The latest on the coronavirus pandemic

By Jessie Yeung, Steve George, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 2:04 a.m. ET, July 18, 2020
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11:12 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Stimulus package negotiations are expected next week. Here's what one Trump adviser thinks will be in it.

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Larry Kudlow during a television interview outside the White House on July 17.
Larry Kudlow during a television interview outside the White House on July 17. Stefani Reynolds/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow took one quick question from reporters this morning after a pre-taped appearance on Fox News, and essentially echoed what he’s said before on provisions for the next stimulus bill. 

“There will be unemployment insurance. For some reason some people in the media have said we’re ending it, that’s just not true," he said of the next stimulus package.

"We’ll probably put a cap on federal and state unemployment, and make sure there are incentives to go back to work. We’ll probably have a reemployment benefit and the President is very keen, as we are, on the payroll tax holiday. It could be a deferral, it could be a tax rate cut, but it’ll incentivize going to work, take home more wages,” Kudlow added.

Negotiations are expected to begin in earnest next week when Congress returns. 

How next week will play out: A viscerally divided Congress (and White House) facing a roughly three-week deadline to reconcile diametrically opposed visions of what the economy needs to survive the resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Republicans are slated to release their plan and actual talks will, for the first time, kick into gear. All sides acknowledge the stakes are enormous. What nobody seems to agree on is how — and when — Congress and the White House will come together on an agreement.

11:07 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

New York City on track to begin phase 4 of reopening Monday, but there still wont be indoor dining

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

People sit in a white circle and watch others play volleyball in Domino Park in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn on July 16.
People sit in a white circle and watch others play volleyball in Domino Park in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn on July 16. Noam Galai/Getty Images

New York City is on track to enter phase four of reopening on Monday with specific modifications, including continuing to stall the restart of indoor dining, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Indoor dining will not resume in phase four as its considered “high risk," de Blasio said. 

Malls and museums will also be “still closed for now," he added.

Here's what will open in phase four: Low-risk outdoor entertainment activities, including things like botanical gardens and zoos, can reopen at a reduced capacity of 33%. 

Production of movies and TV shows can proceed, the mayor said, and sports can come back but without audiences.

He also announced the city is adding 40 more blocks for restaurants on open streets beginning this weekend. 

10:31 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

The battle over Atlanta's mask mandate is heating up. Here's how we got here.

From CNN’s Carma Hassan

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp prepares to sign House and Senate bills at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, Georgia, on July 16.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp prepares to sign House and Senate bills at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, Georgia, on July 16. Mike Stewart/AP

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who filed a lawsuit against the Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms over her city's mask mandate, said the city order "cannot be enforced."

"Mayor Bottoms’ mask mandate cannot be enforced, but her decision to shutter businesses and undermine economic growth is devastating. Atlanta businesses are hurting, violent crime is up, and families are rightfully worried,” the governor said.

"I refuse to sit back and watch as disastrous policies threaten the lives and livelihoods of our citizens. We will fight to stop reckless actions and put people over pandemic politics," he added.

Here's the backstory on the Kemp-Bottoms feud:

  • Earlier this month: In an executive order dated July 8, Bottoms required "all persons to wear a mask or a cloth face covering over their nose and mouth within the city of Atlanta."
  • Wednesday: Kemp issued an executive order that voids masks mandates imposed by some local governments.
  • Thursday: Bottoms' office said the “Mayor’s Order remains in effect, as science and data will continue to drive the City’s decisions. Masks save lives.”
  • Later on Thursday: Kemp announced the lawsuit against Bottoms over the city's mask mandate, claiming the measure violates his emergency orders. "This lawsuit is on behalf of the Atlanta business owners and their hardworking employees who are struggling to survive during these difficult times," Kemp tweeted. Bottoms quickly, tweeting "3104 Georgians have died and I and my family are amongst the 106k who have tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, I have been sued by @GovKemp for a mask mandate."
10:29 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Union for Miami-Dade's Jackson Health System employees demands hazard pay due to increased Covid-19 exposure

From CNN's Rosa Flores and Dan Shepherd

A union representing about 5,000 Jackson Health System employees in Miami-Dade is demanding hazard pay as Covid-19 hospitalizations continue to grow, according to Rene Sanchez, president of the union AFSCME Local 1363.

In a statement to CNN, Jackson Health System said it “simply cannot afford to provide hazard pay” to employees at this time.

The AFSCME Local 1363 represents licensed practical nurses, respiratory therapists, radiology techs, security workers and finance personnel, among others, according to Sanchez.

Sanchez said union members are facing increased exposure to Covid-19 as they see double and triple the amount of patients, increased workloads and decreased staffing. Hospital security specialists are working in new roles like screening patients as they enter the hospitals. 

“Our workers are being worked past their limits,” said Sanchez in a press release. “We lost lives from this pandemic and face the real risk of losing more before it is over.”

Jackson Health explained its financial situation in a statement: “As we shifted our operations to focus solely on providing the best care to hospitalized Covid patients and others who need emergency, lifesaving care, Jackson leadership made the prudent decision to stop elective procedures, which brings in the most revenue to Jackson. That, along with the high costs associated with overtime, supplies, and emergency staffing, have pushed our health system toward a dire financial crisis, yet no employees have been laid off, furloughed, or had their salaries reduced.” 

Sanchez says he went public with this pay issue because as the pandemic continues to surge he worries about the members of the AFSCME Local 1363. 

9:54 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Lagging test results are hampering US efforts to battle Covid-19

From CNN's Faith Karimi and Steve Almasy

States depend on testing data to make crucial decisions on reopenings and resources. But that data is lagging as testing sites get backed up.

Tests are being done in much larger numbers — a positive development. But the increase is also slowing down results, and officials want to reduce wait times for results.

"Even in the large commercial labs, and we follow this every single day, there may be an outlier that's 10 days or 12 days, we can't deny that that happens," said Adm. Brett Giroir of the US Department of Health and Human Services,

He wants test results back as fast as possible, but a three-day turnaround is "very reasonable," he said.

Commercial labs have said they are backed up, with results often taking as long as seven days to turn around. "I'm never going to say that I'm happy with any turnaround time, Giroir added.

Giroir says 700,000 to 800,000 people are being tested each day. That means it'll be a week before officials know how many of them are infected.

Test results provide important information for contract tracers trying to find people who might be infected. When testing results are delayed more than three days, not even perfect contact tracing can keep the spread of the virus from accelerating, researchers have warned.

Meanwhile, the US shattered another daily coronavirus record yesterday and health officials warned hospitalizations are getting out of control in some areas.

9:32 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Georgia's governor says mask mandates are "confusing and unenforceable"

From CNN’s Carma Hassan

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, Georgia, on July 16.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, Georgia, on July 16. Mike Stewart/AP

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said he called on local leaders last week, and is calling on them again today to enforce the current executive order instead of “issuing mandates that are confusing and unenforceable.”

“Now I know that many well-intentioned and well-informed Georgians want a mask mandate and while we all agree that wearing a mask is effective, I am confident that Georgians don’t need a mandate to do the right thing,” Kemp said. “I know that Georgians can rise to this challenge, and they will. And I know that Georgians will do their part to defeat this deadly virus." 

Kemp urged local leaders to use their bully pulpit and social platforms to build support for wearing masks.

Some context: Kemp announced Thursday he is suing Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms over the city's mask mandate, claiming the measure violates his emergency orders.

Earlier in the week, Kemp issued an executive order voiding masks mandates imposed by some local governments. The order also extended the state's public emergency and said face coverings are "strongly encouraged," but not required.

"This lawsuit is on behalf of the Atlanta business owners and their hardworking employees who are struggling to survive during these difficult times," Kemp tweeted of his lawsuit. "These men and women are doing their very best to put food on the table for their families while local elected officials shutter businesses and undermine economic growth."

The lawsuit marks a stunning escalation in the brewing feud between Kemp and Bottoms after the Atlanta mayor introduced her mandatory mask ordinance. Under her order, not wearing a mask within Atlanta's city limits was punishable by a fine and even up to six months in jail.

9:37 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

New York governor: "Too many leaders" across US are "still playing politics" with Covid-19

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a news conference in New York on July 1.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a news conference in New York on July 1. Byron Smith/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said “too many leaders” in the US are “still playing politics” with the virus – reiterating his message that Covid-19 responds to science and data “not political opinion.”

“We know the prescription: masks, social distancing, and hand washing,” he said today.  “That's how we bent the curve in New York and that's how we've kept our numbers so low as we see frightening spikes in the rest of the country.”

The latest numbers in the state: There were 10 deaths reported across New York state Thursday, including two in Queens, bringing the state death toll to at least 25,024, the governor's office said in a release. 

New York state added 776 Covid-19 cases, marking a 0.99% positivity rate across the entire state, Cuomo said. The state has reported a total of at least 405,551 confirmed cases.

Patient hospitalizations are down to 765, the lowest since March 18. 

New York City reported a 1% positivity in testing for Thursday. 

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

9:22 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Main floor of Florida's emergency operations center closed after workers contract Covid-19

From CNN's Rosa Flores and Melissa Alonso

The main floor of Florida's Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Tallahassee has been emptied out for cleaning and is closed until Monday after 12 workers tested positive for Covid-19, Jason Mahon, Florida Division of Emergency Management communications director, tells CNN.

Over the past two and a half weeks, 12 people have tested positive, including four positive results yesterday, Mahon said. Employees have been tested twice a week for several weeks, according to Mahon. 

The EOC has two buildings, the main EOC and another building. The first floor of the main building has been closed for cleaning, Mahon said.

People in other parts of the building can enter and work in their offices, but they must isolate in their offices, while other people are working from home, according to Mahon.

A total of 200 people have been working in the two buildings which houses several agencies, Mahon said. 

The Covid-19 response has not slowed down, Mahon says.

10:39 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

White House task force report says these 18 states in coronavirus "red zone" should roll back reopening

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

People stand in line to enter a restaurant in Miami Beach, Florida, on June 26.
People stand in line to enter a restaurant in Miami Beach, Florida, on June 26. Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

An unpublished document prepared for the White House coronavirus task force and obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit newsroom, recommends that 18 states in the coronavirus “red zone” for cases should roll back reopening measures amid surging cases.

The “red zone” is defined in the 359-page report as “those core-based statistical areas (CBSAs) and counties that during the last week reported both new cases above 100 per 100,000 population, and a diagnostic test positivity result above 10%.”

The following states are in the red zone for cases:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • Nevada
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah

The report also says the following 11 states are in the red zone for test positivity: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, Washington. The 11 states in the red zone for test positivity are also in the red zone for cases, with the exception of Washington state.

The report outlines measures counties in the red zone should take. It encourages residents to “wear a mask at all times outside the home and maintain physical distance.” And it recommends that public officials “close bars and gyms” and “limit social gatherings to 10 people or fewer, which would mean rolling back reopening provisions in these places.

Remember: The report comes despite President Trump’s insistence that states reopen and a push to send the nation’s children back to school, even as cases increase.

“Now we're open, and we want to stay open and we will stay open. We're not closing. We'll put out the fires as they come out,” Trump said at a White House event earlier this month.

Devin O’Malley, spokesperson for Vice President Mike Pence and the task force, didn’t dispute the document’s authenticity, and said the report showed “encouraging signs” amid the pandemic.

“When the Vice President held a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at HHS a few weeks ago, he reported that 16 states met the criteria for rising cases and rising positivity rate. As it stands in that report, there are only 10 states that fit that criteria. This is just one data point of many encouraging signs that we are seeing across the country as we continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic,” O’Malley said in a statement.

Dr. Deborah Birx also said earlier this month that people living in states with coronavirus surges should return to the White House's original "phase one" recommendations on gatherings.