August 12 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 2124 GMT (0524 HKT) August 13, 2020
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1:41 p.m. ET, August 12, 2020

New Jersey governor signs executive order allowing schools to reopen

From CNN's Sheena Jones

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks at a news conference on Wednesday.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks at a news conference on Wednesday. News 12 New Jersey

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has signed an executive order that allows schools and universities to reopen for the upcoming academic year, the governor said Wednesday during the state’s Covid-19 news conference.

Universities that have been in session this summer can reopen immediately, the governor said.

“In-person instruction may fully resume immediately should institutions so desire," Murphy said. 

Social distancing and other protections would have to be strictly adhered to, he said, and students that want to continue remote learning must be accommodated. 

Parents and guardians have the option to choose all remote learning for students and students will be required to wear a face mask while in school.

Murphy said he will hold a phone call with the presidents of universities tomorrow.

“Districts that cannot meet all the health and safety standards for safe in-person instruction will begin their school year in an all-remote fashion,” Murphy said.

School districts will have to spell out a plan for reopening, he said.

1:09 p.m. ET, August 12, 2020

Pac-12 CEO Group chairman says students' health was first priority in decision to postpone season

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Michael Schill, chairman of the Pac-12 CEO Group, said the uncertainty of the coronavirus ultimately factored into the conference's decision to postpone the fall college football season

“The most important factor was the health and safety of our students, period,” Schill told CNN’s Kate Bolduan. 

Schill, who is also the president of the University of Oregon, said that it was unfair to students and coaches to keep delaying the season. 

“Some people say 'Oh, it's just football; oh, it's just volleyball or track.’ These are students' lives, right? They dream about this,” he said.

“This was not an easy decision … and this is also a very costly decision for the universities,” he added. 

The range of states that are included in the Pac-12 conference was also a factor in the decision.

“We include California, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, [a] big variety of states. We don't even have the permission of government authorities to play in some of those areas, and the spread in some of those areas is quite significant,” he said. 

He said they are hoping to still have a spring season but will continue to assess all factors.  


12:50 p.m. ET, August 12, 2020

The grandmother of Brazil's first lady dies from Covid-19

From Fernanda Wenzel in Porto Alegre

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and first lady Michelle Bolsonaro make a public appearance in Brasilia in late July.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and first lady Michelle Bolsonaro make a public appearance in Brasilia in late July. Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images

Maria Aparecida Firmo Ferreira, the grandmother of Brazil’s first lady Michelle Bolsonaro, died overnight Wednesday after being diagnosed with Covid-19, CNN affiliate CNN Brasil reported. 

Her death was confirmed by the press office of the Federal District Health Secretary to CNN Brasil.

Ferreira, 80, spent 42 days hospitalized in Brasília.

According to a medical report seen by CNN Brasil, the cause of death was pneumonia due to Covid-19, and she died in the Ceilândia Regional Hospital.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, first lady Michelle Bolsonaro nor the President’s office have commented on her grandmother's death.

12:15 p.m. ET, August 12, 2020

Jordan closes border with Syria due to increase in Covid-19 cases

From Jomana Karadsheh in Istanbul

Jordan will close its main land border crossing with Syria after a spike in local transmission of Covid-19 cases were introduced through its northern neighbor, according to the government. 

The decision to close the Jaber border crossing into Syria for a week starting on Thursday was made by the interior minister based on recommendations from a government committee overseeing borders and airport affairs, the Jordanian prime ministry said in a statement. 

“The source of the majority of these cases is the Jaber border crossing and immediate measures must be taken to stop the spread,” Jordan's Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said in the meeting with the committee according to the prime ministry Twitter account. 

Razzaz said the government will be reviewing measures at the all crossings including those with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Land border crossings, which have been open to commercial traffic, are a vital trade lifeline for Jordan. 

“We have to reconsider our measures at the border crossings because they have become a source of transmission of the pandemic locally,” the prime minister said. 

At least 25 new locally transmitted cases were recorded in the 24-hour period since Tuesday morning, according to the prime minister.

The Jordanian health minister, Dr. Saad Jaber, has been tasked with coordinating with relevant authorities on taking necessary health measures including quarantining workers at the Jaber border crossing, the government said in a statement. 

Some background: Jordan had one of the strictest lockdowns regimes in the world starting in March. The measures have kept the number of infections and deaths low compared to other countries.

While restrictions have been eased domestically, all commercial air travel with the exception of repatriation flights remain suspended.

Last week, Jordan postponed plans to resume flights to several countries deemed to be low risk for Covid-19 due to what it called “instability of the epidemiological situation worldwide” and “the sharp increase in Covid-19 cases.”

According to Johns Hopkins University, Jordan has 1,283 confirmed cases and 11 deaths.


1:02 p.m. ET, August 12, 2020

Big 12 conference planning on playing fall football

From CNN's David Close

Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The Big 12 is proceeding with a full fall sports schedule.

The conference’s board of directors have committed to testing athletes for Covid-19 three-times a week in “high contact” sports, which the conference highlights as football, volleyball and soccer. 

“Opinions vary regarding the best path forward, as we’ve seen throughout higher education and our society overall, but we are comfortable in our institutions’ ability to provide a structured training environment, rigorous testing and surveillance, hospital quality sanitation and mitigation practices that optimize the health and safety of our student-athletes," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement Wednesday.

The conference has revised the 2020 football schedule to a 10-game season set to kick off Sept. 26. 

Texas Christian University Chancellor Victor Boschini did allow room for a future amendment should conference advisers suggest unsafe conditions.

"If at any point our scientists and doctors conclude that our institutions cannot provide a safe and appropriate environment for our participants, we will change course," Boschini said.

CNN's Andy Scholes reports:

12:01 p.m. ET, August 12, 2020

Masters golf tournament to be held without spectators

From CNN's David Close

A Masters logo is seen on a jacket during the 2018 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.
A Masters logo is seen on a jacket during the 2018 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

November’s Masters golf tournament will be held without spectators. Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, Fred Ridley, announced Wednesday that the previously earmarked week of Nov. 9-15 would indeed be the week the club would host the famed golf major.

Ridley explained in a statement that the “potential risks of welcoming patrons and guests to our grounds in November are simply too significant to overcome.”

Ridley says that those fans possessing coveted 2020 tickets will be guaranteed tickets for next year’s event. 

The tournament is planning a return to its traditional April spot in the golf calendar come 2021. 

11:09 a.m. ET, August 12, 2020

White House to release "eight measures" on school reopening

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway previewed the President’s afternoon event on reopening schools, where, she told reporters, he will be announcing new guidance.

“We want them to open soon and safely,” she said during an appearance on Fox News, adding that they will be announcing “eight measures on how to do that.”

She later told reporters that there will be guidance and resources, but decisions will ultimately need to be made at a state and local level.

 “We’re the federal government. We’re not telling school districts what to do. We’re providing guidance and resources,” she said, adding that they will also be putting out a fact sheet.

Conway noted that parents in surveys “overwhelmingly say they feel safe” and that President Trump is “on the side of parents.”

Conway also criticized Democrats for abandoning stimulus negotiations, reiterating Mnuchin’s statement earlier today that Democrats are more interested in Nov. 3.

She again touted the “additional $400 per month,” which White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said yesterday will actually be $300.

11:07 a.m. ET, August 12, 2020

House Oversight chair introduces new bill to reverse changes at US Postal Service 

From CNN's Sam Fossum

Rep. Carolyn Maloney at a hearing on March 12.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney at a hearing on March 12. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

House Oversight Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney introduced a new bill on Wednesday aimed at reversing organizational and structural changes undertaken at the US Postal Service by the new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Republican donor and ally to the President.  

 “Our Postal Service should not become an instrument of partisan politics, but instead must be protected as a neutral, independent entity that focuses on one thing and one thing only—delivering the mail," Maloney said in a press release announcing the "Delivering for America Act."

"A once-in-a-century pandemic is no time to enact changes that threaten service reliability and transparency. The Delivering for America Act would reverse these changes so this fundamental American service can continue unimpeded.”

What's in the bill: The proposed bill prohibits USPS from implementing any operational changes it had in place as of the beginning of this calendar year until the end of the coronavirus pandemic, a timeframe that would also postpone the changes beyond the November election.  

Some more context: USPS customers have seen a slowing of mail delivery in some place under DeJoy and under his leadership the agency has recently implemented new efforts that some workers blame for delays across the country, which has prompted fears that ballots may not reach election offices in time come November. 

DeJoy told the Postal Service Board of Governors last week that USPS is not "slowing down" election-related mail or any other mail and said the agency will be undergoing "organizational realignment." President Trump has often criticized USPS as a money-losing venture. 

10:25 a.m. ET, August 12, 2020

Stein Mart will close most of its 300 stores after filing for bankruptcy

From CNN’s Jordan Valinsky

Chris Perello/Shutterstock
Chris Perello/Shutterstock

Discount retailer Stein Mart has filed for bankruptcy and plans to close most of its nearly 300 stores. 

The 112-year-old company blamed its failure on changing consumer habits and the pandemic, both of which "have caused significant financial distress on our business," Stein Mart CEO Hunt Hawkins said in a release today. Like other retailers, its operations were severely hit after the pandemic forced temporary store closures in many states. 

Stein Mart, a discount department-store chain, said it doesn't have "sufficient liquidity to continue operating in the ordinary course of business." As a result, it's permanently closing a "significant portion, if not all" of its brick-and-mortar stores with liquidation sales beginning immediately. 

The company is also considering strategic alternatives, including the sale of its website and its intellectual property.

Today's Chapter 11 filing wasn't a surprise: Stein Mart had said in June that Covid-19 caused financial distress for the company, adding in a regulatory filing that the company had "substantial doubt" it would continue to operate for the next year. 

Stein Mart began in 1908 as a small department store in Mississippi before eventually expanding to nearly 300 locations across 30 states. Each store has around 30 employees, and the company currently employs more than 8,000 people.