April 18 coronavirus news

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7:38 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

Testing for coronavirus must increase by more than 3 times to be able to reopen America, experts say  

From CNN's Gina Yu

A medical worker handles a coronavirus test at a drive-through testing center in Springfield, Tennessee, on April 18.
A medical worker handles a coronavirus test at a drive-through testing center in Springfield, Tennessee, on April 18. Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The US needs to conduct at least 500,000 tests for Covid-19 every day to be able to successfully open the economy and stay open, according to three Harvard researchers.

Currently, about 150,000 tests per day are completed, and about 20% of those tests have been positive. More testing is necessary to be able to capture who is infected and might put others at risk, researchers said.

The current percentage of tests that are positive in the US is too high, the researchers said. The World Health Organization has suggested that an adequate test positive rate should be between 3 and 12%, while the US rate is around 20%.

To achieve a 10% test positivity rate by May 1, about 580,000 people per day would need to be tested, research shows. If instead, contact tracing is considered and an estimated 10 contacts are tested for each estimated positive case by May 1, about 535,000 tests would need to be conducted per day.

The researchers include:

  • Dr. Ashish Jha, faculty director of the Harvard Global Health Institute
  • Dr. Thomas Tsai, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Benjamin Jacobson, research assistant at the Harvard Global Health Institute

Scholars believe the numbers are underestimated, Jha wrote in an email to CNN. She said a formal write-up of their research will be available in the future.

“If we can’t be doing at least 500,000 tests a day by May 1, it is hard to see any way we can remain open,” the researchers wrote.

President Donald Trump told reporters the US has conducted more than 3.78 million coronavirus tests to date at a Friday White House briefing.

7:07 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

Trump: Pandemic response should not be 'partisan witch hunt' but he criticizes Democratic governors

From Nicky Robertson

Patrick Semansky/AP
Patrick Semansky/AP

Invoking his favorite phrase of criticism directed at the Russia investigation, President Donald Trump says the response to the coronavirus “…should not be a partisan witch hunt.” He added that “we have to work together” to address the pandemic.

However, Trump attacked three Democratic governors Friday urging people to “liberate” Massachusetts, Michigan and Virginia.

For two days in a row, Trump has harshly criticized Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, wrongly claiming Northam wants to take away the Second Amendment rights of Virginians. Trump is referring to a bill Northam signed that allows law enforcement to take temporary control of guns if people are deemed a danger to themselves or others.

Trump claimed that some people are "attempting to bring this into politics." He later went on to claim that Democratic senators were "nasty" and "rude" on a phone call with Vice President Mike Pence yesterday when several senators asked tough questions about the lack of testing availability.

7:01 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

4,347 NYPD members test positive for coronavirus to date

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

To date, 4,347 members of the New York Police Department have tested positive for coronavirus, the department said in a news release.

As of Saturday, 5,324 uniformed members of the NYPD were on sick report, which accounts for 14.7% of the uniformed work force, down from a high of 19.8%, the department said.

Of those out sick, about 1,855 uniformed members and 375 civilian members have been diagnosed with coronavirus.

A total of 2,089 members of the NYPD have returned to work full after recovery.

6:50 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

Trump says 'some governors have gotten carried away' with social distancing measures

From Nicky Robertson

Patrick Semansky/AP
Patrick Semansky/AP

President Donald Trump said Saturday he believes "some of the governors have gotten carried away" with social distancing measures, when asked about protests against social-distancing measures taking place across the nation.

He said that "a lot of people don’t have to be told to do what they are doing," in following social distancing measures. His comments come as protests against coronavirus-related restrictions continue in various states across the country.

6:52 p.m. ET, April 18, 2020

Florida to release names of nursing homes with Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Rosa Flores and Sara Weisfeldt

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Lynne Sladky/AP

After much criticism, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced during a press conference Saturday that Florida will be releasing the names of nursing homes and long-term care facilities with Covid-19 cases.

It is necessary for public health to release the names of the facilities where a resident or staff members tested positive for Covid-19," DeSantis said.

There are 1,627 cases of coronavirus at these facilities, including both residents and staff, per DeSantis.

At the onset of the pandemic, DeSantis said he prohibited visitors and ordered anyone entering nursing homes be screened. To help prevent outbreaks at these facilities, DeSantis said he has sent "strike teams" into nursing home facilities across the state to do spot testing for the virus to identify asymptomatic staff members who may be infected.

DeSantis says he has asked Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees to compile the information and release it to the public. Management at nursing homes are already required to notify residents, staff and families when cases of Covid-19 arise, DeSantis said.

The names of patients or people who have died from Covid-19 will not be released, DeSantis said. According to the governor, between 90 and 100 deaths from coronavirus in Florida were related to nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

DeSantis has another pressing decision to make on nursing homes: Will he release them from liability?

The Florida Health Care Association, a federation that represents 600 long-term care centers, has asked DeSantis for immunity for workers. 

Democratic state Sen. Gary Farmer told reporters during a conference call last week that if DeSantis gave nursing homes immunity, the move would be "outrageous," "unprecedented" and "unconstitutional."

During a press conference Friday, DeSantis said he has not made a decision on the issue.

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.