The latest on the coronavirus pandemic

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

Updated 2:04 a.m. ET, July 18, 2020
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10:39 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

White House task force report says these 18 states in coronavirus "red zone" should roll back reopening

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

People stand in line to enter a restaurant in Miami Beach, Florida, on June 26.
People stand in line to enter a restaurant in Miami Beach, Florida, on June 26. Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

An unpublished document prepared for the White House coronavirus task force and obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit newsroom, recommends that 18 states in the coronavirus “red zone” for cases should roll back reopening measures amid surging cases.

The “red zone” is defined in the 359-page report as “those core-based statistical areas (CBSAs) and counties that during the last week reported both new cases above 100 per 100,000 population, and a diagnostic test positivity result above 10%.”

The following states are in the red zone for cases:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • Nevada
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah

The report also says the following 11 states are in the red zone for test positivity: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, Washington. The 11 states in the red zone for test positivity are also in the red zone for cases, with the exception of Washington state.

The report outlines measures counties in the red zone should take. It encourages residents to “wear a mask at all times outside the home and maintain physical distance.” And it recommends that public officials “close bars and gyms” and “limit social gatherings to 10 people or fewer, which would mean rolling back reopening provisions in these places.

Remember: The report comes despite President Trump’s insistence that states reopen and a push to send the nation’s children back to school, even as cases increase.

“Now we're open, and we want to stay open and we will stay open. We're not closing. We'll put out the fires as they come out,” Trump said at a White House event earlier this month.

Devin O’Malley, spokesperson for Vice President Mike Pence and the task force, didn’t dispute the document’s authenticity, and said the report showed “encouraging signs” amid the pandemic.

“When the Vice President held a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at HHS a few weeks ago, he reported that 16 states met the criteria for rising cases and rising positivity rate. As it stands in that report, there are only 10 states that fit that criteria. This is just one data point of many encouraging signs that we are seeing across the country as we continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic,” O’Malley said in a statement.

Dr. Deborah Birx also said earlier this month that people living in states with coronavirus surges should return to the White House's original "phase one" recommendations on gatherings. 

8:58 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Miami-Dade County's ICUs are at 107% capacity. Here's the latest from Florida's virus epicenter. 

From CNN's Rosa Flores and Dan Shepherd

Intensive care units in Miami-Dade County, the epicenter of the virus in Florida, are at 107% bed capacity, according to the latest “Moving to a New Normal Dashboard” released by the county's government.

In the past 14 days, Miami-Dade County has seen an increase in the number of Covid-19 patients being hospitalized (46%), in the number of ICU beds being used (54%) and in the use of ventilators (86%), according to the latest data released by the county's government.

There were a total of 472 Covid-19 ICU patients on Thursday and an ICU bed capacity of 440.

Meanwhile, county officials reported a staggering 14-day average Covid-19 positivity rate of 27%.

9:36 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Florida has the most Covid-19 cases per capita

From CNN's Brandon Miller

For five consecutive days, Florida has led the nation in coronavirus cases per capita.

Currently, Florida is averaging just over 55 cases per 100,000 people according to analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

Florida took over the top spot from Arizona on Monday. Arizona — which had held the top spot for over a month — has now dropped to third as of today. Currently the top three per capita states, based on the 7-day average of new cases, are:

  1. Florida – 55.24 cases per 100,000 people
  2. Louisiana – 44.30 cases per 100,000 people
  3. Arizona – 43.06 cases per 100,000 people

Here's a look at the cases across all of Florida's counties:

CNN's Rosa Flores reports:

9:03 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Georgia's hospitalizations are up 39% over the past week, health official reports

From CNN’s Carma Hassan

Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, speaks at a news conference in Atlanta on April 27.
Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, speaks at a news conference in Atlanta on April 27. Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP

Georgia Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey reported an increase of coronavirus cases across Georgia, “not just in urban Atlanta, but also suburban and rural areas.”

The test positivity rate in the state is on average 13.6% and hospitalizations have increased 39% over the past week, Toomey said.

“Gwinnett, Fulton and DeKalb counties have the highest number of new cases over the past three weeks, accounting for nearly 26% of all the new cases in the state,” she said. “We continue to see outbreaks in workplaces, in businesses, in congregant settings, daycares, camps, fraternity housing, many churches and any place where there are a large number of people gathering.”

Toomey said getting children back into schools is important because children not in the classroom suffer from developmental challenges. 

She said she and Gov. Brian Kemp met with White House task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and Director of the US Centers for Disease Control Dr. Robert Redfield. They discussed a wide range of coronavirus-related topics, including getting children back to school.

Toomey said they have crafted guidelines and fully expect some cases of Covid-19 in the classroom, but schools will be given resources and cases would be followed up by the nearly 1,300 contact tracers in the state. A single case of Covid-19 would not shut down schools, Toomey said.

9:27 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Atlanta mayor say governor is putting "politics over people" in lawsuit against her

From CNN's Deanna Hackney

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks at a news conference in Atlanta on May 30.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks at a news conference in Atlanta on May 30. Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says that she doesn't think it is happenstance that the lawsuit brought against her by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp came the day after President Trump visited, and she pointed out that he was violating city law by not wearing a mask. 

She said she thinks Kemp "is putting politics over people."

"It's interesting even when you look at the decision making of our governor, and I'll remind you, this is the same governor who didn't know until well into the pandemic that it could be spread by asymptomatic transmission," Lance Bottoms said in an interview on the Today show this morning,

"He didn't go to Emory for guidance he didn't go to the CDC for guidance. He went to Augusta University which I'm sure is a fine University in our state but it's certainly not Emory University or the CDC in terms of its expertise with infectious disease control, so he was searching for an answer. He got it. And it's the same answer and the same playbook that we've seen come out of the White House," she added.

Some context: Kemp filed a lawsuit against Lance Bottoms over Atlanta's mask mandate, citing the measure violates his emergency orders prohibiting local leaders from adding to the state's requirements to protect against coronavirus.

Also cited is Lance Bottoms' request that the city roll back to a phase one level of reopening. In a statement issued earlier this month, Kemp has called this "confusing guidance" for businesses and Atlanta residents. 

The mayor says that she will "absolutely" prevail in court. 

"At the end of the day, this is about saving lives, over 3,100 people have died in our state 106,000 have tested positive — myself, my husband and one of my children are among the positive. I'm in quarantine as we speak. So I take this very seriously, and I will continue to do everything in my power to protect the people of Atlanta, and the Governor has simply overstepped his bounds in his authority, and we'll see him in court," she said.


8:51 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Here are the latest updates on the pandemic in the US this morning

It's Friday morning in the US, and the Covid-19 pandemic is still raging across the country. At least 77,255 new coronavirus cases were reported yesterday, breaking a previous high set two days ago, according to Johns Hopkins University.

If you're just reading in, here's what you need to know about the pandemic in the US today:

  • Morgues are filling up: In Arizona's Maricopa County, which has the most Covid-19 cases in the state, the medical examiner's office has secured portable coolers to help store more bodies as morgues fill up, officials said. Texas' Bexar County — where San Antonio is located — has also secured refrigerated trailers to store bodies, and Cameron and Hidalgo counties are sharing a large refrigerated trailer.
  • Serious lags in testing: Data is lagging as testing sites get backed up. Tests are being done in much larger numbers — a positive development. But the increase is also slowing down results, and officials want to reduce wait times for results. Commercial labs have said they are backed up, with results often taking as long as seven days to turn around.
  • Possibly deadly back-to-school decisions: As school districts across the country weigh how to go back to school this fall, some teachers are preparing for the worst. They're preparing their wills and some are considering quitting.
8:39 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Fauci's boss says idea of firing or demoting him is "unimaginable"

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), listens during a hearing in Washington, DC, on May 7.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), listens during a hearing in Washington, DC, on May 7. Andrew Harnik/Pool/Getty Images

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), says the idea of firing or demoting Dr. Anthony Fauci is “unimaginable.”

 “This is a remarkable scientist who has led NIH’s efforts in infectious disease with great distinction for more than 30 years, and who continues to be our lead in vaccines and therapeutics for Covid-19,” Collins told STAT News on Friday. “The idea of losing that leadership at this critical moment for our nation is unthinkable.”

Fauci currently serves as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of NIH. Collins is Fauci's boss.

When asked if he would dismiss Fauci if it was ordered by government officials such as the President or the secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, STAT reported that “Collins only laughed” and said, “I think you heard my answer.”

STAT also reported that Collins “touted Fauci’s decades long scientific acumen as a national asset,” and said this was especially critical at this time.

Some background: Trump on Monday sought to downplay tension with Fauci after a White House official shared a statement that appeared to undermine the nation's leading infectious disease expert.

"I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci, I've had for a long time," Trump said at the White House during a roundtable event honoring police officers. "I find him to be a very nice person. I don't always agree with him."

Under federal law, Trump doesn't have the power to directly fire Fauci, a career civil servant, and remove him from government. And while Trump could try ordering his political appointees to dismiss the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious, Fauci could appeal, making way for a time-consuming process.

8:25 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

People who don't wear masks on this California beach may face fines up to $350

From CNN's Stella Chan

People walk on the sand in Manhattan Beach, California, on May 13.
People walk on the sand in Manhattan Beach, California, on May 13. Ashley Landis/AP

People who want to leave their faces uncovered on California's Manhattan Beach may face citations of up to $350.

Maskless first offenders in the Southern California beach town will be fined $100, followed by $200 and $350 citations for the second and third violations.

“The drastic increase in positive Covid-19 cases in our city and around Los Angeles County have shown us that additional measures must be taken to make it clear to the public that face coverings are essential right now. The time for warnings is over. Face coverings must be worn when you are outside of your home in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19,” Mayor Richard Montgomery said in a press release. “If we do not take this action, Gov. Gavin Newsom could expand businesses sector closures and thereafter, close our treasured beaches once again. We want to do the right thing and be proactive to avoid additional negative consequences.”

The beach town joins West Hollywood, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, which have also implemented fines for unmasked offenders.

7:32 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

India resumes international flights despite rising cases

From CNN's Swati Gupta

An airplane takes off from Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata, India, on July 5.
An airplane takes off from Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata, India, on July 5. Samir Jana/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

India will allow scheduled international flights into the country, despite the nation recording more than 1 million coronavirus cases and restricting people in multiple states from leaving their homes in local lockdowns.

During a news conference on Thursday, Minister of Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri confirmed the establishment of "air bubbles" between India and the US, France and Germany.

Until international civil aviation can reclaim its pre-Covid situation in terms of numbers, the answer lies through these bilateral air bubbles, which will carry as many people as possible but under defined conditions," said Puri.
"Because many countries are still imposing entry restrictions, as are we, it's not that anyone can travel from anywhere to anywhere. You need permission."

On Friday India registered a record 34,956 new infections in just 24 hours. On the same day, more than 400 million people in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Karantaka's capital city Bengaluru re-entered lockdown conditions after a spike in cases.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, international passenger flights have been suspended in India since March 23, with the exception of repatriation flights.

As of July 15, nearly 690,000 Indian nationals have flown home on these flights, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

Read more here.