Coronavirus pandemic in the US
Our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in the US has ended for the day. Follow the latest developments from around the globe here.
As Georgia begins to reopen under orders from Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, Atlanta's Democratic Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she believed he was testing the "willingness to sacrifice lives" for the sake of economic recovery.
“Nothing has changed about Covid-19. This is still a highly contagious virus that is hitting our community extremely hard and especially communities of color," she told CNN's Wolf Blitzer this afternoon.
She added: "What it really feels like to me, anyway, is that there is this testing of the waters and willingness to sacrifice people for the sake of our economy.”
Bottoms went on to say people should try to consider the risk in terms of their own loved ones.
"I am not willing to sacrifice my mother who is a senior and certainly not my children, all of who are asthmatic," she said.
Bottoms' comments came as Kemp has been among the most aggressive governors in the nation in rolling back social distancing rules for businesses in the state, allowing restaurants to offer dine-in service starting April 27, as long as eateries put in place measures to mitigate staff and guest exposure to coronavirus.
The Department of Health and Human Services responded Tuesday evening to the filing of a whistleblower complaint by ousted vaccine director Dr. Rick Bright.
The complaint comes after Bright formally filed an extensive whistleblower complaint Tuesday alleging his early warnings about Covid-19 were ignored and he raised concerns about the safety of a drug that President Trump touted as a potential treatment to the coronavirus.
“We are deeply disappointed that he has not shown up to work on behalf of the American people and lead on this critical endeavor,” an HHS spokesperson said in a statement. “Dr. Bright was transferred to NIH to work on diagnostics testing – critical to combatting COVID-19 – where he has been entrusted to spend upwards of $1 billion to advance that effort.”
Bright will testify on Capitol Hill next Thursday, his lawyers were informed.
President Trump appeared to back off his claim that a coronavirus vaccine would be developed by the end of the year.
Trump was asked if he was still convinced that a vaccine would be developed by the end of the year. The President responded, “You can never be convinced.”
He continued: “I can’t be convinced of anything, but I think that we have a really good shot of having something very very substantial.”
Trump added that “we are doing really great” and he is getting daily reports from companies working to develop a vaccine.
Some context: On Sunday night, Trump said that he is “very confident” that a vaccine will be developed by years end.
“We are very confident that we're going to have a vaccine at the end of the year –– by the end of the year have a vaccine,” Trump said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he consulted with many doctors – including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx – before reopening some businesses Tuesday.
Following a question from a reporter on how the governor assessed whether it was safe to reopen, and whether any experts that had been consulted, Abbott said:
“I personally talked to Dr Birx. I personally talked to Dr. Fauci. I personally talked to Dr. Mark McClellan, the former head of the FDA, former head of US Medicaid and Medicare. He is part of the four doctor team we have on our staff. I personally talked to Dr. Parker Hudson. Dr. Parker Hudson is an infectious disease specialist in charge of tracing and tracking COVID-19 in Texas. He’s with the University of Texas Health System. And I talk to Dr. Hellerstedt, and talk to Dr. John Zerwas. And so I will put their advice up with anybody else,” he said.
Abbott went on to say that Birx, a White House coronavirus task force official, herself had approved.
“The plan that I announced was looked at by Dr. Birx, and she wrote this is a quote ‘great plan.’ And so how do I know that is that we are on an adequate trajectory? And this plan fits within that trajectory? Dr. Birx herself has said it. All these other doctors have said it,” Abbott said.
He added: “We are operating based upon the numbers that we have had that I showed you what the trajectory looks like. The trajectory in Texas looks good. The trajectory in Texas satisfies the criteria from the White House advisers – satisfies the criteria of the four doctors that I rely upon.”
A new genetic analysis of the virus that causes Covid-19 taken from more than 7,600 patients around the world shows the virus has been circulating in people since late last year, and must have spread extremely quickly after the first infection.
Researchers in Britain looked at mutations in the virus and found evidence of quick spread, but not evidence the virus is becoming more easily transmitted or more likely to cause serious disease.
“The virus is changing, but this in itself does not mean it’s getting worse,” genetics researcher Francois Balloux of the University College London Genetics Institute told CNN.
Balloux and colleagues pulled viral sequences from a giant global database that scientists around the world are using to share data. They looked at samples taken at different times and from different places, and said they indicate that the virus first started infecting people at the end of last year.
“This rules out any scenario that assumes SARSCoV-2 may have been in circulation long before it was identified, and hence have already infected large proportions of the population,” Balloux’s team wrote in their report, published in the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution.
“Our results are in line with previous estimates and point to all sequences sharing a common ancestor towards the end of 2019, supporting this as the period when SARS-CoV-2 jumped into its human host,” the team wrote in the report, published Tuesday.
“It’s very recent,” Balloux said. “We are really, really, really confident that the host jump happened late last year.”
They also found genetic evidence that supports suspicions the virus was infecting people in Europe, the US and elsewhere weeks or even months before the first official cases were reported in January and February.
Balloux’s team had their findings reviewed by other experts, a process called peer review, before they were published in the journal. He said some reports by other teams, published online in on what are called pre-print websites, may have drawn incorrect conclusions.
“All viruses naturally mutate. Mutations in themselves are not a bad thing and there is nothing to suggest SARS-CoV-2 is mutating faster or slower than expected. So far we cannot say whether SARS-CoV-2 is becoming more or less lethal and contagious,” Balloux said.
More African Americans are dying from coronavirus in the United States than whites or other ethnic groups, according to a new study.
Black Americans represent just 13.4% of the American population, according to the US Census Bureau, but account for more than half of all Covid-19 cases and almost 60% of deaths, the study found.
Disparities, including access to health care, are likely to blame, researchers concluded in a report released Tuesday.
The team of epidemiologists and clinicians at four universities worked with amfAR, the AIDS research non-profit, and Seattle’s Center for Vaccine Innovation and Access, PATH, to analyze Covid-19 cases and deaths using county-level comparisons.
Racial data is still lacking in many areas, and their analysis uses what data was available as of mid-April.
The results: They compared counties with a disproportionate number of black residents — those with a population of 13% or more — with those with lower numbers of African American residents.
Counties with higher populations of black residents accounted for 52% of coronavirus diagnoses and 58% of Covid-19 deaths nationally, they said.
“Social conditions, structural racism, and other factors elevate risk for COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths in black communities,” wrote the scientists from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.
“Collectively, these data demonstrate significantly higher rates of COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths in disproportionately black counties compared to other counties, as well as greater diabetes diagnoses, heart disease deaths, and cerebrovascular disease deaths in unadjusted analyses,” the authors concluded.
The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, is currently under consideration by a medical journal and has not yet been published.
Americans will likely feel some food shortages depending on where they live as meat processing plants across the US struggle to stay open due to coronavirus concerns, Marc Perrone, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, told CNN.
But, he insisted the country did not have a food shortage. Instead he said the challenges the United States is dealing with are "an efficiency issue."
"The supply chain is tested not because we’re not efficient…it’s tested because the system has been tested in a way that it’s not used to," Perrone said. “Our system is based on efficiency and that's the challenge that we're having right now. Do I think that we have a food shortage? No. I think we have an efficiency issue."
He explained how the closures and absenteeism at meat processing plants are now showing up on grocery store shelves.
"Twenty percent of workers are not there, and therefore, the plant slows down to a point that it can’t produce as much as it was producing at maximum efficiency. Our entire system is based on efficiency. That’s one of the reasons we’ve had shortages inside the store," he said.
Perrone called processing plants "stationary cruise ships" due to the way the virus has spread within them but said it wasn't always about a delay in closing a plant with an outbreak.
"The failure that we had was not necessarily because the processors weren’t willing to do something earlier. The failure we had was because we couldn’t get the personal protective equipment and the testing that we needed on the front side to get ahead of this," Perrone explained.
He added: “I do think the federal government could take a more active role in safety standards inside the plant that were enforceable. I think the government could mandate the highest form of PPE for those workers in those plants because they’re standing so close to each other. I think that testing and tracing is significant to be able to make sure we can root out the virus out of the plant. And make sure they provide layers of PPE in those plants."
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office in Chicago plans to review previous deaths involving heart attacks and pneumonia for indications of Covid-19 as far back as November, a spokesperson confirmed to CNN.
The first known coronavirus death in the Chicago area occurred March 16, but the medical examiner’s office now plans to review case records from much earlier deaths for signs of Covid-19, Cook County spokesperson Natalia Derevyanny tells CNN.
The medical examiner's office says viral pneumonia cases along with heart attacks caused by arteries being blocked will be examined.
“The goal is to see if this virus was present before we knew of it,” Derevyanny said.
The medical examiner's office expects this testing phase to last about a month but that timetable will ultimately depend on their caseload.
While Derevyanny called the decision to look back to November an arbitrary timeframe, if a positive case is discovered it will prompt the office to look back even further.
As of Monday, Cook County reported a total of 54,223 cases and 1,948 COVID-19-related deaths.