July 8 coronavirus news

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9:12 a.m. ET, July 8, 2020

Harvard and MIT sue Trump administration for possibly forcing international students to leave

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Wednesday sued the Trump administration over its guidance not allowing foreign students to take online-only courses this fall semester. 

Harvard announced earlier this week that all course instruction will be delivered online, including for students living on-campus. In a statement provided to CNN, the university said the guidance stands to affect approximately 5,000 international students.

“The order came down without notice—its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness. It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others,” Harvard President Larry Bacow said in a statement. “This comes at a time when the United States has been setting daily records for the number of new infections, with more than 300,000 new cases reported since July 1.”

MIT president L. Rafael Reif said in a statement that the measure "disrupts our international students’ lives and jeopardizes their academic and research pursuits."

"Our international students now have many questions – about their visas, their health, their families and their ability to continue working toward an MIT degree. Unspoken, but unmistakable, is one more question: Am I welcome? At MIT, the answer, unequivocally, is yes," Reif continued.

Some background: Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Monday that international students who are pursuing degrees in the United States will have to leave the country or risk deportation if their universities switch to online-only courses.

Visa requirements for students have always been strict and coming to the US to take online-only courses has been prohibited. ICE maintained that prohibition in its guidance, while providing some flexibility for hybrid models, meaning a mix of online and in-person classes.

In an FAQ published by the agency, the Department of Homeland Security reasoned that “all students scheduled to study at a US institution in the fall will be able to do so, though some will be required to study from abroad if their presence is not required for any in-person classes in the United States.”

The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts, seeks to block the directive, arguing it violates the Administrative Procedures Act.

8:31 a.m. ET, July 8, 2020

How Covid-19 is impacting the GOP's planned convention in Florida

From CNN's Fredreka Schouten, Dan Merica and Kate Sullivan

The surge in coronavirus cases in Florida is creating fresh headaches for Republicans who are scrambling to raise money and quickly organize a political convention in the state after President Donald Trump abandoned plans to accept his party's nomination in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Florida, the site of next month's scaled-down convention, is now one of the nation's hotspots for the virus, raising concerns about how many Republicans will travel to Jacksonville and risk transmission to witness Trump's acceptance speech inside the city's 15,000-seat VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

The quadrennial political conventions typically are splashy, made-for-TV affairs that require years of planning and tens of millions of dollars to stage.

But the pandemic has upended plans for both political parties. The Democratic National Convention Committee has scaled back its August convention considerably and advised state delegates not to plan to travel to the convention site in Milwaukee.

On the Republican side, three GOP senators -- Iowa's Chuck Grassley, Tennessee's Lamar Alexander and Maine's Susan Collins -- said this week that they would skip the events in Jacksonville. Grassley, who at 86 is the oldest Republican in the US Senate, specifically cited concerns about Covid-19.

Convention organizers announced Monday they would test Jacksonville attendees daily for the coronavirus but did not provide details about the testing protocols. The gathering is slated for August 24-27, with Trump likely to deliver his acceptance speech on the last day if organizers stick to the original convention schedule.

Read more here:

9:05 a.m. ET, July 8, 2020

Iran's coronavirus death toll surpass 12,000

From CNN’s Mostafa Salem

Hospital personnel take the bodies of two people said to have died from Covid-19 to a morgue in the Shahr-e Rey neighborhood in southern Tehran, Iran, on June 20.
Hospital personnel take the bodies of two people said to have died from Covid-19 to a morgue in the Shahr-e Rey neighborhood in southern Tehran, Iran, on June 20. Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto/AP

Iran recorded 153 new coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, pushing the total to more than 12,000, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on state television.

At least 2,691 new daily cases were also recorded, bringing the total to 248,379, she added during the news conference. 

Iranian daily death numbers continue to rise over the past month despite showing a slowdown in cases in May. On Tuesday, the health ministry recorded 200 fatalities, the highest since the pandemic hit the nation.

The increase in numbers forced Iran to reimpose some restrictions last Sunday, including mandating mask-wearing in certain public areas.

On Saturday, President Hassan Rouhani said some Iranians are hiding their coronavirus infections, the presidency's website said.

 "Unfortunately, we see that some consider being infected with the virus bad and hide it. If someone knows that they have been infected with coronavirus, they have religious and human duty to inform others about it,” Rouhani said according to the official Iranian presidency website.
8:18 a.m. ET, July 8, 2020

Iraq reports another record for daily Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Hamdi Alkhshali and Aqeel Najim

Iraq on Wednesday reported at least 2,741 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily tally recorded in the country since the pandemic began.

This brings the total number of reported Covid-19 cases in Iraq to 67,442 according to the health ministry.

The health ministry also reported 94 new coronavirus related deaths, bringing the death toll to at least 2,779 across the country.

 

8:20 a.m. ET, July 8, 2020

The US is nearing 3 million coronavirus cases. Here's what you need to know today.

It's Wednesday morning in the US, and the country has recorded more than 2,996,000 cases of coronavirus, according to the latest tally from Johns Hopkins University.

Here are the latest updates on the pandemic across the US:

  • Back to school: President Trump has urged schools to reopen despite widespread concerns about testing and safety logistics, and Florida has mandated that all schools must reopen in the fall even though the state has become a major coronavirus hotspot. But teachers across the Sunshine State said that decision could be deadly.
  • A warning from Fauci: Dr. Anthony Fauci urged Americans not to take comfort in the dropping death rate among coronavirus patients in the US even as Trump touts the trend as evidence of a successful response to the virus. "It's a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death," Fauci said.
  • Where cases are rising: At least 35 states are reporting an increase in coronavirus cases in the past week compared to the previous week. Just three states are seeing a decrease in cases. Here's a look at where case trends stand across the country:

8:04 a.m. ET, July 8, 2020

A Phoenix hotel houses homeless coronavirus patients. Here's what it's like inside

From CNN's Rebecca Grandahl and Theresa Waldrop

David Lindstrom is 58, homeless -- and has Covid-19.

"It's not a fun trip. It kinda makes you feel like you got ran over by a Mack Truck," Lindstrom said of having the virus. "Your body aches. Just to get out of bed, it's like an effort, to go to the bathroom."

But Lindstrom has a bed and a bathroom, and he's safely quarantined and cared for at a hotel in downtown Phoenix, thanks to a cooperation between Maricopa County and Circle the City, a non-profit health care provider for the homeless.

Around the country, cities and counties are grappling with how to deal with the spread of coronavirus among the homeless, an especially vulnerable population. They are often unable to protect themselves by the simplest of actions, such as hand-washing, health experts say, and they seldom have access to quality health care.

Circle the City has 136 rooms at the Phoenix Inn available for the program, which was approved by the City Council on May 6.

Lindstrom is one of more than 100 homeless people with Covid-19 who have benefited from the program so far, according to Michelle Smith, a registered nurse at the inn.

Once a homeless person tests positive for the virus, they can opt to be quarantined at the inn, where they have a private room with a queen bed, TV, telephone and a bathroom. If in need of fresh air, they can step out onto an open-air walkway.

A nurse checks in on the patients twice a day, according to Smith, and the inn is staffed through the night.

Read more here:

7:58 a.m. ET, July 8, 2020

Border community straddling Australian states cleaved in two by coronavirus lockdown

From CNN's Angus Watson and Nectar Gan in Albury

As Australia has shut the border between its two most populous states to contain the spread of the coronavirus, tens of thousands of people living close to the dividing line have found their community cleaved in two.

Located on each side of the Murray river that separates New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria, the twin cities of Albury and Wodonga, more commonly referred to as Albury-Wodonga, have long operated as one community and one economy.

Many of their 100,000 residents cross the border to travel to work and school every day. Businesses run on both sides of the river. The two cities even share the same hospital, located in Albury on the NSW side but covered by Victoria's health system.

But that border was sealed on Wednesday, as authorities scrambled to prevent a second wave of infections spreading across the country. Over the past few weeks, Victoria has struggled to contain a sudden reemergence of coronavirus in Melbourne, as case numbers have continued to rise.

Authorities blocked major roads between Victoria and NSW after midnight -- the first time in 100 years since the border was last closed during the Spanish flu pandemic.

People from Victoria are banned from entering NSW, but exemptions are made for some purposes and professions, including cross-border residents in settlements like Albury-Wodonga.

Online applications for cross-border permits started on Tuesday night, but the website crashed just 45 minutes after launching as 44,000 people applied, according to Australian national broadcaster ABC.

Read more here:

7:50 a.m. ET, July 8, 2020

US admirals in South China Sea: Everyone wears a mask

From CNN's Brad Lendon, Ivan Watson and Rebecca Wright

Two US Navy admirals in charge of a rare South China Sea exercise say "extraordinary" coronavirus measures taken by the service, including requiring all sailors to wear face masks, have left their aircraft carrier strike groups in a high state of readiness in one of the most tense maritime environments in the world.

The Navy's response to the pandemic comes after one of its Pacific-based carriers, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, was crippled for weeks earlier this year by an outbreak that infected hundreds of its crew.

"We've taken extraordinary measures to protect our sailors from Covid, but that said it remains a real threat and requires constant vigilance," Rear Adm. George Wikoff, commander of Carrier Strike Group 5, led by the USS Ronald Reagan, said Wednesday in a phone call about the South China Sea deployment.

"The entire team underway, everyone on board, is required to wear a mask," Wikoff said.

The Navy has also spaced out mealtimes, instituted social distancing and brought aboard specialists including microbiologists and extra health personnel, said Wikoff and Adm. James Kirk, commander of Carrier Strike Group 11, led by the USS Nimitz.

"Those measures have all been effective, and we are sailing Covid-free right now," Wikoff said.

Wikoff and Kirk spoke to CNN after leading their groups, totaling more than 12,000 sailors and aviators, in a dual-carrier deployment to South China Sea, the first time two of the US Navy's massive warships have exercised in the region in six years.

The deployment, which saw the two carriers and their escorts operate 24 hours a day while launching hundreds of aircraft sorties daily, comes as the US itself is struggling with a surge in Covid-19 cases and how to stem infection rates.

Read more here:

7:46 a.m. ET, July 8, 2020

Hospital in UK PM's constituency closed to emergencies due to Covid-19 outbreak

From CNN's Mick Krever and Sharon Braithwaite in London

A hospital in UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's west London parliamentary constituency has been closed to emergency admissions due to a coronavirus outbreak among staff.

The coronavirus outbreak at Hillingdon Hospital was declared on July 3, the Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said in a statement. As of Tuesday, “70 members of staff are now isolating, a number of whom have tested positive for Covid-19,” the statement said. 

“As a result, the Trust has taken the precautionary decision to close Hillingdon Hospital to emergency ambulances and emergency admissions. The Trust is managing the outbreak in line with Public Health England guidance.”