Coronavirus headlines: Restaurants and racing can resume, but new rules abound


Saturday, May 16, 2020

CLEVELAND (WJW) — As of Saturday morning, there are 4,559,930 confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, including 308,038 deaths, Johns Hopkins University reports.

In the United States, there are 1,443,397 confirmed cases and 87,568 deaths.

Ohio has seen 26,954 cases and 1,581 deaths. State officials say Ohio is still in the “plateau” stage of the virus.

10:45 p.m. update:

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Restaurants can reopen in New Orleans but must take reservations and limit the number of diners. Auto and horse racing tracks in New York can reopen without spectators. Officials cautiously eased more restrictions Saturday on eateries, shops and outdoor venues as they tried to restart economies without triggering a surge in new coronavirus infections. Public health experts warn that the pandemic could pick up again if precautions are not taken or officials move too quickly to get people back to work. Similar reopenings happened in many cities and countries around the world as infections decline.

9:00 p.m. update:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s emergency powers are worrying senators and legal experts. Dozens of special authorities become available to any president during national emergencies. They are rarely used, but Trump last month stunned legal experts and others when he mistakenly claimed that he had “total” authority over governors in easing COVID-19 guidelines. That prompted 10 senators to probe how sweeping Trump believes his emergency powers are. They want to see this administration’s Presidential Emergency Action Documents. These little-known, classified documents don’t give a president authority beyond what’s in the Constitution, but they outline what powers a president believes the Constitution allows him to exercise during national emergencies.

5:30 p.m. update:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Barack Obama on Saturday criticized some officials overseeing the coronavirus response, telling college graduates in an online commencement address that the pandemic shows many officials “aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”

Obama spoke on “Show Me Your Walk, HBCU Edition,” a two-hour livestreaming event for historically black colleges and universities broadcast on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. His remarks were surprisingly political and touched on current events beyond the virus and its social and economic impacts.

“More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” he said. “A lot them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”

Obama did not name President Donald Trump or any other federal or state officials.

As he congratulated graduates and commiserated over the difficult world they face, the former president noted the February shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, 25, who was killed while jogging on a residential street in Georgia.

“Let’s be honest: A disease like this just spotlights the underlying inequalities and extra burdens that black communities have historically had to deal with in this country,” Obama said. “We see it in the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on our communities, just as we see it when a black man goes for a jog and some folks feel like they can stop and question and shoot him if he doesn’t submit to their questioning.”

Obama will also deliver a televised prime-time commencement address later Saturday for the high school Class of 2020 during an hour-long event that will also feature LeBron James, Malala Yousafzai and Ben Platt, among others.

1:30 p.m. update:

WASHINGTON (WJW) — The US Food and Drug Administration has authorized medical labs to test at-home coronavirus sample kits, according to CNN.

As of Saturday afternoon, the government has granted an emergency authorization to Everlywell Inc. to conduct the testing.

This now allows healthcare providers to screen patients and then prescribe them the at-home kit, which uses a nasal sample to test for COVID-19.

FDA officials reportedly say the at-home kits protect citizens from potential exposure to the virus.

So far, the Everlwell test is the only authorized COVID-19 at-home sample collection kit. It is available by prescription only.

11 a.m. update:

ATLANTA (AP) — As state after state begins to reopen, local health departments charged with tracking down everyone who has been in close contact with those who test positive for coronavirus are still scrambling to hire enough people. They are often hundreds _ even thousands _ of people short of targets for their contact tracing programs. In Cook County, Illinois, there are just 29 contact tracers serving 2.5 million people in the communities around Chicago. Los Angeles County has 400 of the estimated 6,000 contact tracers it will need. Public health experts worry this could lead to a resurgence of the virus.

9:15 a.m. update:

GENEVA (AP) — The head of the World Health Organization says it won’t be easy to make next year’s Tokyo Olympics a safe global gathering after the pandemic. The WHO’s director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus calls for “national unity and global solidarity” to fight the coronavirus outbreak ahead of the postponed Olympics. The Games should bring athletes from more than 200 countries to Japan. The Summer Games opening ceremony is now due on July 23, 2021. The International Olympic Committee and organizers in Japan used WHO advice in March before agreeing a one-year delay to the Games.

8:40 a.m. update:

BANGKOK (AP) — India’s confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed China’s, with the Health Ministry reporting a spike to 85,940 infections and 2,752 deaths. China has reported 82,941 confirmed case and 4,633 deaths since the virus was first detected late last year in the central city of Wuhan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is due to announce this weekend a decision whether to extend the 54-day-old lockdown. A Chinese official has confirmed that the annual legislative session next week will be curtailed to protect public health during the coronavirus pandemic. South Korean officials have so far confirmed 162 cases linked to club goers in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, and are expressing cautious hope that infections are beginning to wane. 

7:30 a.m. update:

CLEVELAND (WJW) — On Friday, Ohio’s restaurant patios, barbershops and salons reopened for business. Restaurants can begin indoor seating next Friday.

The state also released long-awaited guidelines that will allow gyms to reopen on May 26.

The new protocols issued by the Ohio Department of Health state that before a facility can open, owners must limit capacity and set up social distancing space around equipment. They are required to remove any excess seating, mark every other locker for non-use and establish a log-in procedure for potential contact tracing. Steam rooms, saunas and water fountains will also be removed or shutdown.

Additionally, Ohio will allow pools to open as soon as May 26, but many communities are awaiting detailed state guidelines to determine whether reopening will be feasible.

Members of the state’s outdoor recreation advisory group say potential recommendations include maintaining social distancing which would mean reduced occupancy. Communities may need staff other than lifeguards to enforce the rules, which poses a problem as some communities are facing a challenge finding staff to work. The public will need to help by staying home when sick and following pool guidelines.

The decision on opening pools will ultimately be up to local communities. Several cities have already decided they will not open this summer, including some that cite the financial costs of operating pools under new protocols.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives passed their $3 trillion COVID-19 relief package Friday night.

It has little chance of becoming law as written, but it will spark tough negotiations with the Republican-controlled Senate.    

This bill came just hours after President Trump launched his Operation Warp Speed vaccine effort. His goal is to develop a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year. The President says he hopes to have 300 million doses in stock by January 2021.

He told reporters that one or two of the treatments will be ready for large scale testing by July.

Critics say the project is ambitious because a vaccine has never been created from scratch so quickly.

“In preparation for this initiative, experts throughout the government have been collaborating to evaluate roughly 100 vaccine candidates from all over the world,” said President Trump. “They have identified 14 that they believe are the most promising and they’re working to narrow that list still further.”

Once a vaccine is developed, the President is vowing to use every plane, truck and solider to distribute it to the public.

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