As the coronavirus pandemic lingers in the U.S., its social implications are just starting to emerge, but the spread of misinformation has crossed divides on social media, unexpectedly gaining traction with both white conservatives and black liberals.
Meanwhile, scientists are working to find a vaccine for the virus, which has infected more than 1.1 million people in the U.S. and killed nearly 65,000. There are 14 potential coronavirus vaccines under development in the Trump administration's program to fast-track one for use as early as January, according to senior administration officials.
But the personal toll of coronavirus might never be recouped for million of Americans. Aging grandparents are being robbed of spending precious time with their families while millions of people are forced to adjust to life without a stable income for the foreseeable future.
- MAPS: Confirmed cases in the U.S. and worldwide, confirmed deaths in the U.S. and globally.
- Reopening America: See what states across the U.S. are starting to reopen.
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White House says rapid tests will be available for returning Senate
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Saturday that the "5 minute Abbott Test will be used" for senators returning to Washington on Monday and encouraged the House, which canceled plans to come back to the Capitol due the coronavirus threat, to return as well.
"There is tremendous CoronaVirus testing capacity in Washington for the Senators returning to Capital Hill on Monday. Likewise the House, which should return but isn’t because of Crazy Nancy P. The 5 minute Abbott Test will be used. Please inform Dr. Brian P. Monahan," Trump tweeted.
Monahan, the Capitol physician, had initially informed senators that there were not enough tests for everyone; only lawmakers and staffers who displayed symptoms would be tested. Monahan also told lawmakers that the Capitol did not have the tools for rapid testing.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., confirmed that more tests, including rapid tests, would be made available and pointed to a Friday night tweet from Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar noting that the Senate would receive "3 Abbott point of care testing machines and 1,000 tests for their use."
South Korea reports six new cases, continuing month-long downturn
South Korea reported six new cases of the virus on Saturday, continuing a month-long streak of daily cases below 100.
The figures brought national totals to 10,780 cases and 250 virus-related deaths, according to South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The country has largely managed to bring its epidemic under control due to an extensive testing campaign and intensive contact tracing, earning praise from the World Health Organization and other nations.
With its caseload slowing, government officials have been relaxing social distancing guidelines and shifting focus to ease the shock on the economy.
During the first three months of the year, the economy saw its worst contraction since late 2008 as the pandemic hit both domestic consumption and exports, according to the Associated Press.
China reports one new virus case, but no deaths for fifth consecutive day
China reported just one new infection and no deaths for the fifth day in a row on Saturday, marking a continued downturn in the virus outbreak in the country where the virus originated.
The country has reported a total of 82,875 confirmed cases and 4,633 deaths.
Forty-three people were released from hospitals on Friday after being declared recovered, China's National Health Commission said, raising the total recovered to 77,685. This means there are 557 people still hospitalized on the mainland.
Malaysia rounds up migrants to contain virus, U.N. warns of detention risks
Malaysian authorities are rounding up undocumented migrants as part of efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus, officials said, after hundreds of migrants and refugees were detained in the capital Kuala Lumpur.
Authorities said 586 undocumented migrants were arrested during a Friday raid in a downtown area where many foreigners live. Those detained included young children and ethnic Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, rights groups said.
Security minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob refuted criticism of the arrests on Saturday, saying that all of those detained had been screened and found to have tested negative for COVID-19. "Even though the migrants were living under lockdown, their presence here is still illegal," Ismail Sabri told reporters Saturday. Malaysia — which has reported a total of 6,176 cases as of Saturday — does not formally recognize refugees, regarding them as illegal migrants.
However, the United Nations urged Malaysia to avoid detaining migrants and release all children and their caregivers.
Oprah Winfrey and Julia Roberts among celebrities participating in virus relief livestream
The Call to Unite 24-hour livestream global relief event kicked off on Friday evening, which featured Oprah Winfrey, Julia Roberts, Bill Clinton and 200 other star-studded participants. The event was inspired to "invite the world to recognize our shared humanity and offer one another support" in the time of the pandemic.
Quincy Jones, Jennifer Garner, Common, Maria Shriver, Yo-Yo Ma, Eva Longoria, Naomi Campbell and Alanis Morissette are among those who have joined, or are expected to participate, in the event later today. All participants will be "give, serve and share their story," through song, poetry, dance, sermon, or a call to action.
The event will be livestreamed until Saturday at 10 p.m. ET at unite.us and on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
Singapore to ease some restrictions as it reports lowest daily rise in two weeks
Singapore will begin to ease measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus over the next few weeks, authorities said on Saturday, as the city-state takes the first tentative steps towards reopening its economy.
Select activities such as home-based businesses, laundry services and barbers will be allowed to operate from May 12. Some students will be allowed to go back to schools in small groups from May 19, the Ministry of Health said in a press release.
"We are preparing for the safe and gradual resumption of economic and community activities after the end of the circuit breaker period on 1 June 2020," the statement said.
Singapore is facing the deepest recession in its 55-year history compounded by virus restrictions called 'circuit breakers' due to last until June 1, which included the closure of most workplaces and shops.
Also on Saturday, the country confirmed 447 new infections — the smallest daily rise in two weeks — taking the total to 17,548 with 16 deaths. Most of the new cases were among migrant workers, the health ministry said. Singapore has among the highest number of infections in Asia, mainly due to outbreaks in cramped migrant-worker dormitories.
India makes government tracing app mandatory for all workers
India has mandated that all public and private sector employees use a government-backed Bluetooth tracing app and maintain social distancing in offices, as the country's capital New Delhi begins easing some of its lockdown measures in lower-risk areas.
As part of its efforts to fight the deadly virus, India last month launched the app Aarogya Setu — meaning Health Bridge — a Bluetooth and GPS-based system developed by the country’s National Informatics Centre. The app alerts users who may have come in contact with people later found to be positive for COVID-19 or deemed to be at high risk. India has reported over 37,000 cases from the virus as of Saturday.
“Use of Aarogya Setu shall be made mandatory for all employees, both private and public,” India’s Ministry of Home Affairs said in a notification late on Friday. "It will the responsibility of the heads of companies and organizations “to ensure 100 percent coverage of this app among the employees."
The app’s compulsory use is raising concerns among privacy advocates, who say it is unclear how the data will be used and who stress that India lacks privacy laws to govern the app. New Delhi has said the app will not infringe on privacy as all data is collected anonymously.
Texas park ranger shoved into water after social-distance reminder
A Texas park ranger advising revelers at a lake to practice social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic was shoved into the water.
The ranger, identified in an Austin police report as Cassidy Zukeran Stillwell, was telling a group of parkgoers at Lake Austin to spread apart when he was pushed. Thursday's scene was captured on video and shared on social media.
Brandon James Hicks, 25, was arrested on suspicion of assault on a public servant and damaging city property, the ranger's emergency radio. Officials said he could have "caused the Ranger to strike his head on the dock as he was falling, and render himself unconscious in at least three feet of water where he could have drowned to death," according to a police report obtained by NBC affiliate KXAN.
NYC nursing home reports 98 deaths linked to coronavirus
A New York City nursing home on Friday reported the deaths of 98 residents believed to have had the coronavirus — a staggering death toll that shocked public officials.
“It’s absolutely horrifying,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “It’s inestimable loss, and it’s just impossible to imagine so many people lost in one place.”
It is hard to say whether the spate of deaths at the Isabella Geriatric Center, in Manhattan, is the worst nursing home outbreak yet in the U.S., because even within the city facilities have chosen to report fatalities in different ways. A state tally of nursing home deaths released Friday listed only 13 at the home.
But officials at the 705-bed center confirmed that through Wednesday 46 residents who tested positive for COVID-19 had died as well as an additional 52 people “suspected” to have the virus. Some died at the nursing home and some died after being treated at hospitals.
The number of bodies became so overwhelming the home ordered a refrigerator truck to store them because funeral homes have been taking days to pick up the deceased.