July 22 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Steve George, Tara John, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 3:10 a.m. ET, July 23, 2020
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7:57 p.m. ET, July 22, 2020

Top US health official: The most sensitive indicator of how well a state is doing is the test positivity rate

From CNN’s Andrea Kane

Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images/FILE
Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images/FILE

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said the statistic she watches closest is the test positivity rate because it is “the most sensitive indicator” of how the coronavirus situation is unfolding at any particular time and place.

The test positivity rate is the percentage of people who get tested and turn out to be infected with the virus.

“It only has to go up a tiny bit. So let's say you had 3% test positive, and then the next week you have 3.3%. That is when to start really watching,” Birx told Fox News’ Bret Baier Wednesday.

She said every Monday each governor gets an approximately 10-page report with that information.

“We think that's the earliest indicator. That's why we show that at county level, at metro level, in small cities and large metro areas, as well as the state level — so that every governor and every mayor and every health commissioner can really understand what we're seeing in their state. And so that we can really provide recommendations to the states on how best to control this virus,” she said.

Birx said the country had to change its testing strategy to improve the turnaround time for test results — especially the hardest hit states, which also have the longest turnaround times.

“We have three states that are equivalent to what the worst conditions were, as far as number of tests required, with New York…. So now we need three times, really, the number of tests that we had before. And so we're really working to increase pooling. We know that can dramatically increase our through-put,” she said.

“Really, we need the Northeast and the Midwest, that have those very low test positive rates, to move to pooling so that those tests can be moved to the South, the Southwest and the West,” she said.

7:37 p.m. ET, July 22, 2020

This part of the pandemic can be traced back to Memorial Day, Birx says

From CNN’s Andrea Kane

The surge in coronavirus cases seen across the South and Southwest can be linked back to the traveling people did around Memorial Day, White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said Wednesday.

Birx told Fox News’ Bret Baier Wednesday that the current spread of the pandemic — across the South, Southeast and into the Southwest and West — is very different than what the country experienced in March and April.

“What do I mean by that? This epidemic all appeared across the South and the West after June 10 simultaneously. Previously in the March-April timeframe, first we had the New York Metro following Washington state, and then a series of metros that went down in a period of time, often two or three weeks apart,” she said.

“This time, we saw wide virus spread across counties, across rural areas, across small metros and big metros, all the way across the South, Southwest and West, almost simultaneously. So, this was an event that we think can be traced Memorial Day and opening up as people [began] traveling again and being on vacation. And we're really tracking this because where it hasn't happened yet is our Midwest and our Northeast that was so hard hit in March and April. And so we're watching that very carefully.”
7:21 p.m. ET, July 22, 2020

Latin America and the Caribbean top 4 million Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Chandler Thornton and Maria Ramirez Uribe

Latin American and Caribbean countries have recorded more than 4 million Covid-19 cases and nearly 175,000 deaths as of Wednesday, according to a CNN tally based on data from Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

The 33 countries in the region have reported a total 4,026,527 Covid-19 cases and 173,398 deaths.

7:22 p.m. ET, July 22, 2020

UN General Assembly meeting will be virtual this year

From CNN's Richard Roth

Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images
Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

The annual United Nations General Assembly meeting in September, featuring high-level country officials, will be virtual this year.

The UN General Assembly approved the move Wednesday, authorizing the admission of pre-recorded video statements to the General Debate at its 75th session, as well as other mandated high-level meetings planned.

Each country will be allowed to have one or two delegates in the Assembly Hall during the playing of the speeches.

6:44 p.m. ET, July 22, 2020

Southwest tightens mask rules for passengers

From CNN's Greg Wallace and Pete Muntean

Southwest airlines employee Oscar Gonzalez, right, assists a passenger at the ticket counter at Love Field in Dallas on Wednesday, June 24.
Southwest airlines employee Oscar Gonzalez, right, assists a passenger at the ticket counter at Love Field in Dallas on Wednesday, June 24. Tony Gutierrez/AP/FILE

Southwest Airlines says its planes will carry only masked passengers – making yet another tightening of US airlines’ pandemic safety rules this week. 

Southwest spokesperson Brian Parrish tells CNN the new policy takes effect Monday and will prohibit passengers from claiming medical or disability exemptions to the rule, which the airline currently allows. 

“If a Customer is unable to wear a face covering for any reason (even a verifiable medical condition), we regret that we are unable to transport the Customer at this time, due to safety risk of asymptomatic COVID-19 transmission by Customers without face coverings,” the company’s updated mask policy for passengers reads. The airline announced Wednesday afternoon its policy has been updated.  

The mask requirement will also apply to passengers in the airport — from check-in through baggage pick-up, Southwest said. (Masks are already required in some airports due to local rules.) 

Only children under the age of two are exempt from the requirement, Parrish said. 

Several major airlines have tightened their mask policies this week, offering competing health safety policies to the traveling public. 

United Airlines said Wednesday its passengers will be required to wear a mask during the entire time they are in the 360 airports the airline serves.

Delta Air Lines said Monday that any passengers claiming a medical exemption from wearing a mask would need to consult by phone with an airline-approved doctor while at the airport. 

Southwest’s announcement comes as it prepares to release its second quarter financials on Thursday. 

There is no federal government regulation requiring passengers or crewmembers to wear masks when onboard planes. 

6:46 p.m. ET, July 22, 2020

Missouri reports record single-day increase in Covid-19 cases 

From CNN's Raja Razek

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported Wednesday a record single-day increase in Covid-19 cases. 

The state reported 1,301 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the statewide total to 36,063.

"This month, we have been experiencing an increase in both testing and positive cases. The increase has caused a backlog of data processing and entry at the state level. Our team is working diligently to address our backlog with the support of newly-trained team members," the department tweeted Wednesday.

Note: These numbers were released by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

6:54 p.m. ET, July 22, 2020

More than 1 million Covid-19 tests have been conducted in Maryland, governor says

From CNN’s Janine Mack

Maryland Governor's Office
Maryland Governor's Office

Maryland has conducted more than 1 million tests in the state, Gov. Larry Hogan said at a news conference on Wednesday.

The state's Department of Health reported that 1,000,179 have been conducted since the pandemic began.

At least 80,172 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the state and at least 3,276 people have died from the virus since the start of the pandemic, according to the Department of Health.

“This crisis is not over and your actions may help determine whether we see a resurgence of the virus in Maryland,” Hogan said. 

The governor added that people should continue to wear masks, social distance and practice good hygiene.

 

6:39 p.m. ET, July 22, 2020

Brazil reports 67,860 new coronavirus cases

From Marcia Reverdosa in Sao Paulo

Brazil's health ministry recorded 67,860 new cases of the novel coronavirus Wednesday, its highest daily increase since the outbreak began. The country's total number of confirmed cases stands at 2,227,514.

Brazil's previous record daily increase was on June 19, when the ministry added 54,771 new cases.

The ministry also reported 1,284 new deaths from the virus Wednesday, bringing the country's death toll to 82,771.

Meanwhile, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced that he again tested positive for coronavirus Wednesday, 15 days after his initial positive test.

6:37 p.m. ET, July 22, 2020

Trump explains why he's holding briefings without coronavirus task force members

From CNN's Allie Malloy

Brendan Smialowski/AFPGetty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFPGetty Images

President Trump said he was holding solo news conferences instead of joint briefings with White House coronavirus task force members because it is a more "concise way of doing it."

He went on to say that he had just spoken to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, prior to the news conference and that he gets briefed by members of the coronavirus task force regularly.

“They’re briefing me. I’m meeting them,” Trump said when asked why he was opting to give news conferences alone.

“I just spoke to Dr. Fauci. Dr. [Deborah] Birx is right outside and they’re giving me all of everything they know as of this point in time and I’m giving the information to you and I think it’s probably a very concise way of doing it. It seems to be working out very well," he said.

On the task force in general, Trump said they are “very much involved” and touted his relationship with all members of the task force as “very good.”

“They’re very much involved. They’re very much — the relationships are all very good. The relationships that we have with the doctors with everybody working on the virus — has been I think extraordinary,” Trump said.

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