April 17 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Rob Picheta and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 10:40 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020
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9:42 a.m. ET, April 17, 2020

US lacks sufficient testing capabilities needed to reopen, medical association warns

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Al Bello/Getty Images
Al Bello/Getty Images

The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) says the US needs to ramp up effective and proactive testing before the country can reopen. 

Dr. John Lynch, IDSA board member and associate medical director at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, said the US needs broad and easy access to testing.

“We need to find a way to have testing accessible in a public health forum — an approach where it's widely, easily accessible, it is agnostic to your insurance status, and it is ahead — it is aggressive, it is out in front, where there are potentially no cases," Lynch said. "We have to recognize this virus is not going anywhere. There is a distinct risk that we will just bump straight back up and we'll see a brisk increase in the number of infections. As we relax these, we have to be able to respond to that."

Lynch said, “Social distancing is very, very effective. It has been amazing.” He called it a “lifesaving tool.”

9:27 a.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Testing and maintaining mitigation will play key roles in reopening the country, CDC director says

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

CDC Director Robert R. Redfield attends the daily briefing at the White House on April 8.
CDC Director Robert R. Redfield attends the daily briefing at the White House on April 8. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Certain jurisdictions in the US are "very close" to having testing capabilities in place in order to reopen, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during an appearance on NBC Friday morning. 

"People have to look at what the real strategic role of testing is and at this point it's to make that rapid early diagnosis, which then you can affirm and then isolate and then do the contacts then test, figure out of the contacts who's infected, isolate those individuals then do their contacts — it's really the traditional public health approach for containment," Redfield said. "I think there's a number of jurisdictions that are very close to having that capability. We're going to work with them."

This does not mean the American public can "let up" on the mitigation strategies that include frequent handwashing and physical distancing, Redfield said.

"This new opening up — which has that requirement of early case diagnosis and isolation and contact tracings — is really embedded, as you'll see in the phases, with still maintaining that personal vigilance, that personal mitigation so that we can continue to limit and protect the vulnerable in this nation," Redfield said. 

Redfield added: "So it's important not to let up at all, but do this in a prudent, gradual way as we go through the different phases and really maintain those mitigation strategies of handwashing, social distancing, wearing a face covering when you're in public if you're in an area where there's still significant ongoing transmission like we still see in New York, Boston, obviously Baltimore, Washington, different parts of our nation."


9:25 a.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Schumer says negotiations on more aid for small businesses will continue through the weekend

From CNN's Alex Rogers and Nicky Robertson

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said on MSNBC that he has had “good conversations” with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about how to extend a small business lending program that has run out of money, while also expanding coronavirus testing and providing more assistance for hospitals and local governments.

Schumer said the talks will continue through the weekend.

“We're making progress,” said Schumer. “We can get this all done hopefully very, very soon.”

Schumer said that Democrats have proposed $100 billion for hospitals, $30 billion for a testing program and assistance for local governments in addition to more funding for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.

“It's vital we do this,” said Schumer. “It’s vital we help small business, but if we don't deal with the testing and health care problems, if we don't deal with the local government problems, small business may have enough money to get back, although we got to fix that program, but people won't go out on the streets.”

Schumer also said the Paycheck Protection Program needs to be reformed as the federal government gives it more money, saying that many small businesses are having trouble getting approved for loans.

Schumer also said that the plan to reopen the country President Trump outlined on Thursday is “a little more measured than what the President has said in the past,” but the New York Democrat also voiced concerns over the lack of testing.

9:12 a.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Reopening the economy could turn workplaces into "killing fields," ex-acting labor secretary says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt


Former acting Labor Secretary Seth Harris expressed criticism of President Trump’s plan to reopen the economy, saying “if you can’t do that safely, then our workplaces are going to turn into killing fields.”

Harris, who worked for the Obama administration, says Trump’s federal guidelines are “seriously lacking” for workplaces, citing no plans for contact tracing, PPE for employees, and specific protections for workers. 

“If I were an employer who read the President's plan, I would feel like the federal government was hanging me out to dry and providing me with no support,” he said. 

Harris said the federal government needs to be more involved and issue specific guidelines for employers to protect workers and get people back to their jobs safely. 

“I think we can slowly, carefully reopen the country, but we have to do it in a way that makes sense and that keeps workers safe. And the President simply washing his hands of any responsibility for anything in this crisis is not the way to get there,” Harris said. “We need a coordinated federal state effort. We need the federal government to play the role that only the federal government can play with respect to workplace safety and health and producing the protective gear that we need. I'm really worried about it. I think that the experience we've had so far is not encouraging."

Watch the interview:

9:05 a.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Foreign government hackers targeting US coronavirus research, FBI says

From CNN's David Shortell

Foreign governments have attempted to hack into US healthcare institutions researching coronavirus and vaccines for it, a senior FBI official said Thursday.

“We have certainly seen reconnaissance activity and some intrusions into some of those institutions — especially those that have publicly identified themselves as working on Covid-related research,” Tonya Ugoretz, the Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, said at an event hosted by the Aspen Institute. 

The attempted cyberattacks are in line with efforts by nation state-backed hackers to steal corporate secrets and other research even outside times of crisis, but the activity has been heightened during the pandemic, Ugoretz said.

“There are certainly good reasons for those institutions to tout the work that they’re doing and educate the public on the work that they’re doing. The sad flip side is that it kind of makes them a mark for other nation states that are interested in learning details about what exactly they are doing and maybe even stealing proprietary information that those institutions have,” she said.

Law enforcement has recorded significant increases in the number of other reported cybercrime as many Americans have shifted their lifestyle online amid nationwide stay-at-home orders, and the FBI has warned that government-issued stimulus checks will prove a fruitful mark for online thieves. 

The Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, the FBI’s online tip line for cyber crime, has seen a surge in reported incidents — marking 3,000 to 4,000 complaints per day in recent months, up from typical levels of 1,000 per day, Ugoretz said. 


9:03 a.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Biotech company awarded $483 million to develop coronavirus vaccine

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

Moderna Therapeutics headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2019.
Moderna Therapeutics headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2019. Kristoffer Tripplaar/Sipa USA/AP

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, known as BARDA — a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services — awarded up to $483 million to accelerate development of the biotechnology firm Moderna’s experimental vaccine against the novel coronavirus, the company announced in a press release on Thursday.

“Vaccines are a critical tool for saving lives and stopping the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” BARDA Director Rick Bright said in the press release.

“Delivering a safe and effective vaccine for a rapidly spreading virus requires accelerated action," Bright said in part. "BARDA’s goal is to have vaccine available as quickly as possible."

Bright added that preparing now for "advanced stage clinical trials" and "production scale-up" while the vaccine candidate is currently in a phase 1 study could help accelerate the development of vaccines.

Some context: In late February, Moderna had shipped an experimental coronavirus vaccine to US government researchers six weeks after it started working on the immunization. Now a phase 1 study of the vaccine is being conducted by the National Institutes of Health. The study began on March 16. 

“We are thankful for BARDA’s support to fund the accelerated development of mRNA-1273, our vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2,” Stéphane Bancel, Moderna's CEO, said in the press release. “Time is of the essence to provide a vaccine against this pandemic virus. By investing now in our manufacturing process scale-up to enable large scale production for pandemic response, we believe that we would be able to supply millions of doses per month in 2020 and with further investments, tens of millions per month in 2021, if the vaccine candidate is successful in the clinic.” 

Moderna is among several companies that are currently testing vaccines, but it will take months — or more likely at least a year — to complete those trials.

9:03 a.m. ET, April 17, 2020

There have been nearly 5,000 coronavirus-related deaths in Iran

From CNN's Sara Mazloumsaki

A medical worker prepares a monitoring machine at a hospital set up for coronavirus patients in the Iran Mall, in Tehran, Iran, on April 13.
A medical worker prepares a monitoring machine at a hospital set up for coronavirus patients in the Iran Mall, in Tehran, Iran, on April 13. Ali Mohammadi/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Iran reported 89 more coronavirus-related deaths on Friday, bringing the nationwide total to 4,958, Iranian Health Ministry Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour announced on state television.

Over the last 24 hours, 1,499 new cases have been identified in the country, which brings the total number of infected people in Iran to 79,494, Jahanpour said.

The spokesman said at least 3,563 people are in critical condition as of Friday.

Some context: The situation in Iran is particularly intense because the country is already plagued by a weak economy, in part because of US sanctions, and a shortage of medical resources. Iran urged the International Monetary Fund to grant a $5 billion loan to help in the country's fight against coronavirus.

US officials believe the money would not actually go towards the country's public health crisis but will finance terrorist groups. The International Monetary Fund is still assessing Iran’s request of the loan.

9:23 a.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Vehicles crammed Michigan roadways in protest against the state's stay-at-home order

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

Vehicles sit in gridlock during a protest in Lansing, Michigan, on April 15.
Vehicles sit in gridlock during a protest in Lansing, Michigan, on April 15. Paul Sancya/AP

Drivers jammed into Michigan's capital and surrounded the state Capitol in a protest against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order that featured neither face masks nor social distancing, but rather the honking of horns that could be heard inside.

The collision between a public health battle and a political one, which played out for more than five hours on Wednesday, underscores the boiling tensions of a restless nation struggling with the wisdom of reopening the economy before the deadly pandemic subsides.

Whitmer could hardly ignore the scene, considering the honking horns, raucous jeers and blaring music became background noise for her video conference call with health care workers.

"Right outside my office right now, people have come to town who are not wearing masks, they are not observing the six-foot distance," Whitmer said. "Give me some advice. How can I magnify what you're seeing and what you're experiencing?"

CNN's Jeff Zeleny reported on the gathering in Michigan, which he called a "protest-by-parade."

"The protest was large, but the thing that struck me the most is that it went on and on, with honking horns, blaring music and raucous jeers for more than five hours. It was protest-by-parade — definitely not organic, considering it was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition, but the anger was absolutely real. It had the feel of a Trump rally from 2016 and a Tea Party rally from 2010 — back at a time when rallies were the norm," Zeleny said. "What was striking was dozens upon dozens of people who stood on steps of the Capitol and the surrounding sidewalk, defying not only the strict stay-at-home orders, but also blatantly ignoring basic medical common sense."

Zeleny acknowledged the economic pain Michigan is feeling with one-quarter of the state's eligible workforce seeking some type of unemployment help. Yet in the end, the protest "seemed oddly discordant on a day that the state's death toll hovered around 2,000 people," he said.

Michigan currently has 29,263 coronavirus cases and 2,093 deaths, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.


8:49 a.m. ET, April 17, 2020

US Surgeon General calls wearing face coverings "sign of respect" during pandemic

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Customers wait in line at a grocery store in Wheaton, Maryland, on April 16.
Customers wait in line at a grocery store in Wheaton, Maryland, on April 16. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said wearing a covering over your nose and mouth in public could be viewed as a "sign of respect" in an effort to not spread the coronavirus. 

"I've really been in the thick of this whole mask discussion, and we know that wearing a cloth facial covering prevents you from spreading to other people," Adams told "Fox & Friends" this morning.

"And I do think it's a sign of respect, of appreciation for the fact that you could be asymptomatically spreading to someone else," Adams said. "That's something that governors are going to consider as they look at how do we safely reopen." 

In early March, Adams told the general public to "stop buying masks." He said at the time that wearing a mask improperly could increase your risk of contracting the coronavirus due to touching your face often when wearing the mask.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week announced an executive order requiring everyone in the state to wear a face covering in public when not social distancing. 

Adams said on "Fox & Friends" on Friday that "in New York especially, I know that there are challenges -- because it's a densely populated area -- with keeping people inside and if you're going to go out, you wear your mask to protect me. I wear mine my facial covering to protect you."