National coronavirus updates: Some states look into easing restrictions after new guidelines announced

The latest:There have been more than 700,000 coronavirus cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.The U.S. death toll has surpassed 37,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins.Globally, there have been more than 2.2 million cases with more than 154,000 deaths. Wuhan, China, where the first case of coronavirus was recorded, has added nearly 1,300 new deaths to its death toll. China has recently faced increased U.S. scrutiny to be transparent in its reporting on the virus.President Donald Trump detailed a plan Thursday in which states could reopen, moving away from a “blanket shutdown.” Some states are banding together in regional groups to decide when to reopen. A day after the White House provided a road map to gradually reopen the crippled economy, some states took their first steps toward easing restrictions.In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis said municipalities could reopen beaches and parks if they could do so safely.In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said stores could begin selling curbside, nonessential surgery could resume and state parks could reopen.Abbott on Friday also announced a statewide task force of medical and economic experts to reopen the state, with early May as a target date, issuing an executive order outlining the standards that will be used to guide the reopening of private businesses.Plans for opening businesses will be announced on April 27, depending on whether the state has been able to contain the coronavirus, but schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year. Abbott stressed that the framework would be determined by “data and by doctors” and continued adherence to social distancing guidelines. Vermont will start to ease restrictions Monday — but very slowly and with lots of caveats.Certain workers — construction, home appraisers, property management and municipal clerks — can restart jobs Monday. But only two workers would be allowed per location, and they’d need to wear cloth masks and maintain 6 feet of space, Gov. Phil Scott said.On May 1, farmers markets will be able to operate with strict social-distancing guidelines in place, Scott said.The number of new cases is dropping in some states, but health officials have also identified new outbreaks. In New Hampshire, for example, clusters were identified at three long-term care facilities.Some states already have said they’re banding together in regional groups to decide when to reopen. That includes states on the West Coast; seven states in the Northeast; and a group encompassing Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Kentucky.Some governors are warning about the dangers of easing restrictions too soon after President Donald Trump unveiled his reopening guidelines and said a shutdown is not a sustainable, long-term solution.”We must get this right because the stakes are very high. If we don’t do it right, the consequences are horrendous,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday. “It’s going to be gradual. It’s going to be rolling it out one thing after another.”President Trump announces $19 billion relief program for farmers, food assistanceTrump said Friday during a White House coronavirus task force briefing that the U.S. Agriculture Department will provide a $19 billion relief program for farmers and producers as well as food assistance for Americans.It will include direct payments to farmers as well as mass purchases of dairy, meat and produce to get food to people in need, Trump said.Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said that under the new program, $16 billion in direct payments would go to farmers, ranchers and producers who have experienced unprecedented losses and $3 billion would buy food for Americans to be distributed through food banks and community and faith-based organizations.New York’s coronavirus hospitalizations are decreasing, but states can’t test without federal help, Cuomo says New York state’s coronavirus hospitalizations are dropping, but like all the states it desperately needs federal help to test enough people to reopen society, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.”The next frontier (is) testing. We don’t have a system” to deal with the kind of volume needed, Cuomo said.States are competing with each other for capacity to test, and they generally don’t have enough money to pay for it, so the federal government needs to step in, he said.”(Reopening) is going to be an incremental process,” he said. “You’re not going to hear any day soon … it’s over.”New York has by far the most coronavirus cases in the U.S. Hospitalizations, ICU admissions and intubations across the state are down. But the number of deaths — 630 Thursday, against 606 the day before — “refuses to come down dramatically,” he said.PGlmcmFtZSBpZD0iaHR2LWNvdmlkLW1hcCIgc3JjPSJodHRwczovL2NvdmlkLTE5LWFzc2V0cy5odHZ0b29scy51cy9pbmRleC5odG1sIiBzY3JvbGw9Im5vIiBzdHlsZT0iYm9yZGVyOm5vbmU7Ij48L2lmcmFtZT4=Cuomo’s comments came a day after the White House gave all 50 governors a suggested three-phase approach to easing social distancing. But President Donald Trump, in a retreat from his earlier claims that it was his call, told governors that when and how to reopen is up to them.The guidelines are “sound,” Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday during a Vital Strategies webinar.But he and many other experts and officials, including governors, are stressing that more detailed plans about diagnostic testing, antibody testing and contact tracing are needed before the economy can reopen safely.”We need to find a way to have testing (that is) widely, easily accessible, it is agnostic to your insurance status, and it is … aggressive … where there are potentially no cases,” Dr. John Lynch, board member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said Friday in a separate webinar.The CDC will establish “surveillance sites in some of the inner-city clinics that we have, and some of the indigenous population clinics, to … try to identify and understand how much asymptomatic infection is there,” CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield told NBC’s “Today” show.The CDC is sending teams to eight states to help bolster contact tracing efforts and contain the virus, a federal health official told CNN. They will go to New Mexico, Wyoming, Idaho, Alaska, North Dakota, Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio. Their goal is to expand testing, which is crucial to reopening economies, and ensure those states remain at low levels of transmission, the official said.How the federal guidelines would work The federal three-phase guidelines to reopen the economy rely on “gating” criteria that states would have to pass before starting each phase.The criteria include a “downward trajectory” of COVID-19 cases in a 14-day period, and a return to pre-crisis conditions in hospitals, according to the document.In the first phase, schools currently closed should remain so, and employees who are able to telework should keep working from home. Large venues, including some restaurants and gyms, could operate under strict social-distancing protocols, but bars should remain shuttered.Phases 2 and 3 would gradually decrease the recommended restrictions. Vulnerable populations would remain sheltered in place until phase 3.The phased approach encourages all individuals to “strongly consider” using face coverings in public. And the document encourages employers to use social distancing, temperature checks, testing and sanitation practices in their workplaces. New York and other hot spots are getting longer peaks than expected, expert saysNew York and other hot spots are experiencing prolonged peaks of the coronavirus pandemic while Southern states may not get hit as hard as earlier projected, experts say.Researchers from the prominent projection model cited by the White House plan to release new data on the pandemic Friday.Updated projections will show decreasing cases on a national level but extended peaks in hard-hit areas, said Dr. Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model.Americans are social distancing more than expected, even in some states without strong mandates, which factors into the new estimates, Murray told CNN’s global town hall on coronavirus Thursday night.”We made a big push trying to take into account how people move around, like direct measurement through cell phone data,” he said. “There’s more social distancing across the country than I think we expected. A number of states in the South will have smaller epidemics than expected.”With growing social distancing, death rates among confirmed cases in some Southern states will come down, which will mean lower national numbers overall, he said.”Counterbalance to that is that places like New York seem to be stuck at the peak for longer than we originally expected,” he added. “… It’s not something that I think anybody expected to see where people would, instead of two or three days to peak, they’re spending a longer period and then cases will start to come down.”Antibody tests are available, but not approved treatmentAs the U.S. discusses reopening the country, health officials are focusing on the development of coronavirus tests, treatments and preventative strategies.There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. Doctors are trying out various drugs and procedures, but it’s still not known if they’ll work.One antiviral drug — remdesivir — got elevated attention this week over a video featuring a Chicago doctor’s upbeat conversation about a clinical trial of the drug there.Patients in the trial had severe respiratory symptoms and fever but were able to leave the hospital after less than a week of treatment with the drug, the health news website STAT News quoted the doctor as saying.However, the trial does not include a control group, in which some patients don’t receive the drug so that doctors can determine whether the drug is really affecting the other subjects’ conditions.Several health experts told CNN on Friday that the discussion sounded encouraging but cautioned that much more — randomized clinical trials and published data — is needed.W2lmcmFtZSBzcmM9Imh0dHBzOi8vZDJjbXZicTdzeHgzM2ouY2xvdWRmcm9udC5uZXQvZW1haWwvcHJvZF9jb3JvbmF2aXJ1c19pZnJhbWVfYXJ0aWNsZS5odG1sIiBoZWlnaHQ9IjQxNCIgc3R5bGU9IndpZHRoOjEwMCU7Ym9yZGVyOm5vbmU7b3ZlcmZsb3c6aGlkZGVuIiBzY3JvbGxpbmc9Im5vIiBmcmFtZWJvcmRlcj0iMCIgYWxsb3dUcmFuc3BhcmVuY3k9InRydWUiXVsvaWZyYW1lXQ==The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The latest:

  • There have been more than 700,000 coronavirus cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.
  • The U.S. death toll has surpassed 37,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins.
  • Globally, there have been more than 2.2 million cases with more than 154,000 deaths.
  • Wuhan, China, where the first case of coronavirus was recorded, has added nearly 1,300 new deaths to its death toll. China has recently faced increased U.S. scrutiny to be transparent in its reporting on the virus.
  • President Donald Trump detailed a plan Thursday in which states could reopen, moving away from a “blanket shutdown.”
  • Some states are banding together in regional groups to decide when to reopen.

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A day after the White House provided a road map to gradually reopen the crippled economy, some states took their first steps toward easing restrictions.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis said municipalities could reopen beaches and parks if they could do so safely.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said stores could begin selling curbside, nonessential surgery could resume and state parks could reopen.

Abbott on Friday also announced a statewide task force of medical and economic experts to reopen the state, with early May as a target date, issuing an executive order outlining the standards that will be used to guide the reopening of private businesses.

Plans for opening businesses will be announced on April 27, depending on whether the state has been able to contain the coronavirus, but schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year. Abbott stressed that the framework would be determined by “data and by doctors” and continued adherence to social distancing guidelines.

Vermont will start to ease restrictions Monday — but very slowly and with lots of caveats.

Certain workers — construction, home appraisers, property management and municipal clerks — can restart jobs Monday. But only two workers would be allowed per location, and they’d need to wear cloth masks and maintain 6 feet of space, Gov. Phil Scott said.

On May 1, farmers markets will be able to operate with strict social-distancing guidelines in place, Scott said.

The number of new cases is dropping in some states, but health officials have also identified new outbreaks. In New Hampshire, for example, clusters were identified at three long-term care facilities.

Some states already have said they’re banding together in regional groups to decide when to reopen. That includes states on the West Coast; seven states in the Northeast; and a group encompassing Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Kentucky.

Some governors are warning about the dangers of easing restrictions too soon after President Donald Trump unveiled his reopening guidelines and said a shutdown is not a sustainable, long-term solution.

“We must get this right because the stakes are very high. If we don’t do it right, the consequences are horrendous,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday. “It’s going to be gradual. It’s going to be rolling it out one thing after another.”

President Trump announces $19 billion relief program for farmers, food assistance

Trump said Friday during a White House coronavirus task force briefing that the U.S. Agriculture Department will provide a $19 billion relief program for farmers and producers as well as food assistance for Americans.

It will include direct payments to farmers as well as mass purchases of dairy, meat and produce to get food to people in need, Trump said.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said that under the new program, $16 billion in direct payments would go to farmers, ranchers and producers who have experienced unprecedented losses and $3 billion would buy food for Americans to be distributed through food banks and community and faith-based organizations.

New York’s coronavirus hospitalizations are decreasing, but states can’t test without federal help, Cuomo says

New York state’s coronavirus hospitalizations are dropping, but like all the states it desperately needs federal help to test enough people to reopen society, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.

“The next frontier (is) testing. We don’t have a system” to deal with the kind of volume needed, Cuomo said.

States are competing with each other for capacity to test, and they generally don’t have enough money to pay for it, so the federal government needs to step in, he said.

“(Reopening) is going to be an incremental process,” he said. “You’re not going to hear any day soon … it’s over.”

New York has by far the most coronavirus cases in the U.S. Hospitalizations, ICU admissions and intubations across the state are down. But the number of deaths — 630 Thursday, against 606 the day before — “refuses to come down dramatically,” he said.

Cuomo’s comments came a day after the White House gave all 50 governors a suggested three-phase approach to easing social distancing. But President Donald Trump, in a retreat from his earlier claims that it was his call, told governors that when and how to reopen is up to them.

The guidelines are “sound,” Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday during a Vital Strategies webinar.

But he and many other experts and officials, including governors, are stressing that more detailed plans about diagnostic testing, antibody testing and contact tracing are needed before the economy can reopen safely.

“We need to find a way to have testing (that is) widely, easily accessible, it is agnostic to your insurance status, and it is … aggressive … where there are potentially no cases,” Dr. John Lynch, board member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said Friday in a separate webinar.

The CDC will establish “surveillance sites in some of the inner-city clinics that we have, and some of the indigenous population clinics, to … try to identify and understand how much asymptomatic infection is there,” CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield told NBC’s “Today” show.

The CDC is sending teams to eight states to help bolster contact tracing efforts and contain the virus, a federal health official told CNN. They will go to New Mexico, Wyoming, Idaho, Alaska, North Dakota, Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio. Their goal is to expand testing, which is crucial to reopening economies, and ensure those states remain at low levels of transmission, the official said.

How the federal guidelines would work

The federal three-phase guidelines to reopen the economy rely on “gating” criteria that states would have to pass before starting each phase.

The criteria include a “downward trajectory” of COVID-19 cases in a 14-day period, and a return to pre-crisis conditions in hospitals, according to the document.

In the first phase, schools currently closed should remain so, and employees who are able to telework should keep working from home. Large venues, including some restaurants and gyms, could operate under strict social-distancing protocols, but bars should remain shuttered.

Phases 2 and 3 would gradually decrease the recommended restrictions. Vulnerable populations would remain sheltered in place until phase 3.

The phased approach encourages all individuals to “strongly consider” using face coverings in public. And the document encourages employers to use social distancing, temperature checks, testing and sanitation practices in their workplaces.

New York and other hot spots are getting longer peaks than expected, expert says

New York and other hot spots are experiencing prolonged peaks of the coronavirus pandemic while Southern states may not get hit as hard as earlier projected, experts say.

Researchers from the prominent projection model cited by the White House plan to release new data on the pandemic Friday.

Updated projections will show decreasing cases on a national level but extended peaks in hard-hit areas, said Dr. Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model.

Americans are social distancing more than expected, even in some states without strong mandates, which factors into the new estimates, Murray told CNN’s global town hall on coronavirus Thursday night.

“We made a big push trying to take into account how people move around, like direct measurement through cell phone data,” he said. “There’s more social distancing across the country than I think we expected. A number of states in the South will have smaller epidemics than expected.”

With growing social distancing, death rates among confirmed cases in some Southern states will come down, which will mean lower national numbers overall, he said.

“Counterbalance to that is that places like New York seem to be stuck at the peak for longer than we originally expected,” he added. “… It’s not something that I think anybody expected to see where people would, instead of two or three days to peak, they’re spending a longer period and then cases will start to come down.”

Antibody tests are available, but not approved treatment

As the U.S. discusses reopening the country, health officials are focusing on the development of coronavirus tests, treatments and preventative strategies.

There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. Doctors are trying out various drugs and procedures, but it’s still not known if they’ll work.

One antiviral drug — remdesivir — got elevated attention this week over a video featuring a Chicago doctor’s upbeat conversation about a clinical trial of the drug there.

Patients in the trial had severe respiratory symptoms and fever but were able to leave the hospital after less than a week of treatment with the drug, the health news website STAT News quoted the doctor as saying.

However, the trial does not include a control group, in which some patients don’t receive the drug so that doctors can determine whether the drug is really affecting the other subjects’ conditions.

Several health experts told CNN on Friday that the discussion sounded encouraging but cautioned that much more — randomized clinical trials and published data — is needed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.