White House to wind down task force

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.

Clinical staff wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as they care for a patient at the Intensive Care unit at Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England on May 5, 2020.Neil Hall / Pool via Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force is in the early stages of winding down, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Drs. Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci are still expected to be at the White House on a daily basis, but other members of the task force may be less physically present.

Speculation about the task force's ongoing presence emerged as Trump was traveling outside the D.C. area for the first time in more than a month to visit a Honeywell mask manufacturing facility in Phoenix, Arizona.

The U.S. coronavirus death toll passed 70,000 Tuesday, with at least 70,972 deaths linked to the illness across the country, according to an NBC News count of reports. Globally, there have been more than 257,000 deaths according to Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, businesses in several states including Florida and California, have reopened their doors, hopeful to bring back customers while managing expectations and safety. But fears continue to mount about America's food supply chain. At a Tyson meat factory in Iowa, 58 percent of workers tested positive for COVID-19.

Here's what to know about the coronavirus, plus a timeline of the most critical moments:

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Baby penguins given names in honor of U.K.'s health care service

Bird keepers at Chester Zoo named hatched Humboldt penguin chicks after British hospitals in tribute to the country's beloved NHS health service amid coronavirus pandemic. Among some of the names are Florence, to honour Florence Nightingale, and Thomas, after St Thomas' Hospital in London where PM Boris Johnson was treated for COVID-19. Chester Zoo / Reuters

New York City subway closes for nightly disinfection


Mumbai closes liquor stores because of too-large crowds

NEW DELHI — Indian authorities have decided to shut down liquor shops in Mumbai, India’s financial capital which is the worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic, after the police found it extremely difficult to control the surging crowds at the vends over the past two days.

Municipal Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi in an order late Tuesday said that only groceries and pharmacies will be allowed to be opened in Mumbai which is battling a rapidly rising number of coronavirus cases.

Mumbai currently has around 10,000 positive cases and 387 deaths. On an average it has been getting more than 400 cases per day.

After some lockdown restrictions were eased in India on Monday, thousands turned up at liquor stores across the country without following social distancing guidelines. This led the authorities to shut many of the liquor shops. 

Authorities in India’s capital imposed a special tax of 70 percent on liquor purchases on Tuesday to dissuade huge gatherings of thirsty drinkers at stores. The new tax is called the “special corona fee.”


Where's my check? Answers to common relief payment questions

The U.S. government has distributed about 130 million economic impact paymentsto taxpayers in less than 30 days. The IRS anticipates sending more than 150 million payments as part of a massive coronavirus rescue package.

The distribution has had some hiccups, including an overwhelmed website, payments to deceased taxpayers and money sent to inactive accounts.

For those still waiting or with other questions, find the answers here.  


Report: Kushner's coronavirus effort botched by unskilled volunteers


Kansas farmer who donated mask to New York receives college diploma

Dennis Ruhnke, the retired farmer who was singled out by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo after donating a face mask to New York in March, finally received his college diploma. 

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly and Kansas State University President Richard Myers presented Ruhnke with his bachelor’s degree Tuesday. Ruhnke was just two credits from earning his degree when his father died in 1971, Kelly said, and chose to leave school to care for his mother and their family farm. 

“Dennis’ kindness and lifelong career in agriculture make him more than qualified to receive a degree,” Kelly wrote in a Facebook post.

Ruhnke gained national attention last month after he sent a letter and N95 mask to Cuomo, who read Ruhnke’s letter during a news conference. Cuomo called the gesture “humanity at its best.” 

“Many of those who wrote to me to thank me asked me how they could help,” Ruhnke said Tuesday. “Just pay it forward as much as you can afford to do so, to honor all those who have lost their lives to the [COVID-19] virus, and also to honor the first responders who, in some cases, even lost their own lives in the line of duty. The ultimate sacrifice.”


Detroit automakers push for restart of plants within 2 weeks

DETROIT — Major U.S. automakers are planning to reopen North American factories within two weeks, potentially putting thousands of workers back on the assembly line as part of a gradual return to normality.

Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley said on an earnings conference call Tuesday his company plans to start reopening factories May 18, though that depends on an easing of government restrictions.

Right now, Michigan’s shelter-at-home order is in effect until May 15.

Detroit automakers will likely be on the same timetable because their workers are represented by the same union.

The United Auto Workers union on Tuesday appeared to be onboard.

Detroit automakers employ about 150,000 factory workers in the United States alone. Auto plants have been shut since mid-March because of the outbreak. At least 25 employees at auto facilities represented by the UAW have died as a result of COVID-19, although it’s not known if they were infected at work.

Manley said a lot depends on whether Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer allows factories to reopen.

Last week, Whitmer hinted that auto plants may soon reopen as the curve of cases continues to flatten. She said the reopening could take place as long as the UAW can ensure employees feel safe.


Native American health center asked for COVID-19 supplies. It got body bags instead.

In mid-March, as the Seattle region grappled with a coronavirus outbreak, a community health center caring for the area's Native American population made a pressing request to county, state and federal health agencies: Please send medical supplies.

What it received almost three weeks later left staff members stunned.

"My team turned ghost white," said Esther Lucero, chief executive officer of the Seattle Indian Health Board. "We asked for tests, and they sent us a box of body bags."

The health board's center — serving about 6,000 people a year in Seattle and King County — still has the package, which is filled with zippered white bags and beige tags that read "attach to toe."

Read the full story here


Huntington Beach, scene of protests following closures, to reopen

A Southern California coastal community that has been fighting the state over beach closures has been given the green light to begin to reopen beaches, along with two other Orange County cities.

Huntington Beach saw a protest of several hundred people on Friday after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all beaches in the county closedfollowing crowds seen there amid the coronavirus epidemic.

On Tuesday, the California Natural Resources Agency said that Huntington Beach, Dana Point and Seal Beach received approval to reopen beaches after submitting plans that include measures to protect public health.

Newsom issued his order on Thursday, and Huntington Beach's city council the same day voted to authorize legal action. A judge then refused to block Newsom's order.

Huntington Beach said in a statement Tuesday that the beaches and bike pathway would be reopened for active recreation only. People will also have to maintain physical distancing.