The latest on the coronavirus pandemic

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Zamira Rahim, and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:42 a.m. ET, September 19, 2020
48 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
9:52 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

National mask mandate not backed by science, says White House coronavirus task force member

From CNN Health’s Lauren Mascarenhas

White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Scott Atlas speaks during a press conference at the White House in Washington DC, on September 18.
White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Scott Atlas speaks during a press conference at the White House in Washington DC, on September 18. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Scott Atlas told CNN’s Erin Burnett Friday that “there's no sound science that shows that you should have all populations wear a mask in all circumstances."

Atlas repeatedly stated that he agrees with US President Trump’s stance on masks.

“The President set the policy and I have agreed with his policy, which is wear masks when you cannot socially distance,” Atlas said.

Asked if he has concerns, as a doctor, about the large crowds of people gathering at Trump rallies without masks, Atlas said, “I have no problem with people taking independent responsibility for their lives.”

Trump April vaccine promise "factually true": During the interview, Atlas defended Trump’s claim that a Covid-19 vaccine will be widely available by April.

“Every American who wants the vaccine will be able to get the vaccine by April. That’s factually true,” Atlas told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “The President is exactly right on this.”

Atlas did acknowledge that no vaccine has actually been authorized or approved yet by the US Food and Drug Administration. 

“Pending approval, of course, of a safe and effective vaccine, there's more than 100 million doses being manufactured by the end of the year,” Atlas said. “There are hundreds of millions being manufactured and delivered during the first three months.”

Hear more:

7:10 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Here's where things stand now on the development of a Covid-19 vaccine

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House on Friday in Washington.
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House on Friday in Washington. Alex Brandon/AP

President Trump said today that the United States will have enough Covid-19 vaccines for every American by April.

There's been a lot of news about the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine lately. Here's a look at some of the biggest developments:

  • Exercise patience: The idea that anyone can say there’s going to be a coronavirus vaccine before the studies have even been completed is stunning, Dr. Richard Besser, a former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said today. He said he is optimistic there will be a Covid-19 vaccine because of the large effort being put into making one and the variety of different vaccine types being tested.
  • FDA head confident they'll produce a safe vaccine: US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said he has “unwavering confidence and trust” in his agency’s ability to approve a Covid-19 vaccine that is safe and effective. “I am often asked about how and when FDA will authorize or approve a vaccine to protect against Covid-19. Here is my answer: when the agency’s scientific experts have completed their review and are ready to do so, and not a moment before,” he tweeted today.
  • The latest timeline on vaccine results: CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a Senate hearing this week that the American public could expect to start seeing results from widespread coronavirus vaccination in the second or third quarter of 2021. Even if a vaccine for Covid-19 was released today, it would take six to nine months for enough people to receive it to create immunity, he said.
  • What Trump is saying: Later in the day, the President told reporters Redfield was "confused" when he said that. "I think he made a mistake when he said that. It's just incorrect information," Trump said.
  • The US' plan for free vaccines: The federal government released plans on Wednesday detailing how it will distribute Covid-19 vaccines once they've been OK'd. Operation Warp Speed aims to have Covid-19 vaccines moving to administration sites within 24 hours of an FDA license or emergency use authorization, an official said. And the aim is to make them free of charge.
7:05 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

New Canadian Covid-19 gargle test is "one of the first of its kind" in the world

From CNN’s Paula Newton in Ottawa

Most children in British Columbia can now say goodbye to those icky swabs and uncomfortable Covid-19 tests as the province launches a new gargle method for students ages 4 to 19.

“It is one of the first of its kind around the world,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's provincial health officer at a news conference Thursday.

The BC Centre for Disease Control said the new test is just as accurate as tests using a nasal swab and is much easier to administer for children.

“This is a new saline gargle where you put a little bit of normal saline, so sterile water, in your mouth and you swish it around a little bit and you spit it into a little tube and that’s an easier way to collect it for young people,” said Henry.

Public health officials in British Columbia say they compared test results in both children and adults and found the rate of Covid-19 detection was very similar between the nasal swab and the new gargle test.

British Columbia is prioritizing children for the new test but hopes to expand to adults in the coming weeks.

While the sample will still have to be taken to a lab for processing, the test does not have to be administered by a health care professional.

With the majority of students in Canada are now attending school in person, Covid-19 testing is in high demand as Canada has seen a doubling of new daily cases in the last month.

5:58 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

NYC restaurants can soon add a Covid-19 surcharge to receipts

From CNN’s Ganesh Setty

A person walks past the Bel Aire diner on May 20 in the Astoria neighborhood in the Queens borough in New York City.
A person walks past the Bel Aire diner on May 20 in the Astoria neighborhood in the Queens borough in New York City. Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

New York City diners may soon see a Covid-19 surcharge on their bills as the restaurant industry continues to hobble amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The New York City Council passed a bill Wednesday 46-2 that would allow restaurants to charge as much as 10% on customers dining indoors or outdoors in order to help cover restaurants’ Covid-19 expenses. 

Termed the “COVID-19 Recovery Charge,” the surcharge does not include any tax to be paid, nor applies to delivery or takeout orders. A restaurant implementing the surcharge is free to use the new funds however they like, though must also make it clear that the surcharge is not a substitute for a tip or gratuity for waitstaff.

Republican city councilman Joseph Borelli, the bill’s prime sponsor, told CNN that the new option will help owners who don’t want to go through the trouble of raising prices on their menus. 

“New York was actually the only city that we knew of that actually had a ban, a 45-year-old law made when the Department of Consumer Affairs essentially reorganized, and it prevented restaurants, the only industry in New York City, from applying a surcharge,” he explained.

5:05 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Here's how US schools and colleges are responding to the pandemic

Michigan State University.
Michigan State University. Shutterstock

Schools and universities have implemented augmented learning styles as Covid-19 infections continue to be reported on campuses around the US.

Here's the latest on schools and universities around the country:

  • Michigan State University revealed today that 45 student-athletes, of the 376 tested between Sept. 7-14, have tested positive for Covid-19. Twenty-four staff members were also tested with one of them returning a positive result.
  • When asked to comment on schools reopening to in-person learning in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis today said, “the first schools started opening over a month ago, and clearly the, you know the Covid numbers have gone down since then.”
  • A University of Cincinnati dean is investigating an email in which an instructor told a quarantined student who had to miss class that those "testing positive for the chinese virus" would not receive a grade.
  • The football game between Florida Atlantic University and Georgia Southern University, slated to kickoff Saturday in Statesboro, Georgia, has been postponed. The FAU athletic department said following Thursday's Covid-19 testing results, the team would be unable to play.

4:10 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

California recalls more than 10 million N95 masks

From CNN's Sarah Moon

Justin Chin/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Justin Chin/Bloomberg/Getty Images

More than 10 million N95 masks purchased using a $90 million contract are being recalled by the state of California, according to Brian Ferguson, spokesperson for the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES).

The state was notified on Sept. 11 that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) had withdrawn its temporary certification of N95 masks made by the Santa Clara-based company Advoque Safeguard and immediately began recalling them, Ferguson told CNN.

According to Ferguson, 10.2 million of these masks have been received and 7.2 million of those had been distributed as of Sept. 8.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) notified all recipients of these masks of the change in certification and directed these masks “no longer be used in settings requiring the use of this essential PPE,” Ferguson said.

About the masks: N95 masks, which filters at least 95% of airborne particles, are the most common respirators approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC has recommended N95 masks for essential workers to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

Ferguson explained that the NIOSH certification is an explicit requirement of all state contracts for N95 masks to ensure that frontline workers can be confident that the masks meet federal health and safety standards.

“It is a condition of the contract, and is incumbent upon the vendor, to maintain this certification,” he said.

Despite the state’s recall of all N95 masks made by Advoque Safeguard, the company announced in a letter to its customers and distributors on Wednesday that it is not conducting a recall of their masks, but have established a “product replacement program” as a courtesy to their customers.

“NIOSH has not asked us to implement a recall but has requested that we be diligent in informing our customers of the situation, and we are doing so,” Advoque Safeguard co-founder and chief technology officer Jason Azevedo said in a statement to CNN. “Additionally, Advoque Safeguard has instituted an exchange program for N95 respirators.” 

The exact reason for the recall is unknown and has not been explained. CNN has reached out to the CDPH and NIOSH for additional details.

3:35 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Trump claims there will be enough vaccines for all Americans by April

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on Friday in Washington.
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on Friday in Washington. Alex Brandon/AP

President Trump claimed that there will be enough vaccines for all Americans by April, shattering estimates from medical experts within his own administration. 

“We’ll have manufactured at least 100 million vaccine doses before the end of the year, and likely much more than that,” he continued. “Millions of doses will be available every month, and we expect to have enough vaccines for every American by April.”

Those estimates are “based on the manufacturing that’s in process,” Trump said.  

White House coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas said those individuals prioritized on the list include high-risk individuals and first responders.

"And so that by April, every single American who wants to be vaccinated will have the ability to be vaccinated. It is not a forced vaccination, of course," Atlas said.

Some background: Earlier this week, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a Senate hearing that it would likely be the second or third quarter of next year – that means late spring or summer – before widespread vaccination could be underway in the US. Asked about this during a news conference later in the day, Trump said Redfield “made a mistake” and was “confused.”

Trump told reporters in today's White House news conference they think they can beat Redfield's number and timeline "very substantially."

4:05 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Trump says vaccine distribution will begin within 24 hours of approval

Source: Pool
Source: Pool

President Trump is speaking now, briefing reporters on the race to find a coronavirus vaccine.

The President said that once a vaccine has been approved, the US will be ready to begin distribution within one day.

"Distribution will begin within 24 hours after notice," Trump said. "Massive amounts will be delivered through our great military."

This is inline with the government's vaccine plans released earlier this week: On Wednesday, the federal government released its distribution plans, which detailed how Operation Warp Speed aims to have Covid-19 vaccines moving to administration sites within 24 hours of an FDA license or emergency use authorization, an official said. And the aim is to make them free of charge.

"We will move that as fast as possible, within a day or so, to administration sites after we get the word from the FDA," said Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, the deputy chief of supply, production and distribution for the federal government's Covid-19 vaccine effort, said during a briefing.

Watch here:

2:43 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

France sets new daily record with more than 13,000 Covid-19 cases

From Eva Tapiero

A medical worker wearing protective equipment uses a swab to do a PCR test for Covid-19 on a woman wearing a face mask in front of the city hall of Paris on August 31.
A medical worker wearing protective equipment uses a swab to do a PCR test for Covid-19 on a woman wearing a face mask in front of the city hall of Paris on August 31. Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

France has recorded 13,215 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, according to data released by the country's National Health Agency.

The latest numbers also show an increasing trend in hospital admissions, with 3,626 new patients over the past seven days.

The new infections bring the total number of confirmed cases in France to 428,696.

Read the latest news on the pandemic in Europe here.