July 23 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Brad Lendon, Ed Upright, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:09 a.m. ET, July 24, 2020
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9:01 p.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Here's what the next year will look like, according to Bill Gates

Microsoft founder Bill Gates believes there could be some advances in testing and therapeutics in the next year.

"I think the therapeutics is actually the most promising thing and not talked about as much as the vaccines because if you have multiple therapeutics that, between them, are reducing the death rate and the amount of serious sickness by over 80%, probably over 90%, that does start to reduce the horrific burden," the philanthropist said.

"So I think by the end of the year, therapeutics will be making a big difference," he said.

Gates said by the first half of 2021, the first round of vaccines could be approved.

"Then by the end of 2021, if people are willing to take the vaccine, we'll be able to stop the transmission in the rich countries and maybe within nine months after that in the world at large," he said.


8:55 p.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Reopening schools could result in the spread of Covid-19 to older people, Bill Gates says


One of the real problems that could occur as schools reopen this fall for in-person learning is the spread of Covid-19 to older people, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates said.

Gates' comments follow new US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on education and childcare that favor the opening schools, saying children don’t suffer much from coronavirus, are less likely than adults to spread it, and suffer from being out of school.

"The real problem comes as an infection gets connected to someone that's older. So if the teacher's over 65, if that kid lives in a multigenerational household, where it's not easy to separate the kid from the older person, that's the part of this that does create real risk," Gates told CNN during its global coronavirus town hall. "Now, we have this huge benefit of having those kids in school, and so this is going to require some judgment. It's not going to be close all schools or open all schools. There are various things about having half the kids go in one week and half the other week so you can space kids out. There are things that will be tried."

Gates was heartened over the news that "there's likely to be money for schools on a bipartisan basis in this next bill, because funding some of that and spreading best practices there will mean we can reduce the education deficit."

More on the CDC guidelines: The new CDC guidelines posted Thursday do recommend that local officials should consider closing schools, or keeping them closed, if there is substantial, uncontrolled transmission of the virus. 

The CDC has been promising new guidelines for more than a week, after demands from President Trump that the agency alter its recommendations for opening schools. They were posted on the agency’s website Thursday afternoon with little public notice and no explanation of what has been changed. 


8:50 p.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Bill Gates calls the Covid-19 infection rate in the US "deeply troubling"


Microsoft founder Bill Gates called the coronavirus infection rate in the US "deeply troubling" and doesn't suspect things will get better soon.

"The infection rate in the US is deeply troubling, because the summer, when it's warmer and people are indoors more, actually, it's easier to reduce the infection than it's going to be out in the fall. And right now, those infections are largely in young people, which means the death rate, although it's come up, is nowhere near its peak," Gates said during CNN's global coronavirus town hall tonight. "So things are definitely on the bad side of what we would have predicted four weeks ago."

Helping to find a vaccine: Gates said on June 25 that he's aligned with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, on his prediction that there will be a viable vaccine by the end of the year, or early 2021. He said he and Fauci are in constant contact.

In February, Gates, who along with his wife Melinda, run the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, pledged up to $100 million to help contain the coronavirus outbreak around the world. They said the funds would be used to help find a vaccine for the virus, limit its spread and improve the detection and treatment of patients.


8:14 p.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Here's the latest coronavirus update from Colombia

From CNN's Maria Ramirez Uribe 

Colombia’s health ministry reported 315 new coronavirus deaths Thursday, raising the country’s total to 7,688. The daily figure is the highest number that Colombia has reported so far in the pandemic.

The ministry also reported 7,945 new cases Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 226,373.  

This comes the same day that Colombia’s capital added five more parishes to its list of those on lockdown.

Around 5 million people, from 13 parishes, are now on lockdown in Bogota.

8:22 p.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Convention official describes chaos after Trump pulls the plug

From CNN's Jim Acosta

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

A convention official described chaos inside the Republican National Committee after President Trump pulled the plug on convention activities in Jacksonville, Florida.

The official described the situation as “a multimillion dollar debacle and think of where that money could have gone,” noting the funds could have been better spent on fighting the virus.

The official went on to say that some convention staffers simply don’t know what to do now. The official added there were some questions whether all campaign staffers scheduled to work the event would actually show given concerns about the virus.

This official said a key moment in the decision to scrap Jacksonville came when the local sheriff said adequate security could not be provided for the convention given the pandemic.

That sheriff, the official said, has close ties to other local officials in the area who were all becoming more concerned by the day about hosting the convention.

8:04 p.m. ET, July 23, 2020

DOJ watchdog report finds lack of staffing contributed to Covid-19 outbreak in California prison

From CNN's David Shortell

The Justice Department’s internal watchdog found that a federal prison in California, where nearly 1,000 inmates have tested positive for coronavirus, was slow to implement safety measures and lacked adequate staffing to confront the growing pandemic. 

At Federal Correctional Complex Lompoc, in Santa Barbara County, California, a nationwide order to restrict the movement of prison staff wasn’t fully implemented for more than two weeks because of a staff shortage — possibly allowing workers to bring the virus inside prison walls, a review released Thursday by the Justice Inspector General’s office found. Two staff members who showed up for work in late March with coronavirus symptoms made it past a weak screening process, and one inmate who had complained of coronavirus symptoms on March 22, wasn’t isolated or tested for days.

The review of Lompoc represents the first official scrutiny of the federal prison system’s handling of coronavirus after months of dire warnings from advocates and politicians that more needed to be done to protect the vulnerable prison population. Ninety-eight federal inmates have died since the start of the pandemic, including four at the California prison. 

In April, as the number of positive inmate cases across the federal system jumped towards 500, the inspector general’s office announced it would begin a series of remote inspections of a selection of the Bureau of Prison’s 122 facilities. The watchdog office has since surveyed over 38,000 prison employees nationwide and conducted phone interviews with staffers as well as a review of documents and data at 16 sites. The report on Lompoc, as well as a second report on FCC Tuscon in Arizona, are the first to be released, with more expected in the coming months. 

In an interview with CNN in April, the director of the Bureau of Prisons called confronting the pandemic the most challenging situation the federal prison situation has been confronted with in decades. 

"I don't think anybody was ready for this Covid, so we're dealing with it just as well as anybody else and I'd be proud to say we're doing pretty good," Michael Carvajal said in his first interview since being named director amid the pandemic.

The Bureau of Prisons has taken a wide range of steps since the virus was first detected — shutting down visitations, instituting quarantines for all new inmates temporarily moving all of the country's 150,000 federal inmates into near-isolation.

Attorney General William Barr also directed prison officials to expand programs to release certain vulnerable inmates early into home confinement in an effort to protect them from the virus and thin out the population of overburdened facilities. 

While the report released Thursday found that the Bureau of Prisons surged resources to an office that considered inmates for early release —cutting down processing times from months to just two weeks — the application of the new abilities to release prisoners early as a result of the pandemic was “extremely limited” at Lompoc. Only eight inmates had been transferred to home confinement under the new programs by mid-May, while more than 900 inmates had been sickened by the virus there, according to the inspector general review.

For those that remained bars, their access to medical treatment was limited by a severe staffing shortage. When the outbreak hit Lompoc, medical staffing at the prison was at just 62%. The prison’s ability to screen inmates for coronavirus symptoms was negatively impacted as a result, the report concludes. The Bureau of Prisons has since dispatched additional medical staff as well as correctional officers to prisons facing staffing shortages, including Lompoc.  

Seventy percent of Lompoc staff surveyed by the inspector general’s office also said that staff needed more personal protective equipment, and 36% said that inmates needed more hygienic products — despite masks and hygiene kits being handed out by the prison weeks into the pandemic. 

By contrast, no inmates have tested positive for coronavirus at the federal prison in Tuscon whose response to the pandemic was detailed in the second report released by the inspector general on Thursday. 

That report found that adequate staffing levels and empty housing units that could be converted to quarantine space allowed the facility to prevent the introduction of the virus from the outside world. Still, 77% of staff surveyed by the inspector general’s office at the Tuscon prison said they wanted more protective equipment. 

BOP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

7:56 p.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Pelosi says Trump has been "the biggest failure, practically in the history of our country"

From CNN's Haley Byrd

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slammed President Trump’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, saying Thursday night that he has been "the biggest failure, practically in the history of our country.”

During an interview with MSNBC, Pelosi also responded to Trump’s decision to cancel convention activities in Jacksonville, Florida.

"I think it’s a little too late for him to be responsible," she said of the decision.

Pelosi added that the coronavirus pandemic is “rolling like a freight train.”

She criticized Republicans and the White House for struggling to finalize a proposal for the next round of stimulus legislation. The California Democrat said they are “in total disarray” and the slipping timeline for introducing a bill has “gone beyond the pale.”

Pelosi claimed that all Republicans care about “is what’s happening at the corporate boardroom table."

“There is a very big difference here,” she said. "They really don’t intend to meet the needs of the American people, and they will be fully exposed."

7:51 p.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Tennessee governor to roll out fall school plans next week

From CNN’s Janine Mack

Tennessee Governor's office
Tennessee Governor's office

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said he plans to roll out school reopening plans on Tuesday. 

“Our kids need to be in school because kids not only academically are suffering, emotionally, mental health, we know kids suffer in mental health capacity, child abuse reporting is way down and we don't believe it's because child abuse is down it's because schools and teachers are a reporting mechanism for that. There are a number of working families who need for their children to be in school so they can continue to work. There's a lot of reasons why schools can be and should be open. So long as we do that in a way that protects teachers and protects students at the same time we believe we can do,” Lee said.

The Tennessee Department of Health has reported 86,987 total cases of coronavirus and 925 deaths since the pandemic began.

These figures include an increase of 2,570 cases and 37 deaths in a single day, according to the department.

“Wearing a face covering when in public is a simple but effective way for us to each do our part and help stop the spread of Covid-19,” Lee said. 

7:26 p.m. ET, July 23, 2020

New CDC guidelines come down hard in favor of opening schools

From CNN’s Nick Valencia and Maggie Fox

New US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on education and childcare come down hard in favor of opening schools, saying children don’t suffer much from coronavirus, are less likely than adults to spread it, and suffer from being out of school.

But the new guidelines posted Thursday do recommend that local officials should consider closing schools, or keeping them closed, if there is substantial, uncontrolled transmission of the virus. 

The CDC has been promising new guidelines for more than a week, after demands from President Trump that the agency alter its recommendations for opening schools. They were posted on the agency’s website Thursday afternoon with little public notice and no explanation of what has been changed. 

They start with an unsigned statement on “the importance of reopening America’s schools this fall.”

“The best available evidence indicates that Covid-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children,” the statement said. “Children appear to be at lower risk for contracting Covid-19 compared to adults. To put this in perspective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of July 17, 2020, the United States reported that children and adolescents under 18 years old account for under 7 percent of Covid-19 cases and less than 0.1 percent of Covid-19-related deaths."

The CDC said scientific studies suggest that Covid-19 "transmission among children in schools may be low."

"International studies that have assessed how readily Covid-19 spreads in schools also reveal low rates of transmission when community transmission is low," the organization said.

More details: The CDC statement says extended school closures harm children. 

“It can lead to severe learning loss, and the need for in-person instruction is particularly important for students with heightened behavioral needs,” it reads.

The new guidance notes that children often get food, mental health care, speech language therapy and other services at school.

Other guidance takes into account the risk of transmission in schools and from schools. Many medical experts have said it’s not safe to open schools while coronavirus is spreading in a community. The guidelines take note of these arguments.

“If there is substantial, uncontrolled transmission, schools should work closely with local health officials to make decisions on whether to maintain school operations,” the statement said. “The health, safety, and wellbeing of students, teachers, staff and their families is the most important consideration in determining whether school closure is a necessary step." 

The guidelines suggest that school administrators consider keeping children in cohorts or pods to reduce the risk of spread. They also encourage the use of social distancing, hand hygiene, face masks and other measures to control spread – and incorporating these measures into school curricula.

“There is mixed evidence about whether returning to school results in increased transmission or outbreaks,” the guidelines note, and reference studies done in other countries that have taken various approaches to reopening schools.

“It is important to consider community transmission risk as schools reopen. Evidence from schools internationally suggests that school re-openings are safe in communities with low SARS-CoV-2 transmission rates.”

The guidelines recommend against screening all students for coronavirus.

“CDC does not currently recommend universal symptom screenings (screening all students grades K-12) be conducted by schools,” the guidelines read. “Parents or caregivers should be strongly encouraged to monitor their children for signs of infectious illness every day,” they add. “Students who are sick should not attend school in-person.”