August 20 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Emma Reynolds, Ed Upright and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 0451 GMT (1251 HKT) August 21, 2020
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9:10 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

American initial jobless claims above 1 million again

From CNN's Anneken Tappe

Another 1.1 million Americans filed initial claims for unemployment benefits on a seasonally adjusted basis last week, dashing economists' hopes for a second-straight week with fewer than 1 million claims.

Economists were optimistic that the US jobs market would be on a steady trajectory toward recovery. But last week's claims returned above 1 million after the previous week's report was the first below 1 million since March, the Department of Labor reported Thursday 

Continued jobless claims, counting people who have filed claims for at least two weeks in a row, remain very high at 14.8 million.

Some context: After months of shocking economic data, these eyewatering big numbers might not seem as shocking anymore as they really are. But the road to recovery remains long and arduous. The Federal Reserve said in its July meeting minutes Wednesday that any rebound of the jobs market depends on a reopening and businesses, which in turn depends on the path of the virus and what we do to contain it.


9:58 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

American Airlines plans to suspend service to 15 cities because of "low demand"

From CNN's Gregory Wallace

An American Airlines flight lands at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on June 5.
An American Airlines flight lands at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on June 5. Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/Shutterstock

American Airlines announced Thursday it plans to suspend service to 15 cities in October citing “low demand.”  

Airlines have thus far been mostly blocked from stopping service to a destination as a condition of accepting CARES Act payroll funding. But those restrictions expire on Oct. 1. Despite pressure from aviation worker unions, Congress has not extended the funding.  

American said the cuts are not permeant and are “only in place for the October schedule.”  The suspensions will be effective on Oct. 7.

Here are the 15 cities, according to the airline:

  1. Del Rio, Texas
  2. Dubuque, Iowa
  3. Florence, South Carolina
  4. Greenville, North Caroilina
  5. Huntington, West Virginia
  6. Joplin, Missouri
  7. Kalamazoo/Battle Creek, Michigan
  8. Lake Charles, Louisiana
  9. New Haven, Connecticut.
  10. New Windsor, New York
  11. Roswell, New Mexico
  12. Sioux City, Iowa
  13. Springfield, Illinois
  14. Stillwater, Oklahoma
  15. Williamsport, Pennsylvania
8:23 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

Where countries around the world stand in the coronavirus fight

The US has reported more than 5.5 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, and more than 22 million cases have been recorded worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's latest tally.

If you're just reading in this morning, here's the news you need to know from around the globe:

  • Hopeful signs — and a warning — in the US: President Trump's Covid-19 testing czar said cases are declining across the United States. But despite the hopeful signs, now isn't a time to let up or ease measures, Adm. Brett Giroir said, warning that the progress could "turn around very quickly if we’re not careful."
  • Increasing daily cases in parts of Europe: France and Spain have reported new daily record increases in cases since coming out of lockdown. Germany recorded more than 1,700 new cases in 24 hours, marking the country's highest number of daily infections since April.
  • A new cluster in New Zealand: In New Zealand, where the disease was thought to be all but eradicated, officials are still searching for the cause of a new cluster of outbreaks.
  • Where some Asian countries stand: South Korea has seen a week of triple-digit daily case counts, and Japan learned that one-third of its total cases overall were reported just in August. Meanwhile, in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which was ground zero in the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of revelers gathered in an open air water park for an electronic music festival — without any masks or social distancing measures in sight.
8:13 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

Kentucky Attorney General says state can't close religious schools complying with Covid-19 rules

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said Wednesday that officials cannot order the closure of religious schools that are following the rules around Covid-19.

It came after Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear recommended that school districts delay in-person instruction until September 28, saying that he would issue an executive order to close schools where there was “a severe proven threat to the health of the people in the school, and a failure to take any action to address it."

Religiously affiliated schools and concerned parents wondered whether the Governor, or other state and local officials, “may lawfully co-opt their informed decisions to reopen for in-person instruction,” and asked the Attorney General’s office to issue an opinion on the matter.

Cameron said officials could not close schools that were “in compliance with reasonable social distancing and hygiene guidelines set forth by recognized national or international health agencies and organizations."

His opinion states that the Governor, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and other officials are prohibited from closing religiously affiliated schools because of the First and 14th Amendment of the US Constitution and state law.

“The law prohibits the state from mandating the closure of religiously affiliated schools that are complying with recommended health guidelines,” Cameron said. “Our courts have consistently held, throughout this pandemic, that religious entities are protected by our Constitution. Religiously affiliated schools are an important extension of faith for many Kentucky families, and the state cannot prevent them from operating so long as necessary health precautions are observed.”
10:52 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

Movie theaters are reopening in the US. But will anyone show up?

From CNN's Frank Pallotta

A temporarily closed AMC movie theater in Tucson, Arizona, is seen on June 30.
A temporarily closed AMC movie theater in Tucson, Arizona, is seen on June 30. Cheney Orr/Bloomberg/Getty Images

For the first time in roughly five months, AMC Theatres will pop the popcorn, dim the lights, and start the show. 

But will anyone buy a ticket? 

AMC, the world's largest movie theater chain, is reopening more than 100 US locations on Thursday after closing their doors in March. Other major chains like Regal Cinemas and Alamo Drafthouse will also return this weekend, while Cinemark started its phased reopening last weekend. Roughly 1,400 of the 6,000 venues in North America are currently open, according to Comscore. (Track how box-office sales have been hit on our recovery dashboard.)

It's a monumental moment for theaters and the film industry at large. The next few weeks and months will give Hollywood an idea of whether the movie theater industry can bounce back after being ravaged by coronavirus. 

It's not going to be easy.

Read the full story here:


7:41 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

Teen girl with underlying health conditions dies of coronavirus in California, officials say

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

A teenage girl in Southern California has died from the coronavirus, Orange County health officials announced Wednesday. 

The girl had "significant underlying medical conditions," officials said in a news release without providing further details about the child or her health conditions.

We are deeply saddened by this loss of life and send our condolences to her friends and family during this very difficult time," Dr. Clayton Chau, the acting county health officer, said in a statement. 

Across the state, more than 638,000 people have tested positive for the virus, including 63,000 cases among children younger than 18, state data show. 

The number of Covid-19 cases among children nationwide recently increased 90% over four weeks, according to data released last week by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"We've had 90 deaths in children in the United States already, in just a few months," Dr. Sean O'Leary, vice-chair of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases, told CNN last week.

Read the full story here:

7:31 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

Europe recording 26,000 daily new virus cases since restrictions eased, says WHO

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in Dublin

Europe has been reporting more than 26,000 daily new coronavirus cases on average since governments started relaxing measures implemented to stop the spread of the disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The increase can be explained in part by the fact that "authorities have been easing some of the restrictions and people have been dropping their guard," WHO Europe chief Hans Kluge said during a news conference on Thursday. 

Kluge said that with 3.9 million coronavirus cases, the region accounts for 17% of the global total. While Europe made great strides in suppressing the virus after it was hit "early and hard," Kluge affirmed that the "risk of resurgence has never been far away."

He said that "new cases have been steadily increasing every week in the region" since restrictions began easing. Europe recorded 40,000 more cases in the first week of August compared to the first week of June, when cases were at their lowest, he added.

Kluge said that the key challenge was "that localized outbreaks and clusters are now occurring with greater frequency, often in closed settings." The WHO Europe chief said that these outbreaks should not interfere with the plans for children to return safely to school, and announced a meeting for all 53 countries in the region on ensuring safe, high-quality education.

Suggested measures include opening schools in areas with low virus levels, adjusting schedules and keeping students numbers low in areas with widespread cases.

A new season: Kluge said it was "critical that countries monitor flu activity and restore and reinforce routine surveillance to include both viruses, and that they promote flu vaccination for at-risk groups." He emphasized the greater stores of knowledge countries have for dealing with the virus in the fall.

Kluge said he was "very concerned that more and more young people are counted among reported cases," telling Europe's youth that they "have their part to play" in suppressing the virus and advising against large gatherings. 

7:20 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

Costa Rica to allow US residents from 6 northeastern states entry next month

From CNN's Jennifer Landwehr in Chicago and Sharif Paget in Atlanta 

People arrive at Juan Santamaria airport where they are greeted by a tour operator with a sign saying "Welcome to Costa Rica, Pura Vida" in San Jose, on August 3.
People arrive at Juan Santamaria airport where they are greeted by a tour operator with a sign saying "Welcome to Costa Rica, Pura Vida" in San Jose, on August 3. Ezequiel Becerra/AFP/Getty Images

Costa Rica has announced that US residents flying from six northeastern states will be allowed entry next month to help revitalize its tourism sector, which has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Starting in September, Costa Rica will allow six weekly flights for residents from New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and Connecticut, the country’s tourism minister Gustavo Segura said at a news conference on Wednesday. 

“In these six states there has been a very positive evolution of the pandemic and their epidemiological indicators are of high quality, even comparable to the same indicators in Costa Rica,” Segura said.

People entering Costa Rica must show an official identification from one of the six US states, Segura said. Travelers must also present a negative Covid-19 test result taken no more than 48 hours before the flight and have travel insurance to cover any possible medical care.

“This gradual opening is still slight, but it is a message of hope not to lose strength and to understand that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Segura said.

7:05 a.m. ET, August 20, 2020

EU concludes talks to buy 225 million vaccine doses

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

The European Commission has concluded exploratory talks with German firm CureVac to purchase a potential Covid-19 vaccine, the Commission said in a statement Thursday.

"The envisaged contract with CureVac would provide for the possibility for all EU Member States to purchase the vaccine, as well as to donate to lower and middle income countries or re-direct to European countries," the statement reads.

The Commission will have a contractual framework in place "for the initial purchase of 225 million doses on behalf of all EU Member States, to be supplied once a vaccine has proven to be safe and effective against COVID-19."

The European Commission "will have an agreement soon with CureVac. This is the 4th company with which we enter into an agreement," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted Thursday, referring to the previous steps with Sanofi-GSK, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.