Coronavirus pandemic in the US

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

Updated 8:50 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020
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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.

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

HHS announces funding for coronavirus testing for uninsured Americans

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

A medical worker places a swab in a vial while testing on April 16 in Miami.
A medical worker places a swab in a vial while testing on April 16 in Miami. Lynne Sladky/AP

 The US Department of Health and Human Services announced the distribution of billions of dollars in additional federal coronavirus aid money to health care providers from the initial $100 billion allocation in a media briefing Wednesday.

Some of the money from the CARES Act will go to reimburse caregivers who treated Covid-19 patients who had no health insurance, HHS Secretary Alex Azar told reporters. Some will also pay for testing uninsured Americans for Covid-19, said the administrator for the HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration, Thomas Engels.

“As announced in early April, a portion of the $100 billion Provider Relief Fund will be used to reimburse health care providers generally at Medicare rates for Covid-related treatment of the uninsured. Additionally, $1 billion from the Family First Coronavirus Response Act will be used to reimburse providers for conducting coronavirus testing for the uninsured,” Engels said. 

“When an FDA-approved vaccine becomes available, it will also be covered,” Engels said.

But neither Azar, nor Engels, would provide any more details about the testing provisions in the giant coronavirus relief fund or how it might work on the state or local level.

A lack of testing has been a critical problem in the spread of the epidemic throughout the United States and is a major requirement for reopening society, according to top health experts.

President Trump signed the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act into law on March 27 to provide financial assistance to families, small businesses and industries, including health care.

4:11 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

Maryland governor will announce reopening plan on Friday

From CNN's Konstantin Toropin

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at a news conference at the Maryland State House on April 17 in Annapolis, MD.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at a news conference at the Maryland State House on April 17 in Annapolis, MD. Brian Witte/AP

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said that he will introduce his state's reopening plan on Friday.

During a news conference today, Hogan described the plan, "Maryland Strong Roadmap to Recovery," as "a safe, effective and gradual plan, which will allow us to reopen, to rebuild and to recover just as soon as it is safe for us to do so."

Hogan said the plan has "four essential building blocks that are needed to be solidly in place before we can be in position to begin lifting restrictions."

He said the four parts include:

  1. Expanding the state's testing capacity
  2. Increasing hospital surge capacity
  3. Increasing the supply of protective medical equipment
  4. Developing a robust contact tracing operation

The state has been working hard and "making incredible project progress" on all four areas and as the "numbers start to improve and look better, we will be in a position to safely reopen our state and get people back to work with these crucial components," Hogan said.

4:01 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

Michigan governor is reevaluating state's stay-at-home order

From CNN’s Kay Jones

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state on April 20.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state on April 20. Michigan Office of the Governor/Pool/AP

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that she is evaluating the state's stay-at-home order and plans to make an announcement at the end of the week. 

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday afternoon, Whitmer said the "data we've received in the last week has shown me that it's time to reevaluate the stay home, stay safe order."

What the numbers show: Cases in the state are up 999 over the past day and currently stand at 33,966. The state is currently reporting 2,813 deaths, Whitmer said.

Hospitalizations peaked roughly 10 days ago and the state has seen a decline since then, the governor added.

She also said that they have secured enough medical equipment for hospitals to last at least a week. 

"The curve is flattening and starting to stabilize," Whitmer added.