States struggle with contact tracing, Pence isn't taking hydroxychloroquine

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
COVID-19 Testing Begins in Historic Black Neighborhoods in Altamonte Springs, US
Health workers test people in cars for COVID-19 at a mobile testing site at the Apostolic Church of Christ in Altamonte Springs, Fla. on April 21, 2020.Paul Hennessy / Barcroft Media via Getty Images file

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States across the country are reopening their economies, but they’re struggling with what public health officials have called a key component aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus — contact tracing.

President Donald Trump might be taking hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic against COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean his vice president is.

"My physician hasn’t recommended that, but I wouldn’t hesitate to take the counsel of my doctor," Mike Pence told Fox News on Tuesday.

Walter Barton, 64, was put to death in Missouri on Tuesday. His was the first execution in the United States since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.

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 to May 20 coronavirus news.

Nursing home workers say they face retaliation for reporting COVID-19 risks

James Carter, a certified nursing assistant at Alden Lakeland nursing home, outside his home in Chicago.Joshua Lott / for NBC News

Long before nursing homes became a breeding ground for the coronavirus, workers have faced low wages, strenuous conditions, communication breakdowns and staffing shortages, according to nursing home workers, advocates and industry experts.

But the virus has now turned these challenges into a full-blown crisis for these workers — the majority of whom are women and people of color — who have suddenly found themselves on the front lines of the pandemic, with limited protection and outside oversight. And some say they have faced retaliation for reporting problematic working conditions. 

“Direct care workers are already living paycheck to paycheck," said Kezia Scales, director of policy research for PHI, a national research and consulting organization for long-term care workers and personal aides. "Now they are being asked to put their lives on the line for $13 an hour.”

Read the full story here. 

CDC plans sweeping COVID-19 antibody study in 25 metropolitan areas

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans a nationwide study of up to 325,000 people to track how the new coronavirus is spreading across the country into next year and beyond, a CDC spokeswoman and researchers conducting the effort told Reuters.

The CDC study, expected to launch in June or July, will test samples from blood donors in 25 metropolitan areas for antibodies created when the immune system fights the coronavirus, said Dr. Michael Busch, director of the nonprofit Vitalant Research Institute.

Read more. 

Environmental activists warn about increase in road traffic from coronavirus fears

Greenpeace Germany has warned that limiting the number of passengers on public transportation to control the spread of the coronavirus could prompt more people to drive and subsequently increase carbon dioxide emissions from road traffic.

The German branch of the environmental activism group said people who fear being exposed to the virus on buses and trains could add 20 billion kilometers of car travel in German cities each year, adding roughly 3 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

Greenpeace Germany published their calculations Tuesday, and encouraged cities to invest in climate-friendly alternatives to public transportation.

“To ensure that [coronavirus] does not also infect changes in the traffic sector, cities must now create more space for cyclists and pedestrians,” Greenpeace traffic expert Marion Tiemann said in a statement. “With better cycling and walking paths, cities can prevent people from being forced back into their cars.”

Medical journal rebuts Trump's claims in WHO letter

A British medical journal Tuesday rebutted claims by President Donald Trump that the World Health Organization had consistently ignored reports of the virus spreading in China in early December, including ones featured in its publication.

In a letter published Monday, Trump's excoriated WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, saying the organization had “failed to independently investigate credible reports that conflicted directly with the Chinese government’s official accounts.”

“This statement is factually incorrect,” The Lancet, a general medical journal, responded in a statement. “The Lancet published no report in December, 2019, referring to a virus or outbreak in Wuhan or anywhere else in China.”

Read more here.

Pier 1 Imports to wind down its business due to coronavirus

Home goods retailer Pier 1 Imports said Tuesday it is seeking bankruptcy court approval to wind down its business entirely after it was not able to find a buyer due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The company plans to sell its inventory and remaining assets, including its intellectual property and online operations.

Pier 1 said it will commence the winding down of its business “as soon as reasonably possible,” once its stores are able to reopen to liquidate.

“Unfortunately, the challenging retail environment has been significantly compounded by the profound impact of COVID-19, hindering our ability to secure a buyer and requiring us to wind down,” Chief Financial Officer Robert Riesbeck said in a statement.

The pandemic has taken a toll on many in retail. So far, high-end department store chain Neiman Marcus, apparel maker J.Crew, and mall icon J.C. Penney have filed for bankruptcy in recent weeks.

Read the full story here.

Chinese province seeks to ban illegal wildlife trade, consumption

Porcupine, king cobra and barking deer are among a list of animals slated to be banned for the purposes of trade and consumption by the Chinese province of Hunan which borders the region where the coronavirus pandemic was first detected

While the precise source of COVID-19 remains a mystery, scientists have suggested that like many other coronaviruses, it was transmitted to humans from animals, sparking concern for the risks of live-animal markets. 

Hunan province issued a statement on Friday proposing legislation that would end the breeding and sale of wild animals in an effort to protect people's health and safety. The government has also proposed a program to compensate farmers who breed exotic animals to help deter them from the market.

Virus lockdowns may harm African elephants as tourism wanes, charity warns

Coronavirus lockdowns could inadvertently harm the African elephant, an animal welfare charity warned on Tuesday, as tourism wanes and funding for conservation projects dries up.

A lack of tourism is harming conservation efforts in many African countries and leading to the poaching of the vulnerable mammals, the British charity How Many Elephants said. It warned at least 96 elephants were being poached every day even before the pandemic, making them vulnerable to extinction within decades on the continent.

Conservationist Colin Bell warned that "without tourism, there is no money left for managing Africa’s parks," and as people lose jobs and income they are forced to turn to rhinos and elephants for bush meat — further putting the animals under threat.

Italy's mayors get post-lockdown haircuts as restrictions loosen

Barber shops in Italy were the first stop for some of the country's mayors when the coronavirus lockdown eased after more than two months

Florence’s Dario Nardella shared an image of his post lockdown haircut and urged people to be prudent and adhere to safety measures.

Giorgio Gori, the mayor of the heavily affected city of Bergamo, shared a set of before and after photos which showed his messy hair given a smart trim. Meanwhile, Bari’s mayor Antonio Decaro, acknowledged that getting used to the rules would not be easy, but noted how glad he was to be able to visit his regular barber once again. “We were both excited, like the first day of school”, he said.

WHO coronavirus assembly: U.S.-China clash dominates as summit reaches finale

As countries struggle to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization's annual meeting is reaching its finale Tuesday having descended into fiery dispute involving the United States, China and the WHO itself.

President Donald Trump teed up the second and final day of the 73rd World Health Assembly by sending an excoriating letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who he accused of doing "a very sad job" in attempting to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

In his letter, the president threatened to make permanent a temporary funding freeze on American donations as he accuses it of helping China cover up the outbreak. The U.S. is the WHO's biggest donor.

Read the full story here.

India coronavirus infections surge past 100,000, deaths top 3,000

Migrant workers line up outside a Mumbai railway station on Tuesday to return to their hometowns after the government eased a nationwide lockdown.Punit Paranjpe / AFP - Getty Images

Coronavirus cases in India reached 100,000 on Tuesday, matching the number of intensive care unit beds in the country, while the rate of growth of new infections showed little sign of slowing.

India reported 4,970 new cases over the past 24 hours, taking the total from the outbreak to 101,139. Deaths rose by 134 to 3,163.

The number of Indian cases has easily outstripped China, where the virus originated late last year and which has been one of the infection hotspots in Asia. India has officially extended its lockdown on Sunday to May 31, although several states indicated they would allow businesses to reopen.