As coronavirus spreads, people are getting more cautious and creative with their social interactions.
All 50 states have at least partially reopened their economies by now as Connecticut loosened restrictions Wednesday and Illinois announced major modifications to its stay-at-home order.
Also Wednesday, President Donald Trump said he will soon complete his controversial regimen of the drug hydroxychloroquine, and word came out that his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen will be released from prison.
Also Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services said pharmacists would be allowed to order and administer coronavirus tests, even where they previously were not explicitly permitted.
The U.S. has the largest coronavirus outbreak in the world with more than 93,000 deaths and 1.5 million confirmed cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, the virus has killed more than 328,000 people and infected 4.99 million.
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Here are some developments from Wednesday:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has always warned that “it may be possible” to become infected with coronavirus by touching contaminated surfaces or objects. It just “does not spread easily” in that manner, the agency now says.
- Victoria’s Secret plans to permanently close approximately 250 stores in the U.S. and Canada and Bath & Body Works plans to shutter 50 stores in the U.S. and one in Canada, parent company L Brands announced.
- Vice President Mike Pence praised Florida’s phased-in plan for restarting its economy in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, saying the state is “leading the way” in its effort to balance safety with the need to reopen businesses.
But, whoa. A Florida block party that drew 3,000 people got shut down amid violence and calls of racism. Officials say things got violent when a rifle was pointed, launching a string of incidents that led to a sheriff’s deputy being struck with a bar stool and another sustaining a leg injury.
Some good news: Itching for a vacation? How about a staycation instead?
Read this from our Opinion section:We stuck together to #StayHome, now we can start together to #OpenSafely.
Staying Apart, Together: USA TODAY brings a newsletter about how to cope with these trying times straight to your inbox. 📥
Donald Trump says he’s nearly done with hydroxychloroquine regimen
President Donald Trump said Wednesday he will complete his regimen of hydroxychloroquine “in a day or two.”
Trump said Monday he was taking the drug, which he has repeatedly touted as a treatment for the coronavirus despite warnings about its effectiveness and side effects, to prevent contracting COVID-19.
Trump, who according to the White House has tested negative for the disease, stirred up a storm by saying he had been taking the drug daily for about a week and a half as an added measure to avoid being infected by the virus.
– Savannah Behrmann
Michael Cohen set to be released from prison amid coronavirus outbreak
Michael Cohen is about to become the next prominent figure with close links to President Donald Trump to be allowed out of jail because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The president’s former personal lawyer is set to be released from a New York federal prison Thursday to serve the remainder of his term at home amid coronavirus fears. More than two dozen inmates and officers have been infected with the virus at the Otisville, New York, prison facility where Cohen was serving a three-year sentence for committing financial crimes and lying to Congress while working for Trump.
On May 13, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was released to home confinement after his lawyers argued his age and several illnesses make him vulnerable to the virus.
– Kevin Johnson and Kristine Phillips
Americans carefully venturing back out, according to USA TODAY analysis
Americans are cautiously stepping back out as social distancing measures are relaxed throughout the country, but they’re proceeding much less swiftly than they did when originally told to stay home.
A USA TODAY analysis of anonymized cellphone data from more than 16 million devices shows movement fell 15% from the start to the end of March, the first month when shelter-in-place orders were issued. The share of mobile users leaving home nationwide crept up 5% from April 11 to May 11 as restrictions began to get lifted and some cabin fever set in.
Each state began to reduce trips away from home dramatically around March 11. Movement in every state bottomed out sometime between April 7 and 18.
– Dan Keemahill, Mitchell Thorson, Mike Stucka, Janie Haseman and Shawn Sullivan
Michigan conservative group holds ‘Operation Haircut’ on Capitol lawn
The Michigan Conservative Coalition, an organization intended to shape policy and help more conservatives win election, held what was dubbed Operation Haircut outside the Capitol on Wednesday. The group was protesting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order and the closing of barbershops and hair salons.
Organizers said those attending were “encouraged to comply with social distancing and other safe practices” such as wearing masks, but people providing haircuts would not be able to remain six feet away from people getting them, as required by the order.
Michigan State Police tweeted a photo of the demonstration, saying those “engaging in haircuts are being educated on the law” and that people who do not comply would be cited for disorderly conduct. Seven people were ticketed.
– Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press
Donald Trump wants June G-7 summit to be staged at Camp David
President Donald Trump hasn’t given up on the idea of hosting a G-7 summit in person next month, and he wants to frame it as a sign of moving past the coronavirus.
The meeting was originally scheduled for June in Camp David, but Trump canceled it at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, the White House said the meeting would likely take place by video conference instead.
Trump, who has pressed for a return to normalcy despite warnings of a possible resurgence of the virus, said on Twitter that rescheduling the in-person gathering would show the USA and other countries are on the mend.
“It would be a great sign to all – normalization!” tweeted Trump, who also wrote that the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland would be the ideal site.
– John Fritze
All pharmacists can now administer COVID-19 tests, HHS says
As more COVID-19 tests become available, pharmacists will now be able to order and administer them, even in states or localities where they previously were not explicitly allowed to do so.
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the General Counsel announced Wednesday that licensed pharmacists may conduct such FDA-authorized tests because the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act allows it to preempt such state rules.
Many states proactively gave authority for pharmacists to administer these tests. Although others may not have explicitly prohibited this, the HHS guidance removes any uncertainty in those states that haven’t given that explicit authority.
“Giving pharmacists the authorization to order and administer COVID-19 tests to their patients means easier access to testing for Americans who need it,” Secretary Alex M. Azar II said in a statement. “Pharmacists play a vital role in delivering convenient access to important public health services and information.”
– Elizabeth Weise
Illinois takes major reopening steps
Illinois, which ranks third among states in total of coronavirus cases with nearly 100,000, announced major updates Wednesday as it enters the third phase of its reopening plan.
Among the modifications to the current mandate aimed at reducing the virus’ spread: Restaurants and bars can resume service for outdoor seating May 29. On that date, people will be allowed to gather in groups of 10 or less.
In addition, all state parks, boating, camping, tennis facilities and golf courses can reopen, and so can other enterprises like barber shops, nail salons, tattoo parlors, etc.
“Basically any store that wasn’t already open as an essential business can choose to open their doors to in-person shopping,” with safety precautions in place, when the state enters Phase 3 of its reopening plan, Gov. JB Pritzker said.
– Grace Hauck
Millions more US jobless claims expected in next Labor Department report
The number of Americans filing new unemployment claims will likely continue to drop, but it’s still expected to reach the millions as the economic toll from the coronavirus pandemic ticks on.
Between 2.3 million and 2.8 million Americans filed initial applications for unemployment insurance last week, economists estimate. That’s down from the 3 million who filed claims the week before and the record 6.9 million who sought assistance in late March.
But if the latest tally, which the Labor Department reports Thursday, matches estimates, it will mean roughly 39 million Americans will have applied for unemployment in just nine weeks, a staggering number that reflects the highest jobless rate since the Great Depression.
– Charisse Jones
College football, basketball players get OK to practice on campus
Football players as well as men’s and women’s basketball players will be allowed to resume voluntary on-campus workouts beginning June 1 after getting the OK from the NCAA Division I Council on Wednesday.
The move lifts a prohibition that has been in place since March, when the coronavirus pandemic resulted in a variety of actions shuttering college sports, including the cancellation of the NCAA basketball tournaments.
— Dan Wolken and Steve Berkowitz
California man shares dramatic photo of what COVID-19 did to his body
A 43-year-old nurse from San Francisco shared a photo of how his battle with COVID-19 affected his body, showing the dramatic toll the virus can take.
Mike Schultz told BuzzFeed News he was in the hospital for six weeks and got sedated and intubated as he fought the coronavirus. Schultz told the news outlet that before he got sick, he would work out six to seven times a week and weighed 190 pounds. He could barely eat while sick with COVID-19 and was down to 140 pounds, he told BuzzFeed News.
“I was so weak. This was one of the most frustrating parts,” he said. “I couldn’t hold my cellphone, it was so heavy. I couldn’t type because my hands shook so much.”
Food prices soar to highest one-month increase since ’74; eggs up 16% in April
Grocery store bills shot up in April, showing the biggest monthly increase in nearly 50 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic’s monthly Consumer Price Index report.
While overall the April CPI declined 0.8%, consumers on average paid 2.6% more for groceries. It’s the largest one-month increase since February 1974. During the last 12 months, grocery prices rose 4.1%.
Price increases in the meat, poultry, fish and egg category were the steepest. Egg prices had the biggest jump as consumers paid 16.1% more in April than in March.
– Susan Selasky
For Instacart shoppers, chance to earn money outweighs coronavirus safety risk
CDC quietly releases longer, detailed reopening guidance
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has quietly published a 60-page document providing guidance to businesses, restaurants, schools and other establishments on how to reopen while minimizing the risk of spreading the virus.
The document comes after the agency had released six one-page documents and faced criticism amid reports that the Trump administration shelved the longer, more detailed reopening guidance for being too specific.
Politico and CNN reported administration officials delayed the release of the document because of references to religious organizations that they feared were being unfairly targeted. References to faith-based groups were removed from the final 60-page document, an unnamed CDC official told CNN.
Reopening America: Wednesday brings changes in Connecticut, Kentucky
Connecticut took its initial steps toward a return to normalcy Wednesday with some restaurants and retail stores reopening with restrictions, including social distancing and masks. Also Wednesday, Kentucky started to allow in-person worship services and permit customers inside retail stores. Find the latest news on your state.
Amid reopenings across the U.S., scientists hope wastewater monitoring systems relying on human waste will provide early warnings if there’s another burst of infections. Here’s more about the efforts to collect sewage and test it for the coronavirus.
More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY:
McDonald’s workers in 20 cities strike over lack of COVID-19 protections
Hundreds of McDonald’s workers in 20 cities went on 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
A New York woman has collaborated with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra to put on what she calls a “Stimulus Serenade” to give moral support to front-line hospital workers and COVID-19 patients in New Orleans. (May 19)
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Contributing: The Associated Press
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