July 23 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Brad Lendon, Ed Upright, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:09 a.m. ET, July 24, 2020
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12:59 p.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Another 1.4 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week 

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

Another 1.4 million Americans have filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, according to the Department of Labor.

Four months after the Covid-19 pandemic ravaged the health of Americans, their economy and their labor market, the upswing in economic data is tapering off.

A resurgence in infections and a rollback of reopening plans in several states is making it difficult for people to re-enter the labor force following the pandemic lockdown.

Continued claims — which count people who have applied for benefits for at least two consecutive weeks — slipped to 16.2 million, down by more than 1 million from the week prior.


8:50 a.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Trump is still 100% for schools opening, but school officials are running the other way

Analysis by CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

 A fleet of Broward County school buses are parked in a lot in Pembroke Pines, Florida, on July 21.
 A fleet of Broward County school buses are parked in a lot in Pembroke Pines, Florida, on July 21. Johnny Louis/Getty Images

This might be the most obvious thing in the world, but parents need to come to grips with the fact that their kids probably aren't going to be in classrooms this fall.

There will be exceptions, sure, in places where schools do open for normal hours or something close to it. There will be kids who go part-time (this is becoming known as the "hybrid" option). But it's becoming clear that a large portion of the country's kids won't be in class and parents need to start planning for that if they haven't already.

Trump didn't mention his recent demand that US schools open this fall, Covid-be-damned, at his first briefing on the coronavirus since April. But he said Wednesday that he "would like to see the schools open 100%" — and then immediately pivoted to the economy, which is why he wants schools to reopen.

As the Covid-19 surge continues, schools continue to announce plans for online-only learning this fall. On Tuesday, it was Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Virginia and Montgomery County in Maryland that did an abrupt and simultaneous about-face to say public school students would not be brought back in-person.

Together those comprise a major chunk of the DC suburbs. Kids in the nation's capital won't know until July 31 if the city will offer any kind of in-person education this fall or whether it will be online.

On Wednesday, it was Clark County in Nevada reversing course from a hybrid model to distance learning. It was Seattle, too. In Kansas, the state board of education, split down the middle, blocked the governor's attempt to go online only to start the year, an exception proving the new rule.

Last week, it was California, where Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom declared schools couldn't offer in-person instruction until they met certain Covid criteria. Right now that ban applies to 90% of the state's kids.

There may not be an exhaustive database of the country's 13,000 school district plans, but the snapshot at Education Week is pretty darn good (and maddening to read).

It shows five of the nation's 10 largest districts will be distance learning this fall, which begins next month for most kids.

Or not. Some districts don't have a start date. Others are delaying into September. New York City's mayor has pledged to implement a hybrid model, but details are still in flux and the state's governor must sign off. He won't do that until August.

Read the full analysis:

8:27 a.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Miami mayor explains why he's doubling mask mandate fines

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced that the Florida city will increase its penalties for people not adhering to its mask mandate, raising the amount from $50 to $100 for first and second offenses. Violators could face arrest for third offenses. 

“We want to make sure people follow the rules. We're seeing some early evidence that the mask-in-public rule is working and we want to make sure it's being adopted universally in our population,” Suarez said on CNN’s “New Day.”

Suarez said that 39 officers this week will be dedicated solely to mask enforcement.

“We want to make sure that we're able to continue these gains so that we don't have to take more dramatic measures,” he said. 

Suarez said the situation in Miami has improved, so he isn't planning on implementing a stay-at-home order.

“Just a few days ago, we were at 60 new cases per day. …We're down to 20 new cases a day, which means that the remediation efforts that we've taken, including the mask-in-public rule, are working,” Suarez said.

“We're being patient and letting those remediation efforts take full effect before making any decisions,” he added. 

Suarez said that delays in testing are leading to further coronavirus spread, particularly in large households, contradicting the President, who called testing “overrated.”


8:38 a.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Catch up: Start your day with the latest coronavirus updates

It's Thursday morning in the US, where the number of total cases since the start of the pandemic is nearing 4 million, according to Johns Hopkins University's latest tally.

If you're just reading in, here are the latest updates from around the country:

  • A vaccine deal: The US government has reached a $1.95 billion agreement with the drug company Pfizer to produce at least 100 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. Depending on when one is made available, the doses could start shipping out as early as the last quarter of this year.
  • Staggering new numbers: In the past two weeks, the US recorded more than 915,000 new cases of coronavirus — that's more than the cases reported across the country for the whole month of June. The US also recorded its second straight day with more than 1,000 Covid-19 deaths.
  • GOP's stimulus plans: White House negotiators say they've reached a deal on the general aspects of a new stimulus package, which means we could see the GOP's long-awaited full proposal soon. The plan will feature $105 billion for schools and additional billions in coronavirus response funds. 
  • Inside the hotspots: In Florida, 53 hospitals have reached ICU capacity and show zero ICU beds available for the second day in a row. In Texas, the state broke its record for hospitalizations two days in a row this week, with 10,848 patients reported Tuesday and 10,893 reported Wednesday. Meanwhile, California surpassed New York with the most cases in the nation this week. 

Hear more:

8:14 a.m. ET, July 23, 2020

An Italian-American love affair has been put on ice this summer

From CNN's Maria Pasquale

Americans have long had a love affair with Italy. This summer, that relationship is on hiatus, and Italy is feeling the heartache.

According to the Italian government's statistics bureau, 6 million US travelers choose Italy for their vacation each year. Lured by timeless dolce vita, dramatic coastal beach settings, food and wine, history and so much more, US travelers will largely have to do without this year.

As Europe transitions out of the emergency phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, border closures remain in place with only a handful of non-EU nations added to a "safe" list for essential travel only.

Italy hasn't adopted the EU's recommended list of safe countries, and the US -- deemed a high risk because of a surge in coronavirus cases -- wasn't even on the list to begin with.

Read more here.

8:44 a.m. ET, July 23, 2020

There are no free ICU beds at 53 Florida hospitals

From CNN's Rosa Flores and Denise Royal 

In Florida, 53 hospitals have reached ICU capacity and have no beds available for the second day in a row, according to data released by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). 

Eight of the hospitals at capacity are in Miami-Dade County, AHCA data shows.

Another 44 hospitals have 10% or less ICU capacity available.

More than 5,000 people have died because of the virus in Florida.

Despite the crisis, the state's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has announced that all public schools will reopen by August. DeSantis has also resisted calls to consider a mask mandate.

8:46 a.m. ET, July 23, 2020

US renters face eviction threat as housing crisis grows

From CNN's Kelly Mena

Demonstrators march in the street during the Cancel Rent and Mortgages rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 30.
Demonstrators march in the street during the Cancel Rent and Mortgages rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 30. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

With the US economy wavering as coronavirus cases spiral out of control, millions of renters across the country who are already behind on payments are increasingly concerned about the threat of evictions as the new rent month approaches.

Jose Palma, a construction worker in Richmond, California, is one of them. The 40-year-old father of two just started getting regular hours after months out of work and owes four months of back rent on a three-bedroom unit on top of his August rent -- a bill of about $8,000, he says.

"There isn't a solution right now," said Palma. "I owe rent. I have to put food on the table for my kids. It's stressful and all very hard."

Housing instability has been a looming crisis in the US against the backdrop of the pandemic as the economic fallout coupled with the absence of a broad federal response has left renters vulnerable. And this week, more than 25 million people will lose the extra $600 weekly federal unemployment benefits boost, cutting out a crucial lifeline many renters have depended on to make ends meet.

Read more here.

7:27 a.m. ET, July 23, 2020

"Love is essential," say separated couples fighting for travel exemptions

From CNN's Stacey Lastoe

After David Edward-Ooi Poon was separated from his girlfriend, Alexandria Aquino, due to coronavirus travel restrictions, David founded a program to help others like them reunite.
After David Edward-Ooi Poon was separated from his girlfriend, Alexandria Aquino, due to coronavirus travel restrictions, David founded a program to help others like them reunite. Courtesy David Edward-Ooi Poon

Canadian resident David Edward-Ooi Poon was in Ireland with his girlfriend Alexandria Aquino when pandemic travel restrictions were first announced in March.

Aquino was unable to get into Canada in early April, in spite of what Poon insists was overwhelming support in favor of their case as a couple -- shared bills, a mortgage on a condo containing Poon and Aquino's names, and a common law relationship according to Canada's definition.

Aquino arrived in Canada only to be forced to turn around and head back to Ireland.

They have been apart ever since.

The couple are part of a growing group of people around the world demanding that travel exemptions be made for them as the pandemic continues.

The group's message is often delivered with the tag lines: "love is essential" and "love is not tourism." They are an impressive, growing group on social media, committed to being heard and ultimately allowed to travel to be together again.

Separated, binational couples -- some married, many not -- are fighting for their right to travel. They're fighting for love.

Read the full story here.

8:45 a.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Hong Kong officials continue to battle Covid-19 "third wave"

From Vanesse Chan

A health worker takes a swab from a taxi driver at a makeshift testing station in a Hong Kong carpark on July 20.
A health worker takes a swab from a taxi driver at a makeshift testing station in a Hong Kong carpark on July 20. May James/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Hong Kong recorded 118 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, all of which except seven cases were locally transmitted, according to a daily health briefing.

Among the 111 local cases, around half are untraceable. An additional death was also recorded Thursday afternoon, bringing Hong Kong’s Covid-19 death toll to 15.

Many of the local infections are related to family and workplace transmissions, including several restaurant outbreaks.

Officials in the city have struggled to contain the city's third wave.

Dr. Chui Tak-yi, the under secretary of food and health, said the government was still closely monitoring the situation to see whether it needed to tighten the social distancing measures, which include restrictions for restaurants.

"The epidemic situation in Hong Kong remains severe. From July 16-22, there were 543 confirmed cases, of which 481 are locally transmitted. Compared to last week, 256 cases were recorded from July 9-15, of which 207 were locally transmitted. The epidemic trend is still increasing," he said. 

"We have to still be very cautious about potential further increase in the outbreak," he added.