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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5:58 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

NYC restaurants can soon add a Covid-19 surcharge to receipts

From CNN’s Ganesh Setty

A person walks past the Bel Aire diner on May 20 in the Astoria neighborhood in the Queens borough in New York City.
A person walks past the Bel Aire diner on May 20 in the Astoria neighborhood in the Queens borough in New York City. Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

New York City diners may soon see a Covid-19 surcharge on their bills as the restaurant industry continues to hobble amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The New York City Council passed a bill Wednesday 46-2 that would allow restaurants to charge as much as 10% on customers dining indoors or outdoors in order to help cover restaurants’ Covid-19 expenses. 

Termed the “COVID-19 Recovery Charge,” the surcharge does not include any tax to be paid, nor applies to delivery or takeout orders. A restaurant implementing the surcharge is free to use the new funds however they like, though must also make it clear that the surcharge is not a substitute for a tip or gratuity for waitstaff.

Republican city councilman Joseph Borelli, the bill’s prime sponsor, told CNN that the new option will help owners who don’t want to go through the trouble of raising prices on their menus. 

“New York was actually the only city that we knew of that actually had a ban, a 45-year-old law made when the Department of Consumer Affairs essentially reorganized, and it prevented restaurants, the only industry in New York City, from applying a surcharge,” he explained.

5:05 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Here's how US schools and colleges are responding to the pandemic

Michigan State University.
Michigan State University. Shutterstock

Schools and universities have implemented augmented learning styles as Covid-19 infections continue to be reported on campuses around the US.

Here's the latest on schools and universities around the country:

  • Michigan State University revealed today that 45 student-athletes, of the 376 tested between Sept. 7-14, have tested positive for Covid-19. Twenty-four staff members were also tested with one of them returning a positive result.
  • When asked to comment on schools reopening to in-person learning in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis today said, “the first schools started opening over a month ago, and clearly the, you know the Covid numbers have gone down since then.”
  • A University of Cincinnati dean is investigating an email in which an instructor told a quarantined student who had to miss class that those "testing positive for the chinese virus" would not receive a grade.
  • The football game between Florida Atlantic University and Georgia Southern University, slated to kickoff Saturday in Statesboro, Georgia, has been postponed. The FAU athletic department said following Thursday's Covid-19 testing results, the team would be unable to play.

4:10 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

California recalls more than 10 million N95 masks

From CNN's Sarah Moon

Justin Chin/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Justin Chin/Bloomberg/Getty Images

More than 10 million N95 masks purchased using a $90 million contract are being recalled by the state of California, according to Brian Ferguson, spokesperson for the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES).

The state was notified on Sept. 11 that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) had withdrawn its temporary certification of N95 masks made by the Santa Clara-based company Advoque Safeguard and immediately began recalling them, Ferguson told CNN.

According to Ferguson, 10.2 million of these masks have been received and 7.2 million of those had been distributed as of Sept. 8.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) notified all recipients of these masks of the change in certification and directed these masks “no longer be used in settings requiring the use of this essential PPE,” Ferguson said.

About the masks: N95 masks, which filters at least 95% of airborne particles, are the most common respirators approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC has recommended N95 masks for essential workers to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

Ferguson explained that the NIOSH certification is an explicit requirement of all state contracts for N95 masks to ensure that frontline workers can be confident that the masks meet federal health and safety standards.

“It is a condition of the contract, and is incumbent upon the vendor, to maintain this certification,” he said.

Despite the state’s recall of all N95 masks made by Advoque Safeguard, the company announced in a letter to its customers and distributors on Wednesday that it is not conducting a recall of their masks, but have established a “product replacement program” as a courtesy to their customers.

“NIOSH has not asked us to implement a recall but has requested that we be diligent in informing our customers of the situation, and we are doing so,” Advoque Safeguard co-founder and chief technology officer Jason Azevedo said in a statement to CNN. “Additionally, Advoque Safeguard has instituted an exchange program for N95 respirators.” 

The exact reason for the recall is unknown and has not been explained. CNN has reached out to the CDPH and NIOSH for additional details.

3:35 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Trump claims there will be enough vaccines for all Americans by April

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on Friday in Washington.
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on Friday in Washington. Alex Brandon/AP

President Trump claimed that there will be enough vaccines for all Americans by April, shattering estimates from medical experts within his own administration. 

“We’ll have manufactured at least 100 million vaccine doses before the end of the year, and likely much more than that,” he continued. “Millions of doses will be available every month, and we expect to have enough vaccines for every American by April.”

Those estimates are “based on the manufacturing that’s in process,” Trump said.  

White House coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas said those individuals prioritized on the list include high-risk individuals and first responders.

"And so that by April, every single American who wants to be vaccinated will have the ability to be vaccinated. It is not a forced vaccination, of course," Atlas said.

Some background: Earlier this week, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a Senate hearing that it would likely be the second or third quarter of next year – that means late spring or summer – before widespread vaccination could be underway in the US. Asked about this during a news conference later in the day, Trump said Redfield “made a mistake” and was “confused.”

Trump told reporters in today's White House news conference they think they can beat Redfield's number and timeline "very substantially."

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: