U.S. deaths top 66,000 as pandemic takes its toll on ordinary Americans

Here are the latest updates on the global pandemic.
Image: California's Huntington Beach pier is closed on May 2, 2020. Orange County beaches will remain closed after a judge rejected bids by Dana Point and Huntington Beach officials to lift Governor Gavin Newsom's temporary closure to curb the spread of c
California's Huntington Beach pier is closed to visitors on Saturday. Orange County beaches will remain closed after a judge rejected bids by Dana Point and Huntington Beach officials to lift Governor Gavin Newsom's temporary closure to curb the spread of coronavirus.Apu Gomes / AFP - Getty Images

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As the U.S. death toll tops 66,000, the strain the coronavirus pandemic is placing on ordinary Americans has started to emerge. 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.

As the number of confirmed U.S. cases hit 1.1 million, stores, restaurants and movie theaters began to reopen in Texas, despite a rise in cases, while in New York police dispatched 1,000 officers this weekend to enforce social distancing and a ban on congregating in public spaces. Beaches were also closed in California.

Meanwhile, as scientists work to find a vaccine for the virus, British scientists said Sunday that the potential vaccine they're developing could yield evidence to its efficacy by June.

Here's what to know about the coronavirus, plus a timeline of the most critical moments:

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This live coverage has now ended. Continue reading May 4 coronavirus news.

Bikes emerge as a post-lockdown commuter option

A mother and her child wait to collect their lunch in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on Saturday, May 2. Countries across the world seek to get their economies back on track after COVID-19 coronavirus lockdowns are over, some people are encouraging the use of bicycles as a way to avoid unsafe crowding on trains and buses.Peter Dejong / AP

MADRID  — As countries seek to get their economies back on track after the devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, bicycle use is being encouraged as a way to avoid unsafe crowding on trains and buses.

Cycling activists from Germany to Peru are trying to use the moment to get more bike lanes, or widen existing ones, even if it's just a temporary measure to make space for commuters on two wheels.

The transition to more bike-friendly urban environments “is necessary if we want our cities to work,” said Morton Kabell, who co-chairs the European Cyclists’ Federation. “A lot of people will be afraid of going on public transportation, but we have to get back to work someday. Very few of our cities can handle more car traffic,” he said.

The benchmarks are Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, where half of the daily commuters are cyclists, and the Netherlands, with its vast network of bike lanes.

Birx says protesters not practicing social distancing are 'devastatingly worrisome'

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said Sunday that anti-lockdown protests are "devastatingly worrisome" because demonstrators who do not practice social distancing measures could contract the illness and pass it on to others back home.

"It's devastatingly worrisome to me personally, because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a comorbid condition and they have a serious or a very ... unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of [their] lives," Birx said. "So we need to protect each other at the same time we're voicing our discontent."

Protests against coronavirus restrictions took place in at least 10 states Friday. Many of the demonstrations were sparsely attended, but others, like one in Huntington Beach, California, drew large crowds.

Read the full story.

Photo: A special delivery in Long Island

Golden retrievers Buddy and Barley deliver beer to Lisa Fascilla and her children in Huntington Village, N.Y., on Sunday. The two dogs were trained to deliver beer by owners Mark and Karen Heuwetter, who own the Six Harbors Brewery, to help practice social distancing.Al Bello / Getty Images

Quarantine brings a surge of TV and movie reunions

With the entertainment industry on pause because of the coronavirus, casts from some beloved TV shows and movies are getting together (virtually) to take a look back at past work.

From “Parks and Recreation," "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," to “Chuck” and “Goonies,” many ensembles have had special “COVID-reunions” for TV.

But why, of all times, are these actors getting back together during a global health crisis?

“I don’t have an excuse to say no because there’s nowhere else to go and nothing else to do,” joked Daniel Davis who played the endlessly-witty Niles the Butler on CBS’ hit 1990s sitcom “The Nanny.”

Read the whole story here.

Despite optimism, Britain's coronavirus numbers tell a different story

To hear Prime Minister Boris Johnson tell it, his government has valiantly fought and is now conquering the coronavirus pandemic in Britain.

The country had managed to "avoid the tragedy that engulfed other parts of the world," the prime minister said as he held a Lazarus-like briefing Thursday, his first since he left the hospital after being treated for the disease himself.

The reality is that the United Kingdom now has the world's third-highest death toll from COVID-19 and is on course to be the worst-hit in Europe. Its 66 million people make up less than 0.01 percent of the world's population, but they have had more than 10 percent of recorded coronavirus deaths.

Read the rest here.

Seven Northeast states team up to buy PPE, medical supplies

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday announced a regional partnership that would increase seven Northeastern states' purchasing power as they work to secure adequate medical supplies and avoid price gouging.

The states — New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts — are banding together to "jointly procure PPE, tests, ventilators, and other medical equipment to increase market power and bring down prices," Cuomo told reporters during his daily news conference.

Cuomo was joined via videoconference by other Northeast governors who said this will be a win for the region.

"Sign me up, and sign New Jersey up," the state's governor, Phil Murphy, said. "This makes so much sense."

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont added, "We're much stronger together, and I wouldn't mind having some of that New York purchasing power."

Cuomo also said Sunday that COVID-19 hospitalizations have fallen below 10,000 for the first time since mid-March, and numbers are continuing to trend down, but the state is in no way "out of the woods."

Italy reaches lowest coronavirus death toll since March 10

ROME — Deaths from the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy climbed by 174 on Sunday, from 474 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, posting the smallest daily toll of fatalities since March 10.

The daily number of new cases also declined sharply Sunday to 1,389 from 1,900.

In recent weeks of the epidemic that emerged in Italy on Feb. 21, the daily death count has tended to fall on Sundays only to rise again the following day.

Nonetheless, the latest data still offers encouragement to the country as it prepares to gradually ease its eight-week-old lockdown — the longest in Europe — from Monday.

Italy's total death toll since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21 now stands at 28,884, the Civil Protection Agency said, the second highest in the world after the United States.

Can dogs sniff out COVID-19? Researchers to study possibility

Dogs have been trained to detect a range of illnesses, from ovarian cancer to bacterial infections, and now scientists are hoping they can be used to sniff out COVID-19. 

Using a process called odor imprinting, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine is aiming to train dogs to discern the differences between COVID-19 positive and COVID-19 negative patients, the school said in a news release.

"The potential impact of these dogs and their capacity to detect COVID-19 could be substantial," Dr. Cynthia Otto, a professor of Working Dog Sciences and Sports Medicine who is leading the study, said.

Over a three-week period, which researchers hope to begin as early as July, eight dogs will be exposed to COVID-19 positive saliva and urine samples in a laboratory setting. Once they become familiar with the odor, scientists will see if the dogs can distinguish between COVID-19 positive and negative samples in the laboratory setting. If the dogs are able to differentiate between the samples, researchers hope that means the dogs will be able to identify COVID-19 infected people.

VA patient COVID-19 deaths top 500, testing numbers double in past two weeks

The number of veterans receiving care at VA medical centers who have died has now passed 500, with the VA reporting a total of 513 deaths as of Friday.

Facilities in New York City had the highest number of deaths, with 115.  VA facilities in New Jersey were second, with 54, and those in New Orleans were third with 35.  

The number of patients who have testified positive as of Friday was 9,139, for a death rate of 5.6 percent.

VA press secretary Christina Noel said 23 VA employees working in its healthcare system have died of COVID-19 and that 2,259 VA employees working in its healthcare system have tested positive.

As of Friday, the VA had administered at least 107,178 COVID-19 tests, more than double its reported total two weeks ago.