The fallout continued Tuesday from President Donald Trump’s comment that he is taking the unproven drug hydroxychloroquine as part of his personal fight against the coronavirus. Trump has tested negative for the virus, and warnings from his own government have detailed the potentially fatal side effects from off-label use of the drug.
Trump also issued a fiery letter to the World Health Organization, threatening to permanently withhold U.S. funding from the United Nations health agency.
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testified before the Senate on Tuesday and faced questioning about the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a small business lending program included in the government’s $2 trillion relief package.
The U.S. has the largest coronavirus outbreak in the world with more than 90,300 deaths and 1.5 million confirmed cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, the virus has killed nearly 320,000 people and infected more than 4.8 million.
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Here are some highlights to know Tuesday:
- Responding to a question from Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said “no workers should give their lives” to boost the economy.
- President Donald Trump announced he was taking hydroxychloroquine, a drug he’s repeatedly touted as a treatment for the coronavirus, despite multiple warnings about its effectiveness and safety. He also threatened to permanently stop U.S. funding to the World Health Organization pending “major substantive improvements within the next 30 days.”
- Annie Glenn, the widow of former astronaut and U.S. senator John Glenn, died Tuesday from complications of COVID-19.
- MLB negotiations are supposed to resume this week; the biggest hurdle may be economic: Owners will ask players to assume part of the risk of playing with no fans. The hope remains that at least 82 regular-season games can be played beginning by July 4 with strict health protocols in place.
What we’re talking about: A scientist who developed Florida’s COVID-19 data portal was fired Monday by the Department of Health, she says, for refusing to manipulate data.
Some good news: These Milwaukee twins have plenty to be proud of at the end of their senior year of high school: 37 college acceptances and $1 million in scholarships.
Staying Apart, Together: USA TODAY brings a newsletter about how to cope with these trying times straight to your inbox. 📥
Trump defends hydroxychloroquine, calls Pelosi ‘a sick woman’
Trump responded to criticism over his decision to take hydroxychloroquine, a drug that hasn’t been proven to effectively treat or prevent COVID-19.
“People are gonna have to make up their own minds,” Trump told reporters Wednesday. “I think it gives you an additional level of safety.”
He also threw jabs at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after she repudiated his earlier comments on taking hydroxychloroquine and called him “morbidly obese.”
“I don’t respond to her. I think she’s a waste of time,” Trump said.
Later in response to a question about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, whose case was dropped by the Justice Department, Trump turned his target to Pelosi and the Democrats.
“These people are sick. Pelosi is a sick woman,” Trump said. “She’s got a lot of problems. A lot of mental problems. We’re dealing with people that have to get their act together for the good of the country.”
Pier 1 Imports to shutter all stores
Pier 1 Imports, which previously said it would close half of its stores, now plans to close all of its locations.
The retailer, based in Fort Worth, Texas, announced Tuesday that it was seeking bankruptcy court approval to begin an “orderly wind-down” when stores are able to reopen “following the government-mandated closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The company says it has approximately 541 U.S. stores. In a court filing, the company says it plans to reopen some stores on or around May 22 for “store closing efforts and liquidation sales.”
Robert Riesbeck, Pier 1’s CEO and chief financial officer, said the company had been working to find a buyer before the coronavirus pandemic.
“Unfortunately, the challenging retail environment has been significantly compounded by the profound impact of COVID-19, hindering our ability to secure such a buyer and requiring us to wind down,” Riesbeck said.
— Kelly Tyko
Alaska fully reopens economy
Governor Mike Dunleavy announced Tuesday that Alaska will return to normal as of Friday.
Bars, restaurants, gyms, retail stores and all other businesses will be able to open without any capacity restrictions Friday at 8 a.m., he said.
“It will all be open, just like it was prior to the virus,” Dunleavy said.
The governor said the state is still advising protocol like staying six feet away from each other while in businesses and wearing masks when near other people in public places, but the regulations previously imposed will be lifted, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Businesses will not be required to have hand sanitizer or enact social distancing policies as they are now.
“I think the people of Alaska get that they need to stay away from folks if they don’t want to get the virus,” he said. “That they need to wash their hands and wipe things down. People get that.”
McDonald’s workers plan strike over lack of COVID-19 protections
Hundreds of McDonald’s workers in 20 cities plan to strike Wednesday, the day before the company’s annual shareholders meeting, as part of an effort to pressure the fast-food chain into improving what they say are inadequate protections for employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Labor organizers say scores of McDonald’s workers in at least 16 states have COVID-19. A survey of more than 800 workers, organizers say, found 42% reported being told not to wear protective gear by management and 46% said they came to work feeling sick because they were afraid they would be disciplined or penalized.
The strike is supported by the Service Employees International Union and is being organized by the “Fight for $15” minimum-wage labor campaign.
The company disputes the allegations.
— Brett Schrotenboer
Mnuchin: ‘No workers should give their lives’ to boost GDP, stock market
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said no worker should die in order to boost the U.S. economy. Mnuchin was responding to a question in an exchange with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, during a hearing on the coronavirus relief legislation.
“How many workers should give their lives to increase the GDP or the Dow by 1,000 points?” Brown asked.
“No workers should give their lives to do that, Senator, and I think your characterization is unfair,” Mnuchin replied.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testified Tuesday that the Fed and Congress “may need to do more” to help revive the economy. Here’s what else came up during the hearing:
- The Fed’s lending programs for medium-sized businesses and state and local governments will begin operating by the end of May, Powell said.
- Mnuchin also faced sharp questioning from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., about whether companies would have to keep employees on their payrolls if they received aid from the joint Fed-Treasury program. “You’re boosting your Wall Street buddies,” Warren told the secretary when he declined to comment.
- Mnuchin said his department would accept losses from any Fed loans that would come out of that $454 billion.
New York primary back on for June 23
New York’s Democratic presidential primary is officially back on for June 23.
A three-judge panel from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered the state Board of Elections to reinstate the primary, ruling the board’s decision to cancel the election infringed on the constitutional rights of Andrew Yang, Bernie Sanders and other Democratic candidates.
In late April, the Board of Elections’ Democratic commissioners canceled the primary as the coronavirus continued its torrid spread through New York, reasoning that it was a “beauty contest” since former Vice President Joe Biden was the lone Democrat still actively seeking his party’s nomination.
But Yang, a Manhattan resident, challenged the decision, arguing the board’s decision unconstitutionally infringed on his ability to remain on the ballot and pick up delegates for the Democratic National Convention. The decision to cancel the primary also drew a rebuke from the Sanders campaign, which wanted to keep his name on the ballot in hopes of winning more delegates and influencing the party’s platform at the convention.
– Jon Campbell
Coronavirus lockdowns have caused a whopping drop in carbon emissions
The coronavirus lockdowns have had an “extreme” effect on daily carbon emissions, causing a whopping 17% drop globally during peak confinement measures by early April – levels last seen in 2006.
However, it is unlikely to last, according to a new analysis by an international team of scientists published in the peer-reviewed British journal Nature Climate Change.
This is the first analysis to measure the pandemic-driven global drop in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from January to April of this year.
While the impact of lockdown measures is likely to lead to the largest annual decrease in emissions since the end of World War II, 2020 is still on track to be one of the five hottest years on record, and the study notes that these reductions are no “silver lining.”
– Doyle Rice
Annie Glenn, widow of former astronaut, dies from COVID-19
She lived her entire life with a man who became universally revered, but to millions across the globe, Annie Glenn was her own kind of hero.
The wife of John Glenn, the former astronaut and U.S. senator, died early Tuesday at a nursing home near family in St. Paul, Minnesota, from complications of COVID-19. She was 100.
Annie, as everyone knew her, lived in the shadow of fame but emerged in midlife to become an inspiration for people with disabilities around the world by overcoming the chronic stuttering that afflicted and limited her during the years her husband was becoming a household name.
– Joe Hallett
As some states reopen, studying sewage could help stop pandemic
In cities across the U.S., monitoring systems relying on human waste now exist that scientists hope will provide an early warning if coronavirus infections reemerge as communities in some states cautiously reopen.
Over the past few months, private companies and university researchers have partnered with communities to collect sewage at treatment plants and test it for the presence of the novel coronavirus. The results are reported back to municipal governments and state health officials.
Testing wastewater can reveal the presence of the coronavirus and show whether it’s increasing or decreasing in a community, said Ian Pepper, a professor and co-director of the University of Arizona’s Water and Energy Sustainable Technology Center.
Although they cannot determine the exact number of COVID-19 cases from the wastewater, some researchers said they can estimate the potential case count based on the amount of genetic material detected, the number of customers per system and the volume of wastewater generated.
– Dinah Voyles Pulver
Atlantic beach towns brace for summer vacationers
A visit to the eastern shore is a rite of summer for many. But this year, fears of the coronavirus are throwing plans by the wayside as annual treks to East Coast beaches are being reconsidered.
The fears go beyond simply a higher risk of catching the virus. Inconsistent policies by states and communities are making it hard to plan as local leaders decide how to best try to salvage economies while emerging from stay-at-home orders.
Tourism-related businesses have been stymied by a policy of requiring out-of-staters to self-quarantine for 14 days.
In New York, state beaches will reopen the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, along with beaches in New Jersey, Delaware and Connecticut.
Regardless, expect to find new rules at any beach. Read more.
– Chris Woodyard and Jeff Schwaner
‘This will kill you’: Fox’s Cavuto, Pelosi warn against hydroxychloroquine
Fox News host Neil Cavuto had strong words for his viewers following President Donald Trump’s comments that he was taking hydroxychloroquine despite a lack of evidence of its effectiveness in fighting the coronavirus and warnings of adverse effects.
“This will kill you,” Cavuto said of patients taking the drug who are in a vulnerable population.
The Food and Drug Administration last month warned against the use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for COVID-19 treatment outside of hospitals or clinical trials due to the risk of heart rhythm problems.
Trump has touted the drug for weeks, citing unproven evidence of benefits in treating or preventing the virus. Cavuto said Monday he wasn’t trying to make a political point but one to protect his viewers.
“This is a leap that should not be taken casually by those watching at home who are assuming, well, ‘the president of the United States says it’s OK.'”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also criticized Trump’s comment, saying she “would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists.”
Need a haircut? Bootleg barbershops and hair salons thrive
Carmelle Harris saw the man standing at the open front door of her house. “Are you here for the haircut?’’ she asked.
He was, and so Harris, wearing an N95 face mask, handed sanitary wipes to the man, and led him to the makeshift barber’s chair in the living room. “You’ve got a great set up here,’’ he said.
But it’s also illegal – and during the coronavirus pandemic, the hair industry is drawing legal scrutiny across the country as hairstylists like Harris have put their cosmetology licenses at risk citing financial pressure.
The number of hairstylists setting up shop at home or coloring and cutting hair at customers’ homes is on the rise as stay-at-home orders in states like California have stretched beyond eight weeks, more than a dozen hair stylists and industry experts told USA TODAY.
– Josh Peter
Trump threatens to permanently stop US funding for WHO; China calls it ‘smear’
President Donald Trump has threatened to stop U.S. funding for the World Health Organization and withdraw the country’s membership pending “major substantive improvements within the next 30 days.”
In a scathing letter that he described on Twitter as “self-explanatory,” Trump alleged “missteps” in the agency’s response to the coronavirus outbreak and accused the WHO of an “alarming lack of independence” from China, the origin of the virus.
Trump concludes his letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “I cannot allow American taxpayer dollars to continue to finance an organization that, in its present state, is so clearly not serving America’s interests.”
In April, Trump said the WHO “got it wrong” and halted U.S. funding to conduct a review of the organization’s handling of the pandemic.
Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said Trump’s letter was “smearing and slandering China’s efforts in epidemic prevention and to shift responsibility in its own incompetence in handling the epidemic.”
The WHO said in a statement it was “considering the contents” of Trump’s letter but otherwise it had no further comment.
– Kim Hjelmgaard
IHME coronavirus model revises US death projection to about 144,000
A prominent yet volatile coronavirus model that’s often been cited by the White House has again revised its death projection.
On the day the U.S. death toll topped 90,000, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation on Monday lowered its prediction to 143,360 deaths by Aug. 4, down slightly from its projection of 147,000 a week earlier. The IHME model, at one point, had forecast 72,433 fatalities by early August, with a maximum range up to 114,228.
“We were pretty surprised,” Chris Murray, an IHME researcher said Monday night on CNN. “We were expecting to probably go up because of the big surge in mobility.”
Instead, Murray said, IHME researchers believe the use of masks and social distancing have helped lower death projections.
Reopening America: Kentucky, Ohio among states with changes this week
Monday brought significant change across the U.S. – including Arkansas, where movie theaters, casinos and bowling alleys reopened for business, and South Carolina, where gyms, barbershops and hair salons opened again.
Other states will take similar steps toward normalcy later this week: Kentucky will allow in-person worship services and horse racing without fans starting Wednesday and Ohio will allow dine-in restaurants and campgrounds to reopen on Thursday. Find the latest news in your state.
Some coronavirus survivors, however, are concerned that states are rushing to rescind stay-at-home orders, potentially setting the stage for a new wave of infections. Here’s what they have to say.
Vaccine news: Moderna and Oxford trials show early but promising results
There is positive news from two COVID-19 vaccine candidates considered front-runners, from Moderna in the U.S. and Oxford in the United Kingdom. But experts cautioned that both represent only early, though useful, steps on a long road rather than definitive proof these vaccines will work.
On Monday, Moderna announced its candidate vaccine appeared to be safe when given to eight humans and that it stimulated an immune response to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
More preliminary but positive news came out last week about a vaccine candidate from the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford in England. However, the data released last week was only in monkeys and is very preliminary. It showed the candidate vaccine induced a protective immune response in six rhesus macaque monkeys. When we get a vaccine, who gets it first? Read more.
– Elizabeth Weise
Will MLB’s 67-page safety and health protocol keep players safe?
MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association are scheduled to resume negotiations this week, and perhaps the biggest hurdle is economic as owners ask the players to assume part of the financial risk of playing with no fans. The hope is that at least 82 regular-season games can be played beginning by the July 4th weekend.
If there is baseball in 2020, it may feel more like a boot camp. Players are being advised to shower only at home or in their hotel rooms. No more buffets at the ballpark. No saunas. And lots of deep cleaning.
“You can’t change having guys holding runners on first base. How about the catcher and the umpire and the batter all together at the plate? You can’t high-five?” said St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong on a 67-page draft proposal.
– Bob Nightengale
More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press