April 8 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Jack Guy, Fernando Alfonso III, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 9:35 p.m. ET, April 8, 2020
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11:30 p.m. ET, April 7, 2020

A second US coronavirus vaccine trial has administered its first dose

From CNN Health’s Gina Yu

The biotechnology company Inovio began a Phase 1 clinical trial of its Covid-19 vaccine this week, with its first dose given to a subject at the University of Pennsylvania on Monday.

The Phase 1 trial is estimated to be completed by late summer of 2020, a spokesperson for Inovio told CNN in an email. It will enroll up to 40 healthy adult volunteers in Philadelphia and Kansas City, Missouri, according to a news release.

The Phase 1 trial is meant to establish that the vaccine is safe and induces a desired response from participants' immune systems. Proving that the vaccine is effective in preventing Covid-19 infection requires follow-up studies involving many more participants, which will take many more months.

“We anticipate rapid enrolment of this initial study,” Dr Pablo Tebas, an infectious disease specialist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the study’s principal investigator, said in the news release. “There has been tremendous interest in this vaccine among people who want to do what they can do to help protect the greater public from this pandemic as soon as possible.”

Similar to Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, which began Phase 1 testing in March, Inovio’s vaccine is also derived from genetic material. However, Inovio’s vaccine -- named INO-4800 -- is derived from DNA, not messenger RNA, which makes up Moderna’s vaccine.

Inovio received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

“In ten weeks from funding, INOVIO manufactured thousands of doses of INO-4800 to support on-going Phase 1 and planned Phase 2 clinical trials,” the news release said.

 

11:21 p.m. ET, April 7, 2020

The US FDA commissioner is warning against false claims by antibody test manufacturers

From CNN Health’s Wes Bruer

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on Saturday, April 4, in Washington.
Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on Saturday, April 4, in Washington. Patrick Semansky/AP

The US Food and Drug Administration will take “appropriate action against firms making false claims or marketing” coronavirus tests, according to a news release from FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn. 

As of Tuesday, only one Emergency Use Authorization has been issued by the FDA for a serological test for coronavirus. The test is intended only for clinical laboratory use.

A serology test would be able to identify past coronavirus infections, although it may be less effective at identifying recent ones.

More than 70 test developers have notified the agency that they have serological tests available for use, according to Hahn’s statement.

"However, some firms are falsely claiming that their serological tests are FDA approved or authorized, or falsely claiming that they can diagnose COVID-19."

In March, the FDA issued a new policy which allows companies to market serological tests for coronavirus without FDA review so long as they met certain conditions. The new policy was an effort to identify individuals who have overcome an infection and have developed an immune response to coronavirus, according to Hahn.

11:12 p.m. ET, April 7, 2020

New Zealand reports third consecutive day of decline in new virus numbers

From CNN’s Julia Hollingsworth in Wellington

A house fence has been chalked up with messages relating to the coronavirus lockdown on April 3 in Auckland, New Zealand.
A house fence has been chalked up with messages relating to the coronavirus lockdown on April 3 in Auckland, New Zealand. Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand reported 50 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday -- the third consecutive day that the country has reported a decline in new cases compared with the day before.

The country's director-general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, announced the new cases at a news conference on Wednesday. They include 26 confirmed cases and 24 probable cases.

New Zealand is half way through a month-long lockdown.

The total of confirmed and probable cases in New Zealand to 1,210. Some 282 patients have recovered from the virus.

11:02 p.m. ET, April 7, 2020

California governor announces deals to acquire 200 million masks per month

From CNN’s Jenn Selva

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at the Governor's Office of Emergency Services in Rancho Cordova, California on March 30.
Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at the Governor's Office of Emergency Services in Rancho Cordova, California on March 30. Rich Pedroncelli/AP

California has secured deals to acquire more than 200 million protective masks each month for medical workers combating the coronavirus, the state's Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday. 

Newsom made the announcement during an appearance on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, saying when it comes to states competing against one another for masks, “enough is enough.”

"In the past 48 hours, we have secured through a consortium of nonprofits and manufacturers here in the state of California upwards of 200 million masks on a monthly basis that we're confident we can supply the needs of the state of California and potentially the needs of other western states,” said Newsom. 
“We inked a number of contracts in the last few days that give me confidence in being able to say that."

Newsom says the state is expecting more than 150 million N95 masks and more than 50 million surgical masks per month.

The masks will be manufactured overseas, and will begin to arrive in the next few weeks.

10:55 p.m. ET, April 7, 2020

Musician John Prine dies due to Covid-19 complications 

This June 15, 2019 file photo shows John Prine performing at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn.
This June 15, 2019 file photo shows John Prine performing at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn. Amy Harris/Invision/AP

Musician John Prine has died after being hospitalized due to coronavirus.

This is what his publicist told CNN:

"We can confirm on behalf of the Prine family -- John died today at Vanderbilt due to complications of Covid-19.”

The 73-year-old was hospitalized last month and was in a critical condition after a "sudden onset" of coronavirus symptoms.

The Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter had a nearly 50-year career playing a blend of country and folk music.

Born in 1946, the Songwriters Hall of Fame says that Prine began his career in Chicago in the late 1960s after learning guitar aged 14.

Songs from his 1971 debut album were later covered by musicians including Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt, John Denver and Norah Brown. In a 2009 interview, Bob Dylan listed Prine as one of his favorite songwriters.

In 1981, Prine and his manager founded Oh Boy Records in Nashville, Tennessee. According to the label, it is the second-oldest artist-owned independent record label in the US.

Prine survived cancer twice. In the late 1990s, he had surgery to remove cancer from his neck. The operation removed a piece of his neck and changed the tone of his voice, deepening it and giving it a gravelly sound. In 2013, he underwent surgery to remove cancer in his left lung.

10:40 p.m. ET, April 7, 2020

Grounded Singapore Airlines' flight staff become "care ambassadors" at hospital

Singapore Airlines' cabin crew help out a patient at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital as they begin their roles as care ambassadors on April 7.
Singapore Airlines' cabin crew help out a patient at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital as they begin their roles as care ambassadors on April 7. Khoo Teck Puat Hospital 

Normally they would be serving customers thousands of feet in the air, but with coronavirus grounding most of Singapore Airlines' fleet, its cabin crew are helping out in a different way.

On Tuesday, the first group of cabin crew members started as "care ambassadors" at Singapore's Khoo Teck Puat hospital.

The Singapore Airlines' flight crew will be providing manpower to overworked medical teams, basic care to patients, and nutritional care in low-risk wards, according to a news release from the hospital.

Singapore Airlines' cabin crew are expected to work at the hospital for at least three months.
Singapore Airlines' cabin crew are expected to work at the hospital for at least three months. Khoo Teck Puat Hospital 

So far, 30 care ambassadors have joined the program, after receiving vaccinations and a medical screening, followed by a 90-minute hospital orientation.

The secondment is expected to last for three months.

“We are very pleased to collaborate with Singapore Airlines as this helps augment our manpower needs, at a challenging time when many of our staff have been diverted to care for COVID-19 related patients," chief nurse Shirley Heng said in the hospital's statement.
10:26 p.m. ET, April 7, 2020

As restrictions ease, Wuhan is burying the dead

From CNN's Nectar Gan in Hong Kong

After more than two months of lockdown, Wuhan -- ground zero for the coronavirus pandemic -- is finally reopening its borders.

Apart from the easing of travel restrictions, there is another sign that the city is starting to move on from the crisis: It has finally started to bury the dead.

Grief put on hold: For months, residents in Wuhan had been unable to bury their loved ones, as the government banned all funerals and closed cemeteries on January 25. The remains of thousands of people who died both from coronavirus and other causes were stored at funeral homes. Families were told to await government advice on when they could be collected.

Many didn't get to see the body of their loved ones: To curb the spread of the virus, all bodies of confirmed and suspected coronavirus patients were taken directly from hospitals to funeral homes for cremation, according to a notice issued by the National Health Commission.

Restrictions eased: In late March, Wuhan residents were finally able to retrieve the ashes of their relatives from funeral homes and find them a resting place, reported the state-run Changjiang Daily, citing an official from the Municipal Civil Affairs Bureau. The news came just ahead of the Ching Ming Festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day -- when Chinese people honor the dead.

Funeral ceremonies still not permitted: It is not clear what rituals family members are allowed to observe when laying their loved ones to rest.

Read the full story here:

10:34 p.m. ET, April 7, 2020

Uruguay confirms evacuation of New Zealand and Australian passengers aboard Greg Mortimer ship

From CNN's Jackie Castillo in Atlanta

Aerial view of Australian cruise ship Greg Mortimer off the port of Montevideo, Uruguay on April 7.
Aerial view of Australian cruise ship Greg Mortimer off the port of Montevideo, Uruguay on April 7. Pabolo Porciuncula/AFP/Getty Images

The Uruguayan government has authorized the medical flight evacuation of New Zealand and Australian passengers aboard the Greg Mortimer cruise ship.

That flight will take off on Thursday, April 9.  

The Australian cruise ship is currently located off the coast of Uruguay. The Uruguayan government confirmed earlier this week that a high number of passengers aboard the ship have tested positive for coronavirus. 

According to a statement released by Uruguay's foreign ministry on Tuesday, the plane carrying out the evacuation plan is being chartered by Aurora Expeditions, which owns the ship.  

“This operation was coordinated between the Uruguayan, Australian Foreign Ministries and the cruise ship company” the statement added.  

The flight is expected to depart from Uruguay and land in Melbourne, Australia.

10:01 p.m. ET, April 7, 2020

It's just past 7 p.m. in Washington and 10 a.m. in Wuhan, China. Here's the latest

Travelers with their luggage walk past the Hankou railway station on the eve of its resuming outbound traffic in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province on Tuesday, April 7.
Travelers with their luggage walk past the Hankou railway station on the eve of its resuming outbound traffic in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province on Tuesday, April 7. Ng Han Guan/AP

If you're just joining us, here are the latest developments in the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Global cases pass 1.4 million: More than 1,428,000 coronavirus cases and over 82,000 deaths have been recorded worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. This total doesn't reflect the number of active cases, but rather the number of all infections since the outbreak began.
  • US infections near 400,000: At least 398,185 cases have been recorded in the US, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The country's death toll stands at 12,844.
  • Trump says WHO is "China-centric": In a tweet Tuesday, President Donald Trump said that the World Health Organization "really blew it" on the coronavirus and threatened to withdraw its US funding. Speaking later at a news conference, Trump said his administration was "going to look into it."
  • Wuhan lockdown restrictions lift: The 76-day long lockdown in Wuhan -- ground zero of the pandemic -- is now officially over. China on Tuesday reported its first day since late January with no new deaths from the virus.
  • Japan officially enters a state of emergency: Japan entered a state of emergency on Tuesday in seven virus-hit prefectures including Tokyo. The declaration is in effect until May 6.
  • UK Prime Minister still in intensive care: British leader Boris Johnson is in a "stable" condition in hospital, but remains in the ICU after his coronavirus symptoms worsened. His spokesperson said Tuesday that he was receiving the "standard oxygen treatment."