July 20 coronavirus news

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12:25 a.m. ET, July 21, 2020

Covid-19 test results could take as long as two weeks

From CNN's Curt Devine

A medical worker wearing PPE administers a nasal swab test at a free coronavirus testing location outside Washington Square Park in New York on July 18.
A medical worker wearing PPE administers a nasal swab test at a free coronavirus testing location outside Washington Square Park in New York on July 18. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

While the surge in coronavirus cases in the United States has amplified the need for timely testing, diagnostic companies continue to grapple with turnaround times of multiple days or more for coronavirus test results. 

Some labs have attributed the longer waits to extreme demand and strain on testing supply chains. There are now more than 3.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the US, with tens of thousands of new infections every day.

Quest Diagnostics said in a statement Monday that average turnaround time has increased to seven days or more for the general population, and that a “small subset of patients” may experience wait times of up to two weeks.

Prioritized patients, such as symptomatic healthcare workers and those who are hospitalized, get results in two days on average, the company said. Quest says that’s longer than the one-day average wait time priority patients had a week ago. 

On Saturday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized Quest to use its Covid-19 test with pooled specimens, where samples from multiple patients are tested together, which the company said should help increase capacity.

But Quest also said the biggest factors they face now are the limits of the complex machines that perform the tests, as well as limited supply of reagents, the chemicals used to perform the tests.  

US Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir said on CNN’s “New Day” Monday the average turnaround time for tests in most states is longer than three days, though in 18 states the average is two to three days.  

“That is not optimum. We want to reduce that. It will be reduced,” said Giroir, who added that supply of reagents is “tight.”
12:23 a.m. ET, July 21, 2020

European Union leaders have reached an agreement on a $858 billion coronavirus stimulus package

From CNN's James Frater in Brussels

After five days of fraught discussions, the leaders of the European Union have agreed on a landmark 750 million euro ($858 billion) deal to fund the bloc’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

Announcing the agreement on social media, European Council President Charles Michel simply said, “Deal!”

 

French President Emmanuel Macron hailed it as a “historic day for Europe.”

The package, which will be used to assist countries hit hardest by the virus, comes alongside an agreement on the EU’s overall budget -- an unprecedented 1.82 trillion euros ($2.1 trillion).

In response to the Brussels summit, Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said that the European Union had "never before decided to invest so ambitiously in the future."

12:00 a.m. ET, July 21, 2020

Republican governor: There are “growing indications” Covid-19 funding “is no longer a priority” for White House

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at a news conference on Wednesday, July 15, in Annapolis.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at a news conference on Wednesday, July 15, in Annapolis. Brian Witte/AP

In a series of tweets published on Monday night, the Republican governor of Maryland questioned the Trump administration's commitment to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Governor Larry Hogan said on his official Twitter that the US was at a "critical juncture" in the epidemic.

“The President, vice president, and Secretary Mnuchin have all previously committed to support this funding, but there are growing indications that it is no longer a priority. It is crunch time now, and we are ready to work with leaders in both parties to get this done.”

Hogan called for the Trump administration to extend the public health emergency, which expires on Saturday.

“Lastly, and most importantly, we continue to stress the need for Congress to pass a coronavirus relief package that provides the funding desperately needed by state and local governments. Millions of state and local government jobs depend on this aid," Hogan said.
9:38 p.m. ET, July 20, 2020

Greta Thunberg to donate 100,000 euros to fight Covid-19 in the Amazon

From journalist Rodrigo Pedroso in Sao Paulo and CNN’s Iain Smith in Atlanta

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg takes part in a "Youth Strike 4 Climate" protest march on March 6 in Brussels.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg takes part in a "Youth Strike 4 Climate" protest march on March 6 in Brussels. John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

Climate activist Greta Thunberg announced on Twitter on Monday that she would donate 100,000 euros ($114,000) to combat the spread of Covid-19 in the Brazilian Amazon.

The announcement came after the teenager was awarded the Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity, which has a prize amount of 1 million euros ($1.14 million.)  

The donation -- which will come from the prize money -- will be made through the activist's Thunberg Foundation to SOS Amazonia, which is led by Fridays for Future Brazil, an organization that is helping to fight the coronavirus pandemic in indigenous territories. 

Another 100,000 euros will be given to the Stop Ecocide Foundation to “support their work to make ecocide an international crime,” she said in the announcement. 

In a video posted on her Twitter account, the Swedish activist said she would donate the full prize money but has not yet provided information on the other recipients.

“The Prize money, which is one million euros, that is more money than I can even begin to imagine, but all the prize money will be donated through my Foundation to different organizations and projects who are working to help people on the front lines, affected by the climate crisis and ecological crisis, especially in the Global South," Thunberg said.
"Also to help organizations and projects who are fighting for a sustainable world and who are fighting to defend nature and the natural world."
8:04 p.m. ET, July 20, 2020

Colombia surpasses 200,000 coronavirus cases

From CNN’s Stefano Pozzebon and Taylor Barnes

Health workers carry out Covid-19 coronavirus tests in Bogota, on July 8.
Health workers carry out Covid-19 coronavirus tests in Bogota, on July 8. Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images

Colombia reported 6,727 new coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the country’s total to 204,005, its health ministry said. 

The ministry also reported 193 new deaths from the virus, raising the nationwide tally to 6,929.

Despite the growing number of coronavirus cases, Colombian President Ivan Duque has so far resisted calls to reimpose strict lockdown measures that were first lifted at the beginning of June. 

Colombia's capital Bogota and other main cities are instead following a localized approach by closing only the most affected neighborhoods. 

7:20 p.m. ET, July 20, 2020

Southwestern Athletic Conference postpones fall sports

From CNN's Jill Martin

The Southwestern Athletic Conference announced Monday the postponement of all scheduled fall sports along with SWAC championships due to continuing concerns related to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a news release.

The fall sports impacted are men’s and women’s cross country, football, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball.

The conference has started the process of formalizing plans to conduct a schedule for the fall sports during the 2021 spring semester.

For football, the plan includes a seven-game conference schedule beginning with an eight-week training period in January 2021. Each member institution will play a total of six conference games (four divisional/two non-divisional) with the option to play one non-conference game. 

Additional details on scheduling women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s cross country along with the SWAC football championship game will be released at a later date. 

Multiple NCAA conferences have announced postponements of many or all fall sports or have moved to conference-only competition.

 

7:02 p.m. ET, July 20, 2020

Republicans push back on White House proposal to zero out funding for Covid testing and tracing

From CNN's Manu Raju, Phil Mattingly, Lauren Fox and Ali Zaslav

Key Republicans are pushing back on the White House proposal to zero out funding for Covid-19 testing and tracing in the next stimulus bill.

GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Bill Cassidy, Shelley Moore Capito, Mitt Romney and Lamar Alexander told reporters today they disagree with the White House posture to deny additional money for testing and tracing in the next stimulus package.

Here's what they said:

  • Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said more money for testing was essential. “I think we need it. Easy questions today,” she said. She also said she has faith in Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert.
  • Maine Sen. Susan Collins also said it was unreasonable not to have more money for testing in the next stimulus. “I certainly want to see money for testing. Testing is essential to the reopening," she said.
  • Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy echoed his faith in Fauci and said more testing is needed. “I don’t think we get out of the public health crisis unless we get out of the economic crisis,” Cassidy said. “We need more tests, and we need the money for it too.”  
  • Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, a leading GOP voice for more testing, said, “Well, my view is we should we should do whatever we need to do to make sure we have adequate tests. All roads opening school opening going back to work and childcare go through tests. We ought to provide whatever financial support we should to make it safe for schools to open and that includes widespread testing.”
  • West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a member of the Senate GOP leadership, said, “I think we should spend more money for testing especially for getting people back to school and universities open.” 
  • Utah Sen. Mitt Romney said he’d like to see coronavirus testing done in a “much more rapid manner,” when asked whether he’d support more funding for testing in the next relief bill. He called it “very frustrating” how long it takes for coronavirus test results to come back, and argued that it essentially removes “the whole value of testing.”

 

6:53 p.m. ET, July 20, 2020

Half of Americans wouldn't get a Covid-19 vaccine if it were available today, former US surgeon general says

From CNN’s Shelby Lin Erdman

A lab technician holds a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine candidate ready for trial on monkeys at Chulalongkorn University in Saraburi in Thailand on May 23.
A lab technician holds a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine candidate ready for trial on monkeys at Chulalongkorn University in Saraburi in Thailand on May 23. Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

 

If a coronavirus vaccine were available today, half of all Americans wouldn’t get it because of a lack of trust, former US Surgeon Gen. Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Monday.

One of the most important assets government should have in a pandemic response is public trust, and it must be cultivated at all costs, Murthy said.

“Otherwise, when you need the public to follow guidance, they won't trust you enough to listen and that's actually the situation we may find ourselves in when it comes to vaccines, because already surveys are showing us nearly half of people are not inclined to take a Covid-19 vaccine, even if it was available today,” he said.

“That’s a shocking number and deeply concerning.”

President Trump has spent the past few months telling his supporters not to wear masks and questioning scientists and public health officials’ guidance on reopening the country.

“We know that distributing vaccines is going to be hard enough and if people aren't willing to take it because we haven't built enough public trust, that’s going to seriously impair our ability to build herd immunity,” Murthy said.

The former US surgeon general said leaders have to tell the truth, especially when mistakes are made, they need to lead with science and scientists, and communicate frequently and consistently.

Murthy said resumption of the White House coronavirus task force briefings might help improve trust. “That could really help the cause, because the truth is that how you communicate determines whether you build or destroy public trust,” Murthy said.

Trump ended the daily White House coronavirus briefings several months ago, but announced Monday he’s resuming them.

6:35 p.m. ET, July 20, 2020

Brazil's coronavirus death toll surpasses 80,000

From journalist Rodrigo Pedroso in São Paulo

Cemetery workers in protective suits carry a coffin at the Caju cemetery amidst the coronavirus pandemic on July 16, in Rio de Janeiro.
Cemetery workers in protective suits carry a coffin at the Caju cemetery amidst the coronavirus pandemic on July 16, in Rio de Janeiro. Luis Alvarenga/Getty Images

At least 80,120 people have died from coronavirus in Brazil since the pandemic started, according to new figures from the country’s health ministry on Monday.

Since yesterday, 632 people are reported to have died. The total number of infections in Brazil is now 2,118,646 – an increase of 20,257 since Sunday. 

Along with President Jair Bolsonaro, two members of his cabinet announced they tested positive for the virus on Monday. The Brazilian Minister of Education, Milton Ribeiro, announced he tested positive for Covid-19 and just hours earlier, Brazil’s Minister of Citizenship Onyx Lorenzoni tweeted that he had tested positive.

Some state health secretaries in Brazil have reported issues in sending local data to the national health ministry in recent days.

On Friday, Mato Grosso’s state health secretary said a systems migration of data did not affect its disclosure of the number of confirmed cases and deaths reported. On Saturday, Rio de Janeiro state did not register numbers for the national tally. Rio de Janeiro’s state health secretary said the issue has been fixed. 

The state health secretaries of Goias and Rondonia said difficulties in registering their data may have been caused by problems in the health ministry system.