Coronavirus pandemic in the US

By Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Zamira Rahim, CNN

Updated 9:26 p.m. ET, May 13, 2020
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1:49 p.m. ET, May 13, 2020

West Virginia governor will reopen tanning salons later this month

From CNN's Taylor Romine

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced today that tanning salons will reopen under strict guidelines on May 21.

Justice said that there was an overwhelming amount of calls to his office about the salons, and after conferring with experts felt it was safe to do so. 

Justice reported one new death, and at least 480 cases of Covid-19. 

1:39 p.m. ET, May 13, 2020

New Jersey will allow people to gather in vehicles

From CNN's Julian Cummings

Chris Pedota/The Record via AP
Chris Pedota/The Record via AP

People in New Jersey will be allowed to gather in vehicles in cases such as drive-in movies or religious services, Gov. Phil Murphy announced today. 

The action will not be in violation of the state's order prohibiting mass gatherings as long as all participants remain in their cars, he said.

“If vehicles are closer than six feet apart, then all windows, sunroofs, and convertible tops must remain closed unless the safety of the occupants is in danger," Murphy said.

In other cases, the ban on gatherings will still apply and Murphy urged residents to stay at home as much as possible.

1:29 p.m. ET, May 13, 2020

Amazon extends temporary pay increase for warehouse and delivery workers

From CNN’s Brian Fung

Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Amazon extended a temporary pay increase on Wednesday for its warehouse and delivery workers, following concerns raised by employees and policymakers about the e-commerce giant's response to the pandemic. 

The company implemented a $2 hourly wage bump for those frontline employees in March. That policy will remain in effect through May 30, said Rachael Lighty, an Amazon spokesperson. 

Amazon will also be extending double overtime pay for employees in the United States and Canada, Lighty added. 

"These extensions increase our total investment in pay during COVID-19 to nearly $800 million for our hourly employees and partners,” she said in a statement to CNN. “We continue to see heavy demand during this difficult time and the team is doing incredible work for our customers and the community."

But Amazon declined to say whether it plans to reinstate unlimited unpaid pandemic leave in accordance with requests this week from more than a dozen attorneys general. 

The attention to Amazon’s workplace policies reflects weeks of protests by workers, many of whom have cited shortages of protective gear and difficulty maintaining social distancing while on the job. 

1:28 p.m. ET, May 13, 2020

DC extends stay-at-home order to June 8

From CNN's Nicky Robertson and Alex Marquardt

Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images
Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

 Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser has extended the stay-at-home order until June 8.

It was originally set to expire on May 15.

Bowser noted in a news conference Wednesday that the order can be revised at any time, depending on the data.

One of the metrics for deciding whether it would be safe to reopen the District is a sustained decrease in community spread for 14 days. As of May 12, the District reports a four-day decrease in community spread. The guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for reopening suggest a 14-day decrease overall in cases.

As parts of Virginia and Maryland begin to reopen, Bowser said that she is encouraged that the National Capital region, which includes Maryland and Virginia, is not moving “too quickly.”

Bowser is urging the federal government to “keep as many people on telework as possible,” noting that the DC government has about 40% of employees that have to report to their offices, but 60% are able to telework.

“I would expect the Congress to have a similar evaluation of for their workforce,” Bowser said.


1:12 p.m. ET, May 13, 2020

Massachusetts reports lowest one-day death toll since early April

From CNN’s Alec Snyder

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said the state had 33 deaths on Tuesday, its lowest one-day number since April 6.

Massachusetts conducted 6,700 new tests Tuesday, 870 of which were positive, according to the governor. Massachusetts has conducted over 401,000 tests for Covid-19 to date, Baker said.

At least 3,000 people are hospitalized, the governor said.

1:16 p.m. ET, May 13, 2020

7 California counties allowed to reopen

From CNN's Stella Chan

Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Rich Pedroncelli/AP

California officially allowed seven counties to move into the next stage of reopening businesses.

Amador, Butte, El Dorado, Lassen, Nevada, Placer, and Shasta counties are allowed to operate curbside retail, childcare for essential workers, car washes, and other services. Personal services like nail salons and gyms are still not permitted at this stage.

These counties have met the state criteria of readiness. The criteria includes:

  • Prevalence of cases is low enough to be contained and no deaths in the 14 days before submission
  • Protection of essential workers
  • Testing capacity
  • Containment Capacity
  • Hospital Capacity
  • Protection of vulnerable populations
  • Sectors and timelines
  • Triggers for adjusting modifications
  • Plans for stage two

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday warned that the list of counties could be modified if health officials see a spread. The governor's office has been in contact with 27 counties to discuss fast-tracking to the next stage. There are 58 counties in California.

Earlier this month, three rural northern California counties defied the governor's orders and reopened.

“Without Modoc, Yuba and Sutter Counties leading the way, rural California wouldn't have gotten the governor's attention and Butte County wouldn't be in the position we are today with reopening,” Butte County Supervisor Bill Connelly said in a statement. "We appreciate their efforts and look forward to seeing our neighboring counties opening up soon."

1:06 p.m. ET, May 13, 2020

New York governor says he asked schools to plan for a new normal

Gov. Cuomo's Office
Gov. Cuomo's Office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he is "not ready to say" what should be done for schools to open in September.

This comes after a reporter asked the governor about the California State University system not likely to return to campus this fall.

The governor said he asked schools to plan for a new normal and he wants to see what happens between now and then.

Some more context: Earlier today, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that his goal is a full reopening of schools in the city in September but added that there will be “different types of options if we don’t feel it’s safe to open schools fully.”

12:41 p.m. ET, May 13, 2020

Congressman demands to see formula used by Trump administration to ration coronavirus drug

From CNN Health’s Arman Azad and Elizabeth Cohen

Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The chairman of a key congressional health subcommittee is demanding to see the formula used by the federal government to ration remdesivir, an experimental drug shown to speed the recovery of coronavirus patients.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat who chairs the House Ways and Means health subcommittee, said on Tuesday that the government’s “distribution of remdesivir seems akin to winning the lottery — a random stroke of luck rather than a medically-informed decision.”

His comments came in a letter addressed to US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, whose agency is distributing the drug. HHS has said the United States has enough remdesivir for about 78,000 hospitalized patients, but officials have never said how they’re deciding who gets the drug – and how much.

In his letter, Doggett explicitly asked Azar to provide the “formula HHS used to determine which states would receive how many doses of remdesivir and the delivery schedule for these doses.”

The drug’s benefits are modest, but remdesivir is the first therapy shown in a rigorous trial to have some effect against Covid-19 – shortening a patient’s hospital stay by about four days. The US Food and Drug Administration authorized the drug for emergency use on May 1.

The federal government originally directed remdesivir to select hospitals in a small number of states, but it was unclear why some received the drug while others – even in the same hard-hit areas – got nothing. After criticism, HHS backtracked on that plan and decided to ship remdesivir to state health departments to manage.

But those shipments have raised even more questions. California’s initial allocation, for example, is just 30 cases of remdesivir, or 1,200 vials, according to a document published Tuesday by the state’s health department. That’s enough to treat 200 patients at most – and it’s the same amount given to hospitals in Rhode Island last week.

The maker of remdesivir, Gilead Sciences, has said it has 1.5 million vials of the drug on hand – enough for between 100,000 to 200,000 patients. As the company works to manufacture more, 607,000 vials have been donated to the US, according to HHS. 

Gilead has said it plans to provide the drug internationally, but it’s unclear how countries plan to divvy it up. In his letter, Doggett requested the “formula used to determine how the U.S. was allocated approximately 40% of the available supply and which other countries received how many doses.”

Doggett also called on Azar to describe any agreements between the US government and Gilead, such as for future doses of remdesivir.

12:26 p.m. ET, May 13, 2020

Coronavirus vaccine makers in the US consider working together

From CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen


In an unprecedented move, US vaccine makers are considering whether to work together on coronavirus vaccine trials.

They’re considering two approaches: One is more typical and involves each company working independently on its own trial, according to two members of the Accelerating Covid-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines group, or ACTIV, which was organized last month by the National Institutes of Health. The second, the group members said, involves several vaccine developers working in one large trial — an unprecedented method for vaccine development in the United States.   

The third phase of vaccine trials typically involve thousands of study subjects, some of whom are randomly assigned to get the vaccine, and others who are injected with a placebo, a substance that does nothing. The researchers then wait and see if there is a difference in Covid-19 infections rates between the vaccine group and the control group.  

If the vaccine developers band together in one large phase 3 trial of all of their experimental vaccines, they could all use the same placebo group and wouldn’t have to recruit their own. 

Members of ACTIV’s clinical trials working group — including representatives from the vaccine companies —are expected to discuss the options on a call Wednesday. 

There are no final decisions as of yet on which approach ACTIV will take,” NIH spokesperson Renate Myles told CNN in an email.

Three US companies are already testing their vaccines on humans, according to the World Health Organization. They’re still in phase one or phase two trials, which typically involve giving the vaccine to dozens or hundreds of study subjects.   

Read more here.