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, real estate and soon auto manufacturing operations can resume in Michigan. Montana will permit schools to restart in-classroom teaching at the discretion of local school boards.
As travel begins to ramp up, the Transportation Security Administration said its employees will be required to wear facial protection at security checkpoints and many airlines have announced plans to make face masks mandatory for passengers.
There were more than 75,000 deaths and 1.25 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. by Thursday, according to the John Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, the virus has killed over 269,000 people and infected more than 3.8 million.
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Here are some of the most important developments Thursday:
An MIT study says a targeted approach keeping older folks at home would be more effective against the coronavirus than a universal lockdown policy.
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.
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.
TSA will require employees to wear facial protection at airport screening areas
The Transportation Security Administration Thursday announced it will require employees to wear facial protection at security checkpoints, the latest move to heighten safety standards to protect against COVID-19.
The press release announcing the decision also encourages passengers to wear facial protection at screening areas as a way to combat the spread of coronavirus. As a health measure, many airlines, including American, United, Delta, Southwest, Alaska, Frontier, JetBlue and Spirit, have announced plans to make face masks mandatory for passengers.
The employee facial-protection requirement will be implemented in the coming days, according to a TSA press release, which describes the action as "an additional measure to help minimize spread of COVID-19 and help raise the overall health and safety level inside the airport environment." Agency personnel will be provided with masks.
– Bill Keveney
Buffet chain Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes to close permanently
The Southern California-based buffet chain restaurant Souplantation, known as Sweet Tomatoes nationwide, announced Thursday it will permanently close all 97 restaurants due to financial challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The FDA had previously put out recommendations that included discontinuing self-serve stations, like self-serve beverages in fast food, but they specifically talked about salad bars and buffets,” John Haywood, CEO of Garden Fresh Restaurants, the parent company of Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes, told The San Diego Union-Tribune.
“The regulations are understandable, but unfortunately, it makes it very difficult to reopen. And I’m not sure the health departments are ever going to allow it," said Haywood.
The closure will affect 4,400 employees, the Union-Tribune reported. Souplantation was founded in 1978 in San Diego, California. In 1990, the franchise expanded with locations across the U.S. under the name Sweet Tomatoes.
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.
Newsom says coronavirus outbreak in California started in salon
On the day he issued guidelines for parts of California to start reopening, Gov. Gavin Newsom also identified a nail salon as the origin of the coronavirus outbreak in the state, one of the first ones in the nation to get impacted.
Newsom provided details of the requirements for counties to relax social distancing measures beginning Friday, when clothing stores, florists, sporting goods stores and bookstores will be among the retailers allowed to operate again, albeit through curbside pick-up service.
Asked why businesses that offer personal-care services like nail salons can’t open yet, Newsom said, “This whole thing started in the state of California, the first community spread, in a nail salon. I just wanted to remind you, remind everybody, of that. I'm very worried about that.’’
He did not elaborate about the time and place community spread began in the state.
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 staff to be tested daily after aide comes down with virus
President Donald Trump said Thursday that his staff will be tested daily for coronavirus after a Navy steward who has been in close proximity to him tested positive for COVID-19. Both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were given new tests after the discovery, and administration officials said they came out negative.
Trump said he knows the personal valet but has had "very little contact" with him. Still, he said, aides who have been tested weekly for coronavirus will now be given the test daily. Officials would not say whether Trump himself will be tested daily.
-- David Jackson and Michael Collins
African Americans, Latinos and tribal members in Wisconsin will get free testing
All African Americans, Latinos and tribal community members in Wisconsin will have access to free COVID-19 testing under a plan announced Thursday by Gov. Tony Evers. His plan is an effort to combat the staggering racial and ethnic disparities Wisconsin and many other states are facing when it comes to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
African Americans and Latinos account for half of all coronavirus cases in Wisconsin. Latinos make up less than 7% of the state's population, but account for 29% of the COVID-19 cases. African Americans make up only about 6% of Wisconsin's total population but account for 21% of the confirmed cases statewide.
"These disparities existed before this pandemic. But what we can do in this present circumstance is we have to, have to, have to test more people," Evers said in an interview with the Journal Sentinel. "In order for us to do the best job possible serving the disadvantaged groups in this state who are disproportionately impacted by this virus, we have to test more."
– Mary Spicuzza and Alison Dirr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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
Hydroxychloroquine proves no cure
A malaria drug often touted by President Donald Trump as a treatment for COVID-19 has not shown any benefit in fighting coronavirus infections, according to a new study.
Hydroxychloroquine did not lower the risk of dying or needing a breathing tube in a comparison that involved nearly 1,400 patients treated at Columbia University in New York, researchers reported Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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.
Franz Mast, owner of the Willinger brewery in the western town by that name, 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. Dozens of people stood 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
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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.
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
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.
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.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said manufacturing workers, including those for the crucial auto industry, would be able to return to their jobs Monday, but she also extended the state’s stay-at-home order to May 28.
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
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Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus update: CDC plans; Trump valet; TSA facial protection