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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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.

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

Dutch leader says chances of EU leaders agreeing recovery deal by Sunday “less than 50%”

From CNN's James Frater

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte attends a news conference in Berlin on July 9.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte attends a news conference in Berlin on July 9. Adam Berry/Getty Images

The chances of European Union leaders agreeing on a coronavirus recovery fund by Sunday are “less than 50%,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in Brussels on Friday. 

“But let's be hopeful -- you never know,” Rutte added. 

In May, the EU proposed a recovery fund worth €750 billion ($854 billion) – with a plan for two thirds of that money to be distributed to countries via grants, and the remainder being offered as loans. 

The proposal has caused divisions within the EU, with a group of nations known as the “Frugal Four” – Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark – rejecting the compromise and favoring only loans.

EU leaders met Friday for a summit on the issue. Asked on Friday what compromise would allow for a deal, Rutte said: “That's one of the questions which we have to answer. But we could still get to a compromise, it is still possible.”

The Dutch PM added that his country did not believe in a grants-based system.

“We need reforms," he said. "So that if the south [of Europe] is needing help from other countries to cope with the crisis, I understand that, and because there is limited scope to deal with that financially themselves.
"Then I think it is only reasonable for us to ask for a clear commitment to reforms. If then loans have to be converted to a certain extent into grants, then the reforms are even more crucial, and the absolute guarantee that they have taken place."
Rutte rejected suggestions that he was the "bad guy" in the negotiations, saying:  “I'm fighting for Europe… a stronger European Union which is very much in the interests of everybody, including of course the Dutch citizens. A strong Europe which is economically more competitive and can play, with confidence, a strong role on the world stage. That's what at stake.”
7:24 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Hong Kong reports 58 new cases

From CNN's Vanessa Yung

People stand by a harbour in Hong Kong during sunset on July 16.
People stand by a harbour in Hong Kong during sunset on July 16. Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

Hong Kong’s Department of Health reported 58 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, as the city's health officials continue to grapple with a third wave of cases.

Fifty of the new cases were locally transmitted and 18 are from unknown sources.

The newly confirmed cases involve several clusters including an elderly care facility and family outbreaks.

“There are a lot of cases with unknown sources. We need to pay attention on the situation and there may be a bigger outbreak,” Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan of Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection said.

Experts have linked the spike in cases to the easing of social distancing measures -- and potentially a mutation that could make the virus more infectious.

The city has a total of 1,713 confirmed cases and 10 deaths. 

7:24 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Iran reports 2,379 new cases of coronavirus in 24 hours

From CNN's Ramin Mostaghim

People walk in a metro station in Tehran, Iran, on July 8.
People walk in a metro station in Tehran, Iran, on July 8. Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

Iran has recorded 2,379 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 269,440. 

Health Ministry spokesman Sima Sadat Lari said Friday that 852 people with the disease have been hospitalized. 

Lari said there were 183 additional coronavirus-related deaths in the country, bringing Iran's death toll to 13,791. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered the mandatory wearing of face masks in public earlier this month, after cases rose in recent weeks.

7:26 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

UK Health Secretary calls for “urgent review” into England’s coronavirus death toll after doubts emerge over data

From CNN's Hilary McGann and Anna Stewart

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock is pictured in London on July 5.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock is pictured in London on July 5. David Nash/Barcroft Media/Getty Images

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock has called for an “urgent review” into how England's health authorities calculate the coronavirus death toll in England, after questions were raised about the quality of the data. 

On Thursday, the UK's Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM), pointed out a “statistical flaw” in how Public Health England (PHE) calculates coronavirus deaths occurring outside hospitals. 

"In summary, PHE’s definition of the daily death figures means that everyone who has ever had Covid-19 at any time must die with Covid-19 too,” CEBM’s statement said.

According to the organization, the data is calculated by counting anyone who died that has ever tested positive for coronavirus, without considering how long ago that was, or the cause of death. 

By this PHE definition, no one with [coronavirus] in England is allowed to ever recover from the illness,” CEBM said, “even if they had a heart attack or were run over by a bus three months later.”

The organization suggested that this approach meant there were now approximately 80,000 recovered patients currently out of hospital, who will be monitored by PHE for the daily death statistics.

10:35 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Boris Johnson announces further easing of England's lockdown

Boris Johnson has announced major changes to England's coronavirus restrictions as the country continues to reopen.

From August 1, employers can choose whether or not their employees work from home.

"Instead of government telling people to work from home, we're going to give employers more discretion and ask them to make decisions about how their staff could work safely," Johnson said at a Downing Street press briefing.
"Whatever employers decide, they should consult closely with their employees."
“In the end, human interaction and face to face conversations are important,” Johnson added. “Whether people should or need to go into work is not something the government can decide.
The PM said workers could use public transport where they need to but that alternative means of travel should be considered.

Beauty salons will be able to reopen from August 1 and indoor live performances can also resume if successful pilots have been carried out.

Wedding receptions for up to 30 people will also be permitted from that date but nightclubs remain closed under the updated guidance.

Johnson added that schools, colleges and nurseries would be open to all students from September.

"Throughout this period we will look to allow more close contact between friends and family," he added, cautioning that the easing of restrictions is conditional on cases continuing to fall.

The Prime Minister also announced sweeping new powers for local authorities as the UK government's focus turns to local lockdowns as opposed to a national one.

"We can control [the pandemic] through targeted local action," he said.

“From tomorrow, local authorities will have new powers in their areas, will be able to close specific premises, shut outdoor spaces and cancel events,” Johnson said.

“These powers will enable local authorities to act more quickly in response to outbreaks where speed is paramount," he added. 

New draft regulations for Britain's central government will also be published next week, proposing that "where justified by the evidence, ministers will be able to close whole sectors, or types of premises in an area, introduce local stay-at-home orders, prevent people entering or leaving defined areas, reduce the maximum size of gatherings beyond national rules, or restrict transport systems serving local areas.”

Johnson also announced £3 billion ($3.7b) in extra funding for the NHS in England to help it prepare for the winter months. Extra health funding will also be granted to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The PM said his government was "hoping for the best, but planning for the worst."

6:08 a.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Skin rash should be considered Covid-19 symptom, researchers say

Skin rashes and reddish bumps on fingers and toes should be considered a key coronavirus symptom, researchers from King's College London (KCL) have said.

The skin rashes can occur in the absence of any other symptoms, a new pre-print study led by the university suggests.

Key coronavirus symptoms that are widely accepted include fever, cough and shortness of breath, but a range of other signs have been suggested, including the loss of smell and taste in some patients.

The KCL researchers used data from the Covid-19 Symptom Study app, which is submitted by around 336,000 people in the UK.

They found that 8.8% of people who tested positive for coronavirus reported a skin rash as a symptom, compared with 5.4% of people who tested negative.

The team then set up a separate online survey, gathering information from nearly 12,000 people with skin rashes and suspected or confirmed Covid-19.

They found that 17% of respondents who tested positive for the virus reported a rash as the first symptom of the disease. For 21% of people who reported a rash and had confirmed Covid-19, the rash was their only symptom.

“Many viral infections can affect the skin, so it’s not surprising that we are seeing these rashes in Covid-19," said lead author Dr. Veronique Bataille, consultant dermatologist at St Thomas’ Hospital and King’s College London.
"However, it is important that people know that in some cases, a rash may be the first or only symptom of the disease. So if you notice a new rash, you should take it seriously by self-isolating and getting tested as soon as possible.”

The researchers believe the rashes fall into three distinct categories. The first is a hive-type rash, which can come and go quite quickly over a few hours.

"It can involve any part of the body, and often starts with intense itching of the palms or soles, and can cause swelling of the lips and eyelids. These rashes can present quite early on in the infection, but can also last a long time afterwards," KCL said in a statement.

The second type of rash is a prickly heat one, in which areas of small red bumps can occur anywhere across the body but particularly on the elbows and knees as well as the back of the hands and feet.

The third type involves red or purple bumps appearing on the fingers and toes.

"This type of rash is most specific to Covid-19, is more common in younger people with the disease, and tends to present later on," the team said.

“These findings highlight the importance of keeping an eye on any new changes in your skin, such as lumps, bumps or rashes," said consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk.
"Early reporting of Covid-associated rashes by members of the public and recognition of their significance by frontline healthcare practitioners ... may increase the detection of coronavirus infections and help to stop the spread.”