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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1:20 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. 

12:36 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

South Carolina's Furman University announces cuts to budget and athletics due to coronavirus

From CNN's Meridith Edwards

James B. Duke Library at Furman University on May 2, 2019 in Greenville, South Carolina.
James B. Duke Library at Furman University on May 2, 2019 in Greenville, South Carolina. Shutterstock

A university in South Carolina announced that it is shutting down the men's varsity lacrosse and the varsity baseball teams in response to financial hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, announced the sports cuts Monday along with other budget reductions including salary cuts and staff furloughs, according to a statement posted on the school's website.

"This is a difficult day for Furman athletics," athletic director Jason Donnelly said. "Our immediate focus is on supporting our student-athletes and coaches impacted by today’s decisions, as well as our alumni and fans who so passionately support our programs. The legacy of Furman baseball and men’s lacrosse will be remembered and celebrated."

Furman University is a private school with around 2,700 students and is a member of the Southern Conference.

12:26 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Connecticut's phase one started today, and all 50 states are at least partially reopen

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Men cross Market Street on May 7 in downtown Hartford, Connecticut, during the coronavirus pandemic.
Men cross Market Street on May 7 in downtown Hartford, Connecticut, during the coronavirus pandemic. Mark Lennihan/AP

With offices, retail and restaurants in Connecticut opening with restrictions today, all 50 states are on the path to reopening. 

Gov. Ned Lamont said salons and barber shops, which were originally slated to reopen today as the phase one plan kicks off, are now opening on June 1 to align with neighboring Massachusetts and Rhode Island. 

Connecticut is testing symptomatic and asymptomatic first-responders right now, and Lamont said that will be his “template” for community spread. Health officials have also warned him about the possibility of a second surge in the fall. 

Lamont said that while he is worried about people adhering to all guidelines, the state is taking different regulations into account, and residents have largely taken restrictions seriously. 

“We're looking at outdoor eating restaurants and make sure people track the protocols carefully; masks and gloves for waiters. We kept our beaches open, kept our parks open. We limited capacity there, and so far, the folks have really taken this seriously. They know how serious it is that you be careful, especially on a hot weekend like this coming up,” Lamont said. 

Lamont also responded to President Trump’s remark yesterday that the high number of Covid-19 cases is a “badge of honor” because it means the US is testing more people.

“No, the number of people infected is no badge of honor. It's a tragedy. But perhaps what he meant to say is that if the percentage of people who are being tested lower and lower test positive, that's a good sign,” Lamont said. 

12:09 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

EPA chief won’t commit to investigating possible link between air pollution and Covid-19

From CNN's Daniella Diaz

Sen. Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, asked Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler at an oversight hearing Wednesday to commit to investigating whether exposure to air pollution causes a worse outcome for Covid-19 patients.

 Wheeler did not directly commit to investigating the issue.

“Early research has shown that people exposed to more air pollution then may have greater Covid-19 risk just like we saw with this SARS coronavirus,” Carper said during the hearing.

“Would you commit to reallocate unused EPA funds to study whether exposure to air pollution causes people with Covid-19 to have worse outcomes or more difficult recoveries, or to be more susceptible to other diseases once they have recovered. Could you commit to doing that, please?”

More from the exchange: Carper said there was a Harvard study that found links between air pollution and Covid-19 mortalities. 

Wheeler responded: “We're looking at those research areas when there's a lot of other people are researching that as of now, you know the Harvard study that you mentioned, although the Harvard study has a number of issues and problems that Sen. (John Barrasso) mentioned, the other study in your staff report that you issued yesterday evening or early this morning.”

Carper later asked Wheeler if he would "stop writing rules that make things actually worse not better?"

Wheeler responded, "All of our rules make things better, sir."