Coronavirus Updates: CDC Identifies New Coronavirus Symptoms
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
And it's easy to understand why people are feeling antsy to reenter the world. Beyond just missing simple social interactions, there's the fact that sheltering in place is hurting the economy. But the fact is we're still in the process of learning about this disease and a long way from eradicating it. In a few minutes, we'll be talking about the economy and the White House, but let's start with NPR's science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce. She's reporting on the latest developments and joins us now.
NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE, BYLINE: Hey there.
CHANG: So the CDC, I understand, has added new symptoms to the list of symptoms that we're seeing in people with coronavirus. Before, this list had things like fever, cough, shortness of breath. But what new symptoms have been added now?
GREENFIELDBOYCE: The new ones are chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell. And remember; these symptoms can appear anywhere between two to 14 days after exposure to the virus.
CHANG: Wow. Chills or headaches - I mean, some of these are pretty common symptoms. How does someone decide whether or not to get tested?
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Right. I mean, most people who get tested for coronavirus, after all, do not have it. They have something else. And if it's a mild case, there's really not a lot of doctor can do. But if you're one of those people who has pre-existing medical conditions, you want to be more careful. Or if you're an older person, for example, we know that makes people more vulnerable. And so you absolutely must seek care if you have emergency symptoms, and so that includes, like, trouble breathing or pain or pressure in your chest, confusion. Like, if your lips or face sort of turn blue, those are bad. You need to seek care.
CHANG: OK, got it. All right. Nell, we're going to come back to you in a moment, but I want to bring in now NPR Politics and economics reporter Danielle Kurtzleben. Danielle, you have been following the PPP. This is the Paycheck Protection Program, which was meant to prop up small businesses and workers while we're all socially distancing instead of shopping and eating out.
DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Right.
CHANG: So this program, it just got a new infusion of cash from Congress. How is the reopening of the PPP going?
KURTZLEBEN: Today it was rocky. Not after the program reopened this morning, bankers reported they couldn't log in. They couldn't enter information into the system. This is a system, by the way, called E-Tran. It is the SBA's loan processing system. To be clear, businesses go to banks to apply, so this is banks applying on behalf of businesses. I talked to one banker today. She told me that her team had more than 200 applications worth of info ready this morning. As of midday, after three hours of trying, they had entered one business' information.
CHANG: Oh, man.
KURTZLEBEN: So yes, things are very slow. By the end of the day, I will say, some bankers were telling me they were able to get through, though the system was sluggish, in one person's words. And by the way, tonight at the press briefing, President Trump was asked about this. He didn't have much to say. He said he had heard about a glitch but that he didn't have details.
CHANG: OK. And these delays today, they're not the first problem that businesses have had with the PPP, right?
KURTZLEBEN: Not at all. Like, to be clear, of course there has been a run of problems. But there are businesses who have gotten the money, who have used it, who have said, yes, this helped me stay afloat. This saved my business. So the program has worked in some cases, but that's when the money can get to people. The problem is some businesses have been shut out. There have been accusations that some banks prioritize bigger customers.
And it doesn't stop there, either, because there's just confusion here. Businesses, financial experts - they're still waiting on exactly how the forgiveness part of this program will work. These loans are partially forgivable depending on some rules businesses have to follow. Businesses - if they don't know what's going to be forgiven, how much will be forgiven, that puts them in a really troubled situation if they're already hanging on by their fingertips.
CHANG: Yeah. All right, well, let's turn now to NPR political correspondent Scott Detrow. Scott, President Trump has released a new blueprint for state testing plans. There's a lot of focus obviously on testing because it's believed to be key to getting the whole economy back up again. What do we know about what's inside this plan?
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Well, there's really not much new in the plan that the White House released tonight. It's restating what the White House has been saying for a while now, which is that states and commercial labs are responsible for testing primarily. That has been the administration's message in response to the constant criticism that the federal testing coordination was slow and still isn't enough. But at the same time, President Trump also regularly touts how successful testing has been. And here's what he said today.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We want to get our country open, and the testing is not going to be a problem at all. In fact, it's going to be one of the great assets that we have.
DETROW: It's been a problem for months now, though. But earlier in the day President Trump held another phone call with governors from across the country to discuss this.
CHANG: Well, Nell, let's ask you. I mean, how are we doing on testing at this point? Are we getting there?
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Well, the testing is going up. I mean, so far total, the country has done around 5 1/2 million tests. That's total. And labs are able to do somewhere in the ballpark of around a million tests a week. But there some public health experts out there who say we need to do way more, like at least 3 million a week or even much higher. Some say we need to eventually do 30 million a week. So...
GREENFIELDBOYCE: You know, it's improving, but there's still a lot more with regards to testing that needs to be done.
CHANG: Yeah. Well, beyond this focus on testing, what is known about what happens after a person recovers from the virus? Because I saw that this weekend the World Health Organization was saying something, like, about the chance of people being re-infected.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Right. So basically the WHO officials were responding to this idea out there that people could get tested to see if they've recovered from an infection and then have immunity, a so-called immunity passport or a risk-free certificate that would let them travel or work. And the WHO has pointed out that there's still a lot we don't know about immunity after a person recovers from being infected. I mean, scientists assume that most people will have some level of immunity, but they don't yet know how long that's going to last - you know, months, weeks, years. They don't know, and they also don't know if a mild infection will give you strong protection against later reinfection.
CHANG: All right. Well, Scott, I mean, so much of what we know about the disease comes from White House communications about it, and a lot of those communications comes to us through the coronavirus task force briefings that happen almost every single day. But today's briefing was canceled earlier and then suddenly was back on. What was going on there?
DETROW: Yeah, and that's after no briefings Saturday or Sunday. I think you need to go back to Thursday, when President Trump made controversial and, according to health experts, very dangerous comments questioning whether people could inject household disinfectants to treat coronavirus. He claims he was being sarcastic, and at today's briefing, he said he would not take any responsibility for potentially endangering people. But he was roundly condemned for those remarks, and after that, the White House seemed to signal a pause on these briefings or at least the president's involvement in them. But we know President Trump often responds and is very sensitive to TV news coverage, and after a lot of commentary about that pause, today's briefing was back on and happened.
CHANG: And do we know why? I mean, the White House is saying that it might change the format of these briefings or introduce whatever other changes. Do we know why the White House is considering changes.
DETROW: Yeah. Even before those comments Thursday, there were a lot of reports that his political allies thought that these briefings were doing more harm than good - the fact that they went on for hours at a time and that President Trump was often very combative. And in recent weeks you have seen polls that his approval for handling the crisis is dropping and several polls that show Joe Biden ahead of President Trump in key battleground states. So the White House seemed to be listening and thinking about what it could do differently here.
CHANG: All right. That's NPR's Scott Detrow. We also heard from Danielle Kurtzleben and Nell Greenfieldboyce.
Thanks to all three of you.
DETROW: Sure thing.
KURTZLEBEN: Thank you.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Thank you.
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