As the Trump administration tries to prevent recent coronavirus cases among its personnel from growing into a cluster, Vice President Mike Pence returned to work Monday but at a distance from other staffers. Trump later announced the country is on track this week to pass 10 million coronavirus tests conducted and states would be receiving additional funding for testing.
Meanwhile in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo released more details about reopening, a day after revealing new rules for nursing homes, a hot spot for coronavirus deaths in the state. “It’s an exciting new phase. We’re all anxious to get back to work,” Cuomo said.
There were more than 80,000 deaths and 1.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. on Monday evening, according to the John Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, the virus has killed more than 284,000 people and surpassed 4.1 million infections.
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Here are some of the most significant developments Monday:
- The man identified as New York’s coronavirus “patient zero” is home now and says he feels much better.
- Foodborne illness investigations have slowed and food recalls have plummeted because of disruptions in the U.S. food safety system caused by the coronavirus, a USA TODAY investigation found.
Good news: Visitors in face masks streamed into Shanghai Disneyland as the theme park reopened Monday in a high-profile step toward reviving tourism.
What we’re talking about today: A photo of a crowded flight posted on Twitter by a California cardiologist returning from the New York City area may hint at the difficulties of social distancing as air travel picks up again.
VP Pence keeps his distance in White House
Administration officials on Sunday denied a report that Vice President Mike Pence would self-isolate after his press secretary tested positive for the coronavirus Friday, saying he would be back in the White House on Monday.
Indeed he was, but Pence conducted a call with governors from an isolated room, The Associated Press reported, while Dr. Deborah Birx and other staffers participated as usual from a conference room in the Situation Room.
“We are taking the appropriate countermeasures to protect the president’s health,” Pence said of what he called a “slightly different circumstance,” according to a recording obtained by the AP.
Besides Pence’s press secretary, a valet for President Donald Trump also tested positive for the virus last week. And three top health advisers, Drs. Anthony Fauci, Robert Redfield and Stephen Hahn, went into quarantine after being in contact with an infected staffer.
On Monday, members of the staff were told anyone going into the West Wing would have to wear a mask or facial covering, although they could remove them if they stayed six feet apart from their colleagues.
US closing in on 10 million coronavirus tests
The U.S. is on track this week to pass 10 million coronavirus tests conducted, said President Donald Trump, who announced Monday that states would receive $11 billion in additional funding for testing.
Trump also said daily tests nationwide would increase “substantially’’ from the current amount, which he pegged at about 300,000.
Harvard University researchers have concluded the country would need to conduct 500,000-700,000 daily tests to begin reopening safely, and would require 5 million daily tests by early June.
States will get the funding from the CARES Act to help governors meet their testing goals, the administration said. The money is going to states, territories and tribes, with the states hardest hit by the coronavirus receiving up to $500 million.
The 1.3 million-plus cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. represent one-third of the world total.
– Jeanine Santucci
New York, the US COVID-19 epicenter, to begin reopening Friday
Parts of New York state will allow a wide range of businesses, from construction and manufacturing to tennis courts and drive-in theaters, to reopen by week’s end, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday. Cuomo, speaking at his daily news conference, said the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley regions of western and Upstate New York have met seven crucial criteria, including declining hospitalizations and ramped-up testing capacity. “We see all the arrows are pointed in the right direction,” Cuomo said.
New York City was among areas not yet ready to reopen, he said. The state has been the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, with more than 26,000 deaths. But the daily death toll has been dropping steadily, with 161 deaths Sunday the lowest total since March.
“It’s been a crisis and a painful one, but we are coming out the other side,” Cuomo said. “This is the next big step in this historic journey.”
Americans’ concerns over pandemic easing – but still strong, poll shows
Fewer Americans are now concerned that a family member could contract COVID-19 compared to a month ago, according to a new Monmouth University poll. Forty-two percent of the 808 U.S. adults polled said they were “very concerned” that someone in their family could become seriously ill from COVID-19, and 28% said they were “somewhat concerned.” Those numbers were down from 50% and 33%, respectively, in Monmouth’s April survey.
“Concern about covid seems to have returned to where it was in the early days of the public response to the pandemic,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
– William Cummings
WHO issues warning against ‘blind driving’ as nations begin to reopen
The World Health Organization warned Monday that nations should not reopen their economies without setting up strong contact tracing to combat possible surges in coronavirus cases. Health officials in the U.S. are monitoring for any resurgence two weeks after states began gradually reopening, and efforts to assemble contact-tracing teams are underway. WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan said strong contact tracing measures adopted by Germany and South Korea provide hope for those countries. But he said the same is not true of other, unspecified nations.
“Shutting your eyes and trying to drive through this blind is about as silly an equation as I’ve seen,” Ryan said. “And I’m really concerned that certain countries are setting themselves up for some seriously blind driving over the next few months.”
MLB plan for games in July ‘an aggressive timetable,’ KC mayor says
Major League Baseball’s hopes of playing games without fans in attendance as early as July in as many of its home cities as possible “is an aggressive timetable,” Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says. USA TODAY Sports reached out to the mayors of all MLB cities, as well as governors in select states, and the roughly one-third who responded revealed a caution to bringing back sports before data indicate it is safe.
“How low can you push the risk and how much risk will you tolerate in the name of baseball?” said Lawrence Gostin, director of the WHO Collaborating Center on National & Global Health Law. “That’s the bottom line.”
– Gabe Lacques and Rachel Axon
England, Germany, France begin reopening schools, businesses
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson “actively encouraged” people who can’t work from home to go to their jobs, while shops and elementary schools across Germany and France reopened Monday. In the Netherlands, libraries are also opening, and hairdressers, nail technicians, beauticians, masseuses and occupational therapists are back at work. Spain is keeping schools closed but is allowing churches and mosques to reopen at less than capacity.
Johnson’s announcement Sunday night was met with widespread confusion Monday morning as some people raced back to work. His administration later suggested the true start date would be Wednesday. More details are forthcoming.
New York’s ‘patient zero’ back home and feeling much better
The man identified as New York’s coronavirus “patient zero” remembers going to the emergency room in February. The next thing he remembers is waking up from a coma. Lawrence Garbuz told NBC’s Today show he thought he just had a cough. At that point, COVID-19 was not on his radar and New York had not yet taken strict measures to prevent its spread.
“I’m a lawyer. I sit at a desk all day,” he said. “I think at the time we were sort of focusing on individuals who had maybe traveled internationally, something that I had not done.”
But the outbreak in his town of New Rochelle prompted the governor to create a “containment zone,” which shut down schools and places of worship before the rest of the state was under stay-at-home orders. Garbuz, 50, said he didn’t have any pre-existing conditions. He is home now and said he feels much better.
Parties divided over makeup of next bailout bill
Trump administration economic advisers will conduct a conference call Monday with senators from both sides of the aisle as leaders struggle to agree on a new economic stimulus plan. Trump wants a payroll tax cut that Democrats have flat-out opposed. Democrats are adamant about more funding for state and local governments. And some Republicans would rather wait and see how the nearly $3 trillion in already-approved relief pans out. Pressure for another package could intensify, however, amid predictions that unemployment could approach the 25% rate reached during the Great Depression.
“Before we take up any new bill, let’s have hearings,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told USA TODAY. “As states open up, there will be a difference of what’s needed today than is needed tomorrow.”
– Christal Hayes and Michael Collins
Food safety investigations, recalls plummet
Foodborne illness investigations have slowed and food recalls have plummeted because of disruptions in the U.S. food safety system caused by the coronavirus, a USA TODAY investigation found. The pandemic struck the system at every level – from the federal agencies tasked with stopping contaminated food before it leaves farms and factories to the state health departments that test sick residents for foodborne illnesses such as E. coli. Experts say there is no evidence yet of resulting widespread health issues, but food safety advocates say Americans are now more at risk.
“We have so many different safeguards built into our system, and one by one COVID is knocking pieces out,” said Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
– Kyle Bagenstose
NYC Mayor de Blasio unveils effort to combat form of Kawasaki disease
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a plan to test all kids with symptoms of a rare inflammatory condition for coronavirus and its antibodies. Thirty-eight city children are suffering from the symptoms and one has died, he said. Statewide, three young people have died and more than 80 have or are experiencing fever, rash, abdominal pain and vomiting linked to a form of Kawasaki disease, authorities say. Almost all have tested positive for coronavirus or the antibodies that reflect exposure to the virus.
A health alert was being sent to the city’s public school parents, and child enrichment centers were being urged to increase enforcement of face coverings, masks and hand sanitizer, de Blasio said.
“To every parent out there: Early detection is the key to fighting this,” de Blasio said. “It can be treated. If you see these symptoms, take them seriously and act immediately.”
Trump administration reportedly to accuse China of hacking vaccine data
The Trump administration is reportedly planning to accuse China of attempting to hack information from U.S. researchers scrambling to develop a coronavirus vaccine. Federal officials believe hackers are exploiting the pandemic and searching for “valuable intellectual property and public health data through illicit means related to vaccines, treatments and testing,” The New York Times reports. A draft of the warning expected to be released within the next few days by the FBI and Homeland Security delves into cybertheft and action by ]”‘nontraditional actors” – researchers and students allegedly tapped to steal data from inside academic and private laboratories, the Times reports.. The Wall Street Journal published a similar report.
Blue Angels, Thunderbirds plan more flyovers to honor front-line workers
As part of a tribute to front-line workers fighting the coronavirus, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds will fly over five cities this week.
The Blue Angels will visit the skies over Detroit, Chicago and Indianapolis on Tuesday, and the Thunderbirds will fly over Austin and San Antonio on Wednesday.
The flyovers are part of a Pentagon plan to fly over nearly three dozen major American cities. Both groups have already conducted joint and separate flyovers in cities including Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Dallas.
States reopening: Alabama, Arizona, South Carolina to reopen restaurants
The start of the new week will bring significant steps toward normalcy across the U.S. Alabama, Arizona and South Carolina will permit dine-in service with occupancy restrictions at restaurants, New Hampshire will allow hair salons, barbershops, retail stores and drive-in movie theaters to open again for business, and Arkansas will allow dental offices to reopen.
Also, Minnesota will allow dentists, doctors and veterinarians to resume elective surgeries. Find out the latest news in your state.
National Park Service tests access in Utah, preps visitors for ‘new normal’
After closing amid the coronavirus pandemic, the National Park Service is testing public access at several parks across the nation, including two in Utah, with limited offerings and services.
Visitor centers and campgrounds remain largely shuttered at Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef national parks, but visitors are welcome at some of the sites.
Acting Park Service Director David Vela said visitors should steel themselves for a “new normal” that will not likely square with their last trip.
Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander to self-quarantine for 14 days
Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander will self-quarantine for 14 days after a member of his staff tested positive for COVID-19. The 79-year-old Republican is doing well and has no symptoms of the respiratory illness, according to a Sunday night statement from his office. He tested negative for COVID-19 last week.
– Anna Celia Gallegos, The Tennessean
More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY
More COVID-19 headlines from USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press