A new report out Thursday claims the Trump administration shelved the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s detailed guide for slowly reopening the nation as the coronavirus continues to hammer the U.S. economy.
And the nation is reopening. Shopping malls in Hawaii can accept customers starting today. Construction and real estate operations can resume in Michigan. Montana will permit schools to restart in-classroom teaching at the discretion of local school boards.
There were more than 74,500 deaths and 1.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. by Thursday afternoon, according to the John Hopkins University data dashboard. The latest daily death toll was almost 2,400, with more than 24,000 newly confirmed cases reported. Worldwide, the virus has killed over 267,000 people and infected more than 3.8 million.
Our live blog is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news, and get updates in your inbox with The Daily Briefing. Scroll down for more details.
Here are some of the most important developments Thursday:
Almost 3.2 million Americans filed new jobless claims last week, pushing the total to an astonishing 33 million in less than two months. An ICE detainee in Southern California died from the coronavirus, the first death reported in a U.S. immigration detention center. An MIT study says a targeted approach keeping older folks at home would be more effective against the coronavirus than a universal lockdown policy.
Good news to share today: People in Ireland are donating to Native Americans grappling with the coronavirus, saying they were inspired by a 173-year-old act of kindness: In 1847, members of the Choctaw Nation gave $170, which would be roughly $5,000 today, to the Irish during the famine.
What we’re talking about: Coronavirus antibody tests are available around the country. Here’s why they may provide a false sense of security.
Report: White House shelves CDC plans for reopening nation
A step-by-step guide from top federal health officials to help local leaders decide when and how to reopen public places has been buried by the Trump administration, The Associated Press reports. The 17-page report by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team was designed to help faith leaders, business owners, educators, and state and local officials determine how to bring back mass transit, day care centers, churches and restaurants.
Federal public health officials have generally counseled patience in reopening the economy while the White House has been urging a faster pace, despite no indications the pandemic is slowing nationwide. Agency scientists were told the guidance “would never see the light of day,” a CDC official told AP. The official was not authorized to talk to reporters and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
A person close to the White House’s coronavirus task force told AP the CDC documents were never cleared by CDC leadership for public release.
New York tops 20,000 deaths, but situation improves
New York topped 20,000 coronavirus deaths Thursday, far exceeding any other state. Only four countries have absorbed more deaths than New York. The state’s first deaths were reported March 14, and they spiked at 800 a day in early April. They’ve been on the decline in recent weeks, with 231 reported Thursday. And the number of new hospitalizations hit a low of 600 on Tuesday, down from a high of nearly 3,181 in early April. Nationwide, however, the pandemic has shown no signs of retreat.
“In New York, the number is coming down, and it’s coming down dramatically,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday, adding a warning for the nation. “The downside of the mountain is a much more gentle slope than what we went through going up the mountain. We wish it was a steeper decline, but it’s not.”
– Joseph Spector
Trump valet tests positive – but not Trump
A member of the U.S. military who serves in the White House has tested positive for the coronavirus, but President Donald Trump has since tested negative, the White House said in a statement. CNN reported that the person served as a valet for the president and that the individual was tested after starting to exhibit symptoms Wednesday morning.
“We were recently notified by the White House Medical Unit that a member of the United States Military, who works on the White House campus, has tested positive for coronavirus,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said. “The president and the vice president have since tested negative for the virus and they remain in great health.”
MIT study says lockdown of seniors would work best
Rather than ordering everybody to shelter in place, policymakers confronting the COVID-19 pandemic would get better results from keeping older folks at home. That’s the conclusion from a new MIT study that looks at the public health and economic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak.
MIT economists found the universal lockdown policies adopted by a majority of states in the U.S. can still result in a 1.83% rate of fatalities in the adult population while reducing the yearly gross domestic product by a staggering 24.3%. However, the researchers say targeted policies with strict social-distancing restrictions on the most vulnerable – typically those older than 65 – would bring the fatality rate to nearly 1% while reducing the harm on the economy to 12.8% of GDP.
“Differential lockdowns on groups with differential risks can reduce both the number of lives lost and the economic damages significantly,’’ the study says. “We also find that the majority of these gains can be achieved with a simple targeted policy that applies an aggressive lockdown on the oldest group and treats the rest uniformly.’’
Texas bans jail for business owners who ignore stay-at-home orders
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott modified his stay-at-home order Thursday, prohibiting local officials from jailing people who violate his coronavirus executive orders. The action came a day after Abbott said a Dallas judge’s decision to jail a salon owner for illegally reopening her shop went too far. Shelley Luther, a salon owner, was sentenced to a week in jail and fined $7,000 after she reopened her Salon à la Mode nearly two weeks ago and ignored the judge’s cease-and-desist order.
“Throwing Texans in jail who have had their businesses shut down through no fault of their own is nonsensical, and I will not allow it to happen,” Abbott said in a statement.
– Nicole Cobler, Austin American-Statesman
Four McDonald’s workers hurt in shooting
Four employees at a McDonald’s in Oklahoma City were injured in a shooting after a confrontation with a customer who refused to leave the restaurant’s dining area, which was closed because of the coronavirus restrictions, police said. An altercation took place Wednesday when Gloricia Woody, 32, was forced out of the restaurant, and one employee suffered a head injury, police said. Woody returned with a handgun and fired about three rounds, police said. Three employees, shot and/or injured by shrapnel, and the employee with the head injury were taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, authorities said. Woody was taken into custody.
– The Oklahoman
Free beer in German town
Unable to deliver to hotels and restaurants closed due to coronavirus restrictions, a German brewery on Thursday gave away nearly 700 gallons of beer.
Rather than throwing it away, the owners of the Willinger brewery, in the western state of Hesse, decided to dish out the light and dark beer free of charge.
Franz MastWillinger brewery owner Franz Mast, said he needed to empty the tanks as soon as possible to fill them up again with fresh beer and be ready for when bars are allowed to reopen.
The move went down well. Dozens of people stood patiently in line outside the brewery, wearing masks and keeping to social distancing recommendations. Many took full buckets and boxes back home.
“We also want to thank people, and we hope they are as supportive once we reopen, that they come here, recommend us,” Mast told Reuters Television.
Chamber of Commerce sides with insurers on small business losses
Efforts to force insurance companies to cover coronavirus losses faced by small businesses are drawing fire from an unexpected source: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The national organization claims to represent “the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions.” But the Chamber sent a letter to Congress last week claiming that allowing Congress or states to rewrite contracts to cover coronavirus losses is unconstitutional.
“Bankrupting the insurance industry wouldn’t help the situation at all,” said Tom Quaadman, a Chamber executive vice president.
– Nick Penzenstadler
Treasury wants stimulus payments issued to dead people returned
The Treasury Department is asking people who received a stimulus payment on behalf of someone who is deceased to return the money immediately. Reports of dead people getting stimulus payments started to surface last month when the IRS began making direct deposits of up to $1,200 into taxpayers’ bank accounts.
“A payment made to someone who died before receipt of the payment should be returned to the IRS,” Treasury said in a statement.
– Michael Collins
WHO warns virus could ‘boomerang’ from poor nations back to rich
A top United Nations official warned of a looming COVID-19 crisis in poor countries that could “boomerang” back to rich nations unless they help contain it.
Mark Lowcock, the U.N. under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said many low-income countries could see coronavirus infections peak in the next three to six months. They will need an infusion of emergency aid to keep the pandemic from decimating their already fragile health systems and struggling economies, Lowcock said.
“No one’s safe until everybody’s safe,” he said.
GOP senators lobby Trump to stop issuing guest worker visas
Four Republican senators asked President Donald Trump to halt the issuance of guest worker visas until next year or “until employment has returned to normal levels.” The senators, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, argued in a letter dated May 7, first reported by Politico, that the visa suspensions would be “critical to protecting American workers as our economy gets back on its feet.” Trump signed an executive order last month creating immigration restrictions but provided exemptions for agriculture, health care, public safety and other industries.
– Nicholas Wu
Step away from that antibody test – until you’re sure it’s accurate
Medical experts have some advice for Americans thinking about getting coronavirus antibody tests: Don’t. That’s the recommendation until the questionable ones can be weeded out and scientists know whether people who have survived COVID-19 are immune from the virus.
Some researchers say manufacturers should stop advertising the antibody tests, for as little as $25, that many Americans are using to decide if they can safely stop social distancing or return to work.
“This is as close to the Wild West as I’ve ever seen in terms of laboratory tests,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “Even the good tests will likely give results that are virtually meaningless.”
– Kevin McCoy and David Heath
Graduates, start your engines: Florida seniors will cross finish line at Daytona
The coronavirus pandemic has spoiled graduation plans for thousands of families across the country, but seniors at two Florida high schools – Flagler Palm Coast and Matanzas – will be crossing high school’s finish line in style. They will be taking a lap at the home of the Daytona 500. Each graduate’s family will be allowed one car at Daytona International Speedway, and everyone must stay inside their vehicle. They’ll line up, drive over the finish line to accept their diploma and take a victory lap.
“We’re going to be able to make a memory for all of these seniors who are being robbed of this rite of passage,” speedway President Chip Wile said.
– Cassidy Alexander, Daytona Beach News-Journal
Report: Blood thinners could help more severely ill
Blood thinning drugs could help save some patients who are the most severely affected by the coronavirus, doctors at a New York City hospital reported. The findings from a team at Mount Sinai Hospital could help with a troubling problem that has shocked and horrified doctors treating coronavirus patients around the world – blood clots throughout the body that complicate an already hard-to-treat disease.
“The patients who received anticoagulants did better than those who didn’t,” Dr. Valentin Fuster, physician-in-chief at the hospital, told CNN.
First ICE detainee dies from coronavirus at California facility
A 57-year-old man who was being held at a federal immigration detention center in San Diego died Wednesday morning from the coronavirus, according to Dr. Eric McDonald of the San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency.
The man appears to be the first detainee in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to die of COVID-19. He had been hospitalized since late April, McDonald said. ICE has not confirmed the death to the USA TODAY Network.
The detention center had the largest COVID-19 outbreak among any ICE facility in the country, with 132 confirmed cases – or about 19% of the 705 total cases – as of Wednesday afternoon, according to ICE.
– Rebecca Plevin, Palm Springs (Calif.) Desert Sun
States reopening: Hawaii, Michigan, Montana take steps toward normalcy
Hawaii and Michigan took significant steps toward reopening on Thursday; some shopping malls opened again in the Aloha State and construction and real estate operations resumed in the Great Lakes State.
Also Thursday, Montana will permit schools to resume in-classroom teaching at the discretion of local school boards. Friday will bring the end of statewide stay-at-home orders in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Find the latest news from your state.
Gap Inc. plans to reopen up to 800 stores by the end of this month
Gap Inc. plans to reopen hundreds of stores this month, including some as soon as this weekend, another sign that the economic freeze spurred by the coronavirus may be slowly starting to thaw.
The retailer said it intends to reopen up to 800 locations under its various brands, including Old Navy, Banana Republic and Gap, by the end of May.
A small number of stores in Texas will be back in business this weekend. Like many companies, Gap shuttered its stores amid mandates that all but essential businesses close to foot traffic to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
– Charisse Jones
USA TODAY tracking: More than 10,000 COVID-19 cases in meatpacking plants
The meatpacking industry hit a grim milestone this week with the number of coronavirus cases tied to outbreaks at its beleaguered plants reaching more than 10,000, according to USA TODAY and Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting tracking.
At least 170 plants in 29 states have had one or more worker test positive for the coronavirus. Some of those workers also have infected others, which is included in the count. At least 45 workers have died. The outbreaks have prompted the closure of at least 40 meat slaughtering and processing plants – lasting anywhere from one day to several weeks – since the start of the pandemic.
The shutdowns sparked meat shortages in some parts of the country and triggered an executive order by President Donald Trump to keep plants open. But more than a week after Trump’s order, closures have continued unabated, the media outlets found.
— Sky Chadde and Kyle Bagenstose
Federal government has thousands of ventilators for national reserve
Thousands of new ventilators, the life-saving machines in limited supply during the early stages of the pandemic in the U.S., are pouring into the federal government’s reserve. This week was the deadline for the first set of ventilators that President Donald Trump compelled companies to produce after invoking the Defense Production Act on April 2. The move came after coronavirus-stricken patients inundated hospitals and tapped their supplies.
More than 4,400 of the breathing machines had been produced for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Strategic National Stockpile, according to Stephanie Bialek, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In all, the government ordered 187,000 from nine companies that it expects to receive in batches throughout the year.
– Erin Mansfield