Coronavirus pandemic in the US

By Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 9:07 p.m. ET, April 29, 2020
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1:50 p.m. ET, April 29, 2020

Trump says US coronavirus cases are high because of testing capabilities

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

President Trump commented on the United States reaching 1 million coronavirus cases, the most in the world, and said that the number is so high because of the testing capabilities in this country.

“So we reached a million cases, that’s a tremendous amount, and the reason is because of testing, because other countries don’t test. If you don’t test you’re not going to find cases,” Trump said. 

Trump said that other countries “don’t have the ability to do what we’re doing” and that while the 1 million cases sounds bad, it is “an indication that our testing is so superior.”

The President again cast doubt that the US has more cases than China and said that the difference between the countries lies not only in testing, but also in transparency.

“The transparency is much different. Transparency is like from day and night. We are totally transparent, whatever it is, it is,” Trump said.

Trump concluded by saying that if other countries did the type of testing that the US does, “you’d see numbers that would be much different.”

1:40 p.m. ET, April 29, 2020

White House looking at Trump traveling in the near future

From CNN's Kristen Holmes and Sarah Westwood

President Trump has been telling advisers he wants to get out of Washington soon, according to two sources familiar.

White House planners have been instructed to look into potential travel for Trump in the near future, where he could showcase economic recovery and the White House’s pandemic response efforts. 

According to a senior administration official, advisers last week had been thinking the President should not hit the road any time soon, as a general advisory against non-essential travel remains in place for most Americans. 

However, aides knew it would be hard to keep him off the road due to his growing desire to leave the White House halls where he has been confined for weeks.

Outside allies have been appealing to the President directly to leave Washington, arguing that it would amplify his message in the weeks ahead that some of the county is opening for business.

Some are arguing the President could help restore a measure of public confidence in resuming travel and public outings if people saw him personally get back on the road. Vice President Mike Pence has begun to resume a travel schedule, hitting the battleground states of Minnesota this week to tour the Mayo Clinic and Wisconsin last week to tour a ventilator plant. 

Sending the President into those crucial states for limited official events could also allow the White House to score attention in key local media markets. And it could allow the President to focus more fully on the economic recovery side of the pandemic response rather than the medical side; his attempts to message the science behind his administration’s efforts have recently caused stumbles, and aides have said they expect Trump to shift his focus to the economy in the days ahead.

Trump has been signaling publicly and privately for weeks that he wants to leave the White House. As far back as a month ago, he was lamenting the fact that he could not travel to New York for the opening of the field hospital in the Javits Center — something he really wanted to do but was advised against.

Pence’s recent travel is a potential model for what Trump’s travel could look like: visits to factories or plants, roundtables, and no crowds.

1:57 p.m. ET, April 29, 2020

Louisiana reports 350 new Covid-19 cases as hospitalizations continue to decline

From CNN’s Kay Jones

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

The Louisiana Department of Health reported today that the total number of Covid-19 cases in the state rose by 350, bringing the total there to 27,636. At least 1,802 deaths were reported.

The total number of hospitalizations have continued to decline and Jefferson Parish, one of the hardest hit in the state, reported no new deaths in the past day.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards met with President Trump and the White House coronavirus task force earlier today to discuss the state's response to the pandemic. 

"We’ve turned the corner in Louisiana," Edwards said. "We’re in a much, much better place than we were five-six weeks ago."

1:53 p.m. ET, April 29, 2020

Trump says meat processing companies are "so happy" with his executive order

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump said that meat processing companies are “so thrilled” and “so happy” about an executive order he signed last night that compelled meat plants to remain open and absolved the companies of some legal liabilities.

“I just got off the phone with the big companies that you’ve been reading about. They’re so thrilled, they’re so happy, and we’ve solved their problems. We’ve unblocked some of the bottlenecks,” the President said from the Oval Office Wednesday.

“They were so happy, they’re like, it’s like a new business for them,” he continued. “They were being very unfairly treated. Very unfairly treated.”

“So, the farmers are very happy, the ranchers, and the companies that we’re talking about. You know the ones I’m talking about because they’ve all become very well known. They were well known anyway, they’re big companies, but they’re now being treated fairly. They’re thrilled,” Trump said.

But, contrary to the President’s comments about the companies “being treated unfairly,” many plant closures across the country were due to thousands of employees becoming infected with coronavirus.

In addition to other dangers for workers in the industry, efforts to speed up processing has led to workers standing closer together — about 3 or 4 feet apart from each other while working.

Officials say that people should stand about 6 feet apart in order to maintain social distancing practices that could help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Major meat processors such as Smithfield, Tyson and others say they've put measures in place, like temperature checks and plexiglass to encourage social distancing in some areas and to help keep their workers safe. But some workers say their employers aren't doing enough to protect them.

Asked about what protections will be in place for workers, Trump said they will have “good form of protection through quarantine.”

“We’re going to have a report on that probably this afternoon, and we’re going to have good form of protection through quarantine,” Trump said. “When we find somebody that’s not, we’re going to be very, they’re going to be very careful, they are, as to who’s going into the plant, and the quarantine is going to be very strong, and we’re going to make people better when they have a problem.”

“We’re going to get them better,” he said. “Hopefully they’re going to get better.”

1:52 p.m. ET, April 29, 2020

WHO is tracking recovered patients to learn about long-term effects of Covid-19

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for the coronavirus response
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for the coronavirus response Martial Trezzini/Keystone/AP/FILE


The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is working to follow up with patients who have recovered from novel coronavirus to learn more about what future consequences the disease can lead to.

On Wednesday, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for the coronavirus response said, “Our clinical network is following those individuals who have recovered to trace them over time and see how they're doing and see if there's any long-term effects from infection.”

“I don't know the exact numbers but it's in the hundreds of thousands of people if not over a million people so far that have recovered from infection,” she said

Van Kerkhove added: “We need to follow individuals over weeks and months to measure the level of antibodies. “That will take us some time to really understand if they have protection, how strong that protection is, and for how long that protection will last.”

2:07 p.m. ET, April 29, 2020

Testing needed in low income communities to slow spread of coronavirus

From CNN's Stella Chan

Los Angeles County Public Health director Barbara Ferrer speaks at a press conference on the novel COVID-19 in Los Angeles, California on March 6.
Los Angeles County Public Health director Barbara Ferrer speaks at a press conference on the novel COVID-19 in Los Angeles, California on March 6. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

People who live in wealthier communities have been tested more than those in low income communities in Los Angeles County, said Barbara Ferrer, public health director for the county.

Ferrer told CNN’s John King that while everyone is doing their part to slow the spread of coronavirus, the key is expanding testing to lower income residents in Los Angeles County. She said testing is needed in primary care facilities and federally qualified care centers.

The statistics for L.A. County are grim, Ferrer said. Skilled nursing facilities account for 45% of the county's death rate. About 92% of deaths in L.A. County are among people who had underlying health conditions.

The county, she said, has not seen a spike in deaths, but the statistics are creeping steadily.

At least 20,976 cases of coronavirus, including 1,000 deaths, have been reported in L.A. County.

1:33 p.m. ET, April 29, 2020

Trump says federal social distancing guidelines will be "fading out" 

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

A day before federal guidelines on slowing the spread of coronavirus are set to expire, Trump administration officials signaled that strong social distancing guidelines would be relaxed as states begin to reopen their economies. 

“We’ve issued the guidelines now, it was actually 45 days ago,” Vice President Mike Pence said, as he and other task force members met with President Trump and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards in the Oval Office Wednesday.

“Frankly, every state in America has embraced those guidelines at a minimum, or even done more, and now our focus is working with states as governors, like Gov. John Bel Edwards, unveil plans to open up their states again,” Pence said. “The new guidance that we’ve issued is guidance for how they can do that safely and responsibly.”

The current guidelines, Pence added, are “very much incorporated in the new I think you could say, are very much incorporated in the guidance that we’re giving states to open up America again.” 

President Trump chimed in, adding that the current guidelines will be “fading out,” as states begin to reopen. 

“I am very much in favor of what they’re doing,” Trump said of governors who are opening businesses. “They’re getting it going.”

Dr. Deborah Birx, also in the meeting, said that the administration has been, “very encouraged to see how the federal guidelines have helped inform, or at least provide a framework for governors and moving forward.”

More context: Trump, who initially introduced the guidelines in mid-March, extended nationwide social distancing guidelines for another 30 days at the end of March, an abrupt back-down from his push at the time to reopen the country.

3:42 p.m. ET, April 29, 2020

Trump goes after WHO and China for coronavirus response

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump said Wednesday that his administration plans to issue recommendations toward the World Health Organization and China, though it wasn’t clear what he’s recommending.

Asked to clarify his recommendations, Trump said, “on (the) World Health (Organization) with China to follow.”

Asked what he hopes to learn about China and WHO through a recently launched intelligence investigation, the President said intelligence is “coming in … and we’re not happy about it.”

He said WHO “is literally a pipe organ for China.”

The President also repeated his complaints about the funding the US gives to WHO compared to funding from China. He also questioned why China continued to allow air travel out of the country.

1:54 p.m. ET, April 29, 2020

New Jersey governor to sign an executive order to reopen parks and golf courses

From CNN’s Sheena Jones

An aerial view of a golf course in New Jersey.
An aerial view of a golf course in New Jersey. FotosForTheFuture/Shutterstock

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted today that he will sign an executive order reopening state parks this weekend.

All state parks, golf courses and county parks will reopen at sunrise on May 2, Murphy announced.

“Social distancing will continue to be mandated,” he tweeted.

Murphy, speaking at a news conference today, said Covid-19 numbers in the state are "headed in the right direction."

At least 6,770 people have died of coronavirus, and at least 116,264 people have tested positive for the virus, he said.