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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12:03 p.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Mississippi governor says Covid-19 cases are down despite positivity rate above 20%

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves insisted that his state's Covid-19 cases are under control despite a 23% positivity rate, he said on CBS today. 

"We've actually cut the total number of cases on a daily basis in half over the last two and a half weeks," Reeves said to questions about Mississippi having the highest positivity rate in the US.

Reeves said his state had 1,391 cases on July 29, and they are now down to a 7-day rolling average of 728 cases.

Reeves was asked about the Mississippi's state health officer's comment this week stating that there are 11 hospitals in the state with no intensive care unit beds available.

Hospitalizations and fatalities are a lagging indicator, Reeves emphasized. 

"Do we have hospital capacity issues? We do," Reeves said. "[I]n our state and virtually every other rural state across America, we have ICU bed issues and hospital capacity issues even when there's not Covid-19."

There are 150 ICU beds available in Mississippi currently, according to Reeves. 

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

Catch up: Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic today

It's Sunday in the US, where more than 5.3 million cases of coronavirus have been reported since the pandemic began.

Here's what you need to know about the pandemic:

  • CDC teams at schools this fall: Leaders at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were blindsided this week when President Trump announced that the agency could deploy teams to assist schools with safely reopening in the fall/
  • New Zealand reports new cases: After 100 days without any community transmission, New Zealand has recorded 13 new cases of coronavirus in the past day, health officials said Sunday. On Friday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that Auckland -- the city at the center of the new outbreak -- will remain under a level three lockdown for another 12 days. 
  • UAE and Israel on Covid-19 testing device: 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. This partnership comes after Israel and the UAE announced on Thursday that they’re establishing full diplomatic relations.
  • US Postal Service warns about late ballots: USPS 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. House Democrats said Sunday they are “ramping up” their investigation of the Postal Service 
  • South Korean church members to be tested: All 4,066 members of the Sarang-Jeil church in South Korea must be tested for coronavirus after a spike in cases was traced back to a religious service held by the group, according to an executive order by the acting mayor of Seoul, Seo Jeong-hyup.
  • New York Covid-19 positivity rate: For the ninth straight day, New York state was under 1% positive for Covid-19 testing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. There were 607 people who tested positive for Covid-19, and the state reported six deaths, including three in the New York City area.
11:44 a.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Florida reports more than 3,700 news coronavirus cases

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Florida health officials have reported 3,779 new cases of coronavirus and 107 additional deaths on Saturday, according to the state's health department.

This marks the first day since June 18 that Florida reported less than 4,000 cases in a single day, according to CNN's tally. 

The state has 573,416 total Covid-19 cases and 9,452 resident deaths, according to data from the department.

Note: These numbers were released by Florida's public health agency and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project  

12:15 p.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Democrats say they are ramping up postal investigation, call on top officials to testify

From CNN's Kevin Bohn

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

House Democrats said Sunday they are “ramping up” their investigation of the Postal Service and as Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, called on Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors Robert Duncan to testify.

The leaders said they want the officials to appear at a hearing a week from Monday to discuss what they call “recent, sweeping and dangerous operational changes at the Postal Service that are slowing the mail and jeopardizing the integrity of the election," according to a statement.

“House Democrats, led by Chairwoman (Carolyn) Maloney of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, are ramping up their ongoing investigation by requesting that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Chairman of the USPS Board of Governors Robert Duncan testify at an urgent hearing before the Committee on August 24. The hearing will examine the sweeping operational and organizational changes at the Postal Service that experts warn could degrade delivery standards, slow the mail and potentially impair the rights of eligible Americans to cast their votes through the mail in the upcoming November elections,” the leaders said in a statement.

The Postmaster General and top Postal Service leaders "must answer to the Congress and the American people as to why they are pushing these dangerous new policies that threaten to silence the voices of millions, just months before the election," the statement added.

Several House Democrats on Saturday called for the subpoenaing of DeJoy if he won’t appear voluntarily. 

Some context: Senate Democrats, including Sen. Gary Peters who have limited investigatory power because they are in the minority, started an investigation last week.

The statement said Senate Democrats are asking Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson to call DeJoy and Duncan for a hearing as soon as next week for what they call “vigorous and urgently-needed oversight.”

12:16 p.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Trump chief of staff says White House supports separate postal service bill 

From CNN's Sarah Westwood

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNN that he would be open to the idea of a standalone bill that contains only funding for the US Postal Service (USPS), despite President Trump’s calls in the last  week for more USPS funding to arrive only as part of a broader stimulus package. 

“I'm all about piecemeal. If we can agree on postal, less let's do it,” Meadows said on CNN. "Speaker Pelosi said she won't do anything unless it is a big deal. We offered $10 billion.”

Congressional Democrats rejected efforts by White House negotiators and Republicans to separately pass just individual parts of the stimulus proposal, like an enhanced unemployment benefit, as standalone bills during two weeks of negotiations that ended in a deadlock. 

Meadows argued Pelosi would potentially support a bill just focused on the Postal Service now because “her whole political dynamic has changed.” A spokesperson for Pelosi did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Meadows said members of Congress should return from their recess to take action on postal issues. 

Democrats proposed $25 billion in USPS funding in their version of the stimulus. Republicans floated $10 billion.

10:34 a.m. ET, August 16, 2020

New York state's Covid-19 positivity rate is under 1% for the ninth straight day, governor says

For the ninth straight day, New York state was under 1% positive for Covid-19 testing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. 

There were 607 people who tested positive for Covid-19, and the state reported six deaths, including three in the New York City area.

The governor said that 7 million Covid-19 tests have been conducted to date in the state. 

10:03 a.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Iraq records highest daily increase in Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Aqeel Najim in Baghdad

Iraq recorded its highest ever daily record of new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, according to the country’s health ministry.

The Iraqi Ministry of Health reported 4,348 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 176,931.

The health ministry also reported 75 coronavirus-related deaths on Sunday, bringing the total to 5,860 across the country.

12:17 p.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Trump's chief of staff says no mail sorting machines will be dismantled between now and Election Day

From CNN's Kevin Bohn and Sarah Westwood

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNN on Sunday that the US Postal Service will not dismantle any mail sorting machines between now and Election Day.

The Service has come under criticism lately for dismantling some and planning on more.

“Sorting machines between now and Election Day will not be taken off line,” Meadows told CNN.

Chris Bentley, president of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 297, which covers Kansas and part of Missouri, previously told CNN that postal management had already taken out four machines in Kansas City, two machines in Springfield, Missouri, and one machine in Wichita, Kansas.

Meadows told CNN that was not part of a new initiative but was part of a pre-planned re-allocation.

Documents obtained by CNN last week indicated 671 machines used to organize letters or other pieces of mail are slated for "reduction" in dozens of cities this year. 

The Postal Service's own document called the move a "reduction" of equipment.

A letter sent Wednesday from the National Postal Mail Handlers Union to the Postal Service headquarters asked, "Why are these machines being removed?"  

CNN’s Marshall Cohen, Curt Devine, Bob Ortega and Paul Murphy contributed to this story.


8:28 a.m. ET, August 16, 2020

The US has reported more than 1,000 coronavirus deaths nearly every day this month  

From CNN's Carma Hassan

The United States has reported more than 1,000 new deaths from coronavirus 16 out of the past 20 days, according to Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

On Saturday, Johns Hopkins University reported 1,029 new deaths.

As of 8 a.m. ET, there are 5,361,613 cases of coronavirus and 169,489 deaths in the US.