The latest on the coronavirus pandemic

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Amy Woodyatt, Ed Upright, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 2:18 a.m. ET, August 22, 2020
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5:06 p.m. ET, August 21, 2020

CDC updates school guidelines during the Covid-19 pandemic

From CNN's Jen Christensen

A student wears a face mask during a lesson at an elementary school on August 20 in Surprise, Arizona.
A student wears a face mask during a lesson at an elementary school on August 20 in Surprise, Arizona. Cheney Orr/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its school guidance Friday. The update adds more details to inform administrators’ decisions about opening schools and limit risk, according to CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. 

Redfield said the updated guidance comes out of discussions the CDC has been having with districts about how to best operate during a pandemic.

The updated guidelines encourage schools to work closely with local and public health leaders if there is an infected person on campus. Rather than shut everything down immediately for a long period of time, the guidelines said one option is an initial short-term class suspension and cancelation of events and after school activities, so that public health leaders can get the time they need to determine how widespread the infections are.

When schools are using a pod system, keeping certain students together, administrators may only need to close certain parts of the building where an infected person had been. If local health officials recommend against closing the building, school leaders should thoroughly clean that area.

The decision to suspend school altogether should be made on a case-by-case basis using the most up-to-date information about the pandemic, according to the guidelines, taking into account local case counts and the degree of ongoing transmission in the community.

More details: Schools are encouraged to “regularly” and “transparently” communicate with staff, teachers, students and families, including about mental health support services available at the school, the CDC said. Sharing facts will “counter the spread of misinformation and mitigate fear,” the guidelines said.

Schools should offer remote counseling and ensure the continuity of mental health services. Schools should also encourage students that feel overwhelmed and want to harm themselves or others to call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

5:02 p.m. ET, August 21, 2020

New York City shares latest data on confirmed and probable Covid-19 deaths

From CNN's Laura Ly

New York City has 19,007 confirmed coronavirus deaths and 4,634 probable coronavirus deaths as of Aug. 19, according to the most recent data on the city website.

The New York City Health Department defines probable deaths as people who did not have a positive Covid-19 laboratory test, but their death certificate lists as the cause of death “Covid-19” or an equivalent.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus deaths and probable coronavirus deaths in New York City is 23,641.

More data: There have been 227,927 coronavirus cases in the city and 56,862 people have been hospitalized, according to the city.

The data is from the New York City Health Department and was updated on Aug. 21 at 1 p.m., according to the website.

To note: The numbers may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

4:59 p.m. ET, August 21, 2020

University of Iowa discontinues sports programs due to Covid-19

From CNN's Cesar Marin

The University of Iowa is discontinuing four sports programs at the conclusion of the 2020-21 academic year.

The school cited the financial toll of the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for shutting down men’s gymnastics, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and men’s tennis.

“The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a financial exigency which threatens our continued ability to adequately support 24 intercollegiate athletics programs at the desired championship level. With the Big Ten Conference’s postponement of fall competition on August 11, UI Athletics now projects lost revenue of approximately $100M and an overall deficit between $60-75M this fiscal year. A loss of this magnitude will take years to overcome. We have a plan to recover, but the journey will be challenging," school president Bruce Harreld and athletics director Gary Barta said in an open letter.

Existing scholarships will be honored through graduation as long as the student-athlete decides to remain at Iowa. Athletes in those sports will have the opportunity to compete in their upcoming 2020-21 seasons, but only if the circumstances surrounding Covid-19 permit before the sports are discontinued. 

Some context: Iowa is the latest high-profile university to cancel sports programs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, Stanford University cut 11 varsity sports programs including field hockey, synchronized swimming, men's volleyball and wrestling.

4:07 p.m. ET, August 21, 2020

Arkansas governor responds to reports of largest number of Covid-19 deaths on record

From CNN’s Janine Mack

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks during a press conference on August 19 in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks during a press conference on August 19 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Staton Breidenthal/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/AP

Arkansas is seeing an uptick in active cases of coronavirus, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.

The state is reporting an increase of 887 cases of coronavirus and 22 deaths within the past 24 hours, Hutchinson said during a news conference today.

“We have more work to do in Arkansas,” he said. 

The governor said this is the largest number of deaths recorded since the pandemic began, and the fourth highest day of Covid-19 cases in the state, Hutchinson said.

The governor reminded residents that “we are not back to normal” and urged them to remain vigilant.

By the numbers: Arkansas has reported 55,652 total cases of coronavirus and 663 deaths since the pandemic started, according to Hutchinson. 

To note: These numbers were released by the Arkansas 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.

3:40 p.m. ET, August 21, 2020

All New Hampshire restaurants can go to 100% capacity for indoor dining, governor says

From CNN's Laura Ly

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu tweeted Friday that effective immediately, all restaurants in the state can go to 100% capacity for indoor dining. 

Tables will still be required to be six feet apart, and all other public health guidelines remain in effect, Sununu said.

Read the tweet:

3:35 p.m. ET, August 21, 2020

Paraguay announces social quarantine due to increase in Covid-19 cases 

From CNN’s Claudia Rebaza and Tim Lister

Paraguay will institute a social quarantine in the country’s capital Asunción and its central region on Monday due to the increase of Covid-19 cases in the country, Health Minister Julio Mazzoleni announced on Friday. 

“We propose a social quarantine for the next two weeks. It is basically to restrict movement during these two weeks,” Mazzoleni said during a news conference.  

The social quarantine will be accompanied with restricted movement for the population during the night, limited long distance transport during the weekends as well as a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages, the health ministry said in a statement on Friday. 

Physical activities will only be allowed on an individual basis, according to the statement. 

Mazzoleni said the measures were created to limit community activities where most of the transmission happens. 

“The pandemic will continue, but we need to stop the speed of transmission and stabilize the number of cases,” Mazzoleni said. 

As of Friday afternoon, the country reported a total of 11,817 Covid-19 cases and 170 deaths. 

The latest numbers: The number of deaths from coronavirus in Paraguay has more than doubled in 10 days, according to figures released by the country's health ministry. The total number of cases has risen by nearly 25% during this same period.

3:32 p.m. ET, August 21, 2020

36 Purdue students suspended after breaking social distancing rules

From CNN's Annie Grayer

Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana
Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana Shutterstock

At least 36 students at Purdue University in Indiana were suspended this week after attending an off-campus party that violated the school’s social distancing rules.

The number of students suspended was confirmed by Tim Doty, the school's director of public information and issues management.

Doty said the students "may appeal the interim suspension, and the ultimate sanctioning decision will be made later after a full hearing process."

"The University will move that process forward expeditiously,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Katie Sermersheim, associate vice provost and the dean of students, said the school has been "clear and consistent" in its messaging to students

"Unfortunately, everything we have done – the months of planning to give our students the opportunity to continue their educational pursuits in person – can be undone in the blink of an eye – with just one party or event that does not follow the rules and guidelines,” she said in a statement to CNN.

Sermersheim said the university is asking to put on hold large gatherings in confined spaces for now, and that the university is calling upon its entire community of faculty, staff, and students to work together to "meet our collective health responsibilities."

Earlier this week, Purdue said in a news release that it was adding violation of the Protect Purdue Plan to its code of conduct regulations — meaning that students who violate the code could be subject to disciplinary action.

"If you don’t abide by rules, there is no place for you here,” Sermersheim said. 

Purdue announced its plan Friday for continued surveillance and testing of its nearly 40,000 students. According to the plan, all on-campus employees must undergo required weekly testing and random testing will take place for all students throughout the semester.

Classes are scheduled to begin on Monday.

2:39 p.m. ET, August 21, 2020

Florida judge expected to rule next week on whether physical schools should reopen

From CNN’s Rosa Flores and Sara Weisfeldt 

After two days of witness testimony, closing arguments in the temporary injunction hearing in the Florida Education Association v. Gov. Ron DeSantis were presented Friday, bringing the virtual court proceeding to a close.

Florida Judge Charles Dodson instructed the parties in the case to provide him with briefs, no more than 15 pages long, by 5 p.m. today. 

The details of the case: The lawsuit was filed on July 20 by the FEA, the largest teacher’s union in Florida, in an effort to stop the implementation of the emergency order issued by Florida’s Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, which requires school districts to reopen for in-person instruction five days a week.

The FEA argued that the emergency order is “arbitrary and capricious” and therefore in violation of the state’s constitution. The teachers union said the decision to reopen schools safely should be up to local school boards and should not be arbitrarily made by the governor and the education commissioner, who decided that all schools should be ready to reopen by Aug. 31.

They also said that the reopening time-table should be based on recommendations by medical experts, who say the positivity rate should be 5% or lower and no county in Florida has less than 5% positivity rate. Not following the emergency order, the FEA argued, results in losing funding. 

Attorneys representing DeSantis agreed that “there’s no question” that failing to follow the emergency order results in a reduction of funding. 

The governor’s lawyers went on to argue that the governor and the state’s education commissioner have a duty, under the Florida constitution, to provide students with a high quality education.

What's next: Dodson said yesterday, he plans to review the briefs over the weekend and make a ruling early next week.

2:46 p.m. ET, August 21, 2020

CDC director highlights Rhode Island's success at reopening childcare centers

From CNN's Andrea Kane

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield testifies at a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on Capitol Hill on July 31 in Washington, D.C.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield testifies at a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on Capitol Hill on July 31 in Washington, D.C. Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images

Rhode Island’s successful reopening of childcare centers is an example of how to limit the spread of Covid-19, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a briefing on Friday.

Redfield’s comments coincided with the early release of an analysis in the CDC’s weekly report about Covid-19 transmissions during June and July after Rhode Island reopened childcare programs. It found that possible secondary transmission was identified in only four of the 666 programs that had been allowed to reopen.

“I wanted to highlight this report, because it's likely that the limit spread of Covid-19 in this instance was due to the adherence of the child care program requirements and the efforts by the state health department to rapidly investigate and respond to these cases,” Redfield said. “This is like other instances that we've highlighted as an example, and a testimony to the important role that everyone can play in slowing the spread of Covid-19 in their communities: wearing masks consistently and correctly, staying six feet away from each other, staying home when you're sick, and washing your hands frequently."

The CDC analysis documented what happened when Rhode Island reopened childcare programs on June 1, after a nearly three-month closure, through the end of July.

When childcare programs reopened, the state was experiencing low transmission relative to other US states, but community transmission of the virus increased during the last two weeks of July.

During that time, there were at least 33 confirmed and 19 probable infections. Of the confirmed and probable cases, 30 were children and 22 were adults, including 20 teachers and two parents. Three-quarters of the cases occurred in mid to late July, when incidence in the state was increasing.