April 26 coronavirus news

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8:36 a.m. ET, April 26, 2020

Investigation launched into Texas mayor's visit to nail salon despite stay at home orders

From CNN's Hira Humanyun and Alta Spells

The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office in Texas is investigating Beaumont Mayor Becky Ames’ trip to a nail salon, Pat Knauth from the DA’s office told CNN affiliate KFDM.

According to the affiliate, the investigation comes at the request of the county judge, Jeff Branick. 

This comes after a photo was posted to social media of Ames soaking her nails in a bowl on Tuesday. Ames and the nail salon owner told KFDM that the mayor was not having her nails done but was "soaking them in acetone to remove the powdered nails to avoid infection."  

"I had them put on several weeks ago and they hurt. I was trying to get them off and I texted my nail lady. She said the only way to get them off is with a solution. You have to do it a special way," Ames told KFDM. 

The mayor said she went to the closed salon, and planned to pick up solution that would be left outside the door in order to take it home and remove the artificial nails. She said the owner had her come in for a matter of minutes to show her how to do the process, and that they were alone, both wearing masks and at least six feet apart, and then she left within minutes, according to KFDM 

Ames issued an apology on Thursday, for entering the nail salon despite stay at home orders that were still in place for businesses like salons, calling it a “lapse in judgement.”  

On Thursday, Texas governor Greg Abbott previewed his upcoming announcement on Monday for how Texas will further reopen the economy, saying "so many different types of businesses," including hair salons, will open up. 

8:22 a.m. ET, April 26, 2020

More than 7,000 coronavirus deaths reported in Belgium

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in London

More than 7,000 people have died after being infected by the novel coronavirus in Belgium, the country’s crisis centre said in a statement on Sunday.

“A total of 7,094 people have died, an increase of 178 in the last 24 hours,” the statement said. “With regard to these 178 deaths, 75 have occurred in hospital and 103 in a rest and care home.”

Belgian Health authorities say the number of hospitalized patients is “slowly decreasing,” with only 204 new patients admitted in the past 24 hours — a total of 3,959 people have been admitted since the outbreak began.

The number of patients in intensive care units (ICU) went down by 43 in the past 24 hours. There are now 891 patients in ICUs across the country.

“The number of new hospitalizations is stabilizing, but remains fairly high. So persevere and follow the general measures, take good care of yourself and of others,” the statement added, cautioning however that the number of infections in the country is “still increasing.”

In the past 24 hours, 809 new cases were reported, bringing the total of confirmed infections to 46,134.

8:17 a.m. ET, April 26, 2020

What you need to know about coronavirus this Sunday

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová in London.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus helms the World Health Organization (WHO).
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus helms the World Health Organization (WHO).

You can catch the virus more than once.

The World Health Organization has warned against the idea that coronavirus immunity passports can provide a safe way out of lockdown.

Many countries were hoping to start issuing risk-free certificates to people who have had the disease, allowing them to return to work, travel and go about their business. The plan was based on the assumption that Covid-19 survivors develop immunity.

But yesterday, the World Health Organization said no evidence exists that people who have recovered from the disease and developed antibodies are protected from catching it again.

The organization went further, warning that the use of immunity passports could lead to a spike in new infections. That's because people who assume they are immune are more likely to ignore public health advice.

In the wake of the WHO's alert, it becomes apparent that global efforts must focus on the only other way to gain protection: a vaccine.

More grim milestones

The coronavirus has now killed more than 200,000 people globally, according to Johns Hopkins University.

But official statistics are only capturing confirmed cases. With most countries struggling to test everyone who shows symptoms, the number of Covid-19-related deaths is likely much higher. These people might have died at home, in nursing homes, or in hospitals where testing was unavailable.

The United Kingdom yesterday became the fifth country in the world to record more than 20,000 deaths, after Italy, the United States, Spain and France. Just weeks ago, the UK government's chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, said that limiting deaths to around 20,000 would be a "good outcome."

The US, meanwhile, is nearing 1 million cases. More than 53,600 Americans have died so far, with New York state alone recording more than 22,000 coronavirus deaths.

Trump calls time on briefings

President Trump did not hold a daily coronavirus update yesterday, tweeting that briefings are "not worth the time & effort." The media, he added, asks "nothing but hostile questions" and "then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately."

Trump's tweets came after he was widely criticized last week by health experts for his dangerous suggestion that research should be done into whether disinfectants can serve as a potential coronavirus treatment. On Friday, amid the outcry, Trump staged a short briefing and did not allow questions from the media.

A senior administration official, meanwhile, said discussions are under way to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar following criticism of the early federal response to the epidemic.

Read the rest of our newsletter here.

7:48 a.m. ET, April 26, 2020

Indian man buys 28 tons of onions and drives 869 miles disguised as an onion seller to beat lockdown

From Rishabh Madhavendra Pratap in New Delhi

India's lockdown rules allows vehicles delivering food items to cross state borders.
India's lockdown rules allows vehicles delivering food items to cross state borders. Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

In a desperate attempt to reach home during India’s strict coronavirus lockdown, a man traveled more than 800 miles home disguised as an onion seller, only to be sent to quarantine by the local police after reaching his destination.

According to police, Prem Murti Pandey, an employee at Mumbai's airport, loaded a truck with 28 tons of onion and traveled around 1,400 kilometers (869 miles) from Mumbai to his home in Prayagraj, northern India.

“I was stuck in Mumbai. Given the number of cases being reported in the city, I was scared and hence I had no option but to return home,” Pandey told CNN, speaking from the quarantine center. 

So Pandey decided to rent a truck, hire a driver and disguise himself. "We bought the onions from a vegetable market near Mumbai, and using the excuse of produce delivery, we crossed three states to finally reach home on Friday after traveling for three days," according to Pandey.

India's lockdown rules allows vehicles delivering food items to cross state borders. Pandey was sent to quarantine after his actions surfaced on Saturday, Arvind Kumar Singh, a senior police official in Prayagraj told CNN.

“He has not shown any symptoms of coronavirus but he has been kept in a quarantine center as a precautionary measure for two weeks,” the police official added.

Maharashtra -- home to India's financial capital Mumbai -- is the worst-affected state in the outbreak, with more than 28% of the country's coronavirus cases reported there. 

7:42 a.m. ET, April 26, 2020

NBA to open some practice facilities, ESPN reports

The NBA plans to reopen team practice facilities on Friday in areas where local government officials have relaxed stay-at-home restrictions, according to a report from ESPN.

Sources tell the network that players will be allowed to voluntarily work out individually but not as a team.

The NBA also plans to find alternative arrangements for players in states with full stay-at-home orders to be able to practice.

This move by the league doesn't mean that the season is starting anytime soon, according to ESPN's sources. 

7:41 a.m. ET, April 26, 2020

First known coronavirus death in the US was due to a "heart rupture," according to media report

From CNN's Hira Humayun and Alta Spells

Patricia Dowd died on February 6.
Patricia Dowd died on February 6.

The 57-year-old Bay Area woman Patricia Dowd, who is believed to be the first coronavirus related death in the US, suffered from a heart rupture caused by the virus according to The San Francisco Chronicle who obtained and published a copy of the autopsy report.

CNN has reached out to the Santa Clara Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office for an independent copy of the autopsy report.

Dowd, who died on February 6, worked as a manager for a semiconductor company and "exercised routinely, watched her diet and took no medication," the Los Angeles Times first reported Wednesday.

She had not traveled to any area with a high transmission rate of the virus before her death.

Rick Cabello, Dowd's older brother, told CNN she didn't smoke and was in good health.

"She was an athlete in her high school days, she was always active," Cabello said Wednesday. Her sudden death was a shock to family members. They all believed it was a heart attack, Cabello said.

Read more about her here.

7:30 a.m. ET, April 26, 2020

Lebanon to relax some coronavirus restrictions from Monday

From CNN’s Ghazi Balkiz in Beirut

Sanitary workers disinfect the desks and chairs of the Lebanese Parliament on March 10.
Sanitary workers disinfect the desks and chairs of the Lebanese Parliament on March 10.

Lebanon is relaxing some of its coronavirus restrictions, known as the "general mobilization," by increasing the opening hours for some commercial and industrial enterprises in the country starting Monday. 

The decree, issued by the Minister of Interior, Mohammed Fahmi, has amended the opening and closing times for factories, wholesale and retail shops, supermarkets, dairies, bakeries, free trade shops such as mechanics’ shops, carpenters, TV production companies, and other establishments.

Other measures include:

  • People over 65 years old have been asked to stay at home, and only to leave if there is “an extreme necessity,” the decree added.
  • Public transportation vehicles will also be allowed to operate with limited passengers onboard depending on the size of the vehicle.
  • All institutions need to adhere to public safety and social distancing measures.

The "general mobilization" measures that were originally announced on March 15 included a ban on public and private gatherings and called for people to remain at home.

On Friday, the Lebanese Supreme Defense Council submitted to the Lebanese cabinet Friday a five-phase plan that includes extending the “general mobilization” measures until June 8, but at the same time asking the Cabinet to “determine the economic activities that will be allowed to gradually reopen.”

According to the health ministry, there have been 707 coronavirus cases in the country and 24 deaths.

Read more here.

7:29 a.m. ET, April 26, 2020

Belgians asked to eat "twice" the amount of frites during coronavirus pandemic

From CNN's James Frater in London

Belgian potato farmers are facing a surplus of 750,000 tonnes of potatoes this year.
Belgian potato farmers are facing a surplus of 750,000 tonnes of potatoes this year. Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Belgians are being asked to eat an extra portion of frites each week during the coronavirus pandemic in a bid to help Belgian potato producers, who risk destroying surplus stock due a slump in demand caused by restaurant closures.

The campaign is being led by Belgapom, the country's association of potato producers. Its director, Romain Cools, told CNN that he hopes that by encouraging Belgians to eat more frites at home it will, "enable our processors to avoid food waste by processing more potatoes and store them in our freezers -- which are nearly full now."

Belgians typically eat frites once a week, but mainly outside their homes in friteries or restaurants. Coors said this is "contrary to other countries like the United States, where fries are often a side dish for their meals."

Belgian potato farmers are facing a surplus of 750,000 tons of potatoes this year that risk being destroyed because of the measures in place to stop the spread of Covid-19, according to the latest Belgapom data.

"By eating an extra portion during this crisis they could collaborate with farmers and the industry to avoid food losses," added Cools.

World's largest frozen fries exporter: With almost all food outlets closed in the country and across Europe, normal consumption patterns have been disrupted which Belgapom estimates has caused a worldwide decrease in the consumption of fries by 40% since the beginning of the pandemic.

This has huge implications on the Belgian potato growers who are the world’s largest exporter of frozen fries -- with the majority of their products going to caterers and professional kitchens in 160 countries around the world.

According to Belgapom’s figures, 2.3 million tons of frozen french fries were supplied globally by Belgian producers in 2019.

To help citizens use up the extra potatoes, the regional agriculture agency of Wallonia, Apaq-W and VLAM are promoting local and seasonal recipes through dedicated websites to use up excess Belgian potatoes and encouraging people to post their dishes on social media.

6:21 a.m. ET, April 26, 2020

Moscow is "not halfway through" the pandemic as Russia surpasses 80,000 coronavirus cases

From CNN’s Mary Ilyushina in Moscow

People walk on Red Square in downtown Moscow on February 19, 2020.
People walk on Red Square in downtown Moscow on February 19, 2020.

Russia’s capital has not reached the plateau yet and is looking at several weeks of “challenges” ahead, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said in an interview aired on state channel Russia 24. 

“Unfortunately, I can’t say we’ve reached a plateau or that we have some positive dynamic,” Sobyanin said. “Moreover, I see that we are not halfway through yet.”

“Out situation is not overly dramatic in terms of growth, but at the same time we see 8-10-12%, sometimes up to 15% growth in cases, and those are [just] the people who had the coronavirus diagnosis confirmed in a lab,” Sobyanin added.

Moscow hospitals are “coping” with the challenges so far but the health authorities are working to double the amount of beds for coronavirus patients in the next week and half, the mayor said. 

Meanwhile, the city authorities do not plan to tighten restrictions further as of now, according to the interview. Last week, Moscow introduced a QR-code pass system for all movements by means of transport, which created bottlenecks in the subway on the first day of its introduction. 

Cases rise: On Sunday, Russia reported 6,361 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 80,949, its coronavirus response headquarters said in a statement.

More than a half of the new cases were reported in Russia’s regions but Moscow remains the most badly affected city with more than 40,000 cases.

According to the response headquarters, about 45% of new cases were asymptomatic.