Coronavirus pandemic in the US

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6:25 p.m. ET, May 12, 2020

Researcher behind new model ties projected death toll to relaxation of social distancing

From CNN Health’s Arman Azad

People mingle in close proximity to one another as businesses in the flower district reopen on May 8, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
People mingle in close proximity to one another as businesses in the flower district reopen on May 8, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. David McNew/Getty Images

The researcher behind the influential model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington said on Tuesday that the United States is “speeding towards relaxing social distancing,” leaving the country on an “unfortunate trajectory” as states begin to reopen.

The model predicts that there will be 147,000 deaths in the US by August 4.

“When we started off making projections, we had assumed that all the states were going to sort of follow the New Zealand model, which is to keep social distancing in place until transmission gets to a very low level,” Dr. Christopher Murray, the director of the IHME, told CNN.

“We’re not doing that. We’re speeding towards relaxing social distancing. People are getting the message, they’re getting out,” he said. “And I think we’ll see the numbers go up unless we see the benefits of people being cautious, wearing masks – and capacities to test, contact trace and isolate go up faster than we think they may.”

Explaining the increased death projection, Murray pointed to relaxed social distancing and increased mobility – essentially people moving around more, which may lead to more contact and transmission.

“We’re seeing upward trends in case numbers in a number of states, and big swings up in mobility,” he said.

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6:13 p.m. ET, May 12, 2020

Face coverings will be mandatory as New Orleans starts to reopen on Saturday

From CNN's Raja Razek

Typically filled with people, Bourbon Street is seen nearly empty in New Orleans, Louisiana on April 23.
Typically filled with people, Bourbon Street is seen nearly empty in New Orleans, Louisiana on April 23. Claire Bangser/AFP/Getty Images

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced Tuesday that the city would reopen in a "very slow" manner starting May 16. 

"We have peaked, we have come down significantly, and the experts say to watch that trend over a period of 14 to 21 days. We're well over 21 days of a downward trend," Cantrell said. 

"Based on the guidance of our health care professionals, we are where we need to be to slowly reopen the city," she said. "If we do not do well in this first phase, we will not be going to any other phase." 

In phase one, Cantrell said, the city is mandating residents to wear face covering in public. 

Churches will be allowed to open at 25% capacity or at 100 people. 

Gyms can open under 25% occupancy without group activities. Personal training is approved in this initial phase, Cantrell said. 

As for restaurants, the mayor emphasized the importance of contact tracing. She said restaurants would need reservations, so they can have a log for contact tracing.

"They will be required to have reservations, and ... if someone walks in, they have to treat it as a reservation, meaning name and phone number," she said.

Close contact businesses, such as spas, massage parlors and tattoo shops, will not be allowed to reopen in phase one, Cantrell said. 

5:55 p.m. ET, May 12, 2020

More than 82,000 people have died of coronavirus in the US

People wearing protective face masks practice social distancing as they wait on marked spots at a subway station during the Covid-19 pandemic on May 12, in New York City.
People wearing protective face masks practice social distancing as they wait on marked spots at a subway station during the Covid-19 pandemic on May 12, in New York City. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

There are at least 1,366,350 cases of coronavirus in the US and at least 82,105 people have died from the virus, according to a Johns Hopkins University's tally of cases.

Johns Hopkins on Tuesday reported 18,962 new cases and 1,423 deaths. 

6:00 p.m. ET, May 12, 2020

Georgia governor says state plans to have 1,000 people contact tracing in "weeks ahead"

From CNN's Lindsay Benson

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said the Department of Public Health "plans to have 1,000 staff deployed in the weeks ahead."

He said there's "nearly 250 staff in the field today" contact tracing..

Kemp announced an online tool that officials are calling the "Healthy Georgia Collaborative," which will "streamline contact tracing across the state." The tool will allow "Georgians to identify contacts and monitor symptoms."

Kemp encouraged anyone who is contacted by Department of Public Health staff to participate.

"We need your help to defeat this virus. Together, we can continue to take measured steps forward in the days ahead," Kemp said. 

5:48 p.m. ET, May 12, 2020

Two patients in Kentucky diagnosed with inflammatory syndrome

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Kentucky is now aware of two patients who have been diagnosed with Covid-19-related pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome, Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said.

One case is a 10-year-old and is critically ill in the intensive care unit, and the second patient is a 16-year-old, who is doing well and is in a regular medical bed, Stack said.

The teenager was admitted to the hospital out an abundance of caution and to be monitored closely, the health director said.

Stack said the 10-year-old patient is showing signs of improvement.

“The children who get sick with this can have cardiovascular collapse and require supportive measures to maintain their blood pressure, or respiratory collapse requiring breathing support with a mechanical ventilator,” Stack said.

5:38 p.m. ET, May 12, 2020

US Gymnastics Championships will be postponed

From CNN's Jill Martin

Shane Wiskus of the United States competes on the rings during the 2020 American Cup at Fiserv Forum on March 7, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Shane Wiskus of the United States competes on the rings during the 2020 American Cup at Fiserv Forum on March 7, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Stacy Revere/Getty Images

USA Gymnastics has announced Tuesday that it will not hold this year’s US Gymnastics Championships, in addition to other events scheduled for 2020.

According to a statement on its website, the deferred events include the GK US Classic, the US Gymnastics Championships (for women’s and men’s artistic gymnastics) and the USA Gymnastics Championships (for rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline and tumbling, and acrobatic gymnastics).

“In light of recent guidance from health experts, and after receiving feedback from our athletes and coaches, we believe it is in the best interest of our community to wait until 2021 to hold premier events,” said Li Li Leung, chief executive officer.

USA Gymnastics is in the process of rescheduling events leading up to the Olympic Games in 2021 and plans to announce new dates for Olympic Trials in the coming weeks, the website statement says.

The US Gymnastics Championships, previously scheduled for June 4-7, 2020, at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, will take place in the original venue June 3-6, 2021.

5:52 p.m. ET, May 12, 2020

Key coronavirus model now projects 147,000 US deaths by August

From CNN’s Arman Azad

Healthcare workers wait for patients to be tested at a walk-in testing site on May 12, in Arlington, Virginia.
Healthcare workers wait for patients to be tested at a walk-in testing site on May 12, in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

A key coronavirus model often cited by the White House has again raised its coronavirus death projection, now predicting 147,000 deaths in the US by August 4.

That’s an increase of about 10,000 deaths compared to the model’s estimate from this weekend, which was already higher than earlier projections.

On Sunday, Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, tied the earlier increase to “explosive increases in mobility in a number of states.”

Compared to Sunday, the model now projects about 2,450 additional deaths in New York, 2,000 additional deaths in Massachusetts and 1,700 additional deaths in Pennsylvania. Other states saw sizable increases as well. North Carolina, for example, is now expected to see about 3,200 more deaths, and Maryland about 1,200 more.

Some states saw decreases in projected deaths, however, including Georgia, which is now expected to see 1,500 fewer deaths. The model’s projection for Indiana has also gone down by 1,600 deaths.

On its website, IHME said exact reasons for the changes vary by state. But the institute pointed to “epidemiological indicators and key drivers of viral transmission,” like changes in testing and mobility.

IHME also pointed to the easing of social distancing policies, but said “the full potential effects of recent actions to ease social distancing policies, especially if robust containment measures have yet to be fully scaled up, may not be fully known for a few weeks due to the time periods between viral exposure, possible infection, and full disease progression.”

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5:36 p.m. ET, May 12, 2020

Washington state uses National Guard in new contact tracing program

From CNN’s Andy Rose

Liz Vereshko, left, is assisted into PPE equipment by fellow nurse Evana Croda before stepping into a patient's room in the Covid-19 Intensive Care Unit at Harborview Medical Center on May 8, in Seattle.
Liz Vereshko, left, is assisted into PPE equipment by fellow nurse Evana Croda before stepping into a patient's room in the Covid-19 Intensive Care Unit at Harborview Medical Center on May 8, in Seattle. Elaine Thompson/AP

Washington state is starting a contact tracing program to keep track of the spread of coronavirus as more businesses open up. 

“This initiative is a transition from one strategy to another," Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday afternoon. 

Inslee said people who test positive for Covid-19 will be contacted by a “professional interviewer” to identify other people who could have been exposed. Those contacts may be asked to test and self-quarantine until they get a negative result.

He said hundreds of members of the National Guard will be used as part of the contact tracing group, but they will not have law enforcement power to compel people to comply. 

“They simply will be talking to people and helping prevent others from getting sick,” Inslee said.

He added keeping infected people from spreading the virus is the key to getting life back to normal. 

“This virus doesn't have any legs,” Inslee said. “It can't travel without us.”

5:53 p.m. ET, May 12, 2020

Elon Musk reopens Tesla plant in defiance of county orders

From CNN's Alexandra Meeks

Elon Musk
Elon Musk Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk defied Alameda County's shelter-in-place orders and reopened a Tesla factory this week amid coronavirus concerns — igniting an ongoing riff between the billionaire and California officials who argue his business operations continue to disregard workers' safety.

"He has minimized what coronavirus is and what it can do," California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez said in an interview with CNN's Brianna Keilar Tuesday. "It would benefit us all if we don't have hundreds of workers going into a workplace that can be unsafe and continue to spread the virus.

Musk threatened to move his company out of the state and refused to halt operations at the Freemont, California, plant despite countywide orders that only allow essential businesses to operate at this time. Musk also tweeted, "If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me."

"We should be outraged by a billionaire that has gotten so much from its partnership in California, but continues to put workers in unsafe conditions, continues to union bust, continues to wave his finger at California [as if] we're supposed to allow that and let him throw his temper tantrum," Gonzalez said on CNN Tuesday. 

Gonzalez, a Democrat from San Diego, has remained vocal on social media against Musk's defiance of public health orders.

Over the weekend, she shared a colorful and direct message on Twitter: "F*ck Elon Musk"

On Tuesday, Gonzalez tweeted to her followers: "Who is tired of billionaire companies that get to break labor laws, worker safety standards and stay-at-home orders without accountability while small mom & pop businesses are required to play by the rules?"

She followed the message with a raising hand emoji in agreement.

CNN previously reported county health officials ordered Musk to cease operations at the plant Tuesday. Tesla is also expected to submit a site-specific plan to Alameda County today for review, according to an email sent to the vice president of health and safety at Tesla.

President Trump also joined the conversation on social media Tuesday tweeting, "California should let Tesla & Elon Musk open the plant, NOW. It can be done Fast & Safely!" 

Musk replied to the President, "Thank you!"

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