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Coronavirus pandemic in the US
New Mexico’s governor is allowing most businesses in the state to reopen starting on May 16, but only at 25 percent capacity.
“Anybody who sells goods or services can now open [Saturday],” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said at a news conference Wednesday.
The governor’s reopening order does not include salons, gyms, malls and dine-in service at restaurants. It also does not apply to three counties in the northwestern part of the state that are considered a “hotspot” for coronavirus.
Houses of worship must limit their gatherings to 10% of normal capacity.
At the same time, New Mexico is requiring face coverings for anyone in public places. Exceptions are given only for eating, drinking, exercise and medical requirements.
The governor indicated that they plan to enforce the mask requirement only through “peer pressure,” but encouraged people to take the order seriously.
“Is it possible that a first responder or police officer might bark at you [for not wearing a mask]? It is, because it saves lives,” Lujan Grisham said.
Lawmakers on the newly formed House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis sparred with panel of top health experts Wednesday afternoon about testing, tracing and targeted containment of the new coronavirus.
One leading expert complained about a failure of federal leadership in getting diagnostic tests distributed, while Republican lawmakers pushed back.
“Testing was the fundamental failure that forced our country to shut down,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, testified.
“You see testing is critical. Testing tells us who has the disease and who doesn't. And testing is the cornerstone of controlling every single disease outbreak. It was inadequate testing that precipitated the national shutdown,” Jha added. “We must not make the same mistakes again as we open up our nation.”
Jha placed the blame on the federal government.
“I believe we need federal leadership,” he said. “The institute that I run has calculated that the US needs more than 900,000 tests every day to safely open up again. We're doing about a third of that.”
Several lawmakers on the panel took exception to Jha’s statements, including Rep. Mark Green, a Republican from Tennessee.
“I'm sorry, but we shut the economy down to flatten the curve, to not max out our ICU bed capacity and our ventilator capacity, period. It wasn’t an absence of testing that caused us to shut down the economy. We shut down the economy to save lives, American lives, because of the ICU and ventilator issue,” Green said.
Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, argued that the new committee is political in nature. He also took issue with Jha’s comments.
“I thought the shutdown was initiated so the current health care system wasn't overwhelmed. We already got a political statement from the very first witness,” Jordan said.
Other health experts on the panel, including former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, agreed that testing is one of the keys to safely reopening society.
“Most of all, it's going to turn on testing, as four panelists just mentioned, and we need to make sure that we get testing out widely and get testing most of all to the people who are at highest risk of this virus,” Gottlieb said.
“Not everyone's at equal risk for the coronavirus. Many people, because of where they work and where they live and how they work, are at higher risk than other Americans, and we need to make sure we get testing into the communities that are most affected by this," he added.
The mayor of the largest city in the country said a federal stimulus is nothing short of imperative.
"We cannot get back on our feet without it. It's as simple as this," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told Wolf Blitzer.
"I appeal to President Trump to remember his hometown and remember cities and towns all over the country. We cannot recover without the stimulus, period," he added.
De Blasio estimated New York has lost more than $7 billion during the 10 weeks the city has been closed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Think where this is going," he said during an interview on CNN. "If our federal government doesn't step in and fill that gap and help cities and states back on their feet there won't be a recovery."
The mayor also noted that his city will be cautious as it begins to reopen.
"We're taking a very conservative approach here in New York. We're the epicenter," de Blasio said. "We are not going to reopen anything until we prove by real data that we've made enough progress to do it safely, and then we're going to do it in small, careful steps and smart steps."
On the backdrop of President Trump criticizing Dr. Anthony Fauci's reopening strategy, de Blasio came down firmly on the side of the nation's top infectious disease specialist.
"I think Dr. Fauci's someone who's legendary in this country going back decades for the work he has done... and I share his view. I think we have to be very careful about the steps we take," the mayor said.
More than one in four of the most popular YouTube videos about the novel coronavirus contained misinformation, Canadian researchers reported Wednesday.
It’s a problem that could be dangerous in a pandemic that requires people to take action to protect themselves and others, the team reported in the online journal BMJ Global Health.
More than 70% of adults turn to the internet to learn about health and healthcare. YouTube is a dominant source that has billions of daily views that could be used to educate viewers, but it can also be a source of misleading public health information, the researchers from the University of Ottawa and Carleton University wrote.
The team analyzed the information provided on YouTube videos on a single day earlier this year.
Excluding videos that weren’t in English, that ran for more than an hour, or didn’t have audio or visual content, they wound up with 69 videos that had a total of 257, 804,146 views. They rated each based on factual content covering symptoms, prevention, treatments epidemiology and viral spread.
The videos came from a variety of sources such as network news — which made up the largest portion of — entertainment videos, internet based news operations, professional YouTube stars, newspapers, educational institutions and government agencies.
Nearly 50 of the videos, or 72%, got the facts right. The one in four that didn’t had either misleading or inaccurate information. More than 62 million people watched those inaccurate videos, Heidi Oi-Yee Li of the University of Ottawa and colleagues found.
Past studies looking at YouTube usage found the platform has been key in spreading vital information about how to keep people safe in a pandemic or public health emergency.
If this many videos are inaccurate, there’s a “significant potential for harm,” Li and colleagues wrote.
"YouTube is a powerful, untapped educational tool that should be better mobilized by health professionals,” they wrote.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has overturned the state’s stay-at-home order, ruling the order “unlawful” and “unenforceable."
The court ruled that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ administration overstepped its authority when state Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm issued an extension of the order that was scheduled to run until May 26.
The lawsuit was filed by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature against Palm and other health officials, who recently extended the state's "Safer-at-Home" emergency order, but loosened some restrictions on certain businesses, including golf courses, public libraries and arts and crafts stores.
Evers, who had ordered Palm to issue the stay-at-home order in late March, has not yet issued a statement, but had slammed the lawsuit after it was filed as "focused entirely on how to get legislative Republicans more power" and "exploiting a global pandemic to further their attempts to undermine the will of the people."
The governor also said Republicans want his administration to "ask for their permission to save lives."
When people infected with the novel coronavirus talk, their speech droplets can linger in the air and could potentially trigger new infections.
A new estimate by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and the University of Pennsylvania found that talking loudly for one minute in a confined space could generate at least 1,000 speech droplets containing Covid-19 particles.
Those droplets could remain in the air for more than eight minutes, according to the study published Tuesday in the open-access journal PNAS.
According to other research, that could be enough to generate an infection if someone inhaled them.
Bars and restaurants in Wyoming will be allowed to reopen on May 15 under a new order signed by Gov. Mark Gordon.
“We are trying to work our way safely to as normal conditions as we can get,” Gordon said Wednesday.
Tables will be limited to six people, but unlike most states with similar regulations, people from different households will be allowed to sit at the same table. Buffet service is not allowed, and tables must be separated by at least six feet.
All restaurant employees must be screened for Covid-19 symptoms before beginning work.
Movie theaters and salons also are being allowed to open with social distancing, and public gatherings of up to 25 people will be allowed.
“The size change for gatherings is significant but does not allow for large events,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Alexia Harrist.
Some context: All of the health orders now in place are set to expire on May 31. Some counties have been given permission to loosen regulations even more.
“This is not a hold-my-beer moment,” Gordon said. “Let’s do this carefully and make sure we don’t lose ground.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he is working with Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam as the region grapples with Covid-19.
Hogan said the areas surrounding DC, including two Maryland counties, are hot spots for Covid-19.
“As I said, 70% of our infection rates are in four counties, I think 50% of it is in the two counties surrounding Washington. And Washington, Prince George’s and Montgomery County and Northern Virginia, right now are the hot spots in the country behind New York,” he said
Hogan said he spoke with both leaders on Friday and took their input into consideration when deciding Maryland’s next steps.
He announced Wednesday that Maryland will enter a partial reopening phase on Friday, lifting the stay-at-home order, and allowing certain businesses and activities to resume. Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, the two counties closest to Washington, will not move ahead with “Stage One” reopening guidelines yet.
Hogan’s announcement came hours after DC officials extended the city’s stay-at-home order through June 8.
Virginia will similarly implement a partial reopening on Friday, with Northern Virginia maintaining firmer restrictions.
“I think we’re all in accord with what’s going on. We’re working together on regional issues,” Hogan said.