Coronavirus pandemic in the US

By Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 9:10 p.m. ET, May 26, 2020
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4:41 p.m. ET, May 26, 2020

Michigan governor signs executive order to expand coronavirus testing sites 

From CNN's Rob Frehse

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a press conference in Lansing, Michigan, on May 26.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a press conference in Lansing, Michigan, on May 26. Pool/WLNS

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced an executive order today that expands coronavirus testing sites and the types of medical personnel that can order a test.

“We need to keep working to expand testing, which is why it is crucial that Michiganders who have Covid-19 symptoms, even mild ones, or have been in contact with someone who has the virus can get tested,” Whitmer said.

The governor said the executive order will pave the way for more community testing sites to open as the state works towards a goal of 15,000 tests administered daily.

"We owe it to the real heroes of this crisis — medical workers, first responders and other essential workers — to do what we can to stop the spread of the virus," Whitmer added.

The measure also creates a new category of community testing sites that offer testing to anyone with reason to be tested without a doctor's order in advance.

Michiganders eligible for testing include people who:  

  • Exhibit any symptom of Covid-19, including mild symptoms 
  • Have been exposed to a person with Covid-19
  • Have been working outside their home for at least 10 days 
  • Reside in any congregate setting, such as a long-term care facility, prison or jail, homeless shelter, or migrant camp 

Whitmer also announced a new online dashboard that will assist public health officials as they make state, regional and county-level decisions related to Covid-19.

The dashboard will also give the general public insight into the indicators that impact those decisions, Whitmer added.

Latest figures: Michigan has 55,104 coronavirus cases and 5,266 coronavirus-related deaths, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive, announced Tuesday.

 

4:35 p.m. ET, May 26, 2020

Federal immigration agency to furlough employees unless Congress provides funding

From CNN's Geneva Sands and Phil Mattingly 

US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency responsible for visa and asylum processing, is expected to furlough part of its workforce this summer if Congress doesn't provide emergency funding to sustain operations during the coronavirus pandemic. 

"Unfortunately, as of now, without congressional intervention, the agency will need to administratively furlough a portion of our employees on approximately July 20," USCIS Deputy Director Joseph Edlow for Policy wrote in a letter sent to the workforce on Tuesday.

Some background: Earlier this month, the agency — which has 19,000 government employees and contractors working at more than 200 offices across the world — requested $1.2 billion from Congress due to its budget shortfall. 

Since then, the agency, a component of the Department of Homeland Security, has been working with members of Congress and their staffs to educate the Hill on the agency's finances and operations. 

Communications from the agency to Capitol Hill have grown more urgent as the threat of potential rolling furloughs in “the thousands” looms, according to one source familiar with the discussions.

The goal would be to attach the needed funds onto the next coronavirus relief bill, which lawmakers plan to negotiate next. Still, with both parties far apart on any resolution, there is currently no clear pathway for lawmakers to fulfill the emergency request.

The immigration agency is primarily fee-funded and typically continues most operations during lapses in funding, such as last year's government shutdown. However, during the pandemic the agency suspended its in-person services, including all interviews and naturalization ceremonies.

“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, USCIS has seen a dramatic decrease in revenue and is seeking a one-time emergency request for funding to ensure we can carry out our mission of administering our nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity, and protecting the American people," a USCIS spokesperson said. 

The agency proposed a 10% surcharge on USCIS application fees to reimburse taxpayers at a later time. USCIS previously estimated that application and petition receipts will drop by approximately 61% through the end of Fiscal Year 2020, exhausting funding this summer, according to the agency. 

The furlough announcement comes as the agency is preparing to resume in-office operations and open its offices to the public.

"While it may seem somewhat at odds to do so given the possible suspensions in operations, we must be ready in the event of funding from Congress," Edlow wrote. 

USCIS notified the agency's union of the potential furloughs Tuesday.

4:39 p.m. ET, May 26, 2020

California governor: "We are walking into the unknown" as state continues to reopen

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a briefing in Sacramento, California, on May 26.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a briefing in Sacramento, California, on May 26. Pool/KCRA

As California continues to reopen sectors one by one, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state is making “meaningful modifications” to current restrictions.

“We are walking into the unknown,” Newsom said.

More than 80% of counties in the state are allowed to move into the third of four phases of reopening. This includes allowing hair salons and barbershops to reopen, alongside retail shops.

The state continues to focus on determining who is infected, with an average of 60,000 tests being performed each day, according to Newsom.

Obtaining personal protective equipment also remains a priority, especially swabs and face masks, he added.

The state’s final phase of reopening includes resumption of concerts and spectator events, but Newsom said, “we are not there yet.”

The latest numbers: Hospitalizations have declined slightly over the past two weeks, and the number of those in intensive care unit beds remains stable, the governor said.

California has had more than 95,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 38,00 deaths.

4:13 p.m. ET, May 26, 2020

Antibody tests might be wrong half the time, CDC advises

From CNN's Maggie Fox

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

Antibody tests used to determine if people have been infected in the past with Covid-19 might be wrong up to half the time, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in new guidance posted on its website. 

Antibody tests, often called serologic tests, look for evidence of an immune response to infection. “Antibodies in some persons can be detected within the first week of illness onset,” the CDC said.

They are not accurate enough to use to make important policy decisions, the CDC said.

“Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about grouping persons residing in or being admitted to congregate settings, such as schools, dormitories, or correctional facilities,” the CDC said.

“Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace.”

Why this matters: Health officials or health care providers who are using antibody tests need to use the most accurate test they can find and might need to test people twice, the CDC said in the new guidance.

“In most of the country, including areas that have been heavily impacted, the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibody is expected to be low, ranging from less than 5% to 25%, so that testing at this point might result in relatively more false positive results and fewer false-negative results,” the CDC said. It’s a point that’s been made frequently in recent weeks by public health experts, but the CDC spells out the problem in the new advice on antibody testing.

A false positive will lead someone to believe they have been infected when in fact they have not been. There’s little evidence now about whether having been infected gives people immunity to later infection, but doctors worry that people will behave as if they are immune if they get a positive antibody test.

“It cannot be assumed that individuals with truly positive antibody test results are protected from future infection,” the CDC said in the updated guidelines. “Serologic testing should not be used to determine immune status in individuals until the presence, durability, and duration of immunity is established.”

The new CDC guidelines echo advice from groups such as the University of Minnesota, which cautions against using antibody tests to make policy decisions.

The CDC explains why testing can be wrong so often. A lot has to do with how common the virus is in the population being tested. “For example, in a population where the prevalence is 5%, a test with 90% sensitivity and 95% specificity will yield a positive predictive value of 49%. In other words, less than half of those testing positive will truly have antibodies,” the CDC said.

“Alternatively, the same test in a population with an antibody prevalence exceeding 52% will yield a positive predictive greater than 95%, meaning that less than one in 20 people testing positive will have a false positive test result.”

Therefore, it is best to use tests with high specificity – which are unlikely to produce a lot of false positives – and in populations where doctors suspect there are many cases,” the CDC said.

4:09 p.m. ET, May 26, 2020

US stocks finish higher

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

A medical worker stands at the entrance to the New York Stock Exchange on the first day that traders are allowed back onto the historic floor of the exchange on May 26 in New York City.
A medical worker stands at the entrance to the New York Stock Exchange on the first day that traders are allowed back onto the historic floor of the exchange on May 26 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Stocks closed sharply higher on Tuesday on optimism about a potential Covid-19 vaccine and the further reopening of the economy.

The three major stock indexes rallied all day, but they each finished below their session highs.

Here's where things closed:

  • The Dow ended 2.2%, or 530 points, higher.
  • The S&P 500 finished up 1.2%.
  • The Nasdaq Composite closed up 0.2%.

Both the Dow and S&P fell short of closing above the key thresholds of 25,000 points and 3,000 points, respectively. They last closed above those levels in early March.

3:44 p.m. ET, May 26, 2020

At least 27 states are investigating cases of childhood illness linked to Covid-19

From CNN’s Michael Nedelman and Amanda Watts

At least 27 states are now investigating cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, a condition doctors believe could be linked to Covid-19. 

The Florida Department of Health told CNN on Tuesday it has “received information regarding seven confirmed cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) in Florida and is working to investigate, confirm and ensure the appropriate care for any other potential cases.”

Florida joins 26 other states and Washington, DC known to have potential and confirmed cases, totaling more than 350 children, according to a CNN survey of health departments across the country.

This represents just a small fraction of more than 1.6 million cases of Covid-19 currently being reported across the United States.

“As the number of cases of any particular disease grows to a very large number, you start to potentially notice much rarer syndromes,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, said during a briefing on May 15.

“You may not notice the disease emerge in a small group of 10 or 20,000 cases. But if you get to 90 or 100, or a million cases, that one is a very rare, potential side effect, or consequence of the infection can become apparent," Ryan added.

4:10 p.m. ET, May 26, 2020

Here's how Maine plans to increase contact tracing efforts

From CNN’s Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio

 Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew
 Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew Maine Public

Maine is significantly increasing their contact tracing capacity by hiring more skilled staff and volunteers, adding innovative technology, and securing social services, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said. 

Right now the state has a contact tracing and case investigation team of about 30 people, but is looking to more than quadruple the team.

Here's what Lambrew said the state is planning to do:

  • Increase personnel by enlisting the help of 50 trained volunteers, who will assist for at least two months and will start training the week of June 1.
  • Hire up to 125 contracted staff over time for up to 12 months.
  • Deploy a new tool called a "Sara Alert" system that was developed to help track contacts, and will allow people who have been diagnosed or potentially exposed to Covid-19 to report daily symptoms through web, text, email or calls.

The expansion of the contract tracing program will be paid for with federal dollars, Lambrew said, and it is estimated it will cost about $7.5 million.

The latest numbers: Maine is reporting 35 new cases of Covid-19, for a total of at least 2,109 probable cases statewide, Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The state also announced one additional death related to Covid-19, bringing the total of deaths related to the virus in Maine to 79. 

3:39 p.m. ET, May 26, 2020

Hair salons and barbershops can reopen in some parts of California, governor says

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

A pedestrian wears a mask as he walks past the closed Echo Barber Shop in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, Friday, May 8. 
A pedestrian wears a mask as he walks past the closed Echo Barber Shop in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, Friday, May 8.  Damian Dovarganes/AP

Starting today, hair salons and barbershops can begin to reopen in California, but only in counties that have been approved to move forward in the state’s four-phased reopening plan, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced.

Of California’s 58 counties, 47 are moving forward with reopening, now including hair salons. These areas of regional variance have attested to stabilization in infection rates and proven that hospitals are ready with space, staff and personal protection equipment. Those areas include San Diego and Sacramento. The state’s two largest metro areas – Los Angeles and San Francisco – are still in the beginning phase of reopening.

Health guidelines for reopening barbershops and hair salons include having both workers and clients wear masks. Scissors, shears and smocks must be cleaned and disinfected between each client, as should chairs, headrests, combs and brushes.

Contactless payment services are encouraged, as are the removal of magazines in waiting areas.

These measures are accompanied by physical distancing and hand washing protocols.

8:14 p.m. ET, May 26, 2020

University of Colorado Boulder will reopen in fall but assign students into smaller groups

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

The University of Colorado at Boulder plans to restart in-person learning for students for the fall 2020 semester.

The school chancellor said new changes will be implemented, including classes being divided into multiple sessions, and a unique plan to keep first-year students in small groups.

“Students living in the same residence hall, the same dormitories, will take classes together as a cohort group and they may take three to four classes each. And so, that reduces the amount of individuals that they would be in contact with,” Chancellor Phillip P. DiStefano told CNN’s Brianna Keilar.

The cohort groups will be kept small. “We believe by reducing that population density will certainly help to mitigate some of the problems with the virus,” DiStefano said.

He added that while the school cannot control students from socializing with people outside of their cohort the campus will be “Covid ready by requiring our students to wear masks during the day while they are on campus.”

At the very least, the school can mitigate virus-related problems while students are on campus, DiStefano said.

More details on the school's plan: For academic instruction of the university's 35,000 students, the school plans to split single classes into multiple sessions and use larger spaces to reduce the number of students in classrooms.

It also plans to extend the class schedule to Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., to decrease student density on campus.

Approximately 7,000 first year students will have a slightly different experience. Their housing assignments and class enrollment will be done by dividing students into "small cohort groups." Those groups will live together and have all their classes together. The plan did not specify how the university will enforce these groups not co-mingling.

The university said in order to be a "Covid-19-ready campus" it will have testing capability and rapid response teams for tracking and isolation on infected individuals to meet public health guidelines.

Watch full interview here:

This post has been updated with new details about the cohort groups.