WHO raised alarms on outbreak "at the right time," director-general says
From CNN's Jacqueline Howard
The World Health Organization raised global alarm about the coronavirus outbreak "at the right time," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a media briefing in Geneva on Wednesday. WHO on January 30 declared the outbreak of a novel coronavirus to be a public health emergency of international concern. WHO defines a public health emergency of international concern as "an extraordinary event" that constitutes a "public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease" and "to potentially require a coordinated international response." Previous emergencies have included Ebola, Zika and H1N1. During that time in January, "outside China we had only 82 cases," Tedros said during Wednesday briefing. "Looking back, I think we declared the emergency at the right time and when the world had enough time to respond," Tedros said. "There were only 82 cases and no deaths. That was enough time. … This was more than two months and 21 days ago, close to three months now." On March 11, WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic. Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, said during Wednesday's briefing that "the characterization of the disease as a pandemic in itself has no basis other than a description of the event at that time in regards to how many countries are affected."
Some background: President Trump announced he is halting funding to the organization earlier this month while a review is conducted. The US funds $400 million to $500 million to WHO each year, Trump said while announcing the funding freeze, noting that China "contributes roughly $40 million." "Had WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China's lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death," he said.
Reopening decisions should be made by local governments, WHO official says
From CNN's Jacqueline Howard
As governments consider loosening various social distancing measures, such decisions should be made at the "lowest administrative level," Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, a World Health Organization infectious disease epidemiologist, said during a media briefing in Geneva on Wednesday. "It’s not a one size fits all, and what countries need to do – and what decision makers need to do – is to evaluate the situation in their countries at the lowest administrative level as they can to determine what can be lifted where and when," Van Kerkhove said.
She continued: "First and foremost, is to really understand where this virus is, how far it’s being transmitted and if it is controlled. Countries need sufficient systems in place in order to detect any new cases that come up. … It doesn’t mean that you won’t see your families for long periods of time. There may be situations where these measures can be lifted, but it has to be done in a controlled way."
Trump announces National Parks to reopen, but doesn't offer dates or details
From CNN's Nikki Carvajal
National Parks will begin reopening, President Trump announced today, as he urged states to reopen after coronavirus closures. The President made the remarks on the South Lawn of the White House during a ceremony marking Earth Day and Arbor Day. “We’re starting to open our country again,” the President said, “thanks to our significant progress against the invisible enemy, I’m pleased to announced that in line with my administration’s guidelines for opening up America again, we will begin to reopen our National Parks and public lands for the American people to enjoy.” He then called on Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt to comment with more details, but Bernhardt did not come to the podium or have a microphone, so his comments were inaudible. Vice President Mike Pence later commented that the administration would “work closely with governors” to reopen parks and public lands, “so that the American people can enjoy the blessings of those extraordinary places.” Pence told the Trump that the American people are, “anxious to get back to enjoying all those public parks, and will greatly welcome your leadership.” It's unclear the degree to which the President's announcement will affect states and other localities.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said President Trump agreed to waive the state match for the costs related to using the Federal Emergency Management Agency during their meeting yesterday. “Normally, a state has to pay 25% of the FEMA cost. That would be a cruel irony for New York and adding insult to injury,” Cuomo explained. “New York had the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country. Therefore, our cost of FEMA was the highest cost in the nation.” “You're going to penalize us for having the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country. And at the same time, the Congress passed a piece of legislation not even funding the states,” Cuomo said. He said it’ll save the state hundreds of millions of dollars. Cuomo also said he talked to Trump about getting more state funding into the next stimulus bill. “This was not the time for baby steps. This is when you should be taking bold action,” he said.
Gov. Cuomo: "This is no time to act stupidly"
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he understands that local officials may feel political pressure to reopen their economies.
"We can't make a bad decision," he said. "Frankly, this is no time to act stupidly, period. I don't know how else to say it."
Cuomo said reopening prematurely would set back the progress that has been made flattening the curve. He warned communities that have not been hard-hit by coronavirus to keep certain restrictions in place, saying a second wave could "knock you down."
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will launch a contact-tracing program, Gov. Cuomo says
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press conference at the State Capitol in Albany, New York, on April 22 New York will work with New Jersey and Connecticut to launch a "nation-leading contact-tracing program," Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this morning. "This is going to be a massive undertaking," he said. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg will help develop the first-ever testing/tracing/isolation programs, Cuomo said. John’s Hopkins University and Vital Strategies will help with the tracing operation, he added. Contact tracing is a virus containment strategy that involves finding sick people, isolating them and then tracing everyone with whom they've been in contact with. Those contacts are then put into quarantine.
Gov. Cuomo said he and Trump put politics aside at yesterday's meeting
From CNN's Adrienne Vogt
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he had a “productive” meeting with President Trump yesterday at the White House. “To me, a productive visit means we spoke truth. We spoke facts. We made decisions, and we have a plan going forward. And that was accomplished yesterday. And I feel good about it personally,” Cuomo said. The governor said political differences were placed on the back burner during the meeting. “By the way, these are people in the White House who, politically, don't like me. You know, that's the fact, right? You see the President's tweets. He's often tweeted very unkind things about me and my brother. … We’ve had conflicts back and forth. But we sat with him. We sat with his team. And that was put aside. Because who really cares how I feel or how he feels? Who cares? Get the job done,” he said. Cuomo referred to his call to keep politics out of the health pandemic: “When you're at war, you're in a foxhole. … I don't care what your politics are. I don't care what you think about my politics. It doesn't matter. We both have a job to do. Let's do the job. That was the spirit of the meeting yesterday,” Cuomo said.
Vermont continues to report a downward slope of coronavirus cases
From CNN's Carma Hassan
Streets sit empty in downtown Brattleboro, Vermont, on April 19. Brian Snyder/Reuters Vermont is reporting a downward slope of coronavirus cases and less Vermonters are going into the urgent care or hospital emergency settings with symptoms that might sound like Covid-19, officials said today. "As you’ve been hearing, our efforts to flatten the curve are starting to make a difference, but this isn’t over yet, and continuing to take action to protect yourself and those around you is really still critical," said Vermont Commissioner of Health Dr. Mark Levine said. A month ago, 6% of urgent care or ER visits were for Covid-19 type-symptoms. Now those visits are in the 1% to 2% range, Levine said. There have been approximately 40 coronavirus deaths in Vermont, Levine said, and they have assessed the first 29 deaths.
At least 474 died from coronavirus in New York on Tuesday
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at least 474 people died across the state from coronavirus yesterday. That is down from 481 deaths in the state on Monday. The governor said the death toll updates are "the worst news that I have to deliver every day, and the worst news that I've ever had to deal with as governor as New York." However, he said death rates are no longer increasing every day and the toll "seems to be on a gentle decline."
New York governor: "We are actually in a much better place"
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press conference at the State Capitol in Albany, New York. Michael Brochstein/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media/Getty Images New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that, while it feels like the state has been under restrictions for "terribly long," New York is now "in a much better place." "When you look at the reality of the situation, We are actually in a much better place," he said. "We're at a relatively good place," he added. Hospitalization and intubation rates are down. However, the number of new people going into the hospital each day is still "troublingly high," Cuomo said.
Nearly 100 coronavirus cases linked to another Tyson plant
A Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Washington state is now linked to 91 cases of Covid-19, a local health department reports. The beef plant, located in Wallula, had their first case of the disease on April 1, Walla Walla County health officials said in a statement. Tyson began to put mitigation efforts in place 5 days later, on April 6, the statement added. The cases are now spread out over the two-county Benton-Franklin Health District and Walla Walla County, officials for both areas said. The Walla Walla County health department, the agency that oversees the plant, said they have "been in daily communication with Tyson to ensure the required mitigation measures are put in place" since April 6. "In addition to the prevention measures we have required Tyson to implement, we are also requiring Tyson to allow the DCH to test all employees for COVID-19,” said Meghan DeBolt, Director of the department, in the later statement. The plant remains open at this time. Earlier, today, Tyson said it will suspend operations at its Waterloo, Iowa, pork plant after nearly 200 coronavirus cases were linked to the plant.
Wife of coronavirus victim: "This is real. We are not actors."
From CNN's Adrienne Vogt
Detroit bus driver Jason Hargrove died from Covid-19 just days after posting an impassioned video plea to warn residents about the seriousness of coronavirus. His wife, Desha Johnson-Hargrove, described him as a “gentle giant,” an “amazing father” and an “all-around great man.” “He proudly put that uniform on every day. Even after he was sick, not even understanding how sick, not even understanding that he had actually had the virus at the time … but his mind was still on going to work every day and transporting the people of Detroit,” Johnson-Hargrove told CNN’s Poppy Harlow. Johnson-Hargrove said her message to people is to just stay home while coronavirus continues to affect the US. “This is real. We are not actors. We are real people. We are real hurting people that have suffered a tremendous loss. And all I can ask is that everyone follow and obey the orders of your state, of your county, of your cities, whatever they may be. Stay home. … It’s that simple — just stay home.” Eric Colts, his best friend and fellow bus driver, said he is still uneasy about going to work, even with personal protective equipment, including and masks. “In my line of work, you never know who you're picking up from the next stop to the next stop. That's something we don't know. So to say I feel safe, I can't really say that, because we're just not sure,” he said.
Dozens of cruise ships full of crew members are still off the coast of Florida
From CNN’s Rosa Flores and Sara Weisfeldt
The US Coast Guard says nearly 65,000 crew members are still on 87 cruise ships in Miami’s USCG 7th District, which includes the Bahamas and the Caribbean. At least 18 passengers remain on board, according to the USCG. About 30,600 crew members are on 43 vessels in and around US ports, while 34,300 crew are on 44 cruise ships in and around the Bahamas and Caribbean, per the USCG. The passengers are awaiting final coordination and clearance for repatriation.
Tyson plant closure may be too late to stop coronavirus spread, Iowa mayor says
From CNN's Adrienne Vogt
Tyson said it will suspend operations at its Waterloo, Iowa, pork plant after nearly 200 coronavirus cases were linked to the plant. Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart said while he’s happy the plant — which is the the company’s largest pork plant — is closing temporarily, he’s afraid it may be too late to stop the spread. “At this particular point, we believe that it was too late. We went from 21 cases of Covid on April 9 to about 380 yesterday, and we even doubled that number in two days from 191 to 380. So at this point, closing, cleaning, testing people, is the best scenario for it,” Hart said in an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow. “And I understand the impact that this has on our national food chain, but in order to be able to stop the spread, this was the best course of action to support the workers that prepare our food.” Hart previously told CNN’s Dana Bash that he was concerned about frontline workers at the plant, many of whom are minorities and immigrants. The plant is one of the city's largest employers, with some 3,000 workers. Tyson now says all workers will be able to get testing. “It hurts when it feels like your pleas to people falls on deaf ears. This isn't a political issue. It's not a Republican, not a Democrat [issue]. This is a humanitarian issue. And we needed proactive steps to be able to squash this spread,” he said.
New York City plans on having July 4th fireworks, mayor says
From CNN’s Mark Morales
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says there will be a Macy’s July 4th celebration with fireworks, though no details have been hashed out yet. De Blasio said he spoke with Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette. who agreed that the company wanted to celebrate in some way. “One way or another, the show will go on,” de Blasio said, adding that fireworks will be a part of the plan.
“This is a day we cannot miss," de Blasio said. "There’s no day like the Fourth of July." The mayor said there are a lot of questions that need to be answered between now and the celebration, but that the city will conduct the celebration “in a way that’s safe and smart.” Earlier this week, de Blasio announced that New York City has canceled all non-essential permitted events in June.
NYC mayor says there will be more coronavirus testing for public housing residents
From CNN’s Mark Morales
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said there will be increased coronavirus testing to serve the estimated 400,000 people live in public housing locations around the city. Six new testing sites with the priority for NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents will be opened over the next two weeks he said. Three sites – in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan – will open Friday. Three others – in Brooklyn, Queens and Harlem – will open next week. Hand sanitizer will be given to thousands of seniors in NYCHA facilities, and all public housing residents will receive face coverings and gloves. The mayor also discussed an expanded free door-to-door meal distribution to NYCHA building seniors so no one will “miss out on the food they need,” and a $5 million investment for free tablets and internet service to 10,000 NYCHA seniors “so they can stay in touch with family and loved ones and access the services they need.”
White House supports Georgia's decision to reopen, despite concerns from public health experts
From CNN's Kristen Holmes and Kaitlan Collins
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp listens to a question from the press during a tour of a temporary hospital at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta on April 16. Ron Harris/Pool/AP Both Vice President Mike Pence and President Trump called Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday night to express support for the governor’s decision to reopen his state, offering praise and complimenting him on the job he’s doing, according to a source familiar with the call. Another person familiar with the call said it went well. The governor, who made the announcement on reopening his state Monday, did not inform White House beforehand, according to a source familiar with the decision. The source added that Kemp made the decision at least a day before the announcement. Kemp's decision has drawn criticism from public health experts who have repeatedly stressed the dangers of relaxing social distancing measures too early. Georgia hit its projected peak for daily deaths on April 7, according to an influential model often cited by the White House. But that same model, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, says that Georgia shouldn't start relaxing social distancing until after June 15 -- when the state can begin considering other measures to contain the virus, such as contact tracing and isolation. CNN's Nick Valencia reported that Candice Broce, Gov. Kemp’s communications and deputy executive counsel, defended the governor’s announcement, saying the state has satisfied all criteria required by the White House to reopen. She called any suggestion otherwise "inaccurate."
NYC mayor announces new initiative to test and trace Covid-19 cases
From CNN’s Mark Morales
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled details on a new initiative called "test and trace," the steps and measures he says would get the city to a low-level transmission phase. "This is how we ultimately defeat this disease," de Blasio said this morning. The mayor gave what he called broad strokes to the approach to the plan, which is based on widespread testing for the disease. If a patient is found to be Covid-19 positive, determining who they have been in contact with and testing those people. "Plenty of sites and plenty of tests," de Blasio said. The goal is to make testing available in every community, provide immediate assessment isolation and support, rapidly trace contacts and have more testing available in May. People who test positive will be immediately assessed, isolated, monitored and supported at home or in a hotel or hospital, the mayor said. De Blasio said he would like to identify widespread collection sites to minimize the burden on hospitals and the health care system. The city will also conduct interviews with positive patients to determine who they have been in close contact with. "If you were in close contact with your cousin, then we want to talk to your cousin," he said. "It’s going to take thousands and thousands of people to do this right and we’re putting those people together now."
Houston mayor says reopening too soon could "undo sacrifices" that people have made
From CNN's Adrienne Vogt
Sylvester Turner, mayor of Houston, attends the US Conference of Mayors in Boston on June 8, 2018. Scott Eisen/Getty Images Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Monday that "there are more important things than living" during the coronavirus pandemic, pushing for a reopening opening of the state’s economy. But Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner thinks that could upend progress that the state has made in fighting the virus. "I don't think it's an either/or, and I don't think you have to provide those type of choices. I simply think you just have to listen to what the doctors are saying, take their advice. … You don't have to sacrifice one group in order to save another," Turner said. Turner said he agrees that some hospitals can start performing elective surgeries, but reopening shouldn’t go further than that.
"We shut down early in this city. So the things that have been put in place are working. But you have to be very careful if you open up too soon. You will undo all the sacrifices people made."
Turner also stressed that this health crisis should not be made political. "It has no respect of persons or parties or social or economic status," he said, adding that 70% of the deaths in the city have been people of color. Turner also reiterated that his city needs more widespread testing in order to gauge the reopening of the economy, referring to the response when Hurricane Harvey hit the area in 2017. "You can look on the radar and you knew where the storm was, when it was going to hit, when it was going to exit. For us with this particular challenge, the radar happens to be testing. And it needs to be widespread and it needs to be robust," he said.
US stocks rebound
From CNN’s Anneken Tappe
US stocks opened higher today, rebounding after two days of losses brought on by the collapse of oil prices. The oil market continues to be in distress, as global benchmark prices fall to their lowest level since 1999. US oil remains around $14. But investors focused instead on the Senate's approval of a new tranche of fiscal stimulus, including more aid for the payroll protections plan. The House is expected to vote on the plan today. Meanwhile, earnings season is roaring on and companies are fulling their guidance amid the coronavirus uncertainty. Here's where things stand this morning:
The Dow opened 1.9%, or 440 points, higher.
The S&P 500 kicked off nearly 2% higher.
The Nasdaq Composite rose 2.1%.
Tyson suspends operations at Iowa plant after suspected coronavirus outbreak
From CNN’s Dianne Gallagher and Pamela Kirkland
A Tyson Fresh Meats plant is seen in Waterloo, Iowa, on an unknown date. Jeff Reinitz/The Courier/AP Tyson Fresh Meats has announced plans to indefinitely suspend operations at its Waterloo, Iowa, pork plant “mid-week until further notice." The plant is one of the city's largest employers, with some 3,000 workers, many of them immigrants and people of color who don't have the best access to health care. The announcement comes as local officials in Black Hawk County, Iowa, had urged the plant to close voluntarily after a suspected outbreak of Covid-19. “Protecting our team members is our top priority and the reason we’ve implemented numerous safety measures during this challenging and unprecedented time,” Steve Stouffer, group president of Tyson Fresh Meats said in a statement. “Despite our continued efforts to keep our people safe while fulfilling our critical role of feeding American families, the combination of worker absenteeism, COVID-19 cases and community concerns has resulted in our decision to stop production.” The Black Hawk County health department announced Tuesday that 182 of the county's 374 cases are linked to the Tyson Waterloo plant. The Board of Health voted yesterday to pass a proclamation urging Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Tyson Foods to temporarily close the Waterloo plant for deep cleaning and to test employees. Last week, two dozen local and state elected officials — including Waterloo's Mayor — sent a letter formally requesting Tyson shut down the plant due to the outbreak. Mayor Quentin Hart told CNN he was afraid if action wasn't taken soon, his city could be the "next hot spot."
US should focus on its own tests, not comparisons to other countries, Dr. Sanjay Gupta says
From CNN's Adrienne Vogt
Dr. Sanjay Gupta said the US needs to focus on its lack of testing in the country — not on how we compare to other countries. While answering viewers' questions this morning, he was asked about the US's testing numbers. “At the White House briefings, it’s often mentioned that the US has done more testing than any other country. Is that true? Wouldn't it be more accurate to compare testing numbers by the amount of tests administered per million people?” the viewer asked. Here's how Gupta answered: "The answer is yes … You want to basically get a large enough sample size for the data to be meaningful. And you know what? I don't care about other countries, frankly. We keep saying, but we're doing more than other countries. It doesn't matter. That doesn't matter. There are countries doing better than us and there are countries doing worse than us in terms of testing. What matters right now here is here. And what we know is we need to be doing way more testing than we're doing. Maybe a million or so tests a day; I think we're around 150, 160,000 a day. And the reason you want to do that much testing is you get a better idea of where the virus is, how it’s spreading and how to contain it." Gupta said the US has the "strategies to be able to contain this virus." "This is a solvable problem. I want to make this clear. We have the strategies to be able to contain this virus. It��s not going to be easy. But we know how to do it," he added.
Is it safe to get a haircut right now?
From CNN's Adrienne Vogt
Dr. Sanjay Gupta answered viewers’ questions about coronavirus on CNN’s New Day. Here’s what he had to say about haircuts as Georgia Gov. Kemp announced that some businesses, including hair salons, can reopen in the state starting this week. On viewer asked: “Is it safe to go to a barber for a haircut? If unsafe, what precautions should the barber take and what precautions should I take?” Here's how he responded: “You can't keep a safe social distance when you’re getting your hair cut. … We may get to the point where people can get such rapid testing that we can know if people are infected or not, and that would help in terms of people being able to go out and do things like haircuts. But we're not at that point. We're not at that point here in Georgia or in any place in the country.”