Coronavirus pandemic in the US

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Workers move into factory for 28 days to make PPE
01:19 - Source: WPVI

What you need to know

  • The House approved a $480 billion package to help small businesses and hospitals and expand Covid-19 testing.
  • 4.4 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total to 26.5 million unemployed.
  • Trump signed an order temporarily stopping new green cards and work visas.
  • The CDC director says a second wave of coronavirus this year could be “even more difficult” next winter.
  • Go here for updates around the world. Track the spread here.
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Our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in the US has ended for the day. Follow the latest developments from around the globe here.

NFL commissioner on tonight's remote draft: "It’s going to be different, but I think it's going to be fun"

In this still image from video provided by the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks just before the NFL football draft, April 23, 2020. (NFL via AP)

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the 2020 NFL draft is “going to be fun” despite it being remote due to coronavirus restrictions.

This year’s NFL Draft was supposed to be one of the most elaborate productions in NFL history. Instead, the NFL Draft, which kicks off on Thursday night on ABC, ESPN and NFL Network, will take place virtually. 

“We’re obviously staging this event in a much different way than we anticipated when we started,” Goodell said from his basement, where he will announce picks tonight. “We’re not in Las Vegas, unfortunately, but we’re all in our homes and we’re doing this remotely and we’re doing it within regulations without any exceptions.

He added: “It’s a change for all of us. It’s going to be different, but I think it’s going to be fun, and I think we’ll all experience it together, live essentially, on a different platform than we probably have in the past, but it should be a wonderful night.”

May will be decisive month for New York City, mayor says

A woman walks through an almost-deserted Times Square in the early morning hours on April 23 in New York City.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said that May will be a “decisive” month for New York City, adding, “I feel very good about things getting substantially back to normal by September.”

De Blasio said that “somewhere between, you know, the end of May and the beginning of school is going to be a point where we start to loosen up,” speaking on a radio program Thursday.

The mayor said the reopening process will be done in slow, careful stages.

De Blasio rehashed the city’s “aggressive” plan to get testing done by hopefully the hundreds of thousands, and reiterated that the federal government needs to help the city in terms of testing resources.

The testing sites the city set up in minority communities are seeing a good response, he said, adding that new sites he previously announced will come online soon including those in New York City Housing Authority communities. 

De Blasio also added that the “status quo before Covid-19 is not acceptable to me” addressing the racial disparity he says has been exposed by the virus.

Senior DHS official says light and humidity have powerful effect on killing coronavirus

Bill Bryan, head of science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on April 23.

Bill Bryan, a senior official performing the duties of the under secretary for Science and Technology (DHS), explained during Thursday’s briefing that experiments with coronavirus samples indicate that the virus does not do well under sunlight, in warm temperatures or in humid conditions.

“Our most striking observation to date is the powerful effect that solar light appears to have on killing the virus — both surfaces and in the air. We’ve seen a similar effect with both temperature and humidity as well, where increasing the temperature and humidity or both is generally less favorable to the virus,” Bryan told reporters.

Earlier this month, members of a National Academy of Sciences’ Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats told the White House in a letter that it doesn’t look like coronavirus will go away once the weather warms up.

“There is some evidence to suggest that [coronavirus] may transmit less efficiently in environments with higher ambient temperature and humidity; however, given the lack of host immunity globally, this reduction in transmission efficiency may not lead to a significant reduction in disease spread without the concomitant adoption of major public health interventions,” according to the letter.

The letter pointed out that in the real world, the virus is still transmitting in countries with warm weather.

“Given that countries currently in ‘summer’ climates … are experiencing rapid virus spread, a decrease in cases with increases in humidity and temperature elsewhere should not be assumed,” according to the letter.

At the briefing, Bryan said that higher temperatures and humidity causes the virus to die more quickly. “The virus is dying at a much more rapid pace just from exposure to higher temperatures and just with exposure to humidity. … You inject sunlight into that, you inject UV rays into that, … the half-life goes from six hours to two minutes,” he said.

Bryan specifically discussed how the droplets of saliva with coronavirus are fairing under warm and humid conditions.

“So in summary, within the conditions we’ve tested to date, the virus in droplets of saliva survives best indoors and in dry conditions. The virus does not survive as well in droplets of saliva — and that’s important, because a lot of testing being done is not necessarily being done, No. 1 with the Covid-19 virus, No. 2, with saliva or respiratory fluids. And third, the virus dies the quickest in the presence of direct sunlight under these conditions,” he said.

Bryan said bleach will kill the coronavirus in five minutes and isopropyl alcohol will kill the virus in 30 seconds.

“You rub it and it goes away even faster,” he added.

President Trump said he suggested to Bryan figuring out ways to use UV rays or disinfectant on human beings to treat individuals with coronavirus.

“Suppose that we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light and I think you said that it hasn’t been checked and you’re going to test it,” Trump told Bryan. “Suppose you can bring the light inside the body.”

He added, “And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in one minute. Is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning … it would be interesting to check that.”

Trump says he's "not happy" with Georgia governor's decision to reopen some businesses

US President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on April 23.

President Trump said he’s not happy with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to reopen his state’s economy during the Thursday White House press briefing.

“I want the states to open, more than he does, much more than he does. But I didn’t like to see spas at this early stage, nor did the doctors,” he said.

Trump was referring to Georgia’s decision to begin allowing fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, hair and nail salons, and massage therapy businesses to reopen, as well as in-person religious services as early Friday, April 24.

“Frankly, I didn’t like to see a lot of things happening, and I wasn’t happy with it,” Trump added. “And I wasn’t happy with Brian Kemp. I wasn’t at all happy. I could have done something about it if I wanted to. But I am saying let the governors do it. But I wasn’t happy with Brian Kemp.”

When asked about Kemp “defying” Trump by a reporter, Trump responded: “No, he did not defy me at all. That is your language. He did not defy me.”

He continued: “You know what happened? I said, you make your own decision, I told him that. I said, you are not in the guidelines but I’m letting you make your own decision but I want people to be safe and I want the people in Georgia to be safe. I don’t want this thing to flare up because you’re deciding to do something that is not in the guidelines … But if you ask me, am I happy about it? I’m not happy and I’m not happy about Brian Kemp.”


Trump disagrees with Fauci on US testing capacity

President Trump said that he disagrees with Dr. Anthony Fauci’s comments earlier Thursday that he’s not “overly confident” about the US’ testing capacity.

“No I don’t agree with him on that. No I think we’re doing a great job on testing. If he said that, I don’t agree with him,” Trump said when asked about Fauci’s comments. 

Earlier Thursday, TIME posted an interview in which Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said that the US needs to “significantly ramp up not only the number of tests, but the capacity to perform them.”

“I am not overly confident right now at all that we have what it takes to do that,” Fauci said in TIME.

Fauci is not in today’s coronavirus task force meeting.

Virginia's ban on elective surgeries extended one week

An urgent care X-ray technician and medical assistant disinfects an examination room in between testing patients for the novel coronavirus in Woodbridge, Virginia, on April 15.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam extended the state’s current ban on elective surgeries by a week until May 1, according to a statement from the governor’s office today.

He also extended the closure of Department of Motor Vehicle offices by two weeks until May 11.

According to the statement, the ban on elective surgeries will continue while state officials evaluate Virginia’s personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies and how to safely ease restrictions on nonessential medical procedures.

“My top priority is protecting public health, and that includes ensuring that our frontline medical staff have the equipment they need to stay safe as they treat Virginians who are sick,” Northam said.

He continued: “We have increased our supply of PPE, but before we allow elective surgeries to resume, we must first be assured that the doctors, nurses, and medical staff who are fighting this virus or conducting emergency surgeries have the necessary supplies. We are working with medical facilities on plans to ensure that we can resume elective surgeries safely and responsibly.”

Trump says he hasn't stopped promoting hydroxychloroquine

President Trump was asked Thursday why he has stopped promoting hydroxychloroquine as a therapeutic treatment for coronavirus. He disputed that assertion, even though he has not brought up the drug, which he touted repeatedly, for over a week, with one exception Tuesday. 

“I haven’t at all. Why do you say I have? We’ll see what happens we had a lot of very good results and we had some results that perhaps aren’t so good, I don’t know. I just read about one but I also read many times good,” he said. 

Trump continued: “It’s a great – for malaria, for lupus for other things and we’ll see what it is, but I guess Deborah (Birx), they have many studies going on on that. So we’ll be able to learn.”

He claimed he had “not seen” a study of hundreds of patients at United States Veterans Health Administration medical centers released Tuesday that found that coronavirus patients taking hydroxychloroquine were no less likely to need mechanical ventilation and had higher deaths rates compared to those who did not take the drug.

On Tuesday, Trump was asked about the study.

“I don’t know of the report. Obviously, there have been some very good reports and perhaps this one is not a good report. But we’ll be looking at it. We’ll have a comment on it as soon,” he said at that briefing.


Trump says he will likely sign funding bill tonight

President Trump said he hopes to sign the roughly $480 billion relief package tonight.

The package would deliver aid to small businesses and hospitals and expand Covid-19 testing. The measure passed the House earlier tonight.

“I’m signing it probably tonight,” he said during Thursday’s briefing.

Trump suggests social distancing guidelines might be extended past May 1

President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on April 23.

President Trump said he may extend social distancing guidelines beyond May 1 if he doesn’t feel the country is in a safe place.

“We may go beyond that,” Trump said when asked whether he might need to re-up the guidelines when they expire at the end of the month. 

“People are gonna know just out of common sense,” Trump said after saying he thought the worse would be over by early summer.

“But until we feel it’s safe, we are going to be extending,” he said.

Restaurants and retail businesses in Tennessee can reopen next week, governor says

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced in a news conference today that restaurants and retail outlets would be allowed to reopen.

“We want to have the majority of businesses open before May 1,” Lee said. “We are working around the clock to get Tennesseans safely back to work in 89 of our counties with the majority of businesses in a position to begin opening their doors next week.”

However, he said, “Not every industry will be in a position to open safely immediately.” 

Restaurants will be allowed to open next week at 50% capacity on Monday. On Wednesday, retail outlets would also be allowed to open at 50% capacity, according to the governor. 

David Salyers, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, also announced most of the state parks would be open Friday morning.

House approves $480 billion package to help small businesses and hospitals

In this image from video, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas., recognizes Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, left, to speak on the floor of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on April 23.

The House of Representatives voted today to approve a roughly $480 billion package to deliver aid to small businesses and hospitals and expand Covid-19 testing, the latest attempt by lawmakers to blunt the devastating impact of the pandemic.

The vote was 388-5 and passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Just four Republicans and one Democrat voted against it. Independent Justin Amash voted present.

The members who voted no were Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Republican Reps. Andy Biggs, Ken Buck, Jody Hice and Thomas Massie.

The measure passed the Senate earlier this week and will now go to President Trump, who has expressed support for the legislation and indicated that he will sign it. 

Where the money is expected to go: The total price tag of the bill is approximately $484 billion.

It will add to the already historic levels of spending to deal with the pandemic by authorizing an additional $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, which was set up to help small businesses struggling from the economic deep freeze triggered by coronavirus.

Funding for the program ran dry earlier this month, prompting an outcry from the business community.

In addition, the legislation provides $75 billion for hospitals and health care providers to address coronavirus expenses and lost revenue and $25 billion to facilitate and expand Covid-19 testing.

The increased funding for testing comes at a time when there is widespread recognition that testing capacity must increase and improve as states consider when to reopen businesses and lift lockdowns.

Referred to as an “interim” measure by lawmakers, the legislation is the latest historic effort by Washington to prop up the economy on the heels of a more than $2 trillion rescue package along with other relief measures already approved by Congress.

Pence says task force is encouraging states to resume elective surgeries where possible

US Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on April 23.

Vice President Mike Pence encouraged states to resume elective surgeries during the White House press briefing.

“The President and I will continue to urge states across the country, given the unique burden on hospitals, we are now encouraging states to restart elective surgeries wherever possible, either statewide or on a county by county basis,” he said. “We recognize the role elective surgeries play in finances for local hospitals and we’ll be working with states to enable that.”

Pence also said Friday’s call with the governors is expected to cover progress on testing and best practices.

“Our task force will convene a conference call with all of the nation’s governors to talk about their progress that they are making on testing, and we’re going to hear from governors about the practices and methods that they are employing to significantly increase testing following our briefing on capacity and laboratories this past Monday,” he said.

Trump thanks colleges and large businesses for returning or declining CARES Act-related funding

President Trump thanked Harvard University, as well as other colleges and large businesses, for agreeing not to take federal funding provided to them through the CARES Act.

“Harvard and Stanford and Princeton, numerous other universities and colleges, also, large businesses have sent funds back to us and in some cases I stopped funds that I looked at and we are pleased to report that the funds have either not gone out or … we’ve renegotiated it and they’re not getting ‘em,” Trump said during Thursday’s White House press briefing.

“In a couple of cases, they’re sending ‘em back,” he added.

Trump said Harvard acted “quickly and decisively.” 

“They agreed when they heard the facts that they should not be getting it,” the President said. 

CNN reported Wednesday that Harvard, which has a $40 billion endowment, would not accept the $9 million in federal funds allocated to it under the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. 

Larger businesses have been scrutinized for attaining multi-million dollar loans through the Paycheck Protection Program when smaller businesses couldn’t. The program received funding through the CARES Act.  

House Democrat says she plans to probe the dismissal of director of key vaccine agency

Rep. Anna Eshoo

Rep. Anna Eshoo, the chairwoman of the House’s Health subcommittee, told CNN she plans to call in Dr. Rick Bright to testify before her panel as she reviews the circumstances of his removal from a key position after he raised concerns about the safety of a drug that President Trump touted as a potential vaccine to coronavirus.

“I think the American people deserve to hear Dr Bright’s story,” Eshoo told CNN. “He really has worked for the American people — they are the ones who have paid his salary. A thoroughbred professional — and to set him aside in one of the most key positions to develop vaccines in the midst of the pandemic? The story doesn’t make sense to me. So I think it deserves examination.”

Eshoo said she also wants to call Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Bob Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response, to testify before her panel.

“I don’t know where this began, why, who where, when, why,” said Eshoo, whose subcommittee falls under the Energy and Commerce full committee. “But I think it deserves to be examined and the story told.”

Eshoo said she wants to have hearings as soon as it’s “feasible” and said she’s willing to return to Washington to probe the matter.

“I’m willing to come here, I think others will as well,” she said Thursday.

Eshoo appears to have backing from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Asked by CNN about the Bright situation, Pelosi directed an inquiry to Eshoo.

Some context: Bright had led BARDA, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, since 2016 until Tuesday, when he was reassigned to a narrower position.

“I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit,” Bright said in a lengthy statement issued Wednesday. “I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way.”

Union says 13 meatpacking and food processing workers have died

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union told reporters on a call that 10 meatpacking workers and three food processing workers have died as a result of coronavirus, according to its estimates.

The UCFW said it identified 13 plants that have closed at some point in the past two months, which impacted more than 24,500 workers and resulted in a 25% reduction in pork slaughter capacity and 10% reduction in beef slaughter capacity. 

In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, the UFCW asked the White House Coronavirus Task Force to “prioritize five safety actions targeted toward the meatpacking industry.” 

Those actions included increased worker testing, priority access to personal protective equipment, halting speed line waivers, mandating social distancing and isolating workers with symptoms or positive tests.