COVID-19 Daily Update: May 7, 2020

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Trump valet has coronavirus; president again tests negative

A member of the military serving as one of President Donald Trump’s valets has tested positive for the coronavirus, the White House said Thursday. It said Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have since tested negative for the virus and “remain in good health.”

It marked the latest coronavirus scare for the president, and the first known instance where a person who has come in close proximity to the president has tested positive since several people present at his private Florida club were diagnosed with COVID-19 in early March. The person tested positive on Wednesday, the White House said.

New York City to test 140,000 for antibodies in next month

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is extending New York’s moratorium on outbreak-related housing evictions. The Democrat said Thursday that a moratorium planned through June is now extended until Aug. 20. Also, Mayor Bill de Blasio says New York City will test 140,000 people for coronavirus antibodies between next week and early June.

The tests will be offered free by appointment at five locations. The tests can tell whether someone had the virus at some point. It’s unclear whether the antibodies provide future immunity, so the results will also be used for research. Most tests use a finger prick of blood on a strip.

Japan approves remdesivir for coronavirus treatment

Japan has approved Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug remdesivir for coronavirus treatment in a fast-track review just four days after the U.S. company submitted an application.

The drug is the first approved in Japan for the coronavirus. It was originally developed for Ebola and could block the coronavirus from replicating itself in the human body.

It will mainly be used for seriously ill patients. It was authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for coronavirus treatment last Friday.

Japan is also testing a Japanese-made influenza drug, favipiravir, that is also designed to inhibit viral replication but could cause birth defects. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing for favipiravir and says he hopes to have it approved by the end of May for less serious patients.

Neiman Marcus becomes 2nd major retailer to seek Chapter 11

Neiman Marcus, the 112-year-old storied luxury department store chain, is seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It is the first department store chain and second major retailer to be toppled by the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of the bankruptcy filing, Neiman Marcus says it has secured $675 million in financing from creditors to keep operating during the restructuring.

The Dallas-based company operates 43 stores and expects to emerge from bankruptcy by this coming fall. A company spokeswoman said no mass closings are planned. The filing comes as department stores were already in a weakened state. Now the coronavirus pandemic is putting them further in peril.

California doom: Staggering $54 billion budget deficit looms

New estimates from California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration predict a staggering budget shortfall of $54.3 billion because of the coronavirus. The projections released Thursday estimate a deficit nearly three-and-a-half times more than what the state had saved for an economic downturn.

California has been under a mandatory stay-at-home order since March 19. The order closed nonessential businesses and prompted more than 4 million people to file for unemployment benefits. A year ago, as the economy hummed, California had a $21 billion surplus. Now, there will be dramatically less money to spend on education, social programs and other programs. Newsom plans to reveal a new budget proposal next week.

Governor softens order over jailed Texas hair salon owner

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has removed jail as a punishment for violating his coronavirus restrictions following outcry over a Dallas salon owner who was jailed for refusing to keep her business closed.

Abbott says his new order should free Shelley Luther, who was booked in the Dallas County jail this week for keeping her salon open in defiance of the governor’s restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Luther refused to apologize for repeatedly flouting the order, leading a judge to find her in contempt of court and sentence her to a week behind bars.

The reversal reflects the increasing pressure Abbott is under to reboot the state’s economy at a much faster pace.

Shooting over dining area closure hurts 3 McDonald’s workers

Authorities in Oklahoma say three McDonald’s employees suffered gunshot wounds when a woman opened fire because she was angry that the restaurant’s sit-down dining area was closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Police Capt. Larry Withrow says one employee was shot in in the arm and two suffered shrapnel wounds while a fourth employee suffered a non-gunshot head injury.

All are expected to recover. Withrow said 32-year-old Gloricia Woody was arrested for assault and battery with a deadly weapon. McDonald’s says the safety and security of employees and customers is its top priority. The shooting comes amid tensions over restrictions in efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic that have escalated into violence elsewhere in the country.

Delaware presidential primary postponed for the second time

Democratic Gov. John Carney has postponed Delaware’s presidential primary for the second time because of the coronavirus and ordered state elections officials to mail absentee ballot applications to every Democratic and Republican voter in the state.

Carney also said Thursday that the Department of Elections will be required to operate only a limited number of polling places on Election Day. His directive calls for at least six polling places in each county to allow in-person voting for those choosing not to cast absentee ballots.  More than 310 polling places were open in the 2016 presidential primary.

‘Let’s Make a Deal’ asks frontline staff to join its special

Wayne Brady and the folks at “Let’s Make a Deal” want to honor those fighting the coronavirus. The CBS daytime game show that usually has a studio audience in zany costumes is asking front-line workers to submit a video audition for an upcoming special online edition of the show.

Producers got the idea after noticing that several contestants on the “Let’s Make a Deal: At Home” edition of the show were front-line workers. They decided to dedicate a show to them. “Let’s Make a Deal” hopes to attract doctors, nurses, paramedics, delivery drivers, nursing home attendants and anyone providing care and services

French people urged to eat more cheese, as pandemic causes sales to slump

French people are being encouraged to eat more cheese, after the country’s coronavirus outbreak caused sales to melt and left farmers with wasted produce.

Michel Lacoste, the president of the National Council of Appellations of Dairy Origin (CNAOL), told CNN on Thursday that sales had slumped by 60% from the start of the lockdown on March 17 to April 10. He estimated that producers will be left with 5,000 tons of overstock at the end of the pandemic.

Lacoste said French consumers had “turned away” from cheese since the outbreak began.

“They changed their habits and turned to basic necessities,” he said, leaving the industry facing a “huge loss.”

“We farmers, producers, we were not confined. We didn’t stop working. We worked every day,” he said. “So eat cheese, make a fair trade act to maintain the French culture, the French tradition, the French heritage, that we all share.”

The pandemic has poked holes in a cheese industry so synonymous with the country itself that former President Charles de Gaulle once famously asked how he was meant to govern a country that produced 246 varieties of cheese.

In reversal, Trump says virus task force to stay but evolve

President Donald Trump says the White House COVID-19 task force isn’t shutting down after all. One day after drawing political and media criticism for saying the task force will be winding down, the president said the group will continue indefinitely but focus on getting the economy up to speed. The reversal comes as Trump attempts to balance his enthusiasm for “reopening” the country with infection rates that are rising or have plateaued in parts of the nation. A White House official says membership in the group will change as the nature of the crisis evolves.

California to get $247M refund as masks face delivery delay

California will get a $247 million refund because of delayed delivery of protective masks it ordered under a deal with a Chinese manufacturer. A state spokesman said Wednesday that the N95 respirator masks failed to meet an April 30 deadline for U.S. federal certification. The state disclosed the refund when it released the nearly $1 billion contract with BYD, a Chinese-based electric vehicle company now making masks. Tens of millions of masks were set to arrive in California this month.

Reopening plan has big changes for California restaurants

California restaurants have drafted a plan they hope will guide the mostly idled industry’s reopening. The plan from the California Restaurant Association will be submitted to Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday. It suggests servers wear masks, recommends eliminating buffets and salad bars, and calls for far more cleaning. The association hopes to avoid a requirement that customers have their temperature taken and the number of tables be dramatically limited.

Are ‘COVID parties’ about to become a thing?

Authorities say some people are intentionally flouting health recommendations by exposing themselves and others to the coronavirus at “COVID parties” in southeastern Washington state.

Meghan DeBolt, director of Walla Walla County’s Department of Community Health,says contact tracing has revealed that some are attending gatherings with the idea that it is better to get sick with the virus and get it over with. New positive test results in the county have resulted from such parties.
“We ask about contacts, and there are 25 people because: `We were at a COVID party,”‘ DeBolt said.

Washington State Department of Health officials on Wednesday released a statement saying gathering in groups in the midst of this pandemic can be incredibly dangerous and puts people at increased risk for hospitalization and death.

Half of employees at Utah business that forced employees to work test positive for COVID 19

A Utah business forced employees who tested positive for coronavirus to report to work, causing nearly half the staff to get sick, according to local officials.

The company wasn’t identified in a Monday notice from the Utah County Commission, which said that contact tracing had found that 68 cases within the county could be linked back to just two businesses.

Both required employees with a confirmed coronavirus diagnosis to come into work, and also told other staffers who were exposed to the virus at work not to quarantine themselves. Consequently, the outbreak spread, and 48 percent of the workers at one company were infected.

County health officials have declined to name the offending businesses for privacy reasons, saying doing so could lead to the owners being targeted.

SCOTUS: Who flushed? Phone arguments’ unresolved issue

The Supreme Court has finished its first week of arguments by phone, with live audio available also for the first time. The three days of hearings were remarkably smooth, even as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg participated from her Baltimore hospital room, Justice Stephen Breyer was briefly kicked off the line and there was a strange noise during arguments that sounded a lot like a toilet flush. Ginsburg is being treated for an infection caused by a gallstone. Breyer says he got cut off during arguments in a case about robocalls when someone tried calling him. And it’s not clear what the toilet flushing-like sound was.

Frontier Airlines will drop open-seat fee that drew attacks

After generating a backlash on Capitol Hill, Frontier Airlines is dropping plans to charge an extra fee for passengers to lock in an empty middle seat next to them. Frontier CEO Barry Biffle said late Wednesday that the company never intended to profit from safety, it just wanted to provide customers an option for more space. The chairman of the House Transportation Committee accused Frontier of using the need for social distancing during a virus pandemic “as an opportunity to make a buck.” And Sen. Amy Klobuchar said it’s not right that passengers who can’t afford the extra fee should be “less safe than other travelers.”

Rhode Island Mayor endorses public shaming to get people to wear masks 

The mayor of Providence, R.I. is giving his constituents permission to publicly shame people who venture outside without a mask on.

During a Tuesday appearance on radio station WPRO, Mayor Jorge Elorza said that the city didn’t have enough police officers to make sure that people are wearing masks in public. As a result, he said, it was going to up to residents to police their own neighbors. “You should socially shame them, so they fall in line,” he said.

The suggestion immediately met with some pushback: Host Gene Valicenti pointed that confronting strangers could easily go south, and eventually, “you’re going to come across the wrong guy.” But Elorza maintained that calling people out for not wearing a mask doesn’t have to be “a confrontational thing.”

“There’s a role for every person to play to make sure everyone else is a part of the solution,” he said.

On Friday, a security guard at a Family Dollar store in Michigan was shot after telling a customer that masks were required in the store, according to prosecutors. That same day, Oklahoma City overturned an ordinance mandating masks inside stores and restaurants after workers tasked with enforcing the rule received threats of violence and physical abuse.

NFL has plan in place for opening team facilities

The NFL has set protocols for reopening team facilities and has told the 32 teams to have them in place by May 15.

Commissioner Roger Goodell mapped out several phases of protocols in a memo obtained by The Associated Press. The first phase to deal with the coronavirus pandemic would involve a limited number of non-player personnel.
The individual clubs would decide which employees could return to the facility and when, once the buildings reopen. No players would be permitted in the facility except to continue therapy and rehabilitation for injuries that were underway when facilities were ordered closed in late March.

Goodell noted that the league is actively working on the next phase of reopening, which will involve both more staffers and players. He said the players’ union is also being consulted on these steps.

MLB to make a season proposal to players’ union soon

Major League Baseball expects to offer a return-to-play proposal to the MLB Players Association within a week, as teams have begun to encourage players to prepare for a “spring” training that could begin in mid-June and a season that could start in early July, sources familiar with the discussions told ESPN.

After entertaining the ideas of quarantining all players in Arizona or using three- or five-city hubs to hold games, there is momentum toward the league trying to play games in home stadiums, sources said.

This does not mean the league’s proposal to the players’ association will be met with open arms. Owners have pushed the league to ask players to take a pay cut because of cratering revenues exacerbated by no fans being allowed in stadiums upon any return.

The potential snags go well beyond money.

Returning to play in this environment poses a risk to players, one they hope is allayed as much as possible in the league’s proposal. Multiple players have reached out to the union expressing concern about returning in 2020 out of fear for their health, sources told ESPN.

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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