September 15 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes, Zamira Rahim and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020
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11:57 a.m. ET, September 15, 2020

SeaWorld lays off nearly 1,900 employees due to pandemic

From CNN's Stephanie Gallman

Visitors enter the SeaWorld amusement park in Orlando, Florida, on June 11, following the park's reopening after an almost three-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Visitors enter the SeaWorld amusement park in Orlando, Florida, on June 11, following the park's reopening after an almost three-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Zack Wittman/Bloomberg/Getty Images

SeaWorld has laid off at least 1,896 employees, due to “significant and sustained” effects from the Covid-19 pandemic, Kyle Miller, Park President of SeaWorld Orlando said in a letter to the State of Florida.

The letter is a requirement of employers in Florida, who must submit a WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) alerting local government when a mass layoff occurs.  

SeaWorld closed its parks on March 16 and within weeks had temporary furloughed the vast majority of its workforce. Though the parks reopened at a reduced operating and guest capacity in June, “self-imposed limitations, consumer concerns and other factors” have made the recovery slow and have forced the company to make permanent the temporary furloughs. 

The layoff touches nearly all positions at SeaWorld, including waiters and waitresses, security officers, performers, sales clerks and photographers.  

“SeaWorld intends to accomplish this mass layoff with the least amount of disruption to the lives of its ambassadors and their families, and the Orlando community,” Miller said in the letter.

11:51 a.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Bill Gates says the FDA has lost credibility during the coronavirus pandemic 

From CNN Health’s Andrea Diaz

Philanthropist Bill Gates said in an interview with Bloomberg Television that the US Food and Drug Administration has lost credibility during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We saw with the completely bungled plasma statements that when you start pressuring people to say optimistic things, they go completely off the rails. The FDA lost a lot of credibility there,” Gates told Bloomberg's Erik Schatzker.

“Historically, just like the CDC was viewed as the best in the world, the FDA had that same reputation as a top-notch regulator,” Gates said. “But there’s been some cracks with some of the things they’ve said at the commissioner level.” 

In a Stat interview published Monday, Gates criticized FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn’s mischaracterization of data about convalescent plasma as a Covid-19 treatment. Hahn has previously acknowledged his misstatement and said criticism of his remarks was “entirely justified.” 

On Bloomberg Television, Gates also spoke about his frustration with the lack of US funding for vaccinations in the developing world.

“The inequity of this -- whether it’s between citizens in the country, blue collar versus white collar, blacks experiencing a higher sickness rate than others -- poor countries can’t borrow money and spend money like the U.S. and other rich countries have,” Gates said. “Almost every dimension of inequity has been accentuated here.”
11:26 a.m. ET, September 15, 2020

More than 40% of students in New York City public schools have requested the remote learning option

From CNN's Elizabeth Hartfield

A map of the United States waves in a classroom at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 in New York City, on September 8.
A map of the United States waves in a classroom at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 in New York City, on September 8. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

At least 422,190 students in the New York City Public School System have requested the entirely remotely learning option for the fall, according to data provided by the city’s Department of Education — a little more than 40% of the total 1 million plus students enrolled in the nation’s largest public school system. 

Roughly 58% of students are planning to return to school buildings as part of a hybrid learning model beginning next week, according to the DOE. 

Parents in the New York City public school system were given the option to opt out of the in-person hybrid plan after it was first announced. In August, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that 74% of families had said they were planning to participate in in person learning at the time. 

11:23 a.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Bill Gates calls US response to Covid-19 "shocking" and "mismanaged"

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

Bill Gates is pictured speaking during an event in Beijing, China, in November 2019.
Bill Gates is pictured speaking during an event in Beijing, China, in November 2019. Hou Yu/China News Service/VCG/Getty Images

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, called the US response to Covid-19 “shocking” and “mismanaged” in an interview published on Monday in Stat.

“You know, this has been a mismanaged situation every step of the way,” Gates told Stat. “It’s shocking. It’s unbelievable – the fact that we would be among the worst in the world.” 

Gates said the change to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Covid-19 testing guidelines for people without symptoms “blows the mind." 

He criticized US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn and his mischaracterization of findings arounds convalescent plasma. Hahn has acknowledged the misstatement and said criticism of his remarks was “entirely justified.” 

“This is third grade math. I mean, are you kidding?” Gates said in the interview. “The head of the FDA got up and said it was a 35% death reduction where it’s not even a 3% reduction based on just a tiny little subset that was nonstatistical. This is unheard of.” 

Gates also mentioned Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist and senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution who is now a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. CNN has reported that Atlas has advocated herd immunity through mass infection in briefings and written pieces in recent months; Atlas has denied pushing a herd immunity strategy in the White House. 

“The administrations now hired this Stanford guy who has no background at all just because he agrees with their crackpot theories,” Gates said.

10:50 a.m. ET, September 15, 2020

All Covid-19 indicators in New York City are under desired thresholds, mayor says

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

The daily Covid-19 indicators are all under desired thresholds, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

Here's what the numbers in New York City look like:

  • The daily number of people admitted to hospitals for Covid-19 is at 66, under the 200 threshold. The confirmed positivity rate for Covid-19 for those patients is 4.4%.
  • With regard to new reported cases on a 7-day average, with a threshold of 550 cases, the city reports 259.
  • The percent of people who tested positive for Covid-19 city wide is at 1.05% under the 5% threshold. 

Remember: These numbers were released by the city'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

10:44 a.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Pelosi wants the House to stay in session until a Covid-19 stimulus deal is reached

From CNN's Haley Byrd

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference in Washington, DC, on September 10.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference in Washington, DC, on September 10. Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wants the House to remain in session until congressional leaders can reach a coronavirus stimulus deal. 

“We are committed to staying here until we have an agreement — an agreement that meets the needs of the American people,” Pelosi said during an interview with CNBC.

Her comments came after she had a phone call about the situation with House Democrats on Tuesday morning. 

“We’re optimistic that the White House at least will understand that we have to do some things,” Pelosi added.

Remember: With fewer than two months until the election, the odds for a massive stimulus compromise intended to help bolster small businesses, provide additional unemployment benefits and give more money to schools as they adapt amid the coronavirus pandemic have fallen practically to zero.

10:29 a.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Delta Air Lines says it has avoided most furloughs

From CNN's Pete Muntean and Greg Wallace

Delta Air Lines says most employees will not be furloughed when restrictions attached to pandemic bailout funds expire on Oct. 1.

In a new memo to employees, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said 40,000 employees took unpaid leaves of absence and one in five retired early or resigned.

Bastian said that means company flight attendants and ground-based frontline employees in the US will not be furloughed. But Bastian said he expects an "overage of pilots" come October 1 and that talks with its union continue.

"While we are all grateful for our ability to mitigate furloughs, it’s important to remember that we are still in a grim economic situation," said Bastian. "It’s clear the recovery will be long and choppy." Delta said it is still flying 30 percent of last year's passenger levels and it is burning through $750 million each month.

The clock is ticking for airline workers with no sign that Congress will take up extending payroll support. Earlier this month, United Airlines and American Airlines sent out notices to more than 30,000 employees that they would be furloughed come October 1.

10:33 a.m. ET, September 15, 2020

"Strong possibility" manufacturing capacity of vaccine won’t meet supply needs, World Economic Forum says

From CNN Health’s Amanda Watts

The World Economic Forum (WEF) said there is a “strong possibility” that the “current manufacturing capacity may not be enough to supply a global Covid-19 vaccination programme.”

In a statement released Tuesday, Arnaud Bernaert, head of Health and Healthcare at WEF, said there are several ways this dire situation can be addressed.

“More partnerships between researchers and manufacturers, are needed,” he said, explaining that one solution “requires hacking the current system.”

Current funding “usually comes with obligations for the manufacturers to produce on the territory of the country providing financial resources,” he explained. This may result in “limited availability” of the vaccine in other countries.

The Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers Network (DCVMN), which accounts for more than 65% of vaccines produced in each WHO region (except the European Region) “needs to be put to work,” he said.

Bernaert is suggesting a “pairing mechanism for vaccine innovators and vaccine manufacturers” – which would help find more capacity among the many vaccine candidates that are out there right now.

By doing “The Great Reset … the interest of all prevail over the ones of an elite,” Bernaert said.


8:39 a.m. ET, September 15, 2020

Germany believes vaccine will not be broadly available until mid-2021

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

Anja Maria-Antonia Karliczek, Germany's minister of education and research, attends a news conference in Berlin on September 15.
Anja Maria-Antonia Karliczek, Germany's minister of education and research, attends a news conference in Berlin on September 15. Markus Schreiber/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Germany's Education and Research minister does not expect a coronavirus vaccine to be broadly available before mid-2021.

Anja Maria-Antonia Karliczek spoke at a government news briefing Tuesday, where the country's Health Minister Jens Spahn said that between 55 and 65% of its citizens would need to be vaccinated once the treatment has been found.

Spahn said he wanted to know more about the Russian vaccine, which has been approved by Moscow before Phase 3 trials.

“We would like to know more at times because there is not enough transparency," Spahn said, adding that he was concerned about the speed at which it had been approved. “It is not about being first,” he added.

Spahn also said he was certain there was a willingness in the population to get tested and that Germany had enough information on Covid-19 to avoid a second lockdown.

“We don’t have the same situation as in March, because we know more,” Spahn said, explaining that distancing measures, washing hands and wearing a mask had helped prevent a second wave in the country.
“If we do this in the fall and winter, and we practice this, we will get through the fall and winter well,” he said.

Germany's Ministry of Education and Research will also grant funds to biotechnology companies Curevac and BioNTech for the development of a coronavirus vaccine. Curevac will receive €252 million ($300 million) and BioNTech will receive €375 million.