, though he said the US is now doing an “unprecedented” level of tests and is averaging more than 600,000 per day.

Three large testing labs have reported increased wait times for test results.

Giroir said test turnaround times in Montana and the District of Columbia are averaging four to five days, whereas other states have shorter average waits. 

“We did anticipate that the lab capacity would at some point in time come close to reaching a max. I’m not saying it’s at a max now, but we are certainly pushing the frontiers,” said Giroir, who emphasized that while testing is an essential component of the fight against the virus, it’s not the most important. 

“The most critical factor is personal discipline. It’s the physical distancing, wear a mask, avoid crowds,” Giroir said.  

Giroir said greater availability of rapid “point of care” tests in comings months should lower the burden on some laboratories. He said he expects that by August or September, the point-of-care test market will grow to 10 to 20 million tests per month, though he said such tests are slightly less sensitive than lab-based tests. 

3:58 p.m. ET, July 7, 2020

Arkansas reports increase in hospitalizations due to Covid-19

From CNN’s Janine Mack

Arkansas saw the largest jump in hospitalizations for a single day with 32 people hospitalized, bringing the statewide total to 369, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during a news conference Tuesday. 

The state reported at least 24,512 cases of coronavirus and at least 301 deaths, according to Hutchinson. Additionally, the state reported at least 259 new cases of Covid-19 and nine deaths over the last 24 hours.

“We've got to be able to reduce our hospitalizations,” Hutchinson said. “You do that by self-discipline, following the guidelines and supporting each other as we go through this.”

Hutchinson also said new unemployment claims are trending downward.

“We've dispersed about $330 million dollars as a state so we are seeing those funds move, and hopefully that's getting into the pockets of those who needed it, so desperately,” said Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston.

Preston added that Arkansas is seeing an uptick in unemployment identify fraud, with 14,000 accounts flagged within the pandemic unemployment cases, and another 6,000 in regular unemployment fraud. 

He added that they are investigating these unemployment fraud cases.

4:48 p.m. ET, July 7, 2020

White House pandemic coordinator surprised that coronavirus hit wealthy countries so hard  

From CNN’s Andrea Kane

White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx attends a "National Dialogue on Safely Reopening America's Schools," event at the White House on July 7 in Washington, DC.
White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx attends a "National Dialogue on Safely Reopening America's Schools," event at the White House on July 7 in Washington, DC. Alex Brandon/AP

White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said Tuesday that several aspects of the coronavirus pandemic remain surprising and unusual. 

“I think what surprised all of us in the developed world is how much of an impact this virus, and this respiratory pandemic, is having disproportionately on high income and upper-middle income countries,” Birx said at an online event put on by the Atlantic Council to discuss the shaping the post-Covid world. 

“Having worked globally for my most of my adult life, to have a situation where we always were worried about resource-limited settings and fragile health systems, that this is a virus with the highest mortality in high income and upper-middle income countries –– that was unusual and it remains unusual,” she said.  

Birx also said no one anticipated the community spread in the 18- to 35-year-old age group. 

“I think that this is an age group that was so good and so disciplined through March and April, but when they saw people out and about on social media, they all went out and about. So, we right now have a really significant cases in people under 45," she said.

4:08 p.m. ET, July 7, 2020

UN Foundation president calls US withdrawal from WHO "unequivocally dangerous"

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

A World Health Organization sign is seen outside of their headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in April.
A World Health Organization sign is seen outside of their headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in April. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

The head of the United Nations Foundation is calling the Trump administration's withdrawal from the World Health Organization a "short-sighted, unnecessary, and unequivocally dangerous" move.

The Trump administration notified Congress on Tuesday that it is formally withdrawing the United States from WHO amid the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump initially announced his intention to withdraw from WHO in May and now it appears that decision is moving forward.

"The Administration’s move to formally withdraw from WHO amid the greatest public health crisis that Americans and the world have faced in a century is short-sighted, unnecessary, and unequivocally dangerous. WHO is the only body capable of leading and coordinating the global response to COVID-19. Terminating the U.S. relationship would undermine the global effort to beat this virus – putting all of us at risk," UN Foundation President and CEO Elizabeth Cousens said in a written statement on Tuesday.

"The U.S. already has more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than any country in the world, and as cases continue to surge in hotspots at home and abroad it’s painfully clear that this pandemic is far from over," the statement added.

Cousens said that WHO was created with US leadership nearly 75 years ago.

"As the world faces the global emergency of COVID-19, we need to strengthen, not weaken, the bonds of international cooperation and solidarity," Cousens said in the statement. "Now, more than ever before, the world needs to unite with common purpose and work shoulder to shoulder to emerge from these challenging times stronger and more united than ever before. This is not a time to retreat, it’s a time for leadership."

3:41 p.m. ET, July 7, 2020

Chile records more than 300,000 total Covid-19 cases 

From CNN's Tatiana Arias, Tim Lister and Cristopher Ulloa

Nurses transfer a coronavirus patient to the Critical Patients Unit, at Barros Luco Hospital on June 24 in Santiago, Chile.
Nurses transfer a coronavirus patient to the Critical Patients Unit, at Barros Luco Hospital on June 24 in Santiago, Chile. Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images

Chile has surpassed 300,000 recorded cases of Covid-19, according to data released by health authorities on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Health reported 2,462 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the country's total number of cases to 301,019.

Tuesday's increase of daily new cases represents 0.82%, the lowest rate of increase on daily new cases since early May, according to CNN's tally. 

Chile’s death toll due to the virus stands at 6,434, with 50 new deaths, according to the same data. 

Tuesday's numbers represent a continuous trend of "hopeful figures" and a positive improvement “over the last 23 days," Chile's Minister of Health Enrique Paris said.

With the positive data, Chile is now considering its reopening strategies, Paris added. 

"Work is being done and different experts will be taken into consideration to work on a lockdown-easing strategy," Paris explained.

Chile's increase in the total number of cases is approximately 25% lower in the last week than the previous week.

3:58 p.m. ET, July 7, 2020

Trump says he will "put pressure on governors" to reopen schools

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal 

President Donald Trump attends an event with students, teachers and administrators about how to safely re-open schools at the White House on July 7 in Washington, DC.
President Donald Trump attends an event with students, teachers and administrators about how to safely re-open schools at the White House on July 7 in Washington, DC. Alex Brandon

President Trump said Tuesday he will “put pressure on governors” to reopen schools in the fall. 

“We hope that most schools are going to be open,” Trump said at a White House event on reopening schools safely.

“We don’t want people to make political statements or do it for political reasons. They think it’s going to be good for them politically, so they keep the schools closed,” he said. “No way.”

“We’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools, to get them open,” he continued. “And it’s very important. It’s very important for our country, it’s very important for the well being of the student and the parents. So we’re going to be putting a lot of pressure on open your schools in the fall.” 
3:45 p.m. ET, July 7, 2020

South Korean nightclubs were source of at least 246 cases of Covid-19, research finds

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Pedestrians walk through in the nightlife district of Itaewon on May 12 in Seoul, South Korea.
Pedestrians walk through in the nightlife district of Itaewon on May 12 in Seoul, South Korea. Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images

A decision to reopen nightclubs in an entertainment district of Seoul led to an outbreak of at least 246 cases of coronavirus in South Korea in May, researchers found.

Officials decided to open clubs in the Itaewon district for the Golden Week holiday, which runs from April 30 to May 5, because the pandemic had started to plateau there.

But starting May 6, officials started noticing cases among people who had been to the clubs. The clubs were closed again and the Seoul Municipal Government began testing people, the research team reported in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Using cell phone location data, credit card records and nightclub visitor lists, the researchers in Seoul identified 5,517 people for screening. They monitored 1,257 of those people and an additional 57,375 people who had spent 30 minutes or more in the vicinity of the clubs were encouraged to be tested.

The government worried there could be problems testing. As the media reported that the venues at the epicenter of the outbreak were gay nightclubs, rumors began that the outbreak started among gay men. Gay South Korean men often experience prejudice and stigmatization, and can be unwilling to reveal their sexual identity, the researchers said. 

Because of this, the Seoul Metropolitan Government consulted with sexual-minority groups to discuss ways to encourage testing. Their solution was anonymous testing, with the only information required from patients being their cell phone numbers. 

By May 25, the team identified at least 246 confirmed nightclub-associated cases. They found 39% of the cases were in people who had visited the clubs themselves, and the rest were in contacts of those people. Cases were found in Seoul and further out into the community and country. 

“Despite the low incidence in the postpeak period of the pandemic, superspreading related to visiting nightclubs in Seoul has the potential to spark a resurgence of cases in South Korea,” the researchers wrote.
3:35 p.m. ET, July 7, 2020

National Education Association criticizes Trump's call to reopen schools

From CNN's Nick Valencia

President Donald Trump speaks during an event with students, teachers and administrators about how to safely re-open schools in the East Room at the White House July 7 in Washington, DC.
President Donald Trump speaks during an event with students, teachers and administrators about how to safely re-open schools in the East Room at the White House July 7 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Ahead of today’s roundtable discussion at the White House, the largest teachers union in the United States issued a statement sharply criticizing President Trump’s call to reopen school buildings.

In a statement, Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association, said, “the reality is no one should listen to Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos when it comes to what is best for students.”

“Trump has not once proven credible, compassionate or thoughtful when it comes to this pandemic. He ignored our intelligence agencies warning him of the pandemic. He blatantly ignores doctors and nurses on how to tackle the virus. He ignores local leaders about reopening the economy safely,” the statement added. 

NEA’s president added Trump and DeVos have “zero credibility for how to best support students," adding "America must listen to the health experts on when to reopen schools and to educators on how to return to in-person instruction.”

3:21 p.m. ET, July 7, 2020

Ohio governor advises people not to travel to Covid-19 "hot spots"

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

Gov. Mike DeWine advised Ohioans it's “probably not the best time to go to some of these hot spots."

"We have spread Ohio, we’re not denying that, we have a serious situation in Ohio," he said on Tuesday.

Asked about whether travel from other states, such as Florida, is affecting the spread, the governor said it was hard to determine exactly what impact it has had. 

“But there are some other states that are red hot and you might... want to think twice about going to those states," DeWine said.

He said ultimately depends on what people do on those trips, the situation they are in and whether travel has had impact.

Some background: DeWine announced the Department of Health will be implementing a mask mandate to seven counties, starting Wednesday.

“We feel have a huge, imminent crisis,” he said, adding the mask order is “the most pinpointed thing we can do.”

“If 75% or 80% of people in the state of Ohio would wear a mask when they are out, we would dramatically kick this virus in the stomach,” he added.