The latest on the coronavirus pandemic

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton, Amy Woodyatt, Ed Upright, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:27 a.m. ET, August 1, 2020
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12:20 p.m. ET, July 31, 2020

NIH invests $248.7 million to fund technology that could improve Covid-19 testing

From CNN's Jen Christensen and Naomi Thomas

The National Institutes of Health announced Friday that it is investing $248.7 million in new technologies that should help ease some of the country’s problems with Covid-19 testing.  

The NIH launched the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) in April after it received an emergency supplemental appropriation of $1.4 billion from Congress. There was an “overwhelming response” to the department’s call for new technology, the NIH said. It received more than 650 applications.  

The initiative gives contracts to seven biomedical testing companies that should significantly increase the number and kinds of tests available as early as September. The demand for tests is estimated to be millions more per day than what is currently available, the NIH said. 

The seven companies that got the contracts use different approaches to testing. Four of the technologies should speed up and increase the capacity of lab testing, using next generation sequencing methods. Three of the technologies use platforms that should give more rapid results in point-of care-settings like in childcare centers, nursing homes, schools and workplaces. Some of these new tests should also be easier to use than the current nasal swab, and will use saliva instead.  

The seven companies that have been awarded contracts are Mesa Biotech, Quidel, Talis Biomedical, which all provide point-of-care tests, and Ginkgo Bioworks, Helix OpCo, Fluidigm and Mammoth Biosciences, which have laboratory tests. 

All the companies that have won these contracts either have emergency use authorization from the FDA for their technology or their applications are in process, according to the NIH. 

“This is an exciting milestone,” said Bruce J. Tromberg, director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and a leader of RADx Tech, said in a release.

“It will increase US testing capacity exponentially over the next few months. These and other technologies emerging from our RADx pipeline will guide patient care and inform public health measures to stop the spread of the virus and leave us better equipped to address future pathogens and other diseases.”

 

11:19 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Florida sets new record for Covid-19 deaths for 4th straight day 

From CNN's Tina Burnside

A health care worker passes paperwork to someone at a Covid-19 testing site in Miami on July 27.
A health care worker passes paperwork to someone at a Covid-19 testing site in Miami on July 27. Lynne Sladky/AP

For the fourth day in a row, the state of Florida is reporting a record number of coronavirus related deaths.

On Friday, the state reported 257 more deaths, breaking the previous record of 253 deaths, which was set yesterday, according to the Florida Department of Health. 

The state set previous records on Tuesday and Wednesday. The statewide resident death toll is now 6,843. 

Florida also reported at least 9,007 new coronavirus cases bringing the state total to more than 470,000.

11:00 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

MLB Cardinals positive Covid-19 cases force game postponement, according to reports

From CNN's David Close

Members of the St. Louis Cardinals have tested positive for Covid-19 forcing Friday’s game between the Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers to be postponed, according to MLB Network and ESPN. 

MLB Network was first to report the news. ESPN reports that multiple members of the team have tested positive.

When asked about the report, a MLB spokesperson said the league would address the situation in a press release later this morning. 

 The game was slated to start at 2:10 p.m. ET in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

10:53 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

New York City infection rate has to be below 3% to reopen schools, mayor says

From CNN's Sheena Jones

Mayor Bill de Blasio is pictured on July 9 in New York.
Mayor Bill de Blasio is pictured on July 9 in New York. Mark Lennihan/AP

The Covid-19 infection rate across New York City has to be below 3% for schools to reopen, Mayor Bill de Blasio said during the city’s daily Covid-19 news conference Friday.

New York City has been below that threshold for weeks, de Blasio said.

When schools reopen, face masks will be required along with social distancing, free Covid-19 testing will be offered, and all staff and students must have the necessary personal protective equipment to work in the classroom, de Blasio said.

Teachers will be required to get tested for Covid-19 in the days leading up to schools reopening and test results will be given to teachers within 24-hours of being tested, New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said during the same press conference.

If someone gets sick in the classroom that information will be communicated fast, Carranza said.

The goal is to keep kids in the same group as much as possible and limit movement for students and who they come in contact with throughout the day, de Blasio said.

“Everything we do is going to be focused on health and safety,” the mayor said.

If a student or teacher gets sick, that entire classroom will be required to quarantine for 14-days, Dr. Ted Long said.

Long, who runs the NYC Test and Trace Corps, said the corps will investigate each case of Covid-19 at a school and schools could close for a limited time during the investigation, or they could switch to remote learning, he said.

10:41 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Here's how to encourage kids to wear masks as they go back to school

As students and teachers prepare for the upcoming school year, CNN's "Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction" podcast is dedicating a week of episodes to how kids and teachers may return to school safely.

In today's episode, one listener asked, "How can I get my kids to wear a mask?"

Here's how CNN's education experts, Laura Jarrett responded:

"Turns out this one isn't as hard as we initially might have thought. Wearing a mask can be hard to adjust to at first, especially for younger kids who want to touch their face all the time. So for the parents out there, try buying a mask with a fun pattern or let your child use markers to draw in one for themselves. 
But here's the important part, okay parents? Be sure to set a good example by wearing your own mask, make sure it's on correctly and that you actually wear it every time you go out the door. I know my little one year old likes to pull mine all the time, but, you know, parents, you think about kids, they often pick up on things in ways you might not realize. And if your child has questions or doesn't seem to understand the importance of wearing a mask, don't be afraid to explain it to them. Kids appreciate that more than you think."

You can listen to the full episode here.

10:43 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Trump repeats falsehood that US has more cases because of more testing

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Donald Trump attends a meeting at the White House on July 30.
President Donald Trump attends a meeting at the White House on July 30. Evan Vucci/AP

The President appears to be watching this morning’s coronavirus hearing with Dr. Anthony Fauci and top health experts. 

Here's what he tweeted moments ago:

Trump has repeatedly argued that more testing is leading to more cases in the US. That is comprehensively inaccurate. 

Fact's first: Trump's own officials and his Republican allies have acknowledged it's not true that a rising number of tests is the reason the number of cases has skyrocketed over the last month. One telling piece of evidence that the spike is genuine: the percentage of people testing positive, a key measure of the true spread of the virus, has also spiked. As for his assertion regarding other countries — Countries like Germany have needed to do less testing over time because they were more successful at containing their outbreaks in the first place — by employing a strategy that involved aggressive early testing.

You can read more from CNN's Fact Check team here.

9:51 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Vietnam records its first Covid-19 death

From CNN’s Sophie Jeong in Seoul

Vietnam confirmed its first novel coronavirus death on Friday, the state-run Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.

The patient, a 70-year-old man, died on Friday morning in the Hue Central Hospital, state media said. He was a resident of Hoi An town and was admitted to Da Nang Hospital after developing symptoms on July 9, according to VNA. He tested positive for the virus on July 26. 

Vietnam also confirmed 37 new coronavirus cases on Friday evening, raising Vietnam’s total number of infections to 546, according to Chinhphu, the official state-run newspaper of the Vietnamese government.

8:39 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

How a Texas funeral home director tries to give families closure during a dangerous pandemic

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Ron Rivera on CNN's "New Day" on July 31.
Ron Rivera on CNN's "New Day" on July 31. CNN

A funeral home in Texas is so overwhelmed with bodies that it is using a refrigerated tractor-trailer to temporarily handle the volume of victims.

McAllen, Texas, funeral home director Ron Rivera said he encourages virtual funeral viewings, but some families cannot do them, and he tries to educate them on the dangers of in-person ceremonies. 

“You get all sorts of people coming in at one time, and that's what makes these families vulnerable to having this disease spread amongst the living, not actually the dead,” he said in an interview on CNN’s “New Day.” 

Rivera said he meets with grieving families whose loved ones died in the hospital and are told they must be cremated. 

“I’m trying my best…allowing them to have visitation with their loved one so they can have some sort of closure. It's important for them to be able to see them one final time and have some closure. So yes, it's very difficult every day,” Rivera said. 

He said he is meeting today with a woman who delayed the funeral of her mother who died of coronavirus because her father wasn’t feeling well. She called Rivera yesterday to inform him that her father passed away. Her parents were married for nearly 50 years, Rivera said. 

“We’re seeing these situations…more and more,” he said. 

“It's an invisible enemy we have, is what I tell the families, and everybody we speak to, we have to assume they're infected. That's the point we're at,” he added. 

Watch:

8:41 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Unemployment benefits expire at midnight, and lawmakers are no closer to a stimulus deal

From CNN's Phil Mattingly

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — center left and right, respectively — speak to reporters on July 30 in Washington, DC, after a meeting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — center left and right, respectively — speak to reporters on July 30 in Washington, DC, after a meeting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The unemployment benefit that has kept millions afloat during the worst economic crisis in decades officially expires tonight at midnight. Weekly jobless claims continue to rise. Economic forecasters are warning of another slowdown. The coronavirus has resurged across the country. 

And the US Senate has adjourned for the weekend. 

There's no deal in sight right now: The dire economic news, the potential for significant long-term damage, the very real deadline – nothing has jarred loose the talks over the next coronavirus relief package. Lawmakers and the Trump administration, people involved in the talks say, are nowhere near a broad deal than they were at the start of the week.

What happens next: The top White House negotiators — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — and the top Democratic negotiators — Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer — are expected to speak by phone today and through the weekend, but at this point no in-person meetings are planned.