July 16 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Steve George, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 0424 GMT (1224 HKT) July 17, 2020
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9:54 a.m. ET, July 16, 2020

What it's like in some of the US's hardest-hit coronavirus hotspots

From CNN's Faith Karimi and Steve Almasy

Cars are seen in line as the drivers wait to be tested for COVID-19 at the COVID test site located at the Miami Beach Convention Center on July 13 in Miami Beach, Florida.
Cars are seen in line as the drivers wait to be tested for COVID-19 at the COVID test site located at the Miami Beach Convention Center on July 13 in Miami Beach, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Coronavirus cases are rising across the US, and at least 39 states have reported an increase in the number of new cases from the week before.

We're keeping an eye on several hotspots today, where the spiking numbers of cases have created hospital bed shortages and prompted officials to prepare for the worst.

Here's what you need to know about the US's hardest-hit hotspots:


  • Morgues are filling up: In Maricopa County, which has the most Covid-19 cases in the state, the medical examiner's office has ordered four portable coolers as morgues begin to fill up, said Fields Moseley, the county spokesperson.
  • Out-of-state help needed: State health officials have also announced they're bringing nearly 600 critical care and medical-surgical nurses from out of state to help as they enhance their internal surge plans to fill staffing gaps.


  • New records: The country's most populous state set two more records yesterday with highs for hospitalizations and ICU admissions.
  • New lockdowns possible: In Los Angeles County, the public health director warned another stay-at-home order is likely: "We can't take anything off the table — there's absolutely no certainty of what exactly is going to happen next," Dr. Barbara Ferrer said.


  • Out of ICU beds: As of yesterday, more than 50 hospitals have reached intensive care unit capacity and show zero beds available, according to according to data released by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).
  • Hit harder than most countries: Since the start of the pandemic, the state has reported more than 301,000 positive cases of coronavirus. If Florida was its own country, only eight other countries would have a higher case count, according to Johns Hopkins University data.


  • Trucks for bodies: Two counties in Texas — Cameron and Hidalgo — are sharing a large refrigerated trailer to store bodies of coronavirus patients because of a lack of space at the morgues. San Antonio officials have also said they're requesting refrigerated trucks.
  • Hospitals in one city are full: In South Texas, hospitals in Laredo are full and the federal government is converting a hotel into a health care facility.

9:49 a.m. ET, July 16, 2020

More than 100 scientists call for Covid-19 vaccine "human challenge trials"

From CNN's Wes Bruer and Emma Reynolds

More than 100 scientists signed an open letter to Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, calling for the use of “human challenge trials” they believe will speed the development of a Covid-19 vaccine. 

"If challenge trials can safely and effectively speed the vaccine development process, there is a formidable presumption in favor of their use, which would require a very compelling ethical justification to overcome," the scientists wrote to Collin.

More than 2,000 challenge trial volunteers also signed the letter, which was published by 1Day Sooner, an organization advocating on their behalf.

What this kind of trial means: So-called human challenge trials would intentionally expose healthy participants to the Covid-19 virus to determine a vaccine’s efficacy, as opposed to conventional clinical trials, where volunteers receive an experimental vaccine or a placebo and are tracked over a period of time to see whether they become infected.

The letter urged the US government and international groups to “undertake immediate preparations for human challenge trials, including supporting safe and reliable production of the virus and any biocontainment facilities necessary to house participants.”

Earlier this month, members of the NIH's Accelerating Covid-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) Vaccines Working Group said that challenge trials would not speed up vaccine development. 

"A single death or severe illness in an otherwise healthy volunteer would be unconscionable and would halt progress," they wrote in a perspective piece published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

They wrote that large, randomized controlled trials of Covid-19 vaccines are “the most efficient, generalizable, and scientifically robust path to establishing vaccine efficacy.”

10:58 a.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Here's the latest from Florida's Miami-Dade County, the state's virus epicenter

From CNN’s Rosa Flores and Dan Shepherd

An entrance at Jackson Memorial Hospital is shown on July 9 in Miami.
An entrance at Jackson Memorial Hospital is shown on July 9 in Miami. Wilfredo Lee/AP

As the number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations surge in Miami-Dade County, considered the epicenter of the pandemic, CNN has learned that the county has run out of ICU beds. 

Miami-Dade County has 405 ICU beds available and at last check there were 431 patients in the ICU, according to FIU Infectious Disease expert, Dr. Aileen Marty. Marty advises Miami-Dade County on Covid-19 related matters.

In the past 13 days, the county has seen an increase in the number of Covid-19 patients being hospitalized (48%), in the number of ICU beds being used (53%) and in the use of ventilators (75%), according to the latest data released by the county's government.  Officials reported a 29% Covid-19 positivity rate on Wednesday, 

“On a scale of one to ten, we are at maximum urgency,” Marty said. “We need to turn this thing around right now.”

Marty said that some patients have been transported to converted ICUs. A converted ICU, she explained, does not mean lesser care. Marty said it would involve adapting or converting a room to treat the patient and adding equipment like a negative pressure machine. 

According to Marty, the number of ICU beds is a fluid situation and the number of patients in converted ICUs can change at any point in time.

According to data released by Miami-Dade County today, the county does indeed have 405 ICU beds available and 431 patients.

According to the Miami-Dade Mayor’s office, there are more than 400 hospital beds that can be converted into ICU beds

“If it wasn’t clear before… our situation is extremely serious. There is no doubt about it,” Marty said. “We now have the highest number of people on ventilators that we’ve had, ever.” 

Jackson Health confirmed that the health system has increased ICU beds by converting regular beds into ICU level of care. 

In a statement to CNN, Jackson Health said in part: "Jackson Health System has continued increasing ICU capacity by converting beds and equipment and deploying staff, ensuring that all patients receive the appropriate level of care at all times."

CNN has contacted Miami-Dade County for comment and has not heard back.


9:37 a.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Bank of America's profit plunges 52% as it braces for virus-related bad loans 

From CNN's Matt Egan

Pedestrians walk past a Bank of America Corporation branch in New York City on July 12.
Pedestrians walk past a Bank of America Corporation branch in New York City on July 12. Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Economic fears and extremely low interest rates drove Bank of America’s profit down by 52% in the second quarter.

 Bank of America’s earnings were hit by credit costs of $5.1 billion. The bank said it set aside another $4 billion in reserves to guard against loans that go bad because of the “weaker economic outlook related to Covid-19.”

Like other lenders, Bank of America continues to struggle with extremely low interest rates. The bank reported an 11% drop in net interest income.

Still, Bank of America’s per-share profit of 37 cents beat expectations. 

“In the most tumultuous period since the Great Depression, we delivered for our clients, our employees, our communities and our shareholders,” CEO Brian Moynihan said in a statement.

Bank of America’s trading business performed well, with fixed income revenue surging 50% and equities revenue rising 7%.

9:34 a.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Africa should expect more Covid-19 cases as lockdowns ease in some countries, WHO says

From CNN's Gisela Crespo

People make their way along a street in downtown Kampala, Uganda, on June 23.
People make their way along a street in downtown Kampala, Uganda, on June 23. Esther Ruth Mbabazi/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Africa has surpassed 640,000 Covid-19 cases and 14,000 deaths, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa, said on Thursday.

During a news conference, Moeti said some countries should expect a rise in cases as their governments ease lockdown measures "that have been put in place and bought some time in scaling up the public health capacities."

"We will all have to work together to then control what happens as far as those increases are concerned," Moeti said.

Displaced people living in refugee camps and settlements are the most vulnerable population in Africa during the pandemic, where basic preventive measures against coronavirus such as physical distancing and frequent hand washing represent a challenge, Moeti explained.

"WHO recommends health screening for new arrivals, temporary isolation facilities for suspected cases, adopting activities like food distribution to limit gatherings, and strengthen infection prevention and control practices including ensuring access to water, supplies and hand washing stations," Moeti said. "And importantly, ensuring essential health services for other diseases and conditions continue to be provided."

Moeti said the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Équateur province  — which now tops 56 case s-- is a reminder that countries in the region have to deal with other health emergencies at the same time they are responding to the Covid-19 pandemic

Moeti added the outbreak in the Équateur province "is of great concern, particularly as it is now surpassing the previous outbreak in this area which was closed off and controlled at a total of 54 cases."

9:10 a.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Russian cyber attackers are targeting Covid-19 research centers, UK security officials say

From CNN’s Luke McGee in London 

Russian cyber actors are targeting organizations involved in coronavirus vaccine development, according to UK security officials.

A UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) advisory published Thursday details activity of a group known as APT29, also named “the Dukes” or “Cozy Bear”.

It said known targets of APT29 include UK, US and Canadian vaccine research and development organizations.

The NCSC, which is the UK’s lead technical authority on cyber security and part of the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), assessed that APT29 “almost certainly operate as part of Russian Intelligence Services”.

This assessment is also supported by partners at the Canadian Communication Security Establishment (CSE), the US Department for Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), the NCSC said.

“APT29’s campaign of malicious activity is ongoing, predominantly against government, diplomatic, think-tank, healthcare and energy targets to steal valuable intellectual property,” according to a news release. 

“We condemn these despicable attacks against those doing vital work to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” NCSC Director of Operations, Paul Chichester, said in a statement.

The press release said the NCSC has previously warned that APT (Advanced Persistent Threats) groups have been targeting organizations involved in both national and international Covid-19 responses.

APT29 uses a variety of tools and techniques, including spear-phishing and custom malware known as “WellMess” and “WellMail”, according to the NCSC.

The report concluded that: “APT29 is likely to continue to target organisations involved in COVID-19 vaccine research and development, as they seek to answer additional intelligence questions relating to the pandemic.”


9:13 a.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Another 1.3 million Americans filed first-time unemployment claims last week

From CNN's Tami Luhby

People wait to be called into the Heartland Workforce Solutions office in Omaha, Nebraska on July 15.
People wait to be called into the Heartland Workforce Solutions office in Omaha, Nebraska on July 15. Nati Harnik/AP

Another 1.3 million people filed first-time jobless claims last week in the US, according to the Department of Labor. That's down 10,000 from the prior week's revised level.

Weekly first-time unemployment applications have been on the decline for more than three months since their peak in the last week of March. 

Continued claims, which count workers who have filed claims for at least two weeks in a row, stood at 17.3 million for the week ending July 4, down 422,000 from the prior week. These claims peaked in May at nearly 25 million.

8:50 a.m. ET, July 16, 2020

At least 39 US states are reporting increasing coronavirus cases

At least 39 states reported an increase in the number of new cases from the week before.

Some of the hard-hit states to watch today are California, Florida, Arizona and Texas, where surging coronavirus cases have led to a shortage of hospital beds.

Just two states — Delaware and Maine — are reporting a decrease in cases. The other nine states are seeing steady week-to-week cases.

Here's a look at where cases are rising and falling across the US:

8:57 a.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Some horse racing canceled in San Diego after 15 jockeys test positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Stella Chan

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is pictured in Del Mar, California, on July 4.
The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is pictured in Del Mar, California, on July 4. Bing Guan/Bloomberg/Getty Images

This weekend’s races at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club (DMTC) in California's San Diego County have been called off after 15 jockeys tested positive for coronavirus.

The jockeys were asymptomatic and all but one had recently rode at the Los Alamitos meet in Orange County earlier this month.

The club ordered testing for jockeys and personnel after two riders, Flavien Prat and Victor Espinoza, tested positive, according to the DMTC.

"Assuming these individuals continue to show no symptoms, they will be isolated for a total of 10 days and should be able to resume their usual activities, including riding after that time,” Dr. Eric McDonald, medical director of epidemiology and immunizations services of the County of San Diego, said.

“Racing will return on July 24,” Joe Harper, Del Mar’s CEO, said. “Canceling this weekend’s races will give us additional time to monitor the situation and give the individuals who tested positive additional time to recover.”

What happens next: The club will only allow California-based jockeys to ride at the club. Del Mar is also expanding the jockey’s quarters and creating more space for various race functions. 

The current summer meet is held without spectators, the first time in its 81-year history. The summer meet began on July 10 and continues through Labor Day and many of the races scheduled for this weekend are postponed one week.

San Diego County currently reports at least 21,446 cases including 448 deaths.