April 15 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Rob Picheta and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 3:17 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020
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2:17 a.m. ET, April 15, 2020

Bill Gates says halting WHO funding is "as dangerous as it sounds"

From CNN’s Hira Humayun

Bill Gates participates in a discussion at the Economic Club of Washington on June 24, 2019 in Washington.
Bill Gates participates in a discussion at the Economic Club of Washington on June 24, 2019 in Washington. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has denounced US President Donald Trump's decision to halt funding to the World Health Organization in an early morning tweet.

"Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds," Gates said in a tweet on his official account.

“Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them,” he said, adding the world needs the WHO “now more than ever.”

Trump announced Tuesday he is halting funding to the WHO while a review is conducted into its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

2:10 a.m. ET, April 15, 2020

South Korea election turnout at 56.5% by 3 p.m. local time (2 a.m. ET)

From CNN's Jake Kwon and Sophie Jeong in Seoul

People wait in line to cast for their votes for the parliamentary elections at a polling station in Nonsan, South Korea, on April 15.
People wait in line to cast for their votes for the parliamentary elections at a polling station in Nonsan, South Korea, on April 15. Kang Jong-min/Newsis via AP

Voter turnout in South Korea's parliamentary elections stood at 56.5% as of 3 p.m. local time (2 a.m. ET) today, according to the country's National Election Commission.

The number includes early and mail-in voting.

This is a 10% increase compared to the last parliamentary election figures at this time of day, despite strict rules for voters who visit polling stations.

They include:

  • Temperature checks at the door -- anyone with a reading above 37.5 degrees Celsius (99.5 degrees Farenheit) must vote in a special booth.
  • Voters must stand 1 meter apart from each other as they line up.
  • Regular disinfection of polling booths.
  • Special voting booths have been set up at government-run isolation centers for voters in quarantine
  • Voters under self-quarantine will be allowed to leave their house to vote after polling booths close to the public at 6 p.m.

More than 10,500 coronavirus infections have been reported in South Korea, including at least 225 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

This post was updated to reflect the latest voter turnout figures.

1:55 a.m. ET, April 15, 2020

US Forces Japan declares public emergency for all of the country due to coronavirus

From CNN's Brad Lendon in Hong Kong

The commander of the US Forces Japan (USFJ) has declared a public health emergency for all forces in the country amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, the USFJ said in a statement Wednesday. 

The order, which will remain in effect through May 15, "ensures commanders possess the necessary authorities to enforce compliance with health protection measures" on those who live and work on US installations.

The statement added that the order expands the previous declaration, which included only the Kanto Plain region. 

1:48 a.m. ET, April 15, 2020

Germany records highest number of coronavirus related deaths in a single day

From CNN’s Fred Pleitgen in Berlin

A coronavirus patient is transported from an ambulance plane after landing at Dresden International Airport in Dresden, Germany, on April 4.
A coronavirus patient is transported from an ambulance plane after landing at Dresden International Airport in Dresden, Germany, on April 4. Robert Michael/dpa via AP

Germany recorded its highest number of coronavirus-related deaths in a single day on Tuesday, with 285 people dying of the virus in 24 hours.

New infections in the country are significantly down, however, according to the country's center for disease control, the Robert Koch Institute.

The number of confirmed cases rose by 2,486 to 127,583 on Tuesday -- one of the lowest increases to date.

Some 72,600 people have recovered from the disease, according to the institute.

1:35 a.m. ET, April 15, 2020

Trump's name will be added to coronavirus stimulus checks

From CNN's Jim Acosta and Caroline Kelly

US President Donald Trump walks to the Rose Garden to attend the daily briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, at the White House on April 14, in Washington.
US President Donald Trump walks to the Rose Garden to attend the daily briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, at the White House on April 14, in Washington. Alex Wong/Getty Images

US President Donald Trump's name will appear on checks sent to millions of Americans to combat the economic effects of the coronavirus in a last-minute Treasury Department order, a senior administration official confirmed to CNN on Tuesday.

The decision to add Trump's name will not result in a delay for Americans receiving those checks, the senior administration official said.

The Washington Post was first to report on the news Tuesday.

Two senior officials told the Post that the decision would probably set back the delivery date on the first set of paper checks -- potentially slowing a process that could already take up to 20 weeks. But the Treasury Department denied the claim, with a department spokesperson assuring the Post that the first batch of checks was still slated to go out next week.

"Economic Impact Payment checks are scheduled to go out on time and exactly as planned -- there is absolutely no delay whatsoever," the Treasury spokesperson told the paper.

Read more here:

1:22 a.m. ET, April 15, 2020

Here's what it's like voting in South Korea today

From CNN's Jake Kwon in Seoul

Millions of South Koreans are expected to vote in today's parliamentary elections. But with the coronavirus outbreak, it's not exactly a typical election.

Here's what's happening at the Samseon-dong polling station in South Korea's capital, Seoul.

Social distancing

As voters queue up to cast their ballot, they must stand 1 meter (3.2 feet) apart. Stickers on the ground indicate where they need to stand.

Jake Kwon/CNN
Jake Kwon/CNN

Gloves and masks

Anyone who isn't wearing a mask will be handed one before they enter the polling station. Voters are also given gloves, and their temperature is taken. Anyone with a temperature of more than 37.5 degrees Celsius (99.5 degrees Farenheit) must vote in a special booth.

Jake Kwon/CNN
Jake Kwon/CNN

Casting their vote

Inside the polling station, the booths are regularly disinfected.

Jake Kwon/CNN
Jake Kwon/CNN

Disposing of gloves

Once they've voted, voters can discard their gloves.

Jake Kwon/CNN
Jake Kwon/CNN
1:06 a.m. ET, April 15, 2020

Stay-at-home order would not have prevented virus outbreak at food plant, governor says

The Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Stephen Groves/AP

An explosive outbreak of coronavirus at the Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota could not have been prevented by a stay-at-home order, Gov. Kristi Noem argued in a news conference on Tuesday.

Noem is one of a handful of governors who has refused to issue such an order, rejecting a request from Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken.

“I've seen some national stories written that a shelter-in-place would have prevented this outbreak at Smithfield. That is absolutely false,” Noem said. 

The plant accounts for 4% to 5% of US pork production and employs about 3,700 people, according to Smithfield.

The governor said that even with a broad order, the facility would have stayed open due to its status as a major food supplier. “This is a critical infrastructure job plant,” she said.

As of Tuesday, 438 Smithfield workers in Sioux Falls had tested positive for coronavirus, and the plant is shut down indefinitely. But Noem said even a shelter-in-place order targeted only at the surrounding community would not be coming from her office.

“That could be a local decision that the mayor and city council could choose to do,” Noem said.

Read more about the outbreak at the plant here:

12:58 a.m. ET, April 15, 2020

US may have to endure social distancing until 2022 if no vaccine is quickly found, scientists predict

From CNN's Leah Asmelash and Maggie Fox

This may be the new normal for quite a while.

The US may have to endure social distancing measures -- such as stay-at-home orders and school closures -- until 2022, researchers projected on Tuesday. That is, unless, a vaccine becomes quickly available.

That's according to researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who published their findings in the journal Science on Tuesday. Those findings directly contradict research being touted by the White House that suggests the pandemic may stop this summer.

The team at the Harvard School of Public Health used what's known about Covid-19 and other coronaviruses to create possible scenarios of the current pandemic.

"Intermittent distancing may be required into 2022 unless critical care capacity is increased substantially or a treatment or vaccine becomes available," they wrote in their report. "Even in the event of apparent elimination, SARS-CoV-2 surveillance should be maintained since a resurgence in contagion could be possible as late as 2024."

The Harvard team's projections also indicate that the virus would come roaring back fairly quickly once restrictions were lifted.

Read more here:

12:40 a.m. ET, April 15, 2020

New Zealand's prime minister is taking a 20% pay cut for six months

From Isaac Yee

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Pool/Getty Images

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced today that she, along with government ministers, will take a 20% pay cut for the next six months.

The pay cut will help save money at a time when economies around the world are being heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Today, I can confirm that myself and government ministers and public service chief executives will take a 20% pay cut for the next 6 months, as we acknowledge New Zealanders who are reliant on wage subsidies, taking pay cuts, and losing their jobs as a result of the Covid-19 global pandemic," Ardern said at a news conference today.
"While it in itself will not shift the government's fiscal position, it is about leadership and I acknowledge my colleagues both in the executive and also the colleagues we work with in the public service for the decision that was taken today."