Without providing evidence, Trump raises questions about large demand for masks and “hoarding” of ventilators
From CNN's Nicky Robertson and Jason Hoffman
President Trump raised questions on Sunday about why there is such a large demand for masks in hospitals and again charged there is some “hoarding” of ventilators, without providing any evidence or examples.
“You know, there's a question as to hoarding of ventilators, some hospitals, and independent hospitals, and some hospital chains as we like to call them, they are holding ventilators they don't wanna let them up," Trump said. "We need them for certain areas where there’s big problems. They can't hold them if they think there might be a problem weeks down the road,” Trump said.
Trump also questioned how New York hospitals are using masks so quickly, saying “something is going on and you ought to look into it as reporters.” He suggested that masks might be “going out the back door” of New York hospitals.
What New York and hospitals say: New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Friday that there was a stockpile being built of ventilators because the state needed to be ready for what he thought was a larger outbreak yet to come.
The American Hospital Association responded to the President’s charges, saying they have to make sure they are prepared for various future needs.
Dr Celine Gounder, an infectious disease and global health expert, told CNN that the need for hundreds of thousands of masks was understandable.
11:07 p.m. ET, March 29, 2020
Japanese comedian Ken Shimura dies from coronavirus complications
From CNN's Will Ripley in Tokyo
Japanese comedian Ken Shimura died of pneumonia caused by novel coronavirus on Sunday night, his talent agency Izawa Office tells CNN.
Shimura, who was 70 years old, reported symptoms including fatigue on March 17. He was hospitalized on March 20 with severe pneumonia and tested positive for coronavirus on March 23.
Shimura, who has been described as "Japan’s Robin Williams," was one of the country's best-known comedians with a career that dates back to the 1970s.
10:55 p.m. ET, March 29, 2020
It's approaching midday in Tokyo and it's evening in Washington. Here's the latest on the pandemic
Cases grow rapidly worldwide: There are now more than 721,800 cases of the novel coronavirus globally, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking figures from the World Health Organization and additional sources. The death toll from the pandemic is approaching 34,000.
Only two US states without deaths: More than2,400 people have died from Covid-19 in the US, according to CNN's count, with more than 139,000 cases countrywide. To date, only Hawaii and Wyoming are yet to see a death from the virus, with West Virginia reporting its first fatality today.
President Trump extends social distancing: US residents will be encouraged to remain in their homes and avoid contact with others until April 30. Trump said that he hopes the country can be back to normal by June 1.
Stock trades under scrutiny: The US Justice Department has started to probe a series of stock transactions made by lawmakers ahead of the sharp market downturn that stemmed from the spread of coronavirus, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Tokyo cases spike: Japan's health ministry recorded 173 new cases on Sunday -- 68 in Tokyo. This is the biggest single day spike for the capital and comes a week after the 2020 Olympics scheduled to be held in the city were postponed until next year.
Cruise ship concerns grow: A total of 179 people have been diagnosed with flu-like symptoms on board the Zaandam cruise ship, which is on its way to Florida. Four "older" guests have died. However, only two people onboard have officially been diagnosed with Covid-19.
Italy records slight downward trend in deaths: There were 756 new deaths related to the coronavirus in 24 hours in Italy, the country announced Sunday. But it was a slight drop on the 889 new deaths reported on Saturday, and 969 on Friday.
Citywide quarantine in Moscow: All residents will be required to stay at home unless they are leaving to get urgent medical help, get groceries or walk their pets in the proximity of 100 meters (328 feet) from their residence, the city's mayor Sergey Sobyanin announced Sunday night. Only essential workers will be allowed out.
Nigeria orders 14-day "cessation of movement": Citizens in parts of the country's largest city, Lagos, and the capital, Abuja, are being ordered to stay at home, while businesses and offices must close, as the virus begins to spread in the African country. The order will stay in place until mid-April.
10:47 p.m. ET, March 29, 2020
Boston Celtics player Marcus Smart says he is now coronavirus-free
Boston Celtics player Marcus Smart has recovered from coronavirus.
The basketball player tested positive for the virus earlier this month, saying he had been self-quarantined since the test.
But on Sunday night, ET, Smart took to Twitter to announce that he was now coronavirus-free.
"Thanks for everyone's thoughts and prayers," he wrote. "Stay safe and stay together -- apart!"
10:35 p.m. ET, March 29, 2020
Exclusive: US Justice Department probes stock transactions by lawmakers after coronavirus briefings
From CNN's David Shortell, Evan Perez, Jeremy Herb and Kara Scannell
The United States Justice Department has started to probe a series of stock transactions made by lawmakers ahead of the sharp market downturn that stemmed from the spread of coronavirus, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The inquiry, which is still in its early stages and being done in coordination with the Securities and Exchange Commission, has so far included outreach from the FBI to at least one lawmaker, Senator Richard Burr, seeking information about the trades, according to one of the sources.
What's this about? Public scrutiny of the lawmakers' market activity has centered on whether members of Congress sought to profit from the information they obtained in non-public briefings about the virus epidemic.
Burr, the North Carolina Republican who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, has previously said that he relied only on public news reports as he decided to sell between $628,000 and $1.7 million in stocks on February 13. Earlier this month, he asked the Senate Ethics Committee to review the trades given "the assumption many could make in hindsight," he said at the time.
What does the law say? Congress passed the Stock Act in 2012, which made it illegal for lawmakers to use inside information for financial benefit.
Under insider trading laws, prosecutors would need to prove the lawmakers traded based on material non-public information they received in violation of a duty to keep it confidential.
Is there any evidence of wrongdoing? There's no indication that any of the sales, including Burr's, broke any laws or ran afoul of Senate rules. But the sales have come under fire after senators received closed-door briefings about the virus over the past several weeks -- before the market began trending downward. It is routine for the FBI and SEC to review stock trades when there is public question about their propriety.
In a statement Sunday to CNN, Alice Fisher, a lawyer for Burr, said that the senator "welcomes a thorough review of the facts in this matter, which will establish that his actions were appropriate."
Burr's committee has received periodic briefings on coronavirus as the outbreak has spread, but the committee did not receive briefings on the virus the week of Burr's stock sales, another source familiar with the matter told CNN earlier this month.
Burr's sales represent a sizable share of his portfolio of stocks, according to his latest Senate financial disclosure documents filed in May 2019, although exact numbers aren't possible because lawmakers only report trades as a range of dollar values.
Is anyone else involved? Several other senators from both parties also sold and bought stock ahead of the market downturn that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic, although it's not clear who else the Justice Department is looking at and no other senator said they have been contacted by law enforcement. Burr is the only lawmaker to have asked for an Ethics Committee review.
GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and her husband sold 27 stocks valued between $1.275 million and $3.1 million from January 24 through February 14, according to Senate records.
They also purchased three stocks at a value of $450,000 to $1 million, including shares in Citrix, a software company that's gained approximately 15% in value since Loeffler and her husband bought the stock last month.
Loeffler denied having any knowledge of the stock sales, saying she uses a third-party financial adviser and did not learn of the trades until later. Loeffler's husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is chairman of the New York Stock Exchange.
A Loeffler spokesperson confirmed Loeffler has not been contacted by the FBI and said the senator "has acted in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the law."
US FDA issues limited emergency use authorization for two drugs usually used to treat malaria
From CNN Health’s Arman Azad
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an emergency use authorization for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat patients hospitalized with Covid-19.
The drugs -- which are used to treat malaria and other conditions -- have been called game changers by President Donald Trump.
But thus far, there is little scientific evidence that chloroquine, or its closely-related analogue hydroxychloroquine, are effective in treating Covid-19.
What happened? The authorization came in a letter dated Saturday, but the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) acknowledged the FDA’s action in a Sunday news release. The FDA limited the scope of its authorization to drugs supplied from the Strategic National Stockpile. The HHS announced that two pharmaceutical companies -- Bayer and a division of Novartis -- had donated the drugs to the stockpile.
Do the drugs work? In its statement, HHS said:
“Anecdotal reports suggest that these drugs may offer some benefit in the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. "The safety profile of these drugs has only been studied for FDA approved indications, not COVID-19."
While there's limited evidence on the efficacy of chloroquine, or hydroxychloroquine, the FDA said the drugs’ benefits outweighed their risk. In its letter, the FDA encouraged randomized clinical trials that could assess the effectiveness of the drugs. It also noted that the known and potential benefits outweigh the risks.
Who can the drugs be used to treat? The authorization is limited to patients who are currently hospitalized and weigh at least 50kg, or about 110 pounds. Under the emergency use authorization, health care providers must contact their local or state health department to access the drugs.