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April 18 coronavirus news

Doctor predicts when states will be safe to reopen
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What you need to know

  • Covid-19 has infected more than 2.25 million people and killed at least 158,000 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • The World Health Organization has warned there’s no evidence to suggest the presence of antibodies in blood can determine whether someone has immunity.
  • President Trump unveiled new guidelines to help states loosen restrictions. He told governors it’s their decision on when and how to reopen.
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Trump warns 'there could be a difference' between enforcement of social distancing at mosques vs. churches

President Donald Trump said Saturday that there “could be a difference” in how authorities enforce social distancing guidelines at mosques versus how they do at churches.

This was in a response to a question regarding a post by conservative author and political commentator Paul E. Sperry he retweeted today.

Trump said that he spoke with both imams and rabbis but claims that “politicians treat different faiths differently.”

Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, called Trump’s remarks “insulting and frustrating on the eve of Ramadan … our president chooses to use his energy and platform to amplify the hateful words” of the original tweet.”

“As is often the case, the President is yet again stoking anti-Muslim hate and sowing division at a time when he is failing to do his job,” Khera said.

Asked if he thought mosques might not follow the social distancing guidelines, Trump responded, “I don’t think that at all. I’m somebody who believes in faith. It matters not what your faith is. But politicians treat different faiths differently. I don’t know what happened with our country. But the Christian faith is treated much differently than it was, and I think it’s treated unfairly.”

The retweet ignores the fact that President Trump is pushing for states to ease social distancing guidelines if they are ready to do so, and for weeks has been pushing for some of those restrictions to be lifted by May 1. Ramadan will be observed between April 23 and May 23 this year.

More than 1,300 inmates test positive for coronavirus at 3 Ohio corrections facilities

More than 1,300 inmates have tested positive for coronavirus across three facilities in Ohio, officials announced Saturday.

Officials saw an increase of coronavirus cases at the Pickaway Correctional Institution, Marion Correction Institution and Franklin Medical Center within the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction system earlier this week, Melanie Amato, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Health told CNN by phone Saturday.

The number of positive cases at each location are as follows:

  • 1,057 inmates at the Marion Correctional Institution
  • 202 inmates at the Pickaway Correctional Institution
  • 101 inmates at Franklin Medical Center

A decision was made by officials on Thursday to test all inmates and staff at the Pickaway and Marion facilities, Amato said. Testing began Thursday and results have been coming back in stages.

About 103 staff members also tested positive at Marion, according to Amato. One of those staff members passed away. No additional details were immediately available on the death.

Four inmates at Pickaway have died from coronavirus and 64 staff members tested positive at the facility. No additional details were immediately available on the deaths.

Amato said inmates who tested positive and inmates who did not test positive are being separated. 

The increase in positive was expected by the governor’s office due to the expanded testing capacity in ODRC, Dan Tierney, press secretary for Gov. Mike DeWine’s office told CNN by phone Saturday.

All inmates and all staff at the state-run correction facilities are being tested, according to Tierney.

“Large numbers are eye popping but one of the big reasons here is it’s a congregate setting,” Tierney said.

CNN has reached out to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction for more information related to inmate conditions.

CDC publishes updated guidelines to 'get and keep America open'

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new details on community mitigation, as part of the White House Task Force’s plan to “get and keep America open.”

The guidelines, posted overnight Friday on the CDC website, include actions “persons and communities can take to help slow the transmission of the virus.”

New concepts include emphasizing personal responsibility and tailoring strategies to target specific populations.

“Mitigation strategies can be scaled up or down depending on the evolving local situation,” the CDC said on its website. “When developing mitigation plans, communities should identify ways to ensure the safety and social well-being of groups that may be especially impacted by mitigation strategies, including individuals at increased risk for severe illness.”

Regarding financial resources, the CDC said it has awarded nearly $730 million in funding to carry out surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity, infection control, mitigation, communications and other preparedness and response activities.

The CDC says it has “500 existing field staff embedded in state, tribal, local and territorial health agencies, most of whom have pivoted to support the COVID-19 response.”

Community protection teams are being sent to eight states to conduct contact tracing. The eight states include:

  • Alaska
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

Rapid testing on a wide scale and a contract tracing systems to quickly isolate any outbreaks are widely considered to be necessary in order to reopen the economy.

When asked in what capacity the CDC teams would be working, a federal health official with knowledge of the community protection initiative said they will be “testing new technologies,” including “having people do self-swabbing and evaluating how effective that is. They are also looking at some mobile technology to look at contact tracing.”

Scenes from coronavirus protests across the US

Protesters gathered in several states Saturday to voice their opposition to stay-at-home orders issued to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Here are some scenes from Annapolis, Maryland, Indianapolis, Indiana, and Concord, New Hampshire:

A person holds up a sign while protesting restrictions and lockdowns in Annapolis, Maryland.
Protesters hold up signs outside the governor's residence in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Protesters gather outside of the State House in Cocord, New Hampshire

NY, NJ and Connecticut align policies allowing boatyards and marinas to open for personal use

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced Saturday that marinas, boatyards and marine manufacturers “will be allowed open for personal use as long as strict social distancing and sanitization protocols are followed,” according to a release from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

The states are aligning their policies for marinas and boatyards, noting that chartered watercraft services or rentals will not be allowed and restaurant activity at these sites must be limited to take-out or delivery only.

“A unified approach is the most effective way to alleviate confusion for the residents of our states during the ongoing public health emergency,” Murphy said.

667 FDNY members have coronavirus as of Saturday

At least 667 members of the Fire Department of New York have Covid-19, FDNY spokesman Jim Long tells CNN. The number includes firefighters, EMS and civilian personnel.

There are more than 2,200 members of the FDNY on medical leave currently, which also includes non-coronavirus-related illnesses or injuries.

There are at least 732,197 coronavirus cases in the US

There are at least 732,197 cases of coronavirus and at least 38,664 people have died from the virus in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally of US coronavirus.

Track coronavirus cases in the US using this interactive CNN map.

Testing for coronavirus must increase by more than 3 times to be able to reopen America, experts say  

A medical worker handles a coronavirus test at a drive-through testing center in Springfield, Tennessee, on April 18.

The US needs to conduct at least 500,000 tests for Covid-19 every day to be able to successfully open the economy and stay open, according to three Harvard researchers.

Currently, about 150,000 tests per day are completed, and about 20% of those tests have been positive. More testing is necessary to be able to capture who is infected and might put others at risk, researchers said.

The current percentage of tests that are positive in the US is too high, the researchers said. The World Health Organization has suggested that an adequate test positive rate should be between 3 and 12%, while the US rate is around 20%.

To achieve a 10% test positivity rate by May 1, about 580,000 people per day would need to be tested, research shows. If instead, contact tracing is considered and an estimated 10 contacts are tested for each estimated positive case by May 1, about 535,000 tests would need to be conducted per day.

The researchers include:

  • Dr. Ashish Jha, faculty director of the Harvard Global Health Institute
  • Dr. Thomas Tsai, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Benjamin Jacobson, research assistant at the Harvard Global Health Institute

Scholars believe the numbers are underestimated, Jha wrote in an email to CNN. She said a formal write-up of their research will be available in the future.

“If we can’t be doing at least 500,000 tests a day by May 1, it is hard to see any way we can remain open,” the researchers wrote.

President Donald Trump told reporters the US has conducted more than 3.78 million coronavirus tests to date at a Friday White House briefing.

Trump: Pandemic response should not be 'partisan witch hunt' but he criticizes Democratic governors

Invoking his favorite phrase of criticism directed at the Russia investigation, President Donald Trump says the response to the coronavirus “…should not be a partisan witch hunt.” He added that “we have to work together” to address the pandemic.

However, Trump attacked three Democratic governors Friday urging people to “liberate” Massachusetts, Michigan and Virginia.

For two days in a row, Trump has harshly criticized Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, wrongly claiming Northam wants to take away the Second Amendment rights of Virginians. Trump is referring to a bill Northam signed that allows law enforcement to take temporary control of guns if people are deemed a danger to themselves or others.

Trump claimed that some people are “attempting to bring this into politics.” He later went on to claim that Democratic senators were “nasty” and “rude” on a phone call with Vice President Mike Pence yesterday when several senators asked tough questions about the lack of testing availability.

4,347 NYPD members test positive for coronavirus to date

To date, 4,347 members of the New York Police Department have tested positive for coronavirus, the department said in a news release.

As of Saturday, 5,324 uniformed members of the NYPD were on sick report, which accounts for 14.7% of the uniformed work force, down from a high of 19.8%, the department said.

Of those out sick, about 1,855 uniformed members and 375 civilian members have been diagnosed with coronavirus.

A total of 2,089 members of the NYPD have returned to work full after recovery.

Trump says 'some governors have gotten carried away' with social distancing measures

President Donald Trump said Saturday he believes “some of the governors have gotten carried away” with social distancing measures, when asked about protests against social-distancing measures taking place across the nation.

He said that “a lot of people don’t have to be told to do what they are doing,” in following social distancing measures. His comments come as protests against coronavirus-related restrictions continue in various states across the country.

Florida to release names of nursing homes with Covid-19 cases

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

After much criticism, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced during a press conference Saturday that Florida will be releasing the names of nursing homes and long-term care facilities with Covid-19 cases.

There are 1,627 cases of coronavirus at these facilities, including both residents and staff, per DeSantis.

At the onset of the pandemic, DeSantis said he prohibited visitors and ordered anyone entering nursing homes be screened. To help prevent outbreaks at these facilities, DeSantis said he has sent “strike teams” into nursing home facilities across the state to do spot testing for the virus to identify asymptomatic staff members who may be infected.

DeSantis says he has asked Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees to compile the information and release it to the public. Management at nursing homes are already required to notify residents, staff and families when cases of Covid-19 arise, DeSantis said.

The names of patients or people who have died from Covid-19 will not be released, DeSantis said. According to the governor, between 90 and 100 deaths from coronavirus in Florida were related to nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

DeSantis has another pressing decision to make on nursing homes: Will he release them from liability?

The Florida Health Care Association, a federation that represents 600 long-term care centers, has asked DeSantis for immunity for workers. 

Democratic state Sen. Gary Farmer told reporters during a conference call last week that if DeSantis gave nursing homes immunity, the move would be “outrageous,” “unprecedented” and “unconstitutional.”

During a press conference Friday, DeSantis said he has not made a decision on the issue.

31 states and DC have either ordered or recommended to close schools through end of academic year

With today’s announcement in Florida, 31 states and the District of Columbia have either ordered or recommended that schools remained closed through the end of the academic year, according to CNN reporting.

26 states and Washington, DC, have announced school closures through the end of the academic year:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Five states are recommending to close schools through the end of the academic year:

  • California
  • Idaho
  • Maine
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee

Citing Covid-19, federal judge orders compassionate release of reputed mob boss

Vincent Asaro in 2015.

Vincent Asaro, a reputed mob boss and member of the Bonanno crime family, was granted compassionate release from a federal medical detention facility in Missouri over fear of the continued spread of Covid-19.

In a decision issued on Friday in the Eastern District of New York, Judge Allyne Ross ruled that Asaro’s “age, in combination with his deteriorating health,” constituted “an extraordinary and compelling reason for his release” during the pandemic.

Ross wrote that, while there were no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the prison where Asaro is being held, “absent more information about how much testing the BOP (Federal Bureau of Prisons) is conducting, it is possible that undetected cases are present in the facility.”

Asaro pleaded guilty in 2017 to charges stemming from a 2012 incident in which he was alleged to have ordered a man’s car set on fire. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

He suffered a stroke in custody in 2019, suffers from aphasia, and has difficulty walking, court documents state.

“While I do not know whether Asaro currently has the ability or the power to command others in his organization to carry out criminal acts at his will, I do not believe that, given Asaro’s current state, his release would put the public at a significantly increased risk of danger,” Ross wrote.

Asaro was found not guilty in 2015 on charges that he participated in the infamous 1978 Lufthansa Heist at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Boston to deploy sound trucks with stay-at-home message and Covid-19 information

The city of Boston will begin deploying public works trucks equipped with sound equipment to broadcast messages about Covid-19, including reminders to wash hands, stay home, cover your face, and maintain social distance, according to a news release from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s office.

The messages will be broadcast in seven languages, depending on the community, and will be deployed to the neighborhoods that have Covid-19 rates higher than the rest of Boston, the release states.

The trucks will be deployed beginning on Sunday at noon, the release states.

Arkansas governor announces task force to develop guidelines for reopening

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he’s issued an executive order to create a task force to develop industry-specific plans for the proposed phased reopening of the state’s economy beginning May 4.

Hutchinson says the task force will develop plans that will allow businesses some degree of operation, but maintain public health requirements.

“You can open up a restaurant on May 4, but if the public does not have confidence that they’re going to be safe, they’re not going to go,” Gov. Hutchinson said. “They’re going to self-select their way out of it.”

The group will be chaired by businessman Steuart Walton and the governor said he hopes for faith-based organizations to take part as well. 

The task force is slated to meet start up next week, but Hutchinson said guidance from public health experts will ultimately determine what re-openings can be put into effect and whether the May 4 date is feasible for activity.

The governor acknowledged that not all restrictions will be lifted and until there’s a vaccine, social distancing is a part of life in the future.

Federal assistance to go to 13,000 health centers in medically underserved areas, Trump says

President Donald Trump said the government will be providing assistance to 13,000 community health sites and mobile medical stations that will give testing in medically under-served regions with “many African American and Hispanic communities.”

President Trump says that they are doing “big studies” on the racial disparities of the coronavirus, noting that “we don’t like it” and it’s “not right.”

The President said the job the community health sites do “is incredible.”

“These centers provide care to 28 million people living in medically underserved urban and rural regions including many African American and Hispanic communities,” he said. “We’re taking care of them and it’s so important because you’ve all been reading about the disproportionate numbers on African American and you’re reading a little bit less about Hispanic but likewise Hispanic communities. The numbers are disproportionate.”

Almost 23% of NYC high school students did not interact with remote learning, data shows

Almost 23% of high school students in New York City public schools on average did not interact with remote learning between April 6 and April 14, according to the city’s Department of Education data.

Each school has specific ways of defining interaction with remote learning, the NYC DOE said in a statement. These may include student submission or completion of an assignment, student participation in online forums, and student contact with teachers through phone or email, among other criteria, the DOE said. 

By these definitions, an average of 77.1% of NYC high school students (grades 9-12) interacted with remote learning between April 6-14, DOE data showed.

Overall, an average of about 16% of New York City public schools students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade did not have these interactions during this time period, the data show. 

Schools started tracking student interaction with remote learning on April 6 through an online system called the Student Interaction Tracker on STARS Classroom that schools are familiar with, Barbot said. Through this system, schools can mark which students have not interacted on a particular day. About 84.3% of all students, on average, did interact with their schools under the defined criteria from April 6 to April 14, the data show.

The DOE has collected and is reporting data from an average of 81% of students every day, but data in the process of being uploaded is not included in the latest April 6 through April 14 figures, the department noted in their statement. Data on school interactions will be made available weekly, the DOE said.

230 inmates have tested positive for Covid-19 at an Arkansas prison

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says the state may begin to report the number of positive coronavirus cases at Cummins Unit prison separately from the overall state number, as cases are increasing testing at the prison.

“We’re doing an extraordinary amount of testing there. I was informed that we are doing like a thousand tests at Cummins,” Hutchinson said. “And if we’re going to do that volume of tests, that really skews the reporting and so, I think in the future, we will be trying to show those in a different light, but in a very transparent way as well.”

There are currently 230 inmates with coronavirus, said Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, the medical director for immunizations at the state’s health department. None of the prison’s staff members have tested positive yet, she said.

New cases in North Dakota nearly doubled several days in a row

The number of new coronavirus cases in North Dakota have increased significantly several days in a row, Gov. Doug Burgum said during a press conference on Saturday.

Burgum said new case counts have nearly doubled the past few days. There were 28 new cases reported Thursday, 46 new cases reported Friday and 90 new cases reported Saturday, he said.

The state has 528 positive cases and nine deaths, according to Burgum.

A total of 183 people have recovered and 13 people are currently hospitalized, Burgam said. At least 47 people have been hospitalized in the state, according to the North Dakota Health Department website.

Hospitals are prepared to handle the increased number of patients, Burgum said.

Florida schools will continue distance learning for the rest of the year

The exterior gates of Palmetto Elementary School in West Palm Beach are locked shut following the school's closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that K-12 schools will continue with distance learning for the duration of the school year, saying “it’s not the ideal situation” at a press conference Saturday afternoon.

“We’ve got pretty good momentum for distance learning, it’s obviously not the ideal situation, but given where we are in the school year, we felt that that was the best, best decision to go forward,” DeSantis said.