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.

NYU still plans to have in-person courses in the fall

New York University announced Tuesday that it still plans to hold in-person classes for the fall semester, even as some universities are opting for virtual-only courses to prevent a resurgence of coronavirus cases.

Those plans could change depending on guidelines issued by local and federal authorities, according to a message from NYU Provost Katherine Fleming. 

"We’ll be living with safety measures and will have to be highly flexible so we can respond to a changing landscape," Fleming's email said. "I can promise you, however, that our goal is to enable you to stay on track academically in a way that works best for you in the current context and that maximizes flexibility." 

The California State University System, which runs 23 campuses, took the opposite approach last week and announced it would hold most of its courses online in the fall. CSU is among one of the largest four-year-public university systems in the country, educating about 480,000 students a year.

Many universities have yet to announce a formal decision on a fall semester as health officials warn there could be new spikes in cases as states reopen.

Harvey Weinstein's transfer to Los Angeles delayed due to coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic has delayed extradition for convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein, who still faces sex crimes charges from three separate incidents that allegedly occurred in Los Angeles.

"The virus has delayed the processing of the extradition paperwork,” Greg Risling from the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office said Tuesday. “There is no time estimate on when he will appear in a Los Angeles courtroom."

Weinstein has been in custody in New York since he was found guilty of third-degree rape and first degree criminal sexual act in a landmark #MeToo case in March. The disgraced movie mogul was transferred from Rikers Island to Wende Correctional Facility, a maximum-security state prison east of Buffalo, where he tested positive for COVID-19.

Read the full story here.

COVID-19 spread silently through a rural Arkansas church in March, CDC says

Two people infected with COVID-19 spread the virus to more than 30 people during church gatherings in Arkansas in early March, before the first case was ever diagnosed in that state, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published Tuesday.

The cases illustrate how rapidly the virus can spread to others involved in faith-based organizations, and may have implications for places of worship as churches nationwide figure out how to reopen safely.

Read more. 

Qatar Airways cabin crew to wear protective suits over uniforms

Qatar Airways announced that cabin crew will begin wearing 'PPE suits' over their uniforms.Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways announced new measures to keep passengers and crew safe while flying during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cabin crew will begin wearing PPE suits over their uniforms in addition to safety goggles, gloves and masks, the airline said in a Monday news release.

Starting May 25, passengers will be required to wear face coverings during flights. Social areas on planes have also been closed, and bottles of hand sanitizer will be readily available for passengers and crew members.

“At Qatar Airways, we have  introduced these additional safety measures onboard our flights to ensure the continued health and wellbeing of our passengers and cabin crew, and to limit the spread of coronavirus,” Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker in the news release.

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.