Coronavirus pandemic in the US

By Mike Hayes, Meg Wagner and Ivana Kottasová, CNN

Updated 10:35 p.m. ET, May 7, 2020
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7:28 p.m. ET, May 7, 2020

US should test 900,000 people a day for coronavirus by May 15, Harvard institute says

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

Ross D. Franklin/AP/FILE
Ross D. Franklin/AP/FILE

 

The US should be testing at least 900,000 people a day by May 15 if there is to be any hope of getting ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic, a team at the Harvard Global Health Institute said Thursday. That’s up from the institute’s previous recommended target of 500,000 a day.

“This is due to a growing consensus among experts that the US is faring worse in this outbreak than previously thought,” the institute said in a statement.

“Social distancing measures have been able to stall the sharp increase of infection and death rates — but unlike in many other nations, new cases are only very slowly decreasing and death rates have plateaued at around 1,800 each day.”

Harvard published the new goals alongside reporting from NPR that suggests 41 states are not testing enough residents.

“As of this week, national testing is still stalled at around 250,000 daily tests,” the Harvard team said. 

Yet many states are starting to allow businesses to reopen and people to return to beaches, parks and other recreation sites. States should not be loosening these restrictions yet, the group advised.

“Daily new cases should have been in decline for at least 14 days, for example, and states need to have a solid infrastructure in place for testing, tracing contacts of those whose tests have come back positive, and isolating all infected individuals regardless of symptoms,” the institute advised. 

“Ultimately, I am deeply worried that four, six, eight weeks down the road we're going to find ourselves in the exact same place we were in in early March, and we will have to shut the economy down again,” institute director Dr. Ashish Jha said in a statement. 

"For states that look like they're meeting their testing goals, I wouldn't take that as too much comfort, because the number of cases will start going up,” Jha added.

In states that are starting to relax restrictions meant to contain the spread of the virus, even more testing will be needed than in states still enforcing lockdowns, Jha’s team said.

 

7:06 p.m. ET, May 7, 2020

Here are the latest coronavirus developments from around the US

If you're just joining our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in the US, here are the latest headlines:

  • White House staff gets tested: White House staffers, US Secret Service agents and officers working at the White House were seen heading to the White House Medical Unit for testing Thursday in response to news that a presidential valet testing positive for Covid-19.
  • Supply chain for coronavirus testing materials is improving: It is now easier to get critical supplies for coronavirus testing than it was last month, the Association of Public Health Laboratories said Thursday. The federal government began regular shipments of swabs and viral transport media, which is the critical component necessary for collecting virus samples for testing.
  • Frontier Airlines to begin temperature screening: All Frontier passengers and crew will be subjected to temperature screening starting next month. The screening regimen with a touchless thermometer will begin June 1 and “anyone with a temperature exceeding 100.4 degrees will be denied boarding.”
  • TSA to require masks: The Transportation Security Administration will require employees to wear face masks at airport screening locations. The agency had been providing the masks to screeners, but now it is requiring that facial protection be worn.
  • Illinois governor wants mail-in ballots: Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday that mail-in ballots for everyone in the state will be “essential” for November’s general election. Pritzker suggested such a law would be a priority for the state legislature later this year.
  • Casinos to partially reopen in Arkansas: The state's three casinos can resume limited operations May 18, according to Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs and Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff have been closed since mid-March.
  • Restaurants to reopen in Kentucky: Restaurants will be able to reopen with outdoor seating and 33% capacity on May 22, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday. Movie theaters and fitness centers will be allowed to reopen on June 1. Campgrounds will reopen on June 11.
6:58 p.m. ET, May 7, 2020

Georgia health chief says anyone who wants a test can get one

From CNN's Kevin Conlon 

Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey answers questions during a press conference at the Georgia State Capitol on April 27, in Atlanta.
Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey answers questions during a press conference at the Georgia State Capitol on April 27, in Atlanta. Kevin C Cox/Getty Images

Georgia Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said anyone in Georgia can be tested for Covid-19, regardless of whether they’re showing symptoms or not.  

“I think we also recognize that we needed to offer testing more broadly, and that's why we have opened up the criteria, as the governor said, so that anyone who wants to get a test, regardless of their symptoms, can be tested," she said.

She added: "We'll continue to prioritize first responders and others at high risk, like health care workers, but we want to ensure that everyone who wants to get a test can get access to free testing through one of our sites.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said the state doubled its daily testing capacity. 

"A few weeks ago, Georgia ranked 43rd out of 54 states and territories in testing per capita. Today, we are 29th according to the Covid-19 Mapping Project," Kemp said. 

6:49 p.m. ET, May 7, 2020

Houston mayor pushes back on governor's decision to reopen Texas

From CNN's Janine Mack

A lone shopper walks around The Galleria shopping center on May 1, in Houston, Texas.
A lone shopper walks around The Galleria shopping center on May 1, in Houston, Texas. Mark Felix/AFP/Getty Images

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner pushed back on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to reopen state, saying there's no way to require people to stay home if businesses are opening.

 "This virus is still present in our community," he said.

He added: "So once you removed the enforcement mechanism, there's nothing you can do to enforce something that you can't enforce."

Marvin Odum, the appointed Covid-19 recovery leader for Houston, said the city will be adding 24 new testing locations by the end of May. It will be free and open to anyone who wants to get tested.

6:45 p.m. ET, May 7, 2020

Nevada will begin to partially reopen this weekend, governor says

From CNN’s Andy Rose

The Las Vegas Strip is seen devoid of traffic on April 27, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Las Vegas Strip is seen devoid of traffic on April 27, in Las Vegas, Nevada. David Becker/AFP/Getty Images

Nevada will begin reopening on May 9, Gov. Steve Sisolak said today. 

“I’m able to move up this announcement because, as a state, we have met our gateway benchmarks for starting reopening,” Sisolak said.

Starting at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, restaurants will be able to open for dine-in services with social distancing, and customers waiting for a table will have to remain outside. Most retail establishments will be able to open, including hair salons by reservation only. Retail businesses can operate at 50% of normal capacity.

Sisolak made clear that one of the industries that will not be opening in the first round is casinos. 

“Gaming operations shall remain closed until the Gaming Control Board determines that operations may safely resume,” the governor said.

Additionally, bars, bowling alleys, movie theaters and tattoo parlors are among the other businesses that will remain closed.

6:34 p.m. ET, May 7, 2020

Frontier Airlines will require temperature screening for passengers

From CNN's Greg Wallace

A Frontier Airlines plane taxis the runway at Cleveland Hopkins Airport on October 15, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio.
A Frontier Airlines plane taxis the runway at Cleveland Hopkins Airport on October 15, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. Michael Francis McElroy/Getty Images

Frontier Airlines says it plans to begin temperature screening all passengers and crew next month. 

The airline announced Thursday that the screening regimen with a touchless thermometer will begin June 1 and “anyone with a temperature exceeding 100.4 degrees will be denied boarding.”

Passengers who test above that limit “will be given time to rest,” and if a second screening is also high, “a Frontier gate agent will explain to the customer that they will not be flying that day for the health and safety of others.”    

Tests will be conducted at the boarding gate by the agent.

CEO Barry Biffle said the temperature screenings are “an additional layer of protection for everyone onboard.” The airline is one of several US carriers requiring all passengers and crew to wear face masks. 

On Thursday morning, Frontier acknowledged it is no longer charging customers $39 and upwards to reserve an empty neighboring seat as part of a social distancing initiative. The airline said it will continue to block the seats but not charge customers. 

Frontier and other airlines say they are encouraging the federal Transportation Security Administration to include a temperature check at the security checkpoint. 

 

6:37 p.m. ET, May 7, 2020

TSA to require airport screeners to wear masks at checkpoints

From CNN's Greg Wallace

The Transportation Security Administration announced Thursday it is requiring employees to wear face masks at airport screening locations.

The agency had been providing the masks to screeners, but now it is requiring that facial protection be worn.

The TSA says this change will happen in the “coming days.” Wearing eye protection remains optional, it says. 

“Passengers are encouraged to wear facial protection and individuals may be asked to momentarily lower their facial covering for identity verification purposes, or if screening equipment alarms on it,” the TSA said in a statement.

The TSA also says it is considering more measures to protect against coronavirus.

See how airports are trying to stop the coronavirus spread:

6:17 p.m. ET, May 7, 2020

Meat packing plant says employee on ventilator will receive "the support she deserves"

From CNN’s Jeremy Harlan

A JBS Greeley beef plant spokesperson said an 11-year employee will receive “the support she deserves" after her daughter told CNN Wednesday about her mother getting sick while working at the plant.

Tin Aye is now in a local Colorado hospital connected to a ventilator due to Covid-19, according to her daughter.

Aye’s daughter San Aye told CNN Wednesday her family filed a Family Medical Leave Act claim with JBS.   

“We were not aware of her FMLA claim before it was brought to our attention, but they do not need to worry about the claim. We will make things right and ensure she and the family will receive the support they deserve,” Nikki Richardson with JBS Corporate Communications said in an updated statement to CNN.

CNN reported on Wednesday that Aye started feeling ill in March and went to a JBS clinic to be checked by plant staff, according to her daughter.

Aye said the clinic staff told her mother that her symptoms were that of a common cold and she could return to work on the plant’s production lines.

In a previous statement, Richardson said: “If this is true, it would be a clear violation of our culture and procedures, which puts team member health and safety first.”

6:15 p.m. ET, May 7, 2020

White House staffers and Secret Service agents sent for testing following Covid-19 case in West Wing

From CNN's Peter Morris, Allie Malloy and Kaitlan Collins

White House staffers, US Secret Service agents and officers working at the White House were seen heading to the White House Medical Unit for testing Thursday in response to news that a presidential valet testing positive for Covid-19.

More than 100 special agents and uniformed division officers were dispatched to the White House Medical Unit located in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building across from the West Wing.

A law enforcement source familiar with White House security operation told CNN the hastily arranged testing was ordered under the direction of the White House Medical Unit.  

President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and the senior staffers who regularly interact with them have been getting tested weekly for coronavirus, two people familiar told CNN.

Later on Thursday, Trump told reporters he would be tested daily, saying there were "a number of days missed" between when the valet was last tested and when the valet discovered he had coronavirus.

Thursday’s testing included any Secret Service agent or officer who could potentially be in the proximity of the President or the Vice President, this includes special agents of the presidential protection detail and a variety of specialized officers and agents.  

“White House Medical is calling all the shots," the source said.

A United States Secret Service spokesperson told CNN it would not be disclosing information on testing practices.

“To protect the privacy of our employee’s health information and for operational security, the Secret Service is not releasing how many of its employees have tested positive for COVID-19, nor how many of its employees were, or currently are, quarantined,” a statement from USSS read.