Coronavirus pandemic in the US

By Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 9:21 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020
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1:33 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Walmart will now start offering self-swab tests in New Jersey, governor says

From CNN's Elizabeth Hartfield

Walmart will now start offering self-administered, self-swabs at several locations across New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday.

This follows an announcement on Tuesday that CVS would begin offering this same service across the state. Tests will be provided at drive up locations. There will not be any testing inside the stores themselves and results will be available in roughly two days.

New Jersey reported 1,670 new cases of Covid-19, bringing the statewide total to 150,399 cases, Murphy said.

The state reported 168 new Covid-19 deaths, bringing the state total to 10,747 deaths. 

1:35 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Iowa governor announces next wave of reopenings

From CNN's Gregory Lemos 

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a news conference in Johnston, Iowa, on Tuesday, May 19.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a news conference in Johnston, Iowa, on Tuesday, May 19. Olivia Sun/The Des Moines Register/AP

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced she will be allowing movie theaters, zoos, aquariums, museums, and wedding reception venues to reopen Friday.

She said swimming pools will be allowed to reopen for lap swimming and lessons as well.  

"Iowa's recovery is underway and our collective work to mitigate, contain, and manage virus's activity in our community is generating the type of results that enable us to ease restrictions," Reynolds said Wednesday during her daily Covid-19 briefing.  

Reynolds also announced she will allow bars "and other establishments that serve alcohol and have been limited to carry out and delivery" to reopen May 28.   

She said she will allow schools and "school-sponsored activities" like baseball and softball to resume June 1.   

Reynolds justified this next phase of reopenings saying the state is seeing a stabilization in its infection rates.  

 "We are not overwhelming the health care system. We have the resources available to manage any type of uptick or a surge," she said. "We have to move forward."  

Campgrounds in all 68 Iowa State Parks will also be allowed to reopen Friday, said Kayla Lyon, the state director of Natural Resources.

Although shelters, lodges, playgrounds, youth group camps, museums, and visitor centers will remain closed, communal picnic tables, grills, and beaches will be open.  

Lyon said these reopenings will have stipulations like the need for reservations and groups no larger than six people will be allowed.   

1:25 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Coronavirus hospitalizations drop below 1,000 in Louisiana

From CNN’s Kay Jones

For the first time since March 28, Louisiana has less than a 1,000 patients hospitalized due to Covid-19. 

Louisiana Department of Health reported 931 total hospitalizations and 110 patients on ventilators on Wednesday. The state also reported 278 new cases and 27 new deaths, bringing the overall totals to 35,316 and 2,385 respectively. 

After three days in a row of reporting zero deaths, Orleans Parish reported six new deaths on Wednesday, bringing the parish’s total to 500. There are 6,884 total cases in the parish, up 15 since Tuesday. 

Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to speak further about the latest numbers in his monthly call-in radio show this afternoon.

 

1:20 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

More than 92,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the US

From CNN's Amanda Watts

A refrigerated truck serving as make shift morgue is seen outside of NYU Langone Health Cobble Hill emergency department on May 17 in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
A refrigerated truck serving as make shift morgue is seen outside of NYU Langone Health Cobble Hill emergency department on May 17 in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Justin Heiman/Getty Images

There have been at least 1,532,974 cases of coronavirus reported in the US, and at least 92,149 people have died, according to a Johns Hopkins University's tally.

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases. 

On Wednesday, Johns Hopkins has reported 4,406 new cases and 228 reported deaths. 

1:19 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

These states are now separating coronavirus viral and antibody testing numbers

From CNN's Konstantin Toropin

A healthcare worker takes a nasal swab sample at a walk-up coronavirus testing site in Arlington, Virginia, on May 12.
A healthcare worker takes a nasal swab sample at a walk-up coronavirus testing site in Arlington, Virginia, on May 12. Salwan Georges/The Washington Post/Getty Images

The Vermont and Virginia departments of health have been combining the results of viral Covid-19 tests with antibody tests in their testing totals, spokesperople for the states confirmed to CNN.

Viral infection tests are usually conducted through nasal swabs and look for the virus’ genetic material, which may be evidence of an active infection. Antibody tests use blood samples to look for evidence of past infection.

Both states will now separate the tests, according to officials.

Why this matters: Combining the results of viral tests with antibody tests, which show a past infection, inflates the overall testing totals and could make it appear that the state has a better handle on the spread of the virus than it actually does.

Ben Truman, spokesperson for Vermont's Department of Health, said the state removed the antibody, or serology, results from their testing counts on May 16.

"As we began seeing an increase in serology tests, we realized this is impacting the number and needed to correct it," Truman said.

Virginia, in a statement released on May 14, said it would separate the two tests going forward but argued the impact of the conflation was minimal.

"Antibody tests make up less than nine percent of overall tests," the statement said.

"When these tests are removed from total results, there is minimal change in the percent positive of tests and no difference in overall trends."

Remember: Vermont and Virginia  aren’t the only states that have acknowledged issues in how they report Covid-19 data. 

A spokesperson for Texas' health department confirmed the state has also been combining its viral and antibody totals but said that they "will be separating the numbers out this week."

Meanwhile, Georgia's Department of Public Health spokesperson Nancy Nydam says "incorrect sorting logic" was behind a bar graph that showed a downward trajectory of confirmed Covid-19 cases but did not list dates in chronological order.

CNN's Carma Hassan contributed to this report

12:56 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Pence says US is considering additional travel restrictions for South America

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday that the US is considering additional travel restrictions for South America. 

Pence told reporters in Florida the administration is “watching very carefully” what’s taking place in South America and Brazil, specifically, regarding additional cases, and said they are “considering additional travel restrictions, not just including Brazil but other countries.”

He noted that travel restrictions were part of the administration’s strategy early on.

Some background: Yesterday, President Trump was asked if he was considering a travel ban on Latin America, and Brazil in particular, which now has the third highest number of diagnosed coronavirus cases in the world.

“We are considering it,” Trump said.

12:41 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Williams College reduces course load for next year and cancels winter study

From CNN's Annie Grayer

Williams College announced it is reducing the minimum number of required courses per semester from four to three and will cancel its Winter Study for January 2021. A decision about whether students will resume the fall semester in-person has not yet been made.

The small liberal arts college in Williamstown, Massachusetts, announced that changing the number of credits required would also change the number of courses required for graduation, according to a letter sent Tuesday to the Williams community from college president Maud Mandel.

“These changes will maximize flexibility for students and limit the amount of time people are required to spend on campus, independently of whether we convene in person or work remotely,” Mandel wrote.

Mandel also wrote that a working group is continuing to identify the operation requirements that would be necessary to consider opening for a residential fall semester.

12:39 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Vermont dairy farmers and cheesemakers are struggling, agriculture secretary warns 

From CNN's Carma Hassan

Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Food, and Market Anson Tebbetts said dairy farmers are facing an uncertain future amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The financial impact has already hit farm families and the forecast is dismal for June, July, and August with estimated milk prices hitting historic lows. It could well extend into the fall,” Tebbetts said at a news conference with Gov. Phil Scott. 

Vermont cheesemakers have reported sales losses ranging from 50% to 95% due to demand drying up in cities like New York, Boston, and DC.   

Small farms are projected to lose $58,000 in annual income due to milk price declines, medium farms are expected to lose $117,000 in annual income, and large farms could see $1.16 million in income losses, Tebbetts said. 

“It’s projected that many dairy farms will not be able to pay their bills next month, and five dairy farmers and farms closed the first weekend of May. And many more could be next if we do not act,” he said. 

Vermont’s new economic relief and recovery package will provide grants to dairy farmers that would “provide relief and hope,” the secretary said. 

12:51 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

WHO says it is "looking into" Trump's threat to cut its funding

From CNN's Amanda Watts

President Donald Trump pauses during a Cabinet meeting in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday, May 19.
President Donald Trump pauses during a Cabinet meeting in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday, May 19. Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg/Getty Images

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the organization is "looking into" President Trump’s threat to cut its US funding. 

"On the letter, we have of course received the letter and we're looking into it. Thank you so much,” Tedros said a briefing on Wednesday.

What is this about: Earlier this week, Trump sent a letter to WHO telling the agency he plans to permanently pull US funding if WHO does not commit to improvements in the next 30 days.  

Asked to expand about his plans to address the ultimatum, Tedros said, "So the answer is simply, we have received the letter, and we're looking into it.”  

Tedros said the WHO budget is “very small” – at $2.3 billion a year, it’s comparable to a medium-sized hospital in a developed world.  

“The objectives are to increase funding and improve the quality of the funding itself,” Tedros said.