August 16 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Jenni Marsh, Tara John, Fernando Alfonso III, Alaa Elassar and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, August 17, 2020
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12:47 p.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Senate minority leader says Democratic leadership is looking into a standalone Postal Service bill

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks at a press conference on August 16.
Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks at a press conference on August 16. CNN

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told CNN today that he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "are looking at having a standalone bill" to provide funding to the US Postal Service.

Asked by CNN if Democrats would agree to a standalone bill to provide money to the Postal Service, since today the White House said it would support it, Schumer said: “Speaker Pelosi and I are looking at having a standalone bill. The House - she can call it back into session, she can do that, I hope she will, and then I will ask Leader McConnell to call the Senate back into Session to do a standalone bill.” 

When asked if he spoke to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Schumer said he would be sending him a letter.

More on this: Earlier today, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNN that he would be open to the idea of a standalone bill that contains only funding for the Postal Service, despite President Trump’s calls in the last week for more USPS funding to arrive only as part of a broader stimulus package. 

CNN’s Beth English contributed to this report

12:42 p.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Chicago mayor says having schools reopen "is a complex problem"

From CNN's Chandler Thornton

CBS
CBS

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said schools reopening "is a complex problem" and many things must be taken into account.

"It is not just the students themselves," Lightfoot said Sunday on CBS. "It is the entire eco-system of the school. You've got teachers, you've got principals, and you've got staff," adding that many staff in the school system are over 60 and are "a vulnerable population."

Chicago will go all remote and has offered a program that provides 100,000 houses with free Wi-Fi, according to Lightfoot.

When asked if she thought Chicago was becoming a coronavirus hotspot because of mass gatherings, the mayor responded, "interestingly, we didn't see that rise," but did say Chicago has seen a steady increase which she attributed to the population of 18 to 29-year-olds.

"We've got to break through to our young people that they are not immune to the virus," Lightfoot said.

The "chaos" at the federal level has not helped mitigate the spread, she added.

"The White House fighting, the CDC, the HHS hijacking reporting processes, we still don't have a federal mask policy. The chaos at the federal level has not been helpful to anyone, not Chicago, Illinois, or states across the country," Lightfoot said.

12:14 p.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Arizona reports 14 new coronavirus-related deaths

From CNN's Chandler Thompson

Arizona's health department recorded 883 new Covid-19 cases Sunday, bringing the statewide total to 193,537.

The health department also added 14 new deaths from the virus, bringing Arizona's death toll to 4,506. 

On Saturday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's office tweeted that Arizona's R-naught, or reproductive number, has dropped to .80, "remaining the lowest in the country and still the only state with an estimate range below 1.0!"

"This means transmission of #COVID19 continues to slow. Keep it up, everyone! Stay physically distant. Wash your hands. #MaskUpAZ," the governor's office said in the tweet.

One thing to note: These numbers were released by Arizona’s 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.

12:14 p.m. ET, August 16, 2020

US Postal Service says it will stop removing collection boxes for 90 days

From CNN's Paul Murphy

Courtesy NY Metro APWU 
Courtesy NY Metro APWU 

The United States Postal Service (USPS) announced Sunday it would stop removing postal collection boxes through late November following complaints about how some had been taken away.

This means there will be no change in the boxes’ locations until after Election Day.

USPS had faced criticism for the removals as there is expected to be a large surge of people mailing their ballots in instead of going to polls this election day due to the pandemic.

“Given the recent customer concerns the Postal Service will postpone removing boxes for a period of 90 days while we evaluate our customers concerns,” USPS spokesperson Kim Frum said in a statement.

Frum said USPS annually reviews how much various boxes are used “to identify redundant/seldom used collection boxes as First-Class Mail volume continues to declines." 

“Based on the density testing, boxes are identified for potential removal and notices are placed on boxes to give customers an opportunity to comment before the removal decision is made. This process is one of the many ways the Postal Services makes adjustments to our infrastructure to match our resources to declining mail volumes,” Frum also said in the statement.

12:03 p.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Mississippi governor says Covid-19 cases are down despite positivity rate above 20%

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves insisted that his state's Covid-19 cases are under control despite a 23% positivity rate, he said on CBS today. 

"We've actually cut the total number of cases on a daily basis in half over the last two and a half weeks," Reeves said to questions about Mississippi having the highest positivity rate in the US.

Reeves said his state had 1,391 cases on July 29, and they are now down to a 7-day rolling average of 728 cases.

Reeves was asked about the Mississippi's state health officer's comment this week stating that there are 11 hospitals in the state with no intensive care unit beds available.

Hospitalizations and fatalities are a lagging indicator, Reeves emphasized. 

"Do we have hospital capacity issues? We do," Reeves said. "[I]n our state and virtually every other rural state across America, we have ICU bed issues and hospital capacity issues even when there's not Covid-19."

There are 150 ICU beds available in Mississippi currently, according to Reeves. 

12:01 p.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Catch up: Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic today

It's Sunday in the US, where more than 5.3 million cases of coronavirus have been reported since the pandemic began.

Here's what you need to know about the pandemic:

  • CDC teams at schools this fall: Leaders at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were blindsided this week when President Trump announced that the agency could deploy teams to assist schools with safely reopening in the fall/
  • New Zealand reports new cases: After 100 days without any community transmission, New Zealand has recorded 13 new cases of coronavirus in the past day, health officials said Sunday. On Friday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that Auckland -- the city at the center of the new outbreak -- will remain under a level three lockdown for another 12 days. 
  • UAE and Israel on Covid-19 testing device: A United Arab Emirates company called APEX National Investment has signed an agreement with Israel's Tera Group to develop a faster Covid-19 testing device, according to the UAE state-run news agency WAM. This partnership comes after Israel and the UAE announced on Thursday that they’re establishing full diplomatic relations.
  • US Postal Service warns about late ballots: USPS warned almost all of the 50 states and Washington, DC, that voters could be at risk of not getting their ballots back to election offices in time to be counted because election rules are not compatible with the time needed for delivery and return of absentee ballots through the mail, according to letters released on Friday night. House Democrats said Sunday they are “ramping up” their investigation of the Postal Service 
  • South Korean church members to be tested: All 4,066 members of the Sarang-Jeil church in South Korea must be tested for coronavirus after a spike in cases was traced back to a religious service held by the group, according to an executive order by the acting mayor of Seoul, Seo Jeong-hyup.
  • New York Covid-19 positivity rate: For the ninth straight day, New York state was under 1% positive for Covid-19 testing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. There were 607 people who tested positive for Covid-19, and the state reported six deaths, including three in the New York City area.
11:44 a.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Florida reports more than 3,700 news coronavirus cases

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Florida health officials have reported 3,779 new cases of coronavirus and 107 additional deaths on Saturday, according to the state's health department.

This marks the first day since June 18 that Florida reported less than 4,000 cases in a single day, according to CNN's tally. 

The state has 573,416 total Covid-19 cases and 9,452 resident deaths, according to data from the department.

Note: These numbers were released by Florida's 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  

12:15 p.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Democrats say they are ramping up postal investigation, call on top officials to testify

From CNN's Kevin Bohn

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

House Democrats said Sunday they are “ramping up” their investigation of the Postal Service and as Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, called on Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors Robert Duncan to testify.

The leaders said they want the officials to appear at a hearing a week from Monday to discuss what they call “recent, sweeping and dangerous operational changes at the Postal Service that are slowing the mail and jeopardizing the integrity of the election," according to a statement.

“House Democrats, led by Chairwoman (Carolyn) Maloney of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, are ramping up their ongoing investigation by requesting that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Chairman of the USPS Board of Governors Robert Duncan testify at an urgent hearing before the Committee on August 24. The hearing will examine the sweeping operational and organizational changes at the Postal Service that experts warn could degrade delivery standards, slow the mail and potentially impair the rights of eligible Americans to cast their votes through the mail in the upcoming November elections,” the leaders said in a statement.

The Postmaster General and top Postal Service leaders "must answer to the Congress and the American people as to why they are pushing these dangerous new policies that threaten to silence the voices of millions, just months before the election," the statement added.

Several House Democrats on Saturday called for the subpoenaing of DeJoy if he won’t appear voluntarily. 

Some context: Senate Democrats, including Sen. Gary Peters who have limited investigatory power because they are in the minority, started an investigation last week.

The statement said Senate Democrats are asking Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson to call DeJoy and Duncan for a hearing as soon as next week for what they call “vigorous and urgently-needed oversight.”

12:16 p.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Trump chief of staff says White House supports separate postal service bill 

From CNN's Sarah Westwood

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNN that he would be open to the idea of a standalone bill that contains only funding for the US Postal Service (USPS), despite President Trump’s calls in the last  week for more USPS funding to arrive only as part of a broader stimulus package. 

“I'm all about piecemeal. If we can agree on postal, less let's do it,” Meadows said on CNN. "Speaker Pelosi said she won't do anything unless it is a big deal. We offered $10 billion.”

Congressional Democrats rejected efforts by White House negotiators and Republicans to separately pass just individual parts of the stimulus proposal, like an enhanced unemployment benefit, as standalone bills during two weeks of negotiations that ended in a deadlock. 

Meadows argued Pelosi would potentially support a bill just focused on the Postal Service now because “her whole political dynamic has changed.” A spokesperson for Pelosi did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Meadows said members of Congress should return from their recess to take action on postal issues. 

Democrats proposed $25 billion in USPS funding in their version of the stimulus. Republicans floated $10 billion.