Coronavirus updates: Cats can catch COVID-19, study suggests; WHO warns ‘virus may never go away’; Wisconsin stay-at-home order struck down

The Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the state’s stay-at-home order, the Federal Reserve chairman warned of a prolonged national recession if Washington doesn’t pump more money into the bailout, and WHO warned that the world could be battling the coronavirus scourge for years to come.

“It is important to put this on the table … this virus may never go away,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization’s leading expert on emergencies.

The U.S. has the largest coronavirus outbreak in the world by far, with more than 84,000 deaths and almost 1.4 million confirmed cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, the virus has killed more than 297,000 people and has infected more than 4.3 million

Whistleblower warns of ‘darkest winter in modern history’

An immunologist who says he was unfairly ousted from the Department of Health and Human Services plans to tell a House panel on Thursday that if the U.S. does not develop a plan to address a second wave of the virus, the country will experience the “darkest winter in modern history.” Rick Bright, who was removed last month from his position as the director of HHS’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, is scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee at a hearing titled, “Protecting Scientific Integrity in the COVID-19 Response.”

“Our window of opportunity is closing,” Bright says in his planned opening statement, released ahead of the hearing. “If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities.”

– William Cummings

Stocks tumble again after Fed warning

Stocks opened lower again Thursday after tumbling bout 4% the two previous sessions as fears that the economic recovery from the virus-fueled slump could be a slow one. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell fed into those concerns Wednesday, issuing a warning that “the path ahead is both highly uncertain and subject to significant downside risks.” The Dow Industrials was down 300 points in early trading, or more than 1%. Standard & Poor’s 500 index and the Nasdaq composite also were down more than 1%.

FBI seizes cellphone of Sen. Richard Burr

The FBI served a warrant to Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., as part of its investigation into his sale of stocks ahead of the market crash due to the coronavirus, according to multiple media reports. The Los Angeles Times first reported that Burr, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, had his cell phone seized on Wednesday night by federal agents at his Washington residence, citing an anonymous law enforcement official. Burr’s office declined to comment on the matter when reached by USA TODAY Wednesday night.

The Justice Department launched an inquiry into four senators’ stock sales in March, a person familiar with the case told USA TODAY at the time.

– Jeanine Santucci

3 airlines stop flying. How many more will fail?

Some of the nation’s smallest airlines are facing some of the biggest headaches in coping with the travel meltdown. Three regional airlines – Trans States, American Eagle and Delta Connection – have already stopped flying as passengers shun air travel out of fear of the coronavirus. Industry officials worry that other small carriers could fail, leaving smaller cities and towns even more isolated.

“There is an extremely high risk to small community air service right now,” Faye Malarkey Black, CEO of the Regional Airline Association, told USA TODAY.

– Chris Woodyard

3 million more Americans file for unemployment – 36M in 8 weeks

Almost 3 million Americans filed initial unemployment benefit claims last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, spotlighting another wave of job cuts and adding to the unprecedented economic damage wrought by the pandemic. In the past week, well-known companies such as Uber, General Electric and Airbnb have laid off thousands of workers. More than 36 million workers now have sought jobless benefits in eight weeks.

Economist Ryan Sweet of Moody’s Analytics predicts 11 million payroll losses in May and another two million in June, with unemployment peaking at a brutal 23% before job gains return in July as more businesses reopen.

– Paul Davidson

Talking indoors could lead to coronavirus transmission, study says
One minute of talking loudly can produce more than 1,000 virus-containing droplets that could linger in the air for over 8 minutes, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Because droplets that exist in an asymptomatic person’s mouth can carry respiratory pathogens, such as SARS-CoV-2, “there is a substantial probability that normal speaking causes airborne virus transmission in confined environments,” the study says.

“This study builds on earlier research … and adds support to the importance of wearing a mask,” the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases said in a statement to USA TODAY.

– Jessica Flores

Fed chief says more stimulus funds needed to avoid ‘prolonged recession’

The federal government must provide “additional fiscal support”beyond the nearly $3 trillion in programs it already has approved to support the nation’s distressed households and businesses, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said. The Federal Reserve will deploy its tools “to their fullest” but the economy needs a massive infusion of cash to avoid a “prolonged recession and weak recovery” that leaves behind lasting damage, he said.

Powell’s ominous tone is in stark contrast to his remarks early last month that the rebound can be “fairly quick” and “robust,” a shift that reflects the deep job and economic losses the pandemic already has inflicted and the growing prospect of a halting recovery.

– Paul Davidson

WHO warns virus ‘may never go away’

It will take a worldwide “massive effort” to crush the coronavirus outbreak, even if a vaccine is found, WHO emergencies expert Dr. Mike Ryan said at a briefing. And without a vaccine it could take years for the global population to build up levels of immunity required to neutralize the pandemic. Ryan noted that vaccines for measles and other illnesses have failed to completely eliminate them.

“I think it is important we are realistic,” Ryan said. “I don’t think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear. I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates.”

Wisconsin Supreme Court overturns governor’s stay-at-home order

A stay-at-home order issued by the administration of Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has been struck down by the state’s Supreme Court. Evers had sought to extend restrictions on residents through the end of May to halt the spread of coronavirus in the state. Republican lawmakers objected because of the impact on the economy. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Patience Roggesack determined Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm should have issued such state restrictions through a process known as rule making, which gives lawmakers veto power over agency policies.

The ruling will force the Democratic governor and Republican-controlled Legislature to work together on the state’s response to the ebbs and flows of the outbreak – a dynamic the two sides have rarely been able to achieve before.

– Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

AAU youth volleyball tournament still scheduled to be played in June

The nation’s largest youth volleyball tournament that hosts thousands of boys and girls is still scheduled to be held next month in Orlando despite concerns about the coronavirus. The Amateur Athletic Union event featured 2,800 teams last summer and drew roughly 110,000 visitors to the city over 12 days. The AAU said in a news release that “the safety of the participants is our highest priority,” and “we do not make this decision lightly.” The statement also made clear there is a financial motivation at stake, noting the importance of the event to the local economy.

Among the safety precautions: There will be no international teams this year and temperature checks will be instituted before competition. Volleyballs and courts will be sanitized regularly. Handshakes will be discouraged. Courts will be spaced farther apart. Each team will be limited to a party of 30 people, including 15 players, five coaches and 10 chaperones.

– Tom Schad

Trump says schools should ‘absolutely open’ this fall

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said Dr. Anthony Fauci did not give an “acceptable answer” when telling senators Tuesday that there’s no easy answer on whether schools can reopen this fall.

“I think you should absolutely open the schools,” Trump said during a meeting with the governors of Colorado and North Dakota at the White House. “I don’t consider our country coming back if the schools are closed.”

His comments came after a Senate committee hearing in which Fauci offered a much starker outlook on the coronavirus than what’s been offered by Trump. The president has been eager to reopen parts of public life and on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence spoke by video conference with more than a dozen university leaders about getting students back on campus.

– Maureen Groppe

Matt Damon reveals his daughter had virus ‘early on’

Actor Matt Damon revealed his oldest daughter had coronavirus in New York City while the rest of the Damons quarantined in Ireland.

The actor, 49, had been in Dublin shooting Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel” when the country began to shut down over coronavirus concerns. He, along with wife Luciana Barroso, and children Isabella, 13, Gia, 12, and Stella, 9, stayed in Ireland while 20-year-old college student, Alexia, stayed stateside.

“She’s in New York City and she had COVID really early on along with her roommates and got through it fine,” Damon told Dublin radio station Spin 1038 in an interview shared Wednesday. “We’ll reunite with her at the end of the month. But everybody’s OK, obviously Lucy’s mom and my mom – it’s scary for that generation.”

– Hannah Yasharoff

Study finds cats can catch COVID-19, may be able to transmit to other cats

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that cats “can readily become infected” with the coronavirus and may be able to pass it on to other cats.

Professor of Pathobiological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine Yoshihiro Kawaoka led the study. In it, researchers administered the virus, which had been isolated from a human patient, to three cats. The next day, researchers detected the virus in two of the cats, using nasal swabs. By the third day, they detected the virus in all of the cats.

The day after administering the virus to the first three cats, researchers placed another cat in each of their cages. Researchers didn’t administer the coronavirus to the newly-added cats. Within two days, one of the new cats was shedding the virus and in six days, all cats were doing so.