April 18 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Brett McKeehan, Laura Smith-Spark, Fernando Alfonso III and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 8:59 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020
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6:31 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

31 states and DC have either ordered or recommended to close schools through end of academic year

From CNN's Chuck Johnston

With today's announcement in Florida, 31 states and the District of Columbia have either ordered or recommended that schools remained closed through the end of the academic year, according to CNN reporting.

26 states and Washington, DC, have announced school closures through the end of the academic year:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Five states are recommending to close schools through the end of the academic year:

  • California
  • Idaho
  • Maine
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
5:59 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

Citing Covid-19, federal judge orders compassionate release of reputed mob boss

From CNN’s Evan Simko-Bednarski

Vincent Asaro in 2015.
Vincent Asaro in 2015. Bryan R. Smith/AP

Vincent Asaro, a reputed mob boss and member of the Bonanno crime family, was granted compassionate release from a federal medical detention facility in Missouri over fear of the continued spread of Covid-19.

In a decision issued on Friday in the Eastern District of New York, Judge Allyne Ross ruled that Asaro's "age, in combination with his deteriorating health," constituted "an extraordinary and compelling reason for his release" during the pandemic.

Ross wrote that, while there were no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the prison where Asaro is being held, "absent more information about how much testing the BOP (Federal Bureau of Prisons) is conducting, it is possible that undetected cases are present in the facility."

Asaro pleaded guilty in 2017 to charges stemming from a 2012 incident in which he was alleged to have ordered a man's car set on fire. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

He suffered a stroke in custody in 2019, suffers from aphasia, and has difficulty walking, court documents state.

"While I do not know whether Asaro currently has the ability or the power to command others in his organization to carry out criminal acts at his will, I do not believe that, given Asaro’s current state, his release would put the public at a significantly increased risk of danger," Ross wrote.

Asaro was found not guilty in 2015 on charges that he participated in the infamous 1978 Lufthansa Heist at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

5:48 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

Boston to deploy sound trucks with stay-at-home message and Covid-19 information

From CNN's Laura Ly

The city of Boston will begin deploying public works trucks equipped with sound equipment to broadcast messages about Covid-19, including reminders to wash hands, stay home, cover your face, and maintain social distance, according to a news release from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s office.

The messages will be broadcast in seven languages, depending on the community, and will be deployed to the neighborhoods that have Covid-19 rates higher than the rest of Boston, the release states.

The trucks will be deployed beginning on Sunday at noon, the release states.

6:53 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

Arkansas governor announces task force to develop guidelines for reopening

From CNN’s Joe Youorski

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he’s issued an executive order to create a task force to develop industry-specific plans for the proposed phased reopening of the state's economy beginning May 4.

Hutchinson says the task force will develop plans that will allow businesses some degree of operation, but maintain public health requirements.

"You can open up a restaurant on May 4, but if the public does not have confidence that they're going to be safe, they're not going to go," Gov. Hutchinson said. "They're going to self-select their way out of it."

The group will be chaired by businessman Steuart Walton and the governor said he hopes for faith-based organizations to take part as well. 

The task force is slated to meet start up next week, but Hutchinson said guidance from public health experts will ultimately determine what re-openings can be put into effect and whether the May 4 date is feasible for activity.

The governor acknowledged that not all restrictions will be lifted and until there’s a vaccine, social distancing is a part of life in the future.

5:47 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

Federal assistance to go to 13,000 health centers in medically underserved areas, Trump says

From CNN's Nicky Robertson

President Donald Trump said the government will be providing assistance to 13,000 community health sites and mobile medical stations that will give testing in medically under-served regions with “many African American and Hispanic communities.”

President Trump says that they are doing "big studies" on the racial disparities of the coronavirus, noting that "we don’t like it" and it's "not right."

The President said the job the community health sites do "is incredible."

"These centers provide care to 28 million people living in medically underserved urban and rural regions including many African American and Hispanic communities," he said. "We're taking care of them and it's so important because you've all been reading about the disproportionate numbers on African American and you're reading a little bit less about Hispanic but likewise Hispanic communities. The numbers are disproportionate."

5:54 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

Almost 23% of NYC high school students did not interact with remote learning, data shows

From CNN’s Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio

Almost 23% of high school students in New York City public schools on average did not interact with remote learning between April 6 and April 14, according to the city’s Department of Education data.

Each school has specific ways of defining interaction with remote learning, the NYC DOE said in a statement. These may include student submission or completion of an assignment, student participation in online forums, and student contact with teachers through phone or email, among other criteria, the DOE said. 

By these definitions, an average of 77.1% of NYC high school students (grades 9-12) interacted with remote learning between April 6-14, DOE data showed.

Overall, an average of about 16% of New York City public schools students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade did not have these interactions during this time period, the data show. 

This cannot be considered attendance in the traditional sense but helps us understand who is and isn’t interacting daily and is data we’re using to support students and prevent learning loss," said Miranda Barbot, education department spokeswoman, in a statement. 

Schools started tracking student interaction with remote learning on April 6 through an online system called the Student Interaction Tracker on STARS Classroom that schools are familiar with, Barbot said. Through this system, schools can mark which students have not interacted on a particular day. About 84.3% of all students, on average, did interact with their schools under the defined criteria from April 6 to April 14, the data show.

The DOE has collected and is reporting data from an average of 81% of students every day, but data in the process of being uploaded is not included in the latest April 6 through April 14 figures, the department noted in their statement. Data on school interactions will be made available weekly, the DOE said.

5:29 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

230 inmates have tested positive for Covid-19 at an Arkansas prison

From CNN’s Carma Hassan

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says the state may begin to report the number of positive coronavirus cases at Cummins Unit prison separately from the overall state number, as cases are increasing testing at the prison.

"We’re doing an extraordinary amount of testing there. I was informed that we are doing like a thousand tests at Cummins," Hutchinson said. "And if we’re going to do that volume of tests, that really skews the reporting and so, I think in the future, we will be trying to show those in a different light, but in a very transparent way as well."

There are currently 230 inmates with coronavirus, said Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, the medical director for immunizations at the state's health department. None of the prison's staff members have tested positive yet, she said.

5:25 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

New cases in North Dakota nearly doubled several days in a row

From CNN’s Hollie Silverman

The number of new coronavirus cases in North Dakota have increased significantly several days in a row, Gov. Doug Burgum said during a press conference on Saturday.

Burgum said new case counts have nearly doubled the past few days. There were 28 new cases reported Thursday, 46 new cases reported Friday and 90 new cases reported Saturday, he said.

The state has 528 positive cases and nine deaths, according to Burgum.

A total of 183 people have recovered and 13 people are currently hospitalized, Burgam said. At least 47 people have been hospitalized in the state, according to the North Dakota Health Department website.

Hospitals are prepared to handle the increased number of patients, Burgum said.

5:44 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

Florida schools will continue distance learning for the rest of the year

From CNN’s Deanna Hackney

The exterior gates of Palmetto Elementary School in West Palm Beach are locked shut following the school's closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The exterior gates of Palmetto Elementary School in West Palm Beach are locked shut following the school's closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Joe Forzano/The Palm Beach Post/Zuma

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that K-12 schools will continue with distance learning for the duration of the school year, saying "it’s not the ideal situation" at a press conference Saturday afternoon.

"We've got pretty good momentum for distance learning, it's obviously not the ideal situation, but given where we are in the school year, we felt that that was the best, best decision to go forward," DeSantis said.