September 21 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Brad Lendon, Amy Woodyatt, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:03 a.m. ET, September 22, 2020
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2:02 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

The US had nearly 40,000 cases on Sunday

The United States reported 39,844 new cases of Covid-19 and 250 virus-related deaths on Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

That raises the national total to at least 6,804,814 cases and 199,509 deaths.

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

See CNN's live tracker of US cases and deaths:

1:37 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

New US forecast predicts fewer coronavirus deaths than before

From CNN Health’s Maggie Fox

An influential United States coronavirus model has updated its forecast for January, predicting a “most likely” scenario of 378,321 deaths in the country by January 1 -- a big drop in the forecast from just a week ago.

The new Covid-19 forecast was released Saturday from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. Just last week, it had forecast 415,090 virus-related deaths.

“This decline is driven by steeper than expected declines seen in deaths in several states. In our model, these declines push out further into January and February the expected seasonal surge, reducing the number of deaths expected by January 1,” the IHME explained.
“We expect over 3,000 deaths per day by the end of December. Between now and January 1 we expect approximately 180,000 deaths.”

If a universal mask mandate was put in place, the number of projected deaths could drop dramatically to an estimated 263,483, IMHE said -- but if current restrictions are eased, the projected number soars to 445,605.

“Even if herd immunity were to occur at a low level, such as 40% (the level seen in Mexico City now) with cumulative infections, by January 1, the US epidemic would only be less than half over,” the IHME said.

1:38 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

The UK is at a "critical point" as Covid-19 cases rise, warns chief medical officer

From CNN's Mia Alberti 

Pedestrians walk past a sign for a Covid-19 test centre in Leyton, east London on September 19.
Pedestrians walk past a sign for a Covid-19 test centre in Leyton, east London on September 19. Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty

The United Kingdom is at a critical point in the pandemic, with cases continuing to rise as winter approaches, the country's chief medical officer is expected to announce on Monday.

“The trend in UK is heading in the wrong direction and we are at a critical point in the pandemic," professor Chris Whitty will say on Monday, according to a statement released by 10 Downing Street on Sunday. 

“We are looking at the data to see how to manage the spread of the virus ahead of a very challenging winter period."

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently warned that the UK is "now seeing a second wave coming in" and that an increase in coronavirus cases was "inevitable."

Threat of a new lockdown: UK Health Minister Matt Hancock told the BBC on Saturday that people must follow the rules or new restriction measures such as a second national lockdown could be imposed.

"People must follow the rules and if they don't we will bring in this much more stringent measures," Hancock said. When asked about re-imposing a second national lockdown, the minister said, "I don't rule it out. I don't want to see it."

"Everybody knows if people break the rules we are more likely to end up with national measures. I don't want to see those national measures but it is absolutely critical at this moment that everybody stops and realizes they all have a part to play," he said.
12:27 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

New Zealand lifts social distancing rules except in Auckland

From Angus Watson in Sydney 

New Zealand has dropped Covid-19 social distancing restrictions for all areas other than its most populous city, Auckland.

This comes after the country reported no new cases on Sunday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that Auckland would remain on Level 2 restrictions until at least October 7, but that the rest of New Zealand was free to move to Level 1.

  • Level 1 restrictions indicate that the virus has been contained in New Zealand and requires restrictions only for those entering the country.
  • Level 2 restrictions cap the number of people at any gathering at 100 and mandates mask use on public transport.

A Covid-19 cluster in Auckland emerged in August, breaking a run of 102 days without a case of community transmission in New Zealand.

Ardern noted on Monday that there had not been a case linked to that cluster for 7 days, leading the government to its decision to relax social distancing measures.

She added that the country has a "50-50 chance" of eliminating Covid-19 by the end of the month.

1:40 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

32 arrested at anti-vaccination protest in London on Sunday

From CNN's Maija Ehlinger in Atlanta

Authorities in London arrested 32 people in Trafalgar Square on Sunday after anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination protests the day before.

Officers on the scene were "met with outbreaks of violence" prior to the arrests, according to a statement released by the Metropolitan Police. Arrests were issued for violent disorder, assaulting emergency workers and for breaking Covid-19 regulations. 

Two police officers sustained minor injuries, according to the statement.

“We remain in the middle of a public health crisis, and by gathering in large numbers – such as today’s protest – puts others at risk. We advised those in attendance to leave but many refused to do so," said Superintendent Emma Richards in the statement. 
10:27 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Updated CDC guidance acknowledges coronavirus can spread through the air

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidance on its website to say coronavirus can commonly spread "through respiratory droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols," which are produced even when a person breathes.

"Airborne viruses, including Covid-19, are among the most contagious and easily spread," the site now says.

Previously, the CDC page said that Covid-19 was thought to spread mainly between people in close contact -- about 6 feet (approximately 1.8 meters) -- and "through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks."

Now, the page reads:

"There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes). In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk."


12:29 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Florida reports more than 2,500 new cases on Sunday

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

The state of Florida reported 2,521 new cases of Covid-19 and nine virus-related deaths on Sunday, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The deaths reported Sunday were mostly from northern and central Florida, according to the health department.

Since the pandemic began, 13,296 Florida residents have died from the virus, according to state officials. Florida has recorded a total of 683,754 Covid infections.

12:30 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Lebanon records highest new daily jump in cases for third day in a row

From CNN’s Tamara Qiblawi and Ghazi Balkiz in Beirut

Lebanon recorded 1,006 new cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, the largest daily increase since the start of the pandemic, according to the Lebanese Health Ministry -- marking the third consecutive day of record increases in cases.

Sunday's figures bring the country's total number of infections to 29,303. 

The Health Ministry also announced 11 additional deaths on Sunday, raising the country’s Covid-19 death toll to 297.

Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan told Lebanon’s Al-Jadeed TV Sunday that he’s calling for a two-week lockdown.

“People in most areas aren’t conforming with (social distancing) measures. Instead they are belittling the situation,” he said. 

Hassan’s call for the lockdown is not binding; the measure needs to be decided by the caretaker government.