Coronavirus headlines: Tourists enter reopened Grand Canyon despite virus concerns

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May 15, 2020

(WJW) — As of Friday, there are 4,444,670 confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, including 302,493 deaths.

In the United States, there are 1,417,889 confirmed cases and 89,506 deaths.

Ohio has seen 26,357 cases and 1,534 deaths.

**For more on the coronavirus pandemic in Ohio, watch the video above**

9:55 p.m. update:

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. (AP) — Tourists are once again roaming portions of Grand Canyon National Park after some areas reopened Friday, despite concerns that it could hurt efforts to control the coronavirus. During the early morning, more than two dozen people were enjoying some viewpoints along the South Rim. Park officials say the South Rim entrance will only be open until 10 a.m. through Monday. Visitors will have limited access to viewpoints and other sites. Officials on the hard-hit Navajo Nation, which stretches into northern Arizona, expressed disappointment at the reopening. There have been at least 3,740 positive cases and 127 deaths on the reservation, which also includes parts of New Mexico and Utah.

9:20 p.m. update:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A federal judge has ordered Los Angeles city and county to move thousands of homeless people who are living near freeways, saying their health is at risk from pollution and the coronavirus. Judge David O. Carter issued a preliminary injunction Friday requiring relocation of an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 people camping near freeway ramps and under overpasses and bridges. The order would take effect on May 22. Carter says those people are at risk from the coronavirus, lead and other pollutants, and from accidents and earthquakes. 

7:10 p.m. update:

(AP)– NFL teams can begin reopening their facilities on Tuesday if state and local governments will allow it.

In a memo sent to the 32 teams Friday by Commissioner Roger Goodell and obtained by The Associated Press, he stressed that the clubs must be “in compliance with any additional public health requirements in their jurisdiction, and have implemented the protocols that were developed by (league medical officer) Dr. (Allen) Sills and distributed to all clubs on May 6.”

Facilities have been closed since late March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Each team was required to submit a plan to the league for reopening its training/practice facility this week.

“Clubs unable to meet these criteria on May 19 may reopen their facilities on the earliest date thereafter on which they are able to meet the criteria,” Goodell added.

Sills will conduct a training program for club infection control officers (ICO) on Monday night that is required.

6:05 p.m. update:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Some local health officials in Wisconsin are rescinding their stay-at-home orders as attorneys warn they may be on shaky legal ground after the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down a statewide order. About a dozen Wisconsin counties implemented their own stay-at-home orders after the high court on Wednesday struck down Gov. Tony Evers’ order outlawing nonessential travel and closing nonessential businesses. The court ruled the order went too far. The Wisconsin Counties Association warned that local orders could be challenged on the same grounds. At least four counties and two cities dropped their orders Friday.

4:40 p.m. update:

DETROIT (AP) — Republicans who control the Michigan Legislature are urging a judge to strike down stay-home orders and other restrictions related to the coronavirus. They say Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has trampled their authority in determining statewide emergencies. The clash in Michigan is the latest involving Democratic governors who have shut down businesses and ordered people to stay home in response to COVID-19. Many Republicans believe the steps are excessive. The dispute in Michigan centers on a conflict between two laws dealing with emergencies and disasters. The Wisconsin Supreme Court this week ruled against Gov. Tony Evers’ administration, clearing the way for bars and restaurants to reopen.

2:55 p.m. update:

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP)– Canada’s Pacific Coast province of British Columbia is allowing schools to reopen on June 1 but on an optional and part time basis. British Columbia Education Minister Rob Fleming says kindergarten through grade five will be open two or three days. Fleming says there will be staggered lunches and recesses.

Fleming says grade six through 12 students will likely only attend school once a week. Parents will be given the choice to allow their children to attend. British Columbia Premier John Horgan says these steps will pave the way for a full start in September if it is safe. The province has roughly 2,392 of Canada’s 74,532 confirmed cases.

1:30 p.m. update

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Friday that he’s hopeful to have a coronavirus vaccine on the market by the end of the year or shortly thereafter.

Moncep Slaoui, a former pharmaceutical executive who Trump has tapped to serve as the administration’s virus czar, said that early trial data suggests that “a few hundred million doses of vaccine” will be delivered by late 2020.

Trump, speaking at a Rose Garden event, reiterated that he wants to see states move forward with reopening their economies.

“We are back, vaccine or no vaccine,” Trump said.

1:20 p.m. update

WASHINGTON (AP) — Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says the White House still has confidence in a rapid COVID-19 test it has been using despite new data suggesting the test may return false negatives. The head of the Food and Drug Administration says his agency has provided new guidance to the White House after data suggested that the Abbott test used by President Donald Trump and others at the White House every day may provide inaccuracies and false negatives. Azar commented Friday after the FDA said it was investigating preliminary data suggesting the 15-minute test can miss COVID-19 cases, falsely clearing infected patients.

11:20 a.m. update

(CNN) — President Donald Trump, whose prediction of a coronavirus vaccine by year’s end outpaces the outlook given by most health officials, will unveil the two men leading his “Operation Warp Speed” development effort during a noon event in the Rose Garden on Friday.

CNN reported on Wednesday that Trump was naming Moncef Slaoui, the ex-head of GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccines division, to lead the effort alongside four-star Army General Gustave Perna.

Slaoui, who has been a venture capitalist since leaving the pharmaceutical giant in 2017, will act as the chief adviser to the vaccine effort. Perna will serve as the chief operating officer overseeing logistics, White House officials said. Trump said this week he would “rapidly” mobilize the military to distribute a vaccine when it is ready.

Both men supplement the vaccine development efforts already underway by the federal government, including at the National Institutes of Health.

A leader at that agency, Dr. Anthony Fauci, will attend Friday’s event in the Rose Garden. A top White House adviser during the coronavirus pandemic, Fauci has recently come under fire by some of Trump’s allies for his caution on reopening the country, which he said would have grave consequences if not done carefully.

Fauci, whose testimony before a Senate committee earlier this week drew a rebuke from Trump, has not appeared alongside the President at the White House since April 29, when he delivered some good news on promising results of remdesivir clinical trials during a meeting in the Oval Office with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.

However, he has been spotted at the White House multiple times, including in a Tuesday meeting with Vice President Mike Pence and other task force members.

Fauci, like other health experts, has warned that developing a vaccine could take a year at minimum and potentially much longer. He said during his testimony this week it was unlikely a vaccine would be developed in time for students to return to school in the fall.

On Thursday, the President predicted a vaccine would be developed by the end of 2020.

“We’re going to have a lot of good things happen. We have a lot of great people working on it,” he said in an interview with the Washington Examiner. “We’re going to have a lot of good things, therapeutically and with a vaccine. And I think you’ll have it by the end of the year.”

Previewing the noon event to reporters Friday morning, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said Trump would also tout efforts already underway by the federal government to develop a vaccine.

“He’ll be unveiling two professionals leading the effort, but that comes very quickly on the heels of the (Food and Drug Administration) cutting a ton of red tape and regulations to allow us to already be developing vaccines,” Conway said.

“Today he will talk about health professionals and the military, and others (in) the private sector (and) public sector, (who) will be fully engaged in the development of this vaccine, at warp speed,” Conway continued.

The White House tapped Slaoui to lead the “Warp Speed” vaccine project after interviewing four candidates, according to a senior administration official.

9:45 a.m. update

(WJW/AP) — President Donald Trump is scheduled to deliver remarks on COVID-19 vaccine development at a noon press conference in the White House Rose Garden Friday.

Having a COVID-19 vaccine by January is “a stretch goal,” but the head of the National Institutes of Health is gearing up for a master experiment to rapidly tell if any really work.

At least four or five possible vaccines “look pretty promising” and one or two will be ready to begin large-scale testing by July with others to follow soon, NIH Director Francis Collins told The Associated Press.

“Your big challenge now is to go big and everybody is about ready for that. And we want to be sure that happens in a coordinated way,” Collins said in an interview late Thursday.

The NIH in partnership with some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies is creating a master plan that vaccine makers can follow. Separately, the Trump administration is working on how to produce possible vaccines now, a huge gamble before anyone knows which ones will pan out. The goal is to have 300 million doses available to distribute to Americans by January.

Collins called it a “very bold plan … a stretch goal if there ever was one,” but one he’s optimistic the science side can help speed.

But he added: “If we can get this vaccine out there even a day sooner than otherwise we might have, that’s going to matter to somebody.”

8:45 a.m. update

(CNN) — The US appears to be changing its strategy from trying to completely eliminate coronavirus to reducing infection risks as the nation reopens, a health expert says.

With nearly all states easing social distancing, the nation has now shifted to harm reduction — which focuses on ways to reduce the risk if it cannot be removed entirely, said Dr. Leana Wen, an ER physician and the former health commissioner for Baltimore.

“We had a strategy before. That strategy was we would reduce the number of infections and at the same time build up our capabilities to do testing, tracing, isolation,” she said Thursday night during the CNN global town hall on coronavirus.

“We know that that’s what’s going to be effective, but we are reopening before those capabilities are in place. So in essence, we’re saying it’s too hard. We’re not going to be able to get there. And so we’re switching to a new phase. “

The new strategy includes ways to slow the spread of the virus such as social distancing, avoiding unnecessary gatherings, changing ventilation systems and increasing time outdoors, she said.

As of early Friday, more than 1.4 million people in the US have been infected with the coronavirus, and over 85,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins.

6:30 a.m. update

(CNN) — The House of Representatives will vote on Friday on a Covid-19 aid package with a price tag of more than $3 trillion and a historic rules change to allow lawmakers to vote remotely during the pandemic.

Democrats have argued that the sweeping aid package, which allocates funding for state and local governments, coronavirus testing and a new round of direct payments to Americans, is urgently needed to address the unfolding crisis. The legislation, which reflects Democratic priorities and was not a product of bipartisan negotiations, would stand as the largest relief package in US history.

The package would send Americans a second round of stimulus checks worth up to $6,000 per family as part of the relief package they rolled out Tuesday — the largest in history.

Like the first round of payments approved by Congress in March, the new proposal calls for giving $1,200 to those earning up to $75,000 a year and $2,400 to couples without dependents making double that before phasing out.

But it would be far more generous to many families with children, providing $1,200 per dependent up to a maximum of three dependents. The earlier stimulus package, which is still in the process of being distributed, gave $500 for each qualifying child under age 17.

House Republican leaders have voiced opposition to both the relief package and the rules change for remote voting. House Democrats’ leaders have expressed confidence that both measures will pass the House on Friday. The relief package is not expected to be taken up by the Senate, however, due to Republican opposition.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, defended the bill on Thursday against attacks that it is partisan, saying, “We’re putting our offer on the table. We’re open to negotiation.”

Republicans have criticized the rules change proposal to allow remote voting and remote committee work as a partisan power grab that will upend institutional tradition. Democratic leaders say remote voting by proxy will ensure lawmakers can continue to legislate safely and effectively during the pandemic.

In addition, most Republicans have dismissed the aid package as a liberal wish list and declared it dead on arrival in the Senate. They say it is too soon to move ahead with another far-reaching legislative response to the pandemic without first waiting to see the results of the trillions of dollars in aid that have already been enacted.

With the four previous coronavirus relief measures, House Democrats collaborated with Senate Republicans and the Trump administration to negotiate bipartisan agreements. But it remains unclear whether and when a bipartisan consensus can be reached on yet another package, despite the fact that the American public and US economy continue to feel the devastating impact of the disease.

Democratic leaders say that passing their own new relief passage, which they are calling the Heroes Act, serves as a way to outline their priorities for what should be next addressed as they attempt to put pressure on Republicans to move ahead with additional aid.

**For more on the coronavirus pandemic, including in Ohio, click here**

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