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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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.

12:44 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Southern District of New York indefinitely postpones jury trials

From CNN's Kara Scannell

The chief judge presiding over federal courts in the Southern District of New York has suspended all jury trials until further notice of the court “because of constantly changing circumstances” of the coronavirus pandemic.

The indefinite postponement followed a decision Judge Colleen McMahon made late last month when she postponed all jury trials until June 1.

In Monday’s order the judge wrote “because of constantly changing circumstances, judges and parties are having great difficulty trying to schedule jury trials, both civil and criminal. It is hereby ordered, that the conduct of jury trials in this district be and hereby is suspended until further order of the court.”

She noted that the clerk of the court had ordered its jury staff to work from home until the New York state’s stay-at-home order is lifted and they can make the workplace amendable to social distancing.

The SDNY includes Manhattan and the surrounding counties.

1:17 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Deal has been reached on small business relief package, sources say

From CNN's Manu Raju and Lauren Fox 

Main Street is deserted as small businesses remain closed in Rockton, Illinois, on March 24.
Main Street is deserted as small businesses remain closed in Rockton, Illinois, on March 24. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Negotiations are done and a deal has been reached on a bill that includes new funding for small businesses hurt by the coronavirus outbreak, three sources familiar tell CNN. 

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

They will try to pass it in the Senate at 4 p.m. ET

12:30 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Massachusetts schools closed for rest of academic year

All public and private schools in Massachusetts will remain closed through the end of the academic year, Gov. Charlie Baker said at a news conference.

It was a "big decision," he said today, adding that it is "the right thing to do considering the facts on the ground associated with the Covid-19 pandemic."

"There is no authoritative guidance or advisories with respect to how to operate schools safely and how to get kids to and from schools safely. We believe students therefore cannot safely return to school," he said. 

Remote learning will continue. The new order does not apply to residential special education schools.  

12:54 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

House members asked to come back to DC to vote on new coronavirus relief package

From CNN's Haley Byrd

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on April 9, 2019, in Washington.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on April 9, 2019, in Washington. Alex Edelman/Getty Images

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said today that House members have been asked to be in Washington, DC no later than 10 a.m. ET Thursday to vote on the next coronavirus relief package and a rules change to allow for proxy voting.

He said on a call with reporters that congressional leaders “are asking every member to return who can return, and we hope that that is a large number.”

Some lawmakers, he said, are particularly vulnerable to the illness and others are caring for family members. Some are concerned about traveling to DC and then having to quarantine themselves away from their family for 14 days. 

“We're not ordering members to come back, but we do expect sufficient members to come back so we can have a quorum,” he said.

He added that the relief package will likely get a full roll call vote, unlike the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which passed under an expedited process often used for uncontroversial legislation. 

“We think it will pass with a bipartisan vote,” Hoyer said. He said it is “unfortunate” that more funding for state and local governments did not make it into the agreement, which is still being finalized. He said he believes congressional leaders are “close to a deal.”

He said the legislation will include $25 billion for testing, divided between states, local governments and the federal government. 

11:40 a.m. ET, April 21, 2020

New York has 1,000 workers fielding unemployment calls, Cuomo says 

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

A man reads a sign on the door of the New York State Department of Labor offices in the New York City borough of Queens, on Thursday, April 2.
A man reads a sign on the door of the New York State Department of Labor offices in the New York City borough of Queens, on Thursday, April 2. Anthony Behar/Sipa/AP

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged that the wave of unemployment claims has overwhelmed the state’s system.

Cuomo said the agency has hired 1,000 workers just to field unemployment calls. 

"They still can't keep up with the volume," Cuomo said. "And there's nothing worse than being unemployed and nervous about a paycheck, and then you call for unemployment benefits and you can't get through on the phone. I get it. I get it."

Cuomo said people are working seven days a week on the unemployment office problems, but they are trying to update a system that is used to a much lower capacity. 

"The good news is this: You're going to get the same benefit, anyway. It's not like it's costing you money, right? I know it's frustrating, but once you qualify, the qualification is retroactive, so you're going to get the same benefit. … You will get the benefit, it's just an annoying delay," he said.