President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force is in the early stages of winding down, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Drs. Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci are still expected to be at the White House on a daily basis, but other members of the task force may be less physically present.
Speculation about the task force's ongoing presence emerged as Trump was traveling outside the D.C. area for the first time in more than a month to visit a Honeywell mask manufacturing facility in Phoenix, Arizona.
The U.S. coronavirus death toll passed 70,000 Tuesday, with at least 70,972 deaths linked to the illness across the country, according to an NBC News count of reports. Globally, there have been more than 257,000 deaths according to Johns Hopkins University.
Meanwhile, businesses in several states including Florida and California, have reopened their doors, hopeful to bring back customers while managing expectations and safety. But fears continue to mount about America's food supply chain. At a Tyson meat factory in Iowa, 58 percent of workers tested positive for COVID-19.
- 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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Trump says only blue states have budget woes. He couldn't be more wrong.
President Donald Trump thinks all the states that need Congress to provide emergency relief funding are "run by Democrats in every case" and he charged it's because they have been fiscally mismanaged.
That's not the case. Numerous Republican-led states are facing coronavirus-caused financial crises, just like the Democrats.
Less than 24 hours after conducting an interview with The New York Post in which Trump made those remarks, the president took off to visit a mask-making plant in Arizona — a Republican-led state that by its own projections could face a shortfall ranging from $600 million to $1.6 billion by the end of the next fiscal year.
Arizona is not alone. COVID-19 has led to dramatic decreases in revenue for state governments across the country — regardless of which party has its hand on the wheel. While many states are still crunching their numbers ahead of the next fiscal year, which begins in the summer for most, a handful of GOP-led states already have made clear the budget woes that face them.
Disney takes $1.4 billion hit in Q2 due to coronavirus
The Walt Disney Company says the coronavirus pandemic cost the company as much as $1.4 billion in income during the first three months of the year, a disruption it says will only get worse in the months ahead. The most severe blow to the company came in its theme parks unit, which suffered an estimated $1 billion revenue hit.
Disney's per-share profit was down 63 percent, to 60 cents.
The losses reflect how vulnerable almost all of Disney's businesses are to social distancing measures. Its theme parks have been shuttered, cinemas have been closed and its content production has been put on hold. Its television unit, which relies heavily on ESPN's ability to broadcast live sports, has also been interrupted.
“The pandemic has hit us hard,” Disney chairman and former CEO Bob Iger said on an earnings call Tuesday afternoon. But he said he had "absolute confidence in our ability to get through this challenging period and recover successfully."
One bright spot was Disney+, the company's new streaming service, which has signed up more than 54 million subscribers since its launch in December. Disney also announced that it will reopen Shanghai Disneyland on May 11.
2 men charged with trying to defraud small business loan program
Two men were charged in Rhode Island with fraudulently seeking more than a half-million dollars in stimulus loans created as part of federal coronavirus protections.
David A. Staveley, 53, and David Butziger, 51, are the first in the nation to be charged with stimulus fraud involving the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island. The two men allegedly conspired to obtain loans from the SBA using false information.
The investigation into the men was part of a directive to prioritize crimes related to the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Attorney Aaron L. Weisman said in a press release Tuesday.
“It is unconscionable that anyone would attempt to steal from a program intended to help hard working Americans continue to be paid so they can feed their families and pay some of their bills,” Weisman said.
NY hospital workers hold candlelight vigil to honor COVID-19 victims
Hundreds of hospital employees in New York participated in a candlelight vigil and walk to honor more than 2,200 Northwell Health patients and 19 staff members who have passed away from COVID-19.
The walk, the brainchild of hospital employees, was held Monday at Northwell Health’s New Hyde Park, Long Island campus.
Video of the vigil obtained by NBC News’ Social Newsgathering team shows hospital employees in masks holding candles in the air as songwriter Andra Day’s “Rise Up” plays in the background.
The walk spanned the entirety of the New Hyde Park campus, which is home to Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Cohen Children’s Medical Center and Zucker Hillside Hospital. After employees completed the walk, Michael Golberg, executive director of LIJ Medical Center, thanked employees for their hard work and dedication fighting on the front lines of the pandemic.
“We have been very lucky in many ways that at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Cohen’s Childrens, Northwell Health that we have saved many many more people than have lost their lives to COVID-19,” Goldberg stated. “And that is a true testament to the care you provide.”
Students at 25 universities sue for refunds after campuses close due to coronavirus
They wanted the campus experience, but their colleges sent them home to learn online during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, students at more than 25 U.S. universities are filing lawsuits against their schools demanding partial refunds on tuition and campus fees, saying they’re not getting the caliber of education they were promised.
The suits reflect students’ growing frustration with online classes that schools scrambled to create as the coronavirus forced campuses across the nation to close last month. The suits say students should pay lower rates for the portion of the term that was offered online, arguing that the quality of instruction is far below the classroom experience.
Colleges, though, reject the idea that refunds are in order. Students are learning from the same professors who teach on campus, officials have said, and they’re still earning credits toward their degrees. Schools insist that, after being forced to close by their states, they’re still offering students a quality education.
Grainger Rickenbaker, a freshman who filed a class-action lawsuit against Drexel University in Philadelphia, said the online classes he’s been taking are poor substitutes for classroom learning. There’s little interaction with students or professors, he said, and some classes are being taught almost entirely through recorded videos, with no live lecture or discussion.
Airbnb to lay off 25 percent of its workforce
Airbnb will lay off 25 percent of its workforce, or 1,900 employees, the home-sharing company confirmed on Tuesday.
“We are collectively living through the most harrowing crisis of our lifetime," CEO Brian Chesky told employees on a group call.
Chesky said revenue for 2020 is expected to be less than half of what it was in 2019, with no clear idea when travel will return, nor what it will look like.
"Travel in this new world will look different, and we need to evolve Airbnb accordingly," Chesky said.
The travel industry as a whole has been pummeled by the viral outbreak, with airlines, hotels and resorts, and cruise lines ground to a halt.
Airbnb had been hoping to start the process this spring to go public, either by direct listing or via IPO.
Workers, community in the dark about COVID-19 cases at Pennsylvania meat facilities
While a recent CDC report suggests Pennsylvania has the highest number of meat facilities affected by COVID-19, there are no state requirements for facilities to report cases or deaths publicly.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 2,032 positive cases for workers within the food industry at 120 facilities statewide Tuesday. These include processing and manufacturing facilities, retail facilities, warehouse and distribution facilities, restaurants and farms, according to the state.
But the specific facilities with COVID-19 cases have not been publicly identified. As a result, workers and members of the community are ignorant to the risk of potential exposure. There also isn’t regulation that a plant needs to shut down if positive cases are discovered. The CDC referred an inquiry from NBC News to the state health department, which refused to release a full list of 22 affected plants with cases or clusters of cases, adding, “There are no requirements that this information be reported to the public, but we would expect facilities to inform employees.” The state also declined to provide a list of counties in which the plants are located.
Wendell Young of UFCW Local 1776 has been working with several plants that reported cases to members. The plants have followed a range of measures including shutting down for sanitization and reopening with new additions like Plexiglas dividers, temperature checks, and additional seating or spacing in areas like lunchrooms.
“We have employers not doing the right thing right now that are concealing the cases, not informing workers, not implementing the right protocols, and nobody's prosecuting them. No one's holding them responsible for how they're putting people at risk, and possibly killing people. And that's our federal government's fault. That's our presidents fault,” Young said.
Ousted HHS official files whistleblower complaint on coronavirus response
A top Health and Human Services official who says he was shoved out of his key coronavirus response job for pushing back on "efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections" filed a whistleblower complaint Tuesday charging "an abuse of authority or gross mismanagement" at the agency.
In his complaint, Dr. Rick Bright, who until last month was deputy assistant secretary of Health and Human Services for preparedness and response and director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, described a chaotic response the virus at HHS.
The chaos was fueled largely by "pressure from HHS leadership to ignore scientific merit and expert recommendations and instead to award lucrative contracts based on political connections and cronyism," the complaint says.
Fact check: Sen. Rand Paul claims 'immunity' to COVID-19 to defend not wearing a mask
Sen. Rand Paul, the only senator known to have contracted COVID-19, defended his decision not to wear a mask on Capitol Hill Tuesday, citing his recovery from the disease.
“I have immunity. I’ve already had the virus, so I can’t get it again and I can’t give it to anybody,” Paul, R-Ky., told reporters, referring to his March diagnosis. “I can’t get it again, nor can I transmit. So of all the people you’ll meet here, I’m about the only safe person in Washington.”
Paul's claims are unproven. Medical experts do not yet know what kind of immunity recovered patients have to COVID-19.
Broadly speaking, some infections result in lifelong immunity (think chicken pox) while other infections will produce short-term immunity in recovered patients. And while many experts do believe some kind of immunity will come with recovery, there are reports of recovered COVID patients who have tested positive again after testing negative.
58 percent of workers at Tyson meat factory in Iowa test positive for coronavirus
More than 700 employees at a Tyson Foods meat factory in Perry, Iowa, have tested positive for coronavirus as the nation braces for a possible meat shortage due to the pandemic.
An Iowa Department of Public Health report released Tuesday showed that 58 percent of the factory’s workforce had tested positive for the virus, according to NBC affiliate WHO. The news comes just days after nearly 900 workers were confirmed to have the virus at a Tyson Foods plant in Indiana.
Tyson Foods said in a statement that the pandemic has forced the company to slow production and close plants in Dakota City, Nebraska, and Pasco, Washington, and the Perry plant as well.
"We have and expect to continue to face slowdowns and temporary idling of production facilities from team member shortages or choices we make to ensure operational safety," the statement said.
Coronavirus pandemic strains LGBTQ health clinics
Lyon-Martin Health Services in San Francisco has served the health needs of lesbians, transgender women and other underserved women in the Bay Area since 1979. Named after pioneering lesbian activists Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, the clinic had until recently been seeing 3,000 patients a year for such needs as physical exams, gynecologic services and consultations for gender-affirming surgeries.
Now, however, it is fighting to keep its doors open amid the coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to emergency funding from the city and private donors, it will be able to operate until July 1 without deep cuts to its services — which now include screening for COVID-19 — but its future is uncertain after that.
“The city needs to see how long COVID is going to play out,” J.M. Jaffe, the transgender health manager at Lyon-Martin, told NBC News. “They wanted to do a short-term contract so that we could re-evaluate what the situation will be in two months. I think they were just wary to make a commitment to continue to support us, but we did get kind of like a wink and a nod that they would like to support us to the end of the calendar year.”
Lyon-Martin Health Services is one of over 200 LGBTQ health clinics across the United States that provide affirming and competent care to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer patients. And like Lyon-Martin, a number of these centers are struggling to adjust to — and in some cases survive — the new normal spawned by the global pandemic.