July 29 coronavirus news

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8:49 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

At least 54 hospitals have reached ICU capacity in Florida

From CNN’s Rosa Flores and Sara Weisfeldt

In Florida, at least 54 hospitals have reached capacity in their intensive care units and show zero ICU beds available, according to data released by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). 

Ten of the hospitals at capacity are in Miami-Dade County, and eight of them are in Broward County, AHCA data shows.

Another 44 hospitals have 10% or less ICU capacity available, according to AHCA.

AHCA reports about 16% ICU beds are available across the State of Florida. 

8:48 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

25% of Covid-19 patients at this Miami-Dade hospital need ICU care

From CNN’s Rosa Flores and Sara Weisfeldt

25% of Covid-19 patients in the care of Florida's Jackson Health require ICU treatment, according to Jennifer Piedra, the spokesperson for the Miami-Dade County hospital. 

The state of Florida has provided Jackson Health with 200 nurses, 50 respiratory therapists and 100 nursing support staff, says Piedra. Jackson Health has hired an additional 100 nurses. 

Jackson Health is currently caring for seven pediatric Covid-19 patients, per Piedra. Since the inception of the pandemic, children under the age of 18 have been the smallest proportion of patients treated, says Piedra.

Piedra says Jackson Health is currently increasing ICU capacity by converting beds and equipment and deploying staff.

“At Jackson Memorial Hospital, we have multiple intensive care units located throughout our campus. All of our patients in need of critical care – for COVID or for other reasons – are receiving the appropriate level of care, regardless of the location of the unit they are in,” Piedra said.
8:55 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Large gatherings in the US keep happening, even as they fuel more Covid-19 cases

CNN's Christina Maxouris

People attend a "Safe & Sound" concert in Southhampton, New York, on July 25. This image is from video provided by Rich Schineller.
People attend a "Safe & Sound" concert in Southhampton, New York, on July 25. This image is from video provided by Rich Schineller. Rich Schineller/AP

With the coronavirus running rampant within American communities, health officials have made clear it's not yet time to ease up on precautions.

Instead, governors and experts from coast to coast have urged Americans to keep face masks in indoor public spaces, maintain their distance from others and avoid crowded spaces.

During a stop in Kentucky over the weekend, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx urged states who are seeing a concerning increase in cases to downsize their gatherings to less than 10 people, adding many of the young people who are spreading the virus are asymptomatic.

Despite the grim numbers and stern warnings, some Americans have chosen to return to pre-pandemic habits, ditching guidelines and attending parties.

A 700 party together in New Jersey: In Jackson, New Jersey, it took police more than five hours Sunday to break up a house party with about 700 guests. The home was being rented out through Airbnb, police said.

"Come on folks! Come on," Gov. Phil Murphy, said during a news conference Monday. "That's needlessly putting men and women in uniform and their families at risk."

His executive order limits indoor gatherings to 100 people and outdoor gatherings to 500.

Health officials say they're worried the event will lead to more coronavirus cases.

New York governor "appalled" at Hamptons concert: In New York, authorities are investigating a drive-in concert at the Hamptons after footage appeared to show large groups of people not following social distancing guidelines.

The "Safe & Sound" benefit concert took place in Southampton Saturday, according to Jack Sterne, a spokesman for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. It was headlined by The Chainsmokers and an event page said it would allow about 600 vehicles.

Read more here.

8:49 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

How Mecca's Grand Mosque is keeping worshipers socially distanced during this year's Hajj

From CNN’s Jomana Karadsheh in Istanbul and Mostafa Salem in Abu Dhabi

Muslim pilgrims walk around the Kaaba at the center of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on July 29.
Muslim pilgrims walk around the Kaaba at the center of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on July 29. STR/AFP/Getty Images

Muslims started their first pilgrimage ritual for Hajj during the pandemic inside Mecca’s Grand Mosque on Wednesday, with “safety bubbles” and social distancing procedures heavily enforced to further protect worshippers from the spread of the coronavirus, the Saudi health ministry told CNN. 

Around 1,000 Muslim worshippers started the Tawaf Al-Qudum, or the Tawaf of Arrival, which is the initial ritual carried out upon entering Mecca’s Grand Mosque and circling Islam’s holiest shrine, the Ka’aba, a statement by the Saudi Ministry of Media said.

Saudi Arabia’s health ministry is facing the task of ensuring that those chosen for this year’s pilgrimage are coronavirus-free, and also enforcing social distancing measures inside the different rituals associated with the Hajj, Assistant Deputy Minister for Preventative Health at the Saudi Ministry of Health, Dr. Abdullah Assiri told CNN in an interview on Wednesday. 

“There are some rituals of Hajj that we cannot really separate [the pilgrims] because they have to be in one place at one time, so we had to prepare these places in a way that maintains social distancing and also to make available the personal protective equipment for these places,” Dr. Assiri said. 

The Muslim ritual, considered one of the five pillars of Islam, has hosted more than two million people in recent years, but after the coronavirus outbreak, Saudi authorities were forced to ban international visitors wishing to perform Hajj this year. 

The ministries started preparing for the scaled down Hajj in February and after selecting 1,000 pilgrims — Saudis and foreign residents in the Kingdom, between the ages of 20-50. They enforced a 14-day pre-Hajj quarantine, tested them, provided trainings on social distancing and monitored, according to Assiri. 

“We are trying to apply the concept of safety bubbles, where every pilgrim will have an environment around him or her that are free and safe as much as possible from any kind of hazards, so all that is needed by the Hajjis is their personal protective equipment their hygiene products are provided free of charge,” he said.   

8:40 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Germany has capacity to test all travelers returning to the country, health ministry says

From CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen in Berlin  

Tents for a coronavirus test center are seen at Munich Airport in Freising, Germany, on July 29.
Tents for a coronavirus test center are seen at Munich Airport in Freising, Germany, on July 29. Sven Hoppe/dpa/picture alliance/Getty Images

Germany currently has the capacity to carry out coronavirus tests on all travelers returning to the country from abroad, Teresa Nauber, a spokesperson for the health ministry, said Wednesday.  

“We currently have the capacity to conduct around 1.2 million tests per week. Right now, only about half of that is actually being used, so I think that answers everything,” she said.  

Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, has said all travelers returning to Germany from what the government deems to be “high-risk areas” will have to take mandatory PCR tests for the novel coronavirus starting next week.   

According to the health ministry, the tests are to be offered free of charge to travelers and paid for by the federal government, with further plans in place to also offer free testing to travelers returning from non-high-risk countries, including member states of the European Union.   

The health ministry's spokesperson added that the government plans to have the regulation for free tests ready before the end of this week. Mandatory testing is set to begin in Germany next week.   

The move comes after Germany’s center for disease prevention, the Robert-Koch-Institute, voiced grave concern about a rise in coronavirus infections in the country, which its scientists say are due in part to infected travelers returning to Germany. 

 

8:30 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

US Covid-19 deaths could be in "the multiple hundreds of thousands" if virus not controlled, group says

From CNN Health’s Shelby Lin Erdman

The United States must get control of the coronavirus pandemic or risk seeing deaths skyrocket “well into the multiple hundreds of thousands,” the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) warned as it released a new “roadmap” on how to contain and end the pandemic.

The blueprint by leaders of the nation’s medical colleges, physicians, scientists, health care teams and frontline workers comes as the death toll from the virus in the US approaches 150,000.

 “Decisive, coordinated action is urgently needed to save lives, end the pandemic, restore America’s economy, and return our lives to normalcy,” Dr. David Skorton, AAMC president and CEO, said in a statement

“It is critical that that the United States take a united approach to the pandemic,” the organization, which represents the nation’s medical colleges, teaching hospitals and health systems, wrote Wednesday in releasing its plan for getting the pandemic under control.

Their pandemic plan: The plan includes addressing critical supply shortages, expanding and improving testing, reopening schools safely, expanding health insurance and developing a vaccination distribution protocol.

Here are some key recommendations:

  • The roadmap urges the Trump administration invoke the Defense Production Act or determine other means to solve the critical shortages in Covid-19 testing supplies and personal protective equipment; and set targets for stockpiling supplies.
  • It also suggests ramping up Covid-19 testing capacity to more than 2 million a day and reduce the turnaround time. 
  • It calls for further face mask standards: “Establish national standards on face coverings to stop the spread, especially by asymptomatic individuals, and make them mandatory in areas of growing community spread,” the AAMC recommended.  
  • The document also calls for “establishing and enforcing national criteria for local stay-at-home orders and reopening protocols.” 

Other groups have released plans on how to end the pandemic over the past several months as national response efforts have faltered and states have employed a patchwork of approaches to try and mitigate the resurging virus.

More on the group: All 155 accredited medical school in the United States and 17 in Canada, 400 teaching hospitals and health systems and 70 academic societies are part of the AAMC.

8:17 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Russia claims it is already registering its coronavirus vaccine, but releases no scientific data

From CNN's Mary Ilyushina

Russia's President Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting via videoconference from his office in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence in Moscow, on July 29.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting via videoconference from his office in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence in Moscow, on July 29. Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS/Getty Images

Russia claims that its own coronavirus vaccine is already undergoing the registration process, state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported Wednesday.

In a government meeting chaired by President Vladimir Putin, deputy prime minister of Russia Tatyana Golikova, who is overseeing the Russian coronavirus response, said the country plans to start producing two vaccines in September and October. 

Remember: Russia has released no scientific data on its vaccine testing and there are wide concerns that the human testing stage of the vaccine is incomplete. CNN is unable to verify the vaccine's claimed safety or efficacy. 

Critics say Moscow's push for a vaccine comes as political pressure rises from the Kremlin, which is keen to portray Russia as a global scientific force.

Today, Golikova said the country has "two most promising vaccines."

“One of them developed jointly by the Health Ministry’s Gamaleya Institute and the 48th Research Institute of the Defense Ministry,” Golikova said. “This August we plan to register it on a condition meaning that after its registration there will be clinical trials on 1,600 people. The mass production of the vaccine is planned for September 2020."

“Another vaccine developed by the Vektor center of Rospotrebandzor began joint clinical trials which are to wrap up in September and also in September it will undergo state registration to be produced starting October,” Golikova added.

Read more here.

8:10 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

US military bases in Japan increase restrictions as Okinawa Covid-19 cases rise

From CNN’s Brad Lendon in Hong Kong and Junko Ogura in Tokyo

The U.S. Kadena Air Base is pictured in the southern Japan prefecture of Okinawa on June 22.
The U.S. Kadena Air Base is pictured in the southern Japan prefecture of Okinawa on June 22. Kyodo News/Getty Images

The US military has increased restrictions on its personnel in Okinawa to stop the spread of Covid-19, the top American military official in Japan said in a virtual press conference Wednesday. 

Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, the commander of US Forces Japan (USFJ), said local commanders at US installations in Japan have been instructed to tighten movements of US personnel to ensure the virus does not spread. There are 139 “active cases” of the virus among US military personnel, civilians and their families at US bases in the country, said Schneider.  

The commander has extended a public health emergency, which has been in place since April, through the middle of August, according to a joint statement by the Japanese government and USFJ. In addition, all installations in Okinawa have elevated their local health protection condition level to C+, which means significant additional restrictions are in place. 

About the cases: Okinawa prefectural government confirmed one new coronavirus case in Kadena air base in Okinawa today, bringing the total number of the infections among US military personnel in Okinawa to 237 cases since July 1. 

Okinawa recorded its highest number of daily infections at 44 new cases among Japanese today, including two people who work at the US bases. The government said Wednesday was the first time that workers at the U.S. bases tested positive.  

8:03 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

It's just after 1 p.m. in London and 8 a.m. in New York. Here's the latest on the pandemic

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 16.7 million people worldwide and caused more than 660,000 deaths. Here's what you need to know.

  • WHO says pandemic is "one big wave": Covid-19 is also unaffected by seasonal trends and does not behave like viruses such as flu, a WHO spokesperson said Tuesday.
  • More than half Mumbai slum residents may have been infected: That's according to a study released Tuesday which raises questions over the level of testing in India. The country has the third highest number of confirmed cases in the world after the United States and Brazil.
  • Vaccine may not be ready until mid-2021, German minister says: The country's minister for research Anja Karliczek issued the warning as she unveiled fresh funding for labs working on a vaccine.
  • European Commission signs remdesivir deal: The Commission signed a €63 million ($74 million) contract with pharmaceutical company Gilead. Its purchase will help treat an estimated 30,000 patients presenting severe symptoms of coronavirus.
  • Hong Kong struggles with rising cases: The city recorded more than 100 cases for the eighth straight day in a row, as officials announced tighter restrictions in a bid to combat the spread of Covid-19.