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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4:35 p.m. ET, August 12, 2020

Arizona school district is reopening for in-person classes

From CNN's Miguel Marquez

During a lengthy and contentious meeting Tuesday night, the Queen Creek School Board in suburban Phoenix voted 4 to 1 to resume school with 100% in-person learning starting Aug. 17.

This is the first district in the metro Phoenix area to vote to reopen despite Maricopa and Pinal counties Covid-19 positivity rates not meeting the state's recommended metrics for reopening. The Queen Creek school district spans parts of both Maricopa and Pinal counties.

The meeting included passionate opinions from teachers, parents and students both for and against reopening schools. The president of the Queen Creek Education Association, Jacob Frantz, said four of the five members of the board are educators themselves, with personal interests in reopening schools.

"What you've got here are five people who are very concerned and want the best education for their kids," Frantz said.

Several students approached the microphone and expressed their wishes to return to "normal" and in-person school, while some educators said they are worried about the possibility of becoming infected at school.

"I'm a special education teacher here in Queen Creek," Karen Vernon said. "I am a person and I feel defeated and I feel sad," she said, asking the Board to let her out of her contract and accept her resignation from her position.

The final vote in favor of full in-person learning was met with applause and cheers.

The board member who voted against the measure was also met with applause when he said he thought the district should slowly return to in-person learning in case of a surge of new cases. The district will still have a virtual learning option for those students who choose it.

Some context: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced the state's "Roadmap for Reopening Schools" plan earlier this month, which recommends communities with a less than a 5% positivity rate can resume in-person school, ensuring "minimal community spread.”

Maricopa County reported a positivity rate Tuesday of 13.9%, and Pinal County reported an 11.9% positivity rate, according to the Arizona Department of Health's website.

4:19 p.m. ET, August 12, 2020

Kansas prison on lockdown due to Covid-19 outbreak

From CNN’s Andy Rose

The central unit of a prison in Hutchinson, Kansas, is on lockdown after dozens of people tested positive for coronavirus.

“In total, 84 residents and 10 staff tested positive this week,” the state Department of Corrections said in a news release.

The department said all of the new Covid-19 patients have shown no symptoms so far. Anyone who becomes seriously ill could be transferred from the Hutchinson Correctional Facility to a specially-designed Covid-19 medical unit at the state prison in Lansing.

The Hutchinson prison houses more than 1,800 inmates. Everyone in the central unit of the facility is being ordered to stay in their cells unless they are “essential resident workers” who assist with the operation of prison functions.

CNN’s Jennifer Feldman contributed to this report.

4:09 p.m. ET, August 12, 2020

New Jersey's Department of Education is working with school districts on plans to reopen

From CNN's Sheena Jones

The New Jersey Department of Education is working with school districts on plans to safely reopen schools, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced.

Two school districts — Willingboro Schools and East Brunswick Schools — discussed their reopen plan during Wednesday’s Covid-19 presser. 

"It’s health and safety above all else," when it comes to reopening schools, Governor Murphy said.  

East Brunswick schools will not fully return to school at this time, but a hybrid education plan will be in place, schools superintendent Victor Valeski said. The school has not decided how many in-person days school will take place but all students will participate in virtual learning to a certain extent, Veleski added. More than 70% of parents within the school district said they wanted a hybrid education plan for the fall, Valeski said.

Elementary schools will be broken down into two groups and Secondary schools will be broken down into four groups, Valeski said, noting that students in the same family will attend school on the same day. Students won’t eat in the cafeteria but will have grab-and-go lunches available for students. 

Willingboro Public Schools says all students will participate in remote learning at least until November, superintendent Neely Hackett said. Students will have virtual classes five days a week from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. local time and classes will be recorded so if students miss a class, they can catch up later.

When in-person classes begin again, the school plans to give all students face masks twice a month, Hackett said.

Ventilation issues are a big reason why students can’t return to school at this time, Hackett said. The Willingboro School District has submitted their plan to reopen schools to the New Jersey Department of Education, Hackett said. Back to school plans “will be reviewed as soon as they come in, as soon as the department can get to them,” New Jersey Department of Education Spokesperson Kevin Dehmer said.

4:08 p.m. ET, August 12, 2020

Texas' Harris County offers reopening roadmap for school districts

From CNN’s Kay Jones

Judge Lina Hidalgo speaks to the media on Wednesday.
Judge Lina Hidalgo speaks to the media on Wednesday.

Judge Lina Hidalgo provided new details today on a reopening roadmap for all the school districts in Harris County, Texas.

The first part of the reopening roadmap is the county’s threat-level system while the second includes a review and approval of plans by Harris County Public Health.

Hidalgo said that tying the county’s threat-level system to the reopening of the county’s schools “takes out the politics and focuses on the data." 

The county is currently under the red threat level, and Hidalgo said that the recommendation is that no in-person instruction should take place right now. 

“We’ve made clear that it’s currently not safe and it won’t be safe anytime in the near future to open schools for in-person instruction,” Hidalgo said during a news conference today.

Hidalgo said that while it’s not required for a school district to have the endorsement of the Public Health Department under current state law, she highly recommends following the guidelines for the safety of the children and those who work at the schools.

Some context: Previously, Hidalgo issued an order requiring all public and non-religious private schools in the county to remain closed to in-person instruction until at least Sept. 8.

“I understand the desperate desire to go back to school right now,” Hidalgo said. “I know that in-person learning is vital for the educational development for the social well-being of children and young adults.”

She said the metrics will be met much sooner if people stay at home and follow the guidance issued by the public health authorities.

3:56 p.m. ET, August 12, 2020

Georgia high school seen in viral photo of crowded hallway plans to move to hybrid schedule

From CNN's Pamela Kirkland

In this photo posted on Twitter by Hannah Watters, students crowd a hallway at North Paulding High School on August 4.
In this photo posted on Twitter by Hannah Watters, students crowd a hallway at North Paulding High School on August 4. Hannah Watters via AP

After beginning the week with all virtual courses at North Paulding High School, students and parents were informed on Wednesday that the school would be moving to a hybrid scheduled beginning Monday. Virtual learning will continue for the remainder of the week. 

In a statement sent to students and parents and obtained by CNN, the school said “beginning Monday, August 17, the in-person instruction at North Paulding High School will move to a hybrid schedule that combines in-person instruction with Digital Learning." 

Students will be divided into groups by last name, alternating days on campus. They intend to return to full in-person instruction as soon as possible.  

Extracurricular athletics, including volleyball and softball, will resume on Thursday. Other sports, such as football and cross country, will resume on Monday. 

Some background: At least 35 cases of Covid-19 have been reported since the first day of school. The high school in Dallas, Georgia — about 40 miles from Atlanta — attracted nationwide attention after a photo was posted on Twitter by sophomore Hannah Watters. The viral image showed students in a crowded school hallway with few visible masks.

3:51 p.m. ET, August 12, 2020

Trump on federal money for schools: "I'd like to see the money follow the student"

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

President Donald Trump speaks at the White House on Wednesday.
President Donald Trump speaks at the White House on Wednesday. Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Attacking teachers unions and Democrats, President Trump said he wants to see federal money for schools “follow the student” if public schools don’t reopen in the fall.

“What I'd like to do is I'd like to see the money follow the student,” Trump said during a White House event on reopening schools Wednesday. “If a school is going to be closed and we're giving all of this money on the federal basis to a school, and if a student is going to go to a different school, really at the choice more for of parent, in all fairness, where you want to go and what school you want to bring this up to. I think the money should follow the student.”

“And that's something that we want to do, we’re having a hard time with the Democrats, they want the money to follow the union,” Trump claimed. “To be honest, it's very simple. Give it to the union. But the fact is, give it to dues because the union people are fantastic, people in there. But the people that run the union, it's disgraceful and the dues and that they charge, the teachers and that's what it's all about.”

“So I would like – anyway,” he continued, “I would like the money to follow the student, and this way you can make your own choice. If the school is closed, you know, why are we paying if a school is closed, why are we paying to school? I'd rather give it to the student, the parents, and you do your own thing, and to me it makes a lot of sense.”

Some background: The Trump administration has been pushing school choice for years, but has renewed the push in light of the pandemic. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has also argued that if parents take their children out of public schools, “the tax dollars meant to support their education should go with them.”

DeVos has said she’s called for school choice for more than three decades, and has added that the pandemic “really welcomes it.”

“It frankly demands it,” DeVos said at a similar forum in July. “Students need it, families are demanding it, and teachers need it.”

3:35 p.m. ET, August 12, 2020

Georgia high school temporarily closes due to Covid-19 cases 

From CNN's Raja Razek

Cherokee County School District announced in a news release Wednesday that it would temporarily close in-person learning at Georgia's Woodstock High School with the reopening tentatively scheduled for Aug. 31. 

"On behalf of the Superintendent, please be advised that we are temporarily closing in-person learning at Woodstock High School effective at the end of classes today (Aug. 12, 2020)," read the release. "This decision was made with the support of School Board Members and in consideration with the Department of Public Health."

The school has 14 Covid-19 positive cases with tests for another 15 students pending, according to the release.  

"As a result of the confirmed cases, 289 students and staff are under quarantine and, should the pending tests prove positive, the total would significantly increase," read the release. 

The closure would not impact Woodstock High School students already enrolled in digital learning.

"All Woodstock HS in-person students will stay home from school until the scheduled reopening on Monday, Aug. 31. Teachers will spend Thursday, August 13, preparing for the shift to remote learning; the building will be deep-cleaned," read the release. "Remote learning, through the Canvas learning management system, will begin on Friday, August 14, with teachers reporting to school to provide this online instruction." 

The closing of Woodstock High School follows the closing of Etowah High School on Tuesday. 

3:21 p.m. ET, August 12, 2020

More than 165,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US

From CNN's Haley Brink

There are at least 5,171,343 cases of coronavirus in the US, and at least 165,328 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

As of Wednesday at 2:45 p.m ET, Johns Hopkins has reported 30,135 new cases and 791 reported deaths. 

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

3:15 p.m. ET, August 12, 2020

Here are the latest probable and confirmed deaths in New York City

From CNN's Rob Frehse

People walk in New York's Times Square on August 5.
People walk in New York's Times Square on August 5. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

New York City has 18,970 confirmed and 4,632 probable coronavirus deaths as of Aug. 12, according to the most recent data on the city website. 

The New York City Health Department defines probable deaths as people who did not have a positive Covid-19 laboratory test, but their death certificate lists as the cause of death “Covid-19” or an equivalent.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus deaths and probable coronavirus deaths in New York City is 23,602.

There have been 225,284 coronavirus cases in the city and 56,618 people have been hospitalized, according to the city.

Some details: The data is from the New York City Health Department and was updated on Aug. 12 at 1 p.m., according to the website.

The numbers may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.