October 16 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Zamira Rahim and Nick Thompson, CNN

Updated 12:26 AM ET, Sat October 17, 2020
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2:20 a.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Analysis: In one of the world's most polluted cities, winter comes with the added fear of Covid-19

Analysis from CNN's Swati Gupta in New Delhi

Smog at Anand Vihar on October 14, in New Delhi, India.
Smog at Anand Vihar on October 14, in New Delhi, India. Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

India's capital New Delhi is bracing for the annual pollution season to begin.

As fall ends and the temperature begins to slowly drop, the pollution across North India rapidly starts to rise every year.

For the past few years, winter has seen New Delhi enveloped in a thick smog that pours in from burning crop fields, factories chugging out toxins, and smoke from firecrackers set off in anticipation of India’s annual festival of Diwali.

The city has been ranked the most polluted in the world, and the air quality last year reached levels more than 20 times World Health Organization (WHO) "safe" guidelines. Last year, authorities also declared a public health emergency for the city.

When the air quality worsens the smog becomes visible and the thick haze irritates eyes and throats, an ashy taste is constantly on your lips.

Those suffering from asthma and other respiratory illnesses often report complications.

Double health threat: This year, the unease in breathing is exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

For months, we have been sequestered in our homes and venture out reluctantly with a palpable fear of testing positive and having to battle with a broken healthcare system.

India reported 63,371 new Covid-19 cases and 895 deaths on Friday, with the nationwide number of infections more than 7.3 million -- the second most cases globally behind the United States.

With hospital beds already in short supply and consultations with doctors largely limited to video calls, someone suffering from breathing issues due to pollution may have nowhere to turn to now.

Like clockwork, every year in October I clean my air purifier and begin shuttering the doors and windows in my home to keep out the pollution. It's an action which will restrict the little fresh air I am able to breathe during a self-imposed lockdown.

But for thousands of people who have existing respiratory illnesses, Covid-19 has come with an extra layer of fear that their lungs may not survive both -- the air pollution and the damage the disease brings with it.

Survival mode: As authorities across multiple states scramble to reduce the smoke, we settle into a pattern of survival until the first rain at the end of the winter season clears the skies and we take off the masks that were protecting us from the pollution.

This time it will be different. We were wearing masks before the pollution season began and will continue to do so long after it's over.

2:10 a.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Passengers arrive in Australia from New Zealand as one-way travel bubble opens

A woman hugs her loved one after arriving at Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport on an Air New Zealand flight from Auckland on October 16.
A woman hugs her loved one after arriving at Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport on an Air New Zealand flight from Auckland on October 16. James D. Morgan/Getty Images

Passengers from New Zealand arrived at Sydney's International Airport today on the first flight of a one-way travel bubble that allows quarantine-free travel.

Images show passengers in masks hugging friends and carrying luggage after arriving in Australia's largest city from Auckland.

Signs depicting New Zealand's silver fern emblem in the arrivals areas welcomed passengers, with the message: "We've missed you."

One-way bubble: Around 70,000 Australians live in New Zealand, and they've been kept apart from their families and friends back home for months dues to coronavirus travel restrictions.

However, nearly 10 times that number of New Zealanders live in Australia -- but they will have to wait for quarantine-free travel home. Initially, the travel bubble is only one-way, from New Zealand to Australia, and a limited number of destinations will be included in the deal, according to Australian Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.

For now, the travel bubble will include only Australia's New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

The rules: McCormack said earlier this month that New Zealanders who hadn't been in a coronavirus hotspot in the previous 14 days would be allowed to enter Australia without having to isolate. Outside the travel bubble, anyone who flies into Australia must undergo 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine at their own expense.

The Australian Department of Health had determined that New Zealand posed a "low risk" of Covid-19 transmission to Australia. Right now, New Zealand's borders are closed to international travelers under restrictions put in place to limit the spread of the virus. McCormack said it would be up to New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to decide whether to make exceptions for Australians.

Ardern said on October 2 that New Zealanders who take up the Australian offer will still have to quarantine on their return.

Almost all international arrivals into New Zealand must pay 3,100 New Zealand dollars (about $2,000) to complete 14 days in a government-run quarantine facility.

Read more about the travel bubble:

1:38 a.m. ET, October 16, 2020

US reports more than 63,000 Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Alta Spells

The United States reported 63,610 new Covid-19 cases and 820 new virus-related deaths on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Nationwide, at least 7,979,709 Covid-19 infections and 217,692 fatalities have now been confirmed.

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

On Thursday, a new model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine, forecasted there will most likely be about 389,087 deaths -- or 78% more fatalities -- in the US by February 1. 

Much of the US continues to report an upward trend in coronavirus cases.

As of Thursday, the nation is averaging 52,345 new cases a day, up 16% from the previous week, a trend that concerns health experts as the country heads into the cooler months.

Read more about the state of the pandemic in the US:

1:02 a.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Idaho can't move out of stage 4 "until we see these numbers improving": epidemiologist

From CNN's Raja Razek

Idaho state epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn answers question during a news conference, on September 3, 2020, at the Statehouse in Boise, Idaho.
Idaho state epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn answers question during a news conference, on September 3, 2020, at the Statehouse in Boise, Idaho. Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP

The US state of Idaho's state epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn said in a news conference on Thursday that until the Covid-19 hospitalization numbers improve, she does not think the state "can move out of stage 4."

Hahn discussed the number of residents currently in hospital with suspected or confirmed Covid-19.

"The last date we have there is October 12, and you can see 219 Idahoans currently in the hospital. And we have 56 Idahoans currently in intensive care," Hahn said. "The hospital data is again where we're struggling, and we are very concerned about the rising number." 

The total number of patients hospitalized in the ICU "is greater than 25 per day," she added. 

"Until we see these numbers improving, we don't feel that we can move out of stage 4." 

Stage 4 is the final phase in Idaho's reopening from coronavirus restrictions. Under the current measures, gatherings of 50 are allowed; non-essential travel is permitted to locations that allow it and do not have ongoing transmission; nightclubs may operate with lower standing-room capacity, and large venues can operate under limited physical distancing protocols.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little said in the news conference that there is "a direct correlation between our personal actions and the capacity of our health care."

Little urged people to consider their actions and "wear a mask. Watch your distance. Wash your hands," he said.

"Our personal actions are free of cost, a minor sacrifice relative to the reward of keeping a loved one from getting sick, saving a life, keeping our schools open, and protecting our economic prosperity," he added.

12:34 a.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Trump couldn't -- or wouldn't -- say if he got Covid test on debate day

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

President Donald Trump could not definitively say on Thursday whether he was tested for the coronavirus on the day of his first presidential debate against Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

"I don't know, I don't even remember," Trump said, when asked during a NBC News town hall if a test was done on the day of the September 29 debate.

Asked again whether he took a test in adherence of rules set by the Commission on Presidential Debates, Trump said at the town hall: "I probably did, and I took a test the day before."

Asked once more, he said: "Possibly I did, possibly I didn't."

The President also could not recall the last time he tested negative for coronavirus before testing positive in early October. He added that he was tested frequently but not every day.

Read more:

12:02 a.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Tokyo governor urges vigilance as city sees highest number of Covid-19 cases since August

From CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike speaks during a meeting with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo in September.
Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike speaks during a meeting with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo in September. Du Xiaoyi/AFP/Getty Images

Tokyo recorded 284 new Covid-19 infections Thursday, its highest daily increase in cases since August 20.

The Japanese capital's total number of confirmed cases now stands at 28,420, according to the Tokyo's Metropolitan Government.

Tokyo's governor urged people to stay vigilant amid the outbreak, saying the city's coronavirus expert panel "analyzed that increased economic activities and new infection clusters would lead into the boost of new infection."

"We need further vigilance on the trend," Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said.

New cases: Nationwide, Japan recorded 707 new Covid-19 cases and four new deaths on Thursday, the highest increase since September 10.

Japan's total number of confirmed cases now stands at 92,143 and 1,663 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health. 

The central government blamed the recent uptick on the general public's desire to get back to "normal life."

"The mood of society and public desire to go back to 'normal life' activated the movement of the people and resulted into widening the cluster infection," the government said Thursday.
10:13 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

New model predicts 389,000 total Covid-19 deaths in the US by Feb. 1

From CNN's Maggie Fox

An influential model of the coronavirus pandemic predicts 389,087 Covid-19 fatalities in the US by Feb. 1 -- 6,000 fewer deaths than the previous forecast, even though the researchers behind the model say the spread of the virus is worsening. 

The model, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine, shows the pandemic moving into younger populations -- thus the forecast of fewer deaths. The last forecast, released on Oct. 10, projected about 395,000 deaths by Feb. 1.

“Daily cases have begun to increase and transmission has intensified in the northern half of the United States,” the IHME said in its new forecast. “We expect deaths to stop declining and begin increasing in the next one to two weeks. The winter surge appears to have begun somewhat later than the surge in Europe. Daily deaths will reach over 2,000 a day in January even with many states re-imposing mandates before the end of the year.

More data: The model projects just 314,000 deaths by Feb. 1 if everyone uses masks and more than 477,000 deaths if mask mandates are eased. Daily deaths would rise to more than 5,500 if mandates were eased but should settle at around 2,200 at current predictions.

“Expanding mask use remains the best strategy to delay and reduce the magnitude of the surge,” the IHME said.

The worsening spread will likely force many Midwestern states to reimpose restrictions, the IHME said.

The model predicts 2.4 million coronavirus deaths globally by Feb. 1.

10:00 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Biden campaign halts Kamala Harris' travel after two people in campaign's orbit test positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Joe Biden's campaign is halting the travel of his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, through this weekend after two people -- a flight crew member and Harris' communications director, Liz Allen -- tested positive for coronavirus.

A staff member for the charter company that flies Biden also tested positive Thursday, his campaign said, but Biden's travel schedule is not changing because the former vice president did not come within 50 feet of the person.

Harris was not in what the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define as close contact with either person, Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon said in a statement. Still, Harris' planned trip to North Carolina on Thursday was scrapped, and she will remain off the road until Monday, she said.

"Neither of these people have had contact with Vice President Biden, Senator Harris or any other staffers since testing positive or in the 48 hours prior to their positive test results," O'Malley Dillon said.
"After being with Senator Harris, both individuals attended personal, non-campaign events in the past week. Under our campaign's strict health protocols, both individuals had to be tested before returning to their work with the campaign from these personal events," she said. "These protocols help protect the campaign, the staff, and anyone who they may have contact with; the importance of having such protocols -- which include testing before resuming duties, regular testing while working in-person, isolation after time off, and masking and distancing while on campaign duties -- have been illustrated once again."

Harris has taken two PCR tests for coronavirus since October 8, including a test Wednesday, and has tested negative, O'Malley Dillon said.

Read the full story:

11:40 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Jobless claims head higher: 898,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits

From CNN's Anneken Tappe and Tami Luhby

For yet another week hundreds of thousands of American workers filed for unemployment benefits.

Americans filed another 898,000 first-time jobless claims last week on a seasonally-adjusted basis, according to the Department of Labor. That's more than economists had expected and up 53,000 from the prior week.

Weekly claims have fallen a long way since peaking at 6.9 million in late March. But the improvements have slowed to a snail's pace in recent weeks -- and went into reverse last week. That means it could take a long time to get back to the pre-pandemic level of around 200,000 claims per week.

On top of regular jobless claims, 372,891 Americans filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a program designed in response to the pandemic to help those not usually eligible for unemployment benefits such as the self-employed. That was down 91,000 claims from the prior week.

Adding those together, total first-time claims stood at about 1.3 million last week.

Read the full story: