Symptoms of Kawasaki disease have been identified in at least 15 children in New York City hospitals, raising concerns about a possible link to COVID-19.
Hours after the White House added safety precautions against the coronavirus for the president and his staff Sunday, Trump administration officials denied a report that Vice President Mike Pence is self-isolating. Meanwhile, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee announced he will self-quarantine for two weeks after an aide tested positive.
In a far-from-typical Mother’s Day, social distancing measures kept many families from celebrating together in the U.S., which has recorded nearly one-third of the world’s cases. However, unrest about lockdown restrictions had businesses in Pennsylvania and Ohio defying state orders.
Earlier in the day, a top economic adviser predicted unemployment levels could exceed 20%, and New York revealed new rules for nursing homes, where many of the coronavirus deaths in the state have occurred.
There were nearly 80,000 deaths and more than 1.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. as on Sunday, according to the John Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, the virus has killed more than 282,000 people and infected almost 4.1 million.
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Here are some of the most significant developments to know Sunday:
What we’re talking about today: It’s Mother’s Day, and it’s easy to see what the pandemic has taken. But it has also brought grown children home.
Does wearing a mask weaken the immune system? We rate the claim “false,” even though you may have heard it in a debunked viral video.
Spokesman denies report that Vice President Mike Pence is self-isolating
Vice President Mike Pence is not self-isolating and will be back at work in the White House on Monday, a Pence spokesman said, denying a published report.
The story by Bloomberg came two days after his press secretary tested positive for the virus. Earlier in the week, a valet for President Donald Trump also tested positive. In addition, three members of the White House coronavirus task force entered quarantine after being close to someone diagnosed with COVID-19. Both Trump and Pence have tested negative.
“Vice President Pence will continue to follow the advice of the White House Medical Unit and is not in quarantine,” spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement. “Additionally, Vice President Pence has tested negative every single day and plans to be at the White House tomorrow.”
As part of new protocols announced Sunday, Trump and Pence will be tested daily for the virus, as will every staff member in close proximity to them. White House guests will be tested, work spaces will undergo regular deep cleaning and staff will follow social distancing guidelines, undergo daily temperature checks and have their symptom histories reviewed.
– Michael Collins
Lamar Alexander will self-quarantine after staffer’s positive COVID-19 test
Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander will self-quarantine for 14 days after a member of his staff tested positive for coronavirus.
The decision is considered precautionary. Alexander, 79, has not experienced any symptoms of the virus, according to his office. He also tested negative for COVID-19 last week.
“After discussing this with the Senate’s attending physician, Senator Alexander, out of an abundance of caution, has decided not to return to Washington, D.C., and will self-quarantine in Tennessee for 14 days,” said David Clear, Alexander’s chief of staff, in a statement.
Little information has been released about the staffer who tested positive. The senator’s office said the person is recovering and doing well.
Signs of unrest in Pennsylvania, Ohio
Groups of residents defying state orders to stay at home in Pennsylvania and Ohio are the latest signs of growing unrest over the measures imposed to limit spread of the coronavirus, which have wrecked economies and social activities.
In York, Pennsylvania, more than 150 people attended a Saturday meeting organized by state Rep. Mike Jones to talk about reopening business in York County, in spite of Gov. Tom Wolf’s order forbidding large gatherings. The vast majority of those in attendance were not wearing masks, and many were shaking hands, hugging and sitting close together in violation of social distancing guidelines, the York Daily Record reported.
The newspaper also reported two locations of the Round the Clock Diner defied Wolf’s order limiting restaurants to take-out only by opening for dine-in service Sunday.
Near the eastern Ohio town of Cambridge, pop. 10,000, the National Road Diner has remained open despite multiple visits from the Guernsey County sheriff’s and health departments.
“I believe it’s my constitutional right to open my business now,” owner Vicki Brearley told the Columbus Dispatch, even though Gov. Mike DeWine and Health Director Dr. Amy Acton decreed dine-in restaurants couldn’t reopen until May 21.
The restrictions to fight the virus have prompted protests in several parts of the country.
White House adviser says unemployment rate may pass 20%
White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett believes the unemployment rate could rise above 20% and the worst job losses would come in “May or June” because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
When asked Sunday what the “bottom” of the country’s unemployment pain would be, Hassett, who advises the Trump administration on economic policy and is the former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, told CBS’s “Face the Nation,” “to get unemployment rates like the ones that we’re about to see … which I think will climb up toward 20% by next month, you have to really go back to the Great Depression to see that.”
When asked about the “low point” in the unemployment rate, he said: “I’m looking for rates north of 20, sadly.”
The U.S. lost 20.5 million jobs in April, and the unemployment rate rose to 14.7%, both record-high numbers as the nation felt the economic effects of the coronavirus. Social distancing measures have forced the closures of businesses across the country, leading to employee layoffs and furloughs.
– Nicholas Wu
New York sets new rules for nursing homes
As its rate of new infections and deaths from COVID-19 continues to slow, New York state is taking new measures to protect those most susceptible to the disease.
Nursing homes that can’t provide a prescribed level of care for patients for any reason will have to transfer them to another facility or contact the state department of health, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at his Sunday news briefing. In addition, nursing homes that can’t treat coronavirus-positive residents will have to do the same. Cuomo also said nursing home staffs will be required to get tested for the virus twice a week, and hospitals won’t be allowed to discharge patients to those facilities unless they have tested negative for COVID-19.
“This virus uses nursing homes. They are ground zero,’’ Cuomo said. “They are the vulnerable population in the vulnerable location. It’s a congregation of vulnerable people.’’
According to The Associated Press, New York has had one-fifth of the nation’s coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes — 5,300 out of 26,000.
Cuomo also said the state is investigating up to 85 cases of COVID-related illnesses among children, from toddlers to those of elementary school age, who showed symptoms not typically associated with the coronavirus. At least three children have died of the disease, which manifests itself in inflammation similar to toxic-shock syndrome or Kawasaki disease instead of respiratory symptoms.
British PM Boris Johnson lays out ‘conditional plan’ for reopening
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a slow easing of the country’s coronavirus lockdown Sunday and outlined his government’s road map for further lifting restrictions in the coming months.
In a televised address to the nation, Johnson said Brits who can’t work from home, such as those in construction or manufacturing jobs, “should be actively encouraged to go to work” this week. He suggested they avoid mass transit and either drive or preferably walk or bike to work.
Johnson said a restriction limiting outdoor exercise to once a day will be lifted Wednesday. The prime minister, who spent a week in the hospital receiving treatment for COVID-19, stressed that social distancing guidelines still will have to be observed and said it would be “madness” to allow a second spike in infections.
“This is not the time simply to end the lockdown this week,” Johnson said. “Instead we are taking the first careful steps to modify our measures.”
‘Our life is in danger’: Hawaii battles record unemployment amid coronavirus
Hawaii is facing its highest unemployment rate ever as strict stay-at-home orders and a virtual shutdown of the state’s once-mighty tourism industry have left residents reeling, leaning on their savings or unable to pay rent and feed their families. Since March, the state’s unemployment rate has soared from 3% to 34%, one of the highest in the nation.
Roughly 216,000 of the state’s 660,000 workers were employed in jobs supported by tourism in 2019. Airline arrivals to Hawaii have nosedived from more than 30,000 passengers per day to 756. Food service workers, who make up roughly 13% of all employees in the state and earn a median annual income of about $30,000, lost wages as restaurants closed and hotels shuttered.
“Our life is in danger because, of course, we don’t know what will happen,” said Julie Gabot, a housekeeper at the Sheraton Waikiki. “There’s no real hope for good things in the future.”
LGBTQ community fears coronavirus will impact census outreach
For decades, LGBTQ people have battled for a seat at the census table.
Then in 2020, there came a beacon of hope when same-sex couples living together were included in the 10-year survey for the first time, even though sexual orientation and gender identity questions were absent. Advocates rallied the LGBTQ community, urging full participation.
Then in the midst of rollout this spring, a global health crisis erupted – upending lives and tangling census outreach efforts.
“Because of social distancing, people are not out there pushing the census,” said Glennda Testone, executive director of New York’s LGBT Community Center. “My fear is that the response numbers will go down.”
– Susan Miller
Top health officials to self-quarantine
Three top health officials and members on the White House’s coronavirus task force — Drs. Anthony Fauci, Robert Redfield and Stephen Hahn — will self-quarantine for two weeks after exposure to a person with the virus, according to official statements and media reports.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will begin a “modified quarantine” after a low-risk exposure, according to CNN. He has tested negative and is taking “appropriate precautions,” a NIAID spokesperson confirmed to USA TODAY.
Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will be “teleworking for the next two weeks” after it was determined he had a “low-risk exposure” to a person at the White House who tested positive, the CDC said in a statement Saturday.
The Food and Drug Administration said commissioner Hahn has tested negative but will self-quarantine.
– Joel Shannon
As new cases rise, South Korea’s leader urges calm
After South Korea reported 34 new cases of the coronavirus Sunday, most of which were linked to club goers, President Moon Jae-in urged calm and said “there’s no reason to stand still out of fear.”
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 26 of the 34 new infections were locally transmitted; the others came from abroad. Sunday’s surge marked the first time that the daily rate increased by more than 30 in about a month.
On Saturday, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon ordered more than 2,100 nightclubs, hostess bars and discos to close.
According to the John Hopkins University data dashboard, South Korea reported 10,874 confirmed cases and 256 deaths as of Sunday morning.
– The Associated Press
More coronavirus news from USA TODAY
Trump congratulates Dana White for putting on UFC 249 during pandemic
President Donald Trump was featured in a taped video during Saturday’s UFC 249 preliminary broadcast on ESPN, congratulating UFC president Dana White and the UFC for resuming operations and hosting the card during the global coronavirus pandemic.
“They’re going to have a big match,” Trump said during the broadcast. “We love it. We think it’s important – get the sports leagues back. Let’s play. We do the social distancing and whatever else you have to do, but we need sports. We want our sports back, and congratulations to Dana White and the UFC.”
UFC 249 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Jacksonville, Fla., was not only the first UFC card in the U.S. since the outbreak of coronavirus forced stay-at-home orders in most of the country, but also the first major sporting event of any sort.
– Danny Segura
More COVID-19 headlines from USA TODAY
US cuts funding to group studying bat coronaviruses in China
The head of a research group that studies bat-borne coronaviruses in China similar to the COVID-19 strain that’s ravaged the globe has warned that a U.S. government decision to cut funding to his organization imperils American public health.
EcoHealth Alliance’s research grant was abruptly terminated last month by the National Institutes of Health, the primary agency of the U.S. government responsible for biomedical and public health research. EcoHealth Alliance’s research in China is focused on identifying and warning about coronaviruses dangerous to human health.
“I’m really concerned about where this leaves us,” Peter Daszak, director of the New York-based organization, said in a USA TODAY interview.
The NIH confirmed EcoHealth Alliance’s $3.4 million grant, distributed over six years, was canceled on April 24, bBut it would not discuss details about how the decision was made.
– Kim Hjelmgaard
Contributing: The Associated Press
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