As states have reopened businesses and life in the U.S. is starting to regain a sense of normalcy, a leading health expert is warning "we are still in a pandemic" and confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. topped 2 million on Wednesday.
Many people remain vulnerable to the disease, and the pandemic will continue as long as there's a readily transmissible virus and a population with little or no immunity to it, said Dr. Jay Butler, head of the COVID-19 response at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The news comes as the U.S. is now officially in a recession, bringing an end to a historic 128 months of economic growth.
- MAPS: Confirmed cases in the U.S. and worldwide; confirmed deaths in the U.S. and globally
- Reopening America: See what states across the U.S. have already reopened.
- The coronavirus has destroyed the job market in every state. See the per-state jobless numbers and how they’ve changed.
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U.S. coronavirus cases top 2 million
Jon Huntsman tests positive for COVID-19
Utah gubernatorial candidate Jon Huntsman said Wednesday that he has tested positive for COVID-19.
"After a second try, test results came back positive for Covid-19," Huntsman wrote. "Have been experiencing classic symptoms..like so many others, my goal is to keep my family safe. Though isolated temporarily, we’ve never been more energized in this important race for Governor. The work goes on!"
Huntsman — the former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination — had to take a second COVID-19 test after being given the wrong results to an earlier test.
He previously served as Utah's governor from 2005 to 2009 and resigned to become ambassador to China.
A GOP primary in Utah's governor's race is scheduled for June 30. Among Republican candidates, Huntsman is running neck-and-neck with Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox.
Photos: New York says goodbye to grim reminders of coronavirus toll
"These trailers became new neighbors and served as a reminder of the neighbors we lost," said photojournalist Angus Mordant. See more photos of New Yorkers interacting with one of the few visual signs of the pandemic's toll on the city.
Social distancing on Miami Beach
Texas experiences spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations
Texas is experiencing a troubling spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations, setting a new record for three consecutive days.
The state reported 2,153 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Wednesday, 2,056 on Tuesday and 1,935 on Monday. All of those totals topped the earlier record of 1,888 hospitalizations set on May 5.
More than 13,000 hospital beds and 1,500 ICU beds were available Wednesday, statewide totals show.
The spike comes as the state continues to reopen businesses. Gov. Greg Abbott last week issued an executive order announcing the third phase of the state's reopening, which calls for nearly all businesses to operate at 50 percent occupancy. On Friday, restaurants will be allowed to increase their capacity to 75 percent.
The Lone Star State has reported more than 77,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,853 fatalities since the pandemic began.
Luxury retailers in New York City’s iconic Fifth Avenue district will partly reopen on Thursday
Beginning Thursday, the majority of stores in New York City's iconic Fifth Avenue district will reopen for curbside and in-store pickup, after temporarily shutting down for three months as part of New York’s stay-at-home order.
On Monday, some businesses and construction in the city were allowed to get back to a modified business schedule, after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo lifted coronavirus-related restrictions.
Stores that are part of the Fifth Avenue Association district, which include Armani, Bergdorf Goodman and Dior, will begin breaking down the wooden boards that have covered their windows.
Cartier, Valentino, Louis Vuitton, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co. and Wempe are among the companies leading the district's reopening efforts this week.
Disney Resort Hotels updates cleaning efforts as theme parks begin reopening
Disney Resort Hotels announced Wednesday that it will enhance cleaning efforts across its locations to follow public health guidelines, said Katie Kelly, Vice President of Worldwide Safety Services.
Guest will have access to online check-in services at select locations, luggage pickup at redesigned bell services, and hand sanitizer stations, Kelly said in a news release. There will also be adjustments to restaurants, pools, and other public areas to enable physical distancing and reduce capacity at high-traffic areas.
"We are asking our guests to help, by washing your hands frequently with soap and water; following physical distancing and other guidelines when you visit; and rescheduling your visit if you or a member of your party feel ill or are subject to quarantine or other travel restrictions," Kelly said.
United Airlines travelers will now have to fill out health assessment form before boarding
United Airlines is set to deny boarding to customers who don’t fill out new health assessment forms at check-in, the company said on Wednesday.
The self-check forms are aimed at keeping flyers safe from sick passengers but likely don’t do much to protect against asymptomatic carriers. According to the airline, passengers must agree that they have not been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 21 days and have not had symptoms including a temperature higher than 100.4 F, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, sore throat and recent loss of taste or smell, within the past 14 days.
"United's 'Ready-to-Fly' wellness checklist sets clear guidelines on health requirements for our customers and helps minimize the risk of exposure during the travel experience."said Pat Baylis, United's Corporate Medical Director.
The checklist was created in concert with the Cleveland Clinic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization.
Passengers will be asked to verbally confirm that they have submitted the health information when checking in with an agent. United also wants passengers to attest that they haven’t been denied boarding by another airline for a communicable disease either, and that they have not come into close contact with someone who tested positive in the prior 14 days.
The company added that masks will be compulsory for customers, and that anyone who could not comply with the checklist would be able to reschedule their flight.
SeaWorld San Antonio plans to reopen on June 19
SeaWorld San Antonio will reopen its doors to the public on June 19, the park announced in a news release Wednesday.
The park's reopening will include enhanced health and safety protocols, physical distancing, face covering requirements, and temperature screening.
"We are committed to the health and safety of our guests, employees, and animals in our care, and will continue to follow the guidance of health officials as conditions evolve," said Marc Swanson, interim CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.
Outcry as some nursing homes try to grab stimulus checks
Compounding the hardships of the coronavirus, some nursing homes have demanded that low-income residents turn over their $1,200 economic stimulus checks, a cash grab lawmakers want to halt.
On Tuesday, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called on the Health and Human Services inspector general’s office to issue a warning to nursing homes and assisted living facilities that such practices are “improper and unlawful.”
In the House, Reps. Richard Neal, D-Mass., and Frank Pallone, D-N.J., asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to spell out to nursing homes that the relief money from Congress is not considered income that facilities can legally claim to defray the cost of care. Low-income Medicaid recipients must not be “coerced into wrongly handing over their checks for fear of being kicked out of their homes,” wrote Neal and Pallone. Any funds taken must be returned.
Nationally, over 35,500 people have died from coronavirus outbreaks at nursing homes and long-term care facilities, about a third of the national toll, according to a running tally by The Associated Press.
Trump blames testing for spike in COVID-19 cases. Experts fault reopening.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly blamed testing as the reason for documented spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases across the U.S. — but data and public health experts attribute the surge to the easing of lockdown restrictions just weeks ago. "The surge numbers are real," said Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the Columbia University National Center for Disaster Preparedness.