Coronavirus pandemic in the US

By Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 9:32 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020
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5:23 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

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

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

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

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.”

5:21 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

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

From CNN's Pierre Meilhan

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.

5:28 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

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

From CNN's Bianna Golodryga

Duke University Chapel in Durham, North Carolina.
Duke University Chapel in Durham, North Carolina. Shutterstock

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.

5:12 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

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

From CNN's Shawn Nottingham

This Monday, April 20, 2020 photo, shows the Tyson Fresh Meats beef processing complex in Dakota City, Nebraska.
This Monday, April 20, 2020 photo, shows the Tyson Fresh Meats beef processing complex in Dakota City, Nebraska. Tim Hynds/Sioux City Journal/AP

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.

4:56 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

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

From CNN’s Andy Rose

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.”

5:17 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Trump says he is taking hydroxychloroquine

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal and Elizabeth Cohen 

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 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. Evan Vucci/AP

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.” 

“I’ve taken it for about a week and a half now, and I’m still here,” Trump said 

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:

4:42 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

US surpasses 90,000 coronavirus deaths

At least 90,312 people have died from coronavirus in the US, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

There has been at least 1,500,753 cases in the US.

Johns Hopkins reported on Monday 13,996 new cases across the country.

The first known US coronavirus-related fatality was 102 days ago on Feb. 6.

4:43 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Three more universities plan to end "face-to-face" instruction before Thanksgiving

From CNN's Yon Pomrenze

Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, on October 22, 2017.
Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, on October 22, 2017. Shutterstock

Three more universities – Purdue University, Rice University and Creighton University – plan to cancel fall breaks and end “face-to-face” instruction before Thanksgiving, in part due to health concerns tied to a mass exit and return of students during these breaks.

Here is how each school plans to conduct its fall semester:

Purdue University 

The university in West Lafayette, Indiana is planning to cancel its typical Labor Day holiday and October break, and finish face-to-face instruction (but not the semester) prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Here is Purdue’s planned Fall 2020 schedule:

  • Aug. 24 – Classes Begin
  • Nov. 24 – Face-to-face Instruction Ends
  • Nov. 25-28 – Thanksgiving Break
  • Dec. 5 – Classes End
  • Dec. 7-12 – Final Exams

Rice University 

The Houston, Texas school says it plans to shorten the number of weeks classes will take place during the fall semester.

Specifically, the school will cancel its two-day fall recess (originally scheduled for October 12-13), enabling them to end classes before Thanksgiving. 

The school says all requirements beyond that, such as exams and papers, will be able to be completed remotely.

Creighton University

The Omaha, Nebraska college is starting its fall semester early and will conclude (exams and all) before Thanksgiving, according to a statement.

On-campus fall semester classes will begin on August 17, the last day of classes will be Nov. 17; final semester exams will begin Nov. 19 and conclude at noon on Nov. 25. There will be one break in the semester, for Labor Day, on Sept. 7. 

According to its website, the school decided that ending the semester at Thanksgiving break would reduce the need for students to make multiple trips, should coronavirus cases increase with the start of the winter flu season.

5:18 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

New guidelines will allow most of California to further reopen

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

People ride and walk on a path along the beach amid the coronavirus pandemic on May 15 in Huntington Beach, California.
People ride and walk on a path along the beach amid the coronavirus pandemic on May 15 in Huntington Beach, California. Michael Heiman/Getty Images

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced more developed guidelines that will allow most of California to further reopen.

“Roughly 53 of the state’s 58 counties would be eligible to move into this phase,” Newsom said.

Counties choosing to move forward will be required to meet specific data points, Health Secretary Mark Ghaly said.

  • Hospitalizations: There can be no more than 5% increase in hospitalizations, or for those counties with very few hospitalizations, no more than 20 Covid-19 patients total for seven days.
  • New cases: There can be no more than 25 new coronavirus cases per 10,000 residents or a test positivity rate of less than 8% within past 14 days.
  • Preparedness: Testing capacity needs to be at least 1.5 tests per 1,000 people per day and there should be 15 contact tracers per 100,000 residents. There should be efforts in place that partner with and protect those living and working in skilled nursing facilities, protect essential workers and maintain hospital surge capacity.
  • Ability to retract: The county needs to have plans in place to reinstitute stronger stay-at-home orders if necessary.

As counties continue to reopen, the governor said he is concerned about particular hotspots, like a nursing home outbreak in Tulare County and a meat packing plant in Kings County.

Newsom added that he imagines Los Angeles County, the most populous area in the state, will be particularly cautious when it comes to moving forward.

“Bottom line is, people can go at their own pace and we are empowering our local health directors and county officials that understand their local communities and conditions,” Newsom said.