August 20 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Emma Reynolds, Ed Upright and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:51 AM ET, Fri August 21, 2020
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5:54 p.m. ET, August 20, 2020

White House formally declares teachers are essential workers

From CNN's Sarah Westwood

A teacher disinfects desks in a classroom at a public charter school in Provo, Utah, on Thursday, Aug. 20.
A teacher disinfects desks in a classroom at a public charter school in Provo, Utah, on Thursday, Aug. 20. George Frey/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The White House has formally declared that teachers are essential workers as part of its effort to encourage schools around the country to reopen for in-person learning.

The move is just the latest in the administration’s campaign to pressure districts into bringing back students this fall. The essential worker designation provides guidance for educators that is only voluntary; it calls on teachers to return to the classroom even after potential exposure. 

Some context: Vice President Mike Pence announced the decision to governors on a call earlier this week, a person familiar with the decision said.

Under Department of Homeland Security guidance issued this week, teachers are now considered “critical infrastructure workers,” and are subject to the same kinds of advisories as other workers who have born that label – such as doctors and law enforcement officers.

The guidance for essential workers states that they can continue to work even after exposure to a confirmed case of Covid-19, provided they remain asymptomatic. Schools’ contribution to community spread has already been a top concern for districts making the decision to open or close, so pushing teachers to continue working after potential exposure could prove controversial.

White House officials made the move in part to convey how seriously its believes the schools question should be taken, the person said, but also to try to stabilize the teaching workforce and streamline guidance at a time of confusion about the future of classrooms.

5:48 p.m. ET, August 20, 2020

East Carolina University pauses football activities after 10 positive Covid-19 tests

From CNN's Jill Martin

East Carolina University has paused football activities indefinitely after evaluating results from the latest rounds of Covid-19 testing, according to news release citing director of athletics Jon Gilbert.

Separately, a news alert on the university's website Thursday said the school has identified a cluster of Covid-19 cases within the university’s football team and Clement Hall, which is a university residence hall. There are currently seven positives related to Clement Hall and 10 positives associated with the football team, the alert stated.

"Today's decision to pause all football activities comes in consultation with our medical staff after reviewing our latest test results," Gilbert said. "We will continue to monitor all of our student-athletes on campus and take all the necessary actions to follow all safety protocols established at the local, state and national levels."

5:40 p.m. ET, August 20, 2020

Health and education expert raises equity concerns about Covid-19 learning pods

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

Annette Anderson, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Safe and Healthy Schools
Annette Anderson, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Safe and Healthy Schools Johns Hopkins

“Learning pods” may help families pool resources while keeping kids safe, but not every family has the means to take part, one expert said Thursday. 

“We know that parents who have more resources have always had more choice for their children in schools, and so I think there is an equity concern about the pandemic pods,” said Annette Anderson, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Safe and Healthy Schools.

Some parents are even sharing resources to hire tutors, but it’s something not many families can do, Anderson told a briefing sponsored by Johns Hopkins.

She urged parents to carefully consider plans for their children this upcoming school year.

“They need to really think about how they're going to balance the academic needs but also some of the social emotional learning needs to students, so that they can make sure that it's fair and balanced for everyone,” Anderson said.

Anderson also noted concerns that some people may have trouble getting the supplies and equipment their kids need for online learning.

“Despite the redoubling of efforts in districts to try to get devices to children, there's still a backlog in the number of devices and hotspots that are available to some of our students, so we need to make sure that we are being more consistent and bringing everyone up to the same level if we're going to deliver online content this fall,” she said. 

5:24 p.m. ET, August 20, 2020

2 New York Mets' games postponed due to positive Covid-19 tests

From CNN's Jill Martin

The New York Mets and Miami Marlins face off at Citi Field on August 9 in New York.
The New York Mets and Miami Marlins face off at Citi Field on August 9 in New York. Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Major League Baseball has announced that because of two positive tests for Covid-19 in the New York Mets’ organization, Thursday’s Mets game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park has been postponed.

Additionally, Friday’s scheduled game between the Mets and New York Yankees at Citi Field has been postponed “out of an abundance of caution.”

Here is the statement from the MLB:

“Following two positive tests for COVID-19 in the New York Mets’ organization, tonight’s game between the Mets and Miami Marlins at Marlins Park, as well as tomorrow’s scheduled contest between the Mets and New York Yankees at Citi Field, have been postponed out of an abundance of caution and to allow for additional testing and contact tracing to be conducted. Major League Baseball will continue to provide updates as necessary.”

 

5:19 p.m. ET, August 20, 2020

Florida county announces that about 300 students need to quarantine

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Just over one week into the school year, more than 300 students and teachers have had to quarantine in Martin County, Florida, over concerns of possible coronavirus cases.

Laurie Gaylord, superintendent of the county school district, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that schools decided to open on time following the emergency order from the state education commissioner to reopen all brick-and-mortar schools.

Gaylord said “it’s a possibility” that she would’ve kept school closed to in-person learning if there wasn’t an emergency order. There is a digital option for students, and Gaylord said they’ve shipped out at least 12,000 laptops. 

She said it’s important for kids to be back in school, citing not just teacher-student interaction but mental and physical wellness for students. 

“It’s the safest place sometimes for some of our students to be,” she added. 

Gaylord said there are safety guidelines like social distancing, masks, outdoor lunches, one-way hallways and more. 

Watch:

5:15 p.m. ET, August 20, 2020

New York governor extends moratorium on Covid-19-related commercial evictions

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press conference on August 20.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press conference on August 20. Pool

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Thursday extending the moratorium on Covid-19-related commercial evictions and foreclosures until Sept. 20.

“This measure extends protections already in place for commercial tenants and mortgagors in recognition of the financial toll the pandemic has taken on business owners, including retail establishments and restaurants," the governor said.

Essentially the extension “gives commercial tenants and mortgagors additional time to get back on their feet and catch up on rent or renegotiate their leasing terms to avoid eviction proceedings and foreclosures moving forward,” a release from Cuomo's office said.

4:22 p.m. ET, August 20, 2020

Mississippi governor issues limits on college football stadiums and game day events

From CNN’s Janine Mack

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has issued social distancing measures for college and university outdoor stadiums and game day events during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

According to the order, everyone 6 years old and up must wear a mask. Everyone must practice social distancing with people not in their household, and capacity is limited to 25%. No pregame tailgating or rallies outside the stadium are permitted, concession stands are open for grab-n-go food and drink, and contactless and touchless transactions when possible. Elevators occupancy is limited to no more than five people at a time.

The governor said Southern Mississippi has a game in two weeks and that the new rules are meant to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“I know this is no fun, but it’s better than other states with no football,” said Reeves on Thursday during a news conference.

The new order is in effect until Aug. 31 at 8 a.m., according to a press release.

Mississippi's health department has reported 75,449 positive cases of coronavirus and 2,190 deaths. 

To note: The numbers above were released by the Mississippi 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.

4:14 p.m. ET, August 20, 2020

California reports 5th straight day of new Covid-19 cases below 14-day average

From CNN's Alexandra Meeks 

Healthcare workers facilitate tests at a drive-in coronavirus testing center on August 11 in Los Angeles, California.
Healthcare workers facilitate tests at a drive-in coronavirus testing center on August 11 in Los Angeles, California. Mario Tama/Getty Images

California reported 5,920 new cases of coronavirus Thursday, marking a fifth straight day of confirmed infections below the state’s rolling 14-day average, according to data from the state's health department.

The health department also reported 163 new deaths for a cumulative total of 11,686. Yesterday, California marked its fifth highest number of deaths reported in single-day at 181.

Hospitalization and intensive care unit rates are also slightly down. The number of positive hospital patients in the state is now 4,890 and the number of ICU positive patients is 1,557.

California's rolling 14-day average of new cases is 8,198. The seven-day positivity rate and two-week positivity rate both stand at 6.6%.

3:54 p.m. ET, August 20, 2020

North Carolina State University moves all undergrad classes online due to Covid-19 clusters

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

North Carolina State University students walk through campus on August 18 in Raleigh, North Carolina.
North Carolina State University students walk through campus on August 18 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Robert Willett/The News & Observer/AP

North Carolina State University will move all undergraduate classes online starting Monday because of Covid-19 clusters from large parties, according to an announcement on the university's website.

University officials have received "reports of large parties in off-campus apartments," and identified "three Covid-19 clusters in off-campus and greek village houses" in the last two days alone, said the announcement.

The clusters "can be traced to parties and behavior outside of our community standards and the governor’s mandates," the announcement said.

"We’re seeing significant infections in greek life, and at this time there have been another seven greek houses that have been quarantined due to a number of additional positive cases," according to the school. "Unfortunately, the actions of a few are jeopardizing the health and safety of the larger community."

"The majority of NC State’s course hours are already online, but the remaining in-person and hybrid classes will move to online-only instruction for the remainder of the fall semester," the school added.