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Coronavirus pandemic in the US

Top US general: 'Weight of evidence' virus not intentionally released
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What you need to know

  • More than 1.2 million cases and over 70,000 Covid-19 related deaths have been recorded.
  • An influential coronavirus model is now forecasting that 134,000 people will die of Covid-19 in the US.
  • At least 46 US states have ordered or recommended school closures for the rest of the school year, according to a CNN tally. 
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Our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in the US has ended for the day. Follow the latest developments from around the globe here.

Atlanta mayor on reopening state: "I am not willing to sacrifice my mother"

As Georgia begins to reopen under orders from Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, Atlanta’s Democratic Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she believed he was testing the “willingness to sacrifice lives” for the sake of economic recovery. 

“Nothing has changed about Covid-19. This is still a highly contagious virus that is hitting our community extremely hard and especially communities of color,” she told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer this afternoon.

She added: “What it really feels like to me, anyway, is that there is this testing of the waters and willingness to sacrifice people for the sake of our economy.”

Bottoms went on to say people should try to consider the risk in terms of their own loved ones. 

“I am not willing to sacrifice my mother who is a senior and certainly not my children, all of who are asthmatic,” she said.

Bottoms’ comments came as Kemp has been among the most aggressive governors in the nation in rolling back social distancing rules for businesses in the state, allowing restaurants to offer dine-in service starting April 27, as long as eateries put in place measures to mitigate staff and guest exposure to coronavirus.

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Health and Human Services says it's "deeply disappointed" by ousted vaccine director

The Department of Health and Human Services responded Tuesday evening to the filing of a whistleblower complaint by ousted vaccine director Dr. Rick Bright.

The complaint comes after Bright formally filed an extensive whistleblower complaint Tuesday alleging his early warnings about Covid-19 were ignored and he raised concerns about the safety of a drug that President Trump touted as a potential treatment to the coronavirus.

“We are deeply disappointed that he has not shown up to work on behalf of the American people and lead on this critical endeavor,” an HHS spokesperson said in a statement. “Dr. Bright was transferred to NIH to work on diagnostics testing – critical to combatting COVID-19 – where he has been entrusted to spend upwards of $1 billion to advance that effort.” 

Bright will testify on Capitol Hill next Thursday, his lawyers were informed.

Trump backs off promise of vaccine by the end of the year

President Trump appeared to back off his claim that a coronavirus vaccine would be developed by the end of the year.

Trump was asked if he was still convinced that a vaccine would be developed by the end of the year. The President responded, “You can never be convinced.”

He continued: “I can’t be convinced of anything, but I think that we have a really good shot of having something very very substantial.”

Trump added that “we are doing really great” and he is getting daily reports from companies working to develop a vaccine.

Some context: On Sunday night, Trump said that he is “very confident” that a vaccine will be developed by years end.

“We are very confident that we’re going to have a vaccine at the end of the year –– by the end of the year have a vaccine,” Trump said.

Texas governor consulted with Birx and Fauci about reopening plan

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he consulted with many doctors – including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx – before reopening some businesses Tuesday.

Following a question from a reporter on how the governor assessed whether it was safe to reopen, and whether any experts that had been consulted, Abbott said:

“I personally talked to Dr Birx. I personally talked to Dr. Fauci. I personally talked to Dr. Mark McClellan, the former head of the FDA, former head of US Medicaid and Medicare. He is part of the four doctor team we have on our staff. I personally talked to Dr. Parker Hudson. Dr. Parker Hudson is an infectious disease specialist in charge of tracing and tracking COVID-19 in Texas. He’s with the University of Texas Health System. And I talk to Dr. Hellerstedt, and talk to Dr. John Zerwas. And so I will put their advice up with anybody else,” he said.

Abbott went on to say that Birx, a White House coronavirus task force official, herself had approved.

“The plan that I announced was looked at by Dr. Birx, and she wrote this is a quote ‘great plan.’ And so how do I know that is that we are on an adequate trajectory? And this plan fits within that trajectory? Dr. Birx herself has said it. All these other doctors have said it,” Abbott said.

He added: “We are operating based upon the numbers that we have had that I showed you what the trajectory looks like. The trajectory in Texas looks good. The trajectory in Texas satisfies the criteria from the White House advisers – satisfies the criteria of the four doctors that I rely upon.”

Coronavirus quickly spread around the world starting late last year, new genetic analysis shows

A new genetic analysis of the virus that causes Covid-19 taken from more than 7,600 patients around the world shows the virus has been circulating in people since late last year, and must have spread extremely quickly after the first infection.

Researchers in Britain looked at mutations in the virus and found evidence of quick spread, but not evidence the virus is becoming more easily transmitted or more likely to cause serious disease.

“The virus is changing, but this in itself does not mean it’s getting worse,” genetics researcher Francois Balloux of the University College London Genetics Institute told CNN.

Balloux and colleagues pulled viral sequences from a giant global database that scientists around the world are using to share data. They looked at samples taken at different times and from different places, and said they indicate that the virus first started infecting people at the end of last year.

“This rules out any scenario that assumes SARSCoV-2 may have been in circulation long before it was identified, and hence have already infected large proportions of the population,” Balloux’s team wrote in their report, published in the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution. 

“Our results are in line with previous estimates and point to all sequences sharing a common ancestor towards the end of 2019, supporting this as the period when SARS-CoV-2 jumped into its human host,” the team wrote in the report, published Tuesday. 

“It’s very recent,” Balloux said. “We are really, really, really confident that the host jump happened late last year.”

They also found genetic evidence that supports suspicions the virus was infecting people in Europe, the US and elsewhere weeks or even months before the first official cases were reported in January and February.

Balloux’s team had their findings reviewed by other experts, a process called peer review, before they were published in the journal. He said some reports by other teams, published online in on what are called pre-print websites, may have drawn incorrect conclusions.

“All viruses naturally mutate. Mutations in themselves are not a bad thing and there is nothing to suggest SARS-CoV-2 is mutating faster or slower than expected. So far we cannot say whether SARS-CoV-2 is becoming more or less lethal and contagious,” Balloux said.

Coronavirus is killing more African Americans in US than any other group, study finds

More African Americans are dying from coronavirus in the United States than whites or other ethnic groups, according to a new study.

Black Americans represent just 13.4% of the American population, according to the US Census Bureau, but account for more than half of all Covid-19 cases and almost 60% of deaths, the study found.

Disparities, including access to health care, are likely to blame, researchers concluded in a report released Tuesday.

The team of epidemiologists and clinicians at four universities worked with amfAR, the AIDS research non-profit, and Seattle’s Center for Vaccine Innovation and Access, PATH, to analyze Covid-19 cases and deaths using county-level comparisons.

Racial data is still lacking in many areas, and their analysis uses what data was available as of mid-April.

The results: They compared counties with a disproportionate number of black residents — those with a population of 13% or more — with those with lower numbers of African American residents.

Counties with higher populations of black residents accounted for 52% of coronavirus diagnoses and 58% of Covid-19 deaths nationally, they said.

“Social conditions, structural racism, and other factors elevate risk for COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths in black communities,” wrote the scientists from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.

“Collectively, these data demonstrate significantly higher rates of COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths in disproportionately black counties compared to other counties, as well as greater diabetes diagnoses, heart disease deaths, and cerebrovascular disease deaths in unadjusted analyses,” the authors concluded.

The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, is currently under consideration by a medical journal and has not yet been published.

US has "an efficiency issue" when it comes to food shortages, union president says

Marc Perrone, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union

Americans will likely feel some food shortages depending on where they live as meat processing plants across the US struggle to stay open due to coronavirus concerns, Marc Perrone, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, told CNN.

But, he insisted the country did not have a food shortage. Instead he said the challenges the United States is dealing with are “an efficiency issue.”

“The supply chain is tested not because we’re not efficient…it’s tested because the system has been tested in a way that it’s not used to,” Perrone said. “Our system is based on efficiency and that’s the challenge that we’re having right now. Do I think that we have a food shortage? No. I think we have an efficiency issue.”

He explained how the closures and absenteeism at meat processing plants are now showing up on grocery store shelves.

“Twenty percent of workers are not there, and therefore, the plant slows down to a point that it can’t produce as much as it was producing at maximum efficiency. Our entire system is based on efficiency. That’s one of the reasons we’ve had shortages inside the store,” he said.

Perrone called processing plants “stationary cruise ships” due to the way the virus has spread within them but said it wasn’t always about a delay in closing a plant with an outbreak. 

“The failure that we had was not necessarily because the processors weren’t willing to do something earlier. The failure we had was because we couldn’t get the personal protective equipment and the testing that we needed on the front side to get ahead of this,” Perrone explained.

He added: “I do think the federal government could take a more active role in safety standards inside the plant that were enforceable. I think the government could mandate the highest form of PPE for those workers in those plants because they’re standing so close to each other. I think that testing and tracing is significant to be able to make sure we can root out the virus out of the plant. And make sure they provide layers of PPE in those plants.”

Chicago medical examiner to probe deaths as far back as November for evidence of Covid-19

A efrigerated trailer outside the medical examiner's office in Chicago, Illinois.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office in Chicago plans to review previous deaths involving heart attacks and pneumonia for indications of Covid-19 as far back as November, a spokesperson confirmed to CNN.  

The first known coronavirus death in the Chicago area occurred March 16, but the medical examiner’s office now plans to review case records from much earlier deaths for signs of Covid-19, Cook County spokesperson Natalia Derevyanny tells CNN.

The medical examiner’s office says viral pneumonia cases along with heart attacks caused by arteries being blocked will be examined.

The medical examiner’s office expects this testing phase to last about a month but that timetable will ultimately depend on their caseload.

While Derevyanny called the decision to look back to November an arbitrary timeframe, if a positive case is discovered it will prompt the office to look back even further.

As of Monday, Cook County reported a total of 54,223 cases and 1,948 COVID-19-related deaths.

There are more than 1.2 million coronavirus cases in US

There are at least 1,201,337 cases of coronavirus in the US and at least 70,847 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally of cases.

Johns Hopkins reported 21,049 new cases and 1,925 reported deaths. 

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases.

Texas governor provides guidance for reopening businesses

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will allow certain business sectors to begin reopening in the coming weeks, with stipulations for each.

He also provided clarity on a previous executive order that allowed certain congregations, which now will include weddings.

Cosmetology salons, barber shops, hair salons, nail salons, and tanning salons are allowed to open beginning May 8.

Gyms and exercise facilities, nonessential manufacturing plants and businesses operating inside office buildings are allowed to reopen beginning May 18, with certain guidelines.

Funerals, memorials, burials and weddings are allowed to commence. Weddings held indoors other than at a church, congregation, or house of worship must limit occupancy to 25%, according to Abbott.

Wedding reception services may also resume, but facilities must limit their occupancy to 25% of the total listed occupancy, according to Abbott, but these occupancy limits do not apply to the outdoor areas of a wedding reception or to outdoor wedding receptions.

Graduation ceremonies at “every level of education” are allowed “subject to certain constraints,” Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said.

Malls in Hawaii will reopen on Thursday

Shopping malls in Hawaii will be allowed to reopen on Thursday, Gov. David Ige announced today.

The governor said it will be “the first step in reopening businesses and getting people back to work.”

The first phase of Ige’s “safer-at-home” plan includes removing restrictions on car washes, pet grooming, elective surgery, non-profit organizations, and in-person retail businesses as long as social distancing is maintained. 

Ige said the state has enough testing materials to keep track of any future outbreaks. 

“Everyone in Hawaii has the ability to get tested for Covid if they have a reason to,” the governor said. 

He said the state is continuing to discourage visitors to the islands for now, as anyone arriving from out of state must immediately quarantine for 14 days.

Trump says he would get a coronavirus vaccine: "Whatever is best for the country”

President Trump was asked by CNN’s Jim Acosta if he would get a coronavirus vaccine when one becomes available.

Trump said he would, but it depends on what is best for the country.

“I would absolutely Jim, and if they wanted me to be first on line, I’d be first on line or I’d be last on line or I wouldn’t take it at all. Whatever is best for the country,” he said.

The President added he “doesn’t want to waste” a vaccine.

Here's the latest coronavirus update from Kansas

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced today that there are 625 new cases of Covid-19 in the state following mass testing at the Green River Correctional Facility.

He said 309 cases are from the Green River Correctional facility. Two staff members and two inmates have been hospitalized, and two deaths have been reported, according to Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown.

In addition to thermometer checks and ongoing sanitation, the facility will now be able to separate inmates into three groups: those who have tested positive, those who tested negative but had exposure, and those who tested negative with no exposure, Brown said.

Small, recreational businesses in Tennessee will reopen on Friday

Small, recreational businesses in Tennessee will be allowed to open on May 8, Gov. Bill Lee said at a news conference.

The state will be releasing guidance on Wednesday for bowling alleys, miniature golf and other recreational businesses that fall under that category.

The state’s economic recovery group is also working to help secure thermometers for businesses. Residents will be able to receive a free mask at any local health department, he said.

At least 13,690 cases of coronavirus have been reported and at least 226 people have died in the state.

Illinois governor unveils five-phase plan to reopen

As Illinois reports its highest single-day death toll, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a five-phase regional plan to reopen the state. 

“Moving forward with ‘Restore Illinois,’ we are looking at the state as four regions, each of which can move through phases at different times. Northeast Illinois, North Central Illinois, Central Illinois, and Southern Illinois,” Pritzker said in a news conference today. 

Illinois Department of Public Health will be tracking each region’s metrics, and the state will make the data available online for the public, the governor said. 

He also said the earliest a region can move to phase three is May 29. He added schools could only open in phase four.

“The only way that we can cross into phase five ‘Illinois Restored’ with all the sectors of the economy running with completely normal operations is with a vaccine, or a widely available and highly effective treatment or with the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period of time,” he said.

Businesses in North Carolina will open on Friday

Many business in North Carolina will be allowed to open Friday as the state moves into phase one, Gov. Roy Cooper announced today.

“Phase one is a limited easing of restrictions,” he said.

Under this first phase, retail stores will be able to operate at 50% capacity with cleaning and social distancing, parks and trails can reopen and restaurants can continue takeout and delivery with no in-room dining.

Gyms, bars, salons, theaters, playgrounds and pools will remain closed. 

The state is asking people to remember to wear a face covering, practice social distancing and frequent hand washing.

The stay-at-home order remains in effect for the state with modifications.

Phase one is set to expire on May 22, but can be extended depending on the state’s progress with mitigation efforts.

Huntington Beach will allow beaches to reopen

 Lifeguards patrol an empty beach in front of the Huntington Beach Pier on May 3, in Huntington Beach, California. 

Huntington Beach, California, will allow active recreation at its beaches.

This announcement follows a rowdy protest on Friday at the Huntington Beach Pier that drew between 2,500 to 3,000 people, according to police. 

Activities that are now permitted at Huntington State Beach include: swimming, surfing, bodysurfing, boogie boarding, kite surfing, paddle boarding, skim boarding and kayaking.

Walking, running, hiking and bicycle riding will also be permitted where normally allowed, the city said in a statement.

Under the new active recreation rules, the city said the following activities remain prohibited: passive games, loitering, sunbathing and any gatherings of people (even if engaged in active recreation) outside of those within their immediate households.

The decision to reopen the beaches was made after extensive discussions with other local cities and California state representatives, the statement said.

Connecticut hopes to reopen summer schools in July, education officials say

Some schools in Connecticut are hoping to open by July for summer school, Gov. Ned Lamont and the state’s top education officials announced at a news conference Tuesday.

“We’re hoping that if the trends continue the positive way they’re going, and we maintain social distancing, we’re hoping to have summer schools open in July,” Connecticut’s Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said.

Cardona said class sizes will likely be smaller, with 10 students to a group.

Asked if the state is considering moving to two sessions a day to break up the number of students in the building at one time, Cardona said, “those are things that are being considered. We have a lot of different options to consider, what works for students what works for school communities.”

Beth Bye, the state’s Early Childhood Education commissioner, announced that the state’s summer camps can open on June 29. 

Bye added that there are currently about five camps already open in the state providing childcare for the children of essential workers.

She said all camps will have to comply with guidance laid out in a memo released from her office in order to reopen such as taking students temperatures, limiting group sizes to 10 children, and having employees wear face coverings at all times.

In-person classes: Lamont said the decision to cancel in-person classes in the state for the rest of the academic year was heartbreaking.

“It breaks my heart. I mean, we were pretty early on in terms of a lot of the social distancing and protocols we put into place,” Lamont said at a news conference today, just after the decision was made.

Here's what Trump said about the coronavirus task force winding down

President Trump sidestepped a question from CNN today on whether it was the right time to wind down the coronavirus task force.

Trump said that the country was looking towards “other phases” and that the country is starting to open up.

“I think we’re looking at phase two and we’re looking at other phases. The country is starting to open up, the task force has done a phenomenal job,” Trump said. 

When pressed if Trump needed to continue to meet with the task force in order to get scientific expertise, Trump said that he thinks that there will be “a different group” that is working towards “safety and opening.”

“I think as far as the task force, Mike Pence and the task force have done a great job, but we’re now looking at a little bit of a different form and that form is safety and opening and we’ll have a different group probably set up for that,” Trump said. 

Trump said that Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx and “other experts in the field” will still be involved even after the task force ends. 

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Amazon warehouse worker dies of Covid-19

A warehouse worker at Amazon’s Staten Island fulfillment center has died of coronavirus, according to Amazon spokesperson Kristen Kish.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of an associate at our site in Staten Island, NY. His family and loved ones are in our thoughts, and we are supporting his fellow colleagues,” Kish said.

According to the e-commerce giant, the employee was last on site on April 5 and was diagnosed with Covid-19 on April 11.

The company believes that each Covid-19 case at the Staten Island fulfillment center are individual cases and not linked.

The employee was not contact traced to other employees, the company said.

In March, Amazon terminated an employee based in the company’s Staten Island, New York, warehouse after he participated in a worker walkout protesting the company’s response to the novel coronavirus. Amazon said the employee, Chris Smalls, was terminated for violating a quarantine.

The company has previously confirmed two other Covid-19 related deaths of workers employed at its US warehouses to CNN Business; this is the first confirmed Covid-19 related death at the Staten Island facility.

Northern California mayor pushes back on criticism for reopening salons and restaurants

Mayor Shon Harris

Yuba City, California, Mayor Shon Harris is pushing ba