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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2:05 p.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Lowes and Home Depot shoppers will now have to wear masks

From CNN's Melanie Schuman

Customers walk in the parking lot of the Home Depot in Wappingers Falls, New York, on July 1.
Customers walk in the parking lot of the Home Depot in Wappingers Falls, New York, on July 1. Patrick Oehler/Poughkeepsie Journal/Imagn

Lowes and Home Depot will soon require customers to wear masks in their stores. The mask order begins on Monday at Lowes and Wednesday at Home Depot. 

Home Depot said about 85% of its stores already require masks due to local and state regulations. Associates across all stores are required to wear masks, according to a press release.

"We appreciate all of our associates who have been working so hard to serve our customers with the essential products they need throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and we want to thank our customers for their cooperation as we work to protect everyone in our stores," Ann-Marie Campbell, executive vice president of stores for The Home Depot, said.

Associates at Lowes already are required to wear masks.

“As a retailer offering essential goods, we have a responsibility to our associates, customers and small businesses in communities nationwide to help provide a safe shopping experience," said Marvin R. Ellison, Lowe's president and CEO. "Throughout this pandemic, our associates have worked tirelessly so customers could get the goods and services they needed for their homes and small businesses. For the safety of everyone in our stores, we ask that customers wear masks, and to make this new standard less restrictive, we will make masks available to those who need them."

The home improvement giants are the latest US retailers to require customers wear masks. CVS, Target and Walmart all announced their own mask orders this week.

1:59 p.m. ET, July 17, 2020

More than 180 employees from two police forces in Florida's Miami-Dade County are quarantined

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

A Miami Beach Police patrol vehicle is parked on April 5 in Miami Beach, Florida.
A Miami Beach Police patrol vehicle is parked on April 5 in Miami Beach, Florida. Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

There are 140 Miami Police (MPD) employees and 41 Miami Beach Police (MBPD) officers currently under quarantine, public information officers from both departments tell CNN.

MPD has 140 employees currently quarantined because they have tested positive, are awaiting test results or came in contact with someone who has coronavirus, according to MPD Public Information Officer Kenia Fallat. Of the 140 employees quarantined, 68 are police officers who have tested positive for coronavirus, Fallat said.

In Miami Beach, there are 41 officers under quarantine, according to Miami Beach Police Public Information Officer Ernesto Rodriguez. This includes 12 officers who have tested positive and 29 officers who have possibly been exposed, Rodriguez tells CNN.

MPD has 1371 full-time sworn positions and more than 400 civilian positions, according to its 2020 operating budget.

Meanwhile, MBPD has 400 sworn officers on its force, Rodriguez says.

1:31 p.m. ET, July 17, 2020

This New York man left the hospital after a 106-day battle with Covid-19

From CNN's Sonia Moghe

A Long Island, New York, man left the hospital Thursday after a 106-day battle with Covid-19, where he had to be intubated three times. 

Hafeez Rehman, 43, was taken out of Long Island Jewish Medical Center on a stretcher late Thursday, as hospital workers lined the hallway and cheered, as captured in footage released by the hospital. Rehman headed to a rehabilitation facility where he will continue his treatment.

Fatima Rehman, his sister-in-law, said she and the rest of his family have waited for this day after months of praying. 

“We had so many downhill (moments) and then all of a sudden, we got an uphill,” she said, in a video interview released by the hospital system. “We had so many family friends praying day and night. Always have hope and faith because there is miracles and we are seeing one today.”

Northwell Health, which has 23 hospitals in the area, said his stay was the longest Covid-19-related stay the entire health system has seen.

1:19 p.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Social distancing likely needed for a "long period of time," England's chief medical officer says

From CNN’s Zahid Mahmood and Josefine Ohema

People walk past a social distancing sign in London on July 11.
People walk past a social distancing sign in London on July 11. Jacques Feeney/MI News/NurPhoto/Getty Images

England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty told the House of Lords on Friday that social distancing is likely to be necessary for a “long period of time.”

Speaking at the Select Committee on Science and Technology, Whitty said measures like social distancing, washing hands, isolation, contact tracking and face masks were all measures that needed to continue.

“There are issues around distancing, which have been varied but the reality is distancing remains an important part of this mix and how it’s interpreted in different environments has evolved, but it has not gone away,” Whitty said. “So all of those need to continue for a long period of time.”

Whitty said he would be “very surprised” if in four or five months’ time we still had the same coronavirus strategy as we have today. Adding that the government will still require people to isolate if they have symptoms, wear face masks and have local responses to an outbreak.

“In terms of the wider strategy and how we do the maximum damage to the virus to the minimum damage to our society, that will evolve over time,” he said. 

Earlier on Friday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated a possible return to normality by “November at the earliest.” 

“It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November at the earliest – possibly in time for Christmas,” Johnson said.

1:22 p.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Fauci says CDC is a good source of data after White House rerouted information

From CNN's Amanda Watts

A general view of the Centers for Disease Control headquarters is seen in Atlanta on April 23.
A general view of the Centers for Disease Control headquarters is seen in Atlanta on April 23. Tami Chappell/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci defended the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a good source for Americans to get coronavirus data.  

During a US Chamber of Commerce Foundation virtual event on Friday, Fauci was asked about the best source of data about coronavirus for cities, business owners and the American people.

“The CDC, you know forever, has been the lead agency in both surveillance and response to outbreaks,” he said. 

Fauci said CDC provides information about the outbreak for the country as a whole, down to the city level.  

“So I would point you to the CDC website, to get the kind of information that I think would be very valuable to you,” he said. 

Why this matters: Earlier this week, the US Department of Health and Human Services instructed hospitals to stop providing coronavirus data directly to CDC, saying the agency was posting the information too slowly. Instead, the hospital data was to be rerouted directly to the Trump administration.

Some information was missing from the CDC website mid-week, but HHS directed the agency to put it back up.  

1:12 p.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Chicago proposes reopening schools this fall with hybrid learning model

From CNN’s Brad Parks and Kay Jones

A preliminary plan that gives the framework for reopening the city's schools was released on Friday by Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the third-largest school district in the nation with 642 schools and 355,000 students, according to CPS. 

CPS is seeing feedback from parents and the community over the next two weeks on the proposal, which includes a hybrid learning model that has most students learning from home and attending school a limited number of days a week, provided its safe to do so based on guidance from public health officials. 

“Our dialogue will require that everyone’s voices are heard in order to arrive at the strongest possible plan for our students and school communities," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a press release. "Covid-19 has been unpredictable from the start, but whatever form this challenge takes, I want everyone to know that education and learning will be happening this fall.”

Here is how the hybrid learning model would work, according to the release:

  • About 50% of the student population would attend school in-person on any given day.
  • Most high school juniors and seniors will do at-home learning full time.
  • Schools are encouraged to "safely bring in juniors and seniors who need additional academic or social and emotional support, or students who are engaged in specialty programming, such as Career and Technical Education (CTE) programming that can’t be accessed at home."
  • There will be pods for approximately 15 students that will minimize exposure to others and help with contact tracing if a pod member contracts Covid-19. Student pods will be placed in rooms with assigned seating and will use the same designated spaces to maintain social distancing as much as possible during the day. 

"Through a hybrid 2-1-2 scheduling model, each student pod will spend the same two consecutive days each week learning at school, the same two days learning independently at home, and each Wednesday they will participate in real-time virtual instruction with their classroom teacher," the model says.

Other safety measures: CPS also outlined daily increased screening and cleaning protocols, including face covering requirements, daily temperature checks and health screenings.

Cloth face coverings will be provided to all students and staff and disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer will be available in all classrooms and throughout school buildings. The district is also hiring approximately 400 additional custodians to bolster cleaning and disinfection protocols.

CPS says that the health and safety of the students and staff is a priority and that it has disinfected over 50,000 rooms and secured sanitation and health resources that are needed to safely reopen in September. 

“Our framework is designed to maximize critical instructional time while prioritizing the health and safety of students and staff,” CPS Chief Education Officer, LaTanya D. McDade, said in the release. "As a next step, we are eager to hear and incorporate feedback from families to ensure we have the best possible plan in place to meet the needs of all students.”

Along with the online survey that solicits feedback on the plan, CPS will be holding meetings for parents in both English and Spanish to answer any questions regarding the preliminary framework. 

 Mayor Lightfoot said earlier this week that she plans on announcing the reopening plan in August. 

1:08 p.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Scientists are researching possibility of Covid-19 reinfection, WHO says

From CNN's Gisela Crespo

Scientists and clinicians from all over the world are doing research to see if someone who had Covid-19 can get reinfected, Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization's technical lead for coronavirus response and head of the emerging diseases and zoonoses unit, said Friday.

 "What we understand from people who are infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes Covid-19, is that they will develop an immune response. They will develop antibodies, neutralizing antibodies, and an immune response that will provide some protection against reinfection,” Van Kerkhove said during a media briefing.

"What we don't know right is how strong that protection is and for how long that protection will last. And we need answers to those questions to be able to determine if someone can be reinfected after that immunity wears off. So this is an area of active, active research for the specific SARS-CoV-2," she said.

  

12:58 p.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Reopening schools involves looking at the bigger picture, Fauci says

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a US Chamber of Commerce Foundation virtual event on July 17.
Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a US Chamber of Commerce Foundation virtual event on July 17. US Chamber of Commerce

Dr. Anthony Fauci said when it comes to reopening schools, his advice is to “go to 40,000 feet and look at the big picture.”

During a US Chamber of Commerce Foundation virtual event on Friday, Fauci said there are “well-known, downstream, unintended consequences that are ripple effects of keeping children out of school” – notably the impact on children themselves, as well as the logistical impact of caregivers’ inability to go back to work.

Safety is paramount, but Fauci said we need “to have our default position to get the children back to school.”

Fauci said this is where it gets complicated in a “geographically and demographically diverse” country, such as the United States.

“There'll be parts of the country where the level of virus activity is so low that you don't have to modify anything at all – just send the children back to school,” he said.

“But clearly if you just look at what's going on right now, there are parts of the country that have a significant degree of viral activity that make you want to pause,” he added. 

Fauci said in those instances, “we may want to modify logistically” by separating desks, having children wear masks or rotating schedules.

12:45 p.m. ET, July 17, 2020

Iowa's governor says schools must prioritize in-person learning

From CNN's Elizabeth Stuart and Shawn Nottingham

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a press conference in Van Meter, Iowa, on July 17.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a press conference in Van Meter, Iowa, on July 17. KCCI

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Friday that it's critical to bring Iowa's children back to the classroom, and schools will not be allowed to provide more than half of instruction through remote learning unless she authorizes it because of how the state law is written.

"Schools must prioritize in-person learning for core academic subjects including science, math, reading and social studies. And the legislature has made it clear that most schools cannot provide more than half of their instruction remotely unless I authorize remote learning in a proclamation," she said.

Reynolds said prolonged remote learning exacerbates inequities in education for the state's most vulnerable children.

"What about that single mom that's trying to work, provide for their children, and counting on the system to provide a quality education? They can't afford to simply take a year off," Reynolds said.

The governor said she is signing a proclamation today that will direct all districts to focus on preparing to safely welcome back students and teachers in-person, and to provide clarity on when a school may move to remote learning.

But across the state, several large districts have already put plans in place that do not include an all in-person return.

What the state's school districts are doing: Iowa City Community School District's Board of Directors voted unanimously Tuesday to start the school year on Aug. 24 fully remote, with Oct. 6 as the "first potential date that we would consider for a move to a Hybrid Learning Model," according to a release.

The Des Moines Public School District, the state's largest with more than 33,000 students, announced earlier this month its plan for a hybrid schedule with students coming to school a few days a week and learning remotely the other days.

West Des Moines Community Schools' Board of Education approved a plan this month that allows families to decide if they want their children to return for full in-person classes or full remote learning.