Coronavirus pandemic in the US

By Meg Wagner, Elise Hammond and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:35 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020
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2:20 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

There are more than 800,000 coronavirus cases in the US

From CNN's Ethan Cohen

There are at least 804,194 cases of coronavirus in the US, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Today, Johns Hopkins has reported 17,226 new cases in the United States. 

The US surpassed 700,000 cases on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins’ tally.

2:28 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Air Canada suspends flights to the US until May 22

From CNN’s Paula Newton

 

A passenger wheels her luggage near an Air Canada logo at Toronto Pearson International Airport on April 1 in Toronto, Canada.
A passenger wheels her luggage near an Air Canada logo at Toronto Pearson International Airport on April 1 in Toronto, Canada. Cole Burston/Getty Images

Air Canada will suspend flights to the United States starting Sunday until May 22. 

The airline made the decision “as a result of the agreement between the governments of Canada and the United States to extend border restrictions by an additional 30 days," according to a statement on Tuesday. 

The airline said it is is waiving change fees for affected customers with bookings during this period.

Since March 16, Air Canada has reduced its schedule by more than 90% as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the airline said.

2:25 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

New study finds higher death rate in patients taking hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19

From CNN Health’s Elizabeth Cohen and Minali Nigam

A pharmacist shows a bottle of the drug hydroxychloroquine on Monday, April 6, in Oakland, California.
A pharmacist shows a bottle of the drug hydroxychloroquine on Monday, April 6, in Oakland, California. Ben Margot/AP

Coronavirus patients taking hydroxychloroquine, a treatment touted by President Trump, were no less likely to need mechanical ventilation and had higher deaths rates compared to those who did not take the drug, according to a study of hundreds of patients at United States Veterans Health Administration medical centers.

In the study of 368 patients, 97 patients who took hydroxychloroquine had a 27.8% death rate. The 158 patients who did not take the drug had an 11.4% death rate.  

“An association of increased overall mortality was identified in patients treated with hydroxychloroquine alone. These findings highlight the importance of awaiting the results of ongoing prospective, randomized, controlled studies before widespread adoption of these drugs,” wrote the authors, who work at the Columbia VA Health Care System in South Carolina, the University of South Carolina and the University of Virginia.  

Researchers also looked at whether taking hydroxychloroquine or a combination of hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin, had an effect on whether a patient needed to go on a ventilator.  They found there was no difference between these groups and the patients who took neither drug.  

 “In this study, we found no evidence that use of hydroxychloroquine, either with or without azithromycin, reduced the risk of mechanical ventilation in patients hospitalized with Covid-19,” the authors wrote.  

Remember: The study, which reviewed the veterans’ medical charts, was posted Tuesday on medrxiv.org, a pre-print server –– meaning it was not peer reviewed or published in a medical journal. 

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the University of Virginia.

2:05 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

New emergency business relief funds only projected to last a few days

From CNN’s Julia Chatterley, Manu Raju and Clare Foran

The $310 billion in new funding for the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program is only projected to last few days as businesses rush in for funds, according to a banking industry source.

“Two-10 days, but our guess is on the lower end of that timeline,” the source said.

Today, congressional negotiations reached a deal on a bill that includes hundreds of billions of dollars in new funding for small businesses hurt by the coronavirus outbreak, three sources familiar tell CNN.

The text of the bill should be unveiled as soon as Tuesday afternoon as the two sides give the deal a final read.

Lawmakers will try to pass the bill in the Senate at 4 p.m. ET when the chamber convenes for a pro forma session.

1:58 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

House Republican leader presses for details on proxy voting

From CNN's Haley Byrd

In this March 5 file photo, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy holds his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill on in Washington.
In this March 5 file photo, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy holds his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill on in Washington. Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Republican leaders are pushing back on an effort to change the House rules to allow for remote voting by proxy ahead of an expected vote on the matter Thursday.

"What are the details of this proposal, how will it avoid potential abuses of power, and when do you expect this proposal to be made public for the necessary scrutiny and member input that changing 200 years of House precedent would merit?” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this afternoon.

In the letter, he also raised questions about the 2020 House calendar and how committee business will be conducted going forward.

His comments come as Republican members are increasingly opposed to implementing proxy voting, which would allow members who are unable or unwilling to travel during the coronavirus pandemic to instruct another member how to vote on their behalf.

House Democratic leaders have said they want to pass the rules change on a bipartisan basis, but as they are in the majority they could pass it without Republican support

The language of the rules change has not been finalized yet, but it would be temporary and used only for emergencies like the pandemic, according to House Rules Chair Jim McGovern. 

1:58 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

At least 7 coronavirus cases are tied to Wisconsin's in-person election, officials say

From CNN's Abby Phillip

Elections Chief Inspector Mary Magdalen Moser runs a polling location in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in full hazmat gear as the Wisconsin primary kicks off despite the coronavirus pandemics on April 7.
Elections Chief Inspector Mary Magdalen Moser runs a polling location in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in full hazmat gear as the Wisconsin primary kicks off despite the coronavirus pandemics on April 7. Derek R. Henkle/AFP/Getty Images

Wisconsin's Department of Health Services said that they now have at least seven cases of Covid-19 tied to the state's in-person election on April 7, a spokesperson confirmed to CNN.

"We are confirming 7 cases as of yesterday," the department's spokesperson Shawn Benjamin said in a statement.

In an effort to investigate the impact of the election on the state's coronavirus cases, the department added “election activity” to its list of investigation questions in the disease registry, the statement said.

"Please note that we only have 30% of the data back from new cases as of 4/7 and on," Benjamin said.

"We hope to have these fields complete by Friday and will provide a more complete report then," he added.

"While we continue to monitor cases of Covid-19 linked to election activity, we know that gatherings such as [the election] are detrimental to the efforts to slow the spread of this pandemic," Dr. Ben Weston, the medical director for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management, said in the statement.
2:02 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

New York funeral directors are still struggling to keep up with high volume

From CNN's Brian Vitagliano

A casket is placed into a van outside of a funeral home in the heavily Orthodox Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, which has scene a large number of deaths due to the coronavirus, on April 19, in New York City.
A casket is placed into a van outside of a funeral home in the heavily Orthodox Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, which has scene a large number of deaths due to the coronavirus, on April 19, in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Mike Lanotte, the executive director for the New York State Funeral Directors Association, tells CNN that while the number of coronavirus-related deaths is decreasing, there is still a backlog of deaths in the system.

Lanotte said his directors are still working through the same volume issues as earlier.

The association is hopeful they will get relief as it relates to crematories which in New York City are four weeks behind on scheduling, according to Lanotte.

Lanotte said they are working to expedite the process to make it easier for families.

“Once the volume of death is handled, it will relieve some of the stress on the system but funeral directors lag behind the curve naturally,” Lanotte said.  

Lanotte said New York state funeral directors are still working up to 16 hour days in order to answer all the requests for families and not turn anybody away.

“We are looking to decompress the stress on downstate crematories by making the process as efficient as possible,” Lanotte said.

1:12 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Alabama stay-at-home order will not be lifted yet, governor says

From CNN's Tina Burnside

Alabama's stay-at-home order will remain in effect until April 30, Gov. Kay Ivey said at a news conference today.

Last week Ivey announced the creation of a coronavirus task force that would begin listening to all recommendations and will put together a timeline for reopening based on facts and data. 

Ivey said while she is as eager as anyone to get the economy moving again, it must be done in a responsible way.

"Getting our economy up and running is not as simple as flipping a switch," Ivey said. 

She also said the state needs to expand its testing before resuming normal economic activity. 

Unemployment in the state: About 306,000 Alabama residents have applied for unemployment benefits in the last three weeks, Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said.

Washington said they have hit a peak in filings with daily applications trending downward. At least 40% of those who have applied for benefits have been paid, according to Washington. 

So far the state has paid out $264 million in unemployment benefits. 

12:53 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

New York City jail population falls below 4,000 for the first time in 70 years

From CNN's Elizabeth Hartfield

New York City’s jail population fell below 4,000 last week during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

According to the mayor’s office, this is the first time in over 70 years that the city’s jail population has been below 4,000.

The city has been releasing many low level offenders for the last several weeks in response to the safety threat posed by coronavirus to jails.

“This dramatic reduction in the detainee population is a significant development which has allowed us to increase social distancing within our facilities as we deploy all available measures to fight the Covid-19 virus,” Department of Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann said in a statement.

Some background: De Blasio issued an executive order March 16 that directed city officials to work with the Department of Correction to implement a plan to reduce the jail population safely — focusing on those most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Since March 16, the number of people entering jail fell to about 600 people, compared to 3,300 over the same time period last year, a statement from the mayor's office said. More than 2,000 people had been leaving the system at the same time, the statement said.