States reopen in US as coronavirus pandemic persists

Updated 9:57 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020
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4:29 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020

Michigan governor warns reopening the state too soon could lead to another shutdown

From CNN’s Sara Rudolph

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., May 1.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., May 1. Michigan Office of the Governor/Pool/AP

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer warned today that reopening the state too soon could lead to a second shutdown.

"As tough as this moment has been, as great as the price that we have paid in this moment, we know we don’t want to do it again," she said at a news conference today.

She said the lockdown would continue “until at least May 15” and end “when public health experts and data say it’s safe.”

On politics and testing supplies: Asked about tensions with the state legislature, Whitmer said, “I’m happy to work with the legislature. I think ideally we all get on the same page here. But what I can’t do is negotiate like this is a political issue. This is a public health issue.”

President Trump posted a tweet Sunday criticizing Whitmer for not saying she needed testing supplies on a call with the White House.

In response, the governor said, “I believe that we have some swabs that are going to be coming in from the federal government – they’re not here yet. And that’s why we’re not going to stop making people understand we still have needs that haven’t been met.”

6:03 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020

New model predicts at least 134,000 coronavirus deaths in US by August

From CNN's Amanda Watts

James Harvey tends tends to the inventory of pre-sold caskets at a funeral home on April 29, in New York City.
James Harvey tends tends to the inventory of pre-sold caskets at a funeral home on April 29, in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington (IHME), says it has revised its models for predicting coronavirus, and is now forecasting at least 134,000 deaths in the US by August 4.

Speaking on Monday, IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray said they have had a “major revision in our modeling strategy.” 

His team is now using a hybrid approach, and is gathering “mobility data as it gets reported through four different cell phone providers.” He said most importantly, they are using data to “reflect the effect of premature relaxation of social distance, which has a substantial effect.”

“The effect of this shift in modeling framework, is that the number of deaths that we forecast out to August 4, now increases to 134,000 deaths,” Murray said.

Murray said there is “longer tail of deaths,” meaning it will be a slower decline in some states. 

He said he is aware of reports of other coronavirus models that project a sharp increase in US cases and deaths, but added IHME numbers are “nowhere near that level.”

The New York Times said a Trump administration model projected a steep rise in cases and deaths, projecting about 3,000 daily deaths by June 1. A federal spokesperson tells CNN the modeling numbers in the report obtained by the Times are not from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“Our numbers are nowhere near that level on June 1,” Murray said. He added they are projecting 890 daily deaths by June 1. 

Murray said while IHME has heard about the model, “our understanding is that model will not be released.” 

He continued: “I don't think there's a consensus within the government on different modeling groups on that model.” 

4:20 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020

US stocks finish higher

From CNN's Anneken Tappe

US stocks ended higher on Monday despite rising tensions between the United States and China.

Stocks initially stumbled following President Trump threats last week that China could face new tariffs over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

However, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite turned green earlier in the day. The Dow and S&P 500 managed to climb into positive territory only in the final minutes of trading.

The Dow ended up 0.1%, or 26 points. The S&P finished 0.4% higher. The Nasdaq Composite closed up 1.2%.

4:18 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020

Major meat packing company to reopen Wisconsin facility tomorrow

From CNN’s Omar Jimenez

JBS plans to partially reopen its Green Bay, Wisconsin, meat processing facility tomorrow after closing on April 26 following a spike of positive coronavirus cases among employees.

In a statement to CNN, the company said they are no longer providing updated numbers on coronavirus cases at the facility, but added that “all team members are being tested and communicated with directly to ensure appropriate measures are taken to combat any potential spread in the community.”

As of May 1, at least 290 employees and 58 others linked to the JBS Packerland facility tested positive for the virus, according to the Brown County Health Department.

JBS said they plan to restart “harvest,” or slaughter, operations with reduced staff starting tomorrow.

Fabrication is expected to resume on Wednesday, according to spokesperson Cameron Bruett. 

“We expect operations to normalize over time as absenteeism rates decline in response to the preventive measures in place at the facility and as team members clear any necessary quarantine protocols,” Bruett said.

More than 1,200 employees at the facility will be tested before returning to work, Bruett added.

4:18 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020

Trump administration limits coronavirus task force members from testifying at congressional hearings

From CNN's Jim Acosta

White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Deborah Birx speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on April 28, in Washington.
White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Deborah Birx speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on April 28, in Washington. Doug Mills/The New York Times/Pool/Getty Images

A senior administration official confirmed the White House is moving to further limit coronavirus task force members from testifying at congressional hearings.

Members of the task force have received instructions informing them of this new policy. The administration official said task force members need to focus on their work, not on preparing for delivering testimony.

“During the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, task force members were on the Hill 24/7. They’ve been working non-stop since the beginning, and the workload has not diminished," the official said.

"Given the continual press briefings and agency-led briefings with committees, I don’t think anyone can reasonably say we aren’t being transparent, but we need to make sure the task force members have the time they need to focus on the task at hand, not on preparing for four-hour hearings several times a week," the official added.

The White House confirmed Friday it was blocking Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, from testifying before the House Appropriations Committee this week.

4:08 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020

More coronavirus cases reported at Maine Tyson Foods plant

From CNN's Shawn Nottingham

Maine Health officials have received the first batch of test results from a Tyson Foods plant in Portland, Maine, after 12 people tested positive for coronavirus according to Dr. Nirav Shah, Director of the Maine Center of Disease Control and Prevention. 

Five new cases of coronavirus have now been reported from the initial group of 96 tests given to Tyson employees, for a total of 17 cases at the facility according to Shah.

There are plans to test more than 400 employees at the Tyson facility. Shah said there is a likelihood there could be more positive results from the facility.

4:06 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020

California plans to train 20,000 people to be contact tracers

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

Tracking coronavirus for 40 million people is an undertaking that requires what California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom calls a "tracing army."

A training program led by the University of California, Los Angeles and University of California, San Francisco will teach people how to trace and track the disease through a virtual academy. Each recruit will go through 20 hours of training, with 12 hours online and eight hours in person.

Approximately 3,000 people have been identified as tracers and are set to begin their first training course, which goes online Wednesday, Newsom said. The first phase will train about 10,000 people, with a goal of reaching 20,000 tracers.

All 58 counties in California have the capacity for tracing and have done so in the past for illnesses like measles and sexually transmitted diseases.

“Every county does some form of tracing,” Newsom said, “but new work is being done to scale the effort for the Covid-19 pandemic."

Testing has increased significantly in California with about 768,000 tests conducted so far. Newsom said an average of 25,000 tests are performed each day.

4:02 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020

California governor allows some Orange County beaches to reopen

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

People walk past a closed off beach on May 3, in Laguna Beach, Calif.
People walk past a closed off beach on May 3, in Laguna Beach, Calif. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

California beaches in the cities of Laguna Beach and San Clemente have been granted permission to reopen on a limited basis, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Newsom ordered a hard closure for all Orange County beaches last week, after significant crowds flocked the sand, and protesters responded quickly to express their displeasure.

Laguna Beach’s city beaches will reopen tomorrow and will remain open on weekday mornings only between the hours of 6 a.m. PT and 10 a.m. PT, according to a statement from the city. Active recreation — such as running, swimming, and surfing — is allowed, but lounging on the beach and picnicking will be prohibited.

“We appreciate the governor’s willingness to work with us to provide a responsible, gradual approach to reopening all beaches in Laguna Beach for active recreation,” Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen said. “This will allow people the opportunity to walk, jog, swim and surf and get some fresh air and exercise on a limited basis, but not congregate or gather in large groups.”

“We have the same collaborative spirit with our counties, overwhelmingly, with few exceptions, but I’m confident that we’ll bring them back into the fold,” Newsom said. 

3:53 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020

White House will oversee distribution of remdesivir, FEMA says

From CNN's Arman Azad

 

One vial of the drug Remdesivir lies during a press conference in Hamburg, Germany on April 8.
One vial of the drug Remdesivir lies during a press conference in Hamburg, Germany on April 8. Ulrich Perrey/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The investigational drug remdesivir will be distributed according to a plan approved by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

The maker of the drug, Gilead Sciences, had previously said the federal government would decide where to send the company’s existing supply – which is enough to treat between 100,000 and 200,000 patients.

“Remdesivir will be distributed directly to counties in the United States by the commercial provider – based on an allocation plan approved by the White House Task Force,” a FEMA spokesperson told CNN on Monday.

“FEMA and HHS are working on the longer term allocation strategy for this medical commodity,” the spokesperson added, referring to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

In early results from a trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, remdesivir was found to shorten the duration of illness in patients with severe Covid-19, but it had no statistically significant effect on whether patients died.

Gilead’s chairman and CEO, Daniel O'Day, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” this weekend that the federal government would begin shipping "tens of thousands" of courses of remdesivir early this week.

The US Food and Drug Administration authorized remdesivir for emergency use last week in patients with severe Covid-19. Gilead has long said it would donate its existing supply of 1.5 million vials – enough to treat up to 200,000 people, according to O’Day. 

"What we will do is provide that donation to the US government, and they will determine, based upon things like ICU beds, where the course of the epidemic is in the United States. They will begin shipping tens of thousands of treatment courses out early this week and be adjusting that as the epidemic shifts and evolves in different parts, in different cities here in the United States," O'Day said on Sunday.

His comments echo the FDA's emergency use authorization for the drug, which says: "Distribution of the authorized remdesivir will be controlled by the United States (U.S.) Government for use consistent with the terms and conditions of this EUA." 

Asked for clarification on whether all 1.5 million vials would be donated to the US government, as O'Day suggested, Gilead spokesperson Sonia Choi said on Sunday that the company plans to provide the drug globally.

"We intend to allocate our available supply based on guiding principles that aim to maximize access for appropriate patients in urgent need of treatment,” she said.

“We are working with regulatory authorities worldwide and bioethicists to help inform our global allocation approach.”

In a statement on Friday, Gilead said its goal is to produce at least 500,000 treatment courses by October and more than a million by December.