September 24 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Tara John and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, September 25, 2020
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8:48 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

Another 870,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week 

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

America's recovery from the coronavirus pandemic continues to slow. That was visible again in the Labor Department's weekly jobless claims report Thursday.

Another 870,000 workers filed first-time claims for unemployment benefits on a seasonally adjusted basis. That was up very slightly from the previous week.

Here are some key things from the latest report:

  • Six months into this crisis, weekly claims are about four times higher than they were before businesses went into lockdown in March.
  • Continued jobless claims — counting workers who have filed for benefits for at least two consecutive weeks — stood at 12.6 million on a seasonally adjusted basis, down a bit from the prior week.
  • But Americans also filed for benefits under the government's other programs, such as the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which Congress created in the wake of the crisis to help those not eligible for regular jobless benefits, including the self-employed. 
  • Another 630,080 Americans filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits last week.
9:03 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

United Airlines to offer Covid-19 testing for passengers

From CNN's Pete Muntean and Gregory Wallace

A United Airlines passenger checks in for a flight on September 2 at San Francisco International Airport in California.
A United Airlines passenger checks in for a flight on September 2 at San Francisco International Airport in California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

United Airlines will become the first US airline to offer coronavirus testing to its passengers. 

It will offer the testing for Hawaii-bound passengers beginning October 15 out of San Francisco. The testing will help passengers avoid an otherwise mandatory 14-day quarantine.

United said it will use a rapid, 15-minute test from Abbott, and will also offer customers a mail-in option that can be completed in the days before departure. 

The normally tourism-driven island state is currently seeing 70% fewer flights, 91% less TSA checkpoint traffic, and 94% less travel into the state compared to usual, according to numbers from Airlines for America.

The International Air Transport Association on Tuesday called for coronavirus testing at the airport as a requirement for all passengers and airplane crew members before international flights. The group, which represents about 290 airlines worldwide, called on governments to set up and fund the testing regimen. 

9:13 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

A second surge of cases hasn't been matched by mortality in Europe. Experts warn that will change

From CNN's Emma Reynolds in London

A health worker in Irun, Spain, tests someone for Covid-19 on September 3.
A health worker in Irun, Spain, tests someone for Covid-19 on September 3. Gari Garaialde/Getty Images

At first glance, the outlook doesn't seem too grim. While reported coronavirus cases are reaching record highs as Europe endures a "second wave," deaths are still well below their peak in April.

But experts warn the signs point to more tragedy ahead this winter.
Europe's hospitals are now better equipped for treating Covid-19. Measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing have become the norm and the latest spread of infection has been primarily among younger people, who are less likely to die if they contract the virus.
Yet colder weather is beginning to set in and the flu season is approaching. The infection is spreading to older populations, and there are signs that people are growing tired of adhering to the restrictions.

"Obviously we don't really have any ways of preventing Covid from going around, other than the lockdowns or social distancing measures and so on; we don't yet have a vaccine," Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the UK's University of Southampton, told CNN.

While he does not expect deaths to reach the levels seen in the first wave, Head added: "We'll see a lot of spread of cases, we will see a lot of hospitalizations, and a lot of burden on our health service.

There will also be a big death toll."

Read the full story here:

7:23 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

This drummer beat Covid-19 and an imminent heart attack, at the same time

From CNN's Sandee LaMotte

Ed Bettinelli is back on the drums at his home in Dobbs Ferry, New York.
Ed Bettinelli is back on the drums at his home in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Courtesy Ed Bettinelli

Ed Bettinelli has been living a charmed life.

"I always say if my bank account was as rich as my soul, I'd be very wealthy," said the 63-year-old, with a chuckle.

A professional drummer since age 15, Bettinelli has opened for such music greats as Bon Jovi and Pat Benatar, as well as Asia, the Average White Band, The Tubes and the Split Enz, among others.

He and his band Preview landed a major record deal with Geffen in the '80s and with RCA in the '90s. During his career, he worked with legendary rock 'n' roll producer Keith Olsen, who produced hits for top artists like Fleetwood Mac, Ozzy Osbourne, the Grateful Dead and Santana.

His step-daughter, actress Holly Marie Combs, even played Piper in the hit TV series "Charmed."

"I've had a lot of wonderful experiences and achieved a lot of things that I dreamed about doing," said Bettinelli, who now teaches drumming from his home office overlooking the Hudson in Dobbs Ferry, New York. "I've had a pretty fulfilling life."

Despite his accomplishments, Bettinelli was totally unprepared for his latest triumph: He battled an imminent heart attack and Covid-19 simultaneously -- and won.
"After Covid-19 he had robotic, minimally invasive coronary bypass surgery, which comprises less than 1% of all cardiac surgery," said Dr. John Puskas, chair of cardiovasular surgery at Mount Sinai Morningside in New York City, who operated on Bettinelli.

"So I will be willing to bet he's the first person on the planet to have recovered from Covid-19 and then had invasive, robotic bypass surgery."

Read the full story here:

9:13 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

Europe is at a "decisive moment" in the second wave. Here's what's happening on the continent:

From CNN's Simon Cullen, James Frater, Nadine Schmidt, Pierre Bairin and Gaëlle Fournier

People line up at a mobile Covid-19 testing center in Strasbourg, France, on September 23.
People line up at a mobile Covid-19 testing center in Strasbourg, France, on September 23. Jean-Francois Badias/AP

Europe is at a “decisive” point in dealing with its second wave of Covid-19 infections, the European Union's Health Commissioner warned, adding the actions that people take now will determine the severity of restrictions needed in the coming months.

“Today we're here to call on everyone to act decisively. It might be our last chance to prevent a repeat of last spring,” Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said at a news conference Thursday. “Moreover, autumn and winter are the time of the year for more respiratory illnesses including seasonal influenza."

Prevent severe lockdowns: Kyriakides said people should not lower their guard because “the crisis is not behind us," and cautioned against a situation where governments are forced to impose more severe lockdowns.

“(Such lockdowns) will be detrimental -- detrimental to our mental health, detrimental to our economies, detrimental to the well-being and education of our children, detrimental to our working and daily lives.”

Mental health risk: This comes as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said it’s concerned by the increase in cases across the continent, but also warns that re-imposing lockdown rules is likely to affect people’s mental health.

Changing quarantine rules: The ECDC also indicated there is scope for changing the quarantine rules for those who are exposed to the virus -- by potentially reducing the 14 day quarantine to 10 days after exposure if a person returns a negative test at that point.

Pandemic is not uniform: While there has been an increase in cases throughout Europe, the ECDC says the pandemic is not having the same affect in all countries.

In several countries the observed upsurge correlates with increased testing rates and intense transmission among individuals between 15 and 49 years of age. In such countries most detections concern mild or asymptomatic cases.”

“However, in a number of other countries, the upsurge coincides with high or increasing notification rates in older individuals and, consequently, an increased proportion of hospitalized and severe cases.”

Austria bans "after-ski" parties: The Austrian ski season will go ahead but après ski parties will be banned, the country’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says.

“Skiing, eating out, nature and enjoying the hospitality, outdoor activities, shopping -- not just in ski resorts but also in cities, a wellness vacation in Austria, culture tourism: all that will be possible this coming winter,” Kurz said at a news briefing Thursday. "What won't be possible is après ski the way we know it from the past. The risk to get infected is simply too high."

Pushback against new French restrictions: Benoît Payan, the deputy mayor of Marseille, has asked for a "10-day delay" to tough restrictions the French government will impose from Monday, following a surge in cases there. 

Payan said France's second largest city had not been adequately consulted or warned about the new measures, leading to “incomprehension” and “anger” from local officials.

Renaud Muselier, president of the regional council of Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, which includes Marseille, referred to the closures as a “collective punishment” in a statement published on Twitter. 

6:43 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

From Anguilla to Barbados: The exotic destinations now competing for remote workers

From CNN's Tamara Hardingham-Gill

At least 1,363 people have submitted applications for the "12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp."
At least 1,363 people have submitted applications for the "12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp." Courtesy Barbados Tourism Marketing

Working from home has become normality for many of us due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

While some have struggled to adapt to this new working mode, others have come to the welcome realization that their job requirements can be completed from anywhere and are beginning to explore their options.

As a result, a number of exotic destinations which have seen their tourism revenue pretty much vanish over the past few months are using the situation to their advantage by offering extended visas to remote workers in a bid to inject money into their economies.

From Anguilla to Barbados, read the full article to see five of the most alluring destinations currently vying for remote workers:

6:29 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

Over 90% of Americans are susceptible to virus, says CDC chief, as 22 states report rising cases

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

Dr. Robert Redfield testifies in Washington, DC, on September 23.
Dr. Robert Redfield testifies in Washington, DC, on September 23. Alex Edelman/Pool/AP

While nearly half of US states now report a rise in new Covid-19 cases, a leading public health official announced the majority of Americans remain susceptible to the virus.

Speaking to the Senate Health Committee this week, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield said preliminary results on the first round of a study by the agency show more than 90% of the population is susceptible.

That means more than 295 million Americans could still get infected with the virus.

About 6.9 million people across the country have already contracted the illness and more than 200,000 people have died since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The US continues to lead the world in both deaths and infections and now experts warn that the spread of the virus could get much worse with schools now open and flu season on its way.

At least 22 states -- mostly across the US heartland and Midwest -- are reporting an increase in new Covid-19 cases compared to the previous week. Nationwide, the US is averaging more than 43,000 new cases per day -- about double what the country was averaging back in June when lockdown restrictions were easing.

And the country is no longer seeing the kind of decline in deaths it was seeing in late August, according to infectious diseases expert Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo.

Marrazzo said it's not unfathomable another 100,000 Americans could die by the end of the year. Researchers with the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predict a total of more than 378,000 Americans will have died from Covid-19 by January 1.

"The bottom line is that it doesn't matter what side of the aisle you're on politically," Marrazzo said during an Infectious Diseases Society of America briefing Wednesday. "The numbers are the numbers. You can't argue with them. And they are not going in the right direction."

Read the full story:

6:06 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

Beijing has "punished" more than 1,100 officials over virus prevention measures

From CNN's Beijing Bureau

The city of Beijing has "punished" 1,112 officials and public servants for failing to carry out Covid-19 prevention and control measures.

“The city has taken strict measures to prevent and control the disease and has held Communist Party members and public officials who failed to fulfil their duties accountably,” read a statement from the Beijing Municipal People’s Congress, the Chinese capital’s rubber-stamp legislature.

The statement did not contain details of the punishments meted out to officials.

After the wholesale food market outbreak in Beijing in June, a report from state media outlet CGTN stated that two local officials were "sacked and punished" for "failing in their duty in COVID-19 prevention and control work."
In Hubei province in May, "multiple officials" were removed from their posts for similar reasons, according to a report by the Hubei Daily, the official newspaper of the provincial Communist Party committee. Its capital, Wuhan, was the original epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China.
In May, Xia Guohua, deputy head of the Hubei Provincial Statistics Bureau, was removed from his post and issued with a serious warning, as well as having a serious demerit recorded against him for misconduct over distributing masks that didn't stand up to government regulations.

The latest statement from Beijing added that there have been 935 confirmed cases reported in the city since the pandemic began. A total of 926 cases have been cured and discharged, while 9 people have died, it said. All confirmed cases in the hospital have been cleared since August 25.

5:54 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

20,000 flags placed on National Mall to commemorate US virus deaths

From CNN's Lauren M. Johnson

American flags are placed on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on September 22, in memory of the more than 200,000 people who have died from Covid-19 nationwide.
American flags are placed on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on September 22, in memory of the more than 200,000 people who have died from Covid-19 nationwide. Chen Mengtong/China News Service/Getty Images

Twenty thousand American flags have been placed on the National Mall as part of a memorial paying tribute to the more than 200,000 people nationwide who have died from the coronavirus.

The installation, called a Covid Memorial Project, was organized by a group of friends in the Washington DC area who raised money online. They then gathered volunteers to place the flags on the mall on Tuesday.

Each of the 20,000 flags represents 10 American lives that have been lost to the virus this year, according to the group's GoFundMe page.

"This extreme loss of life is staggering -- but was not inevitable: the President's poor handling of the virus response has led to tens of thousands of excess deaths," organizers wrote on the fundraising site.
"And this administration has done nothing to memorialize this stunning number of lives lost -- instead choosing to downplay, minimize, and ignore whenever possible. No flags lowered, no service held, no day of mourning declared -- so the COVID Memorial Project seeks to simply say: these lives are more than a statistic -- they were family, friends, neighbors."

Read the full story: