Coronavirus pandemic in the US

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10:09 a.m. ET, April 28, 2020

DC mayor says members of Congress are essential workers and should return to city

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington, DC, speaks at the Kennedy Center in Washington on September 7, 2019.
Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington, DC, speaks at the Kennedy Center in Washington on September 7, 2019. Alastair Pike/AFP/Getty Images

Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser said that while the nation's capital is not ready to open businesses yet, she supports members of Congress returning to DC because they are essential workers.

“We know essential workers and hospitals and grocery stores, our sanitation workers are all reporting to work because they have essential jobs to do. And the work of the Congress is essential, especially now,” Bowser told CNN’s John Berman. “When workers need relief, when small business need relief, and when state and local governments need relief. So the Congress has to get to work.” 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate would reconvene on May 4. Nearly a third of senators are age 70 or older.

In March, when House members were required to return to Washington in person for the historic stimulus bill vote, many expressed concerns over traveling.

Bowser said she assumes some congressional employees will be able to telework from home.

8:27 a.m. ET, April 28, 2020

Just testing at hospitals and clinics "was not going to be enough," White House coronavirus coordinator says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

A man walks by a CVS in Los Angeles on March 31.
A man walks by a CVS in Los Angeles on March 31. Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

Having private retailers such as CVS and Walgreens offer Covid-19 testing will help bring more tests to communities across the United States, White House coronavirus task force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said during an appearance on Fox & Friends this morning.

"We've really understood that you've got to bring the tests to the community — whether it's drive-thru, whether it's walk-thru — the community has to feel like tests are available to them," Birx said. "Just having it at hospitals or clinics was not going to be enough and so that part of this is critically important to expand community testing."

Some background: On Monday, CVS Health announced plans to offer drive-thru testing at up to 1,000 locations across the country by the end of May, with the goal of processing up to 1.5 million tests per month. 

Walgreens on Monday announced plans to expand its drive-thru testing locations to 49 states and Puerto Rico. Walgreens has already opened 18 drive-thru testing locations across 11 states.

8:23 a.m. ET, April 28, 2020

White House coronavirus doctor recommends wearing masks at social gatherings

From CNN's Gisela Crespo

Dr. Deborah Brix, White House coronavirus response coordinator, looks on during the coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on April 21.
Dr. Deborah Brix, White House coronavirus response coordinator, looks on during the coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on April 21. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force response coordinator, said people should wear masks during social gatherings to avoid the spread of coronavirus.

"If there is virus in the community, or you are gathering people from different areas of a state where there may be still residual virus and no virus, if everybody wears a face mask, then you are protecting the other person," Birx said during an appearance on Fox & Friends this morning.

 She added: “We know that talking, singing, certainly sneezing and coughing can pass the virus onto others. And because you can pass it when you are asymptomatic, people don't know that they are infected."

"Since you don't know if you are one of those, really everyone needs to in those kind of social gathering situations, as long as there is virus still in the community," Birx said. 

8:31 a.m. ET, April 28, 2020

Black barbershop owners are divided over coronavirus social distancing

From CNN's Chauncey Alcorn

Dennis "Denny Moe" Mitchell, 54, stands outside of Denny Moe's Superstar Barbershop in Harlem, New York, in an undated photo.
Dennis "Denny Moe" Mitchell, 54, stands outside of Denny Moe's Superstar Barbershop in Harlem, New York, in an undated photo. Denny Moe's Superstar Barbershop

Black barbers across America are engaging in a heated debate over whether cities and states should lift coronavirus social distancing mandates that have forced many of their businesses to close indefinitely.

African Americans as a group are suffering the most during the Covid-19 pandemic, with higher infection and mortality rates than the general population. Barbers say black business owners, like many of them, are also disproportionately hurting financially from government shutdowns meant to stem the virus' spread.

Several shop owners said they can't afford to remain closed much longer. 

In African-American culture, barbershops are much more than places to get a haircut. Many are marketplaces where local vendors sell their wares and community centers where people gather for hours to discuss politicssports and the news of the day. The unique folkways and stature of black barbershops have been the subject of iconic movie scenesHollywood film franchises, even an HBO television series.

"There's probably all kinds of barbershops talking about what's going on with our government right now," Mike Knuckles, 45, a barber at Select Cutz in Grand Prairie, Texas, told CNN Business. "If you lose a barbershop that's been in the community 30 years and has a tradition and respect in the community, that's huge."

Damon Dorsey, 59, president of the American Barber Association, a barber advocacy group whose estimated membership of 3,000 is about 30% black, said he has spent weeks talking with worried barbers nationwide since the pandemic began.

They're concerned about limiting the spread of Covid-19, but also want to "get back to making money," Dorsey told CNN Business. "All are struggling with the uncertainty of the moment," he said.

Read the full story here.

7:59 a.m. ET, April 28, 2020

Hard-hit US cities begin testing asymptomatic residents 

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

Hoping to get a better idea of how many people have previously been infected with the virus, officials in the US have begun asking asymptomatic residents to test for antibodies.

Los Angeles County will expand coronavirus testing Tuesday to include delivery drivers, rideshare drivers, and taxi drivers even if they're asymptomatic, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

"These are folks that are on the frontlines, helping us get to where we need to go, helping us have food delivered to our homes," he said.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said 1,000 asymptomatic residents will undergo diagnostic and antibody testing by Friday to evaluate exposure to the virus in the city. 

And beginning Tuesday, health workers will start visiting randomly selected homes in two of Georgia's largest counties to conduct antibody testing through blood samples.

"This investigation will help us estimate the percentage of people in the community who have been infected with the virus that causes Covid-19," the Georgia health department said.

In New York, about 15% of the 7,500 people who have been tested in the state's antibody study have tested positive, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. 

But the former acting director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told medical news website Stat on Monday those tests are "not ready for prime time."

"As we learn whether that means you are protected in the future, there could be value in that," Dr. Richard Besser told Stat reporter Helen Branswell about the tests, but "the science isn't there yet to be able to say what those tests mean."

"I worry that people will get a false sense of security and they can change their behavior based on the results of that test, or have a false sense of concern if it's a test that isn't detecting protections that they may actually have," Besser said.

Read the full story here.

8:20 a.m. ET, April 28, 2020

Texas judge opposes governor's plan to reopen and calls for residents to follow science and stay home

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott holds "The Governor's Report to Open Texas" during a news conference in Austin, Texas, on April 27.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott holds "The Governor's Report to Open Texas" during a news conference in Austin, Texas, on April 27. Eric Gay/AP

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the state will begin to reopen Friday, but a Texas judge hopes residents will not take him up on it.

"Just because something can be open doesn't mean it should be open," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins told CNN's Erin Burnett on "Burnett Outfront."

"And just because something is open doesn't mean you should go there."

Abbott issued an executive order Monday allowing businesses like retail stores, malls, restaurants and theaters to reopen Friday with occupancy limited to 25%. The order supersedes local orders. 

"Now it's time to set a new course, a course that responsibly opens up business in Texas," Abbott said. "We will open in a way that uses safe standards -- safe standards for businesses, for their employees as well as for their customers. Standards based upon data and on doctors."

But Jenkins said the best way to open the state's economy was to keep residents safe -- and that the order went against safest practices advised by scientist and experts.

"What we know is that when you look at other science-based plans, movie theaters are not one of the first things that open," Jenkins said. "And so, I think it's going to be incumbent on the residents here to use good, smart decision-making."

Though Jenkins and local politicians cannot override Abbott's order, the judge's said he will look for ways to institute rules to keep residents and employees safe within the reopening.

Read the full story here.

8:00 a.m. ET, April 28, 2020

Accidental disinfectant poisonings in children on the rise during pandemic

From CNN's Jen Rose Smith

When his daughter was born, Alex Kaplan thought his home was babyproof. He was wrong.

"We have a wily little girl," said Kaplan, who lives in Washington, D.C. "At 9 months old, she managed to open a childproof — in air quotes — bottle of acetaminophen."

When Kaplan found her, she was smeared in a sticky mess from putting the gel caps in her mouth. "Acetaminophen, we came to learn, is very dangerous and dose-dependent," said Kaplan, who called poison control then headed to the closest emergency room.

Kaplan's daughter was fine, but accidental poisoning is a serious problem for American kids. 

More than 300 children are treated for poisoning each day in emergency departments across the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On average, two of those kids will die. 

As Americans spend more time at home trying to safeguard their families against Covid-19, accidental poisonings are on the rise. And some experts believe the spike is due to the very same cleaning products parents are using to protect their families from infection.

Read the full story here.

6:12 a.m. ET, April 28, 2020

Here's how contact tracing works

From CNN's Holly Yan

A Government Technology Agency staff demonstrates Singapore's new contact-tracing smartphone app called TraceTogether — created as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 outbreak — in Singapore on March 20.
A Government Technology Agency staff demonstrates Singapore's new contact-tracing smartphone app called TraceTogether — created as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 outbreak — in Singapore on March 20. Catherine Lai/AFP/Getty Images

Contact tracing has helped slow or stop previous epidemics, such as the SARS and Ebola outbreaks. But it's never been more critical — or more challenging — than in this fight against coronavirus. 

Here's what we know about contact tracing:

  • What is contact tracing? It tracks down anyone who might have been infected by a person who was recently diagnosed so those contacts can quarantine themselves and prevent further spread. 
  • Why it matters: Researchers say the US -- or really any country -- can't safely reopen without significant amounts of contact tracing and testing. 
  • How it works: Contact tracers use a variety of methods, including phone calls, emails and social media messaging to reach out to people who might have been in contact with someone infected with Covid-19. When contacts are notified, they aren't told who was diagnosed with coronavirus. "To protect patient privacy, contacts are only informed that they may have been exposed to a patient with the infection," the CDC says. "They are not told the identity of the patient who may have exposed them."
8:20 a.m. ET, April 28, 2020

Texas governor will allow retail stores to reopen Friday

From CNN's Konstantin Toropin and Paul LeBlanc

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gives an update on the Covid-19 outbreak while at the Texas Department of Public Safety warehouse facility in Austin, Texas, on April 6.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gives an update on the Covid-19 outbreak while at the Texas Department of Public Safety warehouse facility in Austin, Texas, on April 6. Eric Gay/AP

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday he will allow his stay-at-home order for the Lone Star State to expire on Thursday.

The new order, which supersedes local orders, will allow businesses like retail stores, malls, restaurants and theaters to reopen Friday but limits occupancy to 25%. The order will also allow libraries and museums to open.

Abbott noted that he wants barbershops, salons, gyms and bars open "as soon as possible" and expects them to open no later than mid-May.

Touting Texas' plan as the "result of tremendous input," Abbott said the state will not mandate but "strongly recommend" that everyone wear a mask as businesses reopen.

"Now more than ever, Texans must remain committed to safe distancing practices that reduce the spread of Covid-19, and we must continue to rely on doctors and data to provide us with the safest strategies to restore Texans' livelihoods," he said.

"We must also focus on protecting the most vulnerable Texans from exposure to Covid-19. If we remain focused on protecting the lives of our fellow Texans, we can continue to open the Lone Star State."