Coronavirus pandemic in the US

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11:52 a.m. ET, May 1, 2020

Smithfield Foods pork plant in Illinois will reopen tomorrow

From CNN’s Dan Shepherd

Smithfield Foods will reopen its pork plant in Monmouth, Illinois, this weekend, and continue full operations into next week, company spokesperson Jenna Wollin said.  

Tomorrow, the "kill floor," maintenance and plant service departments will begin operating, followed by the plant's "cold side" starting on Monday.

This Smithfield Foods pork processing plant produces 3% of the US pork supply.

8:11 a.m. ET, May 1, 2020

Judge orders ICE to release detainees from Florida detention centers

From CNN's Carma Hassan

A federal judge ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release detainees from three South Florida detention centers, saying it is a “cruel and unusual punishment” and a violation of the detainees’ rights to be kept in facilities that don’t practice social distancing and don’t provide them with masks or cleaning supplies.

Immigration rights groups had filed a lawsuit on behalf of 34 detainees seeking release during the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to the court order, ICE has seven days to determine who can be released given their health and immigration status, along with their criminal history.

The facilities concerned are the Krome Detention Center in Miami, the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, and the Glades County Detention Center in Moore Haven.

According to the order, these are civil detainees, not criminals.

There is record evidence demonstrating that ICE has failed in its duty to protect the safety and general well-being of the Petitioners,” US District Judge Marcia Cooke wrote in the order.

She added that social distancing at Krome “is not only practically impossible, the conditions are becoming worse every day” and at Glades the bunk beds are 12 inches apart.

The judge found that ICE had violated the guidelines set out by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

“ICE has failed to provide detainees in some detention centers with masks, soap and other cleaning supplies” which places them “at a heightened risk of not only contracting Covid-19, but also succumbing to the fatal effects of the virus as some of the Petitioners have serious underlying medical illness,” Cooke wrote in the order.

The judge ordered ICE to immediately comply with the CDC’s and their own internal guidelines on providing adequate soap and water and cleaning materials to detainees. 

ICE will also have to provide a report to the court within three days outlining how it will reduce the population of detainees to 75% of capacity at each of the detention centers within two weeks. ICE is also ordered to file weekly reports providing information about the number of detainees released and their health.

CNN has reached out to ICE and Assistant U.S. Attorney Dexter Lee who is representing ICE in the case, according to the court docket.

ICE had argued in the case that the court did not have jurisdiction over the everyday management of the detention facilities.

8:09 a.m. ET, May 1, 2020

Ohio extends stay-at-home order until May 29

From CNN's Pierre Meilhan

The stay-at-home order in Ohio has been extended until May 29 to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the state’s department of health said late Thursday.

The department outlined procedures for most businesses to re-open as long as they are following proper procedures and social distancing measures.

Meanwhile, all Ohio residents — with some exceptions — are ordered to stay at home.

8:09 a.m. ET, May 1, 2020

Over 2,100 Indians want to be evacuated from the US. But until India's lockdown lifts, they're stranded.

From CNN's Vedika Sud

Sureshbabu Muthupandi lost his mother on April 1.
Sureshbabu Muthupandi lost his mother on April 1. Provided to CNN

Sureshbabu Muthupandi, a green card holder who has lived in the United States for more than 24 years, refuses to let his family in south India perform his mother's final rites without him.

Her body has been embalmed for 30 days. But Muthupandi is stuck in the US, unable to fly home.

The Indian government suspended all inbound international passenger flights after March 22. Three days later, domestic carriers were grounded. The country remains in lockdown until May 3.

Stranded Indians rally together: On April 7, 600 Indians formed a Facebook group called "USA TO INDIA EVACUATION FLIGHTS".

On April 15, the group handed a petition to the Indian embassy in the US, asking for it to evacuate them to India.

The group now has more than 2,100 members. It consists of senior citizens, pregnant women, travelers who have overstayed their tourist visas, students, and workers who have been furloughed and made jobless -- including Indians who have lost their H1B work visas, for workers in specialty occupations.

Their hopes are pinned on the end of lockdown. The lockdown is set to lift on Sunday, May 3, but it is unclear whether the government will resume international passenger flights on that date.

Read the full story:

7:41 a.m. ET, May 1, 2020

Expert report predicts up to two more years of pandemic misery

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Christopher Ikemire prepares to test someone in their car for Covid-19 at the Eastern Star Church in Indianapolis on April 30.
Christopher Ikemire prepares to test someone in their car for Covid-19 at the Eastern Star Church in Indianapolis on April 30. Darron Cummings/AP

The new coronavirus is likely to keep spreading for at least another 18 months to two years—until 60% to 70% of the population has been infected, a team of longstanding pandemic experts predicted in a report released Thursday.

They recommended that the US prepare for a worst-case scenario that includes a second big wave of coronavirus infections in the fall and winter. Even in a best-case scenario, people will continue to die from the virus, they predicted.

"This thing's not going to stop until it infects 60 to 70% of people," Mike Osterholm, who directs the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota, told CNN. "The idea that this is going to be done soon defies microbiology."

Osterholm has been writing about the risk of pandemics for 20 years and has advised several presidents and wrote the report along with several epidemiologists and a historian.

Because Covid-19 is new, no one has any immunity, they said.

The length of the pandemic will likely be 18 to 24 months, as herd immunity gradually develops in the human population," they wrote.

Their predictions are different from models presented by groups such as the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington and Imperial College London, whose report predicting millions of deaths in the US and UK helped galvanize responses by both governments.

The CIDRAP-led team used those reports, historical data on past pandemics, and published reports about the medical details of Covid-19 to put together their forecast.

Read more:

7:41 a.m. ET, May 1, 2020

Unemployment claims from Asian Americans have spiked 6,900% in New York. Here's why

From CNN's Shannon Liao

A nearly empty street is seen in New York's Chinatown on March 24.
A nearly empty street is seen in New York's Chinatown on March 24. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Across New York, Chinese restaurants have shut down and Asian American workers have filed for unemployment benefits at extraordinary rates. In the state, about 147,000 self-identified Asian workers have filed initial unemployment claims in the last four weeks alone, up from just 2,100 during the same period last year. 

That's a 6,900% increase — by far the largest percentage increase experienced by any one racial or ethnic group. 

In contrast, claims were up 1,840% for white workers, 1,260% for black workers, and 2,100% for Hispanic and Latino workers in New York.

New York stands out from other states in that in early April, it started releasing detailed demographic breakdowns of unemployment claimants every week. Not surprisingly, claims are skyrocketing for every group in the state, reflecting the sharp economic downturn that nationwide has left 30 million Americans filing first-time unemployment claims since mid-March.

But even so, the increase for Asian Americans is an oddity: It's so large, it's disproportionate to the size of their labor force. Asian workers make up about 9% of New York state's population and work force, but now account for 12.5% of initial claims over the last four weeks. A year ago, they made up just 3.7% of claims during the same time period. 

For the other groups, claims are either roughly in line — or well below — the size of their populations. White workers, for example, make up 65% of New York's labor force, but only 51% of recent claims.

What's the cause? Academics and members of the community point to several potential factors ranging from xenophobia to Asian Americans working in industries hard hit by the pandemic, including food and services. Many Asian workers also say they began social distancing earlier in the crisis than others — a factor that led some to close down businesses even before official lockdowns. 

Read more:

8:09 a.m. ET, May 1, 2020

City council of Beverly Hills votes to allow all elective surgeries to resume, including plastic surgeries

From CNN's Sarah Moon

A man walks past the Beverly Hills sign on March 20 in California.
A man walks past the Beverly Hills sign on March 20 in California. Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

The Beverly Hills City Council voted to repeal its moratorium on any elective surgeries, including cosmetic procedures and plastic surgeries. 

Members voted 4-1 to remove restrictions put in place by the state to ensure more beds for coronavirus patients and to prepare hospitals for a surge of cases.

While doctors will have the authority to decide if a procedure is medically necessary, the vote means cosmetic surgeries will now be permitted in the city of Beverly Hills.

Council member John Mirisch, who voted against the decision, said was is absolutely "ridiculous," "absurd," and "offensive" to allow cosmetic surgeries at this time.

In the middle of a pandemic, nobody needs Botox," he told CNN. "To me, that's just kind of an obvious sort of thing."

Beverly Hills Mayor Lester Friedman said the decision to allow all elective surgeries was made to comply with California Governor Gavin Newsom's order.

"We just wanted to be in line with what the state and the L.A. County Department of Public Health has permitted," Friedman said.

Last week, Newsom announced the state will once again begin allowing scheduled surgeries. He noted that elective procedures like cosmetic surgery were not a priority.

Read more:

6:32 a.m. ET, May 1, 2020

Trump contradicts US intel community by claiming he's seen evidence coronavirus originated in Chinese lab

From CNN's  Zachary Cohen, Alex Marquardt, Kylie Atwood and Jim Acosta

President Donald Trump listens during an event at the White House on April 30.
President Donald Trump listens during an event at the White House on April 30. Alex Brandon/AP

President Donald Trump contradicted a rare on-the-record statement from his own intelligence community by claiming Thursday that he has seen evidence that gives him a "high degree of confidence" the novel coronavirus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, but declined to provide details to back up his assertion.

The comments undercut a public statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued just hours earlier which stated no such assessment has been made and that the intelligence community continues to "rigorously examine" whether the outbreak "began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan."

"Yes, I have," Trump said when asked whether he's seen evidence that would suggest the virus originated in the lab. Later, asked why he was confident in that assessment, Trump demurred.

"I can't tell you that. I'm not allowed to tell you that," he said.

Trump officials have been pushing the US intelligence community to determine the exact origins of the coronavirus outbreak in pursuit of an unproven theory that the pandemic started because of a laboratory accident in China, multiple sources told CNN. 

In acknowledgment of that effort, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued an unprecedented public statement Thursday prior to Trump's comments making clear the intelligence community is currently exploring the two possibilities.

Trump said Thursday there were "a lot of theories" that he would assess but seemed to hold out hope that Beijing would eventually be forthcoming with what it knows about the virus' origin. "China may tell us," he said.

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5:40 a.m. ET, May 1, 2020

American, Delta, Frontier to require passengers to wear face masks

From CNN's Brekke Fletcher

Three major US airlines have separately announced they are going to require their passengers to wear face masks. 

Two days after Jet Blue became the first major airline to announce this change, American, Delta and Frontier followed suit, releasing statements explaining their new policies.

Earlier this week Delta said that employees were required to wear masks and passengers "were strongly encouraged" to do so. Today, Delta released a statement saying passengers were required to wear masks on all flights starting May 4, the same date as Jet Blue.

American Airlines made similar announcements earlier this week regarding flight attendants wearing masks, and today extended that requirement to passengers.

American said it would also be offering masks and sanitizing wipes to passengers on select flights. The airline added that it may take a few weeks to roll out these provisions, and in the interim, "customers should bring their own masks or face coverings."

Frontier Airlines, a smaller, Denver-based carrier, also announced that passengers would be required to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth at the airline's ticket counters, gate areas and onboard from May 8.

The airline is blocking every other row and requires passengers to agree to a "health acknowledgment" before checking in, to certify that they have not been exposed to Covid-19, do not have a temperature and promise to wash their hands before boarding. 

AFA (Association of Flight Attendants) President Sara Nelson said the union was "happy to see airlines taking action" and called on the US federal government to make masks mandatory for all crew, frontline employees and all passengers.

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