Coronavirus live updates: Trump moves to prevent meat shortages; Fauci warns of ‘bad fall’; California considers starting school in July

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases topped 1 million in the U.S., President Donald Trump has ordered meat processing plants to remain open despite safety concerns among workers and warnings of food shortages.

Many states, meanwhile, have begun to outline plans to reopen their economies and resume everyday life. Though Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday warned of a “bad fall and bad winter” from a second wave of cases if the country prematurely opens.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said it was possible that K-12 students could return to school as early as July. And, in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said regions of the state will begin to reopen once the hospital systems are at least 30% below capacity.

The virus has killed more Americans than the Vietnam War from 1955 to 1975, with more than 58,300 deaths as of early Wednesday, according to John Hopkins University data. Worldwide, there are over 3 million confirmed cases and more than 217,100 deaths.

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Fauci: US could have ‘a bad fall and a bad winter’

A second wave of the new coronavirus is “inevitable,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday. But how the U.S. the responds before it comes will determine how the country fares.

“If by that time we have put into place all of the countermeasures that you need to address this, we should do reasonably well. If we don’t do that successfully, we could be in for a bad fall and a bad winter,” Fauci said Tuesday.

Fauci said the latest coronavirus models predict more than 70,000 will die in the U.S. during the first wave. If the U.S. can create an efficient system of “identifying, isolating and contact tracing” as states begin to reopen, the model will likely hold true, Fauci said.

“If we are unsuccessful or prematurely try to open up, and we have additional outbreaks that are out of control, (deaths) could be much more than that,” Fauci said. “It could be a rebound to get us right back in the same boat that we were in a few weeks ago.”

GDP fell 4.8% in first quarter as consumer spending tumbled

The U.S. economy, largely shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, turned in its worst performance in more than a decade early this year, but the dismal showing reflects just a sliver of the damage to come.

The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S., contracted at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.8% in the January-March period as both consumer and business spending fell sharply, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. It marked the first drop in output since early 2014 and the steepest since late 2008 during the depths of the Great Recession.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had forecast a 3.8% decline in GDP. The country is already mired in a deep – though likely short – recession.

The first-quarter contraction likely reflects only part of the actual slide because initial estimates typically miss some data and such gaps are accentuated during big economic shifts, Goldman Sachs says. Also, the firm says, many businesses were closed and couldn’t be surveyed.

– Paul Davidson

California eyes to start next academic year in July

Gov. Gavin Newsom said California’s schools could return possibly as early as late July or early August to begin the next academic year.

Starting the next school year early could make up for “a learning loss” as children have been at home and working virtually on school assignments, Newsom said.

“As a parent myself, and having talked to many other parents and educators – even the kids – I think we might want to consider getting the at school year moved up a little bit,” Newsom said.

The governor said not decision has been made yet, but physical and environmental changes would be needed at the state’s schools to reopen safely.

The process of reopening schools across the country will be challenging, educators say – with cramped space, limited funding and vague guidelines from health officials. Beyond blanket health recommendations, schools will have to figure out the rest by themselves.

– Erin Richards

Survey: Americans trust Fauci over Trump, governors

Dr. Anthony Fauci is cited most often as the official that Americans rely on for information regarding the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study.

The study released Wednesday found Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was cited most often by those surveyed at 45%, while participants’ “own state’s governor” was cited by 35% and 20% said they relied on President Donald Trump.

Fauci, a key member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, has a long government career that spans back to the Lyndon Johnson administration. The 79-year-old doctor has been one of the most high-profile members of Trump’s response to the coronavirus, earning praise and widespread recognition.

– Savannah Behrmann

US Navy hospital ship Comfort will depart New York City this week

After a month of supporting New York City and New Jersey residents during the coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. Navy hospital ship Comfort will leave Thursday for its home port in Norfolk, Virginia. The U.S. Northern Command announced in a statement Tuesday that the ship will return to prepare for any future COVID-19 assignments.

“The Navy, along with other U.S. Northern Command dedicated forces, remains engaged throughout the nation in support of the broader COVID-19 response,” the statement said.

The ship served 182 patients during its stay, discharging its final patient Sunday, according to a spokesman for Northwell Health, which assisted with service on the ship. It arrived in New York City on March 30 to help non-COVID patients, but began helping coronavirus patients six days later.

Donald Trump orders meat processing plants to stay open amid coronavirus

Faced with worries of a meat shortage caused by the coronavirus, President Donald Trump on Tuesday ordered beef, pork and poultry processing plants to remain open despite safety concerns.

Citing his authority under the Defense Production Act, Trump declared in an executive order that “it is important that processors of beef, pork, and poultry (‘meat and poultry’) in the food supply chain continue operating and fulfilling orders to ensure a continued supply of protein for Americans.”

Critics said the forced openings – some plants have closed because so many employees contracted the coronavirus – threaten the safety of workers who remain vulnerable to the disease.

In a full-page newspaper ad over the weekend, Tyson Foods board Chairman John Tyson said “the food supply chain is breaking,” and “there will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed.”

– David Jackson

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Southern California city votes to keep beaches open amid coronavirus crisis

The Newport Beach City Council in California voted Tuesday to keep its beaches open after thousands flocked to the Orange County beach community over the weekend. The council blocked a measure that would have closed its beaches for the next three weekends.

“I’ve heard from a lot of individuals, most of which support keeping beaches open,” Councilmember Kevin Muldoon said Tuesday. “They think most people are being responsible. It’s mostly families and those practicing social distancing.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom disagreed: “The only thing that will set us back is people stopping to practice physical distancing and appropriate social distancing,” Newsom said Monday during his daily briefing.

‘They’re playing Russian roulette’: As states reopen, experts warn of risks

Dozens of states have decided to reopen businesses and have established a number of conditions for restarting, but public health experts question their ability to monitor and handle the inevitable increase in cases that will follow.

If the surge is strong enough, some may have to reimpose the social distancing restrictions that devastated their economies, making for a herky-jerky approach to recovery.

““I think they’re playing Russian roulette. They’re hoping obviously that reopening the states is not going to lead to increased cases,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus at the University of California-Berkeley. “They have no way of monitoring the answer to that question until it explodes.”

– Jorge L. Ortiz

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo lays out specifics on reopening parks, beaches

Regions of New York state can begin the reopening process after their hospital system is at least 30% below capacity and their rate of infection is below 1.1, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.

That means only 70% of the hospital system can be filled at a time and an infected person in the region is only infecting, on average, roughly one other person. Cuomo described the metrics as two “built-in circuit breakers” that would halt a region’s reopening if they fall behind. Extensive contact tracing – 30 tracers for every 100,000 people – will also be necessary for regions to reopen.

“We want to reopen but we want to do it without infecting more people or overwhelming the hospital system,” Cuomo said at a news conference.

Some reopening will have to happen on a statewide basis, such as parks and beaches, to prevent people from unopened region from flocking to the open attractions, Cuomo said.

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Contributing: The Associated Press

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