Coronavirus pandemic in the US

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7:04 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020

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

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez and Jamie Gumbrecht

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, 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. Alex Brandon/AP

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.”

6:58 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020

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.
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. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

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."

Watch:

6:48 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020

Trump disagrees with Fauci on US testing capacity

From CNN's Allie Malloy

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.

6:51 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020

Virginia's ban on elective surgeries extended one week

From CNN's Rebekah Riess

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.
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.”

6:47 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020

Trump says he hasn't stopped promoting hydroxychloroquine

From CNN's Betsy Klein

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.

Watch:

 

6:39 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020

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.
6:38 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020

Trump suggests social distancing guidelines might be extended past May 1

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

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

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.
6:33 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020

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

From CNN’s Raja Razek

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.

6:27 p.m. ET, April 23, 2020

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

From CNN's Clare Foran, Manu Raju and Haley Byrd

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.
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. House Television via AP

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.