COVID-19 Daily Update: May 13, 2020

© TIM SHORTT/FLORIDA TODAY via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

AP Interview: Pelosi: Americans ‘worth it’ on $3T virus aid

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended the stunning $3 trillion price of tag of Democrats’ pandemic relief package Wednesday as what’s needed to confront the “villainous virus” and economic collapse. “The American people are worth it,” Pelosi told The Associated Press. In an interview with AP, Pelosi acknowledged the proposal is a starting point in negotiations with President Donald Trump and Republicans.

They have flatly dismissed the coronavirus relief bill. It’s headed for a House vote Friday. As the pandemic rages, Pelosi had just one message for Trump: “Tell the truth.” She said this is the “biggest disaster” the country has ever faced. “We have to address in a big way,” she said. “The American people are worth it.”

Powell warns of a possible sustained recession from pandemic

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned of the threat of a prolonged recession resulting from the viral outbreak and urged Congress and the White House to act further to prevent long-lasting economic damage.

The Fed and Congress have taken far-reaching steps to try to counter what is likely to be a severe downturn resulting from the widespread shutdown of the U.S. economy. But Powell cautioned that numerous bankruptcies among small businesses and extended unemployment for many people remain a serious risk.

He spoke a day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proposed a $3 trillion aid package that would direct money to state and local governments, households, and health-care workers.

Leading model predicts U.S. death toll will top 147,000 by August — up by 10,000

A leading coronavirus forecasting model predicts that the death toll in the United States will surpass 147,000 by August, an increase of nearly 10,000 from the previous projection.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington said that the revised forecast released Tuesday reflected changes in testing as well as the easing of social distancing policies in many states.

“It is worth noting that the full potential effects of recent actions to ease social distancing policies, especially if robust containment measures have yet to be fully scaled up, may not be fully known for a few weeks due to the time periods between viral exposure, possible infection, and full disease progression,” the institute said.

Some officials and modelers have questioned the accuracy of the IHME model, which is often used by the White House.

‘A pretty scary thing:’ Kid illness tied to virus worries NY

A 9-year-old boy in an upstate New York region with relatively few cases of coronavirus is recovering from a rare inflammatory syndrome thought to be related to the virus. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that the state is now investigating about 100 cases of the Kawasaki disease-like syndrome. Three children have died. Cuomo is advising all hospitals to prioritize COVID-19 testing for children presenting with symptoms of the syndrome that affects blood vessels and organs. 

Nebraska primary voters avoid polls, shatter mail-in record

Nebraska’s primary voters mostly steered clear of polling sites Tuesday while shattering the state record for absentee voting with nearly 400,000 mail-in ballots in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Republican President Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic challenger Joe Biden sailed to easy victories in the election, the first in-person primary since a heavily criticized election in Wisconsin five weeks ago in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. So did Republican U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, who faced a GOP primary challenge because of his previous criticism of Trump. Sasse will face Democrat Chris Janicek, the winner of a nine-way primary.

Counterfeit masks reaching frontline health workers in US

Counterfeit face masks that provide inadequate COVID-19 protection have been distributed to frontline health care workers across the country. An Associated Press investigation has tracked the masks to a U.S.-certified factory in China where legitimate medical masks are made. Adding to the confusion, millions of masks now considered inadequate for medical protection entered the U.S. and are now in use because of the federal government’s relaxed standards. Meanwhile state and local governments, hospitals, private caregivers and well wishers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the flawed masks. Before the pandemic, N95 masks sold for about 60 cents each. Today they’re priced as high as $6 apiece.

Democrats mull a virtual convention in Milwaukee this summer

Democrats are making new moves toward a virtual presidential nominating convention this August, with a top party committee voting to grant convention organizers in Milwaukee the authority to design an event that won’t require delegates to attend in person.

Under the resolution, the party’s convention committee will determine the convention’s final dates, along with how it will be run. The proposal now goes to the full DNC membership, with the body expected to approve it in a mail ballot.

New Zealand records second straight day with no new coronavirus cases

New Zealand reported zero new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, the second day in a row without any and the fourth such day since early last week.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said it was encouraging news as the country prepares to ease many of its lockdown restrictions from midnight. Most businesses, including malls, retail stores and sit-down restaurants, will be able to reopen. Social distancing rules will remain in place and gatherings will be limited to 10 people.

“The sense of anticipation is both palpable and understandable,” Bloomfield said.

The lifting of restrictions will coincide with the release of the government’s annual budget on Thursday. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country faced the most challenging economic conditions since the Great Depression because of the virus.

Saudi Arabia to go into total lockdown following Ramadan

Saudi Arabia says it will go into a full lockdown during the days of celebration that follow the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.

The Interior Ministry made the announcement early Wednesday morning, saying the lockdown would be in effect from May 23 through May 27.

Those days mark the start of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that comes at the end of Ramadan. That holiday typically sees families invite loved ones over for meals and go out to eat and drink during the day.

Meanwhile, in the neighboring United Arab Emirates, the federation of seven sheikhdoms says it will offer free coronavirus testing for all citizens beginning next week.

Private beaches at hotels also are beginning to reopen in Dubai, even as the number of confirmed cases and deaths continue to rise in the country.

Broadway shows canceled through Labor Day

The lights on Broadway will stay dim through summer. The Broadway League says no shows will hit the boards in New York before Labor Day. And even then, there is no set date yet for shows to reopen. Broadway has been shut down since Mar. 12, as the new coronavirus began spreading in New York and elsewhere. Those with tickets can get refunds or exchanges.

Drive-in country music concert planned in Texas

It’s a concert with no concessions or merchandise sales and you can’t get out of your car — but it is a concert. Eli Young Band, Whiskey Myers, Pat Green, Josh Abbott Band and Kevin Fowler will do hour-long acoustic sets during the Concert in Your Car series on June 4-7 at the new Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Tickets will be sold in advance for $40 per vehicle, with a maximum of 400 vehicles, to allow for social distancing. Attendees will listen to the shows by tuning in their FM radios. The stadium is the new home for the Texas Rangers, although it’s unclear when the team will play there.

US unemployment rate will probably peak in the “next month or so,” Federal Reserve chair says

In February, the US unemployment rate was near a 50-year low of 3.5%. In April, it skyrocketed to 14.7%, the highest level ever recorded since 1948 when the government began tracking the monthly data.

The road back to a healthier labor market will be painful, said Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell during a virtual event at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

It will be particularly painful because recently hired and lower-paid workers are the ones bearing the brunt of the pain, Powell said.

The unemployment rate will probably peak “over the course of the next month or so,” he added, and it’s reasonable to expect a decline in the unemployment rate after. This decline might even be sharp, but US unemployment will likely remain well above the lows seen at the start of the year.

FBI cyber division warns against Chinese hackers

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s cyber division are warning hackers backed by the Chinese government may be attempting to steal the work of U.S. researchers on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two agencies issued a public service announcement of the potential threat on Wednesday. They issued a similar alert earlier this month.

A joint statement says China’s efforts pose a “significant threat” to the health care, pharmaceutical and research sectors.

The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency says it would release technical details of the threat in the coming days and asked organizations to report any suspicious activity.

U.S. authorities have long complained that China has used hacking to steal academic and economic data to bolster its economy. This warning comes amid increased tensions between the two governments over the origins of the outbreak and China’s initial response.

DC extends stay-at-home order until June 8

Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Wednesday morning that the stay-at-home order has been extended until June 8.

The order was previously set to expire on May 15th.

By the numbers: There are currently more than 6,500 total positive cases of coronavirus in the District, and at least 350 deaths.

New York City will open more streets to help with social distancing, mayor says

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is expanding the open streets initiative in the city to assist with social distancing, adding 12 more miles tomorrow for pedestrians to the already 9 miles allocated in the city.

Starting tomorrow, the city will open throughout the boroughs…

1.3 miles with local partners (business improvement districts)

7.6 miles with local police precincts

2.8 miles adjacent to parks

There will also be 9.2 miles of protected bike lanes opening throughout May, he said.

Rocky Mountain National Park to begin reopening late May

Park officials in northern Colorado have announced that Rocky Mountain National Park is scheduled to reopen at the end of May, two months after the park was closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Denver Post reported that recreational access and services at the park are scheduled to resume May 27, a day after Democratic Gov. Jared Polis’ current executive order is set to expire. Rocky Mountain National Park closed March 20 and is scheduled to reopen in phases starting with shuttle bus operations within the Bear Lake Road corridor.

Parts of Moraine Park and Glacier Basin Campgrounds are scheduled to open June 4 while others will remain closed.

New clusters pop up; Europe debates summer tourist season

New coronavirus clusters have appeared as nations struggle to balance reopening economies with preventing a second wave of infections and deaths.

In Europe, a debate has erupted over the summer travel season. Authorities in the Chinese city of Wuhan are moving ahead with efforts to test all 11 million residents for the virus after a handful of new infections were found. Lebanon reinstated a nationwide lockdown for four days after a spike in reported infections.

European nations, meanwhile, have been seeking ways to potentially restart cross-border travel. The summer holiday season looms for countries whose economies rely on tourists flocking to beaches, museums and historical sites.

Saturday classes? Schools mull ways to make up lost time

Students returning from their unprecedented break from school could find themselves making up lost time in summer classes, or in the evening or on Saturdays.

The new year could start as early as July in California. Maryland could see school year-round. For some, lessons in the new school year may simply begin where they left off.

Administrators say everything is on the table as they begin to think beyond the immediate needs of teaching through the pandemic to measuring and making up for lost learning once the worst has passed.

White House is not discussing changing election date, senior official says

There are no conversations inside the White House about altering the date of the November general election, a senior White House official tells CNN. The White House is aware that Kushner’s answer to Time in an interview published yesterday could have been more clear, which is why he issued a second statement.

But this official said that the issue of changing the election date is simply not something being discussed because the Constitution explicitly gives Congress the power to establish election day. President Trump has also publicly said that he is in favor of keeping election day the same.

Ferrari says it has developed a ventilator for hospitals dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

The Formula One team says it created a device that is easy to use and assemble in conjunction with the Italian Institute of Technology. Ferrari says it was designed in only five weeks and can be produced using easily available materials at a lower cost than normal ventilators.

The ventilator has been designed to meet the typical demands of medium intensive care and the technical specifications are available as an open source project.

Some Pac-12 football coaches are pitching an NCAA-mandated uniform start to the season.

Washington coach Jimmy Lake said in a video conference with reporters that he would prefer for all major college teams to begin six weeks of preparation for the season at the same time. Colorado coach Karl Dorrell and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham backed Lake’s idea.

Teams would need to begin conditioning and practice in mid-July for the season to start on time around Labor Day weekend, when Washington is scheduled to host Michigan. But there are complications with states taking different approaches to fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Rutgers is doing away with paper tickets to sports events in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The State University of New Jersey announced Wednesday that mobile-only ticketing to sports events will start this fall with the football season.

Rutgers said the new policy would enable contact-free entry into all venues and offer greater convenience and safety. The Big Ten Conference member said fans can access their ticket accounts through the Scarlet Knights’ app supported on Apple and Android devices.

The policy would cover football tickets and parking passes, men’s basketball tickets, parking and hospitality, women’s basketball, men’s lacrosse tickets, and wrestling tickets.

Rutgers also said fans will have the ability to transfer tickets electronically.

The university will work with ticket holders at events should either their cell phone run out of power or they don’t have one.

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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