Coronavirus News – April 20

U.S. tops 750,000 cases; President Trump says he will use DPA to increase medical swabs

The total number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. is currently over 750,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. The virus has killed more than 40,000 people in the U.S. And President Donald Trump said at a press conference that he was going to use the Defense Production Act (DPA) to increase swab production at one facility amid a coronavirus testing shortage. U.S. governors have demanded federal help to ramp up testing across the country. Read more.

Trump administration, Congress close to deal on more emergency funding for small businesses

Congress and the Trump administration are nearing a more than $400 billion deal on emergency funding for small businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Passage is expected in the coming days. News of the impending deal came after Congress allowed the small business rescue fund it set up to exhaust its $350 billion funding capacity last Thursday. Congress has faced pressure to pass funding unanimously due to reports that more than 22 million Americans have lost their jobs during the past month. Read more.

Some states begin to outline plans to relax restrictions

Some states are outlining their plans to relax restrictions and President Donald Trump has cited a handful of states taking steps toward a “safe, gradual and phased opening,” including Texas, Vermont and Ohio. Some restrictions have already been lifted. On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gave some municipalities the ability to reopen beaches with restricted hours. However, on Saturday, Gov. DeSantis said that Florida schools would remain closed through the end of the academic year. Read more.

Maryland, Virginia governors say stay-home orders will remain until cases begin decrease

The governors of Maryland and Virginia said stay-at-home orders would have to remain in effect until those states begin to see decreases in the number of COVID-19 cases. Governors elsewhere said they would need to conduct far more testing before easing restrictions. Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House, pushed back against criticism that enough people were not being tested, saying that not every community required high levels of testing and that tens of thousands of test results were probably not being reported. Read more.

New York cases, deaths slow in state; antibody test rolled out

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says New York appeared to be “on the other side” of the coronavirus outbreak as he announced another drop in daily deaths and highlighted other positive trends. The daily death count of 507 was the lowest since April 6. New coronavirus cases also dropped on Sunday, to 6,054 from 7,090 on Saturday. New York has more than 10% of cases reported globally. Gov. Cuomo also showed the curve of total hospitalizations on a steady downward trend. New York’s lockdown remains until May 15. New York is also set to start antibody testing, according the Gov. Cuomo. It will serve as a baseline to see how many people have been infected with the novel coronavirus. The test will draw from a random sample of people, and the state currently has the ability to run 2,000 tests per day. Read more.

Harvard report says 5 million tests per day needed by early June

A report titled “Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience,” from Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center on Ethics says that ending the quarantine safely will require testing, tracing and supported isolation. “What people need to recognize is that a massively scaled-up testing, tracing and supported isolation system is the alternative to national quarantine,” said Harvard professor Danielle Allen, lead author of the report, to ABC News. Test producers will need to deliver 5 million tests per day by early June to safely open parts of the economy by late July, according to the report. Read more.

Sweden says their controversial strategy is proving effective

Sweden has had a relatively relaxed response to COVID-19, leaving its schools, gyms, cafes, bars and restaurants open throughout the spread of the pandemic. Its government has urged its citizens to act responsibly and follow social distancing guidelines. Anders Tegnell, the architect behind Sweden’s response and the country’s top epidemiologist, said Sweden’s latest figures on infection rates and fatalities indicate the situation is starting to stabilize. It is unclear if this strategy will prove most effective, and experts in Sweden warn it’s too early to draw conclusions. But Sweden’s approach has drawn interest around the world given the economic damage caused by strict lockdowns. As of Sunday, Sweden had reported 1,540 deaths tied to COVID-19, an increase of 29 from Saturday. That is considerably more than in the rest of Scandinavia, but much less than in Italy, Spain and the U.K. – both in absolute and relative terms. Read more.