September 16 coronavirus news

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Ed Upright and Jack Guy, CNN

Updated 12:51 a.m. ET, September 17, 2020
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11:48 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020

N95 mask makers are still struggling to meet the demand, 3M CEO says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

3M is a company known for scotch tapes and post-it notes but during the coronavirus pandemic, it has become the largest producer of N95 masks. However, even as the company ramped up production and is on its way to produce 95 million masks a month this fall and 2 billion by the end of 2020, it’s still facing a challenge to meet the demand for the masks, CEO Mike Roman says.

“Even today, the demand for N95s is greater than not only our production capacity, but the entire industry. So we're still facing a challenge to meet that demand,” he told CNN Wednesday.

“We are working in partnership with other companies to look at ways that you can reuse N95s. We're also exploring ways to bring other kinds of respiratory solutions. We have reusable respirators, which are another solution. They can't meet all of the demand either but there are other things we're doing to fight them at every angle,” he added.

A lesson already being learned from this pandemic and production process is that investing in inventory and capacity is key.

“It's public-private partnerships that are doing that. Part of the investment with the DoD is to be able to have capacity to build an inventory of N95s. It’s also true that we’re doing that in partnership with health care providers, making sure that they have sufficient inventory.”

“Broadly, we were not ready for the demand,” he told CNN about pandemic preparedness at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

11:42 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Supreme Court will hear oral arguments by phone in new term beginning in October

From CNN's Ariane De Vogue

A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court is seen on June 30 in Washington, DC.
A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court is seen on June 30 in Washington, DC. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Supreme Court announced Wednesday that when the new term begins in October, the justices will hear oral arguments by phone, continuing the format it used for arguments last May due to the pandemic. 

“In keeping with public health guidance in response to COVID-19, the Justices and counsel will all participate remotely,” Kathy Arberg, the court’s public information officer, said in a statement. She noted that the court would also provide live audio feed for the October arguments as it did last term. 

When does the new SCOTUS term start: The new term will launch the first Monday of October with the backdrop of possibly the most litigious presidential election in recent years playing out on the public scene. Emergency election related petitions are likely to come to the high court before the election and possibly after the vote. 

The court has not yet determined plans for the November and December argument sessions. 

Last spring marked the first time the justices heard their cases over the phone and the experiment significantly changed how arguments played out. 

Instead of a free for all with the justices interrupting each other and peppering advocates with a barrage of questions, the court proceeded in order of seniority with each justice having time to ask a series of questions.

For the most part, the experiment won good reviews with advocates expressing satisfaction that they were able to get their answers out without interruption. In addition, the new system attracted Justice Clarence Thomas who rarely asks questions in open court, but spoke up frequently by telephone. The session marked the first time, the public could listen in to a live audio feed.

11:10 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Retail sales growth slowed down in August

From CNN’s Nathaniel Meyersohn

Men's business attire is displayed in the window of a Manhattan clothier on September 15 in New York City.
Men's business attire is displayed in the window of a Manhattan clothier on September 15 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Retail sales ticked up in August from the previous month but at a slower pace after the enhanced unemployment benefits provided by the federal government ended. 

US retail sales rose 0.6% in August, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. That's below the 1% predicted by economists surveyed by Refinitv. In July, retail sales grew 0.9%, the Commerce Department said. That gain already was significantly slower than the 8.4% gain in June.

A supplemental $600 weekly unemployment insurance, which had been part of the government's first stimulus bill, ran out at the end of July. Since then, Congress has been unable to agree another boost to jobless benefits. President Trump signed an executive order to bolster benefits again, although by less money, by diverting funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Consumer spending is the biggest engine of US economic growth, and retail sales are an important component of that. The report from the Commerce Department, however, does not include spending on services — things like hair-cuts, medical care and financial services. 

Some economists say continued growth in retail sales depends on future government stimulus funds and relief to people who have lost their jobs. 

"A partial relapse [in retail sales] is likely over the next couple of months as people who have been receiving enhanced unemployment benefits...cut their spending," Ian Shepherdson, economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a research report Tuesday. "The income hit from the benefit cut-off is too big for people to ignore." 

Some background: Retail sales slumped to a seven-year low in April as the coronavirus prompted stores across the country to shut their doors. Sales bounced back to pre-pandemic levels in July.

Although retail sales have bounced back, the spending has not gone to all retailers equally.

So far in 2020, nearly 8,000 stores have said they will permanently close, according to Coresight Research, a retail research and advisory firm. It anticipates closures will set a new annual record this year with as many as 25,000, breaking last year's record 9,302 closures tracked by the firm.

10:36 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Nine English soccer games will pilot allowing fans to attend this weekend

From CNN’s Aleks Klosok in London

Nine clubs in England's Football League will be allowed to admit up to 1,000 fans in this weekend’s games as part of a pilot scheme to test the return of supporters, the English Football League (EFL) said in a statement on Wednesday.

The games will be spread out across English football’s second tier Championship (hosting two games), third tier League One (hosting four games) and fourth tier League Two (hosting three games).

EFL Chair, Rick Parry said: “It’s encouraging that we are in a position to move forward with the next phase of the pilot programme and give a small number of our Clubs the opportunity to welcome back up to a 1,000 fans this week."

“By extending across more EFL Clubs we hope to further demonstrate that the measures developed can allow fans to return in greater numbers from as early as next month," he continued.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week that plans for stadiums to be up to a third full starting Thursday, Oct. 1 would be reviewed.

10:26 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020

New York's Covid-19 infection rate is back under 1%

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

New York State is back under 1% Covid-19 infection rate after breaking its nearly 40-day streak. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that of the 75,087 tests reported yesterday, 652 were positive, which is .87% of the total. 

The state hit a 1% positivity rate Tuesday after being under the 1% threshold for 39 days.

 

10:00 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Wales locks down one of its biggest regions after a spike in Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Samantha Tapfumaneyi

A general view of a residential area of the Rhondda Fach valley is seen on September 10 in Stanleytown, Wales.
A general view of a residential area of the Rhondda Fach valley is seen on September 10 in Stanleytown, Wales. Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

The Welsh government has locked down one of the nation’s biggest regions — barring people from entering or leaving — following a sharp increase in coronavirus cases.

Rhondda Cynon Taf, in the south of Wales, is the second county to be locked down. It has a population of nearly 240,000 people. 

In a statement on Wednesday, Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething said:

“We now have evidence of wider community transmission in the borough, which means we need to take urgent action to control and, ultimately, reduce the spread of the virus and protect people’s health.”

The new measures will be imposed on Thursday from 1 p.m. ET. The rules apply to everyone living within the Rhondda Cynon Taf.

The government said people will not be allowed to enter or leave the Rhondda Cynon Taf Council area without a reasonable excuse.

Enforcement of the new restrictions will be undertaken by the local authority and by the police.

10:24 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Big Ten Conference reverses decision to postpone season and will play football in October 

From CNN's Wayne Sterling

The Big Ten logo is displayed on the field before an NCAA college football game in Iowa City, Iowa, on August 31, 2019.
The Big Ten logo is displayed on the field before an NCAA college football game in Iowa City, Iowa, on August 31, 2019. Charlie Neibergall/AP/File

The Big Ten Conference will play football this fall after all. On Wednesday, the conference reversed its postponement decision made last month.

The Big Ten announced the season will start the weekend of Oct. 23 and 24. 

The conference will require student-athletes, coaches, trainers and other individuals that are on the field for all practices and games to undergo daily antigen testing.

Test results must be completed and recorded prior to each practice or game. Student-athletes who test positive for the coronavirus through point of contact (POC) daily testing would require a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result of the POC test.

Some context: The Big Ten announced on August 11 that it was postponing the 2020-21 fall sports season because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Hear latest on CNN: 

9:43 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Goal is that no American will have to pay "a single dime" for Covid-19 vaccine, Health official says 

From CNN's Naomi Thomas, Niamh Kennedy, Katie Polglase, Lauren Mascarenhas and Ivana Kottasová

Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff for policy at US Health and Human Services, speaks during a debate at Harrisburg Area Community College in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on March 1, 2018.
Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff for policy at US Health and Human Services, speaks during a debate at Harrisburg Area Community College in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on March 1, 2018. Chris Knight/AP

Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff for policy at US Health and Human Services, said during a briefing on Wednesday it’s an aspiration that no American will have to pay for a Covid-19 vaccine

“In terms of a principle and an aspiration, it’ll be that no American has to pay a single dime out of pocket to get a vaccine,” Mango said. “And we’re getting very close to that aspiration right now.” 

Where things stand on vaccine development: The AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine trial, halted last week after an unexplained illness in one of the volunteers, will resume, the University of Oxford announced Saturday.

The university, which is developing the vaccine with AstraZeneca, did not say when the trial would resume. AstraZeneca said the trial will only resume in the United Kingdom, adding that it's working with health authorities across the world to determine when other trials can resume.

Before the pause, the company was testing its vaccine, dubbed the Oxford vaccine, in the United States as well as in the United Kingdom, Latin America, Asia, Europe and Africa.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is one of three coronavirus vaccines in late-stage, Phase 3 trials in the US. It has the backing of the US federal government. Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTec are the other two groups with phase three trials under way, also with federal government funding.

9:38 a.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Pelosi continues to defend stimulus negotiations stance

From CNN's Haley Byrd

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a television interview in the Senate Russell Office Building in Washington, D.C., on September 16.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a television interview in the Senate Russell Office Building in Washington, D.C., on September 16. Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended her approach to coronavirus stimulus negotiations on Wednesday morning, as a vulnerable swath of her caucus is raising concerns about the impasse over new aid between top Democrats and Republicans.

“What we want is to put something on the floor that will become law, and that requires a negotiation,” Pelosi said during an interview with MSNBC. 

She said there are “a number of schools of thought” among Democrats about how they should proceed as talks remain stalled. Some members want the House to vote on the more than $3 trillion Heroes Act again, Pelosi said. 

“We could put a bill on the floor, but we want to put a bill on the floor that will become law,” she said.

Pelosi argued that Republicans don’t recognize the needs of the moment and noted Democrats have already lowered their offer. GOP lawmakers hold that a $2 trillion package would be too expensive. 

“We have come down, but the needs of the American people, we can only go so far,” Pelosi said. 

“We think they should come to the table,” she added.