Trudeau declares second wave already underway in most of Canada
From CNN’s Paula Newton in Ottawa
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared Wednesday that a second wave of the coronavirus is already underway in most of Canada.
“We’re on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring. I know this isn’t the news that any of us wanted to hear and we can’t change today’s numbers or even tomorrow’s. Those were already decided by what we did or didn’t do two weeks ago,” said Trudeau during a rare address to the nation.
“It’s all too likely we won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving, but we still have a shot at Christmas. Together we have the power to get this second wave under control,” Trudeau said telling Canadians they have the power to flatten the pandemic curve once again.
Canada's Thanksgiving holiday is Oct. 12.
6:30 p.m. ET, September 23, 2020
Times Square will host virtual New Year's Eve ball drop
From CNN’s Alec Snyder
Event organizers for the annual Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration announced Wednesday the countdown will take place this year, albeit with some changes in format.
The countdown to midnight on December 31 — which will ring in 2021, just 100 days away — will take place “visually, virtually and safely,” according to a video teaser organizers sent out as part of a release.
“One thing that will never change is the ticking of time and the arrival of a New Year at midnight on December 31st,” Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, said in a release. “But this year there will be significantly new and enhanced virtual, visual and digital offerings to complement whatever limited live entertainment or experiences — still in development — will take place in Times Square.”
Jeff Straus, the president of Countdown Entertainment, which co-produces the event, said part of the event is to forget about the strain 2020 has taken on elective society.
“We will miss everyone this year but we will bring our celebration to you, whether you want to turn off and turn away from the bad news of 2020, or turn to the new year with a sense of hope, renewal and resolution, you’ll be able to join us virtually like never before as part of the Times Square 2021 celebration,” he said in the release.
Despite the despair Covid-19 has brought upon 2020, the event this year will still honor "the courageous and creative spirits who have helped and will help us travel through these challenging times into the New Year,” the release said.
Precise planning details remain scarce but the release indicated celebrities and notable people from 2020 will still take part.
“More details to come; either way, we will be celebrating with you in some form on the 31st,” Tompkins said in the release.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio applauded the efforts being taken to make the event happen in a year stricken by unpredictability and an upending of social norms.
"A new year means a fresh start, and we’re excited to celebrate,” de Blasio said in the release.
6:14 p.m. ET, September 23, 2020
More than 587,000 children have tested positive for Covid-19 since beginning of pandemic
From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman and Jen Christensen
More than 587,000 children in the United States have tested positive for Covid-19 since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.
The organizations found that 74,553 cases of Covid-19 in children were reported between Sept. 3-17 – a 15% increase in this group over two weeks – for a total of 587,948 cases of coronavirus in children, according to their weekly pediatric report.
Cases listed by age are provided by health department websites in 49 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam, but only a subset of states report hospitalizations and mortality by age, the groups said.
Children made up between 4%-15.9% of total state tests in 11 states reporting the numbers, and between 3.5% -15.7% of children tested were positive for the virus, the report said. In the 25 states and New York City reporting child hospitalizations, children represented 0.5%-3.7% of the total number of hospitalizations, and between 0.2%-8% of all child Covid-19 cases resulting in hospitalization.
In 42 states and New York City, children accounted for 0% to 0.33% of all Covid-19 deaths, and 18 states reported no child deaths.
The AAP is calling for even more detailed reporting from states.
“At this time, it appears that severe illness due to Covid-19 is rare among children,” the report said. “However, states should continue to provide detailed reports on Covid-19 cases, testing, hospitalizations, and mortality by age and race/ethnicity so that the effects of Covid-19 on children’s health can be documented and monitored.”
Children only represent about 10% of all reported cases in the US, according to the report, but the number of cases are likely underreported because the tally relies on state data that is inconsistently collected.
5:38 p.m. ET, September 23, 2020
France places restrictions on bars and restaurants following surge in coronavirus cases
From Gaëlle Fournier and Pierre Buet in Paris
The French government has ordered all bars and restaurants in the Mediterranean city of Marseille to close starting Monday, the country’s health minister Olivier Véran said Wednesday, adding that the city has now been placed under a state of “maximum alert” following a surge in new coronavirus cases.
Speaking during a briefing, the health minister warned that the circulation of the virus is “particularly strong” in the region.
"These restrictions are temporary; they are there to limit contaminations. The aim is that they do not last more than two weeks,” Véran added.
According to the health minister, the cities of Paris, Lille, Bordeaux, Lyon, Montpellier, Saint Etienne, Rennes, Rouen and Grenoble have also been declared “Enhanced Alert Zones” and will face new restrictions starting Monday, including a limit of 10 people for gatherings and a 10 p.m. curfew on bars.
"We are doing everything we can to avoid a State of Sanitary Emergency,” Véran said.
4:48 p.m. ET, September 23, 2020
Syracuse University cancels spring break
From CNN's Konstantin Toropin
Syracuse University, a private university in northern New York, has announced that it is canceling its spring break for the upcoming Spring 2021 semester, a statement from school leaders said.
The school explained they canceled the week-long break in late March "in order to minimize travel-related COVID-19 risks and to avoid quarantine-related complications."
School leaders also noted that "many of our peer institutions are adopting similar schedules."
Syracuse's spring break was originally scheduled for March 14 to March 21, according an earlier version of the school's calendar.
The school still plans on holding convocations and a commencement ceremony in May but the statement noted that "the format of these celebrations, whether virtual or in-person, will be contingent on public health conditions and approval by the appropriate officials."
The school, located in the city of Syracuse, has an undergraduate population of 15,275 students in 2019, according to the school's website.
3:47 p.m. ET, September 23, 2020
Thousands of passengers on commercial flights may have been exposed to coronavirus in 2020, CDC says
From CNN's Pete Muntean, Jamie Gumbrecht, and Greg Wallace
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says thousands of passengers on board commercial flights may have been exposed to coronavirus since the start of 2020.
In a statement emailed to CNN, the CDC says it was made aware of 1,600 flights between January and August where a person on board may have had Covid-19, potentially exposing 10,900 people "within a 6-foot range for droplet transmission" to coronavirus.
"CDC identified and notified relevant health departments about these 10,900 on-board close contacts," said the statement.
CDC said it has received reports of Covid-19 cases among people who were identified as contacts on flights, but noted this data is limited by incomplete contact information, delayed notification of an infectious traveler and incomplete information about testing and outcomes for contacts, among other factors.
The new data, first reported by The Washington Post, comes as air carriers are ratcheting up their insistence that air travel is safe. Air travel in the United States remains at roughly 30% of last year's levels.
"You are a lot safer in an airplane... than you are probably in your own home," Nick Calio of Airlines for America told CNN on Tuesday. "People don’t like being in a confined space, however, as opposed to being in your house, in a grocery store, in a church, in a bar or restaurant, or even a playground, you’re a lot better off.”
In June, Vice President Mike Pence called for airlines to implement a contact-tracing app, but no announcement has been made since.
2:29 p.m. ET, September 23, 2020
Missouri first lady tests positive for Covid-19
From CNN's Brad Parks
Teresa Parson, wife of Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday, Parson’s office confirmed to CNN.
She took a rapid test on Wednesday after experiencing mild symptoms, according to Parson’s Communications Director Kelli Jones.
Jones said the first lady is awaiting the results of an additional nasal swab test to confirm the findings of the rapid test. The governor's office expects to release the results of that test later Wednesday afternoon.
She is currently quarantining at home, according to Jones.
1:52 p.m. ET, September 23, 2020
WHO calls for countries to act against misinformation during the Covid-19 pandemic
From CNN's Naomi Thomas
During a United Nations General Assembly event, the World Health Organization and partner organizations called on all countries to put national action plans in place to promote science-based health information and to combat misinformation.
“We call on the media, technology companies, civil society, researchers, and people everywhere to keep the infodemic from spreading,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO. “Because now more than ever, the truth matters.”
“Just as Covid-19 has spread around the world, so too have rumors, untruths and disinformation. And they can be just as dangerous,” Tedros said.
He outlined how misinformation has led to too many people harming themselves based on falsehoods, self-medicating with toxic chemicals or dangerous medications and an increased stigmatization in institutions and health systems.
Even the most effective vaccine will fail if the public don’t have confidence in it, Tedros warned as he explained why it is so important that the public and policy makers are provided with accurate information.
A "distressed" Birx questions how long she can remain on White House task force, sources say
From CNN's Jim Acosta
Once a fixture at the administration's coronavirus briefings, Dr. Deborah Birx has confided to aides and friends that she has become so unhappy with what she sees as her diminished role as coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force that she is not certain how much longer she can serve in her position, sources familiar with her thinking tell CNN.
Birx has told people around her that she is "distressed" with the direction of the task force, describing the situation inside the nation's response to coronavirus as nightmarish.
According to people familiar with her thinking, Birx views Dr. Scott Atlas, a recent addition to the task force, as an unhealthy influence on President Trump's thinking when it comes to the virus.
"The President has found somebody who matches what he wants to believe," a source close to Birx said of her view of Atlas's relationship with Trump. "There is no doubt that she feels that her role has been diminished."
Birx believes Atlas is feeding the President misleading information about the efficacy of face masks for controlling the spread of the virus, the source said. Trump, whose rallies draw crowds of supporters who refuse to wear masks, has repeatedly mocked Democratic rival Joe Biden for using them.
A longtime US government health official, Birx became a household name during the early weeks of the pandemic, appearing with Trump at news conferences in the White House briefing room to deliver sobering warnings about the threat posed by the virus. In recent weeks, however, Birx has spent much less time with Trump, as she is now dispatched to raise awareness of the administration's pandemic efforts in states where cases of Covid-19 have surged.
Atlas, a neuroradiologist without expertise in infectious diseases, has seen his prominent role on the task force come under some scrutiny as respected medical experts have questioned his controversial flirtation with "herd immunity" as a solution for the outbreak in the US.
"When you isolate everyone, including all the healthy people, you're prolonging the problem because you're preventing population immunity. Low-risk groups getting the infection is not a problem," Atlas told Fox News in July.
An administration official close to the West Wing's coronavirus response acknowledged the addition of Atlas has unsettled some of the experts on the task force. But the official maintained Atlas "shook things up a bit" and brought "fresh eyes" to discussions behind the scenes, a dynamic Trump prefers.
"He's not been instructed to make friends," the official said of Atlas.
Trump has invited Atlas to appear at recent White House news conferences to field questions from reporters. Noticeably absent in the briefing room, Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration's leading authority on infectious diseases.
"Don't you think the frustration would be there?" remarked one source close to Birx about the briefings.
The same source said Birx, who has spent much of her career tackling global health crises from Covid-19 to AIDS, is not likely to end her time in government service by stepping down from the task force.
"She is a good soldier. I don't think she's going anywhere," the source said.
Birx did not respond to requests for comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment nor offer a response from Atlas.
Unlike Fauci, who occasionally differs with the President's statements on the virus during television appearances, Birx is seen as much more of a team player inside the administration. During one memorable task force news conference in late April, Birx famously bit her tongue and sat stone-faced as Trump suggested that government researchers investigate whether injections of disinfectants could somehow guard Americans against the virus.
Birx believes her current role as a traveling spokesperson for the administration's coronavirus response in states across much of the south and southwest is having some positive effect, a source said. She has touted the benefits of mask mandates during visits to college towns and other communities where Covid-19 spikes have alarmed local officials.
James Glassman, a friend of Birx and a former top State Department official during the George W. Bush administration, said the task force coordinator is trying to make the best of a difficult situation.
"Dr. Birx is out in the states with the most trouble, telling them the right things about masks and distancing and going back to school," Glassman said. "She's ignoring the nonsense from Scott Atlas and just getting the job done — just as I've seen her do, fighting AIDS for the past 15 years."