April 27 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Emma Reynolds and Adam Renton, CNN

Updated 9:03 p.m. ET, April 27, 2020
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8:36 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

White House may scale back coronavirus task force meetings soon, only met once this weekend

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

After a tumultuous few days in the West Wing, the White House coronavirus task force only met once this weekend, according to three people familiar with the schedule. The group met Saturday but did not Sunday -- a rarity since the task force has met almost every day since it was assembled. 

Task force meetings usually last about 90 minutes at least as aides go over the latest data before the press briefing. But given there was no briefing this weekend, the meeting Saturday moved relatively quickly, a person who attended said. The task force may soon begin slowly scaling back its number of meetings altogether, a separate person told CNN, as President Trump and Vice President Pence schedule other events. 

The President spent the weekend venting about the negative coverage he received after he suggested last week there should be studies into whether disinfectants or light could be used to fight the coronavirus inside the human body. An exasperated President lashed out at aides, the media and Democrats in what multiple sources described to CNN as one of the most frustrated moments of his presidency. 

One of the things weighing heaviest on the president, people close to him say, are his sinking poll numbers. But being stuck inside doesn't help either. People who speak with the President often said he's internalizing negative coverage more than ever because he doesn't have his usual outlets, like golf. 

Divisions are also emerging among the staff in the West Wing. The new West Wing communications team has decided to retake control of the coronavirus messaging that Vice President Mike Pence’s staff had been handling since he was tapped to lead the task force in late February. 

8:29 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

This Indian village is distributing 10,000 umbrellas to help maintain social distancing

From CNN's Esha Mitra

Villagers in Thannermukkom at the launch of the initiative Friday.
Villagers in Thannermukkom at the launch of the initiative Friday. Credit: PS Jyothi, Thannermukkom village council president

A village in the southern state of Kerala is distributing 10,000 umbrellas to residents to help maintain social distancing, according to a senior local council official.

"We hope the clouds of Covid-19 may clear soon but during the summer and upcoming days of rain let us keep social distancing by unfolding an umbrella," PS Jyothi, president of the Thannermukkom village council said. 

The idea is to stand next to one another with open umbrellas to maintain a distance of at least a meter, Jyothi added. Along with umbrellas, two masks each will also be distributed to citizens. 

Women's neighborhood groups will stitch 100,000 masks under the Kudumbashree initiative in Kerala. The initiative, which mobilizes community groups, was launched under the Kerala state poverty mission to empower women but is being repurposed to fight coronavirus at a local level, according to Jyothi. 

The state has used several innovative measures to help contain the spread of coronavirus and trace infected patients. 

Walk-in kiosks were installed in a district in Kerala to facilitate sample collection earlier this month, and a robot is being used in a Kerala hospital to dispense medicines and food to patients in isolation wards to reduce human contact. 

Kerala was the first state in India to report cases of the coronavirus. The state currently has 458 cases of coronavirus including 4 deaths. India has a total of 27,892 cases of the coronavirus, including 872 deaths, according to the Indian Ministry of Health. 

8:16 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

She's been falsely accused of starting the coronavirus. Her life has been turned upside down

From CNN Business's Donie O'Sullivan

Heather Fulbright/CNN
Heather Fulbright/CNN

Maatje Benassi, a US Army reservist and mother of two, has become the target of conspiracy theorists who falsely place her at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, saying she brought the disease to China. 

The false claims are spreading across YouTube every day, so far racking up hundreds of thousands of apparent views, and have been embraced by Chinese Communist Party media. Despite never having tested positive for the coronavirus or experienced symptoms, Benassi and her husband are now subjects of discussion on Chinese social media about the outbreak, including among accounts that are known drivers of large-scale coordinated activities by their followers. 

The claims have turned their lives upside down. The couple say their home address has been posted online and that, before they shut down their accounts, their social media inboxes were overrun with messages from believers of the conspiracy. 

It's like waking up from a bad dream going into a nightmare day after day," Maatje Benassi told CNN in her first interview since being smeared online.

The family's suffering highlights the potential for blatant falsehoods to be rewarded and amplified by social media platforms. It also serves as a powerful reminder that misinformation online, however wild or obviously untrue it may seem, can have real and lasting consequences offline.

Read her exclusive interview with CNN Business here.

7:59 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

How to clean your bathroom to protect against the coronavirus

From CNN's Ryan Prior

An employee disinfects mirrors in a bathroom at the Taganka Theatre in Moscow on March 17.
An employee disinfects mirrors in a bathroom at the Taganka Theatre in Moscow on March 17. Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS/Getty Images

Bathrooms are a crucial point in the house that all humans -- and therefore microbes -- pass through. So during the present pandemic, keeping your toilets, sinks, counters and showers as germ-free as possible is key to keeping you and your family healthy.

The novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, is known to live on hard surfaces for up to three days, according to data published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Your bathroom has plenty of those.

Start by washing your hands. For your surfaces, you can use any household disinfectant, but the US Environmental Protection Agency released a five-page list of high-quality options -- including Clorox Disinfecting Wipes and certain Lysol sprays -- which can defeat "harder to kill" viruses such as SARS-CoV-2.

Focus on cleaning "high-touch" areas of your bathroom including light switches, door knobs and the sink areas in particular. Don't forget less obvious areas such as shower heads, shower curtains, the toilet seat, hair dryers, electric toothbrushes, shavers and other appliances.

After you wipe down hard surfaces like sinks and counter tops, make sure to leave them wet for 3 to 5 minutes. The American Cleaning Institute recommends letting the surfaces air-dry before rinsing them with water. 

Read the full article here.

7:48 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

Julian Assange's extradition hearing set to be adjourned until September over coronavirus

From CNN's Seb Shukla in London

Supporters of Assange hold placards outside Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in southeast London in late February.
Supporters of Assange hold placards outside Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in southeast London in late February. Matt Dunham/AP

The court hearing on whether Julian Assange will be extradited from the UK to the United States is set to be adjourned until September because of the coronavirus.

Citing fears around the virus, Edward Fitzgerald, QC, Assange’s lawyer, said the “evidence is it would not be medically safe for Assange to attend a video conference," according to News Central UK, a British court reporting service.

Fitzgerald said that for “over a month” his team have had no direct access to the WikiLeaks founder, who is being held at Belmarsh prison in south-east London, where visits have not been possible.

He said “there have always been great difficulties in seeking access to Mr. Assange but with the coronavirus outbreak the preparation of this case goes from difficult to impossible,” the court reporting service said.

He said that should the hearing go ahead on May 18, Assange “would be fighting a David and Goliath battle with his hands behind his back.”

Assange’s lawyer concluded that “for all these reasons we submit it is the fairest course to adjourn the matter from May to fix it for September when a realistic date can be settled on.”

The judge presiding over proceedings, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser agreed that the extradition hearing should be adjourned. An administrative hearing will be heard on May 4.

Assange is wanted in America for allegedly conspiring with US military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to expose classified US intelligence back in 2010. He was granted political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 and was arrested in April 2019 in London.

7:30 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

Prosecutors in northern Italy open investigation into handling of Covid-19 outbreak

From CNN's Valentina Di Donato in Rome

A staffer delivers a medical oxygen tank to coronavirus patients being treated at home in Bergamo on March 31.
A staffer delivers a medical oxygen tank to coronavirus patients being treated at home in Bergamo on March 31. Claudio Furlan/LaPresse/AP

Prosecutors in the northern Italian city of Bergamo have opened an investigation into the handling of the coronavirus outbreak there, Prosecutor Maria Cristina Rotta‘s office told CNN on Monday. 

Bergamo is in Lombardy, the Italian province worst-hit by the coronavirus, and was among the first areas to be put under restrictions to try to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Bergamo citizen Luca Fusco, whose father died of coronavirus in March, started a Facebook group called "Noi Denunceremo" -- meaning "we will denounce you" -- to hold the authorities to account.

The group, which has 48,000 members, wants to ''ensure that the truth of what really happened gets out," Fusco said.

We knew there was a problem, we saw the underestimation of the problem. We saw the cases in Codogno, we saw the cases in northern Italy, and no one was doing anything in the beginning," Fusco told CNN.

Separately, ANAAO, a doctors' union, has lodged formal complaints to prosecutors in 10 regions over what it described as a shortage of personal protective equipment for healthcare staff.

“There's a lack of adequate personal protective equipment for doctors exposed to Covid-19. The high number of infections is linked to the failure to supply FFP2 and FFP3 filter masks,” Carlo Palermo, national secretary of the ANAAO, told CNN on Monday.

So far, 150 doctors in Italy have died after contracting coronavirus, the Italian Association of Doctors said on Friday, adding that healthcare professionals constitute 10% of all infections. 

7:26 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald celebrate Sondheim in their bathrobes

From CNN's Toyin Owoseje

Meryl Streep, Audra McDonald and Christine Baranski, boozing in their bathrobes while singing "The Ladies Who Lunch": This was the quarantine moment the world didn't know it needed -- until now.

The dressing gown-clad trio delivered internet gold when they joined a host of A-listers Sunday night to celebrate legendary composer Stephen Sondheim's 90th birthday and his vast contribution to musical theater.

While Streep poured herself what looked like a martini (vigorously shaken, not stirred), her "Mamma Mia" co-star Baranski, 67, opted for a large glass of red, and Broadway diva McDonald, 49, went straight for the bottle.

For many viewers, the boozy performance and disheveled vibe captured lockdown life perfectly. 

Read the full story here.

7:01 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

Police call UK restrictions "confusing" as government invites public to ask questions

From CNN's Simon Cullen and Hadas Gold

A police officer rides a bike as he patrols Victoria Park in London on April 25.
A police officer rides a bike as he patrols Victoria Park in London on April 25. Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

The UK government’s coronavirus restrictions are confusing and are making the job of police even harder than it already is, according to London’s Metropolitan Police Federation chief Ken Marsh.

“My colleagues are the ones being asked -- on an hourly, daily basis -- to put this into practice,” Marsh told BBC Radio 5.

“And when you’re trying to ask two people not to sit on a bench, and my colleague looks over his or her shoulder and sees 300 people queueing to go to a DIY store without a piece of paper between them, then what do we do?”

He said there had been “mixed messages” coming from the government about what is allowed and what isn’t.

Marsh said that in the past few days, an increasing number of DIY stores had opened up and the volume of traffic on the roads had been increasing “quite heavily."

Meanwhile, the UK government is inviting members of the public to submit questions to the daily coronavirus press briefings via the website gov.uk/ask.

The government says an independent polling organization will choose one question a day, which will not be seen or heard by the ministers before it is asked live. 

The briefings have been held by a rotating group of government ministers, with journalists asking questions via video conference.

Members of the public whose submissions are selected can either record a video of themselves asking their question, or have it read out loud during the briefing.

Read more from the UK hereas Prime Minister Boris Johnson returns to work after recovering from coronavirus.

6:58 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

Preliminary results from antiviral drug trial could come in a week, says researcher

From CNN Health’s Arman Azad

A vial of the drug Remdesivir lies during a press conference about the start of a study with the drug in particularly severely ill patients at the University Hospital Eppendorf in Hamburg, on Sunday, April 8.
A vial of the drug Remdesivir lies during a press conference about the start of a study with the drug in particularly severely ill patients at the University Hospital Eppendorf in Hamburg, on Sunday, April 8. Ulrich Perrey/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Preliminary results from clinical trials of an experimental antiviral drug for coronavirus could come in a week, a top researcher said Sunday.

The final test results for the drug, remdesivir, aren’t expected until mid-to-late May, said Dr. Andre Kalil, a principal investigator for the trial. But he said the team might “potentially have some early data in the next one or two weeks."

Remdesivir was originally tested by Gilead Sciences as a potential treatment for Ebola, and it showed activity against the novel coronavirus in test tubes. But whether the drug is an effective treatment for Covid-19 remains unclear.

The new study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial -- meaning neither the patients nor their doctors know who is receiving the real drug and who is receiving a placebo.

Patients finished enrolling for the study last Sunday, Kalil said, adding that their number had exceeded the target of 572.

The trial began at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where Kalil is a professor of medicine, but it has expanded to nearly 70 sites around the world, from South Korea to Germany. 

Data on remdesivir is confusing at best. Earlier this month, the maker of the drug, Gilead released information on 53 patients, most of whom showed improvement after receiving infusions of remdesivir.

Information leaked to STAT News suggested that patients receiving remdesivir were recovering quickly, but the report was based on a recorded discussion of a clinical trial, and offered few details.

Last week, the World Health Organization accidentally published a summary of results from a trial of the drug in coronavirus patients. A screenshot published by STAT showed  "remdesivir use was not associated with a difference in time to clinical improvement."

But that trial was terminated early due to low enrolment, and Gilead said it was inconclusive.