May 6 coronavirus news

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10:45 p.m. ET, May 5, 2020

University of Pittsburgh professor doing Covid-19 research killed in apparent murder-suicide

From CNN’s Carma Hassan and Rebekah Riess

A University of Pittsburgh research assistant professor, who was on the verge of making "very significant findings" toward Covid-19, was shot and killed in an apparent murder-suicide over the weekend, according to the university and police.

Dr. Bing Liu was found in his home, and had suffered gunshot wounds to the head, neck, torso, and extremities, according to the Ross Police Department.

Investigators believe an unidentified second man, who was found dead in his car, shot and killed Liu in the townhome before returning to his car and taking his own life.

Police believe the men knew each other, but say there is "zero indication that there was targeting due to his (Liu) being Chinese," according to Detective Sgt. Brian Kohlhepp.

The university issued a statement saying it is "deeply saddened by the tragic death of Bing Liu, a prolific researcher and admired colleague at Pitt. The University extends our deepest sympathies to Liu’s family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time."

Members of the university’s school of medicine describe their former colleague as an outstanding researcher and mentor, and have pledged to complete Liu's research "in an effort to pay homage to his scientific excellence."

He had been working to better understand the cellular mechanisms that underlie Covid-19.

10:24 p.m. ET, May 5, 2020

Parts of New York state could reopen in a week, governor says

From CNN's Leinz Vales

CNN's Chris Cuomo and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
CNN's Chris Cuomo and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Source: CNN

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he's preparing for the reopening of his state as early as mid-May.

"We have about another week before we could open some regions of the state," Cuomo said Wednesday on "Cuomo Prime Time," hosted by his brother, CNN's Chris Cuomo.
"We do see regional variations. So we're responding to those, because there are different facts upstate than downstate, so we're responding to those, but we're not going to be pressured into it."

Cuomo said reopening will be based on facts and data, but more coronavirus testing is needed.

"We do need more testing and that is an open issue," he said.

"They have to come up to scale. You then have to put tracing in place, which is an enormous undertaking that's never been done before. That has to be put in place to gauge the reopening."

10:10 p.m. ET, May 5, 2020

South Korea sees no local transmissions and lowest case numbers in 78 days

From CNN's Sophie Jeong in Seoul

South Korea reported two new coronavirus cases yesterday -- both imported from abroad, meaning the country had no local transmissions.

This is the country's lowest number of new cases since February 18, when the number of new cases was as low as one.

The national total now stands at to 10,806 cases and 255 deaths, according to South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Another 50 patients have been discharged from isolation, bringing the national total of recovered cases to 9,333 -- or 86.4% of the total infected.

9:57 p.m. ET, May 5, 2020

Houston could furlough all city employees except for the police and fire departments

A general view of city hall in downtown Houston, Texas is seen at night, illuminated in colors, in recognition for first responders and health care professionals amid the coronavirus outbreak on Sunday, April 26.
A general view of city hall in downtown Houston, Texas is seen at night, illuminated in colors, in recognition for first responders and health care professionals amid the coronavirus outbreak on Sunday, April 26. Matt Paterson/AP

The city of Houston, Texas could furlough all of its employees except for police and firefighters, Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a news conference on Tuesday.

The furloughs are likely to take place to make up for a $200 million budget shortfall and would likely start on July 1, Turner said.

"All subject to the budget being approved by the city council. And then we will see whether or not between now and then, Congress provides us with any additional flexibility on the dollars that have already been provided through the federal CARES Act, which could help to minimize those furloughs," he added. 

Turner reiterated that the city is looking at the possibility of utilizing some of those dollars to prevent furlough in some categories. 

Some background: Late last month, Turner said Houston was facing a budgetary shortfall due to the coronavirus, and it was "the worst in the city's history."

He said both reopening the economy and extending the stay-at-home order is in the hands of Gov. Greg Abbott.

On Tuesday, Abbott announced that certain business sectors would be allowed to reopen in the coming weeks, albeit with restrictions.

9:43 p.m. ET, May 5, 2020

Japan reports 123 new cases in drop from weekend spike

From CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

An employee helps set up a medical facility to accommodate coronavirus patients at the Nippon Foundation Para Arena in Tokyo on May 4.
An employee helps set up a medical facility to accommodate coronavirus patients at the Nippon Foundation Para Arena in Tokyo on May 4. Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

Japan recorded 123 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 22 deaths on Tuesday, according to the country's health ministry.

That brings the national total to 16,066 cases and 556 deaths. Of that total, 712 cases and 13 deaths are linked to the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was docked under quarantine for several weeks in February.

Tokyo, the hard-hit capital, made up 58 of the new cases on Tuesday.

Case numbers in Japan spiked last week and into the weekend, with new daily case numbers jumping past 100 and reaching 289 on Saturday.

That fell back to 218 on Sunday, and 174 on Monday. Tuesday's count of 123 continues the downward trend past the peak of the spike.

9:28 p.m. ET, May 5, 2020

China records 2 new imported coronavirus cases

A PCR test for the new coronavirus is carried out at a general hospital in Shanghai on April 28.
A PCR test for the new coronavirus is carried out at a general hospital in Shanghai on April 28. Kyodo News via Getty Images

China recorded two new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, both imported from overseas, according to the country's National Health Commission.

In addition, 20 new asymptomatic cases were recorded. A total of 903 asymptomatic patients are still under medical observation. 

The total number of cases officially recorded in mainland China now stands at 82,883, including 4,633 deaths.

The vast majority of patients have recovered and been discharged from hospital, the NHC said. Some 339 cases remain active.

9:27 p.m. ET, May 5, 2020

Cruise line cabin bookings for 2021 down 25.1%

From CNN's Rosa Flores 

Cruise ships sail in waters off Santorini, Greece in this 2015 file photo.
Cruise ships sail in waters off Santorini, Greece in this 2015 file photo.  Athanasios Gioumpasis/Getty Images/FILE

Bookings for cruise line cabins in 2021 are down by 25.1% compared to the same time last year, according to the CEO of cruise website CruiseCompete.com.

CruiseCompete.com is a platform where 500 member travel agencies compete for the business of cruise line travelers. 

According to those member agencies, the biggest fear cruise travelers are experiencing right now is “getting stuck on a ship” and getting quarantined, said CEO Bob Levinstein.

While he said that the cruise line industry will go through some bumps in the road, he believes the major cruise lines will survive the Covid-19 pandemic 

“The value is on how its (the cruise line) run. It’s on the loyalty of the customer base,” Levinstein said. “There are enough fanatical people who enjoy it. We might just have to wait a while.”

One of the cruise lines with very loyal customers is Norwegian Cruise Line, said Levinstein. Even though Norwegian warned investors that it might be forced to go out of business in an SEC filing, Levinstein is optimistic that "there will be a Norwegian cruise line when this is done."

8:52 p.m. ET, May 5, 2020

New genetic analysis shows coronavirus quickly spread around the world starting late last year

From CNN's Maggie Fox

A new genetic analysis of the virus that causes Covid-19 taken from more than 7,600 patients around the world shows the virus has been circulating in people since late last year, and must have spread extremely quickly after the first infection.

Researchers in Britain looked at mutations in the virus and found evidence of quick spread, but not evidence the virus is becoming more easily transmitted or more likely to cause serious disease.

“The virus is changing, but this in itself does not mean it’s getting worse,” genetics researcher Francois Balloux of the University College London Genetics Institute told CNN.

How they conducted the study: Balloux and colleagues pulled viral sequences from a giant global database that scientists around the world are using to share data. They looked at samples taken at different times and from different places, and said they indicate that the virus first started infecting people at the end of last year.

What this means: “This rules out any scenario that assumes SARSCoV-2 may have been in circulation long before it was identified, and hence have already infected large proportions of the population,” Balloux’s team wrote in their report, published in the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution. 

“Our results are in line with previous estimates and point to all sequences sharing a common ancestor towards the end of 2019, supporting this as the period when SARS-CoV-2 jumped into its human host,” the team wrote in the report, published Tuesday. 

“It’s very recent,” Balloux said. “We are really, really, really confident that the host jump happened late last year.”

The virus reached the West long before it was officially reported: The researchers also found genetic evidence that supports suspicions the virus was infecting people in Europe, the US and elsewhere weeks or even months before the first official cases were reported in January and February.

8:48 p.m. ET, May 5, 2020

Congress was slow to oversee US response to crisis amid partisan battles

From CNN's Manu Raju, Lauren Fox and Alex Rogers

The US Congress moved so quickly this spring to approve a staggering amount of money to respond to the coronavirus crisis that most members barely had a chance to read the bills before they voted to send them to President Donald Trump’s desk.

But efforts to oversee how the federal government is spending nearly $3 trillion of taxpayer money are sputtering along.

A new oversight panel established by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has yet to get off the ground as Republican leaders weigh boycotting the panel amid accusations it is designed to hurt Trump.

A five-member commission to oversee $500 billion for big companies has only done preliminary work in part because congressional leaders have not yet agreed on a chair to lead the group, even though the law was enacted more than a month ago.

And the White House said coronavirus task force members are so consumed by responding to the crisis that they would not be available to testify before Congress this month unless explicitly approved by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.  

With control of the White House and Congress on the line in a high-stakes election less than six months away, the distrust is running high -- especially since the outcome is likely to be determined by how voters view Trump’s leadership amid the unprecedented economic and public health crisis. 

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