April 16 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Rob Picheta and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT) December 27, 2020
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10:59 p.m. ET, April 15, 2020

US explores possibility that coronavirus started in Chinese lab, not a market

From CNN's Josh Campbell, Kylie Atwood and Evan Perez

US intelligence and national security officials say the United States government is looking into the possibility that the novel coronavirus originated in a Chinese laboratory rather than a market, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter who caution it is premature to draw any conclusions.

The theory is one of multiple being pursued by investigators as they attempt to determine the origin of the coronavirus that has resulted in a pandemic and killed hundreds of thousands. The US does not believe the virus was associated with bioweapons research, and officials noted that the intelligence community is also exploring a range of other theories regarding the origination of the virus, as would typically be the case for high-profile incidents, according to an intelligence source.

The theory has been pushed by supporters of the President, including some congressional Republicans, who are eager to deflect criticisms of Trump's handling of the pandemic.

An intelligence official familiar with the government analysis said a theory US intelligence officials are investigating is that the virus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, and was accidentally released to the public. Other sources told CNN that US intelligence hasn't been able to corroborate the theory but is trying to discern whether someone was infected in the lab through an accident or poor handling of materials and may have then infected others.

US intelligence is reviewing sensitive intelligence collection aimed at the Chinese government, according to the intelligence source, as they pursue the theory. But some intelligence officials say it is possible the actual cause may never be known.

Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Mark Milley acknowledged this week that US intelligence is taking "a hard look" at the question of whether the novel coronavirus originated in a lab.

"I would just say, at this point, it's inconclusive although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural (origin). But we don't know for certain," Milley told reporters on Tuesday.

Asked about the intelligence, which was first reported by Yahoo and Fox News, President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that the US is "doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation that happened" but refused to discuss what he had been told about the findings.

The lab theory has been denied by the Chinese government and many outside experts have also cast doubt on the idea, CNN has previously reported.

A source close to the White House coronavirus task force also cautioned that "every time there is an outbreak someone proposes that the virus or other pathogen came out of a lab."

One official called the way China has handled dealing with the virus "completely reprehensible" -- and intelligence investigators are determined to build a fuller picture of how it originated.

The Washington Post has reported on State Department cables from 2018 demonstrating concerns about the safety and the management of the Wuhan Institute of Virology biolab. When asked about those cables, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo -- who has continued to call the coronavirus the "Wuhan virus" -- did not dismiss them, but neither did he say that they show any legitimate linkage to Covid-19.

"The Chinese Communist Party didn't give Americans access when we needed it in that most timely point at the very beginning," Pompeo said earlier this week. "Then we know they have this lab. We know about the wet (fresh food) markets. We know that the virus itself did originate in Wuhan. So all those things come together. There's still a lot we don't know, and this is what the President was talking about today. We need to know answers to these things."

Some of the officials said the US intends for China pay a price, but recognize the US has to be careful not to inflict a cost on China before the pandemic is under control and until they have a more information about its creation.

This post has been updated with additional context and background information.

9:43 p.m. ET, April 15, 2020

US coronavirus deaths are pacing slightly ahead of projections this week

The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in the United States is pacing slightly ahead of projections provided by a prominent population heath research center.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington projects over 68,000 Covid-19 deaths in the US by June 28. The IHME is relied upon heavily by the White House for its modeling.

Here's how the IMHE projections for each day this week compare with the end-of-day total deaths from Johns Hopkins University (JHU).  

Monday, April 13

IHME projection: 24,133

JHU end of day: 23,628


Tuesday, April 14

IHME projection: 26,086

JHU end of day: 26,033


Wednesday, April 15

IHME Projection: 28,014

JHU as of 8:40 p.m. ET: 28,326

9:31 p.m. ET, April 15, 2020

The rise of cases at a Native American reservation in New Mexico is sparking concern

Around 75% of all new cases recorded on Monday and Tuesday in New Mexico occurred in the northwest corner of the state's Navajo Nation counties, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Human Services Department Dr. David Scrase said in a news conference on Wednesday.

The counties where the cases occurred were McKinley, San Juan, and Sandoval.

"We are watching that closely every day and hoping to counteract that trend," Scrase said.

"It is a very vulnerable population, so we are doubly concerned to see the rate of cases in this part of the state combined with these other social determinants of health and socioeconomic factors that may make people even more vulnerable."

Bending the curve: At the same news conference, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that the state is bending the curve. Grisham said New Mexico is in a perfect position to partner with the federal government to pilot surveillance, research, and contact tracing in the state.

"The federal government has to lead in addressing the public health emergency. It can't be state by state and region by region," Grisham said.

"We are getting the federal government to pay attention to this as a public health national security and national emergency issue that requires them to lead in a national public health response. New Mexico can help them make the right decisions and get the right data."

Separately, she said that New Mexico is not doing a mail-in election. Every New Mexican who would like to vote by absentee ballot will have to mail in a request. 

New Mexico has reported at least 1,484 coronavirus cases, with 36 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

3:30 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Elon Musk's promised ventilators never delivered to California hospitals, governor’s office says

From CNN's Jon Passantino

Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk introduces the newly unveiled all-electric battery-powered Tesla Cybertruck at Tesla Design Center in Hawthorne, California on November 21, 2019.
Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk introduces the newly unveiled all-electric battery-powered Tesla Cybertruck at Tesla Design Center in Hawthorne, California on November 21, 2019. Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said last month he had obtained more than 1,000 ventilators to help California hospitals treating patients infected with the coronavirus, an effort Gov. Gavin Newsom hailed as “heroic.”

Now, more than three weeks later, the governor’s office says none of the promised ventilators have been received by hospitals.

At a March 23 news conference, Newsom said the devices, which can provide life-saving support to patients infected with the virus, had already arrived in Los Angeles and were on their way to hospitals in need.

"I told you a few days ago that he was likely to have 1,000 ventilators this week," Newsom said. "They've arrived in Los Angeles, and Elon Musk is already working with hospital association and others to get those ventilators out. It’s a heroic effort."

Shortly after the dramatic announcement, Musk said in a tweet: “China had an oversupply, so we bought 1255 FDA-approved ResMed, Philips & Medtronic ventilators on Friday night & airshipped them to LA. If you want a free ventilator installed, please let us know!”

But despite the claims, none of the ventilators promised by Musk have been delivered to hospitals, according to the governor's office.

“Elon Musk and his team told the state that he had procured ventilators and wanted to distribute them directly to hospitals with shortages,” a spokesperson for the California governor’s Office of Emergency Services told CNN on Wednesday. “The Administration is communicating every day with hospitals across the state about their ventilator supply and to date we have not heard of any hospital system that has received a ventilator directly from Tesla or Musk.”

Spokespersons for Tesla did not return CNN requests for comment. The news was first reported by the Sacramento Bee.

Some background: Major US companies like Ford and Apple have also announced plans to produce ventilators and donate face masks for health care workers treating patients infected with the virus.

Last week, Newsom reassured residents that California now has enough ventilators to meet its projected needs, after some questioned his decision to lend 500 machines to other states in crisis. 

UPDATE: After this post was initially published, Elon Musk responded on Twitter. CNN has more reporting on this story here.

9:26 p.m. ET, April 15, 2020

Trudeau warns national lockdown will continue for weeks

From CNN’s Paula Newton in Ottawa

Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, speaks during a news conference outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Tuesday, April 14.
Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, speaks during a news conference outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Tuesday, April 14. David Kawai/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned again Wednesday that the national lockdown would continue for weeks to come even though the country has, so far, been spared the worst of Covid-19.

"If we reopen too soon, everything we're doing now might be for nothing,” Trudeau said during his daily news conference in Ottawa.

Canada reported 28,205 cases on Wednesday and 1,008 deaths. Nearly half of those deaths were related to outbreaks in long-term care facilities. Still, per capita, Canada has had fewer cases and deaths than the United States and most European countries.

But Trudeau says that doesn’t mean the country is reopening anytime soon, and certainly not by May 1.

"It would be terrible if we were to release restrictions too early and find out we're suddenly back in another big wave of Covid-19," he said, adding that any reopening would happen in phases.

9:45 p.m. ET, April 15, 2020

Los Angeles mayor says no concerts or sporting events in city until 2021

From CNN's Sarah Moon

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told CNN's Wolf Blitzer concerts and sporting events will not be allowed in the city until 2021.

“It wasn’t a secret plan that got leaked,” Garcetti said on "The Situation Room," referring to an internal letter obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Garcetti said unless there is a vaccine or a pharmaceutical intervention, there won't be mass gatherings like concerts and sporting events in Los Angeles until next year.


9:23 p.m. ET, April 15, 2020

Dairy farmers forced to dump milk as schools and restaurants close in California

From CNN's Sarah Moon

Dairy farmers in California are being forced to dump milk due to an enormous decrease in demand with schools and restaurants remaining closed during the statewide stay-at-home order.

As the shelter-in-place orders increased throughout March and restaurants were forced to close, 50% of the customer base was eliminated almost overnight, according to Western United Dairies CEO Anja Raudabaugh, who represents over 860 dairy farm families in California.

Restaurant chains like TGI Friday’s and Applebee’s are huge customers of the dairy industry, but they stopped placing orders in the middle of March, Raudabaugh said.

The demand also significantly decreased with school closures and lunch programs shutting down. While schools are still delivering drive-through meals, the demand is not even close to what it was, Raudabaugh said.

California dairy farmers saw the biggest impact from these two sectors and it caused a tremendous amount of distribution challenges.

Plants are now running at about 150% of their capacity, according to Raudabaugh.

“They have milk coming out of their eyes and ears," she said.
9:21 p.m. ET, April 15, 2020

US stock futures down following weak economic data and corporate earnings

From CNN’s Jazmin Goodwin

US stock futures were down in after-hours trading on Wednesday after the Dow and S&P logged their worst trading day since April 1.

Dow futures were down 157 points, or about 0.6%. S&P 500 futures were down about 0.7% and Nasdaq futures were down about 0.7%. 

Stocks plummeted on Wednesday following a plethora of negative economic data and weak earnings. 

The Dow dipped 445 points, or 1.9%. The S&P dropped 2.2% and the Nasdaq dropped 1.4%, paring its longest four-day winning streak since early February. Both the Dow and S&P 500 logged its worst day since April 1. 

Bank of America and Citigroup saw weak bank earnings as they prepare for loan defaults incurred from the pandemic. Bank of America's first quarter profits dropped by 45%. The bank announced on Wednesday it has set aside $4.8 billion for credit losses linked to the virus.

Economic data released on Wednesday also saw sharp declines. Retail sales in March tumbled 8.7%, the worst monthly decline since the department began tracking data in 1992.

Thursday's weekly jobless claims report is expected to post another 5.1 million people who have filed for unemployment benefits.

9:28 p.m. ET, April 15, 2020

Pelosi says testing inadequacies are "almost sinful"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she thinks any discussions on reopening the US economy must be based on health care and science.

"The numbers are staggering but each individual story is heartbreaking to hear. So as we have discussions about how we open up our economy, this or that, we understand that this is an assault on the lives and the livelihoods of the American people, and that any decision to open up would be one that should be science-based and health-care-based," she told CNN.

Pelosi went on to say that's why testing is critical. She added that the US still doesn't have "the appropriate, adequate testing" to identify the challenge.

"So really we have been delinquent. We have to have a change in that," she said. "It's one thing to say well, it wasn't done right. But there's no excuse for us to not do it right as we go forward. It's so obvious. Almost sinful."