Coronavirus live updates: Senate reconvenes; California counties defy stay-at-home order; Pence regrets not wearing mask

The U.S. Senate reconvenes Monday, its members donning masks and promising to practice social distancing, while across the nation many states slowly reopen their economies.

California isn’t one of those states — Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday he would make an announcement this week on plans to ease coronavirus restrictions — but two more counties in the northern part of the state aren’t waiting for the green light and plan to reopen Monday with some restrictions.

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Here are the most important developments from Sunday: 

  • President Donald Trump predicted that 80,000 to 90,000 Americans could eventually die from the virus, which has killed more than 67,000 in the U.S. so far.
  • The Department of Homeland Security released a report that says Chinese leaders hid the severity of the coronavirus pandemic to hoard personal protective equipment.
  • Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said it was “devastatingly worrisome” to watch anti-lockdown protesters fail to practice social distancing at demonstrations.

Good news: Amid a pandemic, teachers are finally getting the respect they deserve. “How most teachers are being viewed right now is right up there with health care workers,” said Ruth Faden, a professor of biomedical ethics at Johns Hopkins University. Here are a few of their stories. 

A question you might have: Did the Obama administration send $3.7 million to a Wuhan lab? No, here are the facts. 

Lesley Stahl describes battle with COVID-19

“60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl says she’s feeling better after a harrowing battle with COVID-19 that left her hospitalized for a week. The veteran journalist, 78, said Sunday she was “really scared” as she spent two weeks in bed with pneumonia before going to the hospital. 

“I found an overworked, nearly overwhelmed staff,” she said. “Every one of them kind, sympathetic, gentle and caring from the moment I arrived until the moment days later when I was wheeled out through a gauntlet of cheering medical workers.”

In her closing Sunday, Stahl paid tribute to medical staff and the care she received: “They were fulfilling a mission, answering the call. Thanks to them, like so many other patients, I am well now. Tonight, we all owe them our gratitude, our admiration – and in some cases, our lives.”

– Susan Haas

Delays in road, bridge reconstructions ‘a very large concern’

The coronavirus pandemic had prompted a catastrophic decline in state and local transportation funding, which officials say threatens to bring road and bridge construction to a screeching halt for the next year and a half. Governments big and small are postponing projects as roads, bridges and tunnels continue to crumble. Collections of gas taxes and tolls that fuel construction have plummeted as motorists stay home. Despite historically low interest rates, voters and their governments are leery of borrowing because of uncertainty about repaying the debt.

“It’s a very large concern,” Patrick McKenna, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation and president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “This is a pressing, immediate issue.”

– Bart Jansen

Infection controls at nursing homes could be curbed despite pandemic

The federal government is considering rolling back infection control requirements in U.S. nursing homes despite the heavy toll COVID-19 is having on residents and workers.

A rule proposed last year by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would modify the amount of time an infection preventionist must devote to a facility from at least part-time to “sufficient time,” an undefined term that lets the facility decide how much time should be spent. The regulation has not been finalized, but CMS last week defended its proposal.

“It makes no sense at all – prior to pandemic, but more so now during a pandemic,” said Lindsay Heckler, a supervising attorney at the Center for Elder Law & Justice, a civil legal services agency in Buffalo, New York. “They should be strengthening these infection and control requirements.”

– Marisa Kwiatkowski and Tricia L. Nadolny

Home sales expected to plunge, home prices not so much

Home sales will likely plunge this spring in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but bounce back by the end of next year, according to a new forecast from real estate search site Zillow. Sales will likely plummet by up to 60%, as stay-at-home mandates and overall worries about the economy take the steam out of what was previously expected to be a robust spring home-buying season, according to Zillow’s economists and analysts.

But prices will likely experience a much slighter slide, and a quicker recovery. Zillow expects prices to drop no more than 3% by the end of this year, and then creep back up throughout 2021.

– Charisse Jones

Two more California counties set to reopen despite stay-at-home order

Sparsely populated Modoc County, in California’s northeast corner, reopened on Friday against the state’s stay-at-home order. Two other northern counties will do the same on Monday. Yuba and Sutter counties will allow businesses including restaurants, retail operations, gyms, hair salons and public spaces like parks and libraries to reopen, as long as people can follow social distancing guidelines.

“The purpose is to continue to mitigate the spread of the virus to the greatest extent possible while addressing the need to gradually reopen the economy in order to ensure vital services are resumed in a safe manner,” said Dr. Phuong Luu, public health officer for both counties, in a press release issued Friday. 

Yuba and Sutter counties have reported a combined 50 coronavirus cases and three deaths as of Sunday afternoon.

Police: Woman licked hands before touching things at store, sub shop

A South Carolina woman is the latest person to be arrested after she allegedly licked her hands and touched things inside a grocery store, according to the Sumter Police Department

Shenir Gibson Holliday, 38, was arrested Saturday, the department said in a Facebook post. According to police, Gibson licked her hands and touched food and pulled on freezer doors in the store. She also licked her hands before touching things in the dry food area of the store, police said. 

Holliday was charged with aggravated breach of peace and food tampering and was issued a citation for violation of the state home or work order. Holliday also faces charges from the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, which was seeking a woman who licked her hands and touched items at a local sub shop. 

Multiple people have been arrested in connection with licking and coughing on items in stores since the coronavirus pandemic reached the United States. A few have done so while recording their actions for social media videos. A Pennsylvania grocery store had to throw out tens of the thousands of dollars in groceries after a woman went through the store coughing on things. 

Jordan Culver

Vice President Mike Pence on Mayo Clinic visit: ‘I should have worn a mask’

Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday that he should have worn a face mask when he visited the Mayo Clinic last week.

“I didn’t think it was necessary, but I should have worn a mask at the Mayo Clinic,” Pence said during a Fox News virtual town hall with President Donald Trump at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

Mayo Clinic policy requires “all patients, visitors and staff to wear a face covering or mask while at Mayo Clinic to guard against transmission of COVID-19.” A post on the Mayo Clinic’s Twitter account indicated that Pence had been informed of the masking policy prior to his arrival. That tweet has since been deleted.

– Michael Collins

Uber to require drivers, riders to wear face masks as part of new safety plan

It’s not just airlines requiring masks for passengers. Soon, Uber riders – and drivers – will need to wear face masks or some kind of face covering in post-shutdown America. The policy, approved by the ride-hailing giant’s executives in a meeting last week, is expected to become official in the coming weeks.

Uber confirmed the plan, first reported by CNN Business, to USA TODAY.

“As countries reopen, Uber is focused on safety and proceeding with caution,” the company said in a statement. “Today, we continue to ask riders to stay home if they can, while shipping safety supplies to drivers who are providing essential trips.”

– Mike Snider

Donald Trump revises US coronavirus death estimates to 80,000 to 90,000

President Donald Trump is upping his estimates of the number of Americans who could die from the coronavirus. At an event at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, Trump predicted that as many as 80,000 to 90,000 Americans could eventually die from the virus, which already has killed more than 67,000 Americans.

“It’s going to go up,” Trump said of the death toll during a virtual town hall on Fox News.

Trump noted that in the past he has predicted the disease could kill 65,000 Americans. “Now, I’m saying 80 or 90 (thousand),” he said. Trump insisted U.S. mitigation efforts have been successful – “if you call losing 80 or 90,000 people successful.”

– Michael Collins and David Jackson

DHS report: China hid extent of coronavirus outbreak to buy PPE

Chinese leaders “intentionally concealed the severity” of the coronavirus pandemic in early January so they could load up on supplies to fight it, an intelligence report from the Department of Homeland Security says. The four-page report, dated May 1 and obtained by The Associated Press, also says China declined to reveal how contagious the virus that originated in its soil really was.

The revelation comes as the Trump administration has intensified its attacks on China while critics accuse the federal government of responding too slowly and ineffectively to the pandemic. The U.S. has recorded 33% of the world’s 3.5 million cases of coronavirus – over 1.15 million as of Monday morning – and 27% of the deaths, with more than 67,000. No other country comes close in either category. 

The report also says China held off informing the World Health Organization that the coronavirus “was a contagion” for much of January so it could order medical supplies from abroad – and that its imports of face masks and surgical gowns and gloves increased sharply.

State reopenings: Arkansas, Montana, Kansas take steps toward normalcy

Monday will bring a flurry of reopenings across the country, including gyms, fitness centers and indoor athletic facilities in Arkansas and restaurants, bars, casinos, breweries and distilleries in Montana.

Also, Kansas will begin a three-phase reopening strategy upon the expiration of its statewide stay-at-home order and Colorado and Minnesota will begin opening nonessential businesses. Find the latest on your state here.

More coronavirus headlines from USA TODAY

Potential COVID-19 treatment remdesivir will be available this week

Remdesivir, the first possible scientifically proven treatment for battling COVID-19, will become available for U.S. hospitals in the coming week, says the CEO of the biotech company producing the drug.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday morning, Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O’Day said the company had donated 1.5 million vials to the U.S. government, enough to treat 150,000 to 200,000 patients. Last week, early results from a global study conducted by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found patients given the experimental drug remdesivir recovered faster and may be less likely to die. Patients who received remdesivir had a 31% faster recovery time than those who received a placebo, the study found. 

– Mike Snider

Britain PM Boris Johnson: Doctors discussed announcing my death

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent three days in the intensive care unit during his week-long hospitalization battling the coronavirus in April, said his condition was so critical that at one point doctors discussed how to announce his death to the nation.

“The bad moment came when it was 50-50 whether they were going to have to put a tube down my windpipe,” Johnson said in an emotional interview with the British newspaper The Sun. “That was when it got a bit . . . they were starting to think about how to handle it presentationally.”

Johnson, 55, was diagnosed with the virus on March 26 but acknowledged he was initially “in denial” about its seriousness. He was admitted to a London hospital April 5 and moved to the ICU the next day, getting “liters and liters of oxygen.” He left the hospital April 12.

Johnson’s administration has been criticized for a lack of urgency in its response to the pandemic, which has killed 28,446 Brits. Only the U.S. (67,447) and Italy (28,884) have suffered more deaths. The prime minister is expected to announce a plan to reopen the country and restart the economy this week.

– Jorge Ortiz

More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

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