The latest on the coronavirus pandemic

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Zamira Rahim, and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:42 a.m. ET, September 19, 2020
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11:25 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

US extends travel restrictions with Canada and Mexico through Oct. 21

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

Travel restrictions on the United States’ shared borders with Canada and Mexico have been extended through Oct. 21, acting US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan announced on Twitter Friday.


The announcement marks the latest extension of restrictions on nonessential travel after limits were initially put in place in late March. 

Remember: Thousands of people cross the US-Mexico border daily for work, school and other activities. Essential travel includes individuals traveling for medical purposes, attending school or engaged in trade, like truck drivers, among others, according to a regulation notice published in late July. 


11:45 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Politics makes Covid-19 data hard to trust for reopening schools, Florida's Broward county teachers union says 

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

As the positivity rates in Florida's Broward County fall between 2 and 4%, the schools face pressure to reopen. But the president of the Broward Teachers Union says they are not able to trust that the numbers are accurate because of the politics involved in the situation.

“Unfortunately, our state governor has aligned with our President of the United States, and they have basically had the control of the CDC. So we're not, you know, in true faith that the numbers are accurate,” the union’s president Anna Fusco told CNN's Jim Sciutto. “We're not sure how many are still getting tested.”

Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie is recommending Broward schools reopen for in-person learning on Oct. 5, according to a tweet from the superintendent's verified account. 

Other than the numbers, the threat to hold back funding if schools don't reopen for in-person classes also looms large, Fusco says. But to return to school, she says hiring more staff, sanitization plans and facilities as well as ample personal protective equipment and hygiene products are basic requirements.

“We have 206 schools. We have some schools that have been around over 40 years, so things like that that need to be put in place, [like] air quality and sanitizing and cleanliness and just enough staff to be out there and about and taking care of that intermittent cleaning. It shouldn't be put on the teachers to take care of that. It all boils down to finding.”

“If it wasn't, you know, for the politics, we'd have the funding.”

Some background: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, described in August how communities could approach reopening schools for in-person learning, saying that schools in communities with less than a 5% positivity rate — designated as a green zone — can explore allowing for schools to reopen but with with adequate precautions. These measures include wearing masks, opening windows and having susceptible children work remotely.

Watch the interview:

10:53 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Testing guidance outside normal review process undermines medical community, doctor says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

A recent CDC testing guidance was published outside normal review process, according to a report published Thursday by The New York Times, and the document was sent to the CDC by the US Department of Health and Human Services, a source told CNN.

Dr. Syra Madad, senior director of special pathogens program at NYC Health + Hospitals said the new report "means that the political interference is ongoing,” adding that science is “taking a back seat and that political interference is what we're dealing with.”

"That recommendation is absolutely not based on science. It's not based on epidemiology," she added.

Madad emphasized the importance of trusting health agencies at this point during the pandemic to maintain public trust. Issuing testing guidance outside normal review process undermines the medical community, she adds.

“We know that anybody that has come in close contact with somebody that is even suspected or confirmed to have Covid-19 needs to get tested, needs to quarantine. That is how we're going to get this pandemic under control. And we know that asymptomatic spread is one of the primary drivers of this pandemic. And so to have, you know, a guidance that completely counters that is just mind-boggling,” she told CNN’s Poppy Harlow. “This is absolutely ridiculous. I mean, you can not do things like this that completely undermine the entire medical community.”
11:00 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Health expert: "This virus is controllable" in the US

From CNN's Mallory Simon

People visit Central Park in New York on September 6.
People visit Central Park in New York on September 6. Noam Galai/Getty Images

Coronavirus in the United States can be “overturned," Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for the World Health Organization's coronavirus response, told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Friday. 

“I think it's important that we express concern when there's concern, but I do think it's also important to express some hope, because with this particular pandemic and this virus – this virus is controllable,” Van Kerkhove said.

Her comments come as the US approaches the grim milestone of 200,000 coronavirus deaths. Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins University data shows an uptick in new cases compared to the previous week in a majority of US states.

Van Kerkhove said she knows there is frustration about how long it takes to defeat the virus, and that some places aren’t seeing case numbers go down – but that it is important to keep perspective that it can change.

“I've had people call me and say, could you please stop saying” the virus can be defeated, since it’s not under control where live, Van Kerkhove said. 

“And what I say to them is, we have seen it over and over and over again, demonstrated over and over and over again, that it can be,” Van Kerkhove said. “And so that's why we keep encouraging people to do so and laying out the tools – not just saying you can do it, but laying out the tools. And in the United States, this can be overturned … you can overcome this and you will. And I know you will.”

Listen to Maria Van Kerkhove:

10:35 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

The US is approaching 200,000 Covid-19 deaths. Here's a look at where cases are rising across the country.  

From CNN's Amanda Watts and Joe Youorski

As the United States approaches the grim milestone of 200,000 coronavirus deaths, Johns Hopkins University data shows an uptick in new cases compared to the previous week in a majority of US states.

  • 30 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico are showing upward trends 
  • 16 states are showing steady trends
  • 4 states are showing downward trends

Here's a look at those latest trends on the US map:

The US added at least 44,360 new Covid-19 cases and 870 reported deaths on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.  

The nation has a seven-day average of new daily cases of 39,759. This number has been creeping up over the last few days, now to 13% more than the previous week.   

The US continues to lead the world in total coronavirus cases. There have been at least 6.6 million cases in the country since the first case was reported in January.  

Track Covid-19 cases in your state here. 

9:31 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Rising Covid-19 hospitalizations could overburden health systems as countries enter flu season, WHO says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Medical workers tend to a Covid-19 patient at a hospital in Strasbourg, France, on September 15.
Medical workers tend to a Covid-19 patient at a hospital in Strasbourg, France, on September 15. Jean-Francois Badias/AP

The worrying Covid-19 trends in Europe includes an increase in hospitalizations and people who are needing intensive care treatment, according to Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for coronavirus. 

The UK has doubled hospitalizations every eight days or so, Van Kerkhove said on CNN’s New Day on Friday, and there are parts of France that are reaching ICU capacity. 

Given that the northern hemisphere hasn’t yet really hit autumn or winter or even started to hit the flu season, “we’re worried that these increasing numbers of hospitalizations and ICU are really going to overburden an already burdened system,” Van Kerkhove said. 

“And again, this is really worrying, because as we hit the flu season, as we start to see other viruses circulating, respiratory viruses circulating, it’s very difficult to distinguish Covid from flu from other respiratory pathogens that are circulating,” she said. “And if the beds are full with Covid patients, it will be very challenging for the health care system to deal with other respiratory diseases.” 

Flu vaccines will be key this year, she said.

“So we really need to see flu vaccination uptake increased across the northern hemisphere this year, especially this year,” she said. “Because we have a tool against flu, we don’t yet have that for Covid, but we have it for flu. And that will help, and it will particularly help vulnerable populations.” 

8:55 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Weekly Covid-19 cases in Europe are spiking. Here's the latest on the pandemic from the continent.

People walk in downtown Madrid on September 17.
People walk in downtown Madrid on September 17. Bernat Armangue/AP

The World Health Organization yesterday warned that coronavirus cases are surging alarmingly in Europe, as a "very serious situation" unfolds across the continent.

Weekly cases are now more than those reported at the peak of the pandemic in Europe, WHO said.

With cases spiking around Europe, some areas are implementing new restrictions to fight the pandemic. Here's what you need to know about this morning about in coronavirus in Europe:

  • New restrictions in parts of the UK: The British government has announced further restrictions for certain parts of England, including the North West, West Yorkshire and Midlands to tackle rising Covid-19 infection rates. Residents from these areas will be banned from socialising with people outside of their household and support bubble.
  • French city limits gatherings: Local authorities in Nice have banned public gatherings of more than 10 people on beaches and in parks, as part of new measures to fight the spread of coronavirus. All bars and restaurants will have to close their doors at 12.30 a.m. local time and all visits in Nice’s public care homes have been suspended.
  • Record numbers in the Netherlands: For the fourth-straight day in a row, the Netherlands has reported record new coronavirus infections. New reported infections in the past 24 hours total at least 1,977, according to the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). The "first wave" record for single-day reported infections was 1,335, set on April 10.
  • The situation in Spain: Authorities in the Spanish capital of Madrid are to announce new coronavirus restrictions on Friday as the country also responds to an uptick in the number of cases. Spain has now recorded more than 30,000 deaths since the start of the outbreak, with more than 600,000 total cases.
  • Vaccine deal: The European Union has signed a contract to purchase 300 million doses of the potential Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Sanofi-GSK, the European Commission announced in a statement on Friday.
9:40 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

CDC testing guidance was published outside normal review process, sources say

From CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Ben Tinker

“A heavily criticized recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month about who should be tested for the coronavirus was not written by C.D.C. scientists and was posted to the agency’s website despite their serious objections,” according to a report published Thursday by The New York Times.

A source has now corroborated this story to CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, confirming that the document regarding testing was sent to the CDC by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The document was supposed to go through a vetting process that includes a director of science, fact-checking, cross-checking and several back-and-forths for scientific review. As it was going through the process – which can take several days – the source tells CNN that they woke up the next morning and saw that the document had been posted on the CDC’s website unaltered, in its original form and including some errors.

In a statement Thursday night, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told CNN, “The guidelines, coordinated in conjunction with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, received appropriate attention, consultation and input from task force experts.”

Redfield testified this week that the testing guidelines are expected to be updated soon to offer more clarity.

White House testing czar Adm. Brett Giroir said in a previous briefing that the entire Coronavirus Task Force had signed off on this document. CNN has also previously reported that Dr. Anthony Fauci was under general anesthesia for vocal cord surgery during this particular task force meeting. 

Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports:

8:35 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

WHO epidemiologist says increase of hospitalizations in Europe is "worrying"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Maria Van Kerkhove on CNN's "New Day" on September 18.
Maria Van Kerkhove on CNN's "New Day" on September 18. CNN

There is a “worrying trend” of increased hospitalizations and intensive care unit rates in some European countries, according to Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme Covid-19 technical lead.

“We haven't even started to hit the flu season yet. So we're worried that these increasing numbers of hospitalizations and ICU are really going to overburden an already burdened system,” said Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist.

She said there is an increase of circulation of the virus, with outbreaks in younger people as societies open up.

The United Kingdom has a doubling of hospitalizations about every eight days, and parts of France are reaching ICU capacity, she said. 

“If the beds are full with Covid patients, it will be very challenging for the health care system to deal with other respiratory diseases,” she said, encouraging people to get their flu shots as fall and winter approach. 

Some background: Van Kerkhove's comments come after WHO warned yesterday that coronavirus cases are surging alarmingly in Europe, as a "very serious situation" unfolds across the continent.

As Covid-19 infections spike to record numbers, European governments are imposing strict local measures and weighing up further lockdowns in a bid to halt a second wave of the pandemic.

But WHO regional director Hans Kluge said at a Thursday news conference that the increase in cases should serve as a warning of what is to come.

"Weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March," Kluge said. "Last week, the region's weekly tally exceeded 300,000 patients."

Watch the interview:

With reporting from CNN's reporting Laura Smith-Spark and Vasco Cotovio