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
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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.


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. 

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

Reopening US states are taking their first steps toward a new normal 

By CNN's Eric Levenson

Employees and customers walk into Three-13 Salon, Spa & Boutique in Marietta, Georgia, on April 24. The salon reopened on April 24 after having been closed for more than a month due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Employees and customers walk into Three-13 Salon, Spa & Boutique in Marietta, Georgia, on April 24. The salon reopened on April 24 after having been closed for more than a month due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Ron Harris/AP

Carlos Davis used to have about 200 clients drop by his CUT-ology barbershop in Albany, Georgia, every day. On Friday, the first day he was allowed to reopen since the coronavirus pandemic began, around 30 clients came in. 

Wearing gloves, a construction face mask and a face shield, Davis said he was taking precautions to protect staff and clients. A piece of paper on the door outlined the mandatory guidelines, saying clients must wear a mask and gloves in order to enter. 

Davis is afraid of the virus, but he also fears losing his business. "If I don't cut, I don't eat," he said.

Davis's decision to reopen comes as a number of states have begun to loosen stay-at-home restrictions -- even as the novel coronavirus continues to infect and kill people.

Across the country, more than 950,000 people have tested positive for the virus and more than 54,000 have died.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy allowed salons and restaurants to reopen in most parts of the state Friday. Oklahoma allowed some personal-care businesses to reopen for appointments Friday as well. Even in California, some beaches that had been closed reopened for public use, though with limitations.

Georgia's reopening has been the most aggressive so far. Gov. Brian Kemp ordered the reopening of hair and nail salons, gyms, bowling alleys, tattoo studios and massage therapists on Friday, with theaters and restaurants to follow on Monday.

The reopenings come despite warnings from health experts, local mayors and even President Donald Trump.

The influential Covid-19 model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, for example, says social distancing should not be relaxed in Georgia until June 22.

Read the full story here.

5:36 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

"The food supply chain is breaking," Tyson says as plants close

From CNN's Rob McLean

A truck turns onto a highway after leaving the Tyson Foods pork plant in Perry, Iowa, on April 22.
A truck turns onto a highway after leaving the Tyson Foods pork plant in Perry, Iowa, on April 22. Charlie Neibergall/AP

Tyson Foods is warning that "millions of pounds of meat" will disappear from the supply chain as the coronavirus pandemic pushes food processing plants to close, leading to product shortages in grocery stores across the country.

"The food supply chain is breaking," wrote board chairman John Tyson in a full-page advertisement published Sunday in The New York Times, Washington Post and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

US farmers don't have anywhere to sell their livestock, he said, adding that "millions of animals -- chickens, pigs and cattle -- will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities."

"There will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed," Tyson wrote.

Tyson Foods, which employs roughly 100,000 workers, closed its pork plants in Waterloo, Iowa, and Logansport, Indiana, last week so that workers in those facilities could be tested for the virus.

Read the full story here.

5:18 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

Coronavirus cases in the US are nearing 1 million

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

A new week in the coronavirus pandemic is beginning with a United States case count approaching 1 million and several cities and states preparing to loosen stay-at-home restrictions.

At least 54,883 coronavirus deaths and more than 965,000 cases have been recorded in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

As the numbers continue to climb, several state and city officials are expected to announce plans to reopen their economies this week. A University of Washington model frequently cited by the White House coronavirus task force suggests that no state should open their economies before Friday -- and many should wait much longer. 

In New York, one of the hardest hit states, rates of hospitalization, intubation and deaths are down, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.

Officials at all levels of government are weighing how to proceed and when to reopen their communities.

Meanwhile, several states also are grappling with an increase in calls to their poison control centers, following President Donald Trump's suggestion of injecting disinfectants as a treatment for the coronavirus during a White House briefing on Thursday. He later said he was being "sarcastic."

Read the full story here.

5:32 a.m. ET, April 27, 2020

FDA authorizes 3 more coronavirus antibody tests

From CNN Health’s Arman Azad

A Covid-19 blood test is administered outside Delmont Medical Care on April 22 in Franklin Square, New York.
A Covid-19 blood test is administered outside Delmont Medical Care on April 22 in Franklin Square, New York. Al Bello/Getty Images

The US Food and Drug Administration has authorized three new coronavirus antibody tests, bringing the total number of FDA-authorized tests to seven.

The tests were green-lit under emergency-use authorizations, a lower regulatory standard used when the FDA believes a test’s benefits could outweigh any risks.

Three companies – DiaSorin, Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics and Autobio Diagnostics – received the authorizations. The tests were restricted to use in authorized laboratories, and the FDA cautioned that all three came with risks of false positives and negatives.  

The tests would ideally allow for the detection of past infections – indicating if someone has had the virus, regardless of whether they showed symptoms. But the tests may be less useful for diagnosing recent or current infections.

“A negative result may occur if you are tested early in your illness and your body hasn’t had time to produce antibodies to infection,” the FDA wrote in fact sheets accompanying the tests.

Some context: The agency’s new authorizations come amid growing questions over the role of antibody tests in the coronavirus pandemic.

The FDA has come under congressional scrutiny for allowing manufacturers to distribute antibody tests without authorization, a move that triggered a flood of shoddy tests in the US market. 

And it remains unclear whether antibodies – even when detected by high-quality tests – indicate that someone is immune to re-infection.

“There is no evidence yet that people who have had Covid-19 will not get a second infection,” the World Health Organization warned in a recent scientific brief.