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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12:37 p.m. ET, May 26, 2020

Pence's press secretary returns to work after Covid-19 case

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Betsy Klein

Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary, Katie Miller, has returned to work after testing positive for Covid-19 earlier this month. 

Miller tweeted today that she returned to work after testing negative three times for Covid-19.

Some background: Earlier this month, Trump confirmed that Miller had tested positive for the virus. She was the second White House staff member known to test positive for coronavirus. One of Trump's personal valets had tested positive earlier.

At that time, the President said that Miller had not come into contact with him but noted that she had been in contact with Pence.

Miller is married to Trump's senior adviser, Stephen Miller.

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

University of Colorado Boulder plans to offer on-campus testing for students this fall

From CNN's Meridith Edwards and Elizabeth Stuart

University of Colorado Boulder plans to welcome students back to campus for the fall 2020 semester, with changes including on-campus testing for students and faculty, classes being divided into multiple sessions, and a unique plan to keep first-year students in small groups. 

There will also be no tuition increase for undergraduate students for the 2020-21 academic year.

The university's classes in the fall semester are scheduled to begin on August 24 and to finish in-person classes before Thanksgiving.

Courses will be provided in a variety of in-person, distance, and hybrid formats, according to a letter from Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano and university leadership sent to the campus community Tuesday.

“It is our charge as the University of Colorado Boulder to accept the call to become the most COVID-19 ready campus we can be-- while building in the safety and agility necessary to minimize the risks to our community members and adapt rapidly to the uncertain dynamics we will continue to face,” according to the letter.

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 of around 10 people 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.

12:30 p.m. ET, May 26, 2020

Lawmakers concerned about the way relief money was distributed to farmers

From CNN’s Dianne Gallagher, Pamela Kirkland and Dan Shepherd

Sonny Perdue, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, wears a protective mask during a tour of the distribution center of Coastal Sunbelt Produce in Laurel, Maryland, on Friday, May 15.
Sonny Perdue, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, wears a protective mask during a tour of the distribution center of Coastal Sunbelt Produce in Laurel, Maryland, on Friday, May 15. Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Reps. Marcia Fudge, Jim Costa, and Stacey Plaskett asked for more details to be released on how $1.2 billion in contracts for the United States Department of Agriculture's Farmers to Families program were awarded earlier this month.  

The lawmakers wrote in the letter that they "share USDA’s goal of providing effective and timely assistance to families, farmers, and food supply businesses like food distributors."

“We are concerned, however, that contracts were awarded to entities with little to no experience in agriculture or food distribution and with little capacity to meet the obligations of their award," the letter continued.

Some background: The USDA announced the "Farmers to Families Food Box" program would distribute $3 billion worth of produce and other farm products that might have gone to waste to nonprofits and local food banks across the country.

More than 200 companies nationwide were awarded contracts by the USDA to provide boxes of fresh produce, meat and dairy products.   

The letter comes amid questions surrounding some of the less experienced companies that won contract bids.

Earlier this month the United Fresh Produce Association, which represents over 1,500 fresh produce companies in the country, wrote a letter to the USDA to ask why companies that have been awarded USDA contracts in the past were passed over.

A spokesperson for the USDA previously told CNN, “More than 550 proposals were received for the Farmers to Families Food Box program. Successful proposals included many small businesses and those that will support local and regional farmers, which was part of the evaluation criteria for contract award.” 

12:16 p.m. ET, May 26, 2020

This Virginia school district will "likely" start fall classes with students at home

From CNN's Dugald McConnell

Public school officials in Arlington, Virginia, are planning for three scenarios to start the new school year in the fall, and the most likely of which is to start the year with students staying at home, interim superintendent Cintia Johnson said.

According to an email from Johnson, the other two options are a hybrid of in-person and distance learning and reopening as normal — but normal, in-person instruction is "the least likely scenario."

Starting the school year with distance learning would happen in the event that public health officials advise it isn't safe to reopen in the fall.

"Based on current conditions, this is a likely scenario, and we are preparing for a distance learning model that includes synchronous instruction of new content," Johnson wrote.

Some background: Arlington Schools faced criticism last month, after announcing no new material would be taught through the end of the school year after the coronavirus pandemic caused schools to close. Teachers would instead "reinforce previously introduced learning from the first three marking periods to ensure all students have mastered key concepts."

Arlington's school year is scheduled to start August 31. The email said the district is waiting for further guidance from Virginia's Department of Education, expected in June.

12:13 p.m. ET, May 26, 2020

Missouri man among 140 customers exposed to Covid-19 at a hair salon 

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos

A Missouri man said he felt angry when he found out he was one of the 140 customers who were exposed to Covid-19 at a hair salon in Springfield-Greene County.

"My first thoughts were anger, you know, just a normal reaction," Erik Chase told CNN on Tuesday. "And then I had grief and then it was guilt. And then after that, it was, okay, I need to go into proactive mode and go down my list of people I have come into contact with and notify them that I had been exposed." 

Chase said he had his hair cut at the salon on May 17 and was notified May 23 by the county Health Department that he had been exposed and was mandated to quarantine until May 31. Chase said he was not told where he had been exposed.  

Chase said one of the most difficult aspects of being quarantined is he cannot take care of his mother, who is currently in the hospital.   

"I'm her primary point of contact, so the ability to reach out and see her and see how she's doing, like through that human connect, I'm not able to do because I'm on quarantine," Chase said.

He said he is "concerned" of testing positive for Covid-19 as he is both diabetic and immunocompromised. 

"Because now you have that sense of, if I get a cough or I sneeze, I'm a little cold, do I have it?" Chase said.

Chase said he is currently asymptomatic and expects to be tested for the virus either today or tomorrow.   

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

39 inmates test positive for coronavirus at West Virginia prison 

From CNN's Carma Hassan

Jim Justice/Facebook
Jim Justice/Facebook

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said 39 inmates tested positive for coronavirus at the Huttonsville Correctional Center.

He ordered everyone, including approximately 1,029 inmates, at the correctional facility to be tested and the results are still coming in. No staff members have tested positive, he said. 

“But we do expect as these … thousand plus tests come back, that that number is going to rise. We’re on it and our people are staying right on top of it and we again ran to the fire and I commend them for doing so,” Justice said. 

Commissioner Betsy Jividen with the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation said contact tracing for the prison has already begun and her office is working closely with the governor’s office, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and the National Guard.

“We are doing our best, as we enter this phase two where we do now have positives in our facilities, to be proactive and to protect the health of both our inmate population and of course our staff who is on the frontline everyday facing these challenges and difficulties in their personal lives and their professional lives,” Jividen said.

12:07 p.m. ET, May 26, 2020

New York Gov. Cuomo says he'll meet with President Trump tomorrow

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he'll meet with President Trump tomorrow in Washington, DC.

"Scheduled to meet with the President to talk about a number of things," he said, noting that one of those things is the possibility of starting infrastructure projects that need federal help and approval as the state begins to reopen from the coronavirus pandemic.

He specifically mentioned the state could work on cross-Hudson tunnels, a possible train to LaGuardia airport and subway extensions.

12:14 p.m. ET, May 26, 2020

Gov. Cuomo: “We’re now going to focus on reopening New York City”

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Cindy Ord/Getty Images
Cindy Ord/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state’s focus will now be on reopening New York City’s economy.  

Officials will use data and tests to continue to pinpoint areas where coronavirus is still spreading, Cuomo said.

Those ZIP codes tend to be predominantly lower-income and minority communities, he said. In some areas, the infection rate is 40% — about double the rate in the city as a whole. 

“The infection rate is not spreading among essential workers; it's spreading among workers who have stayed home or are unemployed. It's spreading in the home, it's spreading in the community. We're going to focus on those ZIP codes. … We want to slow the infection rate even in those communities, and that will really bring the numbers down in New York City. We started that last week, but we're going to bring it to a new level starting this week,” he said. 

“We want to attack the virus at its source,” he added.

Cuomo also said that the city needs to amp up its number of contact tracers. 

11:53 a.m. ET, May 26, 2020

New York governor says Long Island will reopen tomorrow

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that Long Island will start to reopen tomorrow.

"Long Island will open tomorrow. We're going to bring on the last of what's called the tracers who do the contact tracing after testing, and they'll be coming online today, and Long Island will open tomorrow," the governor said.

New York has been opening up different parts of the state as regions hit key metrics mandated by the state. One of the metrics is employing a certain number of contact tracers.

Long Island will begin phase one of reopening tomorrow. That means construction, agriculture, curbside and in-store pick up retail and select other industries are allowed to reopen.

Cuomo discussed how officials will monitor reopening in the state moving forward.

"Each region has a regional control group. I've spoken to many of the county executives across the state who are key on these regional control groups, and I said to the county executives, watch the numbers. When you see a cluster of cases, jump on it. Jump on it," he said.