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

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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.

Unlike Trump, Pence says he's not taking hydroxychloroquine

Vice President Mike Pence speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, on April 23, 2020.Alex Brandon / AP file

Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday he's not taking hydroxychloroquine, an unproven treatment for COVID-19 that President Donald Trump has vigorously promoted and claims to be taking himself.

"My physician hasn’t recommended that but I wouldn’t hesitate to take the counsel of my doctor," Pence told Fox News in an interview from NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. "I would never begrudge any American taking the advice of their physician."

Trump announced Monday that he's been taking the drug for about 10 days, despite warnings from the Food and Drug Administration that it can cause potential heart problems and initial studies that have shown the antimalarial drug is not an effective treatment for the coronavirus.

Read the full story here.

You're not the only one considering a new sofa: Why Wayfair is thriving amid the pandemic

Furniture and home accessories website Wayfair has seen a massive boom in sales as people are spending more time at home — and finding their space might need a new look. 

While some customers admit they would not normally buy furniture without trying it out in person, the pandemic has turned that approach on its head.

Amid a retail landscape that has already driven well-known brands into bankruptcy, Wayfair’s revenue is up by almost 20 percent, with deliveries up 21 percent.

The success lies in its business model, which is perfectly suited to a pandemic: Its website is designed for people with time to browse. It offers 18 million items, speedy delivery, easy returns, and free shipping on most orders.

Read the full story here.

Boston taking cautious approach to reopening office buildings

Boston's mayor says he's not ready for the city's offices to reopen under state guidelines, and that workplaces that do reopen will have to create plans and follow strict guidelines.

Office buildings across Massachusetts are scheduled to reopen on May 25. Boston will follow on June 1 due to the number of people who work in the city, Mayor Marty Walsh said at a Tuesday news briefing. Doors to some businesses, such as restaurants, will remain closed until at least June 8.

Walsh also said talks are ongoing with the Boston Athletic Association about the best way to proceed with the Boston Marathon, which is tentatively scheduled for September.

U.S.'s contact tracing efforts hobbled by obstacles

In Texas, where gyms and offices this week joined the list of businesses that can reopen at limited capacity, only half of the 4,000 contact tracers needed by the state have been hired so far.

In Illinois' Cook County, there are about 30 contact tracers for the 2.5 million people who live outside of Chicago — far fewer than the 750 that officials are hoping for should funding become available in the next couple of weeks. Last week, the county racked up the most confirmed coronavirus infections of any others in the nation.

And in Washington, which has managed to hire and train more than 1,300 contact tracers, state health officials last Friday had to issue a statement to dispel "rumors" circulating online about its tracing efforts.

As public health officials point to contact tracing as a key component for tracking the spread of the coronavirus and preventing a flare-up of cases amid the wave of reopenings, some agencies are wrestling with a lack of necessary resources from the federal government, a need for more qualified workers and a growing backlash of misinformation.

Read the full story here.

U.K. to rely on British workers to bring in harvest amid coronavirus

The U.K. will have to rely on British workers to help bring in the harvest this year, Environment Secretary George Eustice said Tuesday. 

Every year, large numbers of people come from countries such as Romania and Bulgaria to take part in the harvest, Eustice said. But the government estimates only around a third of those who normally come are already in the country, and a small number may continue to travel.

Furloughed workers “may be getting to the point that they want to lend a hand and play their part, they may be wanting to get out and they may be wanting to supplement their income,” he said.

Memorial Day ceremonies in New York will be no more than 10 people, Cuomo says

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he thinks it's important the state honor veterans for Memorial Day, but wants to do so in a safe way. 

The governor said he is going to allow ceremonies of no more than 10 people and hopes the events will be broadcast on television so residents can watch safely at home. It's up to local governments, however, to decide if they want to hold a ceremony. 

The governor is also encouraging vehicle parades as a way to honor military personnel who have died.  

"This is an important tradition," he said at a news briefing on Tuesday. "Many people lost their lives. It's important to the veterans that they be recognized. And I think we can do that and I think we can do that safely." 

More than 177,000 NYC public school students expected for remote summer school

More than 177,000 public school students in New York City are expected to attend remote summer school classes, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

The nation's largest school system is planning for a summer school enrollment of about 177,700, comprised of about 67,000 third-through eighth-graders, 83,000 high school students and 27,700 children with disabilities, the mayor said.

That is slightly up from the 171,500 students who attended summer school in 2019, according to the city's Department of Education.  

"They've gone though a lot," de Blasio said of the system's 1.1 million students. "A lot of disruption, a lot of challenges. Some of them have even gone through trauma; it's not easy for young people." 

Annie Glenn, widow of astronaut John Glenn, dies of COVID-19

Annie Glenn, center, looks at her husband John Glenn's casket alongside her daughter Carolyn Ann Glenn as he lies in honor on Dec. 16, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio.John Minchillo / AP file

Annie Glenn, who was the widow of late astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn and a communication disorders advocate, died Tuesday at age 100.

Glenn died of COVID-19 complications at a nursing home near St. Paul, Minnesota, said Hank Wilson, a spokesman for the Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University.

At the time of John Glenn's death in 2016, the two had been married 73 years. She had moved out of the apartment they shared in Columbus in recent years and gone to live with her daughter, Lyn, according to Wilson.

After learning skills that helped her to control a severe stutter, Glenn became an advocate for people with communication disorders.

Read the full story here.