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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4:45 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

African Americans with Covid-19 more likely to be hospitalized than non-Hispanic whites, new study finds

From CNN's Gisela Crespo

Medics wearing personal protection equipment transport an African American patient showing Covid-19 symptoms from his apartment to Stamford Hospital on April 4, in Stamford, Connecticut. 
Medics wearing personal protection equipment transport an African American patient showing Covid-19 symptoms from his apartment to Stamford Hospital on April 4, in Stamford, Connecticut.  John Moore/Getty Images

African-American patients with confirmed Covid-19 are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized than non-Hispanic whites, according to a new study. 

Among 1,052 confirmed cases of Covid-19 within one California health network, 52% of African Americans were hospitalized compared to 25.7% of non-Hispanic white patients, according to the study, published Thursday in the journal Health Affairs.

Nearly 25% of African Americans who were hospitalized for Covid-19 during the time period studied were transferred to the intensive care unit, compared to 10.7% of whites, the team at Sutter Health, a health care network serving 22 counties in Northern California, including in the San Francisco Bay area, found.

The study used Sutter's electronic health record data of Covid-19 tested and confirmed cases within the network and looked at factors beyond lack of health care coverage, since nearly 93% residents in California are insured under either private or government health plans.

These factors included self-reported race and ethnicity, sex, age, and underlying health conditions. 

The study also looked at income level, and found that overall, African Americans live in areas with a lower income compared to other racial and ethnic groups. 

Among the confirmed Covid-19 cases during that period of time, 51 patients died. The study did not find a significant difference in the mortality rate when it came to race and ethnicity. 

Why this matters: Researchers say genetic or biological factors may increase the severity of illness for African Americans. But they also point to societal factors that may delay seeking care, including structural inequities and unconscious biases on the part of providers. 

"The disparity therefore may not be in who is tested but when," the report said. 

Dr. Stephen Lockhart, chief medical officer at Sutter Health, said that Covid-19 "has ripped a Band-Aid off the structural inequities that exist within our society." 

"We must address these disparities right way because the cost of not addressing them is measured in human life," Lockhart said in a statement. 

4:42 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Orange County reports back-to-back Covid-19 death records as protesters rally against stay-home order

From CNN's Alexandra Meeks

Orange County in Southern California reported their highest number of deaths in a single day today, just one day after setting the previous high record of daily deaths in the county. 

The county reported 14 new deaths today, bringing the total number of deaths in the county to 112.

Yesterday, the county reported 10 new deaths, with 8 of those identified as residents at skilled nursing facilities.

There are currently 4,841 cases in Orange County to date, according to latest data from the county's public health department.

This comes after up to 200 protesters rallied against stay-at-home orders at Orange County's San Clemente beach Thursday, a spokesperson at the Orange County Sheriff's Department told CNN. 

Eight people were arrested for a variety of crimes included trespassing, vandalism and refusing to disperse from an unlawful assembly, according to the sheriff's department. 

Latest on California's reopening: More than two-thirds of the counties in California are moving ahead with reopening further, including San Diego, Sacramento, and Santa Barbara counties.

The 40 counties that have been approved will move ahead into "expanded phase two" of reopening, which allows dining in restaurants and shopping in stores.

Among those areas maintaining current restrictions are Southern California’s highly populated counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino. Densely populated Bay Area counties like San Francisco, Alameda, and Santa Clara are also remaining as is.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that Los Angeles specifically "is likely weeks behind" the rest of the state when it comes to reopening.

4:36 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Trump addresses threat to pull federal funding from Michigan

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal 

President Donald Trump tours Ford's Rawsonville Components Plant that has been converted to making personal protection and medical equipment on Thursday, May 21, in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
President Donald Trump tours Ford's Rawsonville Components Plant that has been converted to making personal protection and medical equipment on Thursday, May 21, in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Alex Brandon/AP

President Trump addressed threats to pull federal funding from Michigan as he visited a Ford plant in the state Thursday, but didn’t get specific about what funding could be taken away.

Trump was asked about comments Wednesday where he seemed to soften on that threat, saying he didn’t think it would be necessary.

“I didn’t say it wasn’t necessary,” the President clarified. “I said that I might have to do that.” 

“We’re not going to go to voting by mail,” Trump continued. “Voting by mail is wrought with fraud and abuse,” he said, before launching into a list of claims about vote by mail fraud, none of which he supported with evidence.

When asked to clarify what funding he wanted pulled if Michigan didn’t comply, Trump wouldn’t talk about it.

“I’m not going to discuss that,” he said, “there are so many forms of funding and we’re not going to discuss that.”

Some background: In his tweet Wednesday morning, Trump falsely claimed Michigan would send absentee ballots to 7.7 million voters.

But he also threatened to "hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!" Trump several hours later deleted the tweet and sent a new one that correctly described Michigan's absentee ballot initiative.

A senior administration official with the Office of Management and Budget said on Wednesday that "no decisions have been made" about funding to states in response to Trump's threats.

"No decisions have been made at this time. Discussions are ongoing," the official said, adding the "President has made waste, fraud and abuse key over the last few years -- for example, his budget this year included the first ever full chapter dedicated to money the Government spends on inappropriate or harmful or wasteful organizations and programs."

5:17 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

1 in 300 people in Colorado are contagious, governor says

From CNN's Hollie SIlverman

Colorado Governor Jared Polis makes a point during a news conference to update the state's efforts to stop the rise of the new coronavirus on Wednesday, May 20, in Denver.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis makes a point during a news conference to update the state's efforts to stop the rise of the new coronavirus on Wednesday, May 20, in Denver. David Zalubowski/AP

One in 300 people in Colorado are contagious, Gov. Jared Polis said during a briefing on Thursday.

Polis said there are now 34 free coronavirus testing sites available across the state and encouraged residents to take advantage of them.

Denver city and county currently has the ability to test 1,000 people a day, Mayor Michael Hancock said during the briefing.

The state has also formalized a partnership with Colorado State University to complete testing for staff and residents in up to 30 nursing facilities, the governor announced.

CORRECTION: The headline and post has been updated to reflect that Gov. Jared Polis indicated that one in 300 people in Colorado are contagious.

4:26 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Trump tours Ford plant without mask after state attorney general's warnings

President Donald Trump tours the Ford Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on May 21.
President Donald Trump tours the Ford Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on May 21. Pool

President Trump was seen touring a Michigan Ford plant this afternoon without a mask.

The policy at the plant is for everyone to wear masks. While Ford told the White House about the policy earlier this week, a company spokesperson added, "The White House has its own safety and testing policies in place and will make its own determination."

A source familiar with the President's visit to a Ford plant said the President wore a mask out of sight of cameras during his visit. 

He was just asked why he was not wearing a mask while on the tour in front of cameras.

"I had one on before in this back area. But I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it," Trump said.

Earlier this morning, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said that if Trump "fails to wear a mask, he's going to be asked not to return to any unclosed facilities inside our state."

Watch:

4:18 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Major League Baseball team announces plans for furloughs and pay reductions

From CNN's Kevin Dotson

Major League Baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates will institute furloughs for some business operations employees as well as pay reductions for other baseball and business operations employees beginning on June 1, according to a news release from the team.

The Pirates organization's furloughed employees will continue to receive their medical benefits and the team will assist furloughed employees secure unemployment benefits.

“We care deeply about all of our employees and understand the impact this will have on them," said Pirates president Travis Williams. "These decisions are very difficult, but are necessary for us to endure this crisis and emerge as strong as possible when we are able to resume normal operations. We look forward to welcoming our employees back to work at that time.”

4:08 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

US stocks finish lower

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

US stocks ended down on Thursday, as the market lost momentum following the prior day’s rally.

Downbeat jobs data earlier in the day didn’t help matters: Another 2.4 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, the Department of Labor reported.

Here's where things closed:

  • The Dow finished 0.4%, or 102 points, lower.
  • The S&P 500 ended down 0.8%.
  • The Nasdaq Composite closed nearly 1% lower.
4:21 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Trump says he's discussed reopening churches with CDC

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

 

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the press on the South Lawn of the White House prior to departing on Marine One on May 21 in Washington.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the press on the South Lawn of the White House prior to departing on Marine One on May 21 in Washington. Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump said Thursday that he discussed the reopening of churches with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“You’re going to see some incredible numbers, starting in June/July, you’re going to see some incredible numbers because it’s coming back and it’s coming back fast,” Trump said during a listening session with African Americans at a Ford plant in Michigan. “I spoke to CDC today about churches. We’ve gotta get our churches open. We’ve gotta get our country open.”

Trump said it was Pastor Darrell Scott, who was at the listening session, who suggested he discuss reopening churches.

“A man called me and he said ‘You’ve gotta open the churches. You’ve gotta open them.’ And he’s somebody I respect a lot. … He’s a great pastor and he’s loved in his community,” Trump said while introducing Scott.

4:06 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Democratic senators ask White House to prepare for double threat of flu and coronavirus in fall

From CNN Health’s Maggie Fox

The White House should be getting the nation ready now for the double threat of influenza and coronavirus in the fall, a group of Democratic senators said Thursday.

“The combination of a Covid-19 resurgence with the annual flu outbreak is likely to strain the health care system even further, requiring even greater supplies, funding, and staff than our hospitals have needed thus far, while placing an unprecedented burden on our public health systems,” the senators, organized by Massachusetts Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, wrote in a letter addressed to Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

“The federal government must prepare now for this alarming scenario,” the senators wrote in their letter, released exclusively to CNN.

Several experts have warned that coronavirus could unleash a fresh onslaught in the fall, and combine with the regular appearance of seasonal influenza. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield told the Financial Times newspaper Thursday that Covid-19 could “reground” itself in the northern hemisphere in the autumn.

“President Trump has deemed these warnings as ‘fake news,’” the 15 senators wrote.

The letter continued: “His downplaying of the threat is irresponsible: the failure to prepare for this known risk could result in many unnecessary deaths. We urge you to begin planning for and activating the resources of the federal government now to increase capacity, supplies, and vaccinations to prevent public health and medical systems from being overwhelmed by simultaneous peaks of both of these deadly infectious diseases in the fall.”

Some background: Adding flu to the mix could not only increase the toll, but worsen the strain on hospitals.

The flu kills between 12,000 and 61,000 people a year, depending on the season, and puts as many as 800,000 people into the hospital. Already this year, coronavirus has infected more than 1.5 million Americans.

“Previous severe flu outbreaks by themselves have stretched the capacity of our health care system, leading to shortages of hospital beds and nurses,” the senators wrote.

The senators said the US needs to start a flu vaccination campaign to try to reduce the toll of this coming flu season, and the country needs to start stocking up on vaccines and other equipment such as personal protective equipment now.