October 21 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Emma Reynolds, Ed Upright, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, October 22, 2020
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10:20 a.m. ET, October 21, 2020

El Paso, Texas, reports highest positivity rate since pandemic began

From CNN's Kay Jones

The health department in El Paso, Texas, is reporting a seven-day Covid-19 positivity rate of 13.74%, the highest average in the city since the pandemic began. 

There are 670 new positive cases in El Paso on Wednesday morning, according to the health department's dashboard. It also shows that of the 34,760 total cases, 8,820 are currently active.

The health department also reported three new deaths, bringing the total of coronavirus-related deaths to 563. 

There are currently 579 people hospitalized with the virus from El Paso, with 148 in intensive care units. This is the highest hospitalization rate in the city since the pandemic began, the dashboard shows.

The Texas Department of State Health Services shows that Trauma Service Area I, which includes El Paso, currently has 345 beds and 17 ICU beds available as of 3:00 p.m. local time on Tuesday. 

One thing to note: These numbers were released by the city’s public health agency and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project. 

10:03 a.m. ET, October 21, 2020

South Africa's Western Cape sees 42% increase in new Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Sarah Dean in London 

Coronavirus cases in South Africa’s Western Cape province have risen by 42% in the past seven days, leading the country's Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize to warn of a “resurgence” of the virus. 

Mkhize, who is currently isolating after testing positive, said the country is "seeing concerning increases in some of the provinces," including this "marked increase" in the Western Cape, home to the port city of Cape Town. 

"According to our resurgence plan, we define this significant spike in new cases in the Western Cape as a resurgence," he said Wednesday in a statement on Twitter.

Mkhize explained the Western Cape Provincial Health Department has identified clusters that are responsible for the increase in cases. He said the “single biggest cluster outbreak” was “associated with a super-spreader event in a bar".

He also said country-wide epidemiological reports are showing that over the last seven days there has been an increase of 9.1% in new cases.

Read the tweet:

10:26 a.m. ET, October 21, 2020

Here's the latest on the second wave in Europe

Medical personnel work at Saint-Andre hospital, where new rapid-result Covid-19 antigen tests will be conducted, in Bordeaux, France, on October 20.
Medical personnel work at Saint-Andre hospital, where new rapid-result Covid-19 antigen tests will be conducted, in Bordeaux, France, on October 20. Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

Cases of coronavirus are rising across Europe, and the continent's second wave has prompted some countries and areas to implement new restrictions.

If you're just reading in now, here are some of the latest updates on the situation in Europe:

  • France proposes extending state of emergency into next year: France is extending a red-alert status to more regions across the country as coronavirus cases surge and ICUs fill up. Under a heightened level – one below the maximum level – curfews will be imposed, government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said in a news conference Wednesday. He said the government is also proposing to extend a state of emergency to mid-February — three months longer than initially planned.  

Bavaria's State Premier Markus Soeder speaks at the Chamber of the Bavarian state Parliament in Munich, Germany, on October 21.
Bavaria's State Premier Markus Soeder speaks at the Chamber of the Bavarian state Parliament in Munich, Germany, on October 21. Peter Kneffel/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

  • German region "much closer to a lockdown": The Premier of the German region of Bavaria, Markus Soder, believes the region is “much closer to a lockdown than many think,” as cases continue to increase. “We’re much closer to a lockdown than many think, or at least a ‘partial-lockdown’,” Soder said during a press conference on Wednesday, as he announced new restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. Gatherings will be limited to no more than 50 in areas where new infections are above 100 per 100,000 people, and a bars and restaurants will have to abide by a new 9 pm curfew. 
  • All time high daily case counts in two countries: Croatia and Bulgaria both recorded their highest ever number of daily Covid-19 cases on Wednesday. Croatia reported 1,424 new cases in the last 24 hours, and Bulgaria 1,336, according to government data and John Hopkins University.
10:10 a.m. ET, October 21, 2020

Trump on what he would do differently on Covid-19 response: "not much"

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal with Nicky Robertson

President Donald Trump talks to reporters at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on October 19 in Phoenix, Arizona.
President Donald Trump talks to reporters at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on October 19 in Phoenix, Arizona. Alex Brandon/AP

President Trump lashed out at Dr. Anthony Fauci, claimed “some people don’t like (masks) scientifically,” and said he wouldn’t do much differently in his response to Covid-19 in clips of a Rose Garden town hall with Sinclair released Tuesday evening. 

Asked about his recent comments attacking Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Health, Trump said he gets along “fine” with the doctor, “but he’s made mistakes.”

“He said ‘No masks, don’t wear masks,’ and then he said ‘Wear a mask.’ He didn’t want me to stop people coming in from China and then he admitted it was a great move, that I made, against him. You know, I overrode him,” Trump claimed to the conservative outlet. “With all of that I get along with him nice – I like him, he’s – Tony, he’s a nice guy.”

“He’s made bad moves,” he added, “but he’s been there a long time.”

Trump also claimed to have “no problem” with masks, despite frequently and repeatedly attacking people who wear them, but immediately added that “some people” don’t like them.

“Frankly some people don’t like it, some people don’t like it scientifically,” he claimed. Science overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that masks work.

When host Eric Bolling, a vocal Trump supporter, asked the President what he would do differently if he got a “mulligan” or a “do-over” on his Covid response, Trump replied, “not much.”

“Look it’s all over the world. You have a lot of great leaders, a lot of smart people, it’s all over the world,” he said, before blaming China.

The full Sinclair town hall airs on Wednesday night.

9:41 a.m. ET, October 21, 2020

Stocks open mixed as investors await stimulus news

From CNN's Anneken Tappe 

A pedestrian walks past the New York Stock Exchange on October 14.
A pedestrian walks past the New York Stock Exchange on October 14. Frank Franklin II/AP

US stocks were mixed at the opening bell in New York on Wednesday. The market is in a holding pattern, awaiting stimulus news from Washington.

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are set to continue talks today, investors are still crossing their fingers for the possibility of another stimulus deal before the election.

Here's how things looked at the opening:

  • The Dow opened 0.2%, or 50 points, lower.
  • The S&P 500 slipped 0.1%.
  • The Nasdaq Composite rose 0.1%.
9:29 a.m. ET, October 21, 2020

Older patients, women and those with variety of early symptoms most at risk of "long Covid," paper suggests

Older people, women and those with a wide range of symptoms in the first week of their illness appear to be most likely to develop “long Covid,” according to a preprint paper posted online by researchers at King’s College London on Wednesday.

The paper defines "long Covid" as having symptoms persist for more than four weeks, while a short duration of Covid was defined as less than 10 days, without a subsequent relapse.

About 1 in 20 people with Covid-19, or 4.5%, are likely to experience symptoms for eight weeks or more, the preprint analysis of data from the Covid Symptom Study app showed. The analysis has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The data was collected from 4,182 users of the app in the UK who reported testing positive for coronavirus and regularly logged their health information in the app.

When it came to the sets of symptoms reported, the research identified two main groups of long Covid sufferers.

  • Group 1 experienced mainly respiratory symptoms, such as a cough and shortness of breath, plus fatigue and headaches.
  • Group 2 experienced “multi-system” symptoms in many parts of the body, such as heart palpitations, gut issues, pins and needles or numbness, and “brain fog.”
“It’s important we use the knowledge we have gained from the first wave in the pandemic to reduce the long-term impact of the second. This should pave the way for trials of early interventions to reduce the long term effects,” said Dr. Claire Steves, clinical academic and senior author from King’s College London, in a news release.

While most of the people with Covid-19 in the study reported being back to normal in 11 days or less, about 1 in 7 reported symptoms lasting for at least four weeks, about 1 in 20 for at least eight weeks and about 1 in 50 for at least 12 weeks.

Long Covid sufferers were also twice as likely to report a relapse after they recovered compared with those who had “short Covid” (16% vs 8.4%).

About 1 in 5 adults older than 70, or 21.9%, who tested positive for coronavirus developed long Covid, compared with about 1 in 10 18- to 49-year-olds, the study found. Women were more likely to suffer from long Covid than men -- at 14.9% of women compared to 9.5% of men -- but only in the younger age group. 

People who developed long Covid also had a slightly higher average BMI than those with short Covid, according to the paper. The researchers also found that people with asthma were more likely to develop long Covid, but found no clear links to any other underlying health conditions.

The analysis has several limitations, including that it is based on self-reported information, was conducted online via an app, and the app users were disproportionately female and younger than 70.

The researchers used the information to develop a model to predict who is most at risk of long Covid based on their age, sex, and count of early symptoms. Statistical tests showed that this simple prediction was able to detect more than two thirds (69%) of people who went on to get Long-Covid (sensitivity), and 73% effective at avoiding false alarms (specificity). 

The team then tested this model against an independent dataset of 2,472 people who reported a positive coronavirus antibody test result with a range of symptoms and found that it gave similar predictions of risk.

9:02 a.m. ET, October 21, 2020

US officials explain how the pandemic personally affected them

From CNN Jacqueline Howard

US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams revealed in an interview that some of his family members and friends have been ill with Covid-19 – and that his wife had a delayed cancer diagnosis due to the pandemic. 

"I think about family members and friends of mine personally who have had the virus. And fortunately for me, none of them have succumbed. But I think that reflects a very real difference in outcomes if they have gotten it in March or April versus getting it now – with remdesivir, with steroids," Adams told NewsNation's Marni Hughes in an interview posted online on Wednesday, referring to Covid-19 treatment approaches.

"I think about my wife, who had a cancer diagnosis delayed, and who’s undergoing cancer treatment right now. I hope she does well, but again, there are real negative, negative outcomes for people who are living through this pandemic, apart from the actual virus itself," Adams said.

Meanwhile, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said his father died during the coronavirus pandemic — and he wasn't able to say goodbye.

"We appreciate how much people have given and the sacrifices they have made over the last nine, ten months. My father died. I wasn’t able to be with him in the months before he died. I have not been able to mourn his loss in any type of communal setting to celebrate his life or anything – so I know the pain and the sense that everybody has that they have given so much through this unprecedented pandemic," Azar said during the same interview with NewsNation's Marni Hughes.  

According to NewsNation, the interview – which also included White House Coronavirus task force member Dr. Deborah Birx – is the first time these top health three health leaders fighting the coronavirus pandemic have sat down for an interview together.


9:20 a.m. ET, October 21, 2020

Azar on White House's mixed Covid-19 messages: "I am the President's Health secretary. I speak for him"

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks during a press conference at the White House on August 23 in Washington, DC
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks during a press conference at the White House on August 23 in Washington, DC Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar responded to questions about mixed messaging coming from the White House about the coronavirus pandemic in an interview with NewsNation's Marni Hughes posted online on Wednesday.

Azar was asked whether there was anything to "add clarity and accuracy" on.

"Marni, I will just be very clear," Azar responded. "I am the President's Health secretary. I speak for him and I'm telling you our strategy is reduce cases, reduce hospitalizations, reduce mortality, wash your hands, watch your distance, wear your face covering when you can't watch your distance, and stay out of settings when you can't do those things."

“That is the message of this administration and the strategy of this administration for dealing with the coronavirus and that is from the President through me,” Azar added.

According to NewsNation, the interview – which also included US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams and White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Deborah Birx – is the first time these top health three health leaders fighting the coronavirus pandemic have sat down for an interview together.


8:42 a.m. ET, October 21, 2020

Covid-19 cases are rising in Europe. Here are the restrictions some countries are imposing in response.

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

European countries and regions are imposing stricter lockdown restrictions as cases of Covid-19 rise to record levels in many countries.

Here's a look at some recent measures in countries across Europe:

  • The Czech Republic has banned free movement across the country from 6 a.m. local time on Thursday until Nov. 3 due to a dramatic surge in Covid-19 cases. The measures come as the Czech Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Jan Hamacek test positive for the virus.
  • South Yorkshire is the latest North England region to be placed under “Very High Alert” and will move into the toughest level of restrictions. Starting on Saturday, people in Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley will not be able to meet family and friends from different households unless part of a “support bubble.” Restaurants and gyms can remain open, but bars and pubs will need to close unless they serve substantial meals. Soft play centers, casinos and adult gaming centers will also close. 
  • Scotland will introduce a new coronavirus five-tier system starting on Nov. 2 and existing restrictions have been extended for a third week. Pubs and restaurants across central Scotland are to remain closed, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Wednesday.