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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6:53 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.

5:43 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

Trump frustrated and 'chomping at the bit' to begin reopening the country

From CNN's Kristen Holmes

Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images
Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images

President Donald Trump went into the weekend frustrated after a week of calls with industry leaders, governors and lawmakers who raised questions on whether the country was ready to be reopened, specifically whether or not there was adequate testing to reopen the economy and send people back to work, a senior administration official told CNN.

Even allies told President Trump that to move forward there would need to be some sort of readily available mass rapid testing system in place.

President Trump has expressed annoyance to those around him at the coverage of the White House reopening guidelines issued Thursday, this administration official said, and doesn’t understand why the narrative isn’t more positive.

A separate source in contact with the President described him as "chomping at the bit" and eager for the pandemic to be over and for businesses to reopened. The source added that for the first time, the President has seemed excited, believing he sees a light at the end of the tunnel.

Adding to Trump's frustration is that while White House medical experts have told him the country is on track for a phased reopening, those experts and Trump are not in sync on the timing of the relaxation, including whether his target date of May 1 for parts of the country can be met.

5:42 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

Israel announces plans to begin easing restrictions Sunday

From CNN’s Andrew Carey 

A firefighter sprays a turnstile with disinfectant at the Moshe Dayan Railway Station in Israel.
A firefighter sprays a turnstile with disinfectant at the Moshe Dayan Railway Station in Israel. Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to begin gradually easing the restrictions to combat the spread of Covid-19 beginning Sunday, with the goal of increasing the number of employees allowed in any workplace from 15% to 30%.

The updated guidelines still need government approval, which is expected late Saturday night. The reduced restrictions will be evaluated for two weeks before any further decisions are made, Netanyahu said.

Industrial and high-tech workplaces, as well as certain stores, will be allowed to reopen under health and social distancing restrictions. Employers must check the temperature of their workers upon arrival and limit the number of people in a room; maintaining at least 2 meters (6 feet) between each person.  

Employers must document who enters offices and stores must document customers who enter. Employees must sign a health declaration before entering their workplace.

The new rules notwithstanding, Netanyahu still encouraged employees to continue to work from home as much as possible.

Stores that will be allowed to reopen include those selling furniture, household appliances, electronics, and communication devices.

If an employee tests positive for coronavirus, the workplace will be required to close until it receives permission from the Health Ministry to reopen.

Those over 67 years old, or with an existing health condition, should not return to work, said Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman Tov.

Israelis must remain within 100 meters (about 330 feet) of their residences, though they may travel up to 500 meters (1,640 feet) for exercise. Citizens are still required to wear face masks in public spaces and maintain a 2-meter (6-foot) distance from others.

Schools and universities will remain closed, except for special needs education, which can be conducted in small groups, Netanyahu said. Beaches and parks remain closed, as do malls and restaurants.

Outdoor prayer is permitted in groups of up to 10 people, provided worshipers remain 2 meters (6 feet) apart. 

Israel has had a total of 13,265 confirmed cases of coronavirus cases and 164 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health, a mortality rate of 1.2%.

5:41 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

Spain to extend 'state of alarm' until early May

From CNN’s Tim Lister, Al Goodman, Laura Perez Maestro and Mia Alberti

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says his government plans to extend Spain’s state of alarm for 15 more days. The state of alarm was to end on April 26, but the planned extension calls for it to end on May 9.

The plan extends Spain’s strict lockdown to a total of eight weeks.

"Today it is not possible to lift the containment measures and go to phase two of de-escalation," Sanchez said at a news conference.

The state of alarm was introduced March 14 and placed severe restrictions on movement and business. The extension will be presented to Parliament in the coming week.

However, Sanchez said with the advice of experts, the government will lift the confinement of children as of April 27. He said the exception would "be limited and subject to conditions to avoid contagion."

Sanchez said after May 9, a "cautious and progressive" de-escalation would take place.

"We will be guided by a series of markers that will tell us of the spread of the virus and of the vigor of our health system, so that we know how the pandemic is evolving in each region," he said.

The de-escalation may proceed at different rates in different regions, he said. But if any risk is detected, Sanchez said the de-escalation would be suspended.

The state of alarm was slightly relaxed last Monday to allow some four million Spaniards to return to work in jobs like construction and manufacturing. But nonessential retail outlets, bars, cafes and other places of entertainment have remained closed, and Spain’s lucrative tourism business remains halted.

The National Police and Civil Guard continue to enforce a ban on all nonessential movement, and traffic on Spain’s major roads is down by about 80% on pre-crisis levels.