Coronavirus live updates: Parts of Georgia reopen; US nears 50K deaths; medical experts push back on sunlight and disinfectant Trump touted

A day after the House approved the $484 billion coronavirus stimulus for small businesses and hospitals, some businesses in Georgia will reopen Friday. 

The plan to reopen received backlash from the state’s mayors. President Donald Trump also said he disagreed with Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision because the state’s number of cases don’t meet the threshold needed to reopen under the White House’s guidelines. 

Also drawing a strong reaction across the country were Trump’s comments late Thursday, which suggested treating COVID-19 with disinfectants, perhaps by injection, or by treating patients with “light inside the body.” Health officials were quick to say the idea wasn’t possible and was potentially dangerous.

Meanwhile, Friday also marks the beginning of Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month. But some are worried that social distancing may affect its traditions such as daytime fasting, overnight festivity and communal prayer. 

And another milestone will likely be reached Friday as the U.S. is expected to pass 50,000 deaths from the virus. The virus has killed more than 190,000 people globally, according to Johns Hopkins University data. More than 2.7 million confirmed cases have been reported, including over 869,000 in the U.S. 

Trump touts sunlight study’s impact on coronavirus, but official urges caution

A federal study that indicates sunlight and humidity can weaken the coronavirus prompted Trump to float the idea of treating patients with “light inside the body.”

However, top administration officials warned against Americans changing their behavior based on the preliminary findings.

Asked by a reporter whether it was “dangerous” to make people think it could be safe to go outside in heat and humidity, Trump asked White House coronavirus task force leader Dr. Deborah Birx, “have you ever heard of that? The heat and the light, relative to certain viruses, yes, but relative to this virus?”

Birx responded, “Not as a treatment. I mean, certainly fever…is a good thing. When you have a fever, it helps your body respond.” (The White House on Friday issued a revised transcript of her remarks.) 

The Department of Homeland Security study, which the the agency described as “emerging,” found the lifespan of the virus on a surface or in the air could be significantly reduced by exposure to sunlight and humidity. 

Bill Bryan, an undersecretary of science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security, stressed that the findings were not so conclusive that Americans should abandon social distancing guidelines promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and enforced by state orders across the country. 

It would be “irresponsible for us to say that we feel that the summer is just going to totally kill the virus,” Bryan told reporters.

– John Fritze, David Jackson and Nicholas Wu

Lysol says don’t ingest disinfectant after Trump’s comment

The makers of Lysol, one of the nation’s largest cleaning and disinfecting brands, warned the public not to inject or ingest its products as a coronavirus treatment a day after Trump speculated about another possible treatment for COVID-19: injecting disinfectants. 

Parent company Reckitt Benckiser, the makers of Lysol and Dettol, said in a statement on its website Friday that it has been asked whether disinfectants are safe to use as a treatment for the respiratory virus. 

“We must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route),” the company said in a statement. 

At Thursday’s press briefing, Bill Bryan, an undersecretary of science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security, said preliminary findings show bleach and isopropyl alcohol as effective in killing the virus on surfaces. The finding prompted Trump to say later in the briefing, “I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning.” 

The comment has drawn swift backlash from the medical community, warning it’s not possible and is dangerous. 

Food and Drug Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn was asked about such methods during a CNN town hall following Trump’s comments. He responded, “I certainly wouldn’t recommend the internal ingestion of a disinfectant.”

Earlier this week even before Trump’s comment, a CDC report found that calls to poison centers received related to cleaners and disinfectants had increased by 20% during January to March 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019. 

While the data can’t show for certain a link between these calls and COVID-19, “there appears to be a clear temporal association with increased use of these products,” the CDC report says.

– Dalvin Brown and Savannah Behrmann

FDA: Don’t use hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for COVID-19 outside of hospital, clinical trial

The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning Friday against the use outside of a hospital setting or clinical trial of anti-malaria drugs touted by President Donald Trump as a possible COVID-19 treatment. 

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can cause serious problems related to patients’ heart rhythms for COVID-19 cases, especially when used in combination with other medicines that have the effect of causing abnormal heart rhythms or a dangerously rapid heart rate, the FDA warned. 

“Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have not been shown to be safe and effective for treating or preventing COVID-19,” the FDA warning said. The agency has, however, temporarily authorized their use for treating the virus in hospitalized patients when a clinical trial is not available. Clinical trials testing the drugs efficacy and safety in COVID-19 patients are being studied, the FDA said. 

The drugs are are FDA-approved to treat or prevent malaria. Hydroxychloroquine is also FDA-approved to treat some conditions like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

A popular small business loan program that ran out of money is getting a cash infusion. The House gave final approval Thursday to legislation that will pump $320 billion into the Paycheck Protection Program, which is designed to keep small businesses from shuttering and their workers from going on unemployment. The bill also provides about $75 billion for hospitals, $25 billion for testing and $60 billion for emergency disaster loans and grants. The Senate approved the bill Tuesday and Trump has said he will sign it.

– Michael Collins and Christal Hayes

Almost 14% of 3,000 New Yorkers test positive

Random testing of 3,000 New Yorkers revealed that 13.9% were infected with the coronavirus and developed an antibody, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday. Cuomo, who said the data was preliminary, said it’s thus likely that 2.7 million people in the state have been infected, with a death rate of 0.5%. The data was collected over two days in 19 counties and 40 localities across the state. Men tested positive at a higher rate than women, New York City residents at a higher rate, about 21%, than the rest of the state.

“These were people out and about,” Cuomo said. “They were infected, they had the antibody and are now recovered.”

– Joseph Spector

Ivy League schools turning down stimulus money  

The nation’s most selective and richest universities are turning down millions in federal money meant to aid students whose lives have been upended by the coronavirus. They include Ivy League schools Harvard, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton in addition to Stanford.

The institutions were eligible to apply for aid after Congress earmarked about $13 billion to higher education with the goal of addressing the costs of online learning and for institutions to provide emergency aid to their students. However, Trump and others were critical of schools with billions in endowments seeking money when it could have been distributed to universities and students with greater need.

– Chris Quintana

Will there be a vaccine by 2021? Experts say that may be unrealistic

In a series of breathtaking multibillion-dollar bets, possible vaccine candidates to fight the new coronavirus are being prepared for production across the globe in one of the most dramatic examples of short cuts and streamlining aimed at meeting what many experts consider unrealistic U.S. target dates for a vaccine. 

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci has repeatedly said a vaccine may be ready in 12 to 18 months, but that timeline would shatter all precedents for developing a new vaccine, which typically takes many years.  

Manufacturing tens of millions of unproven vaccine doses on spec is unheard of, there is no certainty any will work, and if one does prove effective, getting it into the arms of people will the Food and Drug Administration to speed up its normal approval process. 

Then there’s the history of problems in making a vaccine against coronaviruses, and it’s possible there will be no vaccine.

“I think the goal of 18 months is one that will be very, very difficult to achieve,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “But it just may be our moon shot.” 

Meanwhile, polling from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project with USA TODAY shows nearly one-third of Americans believe a vaccine already exists but is being withheld from the public.

– Elizabeth Weise, David Heath and Joey Garrison

Unemployment claims continue to smash records 

More than 26 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits over the past five weeks, a record-breaking number revealing the devastating toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken on the economy. About 4.4 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. That would have been a record less than two months ago. Economists had estimated 4.5 million claims, lower than the roughly 5.2 million filed the week before, and down from the all-time high of 6.86 million applications filed in late March. 

“Claims have declined over the past two weeks but remain at an extraordinarily high level,” analysts for the research consultancy High Frequency Economics wrote.

– Charisse Jones

USDA inspector latest virus victim in meatpacking industry

A Chicago-based U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector tasked with ensuring food safety at meatpacking plants died Thursday after testing positive for COVID-19, a person who was on a call during which the federal agency confirmed the death told USA TODAY. It is the latest in a growing wave of coronavirus cases and deaths stemming from the meatpacking industry.  

As of Thursday, there are more than 2,700 reported cases tied to meatpacking facilities at 60 plants in 23 states, and at least 17 reported worker deaths at eight plants in eight states, according to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, which is partnering with USA TODAY to cover agribusiness. 

The identity of the employee has not been publicly released.

– Kyle Bagenstose, Grace Hauck and Sky Chadde

Virtual NFL draft gets underway

The NFL draft kicked off on Thursday night, bringing a much-needed reprieve to a sports world that remains largely on pause amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Joe Burrow went first overall to the Bengals as expected, and in the next several selections, teams continued to follow the chalk: Chase Young to Washington, Jeff Okudah to Detroit. Offensive tackle Andrew Thomas went to the Giants, followed by quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert to the Dolphins and Chargers, respectively. 

The virtual 2020 version of the NFL draft may have missed all the glitz and glamour viewers have come to expect surrounding the big event, but there were still excited players at home in their living rooms with their families, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appearing from his basement and even a red carpet rolled out for one prospect and his mother.

– Mike Jones, Steve Gardner and Nate Davis

Report: Patients still test positive for virus month after recovery

A growing number of COVID-19 patients in China are still testing positive for the virus after having recovered and not showing symptoms, according to a report from Reuters.

Doctors in Wuhan said that some patients have tested negative but then later tested positive again, some up to 70 days later.

Chinese health officials told the news agency that there have been no confirmed cases of these patients infecting someone else, but it still raises concerns of patients remaining positive and potentially infectious as countries around the world look to end lockdowns.

South Korea and Italy have also reported cases of patients testing positive for about a month, Reuters reported.