COVID-19 Daily Update: May 4, 2020


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Costco is limiting how much meat customers can buy

Costco on Monday became the latest retailer to implement purchasing limits on fresh meat because of the slowdown at processing plants during the coronavirus pandemic.

The company announced it’s limiting shoppers to three items of beef, pork and poultry products to “help ensure more members are able to purchase merchandise they want and need.”

Kroger (KR), the country’s largest supermarket chain, announced a similar rule last week. The limits are because of high demand from shoppers while top meat suppliers are temporarily closing their factories because workers are falling ill.

Tyson (TSN) Foods warned Monday that it expects more meat plant closures this year. The company also said it will continue producing less meat than usual, as workers refrain from coming to work during the outbreak. The pandemic has halved the amount of pork processing capacity in the country, Tyson said in its earnings call.


World leaders pledge billions for virus vaccine research

World leaders have pledged billions of dollars to help fund research into a coronavirus vaccine and to develop new treatments and better testing. The pledges totaled 7.4 billion euros, just short of the target, but more money could be announced in coming days.

Officials say the funding is just the start, as much more will be needed in coming months to scale up production and distribution. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres says the money being sought Monday was merely a “down-payment” and that five times that amount may be needed in the long term.


US to rein in flood of virus blood tests after lax oversight

U.S. regulators Monday pulled back a decision that allowed scores of coronavirus blood tests to hit the market without first providing proof that they worked.

The Food and Drug Administration said it took the action because some sellers have made false claims about the tests and their accuracy. Companies will now have to show their tests work or risk having them pulled from the market.

Under pressure to increase testing options, the FDA in March essentially allowed companies to begin selling tests as long as they notified the agency of their plans and provided disclaimers, including that they were not FDA approved. The policy was intended to allow “flexibility” needed to quickly ramp up production, officials said.


Georgia deploys 3D printers, Guard units in testing scramble

Seeing a chance to help amid a shortage of kits to test people for the coronavirus, Dr. Jeffrey James dedicated a 3D printer at the dental college where he teaches to churning out nasal swabs at a rate of 300 per day.

Then Georgia officials working with Gov. Brian Kemp heard about the project. They asked James if he could crank up swab production even more — to 5,000 daily.

“I said yes,” James recalled, “then I left the meeting and had a panic attack.”

Now seven printers with names like Mighty Mouse and Sonic 1 and 2 hum constantly in a room on the third floor of Augusta University’s dental school. Volunteering dental residents, endodontists, orthodontists and oral surgeons rotate between two daily 12-hour shifts, even on weekends, to meet the demand.

The production push is one way Georgia is scrambling to catch up on COVID-19 testing after the Republican governor lifted shelter-at-home orders for most people and allowed hair salons, gyms, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys to reopen and restaurants to resume dine-in service.


Isolated by oceans: Hawaii, other islands tamp down virus

Flying to a faraway beach might seem like the perfect way to escape a pandemic, but for isolated Pacific islands, controlling the coronavirus means cutting off tourism.

Hawaii has among the lowest COVID-19 infection and mortality rates in the U.S. As cases rose in March, Gov. David Ige did something no other state can — effectively seal its borders. People who do come face a two-week quarantine, stopping the flow of tens of thousands of tourists who typically arrive every day.

“We are the most isolated community on the planet,” Ige told The Associated Press last week. “As such, we’ve got to be more self-reliant, but we also had the opportunity to enact a quarantine, make it meaningful and most importantly, know that we could really dramatically reduce the number of visitors we get.”


Carnival to resume cruises in summer when virus order ends

Carnival Cruise Line is announcing it will start cruising again, from Florida and Texas, beginning August. The coronavirus pandemic forced a near total pause in the global cruise industry, and these journeys will be limited to domestic ports, with Miami, Cape Canaveral and Galveston, Texas selected because most guests can reach them by car.

The company says ships will not be cruising from Alaska, Hawaii and Australia through Aug. 31. The State Department began warning against cruise travel on March 8, and the CDC issued a no-sail order on March 14. The order prompted several countries to reject cruise ships altogether.


For imperiled airlines, it keeps getting worse

It doesn’t seem like things could get worse for U.S airlines but over the weekend, it did. Billionaire Warren Buffett said he had unloaded his company’s entire stake in major U.S. airlines, believing he was mistaken in his valuation of the industry.

Shares of American, Delta, Southwest and United Continental plunged between 8%  and 10% Monday. Markets are sliding again as tensions between the U.S. and China already high, appeared to intensify.


J.Crew files for Chapter 11 as pandemic chokes retail sector

The owner of J.Crew is filing for bankruptcy protection, the first major retailer to do so since the pandemic forced most stores in the United States to close.

More retail bankruptcies are expected in coming weeks with thousands of stores still shuttered, though states have begun a staggered restart of their economies.

The U.S. Commerce Department reports retail sales figures for April next week. That report will reveal the full brunt of the pandemic because by the beginning of the month, the doors of almost every retailer had been ordered shut.

The abrupt closure of stores threatens the overall health of the U.S. with consumers driving 70% of all economic activity in the country. Hundreds of thousands of retail workers have been furloughed, meaning they’re not likely participating in the economy in any significant way.


NFL moving London, Mexico City games back to US stadiums

The NFL is moving its five games scheduled for London and Mexico City this season back to U.S. stadiums because of the coronavirus pandemic. All five regular-season games will now be played at the stadiums of the host teams. The Jacksonville Jaguars had been scheduled for two home games in consecutive weeks at Wembley Stadium in London.

Two games were also planned for Tottenham’s new facility, with the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins as hosts. And the Arizona Cardinals were set to be the home team for a game at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. Opponents had not been announced. The NFL says in plans to resume international games in the 2021 season.


In televised town hall, Trump pushes for economic reopening

President Donald Trump is pushing for an economic reopening, one his advisers believe will be essential for his reelection chances in November. In a “virtual” town hall televised Sunday night from inside the Lincoln Memorial, the president fielded Americans’ questions about their coronavirus concerns. He acknowledged fear on both sides of the issue, some Americans worried about getting sick while others are concerned about losing jobs. Trump defended his administration’s response from criticism it has moved too slowly and said the nation is ready to begin reopening.


Trump: vaccine will be available by year’s end

President Donald Trump says he believes a vaccine for COVID-19 will be available by the end of the year. Trump also says the U.S. government is putting its “full power and might” behind Remdesivir, a drug that has shown early promise as a treatment for the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Trump commented Sunday night during a televised town hall sponsored by Fox News Channel. Trump sat inside the Lincoln Memorial and fielded questions from two Fox hosts, as well as from people who submitted questions over Fox’s social media platforms.


Senate set to re-open as virus risk divides Congress

The Senate will gavel in Monday as the coronavirus rages. The senators face a deepening national debate over how best to confront the deadly pandemic and its economic devastation. With the House staying away due to the health risks, but the 100 senators meeting for the first time since March, the conflicted Congress reflects an uneasy nation. Senate Republicans are reluctant to spend more money on virus relief. They’re counting on the country’s re-opening to kick start the economy and reduce the need for aid. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is quietly crafting the next relief package and Democrats say more must be done.


NYPD officer suspended following social distancing arrest

A New York City police officer caught on video Saturday pointing a stun gun at a man and violently taking him to the ground over an alleged social distancing violation has been stripped of his gun and badge and placed on desk duty pending an internal investigation.

Bystander video showed the plainclothes officer, who wasn’t wearing a face mask, slapping 33-year-old Donni Wright in the face, punching him in the shoulder and dragging him to a sidewalk after leveling him in a crosswalk in Manhattan’s East Village.

“The behavior I saw in that video is simply not acceptable,” Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted yesterday. He said earlier in the day that there will be a careful look into what happened.

Police spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Frances O’Donnell said Wright “took a fighting stance against the officer” when he was ordered to disperse and was arrested on charges including assault on a police officer and resisting arrest.

The Manhattan D.A.’s office says the charges have been deferred pending further investigation.


Faced with 20,000 dead, care homes seek shield from lawsuits

Faced with 20,000 coronavirus deaths, the nation’s nursing homes are pushing to get states to grant them emergency protection from lawsuits alleging inadequate care. At least 15 states have enacted measures providing nursing homes some protection from lawsuits arising from the crisis. Now the industry is forging ahead with a campaign to get other states on board. Their argument is that nursing homes should not be liable for events beyond their control, such as shortages of protective equipment and testing. Watchdogs and patient advocates argue that lawsuits are the only safety net to keep facilities accountable.



Japan to extend state of emergency through end of May

Japan says a panel of experts supports the government’s plan to extend the nationwide state of emergency through the end of May.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday he planned to keep the current coronavirus measures in place for another month, in accordance with recommendations from health experts. They noted the rise in new cases has slowed but Japan’s medical system is still overburdened.

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters Monday that experts backed the government’s plan to extend social distancing measures until May 31 and called it “appropriate.”

Japan has had more than 15,000 virus cases and 510 deaths as of Monday, according to the health ministry.


Battered global tourism industry makes reopening plans

The battered global tourism industry is facing unprecedented uncertainty in the wake of the new coronavirus. Many believe it will take years for the industry to get back to the strong demand it was seeing just six months ago. The United Nations World Tourism Organization predicts global tourist arrivals will fall 30% this year from the record 1.5 billion in 2019. Cruise ships are docked and airlines have grounded nearly two-thirds of their planes. Hilton, Marriott and Airbnb just released new cleaning guidelines, while casinos say they may sanitize dice between rolls in Las Vegas.


’60 Minutes’ correspondent Stahl says she fought coronavirus

CBS ’60 Minutes’ correspondent Lesley Stahl says she’s well now after fighting a case of COVID-19 that forced her to be hospitalized. Stahl said she was sick at home for two weeks, battling pneumonia caused by the coronavirus and feeling ‘really scared’ before being admitted to the hospital. After recovering, she says she was wheeled out to a gauntlet of cheers from medical workers who celebrate their successes in the face of so much death. The 78-year-old Stahl is the dean of correspondents at television’s best-known newsmagazine, and has worked there since 1991. She’s arguably the most prominent journalist to reveal her infection.


NHL border battle?

The NHL could have trouble getting non-Canadian resident players into that country should the league decide to resume the 2019-20 season soon.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday that players would at a minimum need to follow quarantine protocols if they were to arrive in Canada while the border remains closed due to the pandemic. Trudeau said anyone who arrives from another country will have to follow all the rules of quarantine in an extremely strict manner. However, he added that an agreement between Canada and the NHL hasn’t been brokered.

The Associated Press reported earlier this week that Edmonton and Toronto were being looked at as possible “hockey pod” cities that could host the remainder of the NHL season during the summer months. Games would be played in air-conditioned arenas without fans.


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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