The latest on the coronavirus pandemic

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Zamira Rahim, Vasco Cotovio, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 1:52 a.m. ET, October 31, 2020
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7:45 a.m. ET, October 30, 2020

US scientists test animals including cats, dogs and dolphins for Covid-19

From JoNel Aleccia

As Covid-19 cases surge in the US, one Texas veterinarian has been quietly tracking the spread of the disease — not in people, but in their pets.

Since June, Sarah Hamer and her team at Texas A&M University have tested hundreds of animals from area households where humans contracted Covid-19. They've swabbed dogs and cats, but also pet hamsters and guinea pigs, looking for signs of infection.

"We're open to all of it," said Hamer, a professor of epidemiology, who has found at least 19 cases of infection.

One pet that tested positive was Phoenix, a 7-year-old part-Siamese cat owned by Kaitlyn Romoser, who works in a university lab. Romoser, 23, was confirmed to have Covid-19 twice, once in March and again in September. The second time she was much sicker, she said, and Phoenix was her constant companion.

If I would have known animals were just getting it everywhere, I would have tried to distance myself, but he will not distance himself from me," Romoser said.

"He sleeps in my bed with me. There was absolutely no social distancing."

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8:15 a.m. ET, October 30, 2020

Traffic chaos in Paris before national lockdown came into force

From Fanny Bobille in Paris

Traffic is seen on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on October 29.
Traffic is seen on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on October 29. Nathan Laine/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Authorities in Paris estimate there were traffic jams with a combined total length of 730 kilometres (454 miles) on Thursday evening, ahead of new Covid-19 travel restrictions.

“Even though this is not the highest traffic jam recorded, this is still a very important data,” the press office for the Paris region traffic authority told CNN. 

Thursday was the last day before the whole country went into a national lockdown, and also one of the last few days for people to return to their homes after France’s school half-term, which ends after the All Saints’ holiday this weekend.

“At the moment, it is impossible to tell for sure the traffic jam was a consequence of the lockdown or the return of holidays,” the press office said. “The traffic jam was in both ways, from the Province to Paris, and from Paris to the Province, it is too early to confirm Parisian people are fleeing the capital.”

More information is expected to be known later on Friday once the data has been analyzed.

Despite the heavy restrictions on travel that came into place at midnight on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron assured French citizens that people will be allowed by the authorities to return to their homes by Sunday evening.

7:11 a.m. ET, October 30, 2020

EU to fund transfer of Covid-19 patients across borders

From CNN's Angela Dewan and Simon Cullen

The European Union has earmarked 220 million euros ($257 million) to fund the transfer of Covid-19 patients across its borders to prevent the hospital systems in the 27-nation bloc from buckling.

Europe has become the world's epicenter of the virus for the second time since the pandemic began, forcing several countries to reimpose national lockdowns as a second wave envelops the region and infection cases surpass 10 million.

"Numbers of cases are rising, numbers of hospitalizations are rising, numbers of deaths are rising -- not as fast, fortunately, because we understand better today how to treat COVID patients and how to deal with disease," EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday night.
"But the spread of the virus will overwhelm our healthcare systems if we do not act urgently."

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8:22 a.m. ET, October 30, 2020

Belgium in "absolutely critical" situation, reports record number of Covid-19 hospital admissions

From CNN's James Frater in London

Medical staff members treat patients in the Covid-19 unit at a hospital in Liege, Belgium, on October 29.
Medical staff members treat patients in the Covid-19 unit at a hospital in Liege, Belgium, on October 29. Benoit Doppagne/BELGA/AFP/Getty IImages

Belgium reported a record number of daily hospital admissions for Covid-19 on Thursday, according to the country’s health authority.

The Belgian Health Authority said 6,187 patients were admitted on Thursday, while 1,057 people are currently in intensive care. Belgium recorded a peak of 1,285 intensive care patients at the height of its first Covid-19 wave in April.

The head of Zorgnet-Icuro -- a network of 775 hospitals, care homes and health facilities across the country -- told CNN that the situation was now "absolutely critical."

In the last two weeks an average of 484 people have been hospitalized daily in the country.

"There is absolutely no time to lose to prevent a total crash of our health care system,” Zorgnet-Icuro CEO Margot Cloet told CNN Friday. “The united Belgian hospitals plead very strongly for a reinforced lockdown."

Probably within a week, we will reach the maximum capacity of intensive care beds." 

And it's not just beds Belgium is running short of, it's health workers as well.

Liege, the country's third largest city, has the highest incidence rate in Belgium and health workers in some of its hospitals have been asked to continue working even if they test positive for Covid-19 -- as long as they are not showing any symptoms of the disease.

The communications director of Liege University Hospital, Louis Maraite, told CNN on Tuesday that because of staff shortages, the hospital had "no choice" but to ask nurses who tested positive with no symptoms to work on a voluntary basis.

Maraite estimated that 5% to 10% of nurses at the hospital were currently infected with Covid-19, but most of them are off work, at home.

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5:37 a.m. ET, October 30, 2020

9.9 million Americans are not up-to-date on their rent or mortgage payments

From CNN's Lauren Lee

The economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has created widespread housing insecurity for renters, homeowners and the homeless population in the United States.

By the end of October, 9.9 million Americans were not up-to-date on their rent or mortgage payments and had little to no confidence that their household could pay next month's rent or mortgage on time, according to the US Census Household Pulse Survey.

"To be able to understand the eviction crisis that we're facing today, we have to recognize where we were before Covid-19 came to our country -- and that was in the midst of a severe affordable housing crisis," said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC).

According to the NLIHC, the US has a shortage of 7 million affordable rental homes available to low-income renters.

Coupled with the long-term homeless crisis, many Americans are now scrambling to figure out how to obtain or sustain a place they call home under the economic toll Covid-19 has had on families and individuals across the country.

CNN has gathered some resources for those facing housing insecurity or homelessness:

5:00 a.m. ET, October 30, 2020

US coronavirus cases hit record daily high and experts warn daily death rates will triple by mid-January

From CNN's Susannah Cullinane

Daily Covid-19 cases in the US reached a record high on Thursday, with experts warning that death rates could triple by mid-January.

There were 88,521 new cases of the coronavirus reported in the US on October 29, according to data from Johns Hopkins University -- 9,540 more cases than Wednesday.

In total, there have been 8,944,934 cases and at least 228,656 deaths in the US -- 971 of them on Thursday, JHU data shows.

"This is the hardest point in this pandemic right now -- the next two months," Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, said during an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box" Thursday. "We can't give up our guard right now."

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine says it is most likely that by the middle of January, 2,250 Americans will be dying every day from the coronavirus -- three times more than the current rate.

And it could get much worse.

"If states do not react to rising numbers by re-imposing mandates, cumulative deaths could reach 514,000 by the same date," the IHME said in its latest forecast.

"The fall/winter surge should lead to a daily death toll that is approximately three times higher than now by mid-January. Hospital systems, particularly ICUs, are expected to be under extreme stress in December and January in 18 states."

And hospitals are already under increased strain. As of Thursday, more than 46,000 people were hospitalized, according to the Covid Tracking Project, with all but 11 states seeing a rise in hospitalizations this week.

Read the full story:

5:01 a.m. ET, October 30, 2020

France's economy bounced back in the third quarter

From CNN's Chris Liakos

Parisians enjoy warm weather and outdoor seating at busy cafes and restaurants in Paris, on September 13.
Parisians enjoy warm weather and outdoor seating at busy cafes and restaurants in Paris, on September 13. Kiran Ridley/Getty Images

France’s economy grew 18.2% in the third quarter, stronger than expected after a 13.7% contraction in the second quarter and a recession in the first half of the year, according to the French national statistics agency INSEE.

The jump in economic activity reflects the lifting of coronavirus restrictions in July to September. The French economy was boosted by a sharp rebound in consumer spending. 

But risks remain: France is still far from a full recovery and as the country enters a fresh national lockdown today, there are renewed fears over the country's economic recovery. INSEE said that the economy is still well below the pre-crisis level, shrinking 4.3% year on year. 

Francois Villeroy de Galhau, the Bank of France governor, said on Thursday said that he expects the coronavirus second wave “will trigger another drop in the fourth quarter, though hopefully one that is less severe.”

4:55 a.m. ET, October 30, 2020

Russia reports highest daily jump in new cases

From CNN's Anna Chernova in Moscow 

Medical personnel work at the Sokolniki Exhibition and Convention Center, which has been converted into a field hospital for coronavirus patients, in Moscow, Russia, on October 29.
Medical personnel work at the Sokolniki Exhibition and Convention Center, which has been converted into a field hospital for coronavirus patients, in Moscow, Russia, on October 29.

Russia reported 18,283 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, the highest single-day increase in infections since the pandemic began. It also reported 355 new virus-related deaths.

The previous daily record had been on Thursday, according to the country’s coronavirus response center.

Friday's figures bring Russia's total to 1,599,976 cases and 27,656 deaths.

3:52 a.m. ET, October 30, 2020

About 20% of grocery store workers had Covid-19, and most didn't have symptoms, study found

From CNN's Jen Christensen

Grocery store work puts employees at serious risk for infection, a new study found, particularly those who have to interact with customers.

These workers likely became a "significant transmission source" for Covid-19 without even knowing it because most in the study were asymptomatic.

The analysis, published Thursday in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, is the first to demonstrate the significant asymptomatic infection rate, exposure risks and psychological distress grocery workers have felt during the pandemic.

In the study, 20% of the 104 grocery workers tested at a store in Boston in May had positive nasal swab tests.

This was a significantly higher rate of infection than what was seen in the surrounding communities, the researchers said. Workers who dealt with customers were five times as likely to test positive for Covid-19 as colleagues in other positions.

But three out of four of those who tested positive had no symptoms.

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