Coronavirus headlines: Worried about virus, US House won’t return — for now


April 28, 2020

(WJW) — As of Tuesday, there were 3,052,245 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide.

There have been 211,350 deaths, including over 56,000 in the United States.

9:30 p.m. update:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing the stark, startling reality that Congress may not be able to fully resume for a year, House leaders are desperately reaching for new, work-from-home options. Plans to reopen the House ignited a revolt from the ranks over the health risks of convening during the coronavirus pandemic. House Democratic leaders abruptly reversed course Tuesday and said they won’t reopen next Monday — though the smaller Senate will. It’s not just the 400-plus House members at risk. Thousands of congressional staff cram office cubicles while an army of cooks, custodians, electricians and police keep the Capitol complex running. President Donald Trump scoffs that the House Democrats are “enjoying their vacation.” 

8:55 p.m. update:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Documents show that California’s first-in-the-nation plan to deliver three meals a day to vulnerable seniors during the coronavirus crisis has less than two weeks to launch before its federal funding expires. It wasn’t clear how many cities and counties would be delivering meals in substantial numbers by May 10. That’s when money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is set to end. The state expects to seek an extension if the program is successful but warns “there is no guarantee it will be granted.” Gov. Gavin Newsom last week announced the plan for restaurants to make meals mostly paid for by the federal government.

8:15 p.m. update:

NEW YORK (AP) — People familiar with the discussions tell The Associated Press that Major League Baseball is exploring various options that could allow the season to start if the medical situation allows. Included is a plan in which the 30 teams could be split into three regional divisions. Teams could be restricted to playing within their region. That idea, if used, would break up the traditional alignments of the American and National Leagues. It also would cut travel. The start of the season has been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

7:40 p.m. update:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Movies that debuted on a streaming service without a theatrical run will be eligible for the Oscars, but only for this year. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences on Tuesday announced the change for the 93rd Academy Awards as a response to how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the film industry. The film academy also says it will condense the two sound categories into one and prohibit DVD screeners for 2022’s 94th Oscars in an effort to become more carbon neutral. The release eligibility change means that films that debuted online could be considered for best picture and other Oscars.

6:20 p.m. update:

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Republican state leaders in Oklahoma and Utah are facing backlash for spending millions of dollars combined to purchase malaria drugs promoted by President Trump to treat COVID-19 patients that many other states obtained for free and that doctors warned shouldn’t be used without more testing.  Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt defended the state’s $2 million purchase Tuesday, saying the drug was showing some promise. His health secretary attributed the purchase to something that happens in the “fog of war.” Utah Gov. Gary Herbert at first defended the state’s $800,000 purchase but has since ordered an investigation of the contract and halted a plan to spend $8 million to buy more. 

4:45 p.m. update:

BOSTON — Nearly 70 residents sickened with the coronavirus have died at a central Massachusetts home for aging veterans. State and federal officials are trying to figure out what went wrong in the deadliest outbreak at a long-term care facility in the U.S.

While the death toll at the state-run Holyoke Soldiers’ Home continues to climb, federal officials are investigating whether residents were denied proper medical care while the state’s top prosecutor is deciding whether to bring legal action.

Sixty-six veteran residents who tested positive for the virus have died, officials said Monday, and the cause of another death is unknown. Another 83 residents and 81 staff have tested positive.

The home’s superintendent, who’s been placed on administrative leave, has defended his response and accused state officials of falsely claiming they were unaware of the scope of the problem there.

2:30 p.m. update

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Tuesday meant to stave off a shortage of chicken, pork and other meat on American supermarket shelves because of the coronavirus.

The order will use the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing as critical infrastructure to keep production plants open.

The order comes after industry leaders warned that consumers could see meat shortages in a matter of days after workers at major facilities tested positive for the virus. A senior White House official said the administration was working to prevent a situation in which a majority of processing plants shut down for a period of time, which could lead to an 80% drop in the availability of meat in supermarkets. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the order before its release.

Trump on Tuesday told reporters that “there’s plenty of supply,” but that supply chains had hit what he called a “road block. It’s sort of a legal roadblock more than anything else,” he said.

Two of the nation’s biggest pork processing plants are currently closed. Meat processing giant Tyson Foods suspended operations at its plant in Waterloo, Iowa. And Smithfield Foods halted production at its plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The 15 largest pork-packing plants account for 60% of all pork processed in the country.

GOP Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota had written a letter to Trump asking him to use the DPA to declare the food supply industry an essential industry, warning that consumers would see a meat shortage in a matter of days akin to the panic over toilet paper the virus created in its early days.

Tyson ran a full-page advertisement in The New York Times and other newspapers Sunday outlining the difficulty of producing meat while keeping more than 100,000 workers safe and shutting some plants.

“As pork, beef and chicken plants are being forced to close, even for short periods of time, millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain,” it read.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents 1.3 million food and retail workers, said last week that 13 U.S. food-processing and meatpacking union workers in the U.S. have died and that an estimated 5,000 are sick or have been exposed to the virus while working near someone who tested positive.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has infected hundreds of workers at meat-processing plants and forced some of the largest to close and others to slow production. While the output at beef and poultry plants has diminished, pork plants in the Midwest have been hit especially hard. The viral outbreaks have persisted despite efforts by the meat companies to keep workers at home with pay if they become sick.

12:30 p.m. update

(CNN) — The White House is telling Americans to brace for a period of Great Depression-level unemployment this summer.

Kevin Hassett, a senior economic adviser to President Donald Trump, warned Tuesday that the jobless rate in the United States could spike to between 16% and 20% by June.

That would be a startling spike from current levels of 4.4% and mark the highest unemployment since the 1930s. (Unemployment spiked at 25% in 1933, according to estimates from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics).

The economic numbers between May and July “will be as bad as anything we’ve ever seen,” Hassett told CNN’s Poppy Harlow.

Beginning in March, the coronavirus pandemic crushed wide swaths of the American economy. Restaurants, movie theaters, theme parks, sports arenas have shut down completely. And it remains unclear if consumers will return to those crowded places even if social distancing restrictions are relaxed.

The health crisis has led to a sudden surge of unemployment. American workers have already filed more than 25 million initial jobless claims since March 14. The economy lost more than 700,000 jobs in March, lifting the unemployment rate from a 50-year low of 3.5%.

12 p.m. update

9 a.m. update

(CNN) — Seven coronavirus models show US deaths from coronavirus will keep rising in the coming weeks. But how sharply the death toll rises depends on how much “contact reduction” Americans practice, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The models estimate the forecast numbers of cases and deaths on the state and national levels, and one model from the University of Texas at Austin makes metro-area projections.

“State-level forecasts vary widely, reflecting differences in early epidemic phases, timing of interventions, and model-specific assumptions,” the CDC says.

Models that factor in strong contact reduction suggest new deaths will continue to occur, but will “slow substantially over the next four weeks,” the CDC said.

“Conversely, models that do not incorporate as strong contact reductions … suggest that total deaths may continue to rise quickly.”

One model frequently cited by the White House coronavirus task force has upped its predicted death toll again, this time projecting 74,000 Americans will lose their lives to the virus by August.

The projection was adjusted due to longer peaks in some states and signs that people are becoming more active again, according to Dr. Chris Murray, director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Help Metrics and Evaluation.

Last week, the model projected 67,641 deaths from Covid-19.

8:45 a.m. update

(CNN) — US airline JetBlue will require all passengers to wear a face covering during travel starting on May 4, according to a statement from the airline. It is the first major US airline to take such a step, according to a major flight attendants’ union.

6:45 a.m. update

(AP) — President Donald Trump says states should “seriously consider” reopening their public schools before the end of the academic year, even though dozens already have said it would be unsafe for students to return until the summer or fall.

Trump made the comments Monday in a call with governors discussing how to reopen their economies, among other topics.

“Some of you might start thinking about school openings, because a lot of people are wanting to have the school openings. It’s not a big subject, young children have done very well in this disaster that we’ve all gone through,” he said. While addressing Vice President Mike Pence, Trump added that it’s something “they can seriously consider, and maybe get going on.”

None of the governors on the call responded to the suggestion, according to a recording obtained by The Associated Press.

6:30 a.m. update

(CNN) — The Olympics could be canceled if the Covid-19 pandemic continues into next year, according to the Tokyo 2020 president.

The Games are scheduled to start from July 23, 2021, having already been postponed a year amid the virus outbreak.

This would be the strongest statement on canceling the Olympics and Paralympics from organizers, who have routinely said they are focusing on plans to hold the Games.

Asked in an interview with Nikkan Sports about another postponement of the event if the virus is ongoing, Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori said: “No. It will be canceled then.

“The Olympics were canceled in the past for problems like war. We are fighting against an invisible enemy now.”

Mori reiterated that organizers are still working towards holding the Games next year.

Continuing coverage on the coronavirus pandemic, here, including the latest news from Ohio.

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