July 29 coronavirus news

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11:52 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

GOP congressman who frequently refuses to wear a mask tests positive for Covid-19

From CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Jeff Zeleny, Haley Byrd, Manu Raju, Priscilla Alvarez

Rep. Louie Gohmert questions Attorney General William Barr during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on July 28.
Rep. Louie Gohmert questions Attorney General William Barr during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on July 28. Chip Somodevilla/Pool via AP

Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, has tested positive for coronavirus.

Gohmert has frequently refused to wear a mask while at the Capitol during the pandemic. He has spent ample time on the House floor during votes speaking to aides and lawmakers — without a mask or social distancing. His office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Gohmert had been scheduled to fly aboard Air Force One with President Trump to Midland, Texas, where he is fundraising and touring an oil rig. He tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday morning during a pre-flight screening at the White House, a person familiar with the situation told CNN.

Because of the positive test, Gohmert is not traveling with the President.

A senior Republican aide told CNN the test results have caused issues on the Hill, with “a lot of staffers” ordered to get tests before they can go to meetings and resume activity. Some are sequestering in their offices until they can get tested. Gohmert’s office notified Republican leaders, who notified House medical staff and the protocol kicked in for further notification, the GOP aide said. Politico first reported the news.

Gohmert told CNN last month that he didn’t wear a mask because he had been tested and he didn’t yet have the virus. “But if I get it, you’ll never see me without a mask,” he said.

He is just one of several conservative Republicans who have pushed back on mask-wearing, sometimes causing tension during committee meetings.

During Tuesday’s hearing with Attorney General Bill Barr, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler urged a handful of Republican members to keep their masks on.

“I would remind Mr. Jordan, Mr. Biggs and Mr. Johnson to stop violating the rules of the committee, to stop violating the safety of the members of the committee, to stop holding themselves out as not caring by refusing to wear their masks,” Nadler said, referring to Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Andy Biggs of Arizona, and Mike Johnson of Louisiana.

“Is it permissible to drink a sip of coffee?” Johnson countered. 

Gohmert was also present at the hearing. He was seen maskless outside the room near Barr at one point. The Justice Department told CNN Wednesday that Barr will get tested.

In another hearing Wednesday, Rep. Zoe Lofgren interjected to remind members who are physically present that they are required to wear a mask.

“He was a member who was unwilling to consistently wear a mask,” Lofgren said of Gohmert. “It’s a reminder that this is very serious and if you’re unwilling to wear a mask that covers your nose and your mouth, please do leave the room and we’ll arrange for you to participate remotely.”

Watch:

11:54 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

White House needs to make "better argument" on FBI building money, Republican says

From CNN's Manu Raju, Clare Foran and Ted Barrett

Sen. John Thune at a hearing in June.
Sen. John Thune at a hearing in June. Susan Walsh/Pool/Getty Images

After President Trump reiterated his demand today for money for a new FBI building, and criticized GOP opposition to it, Senate Majority Whip John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, told CNN's Manu Raju: “They’d have to make a better argument than what I've seen so far. I don't think there's a lot of support from our members.”

Trump told reporters as he left the White House earlier on Wednesday that a new FBI building has been in the works “for many years,” and that he thought the funding should stay in the stimulus bill.

Pressed by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on the fact that Republicans don’t want it in the bill, Trump said, “Then Republicans should go back to school and learn. We need a new building.”

Some background: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear on Tuesday that he opposes including the funding for a new FBI building in any final negotiated product for the next coronavirus stimulus.

That's despite the fact that the Senate GOP stimulus proposal formally unveiled Monday includes funds for a new FBI headquarters at the request of the Trump administration.

The bill includes $1.75 billion "for the design and construction of a Washington, D.C. headquarters facility for the Federal Bureau of Investigation," according to the text.

Pressed by a reporter on Tuesday over the funding, McConnell responded by saying that he's against "non-germane" provisions in the next stimulus. The Senate majority leader indicated that he hopes that anything not directly related to Covid-19 will be stripped out before a new relief measure is enacted.

11:25 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Statewide school closures tied to fewer Covid-19 cases early in pandemic, study suggests

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard)

The school closures that swept several states in the United States between March and May due to the coronavirus pandemic were associated with a significant decline in Covid-19 cases and deaths in those states at the time, according to a new study.

The states that closed schools earlier, when the cumulative incidence of Covid-19 was lowest, saw the greatest declines per week at the time, compared with states that were slowest to close schools, and had the highest cumulative incidence of Covid-19, according to the study, published in the medical journal JAMA on Wednesday.

The researchers — from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, the University of Cincinnati and the Pediatric Research in Inpatient Settings Network in Ohio — wrote in the study that "the analyses presented here suggest that the timing of school closure plays a role in the magnitude of changes associated with school closure."

Extrapolating their findings to the US population, the researchers wrote in the study that "school closure may have been associated with approximately 1.37 million fewer cases of Covid-19 over a 26-day period and 40,600 fewer deaths over a 16-day period; however, these figures do not account for uncertainty in the model assumptions and the resulting estimates."

How the study worked: The study involved examining the cumulative incidence of Covid-19 in each state per 100,000 people at the time of school closures.

Those cumulative incidences for each state were separated into quartiles. The researchers used models to estimate differences in Covid-19 incidence and death between areas where schools closed and schools remained open.

The modeling suggests that closing schools when the cumulative incidence of Covid-19 was in the lowest quartile compared with the highest quartile was associated with 128.7 fewer Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people within 26 days and 1.5 fewer Covid-19 deaths per 100,000 people over 16 days.

The study had some limitations: At the same time schools closed, other actions also were taken to reduce the spread of Covid-19 — including closing nonessential businesses and increasing hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers. More research is needed to determine the role some of those other interventions may have played in the reduction in Covid-19 illnesses and deaths.

11:21 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

US immigration agency underscores budget shortfall: "These are difficult times"

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

Joseph Edlow — then a deputy assistant attorney general with the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice — listens during a hearing in Washington, DC, on July 25, 2019.
Joseph Edlow — then a deputy assistant attorney general with the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice — listens during a hearing in Washington, DC, on July 25, 2019. Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

US Citizenship and Immigration Services Deputy Director of Policy Joseph Edlow kicked off his testimony Wednesday before a House panel underscoring the agency’s budget shortfall, which has resulted in nearly 70% of its workforce receiving furlough notices.

USCIS, which is primarily fee-funded, notified Congress of its projected budget shortfall in May. The agency typically continues most operations during lapses in funding, such as last year's government shutdown.

But during the pandemic, the agency suspended its in-person services, including all interviews and naturalization ceremonies.

“These are difficult times for our nation and for USCIS. The pandemic has affected virtually all aspects of American life and has had a dramatic effect on USCIS operations and revenue,” Edlow told lawmakers. 

“Despite our best efforts, we have been forced to issue furlough notices to nearly 70% of our employees without funding from Congress, we will have no choice but to proceed with large-scale furloughs on Aug. 30,” he said.

The agency had originally planned to begin furloughs Aug. 3. 

The Covid-19 relief bill released by the Senate this week includes a $1.2 billion loan from the Treasury Department for USCIS. 

11:10 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

New York City sees slight uptick in infection rate, mayor says

From CNN's Sheena Jones

New York City saw a slight uptick in the Covid-19 infection rate across the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The city's Covid-19 infection rate is up to 2% which is a rise from the 1% previously reported earlier this week.

These are the city's latest reopening indicators:

  • At least 84 people were admitted to the hospital suspected to have Covid-19 which is below the threshold to reopen.
  • ·At least 290 people are in public hospital intensive care units being treated for Covid-19. 

Note: The numbers listed were released by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project. 

11:09 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Latina women among the hardest hit by Covid-19 job losses

From CNN's Leyla Santiago

A failure to extend enhanced unemployment benefits in the next stimulus package could be devastating for millions of Americans, and Latina women  — and their families — could especially be hard-hit across the country. 

According to the Department of Labor, more than 1.8 million Hispanic women are out of work in the US. The unemployment rate for Latinas now stands at a staggering 15%, partly due to the fact that many are more likely to work in leisure and hospitality services.

The weekly $600 federal unemployment enhancement expires in 48 hours, and divisions among Republicans on the GOP stimulus proposal continue.

CNN's Leyla Santiago spoke to some Latina women about how they are coping:

11:06 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

India eases more Covid-19 restrictions as cases top 1.5 million

From Manveena Suri in Delhi

A health worker in Hyderabad, India, prepares to collect a nasal swab sample for a Covid-19 test on July 27.
A health worker in Hyderabad, India, prepares to collect a nasal swab sample for a Covid-19 test on July 27. Mahesh Kumar A./AP

India’s Ministry of Home Affairs issued a fresh set of guidelines on Wednesday as part of a third phase of easing restrictions in the country.

The easing comes as coronavirus cases in India crossed 1.5 million cases ,with the country adding half a million cases in almost two weeks, according to the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Here are some of the guidelines:

  • Starting Saturday, restrictions on the movement of individuals at night will be lifted, according to a press release issued by the Press Information Bureau.
  • Starting Aug. 5, yoga institutes and gyms will be allowed to open and must follow rules issued by the Health Ministry to ensure social distancing and other measures to contain the spread of Covid-19.
  • Schools, colleges and coaching institutions will remain shut until Aug. 31. 
  • Metro rail transport, cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theaters, bars, auditoriums, assembly halls and other similar places will remain closed.
  • All functions, including cultural, religious and sports events, and other large congregations are still banned.
  • Containment zones, areas identified as a hotspot by local authorities, will remain under lockdown with only essential activities allowed. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a three-week nationwide lockdown on March 24. Since then, the lockdown has been extended several times with certain relaxations also announced.

11:00 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Senate GOP leader: If stimulus fails, it's the Democrats' fault

From CNN's Ali Zaslav and Ted Barrett

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the press in Washington, DC, on July 21.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the press in Washington, DC, on July 21. Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued Wednesday that if stimulus negotiations fail, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will be to blame, accusing them of potentially sabotaging negotiations to protect their own “political chances.”

“The only reason I can see that Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic leader would sabotage negotiations is if, as some concluded when they killed police reform in June, they actually think bipartisan progress with the country would hurt their own political chances,” the majority leader said in a floor speech this morning.

“If Democratic leaders decide they won't negotiate, they will answer to the American people,” McConnell added.

“These are not the positions of people who are putting the common good above politics,” McConnell said. Adding, “The American people deserve better than this. The American people cannot afford for Democrats in Congress to have decided in June that they're finished legislating until November. Not during a crisis like this. the country needs help. The country needs action.”

Here's the latest on the stimulus talks: The negotiators responsible for brokering a sweeping stimulus deal that will keep many Americans from losing federal unemployment benefits are currently at the "airing our differences" phase of talks.

There are divisions within the Republican conference spilled out last night as some GOP senators dismissed parts of their party's own leadership's stimulus plan. In particular, senators blasted the administration for including $1.75 billion in the bill to build a new FBI building.

Meanwhile, Democrats — who already passed their stimulus plan in the House — aren't budging on the $600 federal unemployment enhancement, nor the nearly $1 trillion for state and local funding. The GOP proposal would cut enhanced federal unemployment benefits to $200.

11:09 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Florida sets new record for Covid-19 deaths for second day in a row

From CNN's Tina Burnside

The state of Florida reported 216 additional deaths on Wednesday, according to data released by the Florida Department of Health. That breaks the previous record of 186 deaths — which was recorded just yesterday.

Florida is reporting 9,446 new cases of Covid-19.

This brings the state's total cases to at least 451,423, according to the state department of health. The statewide resident death toll is now 6,333.