April 19 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Jenni Marsh, Laura Smith-Spark, Fernando Alfonso III and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 10:02 p.m. ET, April 19, 2020
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2:30 p.m. ET, April 19, 2020

100,000 people gather for funeral in Bangladesh, defying coronavirus lockdown

From Abir Mahmud in Bangladesh and Jaide Garcia 

Masuk Hridoy/AP
Masuk Hridoy/AP

More than 100,000 people defied Bangladesh's lockdown order on Saturday to attend the funeral of a senior leader of the Islamist party in the district of Brahmanbaria, according to the prime minister's special assistant, Shah Ali Farhad, and the Brahmanbaria police spokesperson Imtiaz Ahmed. 

The funeral for Maulana Zubayer Ahmad Ansari, an Islamic teacher, broke the country's ban of no more than five people attending prayers at one time, sparking fears of a new coronavirus outbreak emerging from the event. 

Tens of thousands of people flooded the roads to Brahmanbaria district, walking from the surrounding areas to attend the funeral, according to Mohammad Mamunul Haque, the joint secretary general of the Islamist party. 

The police were unable to control the crowd, resulting in the officer in charge and assistant superintendent being withdrawn from the event and a "three-member probe committee" being formed to start an investigation into the congregation activity, according to Sohel Rana, the Bangladesh Police Central spokesperson.

Bangladesh has a recorded total of 2,456 positive cases of coronavirus, with 91 deaths as of Sunday, though critics say the true number is higher and still unknown due to lack of testing kits. 

2:16 p.m. ET, April 19, 2020

Coronavirus outbreak in Austria is "under control," chancellor says

From CNN's Nada Bashir

A view of a shop in Vienna, Austria, on April 17.
A view of a shop in Vienna, Austria, on April 17. David Visnjic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The coronavirus outbreak in Austria in "under control," Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Sunday, crediting the positive development as a result of the government's early implementation of strict containment measures. 

"We were one of the first countries in Europe which decided to have a complete lockdown, and I think it was extremely important that we were faster than others and our reaction was tougher than in other countries," Kurz told CNN. "It was good that we did it because now the situation in Austria is under control. We only have about 100 new infections every day," he added. 

According to the Austrian leader, the number of new in-country coronavirus cases continues to go down, prompting the government to look towards a gradual relaxation of the nationwide lockdown. 

"What we are trying is to re-open very slowly and very carefully. We are doing this step-by-step, always with two weeks in between," Kurz said. "It is important that we always have two weeks in between, which gives us the opportunity to watch the numbers very carefully and slow down our re-opening plan and, if necessary, pull the emergency brake."

Kurz outlined that the government expects to allow small shops to open on Monday, extending to all shops by May 1; by mid-May, the government will look to extend this measure further to include restaurants, he added. 

"Of course, we will still have restrictions like social distancing…people in shops and also, in the future, people in restaurants and elsewhere will have to wear masks," Kurz said. 

1:56 p.m. ET, April 19, 2020

Cuba records more than 1,000 cases of coronavirus 

From CNN's Patrick Oppmann in Havana 

Cuba has reported 1,035 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to health officials on Sunday.

This is the first time the total number of infected people has topped 1,000 on the island. 

Cuba has enacted some of the region’s toughest restrictions as officials combat the spread of the disease, suspending nearly all domestic and international travel. Citizens who return from abroad are required to spend 14 days at government isolation facilities and anyone suspected of having coronavirus must immediately go to hospital for treatment.

The economic impacts of the pandemic have led to longer lines for food and other basic items, complicating efforts to stem the spread of the infection. 

As of Sunday, the death toll stands at 34, according to Dr. Francisco Durán García, Cuba’s national director of Epidemiology at the Ministry of Public Health. 

1:27 p.m. ET, April 19, 2020

Pelosi suggests she would support a proposal to allow proxy voting during the pandemic

From CNN's Sarah Westwood

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks to the press on March 27.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks to the press on March 27. Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested she could back a proposal from other Democratic congressional leaders to allow proxy voting during the coronavirus pandemic — a possible solution to the logistical issues facing members of Congress as they attempt to navigate the challenge of working on complex legislation from afar. 

Pelosi said on Fox today that relevant committee chairs had arrived at the idea of proxy voting after she tasked them with considering ways to keep up with House business while members adhered to federal guidelines recommending against travel and gathering in groups.

1:16 p.m. ET, April 19, 2020

Louisiana is in a "much better place today than we thought we were going to be," governor says

From CNN's Carma Hassan

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks on April 15.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks on April 15. Travis Spradling/The Advocate via AP

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a news conference today that even though the number of coronavirus cases is growing, the state has less people in the hospital and less people using ventilators.

He also said the number of deaths “is a lagging indicator” and “it still appears that we are trending in a good direction and that’s a good thing.”

The state reported 348 new cases of Covid-19 which brings the total to 23,928. There were 29 new deaths which brings the total number of deaths in Louisiana to 1,296, Edwards said.

“Now the number of cases and the number of deaths are lower than they have been for the last number of days, that’s a good thing, but I would caution everybody that typically on Sunday the numbers go down,” Edwards said. “It’s just a function of when the labs report and so forth, so what we would like to see is a continued downward trajectory tomorrow and Tuesday and on through the week.”

“We’re in much, much better place today than we thought we were going to be,” Edwards said, adding that Louisiana citizens are taking the stay at home order seriously and sticking to social distancing guidelines.

Edwards doesn’t think life will go back to normal until there is a vaccine for coronavirus, but they will take some steps in the meantime.

“As always, I want to remind everyone that it’s going to take all of us working together and for some period of time to defeat this virus, get back to life as normal,” Edwards said. “We’re not going to see that for a while and I suspect we won’t fully see it until after there’s a vaccine that’s administered to the entire population.”

1:12 p.m. ET, April 19, 2020

"The beast can rise up again" if the economy is opened too quickly, Gov. Cuomo says

From CNN's Elise Hammond

Stat
Stat

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations is "purely contingent on what we do" and reopening the economy too quickly without a specific plan could cause the numbers to increase again.

"If we went through this, and lost all of these people and forced the essential workers and the hospital workers to do unbelievable tasks to get us through this crisis, and we recreate the crisis, then shame on us," Cuomo said at a news conference today.

"We can control the beast. Yes, but the beast is still alive. We did not kill the beast –– and the beast can rise up again," Cuomo added.

On antibody testing: Cuomo said said the FDA has approved the state's antibody tests.

“Now that we have the approved test we’re going to be rolling it out to do the largest survey of any state population that has been done,” he said.

Cuomo said the state can conduct 2,000 antibody tests per day, or about 14,000 per week. He mentioned that while this sounds like a large number, it is only a small percentage of New York's population of more than 19 million people.

Cuomo said this is the first real statistical number on exactly “where we are as a population,” and will provide a true “baseline.”

“We have not had hard data on where we are," Cuomo said.

1:10 p.m. ET, April 19, 2020

Michigan governor responds to criticism over stay-at-home order

From CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian

CNN
CNN

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer responded to criticism about how detailed and specific the state's stay-home orders.

"You know my stay-home order is one of the nation's more conservative, but the fact of the matter is, it's working. We are seeing the curve start to flatten. And that means we're saving lives," Whitmer told CNN today. "Who among us wouldn’t rather forgo jet skiing or boating right now if its going to save your grandparent or your neighbors life and that’s precisely what the tradeoff is at the moment."

The democratic governor extended Michigan’s stay-home order through April 30. The stringent order includes restrictions like prohibiting most people from traveling between residences unless they're taking care of a relative or dropping off a child.

When asked whether Michigan has enough tests, Whitmer said, “governors are doing the best we can with what we got. We could use some assistance to make sure the supply chain issues are addressed and we can do the robust testing that every epidemiologist in our country tells you is essential as we prepare to think about reengaging sectors of our economy.”

Some context: Whitmer said Michigan has the third highest death count in the country and is the 10th largest state, she told CNN.

“This means we have a uniquely hard issue here because it’s disproportionately hurting our state and that’s why we need to take a uniquely aggressive action to protect people," she said.

12:46 p.m. ET, April 19, 2020

New York to start "aggressive" antibody testing, governor says

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

State of New York
State of New York

New York state will undertake the “most aggressive” statewide antibody testing survey in the nation over the next week, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo said they will sample thousands of people across the state to find out if they have antibodies.

“That will tell us for the first time what percent of the population actually has had the coronavirus and is now at least short term immune to the virus," he said.

“This will be the first true snapshot of what we’re really dealing with," Cuomo added.

The New York State Department of Health will be running the tests over the next week.

The state will have to work with the White House to assist with the supply chain and coordinate private labs, Cuomo said.

12:36 p.m. ET, April 19, 2020

"This is halftime" in the coronavirus battle, New York governor says

From CNN's Elise Hammond

State of New York
State of New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said "this is only halftime" in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic in New York.

The governor said at his daily press conference today that the battle has not been won yet and any plan to reopen the economy has to be based on data and testing.

Cuomo said New York needs to learn from this experience and focus on rebuilding.

"Let's take these lessons forward and how do we build back better than before," Cuomo said. "We have to open for a better future than we have ever had. We have to learn from this."

Cuomo said the second phase of the state's plan to reopen the economy will require New Yorkers to do no harm, be smarter and develop new testing and learn the lessons to build back better.

Cuomo also thanked the 95,000 medical professionals from inside and outside the state that have helped with coronavirus response efforts, saying it reminds him of the help the state received after 9/11.

He said just as it did then, the support gives us “confidence” that “were not in it alone.”

Cuomo has spoken to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and told him that if they have to scramble, New York is going to “be there for you.”

New York has identified 400 ventilators to bring over to Massachusetts “on 24 hours notice” should they need it, Cuomo said.