Coronavirus News: What’s Happening with the COVID-19 2020 Outbreak

This article was updated on May 5, 2020, at 6:42 p.m. ET.

The United States leads the world in cases of COVID-19. We’ll provide the latest updates on coronavirus cases, government response, impacts to our daily life, and more.

What is the latest news?

White House Signals It Will Phase Out Coronavirus Task Force

May 5, 6:42 p.m.

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged Tuesday that the White House Coronavirus Task Force will be phased out.

Trump, speaking at a news conference at an N95 respirator mask factory in Arizona, didn’t discuss the proposed change in detail, but indicated he was ready to put full focus on restoring the national economy. He said that’s what the American people want, even though the coronavirus has not been quelled.

“The people of our country are warriors,” Trump said. “Will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon.”

Pence told reporters in Washington that administration officials have discussed shifting task force response efforts to individual departments and agencies, the Wall Street Journal reported. The phase-out could occur in late May or early June.

The task force has advised Trump in how the administration responds to the pandemic, which as of Tuesday has killed about 70,000 Americans, according to Johns Hopkins University. On Sunday, Trump said the number of COVID-19 deaths could reach 100,000, which is higher than the previously estimated during daily press briefings.

The best-known members of the task force are Dr. Stanley Fauci and Dr. Patricia Birx, who regularly appeared with Trump at the televised daily task force news briefings. Those televised briefings have occurred less often in recent weeks.

When pressed by reporters, Trump said the White House will still be advised by Fauci and Birx, as well as other doctors, the Journal reported.

Trump said the task force has done a good job, with testing numbers going up and new cases decreasing. Now, he said, it’s time to focus on “other phases.”

Trump said the American people want the economy reopened, and he predicted it would bounce back strongly. Most states have loosened social distancing guidelines and gradually reopened their economies in recent weeks.

“We’re going to have a very interesting transition period into the fourth quarter,” Trump said.  “Next year will be one of the best years we’ve had economically.”

He went on to say that a strong economy would be no solace for people who lost loved ones to the coronavirus. “Nothing can ever replace that,” he said.

French Doctors: First COVID-19 Patient Admitted in December

The coronavirus may have been in France a month earlier than official reports suggested, according to a new article published in a medical journal on Sunday.

The article, written by several Paris doctors, says the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was spreading in France in late December 2019. The article is a preprint in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents.

“Identifying the first infected patient is of great epidemiological interest as it changes dramatically our knowledge regarding SARS-CoV-2 and its spreading in the country,” the authors wrote.

The first patients with COVID-19 in France were originally reported on Jan. 24.

However, doctors at Groupe Hospitalier Paris Seine-Saint-Denis, located north of Paris, began checking the records of earlier patients to understand whether the virus has been spreading before then. They looked at patients admitted to the hospital between Dec. 2 and Jan. 16 with flu-like illness who wasn’t diagnosed with the flu. They tested frozen samples from those patients, which are stored in a hospital freezer “in case of a need for further analysis.”

Of the 14 samples, one tested positive for COVID-19. The sample came from a 42-year-old man who was born in Algeria in northern Africa and lived in France. His last reported travel was to Algeria in August 2019, they wrote.

The patient went to the hospital on Dec. 27 with a cough, mucus, a headache, and a fever. He was admitted to the intensive care unit, given antibiotics, and discharged on Dec. 29, the doctors wrote.

“The absence of a link with China and the lack of recent travel suggests that the disease was already spreading among the French population at the end of December 2019,” they wrote.

Additional studies are needed to confirm the actual date that the first coronavirus case came to France, they added, and how the virus may have spread in the country in December and January.

“Since these results change our understanding of the dynamic of the epidemic, it also means that several models used to predict the evolution and outcomes of the SARS-CoV-2 propagation might be based on biased data and would need to be adjusted to the actual profile of the epidemic,” they wrote.

Former FDA Chief: U.S. May Not Lower Infection Rate

May 5, 1:30 p.m.

The U.S. may not be able to lower the transmission rate of the coronavirus below the current level, which is about 30,000 new cases per day, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Tuesday during an interview with NBC’s Today show.

“I think that we need to understand this may be the new normal,” Gottlieb said. “We may not be able to get transmission down much more. I hope we can.”

Instead, cases will likely go up.

“As we go through May, we’re likely to see the case count start to creep back up again,” he said.

On Monday, a new federal document projected that COVID-19 deaths could reach 3,000 per day by June 1. The document was produced by the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA. The forecast also said new cases could reach 200,000 per day by the end of May.

In about 20 states, cases and hospitalizations are going up on a daily basis, Gottlieb said.

As the country begins to reopen, that will likely mean major changes to “get back to some sense of normalcy,” he added.

Vulnerable people will need personal protective equipment at work and in public, for instance. Those who work in locations where social and physical distancing isn’t possible, such as meat processing plants, will need additional precautions.

“We still have a high level of infection in this country,” Gottlieb said. “We’ve reached a plateau, but we haven’t seen the kind of declines that we were expecting to see at this point.”

Wendy’s Changes Menu in Some Locations Due to Meat Shortage

May 5, 11:33 a.m. 

Wendy’s restaurants in California, South Carolina, and Kentucky have removed hamburgers from their menus due to a supply chain shortage, according to the Today show. The changes should be temporary, the company has said.

Restaurants and fast-food chains that use fresh beef may face shortages as meat processing plants across the country temporarily close due to the high number of workers infected with the coronavirus. About 5,000 meat and poultry plant workers in 115 processing facilities in 19 states have tested positive for COVID-19, the CDC reported on Friday.

“As you’ve likely read, there have been challenges among protein suppliers across North America,” Heidi Schauer, Wendy’s spokesperson, told the trade publication Restaurant Business. “We are working closely with our supplier partners and restaurant teams to minimize the impact to our customers and continue to monitor this closely.”

Several meat processing plants have closed, halting about 25% of pork production and 10% of beef production in the country, according to Bloomberg.

Last week, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that requires meat processing plants to stay open, calling them “critical infrastructure” for the food supply chain.

But on a Monday morning call with investors, Tyson Foods said pork production capacity has dropped 50%, according to The Washington Post. Three of Tyson’s six main processing facilities in the U.S. are closed, and three others are at reduced capacity. Tyson has closed or reduced operations at beef processing plants as well, the newspaper reported.

Tyson Foods placed full-page ads in the PostNew York Times, and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette last week that warned the U.S. food supply chain is “breaking.” Chairman John Tyson also wrote a post on the Tyson website on April 26, saying the supply chain is “vulnerable.”

There are supply chain issues elsewhere, too. Kroger has announced it will limit ground beef and poultry purchases in some of its stores, according to CNN. Costco announced Friday that fresh meat purchases are “temporarily limited to a total of three items per member among the beef, pork, and poultry products.”

Miami Beach Closes Park After Crowds Ignore Face Mask Order

May 4, 5:50 p.m.

Miami Beach closed a popular city park on Monday after it was flooded over the weekend by sun lovers — many of them defying the city rule that required face masks.

Miami Beach had opened South Pointe Park and other recreation venues on Wednesday as the city gradually loosened restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

But people were still supposed to still follow social distancing rules, such as not congregating in groups and always wearing face masks, according to the city’s website.

“We have had city staff in the park to encourage people to comply, but they were met with hostility and non-compliance,” City Manager Jimmy Morales said, according to the Miami Herald.

“We closed the parking lot on Sunday, but that made little difference. As such, the South Pointe Park will be closed until further notice. There is no way to effectively enforce social distancing when hundreds of individuals refuse to do so. The best way to protect our residents and first responders is to keep it closed until further notice.”

The Herald reported that since city parks reopened last Wednesday, park rangers issued 8,880 verbal warnings citywide to parkgoers not wearing face masks, including 2,829 on Saturday and 2,432 on Sunday. The Miami Beach police tweeted that most of the warnings were issued at South Pointe Park.

Morales said things went well at other city parks.

Across the country, people poured out of their homes and into parks over the weekend, with large numbers reported in Central Park in New York City and on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Washington crowds came out to see a precision flight show by the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds.

FDA Tightens Rules on Antibody Testing

May 4, 5:02 p.m. 

Saying fraudulent coronavirus antibody tests are being sold, the FDA announced Monday that manufacturers must prove the tests are accurate or face removal from the market.

The new regulations require test manufacturers to submit emergency use authorization (EUA) requests with validation data within 10 business days. The new rules also introduce performance threshold recommendations for test manufacturers, the FDA said on its website.

“We, unfortunately, see unscrupulous actors marketing fraudulent test kits and using the pandemic as an opportunity to take advantage of Americans’ anxiety,” the FDA website said.

“Some test developers have falsely claimed their serological tests are FDA approved or authorized. Others have falsely claimed that their tests can diagnose COVID-19 or that they are for at-home testing. …”

People who have or had the coronavirus probably will have antibodies in their blood, the FDA said. The tests are supposed to detect the antibody and thus help public health officials determine how many people have been infected.

The FDA website says 12 antibody tests have been authorized under an initial EUA, most in the last few days. More than 200 antibody tests are being reviewed. A EUA has a lower bar than formal FDA approval.

The new rules are an update of March 16 guidelines, which went into place when the pandemic began sweeping the nation. Manufacturers, under the March guidelines, were supposed to submit their own information about the accuracy of their tests, but the agency had no standards for acceptable performance, NPR reported.

A University of Toronto infectious disease specialist praised the FDA’s move, saying unreliable tests could provide a false sense of security for people, CNBC reported.

“I’m glad there’s a sense of urgency for reining this in,” said Isaac Bogoch, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. “Some of these tests were producing false positives or false negatives. … Many of them were uninterpretable.”

But the chairman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee said the FDA moved too late, according to CNBC.

“The FDA’s ‘anything goes’ policy for antibody testing has been an invitation for fraud with tests whose results currently offer little value while misinforming important risk management decisions,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-TX, said in a statement.

U.S. COVID-19 Deaths Could Hit 3,000 Per Day in June

May 4, 4:30 p.m. 

The number of deaths per day from COVID-19 could increase to about 3,000 by June, The New York Times reports.

The numbers are based on an internal White House document, which uses CDC projections. The document says 200,000 new cases will occur each day by the end of May, the newspaper reported.

Right now, about 25,000 new cases are confirmed daily, and 1,000 to 2,000 people have died daily from COVID-19 during the past month.

On Sunday, President Donald Trump said the number of COVID-19 deaths could now reach up to 100,000, which is higher than the previously estimated during daily press briefings.

“We’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80, to 100,000 people,” he said during a Fox News virtual town hall at the Lincoln Memorial. “That’s a horrible thing. We shouldn’t lose one person out of this.”

In the U.S., more than 1.17 million COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, and more than 67,000 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Across the world, more than 3.5 million cases have been confirmed and 248,000 people have died.

Also on Sunday, Deborah Birx, MD, coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said projections are between 100,000 to 240,000 U.S. deaths.

“And that’s with full mitigation and us learning from each other how to social distance,” she said on Fox News Sunday.

“If you have any preexisting conditions, through phase 1 and phase 2 of any reopening, we have asked you to continue to shelter in place,” Birx said.

Oxford Scientist: Annual COVID-19 Vaccine May Be Necessary

May 3, 2020, at 4:40 p.m.

People will likely need to take a coronavirus vaccine annually to protect themselves, similar to the annual flu vaccine, an Oxford University scientist working on a COVID-19 vaccine said Sunday.

The coronavirus doesn’t mutate as quickly as the flu does, but it’s tough to create “longstanding immune responses” to it, John Bell, a professor of medicine at Oxford University, said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

“I suspect we may need to have relatively regular vaccinations against coronaviruses going into the future,” he said. “That, of course, remains to be seen, but that’s my bet at the moment.”

That means research teams will need to develop a seasonal coronavirus vaccine. Bell is part of the Oxford team that began testing a vaccine in a clinical trial and is aiming to have a vaccine available for distribution by September.

So far, the team has already given the vaccine to 1,000 people, he said Sunday, as well as preclinical trials in mice, ferrets, and monkeys. The scientists have scheduled tests for 6,000 people by the end of May and hope to enroll enough people to know whether it’s effective by this summer.

This week, he expects the primate data to be released, calling it an “important milestone.” Then they’ll monitor how well the vaccine works in humans, and they’ll move clinical trials overseas if they don’t have enough COVID-19 cases in the U.K. to test.

“We’ve got sites already in play in other bits of the world where it’s active,” Bell said. “We’re pretty sure we’ll get a signal by June about whether this works or not.”

As of Sunday, there were 3,485,948 confirmed cases worldwide and 246,125 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. In the United States, there were 1,149,197 cases and 67,200 deaths.

How many people have been diagnosed with the virus, and how many have died?

According to Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 3.61 million cases and more than 252,000 deaths worldwide. Over 1.18 million people have recovered.

How many cases of COVID-19 are in the United States?

There are more than 1.18 million cases in the U.S. of COVID-19 and over 69,000 deaths. More than 187,000 Americans have recovered from the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. See a map of cases and deaths by state here.

What travel restrictions are there?

The State Department has urged all U.S. citizens to avoid any international travel due to the global impact of the new coronavirus.

If you are currently overseas, the department wants you to come home, “unless [you] are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period,” according to a statement.

“Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders and prohibiting non-citizens from the entry with little advance notice,” the agency says.

In addition, the State Department says it will not issue any new passports except for people with a “qualified life-or-death emergency and who need a passport for immediate international travel within 72 hours.” The U.S. is banning all foreign travel to the United States from most of Europe for 30 days beginning midnight Friday, March 13.  American citizens are not included in the ban.

The U.S. has also temporarily suspended nonessential travel to Mexico and Canada.

Kathleen Doheny, Ralph Ellis, Jonathan Mintz, Carolyn Crist, and HealthDay News contributed to this report.

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