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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7:58 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Georgia governor's office says state meets White House criteria to reopen

From CNN’s Nick Valencia

Empty streets are seen in downtown Atlanta on April 4.
Empty streets are seen in downtown Atlanta on April 4. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Candice Broce, communications and deputy executive counsel for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, defended his announcement saying that the state has satisfied all criteria required by the White House to reopen. 

Broce said Kemp consulted with multiple public health professionals before making his decision.

She went on to say that the governor “clearly” laid out his rationale for reopening the state during Monday’s announcement. 

Some background: Mayors from around the state voiced concern about Kemp's decision to open some businesses, saying Kemp did not consult with local officials.

"I have searched my head and my heart on this and I am at a loss as to what the governor is basing this decision on," Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told CNN.

Some businesses and churches said they would not follow Kemp's guidance and would keep their doors closed.

7:14 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

The USNS Comfort in New York City is no longer accepting new patients

From CNN's Sarah Boxer

The USNS Comfort is docked at Pier 90 on April 3 in New York City.
The USNS Comfort is docked at Pier 90 on April 3 in New York City. Kena Betancur/Getty Images

The USNS Comfort is no longer accepting new patients, Northwell Health spokesperson Terry Lynam told CNN, noting the number of patients on the ship have been going down daily.

Earlier today, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he told President Trump that he was happy to have the USNS Comfort in his state, but that it was no longer needed.

“We don’t really need the Comfort anymore… So if they need to deploy that somewhere else, they should take it,” Cuomo said in an interview.

The USNS Comfort has treated a total of 178 patients since it arrived in the New York harbor on March 30. Fifty-six patients remain on the ship, according to Lynam.

The patients still on the Comfort are a mix of both intensive care and "med-surge" patients, Lynam said, and are both Covid-related and non-Covid related.

The intensive care patients are more severely ill, but in terms of the others, "Those who are medically ready to be discharged and can recuperate safely at home, that will be done when appropriate," Lynam said.

7:06 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Doctors should take VA study on hydroxycholorquine into consideration, FDA commissioner says

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez, Elizabeth Cohen and Minali Nigam  

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn speaks during the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House in Washington, on April 21.
FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn speaks during the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House in Washington, on April 21. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn said Tuesday that results from a recent Veterans Affairs study about the use of hydroxychloroquine for individuals with coronavirus should be taken into consideration by doctors on an individual basis when they are consulting with patients.

“This study is a small, retrospective study at the VA and … this is something that a doctor would need to consider as part of a decision in writing a prescription for hydroxychloroquine,” Hahn said at Tuesday's White House briefing. 

CNN reported earlier today that coronavirus patients taking hydroxychloroquine, a treatment touted by President Trump, were no less likely to need mechanical ventilation and had higher death 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.

“What [the] FDA is going to require is data from clinical trials, randomized clinical trials … to actually make a definitive decision around safety and efficacy,” Hahn said during the news conference.

“But the preliminary data are helpful to providers. And doctors, I want to ask them to incorporate the data as we have it come forward. And it’s not definitive data. It doesn’t help us make a decision from a regulatory point of view, but doctors should incorporate that in the decision-making they make on a one-on-one basis,” he added.

Speaking about the VA study, Trump said, “I don’t know the report. Obviously there have been some good reports. Perhaps this one’s not a good report. But we’ll be looking at it.” 

The President did not have anything to say about a recent National Institutes of Health panel advising against the use of hydroxychloroquine in combination with Zithromax, an antibiotic more commonly referred to as a z-pak, only saying he’s “always willing to take a look.”

7:03 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Birx on second coronavirus wave: "I don’t know if it will be worse, I think this has been pretty bad"

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

Dr. Deborah Bi
Dr. Deborah Bi Alex Brandon/AP

Dr. Deborah Birx was asked about the possibility that a second wave of coronavirus, paired with seasonal flu, could be worse than the first and how that figures in with plans to reopen the country.

Here's what she said:

"We were very clear in the guidelines that we believe we can monitor, again, monitor communities at the community level by using the influenza-like illness. And this syndromic, respiratory, and gastrointestinal component of this particular virus."

Birx added that they are working to build testing capacity and it's important to "have testing in place."

Pressed again on whether she thinks a second wave could be worse, Birx said, "I don’t know if it will be worse, I think this has been pretty bad."

She continued: "When you see what happened in New York, that was very bad. I believe that we'll have early warning signals both from our surveillance that we've been talking about in these vulnerable populations. We’re going to continue that surveillance from now all the way through to be able to give us that early warning signal."

More on this: Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told The Washington Post in an interview, that a second coronavirus outbreak could emerge this winter in conjunction with the flu season to make for an even more dire health crisis.

6:54 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Pelosi says latest relief package is "very positive"

From CNN's Haley Byrd

Patrick Semansky/AP
Patrick Semansky/AP

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that Democrats consider the final version of the latest coronavirus relief package, finalized today after contentious negotiations, “very positive and a good use of the time that it took.”

"What remains though, is for us to go forward with another bill,” she said in an interview on PBS NewsHour.

She touted the bill’s funding for testing efforts and the requirement that the administration will have to submit reports to Congress on a national testing strategy and the impact of the coronavirus on different demographics.

She also said Republicans have given Democrats assurances all along that they would be willing to pass more funding for state and local governments in a subsequent bill rather than this one, which passed the Senate Tuesday afternoon and will be considered in the House Thursday.

“We could relent on some of that because we know this next bill is going to happen very soon,” Pelosi said of funding for state and local governments.

Pelosi also said Congress will need to pass even more money for testing in a future bill.

"You cannot solve a problem unless you can define it, and we cannot define it until we test, test, test and then do the contact tracing, and of course the isolation to stop the spread of it,” Pelosi said.

She added that President Trump’s “denial and delay” has been deadly, saying he has been “engaged in a series of misrepresentations to the American people.”

He’s a “total failure when it comes to testing,” Pelosi said.

6:50 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Texas mayor opens businesses ahead of governor's timeline

From CNN's Chris Boyette

The mayor of Colleyville, Texas, has issued a proclamation allowing residents to attend churches and other places of worship on Tuesday if social distancing rules are followed.

Mayor Richard Newton is allowing elective surgeries and gatherings of groups of 10 or less, even if the group isn’t family.

Starting Friday, residents can eat at restaurants with tables spaced apart and visit salons, gyms and massage therapists for one-on-one appointments.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott formed a coronavirus strike team to make recommendations about how to reopen the state safety. Newton's order was issued before Abbott announced his strategy forward. Abbott is expected to determine if businesses will open statewide on April 27. 

Asked about the mayor’s proclamation at a news conference Tuesday, Abbott said that he had read the proclamation and that "it seemed like he was writing his policies in a way that tried to parallel or be in agreement with what was in my executive order.”

Elsewhere, Dallas County commissioners approved an extension of the county's stay-at-home orders until May 15 but at the news conference, Abbott said that his order to reopen businesses would have authority over certain policies issued by local governments. 

6:41 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Trump calls Georgia governor a "very capable man"

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

 

President Trump said Tuesday he will be speaking with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.

Trump was asked about concerns from top ally Sen. Lindsey Graham regarding Kemp’s lifting of some restrictions in Georgia and how it would impact neighboring South Carolina. 

He offered praise for Kemp, calling him a “very capable man” who “knows what he’s doing.”

Trump said he is “scheduled to speak to the governor of Georgia in a little while.”

6:24 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Trump details executive order on barring new immigration 

From CNN's Dana Bash and Kevin Liptak

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump says his executive order barring new immigration will apply only to people seeking green cards, will last 60 days and won’t affect workers entering the country on a temporary basis.

Spelling out details of the measure for the first time since tweeting late Monday he would “temporarily suspend immigration into the United States,” Trump announced something short of a full halt on immigration.

Instead, he said the provision would amount to a 60-day pause only on people seeking permanent resident status in the United States.

He said he would review the executive order at the end of that period and decide if it should be renewed. He did not say when he would sign it.

Trump emphasized the economic effects of the order, indicating it would "protect American workers."

An administration official with knowledge of the process tells CNN Trump's executive order only addresses green cards because the work visa portion is more complicated and needs more time to sort out, especially given the fact that many of those currently in the US on work visas are working on things related to the pandemic, from workers at food processing plants to health care workers.

This source said that although, in practical terms, routine operations dealing with green cards are shut down now anyway, eventually it will snap back to normal in the absence of a new policy.

The source said that the 60-day order includes an option to extend if needed.  

The first draft of the order went to lawyers for review last week. In addition to Stephen Miller, senior White House policy adviser, Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli has been a big internal proponent of doing this.

 

7:40 p.m. ET, April 21, 2020

Trump says he's requesting Harvard return coronavirus relief funds

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez 

Alex Brandon/AP
Alex Brandon/AP

President Trump said Tuesday that he would personally asking Harvard University to return millions it was granted as part of the previous coronavirus relief package.

The university, which has a multi-billion dollar endowment, received nearly $9 million from the CARES Act coronavirus relief package approved by Congress, through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, according to the Boston Herald.

“I’m going to request it,” Trump said during the White House press briefing. “Harvard’s going to pay back the money. They shouldn’t be taking it. … I’m not going to mention any other names, but when I saw Harvard, they have one of the largest endowments anywhere in the country, in the world, I guess. And they’re going to pay back that money.”

CNN received a statement from Harvard this evening insisting the President has his facts wrong, writing, “Harvard did not apply for, nor has it received any funds through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses. Reports saying otherwise are inaccurate. President Trump is right that it would not have been appropriate for our institution to receive funds that were designated for struggling small businesses."

Harvard points out that the funds it applied for are going to help students, and is coming from the Department of Education — not the Small Business Administration.

"Like most colleges and universities, Harvard has been allocated funds as part of the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. Harvard has committed that 100% of these emergency higher education funds will be used to provide direct assistance to students facing urgent financial needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic," the university wrote in a statement.

Harvard added: “This financial assistance will be on top of the support the University has already provided to students – including assistance with travel, providing direct aid for living expenses to those with need, and supporting students’ transition to online education."

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also asserted that there would be consequences for larger companies taking from the pot of Paycheck Protection Program funds meant for small businesses. Recently, Shake Shack announced it would be returning its $10 million PPP loan.

“Certain people under PPP may not have been clear in understanding the certification, so we’re going to give people the benefit of the doubt,” Mnuchin said. “If you pay back the loan right away, you won’t have liability to the SBA and to Treasury, but there are severe consequences who don’t attest properly to the certification.”

“We want to make sure this money is available to small businesses that need it, people who have invested their entire life savings, he added.

Watch:

This post has been updated with Harvard University's statement.