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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5:45 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

NASA delays launch of telescope due to coronavirus and technical challenges

From CNN's Dave Alsup

NASA has delayed the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope until Halloween 2021. 

NASA said it is now "targeting Oct. 31, 2021, for the launch of the agency’s James Webb Space Telescope from French Guiana, due to impacts from the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as well as technical challenges," the agency tweeted.

“Webb is the world’s most complex space observatory, and our top science priority, and we’ve worked hard to keep progress moving during the pandemic. The team continues to be focused on reaching milestones and arriving at the technical solutions that will see us through to this new launch date next year," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, in a news statement.

5:43 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Repeated coronavirus tests are not necessary, top HHS official says  

From CNN's Jen Christensen

People don’t need repeated tests for coronavirus once they have tested positive one time, Assistant Health Secretary Admiral Brett Giroir, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said Thursday.

“This is a remnant of very early on when we had cruise ships and people were in quarantine,” Giroir said Thursday at a briefing at the US Health and Human Services Department.

With cruise ship passengers, a negative test was required to get out of isolation. The current guidelines say people can leave isolation if they have been free of symptoms for three days and it has been at least 10 days since the onset of symptoms. Guidelines also say people may leave isolation if they receive two negative tests in 24 hours. But Giroir said that two-test standard is no longer needed for most patients.

“We know that if you're 10 days since the onset of your symptoms, and at least three days … asymptomatic, you are no longer contagious. You do not need to be retested,” Giroir said. 

Some people can test positive after they are no longer infectious because remnants of the virus remain in their bodies.

“What we're seeing is people getting tested three times, four times six times, probably, you know with good intentions, but they really do not need to be, so we want to get the word out,” Giroir said.

The exception, he said, is if a person is very ill and in the hospital. The virus can linger longer in those patients, as well as in people with immunosuppression or some immune deficiency. 

He said that guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be coming out about this issue “very soon.” 

“The great majority of people who are diagnosed who are just sick at home do not need to be retested it's clogging up the system,” Giroir said. “And quite honestly, it does a disservice to them, because they can be quote positive for a much longer time than they are infected and it keeps them out of work, school, all those other things.”

5:40 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Alabama's largest school district will begin with online-only learning

From CNN’s Andy Rose

The largest public school district in Alabama will be teaching remotely for at least the first nine weeks of the school year, the Mobile County superintendent announced Thursday.

Superintendent Chresal Threadgill called the move the right decision for students and teachers, saying, “I cannot, with strong reservation, put their health and even their lives in jeopardy.”

The district includes the city of Mobile and has more than 53,000 students. In addition to keep children out of school buildings, the beginning of the school year is being pushed back from August 10 to September 1.

5:39 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

South Carolina records its highest single-day Covid-19 death toll

From CNN's Natasha Chen

South Carolina reported its most Covid-19-related deaths in a single day Thursday with 69 confirmed and three probable deaths.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control noted that these deaths occurred over the past few weeks and that the lag time in reporting is related to ensuring the deaths are related to Covid-19.

This often involves waiting for a medical certifier or coroner’s report and can be delayed if the person experienced multiple medical issues. 

The state also reported 1,842 new Covid-19 cases — almost identical to Wednesday’s count — bringing the total number of confirmed cases in South Carolina to 63,880 and the total number of confirmed deaths to 1,053.

To note: The figures above were released by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

5:37 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Mid-American Conference delays start of fall sports season

From CNN's Jill Martin

The Mid-American Conference (MAC) announced Thursday that out of caution for the health and well-being of athletes, coaches and others involved, it will postpone the start of field hockey, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s cross country until September 3.

According to a news release, this decision applies to exhibition and non-conference games and will align with the start of football season, allowing all fall competition to begin at the same time.

"The decision will provide additional time to prepare for the safe return to competition on an adjusted timeline," a statement said.

5:37 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

What NFL players know and don't know about the upcoming season

From CNN's Homero De La Fuente

Houston Texans star J.J. Watt tweeted Thursday a list of things that players and the National Football League Players Association know and don’t know regarding the upcoming NFL season. 

“In the interest of having everyone on the same page in terms of what we know and don’t know at this time, here are a few things I’ve learned being on four NFLPA calls in the last two weeks with hundreds of other players,” Watt tweeted. “Keep in mind our rookies are scheduled to report in 48 hrs”

In the list, Watt reiterates that players do want to play, but want to do it in the safest way possible.

He mentions that players still have yet to receive a valid Infections Disease Emergency response from any team or league or how often the league will test players for Covid-19 throughout the season, or how a positive test would affect things like contracts and roster spots.

As for the season’s training camp and games, Watt said players haven’t been told whether there will be any preseason games and that nothing has been agreed upon regarding what training camp will actually look like and how the “ramp up” period will work. 

Training camp start dates are still being negotiated between the NFL and NFLPA. According to Watt, Texans rookies are scheduled to report on Saturday.

The Texans are scheduled to open the regular season against the Kansas City Chiefs on September 10.

Read the tweet:

5:34 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Chile hopes to start Covid-19 vaccine trials in early August

From CNN's Tatiana Arias

Healthcare workers conduct rapid COVID-19 tests at a testing site geared for garbage collectors street-sweepers and street vendors, at a sports center in Santiago, Chile, Wednesday, July 15.
Healthcare workers conduct rapid COVID-19 tests at a testing site geared for garbage collectors street-sweepers and street vendors, at a sports center in Santiago, Chile, Wednesday, July 15. Esteban Felix/AP

Chile hopes to begin Covid-19 vaccine trials in early August, Chilean Health Minister Enrique Paris announced during a Thursday briefing.

"Right now, we have three possibilities [of vaccines] that are very advanced, because they are in Phase III of the study. Phase III means that tests can be done in humans," said Paris. 

Among the vaccines the Chilean government is considering are SinoVac, CanSino and also a "vaccine done by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford," Paris said.

The health minister and Chilean President Sebastian Piñera met with a group of experts to evaluate which vaccine will be used to conduct the trials.

About 3,000 participants are needed for the study, Paris said. 

On reporting: Paris also announced changes to how Chile will gather data on Covid-19 deaths. 

Starting on Friday, Chile's daily report of new Covid-19 deaths will now be based on the health ministry's Statistics and Information Department (DEIS) and will no longer come from the Civil Registry as it has been done since June 10. 

According to Paris, DEIS did not have the capacity to compute the data, "but now they do."

On Thursday, health authorities reported at least 2,475 new cases of Covid-19, bringing the country's total to approximately 323,698. The country also reported at least 104 new virus-related deaths, bringing the total to approximately 7,290.

5:25 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

Johnson & Johnson in discussions to move up Covid-19 vaccine trial timeline

From CNN's Wes Bruer

Johnson & Johnson is moving forward with its vaccine trials.

The company will begin a Phase 1/2a trial for its vaccine candidate on July 22 in Belgium and the following week in the United States, Dr. Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer, said during an investor call on Thursday.  

Stoffels said that Johnson & Johnson is also “in discussion with the National Institutes of Health with the objective to start Phase 3 clinical trials ahead of its original schedule, potentially in late September.”  

The Phase 1/2a trials will include more than 1,000 healthy adults ages 18 to 55, as well as those 65 and older. The study will test the efficacy and safety of a single dose of the vaccine candidate, as well as a booster dose.

The results from the final study on the vaccine candidate in non-human primates is expected to be published “in a major scientific journal in the next coming weeks,” Stoffels added. 

5:23 p.m. ET, July 16, 2020

New study finds no effect of blood type on coronavirus severity

From CNN's Maggie Fox

A new study finds no evidence that blood type affects whether someone develops severe symptoms from a coronavirus infection.

People should not worry that having a certain blood type places them at higher risk of either infection or severe illness, the team at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston said.

Some researchers had found evidence that blood type might affect a person’s risk from coronavirus, so the team took a look back at records from all adult patients who tested positive for coronavirus at five hospitals in March and April.

“In this large, multi-institutional, retrospective review, there was no association noted between ABO blood type and COVID-19 disease severity defined as intubation or death,” they wrote in the journal Annals of Hematology.

“We showed through a multi-institutional study that there is no reason to believe being a certain ABO blood type will lead to increased disease severity, which we defined as requiring intubation or leading to death,” said Dr. Anahita Dua of Mass General, who led the study team. “This evidence should help put to rest previous reports of a possible association between blood type A and a higher risk for COVID-19 infection and mortality.”

The team did find evidence that people with blood types B and AB who were Rh+ were more likely to test positive for coronavirus, and that people with blood type O were less likely to test positive – even if they had symptoms.

“These findings need to be further explored to determine if there is something inherent in these blood types that might potentially confer protection or induce risk in individuals,” Dua said in a statement.

“A final element worthy of discussion is that there is certainly a racial element to ABO blood typing,” the researchers wrote.

It’s also becoming clear that Black and other ethnic minorities are more likely to have severe coronavirus disease symptoms. “However, the full effects of ethnicity on COVID-19 susceptibility and severity warrant further investigation,” the researchers wrote.