April 19 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Jenni Marsh, Laura Smith-Spark, Fernando Alfonso III and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 10:02 p.m. ET, April 19, 2020
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12:25 p.m. ET, April 19, 2020

507 people have died in New York over the past 24 hours

There are 507 New Yorkers who have died due to coronavirus across the state over the past 24 hours, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Nursing homes continue to be a source of "really disturbing situations," Cuomo said today during a news conference.  

"The worst news for us to live with every day, and an everyday tragedy, we lost another 507 New Yorkers. Those are not just very large numbers we see. That's every number is a face and a family and a brother and a sister and mother and a father and people who are in pain today and will be in pain for a long period of time. So we remember them in our thoughts and prayers," Cuomo said.

At least 540 people died Friday in New York, the governor said as a news conference yesterday.

12:22 p.m. ET, April 19, 2020

New York governor: "We are past the high point and all indications at this point is that we are on the descent"

State of New York
State of New York

Speaking today at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo shared Sunday that hospitalizations across the state are on the decline.

"The total hospitalization rate is down again in the state of New York. We're down to 16,000. If you look at the numbers, we're at 18,000 people hospitalized for a period of time. It flattened there for awhile then went down to 17,000. This is a low from our high point of 16,000. The question of whether we have been passed the apex, past the high point, and turned out the high point wasn't a point, but it was a plateau. We got up to a high point and we just stayed at that level for awhile," Cuomo said at a news conference.

Cuomo added: "If the data holds and if this trend holds, we are past the high point and all indications at this point is that we are on the descent. Whether or not the descent continues depends on what we do but right now we're on the descent."

12:18 p.m. ET, April 19, 2020

Treasury secretary thinks the US economy will recover in months

From CNN's Nicky Robertson

CNN
CNN

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNN that he thinks it will only be months, not years, before the US economy recovers from the impact of the coronavirus.

“I think it will be months,” Mnuchin said today. “I definitely don't think it will be years.”

Mnuchin said that once the economy reopens he believes there will be a “big rebound.”

Some economists are very skeptical of any claims of a quick economic recovery.

12:01 p.m. ET, April 19, 2020

Cabinet minister says Boris Johnson has "absolutely been leading" coronavirus effort in UK

From CNN’s Nada Bashir in London

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on March 25.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on March 25. Peter Summers/Getty Images

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson has “absolutely been leading our nation’s effort to combat the coronavirus” since the moment “it became clear that there were challenges in terms of coronavirus developing in China,” Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said at the Downing Street press conference Sunday.

In response to a question over Johnson’s lack of attendance at five Cobra meetings in January and February, Williamson said Johnson has been “making sure that resources and money is not an issue or concern for any department, especially for health services." Cobra refers to interdepartmental government meetings called in times of crisis.

“Many Cobra meetings take place and I have spent many hours attending Cobra meetings where it is actually led by the departmental minister,” Williamson said.

Johnson first chaired a coronavirus Cobra meeting on March 2.

“But the focus that the prime minister was putting on this, and has continued to put on this, has meant that this is the whole government effort,” he added.

Williamson responded to criticism about the government’s response to acquiring personal protective equipment (PPE). He said the government has been trying to secure PPE “from the first moment” scientific advice highlighted “we were facing a real challenge in terms of the coronavirus."

“What we have seen over the last few months is an enormous effort – it’s a national effort, but also an international effort to secure PPE from right around the globe,” he added. 

12:05 p.m. ET, April 19, 2020

Scientists still don't know if being infected by coronavirus means immunity, health expert says

From CNN’s Wes Bruer

Alex Brandon/AP
Alex Brandon/AP

It is still unknown whether being infected with the coronavirus and recovering will give you immunity from the virus in the future, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said on CBS today.

"That's why these studies that are going on with plasma and giving plasma to sick patients to really see if that antibody confers protective immunity and help to the individual who is sick, as well as really doing studies with vaccines and looking, seeing whether the antibodies that are produced are effective," Birx said.

When asked whether the US could see a resurgence in cases, like in South Korea, and if that was a result of those being infected not building immunity, Birx said “those are questions we still have scientifically.” 

Aside from HIV, people who contract most infectious diseases and recover develop antibodies, which often means people are immune.

But “we just don’t know if it’s immunity for a month, immunity for six months, immunity for six years,” Birx said. 

11:46 a.m. ET, April 19, 2020

It is "absolutely false" to say that governors aren't doing their job, Maryland governor says

From CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian

CNN
CNN

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has responded to the Trump administration’s claim that governors have plenty of coronavirus tests and should just get to work on testing.

To “say we aren’t doing our job, is just absolutely false," Hogan told CNN on Sunday.

Hogan said he and other governors are doing everything they can to push toward the reopening of their economies in a safe manner.

“I don’t think it’s helpful to encourage demonstrations and encourage people to go against the president’s own policy,” Hogan said, adding that “the President’s own guidelines say you should have 14 days of declining numbers before you start to consider phase 1 of reopening."

“To encourage people to go protest the plan that you just made recommendations on, on Thursday, it just doesn’t make any sense,” Hogan added.

Hogan summed up his thoughts on the mixed messages coming from the White House by saying, “we’re sending completely conflicting messages out to the governors and to the people, as if we should ignore federal policy and federal recommendations.”

Some context: Since the earlier days of the crisis, the nation's governors and the Trump administration have tangled over whether the much-needed expansion of testing capacity is the responsibility of the states or the federal government.

Exasperated after a week in which industry leaders, governors, Democratic senators and even allies warned Trump and Vice President Mike Pence that the nation cannot get back to business-as-usual without a substantial increase in testing nationally, Trump faulted governors Saturday for not moving quickly enough to ramp up capacity in their states.

Pushing back on Trump's insistence that the federal government should merely serve as a backstop for states, several governors have argued that Trump's hope for reopening the economy cannot happen until there is adequate testing in their states and that they need federal aid to do that.

But during a White House briefing Saturday, the President lashed out at governors for complaining and charged that testing is simply the latest coronavirus issue that Democrats are politicizing to convince Americans that Trump is mishandling the coronavirus response.

11:26 a.m. ET, April 19, 2020

No date set for reopening UK schools yet

From CNN’s Nada Bashir in London

Children will not be able to return to schools in the United Kingdom until the government has achieved its five point plan to ensure it is safe to adjust any of the current coronavirus measures, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said at the daily Downing Street news conference on Sunday.  

“We will work with the [education] sector to consider how best to reopen schools, nurseries and colleges when the time is right,” Williamson said. “Our first priority has always been protecting the wellbeing of children and young people, but particularly vulnerable young people."

Some context: The number of people who have died in UK hospitals due to coronavirus has increased to 16,060, the Department of Health said Sunday.

The government said Sunday that 120,067 people have now tested positive for coronavirus.

9:50 p.m. ET, April 19, 2020

New York City mayor is asking the MTA to do better with social distancing on the subway

From CNN's Sheena Jones

Commuters exit a subway train in New York on April 17.
Commuters exit a subway train in New York on April 17. Scott Heins/Getty Images

Although Metropolitan Transportation Authority ridership is down, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling on the MTA to work better with the New York City Police Department about social distancing and monitoring the number of people that can be on each car.

“I think the MTA needs to do a better job of defining really clearly what’s the maximum number of people that should be on a subway car and ensuring with the NYPD there is never more than that number on a subway car," the mayor said.

MTA spokesman Shams Tarek responded with the following statement:

“As the Mayor knows, we have been working closely with the NYPD on this very issue for weeks. Even with subway ridership down more than 90 percent, we are making it possible for doctors, nurses, first responders, grocery and pharmacy workers, and other essential personnel to get to work and save lives. Shutting down mass transit during this unprecedented crisis would be dangerous and could lead to even more deaths. The MTA has led the nation in its efforts to protect its employees and customers, disinfecting its stations and full fleet of rolling stock and even breaking away from federal guidance and providing hundreds of thousands of masks to our heroic workforce before the CDC recommended it.”

Some context: The New York City mayor's comment comes after he was asked about some members of the city council urging the governor to shut down the subway because it’s spreading the coronavirus.  

The mayor also said he doesn’t know another way people could get around if trains were shutdown.

This post was updated with the MTA response.

10:53 a.m. ET, April 19, 2020

What we can learn from the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918

From CNN's Holly Yan

Seattle policemen wear protective face masks during influenza epidemic of 1918.
Seattle policemen wear protective face masks during influenza epidemic of 1918. Time Life Pictures/National Archives/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

The 1918 influenza pandemic – often called the "Spanish flu" although it did not originate in Spain –  killed more than 50 million people globally and about 675,000 in the US.

"The intensity and speed with which it struck were almost unimaginable — infecting one-third of the Earth's population," the World Health Organization said.

Fast-forward to 2020, the coronavirus is also spreading with astonishing speed as officials and medical experts grapple with how to slow the virus and keep people safe.

Some of the painful lessons learned from the 1918 pandemic are still relevant today and could help prevent an equally catastrophic outcome.

Here's what we could learn from the past:

Lesson #1: Don't let up on social distancing too soon

During the Spanish flu pandemic, people stopped distancing too early, leading to a second wave of infections that was deadlier than the first, epidemiologists say.

"The image that we have of this epidemic curve, we say we're going to reach a 'peak' — we look at it, it looks like Mt. Fuji in our minds ... a single, solitary mountain," epidemiologist Dr. Larry Brilliant said.

"I don't think it's going to look like that. I think a better image is a wave of a tsunami, with echoed waves that follow. And it's up to us, how big those other waves will be," he added.

Lesson #2: Young, healthy adults can be victims of their strong immune systems

Young, healthy people are not invincible and their strong immune systems might work against them.

"In those cases, it is not an aged or weakened immune system that is the problem — it is one that works too well," CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said.

"In some young, healthy people, a very reactive immune system could lead to a massive inflammatory storm that could overwhelm the lungs and other organs," he added.

Lesson #3: Don't throw unproven drugs at the virus

The Spanish flu and the novel coronavirus pandemics share two major challenges: the lack of a vaccine and the lack of a cure.

Back in 1918, remedies "varied from the newly developed drugs to oils and herbs," according to a Stanford University research post.

"The therapy was much less scientific than the diagnostics, as the drugs had no clear explanatory theory of action," the post said.

In 2020, there is widespread speculation about whether hydroxychloroquine – a drug used to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis – could help coronavirus patients.

The bottom line: It's still not clear whether some drugs will cause more harm than good in the fight against coronavirus.