July 26 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Jenni Marsh, Zamira Rahim, Fernando Alfonso III and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 2:50 a.m. ET, July 27, 2020
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10:40 a.m. ET, July 26, 2020

The US government has invested in coronavirus contact tracing, health official says 

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

The federal government has sent money to states to support their contact tracing plans, Admiral Brett Giroir, a member of the White House’s coronavirus taskforce, told CNN Sunday. 

“They have plenty enough money to do that, as of last week, of the $10.25 billion, there’s only been $50 million drawn from that,” he said.

Giroir also said that he does not think that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention needs to improve its guidelines on contact tracing, but that wearing masks is more important than contact tracing. 

10:36 a.m. ET, July 26, 2020

Sen. Lindsey Graham says half the Republicans will vote no on stimulus package 

From CNN's Nicky Robertson

As Republicans are gearing up to release their new coronavirus stimulus bill, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham had a stark prediction for the vote.

“Half the Republicans are going to vote no to any phase 4 package, that’s just a fact,” Graham said. 

In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Graham said of the bill, “I think we will come together before August the 5th to get this done.” 

10:22 a.m. ET, July 26, 2020

New York state Covid-19 positivity rate is 1%, governor says

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today that New York state reported three deaths and, of 53,568 total Covid-19 tests administered, 536 of them came back positive, marking a 1% positivity rate in testing.

The governor called the state's progress on all statistics, “really great, great news."

Cuomo added the state continues to record a decrease in hospitalizations, marking 637 hospitalized as of yesterday’s report – the newest low since March 18.

One thing to note: These numbers were released by the NY state 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.

10:19 a.m. ET, July 26, 2020

Republicans to include $1,200 checks and smaller federal unemployment aid in new stimulus proposal

From CNN's Sarah Westwood, Nicky Robertson and Ali Main

White House officials and Senate Republicans are finalizing a bill that would offer $1,200 checks to many Americans and that would not renew the full unemployment insurance enhancement that is set to expire officially this week as part of the proposal for the next stimulus bill set to be unveiled Monday, several top administration officials said Sunday. 

“We want to move forward quickly, the bill will be introduced Monday, we are prepared to act quickly,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday.”

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told CNN that $1,200 checks to Americans will be part of the new recovery package, in addition to re-employment bonuses, retention bonuses and tax credits for small businesses and restaurants.

Kudlow said the Republican proposal will lengthen the federal eviction moratorium that is lapsing just as the additional $600 a week unemployed Americans have relied upon is also set to expire.

“The original benefits will not” be in the new bill, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said on ABC. “The original unemployment benefits actually paid people to stay home.”

Meadows said the proposal will involve offering enhanced unemployment benefits that would replace a laid-off worker’s wages up to 70%, although he acknowledged challenges some states will face in administering such a complicated benefit. He said he has worked with Mnuchin and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia to ensure “antiquated computers” in some state benefit offices don’t stop people from receiving their benefits.

More details: The chief of staff also confirmed he and Mnuchin will return to Capitol Hill on Sunday to continue going over the details of the bill.

Administration officials dropped a push for the payroll tax cut that President Trump has repeatedly demanded after failing to secure support for it from enough Senate Republicans and after acknowledging it was a non-starter for Democrats.

"I would have preferred a payroll tax cut on top of that check, but be that as it may, politically it doesn't work but the check is there," Kudlow said.

10:11 a.m. ET, July 26, 2020

White House coronavirus task force member says that he won’t be happy until testing is under control

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

Admiral Brett Giroir told CNN that Covid-19 testing must be brought under control as it relates to access and turnaround times.

“I’m never going to be happy until we have this under control,” he said. “[W]e’re going to continue to push every single day to improve the testing, the type of testing that we have, in the rapidity of turnaround.” 

Giroir, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, said "we are not going to stop our efforts until testing is exactly where we want it to be with rapid turnaround times."

Giroir said that over 54 million tests have been done, 770 thousand a day, which is a “140 fold increase in terms of turnaround.”  

Around a quarter of the tests are point of care, with a 15 minute turnaround and that another quarter are done at local hospitals and labs, with a general turnaround of 24 hours, according to Giroir.  

“The delays that most people talk about are at the large commercial labs that perform about half the testing in our country,” he said. 

The data says that the average turnaround is about 4.27 days, according to Giroir.

“I follow that morning and evening, I know exactly when it’s ordered and when it’s resulted,” he said. “We are trying to bring that down.”

This week, pool testing was authorized at Quest and LabCorp, which will improve efficiency, Giroir said.

 

10:07 a.m. ET, July 26, 2020

Reopening schools is not "one size fits all," coronavirus task force member says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Admiral Brett Giroir, a member of the White House’s Coronavirus task force, told CNN that there is no-one-size-fits-all when it comes to reopening schools.

“We have always been clear that the presumption needs to be that we want our kids in school for all the reasons you know,” he told CNN on Sunday. “There is no one size that fits all." 

New US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on education and child care 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.

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.

9:57 a.m. ET, July 26, 2020

California congresswoman says Los Angeles should reissue a stay-at-home order as cases spike

Rep. Karen Bass, a Democrat from California, says that Los Angeles County should return to a stay-at-home order as cases surge.

Bass told CNN, "yes, I would go back" to stay-at-home in LA, adding, "I would reopen very conservatively."

"If I were in charge of L.A. County I would go back to that and be very, very conservative how we opened up so you know you have to show a certain amount before you open up, a time period around three weeks and I think we didn't strictly adhere to that so yes. I would go back and I would reopen very, very conservatively," Bass said.

Some context: California surpassed New York with the most cases in the nation this past week.

Los Angeles County alone has more than 172,000 confirmed cases — the most of any county in the nation — according to the latest count from Johns Hopkins University.

On Wednesday, Los Angeles County health officials announced that the virus is on track to be the second leading cause of death in the county — with at least 3,400 fatalities in the first six months of the year.

9:28 a.m. ET, July 26, 2020

Spain wants islands excluded from UK quarantine rules

From CNN's Laura Perez Maestro in Spain

The Spanish government is focused on dialogue with Britain in order to have the Canary and Balearic Islands excluded from the UK's new quarantine rules, according to Spain's Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya. 

Speaking to reporters in Madrid on Sunday, Gonzalez Laya said the popular holiday destinations should be excluded because the epidemiological Covid-19 data there is "extremely positive" and "well below data in the UK."

Gonzalez Laya added that the Spanish government would not be retaliating against the UK government's decision, saying it is "not a tit-for-tat exercise." 

"If we think that in any country in Europe the epidemiological data requires stricter measures on our side we will do this," Gonzalez Laya added.

8:28 a.m. ET, July 26, 2020

Hong Kong records more than 100 new Covid-19 cases for the fifth straight day

From CNN's Chermaine Lee

Hong Kong has recorded 128 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the fifth straight day of cases surpassing the 100 mark, according to the head of the communicable disease branch of the Department of Health, Chuang Shuk-kwan, at a press conference on Sunday.

The city has been struggling to contain a third wave of the virus.

Among the new infections, 103 are local transmissions and 25 are imported cases. Among the 103 local cases, 68 are related to previous cases and the sources of 35 are still under investigation. Hong Kong's total case tally stands at 2,634 as of Sunday.

Health officials also announced Sunday that standard crew change arrangements for passenger and goods ships without cargo would be suspended from July 29.

More details: Crew members on goods vessels entering Hong Kong for cargo operations will have to remain on board the ship and cannot enter the city. Crew members arriving at the airport have to present a negative result of a nucleic acid test before entering.

Instead of crew members entering the city in order to switch from vessel to vessel, shipping companies will be expected to arrange ship to ship transfers, according to the Hong Kong's Department of Health.

Flight crews will also be required to present a negative test result within 48 hours before boarding a flight to Hong Kong. Otherwise, they have to take a test at the Hong Kong airport and wait for the results at the designated locations.