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Coronavirus pandemic in the US
Randall Woodfin, the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, said he's "very concerned" with his state reopening as new coronavirus cases rise in his state.
“We’re not ready and I think putting Alabamians in harm's way as it relates to choosing the economic crisis over the health crisis is dangerous," Woodfin said Thursday on CNN's "The Situation Room."
The state’s stay-at-home order expired April 30 and another order with fewer restrictions is in place through May 15.
Woodfin also weighed in on a new study that showed evidence of more African Americans dying from coronavirus in the United States than whites or other ethnic groups.
"Here in Birmingham, one out of five people are over the age of 60. Three out of four people, 74% of the city of Birmingham are African-Americans. And we have a lot of people with these underlying, pre-existing conditions. When you add all of that together in addition to knowing that we don't have adequate testing, we don't have adequate tracking and cases continue to go up. It concerns me a lot, because there are a lot of people in this city who are going to be affected, not only test positive for it but make it harder for them to recover. And so I think it's really, really important as elected officials we do less talking and more listening to the health experts. But also important is not to base our decisions on dates, but more so on data."
Gary Cohn, former economic adviser to President Trump, said he's optimistic about the future of the US economy.
"We are going to recover. We are going to put people back to work. And we're going to do it rather quickly," Cohn told CNN's Erin Burnett. "I would not underestimate the strength and the recovery of this economy."
Cohn noted that the economy may look different in a post-coronavirus world, and may feature different types of employment.
"We will be very clever and very creative at creating new jobs and new opportunities in our economy," he said.
Despite his optimism, however, Cohn does not concur with the President's assessment that the United States is going "to have an incredible next year" economically.
"I think it's going to take longer than 12 months for us to evolve to where we're comfortable," Cohn said. "Unless something miraculously happens in the medical field and we get a vaccine... it's going to take some period of time."
All passengers using the Metro transportation system in Los Angeles will be required to use face coverings on buses and trains starting Monday, the agency announced on its website.
“The agency will enforce this requirement to the extent that is practical,” Metro said.
To help with social distancing, bus riders are being asked to use the back door to board and exit. The front door is still available to wheelchair riders and for those who need to use the ramp.
Metro is also looking for ways to help riders obtain face coverings, the agency said.
Metro has over 13,000 bus stops and 93 rail stations in Los Angeles County, according to its website.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Wednesday that all travelers at Los Angeles International Airport will be required to wear face coverings in addition to passengers on Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s DASH, Commuter Express, and Cityride buses.
A new estimate of the US infection fatality rate from the novel coronavirus puts it at 1.3%, making it deadlier than the seasonal flu, which in a typical season has a 0.1% infection fatality rate.
Anirban Basu, a professor in the department of pharmacy at the University of Washington in Seattle, used publicly available data on infection numbers and deaths from the novel coronavirus through April 20.
At a county level, the fatality rate ranged from 0.5% to 3.6%, Basu reported in the journal Health Affairs Thursday.
The study did not include New York City, which has had the highest number of cases and deaths in the country. The numbers of cases and deaths were changing too fast to include in the study, Basu said.
The lowest rate of deaths was in Putnam County, New York — estimated at 0.5%. The highest was in King County, Washington at an estimated 3.6%. By April 20, there were 134 counties in the US that had reported no Covid-19 deaths.
Some context: These are just preliminary figures, Basu said. The case fatality rate is based on the reported number of confirmed cases and confirmed Covid-19-related deaths.
Since it is still unclear how many people have actually been infected, the rate is probably not that high, although the authors did create a model that tried to account for some of the unknowns. The model doesn’t account for the number of asymptomatic cases. The numbers will be clearer when there is more testing, Basu said.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday he hopes to move to the second phase of reopening his state at the end of May.
"Phase two allows some additional industries to reopen," Inslee told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "Restaurants with 50% capacity. [We'll] be able to have gatherings up to five people in a variety of contexts and a group of other less risky businesses."
Inslee extended his state's stay-at-home order until May 31.
"We've now brought back some industries, the construction industry," he said. "Tomorrow some auto sales, for instance, will come back."
The Washington state governor added that three weeks after moving to phase two of his reopening plan, he will re-evaluate to see if other businesses that are finding it difficult to preserve social distancing can reopen.
“Then go to the fourth stage, which hopefully could return to the bright days of cheering crowds,” Inslee said. “But that’s not in the immediate future for us. We will have to look at the science before we get to that stage.”
Inslee insisted that coronavirus testing remains a need “to allow our economy to fully reopen.”
“The needs of testing will increase, not decrease,” Inslee said. “I think some people think the need for testing will decrease as the virus goes down. Actually, it will increase because we’ll have more new employees coming back, more students, more people who need (personal protective equipment) and testing. So the need for the federal government to assist the states is going to actually increase.”
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.
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.
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.