May 21 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton and Zamira Rahim, CNN

Updated 0228 GMT (1028 HKT) May 22, 2020
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12:09 a.m. ET, May 21, 2020

US could have prevented majority of deaths and cases if it shut down sooner, new model finds

From CNN's Jen Christensen

Seating is closed off at a restaurant in Linden, New Jersey.
Seating is closed off at a restaurant in Linden, New Jersey. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

If the United States had implemented social distancing policies just a week sooner, it could have prevented more than half the number of coronavirus deaths and infections, according to new research from Columbia University. 

And if the country had locked down two weeks earlier than it did, it could have prevented 84% of deaths and 82% of cases, said the the research team, led by epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman.

“Our findings underscore the importance of early intervention and aggressive response in controlling the Covid-19 pandemic,” the researchers wrote in the report, published online in the pre-print server MedRxiv.

Their findings have not been reviewed by other experts for accuracy.

The US timeline: The first US case was reported at the end of January. It wasn’t until mid-March that the Trump administration urged Americans to avoid groups and limit travel. That’s also when cities like New York started to close schools. 

The study used epidemiologic modeling to gauge transmission rates from March 15 to May 3 and determine the impact social distancing could have.

The first days were crucial. “During the initial growth of a pandemic, infections increase exponentially. As a consequence, early intervention and fast response are critical,” the researchers wrote.

But they admitted it’s also true that they could not account for how people would have responded to earlier policies.

“Public compliance with social distancing rules may also lag due to sub-optimal awareness of infection risk,” they said.

All 50 states are now in some stage of reopening. If local leaders detect a growth in new cases, they should respond quickly, the Columbia team said -- a longer response time results in a stronger rebound of infections and death.

11:55 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

US reports more than 23,000 new Covid-19 cases

The United States recorded 23,285 new cases of coronavirus and 1,518 related deaths on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

That raises the national total to at least 1,551,853 cases and 93,439 deaths. 

The totals includes cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases.

New York state remains the hardest hit, followed by New Jersey, Illinois, and Massachusetts.

Check out CNN's live tracker of US cases here:

11:45 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Why China and India shouldn't let coronavirus justify walking back climate action

From CNN's Helen Regan

Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, India and China were positioning themselves as global climate leaders.

While virus lockdowns have provided temporary blue skies from New Delhi to Beijing, and beyond, as China and India prepare to resuscitate their economies experts warn doing so without environmental regard could wind back their previous good work on climate.

That could have devastating effects on the health on billions of people. Air pollution already kills 7 million of us every year, damages our children's health and development, causes serious breathing and lung problems, and even affects babies in the womb.

Now climate experts are demanding countries use this recovery period to enact policies that reduce emissions and invest in renewable energy and climate-resilient infrastructure. That, they say, will create jobs, be better for the economy in the long term and, crucially, save lives.

"The recovery packages can either kill these two birds with one stone -- setting the global economy on a pathway towards net-zero emissions -- or lock us into a fossil system from which it will be nearly impossible to escape," they wrote earlier this month in the Oxford Review of Economic Policy.

Read the full story:

11:30 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

It's just past 11:30 p.m. in Washington and 9 a.m. in New Delhi. Here's the latest on the pandemic

Medical professionals work out of the Intensive Care Unit treating coronavirus patients in the Gilberto Novaes Hospital in Manaus, Brazil, on May 20.
Medical professionals work out of the Intensive Care Unit treating coronavirus patients in the Gilberto Novaes Hospital in Manaus, Brazil, on May 20. Michael Dantas/AFP/Getty Images

If you're just joining us, here are the latest headlines:

  • Global spike: The World Health Organization reported the highest number of Covid-19 cases recorded in a 24-hour period on Wednesday. Nearly two thirds of all cases came from just four countries: the United States, Russia, Brazil, and India.
  • Global cases near 5 million: The worldwide total stands at 4,996,472, including more than 328,000 related deaths.
  • Trump targets China: US President Donald Trump took to Twitter again to criticize China's response to the coronavirus outbreak, saying, "It all comes from the top." It's as far as Trump has gone in calling out Xi Jinping, although he did not name the Chinese leader directly.
  • One-day surges: Mexico reported 424 deaths in just 24 hours -- its highest one-day jump in fatalities. Brazil recorded nearly 20,000 cases within 24 hours, its highest one-day spike. And Peru reported more than 4,500 new infections, pushing the national total past 100,000 cases.
  • Jordan curfew: The Arab country will impose a three-day nationwide curfew after a rise in local cases followed an easing of lockdown measures.
  • Virus-hit aircraft carrier sails: The USS Theodore Roosevelt has returned to sea, after being docked in Guam for weeks due to a coronavirus outbreak onboard.
11:17 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Trump criticizes China's virus response: "It all comes from the top"

From CNN's Kevin Liptak 

US President Donald Trump took to Twitter again tonight to criticize China's response to the coronavirus outbreak, saying, "It all comes from the top."

This is as far as he’s gone in calling out Chinese President Xi Jinping, although Trump still isn’t naming the Chinese leader directly.

"They could have easily stopped the plague, but they didn't," the tweet said.

Trump then goes on to more familiar claims that China wants presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to win the 2020 US election because he wouldn’t be as tough as him on Beijing.

11:05 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Fauci conspicuously stops doing TV interviews as White House moves to reopen economy

From CNN's Oliver Darcy

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a teleconference hearing hosted by a Senate panel on the White House's response to the coronavirus in Washington on May 12.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a teleconference hearing hosted by a Senate panel on the White House's response to the coronavirus in Washington on May 12. Liu Jie/Xinhua/Getty Images

The US' top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has been conspicuously absent from national television interviews over the past two weeks, as the White House moves ahead with reopening the economy.

Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, last gave a television interview when he spoke to CNN on May 4.

Prior to his recent absence from the airwaves, Fauci was regularly appearing on national news programs to update the American people on the country's fight against the coronavirus.

While Fauci has been on "modified quarantine" after possible exposure to the virus, he has still been present at the White House and testified remotely before the Senate last week.

Fauci's absence was particularly noteworthy this week, given the positive early results regarding a vaccine developed by the biotech company Moderna in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, which Fauci's NIAID falls under.

Despite the NIH's role in helping to develop the vaccine, Fauci did not appear for interviews to discuss the promising results.

Read more:

10:49 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

China reports 2 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Alexandra Lin in Hong Kong

China recorded two new coronavirus cases and no new deaths yesterday, according to the country's National Health Commission.

Of the new cases, one was an imported infection in Guangdong province and the other a local case in Shanghai

This raises the national total to 82,967 confirmed symptomatic cases, of which 84 remain active.

Some 31 new asymptomatic cases were also reported -- a total of 375 asymptomatic patients remain under medical observation. These cases are counted separately from confirmed symptomatic cases.

The national death toll stands at 4,634. 

10:32 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Bolivian health minister arrested for alleged corruption involving ventilator purchase

From CNN's Stefano Pozzebon and Mitchell McCluskey

Journalists wait at a police station as Bolivian prosecutors launched a probe into potential corruption regarding overpriced purchases of ventilators, in La Paz, Bolivia on Wednesday.
Journalists wait at a police station as Bolivian prosecutors launched a probe into potential corruption regarding overpriced purchases of ventilators, in La Paz, Bolivia on Wednesday. David Mercado/Reuters

Bolivian health minister Marcelo Navajas was arrested in a mounting corruption scandal over the purchase of 170 ventilators at an inflated cost, Col. Ivan Rojas, chief of the Bolivian Special Forces in the Fight Against Crime, announced on Wednesday.

Bolivian interim President Jeanine Añez said on Twitter that Bolivia used $2 million in funds from the Inter-American Development Bank to purchase 170 ventilators from a Spanish company. 

Navajas and several others were arrested and taken in for questioning, but public prosecutors have yet to present charges, Rojas said. Navajas was also removed from his post as health minister after being arrested.   

On Monday, Añez pledged to fully investigate the purchase.

"We will keep investigating, no matter who's going to fall," Añez tweeted hours after Navajas' arrest.

A spokesperson for the Inter-American Development Bank said it began investigating possible irregularities around the purchase as soon as the bank was aware. 

"The Inter-American Development Bank views with great concern information about possible irregularities in the acquisition of ventilators by Bolivia’s Ministry of Health with financing provided by the Bank, and we respect the efforts that the country’s public institutions are making to shed light on the facts of the case," the spokesperson said in a statement to CNN.

10:18 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Coronavirus testing is "a mess" in the US, report says

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Mike Osterholm speaks during an interview with CNN.
Mike Osterholm speaks during an interview with CNN. CNN

Coronavirus testing in the United States is disorganized and needs coordination at the national level, infectious disease experts said in a new report released on Wednesday.

Right now, testing is not accurate enough to use alone to make most decisions, including who should go back to work or to school, the team at the University of Minnesota said.

"It's a mess out there," Mike Osterholm, head of the university's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, which issued the report, told CNN.

"Testing is very, very important, but we're not doing the right testing."

The number of tests that have been completed -- numbers widely reported by states and by the White House -- show only part of the picture, the report reads.

"The data is really kind of screwed up," Osterholm said. "It's because the public health system is overwhelmed."

The report calls on the US Department of Health and Human Services to appoint a panel to oversee and organize testing.

Read the full story: