July 16 coronavirus news

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4:15 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Experts say reopening schools safely will be hard, but that should not be a deterrent

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

Des Moines Public Schools custodian Cynthia Adams cleans a desk in a classroom at Brubaker Elementary School, Wednesday, July 8, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Des Moines Public Schools custodian Cynthia Adams cleans a desk in a classroom at Brubaker Elementary School, Wednesday, July 8, in Des Moines, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall/AP/FILE

Implementing necessary safety measures to reopen schools will be hard but necessary, a panel of public health experts said Thursday.

“We don't think that hard should necessarily be a deterrent, but certainly we acknowledge the resources that schools will need in order to do this, and this is where federal support is absolutely necessary,” said Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Nuzzo stressed the importance of physical spacing in the classroom, even potentially using outdoor classrooms for as long as weather will allow, noting that countries that are colder than the US have implemented this strategy. 

The senior scholar said promoting hygiene will be key – supplying students and staff with soap and hand sanitizer and encouraging them to use it often. She said students should be checked for symptoms daily, and schools should have extra masks on hand for students who do not bring their own.

Anita Cicero, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said creative approaches, such as using toys as physical distancing markers or making fun masks, could help younger children adhere to important safety measures. 

Grouping young children and those with underlying health conditions in “bubbles” to limit interaction upon their return to school, Cicero and Nuzzo suggested during the briefing, hosted by Johns Hopkins.

Nuzzo said that transportation may require some creative solutions such as carpooling within designated bubbles, using vans or implementing staggered start times.

4:14 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Georgia reports more than 3,400 new Covid cases and 13 deaths today

From CNN’s Dianne Gallagher and Jason Morris 

The Georgia Department of Public Health reports at least 3,441 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the state on Thursday.  

The Health Department also reports 13 new coronavirus deaths today, as well as at least 244 additional hospitalizations – a drop from the approximately 417 hospitalizations reported on Wednesday. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Georgia has reported a total of at least 131,275 confirmed Covid-19 cases and approximately 3,104 Covid-19-related deaths.

4:03 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Only 2 US states have reported no Covid-19 deaths in the past week 

From CNN’s Brandon Miller and Haley Brink

The only two states in the US that did not record a death in the past week are Vermont and Alaska, according to CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

Vermont has recorded 56 deaths attributed to coronavirus, the last of which was recorded on June 18. A majority of Vermont’s total deaths, 33, occurred in the month of April.

Alaska has recorded a total of 17 deaths, the last of which was recorded on July 7.

During the last seven days, the states with the most recorded deaths are California with 657 deaths and Florida with 632 deaths.

3:58 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Georgia governor avoids questions about order stopping local mask mandates

From CNN’s Dianne Gallagher and Jason Morris

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signs House Bill 521 at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, Thursday, July 16, in Marietta, Georgia.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signs House Bill 521 at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, Thursday, July 16, in Marietta, Georgia. Mike Stewart/AP

As he left a bill signing event, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp did not answer questions shouted to him about his new executive order extension that prevents local authorities from issuing mask mandates.

The governor’s office said Kemp would be talking about the executive order, as well as other Covid-19-related topics, at an 8 a.m. news conference tomorrow.

Kemp's press secretary Cody Hall did tell CNN this in a text:

"For months now, the Governor’s executive orders have prohibited local mandates that were less or more restrictive than the statewide order. The order signed yesterday only continues that standard. The Governor continues to strongly encourage the use of masks and hopes that local officials will begin enforcing the existing guidelines on social distancing, large gatherings, and business regulations that have been in place for months."

Some background: Kemp yesterday suspended all local government mask mandates despite the rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in his state.

Under the executive order the Republican governor extended the state's public emergency and said face coverings are "strongly encouraged," but not required. The executive order voids masks mandates imposed by some local governments as Covid-19 cases tick up in cities across the state, already claiming over 3,000 lives.

5:13 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

White House press secretary argues science is on the side of opening schools

From CNN's Sarah Westwood

Pool
Pool

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany reiterated that President Trump supports opening schools fully, without any kind of remote learning in the fall, and she argued “science should not stand in the way” of that goal.

“When he says open, he means open in in full, kids being able to attend each and every day at their school,” McEnany told reporters at the press briefing. “The science should not stand in the way of this.”

“The science is on our side here,” she added. 

McEnany cited a Journal of the American Medical Association pediatric study of 46 hospitals that she said showed the risk to children posed by Covid-19 is less than that posed by the seasonal flu.

“We encourage for localities and states to just simply follow the science, open our schools. It’s very damaging to our children,” she said. “There’s a lack of reporting of abuse, there’s mental depressions that are not addressed, suicidal ideations that are not address when students are not in school.”

Remember: Many experts worry about returning to classrooms not necessarily because of the risk to the students themselves, but because of the risk that children could worsen the spread of coronavirus by bringing it home to older relatives and because teachers and school employees would also be put at risk for serious illness.  

Despite Trump’s aggressive push for school reopenings, a number of the nation’s largest school districts have announced they will not return for in-person learning at the start of the school year in the fall.

Watch here:

3:34 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

White House says new Covid data reporting is about "getting more data out there, not less"

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The White House insists new rules for reporting Covid data from hospitals are about “getting more data out there, not less data,” made available to health experts and the public, after pushback from some researchers. 

The administration ordered hospitals to send data on coronavirus patients to the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington rather than to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, prompting some experts to say the move undermined the CDC and created confusion.  

“The intent is that we need to make sure there is daily data that is being given to Dr. [Deborah] Birx and others who are running point on a lot of our actions with remdesivir and identifying hot spots,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said at a briefing Thursday afternoon. 

McEnany said there are two methods of data collection.

“One is the national health care safety network, and this is a CDC system, and this is where hospitals voluntarily report their data, and about 81% of hospitals were report their data. So we don’t need 81% of hospitals reporting their data, we need 100% of data because it is critical that Dr. Birx and others receive the daily admissions, ICU use and PPE numbers, and when you’re only getting 81% of hospital data that means that means you’ve got 19% of hospitals that we’re unaware of their need,” McEnany said.

The second method, she said, is the “the teletracker database and this is an HHS system, and this was initially used for purposes of provider relieve funding, and we asked hospitals to tell us about their Covid admissions so we could identify possible hot spots and as it turns out, this data ended up being more complete, more up to date with information, and so ensuring that hospitals are reporting it to this system where we’re getting more complete data.” 

She said the information gathered “is completely open source data, available to the CDC.” 

“No one is taking access or data away from the CDC and that data is routinely published so that the American people are fully informed,” she told reporters. “The CDC database is the public data that’s been out there. It will continue to be public, it should be public.” 

“This is all about getting more data out there, not less data, and insuring that in particular that our doctors get that daily data,” McEnany claimed. 

Some background: CNN previously reported former CDC acting director Dr. Richard Besser on Wednesday said rerouting hospital data is a "step backwards" for the country's coronavirus response.

"It's another example of CDC being sidelined. Not only should the data be coming to CDC, but CDC should be talking to the public through the media every day," Besser told CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in an interview.

3:33 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Brazil nears 2 million Covid-19 cases

 

Cemetery workers in protective suits bury a victim of coronavirus at the Vila Formosa cemetery on Thursday, July 16, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Cemetery workers in protective suits bury a victim of coronavirus at the Vila Formosa cemetery on Thursday, July 16, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

As Brazil nears 2 million Covid-19 cases, and its death toll has surpassed 75,000, the country’s health ministry continues to be run by an active duty military man with no public health experience, appointed as interim minister two months ago.

Army General Eduardo Pazuello was installed after the country lost two previous health ministers in the space of one month. One was sacked, and the second one resigned. Both differed with Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro on his handling of the pandemic.

Some context: On May 16, the general’s first day in office, Brazil had roughly 230,000 Covid-19 cases and 15,633 deaths, in the two months since, those numbers have dramatically risen, with Brazil accounting for the world’s second highest number of cases, after the US.

Under Pazuello, there has been little central coordination from the health ministry on a country-wide strategy to combat the pandemic, with states and municipalities left to decide what measure to take to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Internal borders remained open, allowing the epidemic to move from the main cities with high infection rates, to smaller ones with fewer resources and health infrastructure to fight the virus on their own. Health safety measures, such as the use of masks, have been politicized.

A recent poll in Brazil conducted by the Vox Populi Institute, released on July 14, showed that 82% of Brazilians believe appointing Pazuello as interim minister of health was a bad decision by their president.

3:25 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Nearly 60% of Ohio will be required to wear masks starting tomorrow

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

The Ohio Channel
The Ohio Channel

As Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s mask mandate for all Red Alert Level 3 counties goes into effect Friday, nearly 60% of the state – 19 counties – will now be required to wear masks in public.

The governor said some of Ohio’s counties seemed to be understanding the seriousness of the spread of the virus in their communities.

“What’s we’re starting to see, for example in Hamilton County, some in Butler County, other counties, as they’re starting to get it and say ‘okay, we do have a problem, we don’t want to be Florida in three weeks, or four weeks,’” DeWine said.

When asked what he would do if cases continue to increase, DeWine said, “as governor of the state of Ohio, I will do what I have to do, to protect the people of Ohio.”

The latest numbers: The state today announced at least 1,290 new coronavirus cases and 115 new hospitalizations in the last 24 hours. The state also reports 28 new Covid-19-related deaths since yesterday – which is higher than the state’s 21-day average.

Note: These numbers were released by the state’s public health agency, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

3:18 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Colorado mandates masks in public indoor spaces

From CNN's Shawn Nottingham

KMGH
KMGH

Colorado will now require residents to wear masks when they are visiting public indoor spaces and not able to social distance, Gov. Jared Polis said at an afternoon news conference. 

The order takes effect at midnight today. Colorado now becomes the 39th state to require face coverings in public.