Coronavirus pandemic in the US

By Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Meg Wagner and Zamira Rahim, CNN

Updated 10:26 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020
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2:26 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Louisiana sees spike in new positive cases after additional labs send in first reports

From CNN’s Kay Jones

The New Orleans Health Department, LCMC Health, and LSU Health Sciences offer free coronavirus disease walk-up testing at the Treme Recreation Center in New Orleans, on May 12.
The New Orleans Health Department, LCMC Health, and LSU Health Sciences offer free coronavirus disease walk-up testing at the Treme Recreation Center in New Orleans, on May 12. Kathleen Flynn/Reuters

With new labs reporting coronavirus tests for the first time, Louisiana’s newly reported positive Covid-19 cases saw a spike on Thursday.

Of the newly reported cases, 62% are from labs reporting for the first time with some tests dating back to March, according to the Department of Health. 

LDH posted on their dashboard that only 506 of the 1,188 new cases are actually new.

Over 305,000 tests have been conducted with the results of 19,411 tests being reported since Wednesday.

There are 21 new deaths, bringing the total to 2,506. Hospitalizations and ventilator usage continue to drop, with just 884 people hospitalized statewide and 107 total patients on ventilators.

Orleans Parish had just 21 new cases on Thursday while Jefferson Parish saw an increase of 47 new cases, bringing their totals to 6904 and 7175 respectively.

There were no deaths in Orleans Parish on Thursday while Jefferson Parish is reporting 1 since Wednesday’s report.

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

Facebook will ramp up remote hiring, Mark Zuckerberg says

From CNN’s Brian Fung

Facebook will begin ramping up remote hiring by focusing on advanced engineering positions first, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. Entry-level hires will largely not be eligible for remote hiring, he said. 

Geographically, Facebook will focus first on areas close by to its existing offices, including Portland, San Diego, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Zuckerberg said. 

A second priority will be to create newer “hubs” of employees in areas where Facebook currently has less of a presence — beginning with Atlanta, Dallas and Denver, he said. 

Compensation in these areas could well be lower than in the Bay Area, Zuckerberg acknowledged.

“If you live in a location where the cost of living is lower or cost of labor is lower, then salaries do tend to be somewhat lower in those places,” he said. 
2:22 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

West Virginia governor working on plan for graduations

From CNN’s Carma Hassan and Molly Silverman

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice speaks during a press conference in Charleston, West Virginia, on May 21.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice speaks during a press conference in Charleston, West Virginia, on May 21. Youtube

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said he is working with the Department of Education on a plan to allow students to attend their graduations, even if it means they wear masks and social distance. 

“Can you just fathom how hard these kids have worked? How much and how meaningful this is to their families, and absolutely I want to be able to do that so badly,” Justice said. 

The Department of Education will be working with county superintendents to figure out “some form of graduation” and it may be delayed till mid-July, the governor said.

“…[W]here these kids and their families are able to come, maybe wearing masks, maybe spread out all over the place and doing all the social distancing and everything else, but they’ll be able to see these kids and these kids deserve it in every way,” Justice said.

2:18 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

ER doctor says access to rapid testing would be "transformative"

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

A nasal test is held by a registered nurse during a news conference outside the Stride Community Health Center on May 18 in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.
A nasal test is held by a registered nurse during a news conference outside the Stride Community Health Center on May 18 in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. David Zalubowski/AP

Having access to rapid coronavirus tests “would be transformative,” Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and associate professor of emergency medicine at Brown University, told the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis on Thursday.

“If I could test every person when they walk through my emergency department and get a quick result within 15 minutes that tells me whether they have Covid or not, I could separate out the patients with Covid from those that don't and protect them from each other,” Ranney said, adding it would also protect frontline health care workers.  

Widely available testing in the community would also “make sure that people who are sick or isolating and not infecting others,” Ranney said.

That would help keep the curve of new infections flatter and prevent a flood of new patients from once again overwhelming hospitals. Testing could also help reassure patients who need help that they won’t be infected if they seek medical care.

“People are not coming to my hospital and to my ER, not because my ER is not safe – but because they perceive it as not being safe,” she said. 

2:01 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Trump calls report that predicted fewer deaths with earlier social distancing a "political hit job"

From CNN's Jason Hoffman 

President Trump is disputing a report from Columbia University that said if the US began social distancing one week earlier than it did, at least 36,000 lives could have been saved.

He said he believes the study is a “political hit job.”

Trump claimed he “was so early” in acting on coronavirus with his “ban on people coming in from China.”

“I was so early, I was earlier than anybody thought. I put a ban on people coming in from China. Everybody fought me on that, they didn't want it. Nancy Pelosi a month later was dancing in the streets of San Francisco, in Chinatown, so that people wouldn't believe what’s happening. I don't even blame that but I was way early,” Trump said. 

He then attacked Columbia University, which conducted the study, saying it is “an institution that is very liberal.”

“Columbia is an institution that is very liberal. It’s a, I think it's just a political hit job, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said.

Some context: It is the latest instance of Trump disputing a study he disagrees by claiming without evidence that it was politically biased. 

Earlier in the week the president called a study that found no benefit from hydroxychloroquine a “Trump enemy statement.”

He called that study a "phony study" and said it was done by "obviously not friends of the administration" who wanted to "make political points."

CNN found that claim to be false. Fact check here.

2:46 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Ford plant worker on reopening: "We want Ford to survive, we also want our coworkers to survive"

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

Scott Houldieson, who works as electrician at a Chicago-based Ford plant, spoke out about safety concerns after the plant temporarily shutdown when two employees tested positive for coronavirus.

The plant recently reopened after being closed for two months due to health concerns.

Houldieson told CNN’s Brianna Keilar that he believes the plant opened back up too soon. “We want Ford to survive, we also want our coworkers to survive,” he said.

Houldieson raised concerns about employees at the plant that have underlying conditions like autoimmune diseases and those who are cancer survivors. “We want to protect them,” he said.

The plant has implemented safety protocols like temperature screenings and medical tests for workers who exhibited symptoms, which Houldieson said doesn’t go far enough.

“Even the protocols that have in place aren’t being strictly adhered to. So, we’d like to seeing testing before people come back because we know that this disease is spread asymptomatically. So, when workers come in, they can be infecting other workers for days before they get symptoms. So, that’s a problem,” Houldieson said.

President Trump is scheduled to visit and tour another Ford plant in Michigan today and has been reluctant to wear a mask.

Houldieson said he thinks the President and anyone in a leadership position should wear a mask and adhere to safety protocols. “When the President or anybody else, a member of management, breaks that rule, violates that rule, it sets a bad example for the rest of the workforce,” he said.


2:10 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

New Jersey unemployment hits highest level since 1992, state official says

From CNN's Elizabeth Hartfield

Closed businesses stand along a street on May 20 in Linden, New Jersey.
Closed businesses stand along a street on May 20 in Linden, New Jersey. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Unemployment in New Jersey is now at 15.3% — a level not seen since February, 1992, the state Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo announced today.

About 757,000 jobs were lost in the state in the month of April, and it is estimated by mid-June, his department will be processing more than 1 million unemployment certifications per week. 

The department has paid out more than $3.4 billion to residents since March 20th, Asaro-Angelo said. 

2:02 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Georgia doctor: Virus spread through hospital for 10 days before we knew what it was 

From CNN’s Amanda Watts and Rebecca Grandahl

Coronavirus spread in a hospital in southwest Georgia for 10 days in March before staff were told what was filling their wards with desperately sick people, a doctor told Congress Thursday.

“We were shocked by its abrupt entrance into our lives, and the virus had been spreading quietly for 10 days, and very quickly,” Dr. Shanti Akers, a pulmonary critical care physician at Phoebe Putney Health Systems in Albany, Georgia, testified. “What started as one case spread like wildfire,” she added. “We filled ward after ward until we had at least five floors dedicated to the care of these patients.”

Albany was hit early by the virus. Akers described the scene at her hospital as it was overrun with coronavirus cases in March to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

“Those early days were scary and intense. We knew so little about it, and how it was spread or how to treat it,” she said.

“We had our first contact with Covid-19 during the last week of February, and the first week of March when we didn't even know it,” Akers added.

It wasn’t until March 10, that the hospital was informed they had treated a positive coronavirus case, she said.  

Staff didn’t have the equipment they needed to protect themselves, adding to the stress.

“What PPE we had stockpiled to last six months, lasted one week. We were - still are - forced to make that supply stretch. This time took a toll on all of us,” Akers said.  

“I spent many months not seeing my children awake because the hours this pandemic required. I minimized contact with my family in case my PPE had been inadequate,” Akers said.

“And I updated my will,” she said.

Staff struggled to keep patients alive, with no guidance about therapies that might be helpful.

There’s currently no cure for Covid-19 and experimental treatments are in the early stages of testing.

“Some patients died no matter what we did, and we could not change that outcome. It did not matter if they were young or old. This virus did not discriminate,” Akers said.

“We mourned the loss of our patients as some took their last breaths, knowing that their families could not be there and could not touch them. We cheered with them. We cheered with them when they took their first steps out of the hospital,” she said.  

3:29 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

50% of Facebook's employees could work remotely within the decade

From CNN’s Brian Fung 

Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

As many as 50% of Facebook employees could be working remotely within the next 5 to 10 years, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday. 

The projection — a guess, Zuckerberg said, not a target — marks a major pivot by the world’s biggest social media company to support working from home after the pandemic. 

Zuckerberg pitched the idea as both a matter of satisfying employee desires, but also as an effort to create “more broad-based economic prosperity.”

“When you limit hiring to people who live in a small number of big cities, or who are willing to move there, that cuts out a lot of people who live in different communities, have different backgrounds, have different perspectives,” Zuckerberg said on a livestream posted to his Facebook page. 

Zuckerberg said the company expects to dramatically increase its remote hiring over time and look into supporting permanent remote work for its existing employees. 

As the company looks to reopen its offices, Zuckerberg said, he expects only about 25% of Facebook employees to return to their desks initially.

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