COVID-19 Daily Update: May 8, 2020

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US approves at home saliva-based virus test

U.S. health regulators approved the first saliva-based coronavirus test that allows people to collect their own sample at home. The new at-home option is expected to expand use of the test developed by Rutgers University, which the Food and Drug Administration first authorized last month.

People can use the plastic tube at home to provide a saliva sample and ship it to a laboratory for processing. The test will be available through a New Jersey network of hospitals and testing sites affiliated with Rutgers.

Wide-scale testing is considered essential to containing the spread of COVID-19 and safely reopening businesses and schools. But many states are still struggling to reach the testing levels recommended by health experts.

US pulls permission for Chinese masks found defective

U.S. health officials have revoked permission for masks made by more than 60 Chinese manufacturers that failed to meet U.S. standards. The Food and Drug Administration warned this week that the faulty masks could endanger health care workers treating patients with COVID-19.

Due to shortages of masks the FDA authorized imports based on testing data from the manufacturers. But U.S. officials reported Thursday that new testing in the U.S. showed dozens of the Chinese masks failed to filter particles at the level needed to adequately protect workers. The agency said only 14 masks met U.S. standards.

US unemployment surges to a Depression-era level of 14.7%

The coronavirus crisis has sent the U.S. unemployment rate surging to 14.7%, a level last seen when the country was in the throes of the Depression and President Franklin D. Roosevelt was assuring Americans that the only thing to fear was fear itself. The Labor Department said Friday that 20.5 million jobs vanished in April in the worst monthly loss on record, triggered by the coast-to-coast shutdowns of factories, stores, offices and other businesses.

The breathtakingly swift losses are certain to intensify the push-pull across the U.S. over how and when to ease the stay-at-home restrictions and the social-distancing rules. And they rob President Donald Trump of the ability to point to a strong economy as he runs for reelection.

Aide to Vice President Pence tests positive for coronavirus

An aide to Vice President Mike Pence has the coronavirus, marking the second person in the White House complex known to test positive this week.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany is confirming the latest positive testing, and insists the White House continues to operate safely. The positive test for the Pence aide came one day after White House officials confirmed that a member of the military serving as one of President Donald Trump’s valets tested positive for the coronavirus.

Trump says some staffers who interact with him closely would now be tested daily.

Another example of ‘The Simpsons’ predicting future

The Simpsons” have continued their streak of being our pop culture Nostradamus.

Fox’s long-running animated series — actually the longest running in history — has an episode from 1993 which appears to foreshadow 2020 with the pandemic and “murder hornets.”

Titled “Marge in Chains” the season 4 episode features a sick Asian worker sneezing on a shipment of juicers that many of the residents of Springfield wish to purchase, which kicks off an “Osaka Flu” outbreak.

As people panic they knock over a truck they think has the cure, but instead demolish a crate marked “Killer Bees” which then swarm.

Idris Elba lends his voice to a song helping relief efforts

Idris Elba has lent his voice to a new song about black men and mental health that will benefit pandemic relief efforts. Elba is featured on the song “Kings” by Kosine, a singer-songwriter-producer best known for crafting hits for Big Sean, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna. Elba delivers a spoken word performance on “Kings,” which was released Friday.

The Golden Globe-winning actor has dipped his toe in music multiple times: He’s released several EPs and also appeared on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ sophomore album. Kosine said a portion of the proceeds from “Kings” will benefit the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.

70% of US Olympic sports applied for PPP funds

At least 70 percent of U.S. Olympic sports organizations have asked the government for funds through the federal stimulus package. That’s the result of an Associated Press survey of the 44 so-called national governing bodies that support athletes who end up on Team USA.

Many of the NGBs are little more than mom-and-pop operations who cannot afford the  financial hits they’ve taken in the pandemic. All but four of the 36 NGBs that responded to the AP survey said they had asked for grants.

The amounts ranged from $2.5 million for the country’s ski federation to $75,000 for USA Badminton. In total, the government has committed about $12 million to keep the Olympic organizations running.

NASCAR has canceled races at Richmond, Virginia, Chicagoland Speedway and Sonoma Raceway in California, as it revises its schedule to restart the season

NASCAR plans to race at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina on May 17 and May 20. Since those races weren’t originally scheduled, NASCAR forfeited events at its Richmond and Chicago tracks. Richmond was originally scheduled for April 19 and Chicagoland was scheduled for June 21

Speedway Motorsports traded its road course race in Sonoma scheduled for June 14 for a Cup race at Charlotte on May 27.

NASCAR is attempting to race at tracks within driving distance of its North Carolina-based teams as it resumes competition following the sports shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. It has only announced races through May.

The canceling of the Chicago race is an ominous sign for workers at the track in Joliet, Illinois. The track staff was hit this week with a second round of layoffs by NASCAR since the pandemic.

A devastating jobs report for April will show virus’s impact

The U.S. government is poised to report the worst set of job numbers since record-keeping began in 1948, a snapshot of the devastating damage the coronavirus outbreak has inflicted on the economy. The unemployment rate could reach 16% or more. Twenty-one million jobs may have been lost in April. If so, it would mean that nearly all the job growth in the 11 years since the Great Recession ended had vanished in one month. Even those grim numbers won’t fully capture the scope of the damage the coronavirus has inflicted on jobs and incomes. Many people who are still employed have had their hours reduced. Others have suffered pay cuts.

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 says Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have since tested negative for the virus and “remain in good health.” It marks the latest coronavirus scare for the president. It’s 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 White House instituted safety protocols nearly two months ago to protect the nation’s political leaders, including frequent temperature checks


Amtrak to require face coverings beginning next week

Amtrak will require passengers to wear face coverings beginning next week. The national railroad service says the new rules will go into effect on Monday. Passengers will be required to wear a facial covering over their nose and mouth while in stations and on trains and thruway buses. The coverings can be removed when customers are eating in designated areas or are seated alone or with a travel companion. Small children are exempt. Amtrak has already reduced bookings by 50% to promote social distancing, and has seen overall ridership decline by more than 90%.

UN appeals for $6.7 billion to fight virus in poor countries

The United Nations is calling on governments, companies and billionaires to contribute to a $6.7 billion fund for immediate needs in fighting the coronavirus pandemic in vulnerable countries. U.N. officials warned Thursday that a failure to help could lead to a “hunger pandemic,” famine, riots and more conflict. U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said in a video briefing that “COVID-19 has now affected every country and almost every person on the planet.” He said the U.N.’s $2 billion appeal launched March 25 was being increased because there is already evidence of incomes plummeting and jobs disappearing, food supplies falling and prices soaring, and children missing meals.

NYPD distancing arrests: Many non-whites, at times violently

Despite mounting pressure to stop using police to enforce social distancing and data showing that such arrests disproportionately affect people of color, Mayor Bill de Blasio stood by the practice on Thursday, saying: “We’re not going to sideline the NYPD.” One newly surfaced video showed a police officer tackling a black man for mouthing off. Another showed an officer punching a man in the head as he lay pinned to a sidewalk, unable to fight back. Police watchdogs say the videos suggest officers are using social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic as a pretext to harass people of color along the lines of stop and frisk, a practice curtailed in recent years in which officers stop people on the streets and search them for weapons.

Dead taxpayers got relief checks. Can survivors keep them?

The IRS is asking people who received payments for a deceased taxpayer to return the money to the government. But some legal experts say there is no law requiring people to do that.

Some of the more than 130 million economic impact payments that went out to taxpayers as part of an economic relief package were sent to dead people. That is mainly because of a lag in reporting data on who is deceased. It’s the first time the agency has asked for the money back.

The IRS on Wednesday updated its website, stating that if a person died before a payment was issued, the money should be returned. It also provides instructions on how to do so. The IRS and Treasury have not said what would happen if these payments were not returned or otherwise repaid.

California sees possible restaurant openings on horizon

California Gov. Gavin Newsom says restaurant dining rooms shut down since March by the coronavirus outbreak could begin opening in certain counties within a week or two. No dates have been set, but the Democratic governor says he’ll release guidelines next week for restaurants to reopen their doors.

The California Restaurant Association submitted proposed guidelines to Newsom that suggest food servers wear masks and buffets and salad bars be eliminated. Tables would be limited to no more than 10 people.

It’s likely to be a disjointed process, with restaurants in rural areas opening first, and eateries in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other urban areas that have been hot spots for infections remaining closed longer.

Uber loses nearly $3 billion in first quarter

Uber is looking to retrench after losing nearly $3 billion in the first quarter of the year. A drop in ridership is a big factor in the losses – a decline due in great part due to the coronavirus pandemic. Uber is taking two steps to boost its profit picture going forward. One is to expand its food delivery business, which has grown with fewer people going out to eat. The other is to ditch Jump, its bike and scooter business, which has been losing about $60 million a quarter.

Mexico auto plants to reopen as country weighs virus risks

On a day Mexico saw its worst daily increase yet in coronavirus cases, foreign-owned auto plants began setting dates for reopening. Volkswagen de Mexico said late Thursday it is planning to reopen its assembly plant in Puebla state and its engine plant in Guanajuato state on June 1. General Motors said it hadn’t fixed “an exact date” for reopening its plant, also in Guanajuato, but some workers there reported getting notices to report for work on May 18.  Pressure is growing both domestically and from the United States for Mexico to re-open activities. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has said that could happen by May 17 in areas of the country that haven’t been hit hard by the coronavirus.

CFL commissioner: Canceling season most likely scenario

Canadian Football League Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said the most likely scenario is to cancel the season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ambrosie made the admission for the first time while testifying Thursday to a House of Commons standing committee on finance.

News broke last week that the CFL had requested up to $150 million Canadian in assistance from the federal government. During his testimony, Ambrosie said the league’s future is “very much in jeopardy.”

Mermaids return as Montana bar reopens

Are mermaids considered essential personnel? For the owner and patrons at a Montana tiki bar, it appears the answer is yes. The O’Haire Motor Inn and the Sip `n Dip Lounge in Great Falls have reopened after eight weeks of restrictions because of the coronavirus. The back wall of the bar faces the motel’s swimming pool – and there are mermaids in the water five nights a week. After getting conflicting information about whether the mermaids could return when the bar reopened, the owner says a compromise is now in place. Sandra Thares says the mermaids are back – but only one can be in the pool at a time.

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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