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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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.

8:25 a.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Few signs of collective mourning as the US nears 170,000 coronavirus deaths

From CNN's Ray Sanchez

The nature of the contagion is much to blame
The nature of the contagion is much to blame

Days after thousands of lives perished on 9/11, the United States marked a national day of prayer and remembrance for the victims of the worst terrorist attack in the nation's history.

President George W. Bush delivered words of comfort and encouragement at the packed National Cathedral in Washington, where four former US presidents as well as political and religious leaders gathered on a gray cloudy morning that gave way to bright sunshine.

"Grief and tragedy and hatred are only for a time," Bush said. "But goodness, remembrance and love have no end. The Lord of life holds all who die, and all who mourn."

For days mourners poured into houses of worship. Church bells tolled. The dead were remembered at candlelight vigils across the country.

Nearly two decades later, in the midst of another national tragedy that has the US approaching 170,000 deaths from Covid-19, there have been few signs of collective mourning among Americans.

In fact, it wasn't until late May, with the death toll nearing 100,000, that flags on federal buildings would be lowered to half-staff to honor coronavirus victims and members of the military.

The nature of the contagion is much to blame. Stay-at-home orders forced millions of Americans to isolate to keep the disease from spreading. The dying mostly died alone.

Hospitals and nursing homes shut its doors and placed Covid-19 patients in isolation. Priests administered last rites over the phone. Helpless families said farewells the same way. Funerals were canceled, postponed or held online. Mass gatherings were prohibited.

"Without a way to gather with others to mark a loss, to acknowledge the loss, we are left with an intensified sense of isolation and also, often, a heightened sense of self reproach, anxiety, and what used to be called melancholy," says Judith Butler, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of "Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence."

Read the rest of the piece here

7:46 a.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Depression stalks Canada's indigenous youth under lockdown

From CNN's Paula Newton

For Farrah Dixon, the words come slowly and reluctantly, a measure of both how she's been feeling during this pandemic, and how she'd prefer to never talk about it again.

"Sometimes I feel like mostly I'm on my own. I learned to be independent at a young age. And I'm not typically the kind of person who is going to reach for help, for that, perseverance, I try to do it myself first. I've always been an introverted girl so oftentimes it's difficult for me to open up and find the motivation," she told CNN from her home in Norway House Cree Nation, Manitoba.

Canadian teenagers on reserves were already at higher risk of suicide and depression before the unprecedented shutdown for Covid-19 in March. But then came the isolation, fear and -- for many teenagers like Farrah -- a feeling that life was tough enough before the pandemic.

"I was really confused, I didn't know how to handle it at first. It was my last year of high school, so I was upset I didn't get to spend it with my friends and have the senior year we all wanted," says Farrah.

"What really affected me was losing my grandmother a few months ago and I couldn't attend her funeral. I was 8 hours away, the roads were all blocked off, I was heavy-hearted and guilty because I hadn't been able to see her in months," she adds.

Canada has already been dealing with an epidemic among its indigenous youth. First Nations' children and teenagers have a depression and suicide rate more than 3 times the average for non-indigenous people according to government statistics

But the pandemic is adding a layer of risk to young indigenous lives and government officials tell CNN the impact on mental health may linger for years.

How to get help: In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide also can provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.

Read more:

7:31 a.m. ET, August 16, 2020

South Korea orders thousands of church members to be tested

Cases linked to religious facilities are continuing to rise in South Korea.
Cases linked to religious facilities are continuing to rise in South Korea. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

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.

During an emergency briefing to reporters, Seo said that almost 2,000 members of the church's congregation in Seoul -- who have been told to be tested -- are now instructed to self-quarantine. Seo said the city will also work with the National Police Agency to “visit door to door, urging people to get tested.”  

As of Sunday, 249 members of the Sarang-Jeil church have tested positive for Covid-19. The outbreak among Sarang-Jeil members is just one of several virus clusters linked to churches across the country, including 126 cases recorded at the Woori-jeil church in Yongin, Gyeonggi province. 

Legal action against will also be taken against the church, run by Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon, who Seo accused of violating infectious disease control laws. “Jun violated self-quarantine and spread false information, purposely delaying congregations from getting tested,” Seo said.  

The Ministry of Health and Welfare's said in a Twitter post that a complaint will be filed on Sunday against Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon of Sarang-Jeil Church in Seongbuk-gu, Seoul for “violating self-quarantine measures and obstructing the contact tracing investigation by omitting and concealing the list of investigation subjects.” 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in posted a message on his Facebook Sunday warning of a firm response against individuals who flout the law and attend events that are the source of these mass infections.  

Without mentioning the church by name, Moon said that the actions of people attending these rallies are “very worrying,” calling their behavior “a very senseless act,” that it is a “clear challenge to the national disease control and prevention system, and an unforgivable act that threatens the lives of the people.”

“By taking stern actions on illegal acts that undermine public well-being and order, we will fulfill the government's mission to protect the safety of the people first and firmly establish the rule of law.”  

Resurgence: Overall 279 new coronavirus cases were reported nationwide as of midnight Sunday, according to the South Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of which 267 cases were locally transmitted, and 146 cases were reported in Seoul. 

The South Korean government has waged one of the world's most successful fights against Covid-19. But a recent uptick of cases has led to social distancing measures being reintroduced to the Seoul area on Sunday.

In total, there have been 15,318 confirmed Covid-19 cases in South Korea, and 305 patients have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

5:47 a.m. ET, August 16, 2020

Pandemic power play: It's China vs. the US in Latin America

Analysis by CNN's Matt Rivers

China has played a major role in Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries since the pandemic began
China has played a major role in Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries since the pandemic began

At first glance, the picture China's ambassador to Barbados tweeted on July 23 shows nothing more than an online meeting — a typical, screen-based representation of what life has become during the pandemic.

The digital get-together was to announce that Beijing had agreed to give a $1 billion loan to Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries to help them secure an eventual Covid-19 vaccine developed by China.

Like most online meetings, and any photos of them, this one was largely dull.

But let's make it more interesting. Look at the photo again. China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi looms large in the center of the screen. He's surrounded by about a dozen foreign ministers from LAC countries. They're all there, in part, to thank China for coming to their aid.

If you believe that China has ambitions to be a regional and global power, the photo is downright allegorical. China as the sun, other countries orbiting around it, guided by the gravitational pull of the Middle Kingdom's economic and political might, a force never more apparent than during a global pandemic

It's a hyperbolic hot take based on a simple photo, I know.

But for many observers of the region, amid a retreat by the United States from its global leadership role and a virus wreaking havoc on lives and incomes, a black-and-white narrative of an ascendant China becoming the dominant force in Latin America and the Caribbean has become commonplace.

The question is: Are they right? The answer isn't so simple.

Winning hearts, minds and wallets

China has played a major role in this region since the pandemic first arrived here in force in late March. As the virus swept through country after country, China took action.

It donated at least 150,000 masks and a number of hazmat suits to Brazil, donated dozens of ventilators, monitors, defibrillators and ultrasound scanners to Peru and donated at least 10 ventilators, 50,000 testing kits and 100,000 medical masks to Argentina. Separately, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma's foundation donated 100,000 masks, 50,000 testing kits and five ventilators to Mexico.

Read the rest of the analysis here

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.

Read more:

August 15 coronavirus news

August 15 coronavirus news

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