Coronavirus pandemic in the US

By Meg Wagner, Elise Hammond and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 9:15 p.m. ET, April 20, 2020
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5:40 p.m. ET, April 20, 2020

Illinois governor could consider reopening parts of the state on a regional basis

From CNN's Chris Boyette 

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Source: Pool

 

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker told reporters that as he considers changes to the statewide stay-at-home order scheduled to expire at the end of the month, he could consider different guidelines for reopening certain parts of the state. 

“There's a lot of distance, as you can imagine, between people's homes in rural areas of Illinois. And so the idea of people going outside and wearing a mask on a property of theirs that might be 100 acres, or 10 acres, is much different than the prospect of somebody you know on the north side or the west side of Chicago," he said.

But Pritzker said the decision on how and when to open what is not simple.

“I think the important thing is that that we want to keep people safe and also give them the ability to do as much as possible without spreading the virus. And so those are the complications,” he said. “None of this is done on a whim.”

5:45 p.m. ET, April 20, 2020

Protection equipment from China goes to private distributors to sell — not local governments, governor says

From CNN's Chris Boyette

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Pool

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the White House is taking credit for bringing badly needed personal protection equipment into the country, but that when it arrives, it rarely goes straight to state governments to disperse themselves.

Pritzker said an airplane brings goods, like personal protection equipment, from China back to the United States.

"Which sounds terrific except for one thing,” the governor said. “When they land at O'Hare Airport, those goods don't come to the state or to the cities. They go to distributors. Some of it goes to the White House and the federal government and they keep it, but some of it — much of it — goes to the distributors."

He said the distributors then decide where those goods go, not the government.

“So what they're taking credit for, the White House, is that the distributors have customers in Illinois, that they're sending goods to, because those customers ordered those items,” Pritzker continued. “So that's a far cry from delivering to the state so that we can distribute to, for example, a nursing home that has an outbreak."

"That's not what's happening by them. What they're doing is delivering to for profit businesses that are selling for profit to their prior customers who have ordered things from them," he added.

5:32 p.m. ET, April 20, 2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says a deal could happen as soon as tonight

From CNN's Manu Raju

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told House Democrats that a deal could be reached as soon as tonight on the small business package, according to three sources on the call.

She said if there's a deal tonight, the vote in the House will be Wednesday. If the deal comes together tomorrow, she said the House vote will be Thursday. 

The Senate will try to pass a deal as soon as tomorrow afternoon, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

5:38 p.m. ET, April 20, 2020

There were nearly 2,000 new coronavirus cases since yesterday, Connecticut governor says

From CNN's Laura Dolan

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont. Source: CT-N

Connecticut has 1,853 new coronavirus cases and 204 new deaths since yesterday, Gov. Ned Lamont announced on Monday.

There is now at least 19,815 coronavirus cases and 1,331 coronavirus deaths in the state.

Lamont said the jump can be attributed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changing the way cases are classified to include people who died of Covid-like symptoms or complications related to coronavirus.

Lamont said more testing is still needed before the state can reopen. He said some parts of the state might be able to reopen earlier than others.

“Perhaps some things can open on a local basis,” said Lamont, although he wants to wait a few more weeks before making a decision.

The state has also ordered tens of thousands of “fever-meters” thermometers, which Lamont says will be “incredibly helpful” when people go back to work. The thermometers can be used at big manufacturers to check workers before they enter the building, he said.

8:34 p.m. ET, April 20, 2020

Hundreds of thousands in Los Angeles County may have coronavirus, antibody study suggests

From CNN's Michael Nedelman

 L.A. County Department of Public Health
 L.A. County Department of Public Health

An estimated 4.1% of Los Angeles County residents have been infected with novel coronavirus — dozens of times higher than officially confirmed cases, according to early results announced Monday by county health officials

The study, which is ongoing and has not been peer-reviewed, used an antibody blood test to estimate how many people had been infected with Covid-19 in the past. Other tests, like those performed with nasal swabs or saliva, test for the virus' genetic material, which does not persist long after recovery, as antibodies do.

The researchers, in collaboration with the University of Southern California, estimated that 221,000 to 442,000 adults in L.A. county had been infected based on drive-through tests conducted on April 10 and 11. Given the study’s margin of error, this represents between 2.8 and 5.6% of the population — which is also 28 to 55 times what county officials recorded around that time: about 8,000 confirmed cases.

"These results indicate that many persons may have been unknowingly infected and at risk of transmitting the virus to others," Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, said in a statement Monday.

According to the announcement, new rounds of testing will be conducted "every few weeks” to follow the course of the outbreak at the local level over the coming months.

"We haven't known the true extent of COVID-19 infections in our community because we have only tested people with symptoms, and the availability of tests has been limited," said the study’s lead investigator Neeraj Sood, a professor of public policy at USC Price School for Public Policy and senior fellow at USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics. "The estimates also suggest that we might have to recalibrate disease prediction models and rethink public health strategies.”

On Friday, a similar study in Santa Clara County, California, estimated between 2.49% and 4.16% of residents had developed antibodies as of April 1. These numbers — representing between 48,000 and 81,000 people — were 50 to 85 times higher than the 956 confirmed cases at the time.

Similar efforts to estimate local antibody prevalence have launched in places like Miami-Dade County, Florida; San Miguel County, Colorado; and New York, New York. Experts say these studies could help improve projections and disease modeling, at the same time giving a more realistic sense of how deadly the virus really is.

Doctors suspect, though, and are still trying to prove beyond a doubt, that antibodies to Covid-19 mean one is immune down the line.

5:14 p.m. ET, April 20, 2020

Florida has only paid 6% of unemployment claims

From CNN's Rosa Flores and Sara Weisfeldt 

An aerial view from a drone shows vehicles lining up to receive unemployment applications being given out by City of Hialeah employees in front of the John F. Kennedy Library on April 8, in Hialeah, Florida.
An aerial view from a drone shows vehicles lining up to receive unemployment applications being given out by City of Hialeah employees in front of the John F. Kennedy Library on April 8, in Hialeah, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has admitted publicly, several times, that the unemployment system in his state has been “overwhelmed” by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Today, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) published a report showing only 6.2% of the more than 649,000 people who have submitted unemployment claims have been paid. 

According to the Florida DEO, the 6.2% equates to 40,193 people, who have been paid nearly $60 million dollars in claims.

Here are the numbers:

  • 649,314 confirmed unique claims were submitted
  • 162,039 claims were processed
  • 40,193 claims were paid

One thing to note: Unique claims mean the claim has only been submitted once. Some individuals submitted an application through multiple methods and the total claims, more than 1.5 million, could include double or triple submissions.

8:35 p.m. ET, April 20, 2020

Democrats continue to push for national testing strategy

From CNN's Manu Raju

A big disagreement still remains in negotiations over the small business package: whether to include provisions for a national testing strategy, as Democrats have been demanding, according to three sources familiar with the talks.

Overall, the $25 billion in funding to bolster Covid-19 testing will generally be broken down to three different areas: money the Health and Human Services Department will distribute to labs and other entities, another pot of money to the National Institutes of Health and then another pot of money for states.

But Democrats are still trying to push for a more robust role for the federal government, something that Republicans and the White House are still rejecting as President Trump has called on states to take the lead role.

What Democrats are proposing is something modeled after a plan offered by Sens. Chuck Schumer and Patty Murray last week. That plan, in part, calls for a "detailed" strategic plan led by the federal government.

5:02 p.m. ET, April 20, 2020

The IRS is holding mail in trailers during the pandemic

From CNN’s Katie Lobosco 

Due to shelter-in-place orders, the Internal Revenue Service has shut down all of its processing centers and has stopped processing paper returns.

This means that many unopened business tax refund requests have been moved into trailers.

“There is so much mail that the Post Office can’t hold it,” said Sunita Lough, deputy commissioner for Services and Enforcement at the IRS during a panel webcast by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center last week. 

“So we are literally holding it in trailers until our employees can get back,” she said.

This won’t hold up most individual tax filers, 90% of whom file their taxes electronically. But a lot of business tax returns and individuals’ amended tax returns are filed on paper.

“Filing season is going great,” Lough said.

To help alleviate the delay, the IRS is allowing people to send documents that they usually send in the mail via fax and email as long as certain requirements are met. The agency has also extended various tax filing and payment deadlines. 

Individuals have until July 15 to file their 2019 tax returns.

As of April 10, the IRS had received about 13% fewer individual tax returns this year compared to 2019 and processed 15.5% less.

In addition, the IRS has been tasked with sending out stimulus payments to 90% of Americans, as outlined in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act signed into law last month.

Last week, it sent out the first round of stimulus payments, directly depositing money to roughly 80 million people’s bank accounts.

5:19 p.m. ET, April 20, 2020

Covid-19 outbreaks continue to grow in Iowa

From CNN's Konstantin Toropin

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds updates the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak during a news conference at the State Emergency Operations Center, Thursday, April 16, in Johnston, Iowa.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds updates the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak during a news conference at the State Emergency Operations Center, Thursday, April 16, in Johnston, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall/Pool/AP

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced today two new coronavirus outbreaks in the state.

Reynolds said the state is now aware of an outbreak of Covid-19 at Bishop Drum Retirement Center, a long-term care facility in Polk County, and at Iowa Premium National Beef, a beef processing facility in Tama County.

Iowa Department of Public Health Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter said that the state health department was "working closely with officials" from two meat packing facilities to control outbreaks

Iowa has struggled with outbreaks at meat processing facilities. 

In addition to today's new outbreak at Iowa Premium National Beef, the Tyson plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, has been shut down and two employees who worked at there died due to Covid-19, the company said. 

Reynolds announced last week that 2,700 tests were being sent to the Tyson plant in Waterloo, Iowa. The governor has drawn criticism from local officials for not ordering the closing of the Tyson plant in Waterloo.