April 23 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Rob Picheta and Zamira Rahim, CNN

Updated 2:40 p.m. ET, April 26, 2020
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10:57 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

Nearly all Covid-19 patients put on ventilators in New York’s largest health system died, study finds

From CNN Health’s Maggie Fox

Nearly all coronavirus patients who needed ventilators to help them breathe died, a study of New York’s largest health system showed.

It found that, overall, about 20% of Covid-19 patients treated at Northwell Health died, and 88% of those placed on ventilators died. A ventilator is a device that forces air into the lungs of patients who cannot breathe on their own because of severe pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Other, smaller reports have indicated that patients who need ventilation are unlikely to survive.

Luckily, just 12% of the patients in the study needed ventilators, Dr. Safiya Richardson at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, Northwell Health, and colleagues found.

But this study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows how dire the outlook is for patients with severe Covid-19 disease.

The team looked at the electronic health records of 5,700 patients with coronavirus disease hospitalized at Northwell Health. Final outcomes were known for 2,634 of them.

The records support what doctors have been saying about the coronavirus: most people who become severely ill have some sort of so-called underlying condition. More than half, or 57%, had high blood pressure, 41% were obese and 34% had diabetes.

“Of the patients who died, those with diabetes were more likely to have received invasive mechanical ventilation or care in the ICU compared with those who did not have diabetes,” the researchers wrote.

They also confirmed that men were more likely to die than women, and no one under the age of 18 died.

The symptoms of infection were far from clear-cut. About a third of all patients showed up with fevers, 17% were breathing too fast and just under 30% needed extra oxygen. On average, patients were sent home after four days.

But 14% were treated in intensive care, 3% needed intensive dialysis and 21% died.

Since final data was only available on about half of the patients, it’s possible that more of those on ventilators survived, the researchers said -- something that would drive down the 88% fatality rate for that group.

“This study reported mortality rates only for patients with definite outcomes (discharge or death), and a longer-term study may find different mortality rates as different segments of the population are infected,” the Northwell Health team wrote.
10:25 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

China reports 10 new coronavirus cases

From journalist Vanesse Chan in Hong Kong

China reported 10 new confirmed coronavirus cases to the end of Wednesday, according the country's National Health Commission.

Among the new cases, six were imported from abroad and four were locally-transmitted.

No new Covid-19 related fatalities were reported Wednesday, leaving China's death toll unchanged at 4,632.

China has now officially reported 82,798 cases of novel coronavirus. Of the total cases, 77,207 have recovered and been discharged from the hospital, according to the health commission.

10:11 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

Former US health secretary "alarmed" at political spin in White House scientific briefings

From CNN Health’s Jen Christensen

Former US secretary of health and human services Kathleen Sebelius.
Former US secretary of health and human services Kathleen Sebelius. CNN

Kathleen Sebelius, who served as US secretary of health and human services under former president Barack Obama, says she is “alarmed” at the political spin she sees at scientific briefings from the current White House.

Speaking to Anderson Cooper on CNN’s AC360 Wednesday, Sebelius said that during the 2009-2010 H1N1 pandemic, the Obama White House took a much different approach than one the Trump administration is taking with the coronavirus pandemic.

“We had to tell people what we knew and what we didn’t know and get out of the way and let the scientists, CDC and NIH, talk to the American public. We did that twice or three times a day,” Sebelius said. “At every point along the way, President Obama resisted political pressure to rewrite CDC guidance or bow to social pressure and he kept saying ‘we have to follow the science and let the public know what the scientists say.’”
Watching the daily briefings from the Trump White House, Sebelius added, “I’m very alarmed that you get a lot of political spin before and after scientists talk.”

Sebelius said she thinks the second wave of the coronavirus in the fall will be much more deadly, particularly if there is a “robust” flu season. If coronavirus patients will need to be cared for in addition to flu patients, “it could be deadly for even more individuals in this country,” Sebelius said.

Sebelius encouraged people to get a flu shot as soon as one becomes available.

9:54 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

Most Covid-19 patients lost taste or smell, survey finds

From CNN Health’s Maggie Fox

Medical workers tend to a coronavirus patient at the intensive care unit of the Tor Vergata Covid-4 hospital, in Rome, Italy on April 21.
Medical workers tend to a coronavirus patient at the intensive care unit of the Tor Vergata Covid-4 hospital, in Rome, Italy on April 21. Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

Loss of taste or smell does indeed seem to be a symptom of Covid-19 infection, researchers reported Wednesday.

A survey of more than 200 patients in Italy found that 67% reported an altered sense of taste or smell either right before or right after they tested positive for Covid-19. 

Dr. Daniele Borsetto of Guy’s Hospital in London and colleagues said theirs was only the second medical study of what’s called anosmia, despite many stories from patients who say they have experienced it.

For their study, called the Sino-nasal Outcome Test 22 or SNOT-22, the researchers spoke to 202 Italian Covid-19 survivors by telephone. “Patients were contacted five to six days after the swab was performed,” they wrote in their report, published in the medical journal JAMA. 

“During the telephone interview, they were asked whether they had experienced a sudden onset of an altered sense of smell or taste in the 2 weeks before the swab,” Borsetto’s team wrote.

They found that 130 of the patients reported some sort of altered taste or smell. That’s 67%. A third also reported having had a blocked nose, which can alter taste and smell.

“Other frequent symptoms were fatigue (68.3%), dry or productive cough (60.4%), and fever (55.5%),” the team wrote.

The loss of taste or smell is not necessarily a precursor to other symptoms. Only 12% reported it as their first symptom. About a quarter said they lost smell or taste along with their other symptoms and another 27% noticed it as the last symptom. Just 3% said it was their only symptom.

“If these results are confirmed, consideration should be given to testing and self-isolation of patients with new onset of altered taste or smell during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the researchers concluded.

10:18 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

Protests in Colombia over lack of aid during government lockdown

From CNN's Stefano Pozzebon in Bogota

Demonstrators took to the streets in Bogota on Wednesday to protest against a lack of support during harsh measures taken by the Colombian government and local authorities to confront Covid-19.

In the neighborhood of Ciudad Bolivar, protesters raised blockades and loudly banged pots as parts of the community declared themselves "in permanent uprising." 

"70% of people around here are informal workers," human rights advocate Cristian Ramayo told CNN. "They don't have any pension and government aid has yet to arrive here. This has complicated the situation.”

Ramayo also told CNN there are 750,000 people who are going hungry. Several families are hanging red cloths at their windows as a sign that they are in need of urgent assistance. 

The protests are supported by local chambers of commerce, farmers' associations, NGOs and the LGBT community. 

Colombia has recorded 4,356 Covid-19 cases, including 206 deaths, according to the Colombian government.

The national lockdown is set to run through May 10, although limited sectors, including construction and manufacturing, will be allowed to reopen on Monday. 

9:31 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

Spain extends state of emergency until May 9, prolonging lockdown to 8 weeks

From CNN's Mia Alberti, Claudia Rebaza, Ingrid Formanek, Al Goodman and Isa Tejera

The Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain is seen deserted on April 21.
The Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain is seen deserted on April 21. Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

The Spanish parliament voted to approve the extension of the state of emergency for the third time until May 9, prolonging the country’s stay-at-home order to eight weeks in total.

The state of emergency was first decreed on March 14, which ordered severe restrictions on movement and business. 

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez argued for another extension during a speech on Wednesday morning. 

"This extension is different than the others” Sanchez said. "It's the first time I can do this with a carefully optimistic future. It is (the extension) that will begin to de-escalate the rules of confinement", he added. 

Sanchez warned MPs that the next phase of de-escalation and the return to normality "needs to be slow, gradual and therefore secure."

The prime minister also mentioned that his government is "implementing a control system" for people traveling from inside or outside of Spain, "to avoid more imported contagions".  

"Each mistake we do now, each challenge we fail, each delay caused by other interests will be a weight we will carry in the next months and years", he added.

Spain has reported the world’s second highest number of coronavirus cases, with more than 208,000 infections. The country has also enforced Europe’s strictest movement restrictions.

9:05 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

150,000 tests from South Korea will arrive in Colorado by end of the week

About 150,000 Covid-19 tests will arrive in Colorado from South Korea by the end of the week, with a further 150,000 swabs expected in May, Gov. Jared Polis announced during a news conference on Wednesday.

The state is partnering with Colorado State University to expand testing at skilled nursing facilities, including asymptomatic workers, and work is going on to deploy "hundreds of thousands of antibody tests," Polis said. 

"No amount of testing is enough to reopen the state. If that's all you're doing," Polis said, but "testing will absolutely be a part of going back to work."

On Monday, Polis announced he will relax the stay-at-home order due to expire on April 26, and Colorado will move to a "safer-at-home" phase starting on April 27.

8:46 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

A large-scale UK study will track the spread of coronavirus and try to gauge immunity levels

From CNN's David Wilkinson and Milena Veselinovic in London 

Up to 300,000 people in the UK will take part in a major long-term study to track the spread of coronavirus in the population, and understand the levels of immunity, the British government announced in a statement on Wednesday.

The study will examine how many people are infected in the UK, and how many have developed antibodies to the virus, the statement says.

Participants will form "a representative sample of the entire UK population by age and geography" the government said, with initial findings expected in early May.

It will be led by the Department for Health and Social Care and the Office for National Statistics.

“This survey will help to track the current extent of transmission and infection in the UK, while also answering crucial questions about immunity as we continue to build up our understanding of this new virus," UK health minister Matt Hancock said in the statement.

Participants will provide samples taken from self-administered nose and throat swabs, and answer a few short questions during a home visit by a trained health worker, according to the statement.

The swab tests will show whether or not participants currently have the virus. They will be asked to take further tests every week for the first five weeks, then every month for 12 months, the statement adds.

In total, 25,000 people will take part in the pilot phase of the survey, with plans to extend it to up to around 300,000 over the next 12 months. the government said.

The pilot phase will take place in England only, but will be extended to other parts of the UK "in due course" the statement said.

10:17 p.m. ET, April 22, 2020

7 more big cats at the Bronx Zoo test positive for coronavirus

From CNN's Laura Dolan

A guard stands at the entrance to the Bronx Zoo on April 6, in New York City.
A guard stands at the entrance to the Bronx Zoo on April 6, in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Seven additional big cats at New York's Bronx Zoo have tested positive for Covid-19, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, the non-profit organization that runs the zoo.

That makes a total of eight big cats who contracted coronavirus at the famed zoo in New York City.

Some context: Three tigers and three African lions exhibited symptoms in early April when the zoo announced a 4-year-old Malayan tiger, named Nadia, tested positive for the virus. Testing on these six cats now confirm they have Covid-19. One more tiger also tested positive despite showing no symptoms.

The zoo says all eight animals are behaving normally and eating well. 

The cats were infected by a staff member, although it is unclear how the infection occurred.

Preventive measure are now in place for all staff who are caring for cats in the four zoos run by the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York. They include the Bronx Zoo, the Central Park Zoo in Manhattan, the Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn and the Queens Zoo. 

The zoos have been closed since March 16.