Coronavirus pandemic in the US

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5:37 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Abbott's rapid tests can produce false negatives under certain conditions

 From CNN's Curt Devine and Drew Griffin

In this April 10, 2020, file frame grab from video, a lab technician dips a sample into the Abbott Laboratories ID Now testing machine at the Detroit Health Center in Detroit.
In this April 10, 2020, file frame grab from video, a lab technician dips a sample into the Abbott Laboratories ID Now testing machine at the Detroit Health Center in Detroit. Carlos Osorio/AP

Medical device company Abbott Laboratories has warned that its rapid coronavirus test can produce false negatives if the specimens tested are first stored in what are called viral transport media, which are special solutions used to move or store specimens.

Abbott instructed health care providers last week not to use such solutions for patient samples tested on the company’s rapid ID NOW device. False negative results suggest patients are not infected when in fact they are.

The guidance came more than two weeks after the Food and Drug Administration issued emergency authorization for the test and after President Trump touted the rapid Abbott system at a Rose Garden news conference. 

Clinical pathologists and lab scientists at the Cleveland Clinic found that the ID NOW test only detected coronavirus in 84.4% of specimens known to contain the virus, which was a lower rate than four other tests the researchers assessed, a spokesperson for the Ohio-based medical center said. NPR first reported that assessment Tuesday. 

The Cleveland Clinic spokesperson told CNN that a dilution effect can occur whenever a sample swab is placed into viral transport media, but she added that in the assessment, the tests were performed from the same viral transport media, so it was a true head-to-head comparison.

An issue of volume: Because Abbot’s ID NOW testing machine only processes one test at a time, labs might have used the transport media to store the test samples until they can be processed. 

The company now advises its customers to place swabs containing patient samples directly in the ID NOW system for testing.

“When the direct swab method is used, the test is performing as expected and we are confident in its performance,” the Abbott spokesperson said, adding that when the company learned about the issue it immediately notified its customers and communicated with the FDA. 

5:41 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Nursing home deaths dramatically understated, Detroit mayor says

From CNN's Raja Razek

Detroit is planning to test every nursing home resident in the city, Mayor Mike Duggan said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Duggan said the city is two-thirds of the way through testing every nursing home, and they will be done with the testing by Thursday. 

"The Health Department did a really good job of getting to the problem nursing homes first, and getting help there," he said.

The rate of positive testing, which had been about 30%, has now dropped to 26%, according to the Mayor.

Duggan also discussed nursing home deaths in the city, saying, "We are showing now 124 deaths in nursing homes. I am sure that number is dramatically understated when the data starts to catch up."

Speaking at the same news conference, Detroit Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair said clinicians from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had been sent to help the Health Department fight Covid-19.

Four CDC clinicians will be in Detroit for the next two weeks helping the Health Department with skilled nursing facilities, assisted home facilities, and nursing home strategy. They will also develop a plan for testing and screening, perform sight visits, and provide training, according to Fair.

5:24 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Senate approves $480 billion coronavirus relief with funds for small business, hospitals and testing

From CNN's Clare Foran, Ted Barrett and Manu Raju  

Senate TV
Senate TV

The Senate just approved a roughly $480 billion relief package that includes hundreds of billions of dollars in new funding for small businesses hurt by the coronavirus outbreak along with other priorities like money for hospitals and expanded Covid-19 testing.

The measure passed by voice vote, a move that gave lawmakers the opportunity to approve the deal without most senators needing to return to Washington, DC, during the pandemic.

After the Senate convened at 4 p.m. and ahead of the vote, a handful of senators, Republicans and Democrats, spoke on the floor to debate the deal. Republican Sen. Rand Paul criticized the deal.

“I rise in opposition to spending $500 billion more. The virus bailouts have already cost over $2 trillion. Our annual deficit this year will approach $4 trillion. We can’t continue on this course. No amount of bailout dollars will stimulate an economy that is being strangled by quarantine. It is not a lack of money that plagues us, but a lack of commerce. This economic calamity only resolves when we begin to re-open the economy," he said.

Paul said that he understands that it would have been hard for many senators to return during a pandemic and for that reason he did “not invoke the Senate rules to demand a recorded vote,” but added, “I did return today though so that history would record that not everyone gave in to the massive debt Congress is creating.”

Republican Sen. Mike Lee was critical of the process for passing the bill, arguing that if Congress is going to legislate during the pandemic, members should return to Washington.

“This is not acceptable, we should not be passing major legislation … without Congress actually being in session, without members actually being here to discuss, amend, and consider legislation,” he said.

The total price tag of the bill is approximately $484 billion. It will authorize the Paycheck Protection Program to spend an additional $310 billion. The deal appropriates roughly $320 billion in total for the program.

The program was set up to deliver aid to small businesses struggling from the economic deep freeze triggered by the pandemic. Funding for the program ran dry earlier this month, prompting concern and outcry from the small business community. The deal will also provide $75 billion for hospitals and health care providers stretched thin by the pandemic to address coronavirus expenses and lost revenue and an additional $25 billion to facilitate and expand Covid-19 testing.

It will next need to be passed by the House before it can go to the President’s desk. Trump tweeted in support of the deal earlier in the day, indicating that he will sign it.

5:23 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Georgia's coronavirus task force members say they didn't know about reopening order

From CNN's Dave Alsup and Angela Barajas

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp listens to a question from the press during a tour of a massive temporary hospital at the Georgia World Congress Center on Thursday, April 16, in Atlanta.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp listens to a question from the press during a tour of a massive temporary hospital at the Georgia World Congress Center on Thursday, April 16, in Atlanta. Ron Harris/Pool/AP

Members of the Covid-19 task force appointed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said they did not know about his intentions to start reopening businesses ahead of his televised announcement Monday afternoon.  

On a Facebook video, Bernice King, co-chair of the task force, said she found out about the governor's intention via text message from a friend.

"To be clear, neither I nor any member of the committee that I co-chair, the community outreach committee of Governor Kemp's coronavirus task force was consulted or informed regarding the reopening of the venues and facilities that are listed in the executive order that he signed on today [Monday]," said King, CEO of the King Center and daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

King said she had expressed her concerns to the governor following the announcement and would be making the determination to stay or leave the task force based on his answers. 

Leo Smith, co-chair of the task force, said he told Kemp's aides he would've "preferred a heads up," according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

State Rep. Clay Pirkle, another member of the Covid-19 task force, told the AJC "it wasn't a big deal."

"Our role on that committee is advisory in nature, and the advice comes from us to him," Pirkle said. 

5:10 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Georgia House Democrats call on governor to rescind his executive order on reopening

From CNN's John Murgatroyd

The Georgia House Democratic Caucus submitted a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp Tuesday requesting the governor rescind his order that eases restrictions of the state's shelter-in-place order.

The letter states that the governor's decision should be "consistent with facts, science, and the best available public health guidance." 

The Democrats also wrote "under the President's Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, Georgia should show a downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period before proceeding with the type of decision you announced yesterday. At present, Georgia cannot show such a 14-day downward trajectory."

Calling the action, "too much, too soon," the Democratic Caucus said Kemp's recent order "puts Georgians at risk and may very well wind up resulting in more prolonged restrictive measures in the future." 

Some background: Kemp announced Monday that gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, hair and nail salons, estheticians, and massage therapists can reopen as early Friday. Theaters and restaurants can open on Monday. 

The governor's order states that no local ordinances can restrict the openings. 

Several of Georgia's mayors have spoken out against the decision, saying the governor did not talk to them before announcing the loosening of restrictions. They also say residents in their communities do not feel safe.

The caucus called Georgia's testing capacity "inadequate" and urged the governor "to permit local governments to enact more restrictive measures as necessary to protect their communities." 

4:50 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

There have been more than 40,000 deaths due to coronavirus in the US

There have been at least 814,587 cases of coronavirus in the US, and at least 43,796 people have died from the disease, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

As states begin to include “probable deaths” in their counts, so will JHU. In the upcoming days, these changes may show as surges of deaths in the United States. 

On Tuesday, Johns Hopkins reported 27,619 new cases and 1,488 reported deaths. 

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

4:49 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Louisiana could be under a new order after current stay-at-home order expires, governor says

From CNN's Jamiel Lynch

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state could implement a new order after it's current stay-at-home order expires on May 1.

“I know you are waiting for more details on what comes after April 30. We don’t know yet,” he said at a news conference this afternoon.

Edwards said that they are working to figure out where the state is in terms of the threshold criteria to reach a phase one reopening — part of the White House's guidelines.

Yesterday, Edwards said he hoped the state could reach phase one “sooner, rather than later.”

In phase one, the state would continue social distancing and limit social gatherings to less than 10 people. Schools would remain closed as well as visits to senior living facilities and hospitals.

Large venues as well as gyms, movie theaters and places of worship would be allowed to operate under social distancing protocols. Bars and clubs would remain closed.

“I don’t bet very often, but if you made me bet a dollar, I would bet that on May the first we would be under a different order than we are under now, that we won’t just continue. But that really does depend on what happens over the next week or so,” he said.
4:54 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Gov. Cuomo and Trump talk testing and state funding during White House meeting

From CNN's Betsy Klein

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he had a “productive” meeting with President Trump at the White House today.

“The meeting went well and I think it was productive. The big issue was testing as everybody knows that’s going to be the next step as we go forward. And how do we separate the responsibilities and the tasks on testing vis-a-vis a state and the federal government and the acknowledgement that we will need to work together on this. It has to be a real partnership. And I think we had a very good conversation,” he said via phone on MSNBC.

The state should regulate labs, follow up on tracing and determine where tests are taken, he said, but the federal government’s role is to “make the supply chain work for manufacturers.”

He said it is their goal to double testing in New York state from 20,000 to 40,000 per day.

The two leaders also spoke about the need for state government funding. Cuomo went on to say that Trump seemed “very open and understanding of that” and said he would be open to that in the next round of legislation.

4:38 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Former Ohio governors will lead state coronavirus testing team

From CNN's Rebekah Riess

Former Ohio Govs. Richard Celeste and Bob Taft will led a Testing Strike Team, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced today.

“Testing is vital as we work to get our economy restarted and keep Ohioans safe and healthy,” DeWine said.

The former governors will work with Ohio leaders from business, academia, and public health to be part of the effort to help Ohio source critical testing items such as reagents, according to DeWine.

Asked about making testing widely available in Ohio’s nursing homes, DeWine said the goal for the state is to be able to test throughout the facilities.

“That's our goal, to be able to surge in when we see that there is a problem,” DeWine said. “And I don't want to underestimate the importance of that hospital in that community. We have asked every hospital to really take ownership and a sense of responsibility to reach out to the nursing homes within their area, their natural area, and establish those relationships.”