COVID-19 Daily Update: May 6, 2020

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Pentagon signs $126 million contract to produce 26 million N95 masks per month

The Pentagon announced Wednesday that it has signed a contract with manufacturer 3M to boost N95 medical masks to 26 million per month, starting in October.

“The Department of Defense, in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services, has signed a $126 million contract award with 3M for the increased production of 26 million N95 medical-grade masks per month, starting in October 2020,” Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Mike Andrews said in a statement.

“This increased production/industrial capacity will continue to ensure a sustainable supply chain of N95 respirators and resupply the Strategic National Stockpile in response to the increased national demand caused by the COVID 19 pandemic,” the statement added.

The Pentagon said that in order to meet the increased production capacity targets 3M “will expand its facility in Aberdeen, S.D., and also perform initial production in Wisconsin.”

Former CDC director: US will reach 100,000 virus deaths by the end of May

Tom Frieden, a former director of the CDC, testified at a House hearing that there will be 100,000 deaths in the United States by the end of May.

As bad as the crisis has been, “It’s just the beginning,” he said.

“Our war against COVID will be long and difficult.”

Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland, a hearing participant, said reopening the economy can’t wait. “We’re safer from death if we’re not born,” he said.

Emerging virus aid bill aims to help cities, Postal Service

The outlines are emerging on Capitol Hill for a Democratic-driven bill to aid states and local governments, the Postal Service, and boost contact tracing to track the coronavirus. Democratic leaders promise that the House will deliver the legislation to again respond to the COVID-19 crisis as early as next week.

In the Republican-controlled Senate, Republicans face internal divisions over spending and how ambitious to be in the upcoming round to respond to Depression-era jobless levels.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, said Wednesday the measure would bail out the Postal Service, contain funding for absentee voting this fall, and other priorities like advanced tracing to monitor the virus as states try to open up.

Wendy’s beef shortage will last a few more weeks

Wendy’s expects the beef shortage that’s affecting about 1,000 of its US restaurants to continue for the foreseeable future.

CEO Todd Penegor said on an earnings call today that Wendy’s will probably experience a “couple of weeks of challenging tightness that we’ll have to work through” before getting back to normal.

Yesterday, Wendy’s said some of its menu items might be “temporarily limited at some restaurants” because of the national meat shortage. Though its delivery schedule remains unchanged, supply has been tight because beef suppliers across North America face production challenges during the pandemic.

Penegor acknowledged that certain items will be removed from menus from “time to time” during the shortage.

Republican-led Michigan Legislature suing Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

The Republican-led Michigan Legislature is suing Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, asking a judge to declare invalid and unenforceable her stay-at-home order and other measures issued to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the state Court of Claims, says a 1945 law that gives the governor broad emergency powers to order such restrictions governs local, not statewide, declarations such as the one that has been in place since March.

It contends Whitmer needs legislative approval to extend the declaration and effectively keep intact the stay-home directive.

The order is in place at least through May 15 and generally requires people to shelter in place except to do critical jobs, exercise outdoors and buy groceries or other items.

Nearly 4,200 people in Michigan have died of complications from COVID-19.

Dallas salon owner jailed for defying virus shutdown order

A Dallas hair salon owner is in jail after she continued to operate her business despite shutdown orders that were in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A judge in Dallas found Shelley Luther in contempt of court and sentenced her Tuesday to seven days behind bars. Luther says she had to reopen her Dallas salon because she wouldn’t have been able feed her kids otherwise.

But Judge Eric Moye says Luther expressed no “contrition, remorse or regret” for her actions. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Gov. Greg Abbott called on the judge Wednesday to release Luther from jail.

Jet Blue will donate flights to 100,000 medical professionals, Cuomo says

Jet Blue will give a pair of roundtrip flights to 100,000 medical professionals around the country, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

The airline is beginning with 10,000 workers from New York, he said.

Jet Blue is offering flights to medical workers to honor their efforts in battling coronavirus, Cuomo said.

Most new COVID-19 patients in NY not working, older: survey

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says most COVID-19 patients coming into New York hospitals are not working and not traveling and tend to be older than 50.

The governor released a survey that found retirees accounted for 37% of hospitalizations during the survey period and another 46% were unemployed.

Almost three-quarters were 51 years or older. Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says rising coronavirus infection rates outside of the New York metropolitan area show that other states may be reopening too quickly.

University of Tennessee will bring students back to its campuses this fall

The University of Tennessee announced on Wednesday that they will be bringing students back to their campuses starting in the fall, according to a statement from the university.

The Covid-19 pandemic forced UT to move from in-person classes to online learning in mid-March.

Those returning to campus this fall will see enhanced safety procedures including social distancing norms as the university works to protect the health and safety of all students and employees, the statement said.

The UT system has campuses in Memphis, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Martin and Tullahoma.

Houston confronts one-two punch of COVID-19 and oil bust

Oil busts aren’t new for Houston, known as the energy capital of the world. But Houston is now in uncharted territory – grappling with an oil downturn in the middle of a pandemic. The coronavirus has shut down much of Houston’s economy, slashing jobs and revenue.

The city could have a budget deficit of about $200 million. At the same time, the price of oil plunged as demand plummeted due to the worldwide lockdown. A third of Houston’s economy depends on oil. Economists say this one-two punch from COVID-19 and the collapse in oil prices will make it much harder for Houston to recover financially.

New anthology collects dozens of poems about pandemic

An upcoming anthology will showcase how well poetry can quickly capture a historical moment. More than 80 poems about the coronavirus pandemic are included in the anthology called “Together In a Sudden Strangeness.”

It’s scheduled to come out as an e-book June 9 from Alfred A. Knopf and as a hardcover in November. The book includes contributions from Carl Phillips, Evie Shockley and Grace Schulman among others. Poems include everything from meditations on grief and isolation to Julia Alvarez’s wry and pointed

“How Will the Pandemic Affect Poetry?”

Weezer dedicates new single to essential workers during pandemic

The band posting on Facebook “This one is for the stay at home dreamers, the zoom graduators, the sourdough bakers, and the essential workers.

Hero the new single from Van Weezer is out now, pass it on

With the good news, comes the bad: unfortunately we’re going to have to delay the release of Van Weezer. As you know, Corona has put a crimp in many well-laid plans. Van Weezer has been no exception. And because we don’t want to give another release date until we’re absolutely sure of it, we’ll just say “stay tuned for more info.”

In the meantime, we’re working hard on getting you all the new Weezer you can handle including music and more surprises getting announced later this week”

Just dance: Lady Gaga sets May 29 release date for 6th album

After scrapping the original release date for her new album because of the coronavirus, Lady Gaga has announced that her sixth studio release will be out on May 29. Gaga announced the news Wednesday. “Chromatica” was originally supposed to be released on April 10.

The album includes collaborations with Ariana Grande, Elton John and Blackpink, and features the single “Stupid Love,” which peaked at No.5 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Several artists have postponed albums because of the coronavirus pandemic, including Luke Bryan, Dixie Chicks, Alanis Morissette, HAIM and Kehlani. Hundreds of live tours have also been canceled or postponed.

The New Jersey Devils are donating 10,000 tickets for next season to health care workers with RWJBarnabas.

The Devils also promised to donate two extra tickets for every season ticket member and plan holder who use credits they earned this year for next year.

The NHL team plans to use social media to honor front-line workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in New Jersey and across the country. The tribute is called “Stick Taps at 7” and will be broadcast at 7 p.m. It will include videos of players, alumni, coaches, management, front office staff and others saluting doctors, nurses and health care workers.

RJWBarnabas Health is a sponsor of the Devils.

The owners of the team previously donated money and medical supplies to the RWJBarnabas Health Emergency Response Fund. Josh Harris and David Blitzer are the managing partners of the Devils.

US infection rate rising outside New York as states open up

An Associated Press analysis finds that taking the New York metropolitan area’s progress against the coronavirus out of the equation shows the rest of the U.S. moving in the wrong direction, with the infection rate rising even as states move to lift their lockdowns. Scientists warn those numbers will only increase as states from Texas to Florida start to ease their own lockdowns. Meanwhile, Britain’s official coronavirus death total surpassed that of Italy to become the highest in Europe and second-highest in the world behind the United States.

Trump tours, touts mask factory – but no mask for him

President Donald Trump has put personal action into his call to reopen the country, visiting an Arizona face mask factory on Tuesday. Yet Trump didn’t wear a mask himself while touring a Honeywell factory in Phoenix. The president acknowledged that easing restrictions will result in some people being, in his words, “affected badly.” But he said it is imperative to get the country going again. The White House says it hopes to wind down its coronavirus task force while shifting from battling an “invisible enemy” to rebooting the economy.

Atlanta’s new archbishop to be installed — at a distance

Catholic leaders say Atlanta’s new archbishop will be installed Wednesday in a Mass that will blaze a new path through old traditions. Inside the cathedral, some of the priests and others in attendance will look on from a choir loft so as not to violate social distancing practices. Instead of hugs, priests will give applause as Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer becomes the new leader of the Catholic Church in Atlanta. Typically, the cathedral would be packed for such an occasion, local Catholic leaders say. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it will include only a small audience but will be live-streamed.

Treasury to begin distributing virus relief money to tribes

The U.S. Treasury Department says it will begin distributing billions in coronavirus relief funding to tribes. The announcement Tuesday comes more than a week after a congressional deadline to get $8 billion to tribal governments. Tribes sued to keep the funding from Alaska Native corporations, which own Native land but aren’t tribal governments. The Treasury Department says tribes will receive a combined $4.8 billion based on population over the next several days and the rest will be doled out later. Tribes are relying on the money to stay afloat, respond to the coronavirus and recover after shutting down casinos, tourism operations and other businesses.

Navy SEAL recruits resume training while social distancing

Navy SEAL recruits and their instructors are being tested for the coronavirus as the candidates in one of the military’s most grueling programs return to training with new social distancing guidelines. Capt. Bart Randall says everyone in the first phase of training will be tested to try to detect if anyone is infected but asymptomatic. About 170 recruits and their instructors returned to training after it was paused in mid-March as a precaution. Instructors now wear masks and shout into megaphones rather than recruits’ faces as the Navy tries to stop the spread of the virus.

Family of dead crew member with virus sues Royal Caribbean

The family of a cruise crew member who died after testing positive for COVID-19 filed a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean Cruises on Tuesday saying the company failed to protect its employees as the pandemic ravaged sailings around the world.

The wrongful death case filed in circuit court in Miami says a 27-year-old Indonesian man (Fnu Pujiyoko), worked in housekeeping on the Symphony of the Seas and suffered from flu-like symptoms including a fever and shortness of breath but was not tested for six days. He disembarked in a life boat and was taken to a hospital in Fort Lauderdale.

The lawsuit also argues Royal Caribbean failed to follow basic safety precautions allowing buffets and parties and mandating crew members to participate in drills even after the U.S. government had issued a no-sail order to curb coronavirus infections.

Tyson Foods to reopen pork plant in Iowa

Tyson Foods says it will begin limited operation Thursday of its huge pork processing plant in Waterloo, more than two weeks after closing the facility because of a coronavirus outbreak among workers.

Tyson says workers have been invited to tour the plant today to see enhanced safety measures and social distancing procedures that have been implemented.
Reportedly 444 workers have tested positive for the virus. The plant is Arkansas-based Tyson’s largest pork processing operation, with the ability to process 19,500 hogs per day. That accounts for 3.9% of the U.S. pork processing capacity, according to the National Pork Board.
The company says all those who will return to work have been tested for COVID-19. Those who have tested positive will remain on sick leave until they can return to work.

Production shutdown leads to meat shortages

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have moved beyond meat processing plants and are now hitting dinner plates.

Several U.S. production plants have been temporarily shut down in the last two weeks after hundreds of workers were sickened by the virus. That has led to meat shortages, with Wendy’s pulling some burgers off its menus and Costco limiting pork sales. Fake meat companies, meanwhile, are making their moves to capture some of those lost sales.

As of Monday, U.S. beef and pork processing capacity was down 40% from last year, according to Jayson Lusk, head of the department of agricultural economics at Purdue University.

Disneyland in Shanghai will reopen May 11

The Disneyland theme park in Shanghai will reopen May 11 under “enhanced health and safety measures.”

The company says only limited attendance will be allowed initially, and visitors will need to book tickets and make reservations in advance.

Social distancing will be maintained in lines for amenities, in restaurants, on rides and other facilities and sanitization and disinfection will be boosted.

With warmer weather and new virus cases and deaths falling to near-zero, China has been steadily re-opening, parks, museums and tourist sites such as the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City ancient palace complex in Beijing.

Planning normal season, NFL still forms ticket refund policy

While planning to play a full regular-season schedule, the NFL has formulated a ticket refund plan for canceled games or those held without fans.

In a memo sent to the 32 teams by Commissioner Roger Goodell and obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday, a uniform baseline for full refunds on any tickets purchased directly from the clubs was prepared.

As for the secondary market, the league received pledges from Ticketmaster and SeatGeek to make full refunds available for all ticket sales within no more than 30 days of cancellation. StubHub, however, will do so only where required by state law.

The 2020 season is set to kick off on Sept. 10, with the first full weekend of games on Sept. 13-14.

Nadal would just as soon cancel this tennis season

Rafael Nadal says if given the option he would scrap this season entirely so tennis could resume normally in 2021.

The second-ranked Spaniard says he hopes to resume playing this year but doubts it could happen because of the coronavirus pandemic. He says he “would sign up right now just to being ready for 2021.”

Nadal recently said he was concerned with the risk of new injuries when players return to action after a long time without proper training. The Spaniard has had to deal with a series of injuries throughout his career.

ESPYS to shift focus from top sports moments to heroism

With live sports mostly postponed by the coronavirus, The ESPYS will shift focus from honoring athletic accomplishments to celebrating acts of heroism and humanitarian aid during the pandemic.

ESPN said Tuesday its annual awards show will air June 21, about a month earlier than its usual July date. Details of the two-hour show are still being worked out, but it will be produced rather than air live, the cable network said.

The Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, the Pat Tillman Award for Service and the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance will be featured. The Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award and the Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award, both usually given out at a separate show the night before, will be added to The ESPYS telecast.

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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