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Coronavirus pandemic in the US

Why expert is cautious about Covid-19 vaccine trial results
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Our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in the US has ended for the day. Get the latest updates from around the globe here.

What first lady Melania Trump told governors on a call today

First lady Melania Trump is seated as President Donald Trump speaks during a presidential recognition ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday, May 15, in Washington.

President Trump, first lady Melania Trump and Vice President Mike Pence held a call with governors and leaders of the 50 states, territories, and the city of Washington, DC, and the White House Coronavirus Task Force to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to a readout from the White House, Melania Trump and other federal participants “highlighted the need for supporting our most vulnerable children and families with the necessary mental health and substance use disorder resources along with asking governors to ensure the physical safety and well-being of children around the nation.”

This is the first time Melania Trump has participated on a call with governors on Covid-19.

Houston wants to "safely" move forward with reopening the economy

Shoppers walk around The Galleria shopping center on May 1, in Houston, Texas.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he wants to “safely” move forward with reopening the economy, but emphasizes that the social distancing and wearing face coverings is still necessary.

“I think we all do want to see the economy move forward. And I want people to get back to work so that they can provide for their for their families, but also want to make sure that it is done in a safe and responsible way,” Turner said Monday in response to Texas moving forward with phase two of the state’s plan.

The mayor reminded people that the virus is still here and that there is still no cure or vaccine to fight Covid-19 so social distancing and good hygiene is essential.

He added that wearing masks should not be political as both Democrats and Republicans have died from Covid-19.

The latest numbers: Houston has reported at least 5,795 positive cases of coronavirus and approximately 115 deaths, according to Dr. David Persse with the Houston Department of Health.

Bars in Arkansas will open with restrictions next week

Bars in Arkansas will be able to reopen starting on May 26, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said at a news briefing on Monday. Bars inside restaurant facilities can reopen tomorrow, he said.

The guidelines for bars will be similar to restaurants, said Dr. Nate Smith with the Arkansas Department of Health.

“We’re going to continue to have the guidance on physical distancing and these other things in our directives and guidance, but we’re going to depend more and more on people picking individual action to protect themselves and protect those around them and their loved ones, and as well as public health interventions like testing and contact tracing and less on regulatory mandates,” Smith said.

Hutchinson added that he will visit President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in the Oval Office on Wednesday to talk about the the food processing industry and how Arkansas has dealt with reopening of the economy.

There have been at least 4,813 positive cases of coronavirus in Arkansas and at least 100 people have died, Smith said.

Kentucky governor announces new efforts to expand contact tracing

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during a news conference at the state Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky, on Monday, May 11.

Kentucky is taking steps to ramp up contact tracing efforts in the state.

Gov. Andy Beshear announced today the Kentucky Department for Public Health is working with Deloitte Consulting to launch the statewide effort to gather information about contacts from newly diagnosed patients. 

Health officials will notify those people of their potential exposure and advise them of precautions they can take to protect their health and the health of those around them, according to a statement from the governor.

“We are going to hire about 700 people and we will have to deploy these folks very effectively to help contain the infection,” Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said.

“Contact tracing is the way we get back to as much as possible what normal used to be like. Contact tracing is the way we act very quickly to localize infection to keep it from spreading and enable us to get back to interacting with each other as much as we can,” Stack added.

Illinois governor announces emergency rule requiring businesses to follow stay-at-home order

In this April 17 file photo, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a daily coronavirus news conference in Chicago on Friday, April 17.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced today an emergency rule requiring businesses to follow the existing stay-at-home order.

“Under the current Illinois Department of Public Health Act, when a business violates an IDPH rule and puts public health at risk, the business has committed a class A misdemeanor,” Pritzker said in a news conference.

“This additional enforcement tool, this citation, causes less harm to a business than a total shutdown or loss of a license but gives local governments and law enforcement the ability to do their job,” he said. 

This rule can only impact a business, not an individual, and is a response to only a select type of violation, according to the governor. 

Pritzker also announced today that the Illinois Contact Tracing Collaborative will “massively” scale up contact tracing. 

Latest numbers: Illinois has a total of 96,485 Covid-19 cases, with 4,234 deaths in the state. 

AP test organizers make changes after some students couldn't submit their exams

The College Board says it’s taking steps to avoid a repeat of the problems that are forcing thousands of high school students to retake their Advanced Placement exams if they want to get college credit.

Students are taking the AP tests online this year because the coronavirus pandemic has closed schools and made it unsafe to gather at in-person testing sites.

Some students who took the tests last week reported not being able to upload their exams, a problem the College Board blamed on users’ outdated browsers and other technical issues.

The organization set up an alternate email submission process for students who have browser problems, according to The College Board website. That system went into effect today.

If students get the message “We Did Not Receive Your Response,” they will get instructions to email their submissions to a unique email address.

“AP students took nearly 2.2 million AP Exams last week, and we’re so proud of every student who tested. We also share the deep disappointment of those who couldn’t complete their AP Exams. We’re providing a new safeguard for students moving forward,” the College Board said in a tweet on Sunday. 

The organization said that less than 1% of students weren’t able to submit their results in the early days of testing.

Read the tweet:

Colorado governor says he wishes Trump would use platform to ask Americans to wear masks

Colorado Governor Jared Polis makes a point about the state's efforts to rein in the new coronavirus during a news conference outside the Stride Community Health Center on Monday, May 18, in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said he wished President Trump would ask Americans to wear face masks in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

Asked his reaction on Trump saying he is taking hydroxychloroquine, a drug that treats and prevents malaria, Polis responded, “Well at least he won’t be getting malaria anytime soon.”

Hydroxychloroquine is a drug Trump has long touted as a potential coronavirus cure even as medical experts and the US Food and Drug Administration question its efficacy and warn of potentially harmful side effects.

Polis continued: “When he says something like that it creates a run on the drug. He has a lot of people that listen to every word he says. I really wish he would use this platform to say, ‘Let’s all wear mask.’”

“I just hope he uses that soapbox he has to talk about the need for staying apart from others six feet and wearing masks when we’re in public,” he said.

University of Notre Dame plans to end fall semester before Thanksgiving

The University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana.

The University of Notre Dame announced in a statement today that students will return to campus for their fall semester during the week of August 10, two weeks earlier than originally scheduled.

The university also announced that it will forgo fall break in October and end the semester before Thanksgiving.

Notre Dame students were sent home in mid-March due to the Covid-19 pandemic and completed their spring semester through remote learning.

“By far the most complex challenge before us is the return of our students to campus for the resumption of classes in the fall semester,” the university’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, said in the statement.

“Bringing our students back is in effect assembling a small city of people from many parts of the nation and the world, who may bring with them pathogens to which they have been exposed. We recognize the challenge, but we believe it is one we can meet,” the statement said.

The university said its plan for the fall will include comprehensive Covid-19 testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation protocols, social distancing and mask requirements, and enhanced cleaning of all campus spaces.

As part of its planning, the university has identified facilities to isolate students who test positive and quarantine students who have been in close contact. These protocols will continue throughout the semester and as long as necessary, the university said. 

Other schools: Purdue University, Rice University and Creighton University all announced plans to cancel fall breaks and end “face-to-face” instruction before Thanksgiving earlier today.

Childhood vaccinations plunge in California during coronavirus pandemic

In California and across the United States, recent data shows many children are missing their vaccines during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The California Department of Public Health said the number of shots given to children up to 18 years old in California decreased by more than 40% in April 2020 in comparison to April 2019.

“This pandemic has disrupted so much, including how we’re seeking preventative health care services,” Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement Monday. “During and after the pandemic, unvaccinated infants and children will be more vulnerable to dangerous diseases like measles and whooping cough.”

More on this: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report today on the decreasing number of childhood vaccinations nationwide since the pandemic began.

Using Michigan as a case study, the CDC found a 22% decrease in the the number of non-flu vaccine doses administered to children overall. The study also found that less than half of all five-month-olds were up to date on their vaccines this May. 

The CDC and the California Department of Public Health both emphasize parents should make sure their children are up-to-date on their immunizations so they can be protected against serious preventable diseases, especially while the Covid-19 emergency is ongoing.

Joshua Tree National Park partially reopens to the public

In this January 4, 2019 photo, a Joshua tree stands at Joshua Tree National Park in California.

Joshua Tree National Park, located near Palm Springs, California, has partially reopened to the public, according to the National Park Service.

The park, which closed to help control the spread of Covid-19, will reopen roads, parking lots, trails, most bathrooms and family campsites, the park’s website said.

Entrance stations will also be staffed, though fees will not be collected, the site added.

The visitor center and group campsites will remain closed. All programs and permits for special use activities through May 31 have been canceled.

Catch up on the latest coronavirus headlines

People sit in circles meant to encourage social distancing in Domino Park along the East River on May 18 in the Williamsburg neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough in New York City.

It’s almost 6 p.m. in New York. Here are some of the top coronavirus headlines you may have missed.

  • President Trump says he is taking hydroxychloroquine: Trump said he is taking hydroxychloroquine after asking the White House doctor if he could take it — despite the fact that he’s said he is negative for Covid-19 and several recent studies show the drug is ineffective against the coronavirus and may even be harmful.
  • As states relax more rules, US coronavirus death toll passes 90,000: All states except one, Connecticut, have loosened stay-at-home restrictions. But only 18 states showed a downward trend of new cases Monday, according to an analysis of data from Johns Hopkins. That’s down from 28 states that showed general declines as of Friday.
  • Navajo Nation surpasses New York for highest Covid-19 infection rate: The Navajo Nation, which spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, reported a population of 173,667 on the 2010 census. As a result, with 4,002 cases, the Native American territory has 2,304.41 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people.
  • Vaccine trial shows positive early results: Study subjects who received Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine had positive early results, according to the biotech company, which partnered with the National Institutes of Health to develop the vaccine. If future studies go well, the company’s vaccine could be available to the public as early as January, Dr. Tal Zaks, Moderna’s chief medical officer, told CNN.

Trump deflects question about Peter Navarro's criticism of the CDC

President Donald Trump listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House May 18 in Washington.

President Trump deflected when asked if he agreed with Peter Navarro’s assertion that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention let the country down in terms of testing.

“I think they work very hard,” Trump said of the CDC, when asked about his economic adviser’s comments.

“Don’t forget, they’ve been here for many years. They don’t work for me. They work for the country,” he said during a White House meeting with restauranteurs.

“I will say, originally, they had no test and one of the tests had a problem very early on but that was quickly remedied,” Trump continued, wading into the controversy between members of his own cabinet. 

“Now we have the best tests anywhere in the world. I think – I give ourselves a lot of that credit,” he added.

Some background: Navarro on Sunday condemned the CDC’s early pandemic response, saying that “not only did they keep the testing within the bureaucracy, they had a bad test and that set us back.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar called those comments, “inaccurate and inappropriate.” The CDC falls under HHS.

Vice President Mike Pence weighted in on Navarro’s comments, saying, “I think Peter Navarro’s point was that CDC and our public health labs at the state level were operating with an arcane testing system, and it was one of the reasons that early on we brought in all of the commercial labs around the country, the President created a consortiums of these labs, and we reinvented testing in America.” 

Kentucky reports new cases of pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear reported two new cases of a troubling new syndrome that may be associated with Covid-19 infection.

The cases include a 5-year-old, who was admitted to the hospital on Saturday but is now able to go home, and an 11-year-old who is currently hospitalized.

The state’s first case, a 10-year-old, is still hospitalized, Beshear said.

“We had hoped there wouldn’t be problems for children, that they would do well, and it appears, overwhelmingly, they do well, but not all of them,” Kentucky Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said.

He continued: “And for those who get this syndrome, this is very serious. This is essentially a situation where weeks after the child would have gotten over the initial infections, their immune system becomes overactive and attacks the blood vessels in their own body and causes a number of problems.”

Texas reports lowest new, daily coronavirus death toll since March 31

A man is tested for Covid-19 by the San Antonio Fire Department at a free walk-up test site on Friday, May 8.

Texas is reporting 11 new deaths from Covid-19 today – the lowest new, daily death toll since March 31 when the state had only 4 fatalities, Texas Health and Human Services data shows.

However, Texas also saw its highest, single-day increase in coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic on Saturday, according to state numbers. 

Gov. Greg Abbott attributed the spike in cases to increased testing, noting that the percentage of positive tests has gone down.

Meanwhile, critics like Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, attribute the rising numbers, at least in part, to the state’s reopening of businesses.

 “Well, more than likely what you saw in the cases jumping in the past few days that we’ve reported is a change in policy with respect to the reopening of parts of our economy, a couple weeks ago,” Johnson told CNN on Monday.

Where Texas stands on reopening: Abbott announced sweeping reopenings in the state during a press conference earlier today – including opening child care centers and office buildings, effective immediately.

Other businesses such as bars, bowling alleys, bingo halls skating rinks and rodeos can open Friday, with restrictions on capacity. Professional sports will be able to resume games starting June 1 without fans and with approval, he said.

Coronavirus could be transmitted through feces of infected patients, study says

This scanning electron microscope image shows 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes Covid-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S.

The coronavirus could be spread through the stool of Covid-19 patients, according to a new study from Chinese researchers.

Infectious particles from the virus were found in fecal samples from a 78-year-old Covid-19 patient at the Fifth Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangdong Province in late January and early February, researchers reported in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Now they are asking whether the deadly virus could be transmissible through the stool of infected patients.

Health experts have believed the highly contagious virus is mainly spread through respiratory droplets, contact with infected surfaces and possibly aerosols. Now “it is unclear whether the virus in feces is infectious and might be an additional source for transmission,” the letter said.

Researchers collected fecal samples from the male patient, who was admitted to the hospital on January 17 and died on February 20, on January 27 and 29, and again on February 1 and 7. “All samples were positive for viral RNA,” indicating that the virus was in the feces. The viral antigen was also found in gastrointestinal cells, the researchers noted.

Previous analysis from China, including one published in the New England Journal of Medicine, have also revealed the discovery of coronavirus in the stools of infected people, but the samples did not contain infectious amounts of the virus until now.

In all, samples from 28 patients were tested as part of the study and 12 were positive for viral RNA, including those from the 78-year-old man, the researchers in Guangdong said. 

The researchers said the study indicated a need to take precautions against the potential spread of the coronavirus through feces. “Discharge and hospital cleaning practices should consider this possibility for critically ill patients or those who died who had high viral loads and are more likely to shed infectious virus.”

Louisiana state budget revenues to drop by $900 million because of Covid-19

Revenues for Louisiana are expected to decline by $900 million because of the pandemic, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Monday.

“There will be about $80 million in (state budget) cuts, including significant cuts to the Department of Health,” Edwards told reporters in Baton Rouge.

Duke University announces salary cuts and hiring freeze in anticipation of $350 million loss next year

Duke University Chapel in Durham, North Carolina.

Duke University announced its plan to cut salaries for highly compensated employees, suspend University-paid retirement contributions, and freeze all new hires, as it estimates a total decline in revenues between $250 million to $350 million in the next fiscal year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Duke University President Vincent Price said in a statement released last week that all of the school’s sources of revenue including “tuition, research grants, clinical and patient care services, private philanthropy and income from our investments and endowment – has already suffered large reductions or is expected to be quite substantially diminished in the months ahead.”

Starting July 1, the university will suspend employer contributions to Duke faculty and staff retirement plans for 12 months. Price said those cuts will save Duke between $150 million and $200 million over the next fiscal year.

The statement also said university employees who earn more than $285,000 will see a 10% reduction in their salaries for 12 months.

Additional voluntary salary reductions include the provost, vice president and chancellor, who will have a reduction of 15%. Price said he will take a 20% pay reduction.

Some context: Many other schools, like Harvard University, have announced similar cuts as administrators try to solve huge budget deficits.

Meat plant workers account for more than 25% of Nebraska coronavirus cases

This Monday, April 20, 2020 photo, shows the Tyson Fresh Meats beef processing complex in Dakota City, Nebraska.

At least 2,601 workers in the state’s meat processing industry have tested positive for Covid-19 since the outbreak began, Nebraska Chief Medical officer, Dr. Gary Anthone, announced at an afternoon news conference.

Eight of those workers have died as a result of the virus, according to Anthone. 

Those cases account for just more than 25% of Nebraska’s 10,348 cases.

More on this: Earlier this month, Gov. Pete Ricketts ordered health departments to stop reporting how many food processing workers test positive at each individual plant unless the company gives permission, citing concerns over being able to verify the data.

Ricketts first announced the number of cases associated with the meat packing industry on May 7. At that point, the state reported at least 1,005 cases or about 16% of the state’s total cases, according to Ricketts.

Missouri to test people at all long-term facilities with a confirmed Covid-19 case

Leaders in Missouri say they now have enough capacity to test every staffer and resident at long-term care facilities with a confirmed Covid-19 case.

“We are recommending comprehensive testing, that you go ahead and test everybody,” Health and Senior Services Director Dr. Randall Williams said in a Monday press conference.

“[That’s] a capability we didn’t have a month ago,” he added.

At least 50 long-term care facilities qualify for comprehensive testing because they have had at least one coronavirus patient.

Williams said they hope to be able to do “sentinel testing” soon, where all people associated with hotspot facilities like long-term care, prisons and meat-packing facilities are asked to submit to tests, even in locations that have not reported a coronavirus infection.  

Williams also encouraged all Missourians to consider getting a test if they have felt any possible symptoms.

“If you have any symptoms – muscle aches, fever, cough, anything – we want you to get tested,” Williams said. “We want to see exactly how we’re doing as things change.”

Trump says he is taking hydroxychloroquine

President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with restaurant industry executives about the coronavirus response, in the State Dining Room of the White House, on Monday, May 18, in Washington.

President Trump said today he is taking hydroxychloroquine after asking the White House doctor if he could take it.

“A couple of weeks ago, I started taking it,” Trump said. He later said he’d been taking it every day for a week and a half.

Asked if the White House doctor recommended that, Trump responded, “no.”  

“I asked him what do you think, he said, ‘Well if you’d like it,’” the President told reporters.

Trump said he hadn’t been exposed, he started taking the drug because he had heard from frontline responders who sent him letters saying they were taking it preventatively.

“Here’s my evidence: I get a lot of positive calls about it,” Trump said. 

The President he said he doesn’t know if it works, but “if it doesn’t, you’re not going to get sick and die.” 

More about this drug: Last week, CNN reported a new study —the largest of its kind —shows that hydroxychloroquine does not work against Covid-19 and could cause heart problems.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It follows a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that also showed the drug doesn’t fight the virus.

Even before these reports were published, the US Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health issued warnings about using the drugs for coronavirus patients.

“The nail has virtually been put in the coffin of hydroxychloroquine,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert and longtime adviser to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Watch here: