April 26 coronavirus news

By James Griffiths, Jenni Marsh, Tara John, Fernando Alfonso III and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 9:44 p.m. ET, April 26, 2020
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5:53 p.m. ET, April 26, 2020

Massachusetts hospital conducting antibody tests for 1,000 asymptomatic residents

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

The exterior of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
The exterior of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Blake Nissen/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced the city is teaming up with its public health commission and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) to evaluate Covid-19 exposure through antibody testing of 1,000 asymptomatic residents.

MGH will administer both diagnostic and antibody testing, according to a release from the mayor, which added the randomized testing is “critical.”

Randomized sampling will focus on residents living in East Boston, Roslindale and within the boundaries of zip codes 02121 and 02125 in Dorchester, the release said.

"It is our hope that by conducting this testing, we as a collective City will get a better understanding of the true prevalence of COVID-19 in our community," Walsh said. "The more we can expand our testing, the more we can learn how to use our medical resources more efficiently, and how we need to focus our current efforts to contain the virus. I want to thank MGH for being an excellent partner on this effort that we hope will be a step forward towards the path to recovery."

Participation in the study is voluntary for residents who have been contacted, and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Testing for the study is expected to be completed by May 1 and summary data will be made publicly available following.

Outreach in the communities began Sunday. No resident will be charged for testing.

4:49 p.m. ET, April 26, 2020

New York hospitals study heartburn drug as treatment for coronavirus patients

From CNN's Elizabeth Cohen and Wes Bruer

A major New York hospital network has given high doses of an over-the-counter heartburn drug to patients with Covid-19 to see if it works against the coronavirus.

The study of famotidine -- the active ingredient in Pepcid -- started April 7, and preliminary results could come in a few weeks, said Dr. Kevin Tracey, president of Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell Health, which runs 23 hospitals in the New York City area. 

The patients are receiving the drug intravenously at doses about nine times higher than what people take orally for heartburn.  

So far, 187 patients have been enrolled in the clinical trial, and Northwell eventually hopes to enroll 1,200, Tracey said.

Tracey and his colleagues got the idea to study famotidine after it was observed that some patients in China taking the drug fared better than patients not taking the drug.

There are a lot of anecdotes passing around that give us some hope,” Tracey said. “I’m really looking forward to the results of this trial.”

Tracey said in addition to the observation in Chinese patients, in a review by Florida-based Alchem Laboratories of existing drugs that might fight coronavirus, famotidine showed up at the top of the list.

The famotidine study was first reported in Science Magazine.

4:47 p.m. ET, April 26, 2020

Government sends stimulus recipients a letter from President Donald Trump

From Jason Hoffman and Kevin Bohn

A letter from President Donald Trump to citizens about the stimulus payments.
A letter from President Donald Trump to citizens about the stimulus payments. Obtained by CNN

Some people in recent days have opened their mailboxes and found something unusual: a personal letter from President Donald Trump.

CNN has obtained a copy of the letter, signed by the President, sent to recipients of the federal stimulus payment.

In the letter, Trump said he “proudly signed into law” the CARES Act, which authorized payments to individuals. The letter states: “I am pleased to notify that as provided by the CARES Act, you are receiving an Economic Impact Payment... We hope this payment provides meaningful support to you during this period.”

The return address is the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service. The envelope says “Postage and Fees Paid, Internal Revenue Service.”

In the legislation, there is a section saying “Not later than 15 days after the date on which the (Treasury) Secretary distributed any payment to an eligible taxpayer pursuant to this subsection, notice shall be sent by mail to such taxpayer's last known address. Such notice shall indicate the method by which such payment was made, the amount of such payment, and a phone number for the appropriate point of contact at the Internal Revenue Service to report any failure to receive such payment.”

CNN reported Friday that more than 88 million people received their payments totaling nearly $158 billion, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service said. That leaves about 62 million others.

Individuals are due up to $1,200, and married couples can receive up to $2,400. The amount decreases as income increases.

4:15 p.m. ET, April 26, 2020

Gov. Cuomo outlines phased plan to re-open New York starting with construction and manufacturing

From CNN’s Kristina Sgueglia 

Darren McGee/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo via AP
Darren McGee/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo via AP

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined a phased plan to re-open New York Sunday, according to a news release from his office.

"The State is closely monitoring the hospitalization rate, the infection rate and the number of positive antibody tests, as well as the overall public health impact, and will make adjustments to the plan and other decisions based on these indicators," the release said.

The phased plan will go as follows:

  • Phase one will include opening construction and manufacturing functions with low risk.
  • Phase two will open certain industries based on priority and risk level. Businesses considered "more essential" with inherent low risks of infection in the workplace and to customers will be prioritized.

There will be two weeks between each phase to monitor infection rates, the release said.

6:05 p.m. ET, April 26, 2020

Orlando Health doctor says they have used convalescent plasma in 12 patients

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch 

Physicians at Orlando Health have used convalescent plasma transplants in 12 patients and are seeing “drastic improvements” in at least two of those patients, Dr. Sunil Desai said in a press conference Sunday afternoon with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The process, known as plasma-derived therapy or convalescent plasma, involves doctors testing the plasma of people who recovered for antibodies to the virus and then injecting that plasma, or a derivative of it, into a sick person.

Plasma from recovered Covid-19 patients have been given to 12 patients in the health system, Desai said, and he has direct knowledge of two patients showing drastic improvements.

Physicians are asking every patient who has tested positive to donate plasma, Desai said.

The hospital began doing the convalescent plasma transplants two weeks ago to help treat Covid-19.

Orlando Health officials said that cases in their area peaked April 1. Their hospitalization peak was at 116 patients on April 7. They currently have 68.

3:58 p.m. ET, April 26, 2020

US Treasury and IRS announce 'significant enhancements' to 'Get My Payment' app for stimulus checks

From CNN’s Greg Clary

The US Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service said they've made “significant enhancements to the ‘Get My Payment’ app” to help improve Americans’ ability to receive stimulus checks in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a news release from the Treasury Department.

“Some of the key enhancements include: payment status update for closed bank accounts, greater app access for taxpayers who filed in 2018 but not 2019 and did not use direct deposit, and the ability to submit a ‘0’ amount for zero income filers," a Treasury spokesperson told CNN.

“This Administration has already delivered over 88 million payments in less than three weeks, with millions more on their way," said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. "We encourage people who still need to input their information or want to track their payment to use the app.”

3:06 p.m. ET, April 26, 2020

Florida governor doesn't have a date for reopening the state

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch

Gov. Ron DeSantis is not putting a date on when Florida could reopen, he said at a new conference on Sunday.

“We are going to do everything in a smart way,” DeSantis said. “I am less concerned about the date and more concerned about getting it right.” 

DeSantis met with doctors at Orlando Health – who have been working on using convalescent plasma to treat Covid-19 patients.

DeSantis said the statewide numbers are dropping, but there is still a need for more testing.

The state has reported 31,528 cases and 1,074 deaths.

The current stay-at-home order for the state expires on April 30.

2:42 p.m. ET, April 26, 2020

Schumer calls on FDA to crack down on fake coronavirus tests

From CNN's Nicky Robertson

 Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg/Getty Images
 Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to crack down on companies who are selling fake at-home coronavirus test kits online.

Schumer said at a press conference on Sunday that he is sending a letter to the FDA to increase policing of online tests, make public which tests have been approved by the FDA and issue cease and resist orders to every company found to be selling false tests.

Schumer warned that the spread of non-FDA approved at-home tests would make the recovery from coronavirus much longer, if people falsely believe that they do not have the virus, or that they have already had it.

2:25 p.m. ET, April 26, 2020

There are more than 950,000 cases of coronavirus in the US

There have been at least 954,182 coronavirus cases and 54,573 deaths due to the virus in the United States, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

As states begin to include “probable deaths” in their counts, so will the university. In the upcoming days, these changes may show as surges of deaths in the United States.  

The totals includes cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other U.S. territories, as well as repatriated cases and those in the US military, veterans hospitals and federal prisons.