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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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.

4:37 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

Virus 'growth is slowing' in Illinois despite more than 1,500 new cases reported, state health director says

From CNN's Chuck Johnston

Temporary hospital rooms are constructed inside the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago, Illinois, on April 17.
Temporary hospital rooms are constructed inside the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago, Illinois, on April 17. Tyler LaRiviere/Pool/Getty Images

Coronavirus "growth is slowing" in Illinois, state Health Director Ngozi Ezike said Saturday.

The state reported 1,585 new cases and 125 new deaths Saturday, Ezike said.

Illinois has 29,160 positive cases and 1,259 deaths from coronavirus statewide, according to Ezike.

Ezike said despite the new cases officials are "cautiously optimistic" that "growth is slowing."

6:44 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

First inmate in Iowa tests positive for coronavirus

From CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian 

The Iowa Department of Corrections reports that an inmate at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center (IMCC) tested positive for coronavirus late Friday night, according to a press release from the Iowa Department of Corrections.

The inmate was newly processed to IMCC, and arrived from Henry County on Thursday, the statement read. The individual is currently undergoing a 14-day quarantine to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The inmate is currently in medical isolation, and a thorough contact tracing is taking place to identify any individuals that may have been exposed to him since his arrival, the statement read.

4:32 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

California governor secures nearly 11,000 hotel rooms for homeless residents during pandemic

From CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian 

Tents line a sidewalk in Skid Row near downtown Los Angeles on April 18.
Tents line a sidewalk in Skid Row near downtown Los Angeles on April 18. David McNew/Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a press conference on Saturday that the state has secured 10,974 hotel rooms and 5,025 rooms from Motel 6 in 19 counties for homeless residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

"We had an audacious goal a few weeks back of identifying 15,000 hotel rooms that would be made available as a subset of our larger homeless strategy to get people off the streets," Newsom said, adding that "4,211 individuals are now inside off the streets, out of our shelters, representing roughly 38% of all those hotel rooms now being occupied."

4:25 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

Massachusetts governor compares coronavirus fight to the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings

From CNN’s Carma Hassan 

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Gen. James McConville, the current US Army chief of staff, joined Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker at the Boston Hope Field Medical Station Saturday where he called the coronavirus an "invisible enemy."

"We are in a war against an invisible enemy. The Covid-19 virus," McConville said.

McConville was later asked how he felt about the deaths of the veterans at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home and he said, "The loss of life is absolutely terrible. We don’t want to lose anybody."

When asked if he has a message to health care workers as they fight this enemy, McConville said he was in Afghanistan when the Boston Marathon bombing happened. He said he was proud of the response by Boston and the commonwealth, then and now, because the community became "Boston strong, they became Massachusetts strong and they will defeat this virus."

Baker noted that tumultuous events like the Boston Bombing are usually visible, unlike the current fight against the coronavirus.

What we are dealing with here, as the general said, is an invisible, insidious enemy and if you go outside and you walk around, it looks pretty much the same as it always did except there’s nobody on the streets, there’s very few automobiles, and everything for the most part is closed," Baker said.

The governor said that dealing with this virus is "a different kind of battle than one you can actually see what you are up against."

This "will, in some extent, be a marathon for us as well," the governor said.