October 18 coronavirus news

By Rob Picheta, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, October 19, 2020
13 Posts
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10:04 a.m. ET, October 18, 2020

Health Secretary Azar blames Covid-19 spikes on "mitigation fatigue"

From CNN's Sarah Westwood

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar testifies before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 2.
US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar testifies before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 2. Michael A. McCoy/AFP/Getty Images

Health Secretary Alex Azar blamed a rise in US coronavirus cases on “mitigation fatigue,” and he said he wished more seniors had worn masks at an indoor event President Trump held in Fort Myers, Florida, on Friday.  

“Cases are increasing,” Azar acknowledged on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We’re seeing this happen because we’re getting colder weather and were losing that natural social distancing that happens from being out of doors.”

“People are getting tired,” he added. “We’re seeing mitigation fatigue right now.”

Azar encouraged people to continue to adhere to guidelines about face coverings, hand-washing and maintaining social distance in an effort to create what he described as a “bridge” to the time when a vaccine and treatments become available.

“Be mindful of those indoor household gatherings,” he said. “Just because you’re related to someone or friends with someone doesn’t mean you can’t transmit.”

Trump has frequently held large gatherings, in defiance of the wishes of local officials, where social distancing does not happen and people do not wear masks. Many, but not all, are outdoors. 

Pressed on Trump’s indoor event in Fort Myers, which Azar attended, the health secretary argued masks were provided and social distancing was attempted. 

“I wish everybody there would’ve worn face coverings and maintained social distancing,” he said. 

Azar said herd immunity regarding coronavirus — when a percentage of people have become sick and achieved immunity thereby protecting the rest of the population — is not the current policy of the administration.  

“No, that’s not our policy. It’s a desire through vaccination to get to herd immunity,” he said. “The desire is reduce cases, reduce cases, reduce hospitalizations, reduce fatalities.”

He added it was the overall goal of the administration to achieve that in the future once there is large distribution of a vaccine which will protect most people.

9:56 a.m. ET, October 18, 2020

Switzerland announces nationwide mask mandate

From CNN’s Hira Humayun in Atlanta

Switzerland announced on Sunday a series of measures including a mask mandate to curb the spread of Covid-19, to go into effect on Monday.

According to a government press release, the Swiss Federal Council introduced national measures such as a mandate to wear masks in publicly-accessible indoor areas.

Masks were required on public transport for those over the age of 12 since early July, but the additional measures will require masks at publicly accessible public transport areas such as railway stations (including platforms), airports, bus stops and tram stops as well. Masks are now also required in indoor spaces like shops, post offices, banks, museums, libraries, sports facilities, restaurants and other publicly accessibly spaces.

Masks are also required in schools, higher education institutes and child-care facilities.

The government also banned spontaneous public gatherings of more than 15 people in public places such as town squares, streets, paths and parks. Organized outdoor events such as demonstrations however, are allowed provided precautionary measures are followed. For private events of more than 15 people, food and drink should only being consumed when seated, and anyone standing up must wear a mask. For private events, hygiene rules need to be followed and contact details for those in attendance must be recorded.

“The rapid rise in coronavirus cases in the last few days is a cause for great concern,” the government said, pointing to the rising number of cases and number of hospitalizations.

“Since 19 June, the cantons have played the lead role in combating the COVID-19 epidemic in Switzerland,” the press release added, “The Confederation still expects the cantons to conduct widespread testing, implement a sound system of contract tracing and employ targeted measures to help fight the epidemic.”

10:05 a.m. ET, October 18, 2020

Pelosi says they must reach agreement within 48 hours to get stimulus bill before Election Day

From CNN's Manu Raju and Nicky Robertson

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on October 9, in Washington, DC.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on October 9, in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin must reach an agreement within 48 hours if they want to pass a stimulus bill before Election Day. 

She also said the White House has watered down language Democrats have been pushing to create a national plan for Covid-19 testing and contact tracing.

“The 48 only relates to if we want to get it done before the election, which we do,” Pelosi said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”

Pelosi also noted that the Trump Administration had changed much of the language on testing and tracing after the two sides seemingly came to an agreement last week.

“They took out 55% of the language that we had there for testing and tracing,” Pelosi said, and noted that they are “seeking clarity” on the details of the language.

Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke Saturday evening for more than an hour.

8:57 a.m. ET, October 18, 2020

Trump defends rallies in states reporting rising coronavirus cases

From CNN's Ali Main and Daniella Mora

President Donald Trump gestures during a rally at Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport in Janesville, Wisconsin on October 17.
President Donald Trump gestures during a rally at Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport in Janesville, Wisconsin on October 17. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump defended holding large rallies as nearly every state in the country is seeing coronavirus cases trending in the wrong direction in an interview with CNN affiliate WTMJ on Saturday.

Although he did not address the surges during his Saturday rallies in Michigan and Wisconsin, the President was directly asked by the local Wisconsin station whether he was sending the wrong message with his actions.

"Well, I don't think so because I'm not a big shutdown believer," Trump responded. He claimed his campaign only holds outdoor rallies and that the crowds were largely masked, saying later he "didn't see anyone without" a mask at one of his rallies on Friday. Although some people have been wearing masks at Trump's recent rallies, many have not.

He also said his campaign has heard of no "incidences" where there's been a "problem" with the virus after one of his rallies.

Some more context: CNN reported on Friday that the Minnesota Department of Health says it has so far traced 20 cases of Covid-19 back to Trump's rally in Bemidji last month, or to related events. And the city of Tulsa experienced a surge in coronavirus cases a little over 2 weeks after Trump held an indoor rally there in June. There were also other large events in the city around the same time.

Faced with the record setting case count in Wisconsin, the President railed against lockdowns and touted his political success in the state in 2016.

"If you take a look at your state, which I love very much and, you know, we had a great victory there, but if you take a look at your state, they've been shut down and they've been locked down and locked up and, you know, they've been doing it for a long time and, at some point, you also have to be able to understand the disease," Trump said.

Pressed later on the fact that Wisconsin is not completely shut down, Trump said although the state has been "very toughly run," "frankly, it's not doing as well as a lot of other states," adding he wanted the state to do well and pivoting to talk about his administration's assistance to governors and progress on vaccines and therapeutics.

8:49 a.m. ET, October 18, 2020

Coronavirus cases are increasing in 29 US states — and only 2 are reporting decreases

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

There are only two states in the country — Vermont and Missouri — that are reporting a more than 10% improvement in the average number of reported cases over the past week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, cases in Connecticut and Florida increased by 50% or more. Another 27 states rose between 10% and 50%.

Here's a state-by-state look at coronavirus cases across the US:

8:14 a.m. ET, October 18, 2020

More than 219,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US

There have been at least 8,106,384 cases of coronavirus in the US, and at least 219,286 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University

On Saturday, Johns Hopkins University reported 57,519 new cases and 711 new deaths. 

Keep in mind: The Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced on Saturday that due to routine maintenance and updates to their data reporting system, we will not see any new data from the state of Wisconsin on Saturday or Sunday.

7:46 a.m. ET, October 18, 2020

Israel eases some restrictions as cases fall

From CNN’s Oren Liebermann

Israel has imposed tougher restrictions on two occasions during the pandemic.
Israel has imposed tougher restrictions on two occasions during the pandemic. Amir Levy/Getty Images

Israel has begun easing some of the restrictions imposed last month during the country’s second general lockdown, as the number of daily coronavirus cases continues to fall.

On Thursday and Friday, Israel recorded 1,608 new cases and 1,469 new cases, respectively, and a positivity rate of approximately 4.2%, according to data from the Ministry of Health. Those numbers are down from a record 9,000 new cases in one day, seen at the peak of Israel’s second wave a few weeks ago, when the positivity rate stood at well over 10%. 

As part of the eased restrictions, citizens will be allowed to go more than 1km from their home. Natural parks and beaches will reopen. Restaurants will be allowed to serve takeout instead of only delivery. And more businesses will reopen. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the reopening of the economy would go slowly, tacitly acknowledging that the reopening after the first lockdown was done too quickly and without proper safeguards. “It is important to follow the rules,” Netanyahu stressed Saturday evening.

“If we all follow the rules, then I am certain that this will work. Another thing, I have said that if it appears that it is not working, if it appears that we are going backwards, then we will have no choice but to retighten the restrictions.”

Israel has a number of “red cities” with high infection rates that will not reopen and where tight restrictions will remain in place.

These are predominantly ultra-Orthodox cities and areas where the spread of coronavirus has not seen the same drop as the rest of the country. These “red cities” include Elad, Beitar Illit, Modi’in Illit, and ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem.

7:02 a.m. ET, October 18, 2020

European leaders face off against regions as a second wave engulfs continent

From CNN's Rob Picheta

In Manchester, authorities have been locked in days of tense talks.
In Manchester, authorities have been locked in days of tense talks.

As coronavirus cases spike across the continent, European governments are facing a new obstacle in their efforts to enforce restrictions -- with several major cities and regions fighting back against instructions to lock down in recent days.

Cities in the UK, France, Spain are resisting centralized efforts to impose tighter regulations, with days of tense negotiations ongoing as infections increase.

In the northern English city of Manchester, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has become engulfed in a row with local mayor Andy Burnham over whether to move the city from the UK's second tier of restrictions to its most severe third tier.

"If an agreement cannot be reached, I will need to intervene in order to protect Manchester's hospitals and save the lives of Manchester's residents," Johnson said on Friday, urging Burnham to "reconsider his position" and "engage constructively" with the government.

But Burnham has resisted the government's efforts to increase the severity of his city's measures, urging for more financial measures to protect the region's workers placed under stricter rules.

The row escalated on Sunday as Michael Gove, a member of Johnson's Cabinet, called on Burnham "to put aside for a moment some of the political positioning that they've indulged in."

And a similar scenario is unfolding across Europe, as leaders grapple with the difficulties of pursuing a "whack-a-mole" approach to slowing the spread of Covid-19.

Read more about coronavirus stand-offs across Europe here.

6:20 a.m. ET, October 18, 2020

Resident in Pope Francis' residence tests positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Nicola Ruotolo in Rome

Pope Francis delivers his weekly general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday.
Pope Francis delivers his weekly general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday. ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images

A resident at Casa Santa Marta, the building in the Vatican that houses the Pope and other clergy, has tested positive for Covid-19.  

The resident is currently asymptomatic and has been placed in isolation outside of Casa Santa Marta, along with all who came into direct contact with him, Holy See spokesperson Matteo Bruni said in a statement.

The health of all other residents is being constantly monitored, he added.

The positive test raises fears over the well-being of 83-year-old Pope Francis and other senior clergy, and comes days after four members of the Vatican's Swiss Guard tested positive.

Those guards were all showing symptoms and a contact tracing operation began at the Vatican after their results came through, Bruni said earlier in the week. Three other Vatican residents also tested positive in recent days, it was announced at the time.

Vatican City, which is a city-state located within Rome, is the home of the Pope and the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

Italy reported more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases on October 9, which represents the highest daily rise in new Covid-19 cases since March 28. The Italian Council of Ministers passed a decree on Wednesday that requires the mandatory use of masks outdoors in an attempt to slow down the spread of the virus across the country.