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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2:21 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

Interior Department and National Park Service will work at state-level to open parks, official says

From CNN's Sarah Westwood

Bryce Canyon National Park covered in snow on January 2.
Bryce Canyon National Park covered in snow on January 2. Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images

An Interior official downplayed President Trump's comments on the reopening of National Parks this afternoon as a major new announcement — noting that space at some parks has remained open throughout the pandemic response.

The official said Interior and the National Park Service will work at the state level to open parks as those individual states begin to reopen, but the expectation at the moment is that the administration won’t move to open parks before the states they’re located in move to at least Phase One of the federal reopening guidelines.

2:05 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

More than 75% of US hotel rooms remain empty

From CNN’s Aaron Cooper

More than 75% of hotel rooms in the United States remain empty, according to hotel data and analytics company STR. 

Nationwide hotels reported an occupancy rate of 23.4% for the week ending April 18, which represents a 64% decrease from the same week last year. 

The numbers are a slight increase from recent weeks, but STR attributes that to rooms being used by people working to respond to the pandemic.  

“It is important to state that this is not any type of early-recovery sign,” Jan Freitag, STR’s senior vice president of lodging insights said in a statement. “Rather, more demand can be attributed to frontline workers.”

New York City, were some medical workers are being housed in hotels, posted an occupancy rate of about 33%, up from a low of about 15% for the week ending March 28. 

Oahu Island, Hawaii, remains the market with lowest occupancy. Only 8% of the rooms there are occupied.

2:00 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

The Senate approved the next round of fiscal stimulus, but economists don't think it's enough

From CNN's Anneken Tappe and Kate Trafecante

US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a press conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, April 21.
US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a press conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, April 21. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Economists call the latest round of fiscal stimulus a step in the right direction, but warn that more money will be necessary to help both American households and businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

"This bill will help address shortfalls, but even more stimulus will likely be needed," said economists at Bank of America in a research note. "We expect Congress to pass another large package worth up to $1.5 trillion that extends on provisions in the CARES Act." 

The US Senate passed a new $480 billion round of fiscal stimulus Tuesday in Washington's latest effort to provide economic relief, including an additional $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program to help small businesses. The program ran out of funds last week.

"Demand for this program has been sky high as small businesses, which have limited capital market access, are in need of funds to survive the quarantine period," the note said. "This latest round of funding should go a long way to help those businesses which missed out on the first round of funds. However, it may still fall short of what is ultimately needed, which we estimate to be $900 billion."

The expanded program also likely won't prevent some small companies from going under.

"Many small businesses that are currently closed or operating at reduced levels could still struggle to remain financially viable, even if lockdowns are progressively lifted over the coming weeks," said Rebecca Karnovitz, a Moody's vice president, in emailed comments. "A wave of small business bankruptcies would weigh on a recovery in employment and economic activity."

2:05 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

There will be "many different types of businesses" soon open in Texas, governor says

From CNN's Ashley Killough

Texas Governor Greg Abbott during a press conference at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, on March 29.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott during a press conference at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, on March 29. Tom Fox/Getty Images

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott previewed his upcoming announcement for how Texas will further reopen its economy.

There are "so many different types of businesses," including hair salons, that will open back up, Abbott said.

Abbott also detailed a patchwork approach in which rural counties may be allowed to open up more businesses than areas that have more community spread.  

"It won't be fully opened but it will be opened in strategic ways, in ways that are approved by doctors to make sure that we we can contain the coronavirus," he said Wednesday on the Chad Hasty radio show based in Lubbock, Texas. 

State parks already opened up in Texas on Monday, and limited medical procedures were allowed starting today. 

On Friday, the state will begin a "retail-to-go" approach of allowing retail stores to sell to customers through curbside and delivery. 

1:32 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

Covid-19 causes sudden strokes in young adults, doctors say

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

 

A woman wears a protective mask while talking on a cell phone on April 21 in New York City.
A woman wears a protective mask while talking on a cell phone on April 21 in New York City. Cindy Ord/Getty Images

The novel coronavirus appears to be causing sudden strokes in adults in their 30s and 40s who are not otherwise terribly ill, doctors reported Wednesday.

They said patients may be unwilling to call 911 because they have heard hospitals are overwhelmed by coronavirus cases.

There’s growing evidence that Covid-19 infection can cause the blood to clot unnaturally, and stroke would be an expected consequence of that.

Dr. Thomas Oxley, a neurosurgeon at Mount Sinai Health System in New York, and colleagues gave details of five people they treated. All were under the age of 50, and all had either mild symptoms of Covid-19 infection or no symptoms at all.

“The virus seems to be causing increased clotting in the large arteries, leading to severe stroke,” Oxley told CNN.

“Our report shows a seven-fold increase in incidence of sudden stroke in young patients during the past two weeks. Most of these patients have no past medical history and were at home with either mild symptoms (or in two cases, no symptoms) of Covid,” he added.

“All tested positive. Two of them delayed calling an ambulance,” Oxley said.

It is not common for people so young to have strokes, especially strokes in the large vessels in the brain.

“For comparison, our service, over the previous 12 months, has treated on average 0.73 patients every 2 weeks under the age of 50 years with large vessel stroke,” the team wrote in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine. That’s fewer than two people a month.

A stroke in a large blood vessel causes severe damage if it is not removed right away. At least one patient has died and others are in rehabilitation facilities, intensive care or in the stroke unit. Only one went home but will require intense care, Oxley said.

Oxley said his team wanted to tell people to watch themselves for symptoms of coronavirus infection and to call 911 if they have any evidence of stroke. “Up until now, people have been advised to only call for an ambulance with shortness of breath or high fever,” he wrote.

The easy memory device for stroke, he said, is “FAST”: F for face drooping, A for arm weakness, S for speech difficulty and T for time to call 911.

“The most effective treatment for large vessel stroke is clot retrieval, but this must be performed within 6 hours, and sometimes within 24 hours,” Oxley wrote.

1:28 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

Justice Department says it has disrupted hundreds of phony coronavirus relief sites

From CNN's David Shortell

Federal authorities have flagged hundreds of phony websites related to coronavirus relief to internet domain hosts that are taking them down, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

Bogus charity drives, websites advertising fake vaccines and pages posing as stimulus applications from the Internal Revenue Service have all been busted as part of the effort, DOJ said in a statement. 

“The department will continue to collaborate with our law enforcement and private sector partners to combat online COVID-19 related crime,” said Brian Benczkowski, the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “We commend the responsible internet companies that are taking swift action to prevent their resources from being used to exploit this pandemic.”

As of Tuesday, the FBI tip line for internet crime, known as IC3, has received and reviewed more than 3,600 complaints related to coronavirus scams, DOJ said. 

Federal law enforcement agencies analyzed the complaints and referred many of them to the private-sector website hosts who then took them down, according to the statement. 

Last week, the head of the FBI’s Cyber Division, Tonya Ugoretz, said that IC3 was seeing a surge in reported incidents — marking 3,000 to 4,000 complaints per day in recent months, up from typical levels of 1,000 per day.

 

2:37 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

Homeless shelters are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus outbreaks, new study suggests

From CNN's Arman Azad

The Exhibition Hall at the Seattle Center has been turned into a temporary men's shelter on April 6, in Seattle.
The Exhibition Hall at the Seattle Center has been turned into a temporary men's shelter on April 6, in Seattle. Karen Ducey/Getty Images

A new study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that coronavirus can spread quickly in homeless shelters once a cluster of cases occurs.

The research, published today, adds to a growing body of evidence showing how certain environments – including nursing homes and prisons – are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus outbreaks.

“Homelessness poses multiple challenges that can exacerbate and amplify the spread of COVID-19,” the researchers wrote in their study.

Many people experiencing homelessness are older or have underlying medical conditions, they said, and “shelters are often crowded, making social distancing difficult.”

Here are some examples:

  • In one San Francisco shelter with a cluster of cases, for example, at least 95 residents had the virus out of 143 people tested – about 66%. Out of 63 staff members tested, about 16% had the virus.
  • In a Boston shelter that also had a cluster of cases, a smaller but still significant proportion of residents tested positive: 147 out of 408 tested, or 36%. About 30% of staff members tested at the shelter had the virus.
  • Among three Seattle shelters with coronavirus clusters, residents and staff members had a similar rate of infection: 17% of those tested.

When shelters had just one reported case – or none at all – researchers found a much lower prevalence of infection. Looking at a dozen Seattle shelters with just one case, for example, the study found that 5% of residents tested positive for the virus. And in Atlanta shelters that had reported no cases, researchers found a similarly low – but still problematic – rate of infection: 4% of those tested.

The study did have some limitations. Namely, testing reflected a single time point, meaning residents could have been infected without yet testing positive. And some residents were not available for – or declined – testing.

Those factors could mean the true infection rate in homeless shelters is higher or lower than the researchers reported.

Still, given that people can spread coronavirus before showing symptoms, researchers said that “testing of all residents and staff members regardless of symptoms at shelters where clusters have been detected should be considered.”��

And if testing is easily accessible, they said tests should be offered regularly at shelters – even before any clusters are identified.

Man installs portable sinks to protect homeless on Atlanta streets:

1:04 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

US government employees targeted by hackers exploiting the coronavirus, Google says

From CNN’s Donie O'Sullivan 

US government employees have been targeted by hackers exploiting the coronavirus outbreak, according to new data from Google’s security team released Wednesday. 

The hackers posed as American fast food franchises and offered free meals in response to the coronavirus crisis.

The hackers were part of a group that are government-backed, Google said, but the company did not specify what country the hackers were working for.

“One notable campaign attempted to target personal accounts of U.S. government employees with phishing lures using American fast food franchises and COVID-19 messaging. Some messages offered free meals and coupons in response to COVID-19, others suggested recipients visit sites disguised as online ordering and delivery options. Once people clicked on the emails, they were presented with phishing pages designed to trick them into providing their Google account credentials,” Shane Huntley, from Google’s threat analysis group, wrote in a post published Wednesday.

Huntely said the vast majority of the messages had been detected by Google’s systems and sent to spam folders, “We’re not aware of any user having their account compromised by this campaign, but as usual, we notify all targeted users with a ‘government-backed attacker’ warning,” he added.

 

12:51 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

WHO raised alarms on outbreak "at the right time," director-general says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a media briefing on April 22, in Geneva, Switzerland.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a media briefing on April 22, in Geneva, Switzerland. World Health Organization

The World Health Organization raised global alarm about the coronavirus outbreak "at the right time," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a media briefing in Geneva on Wednesday.

WHO on January 30 declared the outbreak of a novel coronavirus to be a public health emergency of international concern. WHO defines a public health emergency of international concern as "an extraordinary event" that constitutes a "public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease" and "to potentially require a coordinated international response." Previous emergencies have included Ebola, Zika and H1N1.

During that time in January, "outside China we had only 82 cases," Tedros said during Wednesday briefing.

"Looking back, I think we declared the emergency at the right time and when the world had enough time to respond," Tedros said. "There were only 82 cases and no deaths. That was enough time. … This was more than two months and 21 days ago, close to three months now."

On March 11, WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic.

Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, said during Wednesday's briefing that "the characterization of the disease as a pandemic in itself has no basis other than a description of the event at that time in regards to how many countries are affected."

Some background: President Trump announced he is halting funding to the organization earlier this month while a review is conducted. 

The US funds $400 million to $500 million to WHO each year, Trump said while announcing the funding freeze, noting that China "contributes roughly $40 million."

"Had WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China's lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death," he said.