Coronavirus pandemic in the US

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5:55 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Catch up on the latest coronavirus headlines

People sit in circles meant to encourage social distancing in Domino Park along the East River on May 18 in the Williamsburg neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough in New York City.
People sit in circles meant to encourage social distancing in Domino Park along the East River on May 18 in the Williamsburg neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

It's almost 6 p.m. in New York. Here are some of the top coronavirus headlines you may have missed.

  • President Trump says he is taking hydroxychloroquine: Trump said he is taking hydroxychloroquine after asking the White House doctor if he could take it — despite the fact that he's said he is negative for Covid-19 and several recent studies show the drug is ineffective against the coronavirus and may even be harmful.
  • As states relax more rules, US coronavirus death toll passes 90,000: All states except one, Connecticut, have loosened stay-at-home restrictions. But only 18 states showed a downward trend of new cases Monday, according to an analysis of data from Johns Hopkins. That's down from 28 states that showed general declines as of Friday.
  • Navajo Nation surpasses New York for highest Covid-19 infection rate: The Navajo Nation, which spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, reported a population of 173,667 on the 2010 census. As a result, with 4,002 cases, the Native American territory has 2,304.41 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people.
  • Vaccine trial shows positive early results: Study subjects who received Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine had positive early results, according to the biotech company, which partnered with the National Institutes of Health to develop the vaccine. If future studies go well, the company's vaccine could be available to the public as early as January, Dr. Tal Zaks, Moderna's chief medical officer, told CNN.
5:52 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Trump deflects question about Peter Navarro's criticism of the CDC

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal and Maegan Vazquez

President Donald Trump listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House May 18 in Washington.
President Donald Trump listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House May 18 in Washington. Doug Mills/The New York Times/Pool/Getty Images

President Trump deflected when asked if he agreed with Peter Navarro’s assertion that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention let the country down in terms of testing.

“I think they work very hard,” Trump said of the CDC, when asked about his economic adviser’s comments.

“Don’t forget, they’ve been here for many years. They don’t work for me. They work for the country,” he said during a White House meeting with restauranteurs.

“I will say, originally, they had no test and one of the tests had a problem very early on but that was quickly remedied,” Trump continued, wading into the controversy between members of his own cabinet. 

“Now we have the best tests anywhere in the world. I think – I give ourselves a lot of that credit," he added.

Some background: Navarro on Sunday condemned the CDC’s early pandemic response, saying that “not only did they keep the testing within the bureaucracy, they had a bad test and that set us back.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar called those comments, “inaccurate and inappropriate.” The CDC falls under HHS.

Vice President Mike Pence weighted in on Navarro’s comments, saying, “I think Peter Navarro’s point was that CDC and our public health labs at the state level were operating with an arcane testing system, and it was one of the reasons that early on we brought in all of the commercial labs around the country, the President created a consortiums of these labs, and we reinvented testing in America." 

5:50 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Kentucky reports new cases of pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear reported two new cases of a troubling new syndrome that may be associated with Covid-19 infection.

The cases include a 5-year-old, who was admitted to the hospital on Saturday but is now able to go home, and an 11-year-old who is currently hospitalized.

The state’s first case, a 10-year-old, is still hospitalized, Beshear said.

“We had hoped there wouldn’t be problems for children, that they would do well, and it appears, overwhelmingly, they do well, but not all of them,” Kentucky Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said.

He continued: “And for those who get this syndrome, this is very serious. This is essentially a situation where weeks after the child would have gotten over the initial infections, their immune system becomes overactive and attacks the blood vessels in their own body and causes a number of problems.”

5:50 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Texas reports lowest new, daily coronavirus death toll since March 31

From CNN's Konstantin Toropin

A man is tested for Covid-19 by the San Antonio Fire Department at a free walk-up test site on Friday, May 8.
A man is tested for Covid-19 by the San Antonio Fire Department at a free walk-up test site on Friday, May 8. Eric Gay/AP

Texas is reporting 11 new deaths from Covid-19 today – the lowest new, daily death toll since March 31 when the state had only 4 fatalities, Texas Health and Human Services data shows.

However, Texas also saw its highest, single-day increase in coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic on Saturday, according to state numbers. 

Gov. Greg Abbott attributed the spike in cases to increased testing, noting that the percentage of positive tests has gone down.

Meanwhile, critics like Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, attribute the rising numbers, at least in part, to the state’s reopening of businesses.

 “Well, more than likely what you saw in the cases jumping in the past few days that we've reported is a change in policy with respect to the reopening of parts of our economy, a couple weeks ago,” Johnson told CNN on Monday.

Where Texas stands on reopening: Abbott announced sweeping reopenings in the state during a press conference earlier today – including opening child care centers and office buildings, effective immediately.

Other businesses such as bars, bowling alleys, bingo halls skating rinks and rodeos can open Friday, with restrictions on capacity. Professional sports will be able to resume games starting June 1 without fans and with approval, he said.

5:23 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Coronavirus could be transmitted through feces of infected patients, study says

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

This scanning electron microscope image shows 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes Covid-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S.
This scanning electron microscope image shows 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes Covid-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S. Source: NIAID-RML

The coronavirus could be spread through the stool of Covid-19 patients, according to a new study from Chinese researchers.

Infectious particles from the virus were found in fecal samples from a 78-year-old Covid-19 patient at the Fifth Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangdong Province in late January and early February, researchers reported in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Now they are asking whether the deadly virus could be transmissible through the stool of infected patients.

Health experts have believed the highly contagious virus is mainly spread through respiratory droplets, contact with infected surfaces and possibly aerosols. Now “it is unclear whether the virus in feces is infectious and might be an additional source for transmission,” the letter said.

Researchers collected fecal samples from the male patient, who was admitted to the hospital on January 17 and died on February 20, on January 27 and 29, and again on February 1 and 7. “All samples were positive for viral RNA,” indicating that the virus was in the feces. The viral antigen was also found in gastrointestinal cells, the researchers noted.

Previous analysis from China, including one published in the New England Journal of Medicine, have also revealed the discovery of coronavirus in the stools of infected people, but the samples did not contain infectious amounts of the virus until now.

In all, samples from 28 patients were tested as part of the study and 12 were positive for viral RNA, including those from the 78-year-old man, the researchers in Guangdong said. 

The researchers said the study indicated a need to take precautions against the potential spread of the coronavirus through feces. “Discharge and hospital cleaning practices should consider this possibility for critically ill patients or those who died who had high viral loads and are more likely to shed infectious virus.”

5:21 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Louisiana state budget revenues to drop by $900 million because of Covid-19

From CNN's Pierre Meilhan

Revenues for Louisiana are expected to decline by $900 million because of the pandemic, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Monday.

“There will be about $80 million in (state budget) cuts, including significant cuts to the Department of Health,” Edwards told reporters in Baton Rouge.

5:28 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Duke University announces salary cuts and hiring freeze in anticipation of $350 million loss next year

From CNN's Bianna Golodryga

Duke University Chapel in Durham, North Carolina.
Duke University Chapel in Durham, North Carolina. Shutterstock

Duke University announced its plan to cut salaries for highly compensated employees, suspend University-paid retirement contributions, and freeze all new hires, as it estimates a total decline in revenues between $250 million to $350 million in the next fiscal year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Duke University President Vincent Price said in a statement released last week that all of the school's sources of revenue including "tuition, research grants, clinical and patient care services, private philanthropy and income from our investments and endowment – has already suffered large reductions or is expected to be quite substantially diminished in the months ahead."

Starting July 1, the university will suspend employer contributions to Duke faculty and staff retirement plans for 12 months. Price said those cuts will save Duke between $150 million and $200 million over the next fiscal year.

The statement also said university employees who earn more than $285,000 will see a 10% reduction in their salaries for 12 months.

Additional voluntary salary reductions include the provost, vice president and chancellor, who will have a reduction of 15%. Price said he will take a 20% pay reduction.

Some context: Many other schools, like Harvard University, have announced similar cuts as administrators try to solve huge budget deficits.

5:12 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Meat plant workers account for more than 25% of Nebraska coronavirus cases

From CNN's Shawn Nottingham

This Monday, April 20, 2020 photo, shows the Tyson Fresh Meats beef processing complex in Dakota City, Nebraska.
This Monday, April 20, 2020 photo, shows the Tyson Fresh Meats beef processing complex in Dakota City, Nebraska. Tim Hynds/Sioux City Journal/AP

At least 2,601 workers in the state’s meat processing industry have tested positive for Covid-19 since the outbreak began, Nebraska Chief Medical officer, Dr. Gary Anthone, announced at an afternoon news conference.

Eight of those workers have died as a result of the virus, according to Anthone. 

Those cases account for just more than 25% of Nebraska’s 10,348 cases.

More on this: Earlier this month, Gov. Pete Ricketts ordered health departments to stop reporting how many food processing workers test positive at each individual plant unless the company gives permission, citing concerns over being able to verify the data.

Ricketts first announced the number of cases associated with the meat packing industry on May 7. At that point, the state reported at least 1,005 cases or about 16% of the state’s total cases, according to Ricketts.

4:56 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Missouri to test people at all long-term facilities with a confirmed Covid-19 case

From CNN’s Andy Rose

Leaders in Missouri say they now have enough capacity to test every staffer and resident at long-term care facilities with a confirmed Covid-19 case.

“We are recommending comprehensive testing, that you go ahead and test everybody,” Health and Senior Services Director Dr. Randall Williams said in a Monday press conference.

“[That’s] a capability we didn’t have a month ago," he added.

At least 50 long-term care facilities qualify for comprehensive testing because they have had at least one coronavirus patient.

Williams said they hope to be able to do “sentinel testing” soon, where all people associated with hotspot facilities like long-term care, prisons and meat-packing facilities are asked to submit to tests, even in locations that have not reported a coronavirus infection.  

Williams also encouraged all Missourians to consider getting a test if they have felt any possible symptoms.

“If you have any symptoms – muscle aches, fever, cough, anything – we want you to get tested,” Williams said. “We want to see exactly how we’re doing as things change.”