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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8:50 a.m. ET, April 16, 2020

Pompeo: "The United States government is working diligently" to figure out coronavirus origin

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the “the United States government is working diligently” to figure out the origin of the coronavirus.

“The mere fact that John had to ask the question, the mere fact that we don’t know the answers, that China hasn’t shared the answers, I think is very, very telling,” Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News, referring to John Roberts’ question about the reported lab transmission of the virus. “To your point, the President said that there are multiple sources. What we do know is we know that this virus originated in Wuhan, China. We know that there is the Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles away from where the wet market was. There’s still lots to learn. You should know that the United States government is working diligently to figure this out."

The top US diplomat said that the Chinese government needs to “open up.”

“They say they want to cooperate. One of the best ways they could find to cooperate would be to let the world in, to let the world’s scientists know exactly how this came to be, exactly how this virus began to spread,” Pompeo said.

Some context: CNN has reported that US intelligence and national security officials say the US 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. Those sources caution it is premature to draw any conclusions.

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.

8:56 a.m. ET, April 16, 2020

Health care workers at risk, even when they don’t work directly with coronavirus patients

From CNN Health’s Jen Christensen and Michael Nedelman

Medical workers transfer a COVID-19 patient in severe and critical condition to the Intensive Care Unit ward at the Zhongfaxincheng campus of Tongji Hospital affiliated to Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China,on April 12.
Medical workers transfer a COVID-19 patient in severe and critical condition to the Intensive Care Unit ward at the Zhongfaxincheng campus of Tongji Hospital affiliated to Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China,on April 12. Shen Bohan/Xinhua/Getty Images

Health care workers are putting themselves at risk of infection during a coronavirus pandemic, even if they don’t work directly with coronavirus patients, a research letter published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine found.

Researchers from Fujian Medical University Union Hospital in Fuzhou, China, looked at patient records in that country and found that 3,387 of the 77,262 patients with Covid-19 – 4.4% – were health care workers. As of April 3, there are 23 people who have died.

Many of the health care workers who died were in demographic categories that might have put them at a higher risk for severe infection. Eleven had been brought back from retirement, and all but three were age 50 or older. Five had underlying health conditions, including heart problems.

Of the 23 who died, 13 had been providing direct patient care, but only two worked in respiratory medicine with coronavirus patients. None were actually working in departments that specialized in infectious disease or worked in a hospital with that specialty. Eight were surgeons, 1 was a nurse and 1 was an electrocardiography technician.

Researchers believe that the health care workers who got sick or who died may have become infected in the early stages of the epidemic when there was insufficient or inadequate personal protective equipment.

As of March 31, none of the 4,600 health care workers that flooded into Hubei Province to care for patients at the initial center of the outbreak were known to get sick, the research found.

Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, who did not work on the study but has been sounding the alarm since early on in the pandemic that health care workers would be at risk, called the deaths “devastating.”

“We saw this with SARS-1 in 2003, MERS in 2012, and now we’re seeing it again. So this is the modus operandi of coronaviruses,” Hoetz said.

In the US: So far, more than 9,200 health care workers have been infected with Covid-19, according to an early report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published Tuesday.

“We had a heads up and we still couldn’t do anything to protect our healthcare workers,” Hotez said. “That’s terrible.”


8:42 a.m. ET, April 16, 2020

5.2 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, bringing total to 22 million

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

Another 5.2 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending on April 11.

In total, 22 million Americans have filed first-time claims since mid-March as the coronavirus pandemic is forcing businesses to close and lay off workers.

8:37 a.m. ET, April 16, 2020

Japan extends state of emergency before national holiday

From CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki

A convenience store employee serves a customer from behind plastic sheeting that has been put up to protect staff from customers who may have coronavirus, on April 14, in Tokyo.
A convenience store employee serves a customer from behind plastic sheeting that has been put up to protect staff from customers who may have coronavirus, on April 14, in Tokyo. Carl Court/Getty Images

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has declared that Japan's state of emergency will be extended nationwide through May 6 in further attempts to curb the spread of coronavirus infections.

The state of emergency previously applied to seven urban prefectures, including Tokyo. Abe said his decision comes after seeing the rapid hike of infections outside these areas.

Abe wants to minimize the human flow during the golden week, a string of national holidays from the end of April through May 6.

He also announced he was considering cash handouts of 100,000 yen (approximately $925) for each citizen, instead of the previous plan of 300,000 yen (approximately $2,800) per low-income family.

Some context: On Wednesday, public broadcaster NHK reported that a team of experts set up by Japan’s Health Ministry estimated more than 400,000 people could die of Covid-19 in Japan if nothing is done to contain the virus.

According to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, Japan has 8,626 reported cases of Covid-19 and 178 deaths.

8:47 a.m. ET, April 16, 2020

Doctor says the search for coronavirus treatments is jumbled 

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Dr. Derek Angus, chair of critical care medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Dr. Derek Angus, chair of critical care medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine CNN

The scramble to find successful treatments to fight coronavirus is disjointed and chaotic, according to Dr. Derek Angus, chair of critical care medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. 

“No,” Angus told CNN when asked if experts have any sense of what has been working in clinical trials. “Look, that sounds depressing to say I don't know.”

“There are two million people already who have this disease. If even one in 10 has been able to participate in a trial, we could have gone through about 100 different drugs by now and known definitively which ones worked or not. But as it is, at this point … we have no idea which one is the best,” Angus said. 

Angus, who is leading a Covid-19 trial that’s testing multiple therapies, said the disorder is at a global level and noted that there aren’t enough tests right now to practice effective public health. 

“We've got plenty of ideas about what drugs might work, but we need to test these drugs in trials. Otherwise, we're bungling along not knowing what works,” Angus said. There are 94 trials registered for testing the drug hydroxychloroquine, he added.

“I’ve never heard of any drug needing 94 separate trials in the same disease,” he said. “If you're trying to do lots of little trials, that's not as efficient or as useful as trying to do large coordinated trials. We've had over two million confirmed cases of Covid-19, mainly in North America and Europe. And yet, barely more than a few thousand of these two million patients have been enrolled in clinical trials."

8:24 a.m. ET, April 16, 2020

Amazon has suspended 6,000 seller accounts globally for coronavirus price gouging

From CNN’s Brian Fung

 Denis Charlet/AFP/Getty Images
 Denis Charlet/AFP/Getty Images

Amazon told investors on Thursday that it has suspended more than 6,000 seller accounts on its platform from around the world for price gouging on essential items during the pandemic. 

In his annual letter to shareholders, Bezos said the company has also removed more than 500,000 listings from Amazon’s website for price gouging. And, he said, Amazon has ramped up its reporting of price gougers to the authorities.

"To accelerate our response to price-gouging incidents, we created a special communication channel for state attorneys general to quickly and easily escalate consumer complaints to us,” Bezos wrote.

Some context: In a blog post last month, Amazon said it’s suspended 3,900 sellers on its US website alone. 

But Amazon has battled rising criticism from policymakers over the availability of critical goods such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper as more people shop for essentials from home. 

The company received probing letters in March from US lawmakers — and attorneys general representing nearly three dozen states and the District of Columbia. The attorneys general in particular accused Amazon of failing to prevent price gouging, despite efforts to apply automated and manual reviews of its platform. 

8:24 a.m. ET, April 16, 2020

Indian Premier League suspended until further notice due to coronavirus concerns

From CNN’s Aleks Klosok in London

Robert Cianflone/Getty Images/FILE
Robert Cianflone/Getty Images/FILE

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has suspended the 2020 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) until further notice due to the evolving Coronavirus pandemic.

The lucrative eight-team T20 cricket tournament was scheduled to begin in India on March 29 and end on May 24.

Some context: This is the second time the BCCI has been forced to defer the tournament. Last month, just before the Indian government put the country in a three-week lockdown, the board pushed the start date to Wednesday 15 April.

“The health and safety of the nation and everyone involved in our great sport remains our top priority and as such, the BCCI along with the Franchise Owners, Broadcaster, Sponsors and all the Stakeholders acknowledge that the IPL 2020 season will only commence when it is safe and appropriate to do so,” BCCI secretary, Jay Shah, said in a statement on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended the nationwide lockdown until May 3.

8:20 a.m. ET, April 16, 2020

Tokyo Olympics organizers to explore cost-cutting measures

From CNN’s Aleks Klosok in London

Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images/FILE
Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images/FILE

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo 2020 organizers have said they will explore all opportunities to reduce the cost of the summer games following its postponement until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday via videolink, John Coates – who heads up the IOC Coordination Commission for Tokyo 2020 – said the postponement provided an opportunity to assess “what are the must haves and what are the nice to haves.”

“Do we need to make revisions for hospitality, for the sponsors, the broadcasters and the National Olympic Committees? Many of the broadcasters may not have as big of a presence here because of the economic downturn,” he said. “We are going to see if we can find more savings on the basis not of what are nice to haves but what are must haves. I’m sure we will succeed greatly in reducing costs.”

Coates also praised Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for taking the decision to postpone the Games and said he believed Abe hoped it would lead to an economic stimulus in the country.

“These Games can be how you kick-start the economy again […] PM Abe is a very, very smart man. When he put it to the IOC to postpone, he had in mind the positive economic stimulus that it would provide for Japan. There will be a lot of cities and countries around the world wishing for a similar opportunity,” he added.

When asked by journalists about the extra costs associated with the postponement of the games, Coates confirmed that the IOC would pick up those costs and vowed to protect the various stakeholders involved in the Olympic movement.

“The IOC is certainly facing some very significant costs related to the Olympic movements. There are additional costs to our stakeholders. We will be bearing those costs of the Olympic movement," Coates said.

A new road map for planning for next year’s Games is due to be established by May 2020.

8:06 a.m. ET, April 16, 2020

Elon Musk responds to California governor’s report that promised ventilators were not delivered

From CNN's Jon Passantino

Tesla CEO Elon Musk attends the 2020 Satellite Conference and Exhibition in Washington on March 9.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk attends the 2020 Satellite Conference and Exhibition in Washington on March 9. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Elon Musk responded Thursday morning after the California governor’s office said ventilators promised by the Tesla CEO to the state’s hospitals to treat patients with the coronavirus had not been delivered.

“Please fix this misunderstanding,” Musk said to Gov. Gavin Newsom on Twitter.

On Wednesday, Brian Ferguson, the Deputy Director for Crisis Communication at Newsom’s Office of Emergency Services told CNN that it was speaking to hospitals in the state every day and to date had “not heard of any hospital system that has received a ventilator directly from Tesla or Musk.”

On his Twitter account early Thursday, Musk shared a screenshot of a late March email exchange between one of his employees and an official at the Los Angeles County Department of Health services and indicating they had received ventilators. It is not clear from the email exchange whether any California hospitals had received ventilators.

In another post, Musk shared a message from a California hospital executive thanking him for the gift of ventilators.

CNN reached out to the California governor’s office early Thursday seeking clarification.