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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

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:

Download the NBC News app for latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak.

This live coverage has now ended. Continue to May 20 coronavirus news.

Louisiana DMV closes same day it reopened over fear of spread

NEW ORLEANS — Coronavirus fears closed a Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles location near New Orleans the same morning that it reopened after a two-month pandemic closure.

The office in Harvey was notified that someone in the building might have been in contact with somebody who had COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Deputy Commissioner Keith Neal said Tuesday.

Neal said he did not know whether the notification was from a state Department of Health contact tracer. The health department reported Tuesday that more than 35,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease, 1,004 of them are hospitalized and 2,458 have died. About 26,200 are presumed recovered.

He said the office — one of 11 that reopened statewide Monday after being closed since March 20 — will be sanitized before reopening.

U.S., Canada, Mexico extend border restrictions

TORONTO — The U.S., Canada and Mexico have extended their agreements to keep their shared borders closed to non-essential travel to June 21 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the border is a source of vulnerability, so the agreement will be extended by another 30 days. The Canada restrictions were announced on March 18 and were extended in April.

Trudeau said Canada’s provincial leaders clearly wanted to continue the measures.

“This will keep people in both of our countries safe.” Trudeau said.

U.S. President Donald Trump also confirmed the extension, but looked forward to its eventual end, saying, “everything we want to get back to normal.”

Mexico’s Foreign Affairs ministry said via Twitter that after reviewing the spread of COVID-19 in Mexico and the United States the governments had decided to leave the restrictions implemented March 21 unchanged.

Inside Mexico's fight against coronavirus

Kroger employees won't have to return extra money

Kroger said Tuesday that it will not require grocery employees who were overpaid to return the extra money.

“We’ve instructed our payroll department to directly inform the small number of associates affected by the overpayments of Emergency Leave of Absence pay that we will not seek repayment,” the grocer said in a statement to NBC News.

It was not immediately clear what Kroger was referring to by “Emergency Leave of Absence pay.”

Kroger on March 29 issued what it called hazard “hero” pay, an extra $2 an hour, for its employees in retail stores and warehouses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The corporation announced it would end the hazard pay in mid-May. On May 15, the grocer announced it would give a bonus of $400 for full-time and $200 for part-time associates after Kroger’s union, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, spoke out against the end of hazard pay.

An undated letter shared Monday on social media appeared to be a request from Kroger asking an employee to return hazard pay amounting to about $462.

NBC was unable to verify the authenticity of the notice, but in its statement Tuesday, Kroger said that it would not ask associates to repay any overpayments.

Fact check: Are front-line workers taking hydroxychloroquine to prevent COVID-19?

Medical professionals say they do not have any evidence to back up President Donald Trump’s repeated claim that “many” and “thousands” of front-line workers are taking hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic for COVID-19.

The American Medical Association, the country’s largest medical association, told NBC News Tuesday that the organization "does not know of any tracking or surveys examining HCQ use among health care workers.”

The following day, the American Nurses Association strongly pushed back on Trump’s assertion, telling NBC News in a statement that the group "has not received reports from nurses or other frontline healthcare workers utilizing Hydroxychloroquine as a preventative treatment for COVID-19," and adding that "to date, research has not shown clear evidence that Hydrocychloroquine has a preventative effect for COVID-19."

While hydroxychloroquine was widely used in March in New York City hospitals on Covid-19 patients, but doctors immediately stopped prescribing it as soon as warnings about its potential side effects — some of them fatal — came to light. An ICU doctor at a New York hospital who did not want to be identified as speaking without authorization told NBC News that hydroxychloroquine was “absolutely not“ used by front-line workers as a prophylaxis at his hospital at any time, but said he thinks the drug might have killed some patients during the time it was given as standard care.

Anesthesiologist AJ Rai, who came to New York City from California to treat Covid-19 patients, said doctors initially might have taken it as a prophylaxis but the “data debunked [the use of the drug] weeks ago. 

“There is zero evidence for it as prophylaxis [and] questionable evidence for taking it very very early in the course of an infection, but that’s a stretch now based on what we’ve learned,” Rai said.

When asked what the president was referencing, the White House pointed to the 12 known trials that have been reported on, including one by Henry Ford Health System, which will lead a study of 3,000 first responders of hydroxychloroquine as a preventative medication.

(this post has been updated)

Masks required, fewer games, buffet closed: Idaho casino offers glimpse of gambling's future

The video gaming machines were whirring, buzzing and chiming at the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel on a recent afternoon — familiar sounds amid an otherwise stark new reality.

Since the Worley, Idaho, casino reopened April 27, after being closed for more than a month because of the COVID-19 pandemic, its operations have looked very different.

Rather than waiting in line for all-you-can-eat crab and prime rib at the casino’s buffet — which is closed indefinitely — guests queued up at the main entrance, standing 6 feet apart, to have their temperature taken before coming inside.

Read the full story here. 

L.A. County eyes July 4 to reopen economy

Los Angeles officials set their eyes on a new target for reopening the country's most populace county —  July 4.

“We have to do a lot of things right so we can actually get to that date,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “I think the reality is that we are going to really aim together to get there as quickly as possible, but we’re going to pay attention to the data and science.”

Acknowledging that residents are growing impatient with California's safer-at-home restrictions, officials said they hope to reopen the economy sooner than later. It will only be possible, however, if residents continue to follow health guidelines, such as practicing social distancing and wearing masks in public.

"Everyone is fatigued and I think we all feel like enough is enough," Ferrer said. "I wish the virus said enough is enough, also."

L.A. County announced 1,183 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the county's total to 39,573. California has more than 82,000 cases across the state, according to NBC News counts.

Military will make swabs for COVID-19 tests at Navy shipyard in Maine

The arm of the U.S. military that develops medical products to protect service members has joined with the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, to produce nasal swabs needed for coronavirus testing.

The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity (USAMMDA) and the Navy shipyard have agreed to produce the swabs via 3-D printing. The shipyard has the capacity to print up to 10,000 swabs per day.

The swabs are intended to be used by the Defense Department for nasopharyngeal diagnostic testing for COVID-19.

The shipyard has already used 3-D printing to make face shields for protection from the coronavirus.

    

New Jersey gym opens for second day in defiance of state order

Image:
A police officer issues Atilis Gym co-owners Ian Smith, left, and Frank Trumbetti summons outside their gym in Bellmawr, N.J., on May 19, 2020.Matt Rourke / AP

A gym in New Jersey opened for a second day Tuesday in defiance of the governor's stay-at-home order.

A crowd of supporters erupted into chants of "U.S.A." at Atilis Gym in Bellmawr when it first reopened shortly after 8 a.m. Monday, two months after Gov. Phil Murphy announced an order closing fitness centers, casinos, concert venues and movie theaters to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The police department in Bellmawr, about 10 miles southeast of Philadelphia in Camden County, said in a statement that gym owners Frank Trumbetti and Ian Smith were both charged on a summons with a disorderly person's offense, the statement said.

But despite the charges, the business opened again Tuesday.

Read the full story here.

Trump says he's not sure whether he'll wear face mask on factory tour despite company policy

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he is not sure whether he will wear a face mask Thursday when he visits a Ford factory in Michigan, appearing to go against Ford's safety protocols.

"I don’t know, I haven’t even thought of it," Trump said during a cabinet meeting at the White House when asked by reporters if he planned to wear a mask. "It depends, I mean, you know, certain areas I would and certain areas I don’t, but I will certainly look at it."

Ford said that their policy "is that everyone wears PPE to prevent the spread of COVID-19."

“We have shared our policies and recommendations. The White House has its own safety and testing policies in place and will make its own determination," Ford added. 

Trump said he would determine whether to wear a mask depending on the place he was visiting.

"Is something a hospital? Is it a ward? Is it, what is it exactly? I’m going to a plant, so we’ll see. Where it’s appropriate I would do it, certainly," he said. 

Trump has been criticized for not wearing a face mask to factory tours in Arizona and Pennsylvania. In private, Trump has worried that wearing a mask would send the wrong message and make him look ridiculous

Belmont Stakes will be held, with no one in grandstands, on June 20

Image:
Justify with jockey Mike Smith crosses the finish line to win the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race in Elmont, N.Y., on June 9, 2018.Julie Jacobson / AP file

The Belmont Stakes, traditionally the third jewel of thoroughbred horse racing's Triple Crown, will run on June 20 — in front of empty grandstands and as the leadoff of the annual series, officials said Tuesday.

The Belmont had originally been set for June 6 just outside of New York City, before the coronavirus pandemic brought virtually all pro sports in North America to an abrupt halt.

The New York Racing Association pushed back its most famous event, but by only two weeks, in stark contrast to the Triple Crown's other two races, the Kentucky Derby in Louisville and Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.

Read the full story here. 

Fact check: Trump falsely claims just 1 study found hydroxychloroquine harmful or ineffective

 

President Donald Trump claimed Tuesday that just one study counters his belief that hydroxychloroquine can help prevent or treat COVID-19, and that was because the patients who were given the drug were already very ill.

“If you look at the one survey, the only bad survey, they were giving it to people that were in very bad shape. They were very old, almost dead,” Trump said, referring to a study of veterans taking the drug that linked it to a higher risk of death.

This is not true. There have been several studies into the effect of hydroxychloroquine on patients sick with the disease caused by coronavirus that have found the drug to be ineffective or harmful to patients fighting coronavirus.

A study out of China found that patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 who were given hydroxychloroquine and standard care for COVID-19 fared worse than those given standard care, while French researchers in another study found that treatment with hydroxychloroquine didn’t stop the progression of the disease. A study in New York that was funded by the National Institutes of Health found no adverse or beneficial effects of the administration of hydroxychloroquine on coronavirus patients. Another study in Brazil was stopped early after patients developed fatal, irregular heartbeats.

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

Image: Qatar Airways
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

Image: Mike Pence
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,Carolyn Ann Glenn
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.

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.
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

Image: Migrant workers line up outside a Mumbai railway station on Tuesday to return to their hometowns after the government eased a nationwide lockdown.
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.

Russia's prime minister returns to work after coronavirus recovery

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin was officially reinstated to his post on Tuesday, nearly three weeks after he was diagnosed with the coronavirus. Mishustin announced on April 30 that he had tested positive for the virus and was entering a hospital for treatment.

Mishustin’s formal return, ordered by President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, comes as Russia nears 300,000 confirmed cases of the virus and sees its daily number of new cases continue to trend downward.

However, the decline in Russia’s daily growth rate is so far focused almost entirely on Moscow, with the growth rate remaining steady outside the capital.

Vietnam offers cut-price paradise to lure local travelers post coronavirus

Image: Vietnamese tourists visit Ha Long Bay, Vietnam on Tuesday after the government eased the lockdown.
Vietnamese tourists visit Ha Long Bay, Vietnam on Tuesday after the government eased the lockdown.Kham / Reuters

Vietnam recorded a 98 percent fall in visitors this April compared to 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but its success in fighting the virus, posting only 324 cases and no deaths, now sees it set to breathe life back into its tourism industry.

Vietnam will be one of the first Southeast Asian nations to start to revive its economy, but with a ban still in place on foreign visitors, and many of their major tourist markets under lockdown, hotels and resorts are discounting paradise to make it more attractive to local travelers.

A tourism promotion campaign "Vietnamese People Travel in Vietnam" debuted last week and hotels and airlines have cut prices by as much as half, according to Vu The Binh, chairman of Vietnam Society of Travel Agents, and vice chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association.

Prince Charles asks for 'army of people' to pick fruit and veg

Britain's Prince Charles on Tuesday appealed to people laid off in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown to apply for the "unglamorous" job of farmwork. 

The Prince of Wales, 71, launched the #PickForBritain campaign with a video of him standing in his garden explaining that crops risk going to waste if farmers can't get extra support. "If we are to harvest British fruit and vegetables this year we need an army of people to help," he said. 

Charles, who recently recovered from the coronavirus, compared the campaign to a similar effort during the Second World War, saying those who get involved "will be making a vital contribution to the national effort" in fighting the pandemic. 

Italy's 24-hour death toll dips below 100 for first time since March

For the first time in nearly 10 weeks, Italy reported fewer than 100 deaths due to the coronavirus in a 24 hour period as the nationwide lockdown eased, officials said Tuesday. 

Italy was one of the hardest-hit countries in the world and more than 32,000 people have died since the pandemic began. But on Monday the country saw 99 deaths, far lower than the peak of several hundred deaths a day several weeks ago, while four regions reported no new infections at all.

With conditions improving, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said in press release that Italy is aiming to allow the return of European tourists beginning June 3.

Mexico's COVID-19 death toll could be three times official count

MEXICO CITY — A registry of death certificates in Mexico City suggests there have been 4,577 cases in which doctors mentioned coronavirus or COVID-19 as a possible or probable cause of death, more than three times the official count.

The federal government acknowledges only 1,332 confirmed deaths in Mexico City due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Mexicans Against Corruption said in a report Monday it obtained access to a database of death certificates issued in Mexico City between March 18 and May 12. It showed that in explanatory notes attached to 4,577 death certificates, doctors included the words “SARS,” “COV2,” “COV,” “Covid 19,” or “new coronavirus.”

The virus’ technical name is SARS-CoV-2. The notes the group counted included terms such as “suspected,” “probable,” or “possible” when describing the virus’ role in the deaths. In 3,209 certificates, it was listed as a suspected contributing factor along with other causes of death, like pneumonia, respiratory failure, septic shock or multiple organ failure.

Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum has acknowledged there are more virus-related deaths than officially reported, and has said a special commission will review the death figures. Her office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the new report.

Thailand's travel ban impacts the country's elephants

Trump admin taps startup to build first stockpile of key drug ingredients

Seeking to secure the nation's supply of critical medications, the Trump administration has signed a $354 million contract that would create the nation's first strategic stockpile of key ingredients needed to make medicines.

The agreement was signed Monday with Phlow Corp., a generic drug maker based in Virginia. According to a news release to be made public Tuesday, the project will use federal funds from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority under the Department of Health and Human Services.

The goal is twofold: to enable the U.S. to manufacture essential drugs at risk of shortage and to create a reserve of active pharmaceutical ingredients to reduce the dependence on foreign suppliers.

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