R-0 may be the most important scientific term you’ve never heard of when it comes to stopping the coronavirus pandemic.
As the record numbers of jobless claims amid the coronavirus pandemic rose again Thursday, the same day the federal social distancing guidelines expired, the White House administration is focusing on reopening the U.S. economy. Meanwhile more than half of states plan to lift some stay-at-home restrictions by the end of the week.
Despite this, California moved in the opposite direction: A targeted “hard close” of some beaches in Orange County.
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Here are the most important developments of the day on the coronavirus pandemic:
- The White House administration released a three-phase plan on reopening the U.S. economy. President Trump said he has no plans on extending social distancing guidelines, which expired Thursday. But Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, suggested that social distancing would exist in some form through the summer.
- Rankled by the tens of thousands of people who disobeyed stay-at-home orders last weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a targeted “hard close” of beaches at “a few coastal cities off and around the Orange County area.”
- A few hundred demonstrators gathered outside the Michigan Capitol on Thursday, calling for an end to the state of emergency order enacted in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Here’s some good news for the day: A British army veteran who raised more than £31 million ($38 million) for his health care workers is celebrating his 100th birthday with a military flyover, more than 150,000 birthday cards, and a message from the Queen and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
What we’re talking about: Vice President Mike Pence faced criticism after he toured the Mayo Clinic earlier this week without wearing a mask. Second lady Karen Pence said he didn’t know the Minnesota hospital’s policy asking that everyone wear one.
Delta, American, United join airlines requiring passengers to wear masks
As travelers begin to return to the country’s airports, they’ll notice the changes meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Beginning Monday, Delta, United and JetBlue will require all passengers to wear face coverings. Delta and JetBlue will make them mandatory from the time they check in through the time they deplane. Delta, which says customers can take them off for meals, will also require them in its Sky Club lounges.
Wearing face masks will be customary, and even required by most domestic airlines. More airports may use machines to check passengers for fever. Security checkpoints may have plexiglass shields between passengers and screeners.
— Curtis Tate
Broadway actor Nick Cordero’s wife hopeful he’ll ‘wake up’
Nick Cordero’s wife Amanda Kloots is hopeful the Broadway star “will wake up” from a medically induced coma despite several setbacks in his recovery from the coronavirus, including the amputation of his right leg.
During a virtual appearance on “CBS This Morning” Thursday, Kloots said Cordero’s blood count dropped “really, really low,” suggesting there may be internal bleeding. “Today was supposed to be putting in a trach (breathing tube) and a feeding tube,” Kloots told anchor Gayle King over video chat. ” … Low blood count can mean that he’s internally bleeding from somewhere, so now we have to wait.”
The “Rock of Ages” star was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for what was initially thought to be pneumonia, Kloots wrote on Instagram on April 1. An initial coronavirus test came up negative, though a subsequent test was positive for COVID-19.
— Cydney Henderson
Trump’s social distancing guidelines expire
The deadline to lift social distancing guidelines quietly passed Thursday as the White House pushed a new set of suggestions designed to reopen the U.S. economy now decimated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The White House is sunsetting the federal guidelines, once a central tenet of its coronavirus response and the focus of the administration’s message. The Trump administration is under economic pressure to shift its strategy from battling the coronavirus to pressing ahead with a message of economic revival that he hopes will help secure his reelection in November.
The administration has pivoted to a three-phase plan that leaves the decision to states, creating a patchwork strategy that some health experts warn could undermine the progress that has been made in stemming the spread of coronavirus.
— Courtney Subramanian and Michael Collins
Protesters at Michigan Capitol urge an end to state of emergency
A few hundred demonstrators gathered under light rain outside the Capitol on Thursday in Lansing, urging lawmakers not to extend Michigan’s state of emergency related to the coronavirus pandemic.
They carried signs that read “You’re Killing Small Businesses,” and “Liberty or Death.” Many also wore hats or carried other paraphernalia touting President Donald Trump and his 2020 re-election campaign. Some carried rifles, as pointed out by Sen. Dayna Polehanki on Twitter. Open carry of firearms is allowed on Capitol grounds and inside the Capitol, said Lt. Brian Oleksyk of the Michigan State Police.
Some wore face masks but many did not. Many also did not observe social distancing guidelines that call for six-foot separations between people. There were also a few counter-protesters.
— Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press
Newsom: Some Southern California beaches to be temporarily closed
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced a targeted “hard close” of some Southern California beaches after they were overrun with people during a heatwave last weekend. The announcement followed speculation Newsom would close all beaches in the state after a memo to police chiefs leaked Wednesday.
“The conditions last week, the images we saw on a few of our beaches were disturbing,” Newsom said. He called out crowded beaches in Orange County and praised local officials in San Diego, Los Angeles and other regions for not allowing their beaches to be overrun.
Newsom said the targeted closure affecting “a few coastal cities off and around the Orange County area” would be short-term and could be rolled back once plans were in place to reopen with guidelines to maintain physical distancing.
Local leaders in San Diego County have used measures such as parking lot closures to help meter the number of people who can access the beach.
— Joel Shannon
Little League World Series canceled for first time in its 74-year history
For the first time since it began in 1947, the Little League World Series will not be played this year.
The regional tournaments leading up to and including August’s championship event in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, has become yet another of the sports world’s casualties because of the coronavirus outbreak, Little League International announced Thursday.
“After a thorough assessment of the impact the devastating COVID-19 pandemic has had on 6,500 community-based Little League programs in 84 countries and based upon the direction of governmental and public health authorities, and in consultation with medical professionals and our Board of Directors, Little League International has made the difficult and disappointing decision to cancel its seven World Series tournaments and their respective regional qualifying events,” the organization said in a statement.
However, Little League International said the events would return next year.
— Steve Gardner
Making face mask filters in China is like printing money
In late March, business owners and families desperate for work in Yangzhong, a tiny island in eastern China, began converting their workspaces into makeshift manufacturing plants to churn out one thing: the unusual fabric at the heart of the N95 and other medical-grade masks now in high demand.
As melt-blown producers popped up and ramped up overnight, so did problems ranging from substandard products and unsafe working conditions to price gouging.
Yangzhong has since announced a crackdown on fly-by-night manufacturers, shutting down more than 800 operations.
But people living there describe a booming marketplace that churned out melt-blown filter fabric for several weeks. Producing the special material, they say, was almost like printing money.
– Dian Zhang
Fact check: COVID-19 may be ‘here to stay,’ even after a vaccine
Many experts have said a true return to normalcy likely isn’t possible until a vaccine is widely available, which could be a year or more. But a vaccine doesn’t necessarily mean the end of COVID-19.
Based on what we know now, we rate this claim as TRUE. Experts say it’s still too early to know this with complete certainty, since much remains unknown about the nature of immunity. And we have no clue how effective a future vaccine may be. But a best guess at this point is that COVID-19 could indeed stick around long-term, waxing and waning similar to the seasonal flu. Experts say there’s also reason to believe that a lingering version could be less severe, though.
“It is entirely plausible that this could become part of our regular landscape of respiratory viraI infections,” said Bill Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard University’s School of Public Health.
– Eric Litke
New York City subway system to shut down from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. each day
New York City will shut down its subway system from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. every day beginning Wednesday in order to disinfect each train nightly, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.
The nightly shutdown plan will disrupt the subway system’s 24-hour service, which Cuomo said was necessary to ensure each train can be appropriately cleaned as the state remains the epicenter of the nation’s coronavirus outbreak.
“This is as ambitious as anything we have ever undertaken and it’s going to require a lot of effort from many agencies working together,” Cuomo said.
– Jon Campbell
Global environmental leaders call for shutdown of high-risk wildlife markets
More than 100 scientists and conservation leaders from more than 25 countries have signed a letter calling on governments to shut down some wildlife markets, especially ones in high-density areas, and to amp up global efforts to curb wildlife trafficking.
The environmental leaders say the steps are necessary to help prevent the possible outbreak of another global pandemic. Many scientists agree the novel coronavirus that first appeared in Wuhan, China, late last year jumped from animals to humans, possibly at a wildlife market.
Wildlife markets provide a setting with “perfect opportunities” for viruses to jump species, said Steve Osofsky, the Jay Hyman Professor of Wildlife Health & Health Policy at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
The World Wildlife Fund organized the letter’s launch and signatures.
The latest on which states are reopening
The statewide, stay-at-home orders for several states expire Thursday, including Alabama’s (at 5:00 p.m.), Texas’ (through the end of the day) and Idaho’s (through the end of the day). Still, many counties have implemented their own sets of regulations. For the latest details on your state’s plan, follow along here.
More need-to-know information from USA TODAY
Unemployment claims climb to 30M; Stocks fall
About 30 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits over the past six weeks, a grim marker revealing how badly the pandemic has crippled the U.S. economy.
Roughly 3.8 million people filed for unemployment last week alone, the Labor Department said Thursday, lower than the 4.4 million who filed the week before and down from the all-time high of 6.86 million applications in late March. Jobless claims provide the best measure of layoffs across the country.
While the number of claims continues to slide, the tally is still monumental and is building toward a projected unemployment rate of 16.4% in May that would be the highest since the Great Depression, according to Morgan Stanley.
Stocks fell Thursday after the Labor Department announcement, with the Dow Jones industrial average down 338 points, or 1.4%, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 down 1.1%. The Nasdaq was down 0.5%.
– Charisse Jones and Jessica Menton
Need-to-know numbers Thursday: Florida shutdown
Gov. Ron DeSantis is easing back on Florida’s month-long shutdown, softening stay-at-home restrictions across the state but maintaining tough limits in hard-hit Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
“We need to focus on facts, not fear,” DeSantis said of the phase-in, set to take effect Monday. Flagler County beaches are already open 24 hours a day without restrictions, but social distancing is in place.
As the pandemic is continuing to unfold, USA TODAY is tracking the data. Here’s what’s new.
- More than 1 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19 – equivalent to the population of Miami, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale combined. More than 60,000 Americans are already dead – a number greater than the entire population of Sarasota.
- In Florida, more than 32,000 cases are confirmed with more than 1,200 dead. More than 5,400 were hospitalized.
– Mike Stucka, John Kennedy, Erica Van Buren
More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY
Reporters and experts from across the country and the USA TODAY Network talk about America’s most urgent questions on disinfection and reinfection.
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Contributing: The Associated Press
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