April 17 coronavirus news

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3:13 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Authorities ask Muslims to pray at home during Ramadan

From CNN’s Mostafa Salem in Abu Dhabi and Hamdi Alkhshali in Atlanta

SAUDI-HEALTH-VIRUS
SAUDI-HEALTH-VIRUS Band ar Aldandani/AFP/Getty Images

Islamic holy sites, including Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia and Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, may be empty during Islam’s holy month of Ramadan after authorities say people should pray at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority asked people to offer their daily Taraweeh evening Ramadan prayers from home to avoid the usual large mosque gatherings, according to the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs on Friday.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, Islam's third holiest place, will also remain closed during Ramadan, the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf Council said Thursday. 

Egypt and Jordan will also be banning prayers in mosques during Ramadan, according to governmental statements.

Arab countries are bracing for Islam’s holy month of Ramadan during which Muslims may not eat or drink during daylight hours with increased prayers in mosques and more frequent large family gatherings.

Read the Ministry's tweet:

2:26 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020

West Virginia issues order requiring residents and staff in long-term care to be tested for Covid-19  

From CNN’s Lori Daniel

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice issued an executive order requiring every single resident and staffers at a long-term living facilities to be tested for coronavirus, he said in a news conference.

"I do believe we have the capability to test everyone in our long-term living facilities,” Justice said, adding that if they have already been tested, he wants them retested.

The governor also filed an order effective today, requiring laboratories to provide immediate real-time electronic reports of both positive and negative Covid-19 tests to the Department of Health and Human Resources. 

“All these people that live in these long-term facilities have brought us wisdom for decades. These are not numbers, these are families,” the governor said. “We have had too many discrepancies in testing and I think we can all do better.”

"You know, most of the labs are already doing this, but we don't have…the expediency that we need from all the labs,” Justice said.

2:17 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020

There are at least 679,374 coronavirus cases in the US

There are at least 679,374 cases of coronavirus in the US and at least 34,180 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally of cases.

As states begin to include “probable deaths” in their counts, so will Johns Hopkins. In the upcoming days, these changes may show a surge of deaths in the US.

On Friday, Johns Hopkins reported 8,223 new cases and 912 reported deaths. 

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as all repatriated cases. 

2:16 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Texas governor announces first steps in reopening the state

From CNN's Konstantin Toropin

Pool
Pool

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that he is signing a new executive order today that outlines "how we go about opening Texas economy" at a news conference today.

State parks will reopen on April 20 but visitors will be required to observe social distancing, wear masks and gather in groups of no more than five, Abbott said.

Starting on April 22, current medical restrictions for surgery will be loosened, Abbott said. Procedures that do not "deplete the hospital capacity or the PPE needed to cope with Covid-19" will be permitted, a statement from the governor's office said. 

On April 24, retail stores in Texas should be able to operate “to-go,” Abbott said.

Under this model, reopened businesses are "required to deliver items to customer's cars, homes, or other locations to minimize contact," the statement said.

However, despite some loosing of restrictions, Abbott also announced that schools —including public, private, and higher education institutions — will remain closed for rest of the school year. 

2:07 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Sean Penn’s charity assisting with coronavirus testing in California 

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Actor Sean Penn’s disaster relief charity has teamed up with the Los Angeles mayor’s office to offer free coronavirus testing in California, as well as training volunteers to run drive-through testing sites to relieve first-responders and firefighters from being at the sites.

Penn and his charity, Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE), have been involved in the Haiti earthquake and US hurricane relief. Penn told CNN’s Anderson Cooper the infrastructure already existed to put them in a place to easily offer assistance.

“We had the infrastructure and when we came into play, we came into a highly function governmental response in Los Angeles,” Penn said, commending Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s response to the virus.

Penn said that it’s a fluid situation as testing continues to evolve in the country, but added the federal government is key to organizing and distributing proper equipment. 

“Testing is the essential, complementary component to what the heroes in the hospitals are doing,” he said.

“We really need to have clear guidelines and national strategy for all of this,” he added.

2:04 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Boston is using trucks with speakers to broadcast stay-at-home message in several languages

From CNN's Hollie Silverman

Pool
Pool

Boston is using brochures, phone calls and trucks with speakers to broadcast crucial information to residents in the hardest hit areas, the city's Mayor Marty Walsh said Friday.

The messages are being broadcast and printed in several languages including English, Spanish, Creole and Vietnamese, Walsh said at a news conference.

The city is also contacting seniors twice a week by phone to make sure they have the information they need, he said.

2:01 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Law enforcement agency warns fake medical supplies being sold in Europe

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in London

The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, Europol, warned Friday that organized crime groups have been taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak and are selling counterfeit and substandard medical equipment.

Among the counterfeit products being sold illegally are face masks, coronavirus test kits, disposable latex gloves, alcohol-based gels, disinfectants and even some pharmaceuticals that do not meet quality standards, Europol said in a report on Friday.

In France, police took down several websites offering screening tests that claimed to deliver results within two minutes. Investigators in Romania seized nearly 2,000 substandard masks that were destined for medical use. The masks were labeled with the brand of a Rio de Janeiro-based company. 

“Counterfeit goods sold during the corona crisis do not meet the required quality standards and pose a real threat to public health and safety,” Europol Executive Director Catherine de Bolle said in a statement on Friday. “People who buy these fake products have a false sense of security, while they are in fact left unprotected against the virus:”

Read Europol tweet:

 

1:45 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Iowa governor steps up testing at Tyson plants in hopes of averting a shutdown

From CNN's Dana Bash and Dianne Gallagher

Pool
Pool

Public health officials are working closely with Tyson plants in Columbus Junction and Waterloo to test all employees and conduct contact tracing for all positive cases, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said at a news conference today.

Reynolds said the state's Department of Public Health and Tyson have stepped up testing at the Waterloo and Columbus Junction plants "in an effort to test all employees and conduct contract trace contact tracing for all positive cases."

Testing will conclude today at Tyson Foods Columbus Junction, and 2,700 tests will be sent today to the Tyson plant in Waterloo. The state hygienic lab will be running all completed tests over the weekend," Reynolds said.

So far, 1,500 tests went to three clinics in the Waterloo area in an effort to expand testing in the community, Reynolds said.

"Our goal is to hope that we don't [shut down the Waterloo plant]," Reynolds said.

Iowa Department of Public Health Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter said that they "providing and facilitating surveillance testing" for both symptomatic and asymptomatic employees.

"The goal of that is to keep sick individuals out of the workplace so that the manufacturing and food processing can continue," she said.

By the numbers: The state reported 191 new coronavirus cases and four deaths Friday, the governor said. The state now has 2,332 total confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 64 deaths, according to the state Department of Public Health.

1:48 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020

UK hospitals face "critical" shortage in clinical gowns, organization says

From CNN's Jo Shelley and Nada Bashir in London 

NHS staff in personal protective equipment recieve a patient at Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool, England on Thursday, April 16.
NHS staff in personal protective equipment recieve a patient at Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool, England on Thursday, April 16. Anthony Devlin/AFP/Getty Images

There is a “critical” shortage of clinical gowns in the UK and “some [health] trusts will run out of fully fluid repellent gowns this weekend,” according to an organization that represents National Health Service hospitals and other state health care services.

In a statement issued Friday, Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said that NHS trusts had sought “emergency deliveries from other countries,” but were met with a global shortage in personal protective equipment. 

“National leaders tell us that one reason they have been unable to obtain emergency support from neighboring countries is that many of those countries have already adopted a similar approach due to international shortages of gowns,” she added.

Speaking during a daily government news briefing at Downing Street on Friday, the UK's Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, said the government is aware of the "global supply issue," and added that "everyone is trying to get access" to PPE. 

"I completely understand that people will be worried if there are shortages, I am aware of the supply issues that are being raised," Sharma told reporters. 

"We need to be on top of it, that is why we are working night and day in terms of making sure we procure more PPE," he added.