Fauci warns of 'little spikes' becoming outbreaks

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Leah Chapman, a registered nurse, waits for a protective gown before the healthcare team rotates a COVID-19 patient on the third-floor ICU at Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul, Minn., on May 7, 2020.David Joles / Star Tribune via AP

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Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday cautioned that reopening state economies before COVID-19 prevention measures are in place could lead to "little spikes that might turn into outbreaks."

Fauci's warning, part of his testimony by video conference before a Senate hearing, stands in stark contrast to President Donald Trump's urging on Monday that the U.S. is prevailing against the coronavirus and should "reopen."

The number of deaths linked to COVID-19 has passed 80,000, a figure that Fauci admitted is probably lower than the actual death toll because some who died were not tested for the coronavirus.

Also Tuesday, House Democratic leaders pushed for a second round of payments of up to $1,200 per person in new coronavirus relief legislation that's headed for a vote Friday.

Its prospects in the Republican-run Senate are far from certain. Michael Zona, a spokesman for Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, called the overall legislation "DOA in the Senate," although he didn't comment specifically on the stimulus money.

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

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HHS whistleblower: We could be looking at 'darkest winter in modern history'

In prepared testimony ahead of a Thursday congressional hearing, a top Health and Human Services official who said he was pushed out of a key coronavirus response job for pushing back on "efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections" suggested 2020 could be "the darkest winter in modern history." 

Dr. Rick Bright, who until last month was the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response and director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, outlined his "grave" concerns in written testimony released ahead of a Thursday hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Health.

"I continue to believe that we must act urgently to effectively combat this deadly disease," he wrote. "Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities... Without clear planning and implementation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be darkest winter in modern history."

Bright said in reflecting on recent months it's "painfully clear" that the U.S. "missed early warning signals and we forgot important pages from our pandemic playbook."

Bright filed a whistleblower complaint last week charging "an abuse of authority or gross mismanagement" at the agency. In that complaint, Bright said chaos at the agency was the result of "pressure from HHS leadership to ignore scientific merit and expert recommendations and instead to award lucrative contracts based on political connections and cronyism."

Alameda County says Tesla plan submitted amid spat over closure

Alameda County's health department said Tuesday that they received a plan from Tesla about coronavirus safety measures after its CEO Elon Musk said he was reopening a plant in defiance of local orders.

"If Tesla’s Prevention and Control Plan includes these updates, and the public health indicators remain stable or improve, we have agreed that Tesla can begin to augment their Minimum Business Operations this week in preparation for possible reopening as soon as next week," the health department said in a statement.

The message appears to signal a possible deal after Musk earlier this week said he would reopen his primary car assembly plant in Fremont in defiance of public health orders. The county said it would work with Fremont police to verify that physical distancing and other measures are being adhered to.

Musk has criticized stay-at-home orders imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus illness COVID-19. In a May 1 tweet he wrote "Now give people back their FREEDOM."

Trump admin unveils plan to ramp up syringe production for future vaccine

Seeking to ramp up the nation’s capacity to administer a possible COVID-19 vaccine, the Trump administration has signed a $138 million deal with the makers of an innovative syringe designed to be used in developing countries.

The goal of the public-private initiative, called Project Jumpstart, is to facilitate the production of 100 million prefilled syringes by the end of 2020 and more than 500 million in 2021 in the event a vaccine becomes available, officials announced Tuesday.

The Health and Human Services Department and the Defense Department are partnering with ApiJect Systems America, which manufactures inexpensive prefilled syringes made of plastic.

Read the full story here

California council member cited after scuffle with protesters at his home

A California city councilman was cited with misdemeanor battery after a physical altercation with protesters who confronted him at his home Tuesday over coronavirus restrictions.

Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias told NBC affiliate KSEE that he felt threatened that the activists had shown up while his kids were home. He said that after asking them to leave, he swiped at their equipment and shoved one man during the confrontation on a stairway.

In a video obtained by KSEE, Arias can be seen swatting at two men, including a local conservative activist, Ben Bergquam.

“What do you say to the businesses you’re destroying?” an activist can be heard saying at one point.

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USA Gymnastics postpones events until 2021 over coronavirus

USA Gymnastics is postponing all "premier events" until 2021 because of the coronavirus epidemic.

The GK U.S. Classic, which had been scheduled for May 23, will now be May 22, 2021, and the U.S. Gymnastics Championships which were to start on June 4 will be rescheduled for June 3, 2021, the organization said Tuesday.

"In light of recent guidance from health experts, and after receiving feedback from our athletes and coaches, we believe it is in the best interest of our community to wait until 2021 to hold premier events,” said Li Li Leung, USA Gymnastics' president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games which had been scheduled for this summer have previously been postponed until next summer.

Arizona gives green light for pro sports to return, minus fans

Pro sports are welcome to return to Arizona as soon as this weekend.

"Major league sports can resume limited reopening, without fans, this Saturday," Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted Tuesday while announcing the easing of some restrictions aimed to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The invitation applied to Major League Baseball, the NFL, NBA, National Hockey League and Major League Soccer, Ducey said at a news conference Tuesday.

The move follows reports that Major League Baseball was considering a truncated season beginning in early July that would include games only in Arizona and Florida.

Read the full story here

Texas AG Ken Paxton calls local orders 'unlawful,' 'Orwellian'

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton warned cities and counties across the state that local laws requiring face coverings and other measures meant to stem the coronavirus pandemic were “unlawful.”

In a letter to officials in Austin and Travis County, Paxton called a contact tracing provision “Orwellian.”

In the letters, which were also sent to Dallas County, Bexar County and San Antonio, Paxton cited an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott that went into effect earlier this month and allowed businesses like barber shops, nail salons, restaurants and movie theaters to reopen with reduced occupancy and, in some cases, social distancing rules.

On May 18, gyms, offices and manufacturers will also be allowed to reopen.

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As cases of rare COVID-linked illness in kids rise, Fauci warns much remains unknown

The number of children with a rare and potentially deadly inflammatory condition likely linked to COVID-19 has risen to more than 100 in at least 14 states.

The tally comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it's actively preparing guidance for health officials to track what's now being called pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or PMIS, nationwide.

The vast majority of the cases are in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday the state has treated about 100 patients who range in age from younger than one to 18 years old.

Read the full story here.