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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3:23 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

UK health secretary doesn't rule out new lockdown, calls it "last line of defense"

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in London

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock does not rule out another national lockdown to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus in the United Kingdom, but says that is “the last line of defense.”

“We will do what is necessary to keep people safe,” he told Sky News in an interview early on Friday, when asked if a second national lockdown was being considered. “It isn't something that we ever take off the table, but it isn't something that we want to see either.”

Hancock explained that a national lockdown would be the last in a list of measures the government has at its disposable to slow down the spread of the virus. 

“The first line of defense is that everybody should follow the social distancing, after that, these local lockdowns, and the last line of defense is for national action,” he said. “I don't want to see that, but we will do whatever is necessary to keep people safe in a very difficult pandemic.”

Hancock encouraged people to stick to the new rules, which came into effect on Monday. “The country once again needs to come together and recognize there is a serious challenge, that the virus is accelerating,” he said.

Rising cases: The UK has seen a surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, with daily new infections rising above 3,000.

In an interview with the BBC on Friday, Hancock descried the situation as "very serious."

“We have seen an acceleration in the number of cases over the last couple of weeks and we've also sadly seen that the number of people hospitalized with coronavirus is doubling about every eight days, so we do need to take action,” he said.

3:03 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

These CNN Heroes are helping a flood of newly released inmates adapt to a world gripped by Covid-19

From CNN's Allie Torgan

Despite early efforts to keep inmates and staff safe, Covid-19 still spread rampant through one of the largest prison systems in the United States.

More than 12,400 inmates in California have tested positive for Covid-19 and 60 have died, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. There have also been more than 3,400 confirmed cases among employees.

"When Covid hit San Quentin, over two-thirds of the prison population got (it)," said Collette Carroll, a 2015 CNN Hero and founder of the California Reentry Institute. "And they're the ones that got tested."

For advocates like Carroll who work with inmates to reduce the cycle of incarceration, the spread of the virus on the inside is concerning -- as is the lack of resources on the outside to support the influx of early releases, Carroll says.

Carroll has taught an in-person life skills program at San Quentin State Prison for 20 years. In early March, she shifted to a virtual model to keep her students safe. As Covid-19 spread and more inmates were released -- part of California's effort to reduce population and maximize space -- the calls for help escalated. Former inmates struggled to find support, housing and, in many cases, medical care.

Thousands of California inmates have been released early during the pandemic, and Carroll says many transitional homes, like the one she runs, are at capacity.

"The reality that we see on our side, and why my phone never stops ringing, is people are being released, and all of a sudden, one minute you're in prison and the next minute you're out," Carroll said. "What happens if you have nowhere to go? What services are they going to have to support their reentry?"

Carroll says her group provides assistance "almost 24/7," offering referrals, food, medical supplies and support services to prevent recidivism. She wants those returning home to know there is hope and help as they get their lives back on track.

"We have to change our attitude. Do we make them successful at coming home, as a society? Do we help them? Or do we hinder it?" she said.

Read the full story:

2:38 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Up to 51% of all school employees in the US are at increased risk of Covid-19 infection, study finds

From CNN’s Shelby Lin Erdman

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. 
This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.  CDC

School districts across the United States are still trying to figure out how to reopen safely amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic, and the results of a new study could make those decisions more difficult.

Between 42% and 51% of all school employees in the US met the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s criteria for having an increased risk of Covid-19 infection, researchers with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found.

Underlying health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, and older age put people into the highest risk groups, according to the CDC.

“Among all adults with CDC risk factors for severe Covid-19, between 33.9 million and 44.2 million had direct or within-household connections to schools,” the researchers wrote.

Factors for higher risk of infection: Obesity and high blood pressure were the main factors putting school employees at higher risk of infection, the study reported. Men were more vulnerable to the virus compared to women, and Blacks were more at risk than Whites.

The study, released as a pre-print ahead of peer review by the journal Health Affairs on Thursday, used data from between 2014 and 2017 to see how those most at risk for Covid-19 infection are connected to elementary and secondary schools either as employees or by living with staffers or school-aged children.

“Our results highlight the public health challenge that arises when the risk of school-related exposure is coupled with the potential for within-household transmission,” the researchers wrote.

The study found low-skill support staff among school employees were more likely to be at increased risk of infection -- more than 58% of them, compared to teachers and teaching assistants at 38%, or administrators and higher skilled staff at 39%.

Connection to high-risk adults: The analysis also found that 63% of school employees lived in homes where at least one adult was at high risk of contracting Covid-19; 59% of school-age children lived in households with at least one vulnerable adult; and high schoolers were more likely than elementary school children to live with an adult vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Just over 35% of American adults were either school employees or lived with someone connected to an elementary or secondary school or a school age child, the study found.

Potential limitations: The data reviewed predated the pandemic and doesn’t account for the tremendous changes that have occurred in employment, school attendance or household members, and there’s a likelihood the study undercounts the true number of those connected to a school and meeting the CDC risk guidelines for Covid-19.

2:11 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

US reports more than 44,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Carma Hassan

The United States reported 44,360 new Covid-19 infections and 870 virus-related deaths on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

At least 6,674,458 cases, including 197,633 fatalities, have now been recorded in the US.

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases. 

CNN is tracking US cases here:

2:02 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Fact check: Biden ad misleadingly suggests Trump called Covid-19 a "hoax"

From CNN's Holmes Lybrand

During his campaign's highest week of ad spending, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tweeted out an ad Tuesday attacking President Donald Trump for comments he has made over the pandemic. Specifically, the ad suggests that Trump has called the virus a hoax.

The 25-second ad begins with a clip of Trump at a campaign rally on February 28 in South Carolina. The ad plays a quick clip of Trump saying "the coronavirus" then it cuts to him saying "and this is their new hoax." Text on the ad reads, "Trump in public: 'Hoax.'"

Facts First: This is a misleading attempt to suggest that Trump specifically called the coronavirus a hoax. While Trump's comments were a bit confusing, Biden's ad leaves out important context and dishonestly edits the two soundbites together.

Taken in totality, Trump's comments at the February 28 rally indicate that he is deriding Democrats for attacking his performance on the coronavirus. A full 56 seconds pass between the two clips the campaign ad edited together.

In this section of his rally speech, Trump began by saying that "the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus," ridiculing Democrats for attacking his administration's performance addressing the virus. The President then compared this attack to the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and calling his impeachment a "hoax."

Trump then said, "They'd been doing it since you got in. It's all turning. They lost. It's all turning. Think of it. Think of it. And this is their new hoax."

Read the full fact check:

1:28 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Chiefs fan who attended game tests positive for Covid-19 and now everyone who sat near them is in quarantine

From CNN's Allen Kim

A fan who attended the Kansas City Chiefsopening night game at Arrowhead Stadium on September 10 has tested positive for Covid-19.

The Kansas City Health Department said the individual that tested positive watched the game from the group's box in the lower level of the stadium and tested positive the following day. The positive test has prompted the Kansas City Health Department to direct 10 people there to quarantine after potential exposure to the coronavirus.

The Kansas City Chiefs were one of the few teams in the NFL that allowed fans into its stadium in Week 1.

All fans and personnel are required to wear a mask or face covering while in the stadium, and the team said that the stadium's "COVID protocol plan limited potential exposure to a single seating zone within the stadium."

The team said that its contact tracing mechanisms allowed staff to identify the individual, the individual's party, any service staff that came into contact with the individual and any other ticket holders that may have been near this person while entering the stadium.

"I want to remind everyone that COVID-19 is anywhere and everywhere. While we're all tired of it, frustrated and even angry at how it has altered and stricken our lives and livelihoods, we must continue to think of those who have not and will not survive it," said Dr. Rex Archer, Kansas City health director.

Read more:

1:10 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Seoul plans to sue a church linked to an August coronavirus outbreak for $4 million in damages

From CNN's Jake Kwon in Seoul

Sarang-jeil Church pastor Jun Kwang-hoon speaks outside a detention center in Uiwang, South Korea, on April 20.
Sarang-jeil Church pastor Jun Kwang-hoon speaks outside a detention center in Uiwang, South Korea, on April 20. Ko Jun-beom/Newsis via AP

Seoul city on Friday announced plans to sue Sarang-jeil Church and its lead pastor Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon for damages relating to a coronavirus outbreak linked to the religious group in August.

In a news release, the city government said it will ask Jun and his church for 4.6 billion Korean won ($4 million) to make up for the cost of Covid-19 treatment, subsidy for self-isolation, and operating cost of treatment centers.

The city government estimates that the church's outbreak in Seoul cost national agencies and companies like Seoul Metro and National Health Insurance Service about 8.48 billion Korean won ($7.3 million).

What happened: The Sarang-jeil Church attracted widespread backlash in August when it became the center of a coronavirus outbreak. At least 1,168 Covid-19 cases in South Korea have been linked to the church, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CNN reached out to Jun's lawyer and the church for comment and has not heard back.

12:54 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

College issues stay at home order after 80 students test positive for Covid-19 in two days 

Providence College in Rhode Island is moving to remote learning for at least a week after more than 80 students tested positive for Covid-19 in the past two days, according to College President Reverend Kenneth Sicard.

A stay-at-home order will also come into effect during that period, Sicard said. All students living on campus will be tested for Covid-19 and may not leave campus, while off-campus students may not leave their apartments, Sicard said.

Remote learning and the stay-at-home order are in effect at least through Saturday, September 26, he added.

“We recognize how serious and difficult these directives are, but this is our last chance to remain together in person for the fall semester. Between these actions and the serious steps we already have taken – especially in the past few days – we have used virtually every tool at our disposal,” Sicard wrote in an email to students.
“We are out of options. If we are not successful, we will have no alternative other than to shut down our campus for the remainder of the fall semester. This also will likely affect our ability to reopen for the spring semester.”
12:08 a.m. ET, September 18, 2020

House passes resolution condemning anti-Asian sentiment

From CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi

The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a resolution condemning anti-Asian sentiment amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The final vote was 243-164, with 14 Republicans joining their Democratic colleagues.

Though the resolution is nonbinding, House Democrats said they hoped it would show support for the Asian community and send a message that such bigotry would not be tolerated.

"Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Asian Americans have been forced to endure demeaning and disgusting acts of bigotry and hate, consisting of everything from verbal assaults to physical attacks," Democratic Rep. Grace Meng of New York, who introduced the resolution, said in a statement after its passage.
"The House needed to take a strong and public stand against this appalling intolerance, discrimination, and violence that has taken place all across the country during this public health crisis, and today it did just that," she added.

The resolution calls on "all public officials to condemn and denounce any and all anti-Asian sentiment in any form" and says that "use of anti-Asian terminology and rhetoric related to COVID-19, such as the 'Chinese Virus', 'Wuhan Virus', and 'Kung-flu' have perpetuated anti-Asian stigma."

While the resolution doesn't name any individuals, Democrats called out the White House during the House debate Thursday and alluded to President Donald Trump's and their Republican colleagues' use of the terms.

Trump, some GOP lawmakers and administration officials have continued using terms like "the Chinese virus" or "the Wuhan virus," even after the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided the official terminology for the virus in February. WHO has advised not to use geographic locations in naming diseases because it creates a stigma.

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