September 15 coronavirus news

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6:53 a.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Israel cases hit record high ahead of second nationwide lockdown

From CNN's Oren Liebermann and Michael Schwartz

People are seen in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya on September 14.
People are seen in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya on September 14. Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

Israel smashed its daily coronavirus record with 4,973 cases diagnosed on Monday, according to the Ministry of Health, surging past the previous record of 4,217 set last week. Israel is also seeing new highs in the number of severe cases with 533 serious cases and 140 patients on ventilators.

Deputy Health Minister, Yoav Kisch, speaking on Israel’s Channel 12 News Tuesday morning, warned the country could see deaths “like there were in New York and Italy, God forbid,” urging people to heed the imminent restrictions. 

The new record comes three days before Israel is set to enter a second general lockdown to bring the numbers under control, making it perhaps the first country in the world to reimpose a general lockdown. Although not as strict as the first lockdown in April, the new restrictions, scheduled to last three weeks through the Jewish high holidays, will see the closure of schools, restaurants (except delivery), entertainment venues and more. Gatherings will be limited to 20 people outdoors and 10 people indoors.

The record also comes with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington DC for a signing ceremony of normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The ceremony itself has sparked concerns over the spread of coronavirus, since the White House is expecting a crowd of hundreds of people and is not requiring the wearing of masks, which is obligatory in Israel. 

“We are expecting to keep it as distanced as possible,” a senior White House official told CNN.
6:17 a.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Shoppers are starting to splash out in China, aiding economic recovery

From CNN's Laura He

People in Beijing look at products in a toy shop on September 15.
People in Beijing look at products in a toy shop on September 15. Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed the world's economies into historic slumps. But China is bucking the trend.

The world's second largest economy has been in recovery mode for months. Now, consumers are starting to spend more, pushing retail sales up to 3.36 trillion yuan ($495 billion) in August, a 0.5% increase over the previous year. While small, the gain marks the first time sales have increased in 2020.

Chinese authorities touted the uptick at a monthly press conference Tuesday, and pointed out that the country is seeing economic improvement elsewhere, too.

"The job market has stabilized, and travel restrictions have loosened," said Fu Linghui, a spokesman for National Bureau of Statistics.
"People are more willing to come out and spend."

Read more:

6:08 a.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Austria reports rising cases after leader said it is starting second wave

From CNN's Nina Avramova, Stephanie Halasz and Nadine Schmidt

A man in Vienna, Austria, hands his Covid-19 testing sample to an employee at a coronavirus testing center on September 14.
A man in Vienna, Austria, hands his Covid-19 testing sample to an employee at a coronavirus testing center on September 14. Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images

Austria has reported a moderate rise in cases in parts of the country, including the capital Vienna.

Under Austria's pandemic traffic light system, the affected regions have been classified as "yellow," meaning that there is a slight increase in virus clusters.

Outbreaks in yellow zones can be largely controlled by official measures, according to the Austrian health authority's website.

The country's leader, Sebastian Kurz, has previously warned that Austria is on the brink of a second Covid-19 wave.

We are at the beginning of the second wave. We are facing difficult months in the autumn and winter. The number of infections is increasing from day to day," Kurz said in a tweet posted on Sunday.

He added that Austrians should continue to comply with all pandemic measures.

Austria has reported 33,541 cases overall, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.

5:52 a.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Parties keep US high schoolers from getting back to the classroom

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

Overcrowded parties have forced several US high schools to go back to online learning in hopes of staving off Covid-19 outbreaks.

Two of those schools are in Massachusetts, which is reporting fewer cases than last week, and New York, which has maintained an infection rate less than 1% for 38 days.

Although the states' numbers are promising, experts have warned that people attending large gatherings are a serious threat to managing the spread of the virus that has infected more than 6.5 million and killed 194,536 people in the US. Student parties have already sent colleges and universities scrambling to manage outbreaks, and now high school administrators are working to avoid the same.

A crowded student party "that involved alcohol and complete lack of safety precautions" pushed Lincoln-Sudbury High School outside of Boston to go back to remote learning the first two weeks of school, a letter from the superintendent said. And Pelham High School in Westchester, New York, has also extended online learning after two nights in a row of students partying in the woods, the school district announced.

Read more:

5:29 a.m. ET, September 15, 2020

South Korea plans to secure Covid-19 vaccine for 60% of population

From CNN's Jake Kwon in Seoul

South Korea's government has said it plans to secure a Covid-19 vaccine for 30 million people in the country, just under 60% of the population.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said that the government plans to do this by negotiating with foreign companies and international organizations. South Korea has a total population of nearly 52 million.

Chung has also ordered officials to prepare inoculation plans and to support domestic companies trying to develop a vaccine.

Seoul will continue to seek other ways to import vaccines, Chung added during a press briefing Tuesday.

Kwon Joon-wook, deputy director of Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention Agency, said the foreign vaccine would be chosen primarily based on safety. 

Those in the medical profession will receive the vaccine first, including health care workers involved in the vaccination drive and disease prevention, Kwon added.

South Korea has reported 22,391 coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.

4:46 a.m. ET, September 15, 2020

"I thought I was going to die." Inside Venezuela's mandatory quarantine motels

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio and Isa Soares

The woman's voice shakes as she recalls her quarantine days in a Venezuela motel. 

"I sometimes am sleeping at night and I wake up thinking I am in the motel," she says, tearing up. "I still feel traumatized."

She, like the more than two dozen healthcare professionals or aid workers we spoke with to inform this report, asked CNN not to reveal their identity for fear of reprisal from the Venezuelan government. 

Her ordeal began when her father died in the once-oil rich city of Maracaibo, in northeastern Venezuela. Doctors suspected that he was a victim of Covid-19, though test results were inconclusive. Still in mourning, his whole family was required to take a rapid test. Hers also came back inconclusive. 

From that point on, her life was completely controlled by Venezuela's government, she says -- from where she slept to what she ate.

"I was immediately isolated from that moment on. I heard nothing from my family, I didn't have any contact with them, I couldn't get anywhere near them," she says. "I felt frustrated, I thought I was going to die." 

First she was put in a government-run diagnostics center for three days, where she says she shared a room with no air conditioning with four other patients. She had to share a dirty bathroom with the other suspected cases, two of whom, she says, "were in very poor health." Then she was told she would be transferred to a motel.

"Prison-like" quarantine: Doctors we spoke to say Venezuela's government has been using motels and other makeshift facilities to quarantine patients suspected of having the novel coronavirus, in a bid to separate them from the general population and keep them from overburdening the country's already depleted and crumbling hospitals. But these facilities have earned a reputation for being unsanitary, crowded and prison-like, with many Venezuelans fearing being locked inside them.

Read the full story:

4:23 a.m. ET, September 15, 2020

This airport has been awarded the world's first 5-star anti-Covid award

From CNN's Lilit Marcus

Travelers eager to fly again may want to consider Italy as their next destination.

Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first airport in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airport industry ratings body.

Though Skytrax is best known for its annual rankings of the world's best airports, the global Covid-19 crisis prompted the organization to come up with a designation for airport hygiene.

According to a release from Skytrax, the organization based its rating on "a combination of procedural efficiency checks, visual observation analysis and ATP sampling tests."

Fiumicino Airport (FCO), also known as Leonardo Da Vinci International Airport, is the busiest airport in Italy.

Top marks: On September 1, the airport opened a 7,000-square-foot Covid testing center, which is co-managed with the Italian Red Cross.

But it's not only organized, rapid testing that Skytrax noted in its review of FCO. The airport scored points for having easy-to-read signage in multiple languages, strict enforcement of mask wearing, visibly present cleaning staff and efficiency thanks to the consolidation of all incoming and outgoing flights to a single terminal for easier tracking.

Read the full story:

3:55 a.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Two passengers have been forced off planes in Japan this month for not wearing masks

From CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

Two passengers on separate flights were forced to disembark from planes in Japan this month after refusing to wear masks while on board. 

One incident occurred Saturday and involved a Hokkaido Air System Company flight from Hakodate to the island of Okushiri, both of which are located in the northern province of Hokkaido. One man who was not wearing a mask was ordered off the plane by the captain, according to Matsuhiro Ohta, a public relations official with Hokkaido Air System Company, which is a subsidiary of Japan Airlines, delaying the flight by a half hour.

Ohta said that it appeared the issue stemmed from miscommunication -- the passenger claimed after he was forced off the flight that he was developing a rash while wearing the mask. However, Ohta said the passenger was unruly and uncooperative and that his refusal to wear a mask was only part of the reason he was not allowed to fly.

The other incident occurred on September 7. A Peach Aviation flight from the city of Kushiro in Japan's north to Osaka was forced to make what the airline called an "unscheduled stop" after a passenger refused to put on a mask despite repeated requests from flight attendants. The company told CNN that it is not ruling out taking legal action against the passenger. 

Ultimately, the flight made its way to Osaka after a delay of two hours and 15 minutes.

Read the full story:

3:26 a.m. ET, September 15, 2020

US reports more than 33,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian

The United States reported 33,826 new Covid-19 infections and 418 virus-related deaths on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

At least 6,554,820 cases, including 194,536 fatalities, have now been recorded in the US.

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

CNN is tracking US cases here: