Coronavirus live updates: US nears 1M cases; Birx says social distance through summer, some California beaches busy as states release plans

The U.S. reached a “plateau” in new coronavirus cases this weekend as the number of confirmed cases neared 1 million Monday morning, but Dr. Deborah Birx warned that social distancing “will be with us through the summer.”

While some areas of the U.S. have reached their peak of cases and since come down, social distancing will be needed to “protect one another,” the White House coronavirus task force coordinator said Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, also said the outbreak will probably not ease much before Memorial Day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also added six new symptoms attributed to the coronavirus, including chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and a loss of taste or smell.

As more U.S. states continue to slowly reopen this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, will start in phases with construction and some manufacturing part of its first wave.

Across the country in California, photos showed thousands flocking to beaches amid warm weather. Some counties have kept their beaches and parks closed while others began gradual reopenings. Experts still strongly encourage social distancing, even outdoors.

In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to work Monday after recovering from coronavirus and spending a week at a London hospital, including three nights in intensive care. 

The virus has killed more than 206,000 people globally, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Almost 3 million confirmed cases have been reported, including 965,000 in the U.S. More than 54,000 have died in the U.S. from the virus, a number approaching the 58,220 Americans killed in the Vietnam War from 1955 to 1975. 

Our live blog is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news, and get updates in your inbox with The Daily Briefing. More headlines:

  

US reached new case ‘plateau,’ but social distancing ‘with us through summer’

The U.S. COVID-19 outbreak has reached a plateau in new cases but probably will not ease much before Memorial Day, said Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Inglesby told Fox News Sunday the U.S. is “near the end of the beginning” of the coronavirus pandemic but was skeptical of Vice President Mike Pence’s claim that the U.S. would “largely have this coronavirus epidemic behind us” by Memorial Day.

“I mean, trends can change over time, but at this point we have a plateau in new cases per day,” Inglesby said. “More importantly, wherever we are in the epidemic, this virus is going to be with us until we have a vaccine.”

When asked about Pence’s comment, White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said, “Social distancing will be with us through the summer to really ensure that we protect one another.”

Cuomo approval rating skyrockets as NYC plans for more ‘self-swab’ tests

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday

Cuomo’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has gained him record approval ratings from New York voters, a poll Monday found. The Democratic governor’s job performance rating in his 10th year in office hit a high of 71% to 28%, up eight percentage points from last month, the Siena College poll said.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also announced Monday the city’s health clinics would set up “self-swab” testing for the virus. The test typically involves a deep nasal swab, which can cause a patient to cough or sneeze and puts the health care worker conducting the test at risk. 

De Blasio said people collecting samples themselves, at the direction of a health care worker, would make testing easier and safer. The new method is set to start within the next few days at eight community testing sites around the city. 

– Lorezno Reyes Joseph Spector

British PM Boris Johnson returns to work after beating coronavirus

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to work Monday, appearing in public for the first time in three weeks since recovering from a bout of coronavirus that landed him in intensive care. 

Standing outside his central London office and residence at No. 10 Downing Street, Britain’s leader apologized for being “away from my desk for much longer than I would’ve liked” and said the country was on the brink of victory in the first phase of its fight with COVID-19 even if it was too early to end Britain’s five-week national lockdown.

Johnson, 55, is the first major world leader known to have contracted coronavirus – and now also to have beaten it. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26 and hospitalized 10 days later. He spent several days in an intensive care unit. 

– Kim Hjelmgaard

Last patient leaves hospital in COVID-19 epicenter of Wuhan, China

The number of hospitalized coronavirus patients in Wuhan, the central China city hardest hit by the epidemic, reached zero after the last patient was released Friday, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. In Hubei province – Wuhan is the capital – the number of existing COVID-19 cases has dropped below 50 for the first time. No new confirmed cases of the disease have been reported for over 20 days in the province, Xinhua said.

The coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in a wet market in Wuhan, first emerged there in December before spreading worldwide. Wuhan and the province of Hubei were locked down at the end of January. China has reported a death toll of more than 4,600 people but is seeing very few new cases.

California heat draws crowds out to beaches

As the weather warmed in California over the weekend, people headed outside to enjoy the sun on beaches, golf courses and trails.

Photos from Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, in Orange County, showed large crowds out on the beach on Saturday as Los Angeles County beaches remained closed. Many people appeared to keep their distance from others and some wore masks

In Encinitas, in San Diego County, three people were arrested Saturday while protesting closed beaches. San Diego County plans to reopen beaches Monday for limited activities like swimming, surfing, running and walking. Sitting and sunbathing are still not allowed there.

– Ryan Miller and Joel Shannon

  

Stocks open higher as Amazon, Apple release earnings this week

Stocks opened higher on Wall Street on Monday as governments around the world prepared to gradually lift stay-at-home restrictions.

The S&P 500 was up 0.7% in the first few minutes of trading at the start of a week full of market-moving events. Several major central banks are meeting, including the Bank of Japan, which announced its latest stimulus measures to prop up markets.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.4% and the Nasdaq was up 0.9%. by mid-morning.

This week will be one of the busiest of this earnings season, too, with several high-profile companies – including Alphabet, Amazon and Apple – set to reveal how much they made during the first quarter amid the economic unrest created by the coronavirus. 

Schumer wants to keep Trump’s name off coronavirus stimulus checks

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer is not pleased that President Donald Trump’s name will appear on stimulus checks being sent out to millions of Americans – and he is planning to put forward legislation to stop it from happening again. 

The No Politics in Pandemic Recovery Act, or No PR Act, proposed by Schumer would prohibit the use of any taxpayer funds “for any publicity or promotional activity that includes the names, likeness, or signature” of Trump or Vice President Mike Pence. 

The Treasury Department said there was “no delay whatsoever” in getting out the checks, which included up to $1,200 per American taxpayer. The statement came after The Washington Post cited IRS officials who believed adding the president’s moniker was sure to slow the process down. 

– William Cummings

The plight of juveniles locked up during coronavirus

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads at juvenile facilities, attorneys and advocates are scrambling to get young detainees released, especially those serving time for nonviolent offenses and probation violations, or who have underlying health conditions.

The U.S. juvenile system is dependent on judges’ discretion, so releasing someone is largely based on which judges are presiding in what jurisdiction – instead of the severity of offenses, attorneys and advocates say. The result is a patchwork of decisions, a slow slog to bring cases in front of judges when courts across the country are shut down.

“It’s justice by geography. Depending on where you live, you may have greater or lesser access to the courts, or greater or lesser opportunity to have your case reviewed,” said Marsha Levick, chief legal officer of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia.

Across the country, 116 youths at juvenile facilities have tested positive for coronavirus, according to the Sentencing Project, which has been tracking cases nationwide.

– Kristine Phillips 

Spain’s children celebrate, New Zealand eases lockdown: world news

In New Zealand, some businesses like construction could reopen and people could buy takeout restaurant food Monday. Australia is set to resume non-urgent surgeries this week.

Children under 14 could leave their homes in Spain for the first time in six weeks on Sunday. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez plans to announce a “de-escalation” of the country’s lockdown Tuesday, along with France and Greece.

In Italy, where more than 26,000 people have died from the virus, Premier Giuseppe Conte detailed his plan Sunday for a gradual reopening. Some businesses like factories and construction sites could reopen once they implement safety measures. Next week, parks can reopen, people can travel within their region to visit family and funerals can be held.

Blue Angels, Thunderbirds plan Tuesday flyover for health care workers

A joint flyover by the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, and the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, is planned for Tuesday in the New York area to honor front line and essential workers.

The team will fly over New York and Newark, New Jersey, around noon Tuesday, then head to Trenton, New Jersey, and onto Philadelphia, according to a news release on the Navy’s website.

“We hope to give Americans a touching display of American resolve that honors those serving on the frontline of our fight with COVID-19,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Caldwell.

Two sources familiar with the plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity said nearly three dozen major American cities could see flyovers. The sources told USA TODAY that some other cities would see a joint flyover and then the two squadrons would fly separately over others.

– Savannah Behrmann and John Fritze

Many Georgia churches stay shut

Churches in Georgia did not exactly rush to open their doors Sunday even after Gov. Brian Kemp gave his approval to resuming in-person services if “done in accordance with strict social distancing protocols.” Most churches remained relegated to video streaming or drive-in services.

One exception was the Redeeming Love Church of God the Bible Way in Statesboro, which held two services Sunday, according to its Facebook page. Both were livestreamed and each appeared to have at least 20 parishioners in attendance. This was the same church whose members recorded video on April 10 of police ordering a service to be broken up.

– Lorenzo Reyes

Brad Pitt gives us a hunky Dr. Fauci on ‘SNL’

It took a while, but America’s favorite gravelly-voiced, bespectacled infectious disease specialist has finally gotten the “Saturday Night Live” treatment — from Brad Pitt, no less. The newly-minted Oscar winner donned a gray wig and glasses to portray Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“First, I’d like to thank all the older women in America who have sent me inspiring — and sometimes graphic  — emails,” he began in the show’s cold open segment.

Fauci had joked recently that he would want Pitt to portray him in an “SNL” skit.

– Jayme Deerwester

  

Alaska Girl Scouts to get relief loan for lost cookie sales

Selling Girl Scout cookies is normally a foolproof business model, but the coronavirus outbreak cooled sales for Alaska Scouts.

The Girl Scouts of Alaska looked for help and the group is expected to receive a federal recovery loan to help compensate for lost cookie sales.

First National Bank Alaska facilitated the federal Paycheck Protection Program loan, The Anchorage Daily News reported Sunday.

– The Associated Press