August 16 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Jenni Marsh, Tara John, Fernando Alfonso III, Alaa Elassar and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, August 17, 2020
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5:06 a.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Postal service warns nearly every state it may not be able to deliver ballots on time, based on current election rules

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Democratic voters are expected to take advantage of expanded mail-in voting access more than Republicans
Democratic voters are expected to take advantage of expanded mail-in voting access more than Republicans

The US Postal Service warned almost all of the 50 states and Washington, DC, that voters could be at risk of not getting their ballots back to election offices in time to be counted because election rules are not compatible with the time needed for delivery and return of absentee ballots through the mail, according to letters released on Friday night.

The letters provide a stark reminder that the expansion of mail-in voting due to the pandemic is colliding with a slowdown in postal delivery because of controversial changes made by the new postmaster general.

Most states were informed in late July by the service's general counsel that postal service analysis suggests local deadlines for requesting and returning ballots did not allow for enough time based on delivery estimates.

The letters varied based on state rules, with a few states deemed to having sufficient time built in, according to the postal service assessment. Only Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Rhode Island were informed by USPS that they shouldn't expect problems, according to the letters.

But in total, the letters portray a last-minute warning some votes could be at risk, leaving some states scrambling to consider whether they have the ability to even adjust rules in time for the election.

The letters predate President Donald Trump's most recent attacks on mail-in voting, including on Thursday when he said he opposed giving billions in funding to the postal service because doing so would allow increased mail-in voting. The changes are a result of previously planned cost-cutting measures, put in place partly as a reaction to the President's extensive criticism of the US Postal Service as a money loser that does not charge enough for its services, combined with the coronavirus pandemic. Union officials have been warning that newly implemented measures would affect mail-in voting in November.

Why this is important: The popularity of voting by mail has exploded during the pandemic and it's expected that Democratic voters plan to take advantage of expanded mail-in voting access more than Republicans.

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August 15 coronavirus news
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August 15 coronavirus news

By Tara John, Melissa Macaya, Zamira Rahim, Laura Smith-Spark, Alaa Elassar and Amir Vera, CNN

4:27 a.m. ET, August 16, 2020

The US reported nearly 48,000 new cases today

The United States reported 47,913 new cases of Covid-19 and 1,029 new related deaths on Saturday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

This brings the national total up to 5,361,165 cases and 169,481 deaths. 

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

Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned this week that if Americans fail to follow coronavirus prevention guidelines such as wearing masks and avoiding crowds, we could be in store for “the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we've ever had."

The grim figures come as schools and universities across the country are reopening, yet experts like US’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, have warned against a rushed reopening as cases soar in the country.

"To think that you can ignore the biologic and get the economy back, it's not gonna happen," Fauci told actor Matthew McConaughey in an interview on Instagram on Thursday.

"It's just not gonna happen. You gotta do both. You gotta get control of the biologic as you carefully open the country."

Follow CNN's live tracker of US cases here:

3:49 a.m. ET, August 16, 2020

UAE and Israeli companies sign agreement to develop Covid-19 testing device

From CNN’s Sharif Paget in Atlanta

A United Arab Emirates company called APEX National Investment has signed an agreement with Israel's Tera Group to develop a faster Covid-19 testing device, according to the UAE state-run news agency WAM.

The deal, a "strategic commercial agreement," was was signed in Abu Dhabi. It is "considered the first business to inaugurate trade, economy and effective partnerships between the Emirati and Israeli business sectors, for the benefit of serving humanity by strengthening research and studies on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)," said Khalifa Yousef Khouri, chairman of APEX National Investment, in the WAM report.

This partnership comes after Israel and the UAE announced on Thursday that they’re establishing full diplomatic relations.

1:40 a.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Boris Johnson may be taught a cruel lesson by coronavirus in bid to reopen schools

Analysis from CNN's Luke McGee

Brian Lawless/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
Brian Lawless/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Schools or pubs? That's the choice some believe UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will face when English students return to their classrooms next month.

On the surface, it might seem a straightforward case of weighing up which is more important: a quick recovery from the economic downturn caused by lockdown, or students avoiding the "generational catastrophe" that the UN Secretary-General predicted if schools are not reopened.

But this is not how the government sees it. According to numerous UK government sources who were not permitted to speak about policy yet to be announced, here's where Downing Street is currently:

  • First, the calculation has changed now that we have seen exactly how damaging the lockdown has been to the UK's economy. On Wednesday, it was revealed that the UK's GDP had fallen a record 20.4% in the second quarter of 2020.
  • Second, this is not a zero-sum game, one government adviser told CNN. "It's not the case of if pubs and bars are open X will happen and if you open schools Y will happen. If everyone is compliant with the rules of social distancing, cleaning their hands, you can basically have both at once."
  • Third, the two things are not unrelated. "Schools are going back regardless, mostly because parents need to get back to work. Everything has a knock-on effect," said a senior civil servant.
  • Fourth, there is still no clear idea of when a vaccine will arrive, and certain groups are still at higher risk. So if most people can go back to some type of normality, the focus can be on local lockdowns and protecting the vulnerable.

In short, the government might try to do everything at once -- even though public health experts fear the country is still not in a position to guarantee doing any of this safely.

Read the full analysis here:

1:27 a.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Japan reports over 1,000 new coronavirus cases for third consecutive day

From CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo and Sol Han in Hong Kong

Japan recorded 1,238 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, the ministry of health announced today.

This is the third consecutive day the country has reported over 1,000 new daily cases and 385 of them were recorded in the capital, Tokyo.

The ministry also announced three more deaths.

Japan has now recorded 55,426 confirmed cases and 1,101 virus-related deaths.

12:57 a.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Cluster of Covid-19 cases identified at University of North Carolina fraternity

By Alaa Elassar and Kay Jones, CNN

A pedestrian walks though a tunnel at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in June.
A pedestrian walks though a tunnel at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in June. Gerry Broome/AP

Another coronavirus cluster has been identified at the University of North Carolina.

This time, the cluster, defined as five or more cases in close proximity, was discovered at the Sigma Nu fraternity, the university said in a statement on Saturday.

The news comes just one day after the university identified clusters at a residence hall and a private apartment complex that serves as a housing option for some UNC Chapel Hill students.

"The individuals in this cluster have been identified and are isolating and receiving medical monitoring," the statement said. All residents in the living spaces have been provided with information and next steps, the university added.

The Sigma Nu national headquarters has posted Covid-19 information and resources for members of the fraternity. The national fraternity did not respond to CNN's request for comment.

12:55 a.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Georgia governor issues new Covid-19 executive order

From CNN’s Melissa Alonso and Dianne Gallagher 

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a press conference in Atlanta on August 10.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a press conference in Atlanta on August 10. Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Georgia Gov. Brian P. Kemp issued a new Covid-19 executive order Saturday, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

The order extends the shelter-in-place order for the medically fragile, continues the ban on large gatherings and maintains health and safety protocols for Georgia businesses, Kemp said in his statement.

The order "protects Georgia businesses from government overreach by restricting the application and enforcement of local masking requirements to public property. While I support local control, it must be properly balanced with property rights and personal freedoms," Kemp said in the statement.

The order says local governments "who choose to impose a Local Option Face Covering Requirement" must not fine businesses, fine violators more than $50 or enforce masks at polling places, the order says.

Masks cannot be enforced on private property, the order says. Anyone who violates local mask rules must be warned about the health risks of not doing so before a citation is issued, according to the order. 

12:53 a.m. ET, August 16, 2020

New Zealand reports 13 new cases, as the most populous city goes back under lockdown

From CNN's Sol Han

Cars queue at a Covid-19 test center in Auckland, New Zealand, on August 13.
Cars queue at a Covid-19 test center in Auckland, New Zealand, on August 13. Dean Purcel/AP

New Zealand has recorded 13 new cases of coronavirus in the past day, health officials said Sunday, as the country maintains new restrictions amid a sudden Covid-19 outbreak.

Of the new cases, 12 were in the Auckland community, with none having traveled outside the region recently. All had close links to the existing outbreak; two of the new cases belonged to the same household as a previously confirmed patient.

The remaining case is a child in managed isolation who arrived in early August from Afghanistan.

New Zealand has recorded 1,271 confirmed cases since the pandemic began, said health authorities. It currently has 61 active cases, of which 49 were locally transmitted and 20 were imported from abroad.

Auckland under lockdown: On Friday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that Auckland -- the city of around 1.5 million people at the center of the new outbreak -- will remain under a level three lockdown for another 12 days, while the rest of the country stays under level two restrictions, meaning gatherings are limited to no more than 100 people.

The rules extend restrictions that came into effect earlier this week.

Just five days before then, New Zealand was marking an enviable milestone -- 100 days without any community transmission. But this week demonstrated how fast that can change, even in a country that been held up as a world leader for its handling of the virus.

12:01 a.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Mexico reports more than 6,000 new cases

From CNN's Karol Suarez in Mexico City

Mexico’s Health Ministry has reported 6,345 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, bringing the country's total to 517,714 confirmed cases.

The ministry reported 635 new deaths, bringing the country's death toll to 56,543. 

On Thursday, Mexico’s government signed an agreement with biotech firm AstraZeneca to produce a Covid-19 vaccine in Mexico to be exported to Latin America and the Caribbean in 2021.

Production for a Covid-19 vaccine could begin in 2021, Sylvia Varela, chief executive of AstraZeneca Mexico, said Thursday at a press conference in Mexico City.