Coronavirus pandemic in the US

By Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 9:19 p.m. ET, May 19, 2020
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4:00 p.m. ET, May 19, 2020

38% of those who attended events at rural Arkansas church later tested positive for Covid-19, report says

From CNN's Gisela Crespo

Thirty-eight percent of congregants who attended events at a church in a rural Arkansas county during a six-day period in March later tested positive for Covid-19, according to a report published Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the report, 35 of 92 people who attended events at the church from March 6 to 11 had lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19. The outbreak resulted in three deaths among church attendees, all people over 65. Six of the seven patients that were hospitalized were also in this same age range.

Contact tracing identified at least 26 additional people who tested positive for Covid-19 and had contact with members of the church. From this group, one person was hospitalized and subsequently died.

As of April 22, 61 confirmed cases had been identified in people directly and indirectly associated events at the church and there were a total of four deaths.

The church pastor developed symptoms on March 11 and his wife developed symptoms on March 10. After becoming aware of symptoms among churchgoers, the church was closed on March 12. The pastor and his wife sought testing on March 13 and received laboratory confirmation of Covid-19 on March 16. The Arkansas Department of Health was notified of those first two confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the county on March 16 – also the same day national social distancing guidelines were announced.

An investigation afterward found two people who were symptomatic during March 6 to 8 “likely initiated the chain of transmission among church attendees.”

"The primary patients had no known Covid-19 exposures in the 14 days preceding their symptom onset dates, suggesting that local transmission was occurring before case detection," the CDC said in its report.

The report notes some limitations, including that not all of those who were infected sought testing and some were ineligible for testing based on the criteria at the time. Forty-five of 92 people who attended events at the church were tested for Covid-19.

The report said faith-based organizations "should be aware of the potential for high rates of transmission" for Covid-19.

"These organizations should work with local health officials to determine how to implement the U.S. Government’s guidelines for modifying activities during the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent transmission of the virus to their members and their communities." 

3:52 p.m. ET, May 19, 2020

Washington governor announces that "about 30%" of state can move to phase 2 of reopening

From CNN's Konstantin Toropin

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee speaks during a press conference in Olympia, Washington, on May 19.
Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee speaks during a press conference in Olympia, Washington, on May 19. Pool

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee announced today that new criteria will allow 10 more counties to be eligible to move onto phase 2 of the state's reopening plan.

The state currently has approved 10 of its 39 counties to move to phase 2, Inslee explained today in a press conference. Two other counties were eligible to move to phase 2 as well, but have not yet applied, Inslee said.

"That makes 22 counties in the state that are currently eligible for a variance upon application or already moving to phase two," Inslee said. 
"Combined, these counties represent about 30% of the state's population," he said.

Phase 2 allows for:

  • In-store retail purchases with restrictions
  • Reopening of barbershops and salons
  • Reopening of restaurants at 50% capacity and table sizes no larger than 5

None of the counties moving into the next reopening phase include the state's most populous ones like King, Pierce, or Snohomish - once the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak in the US.

The new criteria focuses on counties having less than 10 new cases per 100,000 residents over a 14 day span, Inslee said.

3:31 p.m. ET, May 19, 2020

Retail in Delaware can partially reopen tomorrow, governor says

From CNN's Jessica King

Delaware Gov. John Carney speaks during a press conference in Wilmington, Delaware, on May 19.
Delaware Gov. John Carney speaks during a press conference in Wilmington, Delaware, on May 19. KYW

Delaware’s retail establishments – currently scheduled to partially open June 1 – may operate as soon as tomorrow under certain guidelines, Gov. John Carney announced in a statement Tuesday. He also announced that restaurants and bars could apply for expanded seating for that June 1 reopening.

“All retail establishments in Delaware may operate by appointment only” starting tomorrow, Wednesday May 20 at 8 a.m. ET, Gov. Carney’s statement said. Stores may accept two appointments per half hour and must adhere to strict social distancing and cleaning, in accordance with the CDC and Delaware Division of Public Health guidance.

Some examples of stores given included clothing stores, shoe stores, florists and used merchandise retailers.

These establishments will then continue to be allowed to open their indoor spaces at 30% of fire capacity on June 1 as part of Phase 1 of Delaware’s re-opening.

Restaurants, bars, taprooms, and craft breweries – who are also scheduled to open at 30% indoor capacity starting June 1 – may now apply to expand their outdoor seating on that date as well. This does not change the current planned opening date. They will however be able to apply for that expansion starting this Friday, May 22.

“It’s our hope that these additional steps will safely bring some relief to Delaware businesses and workers who have made real financial sacrifices” during the Covid-19 crisis, Governor Carney said.

When asked in his daily coronavirus briefing how these guidelines will be enforced, the governor admitted that in the short-term they “rely heavily on voluntary compliance” but that mechanisms for enforcement may look different in the long-term.

3:21 p.m. ET, May 19, 2020

Senate will wait a "couple weeks" to decide on next stimulus bill, McConnell says

From CNN's Ali Zaslav, Manu Raju, Lauren Fox and Ted Barrett

US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, speaks to the media following the weekly Republican Senate policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 19.
US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, speaks to the media following the weekly Republican Senate policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 19. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday, as President Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have indicated, that the Senate will wait a couple weeks to decide on a "phase four" stimulus bill.

“We’ll discuss a way forward in the next couple weeks,” McConnell said.

McConnell's comments came after the President spoke at the Republican conference lunch.

Sen. Lindsey Graham said that he suggested during the lunch that states issue a full account of how they've used their state and local money before they receive any more funds. 

Graham said Trump was open to a fourth phase of stimulus funding, but non committal on how or when to do it.

3:02 p.m. ET, May 19, 2020

Here's how Ohio is loosening restrictions as state reopens

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Taste of Belgium customers are escorted to their table for outdoor seating as businesses begin to reopen on May 15 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Taste of Belgium customers are escorted to their table for outdoor seating as businesses begin to reopen on May 15 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Jason Whitman/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine today issued a new "urgent health advisory," moving from orders combating the Covid-19 pandemic, to "strong recommendations."

“It's now time for our orders to reflect the reality of where we are today,” DeWine said, calling the advisory a new phase in the battle against the virus.

Here's what the "Ohioans Protecting Ohioans" advisory recommends:

  • At least six feet of social distancing
  • A limit of 10 people for mass gatherings
  • Frequent hand-washing and other sanitizing efforts, as well as incorporating all of the business orders about social distancing and sanitation.

The advisory also strongly recommends that high-risk Ohioans stay at home as much as possible, asking them to avoid places where they are likely to encounter a lot of people, according to DeWine.

While the advisory doesn’t require that all other Ohioans stay at home when possible, it strongly recommends it, the governor said.

Additionally, the limited travel restrictions that were part of Ohio’s previous Stay-at-Home and Stay Safe Ohio orders, will now be lifted.

2:30 p.m. ET, May 19, 2020

CVS to offer self-swab Covid tests at several locations, New Jersey governor says

From CNN's Elizabeth Hartfield

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a press conference in Trenton, New Jersey, on May 19.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a press conference in Trenton, New Jersey, on May 19. Pool

CVS in New Jersey is set to offer self-swab tests at a minimum of 50 locations in the state by the end of the month, Gov. Phil Murphy said.

He also announced that all of New Jersey’s more than 18,000 pharmacists have been licensed to administer Covid-19 tests to customers.

Murphy said the state had removed requirements that pharmacists enter into collaborative agreements with physicians.

2:21 p.m. ET, May 19, 2020

Catch up: Read up on the latest coronavirus headlines

A sign board with precautions is kept in front of a restaurant as people eat sitting outside on Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on May 18.
A sign board with precautions is kept in front of a restaurant as people eat sitting outside on Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on May 18. Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

It’s a little pass 2 p.m. on the East Coast. Here's a quick recap of the latest coronavirus updates from across the country:

Every US state will be partially reopened by tomorrow: By Wednesday, every US state will have started lifting measures enacted weeks ago to curb the spread of coronavirus. Right now, all states except Connecticut have in some way moved toward reopening — and Connecticut is due to begin its first reopening steps tomorrow.

US-Canada border closed for at least another month: President Trump confirmed that the US-Canada border will remain closed to nonessential traffic during a White House event earlier today.

His comments came after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the border between the two countries will remain closed to nonessential traffic until June 21.

Fed and Treasury chiefs grilled in the Senate: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defended the administration's efforts to revive the economy while testifying before the Senate Banking Committee.

Mnuchin told senators that he expects economic conditions will improve in the third and fourth quarters of this year, but warned that with ongoing shutdown measures "There is risk of permanent damage."

Powell said that the program meant to lend billions of dollars to small- and mid-sized businesses should be ready to launch by the end of the month.

New York to allow Memorial Day ceremonies with up to 10 people: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will allow ceremonies on Memorial Day with 10 people or less. Vehicle parades in honor veterans will also be allowed. The governor said local governments can decide if they want these ceremonies to occur.  

Cuomo’s announcement came after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the city's daily numbers on coronavirus cases a “mixed bag” and urged caution.

2:05 p.m. ET, May 19, 2020

Ford tells White House masks are required at plant Trump is visiting Thursday

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Ahead of President Trump's visit on Thursday to a Ford components plant in Michigan, the automaker has detailed its safety policies to the White House — including that everyone wear a mask.

"In preparation for the visit, we’ve shared with the White House all of Ford’s safety protocols, including our self-assessment, thermal scanning and manufacturing playbook which outlines our policy that everyone wears PPE," a Ford spokesperson told CNN.

Trump has resisted wearing a mask in public, even though the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended wearing one to avoid spreading coronavirus.

He has never been photographed wearing one, though he said he did put one on backstage during a visit to a Honeywell facility in Arizona. At that facility, signs indicated wearing a mask was required, but Trump was informed by Honeywell executives that he did not need to wear one, according to the White House.

Other White House officials have now begun wearing masks more regularly after the White House issued a memo to staff saying a face covering was required in the West Wing.

But Trump himself has resisted, in part because he's worried what message wearing a mask would send.

1:47 p.m. ET, May 19, 2020

New Jersey reports 12 cases of childhood illness possibly linked to Covid-19

From CNN's Elizabeth Hartfield

New Jersey is now reporting twelve cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), New Jersey State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said Tuesday. There have been no deaths reported so far. 

The ages of the children affected range from 3 to 18, Persichilli said, and nine of the cases have also tested positive for Covid-19.

Three of the individuals are currently still hospitalized.