April 18 coronavirus news

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8:19 a.m. ET, April 18, 2020

WHO says no evidence antibody tests can determine immunity

From CNN's Ivana Kottasova

Scientists work to validate antibody tests from recovered Covid-19 patients on April 10 in New York City.
Scientists work to validate antibody tests from recovered Covid-19 patients on April 10 in New York City. Misha Friedman/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has warned there is no evidence to suggest the presence of antibodies in blood can determine whether someone has immunity to the coronavirus. 

Dr. Mike Ryan, the WHO’s executive director for health emergencies, said Friday there was no indication so far that a large proportion of the population had developed immunity. 

“There’s been an expectation, maybe, that herd immunity may have been achieved and that the majority of people in society may already have developed antibodies. I think the general evidence is pointing against that... so it may not solve the problem the governments are trying to solve.”

The number of recovered coronavirus patients who have retested positive for the virus has raised concerns about how antibodies work in response to Covid-19.

While scientists say there is no evidence yet that a person who has retested positive can spread the virus further, there haven’t been any conclusive studies to rule that out.

Professor Chris Dye, of the Oxford Martin School at Britain's University of Oxford, said substantial work to develop accurate antibody tests for coronavirus infection was ongoing.

“The WHO are right to highlight that any antibody test, if we get one, won’t be able to definitely say whether someone is immune to the infection, because we just don’t know enough yet about how immunity works with Covid-19," he told the Science Media Centre.

Such tests would need to be sensitive enough to ensure that infections were not missed, and specific enough to be confident that a positive result is correct, he said.

"Before an antibody test can be used to indicate that someone is immune to further infection, the level of protection must be demonstrated in experimental trials," Dye added.

5:57 a.m. ET, April 18, 2020

How fear of Covid-19 is affecting children's health

By Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, for CNN

Classrooms are empty of children as many schools remain closed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Classrooms are empty of children as many schools remain closed to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Jasmin Merdan/Moment RF/Getty Images

The virus that causes Covid-19 has been relentlessly preying on adults around the world for months, while largely sparing children. Although children are not directly affected by the illness, their health is undoubtedly being at risk in our collective new reality.

Before Covid-19, my clinic in New York City used to be filled with children coming in for checkups, vaccines and minor illnesses. Parents in my community always erred on the side of bringing their kids in right away when sick rather than waiting at home, to make sure whatever they had "was not serious."

The new coronavirus changed everything. Parents are now afraid to take care of some of their children's basic health needs.

Although children have, as a group, been largely spared by the illness, families are now making a new calculation: to some, the risk of exposure to Covid-19 seems greater than the benefit of vaccinating on time or that of promptly seeking medical attention for minor illnesses and injuries.

For these families, our efforts to explain the measures we have taken to keep their children safe while in the office don't seem to offer much reassurance.

Read more here.

4:36 a.m. ET, April 18, 2020

It's 5 p.m. in Tokyo and 9 a.m. in London, here are the top coronavirus headlines around the world

A nurse helps another nurse to put on a personal protective equipment before accessing a patient's home on April 17 in Madrid, Spain.
A nurse helps another nurse to put on a personal protective equipment before accessing a patient's home on April 17 in Madrid, Spain. Pablo Cuadra/Getty Images

  • Global death toll rises to 150,000: Covid-19 has killed more than 154,000 people around the world in just four months, as the total number of infections rises to 2.24 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • When should the US open up? US President Donald Trump has unveiled guidelines to help states loosen restrictions, as the country's total infections hit 700,000. He said some governors who are implementing federal guidelines for stay-at-home orders are being “too tough.”
  • Texas aims to be the first state to reopen: Gov. Greg Abbott announced he is consulting with a group of medical and economic experts -- named the "Strike Force to Open Texas" -- on how to reopen the state after the pandemic. Plans to restart business won't come until April 27, and Abbott stressed they will be determined by "data and by doctors."
  • Death toll in Spain over 20,000: There have now been more than 20,002 deaths from the novel coronavirus in Spain as the number of confirmed infections tops 190,839. Despite the high toll, Madrid is beginning discussions on how best to re-open the country after the epidemic.
  • Japan braces for coronavirus crisis: A combination of rising infections and medical equipment shortages has Japan scrambling to avoid a large-scale coronavirus epidemic. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has extended the state of emergency and promised hospitals they will receive protective equipment.
  • Top Nigerian official dies: Abba Kyari, chief of staff to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, died Friday after testing positive for the virus. He had been receiving treatment, the President's office said in a statement. Officially, Nigeria has 493 coronavirus cases and 17 fatalities.

3:52 a.m. ET, April 18, 2020

Georgia's defiant Orthodox church will host Easter worshipers despite lockdown

By Neil Hauer, for CNN

In this file photo, the biggest cathedral of Georgia, The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi, commonly known as Sameba, is seen in Tbilisi, Georgia on February 18, 2020.
In this file photo, the biggest cathedral of Georgia, The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi, commonly known as Sameba, is seen in Tbilisi, Georgia on February 18, 2020. Ozkan Bilgin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

At first glance, the republic of Georgia has been a success story in the fight against the novel coronavirus: the outbreak in the small Caucasus nation has remained limited, with just 370 official cases as of Friday morning.

But Georgia now faces a serious test. Easter will be celebrated this Sunday on the Eastern Christian calendar, and the powerful Georgian Orthodox Church is planning major celebrations that public health officials say could prove deadly.

Georgian authorities moved early to respond to the coronavirus. The government closed schools on February 29, when the country had just three confirmed cases. Health experts have credited the swift response with containing the virus early through social distancing and other measures. On Friday, a five-day nationwide ban on private car travel went into effect.

The Georgian Orthodox church, however, has largely refused to heed the pleas of public health officials, who have urged people to stay home. Churches across Georgia have remained open and continued to hold ceremonies, a move that experts say could prove disastrous.

A spokesperson for the Georgian Orthodox Church did not return a request for comment. But church officials have been insistent that its traditional practices do no harm.

"It is not possible for this virus to be spread by the church," Metropolitan Gerasim, a senior priest who heads a large district in western Georgia, was quoted as saying by Georgian media this week. "We are healing people, not hurting them."

Read more here.

3:28 a.m. ET, April 18, 2020

Taiwan plays ball -- and broadcasts live games to the world

From CNN's Ivan Watson, Rebecca Wright and Tom Booth

Kuo-Ching Kao of Uni-President Lions gets tagged out during a game in Taoyuan, Taiwan, on April 16.
Kuo-Ching Kao of Uni-President Lions gets tagged out during a game in Taoyuan, Taiwan, on April 16. Gene Wang/Getty Images

Sports of all types have been canceled around the world due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But not in Taiwan.

Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium echoed with the thwack of bats hitting balls on Thursday, as the Rakuten Monkeys clobbered the Uni Lions 15-3.

Taiwan is still playing ball.

"That is because we did a pretty good job on the pandemic prevention," said Richard Wang, a Taiwanese broadcaster who provided live English-language commentary broadcast worldwide.

The numbers suggest he's right.

As of Friday, Taiwan, with its population of around 24 million people, had detected only 395 cases of coronavirus and just six deaths.

On Tuesday, it also reached an important milestone. No new cases were reported that day, for the first time since March 9.

Read more here.

3:03 a.m. ET, April 18, 2020

Recovered coronavirus patients are testing positive again. Can you get reinfected?

From CNN's Paula Hancocks, Yoonjung Seo and Julia Hollingsworth

Coronavirus testing kits at the Boditech Med Inc. headquarters in Chuncheon, South Korea, on April 17.
Coronavirus testing kits at the Boditech Med Inc. headquarters in Chuncheon, South Korea, on April 17.

In South Korea, health officials are trying to solve a mystery: why 163 people who recovered from coronavirus have retested positive, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The same has been recorded in China, where some coronavirus patients tested positive after seeming to recover, although there are no official figures.

That raises the question: can you get reinfected with coronavirus?

In South Korea, the proportion of cases that retest positive is low -- of the 7,829 people who have recovered from coronavirus there, 2.1% retested positive, the KCDC said Friday. It is not clear how many of the people who have recovered have been tested again.

But patients retesting positive is still a concern around the world, including in countries like South Korea where authorities appear to have brought the outbreak under control.

Read more here.

2:47 a.m. ET, April 18, 2020

3D printing enthusiasts are working from home to help hospitals fight coronavirus

These Y-shaped pieces of plastic, made at home with a 3D printer, can help extend the capacity of hospital ventilators.
These Y-shaped pieces of plastic, made at home with a 3D printer, can help extend the capacity of hospital ventilators. CNN/Justin Robertson

For weeks, Christian Parker has been working to save lives across the United States from his home in Washington state using a 3D printer and a blueprint for a small, Y-shaped piece of plastic.

Parker has been under a stay-at-home order with his wife and three children since early March. A 3D-printing enthusiast, he was fascinated by stories of people in Italy using the technology to help manufacture equipment and protective items at a time when supplies of important medical gear are running low.

"[I thought] if I'm sitting at home just tinkering with my 3D printers anyway, or they're sitting idle, what can I do to jump in and help out where I can?" he said.

In the past week, Parker said he has produced at least 40 ventilator splitters for hospitals across the US. The simple plastic pipe can help stretch the capabilities of the country's limited supply of ventilators by dividing the air flow from a single ventilator to multiple patients.

"I'm not the hero, I'm just playing sidekick to those that are," Parker said.

Read more here.

2:32 a.m. ET, April 18, 2020

Japanese medical workers fear the worst as coronavirus cases spike

From CNN's Emiko Jozuka in Tokyo

A man wears a face mask in Tokyo, Japan, on April 17.
A man wears a face mask in Tokyo, Japan, on April 17. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Ayako Kajiwara is scared Japan's medical system isn't prepared for what might happen next.

She's the lead nurse at a hospital in Saitama prefecture and is witnessing firsthand the strain on an intensive care unit that's treating critically ill coronavirus patients.

"It's hard because we think the patient is improving, but then they'll suddenly take a turn for the worse," she said.

Rapid rise in coronavirus infections: In the past few weeks, Japan's coronavirus cases have spiked -- dashing hopes that the government's initial virus response had succeeded in controlling its spread. As of Friday, Japan had 9,787 confirmed cases, including 190 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. On March 1, the country had 243 cases.

The sharp increase has prompted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to extend the state of emergency from seven prefectures to the entire country. On Friday, he also promised to provide medical equipment such as surgical masks, gowns and face shields to hospitals struggling with acute gear shortages within a week.

Earlier this week, a team of government experts warned that Japan could have more than 400,000 coronavirus-related deaths if measures such as social distancing are not taken.

Experts say medical shortages combined with comparatively low testing rates and Japan's lack of provision for teleworking could create a potentially explosive surge in cases.

Read more here.

2:13 a.m. ET, April 18, 2020

The US isn't doing enough coronavirus testing, former CDC director says

From CNN Health’s Jen Christensen & Amanda Sealy

Medical workers prepare a Covid-19 test sample in Berkeley, California on April 17.
Medical workers prepare a Covid-19 test sample in Berkeley, California on April 17. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says the United States is not doing enough coronavirus testing and that it is “absolutely the federal government’s responsibility.”

President Donald Trump said at the beginning of the pandemic that “everyone who wants a test can have a test” -- yet several governors have complained they cannot get enough testing equipment and supplies.

The Trump plan to reopen the country does not contain a national testing strategy, and has pushed the responsibility back to the states.

Frieden, an infectious disease specialist, says the country’s rate of less than 150,000 tests a day is not nearly enough.

“Earlier today, we released a report and we calculated quite simply: If we were just testing the highest-priority people and nobody else, we'd need about three times as many tests,” Frieden told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta during a taping of his podcast, “Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction.”

Frieden said it won’t be possible to test everyone, but “that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless.”

"There’s a lot the country can do to test enough, even without all the tests the country may wish it had," he said. “But we really need the federal government, commercial laboratories, private sector hospitals to continue to step up. The federal government has a crucial role to play in ensuring the supply chain here and focusing on ramping up test capacity.”