Coronavirus pandemic in the US

By Meg Wagner, Fernando Alfonso III and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:50 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020
60 Posts
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5:25 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

San Francisco expands Covid-19 testing to all essential workers

From CNN's Alexandra Meeks

San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks during a press conference at San Francisco City Hall on March 16.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks during a press conference at San Francisco City Hall on March 16. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Beginning today, all essential workers in San Francisco, California, can receive Covid-19 testing, Mayor London Breed announced at a news conference today.

The expanded testing is available to both public and private sector workers and any other resident with symptoms who cannot otherwise access testing, Breed said. 

"We want to ensure all frontline and essential employees that leave their homes every day to serve our residents have a fast, easy, and accessible option for testing,” Breed said. “We also want those who don’t have insurance, or who lack access to health care or access to basic services to know they can be tested through CityTestSF and receive the support and health care they need."

Breed also announced approximately $10.5 million is being allocated to a response and recovery fund to support vulnerable San Franciscans and small businesses during the pandemic.

As of Wednesday, 1,233 San Francisco residents have tested positive for coronavirus and 21 have died, Breed said.

5:32 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

North Carolina examining ways to ease state restrictions

From CNN's Vivian Kuo

A general view of the Charlotte, North Carolina skyline on April 21.
A general view of the Charlotte, North Carolina skyline on April 21. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Stakeholders have been meeting to discuss how North Carolina might be able to ease restrictions while still protecting its residents, said Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state's Department of Health and Human Services.

“I look forward to sharing more ways in what easing restrictions in the state could look like in the coming days,” Cohen said at a news conference Wednesday.

Cohen said decisions are currently being made on the state level, and not county-by-county.

“I think making decisions at the county level is incredibly challenging given how people move throughout the counties. The virus certainly does not respect county borders. I think it's reasonable to look at regions, but we have to be guided by the data to do that. And we're going to continue our work here. At the moment, we want to be making statewide decisions,” she said. 
5:10 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

New York crematoriums overwhelmed by the number of dead get help from volunteers

From CNN's Brian Vitagliano

A casket is placed into a hearse outside of a funeral home in New York City on April 16.
A casket is placed into a hearse outside of a funeral home in New York City on April 16. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Crematoriums in hard hit areas of New York have a backlog of nearly a month and now, volunteers are coming to their aid.

Mike Lanotte, the executive director for the New York state funeral directors association, told CNN that volunteers are helping to ease the burden that downstate crematories are experiencing due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Licensed funeral director volunteers, like 58-year-old Dave Penepent, work with multiple funeral homes to pick up and transport bodies of the deceased.

Penepent, who is also an associate professor of Funeral Services Administration at SUNY Canton, said, “I knew that with the backlog of human remains down in the NYC area there was going to be the need to find a solution to get these remains to a final resting place.”

Some context: In the beginning of April, Penepent created “Hands with a Heart” along with four of his students who have been deputized as resident funeral directors. 

“I’m just offering a hand, and what is in that hand? The hearts of the bereaved families. In the middle of our hands is the grieving hearts of the bereaved,” Penepent told CNN. 

Over Easter week Penepent said he and his team transported 70 bodies to crematories out of the area to their final resting place.

This past week “Hands with a Heart” transported 150 bodies, and Penepent says he is looking at close to roughly 250 human remains to be transported this week. Most bodies are going out of state to places like Connecticut, Vermont and Pennsylvania.

5:30 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

Kansas governor signs executive order to ease license restrictions on health care workers

From CNN’s Sharif Paget in Atlanta

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly discusses the coronavirus pandemic from the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. on April 15.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly discusses the coronavirus pandemic from the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. on April 15. John Hanna/AP

 

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said she signed an executive order to temporarily ease licensing restrictions on the state’s healthcare workforce to “adjust to the urgent demands” Covid-19 has placed on the health care system.

“The actions I'm taking today will we move roadblocks and bolster the number of qualified health care workers who are able to contribute to our Covid-19 response at their full professional capabilities,” Kelly said at a news conference Wednesday.

The governor said this measure will temporarily wave physician supervision or collaboration requirements from certain medical professionals who are assisting in the state’s response efforts such as physician assistants and registered nurses.

The executive order will also permit registered nurses and licensed practical nurses “who hold a specialty license that is exempt, inactive, or has lapsed within the last five years to provide medical services appropriate to their qualifications,” Kelly said.

She added that the order will also allow students enrolled in programs to become licensed, registered, or certified healthcare professionals to help in whatever appropriate roles are necessary to support a facility's response to the pandemic.

4:46 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

California will begin allowing scheduled surgeries

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom at news conference at the Governor's Office of Emergency Services in Rancho Cordova on April 14.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom at news conference at the Governor's Office of Emergency Services in Rancho Cordova on April 14. Rich Pedroncelli/Pool/AP

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday encouraged hospitals to move forward with scheduled surgeries.

Newsom emphasized those surgeries include important medical procedures like heart surgery and cancerous tumor.

Elective procedures like cosmetic surgery are not a priority, he said.

Newsom said allowing hospitals to perform scheduled surgeries is the first phase in returning to normalcy in California.

4:58 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

Rhode Island drafting plan to open parks and beaches

From CNN's Renee Baharaeen

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo gives an update on the coronavirus during a news conference on March 22.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo gives an update on the coronavirus during a news conference on March 22. Kris Craig/Providence Journal/AP

State officials have been asked to draft a plan for reopening parks and beaches in Rhode Island, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced on Wednesday. 

“It's my hope that we will be able to enjoy our parks and beaches in the month of May,” Raimondo said. “We’ll be reopening them, like everything else, in a staged fashion, slowly, with new restrictions, incrementally, leading up to an eventual complete reopening.”

On Wednesday, Rhode Island announced 365 new coronavirus cases and 10 new deaths, bringing the state total to 5,841 cases and 181 deaths. The state has performed a total of 41,722 tests.

4:32 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

New York City has 9,944 confirmed coronavirus deaths

From CNN's Rob Frehse

Medical staff at ProHEALTH Care Circle urgent care clinic preform Covid-19 testing in the parking lot of their clinic on April 22, in New York City.
Medical staff at ProHEALTH Care Circle urgent care clinic preform Covid-19 testing in the parking lot of their clinic on April 22, in New York City. Dee Delgado/Getty Images

New York City has 9,944 confirmed coronavirus deaths and 5,052 probable deaths from the virus, according to the city website.

The New York City Health Department defines probable deaths as people who did not have a positive Covid-19 laboratory test but their death certificate lists as the cause of death “Covid-19” or an equivalent.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus deaths and probable coronavirus deaths in New York City is 14,996.

There have been 138,435 coronavirus cases in the city and approximately 35,920 people have been hospitalized, according to the city.

4:25 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

State budget directors warn that cuts "will exacerbate the economic fallout" from crisis

From CNN’s Cristina Alesci

State budget directors warn that cuts “will exacerbate the economic fallout from this crisis, as well as impede states’ ability to provide vital services to citizens,” wrote the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) in a letter obtained by CNN that was sent to President Trump and congressional leaders.

NASBO paints a grim picture of states’ fiscal health “unless there’s direct federal aid to states,” according to the letter. 

The group says that "given the sudden, severe, and unprecedented nature of this crisis and its economic impacts, even with the use of rainy day funds, states will still be forced to cut essential services in order to balance their budgets." 

The letter also notes that the current crisis is worse than the last recession, when states faced a revenue decline of 11.6%.  States today are forecasting declines of up to 20%.

However, NASBO says that some budgetary management tools used during the financial crisis, like reducing Medicaid provider payments, "may be unwise or unfeasible when combating a public health crisis." 

The group also rules out raising taxes and fees given the large rise in unemployment claims.

5:29 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

Harvard says it will no longer accept federal emergency funds

From CNN's Annie Grayer

A general view of Harvard University campus is seen on April 22 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
A general view of Harvard University campus is seen on April 22 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Harvard University decided to return federal fund allocated to them under the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund after saying they would not do so when President Trump said he would be calling on the university to return the funds the day before.

Even though they did not apply for the support, the university said in a statement that “the intense focus by politicians and others on Harvard in connection with this program may undermine participation in a relief effort that Congress created and the President signed into law for the purpose of helping students and institutions whose financial challenges in the coming months may be most severe.”

“As a result of this, and the evolving guidance being issued around use of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, Harvard has decided not to seek or accept the funds allocated to it by statute,” the statement said, making it clear that the university would be asking the Department of Education to accept the return of their funds. 

Harvard's decision comes after Trump mentioned the funding during yesterday's coronavirus press briefing.

“I’m going to request it,” Trump said during the briefing. “Harvard’s going to pay back the money. They shouldn’t be taking it.” 

When Trump initially called on Harvard to return their funds, the university held their position firm, writing in a statement, “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.

The statement continued: "President Trump is right that it would not have been appropriate for our institution to receive funds that were designated for struggling small businesses. 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.”

Harvard joins Princeton and Stanford in deciding to not accept the funds provided to them by the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.

CLARIFICATION: This posted has been updated to clarify that Princeton and Stanford have not yet received funds.