Coronavirus pandemic in the US

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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.

12:42 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

Reopening decisions should be made by local governments, WHO official says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

 

As governments consider loosening various social distancing measures, such decisions should be made at the "lowest administrative level," Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, a World Health Organization infectious disease epidemiologist, said during a media briefing in Geneva on Wednesday.

"It’s not a one size fits all, and what countries need to do – and what decision makers need to do – is to evaluate the situation in their countries at the lowest administrative level as they can to determine what can be lifted where and when," Van Kerkhove said.

She continued: "First and foremost, is to really understand where this virus is, how far it’s being transmitted and if it is controlled. Countries need sufficient systems in place in order to detect any new cases that come up. … It doesn’t mean that you won’t see your families for long periods of time. There may be situations where these measures can be lifted, but it has to be done in a controlled way."

12:40 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

Trump announces National Parks to reopen, but doesn't offer dates or details

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

US President Donald Trump speaks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, on April 22.
US President Donald Trump speaks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, on April 22. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

National Parks will begin reopening, President Trump announced today, as he urged states to reopen after coronavirus closures.

The President made the remarks on the South Lawn of the White House during a ceremony marking Earth Day and Arbor Day.

“We’re starting to open our country again,” the President said, “thanks to our significant progress against the invisible enemy, I’m pleased to announced that in line with my administration’s guidelines for opening up America again, we will begin to reopen our National Parks and public lands for the American people to enjoy.”

He then called on Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt to comment with more details, but Bernhardt did not come to the podium or have a microphone, so his comments were inaudible.

Vice President Mike Pence later commented that the administration would “work closely with governors” to reopen parks and public lands, “so that the American people can enjoy the blessings of those extraordinary places.”

Pence told the Trump that the American people are, “anxious to get back to enjoying all those public parks, and will greatly welcome your leadership.”

It's unclear the degree to which the President's announcement will affect states and other localities. 

12:17 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

Cuomo says Trump agreed to waive state match for FEMA

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt  

A FEMA trailer sits in Brooklyn, New York, on April 11.
A FEMA trailer sits in Brooklyn, New York, on April 11. John Nacion/NurPhoto/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said President Trump agreed to waive the state match for the costs related to using the Federal Emergency Management Agency during their meeting yesterday.

“Normally, a state has to pay 25% of the FEMA cost. That would be a cruel irony for New York and adding insult to injury,” Cuomo explained. “New York had the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country. Therefore, our cost of FEMA was the highest cost in the nation.”

“You're going to penalize us for having the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country. And at the same time, the Congress passed a piece of legislation not even funding the states,” Cuomo said. 

He said it’ll save the state hundreds of millions of dollars. Cuomo also said he talked to Trump about getting more state funding into the next stimulus bill. 

“This was not the time for baby steps. This is when you should be taking bold action,” he said.

12:07 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

Gov. Cuomo: "This is no time to act stupidly"

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he understands that local officials may feel political pressure to reopen their economies.

"We can't make a bad decision," he said. "Frankly, this is no time to act stupidly, period. I don't know how else to say it."

Cuomo said reopening prematurely would set back the progress that has been made flattening the curve. He warned communities that have not been hard-hit by coronavirus to keep certain restrictions in place, saying a second wave could "knock you down."

Hear what he said: