Many restaurants and bars around the country reopened this past weekend, and they turned out to be very busy.
As the world surged past the 5 million-mark in confirmed coronavirus cases Thursday, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said he can’t predict whether another round of lockdowns is coming as a possible second wave of the virus looms.
Meanwhile, the U.S. pledged to spend up to $1.2 billion for an experimental COVID-19 vaccine being tested in England, and researchers said tens of thousands of American lives could have been saved if social distancing measures had been enacted only a week earlier.
On his visit to Ford in Michigan on Thursday, President Donald Trump did not wear a mask in front of photographers because he “didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it” although Ford officials encouraged him to wear one.
The United States accounts for 31% of the 5 million global coronavirus cases with more than 1.5 million confirmed, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. More than 329,000 people have died globally; the U.S. death toll is more than 94,700.
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Here are some highlights to know Thursday:
- Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, says the U.S. must be as “overprepared as possible” for a second wave of both lockdowns and infections.
- New research shows that 36,000 lives could have been saved if states in the U.S. had issued stay-at-home orders a week before they did.
- Universal Orlando in Florida wants to reopen as soon as June 1 with social distancing precautions like face masks, temperature checks and additional space for parking.
- At least 32 workers in an Amazon campus near Milwaukee have contracted the coronavirus in the last two months. Public health officials are worried that the company isn’t tracking cases, offering tests or practicing social distancing with its workers.
As states reopen, we’re answering your questions:Can your kids and grandkids visit? It’s not safe until community transmission has been eliminated in both areas and the groups getting together have no illness and have had no outside exposures for a week to two weeks.
What we’re talking about: New CDC guidelines say the coronavirus “does not spread easily” via surfaces. “I believe (that the guidelines) are trying to reduce fear and paranoia about methods of transmission,” said Dr. Manisha Juthani, an infectious disease doctor at Yale. Here’s what else you should know about the guidelines.
Leaving your coronavirus isolation?Think about these 3 things first to minimize the risk.
Staying Apart, Together: USA TODAY brings a newsletter about how to cope with these trying times straight to your inbox. 📥
Trump did not wear mask in front of photographers during trip in Michigan
Ford executives encouraged President Donald Trump to don a face mask during his visit to one of its factories Thursday, but he said he chose not to wear it near photographers because he “didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.”
Trump, who was seen holding a navy blue mask with the presidential seal but not wearing it, said he put it on earlier in the tour. Ford officials accompanying the president were seen wearing face masks, according to reporters traveling with the president.
The president has come under scrutiny in the past for largely ignoring recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends Americans wear masks in public during the coronavirus pandemic. Trump, who notes the CDC advice is not mandatory, has described the decision as a “personal choice.”
– John Fritze and Courtney Subramanian
Amazon warehouse worker dies; company death total at 8
An Amazon warehouse worker in North Randall, Ohio, died from COVID-19, bringing the total known deaths at the company to eight employees, officials confirmed Thursday to NBC News.
The female employee went to work the same day she was diagnosed on April 30 but the company wasn’t informed until May 8, an Amazon spokesperson told NBC News. The employee passed away on May 18.
“We are saddened by the loss of an associate who had worked at our site in Randall, Ohio,” Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski told the outlet. “Her family and loved ones are in our thoughts, and we are supporting her fellow colleagues.”
Feds investigating Texas lab over COVID-19 test results
Federal regulators are investigating a Texas laboratory that a Florida hospital chain dropped last week because of delayed and unreliable COVID-19 test results.
AdventHealth, which has 45 hospitals in nine states, terminated its Florida contract with MicroGen DX due to concerns about the validity of some of the 60,000 tests MicroGen had processed for the system because the lab left them at room temperature for days, according to an AdventHealth statement. The specimens should be refrigerated at 2 to 7 degrees Celsius (about 32 degrees Fahrenheit) and then put in freezers at -70 degrees Celsius after three days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
MicroGen promotes shipping COVID-19 samples through FedEx on its website.
The company is also selling a saliva-only test that can be administered in a “hospital, clinic, drive-thru clinic or at-home,” in all 50 states without an Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, said MicroGen spokeswoman Ashley Moore.
MicroGen CEO Rick Martin said he doesn’t believe the company needs one.Martin said he was unaware of “any inquiries into our lab,” but added that after the AdventHealth announcement it started working with the American College of Pathologists on its testing requirements, “which we are confident we will continue to meet.”
Wisconsin health officials worried as over 30 Amazon workers contract COVID-19
At least 32 workers at the Amazon campus in the city of Kenosha in Wisconsin have contracted coronavirus in the past two months, according to messages sent to employees and shared with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Amazon officials have not fully cooperated with public health workers trying to track cases, inform workers who might be at risk or offer testing and other safety measures, said Jen Freiheit, health officer for Kenosha County.
“We’re at the point now that since we’re not getting that, we’re going to look into what other measures we can take for Amazon, because we are not getting as far with compliance as we would like,” Freiheit said.
If Amazon officials do not cooperate with health officials, Freiheit said she would consider attempting to shut down the Kenosha facilities, located in Wisconsin, south of Milwaukee and north of Chicago. Amazon has not provided an official total number of cases at its Kenosha facilities to county health officials and declined to provide the number to the Journal Sentinel.
– Rory Linnane, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Universal Orlando wants to reopen by June 1 with coronavirus precautions
Universal Orlando asked state and local officials in Florida on Thursday to allow the theme park to reopen as soon as June 1, with precautions due to the coronavirus. The economic recovery task force in Orange County unanimously approved Universal’s plan. The plan must also be approved by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
If approved, Universal Orlando could be one of the biggest theme parks in the country to reopen. Universal, Walt Disney World and SeaWorld in Florida have been closed since mid-March because of the global pandemic. A reopened Universal will look very different for visitors and employees, according to a presentation made to the local economic recovery task force Thursday by company officials.
Upon arrival, valet parking will not be available, and cars will park one or two spaces apart. Visitors and employees will receive temperature checks and will be required to wear face coverings. Universal will provide disposable face masks for visitors who don’t bring their own.
– Curtis Tate
Up to $1.2 billion for possible vaccine
The U.S. is betting more than $1 billion on a vaccine that does not exist. The American government has pledged to pay as much as $1.2 billion to get early access to 300 million doses of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine being developed and tested in England. The vaccine is being developed by the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute and licensed to British drugmaker AstraZeneca.
The vaccine is in early clinical trials and being tested for safety, whether it produces antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and whether it protects the immunized from becoming infected with the virus. The first tests began in England on April 23. The vaccine could be delivered as early as October but would still have to go through the completion of clinical trials before it can be administered.
The contract “is a major milestone in Operation Warp Speed’s work toward a safe, effective, widely available vaccine by 2021,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a news release.
– Elizabeth Weise
One week could have saved 36,000 lives, researchers say
Had states across the country begun issuing stay-at-home orders just one week before they did, nearly 36,000 people would not have died and more than 700,000 positive virus cases would have been avoided, new research from Columbia University shows.
Social distancing for two weeks before when most people began staying at home could have prevented 54,000 deaths and 960,000 cases, the researchers found. Both figures are more than 57% of the current U.S. numbers in those categories.
Many states told residents to stay home in mid-March, but research indicates that by then the virus had already reached community spread in some places, like New York City. The researchers found that at least 17,500 deaths in the New York metropolitan area alone could have been prevented had social distancing measures been enacted a week earlier.
“That small moment in time, catching it in that growth phase, is incredibly critical in reducing the number of deaths,” Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist who led the research at Columbia University, told the New York Times.
Ohio to allow weddings with up to 300 guests
Starting in June, couples getting married in Ohio will be able to invite up to 300 guests to the reception without running afoul of public health regulations.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said Thursday the modification to current restrictions, part of Gov. Mike DeWine’s loosening of measures to combat the coronavirus, will be effective June 1. There was no word on whether the bride and groom would be allowed to get close enough to kiss, but Husted said catering and banquet facilities would have to set tables at least six feet apart.
Wedding receptions have been limited to no more than 10 people as Ohio banned large gatherings starting in mid-March.
Florida makes suppressed COVID-19 data available to public
Florida is no longer suppressing information in the table of COVID-19 deaths compiled by the state’s medical examiners, according to Dr. Stephen J. Nelson, the chairman of the state’s medical examiners commission.
State medical examiners are tasked with investigating and certifying COVID-19 deaths, including cause-of-death determinations. A COVID-19 positive test result is a requirement for reporting any death as due to the coronavirus.
FLORIDA TODAY, part of the USA TODAY Network, first reported that cause of death and descriptive entries of the medical examiners database were suppressed from public record in April. The Tampa Bay Times earlier in April reported that the count of the deaths by medical examiners diverged from the Department of Health’s death count, at times by as much as 10%.
The timing of the reversal comes as the state faces scrutiny over data as it reopens.
– Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon
CDC director noncommittal on another round of lockdowns in winter
CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield told the Financial Times that he “can’t guarantee” whether or not a second round of stay-at-home orders is coming for the United States in the winter as the new coronavirus may see a second wave that coincides with cold weather and a flu season.
“I can’t guarantee; that’s kind of getting into the opinion mode. We have to be data driven,” Redfield told the newspaper. “What I can say is that we are committed to using the time that we have now to get this nation as overprepared as possible.”
Redfield said the spread of the virus in the southern hemisphere gives him concern about a second wave at the end of 2020 in the northern hemisphere.
Another 2.4M file jobless claims
About 2.4 million Americans filed initial unemployment claims last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, as the health and economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus ruptures a growing number of industries.
In just nine weeks, nearly 39 million have sought jobless benefits that represent the nation’s most reliable gauge of layoffs.
The latest claims tally was down from the 3 million who filed claims the week before, and the record 6.9 million who sought assistance in late March. Initial applications for unemployment insurance have now steadily declined seven weeks in a row.
– Charisse Jones
Busy hurricane season expected; coronavirus could impact response
The federal government expects a busy hurricane season for the Atlantic Basin, with six to 10 hurricanes forming, forecasters said Thursday. The announcement comes against the backdrop of the coronavirus, which will almost certainly impact evacuations and shelter from approaching storms.
Overall, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said 13 to 19 named storms will develop. This number includes tropical storms, which contain wind speeds of 39 mph or higher. Of the predicted six to 10 hurricanes, three to six could be major, packing wind speeds of 111 mph or higher.
– Doyle Rice
White House butler who served 11 presidents dies from COVID-19
One of the longest-serving White House employees ever died last week from COVID-19, his granddaughter told WTTG in Washington, D.C. Wilson Roosevelt Jerman, 91, started working at the White House as a cleaner in 1957, during the Eisenhower administration, granddaughter Jamila Garrett told the TV station.
First lady Jackie Kennedy promoted Jerman to become a butler, said Garrett, adding that he worked for 11 presidents and their families.
In a statement to NBC News, former President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush called Jerman “a lovely man. He was the first person we saw in the morning when we left the residence and the last person we saw each night when we returned.”
Fauci to new doctors: We need you ‘now more than ever’
Speaking at a virtual graduation ceremony for medical students, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said new doctors’ contributions will be needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This challenge is exactly what you trained for, and a successful response requires the training that you have received,” Fauci said. “Now more than ever, we need your talent, your energy, your resolve and your character.”
Making a mask?Here’s where you can buy the material to DIY
Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen released amid coronavirus fears
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer who is serving a three-year sentence, was released from a New York federal prison Thursday to serve the remainder of his term at home amid coronavirus fears.
Cohen, who had been held at a prison camp in Otisville, New York, was to be released on furlough pending a formal placement in home confinement, said a person familiar with the matter who is not authorized to comment publicly.
More than two dozen inmates and officers have been infected with the virus at the prison facility.
– Kevin Johnson and Kristine Phillips
It just got a little easier to unlock your iPhone while wearing a face mask😷
Having trouble unlocking your iPhone with Face ID while wearing a face mask? Apple’s latest iPhone software update, iOS 13.5, released Wednesday, will make it easier to unlock the phone.
After installing the update, users will no longer have to wait for Face ID to fail several times before being prompted to enter a passcode. After Face ID fails for the first time, users can swipe up from the bottom of the screen and enter a passcode to unlock the phone or approve an Apple Pay transaction. Users can also swipe up from the bottom of the iPhone screen right away.
– Jessica Guynn
More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY:
Reopening America: Indoor dining begins again in Ohio, West Virginia
Ohio and West Virginia will reopen restaurants for indoor seating on Thursday, one day after Connecticut took its initial reopening steps and Delaware reopened retail businesses by appointment only.
More changes are coming Friday: Alaska will resume life as it was “prior to the virus,” with a full reopening of the economy without restrictions; Iowa will reopen movie theaters, museums and zoos; and Kentucky will allow restaurants to operate at 33% capacity indoors with unlimited outdoor seating. Find the latest news in your state.
CDC: Coronavirus ‘does not spread easily’ by touching surfaces or objects
The CDC has always warned that “it may be possible” to become infected with the coronavirus by touching contaminated surfaces or objects. It just “does not spread easily” in that manner, the agency now says, nor by animal-to-human contact, or vice versa.
“COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning about how it spreads,” the CDC said in updating its guidelines. “It may be possible for COVID-19 to spread in other ways, but these are not thought to be the main ways the virus spreads.”
The CDC still warns that the main way the virus is spread is through person-to-person contact, even among those who are not showing any symptoms.
– Savannah Behrmann
As families struggle in the new pandemic economy, here’s what you need to know about loans, providers and how to get the best deal.
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Contributing: The Associated Press
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