Reporters and experts from across the country and the USA TODAY Network talk about America’s most urgent questions on disinfection and reinfection.
Nursing homes, long-term care facilities, prisons and meatpacking plants are all facing increasing scrutiny heading into the weekend as sobering reports of outbreaks at each made news late in the week.
Even as questions are raised about how to contain those outbreaks, states across the nation are constantly changing their social distancing restrictions, slowly relaxing an uneven patchwork of regulations and making moves to reopen ravaged economies. The weekend will again bring challenges as some worry nice weather will cause crowding, especially at beaches in states including Florida and California.
Our live blog is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news, and get updates in your inbox with The Daily Briefing.
Here are the most significant developments to get your weekend started:
Some good news: Don’t feel pressure to exercise too much as you’re stuck at home — “Whatever your regular exercise routine was, I wouldn’t alter it,” one expert recommends.
A question you might have: What should I do if I think I might have coronavirus? This guide will walk you through next steps.
State reopenings: Ohio takes small steps, Colorado OKs hair salons
Ohio’s loosening of stay-at-home orders Friday represents Gov. Mike DeWine’s cautious approach, starting with an easing of rules for hospitals, dentists and veterinarians, followed Monday with the opening of construction and manufacturing. Retail and customer service shops will remain shuttered until May 12.
Meanwhile, to usher in the first of May, more than a dozen states – like Louisiana and Colorado – have allowed restaurants, stores or some other business to reopen, but under tight restrictions to keep people apart. Find the latest on your state here.
Virus spares one ZIP code, ravages the next
The coronavirus has left one Chicago neighborhood reeling. Blocks away, residents are living life largely as normal. The difference? Income and race.
USA TODAY took an exclusive look at how the pandemic has been felt in neighborhoods across the nation by collecting the ZIP code-level data from health departments in 12 states. The results paint a grim picture of COVID’s devastation in places just miles or blocks from communities experiencing far less harm:
- In the poorest neighborhoods, where median household income is less than $35,000, the COVID-19 infection rate was twice as high as in the nation’s wealthiest ZIPs, with income more than $75,000.
- Infection rates were five times higher in majority-minority ZIP codes than in ZIPs with less than 10% nonwhite population.
– Grace Hauck, Mark Nichols, Miriam Marini and Andrew Pantazi
The Kentucky Derby would’ve been today
For Kentuckians and many across the horse racing industry, the first Saturday in May is a sacred holiday reserved for one thing: The Kentucky Derby.
Today would have marked the 146th running at Churchill Downs, which postponed the race until September due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event annually draws 150,000 people to the Louisville racetrack who come dressed in their best spring attire – colorful hats, seersucker suits, linen pants and bow ties – all to catch a glimpse of the fastest 2 minutes in sports, drink a Mint Julep and maybe to spot a celebrity.
The last time the Derby wasn’t held on the first Saturday in May was in 1945, when the U.S. government temporarily banned horse racing because of World War II.
And while racetracks in California, Kentucky and New York are closed, all eyes are on the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park, which rescheduled its race for 3-year-olds from April 11 to May 2.
– Rachel Aretakis
More coronavirus headlines from USA TODAY:
California, praised for early action, still held back by testing
California has gained praise for its speed in enacting social distancing orders which have helped keep the most populous state from suffering the kind of runaway outbreaks that have plagued other states. But a USA TODAY Network analysis finds the state is still woefully unprepared to reopen in accordance with public health recommendations.
Gov. Gavin Newsom recently laid out a reopening plan with benchmarks that must be met before he will recommend walking back stay-at-home orders and other social distancing measures. He called for California to test between 60,000 and 80,000 people daily.
California is doing just a third of that, as of late April, conducting only about 52 tests per 100,000 people each day, according to a USA TODAY Network analysis. Across the nation, California falls slightly into the bottom half of all states.
California is far behind behind the national leaders — Rhode Island, North Dakota and New Mexico — which are respectively averaging about 260, 209 and 163 tests per 100,000 residents each day. No other states have yet to achieve the recommended testing metric, though New York and Massachusetts are close.
Newsom has said some business sectors, such as retail and manufacturing, may be able to open within weeks if the state’s testing capability grows and case numbers slow. But other businesses such as hair salons will take longer. Large gatherings such as concerts still remain out of reach, he said.
– Nicole Hayden, Mark Olalde, Jordan Culver and Joel Shannon
FDA authorizes remdesivir
The FDA on Friday issued emergency authorization for use of remdesivir for the treatment of hospitalized coronavirus patients. Remdesivir “may be effective in treating COVID-19,” and “there is no adequate, approved and available alternative,” the FDA’s chief scientist Denise Hinton said in a letter.
Remdesivir is an experimental antiviral drug from the American biotech firm Gilead Sciences. It was originally tested as a treatment for Ebola and other coronaviruses including SARS and is now being tested as a possible COVID-19 treatment.
Early data from a global study released Wednesday found patients given remdesivir recovered faster and may be less likely to die. However, another study published the same day in the British medical journal The Lancet found no clinical benefits to the drug.
– Grace Hauck
New Mexico governor seals off hard-hit city to all nonessential traffic
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has invoked the state’s Riot Control Act to seal off all roads to nonessential traffic in the city of Gallup to help control a surging coronavirus outbreak in the former trading post on the outskirts of the Navajo Nreservation.
Gallup, a city of 70,000, is the seat of McKinley County, which has reported 1,027 coronavirus cases and 19 deaths, the highest for any New Mexico county. Under Lujan Grisham’s order, which remains in effect until noon Monday, only two people per vehicle are allowed and residents should stay home except for essential trips.
“The spread of #COVID19 in McKinley County is frightful. Physical distancing has not occurred & is not occurring,” Lujan Grisham tweeted, after enacting the order at the request of Gallup’s mayor. “Stricter measures are necessary to stop the virus.”
Statewide, the governor reported eight new deaths Friday, bringing the total to 133, and 104 new cases, raising the total to 3,513.
McKinley County includes part of the Navajo Nation reservation, which spans parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. The Navajo Nation ordered its own 57-hour weekend curfew starting at 8 p.m.
Tennessee to test all inmates, prison staff after massive outbreak
All Tennessee inmates and correction staff will be tested for the coronavirus as part of a new widespread initiative to mitigate the spread of the virus amid multiple massive prison outbreaks in the state, Gov. Bill Lee announced Friday.
The governor’s office said more than half of the inmates and staff tested at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville tested positive for the virus.
Of the 2,725 total tests given at the facility this week, at least 1,349 came back positive, according to CoreCivic, the national private corporation that runs Trousdale Turner. Just two of the inmates who tested positive exhibited symptoms, CoreCivic said in a statement, and both are being treated at a nearby hospital.
“The rate of infection at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center is consistent with or below what is being reported by other correctional systems nationally,” CoreCivic’s public affairs office said in a statement Friday, noting that more than 70% of federal inmates have tested positive for the virus, according to recently released data.
Based on state virus data compiled by The Tennessean, the outbreak at Trousdale has led to the largest single-day spike in positive cases — more than twice the size of any other — since the virus came to Tennessee in early March.
White House blocks Dr. Fauci from testifying
The White House is blocking epidemic expert Anthony Fauci from testifying before a congressional committee next week, less than two months after Fauci critiqued the nation’s coronavirus testing system during a public hearing.
The House Appropriations Committee had sought Fauci’s testimony at a Wednesday subcommittee hearing to look into the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 65,000 Americans.
“We have been informed by an administration official that the White House has blocked Dr. Fauci from testifying,” committee spokesman Evan Hollander said Friday.
– David Jackson and Michael Collins
Report: Coronavirus could last up to 2 years
If COVID-19 follows a pattern set by the 1918 Spanish flu, the pandemic is likely to last up to two years and return with a vengeance this fall and winter – a second wave worse than the first, according to a study issued from the University of Minnesota.
“States, territories and tribal health authorities should plan for the worst-case scenario,” warns the report out of the university’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, “including no vaccine availability or herd immunity.”
“Risk communication messaging from government officials should incorporate the concept that this pandemic will not be over soon and that people need to be prepared for possible periodic resurgences of disease,” the authors suggest.
– Dennis Wagner
Weekend reading from USA TODAY
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