July 29 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 12:40 p.m. ET, July 30, 2020
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7:24 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

GOP congressman won't isolate after interacting maskless with Rep. Louie Gohmert last week

From CNN's Manu Raju

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, speaks during a hearing on preparedness for and response to the coronavirus outbreak on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 11.
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, speaks during a hearing on preparedness for and response to the coronavirus outbreak on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 11. Patrick Semansky/AP

Last week, Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican from Texas, was on the House floor interacting at length with Rep. Louie Gohmert who has since tested positive for Covid-19.

Neither men were wearing masks.

Today, Roy was in the House and wearing a mask. He said he isn't going to isolate and wasn't worried about contracting the virus.

"I'm not concerned," Roy said.

Roy says he's not concerned "anymore than the interactions with perfect strangers on an airplane with circulating air. With cotton masks on an airplane, where everybody is pretending like they're doing something noble to try to save people from a virus on a cylinder with 50 people on it flying through the air."

"My question to you all is how are people wearing a cotton mask on an airplane saving you from circulating virus on an airplane?" he added. 

Roy contended he's "happy to wear a mask" and is not skeptical of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but questioned whether a "thin piece of cotton" on someone's face — often with a valve — is enough to prevent the virus from spreading. He argued there are doctors who raise questions about the effectiveness.

"But my question here is we act like wearing this thin piece of cotton, then everybody gets the blessing that they're somehow saving everybody," he said.

6:55 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Georgetown University will begin fall semester online

From CNN's Elizabeth Stuart

Georgetown University.
Georgetown University. Shutterstock

Courses for all undergraduate and graduate students at Georgetown University will begin all online for the fall semester, according to a letter from university President John J. DeGioia.

He cited the acceleration of Covid-19 and increasing restrictions on travel between states for the move to online instruction in his letter Wednesday.

The decision marks a reversal for Georgetown, which earlier this month planned to welcome back about 2,000 undergraduate students to campus.

"This was a very difficult decision — and one that I know will disappoint members of our community who have been eagerly anticipating a return to campus," said DeGioia. "We plan to introduce in-person course elements as soon as health conditions permit."

DeGioia outlined the travel restrictions put in place by Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser, which require 14 days of quarantine for travelers from 27 states. 

"These developments indicate a strain on our public health framework," DeGioia said, adding that Maryland, DC, and Virginia have also been designated as "high-risk" areas by other states throughout the country.

7:18 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

NBA commissioner says there's "no question" he'll end the season if virus poses risk to players

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

In this October 8, 2019 file photo, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news conference near Tokyo.
In this October 8, 2019 file photo, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news conference near Tokyo. Jae C. Hong/AP

NBA commissioner Adam Silver today said the leagues' fight to operate in a bubble amid a worsening pandemic in Florida is going well, but warned he is willing to end the season if he believes the virus poses a significant health risk to players or personnel. 

"No question," replied Silver, when asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer if he'd end the season if it was "the right thing to do."

"We have a panel of expert immunologists, infectious disease experts, public health experts and really they would make the decision frankly," he said. "It would not be a business decision."

Silver also outlined the extensive measures the league has put in place inside its so-called bubble in Orlando, Florida, saying there are nightly tests and players are expected to wear masks at all times except when they are on the court playing basketball. He also warned, however, the plan is not bulletproof. 

"We're protected in essence from the high case rate around us but it's not a hermetically sealed bubble of any kind ... [But] so far we've been in there for roughy three weeks and we've had zero cases," he said.

Watch more:

6:34 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

New Mexico surpasses 20,000 Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Andy Rose

New Mexico's coronavirus case count topped 20,000 on Wednesday after adding 352 new Covid-19 cases.

The state is now reporting a total of 20,136 coronavirus cases.

Some context: The milestone comes two days after New Mexico reported a new one-day record of confirmed cases, with 467.

Note: The figures above were released by the New Mexico Department of Health and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

6:23 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

All lawmakers and staff will be required to wear masks in the House, Pelosi says

From CNN's Manu Raju

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi attends a news conference about the Child Care Is Essential Act and the Child Care For Economic Recovery Act at the U.S. Capitol on July 29 in Washington.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi attends a news conference about the Child Care Is Essential Act and the Child Care For Economic Recovery Act at the U.S. Capitol on July 29 in Washington. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has announced a new mandatory mask policy requiring all members and staff to wear face covering in the House.

"Members and staff will be required to wear masks in the halls of the House," she said during remarks on the House floor.

Lawmakers can take off their masks temporarily when they are speaking, Pelosi added.

Members and staff will not be allowed in the House if they don't wear masks. The speaker said she has the authority to direct the House sergeant-at-arms to tell members to leave if they aren't wearing a face covering.

6:22 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Florida's state-supported Covid-19 testing sites to temporarily close due to storm

From CNN's Pierre Meilhan

Healthcare worker Dante Hills, left, passes paperwork to a woman in a vehicle at a COVID-19 testing site outside of Marlins Park, Monday, July 27 in Miami.
Healthcare worker Dante Hills, left, passes paperwork to a woman in a vehicle at a COVID-19 testing site outside of Marlins Park, Monday, July 27 in Miami. Lynne Sladky/AP

Florida’s state-supported Covid-19 testing sites will temporarily close in anticipation of a potential tropical storm, the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) announced Wednesday.

The agency said drive-thru and walk-up Covid-19 testing sites will temporarily close at 5 p.m. on Thursday in anticipation of impacts from potential tropical cyclone nine, the storm currently located at sea in the southeastern part of the Caribbean.

The FDEM said it made the decision “out of an abundance of caution to keep individuals operating and attending the sites safe. All sites have free standing structures including tents and other equipment, which cannot withstand tropical storm force winds, and could cause damage to people and property if not secured.” 

The storm is expected to begin impacting South Florida as early as Friday with heavy rains and strong winds, according to the agency.

All states-supported Covid-19 testing sites “will remain closed until they are safe to reopen, with all sites anticipated to be reopened at the latest by 8 a.m. on Aug. 5,” according to a FDEM statement.

6:03 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Minnesota continues to report a rise in Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Janine Mack

Elizabeth Santoro, a medic with the Minnesota Air National Guard 133rd Medical Group, administers a free Covid-19 test at the Minneapolis Armory on Saturday, May 23.
Elizabeth Santoro, a medic with the Minnesota Air National Guard 133rd Medical Group, administers a free Covid-19 test at the Minneapolis Armory on Saturday, May 23. Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune/AP

Minnesota has 310 people who are currently hospitalized due to Covid-19, including 143 in intensive care units, according to the state’s Department of Health.

“The last time we had hospitalization and ICU, ICU usage, this high was a month ago,” said Kris Ehresmann, the director of Minnesota's Department of Health Infectious Disease. “The bottom line is that yet we're continuing to see more cases in bars and restaurants. So certainly the ones that you've heard about, but we've added many more."

The median age for these establishments are people in their 20s, Ehresmann said.

She added that the state is also seeing cases from social gatherings.

By the numbers: Minnesota has reported 52,947 positive cases of coronavirus and 1,589 deaths since the pandemic began, Ehresmann said.

“The ultimate success or failure of this coincides is largely in the hands of each and every individual Minnesota. No one in Minnesota is on the sidelines, but the fights are all directly involved and have choices to make every time,” she said.

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

5:52 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

The US needs to reset its response to Covid-19, report says

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

 

Health care workers use a nasal swab to test a person for COVID-19 at a pop up testing site at the Koinonia Worship Center and Village on July 22 in Pembroke Park, Florida.
Health care workers use a nasal swab to test a person for COVID-19 at a pop up testing site at the Koinonia Worship Center and Village on July 22 in Pembroke Park, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The US needs to reset its response with policy actions at the federal, state and local level to get control of the Covid-19 pandemic, scholars at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security said in a new report Wednesday. 

“Unlike many countries in the world, the United States is not currently on course to get control of this epidemic,” the report says. “It is time to reset.”

The report includes 10 recommendations that include universal mask mandates, federal leadership to improve testing and, in places where transmission is worsening, stay-at-home orders.

Nonpharmaceutical measures, like universal mask use and social distancing, should be the same in the US as they have been in other successful countries around the world. Without these, it will be difficult to maintain control on outbreaks.

The report says state, local and federal leaders should mandate non-medical mask use in public and limit large indoor gatherings. Leaders at all levels should also “speak in unison in support of these core public health approaches to controlling this disease.”

States should stop high risk activities and settings in areas that have rising test positivity, but no signs of crisis in hospitals or rising deaths. In areas where the situation is worse, stay-at-home orders should be reinstated, the report says.

The US response to the epidemic will be severely constrained without a reliable and efficient testing system, the report says. One of the things the authors suggest to combat this is the federal government working with states and commercial labs to identify challenges in quickly returning tests and work out a way to overcome these.

A vaccine will “dramatically change the course of the response and offer the opportunity to enhance protection of those most vulnerable individuals,” the report says.

There is also a lot to be done around community acceptance of any eventual coronavirus vaccine, the report says.

“With misinformation and vaccine hesitancy remaining prominent issues affecting public health, vaccination campaigns will not be successful if they are not executed with sensitivity to the current climate around trust of public institutions and if they do not incorporate multidisciplinary expertise in decision-making groups,” the report says.

5:49 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos argues against need for national plan to reopen schools

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

 

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos listens during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the U.S. Department of Education July 8 in Washington.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos listens during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the U.S. Department of Education July 8 in Washington. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos argued Wednesday against the need for national leadership on reopening schools, praising one private academy for not waiting for guidance on how to reopen safely.

“You know, there’s not a national superintendent nor should there be, therefore there’s not a national plan for reopening,” DeVos said at a roundtable on schools in North Carolina with Vice President Mike Pence. The event was held at Thales Academy, a year-round private school where Pence and DeVos also met with a small classroom of fourth graders. 

“Thales is a great example more schools could emulate,” DeVos said. “You didn’t wait for guidance from the Department of Education. You didn’t ask for permission. Your families wanted kids back in school, you wanted kids back in school, teachers wanted to be back in school, so you figured out ways to do it, or do it safely.” Private schools in general have smaller class sizes than most public schools, just one reason why it could be easier for them to create reopening plans.

“More education leaders here in North Carolina can pivot as well, and do what it takes to keep everyone safe and do what’s right for all students,” DeVos continued. “There’s too many schools in this state and others that are ignoring parents and students and keeping schools closed.”

She went on to argue for school choice, and said that for parents who took their children out of public schools, “the tax dollars meant to support their education should go with them.”

DeVos said she’d called for school choice for more than three decades, and added that the pandemic “really welcomes it.”

“It frankly demands it,” DeVos said. “Students need it, families are demanding it, and teachers need it.”