July 21 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Steve George, Ivana Kottasová, Ed Upright, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 3:23 p.m. ET, July 22, 2020
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5:19 p.m. ET, July 21, 2020

Texas reports more than 9,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Raja Razek

Texas reported at least 9,305 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to approximately 341,739 cases. 

The state also reported at least 131 new Covid-19-related fatalities, bringing the total number of deaths to approximately 4,151 in Texas. 

Note: These numbers were released by the Texas Health and Human Services, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

5:18 p.m. ET, July 21, 2020

More than 5,300 people have died from Covid-19 in South Africa

From CNN's Nada Bashir

Funeral home workers in protective suits carry the coffin of a woman who died from COVID-19 into a hearse in Katlehong, South Africa, Tuesday, July 21.
Funeral home workers in protective suits carry the coffin of a woman who died from COVID-19 into a hearse in Katlehong, South Africa, Tuesday, July 21. Themba Hadebe/AP

At least 195 new coronavirus-related deaths across South Africa have been recorded, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed Tuesday – bringing the total death toll to approximately 5,368. 

According to the latest data from the NICD, a total of at least 381,798 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed across South Africa, including approximately 8,170 new cases recorded over the last 24 hours. 

Some background: On Monday, officials from the World Health Organization said they are concerned that the country’s rising numbers could signal greater Covid-19 spread throughout Africa, with cases increasing by about 30% in South Africa alone over the last week. 

“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 the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said Monday during a media briefing in Geneva.

“I'm very concerned right now that we're beginning to see an acceleration of disease in Africa,” he added.

3:23 p.m. ET, July 22, 2020

Study indicates immunity wanes quickly in people with mild Covid-19 infections

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

There’s more evidence that people start to lose any immunity to the novel coronavirus within a few weeks after they have been infected – especially if they have mild symptoms or no symptoms.

A team at the University of California Los Angeles did an in-depth study of 34 people who had recovered from mild coronavirus infections. They tested their blood two or three times over three months.

They found a rapid drop in antibodies – the immune system proteins that help stop viruses from infecting cells in the body. On average, the antibody levels fell by half every 36 days, Dr. Otto Yang of UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine and colleagues reported in The New England Journal of Medicine.

A survey of people in Spain released earlier this month found similar results.

“Our findings raise concern that humoral immunity against SARS-CoV-2 may not be long lasting in persons with mild illness, who compose the majority of persons with Covid-19,” Yang and colleagues wrote.

“It is difficult to extrapolate beyond our observation period of approximately 90 days because it is likely that the decay will decelerate. Still, the results call for caution regarding antibody-based ‘immunity passports,’ herd immunity, and perhaps vaccine durability, especially in light of short-lived immunity against common human coronaviruses.”

It’s still not known if people can be infected more than once with the novel coronavirus. But there are other, related coronaviruses that cause common colds, and people can and do catch those repeatedly.

“A crucial question is the extent to which these mildly infected individuals contribute to onward transmission. Another one, is whether or not a mildly infected individual, if infected again, is any more or less likely than average to develop a severe infection the second time around,” said Rowland Kao, an epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh in the UK who was not involved in the study.

CORRECTION: This post has been updated to indicate that on average, antibody levels fell by half every 36 days.

5:10 p.m. ET, July 21, 2020

North Carolina governor calls for extension of $600 a week federal benefit for unemployed workers

From CNN’s Eileen McMenamin


North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper today called on Congress to extend the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which gives an additional $600 a week to workers receiving unemployment benefits due to Covid-19.  

“This program has been a lifeline for families and their communities, giving people the ability to pay their rent or utilities, to put food on the table, and to make ends meet,” he said at a news conference in Raleigh. “I'm urging Congress to act quickly to extend this benefit.”

Currently the federal funding is due to expire at the end of this month, with members of Congress weighing a path forward on another economic stimulus package.

The governor also announced North Carolina is delivering “over 900,000 masks and other supplies to farm workers” across the state. “We must keep food in our grocery stores and on our tables. To do that, we must help protect the farmers and their families from this virus," Cooper said.

What the numbers look like: North Carolina's secretary of health and human services, Dr. Mandy Cohen, said the state now has 102,861 confirmed cases of coronavirus. The state, Cohen said, set a record over the weekend for highest number of new cases reported in a single day.

5:03 p.m. ET, July 21, 2020

Massachusetts governor extends moratorium on evictions through October 17

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker today extended the state’s pause on evictions and foreclosures through October 17.

The moratorium was set to expire on August 18, according to a statement from the governor’s office. 

The extension provides Massachusetts residents with “continued housing security as businesses cautiously re-open, more people return to work, and the state collectively moves toward a ‘new normal,’” the statement said.

According to the statement, tenants are strongly encouraged to continue paying rent, and homeowners to make their mortgage payments, as much as they are able.

Baker said his administration will consult with court administrators and other stakeholders during the new 60 day extension about programs and policies to help tenants avoid eviction when proceedings resume. 


5:05 p.m. ET, July 21, 2020

Covid-19 transmission levels in California have made contact tracing "impractical," official says

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

High levels of transmission of coronavirus have made traditional tracing “impractical and difficult to do,” California Health Secretary Mark Ghaly said in streamed update on the virus.

The state is working to refine strategies and continue to work with counties to build up the so-called "tracing army," but Ghaly warns that “even a very robust contact tracing program will have a hard time reaching out to every single case.”

Ghaly said the data is continuing to stabilize and as that happens, he expects to see transmission rates to come down and contact tracing to go up.

Addressing the rise in cases, which have passed 400,000 confirmed to date, Ghaly said that California has been able to avoid a large spike that other states and nations saw early.

“As a result, we’ve been able to limit not just the number of those with the worst outcomes, but even improve the clinical outcomes of those who’ve been hospitalized altogether,” Ghaly said, adding that the state has used the time to build up an inventory of supplies and hospital capacity.

4:59 p.m. ET, July 21, 2020

New Orleans schools to start academic year with virtual learning

From CNN's Kay Jones

All public schools in New Orleans will begin the 2020-21 school year with virtual learning, with the earliest possible in-person start date after Labor Day, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Henderson Lewis announced at a news conference Tuesday.

"Based on our monitoring of the current public health data, such as the increase of cases per day and other important factors, we have made the difficult decision to begin school under a distance learning model in August," Lewis said.

Lewis said the shift in decision was made after listening to the advice of medical experts, and to help keep students and teachers healthy given the current rate of community spread.

Lewis said the decision for students to return for in-person learning after Labor Day will only move forward after another review at the end of August.

"Every time you leave the house, please think of the 45,000 students throughout Orleans Parish," he said. "For them, for their futures and for the future of this great city, I am imploring you to mask up, wash your hands, socially distance when possible, and stay home if you feel sick.”
4:57 p.m. ET, July 21, 2020

Houston fire captain dies from Covid-19

From CNN's Raja Razek

A 62-year-old Houston Fire Department captain died Monday after battling Covid-19, the department announced today.

Capt. Leroy Lucio was hospitalized in San Antonio, his city of residence, according to a statement from the department. 

"He entered the department in December of 1990 and was promoted to Captain in 2006. Lucio currently served out of Station 103, in the Kingwood Area," the statement said. 

Lucio was hospitalized in San Antonio, his city of residence, according to the release. 

"The Houston Fire Department would like to acknowledge the immense debt of gratitude, which no words can express, to our fraternal brothers and sisters with the San Antonio Fire Department for the support shown to Captain Lucio and his family during this difficult time."
4:53 p.m. ET, July 21, 2020

Health of children and teachers should guide school reopening policies, Fauci says

From CNN’s Shelby Lin Erdman

The health of children and teachers should guide school reopening policies, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview on Tuesday.

“I think you have to put that in the context that an important issue is to make sure you do whatever you can to safeguard the safety and the health of the children, as well as the teachers, and that should guide your policy,” Fauci said.

Fauci said there are different kinds of approaches under discussion to get schools reopened.

“But in order to safeguard their health and their welfare, as well as teachers, to do some sort of modeling, different versions and I've heard different versions from different multiple different superintendents, about the school scheduling, about morning, afternoons, about alternate days, about more outdoor than indoor if you possibly can, protecting the vulnerable.” 

Fauci discussed Covid-19 testing in schools and how it might be implemented.

“A more universal testing before you get in, and intermittent at different intervals, surveillance testing that clearly is being discussed at the level of universities and colleges.” Fauci said. "Whether or not that is even going to be discussed with regard to elementary and middle and other schools, I'm not sure.”

Fauci said it’s not true that the idea children don’t get as sick as adults or transmit the coronavirus like adults means there’s no danger in reopening school.

"In general, children who get infected — as we know from the statistics — clearly, for the most part, do very well and don't get seriously ill ... but there are exceptions to that. And I think we have to be realistic to realize that children who get infected, for the most part, don't get serious illness — but some children do get seriously ill and some pass it on to the adults,” Fauci said.