COVID-19 Daily Update: April 22, 2020

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Administration offers plan to cover COVID care for uninsured

The Trump administration has come out with a plan to start paying hospitals and doctors who care for uninsured COVID-19 patients. Expect Democratic lawmakers and health industry groups to press for more help.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says hospitals and doctors would submit their bills directly to the government and they would get paid at Medicare rates. Uninsured people wouldn’t be liable for any of the costs. And health care providers wouldn’t have to ask questions about a patient’s immigration status.

Cuomo outlines plan for ‘tracing army’ to tame outbreak

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he has enlisted former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg to help create a “tracing army” that will find people infected with the coronavirus and get them into isolation. New York will work on the massive effort with neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut.

Wide-scale testing, tracing and isolation are considered crucial to taming the outbreak in the hard-hit region.

The governor says “we will literally need thousands” of people to trace the contacts of infected people. Cuomo says the state will start by asking 35,000 medical field students at state and city universities to get involved. The governor says Bloomberg will oversee the design of the program.

New York City plans on having July 4th fireworks, mayor says

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says there will be a Macy’s July 4th celebration with fireworks, though no details have been hashed out yet.

De Blasio said he spoke with Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette. who agreed that the company wanted to celebrate in some way.

“One way or another, the show will go on,” de Blasio said, adding that fireworks will be a part of the plan.

The mayor said there are a lot of questions that need to be answered between now and the celebration, but that the city will conduct the celebration “in a way that’s safe and smart.”

Earlier this week, de Blasio announced that New York City has canceled all non-essential permitted events in June.

Hundreds expected at South Dakota auto races despite virus

Organizers of a pair of auto racing events in South Dakota are planning to open the stands to hundreds of spectators over the weekend despite concerns about the coronavirus. Gov. Kristi Noem has advised against the event.

But the South Dakota Republican says she won’t be taking any action to shut down the events planned for Saturday and Sunday nights. Race promoters say they’re selling limited tickets to give race fans a taste of “normalcy” after weeks of social distancing and canceled sporting events. They say they also plan to check people’s temperatures and are making concessions cashless.

Idaho activist arrested for refusing to leave playground

An anti-vaccine activist was arrested in Idaho Tuesday after repeatedly refusing to leave a playground that had been closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Forty-year-old Sara Brady was at the playground in Meridian, Idaho, with several other families when officers repeatedly asked the group to leave, explaining the play equipment had been closed by order of the mayor.

Brady repeatedly refused, telling an officer to arrest her. She was charged with misdemeanor trespassing, booked into jail and posted bond a short time later. Brady is affiliated with two groups that sponsored a protest at the Idaho Statehouse last week against Gov. Brad Little’s stay-at-home order.

AP-NORC poll: States earn more praise for outbreak response

A wide majority of Americans approve of how their state and local governments are responding to the coronavirus pandemic. That’s according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research that also finds Americans continue to support restrictions on individuals and businesses designed to stem the outbreak.

Eight in 10 Americans say they favor requiring Americans to stay at home except for essential errands, including 91% of Democrats and 70% of Republicans. Similarly, 82% of Americans favor requiring Americans to limit the size of their gatherings to fewer than 10 people. About 9 in 10 Democrats and three-quarters of Republicans support that step.

Two pet cats in New York state have tested positive for the coronavirus, marking the first cases in companion animals in the United States, federal officials say.

The cats, which had mild respiratory illnesses and are expected to recover, are thought to have contracted the virus from people in their households or neighborhoods, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say.

The finding, which comes after positive tests in seven tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo, add to a small number of confirmed cases of the virus in animals worldwide. U.S. authorities say that while it appears some animals can get the virus from people, there’s no indication the animals are transmitting it to human beings.

The two cats live in different parts of the state; the USDA and CDC wouldn’t say where specifically.

Authorities are recommending that any pet owners with COVID-19 avoid contact with their animals as much as possible, including wearing a face covering while caring for them.

You’ve reached the Supreme Court. Press 1 for live arguments

It’s taken a worldwide pandemic for justices of the Supreme Court to agree to hear arguments over the telephone, with audio available live for the first time.

The dramatic change is a product of efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Most of the justices are at risk of serious illness if they become infected because of their advanced age.

Yet the court also wants to decide significant cases by its traditional summer break. Live audio is significant for a court that waited until two years ago to make case filings available online, decades after other courts.

Amid pandemic, homebrewing surges in popularity

While states imposed stay-at-home orders, brewpubs closed, and people lost jobs and tried to economize, homebrewing in America has exploded in popularity.

“Our industry in a recession does well because not as many people are working, people are more cost-conscious and they have time on their hands,” said David Stewart, national sales manager for Ohio-based LD Carlson, a wholesale distributor of beer- and winemaking supplies.

Homebrewing also provides an escape from dwelling on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the news, constantly feeling like you need to be updated,” said Gary Glass, director of the American Homebrewers Association. “So it’s a way to get away from what’s going on out there in the world and do something that’s fun, and later drink that beer that you brewed.”

May 2 is National Homebrew Day. Normally, homebrewers come together to make the same official recipes for side-by-side competition. This year, it will be a “virtual big brew,” in which people brew at home with a suggested recipe (Pangea Proxima Polar IPA) and do a toast on social media. More than 1,700 people from around the world have pledged to join.

Congress set to pass $483B virus aid as Trump eyes next deal

Congress is sprinting to approve a $483 billion coronavirus aid package. The deal backed by the White House would replenish a small-business payroll fund and pump more money into hospitals and testing programs. President Donald Trump is urging swift passage this week. The bill is Washington’s fourth in response to the crisis, but it’s not expected to be the last. Lawmakers are taking unprecedented steps to confront the virus and prop up communities nationwide during the health crisis. The Senate approved the package Tuesday. The House is asking lawmakers to return for a Thursday vote.

Trump says he’ll help New York’s Cuomo boost virus testing

President Donald Trump and New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, put aside their differences for an afternoon and agreed to work to double coronavirus testing in the hard-hit state over the next few weeks. The Republican president and Democratic governor, both natives of New York, met Tuesday in the Oval Office. Just days earlier, Trump had called on Cuomo to work harder to secure testing material for his state and Cuomo pushed back that the president should turn off his television and get back to work. Cuomo described their meeting Tuesday as “effective and functional.”

More state governors call for help securing testing kits

Oregon, Montana, Oklahoma and Maine are able to test fewer than 30 in 1,000 people a month, according to an email sent Monday by the White House coronavirus task force.

The states with the highest monthly testing capacity – more than 90 in 1,000 people – are Wyoming, Utah and Vermont, the email said.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said the number of testing machines is only part of the equation to get full capacity.

“All the machines in the world won’t make a difference if we can’t get the test kits and other supplies needed to run the tests,” Bullock said.

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee said the White House email “does nothing to answer the repeated calls from governors” to address the lack of supplies and personnel needed to take advantage of lab capacity.

The White House acknowledged those shortages in the email and said it was working to address those issues.

Georgia businesses hesitant to embrace Kemp’s call to reopen

Many business owners are wary of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s call to start reopening shuttered businesses within days. Atlanta restaurant and bakery owner Kristin Allin said she doesn’t think her customers are ready to go out for meals. She probably won’t reopen for another month at least. Savannah gym owner Mark Lebos said it would amount to professional negligence to reopen. Some public health experts say Kemp’s aggressive plan seems premature. Dr. Harry J. Heiman of Georgia State University said Georgia isn’t conducting enough testing or contract tracing yet to monitor for a resurgence in infections.

Washington State not yet ready to end its lockdown 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says the state won’t be able to lift many of the stay-at-home restrictions implemented to fight the coronavirus by May 4, when the current directive is set to expire.

But he hopes health modeling in the coming days will allow the resumption of some activities such as elective surgeries and outdoor recreation.

In a televised address Tuesday evening, Inslee also announced a plan to have about 1,500 workers focused solely on contact tracing in place by the second week of May.

The Seattle area saw the nation’s first large COVID-19 outbreak, and so far Washington state has more than 12,280 confirmed cases and at least 682 deaths.

More deaths, no benefit from malaria drug in VA virus study

A malaria drug widely touted by President Donald Trump for treating the new coronavirus showed no benefit in a large new study. Researchers reported there were more than twice as many deaths among patients getting hydroxychloroquine than usual care. The analysis involved 368 men with COVID-19 in U.S. veterans hospitals. Although it was not a rigorous experiment, it is the biggest report of results so far for the drug, with or without the antibiotic azithromycin, against the coronavirus. The analysis was posted on an online site for researchers, but has not been reviewed by other scientists.

Seven Wisconsin voters suspected of contracting coronavirus at the polls

Health officials in Wisconsin said they have identified at least seven people who may have contracted the coronavirus from participating in the April 7 election. They represent the first such cases following in-person voting that was held despite widespread concern about the public health risks.

The infections involve six voters and one poll worker in Milwaukee, where difficulty finding poll workers forced the city to pare nearly 200 voting locations back to just five. As a result, voters – some in masks, some with no protection – were forced to wait in long lines for hours.

It’s not certain that the seven people contracted the virus at the polls. The possible connection was made because local health officials are now asking newly infected people whether they participated in the election.

As people stay home, Earth turns wilder and cleaner

Coyotes, pumas and goats are wandering around cities, while air across the world is becoming less polluted. Scientists are noticing changes to Earth’s environment as millions of people stay home because of the new coronavirus. The planet is becoming wilder and cleaner. Air pollution is down 30% in the northeastern U.S. and 49% in Rome. Sea turtles are nesting better without human interference. Scientists think of this as a grand but unintended experiment that shows how much of a footprint humanity has on the planet.

Lockdown reveals fresh air, cleaner rivers in India

India’s extended lockdown to curb the coronavirus outbreak has shut down schools, workplaces, industries, transport, and forced people to stay home. It also led to an unexpected bonus in the country with six out of 10 of the world’s most polluted cities: cleaner air. India’s pollution monitoring body also says the Ganges River has become fit for bathing in some areas. But experts warn that the environmental improvements may be short-lived as the government eventually lifts the lockdown and rampant economic activity resumes.

Coronavirus shutdown is great for Netflix’ business

All that streaming we’ve been doing during the coronavirus quarantine – means a lot of money is flowing into Netflix’s coffers. The company says it gained nearly 16 million new subscribers in the first quarter of this year. That period – from January through March – marked the start of stay-at-home orders in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The numbers are a financial boon for the company. It’s the biggest three-month gain in the 13-year history of Netflix as a streaming service.

Fresh cancellations show reopening from virus will be tough

Even with many former virus hotspots seeing a reduction in new deaths and hospitalizations, a flurry of cancellations of major events has made it clear that efforts to return to normal life could still be a long and dispiriting process. In just the past day, the U.S. scrapped the national spelling bee in June, Spain called off the Running of the Bulls in July, and Germany canceled Oktoberfest five months away. Singapore, once a model of coronavirus tracking and prevention, saw an explosion of new cases and announced it would extend its lockdown into June.

Playon Fest to highlight past festival performances

An online music event this weekend will consist of past performances you may have seen only if you were there live. Janelle Monae at last year’s Coachella, Twenty One Pilots at last year’s Lollapalooza Brazil, Coldplay’s 2017 show in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Nipsey Hussle’s album release show are among the performances featured on the PlayOn Fest. LL Cool J will host the event, starting at noon Eastern on Songkick’s YouTube channel and running 72 hours straight through Sunday. Performances come from festivals and concerts that were filmed but rarely seen online. Other featured performers include Bruno Mars, Cardi B, Flaming Lips, Ed Sheeran, Korn, Paramore, Green Day, Lil Uzi Vert and Portugal. Donations will support the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

Nearly 21 million watch “One World”

Saturday’s all-star music program “One World: Together at Home” drew 20.7 million viewers across 26 networks, according to the Nielsen company. The program was organized by Lady Gaga and featured The Rolling Stones, Jennifer Lopez, Lizzo and Paul McCartney. “Disney Family Singalong” also was one of the most popular programs of the week, with a viewership of 10.45 million. That featured Demi Lovato, Michael Buble, Ariana Grande and Christina Aguilera.

What You Can Do to Keep Yourself and Your Family Healthy

• Take everyday preventive actions to stay healthy.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
• Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.


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