Coronavirus pandemic in the US

By Meg Wagner and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 10:39 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020
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4:52 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020

Idaho could start to ease restrictions May 1 if benchmarks are met, governor says

From CNN’s Andy Rose

A new recovery plan from the Idaho governor’s office says many nonessential businesses could reopen in just over a week, as long as progress in fighting the coronavirus does not backslide.

“Like everyone, I want our economy back up and running as soon as possible, but we simply cannot open everything all at once and reverse the good work we have done collectively over the past month to slow the spread of coronavirus,” Gov. Brad Little said in a press release. 

The state’s stay-at-home order is currently effective through April 30.

The plan calls for easing economic restrictions in four stages, with two weeks in between each stage. However, stages could be postponed if the state begins to see the Covid-19 case rate go up or hospital capacity go down.

  • The first phase: Bars, gyms and theaters would remain closed and restaurants would continue carryout service, but some other businesses and places of worship could open with social distancing plans.
  • The second phase: Restaurant dining and salon businesses would be permitted, although gathering would still be limited to fewer than 10 people.

Idaho’s plan says, even under the best-case scenario, bars and theaters would not be allowed to reopen until June 13 at the earliest.

4:42 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020

Tests show 21% of New York City residents may have coronavirus antibodies

From CNN's Eric Levenson

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo today revealed the preliminary results of a statewide antibody testing study. The tests were performed on 3,000 random adults who were outside of the home, he said, so it was not an entirely random sample.

The results found that 13.9% of people tested statewide and 21% of people tested in New York City had antibodies for the virus.

What this means: If those rates hold for the state’s 19.5 million people and the city’s 8.4 million people, then about 2.7 million people in the state and about 1.8 million people in the city had the virus — numbers that are multiple times higher than the official state counts.

4:45 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020

North Carolina extends stay-at-home order until May 8

From CNN’s Dan Shepherd

NCDPS
NCDPS

North Carolina will extend their stay-at-home order until May 8, Gov. Roy Cooper said at a news conference Thursday.

The governor said his state isn’t ready to lift restrictions despite progress they have made in flattening the coronavirus curve. 

Cooper said that despite successes in social distancing, “we’re not quite there yet” and that they need “more time to slow the virus.” 

Cooper unveiled a three-part plan to open up after May 8, if trends continue in a downward trajectory:

  • With phase 1, stay-at-home orders would remain, but some businesses would be allowed to open. 
  • Phase 2 would actually lift stay-at-home orders vulnerable populations would be encouraged to stay home. Places of worship, bars and restaurants could operate with reduced capacities.
  • Restrictions for vulnerable populations would lessen during phase 3 but also allow increased capacities at businesses and public gatherings. 

If infection rates spike or trends move in the wrong direction, North Carolina says they’re prepared to move to a previous phase so as to protect the public’s health.

And since North Carolina is the “Home of NASCAR," Cooper said that they are looking at a plan that would allow racing, but not allow fans in the stands. They will also announce plans tomorrow for North Carolina school districts and their semesters. 

4:41 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020

Chicago mayor on reopening: "We're just not there yet"

From CNN's Hollie Silverman

Chicago Mayor's office
Chicago Mayor's office

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she agrees with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker's extension of the stay-at-home order until May 30.

Lightfoot, speaking at a news conference Thursday, said it is not safe to remove all restrictions.

"We're just not there yet," Lightfoot said of a full reopening. 

Lightfoot said she also agrees with telling people to wear masks when they are not able to socially distance, but said the city will not arrest or charge people who do not use masks.

"I don't believe in giving mandates to people without giving (them) tools to be successful," Lightfoot said.

4:34 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020

How one nurse is bringing coronavirus patient's families into the emergency room

From CNN's Anna Sturla and Connor Spielmaker

Courtesy Jeanna Barbieri
Courtesy Jeanna Barbieri

A Massachusetts emergency room nurse is helping patients affected by her hospitals' no-visitor policy by printing out family photos.       

Jeanna Barbieri came up with Pictures for Patients after a high school friend thanked her for working at Lowell General Hospital, where his father was being treated for coronavirus.

Barbieri offered to bring family photos to decorate his room.

"Just to see how excited they were to have that piece of comfort with him, it made me realize I want to do more of that," Barbieri said. "I never imagined in a million years it would turn into anything other than a small project."

Now, the program has a dedicated hospital email address and a social media hashtag. Barbieri even purchased a printer for completely virtual delivery. 

Barbieri says she has organized at least 22 photograph deliveries as of April 23, including a surprise pregnancy announcement for a family member.

"Jeanna has done a wonderful thing," said Rae Russo, the wife of Barbieri's first photo recipient. "It's made all of us have peace on mind."

The photographs also help medical personnel staff working grueling shifts during the pandemic, according to Barbieri.

"I think it's good for the nurses to bring in something positive," Barbieri said.

4:12 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020

Public health labs still can't meet demand for coronavirus testing

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

A lab technician dips a sample into the Abbott Laboratories ID Now testing machine at the Detroit Health Center in Detroit. Illinois, on April 10.
A lab technician dips a sample into the Abbott Laboratories ID Now testing machine at the Detroit Health Center in Detroit. Illinois, on April 10. Carlos Osorio/AP/FILE

Public health laboratories throughout the United States and its territories are still unable to meet the demand for Covid-19 testing, the Association of Public Health Laboratories says.

“Although the overall amount of tests performed has expanded, the testing environment continues to be resource constrained and supply shortages persist,” Kelly Wroblewski, APHL director of infectious disease, told reporters Thursday.

Wroblewsi said public health labs are still reporting shortages, including, for example, only having two days' worth of the items needed to continue testing, such as swabs and or chemical reagents — the compounds needed to get a sample off a swab and into a form that can be processed and tested.

“In many parts of the country we're still not in a place to meet the demand, particularly if that demand expands significantly. Some things have improved but others have not,” Wroblewski said.

There are 97 public health laboratories in all 50 states as well as Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, Guam and the US Virgin Islands.

The association’s chief executive officer, Scott Becker, said part of the problem right now is that the country is expanding testing and creating a Covid-19 testing system.

“This pandemic is showing us how dependent we as Americans are in that laboratory system which is largely invisible,” Becker said

Becker said the federal government could really help production for needed items, but it’s unclear when the issues might be resolved.

It might not ever catch up: APHL’s chief program officer, Eric Blank. “In my own mind, I'm not convinced that the supply chain will ever keep up with demand, particularly with tweaks in the plans that we're seeing for contact tracing and so on,” he said.

 Becker said the shortages started globally.

“This is not just a US problem. It is our problem right now, but it's really a problem elsewhere,” Becker said. “As other countries open up and, frankly, do less testing than what is needed here because of the scale and scope of our country, that may help us down, down the road. How long the road is, I really can't say.”

4:11 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020

Key coronavirus model says some states must wait even longer to reopen

From CNN’s Arman Azad

 

A key coronavirus model often cited by the White House tweaked its projections Thursday, now saying that some states must wait even longer to safely reopen.

Georgia won’t be able to safely reopen until at least June 22, according to the newest edition of the model. On Tuesday, the model gave the state a projection of June 19.

Georgia is planning to begin reopening tomorrow, however, despite criticism from public health experts who have repeatedly stressed the dangers of relaxing social distancing measures too early.

The peak number of daily deaths for Georgia isn’t expected to occur until April 29 — almost a week from today. More than 50 people are expected to die that day, according to the model. 

Built by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, the model uses a “threshold” of one case per million residents to determine when it might be safe for a state to reopen. That’s the level at which states may be able to use other containment measures – such as aggressive testing, contact tracing and isolation – instead of social distancing, according to IHME. 

The model refined its projections for other states as well:

  • Florida now needs to wait until June 14 to open – compared to an earlier projection of June 11.
  • Arizona won’t be able to safely relax social distancing measures until June 26, compared to an earlier estimate of June 23.
  • Kansas will have to wait until June 21, and the state of Washington until May 28.
  • New York – the country’s hardest-hit state – reached its peak number of daily deaths 14 days ago, on April 9. The state is still expected to see hundreds of deaths each day for the next week, but it can begin reopening on May 27, according to IHME.

The estimated death toll for the United States has been revised upwards as well. A total of 67,641 people are now predicted to die by August, compared to the 64,976 deaths that were previously projected. 

Remember: While the institute’s model has been influential, it is just one of many, and IHME has warned against relying too heavily on its projections.

“If I were a governor of a state, I would certainly not make a decision based just on our model,” IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray said in a virtual press briefing on Friday.

Here's a look at the updated reopening map:

4:08 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020

Illinois governor announces modified stay-at-home order that expires May 30

From CNN’s Jennifer Henderson

Illinois Office of the Governor
Illinois Office of the Governor

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker will sign a modified version of the state's stay-at-home order that will go into effect on May 1 and extend it through May 30, he announced in a news conference today.

In the new order, face coverings or a mask must be worn by anyone over the age of two when in public, if a 6-foot social distance can’t be maintained.

Retail stores that are not considered essential may take phone and online orders for delivery or outside store pick-up. 

Some state parks will have a phased reopening, and groups of no more than two people will be allowed to go fishing or boating. Golf will also be permitted under strict conditions. 

Animal grooming, greenhouses, garden centers and nurseries are now considered essential businesses. The businesses may open if the stores are following social distancing. Employees and customers must wear face coverings.

4:04 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020

Minnesota schools will remain closed for remainder of academic year

From CNN’s Sharif Paget in Atlanta

 

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced Thursday an order to keep schools closed for the remainder of the academic year to contain the spread of Covid-19. 

“Today’s executive order will continue distance learning until the end of the school year,” Walz said at a news conference. 

“There is no joy in this but there is an awful lot of thanks,” the governor said before thanking students, teachers and parents for their patience during this time. 

Walz also spoke directly to students: “You will not be defined by staying home and missing proms and missing graduations, you will be defined by understanding how interconnected our world is and what it means to come together to try and solve hard problems.”

“The closeness of the classes of 2020 will be much closer than any that has come before," he added. “This ties you together in a way that has never been seen.”