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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6:37 p.m. ET, April 8, 2020

 Trump says it will be safe to reopen the country when the US is on the "down side of that slope"

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Donald Trump says it will be safe to reopen the country when "we can say we have to be on that down side of that slope."

"We can do it in phases, go to some areas where — you know, some areas are much less affected than others," he said at a Wednesday coronavirus task force briefing. "But it would be nice to be able to open with a big bang and open up our country, or certainly most of our country."

CNN reported earlier Wednesday that discussions are underway at the task force level about how to reopen the US economy.

Trump said he believes the US is "ahead of schedule" in efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus.

"You hate to say it too loudly because all of a sudden things don't happen. But I think we will be sooner rather than later," Trump said.

"But we'll be sitting down with the professionals. We'll be sitting down with many different people making a determination," he went on. "And those meetings will start taking place fairly soon."


6:28 p.m. ET, April 8, 2020

Pompeo says a "handful" of State Department employees have tested positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal 

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says a "handful" of State Department officials around the world have tested positive for Covid-19, but the vast majority of US facilities are open. 

Pompeo said that only one US embassy has closed due to coronavirus.

"Our embassies, save for the one that is in Wuhan which we did pull everybody out of, the rest of our facilities around the world are all open," Pompeo said during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on Wednesday. "We’ve had a handful of our folks test positive, but we feel like we have a good handle on it, and we’re doing everything we can to make sure that not just the State Department officials, but our Department of Defense colleagues that are working on these missions as well are doing so in a way that reduces risk to them and their well being."

He later added that three local hires, "not US direct hires, but local people who were working for the State Department in embassies around the world," have died of coronavirus. 

6:21 p.m. ET, April 8, 2020

Pompeo changes tune on China: Now is "not the time for retribution"

From CNN's Allie Malloy

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

When asked Wednesday if China has withheld information on the coronavirus, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that now is “not the time for retribution” and instead stressed transparency of data from China and other countries.

China, he added, has been cooperating in many areas that the US is “deeply appreciative” of, but he did not get into additional details.

Pompeo refrained from bashing China during the Wednesday White House briefing, changing his tune from earlier in the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is not the time for retribution but it is still the time for clarity and transparency,” Pompeo said. "Every country, China included, needs to share data.”

6:14 p.m. ET, April 8, 2020

US and Philips announce agreement under Defense Production Act to ramp up ventilator production

Fron CNN's Katelyn Polantz

The Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday announced a second major purchase of ventilators, buying more than 43,000 ventilators from the manufacturer Philips for $646.7 million.

The ventilators will go into the national stockpile, which gets distributed across the country, in chunks. Philips will make a first delivery by the end of May of 2,500 ventilators, the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement. The company will deliver a total of 43,000 ventilators by the end of the year.

The major purchase comes hours after the department announced a similar contract for the auto company General Motors to make ventilators.

The contract with Philips, a company that was already a major presence in building ventilators, comes under the Trump administration's announcement to use the Defense Production Act to get more needed supplies to aid the fight against the coronavirus epidemic.

HHS said it will award five other companies contracts under the DPA.

"The DPA is allowing the federal government to work with manufacturers, such as Philips, to accelerate production of ventilators and ensure that they go where they’re needed most," Secretary Alexander Azar said in a statement Wednesday. "HHS will continue awarding contracts to companies for which it has invoked the DPA for ventilator production, while we explore every possible avenue to get life-saving supplies to the frontlines of this war on the virus."

Frans van Houten, CEO of Royal Philips, issued a statement, saying Philips is "actively collaborating with the U.S. government to help save lives in the U.S. and across the globe.” 

“There is an unprecedented global demand for medical equipment to help diagnose and treat patients with COVID-19," van Houten said. "We welcome the support of the U.S. government in our efforts to aggressively increase the production of hospital ventilators. We believe in fair allocation of scarce medical equipment to those who need it the most, and we are ramping up to deliver 43,000 units to the most critical regions in the U.S. in the coming weeks and months through December 2020.”

6:14 p.m. ET, April 8, 2020

State Department has repatriated more than 50,000 US citizens, Pompeo says

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

Alex Brandon/AP
Alex Brandon/AP

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the State Department has repatriated over 50,000 citizens from around the globe since January 29 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Since January 29 we have now repatriated over 50,000 United States citizens back to their homes. From more than 90 countries, more than 490 flights back to the United States from all across the world, this world wide scale of our repatriation efforts is without parallel in our lifetime,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo said the State Department is working with “foreign governments, militaries, airport authorities, medical units, transportation companies, hotels, you name it ” to make sure Americans get back to their families.

Pompeo said that there are still US citizens in places across the world, and that the State Department will continue to work on getting people back to the United States until people can travel on their own again. 

“We still have several thousand people that we’re working, they identify themselves every day and new people find themselves in difficult place. Look, we’re gonna be done when people can travel on their own again,” Pompeo said. “We are gonna keep it up as long as we have resources to do it and there is a need.”

6:02 p.m. ET, April 8, 2020

Nearly 80% of US hotel rooms are empty

From CNN’s Aaron Cooper

Only 21.6% of hotel rooms in the United States were occupied last week, according to new data from hospitality analytics company STR. 

That’s down slightly from the week before and down more than 68% from the same week last year.  

Only 7% of the rooms in Oahu Island, Hawaii, are occupied, the lowest rate for any market in the country and down more than 90% from the same week last year. 

Across the board, economy hotels and lodging in suburban areas tended to have more people staying than other hotels, according to STR. 

New York City posted about 18% occupancy last week, which was a slight increase from the just over 15% posted for two weeks ago. 

5:58 p.m. ET, April 8, 2020

African Americans account for 56% coronavirus cases in Mississippi and 72% of deaths, state epidemiologist says

From CNN’s Giovanna Van Leeuwen

African Americans in Mississippi account for 56% of coronavirus cases and 72% of deaths, state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said Wednesday.

“We’re seeing some significant disparities, some racial disparities both in the percentage of cases we’re seeing and deaths," he said. "We’re seeing now 56% of our reported cases so far are in African Americans."

He added: "72% of the deaths we’ve reported are in African Americans and when you break down those deaths, when you look at them, we’re seeing significant incidents of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, liver disease, those chronic underlying problems that we know exist in Mississippi already."

5:56 p.m. ET, April 8, 2020

Illinois reports its highest Covid-19 numbers to date

Illinois' Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike on Wednesday announced the state is reporting 1,529 new Covid-19 cases, including 82 deaths, over the last 24 hours. 

"These are our highest numbers to date," Ezike said in a press conference.

"Although the numbers are still increasing, I will tell you that the rate at which they are increasing is less, and that is a good sign. We are not seeing the exponential growth that we were seeing before," she added.

Illinois has a total of 15,078 coronavirus cases, with 462 deaths in the state. 

6:06 p.m. ET, April 8, 2020

US Military transferred 18 coronavirus patients after an emergency with oxygen at local NYC hospital

From CNN's Barbara Starr and Sonia Moghe

The USNS Comfort docked at Pier 90 in Manhattan on April 3. Ten patients were transported to the ship after a New York City hospital had issues with its oxygen supply Tuesday night.
The USNS Comfort docked at Pier 90 in Manhattan on April 3. Ten patients were transported to the ship after a New York City hospital had issues with its oxygen supply Tuesday night. Kena Betancur/Getty Images

A New York City hospital had issues with its oxygen supply Tuesday night causing the urgent transfer of multiple patients to be cared for elsewhere, Gen. Terrence O’Shaughessy told CNN. 

“They needed to transfer those patients immediately as quick as possible because their lives were dependent on it,” said O’Shaugnessy, the commander of US Northern Command overseeing the military response.

A team of 37 military doctors, nurses and technicians in full personal protective equipment moved 18 patients in an ambulance to different facilities for urgent care. 

Ten patients were moved to the USNS Comfort, five to Sinai, two to Bellevue and one to North Bronx, the general said. 

O’Shaughessy said the military is there to be used in such an emergency at area hospitals.

“It was challenging, they were all in various significant states of acute medical needs,” he said. “When they got to (the) Comfort, several of them were crashing so they had to provide that immediate medical assistance ... As they were pulling up to the Comfort they were crashing so the doctors from the Comfort had to respond in the ambulance and then get them stabilized and then bring them into the Comfort.”

A source with knowledge of the operations at multiple hospitals said the New York City area hospital had “major problems with excess ice accumulation on their overburdened medical oxygen systems.”