Coronavirus live updates: UK will soon have most European deaths; Trump to tour Arizona mask facility; US deaths near 70K

President Donald Trump was scheduled Tuesday to visit a Honeywell aerospace plant in Arizona that now produces face masks, a day after Gov. Doug Ducey announced he was accelerating a plan to reopen the state’s economy.

The Trump campaign to awaken the nation’s slumbering economy also drew support from former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who suggested “there are going to be deaths no matter what.” Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said it was “too hard to tell” if international travel would resume this year.

The U.S. death toll from coronavirus was nearing 70,000 early Tuesday, with more than 1.1 million confirmed cases, according to the John Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, the virus has killed over 251,700 people and infected more than 3.5 million.

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Here are some of the most important developments to know Tuesday: 

What the internet is talking about this morning: Man who wore KKK hood at California grocery store may be charged with hate crime, authorities say.

Good news to start your Tuesday: If you’re really missing Taco Bell on this Cinco de Mayo, you can bring an entire taco bar home. Yep, Taco Bell is offering its At Home Taco Bar ($25), which has all the ingredients for tacos packed individually for you to build as you wish.

Ex-Gov. Christie: It’s time for America to get back to work

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, saying that “there are going to be deaths no matter what,” called for leaders to allow people to get back to work before we “destroy American way of life.” Speaking on The Daily DC Podcast hosted by CNN’s Dana Bash on Monday, Christie said, “What we are doing now I just don’t think can be sustained as a country.” Christie, who sought the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, said claims that we must make choose between money and lives is a “false choice.” 

“We have to start letting people get back to work. I can see in my own state the economic devastation is equally sad,” he said, adding that the medical community might keep us “locked in our houses for another year” until there is a vaccine.

– John Connolly,

Trump to visit mask-making plant in Phoenix

President Donald Trump will tour a mask-making operation in Phoenix on Tuesday, his first extensive trip away from the nation’s capital in more than a month. Trump aims to project an image of confidence that the nation’s tattered economy will rebound and that some sense of normalcy could soon return to American life. The plant had manufactured aircraft engines until Honeywell International converted it to masks for the pandemic.

Trump also plans to participate in a roundtable on Native American issues. The president last visited Phoenix on Feb. 19, firing up his followers at a campaign rally during which he touted the then-roaring national economy. Trump said he plans to speak at Honeywell and mused about whether it is “politically correct” to do that while wearing a mask. “If it is, I’ll speak in a mask,” he said.

– Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Ronald J. Hansen, Arizona Republic

States reopening: Virginia extends stay-at-home order

Arkansas will permit barbershops, beauty salons, massage therapists and tattoo artists, among others, to open again on Wednesday.With May 15 as the target date, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday said he is extending an executive order closing most nonessential businesses that was set to expire May 8. A separate stay-at-home order set to end June 10 will remain in place.

California was preparing for Stage 2 of its reopening plan, which will allow some retail businesses to begin curbside pickup on Friday. In Arizona, barbershops and salons can resume hair, nail, waxing and other services by appointment Friday if they limit occupancy. Find out the latest on your state.

States vary on reporting nursing home COVID-19 deaths, frustrating families

State and local health officials nationwide have faced increasing scrutiny over the collection and release of infection data for long-term care facilities, whose residents are among the most susceptible to COVID-19. States have adopted their own standards with mixed results, according to interviews and examination of states’ records by the USA TODAY Network. The head of two industry groups representing most of the nation’s 15,000 licensed long-term care centers has publicly supported releasing facility-level infection data and urged members to provide it to residents, families and staff.

“We believe this information can help identify long-term care providers who are most in need of testing and PPE resources,” said Mark Parkinson, CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.

– Jo Ciavaglia, Stacey Barchenger and Matthew Leonard

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UK becoming coronavirus epicenter in Europe

Coronavirus deaths in the United Kingdom are nearing the 30,000 mark, the highest in Europe, according to John Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracker. The three countries with the largest death tolls in Europe — Italy, Spain and the U.K — have been recording data around infections and deaths in different ways.

Figures released by the U.K’s Office for National Statistics on Tuesday morning showed that 29,648 deaths with COVID-19 mentioned in death certificates had taken place in England and Wales as of April 24. Including deaths for Scotland and Northern Ireland, the toll on this measure now exceeds 30,000, according to the statistical agency. John Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracker lists 28,809 deaths in the U.K. At least 29,079 people have died from coronavirus in Italy. 

– Kim Hjelmgaard

Third Russian health care worker plunges from hospital window

A Russian paramedic who complained about being forced to work after testing positive for COVID-19 was in critical condition after falling from a hospital window in western Russia, according to multiple media reports. In the last two weeks, two other health care workers who challenged Russian medical authorities fell from windows to their deaths.

In the latest incident, Alexander Shulepov worked on an ambulance in Voronezh, 300 miles south of Moscow, when he and a friend posted a video on social media April 22 complaining about a lack of personal protective gear, the Russian website said. Shulepov fell from the window May 2. The friend, Alexander Kosyakin, told told CNN that Shulepov “felt fine, he was getting ready to get discharged from the hospital … and all of a sudden this happened, it’s not clear why.”

Family Dollar security guard killed after telling woman her child must wear mask 

Three people were facing murder charges Tuesday in the death of security guard Calvin Munerlyn, a father of nine who authorities say was gunned down after turning away a customer without a mask froma Family Dollar in Michigan

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton filed the charges Monday against Sharmel Teague, 45, Larry Edward Teague Jr., 44, and Ramonyea Bishop, 23.

Leyton said Sharmel Teague and her daughter left the store after a verbal altercation with Munerlyn, but that her husband and son arrived a short time later. Teague fatally shot Munerlyn after accusing him of “disrespecting”  his wife, Leyton said.

“Decisions like staying home when we can, wearing a mask when going to the store and staying a safe distance from those around us, these should not be political arguments,” Leyton said. “They don’t necessitate acts of defiance.”

– Miriam Marini, Detroit Free Press

Mnuchin: Don’t expect much foreign travel before 2021

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is encouraging Americans to focus on domestic travel this year as the international travel outlook for the rest of 2020 remains uncertain. In response to a question Monday from Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business Network about whether international travel will be opened up this year, he responded, “Too hard to tell at this point.”

The Treasury secretary clarified that there may be room for limited international travel: “Obviously, for businesspeople that do need to travel, there will be travel on a limited basis.”

– Julia Thompson and Dawn Gilbertson

Kroger offers free testing to all frontline workers

The nation’s largest supermarket chain announced it will offer free COVID-19 testing to all its frontline associates “based on symptoms and medical need.” Kroger, the parent company of Ralphs and Fred Meyer, said it test employees by providing self-administered kits and testing through public drive-thru sites.

“The resilience of the Kroger family is unparalleled, and we’re doing all we can to keep our team healthy and safe,” Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health, said in a statement. “The widespread availability of diagnostic testing will now allow our associates to feel more empowered and knowledgeable about their health, creating safer stores and facilities.”

The announcement comes after employees have died from the coronavirus, and workers in Southern California protested the company’s response to the outbreak.

Asian shares advance following Wall Street rebound, oil price recovery

Shares advanced in Asia early Tuesday after Wall Street shook off a slow start and ended with modest gains thanks to another solid showing from big technology companies.

Shares rose in Hong Kong, Sydney and Singapore. Markets in Shanghai and Tokyo were closed for a holiday.

Wall Street shook off a weak start and ended with modest gains Monday, thanks to another solid showing from big technology companies.

A recovery in oil prices was helping drive gains in Asia on Tuesday as the U.S. benchmark added $1.50, or more than 6%, to $21.89 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It climbed 61 cents on Monday to $20.39.

Brent crude, the standard for international pricing, picked up $1.30 to $28.50 per barrel.

Costco to temporarily limit meat purchases to 3 items per person

Costco is temporarily limiting meat purchases to three items per member, the company announced Monday. Meat items include poultry, beef and pork.

“Costco has implemented limits on certain items to help ensure more members are able to purchase merchandise they want and need,” reads the company statement.

Other grocers have adopted similar limits on meat purchases. Grocery giant Kroger said it has purchase limits on ground beef and fresh pork, while New York-based supermarket chain Wegmans has set limits on family packs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and 80% ground beef.

San Francisco study: Coronavirus exploits ‘pre-existing vulnerabilities’ 

More than half of the residents who tested positive for the new coronavirus in a San Francisco-based community screening initiative were asymptomatic, according to data released Monday by the University of California San Francisco.

Of the nearly 3,000 residents and workers in the city’s Mission District who were tested, 62 were positive, with 53% saying they hadn’t experienced COVID-19 symptoms.

The study, called Unidos En Salud, was conducted in a majority Hispanic/Latinx community. None of the positive cases were from the nearly 1,000 white/Caucasian people tested, while 95.1% of the people who tested positive were Hispanic or Latinx, according to the study.

Most of the people, nearly 89%, who tested positive were also from homes with a total household income less than $50,000, according to study data.

“The virus exploits pre-existing vulnerabilities in our society,” Dr. Diane Havlir, chief of the UCSF Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center said in a statement.

COVID-19’s prevalence in minority and low-income neighborhoods is well-documented. A USA TODAY analysis of ZIP code data from health departments in 12 states showed infections rates were five times higher in majority-minority ZIP codes than in ZIP codes with less than 10% nonwhite populations.

– Jordan Culver

Daily death toll could reach 3,000 on June 1, New York Times reports

Analysis of data from within the Trump administration is privately projecting the prospect of a steady rise in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths, potentially reaching about 3,000 daily deaths on June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times.

The projections, based on modeling by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month, up from about 25,000 cases now. 

The report showed that the rate of test results in Georgia and Florida, both of which have partially reopened their economies, dropped in the last two weeks of April. Public health officials say widespread testing is key to preventing another wave of infections.

The White House, which has been encouraging states to begin reopening their economies, quickly issued a statement challenging the report. The statement says the report had not been presented to the coronavirus task force or gone through interagency vetting.

“This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed,” the statement said. “The president’s phased guidelines to open up America again are a scientific driven approach that the top health and infectious disease experts in the federal government agreed with.”

FDA tightens oversight for antibody tests to meet new accuracy standards

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday announced plans to bolster oversight of antibody tests by requiring commercial test makers to meet new standards of accuracy and submit new information proving the quality of their tests.

The new policy is a reversal of the agency’s March 16 policy that allowed antibody test makers to sell their products without the normal step of sharing data with the agency to validate test accuracy. 

The agency said commercial test makers will have 10 business days to submit new data and seek the agency’s emergency-use authorization. The agency also will require test makers to meet accuracy, or “sensitivity and specificity” standards.

– Ken Alltucker

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Contributing: The Associated Press

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