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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4:05 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Trump says vaccine distribution will begin within 24 hours of approval

Source: Pool
Source: Pool

President Trump is speaking now, briefing reporters on the race to find a coronavirus vaccine.

The President said that once a vaccine has been approved, the US will be ready to begin distribution within one day.

"Distribution will begin within 24 hours after notice," Trump said. "Massive amounts will be delivered through our great military."

This is inline with the government's vaccine plans released earlier this week: On Wednesday, the federal government released its distribution plans, which detailed how Operation Warp Speed aims to have Covid-19 vaccines moving to administration sites within 24 hours of an FDA license or emergency use authorization, an official said. And the aim is to make them free of charge.

"We will move that as fast as possible, within a day or so, to administration sites after we get the word from the FDA," said Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, the deputy chief of supply, production and distribution for the federal government's Covid-19 vaccine effort, said during a briefing.

Watch here:

2:43 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

France sets new daily record with more than 13,000 Covid-19 cases

From Eva Tapiero

A medical worker wearing protective equipment uses a swab to do a PCR test for Covid-19 on a woman wearing a face mask in front of the city hall of Paris on August 31.
A medical worker wearing protective equipment uses a swab to do a PCR test for Covid-19 on a woman wearing a face mask in front of the city hall of Paris on August 31. Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

France has recorded 13,215 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, according to data released by the country's National Health Agency.

The latest numbers also show an increasing trend in hospital admissions, with 3,626 new patients over the past seven days.

The new infections bring the total number of confirmed cases in France to 428,696.

Read the latest news on the pandemic in Europe here.

1:35 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

CDC again updates its guidelines on testing people without coronavirus symptoms

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard, Maggie Fox and Jamie Gumbrecht


Dr. Robert Redfield holds up a CDC document while he speaks at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee reviewing coronavirus response efforts on September 16 in Washington.
Dr. Robert Redfield holds up a CDC document while he speaks at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee reviewing coronavirus response efforts on September 16 in Washington. Andrew Harnik/Pool/Getty Images

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website has updated, yet again, guidelines for testing people who do not have symptoms of coronavirus.

The new language rolls back controversial changes made to the site last month. It once again stresses that anyone who has been in contact with an infected person should be tested for coronavirus.

Due to the significance of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, this guidance further reinforces the need to test asymptomatic persons, including close contacts of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection,” it says.

"Testing is recommended for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, it is important that contacts of individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection be quickly identified and tested," the site now reads.

"Viral tests are recommended to diagnose acute infection of both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, to guide contact tracing, treatment options, and isolation requirements," the site now says.

The guidance notes that even if people do not have symptoms, they still need a test if they have been in close contact — such as within 6 feet — of a person with coronavirus infection for at least 15 minutes.

"In areas where there are a small number of new cases and limited spread, your public health department may request a small number of asymptomatic 'healthy people' to be tested," the guidance says. "If there is significant spread of the virus in your community, your public health department may request significant numbers of asymptomatic “healthy people” to be tested in order to help stop the spread of the virus."

On Aug. 24, the CDC site was changed to say: "If you have been in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with a COVID-19 infection for at least 15 minutes but do not have symptoms, you do not necessarily need a test unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health care provider or State or local public health officials recommend you take one.

The move was heavily criticized by doctors and health agencies. 

Two sources told CNN the August change was sent to the CDC by the US Department of Health and Human Services and 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 — a process that can take several days. As the document was going through the process, one of the sources told CNN they woke up one morning and saw that the unaltered document had been posted on the CDC's website 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."

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.”