May 20 coronavirus news

By James Griffiths and Adam Renton, CNN

Updated 7:59 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021
18 Posts
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3:00 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

White House leaves possibility open to using unused Covid-19 relief money for infrastructure 

From CNN's DJ Judd

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

White House press secretary Jen Psaki left the door open to a proposal from West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito that unused Covid-19 relief funds could be used to pay for the administration’s multi-trillion dollar infrastructure proposal.

“The President's bottom line, as you've heard me say a few times before, is that he does not want to raise taxes on people making less than $400,000 a year,” Psaki told reporters Thursday. “We certainly, in that scenario, would need to assess whether these funds are needed, and not take them away from fighting the pandemic that we continue to battle every day.”

Capito told reporters on Capitol Hill “progress” was made in Tuesday afternoon’s infrastructure meeting between GOP senators and Biden officials, but they “still got a ways to go.” 

“They’re digesting what we proposed and I think the plan is for them to react to that,” she said Tuesday.

1:23 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Michigan set to ease Covid-19 restrictions in June with remaining rules to end in July 

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday announced all outdoor capacity limits across the state will be lifted effective June 1, and indoor capacity limits will increase to 50%. Nearly all Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted in July, the governor said. 

"On July 1, that is when we will take our final step. We will lift the broad mask and gatherings order and will no longer impose broad mitigation measures during the pandemic, unless of course, unanticipated circumstances arise," Whitmer said.

"I want to be clear about the fact that businesses and workplaces are well within their rights to require masks as patrons go in,” she said. "There will ultimately come a day when masks will be distant memories – maybe in boxes in our basements, but until then, we've got to transition back to normalcy together." 

According to Whitmer, Michigan has administered almost 7.9 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to more than 4.6 million Michiganders ages 16 and up with 57% of [the] eligible population receiving at least one dose. 

"Cases and test positivity have declined for five straight weeks [and] hospitalizations have declined for three weeks in a row," the governor said.

11:45 a.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Most nursing homes had multiple Covid-19 outbreaks that lasted for weeks, analysis found

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

US nursing homes experienced an average of three Covid-19 outbreaks, with the longest outbreaks lasting for an average of more than nine weeks, according to a report published Wednesday by the US Government Accountability Office.  

The GAO analyzed data submitted to the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from May 2020 through January 2021 for more than 13,000 nursing homes and representing about 88% of CMS-certified nursing homes. An outbreak is defined as starting the week a nursing home reports a new case in a resident or staff member and ends when there have been no new cases in two consecutive weeks. 

About 85% of the nursing homes analyzed experienced at least one outbreak that lasted for more than a month and more than a quarter experienced at least one outbreak that lasted three months or longer.

Only 64 nursing homes – less than 1% – had no Covid-19 outbreak, and another 761 nursing homes – about 6% – had only one outbreak during the eight months analyzed.

The length of outbreaks varied by state, the GAO report found. Outbreaks lasting more than a month were most common in Alabama, Arkansas, North Dakota, South Carolina and Tennessee and least common in Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. 

The report also found that most outbreaks – about 66% – began with a staff member that tested positive, and nursing homes with more beds were more likely to have outbreaks that lasted longer than a month. 

Covid-19 has disproportionately affected nursing home residents, but CMS data shows that new Covid-19 cases and deaths have decreased dramatically since vaccinations began. 

11:34 a.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Brazil detects first case of coronavirus variant first found in India

From CNN's Rodrigo Pedroso

The first official case of the coronavirus variant first found in India (B.1.617.2) has now been detected in Brazil, Maranhao state health secretary Carlos Lula announced Thursday.

Six crew members of the Shandong da Zhi ship, which were traveling from South Africa, tested positive for the B.1.617.2 variant. One of the crew is being treated at a private hospital in Sao Luis, Maranhao state's capital.

According to the secretary, 14 other crew members are infected with Covid-19 and remain on the ship, two with mild symptoms and 12 asymptomatic. Another nine passengers were not diagnosed with coronavirus.

“I had contact with the health security secretary of the health ministry and minister Marcelo Queiroga in the morning. The crew is isolated, and the ship is not allowed to dock,” said Lula, who is also president of Conass (National Council of Health Secretaries), in a news conference.

The secretary also informed that about one hundred people had contact with the crew who tested positive. They will be tested, monitored, and, if necessary, isolated.

11:57 a.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Pelosi says Congress mask rules will stay in place until more members are vaccinated

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said it's "unfortunate" that some members of Congress have not yet been vaccinated against Covid-19 and defended the congressional mask rules, which are still in place despite the updated guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the CDC now says fully vaccinated people can go maskless in most situations, Pelosi said that until more members of Congress are vaccinated, the chamber can not meet without masks.

"It is unfortunate that a large number of people in the Congress have refused to be vaccinated — or I don't know what it is, I don't know, refused or have been vaccinated and don't want to to admit — I don't know what that is, because I shouldn't know, it's their personal business," Pelosi said at a news conference today. "As the doctor said, until they are vaccinated, we cannot have meetings without masks."

She added:

"We have a responsibility to make sure that the House of Representatives' chamber is not a petri dish because of the selfishness of some not to be vaccinated."

Some context: A CNN survey of Capitol Hill last week found Democratic lawmakers in both chambers of Congress have a 100% vaccination rate against Covid-19, significantly outpacing Republicans in the House and Senate and illustrating the partisan divide over the pandemic.

For Republicans, at least 44.8% of House members are vaccinated and at least 92% of senators are, CNN found.

10:43 a.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Argentina reports record number of Covid-19 cases as new restrictions are set to begin

From CNN's Abel Alvarado and Claudia Rebaza

Argentina reported a new daily record of coronavirus cases Wednesday for the second day in a row as President Alberto Fernández is set to implement new restrictions this weekend. 

Fernandez is continuing meetings with governors Thursday to work out the details of new measures, which are expected to last two to three weeks, state news agency Telam reported. On Wednesday, he also met with 12 governors and epidemiologists.

The health ministry reported at least 39,652 new cases Wednesday for a total of 3,411,160 cases so far in the pandemic. It also reported at least 494 new deaths, with a total of 72,265 deaths since the pandemic began.

According to government data, 8,348,823 people in the country have received one dose of a Covid vaccine and 2,128,974 have received both.

8:11 a.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Iowa governor signs bill banning mask mandates in schools and businesses 

From CNN’s Carma Hassan and Kara Devlin

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced she signed HF 847, a bill that prevents mask mandates in K-12 schools and stops cities and counties from mandating masks in businesses.  

“The state of Iowa is putting parents back in control of their child’s education and taking greater steps to protect the rights of all Iowans to make their own health care decisions,” Reynolds said in a news release about the legislation.

The announcemnbet comes after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week released new guidelines that fully vaccinated people can take off their masks in nearly all settings.

4:24 a.m. ET, May 20, 2021

UK defends allowing direct flights from India as variant cases rise 28% in 2 days

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in Dublin

Passengers arriving from India are escorted through Heathrow airport on April 23, in London.
Passengers arriving from India are escorted through Heathrow airport on April 23, in London. Leon Neal/Getty Images

The United Kingdom defended its continuation of direct flights from India despite a 28% rise in cases of the B1.617.2 variant in two days.

The UK "cannot ban its own citizens from returning home," Transport Minister Grant Shapps told Sky News Thursday, adding that all passengers on Indian flights are either British or Irish citizens or permanent residence holders with the right of abode in the British Isles. 
A ban could prompt people to "spread amongst many other flights," he added, consequently "making it harder to carry out the mandatory hotel quarantine."

India was added to the UK's highest-risk red country list on April 23 in order to "protect the country against a new variant of coronavirus (COVID-19) and against other existing variants," according to a news release from the Department of Transport.

About 2,967 cases of the B1.617.2 variant, which was first detected in India, have now been identified in the UK, Health Minister Matt Hancock told the House of Commons Wednesday. This represents a 28% increase on the 2,323 cases reported Monday.

The transport minister reiterated his calls for UK citizens not to visit amber or red list countries for vacations, emphasizing that travel to these countries is only for essential purposes. 

He said there was a "heck of a lot of hassle" involved in traveling to an amber country, such as France or Italy, citing the need for three Covid tests upon return and the completion of a five-day home quarantine.

"We're not at the stage of, you know, saying to people: 'Go to those places on holiday.' In fact, please don't," he added.

3:56 a.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Taiwan reports 295 new Covid-19 cases as island battles its worst outbreak

From CNN's Eric Cheung in Taipei, Taiwan

People line up at a rapid Covid-19 testing center in Wanhua district in Taipei, Taiwan, on May 19.
People line up at a rapid Covid-19 testing center in Wanhua district in Taipei, Taiwan, on May 19. Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Taiwan reported 295 new Covid-19 infections Thursday, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said in a news conference.

Among the cases, 286 were locally transmitted, said Taiwan's Health Minister Chen Shih-chung. A total of 87 of those cases were reported in the capital, Taipei, while 157 were reported in the surrounding New Taipei City.

As of Thursday, Taiwan has reported 2,825 total Covid-19 cases, including 1,669 locally transmitted infections, the CECC said.

Earlier on Thursday, the CECC said in another news conference that anyone who spreads disinformation about the Covid-19 epidemic in Taiwan could face up to three years in prison and a fine equivalent to $107,000.

Taiwan had been among the safest spots on the planet when it came to coronavirus, with life on the island proceeding much as usual, until a sudden outbreak this month more than doubled the number of cases reported since the pandemic began.