August 17 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Amy Woodyatt, Ed Upright, Veronica Rocha, Mike Hayes and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, August 18, 2020
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1:11 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

300 Pizza Huts are closing after a giant franchisee goes bankrupt

From CNN’s Jordan Valinsky

Signage is displayed outside a Yum! Brands Inc. Pizza Hut restaurant on February 5, 2019 in Illinois.
Signage is displayed outside a Yum! Brands Inc. Pizza Hut restaurant on February 5, 2019 in Illinois. Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Up to 300 Pizza Hut restaurants are slated to permanently close following the bankruptcy of one the chain's largest franchisees.

NPC International, which filed for Chapter 11 in July, announced an agreement Monday with Pizza Hut's owner Yum! Brands to close roughly a quarter of its restaurants and sell the remaining locations. Specific restaurants and timing have not yet been determined, but NPC said a "substantial majority" of affected locations have dining rooms.

The agreement provides NPC with "flexibility to explore options for achieving a value maximizing outcome as it seeks to finalize the terms of a comprehensive financial restructuring and emerge from Chapter 11," it said in a release. A perfect storm of coronavirus-related shutdowns, a massive debt burden of nearly $1 billion and rising labor and food costs tipped NPC into bankruptcy. 

Pizza Hut said Monday that the 300 US locations "significantly underperform" compared with the rest of NPC's Pizza Hut locations, and it will help employees find jobs at nearby Pizza Hut restaurants. The chain has been shifting away from opening and operating restaurants with dining rooms. Instead, it is encouraging customers to order pick-up through its website or third-party apps.

"We have continued to work with NPC and its lenders to optimize NPC's Pizza Hut restaurant footprint and strengthen the portfolio for the future, and today's joint agreement to close up to 300 NPC Pizza Hut restaurants is an important step toward a healthier business," the pizza chain said in a statement.

NPC's 1,227 Pizza Hut locations account for 18% of the chain's 6,700 US locations. NPC's remaining portfolio includes 6,500 Wendy's restaurants in the US. 

2:01 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

A Florida school principal who survived Covid-19 is urging families to choose online learning

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

While Florida has ordered schools to reopen despite the rise in Covid-19 cases, Jimbo Jackson, principal of Fort Braden School in Tallahassee is urging parents to opt for virtual learning for their kids.

“I think our greatest concern is the safety of our staff and our students and our connected school families. With our recent state mandate to have face-to-face and brick-and-mortar learning, we have extreme concerns,” he explained.

The school lost two active staff members of the school along with a relative of a staff member and a former employee to coronavirus, according to Jackson.

“We're no longer just a number and just a statistic,” he said. “It’s hit really close to home.” 

Pointing to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for reopening schools and a high positivity rate among children under 18 that indicates high risk, Jackson says in-person instruction could pose health risks.

Jackson and his wife also contracted coronavirus in July, which has made him more aware of his role, he said.

“As a school principal and someone responsible for all of these folks, you know, in anticipation of nearly 450 kids and staff members returning to our campus on August 31st, we have a great concern about their safety. The last thing that I want is to have another employee or even worse, a child to become either seriously ill or possibly experience a fatal case of Covid-19.”
“Going through that personally and being fairly incapacitated for about 13 days has given me each more understanding,” he said. “As well as walking through the funerals and the memorial services with families of these three people that were very dear to us.”

Schools are a fundamentally social experience and children as young as four or five-year-old kindergarten students will have to be re-trained to not socialize, Jackson emphasized about in-person experience.

“To not have tag games or to not borrow supplies from each other, those are things that become really difficult to mitigate in a school social setting,” he said. “It will be a very difficult challenge.”

Watch:

12:48 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

More than 170,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Marlon Warren, a mortician assistant, prepares a funeral service for a man who died of COVID-19 at Ray Williams Funeral Home on August 12 in Tampa, Florida.
Marlon Warren, a mortician assistant, prepares a funeral service for a man who died of COVID-19 at Ray Williams Funeral Home on August 12 in Tampa, Florida. Octavio Jones/Getty Images

There are at least 5,408,268 cases of coronavirus in the US, and at least 170,131 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

So far on Monday, Johns Hopkins has reported 5,055 new cases and 79 reported deaths. 

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases. 

12:11 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Defense Department contract awarded to scale up Covid-19 convalescent plasma treatment

From CNN's Jen Christensen

Plasma Technologies, LLC has signed a defense contract worth $750,000 to develop scaled-up Covid-19 convalescent plasma technologies, according to an announcement on the Department of Defense website Monday.

The contract with the DoD’s Joint Acquisition Task Force is to develop a new convalescent blood plasma process that makes more serum-derived products, and faster.

Convalescent plasma – antibody-filled blood plasma from patients who recovered from the disease – is a medical treatment that has been around since the Victorian era. Studies show the treatment has worked to fight severe flu, MERS, and SARS, and now doctors are testing to see if it works in Covid-19 patients.

So far, more than 66,000 Covid-19 patients have been treated with this approach through the US Food and Drug Administration’s expanded access program, according to the UScovidplamsa.org, a program run by Mayo Clinic. But, like blood, convalescent plasma is in limited supply and must come from donors.

Plasma Technologies, a South Carolina-based company, developed a novel plasma separation process that can produce larger quantities of the immunoglobulin and other plasma proteins. The contract will help the company try this technique on a larger scale and establish proof of concept, according to the Defense Department.

“Combating novel viruses requires novel solutions,” Douglas Bryce, joint program executive officer for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense, was quoted as saying on the Department of Defense website. “We are eager to determine if convalescent plasma and this innovative separation process will be valuable tools that can be used to enhance the nation’s COVID-19 response, through this cooperative agreement.”

There are at least 12 convalescent plasma treatments under investigation according to BIO, the association that represents major biotech companies.

 

11:54 a.m. ET, August 17, 2020

New York's infection rate is the lowest since start of the pandemic, governor says

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

People line-up to take a Covid-19 test in the Sunset Park neighborhood on August 13 in New York City.
People line-up to take a Covid-19 test in the Sunset Park neighborhood on August 13 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York’s .7% infection rate is the lowest since the pandemic began, and one of the lowest infection rates in the country, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

The state is averaging 1% or under since June, which the governor said is “exactly where we want to be."

Six more people have died from coronavirus, Cuomo said Monday.

Hospitalizations are up slightly but basically flat, he said. Intubation and intensive care admissions are also flat.

12:03 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

New York governor says gyms can reopen with certain restrictions

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press briefing in New York City on August 17.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press briefing in New York City on August 17. Pool/NY1

Gyms can open as soon as August 24 with 33% capacity and mask mandates, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

Guidance on gym reopening will be issued Monday, he said, adding that it will also outline other health requirements that have to be maintained with regards to ventilation.

Local governments must inspect gyms before they reopen or within two weeks of their opening to make sure facilities are meeting all requirements. Gyms must open by September 2, he said.

“That variation is to give localities time if the localities need it,” he said, adding “if the localities can get the inspections done or be ready to inspect, then they can open up August 24th, if a locality cant get ready to do inspections, then they get another week they can do it September 2nd.”

Local government can determine whether gyms can hold indoor classes.

12:00 p.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Czechs make face masks mandatory again indoors

From Tomas Etzler in Prague and Sharon Braithwaite in London 

Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtěch announced Monday that face masks will be mandatory again starting Sept. 1 in most indoor places, including all public transport, shops, office buildings, post offices, indoor events, and in common areas of schools such as hallways. 

Face masks will not be mandatory in restaurants, offices or school classrooms.

These are the current coronavirus numbers, according of the Ministry of Health:

  • There are at least 5,816 active cases of Covid-19.
  • There are at least 104 people who are currently hospitalized
  • At least 397 people have died from coronavirus.
  • At least 13,799 people have recovered from Covid-19 infections.

11:31 a.m. ET, August 17, 2020

Here is how New York City is preparing to reopen schools

From CNN's Melanie Schuman

A public school stands on the Upper East Side on August 7 in the Manhattan borough of New York City.
A public school stands on the Upper East Side on August 7 in the Manhattan borough of New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday a new Department of Education hotline for principals to call in an effort to expedite the delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies.

He said that when schools reopen, the schools chancellor will do unannounced, spot inspections in addition to the monitoring and unannounced safety checks by other staff.

During the city’s daily news conference Monday, the mayor showed a video detailing what the city has done to prepare for school.

Here are some the things the mayor said the city is doing:

  • On supplies: PPE will be provided including four million face masks, 3.5 million bottles of hand sanitizer and 80,000 canisters of wipes.
  • On cleaning efforts: 7,350 maintenance staff will be on hand to clean, and 210,000 signs will be posted to encourage good practices. The city will use electrostatic disinfectant for surfaces. Rooms without adequate ventilation will not be used.

The city now has better numbers for how many students have chosen remote learning mode as well as the number of teachers who have requested medical accommodations according to Richard Carranza, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, who did not provide the actual numbers. Those teachers will instruct via remote learning and the city is working with unions on the plan. Carranza also said that wherever possible students who are doing remote learning will have instruction from a teacher or teachers within their school.

There will be daily time built in to the schedule for collaboration and coordination for teachers to help ensure those in remote learning and those in schools receive comparable instruction.

Plans for special education are still in development including team teaching.

11:17 a.m. ET, August 17, 2020

New York City mayor says the city has done aggressive outreach in neighborhood that saw a Covid-19 outbreak

People wait to receive a COVID-19 test at a temporary testing site at Sunset Park in Brooklyn, New York, on August 13.
People wait to receive a COVID-19 test at a temporary testing site at Sunset Park in Brooklyn, New York, on August 13. Wang Ying/Xinhua/Getty

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said today during his daily press briefing the city has done aggressive outreach in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, which saw an outbreak of more than 200 Covid-19 cases last week.

The mayor said there has been a large outreach including door knocks, robocalls, actual phone calls and testing — 5,200 tests since July 29. He did not provide updated case numbers.

Individual households with specific problems are working with the city’s test and trace team to separate within the households and prevent further spread within the community. The mayor said these particular households have 90% compliance.

However, de Blasio added, several hundred gathered in illegal spaces in the same neighborhood recently including two illegal raves which were broken up by the sheriff, according to the mayor who said people will be held accountable.

Here are some of the latest coronavirus numbers from NYC:

  • 57 people were admitted to hospitals for suspected cases of coronavirus, which is under the threshold of 200.
  • 264 people are in the public hospitals intensive care units, which is under the threshold of 375.
  • One percent have tested positive, which is well under the threshold at 15%.

One thing to note: These numbers were released by the city’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.