As many states move toward reopening after a horrific April that saw nearly 60,000 deaths because of the coronavirus, a new report offers a stark warning: A group of experts has concluded the pandemic could last as long as two years, until 60% to 70% of the population is immune.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump is scheduled to leave the White House on Friday for the first time in a month to travel to Camp David, one day after the expiration of federal social distancing guidelines.
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Here are the most important developments Friday on the coronavirus pandemic. Scroll down for the latest updates.
Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, suggested social distancing could continue in some form through the summer as the White House quietly allowed official guidelines to expire. Meanwhile, a new report warns the pandemic could last up to two years, until the world hits the threshold for herd immunity. Trump said Thursday he’s seen evidence suggesting the new virus originated in a Chinese virology lab. The president didn’t provide the evidence, but his top national intelligence official said the virus was not man-made or genetically modified, as scientists have concluded. The intelligence community “will continue to rigorously examine” the virus’ origin, the national intelligence director’s office said. Amid all the reopening talk this week, Dr. Tom Inglesby, a leading expert on pandemics, reminded us: We will not have complete “normal” – no masks, fully social – until we have a vaccine. Read more in The Backstory.
Some positive news today: If you’re a fan of “Parks and Recreation,” then you must catch the show’s quarantine special. It’ll make you laugh, cry and sing for Lil Sebastian.
‘Our patients are dropping like flies’: 16,000 dead from COVID-19 in U.S. nursing homes
Under mounting public pressure to increase transparency, more states are now releasing information about the scourge of the coronavirus on nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The data paints a grim picture: more than 16,000 residents and staff have died, accounting for about a quarter of the nation’s overall COVID-19 deaths.
In Maryland, which released a list of facilities with positive cases for the first time this week, 97 residents are infected and 34 have died at the facility with the highest number of fatalities, Sagepoint Nursing and Rehabilitation. In New Jersey, where the virus has reached 86% of the state’s 575 long-term care facilities, outbreaks at two veterans’ homes have left 97 dead. In multiple states, including Kentucky, Colorado and Pennsylvania, more than half of the state’s fatalities are from nursing homes.
Two months after the first death from the virus in a U.S. nursing home, advocates and industry leaders say long-term care facilities still face a dire shortage of personal protective equipment and access to testing. “More needs to be done. The number of deaths is appalling,” said Rhonda Richards, senior legislative representative at AARP. “We can’t overstate the gravity of this situation.” Search our database to see how your area has been affected.
–Tricia L. Nadolny and Marisa Kwiatkowski
Texas State University plans to resume in-person classes July 6
Texas State University plans to resume in-person teaching for late summer and fall classes, officials said Friday. Officials said the school has established several pandemic and post-pandemic work groups to address areas related to safety, learning and university operations as it prepares to resume in-person instruction July 6.
“As we anticipate returning to face-to-face instruction for summer II classes and the fall semester, we are working to adapt university operations to ensure we have a safe, healthy learning and working environment for our students, faculty and staff,” Texas State President Denise Trauth said in a statement.
Across Texas, several universities have announced their intentions to resume normal instruction in the fall, but Texas State seems to be the first to announce a return this summer.
– Lara Korte, Austin American-Statesman
NASA: Stay home for first astronaut launch in years
NASA and SpaceX on Friday urged everyone to stay home for the first home launch of astronauts in nearly a decade because of the pandemic. Top officials warned the public against traveling to Florida for the May 27 launch of two NASA astronauts aboard a SpaceX rocket to the International Space Station.
It will be the first launch of astronauts from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in nine years – since the last space shuttle flight in 2011. It also will be the first attempt by a private company to fly astronauts to orbit.
For space shuttle launches, hundreds of thousands of people would descend on Kennedy Space Center and nearby beaches, said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
Bridenstine urged the public to watch the launch online or on TV from home. “We don’t want an outbreak,” of COVID-19, he told reporters.
‘Overwhelmed by death:’ Virus surge in Brazil brings a coffin shortage, morgue chaos
In Brazil’s bustling Amazon city of Manaus, so many people have died within days in the coronavirus pandemic that coffins had to be stacked on top of each other in long, hastily dug trenches in a city cemetery. Some despairing relatives reluctantly chose cremation for loved ones to avoid burying them in those common graves.
Now, with Brazil emerging as Latin America’s coronavirus epicenter with more than 5,900 deaths, even the coffins are running out in Manaus. The national funeral home association has pleaded for an urgent airlift of coffins from Sao Paulo, 1,700 miles away, because Manaus has no paved roads connecting it to the rest of the country.
The city of about 2 million people carved from the jungle has been overwhelmed by death in part because it’s the main site where those from remote Amazon communities can get medical services.
New York cancels school for rest of academic year
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state’s schools would remain closed for the remainder of the academic year, though no decision has been made yet on whether students will return for classes in the summer or fall.
Cuomo called on school districts to develop plans to reopen schools that incorporate all public-safety precautions as they continue distance learning in the meantime. But he acknowledged that social distancing could be very difficult in K-12 schools. “This is going to be a real exercise,” Cuomo said.
“If you require this in a classroom, how many more rooms do you need in a building?” he added, citing buses and cafeterias as other concerns.
As of Thursday, 43 states had ordered or recommended that schools remain closed for the rest of the school year, which ends in May in some states.
Cuomo said a decision on holding summer school would be announced by the end of May. The coronavirus infection rate would have to be stabilized, he said. The governor did not provide a timeline on a decision for the next academic year: “There is no decision on the fall because the fall is a long time away.”
– Gary Stern
Nation’s largest mall chain set to begin reopenings
The nation’s largest owner and operator of shopping malls, Simon Property Group, was set to reopen 49 properties in 10 states in a first wave starting Friday.
But most Atlanta-area malls won’t be open for business just yet, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Friday. “After previously announcing its malls would open Friday, Simon announced those openings are delayed until Monday,” the paper said.
Simon closed all of its properties last month as states grappled with coronavirus outbreaks, and it released safety protocols earlier this week for its properties that begin reopenings.
When shoppers return, they’ll likely find food courts with less seating, directional signs and dividers to control the flow of foot traffic, and free temperature testing via infrared thermometers. It’s unclear how many stores customers could visit.
– Alexandria Burris
Friday numbers: 9 times the number of 9/11 deaths in New York
As the pandemic continues to unfold, we are tracking the data. Here’s what’s new today, via the Associated Press.
Through Wednesday, the virus was believed to have killed at least 23,600 people in New York, including around 5,300 people who died before a lab test confirmed their infection. That’s nearly nine times the death toll of the Sept. 11 attacks. Some economists say the U.S. unemployment rate for April may be as high as 20% – a figure not seen since the Depression of the 1930s, when joblessness peaked at 25%. Layoffs amount to 1 in 6 American workers. That’s more people than the entire population of Texas. Texas, meanwhile, is reopening some businesses.
Most experts agree death figures are an undercount, since it only includes deaths where the link to COVID-19 was certain enough to be included on a death certificate.
States reopening: Ohio stay-at-home order extended
Ohio’s stay-at-home order has been extended until May 29, meanwhile retail stores can open Friday if they limit sales to curbside pickup, delivery or appointment-only.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, meanwhile, has extended an order that shutters theaters, restaurants, bars, casinos and gyms until May 28. Her restrictions have been met with protests, most recently Thursday at the state Capitol in Lansing, where hundreds of people gathered, some armed, to express opposition.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to begin the gradual reopening of Texas businesses amid the coronavirus outbreak went into effect Friday morning. Abbott announced Wednesday that he let his stay-at-home order expire and signed Phase One of his Open Texas plan meaning many business can reopen.
In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf was preparing to announce Friday that 24 counties in rural northern parts of the state will see some relief from his strictest orders for residents to stay at home and businesses to close as part of a strategy to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Florida will begin opening state parks on Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Friday during a news conference in which he encouraged outdoor activity and criticized the doom and gloom some predicted for the state.
About a hundred people with Freedom Movement USA protested Illinois’ stay-at-home order outside the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago on Friday. Protesters chanted and held signs saying “Let my people go back to work” and “small business is essential.” A parade of cars and motorcycles circled the block, honking, including a sports car labeled the “General Lee.” Counter-protesters stood across the street, wearing masks and holding signs.
In much of Colorado, getting a hair cut and shopping in person at retail stores were allowed again starting Friday as the state eases restrictions set up to stop the rapid spread of the coronavirus. However, stay-at-home orders remained in place for Denver and several surrounding counties, with only essential businesses such as grocery, liquor and hardware stores open there. For the latest details on your state’s plan, follow along here.
Report: Coronavirus could last up to 2 years
The coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon, infectious disease experts predict in a report released Thursday.
The pandemic could last between 18 and 24 months and won’t be halted until 60% to 70% of the population is immune, according to the report by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
Researchers note that COVID-19 appears to spread more easily than the flu because it has a longer incubation period, spreads while people are asymptomatic, and has a higher basic reproductive number, meaning the average number of new infections that result from one infected person.
Because it’s so contagious, “more people will need to get infected and become immune before the pandemic can end,” the researchers note.
The report presents three scenarios for the spread of COVID-19 and makes several recommendations, including advising government agencies to plan for worst-case scenarios, making plans for periodic resurgences, and warning the public that the disease won’t be over soon.
– Rachel Aretakis
Gilead is ‘moving very quickly’ to get FDA approval for remdesivir
The maker of remdesivir, an experimental drug that is reportedly showing promise for treatment of the coronavirus, is “moving very quickly with the FDA” to get approval, its CEO said Friday.
Daniel O’Day, of Gilead Sciences, told the “Today” show that the pharmaceutical company has already increased its treatment courses from 5,000 to 100,000 and hopes to make 1 million available by the end of the year.
The drug has shown some promise for severely ill patients. Early results from one study found patients who received remdesivir had a 31% faster recovery time than those who received a placebo.
“This is a medicine that’s really for the most severe patients. This is for hospitalized patients, this is for patients that have really progressed …” he said. “What we see here is really, of course not a cure, but a very, very significant and important treatment for patients.”
– Rachel Aretakis
Disney introduces face masks featuring Baby Yoda, Black Panther, Forky and more
If you’re apprehensive to go outside, maybe a face mask with your favorite Avenger – or perhaps Baby Yoda – will help. Disney has announced a new line of non-medical, reusable cloth face masks featuring Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars characters available to pre-order for the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control is advising the use of cloth face coverings (masks) to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Some municipalities and businesses, such as Costco, are requiring that customers wear them.
– Josh Rivera
OSHA safety inspectors reviewing scores of employee hospitalizations, deaths
Workplace safety inspectors are conducting nearly 200 coronavirus-related investigations to determine whether employers failed to adequately protect their workers, according to data from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Half involve employee deaths or hospitalizations.
The inspections target nearly 50 hospitals and two dozen nursing homes, including one in Illinois, where administrators believe an infected maintenance worker spread the virus room to room. Twenty-four residents died, along with a nursing assistant and the maintenance worker himself.
Also under review: a school system garage in Kentucky, where 17 employees tested positive and one died; a meatpacking plant in Nebraska, where the widow of a deceased employee said he kept working after getting sick so he could get incentive pay; and two Native American schools in Arizona that reportedly stayed open after others shut down and where two employees died.
In all, OSHA officials are reviewing workplaces in two dozen states with a total of 96,000 employees, according to USA TODAY’s analysis. OSHA has been under fire for not doing enough to protect workers amid the pandemic. Read more here.
– Donovan Slack, Dennis Wagner and Dan Keemahill
Trump says he’s seen evidence virus came from Chinese lab. US intelligence agencies say it was not man-made.
President Donald Trump said Thursday he has seen evidence suggesting the novel coronavirus originated in a virology lab in Wuhan, China.
Trump did not provide any evidence to support that assertion, and he seemed to hedge a bit by saying there were many “theories” about the origin of the virus. He has repeatedly called for an investigation into the origin of the virus, part of what critics say is an effort to shift blame to China amid growing criticism of Trump’s missteps in response to the crisis.
Earlier Thursday, Trump’s director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, issued a statement on behalf of the U.S. intelligence community stating there was broad agreement the virus was not man-made or genetically modified. But that statement left open the question of whether the virus was accidentally released by a laboratory in China or whether it came from animals and then jumped to humans.
A March paper published in Nature Medicine said the scientific evidence shows the virus was not purposefully manipulated and that it most likely came from an animal, and the World Health Organization has concluded similarly.
– Deirdre Shesgreen
White House announces new plan as social distancing guidelines expire
The deadline to lift social distancing guidelines quietly passed Thursday as the White House pushed a new set of suggestions designed to reopen the U.S. economy now decimated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The White House is sunsetting the federal guidelines, once a central tenet of its coronavirus response and the focus of the administration’s message. The Trump administration is under economic pressure to shift its strategy from battling the coronavirus to pressing ahead with a message of economic revival that he hopes will help secure his reelection in November.
The administration has pivoted to a three-phase plan that leaves the decision to states, creating a patchwork strategy that some health experts warn could undermine the progress that has been made in stemming the spread of coronavirus.
— Courtney Subramanian and Michael Collins
‘Operation Warp Speed’: Trump administration pushes for vaccine by January
Trump administration officials are racing to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus by January in an effort dubbed “Operation Warp Speed.”
The effort, first reported by Bloomberg, would cut the time needed to develop a vaccine by as much as eight months and rely on private pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and the military working together.
“Operation Warp Speed is clearly another extension of the President Trump’s bold leadership and unwillingness to accept ‘business as usual’ approaches to addressing the COVID-19 crisis,” said Michael Caputo, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Bloomberg reported that as part of the arrangement, taxpayers would shoulder the brunt of the cost if a vaccine candidate were to fail or be proven unsafe.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had said that vaccine development would take at least 12 to 18 months at the earliest, but indicated Thursday the January deadline was possible.
“We want to go quickly, but we want to make sure it’s safe and it’s effective. I think that is doable,” he said on NBC’s “Today” show.
May Day rallies go on around the world, demand coronavirus relief
Millions of workers around the globe demanded better conditions and relief amid the coronavirus pandemic as social distancing guidelines altered some traditions of International Workers’ Day.
In Greece, demonstrators lined up six feet apart, Parisians sang from balconies to plead for workplace masks, health insurance and more government aid for the jobless and strikes were planned in California.
The events come as the economic impacts of the pandemics have led to mass layoffs. In the United States, a staggering 30 million people have filed unemployment claims. Meanwhile, essential workers who have not been laid off have demanded better conditions to ensure their safety while working.
In Los Angeles, a coalition of over 60 organizations that led the movement to legalize street vending in the city, will hit the streets Friday to demand coronavirus relief.