August 18 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Amy Woodyatt and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, August 19, 2020
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5:30 p.m. ET, August 18, 2020

Notre Dame is suspending in-person classes for two weeks

From CNN’s Annie Grayer

The Rev. John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, announces the shift to remote learning on Tuesday.
The Rev. John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, announces the shift to remote learning on Tuesday.

All undergraduate classes at the University of Notre Dame will shift to remote learning for the next two weeks as school officials try to get a recent spike in Covid-19 cases under control, Rev. John I. Jenkins, the university's president, told the community.

“We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of positive cases of Covid-19 in your first weeks back on campus” Jenkins said. “The spike in cases is very serious. And we must take serious steps to address it.”

Jenkins said that while his team had initially thought of sending the entire student body home, they decided to only move to remote learning for two weeks while continuing to monitor the situation. For the next two weeks, all undergraduate classes will be remote, all public spaces will be closed, residence halls will be restricted, and students who live off campus should remain in their homes and not come onto campus. 

“The objective of these temporary restrictions is to contain the spread of the virus so that we can get back to in person instruction,” Jenkins explained.

5:13 p.m. ET, August 18, 2020

Ireland tightens coronavirus restrictions

From CNN's Lauren Kent in Winston-Salem

Medical staff members work at a Covid-19 testing center in Newbridge, Ireland, on Monday.
Medical staff members work at a Covid-19 testing center in Newbridge, Ireland, on Monday. Niall Carson/PA Images/Getty Images

Ireland "significantly" tightened coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday in an effort to enable schools to reopen in the coming weeks, the Irish prime minister said in a news conference.

The government is limiting outdoor gatherings, encouraging businesses to continue working remotely, and urging citizens to restrict visitors to their homes and avoid public transit.

Prime Minister Micheál Martin said the county is tightening restrictions because "the spread of the virus is increasing across a wide range of settings, these restrictions will impact on most of us."

More on this: The announcement follows a spike in coronavirus cases that led to Ireland's first local lockdowns last week in the counties of Kildare, Laois, and Offaly. Ireland has reported at least 27,499 confirmed coronavirus cases and approximately 1,775 deaths, according to the latest Department of Health figures published Tuesday. 

Martin said the government is advising that all businesses should continue to facilitate remote working where possible and that public transport should be avoided. He also said sports events and matches will revert to being held behind closed doors.

Martin added that all visits to homes will now be limited to six people from outside the home and from no more than three households for both indoor and outdoor gatherings. Additionally, outdoor gatherings will be limited to 15 people. Restaurants and cafes can remain open, but with a mandatory closing time of 11:30 p.m. local. 

He also urged citizens over 70 years old to exercise greater caution, to limit their social interactions to a small network, and to only visit shops during designated hours.

In a video on Twitter Tuesday night, Martin added, "At the same time, the government is very conscious of the economic and social damage and the need to keep our economy working to keep society open. and in particular, to enable our schools to open fully in the coming weeks and to also enable the resumption of non-Covid elements of medicine and health."

4:36 p.m. ET, August 18, 2020

Covid-19 positivity rate in Louisiana drops below 10%, governor says

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch 

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, right, holds a news conference on Tuesday.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, right, holds a news conference on Tuesday. LPB

The positivity rate in Louisiana has dropped below 10%, Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a news conference.

The positivity rate for the state is 9.4%, Edwards said, dropping the state to the “yellow zone” as classified by the White House coronavirus task force.

The state reported an additional 664 new cases and 28 deaths.  

Louisiana has reported a total of 139,125 cases and 4,431 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Note: These numbers were released by the Louisiana 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.

4:35 p.m. ET, August 18, 2020

Georgia reports more than 2,800 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Dianne Gallagher and Pamela Kirkland

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported at least 2,873 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday.

The statewide Covid-19 case total now stands at approximately 241,677.

Georgia DPH also reported at least 69 new deaths. The total number of deaths attributed to Covid-19 in Georgia is now approximately 4,794. 

There were at least 296 new Covid-19 related hospitalizations recorded.

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

3:47 p.m. ET, August 18, 2020

New CDC program will monitor sewage to measure local spread of Covid-19

From CNN's Jen Christensen

A general view of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Edward R. Roybal campus is seen in Atlanta on April 23.
A general view of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Edward R. Roybal campus is seen in Atlanta on April 23. Tami Chappell/AFP/Getty Images

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a new program that will help monitor the spread of Covid-19 using sewage.

The new National Wastewater Surveillance System will help local public health leaders better understand the extent of the spread of the pandemic in their communities, the CDC said in an update on its website Monday.

Sewage from house and workplaces can be tested for genetic material from the novel coronavirus. Studies show the virus can be found in feces from people who are sick and also from people who don’t yet have Covid-19 symptoms. 

About 80% of the US is on some kind of municipal sewer system, the CDC said. With delays in testing and limited contact tracing, this would be a good complement to those methods and may give a good big picture of how widespread the disease is. Depending on how frequently the wastewater is tested, sewage can be a leading indicator of changes in the burden of the disease in the community, the CDC said.

That would mean the community might have a few extra days to prepare for surge capacity in hospitals or to make lockdown decisions.

Learning from history: This is not the first time the US has used sewage testing to monitor disease. Studies have shown it was an effective method to monitor for disease during polio outbreaks.

This method does have some limitations. It cannot capture information from septic systems. That means it would miss data from more than 60 million people who rely on septic.

In New Hampshire, half of all homes have individual systems. About a third of all new development is also served by septic or some other kind of decentralized system, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

This method cannot surveil decentralized systems like those used in universities or prisons that treat their waste. Several prisons have been hotspots for Covid-19 infections. It’s also unclear if low levels of infection in a community could be captured this way. The CDC said it is not possible to rely on wastewater data to predict the number of individual infections.    

The CDC said it is working on a portal for local leaders to submit their wastewater testing data into a national database and the CDC will release data as it gets it. 

4:44 p.m. ET, August 18, 2020

"Home is no longer a safe space": Domestic violence calls rise in Americas during pandemic

From CNN’s Chandler Thornton

Domestic violence calls have gone up in several regions in the Americas, according to the Pan American Health Organization.

"The ongoing stay-at-home measures, coupled with the social and economic impacts of this virus are increasing the risks of domestic violence," Pan American Health Organization director Dr. Carissa Etienne said in a briefing Tuesday. "Home, is no longer a safe space for many."

In Argentina, domestic violence calls have increased by more than a third, Etienne said. And in Mexico, calls have gone up more than 50% in comparison to last year. Etienne warned this may not even represent the full picture.

"These are only a few examples, it's happening across our region. The real extent of domestic violence during Covid-19 is likely underestimated as survivors are stuck at home and support and outreach services have been interrupted. With reduced contact to friends and family, or barriers in access to services and shelters, we are leaving survivors with nowhere to go," Etienne said. 

"Violence is never acceptable and survivors of domestic violence, should not be blamed," Etienne urged.

3:42 p.m. ET, August 18, 2020

Senate GOP drafts new scaled back coronavirus relief measure – with USPS funding

From CNN's Phil Mattingly

A US Postal Service truck drives down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, on April 23.
A US Postal Service truck drives down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, on April 23. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Senate Republicans have drafted a scaled-back coronavirus relief proposal as talks between Democrats and the White House remain stalled.

While the proposal isn’t expected to be considered any time soon – the US Senate remains adjourned for summer recess – it serves as a new marker for a conference that has been fractious and divided throughout the coronavirus relief talks. It also marks the latest effort to jar loose talks that on economic relief that have only grown further from a resolution and outcome as the weeks have passed. 

Still, it includes $10 billion in funding for the US Postal Service, which has become a political flash point over the last several weeks due to operational changes that have led to allegations of deliberately slowed service. 

The proposal is a “skinny” version of the $1 trillion Senate GOP proposal introduced last month.

Here's what other key points it would also include:

  • Liability protection
  • $105 billion for schools
  • A second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans

It also would include an extension of the enhanced federal unemployment benefit, but at a reduced level of $300. The benefit, which lapsed at the end of July, was set in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act at a flat rate of $600. 

The $10 billion funding level for the postal service is a nod to the tentative agreement reached between Democratic and White House negotiators on funding and will allow Republicans to point to the measure as a way to address calls for Congressional action as the election approaches. 

The 169 page draft proposal is expected to serve as a discussion point among Senate Republicans in the weeks ahead, with the idea being that it could be considered upon their return to Washington in September, according to GOP aides.

It also serves as an additional element for White House and Democratic negotiators to consider. Those talks, which fell apart earlier this month, have remained at a standstill over significant disagreements ranging from the topline cost to the specific components of any measure. 

“There's a deal to do here if the Democrats want to be reasonable," Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin said in an interview on CNBC. 

3:38 p.m. ET, August 18, 2020

More than 171,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

There are at least 5,462,976 cases of coronavirus in the US and at least 171,120 people have died from the virus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

So far on Monday, Johns Hopkins has reported 24,651 new cases and 623 reported deaths.  

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

3:30 p.m. ET, August 18, 2020

Chicago adds Iowa and Kansas to quarantine list after rising Covid-19 numbers

From CNN’s Kay Jones

The Chicago Department of Public Health announced today that Iowa and Kansas have been re-added to the city’s travel quarantine list. The city also said Wisconsin was removed from the list.

Last week, Iowa, Kansas and Utah were taken off the list, but now people coming from Iowa and Kansas will have to quarantine again as positive case numbers trend higher in those states. 

The order says travelers and Chicago residents coming into the city from 20 states and territories must quarantine for 14 days. The states are designated by case rates greater than 15 new cases per 100,000 resident population per day over a 7-day rolling average. 

Chicago Department of Public Commissioner Allison Arwady said today that Arizona and North Carolina are likely to be dropped from the list next week as their numbers improve.  

Chicago updates its emergency travel order on Tuesdays. The initial order went into effect on July 6.