Coronavirus pandemic in the US

By Meg Wagner, Elise Hammond, Mike Hayes and Emma Reynolds, CNN

Updated 9:03 p.m. ET, April 27, 2020
13 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
9:03 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

Georgia restaurants are allowed to reopen for dine-in service today

From CNN's Dakin Andone, Lindsay Benson and Amir Vera

People sit and eat at a roadside food joint in Tybee Island, Georgia, on April 25.
People sit and eat at a roadside food joint in Tybee Island, Georgia, on April 25. Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

Theaters and dine-in restaurants in Georgia are allowed reopen today, even though the statewide shelter-in-place order doesn't expire until the end of the month.

This is the second wave of business reopenings in the state. On Friday, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp allowed gyms, barber shops, hair salons, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys to reopen their doors.

Businesses that reopen must follow social distancing guidelines, maintain sanitation and screen their employees for symptoms such as fever and respiratory illness, Kemp said.

The governor's decision pits him against mayors from cities such as Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah, as well as advice rooted in a data model often cited by the White House.

Georgia should not even begin to reopen until June 22, according to the model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which assumes states will implement aggressive testing, contact tracing, isolation and crowd-size limits to prevent more infections.

8:52 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

Trump's angry words to Georgia governor is reverberating in state capitals

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

President Donald Trump listens during a briefing about the coronavirus at the White House on April 24.
President Donald Trump listens during a briefing about the coronavirus at the White House on April 24. Alex Brandon/AP

President Trump’s extraordinary rebuke of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is still reverberating through state capitals across the country and is contributing to decisions of some governors to take a slower approach in opening businesses in their state, Republican officials in a half-dozen states tell CNN. 

“No governor wants to endure the same wrath as Brian Kemp,” a top adviser to a Republican governor said, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid drawing similar ire from the White House.

“We all watched that very carefully and no one wants to be called out like that by the President,” another aide to a Republican governor said. 

What happened: Trump said he told Kemp that he disagreed "strongly" with the governor's decision to reopen some businesses in his state, contradicting a source who said Trump told Kemp he agreed with it.

The President’s conflicting guidance – initially calling to “liberate” states, but then sharply criticizing Kemp for opening some businesses on Friday – has led to an often confusing, messy patchwork of state-by-state rules.  

But the President’s pointed words to Kemp, a Republican ally, were impossible for governors to ignore. In many ways, the Trump-Kemp dynamic is unique to Georgia, given the underlying politics and relationship, but the President’s message still stung.

This week, as several governors are set to outline plans for the next steps in reopening businesses in their states, Trump’s angry admonition stands as a potential warning. 

In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster signaled Sunday he intended to move slower than his actions first indicated last week. 

He is set to issue a new order on Monday calling for an extension to restrictions in the state. Even though he opened beaches and some businesses last week if they abided by severe capacity restrictions, he said it was too soon for a broader reopening, given the rising cases of Covid-19 in his state.

"We’re still facing a very serious disease and contagion," McMaster told reporters Sunday in Greenville. "We must realize that the disease is here. We have to be very careful."

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis is also suddenly moving slower, saying he is not ready to give a specific date on when he will lift restrictions. He told reporters Sunday he wants to do “everything in the right way.” 

8:28 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

Small business loan program is back today. Here's how long the money could last.

From CNN's Lauren Fox

The race is on for small business owners across the country to access billions in emergency funding through the Small Business Administration today. And, in a few hours, the Paycheck Protection Program — initially plagued by technical hiccups and questions about if lenders were prioritizing the businesses that needed the money most — will get a second chance to get things right.

Bottom line: This has always been a balancing act between perfection and getting billions out the door in enough time to actually keep a small business open. Remember, SBA is an agency that typically handles just more than $25 billion in loans a year. Now it is tasked with getting $310 billion in PPP loans out the door in a matter of days. 

How long will the money last? It depends, but multiple industry experts CNN talked to over the weekend anticipate that this money could be gone within the week.

Last time, it took 13 days, but banks have a much longer queue of customers this round.

“If I were betting, I would guess the money is gone in two and a half or three days,” one industry expert estimated.
8:37 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

White House may scale back coronavirus task force meetings soon

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on April 8. In the background are, from left, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator; and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on April 8. In the background are, from left, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator; and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

After a tumultuous few days in the West Wing, the White House coronavirus task force only met once this weekend, according to three people familiar with the schedule. The group met Saturday but did not Sunday — a rarity since the task force has met almost every day since it was assembled. 

Task force meetings usually last at least 90 minutes as aides go over the latest data before the press briefing. But given there was no briefing this weekend, the meeting Saturday moved relatively quickly, a person who attended said.

The task force may soon begin slowly scaling back its number of meetings altogether, a separate person told CNN, as President Trump and Vice President Pence schedule other events. 

Trump's weekend: The President spent the weekend venting about the negative coverage he received after he suggested last week there should be studies whether disinfectants or light could be used to fight the coronavirus inside the human body. An exasperated President lashed out at aides, the media and Democrats in what multiple sources described to CNN as one of the most frustrated moments of his presidency. 

8:27 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

New York governor says first phase of reopening could begin after May 15 in some areas

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks about the coronavirus during a press briefing in Albany, New York, on April 17.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks about the coronavirus during a press briefing in Albany, New York, on April 17. Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined how some business activity could begin to reopen as the state's stay-at-home order approaches its May 15 deadline.

In the days before May 15, the state will assess what regions have seen a decline for 14 days. 

"That’s where you will start the conversation to get to phase one in that region," Cuomo said.

The first phase of New York's reopening plans would include allowing construction and manufacturing activities to begin — and within that, "those businesses that have a low risk" he said.

Cuomo said the regions more likely to open sooner is the upstate regions as they have “seen lower numbers from day one.”

Essentially the state could see manufacturing and construction activity come online in upstate new York “with certain precautions” after May 15, the governor said.

WATCH:

8:15 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

She's been falsely accused of starting the coronavirus. Her life has been turned upside down

From CNN Business's Donie O'Sullivan

Maatje Benassi at her home on April 22.
Maatje Benassi at her home on April 22. Heather Fulbright/CNN

Maatje Benassi, a US Army reservist and mother of two, has become the target of conspiracy theorists who falsely place her at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, saying she brought the disease to China. 

The false claims are spreading across YouTube every day, so far racking up hundreds of thousands of apparent views, and have been embraced by Chinese Communist Party media. Despite never having tested positive for the coronavirus or experienced symptoms, Benassi and her husband are now subjects of discussion on Chinese social media about the outbreak, including among accounts that are known drivers of large-scale coordinated activities by their followers. 

The claims have turned their lives upside down. The couple say their home address has been posted online and that, before they shut down their accounts, their social media inboxes were overrun with messages from believers of the conspiracy. 

It's like waking up from a bad dream going into a nightmare day after day," Maatje Benassi told CNN in her first interview since being smeared online.

The family's suffering highlights the potential for blatant falsehoods to be rewarded and amplified by social media platforms. It also serves as a powerful reminder that misinformation online, however wild or obviously untrue it may seem, can have real and lasting consequences offline.

Read her exclusive interview with CNN Business here.

7:24 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald celebrate Sondheim in their bathrobes

From CNN's Toyin Owoseje

Meryl Streep, Audra McDonald and Christine Baranski, boozing in their bathrobes while singing "The Ladies Who Lunch": This was the quarantine moment the world didn't know it needed -- until now.

The dressing gown-clad trio delivered internet gold when they joined a host of A-listers Sunday night to celebrate legendary composer Stephen Sondheim's 90th birthday and his vast contribution to musical theater.

While Streep poured herself what looked like a martini (vigorously shaken, not stirred), her "Mamma Mia" co-star Baranski, 67, opted for a large glass of red, and Broadway diva McDonald, 49, went straight for the bottle.

For many viewers, the boozy performance and disheveled vibe captured lockdown life perfectly. 

Read the full story here.

8:15 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

Preliminary results from antiviral drug trial could come in a week, says researcher

From CNN Health’s Arman Azad

Preliminary results from clinical trials of an experimental antiviral drug for coronavirus could come in a week, a top researcher said Sunday.

Final test results for the drug, remdesivir, aren’t expected until mid-to-late May, said Dr. Andre Kalil, a principal investigator for the trial. But he said the team might “potentially have some early data in the next one or two weeks."

Remdesivir was originally tested by Gilead Sciences as a potential treatment for Ebola, and it showed activity against the novel coronavirus in test tubes. But whether the drug is an effective treatment for Covid-19 remains unclear.

The new study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial -- meaning neither the patients nor their doctors know who is receiving the real drug and who is receiving a placebo.

Patients finished enrolling for the study last Sunday, Kalil said, adding that their number had exceeded the target of 572.

The trial began at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where Kalil is a professor of medicine, but it has expanded to nearly 70 sites around the world, from South Korea to Germany. 

Data on remdesivir is confusing at best. Earlier this month, the drug's maker, Gilead, released information on 53 patients, most of whom showed improvement after receiving infusions of remdesivir.

Information leaked to STAT News suggested that patients receiving remdesivir were recovering quickly, but the report was based on a recorded discussion of a clinical trial, and offered few details.

Last week, the World Health Organization accidentally published a summary of results from a trial of the drug in coronavirus patients. A screenshot published by STAT showed "remdesivir use was not associated with a difference in time to clinical improvement"

But that trial was terminated early due to low enrolment, and Gilead said it was inconclusive.

6:26 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

There is still uncertainty about antibody protection in recovered coronavirus patients, Birx says

From CNN's Wes Bruer

White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx listens as President Donald Trump speaks at a coronavirus press briefing at the White House on April 18.
White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx listens as President Donald Trump speaks at a coronavirus press briefing at the White House on April 18. Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

We still don’t know how long antibodies last in people who have recovered from the coronavirus infection, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said on Sunday. 

Birx was asked about the validity of a scientific brief released Friday by the World Health Organization addressing the idea of “immunity passports” that said “there is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.” 

The following day, the WHO in a tweet clarified its earlier statement regarding “immunity passports” and antibody protection, stating: “We expect that most people who are infected with Covid-19 will develop an antibody response that will provide some level of protection.”

“WHO is being very cautious,” Birx said. “I think what WHO was saying we don’t know how long that effective antibody lasts and I think that is a question we have to explore over the next few months and the next few years.”

Other research about antibodies: Birx noted that in normal viral infections, our bodies develop “functional” antibodies that can neutralize the virus, as well as binding antibodies “that help pull out those viruses” and kill them. 

“The CDC is not only measuring antibody but they are also looking and see whether that antibody is neutralizing,” Birx said.

Simultaneously, the FDA is working alongside hospitals to determine the effectiveness of convalescent plasma therapy in treating coronavirus patients to determine if the antibodies of a recovered patient would help those still infected.

“So, all of that data together, I think, is going to create a very clear picture about antibody,” she said.