October 23 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Tara John, Ed Upright, Veronica Rocha, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, October 26, 2020
35 Posts
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10:58 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

HHS secretary says household gatherings are "major vectors" of Covid-19 spread

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

U.S. Department of Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar speaks during a Covid-19 briefing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarter campus in Atlanta, on October 21.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar speaks during a Covid-19 briefing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarter campus in Atlanta, on October 21. Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that household gatherings have become a “major vector” of coronavirus spread.  

“This is being driven by individual behaviors at this point … We’ve got to keep focused on washing our hands, watching our distance and wearing our face coverings when we can't watch our distance and in particular being careful in household gatherings. This has become a major vector of disease spread,” he told CNN’s Jim Sciutto. 

At last night’s debate, President Trump again said the US is “rounding the turn” in the coronavirus pandemic. Thursday was the highest day for new infections since late July.

Azar said the President is “trying to give people hope” while acknowledging “we are in a very serious moment.” 

Azar was pressed if the administration could take a more aggressive approach to the virus and why Trump continues to hold rallies without social distancing.

“In public health, we focus on mitigation fatigue,” Azar said. “… When you look back, we actually hit that curve at just about the right point to achieve the core strategic objective, which was to flatten and delay that curve. … We're seeing the impacts here and in Europe from mitigation fatigue.”

10:30 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

University of Michigan president says spread of Covid-19 is happening in social gatherings

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Health officials issued a stay-at-home order for all University of Michigan undergraduate students this week amid a spike in coronavirus cases.

“I think there's a little bit of Covid-19 fatigue going on,” said the university's president Mark Schlissel. 

“99% of our student cases are in people less than 22 years old. It's the undergraduate population. And the epidemiology of these cases shows us that they're not happening due to spread in our classrooms or in our campus facilities. They're happening under social circumstances, where small numbers of people let their guard down,” he said on CNN’s “New Day.” 

The order expires Nov. 3, and Schlissel said that students will go home for a week and return to online-only learning for the rest of the semester. For students who elect to return home now, he said there will be self-isolation and testing requirements to follow. 

“It's the last three or four weeks, as you see happening all around the nation, that things have started to slip away from us,” he told CNN.

As the University of Michigan Wolverines are set to resume the Big Ten football schedule tomorrow, Schlissel said he didn’t want to "penalize student athletes.” He added that he thinks very limited ticketing and rapid testing will decrease the risk of spreading the virus. 

Watch more:

10:21 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

France "paying the price" for ending lockdown too soon, health official says

From Gaëlle Fournier in Paris

A patient infected with Covid-19 sits on her bed in the infectious diseases unit of the Gonesse hospital in Gonesse, north of Paris, on October 22.
A patient infected with Covid-19 sits on her bed in the infectious diseases unit of the Gonesse hospital in Gonesse, north of Paris, on October 22. Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images

France is paying the price for ending the coronavirus lockdown too quickly, said Gilles Pialoux, the head of infectious diseases at Tenon Hospital in Paris.

The country reported a new record for daily coronavirus infections on Thursday, with 41,622 new cases in a 24-hour period, according to numbers released by the French Health Agency.

It will be “really difficult to avoid a (second) lockdown given the circulation of the virus," Pialoux told BFM Friday.

France is “paying for an end of lockdown that happened too quickly, a summer that was too careless, and a new school year that was not anticipated enough,” he added.

He said local lockdowns or lockdowns “by population group” could be the solution. The doctor added the circulation of the virus among the “20-30 year old” age group was “far beyond” the rest of the population.

Martin Hirsch, the head of Paris Public Hospitals, said the second wave “could be worse than the first one."

Hirsch told RTL radio on Friday of a “fearsome” situation, calling on all French people to adapt their behaviors to combat the epidemic and prevent intensive care units from being saturated.

10:13 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

Coronavirus infections reach new peaks across Europe

From CNN’s Tim Lister

A medical worker prepares an injection in a corridor of the infectious diseases unit of the Gonesse hospital before visiting a patient in Gonesse, north of Paris, on October 22.
A medical worker prepares an injection in a corridor of the infectious diseases unit of the Gonesse hospital before visiting a patient in Gonesse, north of Paris, on October 22. Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images

The five countries with the highest rate of coronavirus infections when measured against population are all in Europe, according to the latest moving averages from Johns Hopkins University analyzed by CNN.

They are the Czech Republic, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and France. 

In all five countries, the number of new infections has increased rapidly since the beginning of October and continues to rise.

  • On Oct. 19, the Czech Republic had a rolling daily average (measured across five days) of 10,579 new cases. That means 988 new infections a day per one million population. On Oct. 1, the rate was 238 per million. 
  • Not far behind was Belgium, which had an average of 891 new infections per million residents on Oct. 19. At the beginning of the month, that average was just 198.  

These two countries have by far the highest rate of new Covid-19 infections, but other countries in Europe are seeing steep rises.

The Netherlands’ daily average of new cases at the beginning of October was 2,944; on Oct. 19 it was 8,277. Measured per million of population, that represents an increase from 172 to 483 in less than three weeks. 

Johns Hopkins lists the 20 countries most affected by the pandemic and in recent days Switzerland has been added. Its rolling average of new cases on Oct. 19 was 3,618 – more than seven times higher than the number (504) on Oct. 1. That equates to 423 new cases daily per million residents. 

Rounding out the most affected countries, France had 381 new cases per million residents on Oct. 19.

The United Kingdom has seen a sharp rise in its rolling average this month, from 9,729 new cases to 19,290 per day – which equates to 284 cases per million. 

The picture in Spain is less dramatic but the daily average remains stubbornly high. Despite new measures to restrict movement in the most affected areas, the daily average of new cases has only edged down from 14,690 at the beginning of the month to 13,987 on Oct. 19 – 299 per million.  

While infections per million are lower in other European countries, they are still rising.

Italy, which was one of the worst affected countries earlier in the year, is suffering a new spike. Its rolling average of new cases has risen from 2,208 at the start of the month to 11,341 this week. 

Poland is also among the countries listed by Johns Hopkins – its rolling average has more than quadrupled this month. 

More broadly, according to the Johns Hopkins figures, the rolling averages of new cases in India and Brazil continue to fall, while the US is seeing a gradual but persistent rise. Its rolling average has risen from 43,089 at the start of October to 59,387 this week, representing 179 new cases a day per million population. 

10:05 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

Spain's prime minister urges residents to limit mobility to fight the pandemic

From CNN’s Claudia Rebaza

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez addresses a parliamentary session in Madrid on October 22.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez addresses a parliamentary session in Madrid on October 22. Pablo Blazquez/AFP/Getty Images

During a televised speech on Friday, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez asked residents to limit their mobility to fight the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The situation is serious,” Sanchez warned.

“We must reduce mobility,” he said, adding that he is trying to avoid imposing a national lockdown again.

“The next few weeks, months will be tough, very tough,” the prime minister said, asking Spaniards to limit social and family gatherings.

Sanchez also said that although his country surpassed 1 million coronavirus cases earlier this week, he estimated the "real number" of Covid-19 cases in his country will likely surpass 3 million, according to findings by a nationwide antibody study.

Sanchez said his government and the 17 regional governments have agreed to impose a coronavirus alert system with four levels across the country in order to fight the pandemic. The four levels are low, medium, high and extreme.

The Spanish regions of Castilla and Leon and Valencia announced they are planning to impose a nighttime curfew during the next few days. Andalusia’s region has requested a curfew for the city of Granada.

Earlier on Friday, Madrid’s regional government announced new restrictions that will take effect on Saturday, after a two-week partial lockdown ends.

Social and family gatherings indoors and outdoors will be banned from midnight until 6 a.m., Enrique Ruiz Escudero, Madrid’s regional health chief, announced during a news conference. The measures also include limiting the capacity inside restaurants and bars to 50% and to 75% in terraces, while social gatherings remain limited to six people.

Ruiz Escudero also announced mobility will be restricted for residents in 32 areas in the Madrid region.

9:36 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

US stocks open higher

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

The week is ending as it started for the US stock market: investors are holding on to every last bit of hope that a stimulus deal will be reached before the election in just 11 days. Stocks opened modestly higher on the back of this hope.

Meanwhile, earnings season is roaring on. American Express, which missed earnings expectations, was among the morning’s reports.

Here's where things stand:

  • The Dow opened up 0.2, or 68 points.
  • The S&P 500 rose 0.4%.
  • The Nasdaq Composite opened 0.3% higher.
9:40 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

White House will host Halloween festivities with Covid-19 precautions on Sunday

From CNN's Kate Bennett

First Lady Melania Trump wears a face mask as she attends the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22.
First Lady Melania Trump wears a face mask as she attends the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

The White House is set to host Halloween festivities with Covid-19 precautions on Sunday.

As CNN has previously reported, this year’s event will require face masks for those over the age of 2, as well as other precautions, such as social distancing and handing out candy with gloves.

First lady Melania Trump's outlined the following precautions for Sunday's festivities:

  • Guest capacity is limited and event hours are extended.
  • All guests (ages 2 years and over) are required to wear a face covering and practice social distancing during their visit to the White House complex.
  • All personnel working the event are required to wear a face covering and any staff passing out candy will be required to wear gloves.
  • Social distancing measures will be in place.
  • Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the event route.
  • Each department will utilize a no-touch approach in their area when distributing their product.

10:07 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

More than two dozen US states report a rise in Covid-19 cases. Here's what we know.

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

A Colorado Department of Transportation worker pulls on his face covering while staffing a roadblock into a housing area along Highway 7 as several wildfires burn in the state on October 21, in Lyons, Colorado.
A Colorado Department of Transportation worker pulls on his face covering while staffing a roadblock into a housing area along Highway 7 as several wildfires burn in the state on October 21, in Lyons, Colorado. David Zalubowski/AP

More than two dozen states are reporting rising Covid-19 infections, a sign the coronavirus pandemic is worsening across several US regions.

In White House coronavirus task force reports obtained by CNN this week, officials say there are "early signs of deterioration in the Sun Belt and continued deterioration in the Midwest and across the Northern States."

The data comes as more state leaders have sounded the alarm on increasing infections, hospitalizations and deaths. The national average of new daily cases has climbed to just under 60,000 – a level that hasn't been seen since the first week of August.

On Wednesday, at least 14 states saw their highest seven-day average of new daily cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. They are:

  • Alaska
  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • New Mexico
  • Ohio
  • Utah
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

And at least five states reported their highest daily coronavirus case counts on Thursday. They include:

  • Illinois
  • Montana
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Utah

Meanwhile, more than 41,000 people are hospitalized with Covid-19 across the country, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Hospitals in states like Missouri and Idaho say they'll soon be facing a crisis if hospitalizations continue to surge.

Deaths are also creeping upward. On Wednesday, the US reported the highest daily death toll in more than a month, with more than 1,100 new deaths. And an updated model from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects more than 140,000 Americans will likely die from the virus in the next three months.

Elizabeth Cohen reports:

9:34 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

Iran has more than 556,000 Covid-19 cases

From Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

Iranians wear face masks as a Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic precaution, in Iran's capital Tehran on October 19.
Iranians wear face masks as a Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic precaution, in Iran's capital Tehran on October 19. Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Iran’s health ministry reported 6,134 new Covid-19 cases over a 24-hour period on Friday, the third time this week the number of daily new cases has hit a new high.

The total number of cases in the country now stands at 556,891. 

Speaking on state TV, Health Ministry spokesperson Sima Sadat Lari also reported 335 new coronavirus-related deaths on Friday. This brings the country’s overall death toll to 31,985.

Lari added that 27 provinces across the country are still categorized to be in red zones.

Wearing masks in public has been mandatory in the capital Tehran for the past week. A restriction announced over a week ago on travel in and out of Tehran province is in place at least through Friday.