July 20 coronavirus news

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4:07 p.m. ET, July 20, 2020

Pence offers full-throated endorsement of mask-wearing in public and social distancing

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Vice President Mike Pence wears a mask Tuesday as he visits the state Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Vice President Mike Pence wears a mask Tuesday as he visits the state Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Gerald Herbert/AP

At the beginning of Vice President Mike Pence's call with the nation's governors, he offered a full-throated endorsement of mask-wearing in public and social distancing as ways to reduce the spread of coronavirus — steps President Trump has stopped short of mandating on a national level.

Citing falling case counts in Arizona, Pence listed steps starting with masks that have helped improve the situation.

"What we have found is that masks, closing indoor bars, decreasing indoor dining capacity to 25%, continued social distancing and personal hygiene messaging are, according to the modeling, dramatically decreasing the rate of community spread," he said.

Those actions are "a clear example of transmitting science into action and proving this works," Pence said.

At the top of the call, Pence told governors they had the White House's "unqualified" support in taking steps to limit the spread of coronavirus.

"You have our full and unqualified support for the steps you are taking in your state," he said.

"At President Trump's direction, we are running a national response that is federally supported, state managed and locally executed," Pence said. "We are here to support the steps that you deem appropriate."

Pence highlighted efforts to send point-of-care testing kits to every nursing home in the US (something that's already been made public) and noted travel this week to South Carolina, Indiana and Massachusetts.

He said if governors felt it would be helpful for him or another member of the task force to travel to their state, they stood ready to move out.

"Having been a former governor, I know the value of, particularly, in educating the public about your efforts," he said. "We will be there and can move out very very quickly."

3:57 p.m. ET, July 20, 2020

Statewide mask mandate has begun in Arkansas, governor says

From CNN’s Janine Mack

Office of Gov. Asa Hutchinson/YouTube
Office of Gov. Asa Hutchinson/YouTube

Arkansas’ statewide face covering mandate has begun, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Monday.

According to the mandate, every adult in Arkansas must wear a face covering that covers their mouth and nose in all indoor environments, where they are exposed to non-household members, distancing of six feet or more cannot be done, and in all outdoor settings where there is exposure to non-household members, unless there is ample space of six feet or more.

The governor added that if it's going to compromise your own safety then obviously common sense has to dictate in those circumstances.

More context: Last week, Hutchinson said the mandate was needed due to the number of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Arkansas Department of Health has recorded 33,927 cases of coronavirus and 357 deaths since the pandemic began. 

At least 471 patients have been hospitalized and 111 are on ventilators, according to Dr. Jose Romero, the acting secretary for the state's Department of Health.

3:36 p.m. ET, July 20, 2020

At least 53 Florida hospitals are out of ICU beds

From CNN’s Randi Kaye

As of Monday afternoon, 9,508 people are hospitalized in the state of Florida due to coronavirus related illness, according to data released by Florida’s Agency for Healthcare administration (ACHA).

There are now 53 hospitals in Florida without any ICU beds, according to the ACHA. That number is up from 50 this morning.

Statewide, Florida stands at 18.12% capacity for “available adult ICU hospital beds."

Earlier today, Miami-Dade County's Covid-19 dashboard showed ICU capacity in the county was at 130.20%, up from 127% on Sunday. And as of Monday, 513 Covid-19 ICU admissions were recorded. The ICU bed capacity in the county is 394, according to county data. 

3:53 p.m. ET, July 20, 2020

West Virginia governor reports Covid-19 outbreaks in seven churches

From CNN's Laura Dolan

Gov. Jim Justice’s Office/TV Everywhere
Gov. Jim Justice’s Office/TV Everywhere

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice reported multiple Covid-19 outbreaks in seven churches across seven counties in the state.

At his news conference Monday, Justice said there was a total of 75 cases reported at churches in Boone, Grant, Logan, Kanawha, Raleigh, Taylor and Wood counties.

He warned churchgoers to be cautious, "Please, please know that a church setting is the ideal setting to spread this virus."

"You have got to wear a mask in church. I know that's hard to do, I know that's really difficult to do. But for right now, that has to be done because if we don't, all we're going to do is perpetuate this terrible killer into more and more and more people and we're going to lose people," the governor added.

State Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad said at the news conference that one church in each county has an outbreak with five to eight cases per church.

The governor said the state had 89 new positive Covid-19 cases and no new deaths since last Friday.

 

3:12 p.m. ET, July 20, 2020

Second Brazilian minister tests positive for Covid-19

From journalist Rodrigo Pedroso in São Paulo

Brazil's Minister of Education Milton Ribeiro tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday, just hours after another cabinet minister revealed he was infected earlier in the day.

"I've just received a positive Covid-19 result this morning. I am already medicated, and I'll work remotely," Ribeiro tweeted.

The minister's spokesperson told CNN affiliate CNN Brasil that Ribeiro is working from a hotel in the capital Brasília.

Ribeiro did not specify what medication he is taking.

More top Brazilian officials are infected with coronavirus: Brazil’s Minister of Citizenship Onyx Lorenzoni tweeted Monday that he tested positive for Covid-19. In a series of tweets, Lorenzoni wrote that he was tested after his symptoms started last Friday.

Earlier this month, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for Covid-19, following months of downplaying the virus.

Three other high-ranking government officials have also previously tested positive. In March, after returning from a trip to the United States for meetings between the Brazilian and US presidents, Mines and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque, and Institutional Security Minister General Augusto Heleno tested positive, along with Bolsonaro’s communication secretary Fabio Wajngarten and another 15 members of the Brazilian delegation.

3:11 p.m. ET, July 20, 2020

Baltimore police suspend in-service training after positive Covid-19 tests

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The Baltimore Police Department (BPD) has temporarily suspended in-service training after four trainees and two staff members tested positive for Covid-19 since Friday, according to a release from the department. 

Baltimore's police department is working with the University of Baltimore to have their training facility cleaned and disinfected, and the training academy will continue through remote learning in the meantime, according to BPD.

Some context: Since the beginning of the pandemic, 65 members of the department have tested positive for Covid-19. An additional 42 members are currently out on quarantine, and 638 department employees have been quarantined for some amount of time due to potential Covid-19 exposure since the start of the pandemic, the release said.

“COVID-19 continues to challenge the policing profession, as we look to research best practices and create innovative solutions in resuming much needed training to the members of the department,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said. “We continue to examine all procedures and precautionary measures put in place to minimize exposure to COVID-19 for all of our members.”
3:05 p.m. ET, July 20, 2020

Florida educators file lawsuit after state forces schools to reopen this fall

From CNN's Annie Grayer and Randi Kaye

Middle-school teacher Brittany Myers takes part in a protest Thursday in front of the Hillsborough County Schools District Office in Tampa, Florida.
Middle-school teacher Brittany Myers takes part in a protest Thursday in front of the Hillsborough County Schools District Office in Tampa, Florida. Octavio Jones/Getty Images

Florida educators have filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the state's emergency order that forces schools to open for in-person instruction next month.

President of the Florida Education Association Fedrick Ingram announced the suit against Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez, the Florida Department of Education and the Florida State Board of Education. The suit was filed in the 11th circuit court in Miami.

Corcoran issued the emergency order earlier this month, requiring all "brick and mortar schools" to open "at least five days per week for all students."

“We believe that that is reckless,” Ingram said of the executive order. “We believe that it is unconscionable, and we also believe that the executive order is unconstitutional.”

“No one wants to be back in a classroom and reopen our school more than educators,” Ingram added. “But we want to do it safely. And we don't want to put people at risk.”

Leaders of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association both joined the news conference in support of the lawsuit. AFT President Randi Weingarten said DeSantis, who has been pushing for schools to reopen, is in “intense denial."

“As a national affiliate, we'll do everything we can do to make sure not only our members are safe, but our community is safe, and that we do not lose a generation of children because of the denial and the recklessness,” Weingarten said.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said “it is a false choice to either keep schools close stop learning or open them unsafely.”

In addition to union leaders, teachers from Florida also joined the virtual news conference to issue their support.

Stefanie Miller, who had Covid and was on a ventilator for 21 days, has been a teacher in Broward County for 22 years.

“I don't wish this on anyone,” Miller said of her recovery from the virus. “I, of course, want to go back to teaching, but it needs to be safe. There's no way that children can sit in their seat for six hours, wearing a mask and not feel the stress of this situation. Teaching online is not optimal, but it's best to keep teachers, personnel, and families safe.”

2:57 p.m. ET, July 20, 2020

World Health Organization "very concerned" that Covid-19 cases may accelerate in Africa

From CNN's Marisa Peryer

People walk past coronavirus guidance in Soweto, South Africa, on July 13.
People walk past coronavirus guidance in Soweto, South Africa, on July 13. Themba Hadebe/AP

South Africa has reported 364,328 coronavirus cases as of Monday. Officials from the World Health Organization are concerned that the country’s rising numbers could signal greater Covid-19 spread throughout Africa.

“While South Africa is experiencing a very, very severe event, I think it is really a marker of what the continent could face, if urgent action is not taken to provide further support,” Dr. Mike Ryan, director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said Monday during a media briefing in Geneva.

South Africa has the fifth most confirmed Covid-19 infections in the world, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Ryan said South Africa is experiencing an acceleration in Covid-19 cases, which have increased by about 30% in the last week.

“Sometimes, this disease can take off very quickly,” Ryan said. “And sometimes, in other situations, it takes off more slowly, and then accelerates – and it's difficult to understand fully why that is the case.”

Ryan noted other countries in the region have seen Covid-19 increases, though their total case counts are still lower than South Africa’s. In the past week, cases in countries such as Madagascar, Namibia and Botswana have increased by 50%, 69% and 66%, respectively, according to Ryan.

“I'm very concerned right now that we're beginning to see an acceleration of disease in Africa,” Ryan said. “And we all need to take that very seriously and show solidarity and support to those countries who may now be experiencing increasing numbers of cases and deaths.”

2:36 p.m. ET, July 20, 2020

More than 140,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US

From CNN's Brandon Miller

There have been at least 3,794,355 cases of coronavirus in the US, and at least 140,716 people have died since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally of cases.

On Monday, Johns Hopkins reported 21,095 new cases and 182 deaths. 

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases.