States reopen in US as coronavirus pandemic persists

Updated 9:57 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020
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2:55 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020

Virginia extends stay-at-home order until May 14

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced his state will continue its stay-at-home order until May 14.

Northam, speaking at a news conference, said that he hopes Virginia can move into its first phase of reopening late next week.

“Our cases continue to rise. The number will continue to go up in part because we continue to do more testing," he said.

The governor said food processing remains a concern. More than 260 cases have been reported in two food processing facilities in the state, he said. 

Additionally, Virginia is seeking to hire another 1,000 people as contact tracers.

2:53 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020

Boston mayor says he expects the number of cases in the city to top 10,000 today

From CNN's Anna Sturla 

A person wearing a mask out of concern for the coronavirus walks past the Boston Public Library on April 29.
A person wearing a mask out of concern for the coronavirus walks past the Boston Public Library on April 29. Steven Senne/AP

Boston reported 135 new cases of Covid-19 today, bringing the city total to 9,929 cases, Mayor Marty Walsh announced.

Walsh said he expects that today the number of cases in Boston will likely pass 10,000. 

The city reported 15 new deaths today, bringing the total to 426.

There was some good news: Walsh said that daily increases have been flat for a while in the city, a sign that they may be on the verge of a downward slope, though he cautioned it was still too early to tell. 

Walsh also said he thought too many people in the city were outside without masks over the weekend. The mandatory face mask order in Boston goes into effect on Wednesday.

2:31 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020

School in Los Angeles is set to start August 18, but classes might still be online

From CNN's Stella Chan

Two security guards talk on the campus of the closed McKinley School, part of the Los Angeles Unified School District system, in Compton, California, on April 28.
Two security guards talk on the campus of the closed McKinley School, part of the Los Angeles Unified School District system, in Compton, California, on April 28. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Though the school year will start August 18 for the Los Angeles Unified School District, no decision has been made about opening school campuses by then, said Superintendent Austin Beutner in his weekly update.

“The timing remains uncertain because the science is uncertain,” explained Beutner. At a minimum, a comprehensive system of testing and contact tracing, and implications of testing will need to be understood first, he said.

The district is working with a team of UCLA scientists and infectious disease experts.

“That’s critical because it’ll be the science, and only the science, which can provide a foundation for the safe return to our school community,” Beutner said.

LAUSD’s first day of instruction was scheduled for August 18 before the pandemic.

Commencement for the class of 2020 will be virtual.

Beutner said they’ve explored social distance options like “drive-in, drive-by, drive-around, drive-thru options. We even asked if we could rent the Coliseum, Dodger Stadium and sit every participant far apart. Health authorities tell us those aren’t possible at this time,” he said.

2:30 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020

More research is needed to identify coronavirus source, WHO says

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO executive director of health emergencies programme, speaks during a media briefing on May 4, in Geneva.
Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO executive director of health emergencies programme, speaks during a media briefing on May 4, in Geneva. WHO

Officials at the World Health Organization say they have no evidence of the novel coronavirus originating in a lab and suspect the virus likely originated from an animal source. 

More research is needed to identify the specific host, WHO officials said during a media briefing in Geneva on Monday.

Last week, President Trump claimed he has seen evidence that gives him a "high degree of confidence" the coronavirus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, but declined to provide details around his assertion. His claim contradicted a rare on-the-record statement from his own intelligence community.

“We have not received any data or specific evidence from the US government relating to the reported origin of the virus. So from our perspective, this remains speculative," Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO executive director of health emergencies programme, said during Monday's media briefing.

Ryan added that WHO "will be very willing to receive any information" about the origin of the coronavirus.

"If that data and evidence is available then it will be for the United States government to decide where and when it can be shared but it’s difficult for WHO to operate in an information vacuum in that specific regard. So we focus on what we know. We focus on the evidence we have," Ryan said.

Bats are the suspected source of both Covid-19 and MERS, but scientists also think that bats infected some other mammal that then infected people – an intermediate host.

1:36 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020

DC mayor reiterates that "virus has not left the District" after crowds flock to National Mall

From CNN’s Ali Main

A man sits on the top step of the Lincoln Memorial as people gather by the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington, on May 2.
A man sits on the top step of the Lincoln Memorial as people gather by the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington, on May 2. Patrick Semansky/AP

Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser reacted to the large crowds that gathered on the National Mall Saturday to watch the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels flyover.

Bowser said in a news conference Monday that she believed the flyover was "well-intentioned" and added that it was an event that residents did not have to be in one place to experience as stay-at-home orders continue in the city.  

She reiterated the importance of continued social distancing and emphasized that "the virus has not left the District.” 

Both the Blue Angels and the District of Columbia's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Office had requested that residents refrain from leaving their homes to see the flyover.

According to CNN journalists at the event, many people were practicing social distancing and some wore masks but sidewalks around the mall were crowded.

Where DC cases stand: As of Sunday, there were 5,170 total positive cases and 258 deaths due to coronavirus in Washington, DC. Racial disparities persist in the death toll, as 79% of the total deaths were among African-American residents.

1:30 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020

Costco is limiting how much meat customers can buy

From CNN's Jordan Valinsky, Nathaniel Meyersohn and Danielle Wiener-Bronner

Shoppers view prime and choice meat selections in the meat department at a Costco Wholesale in Vacaville, California, on April 29.
Shoppers view prime and choice meat selections in the meat department at a Costco Wholesale in Vacaville, California, on April 29. John G Mabanglo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Costco became the latest retailer to implement purchasing limits on fresh meat because of the slowdown at processing plants during the coronavirus pandemic.

The company announced on Monday that it's limiting shoppers to three items of beef, pork and poultry products to "help ensure more members are able to purchase merchandise they want and need."

Kroger, the country's largest supermarket chain, announced a similar rule last week.

Some background: The limits are because of high demand from shoppers while top meat suppliers are temporarily closing their factories because workers are falling ill.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union estimated last week that 20 meatpacking and food processing workers have died so far. The union said last week the closures have resulted in a 25% reduction in pork slaughter capacity and 10% reduction in beef slaughter capacity.

President Trump recently signed an executive order aimed at keeping meat plants open during the crisis.

Tyson Foods warned Monday that it expects more meat plant closures this year. The company also said it will continue producing less meat than usual, as workers refrain from coming to work during the outbreak. The pandemic has halved the amount of pork processing capacity in the country, Tyson said in its earnings call.

2:05 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020

Trump administration model predicts steep increases in coronavirus daily death toll by June

From CNN's Jim Acosta and Nikki Carvajal

A Trump administration model projects a steep rise in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the weeks ahead to about 3,000 daily deaths in the US by June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times.

The projections are based on modeling from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, which were put together into charts and graphics by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

An administration official confirmed to CNN the authenticity of the report obtained by the Times, which was distributed throughout relevant agencies over the weekend. The official cautions that the numbers are projections at this point.

When asked for comment, the White House said in a statement that the document obtained by the Times had not been seen by the Coronavirus Task Force.  

“This is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting. This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed. The President’s phased guidelines to open up America again are a scientific driven approach that the top health and infectious disease experts in the federal government agreed with. The health of the American people remains President Trump’s top priority and that will continue as we monitor the efforts by states to ease restrictions," Deputy White House press secretary Judd Deere said.  

Despite White House claims the projections have not be presented and vetted by to the Coronavirus Task Force, a source close to the task force said some members have seen the new CDC projections. Despite what the White House is saying, this source said the estimates should be taken seriously.

The new revelation comes as states begin to reopen their economies this month despite cautionary warnings from public health experts. 

1:18 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020

All passengers required to wear face masks at the Denver International Airport

From CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian

Two travelers move down an empty passageway at Denver International Airport on May 3, in Denver.
Two travelers move down an empty passageway at Denver International Airport on May 3, in Denver. David Zalubowski/AP

All visitors or travelers passing through the Denver International Airport are now required to wear a face covering, according to a new policy enacted on Monday by airport officials.

Currently all employees at the airport are also required to wear face coverings in an effort to limit the spread of Covid-19, according to Denver International guidelines.

Other coronavirus precautions: The airport is also implementing social distancing procedures. According to the guidelines, TSA lines have been adjusted to provide more space between passengers as they approach the security checkpoint.

"In order to provide additional space between the passengers in front of you and behind you, we ask everyone to practice social distancing and spread out rather than crowd other passengers nearby," the guidelines say.

The airport also said there are now lines on the floor near customer service booths and lost and found items to show people where to stand.

"We are also implementing procedures for touchless payment, wherever possible," the guidelines say.

1:16 p.m. ET, May 4, 2020

Kroger will provide free Covid-19 testing for frontline associates

From CNN’s Dianne Gallagher, Pamela Kirkland and Dan Shepherd

 

Kroger, the country’s largest supermarket chain, announced on Sunday it would begin providing free COVID-19 testing for frontline associates. Testing will be available based on symptoms and medical need. 

“The widespread availability of diagnostic testing will now allow our associates to feel more empowered and knowledgeable about their health, creating safer stores and facilities,” said Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health.

The tests will be a combination of self-administered kits and the company’s public drive-through testing sites.

A UFCW union in Los Angeles hailed the decision as a win following weeks of protests at two Kroger subsidiaries, Ralphs and Food 4 Less, in the area.

“That UFCW members successfully compelled Kroger to provide testing is a significant victory for the public’s health,” said John Grant, president of UFCW Local 770. “Grocery corporations like Kroger have been doubling and tripling their profits while other businesses are shuttering, yet they have been slow to implement safety measures and share profits with essential workers on the frontline.” 

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, grocery workers have called for emergency measures inside the stores and wide access to testing to slow the spread of the virus and keep workers and community members safe.