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.

Florida passes 2,000 coronavirus deaths

Florida reported more than 500 new cases of COVID-19 and 54 additional deaths on Tuesday, bringing the statewide coronavirus death toll above 2,000.

In total, 46,944 people have tested positive and 2,052 people have died in the Sunshine State.

NYC has lost 270 city employees to COVID-19

The coronavirus has claimed the lives of at least 270 New York City public employees, including health workers and emergency medical services employees, and Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that City Hall wants to provide all of their families death benefits that are usually reserved for first responders who die in the line of duty.

The city will work with state lawmakers to put into effect the additional payments, which include pension benefits passed on to survivors.

"It's so important for us to say to their families that, 'We will be there for you,' not just words but deeds,” de Blasio told reporters. "Your loved ones gave their all to us; we will there for you."   

Australian restaurant filling tables with cardboard customers

A restaurant in Australia restaurant is filling tables with cardboard customers to make patrons feel less lonely while eating. Frank Angeletta, owner of Five Dock Dining in Sydney, Australia, told NBC News affiliate 7News that he has also prepared ambient background noise, including chatter and clinking silverware, to play in the background. 

The restaurant opened this past Friday for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began and capacity was limited to 10 patrons at a time, per government regulations.

Federal appeals court orders New York to hold Democratic presidential primary

A federal appeals court ordered Tuesday that New York’s presidential primary be reinstated, and that the names former presidential candidates Andrew Yang and Bernie Sanders be among those allowed on the presidential primary ballot. 

The new order is the latest, and possibly final, development in a months-long fight between members of the New York State Board of Elections and a handful of former presidential candidates like Yang and Sanders over whether a candidate who has suspended their campaign should be allowed to remain on a ballot and thereby eligible to collect delegates to the Democratic National Convention. 

The New York State Board of Elections confirmed to NBC News they do not plan to appeal this morning's decision, setting the stage for the presidential primary to return to ballots for the state's June 23 primary. 

Last month, the board removed Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders from the ballot, pointing to his decision to drop out of the presidential race and a recent law that gave the board the power to remove candidates from the ballot after they dropped out.

That move effectively canceled the state's Democratic presidential primary. 

But Sanders' lawyers had argued against removing him, arguing that he was still fighting for convention delegates to have influence at the convention despite having ended his quest for the nomination. 

Yang brought a lawsuit against the board over the decision, and the Sanders camp hired a lawyer and penned a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the challenge. 

A federal circuit court judge disagreed with the board's decision, ruling on May 5 that the primary proceed with the candidates who were on the ballot as of April 26. This includes Sanders, Yang, Michael Bennet, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.

And on Tuesday, the 2nd District Court of Appeals, the federal appeals court that covers New York, upheld the lower court's decision. 

In a tweet responding to the decision, “America’s Promise,” a super PAC formed by former senior Sanders advisors after his campaign ended, wrote “Democracy prevails.”

Green Day, Fall Out Boy, Weezer and Reba McEntire reschedule tours

Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer are postponing their summer tours until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, joining a growing list of artists that have put their plans on hold.

"Hopefully this doesn't come as too much of a surprise, but as much as we were looking forward to seeing you all this summer, everyone's safety is our highest priority," the artists wrote in a joint post on Green Day's Twitter account on Tuesday. 

Reba McEntire also announced that she will be rescheduling her upcoming arena tour, which was slated to start in July.

“I can’t wait to see everybody when we know it’s safe to gather again,” McEntire wrote in a statement. “We’ve worked so hard on this new show and I’ll be ready to go as soon as we get the green light!”

Ticketholders for both tours will have the option to transfer their tickets to a summer 2021 concert date or receive a refund. 

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.