California will begin allowing scheduled surgeries
From CNN's Cheri Mossburg
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
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
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
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
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 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:
Expanding the state's testing capacity
Increasing hospital surge capacity
Increasing the supply of protective medical equipment
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 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.
3:58 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020
Pompeo announces $270 million in additional US foreign assistance for coronavirus response
From CNN's Kylie Atwood
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced more than $270 million in additional foreign assistance being provided in humanitarian aid and government assistance from the US to countries that need help responding to the Covid-19 outbreak.
This is part of the emergency supplemental funding provided by Congress for the pandemic – which totals $2.4 billion.
None of the money is currently scheduled to go to the World Health Organization, given the hold on funding while the administration carries out its review.
“This pandemic can’t wait for the review,” Jim Richardson, the director of US Foreign Assistance Resources at the State Department, told reporters today.
The acting administrator of United States Agency for International Development, John Barsa, explained that even before the WHO hold, there was already an effort underway at USAID to expand new partnerships and that effort is ongoing as they identify new partners to work with amid the Covid-19 outbreak.