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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4:21 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.

4:04 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

FDA removes some antibody tests from list of those offered under emergency policy

From CNN Health’s Wes Bruer

A centrifuge and blood samples to test for COVID-19 antibodies sit on table at Abyssinian Baptist Church in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City on May 14.
A centrifuge and blood samples to test for COVID-19 antibodies sit on table at Abyssinian Baptist Church in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City on May 14. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration has posted a list of antibody tests that are being removed from the “notification list” of tests being offered under an emergency policy due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a press release.

Some of the tests have been removed voluntarily by the manufacturer, and others have been removed because they did not submit an Emergency Use Authorization request “within a reasonable period of time, or if significant problems are identified with such a test that cannot be or have not been addressed in a timely manner,” the FDA said in a statement. 

The FDA says it expects that the tests on the removal list will not be marketed or distributed. 

“Our action today is an important step the agency has taken to ensure that Americans have access to trustworthy tests,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn. “We have seen a high level of collaboration and engagement from developers who want to get this right, and we continue to be available to work extensively with industry to help them with developing accurate tests for the public.”

Remember: An antibody test can only be administered by gathering blood, either through a finger prick or from a vein. It's designed to detect antibodies, the Y-shaped proteins called immunoglobulins that circulate in our blood to help fight off infections in our bodies.

Even if you've never had any symptoms of Covid-19, the presence of antibodies in your blood would show your body has encountered the virus.

To be clear, antibody tests are not the "swab" tests that are meant to find out if you are currently carrying the virus. Called rt-PCR tests, or molecular diagnostic tests, those typically gather mucus from way up the nose or back of the throat. They take a few days to report results.

4:01 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Trump wears mask during his Ford plant visit

From CNN's Dana Bash

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

He is scheduled to deliver remarks to workers shortly, and is also scheduled to tour the facility. 

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows also wore a mask — a requirement for all visitors to the plant. 

Trump did not wear a mask during remarks to a group of African American leaders before the tour. 

3:44 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Boston reports 3 more coronavirus-related deaths

From CNN's Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio

Ambulances are lined up at the main entrance of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on April 30.
Ambulances are lined up at the main entrance of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on April 30. Elise Amendola/AP

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said that Boston has reported 93 additional Covid-19 cases, for a total of 12,143 in the city.

There were three more people who died due to Covid-19 in Boston, bringing the total number to 591, the mayor said at a news conference today.

Around the state: In Massachusetts, as a whole, there are 1,045 new Covid-19 cases for a total of 88,970, Walsh said.

There was also 128 additional deaths in the state, bringing the total number to 6,066. 

The state is launching a new online resource to help businesses and others access personal protective equipment (PPE) as Boston begins its phased reopening, Walsh said. There is guidance online at the government website that shows a list of vendors who sell PPE and cleaning supplies, Walsh said. He reminded businesses that it’s the responsibility of the employer to find supplies for workers. 

3:53 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Schools in Alabama will be allowed to reopen June 1, governor says

From CNN's Jamiel Lynch

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey speaks during a press conference in Montgomery, Alabama, on May 21.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey speaks during a press conference in Montgomery, Alabama, on May 21. Pool

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced that she has amended the state's safer-at-home order to allow several new businesses to reopen June 1.

The new order will go into affect tomorrow at 5 p.m. and expire July 3 at 5 p.m.

Entertainment venues, athletic activities, child care and summer camps can reopen as long as social-distancing and sanitation rules are followed.

All schools, public and private — including elementary, secondary, postsecondary, technical, and specialty schools, and colleges and universities— will also be allowed to reopen.

Here are the guidelines they must follow:

  • Social distancing: Schools should take reasonable steps, where practicable, to maintain six feet of separation between persons of different households. 
  • Sanitation: Schools should take reasonable steps, where practicable, to regularly disinfect frequently used items and surfaces. 
  • Facial coverings: Employees should, to the greatest extent practicable, wear a mask or other facial covering that covers his or her nostrils and mouth at all times when in regular interaction within six feet of a person from a different household. 

In addition, educational institutions are strongly encouraged to adopt and implement additional measures to supplement these minimum rules, according to the new order.

3:31 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

McConnell says next rescue package "won't look anything like" Democratic proposal

From CNN's Manu Raju, Alex Rogers and Ted Barrett

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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged on a private call with House Republicans yesterday that Congress may have to pass further legislation to boost the economy devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, but insisted it would be far different than the $3 trillion bill recently passed by the House, a source familiar tells CNN.

“If we do another bill it won’t look anything like the House Democrats’ bill,” said McConnell.

He said that the $600 weekly boost in unemployment benefits “will not be in the next bill,” according to the source.

McConnell said otherwise the federal government would be paying people more to remain unemployed than to work. The House Democratic bill would’ve extended the expanded unemployment benefits through January.

The Senate Republican leader insisted that liability reform be included to minimize lawsuits, calling trial lawyers “vultures.”

McConnell also argued that the federal government could not indefinitely borrow and spend to save the economy. He referenced Henry Morgenthau Jr., President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Treasury Secretary, who said before World War II that the New Deal programs didn’t decrease unemployment but gave the United States “an enormous debt to boot!" 

He said that Congress needs to track the effects of the multi-trillion dollar legislation it has already passed before moving forward.

“We need to see growth and that will dictate what we do and when we do it,” said McConnell, according to the source.

3:17 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

NYC revises down the number of cases of childhood illness linked to Covid-19

From CNN's Melanie Schuman

The city of New York now says it is investigating at least 89 cases of Multi-Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) after citing a much higher number earlier this week. An additional number of cases are still under investigation.

On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city had 147 confirmed cases, but acknowledged the city was reconciling its cases following Centers for Disease Control guidance. Previously, the city was using its own set of criteria.

“This new syndrome is very alarming; however, we’re acting aggressively to ensure children get the early care they need to help them make a full recovery,” Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said in a press release. “We have been reaching out to physicians and parents with information about MIS-C and will continue to thoroughly investigate cases reported to the Department.”

The city says there have been 158 cases referred to the Health Department as of Wednesday, May 20, according to a press release.

Here's a breakdown of those cases...

  • 89 cases meet CDC case definition
  • 43 are still under investigation
  • 26 were determined not to meet the CDC criteria.

Some more context: Earlier today, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state is investigating a total of 157 possible cases of MIS-C.

 

3:14 p.m. ET, May 21, 2020

Georgia Department of Health to distribute remdesivir to 29 more hospitals

From CNN's Raja Razek

Vials of the drug Remdesivir lie during a press conference about the start of a study with the Ebola drug Remdesivir in particularly severely ill patients at the University Hospital Eppendorf (UKE) in Hamburg, northern Germany on April 8.
Vials of the drug Remdesivir lie during a press conference about the start of a study with the Ebola drug Remdesivir in particularly severely ill patients at the University Hospital Eppendorf (UKE) in Hamburg, northern Germany on April 8. Ulrich Perrey/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The Georgia Department of Health announced in a statement on Thursday that it is distributing the second allotment of the drug remdesivir received from the federal government. 

"Twenty-nine hospitals in Georgia will receive remdesivir, enough to treat more than 300 patients, depending on the duration of an individual's illness and treatment needs," the statement said.

"Georgia hospitals receiving remdesivir reported 10 or more Covid-19 positive patients on ventilators, in addition to patients currently being treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)," it continued.

More of the drug is expected to arrive in Georgia by Friday. This third allotment of remdesivir would be in powder form. 

Unlike the liquid form, "the powder form can be mixed for dosing based on a child's weight, which will provide treatment for the youngest patients with Covid-19 infection," according to the statement.