Coronavirus pandemic in the US

By Elise Hammond and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 8:03 p.m. ET, May 15, 2020
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3:27 p.m. ET, May 15, 2020

Gyms in Florida to reopen Monday while restaurant capacity is increased

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference during the new coronavirus pandemic, in Doral, Florida on Thursday, May 14. DeSantis has signed an executive order for the reopening of Miami-Dade and Broward counties on May 18.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference during the new coronavirus pandemic, in Doral, Florida on Thursday, May 14. DeSantis has signed an executive order for the reopening of Miami-Dade and Broward counties on May 18. Lynne Sladky/AP

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his "full phase one" begins Monday and it includes increasing restaurant capacity to 50% and reopening gyms.

Restaurants were initially operating with outdoor seating 6 feet apart and indoor seating at 25% capacity.

Gyms will be allowed to reopen Monday as well. DeSantis stressed social distancing when working out. 

"I would say for some of these places like CrossFit that do outdoor training, that's great, the outdoor stuff. Again, that's a lower risk environment and an outdoor than if you're inside a stuffy room in a gym," DeSantis said. 

Most of Florida began reopening on May 4 in "phase one," the governor said.

4:09 p.m. ET, May 15, 2020

McEnany defends scrapping Obama's pandemic playbook, saying it was simply replaced

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal  

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany pushed back against reports that the administration threw out a pandemic response plan left by the Obama administration, saying the the Trump administration simply replaced it, during a press briefing Friday afternoon. 

"Some have erroneously suggested that the Trump administration threw out the pandemic response playbook left by the Obama-Biden administration," McEnany said, holding up a packet of papers. "What the critics failed to note, however, is that this thin packet of paper was replaced by two detailed, robust pandemic response reports commissioned by the Trump administration." 

McEnany then held up two binders. It wasn't possible to compare the binders to the documents she held up previously, which were not in binders. 

"So we exchanged this one... for these two pandemic response plans," she added. 

One binder was a 2018 pandemic crisis action plan, McEnany said, and the other was the "Crimson Contagion 2019 after-action report," which "exposed... the shortcomings in legacy planning documents which informed President Trump's coronavirus response."

But McEnany was short on the details when it came to the reports.

Asked about Crimson Contagion, an exercise that gamed out the US response to a pandemic, and if it recommended early and widespread testing in the event of the pandemic, she said she didn't know.

"What it basically did was say to us, look, some of the previous iterations of plans have put HHS in the lead, HHS of course plays a critical role in our response, but one of the things that was identified was you need a whole of government response from the highest levels," she answered. 

Remember: CNN fact-checked claims from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that Obama didn't leave Trump a pandemic "game plan."

McConnell falsely accused the Obama administration of failing to leave the Trump administration "any kind of game plan" for something like the coronavirus pandemic.

Appearing Monday in a Trump campaign online chat with Lara Trump, the President's daughter-in-law and campaign senior adviser, McConnell slammed Obama for criticizing Trump's coronavirus response as an "absolute chaotic disaster" on a private call last week with former staffers.

As Trump has done repeatedly during the pandemic, McConnell also laid undeserved blame at Obama's feet.

"They claim pandemics only happen once every hundred years but what if that's no longer true? We want to be early, ready for the next one, because clearly the Obama administration did not leave to this administration any kind of game plan for something like this," McConnell said.

"That's exactly right," Lara Trump responded.

It was the opposite of right.

Facts First: Obama's White House National Security Council left the Trump administration a detailed document on how to respond to a pandemic. The document, whose existence was publicly revealed by Politico in March, is called the Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents.

"We literally left them a 69-page Pandemic Playbook.... that they ignored," Ronald Klain, a campaign adviser to Democratic candidate Joe Biden and the former Obama administration Ebola response coordinator, wrote on Twitter.

Ex-Obama official tells CNN: We left Trump detailed pandemic playbook

3:26 p.m. ET, May 15, 2020

Fact check: White House says Trump inherited "bare cupboard" of medical supplies. Here's what we know.

From CNN's David Wright

At Friday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany repeated President Trump’s claim that he inherited a "bare cupboard" of medical supplies to fight coronavirus from the Obama administration. 

Facts First: This argument has some truth to it, but it's also somewhat misleading. While Trump isn't wrong to suggest he inherited a depleted stockpile of some medical supplies —the stockpile of masks, for example, was depleted and not replenished by the Obama administration — the cupboards were not completely "bare"; he inherited significant quantities of other supplies. And Trump had three years in office to build depleted stockpiles back up.

The Strategic National Stockpile was not empty before the coronavirus pandemic. For example, the stockpile contains enough smallpox vaccines for every American, among other medical resources. However, critical supplies that could be used to combat coronavirus were drained and not replenished. 

Ultimately, both Trump and former President Barack Obama ignored the warnings of experts and failed to restock masks and prepare other supplies to fight a potential pandemic. 

Here's the backstory:  A 2010 report from a federally-sponsored task force recommended that national stockpiles of masks and other medical equipment be replenished after the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, and identified potential supply chain issues in the event of a pandemic. 

Additionally, a 2012 study from the US Department of Health & Human Services reported that 75% of the national stockpile's N95 masks were used during the H1N1 outbreak, and said an "ample supply" should be made available for use during a pandemic. The HHS study also warned of potential future ventilator shortages. 

The supply of N95 masks in the national stockpile was never replenished. In a spending bill signed by Obama in December 2011, after the swine flu outbreak had passed, spending for the national stockpile actually decreased. The Obama administration had initially requested increased funding for the national stockpile but made concessions and ultimately, funding for the stockpile was cut for years after. 

This February, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Congress that the national stockpile contained over 10 million N95 masks. That's far short of the billion-plus masks that the government projected in 2015 would be needed in the event of a flu-like pandemic — and well short of the 7 billion needed in a worst-case scenario. 

In 2010, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials wrote a report sponsored by the CDC, titled "Assessing Policy Barriers To Effective Public Health Response In The H1N1 Influenza Pandemic." The report concluded that in the aftermath of the Swine Flu outbreak, "there should be a central repository of N95s which is replenished for future events," and that "various healthcare providers, including EMS, should enhance their current PPE stockpiles, including N95s." 

The group also recommended that "supplies should be purchased in advance of an emergency, rather than essentially limiting the national supply chain in the midst of an emergency." 

In addition, a 2012 HHS study on the H1N1 response reported that "75 percent of the SNS's N95 respirators... were deployed for use in healthcare settings" during the Swine Flu outbreak. Critically, the report also identified risks of future ventilator shortages.

In the report, titled "2009 H1N1 Influenza Improvement Plan," HHS issued this prescient warning: 

"If a large proportion of the U.S. population were to become severely ill during a pandemic and required mechanical ventilation, the healthcare system would quickly become overwhelmed. The number of respiratory-compromised patients is likely to easily surpass the number of available ventilators and trained personnel by severalfold."

3:16 p.m. ET, May 15, 2020

Pence skips events with Trump again today

From Jim Acosta and CNN's White House staff

Vice President Mike Pence is staying out of some of the events with President Trump today out of an abundance of caution, a White House official said.

The official noted Pence is still leading a coronavirus task force meeting today at the White House.

The vice president is looking to be back in front of the cameras next week, and is in good health, the official said. Pence did a radio interview today and talked to Rush Limbaugh, the official said.

CNN reported earlier in the week that Trump and Pence would be keeping their distance from one another "for the immediate future."

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany reiterated on Thursday that Pence is healthy. And a separate staff member told CNN that his staff is healthy as well.

3:06 p.m. ET, May 15, 2020

All retail stores can be open for business Monday in Arkansas, governor says

From CNN’s Hollie Silverman

All retail stores in Arkansas will be open for business starting Monday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced at a news conference.

"We are open for business here, and ready for business in Arkansas," Hutchinson said Friday. "While we take the virus very seriously, we recognize the need to work and make a living. We want to continue to the next phase to continue to lift restrictions on businesses and activities in Arkansas."

Bars will remain closed but an announcement on a timeline for their reopening will come next week, Hutchinson added.

2:57 p.m. ET, May 15, 2020

Keith Urban on future of live concerts: "The idea of playing to people in vehicles is a bit of a no brainer"

From CNN's Melissa Mahtani

Keith Urban, performing for first responders at the Stardust Drive In Theatre in Watertown, Tennessee on Thursday, May 14. The private show was set up exclusively for more than 200 doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians and staff from Vanderbilt Health, part of Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Keith Urban, performing for first responders at the Stardust Drive In Theatre in Watertown, Tennessee on Thursday, May 14. The private show was set up exclusively for more than 200 doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians and staff from Vanderbilt Health, part of Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Andy Snyder/Guitar Monkey Entertainment/AP

Country music star Keith Urban held a private concert for more than 200 first responders at a drive-in theater outside Nashville last night.

He told CNN's Brianna Keilar that although there wasn't the same crowd energy from a regular concert, "there was just various car horns and headlights and cheers...we had such a great time."

"The idea of playing to people in vehicles is a bit of a no brainer," the grammy winner said, adding that figuring out how to scale up in a safe, socially distanced way, is the challenge.

Urban and his team spent a month planning the concert to play with a minimal crew.

"I didn't really have a live band on stage. I had two players, but they were 8 or 10 feet away from me. And some ways, it was like glorified karaoke. There was a guy playing tracks and then keyboard, sort of his laptops of tracks and I'm singing live and playing but it meant that we had very limited crew. All the crew had masks on," he said.

"It was a way to see what this could look like and it's definitely a potential," Urban added.

2:50 p.m. ET, May 15, 2020

Restaurants, retail stores and salons can reopen Monday in Fort Lauderdale

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch

Restaurants, retail stores and salons can reopen Monday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Mayor Dean Trantalis said in a statement on Friday.

Restaurants and retail stores will be allowed to reopen at up to half their normal capacity, the statement said.

Barbers, hair salons and nail salons can open, as well as museums and drive-in theaters.

Condo associates were earlier allowed to reopen pools and can now reopen gyms, community rooms and other amenities, according to the statement.

Employees and customers must wear face coverings and hand sanitizer must be available throughout workplaces.

Regular and intense cleaning will be required, particularly in high-traffic areas and bathrooms. Social distancing will continue to be mandatory.

However, beaches will not be open yet.

"We made a collective decision that we did not want to risk reopening the beaches here at the same time as reopening restaurants and retail. Too much is at stake. We must get this right," the statement said.

"Our expectation is to allow passive recreation on the beach within the next couple weeks," the statement added.

2:47 p.m. ET, May 15, 2020

Houston school district considers year-round classes via distance learning

From CNN's Pierre Meilhan

The Houston Independent School District (HISD) is considering year-round classes via distance learning as an option for students due to the interruptions tied to the coronavirus pandemic, interim superintendent Grenita Lathan said Friday.

Any change to the district’s academic calendar needs to be approved by the HISD Board of Trustees.

"We are prepared to continue the HISD at-home platform if required for the 2020-21 school year, or if future school interruptions occur," Lathan also told reporters in Houston.

The district estimated that 35% of homes do not have internet access and HISD has issued internet hotspots and laptops to further support students, according to Lathan.

The district purchased 25,00 devices and 14,000 devices provided to students since mid-March, Lathan said.

2:34 p.m. ET, May 15, 2020

New York City reports more than 15,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths

From CNN's Rob Frehse

New York City has at least 15,422 confirmed coronavirus deaths and 5,054 probable coronavirus deaths as of May 15, according to the most recent data on the city website.

The New York City Health Department defines probable deaths as people who did not have a positive Covid-19 laboratory test, but their death certificate lists as the cause of death “COVID-19” or an equivalent.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus deaths and probable coronavirus deaths in New York City is at least 20,476.

There have been approximately 187,848 coronavirus cases in the city and at least 49,580 people have been hospitalized, according to the city.