R-0 may be the most important scientific term you’ve never heard of when it comes to stopping the coronavirus pandemic. USA TODAY
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, the Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency order for the use of antiviral drug remdesivir in coronavirus patients after a study earlier this week showed the drug posed no significant health concerns.
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Here are the most important developments Friday on the coronavirus pandemic. Scroll down for the latest updates.
- The Food and Drug Administration granted pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences an emergency order to begin using remdesivir, an antiviral drug, to treat patients with the coronavirus. In results of a study released earlier this week, remdesivir showed “no new safety issues.”
- 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.
- 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.
What we’re talking about:How to clean your car’s interior without damaging it.
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.
Tennessee to test all inmates, prison staff after massive outbreak
All Tennessee inmates and correction staff will be tested for the coronavirus as part of a new widespread initiative to mitigate the spread of the virus amid multiple massive prison outbreaks in the state, Gov. Bill Lee announced Friday.
The governor’s office said more than half of the inmates and staff tested at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville tested positive for the virus.
Of the 2,725 total tests given at the facility this week, at least 1,349 came back positive, according to CoreCivic, the national private corporation that runs Trousdale Turner. Just two of the inmates who tested positive exhibited symptoms, CoreCivic said in a statement, and both are being treated at a nearby hospital.
“The rate of infection at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center is consistent with or below what is being reported by other correctional systems nationally,” CoreCivic’s public affairs office said in a statement Friday, noting that more than 70% of federal inmates have tested positive for the virus, according to recently released data.
Based on state virus data compiled by The Tennessean, the outbreak at Trousdale has led to the largest single-day spike in positive cases — more than twice the size of any other — since the virus came to Tennessee in early March.
Roads to Gallup, N.M., blocked off
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham invoked the state’s Riot Control Act on Friday as she sealed off all roads to nonessential traffic in one of the largest communities bordering the Navajo Nation, where a surging coronavirus outbreak has already prompted widespread restrictions and weekend lockdowns.
She also required businesses in Gallup to close from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. in the city of about 70,000 people along Interstate 40, which remained open to through traffic.
Gallup is a hub for basic household supplies, liquor sales and water-container refills for people living in remote stretches of the Navajo Nation — often without full indoor plumbing — and indigenous Zuni Pueblo. The Navajo Nation has imposed evening and weekend curfews on the reservation spanning portions of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.
COVID-19 infection rates in Gallup and surrounding McKinley County make it one of the worst U.S. hotspots for the pandemic as patients overwhelm intensive care facilities.
City officials requested new state of emergency under the riot act that can prohibit people from walking streets and using certain roads. Violations are punishable as misdemeanors on a first offense and as a felony on the second offense. Emergency declarations under the act expire after three days and can be renewed.
FDA approves remdesivir for use in coronavirus patients
WASHINGTON – The Food and Drug Administration has given emergency authorization for the pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences to use the antiviral drug remdesivir to treat coronavirus patients. The authorization, announced Friday by President Donald Trump, comes just two days after the company reported potentially encouraging results from a trial for the drug.
Gilead said remdesivir produced “similar improvement” in patients over a 10-day treatment plan compared with a five-day treatment plan – and that it recorded “no new safety” issues among hospitalized patients who “well-tolerated” the treatment in the study.
Remdesivir is one of numerous drugs under development to treat or prevent the coronavirus. Clinical trials are conducted to ensure safety and efficacy, and there’s no guarantee Gilead’s initial results will lead to a commercially available treatment. But medical professionals have had high hopes for remdesivir since the coronavirus pandemic began.
‘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 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
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
More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY
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
Reporters and experts from across the country and the USA TODAY Network talk about America’s most urgent questions on disinfection and reinfection. USA TODAY
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
More coronavirus headlines from USA TODAY
- Staying Apart, Together. Sign up for our newsletter on coping with a world changed by coronavirus.
- Is it coronavirus or allergies? Here’s how to tell the difference.
- Mapping coronavirus: Tracking the U.S. outbreak, state by state.
- No sex, please, we’re in a pandemic: Who can be intimate, who shouldn’t while in coronavirus quarantine.
- Want to clean, reuse or hack a coronavirus mask? Here’s how.
- Can I get unemployment if I stay home to take care of my child?Your coronavirus money questions, answered.
Contributing: The Associated Press
A Chinese woman wears a protective mask as she has her temperature checked before entering a park with her child on Feb. 9, 2020 in Beijing, China. The number of cases of a deadly new coronavirus rose to more than 37000 in mainland China Sunday, days after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a global public health emergency. China continued to lock down the city of Wuhan in an effort to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease which medicals experts have confirmed can be passed from human to human. In an unprecedented move, Chinese authorities have put travel restrictions on the city which is the epicenter of the virus and municipalities in other parts of the country affecting tens of millions of people. The number of those who have died from the virus in China climbed to over 810 on Sunday, mostly in Hubei province, and cases have been reported in other countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, India, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and several others. The World Health Organization has warned all governments to be on alert and screening has been stepped up at airports around the world. Some countries, including the United States, have put restrictions on Chinese travelers entering and advised their citizens against travel to China. Kevin Frayer, Getty Images
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