May 17 coronavirus news

By Nicole Chavez, James Griffiths, Jenni Marsh, Tara John and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 10:41 p.m. ET, May 17, 2020
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11:25 a.m. ET, May 17, 2020

Tennessee's Graceland is set to reopen on Thursday 

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

Raymond Boyd/Getty Images
Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

The gates of Graceland will reopen May 21 with a more private and social distanced tour experience, according to the Memphis mansion’s website. 

“We are so excited to welcome you back to Elvis Presley’s Graceland, 100+ acres dedicated to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” the website said. “You will have the unique opportunity to walk in Elvis’ footsteps like never before, in your own personal tour space spread out from other touring guests."

The estate will reduce mansion tour capacity to 25%, the website added.

Graceland temporarily closed on March 21 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to its Facebook page. 

11:03 a.m. ET, May 17, 2020

Get caught up on the latest coronavirus headlines

From CNN's Elise Hammond

Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images

It's about 11 a.m. in New York and 4 p.m. in London. If you're just tuning in, here's what you need to know.

  • Social distancing works: That's what a new study found. Researchers said that government-imposed social distancing cut the virus’ daily growth rate by about 9% after roughly three weeks, and without it, the number cases in the US could have been 35 times higher.
  • Texas saw its highest single day increase in positive coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic. The state reported an increase of at least 1,801 positive coronavirus cases yesterday –– 734 of those originated from employees of meat plants.
  • Health issues related to not reopening: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said reopening the economy is an issue of "health versus health" and that there are "serious health consequences" to keeping states shut down including suicides, children not being vaccinated and cardiac issues not being treated.
  • Stimulus bill: California Gov. Gavin Newsom said his state faces a $54.3 billion budget deficit that is "directly Covid-induced" and that the federal government has an ethical and moral obligation to help states and county governments.
  • Beaches in New York City will not be open for swimming on Memorial Day, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, saying "it was not safe." De Blasio said people could walk on the beaches, however.
10:41 a.m. ET, May 17, 2020

New York City reports decrease in positive coronavirus tests

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

Mayor de Blasio's Office
Mayor de Blasio's Office

The percentage of positive tests and intensive care unit admissions in New York City have both dropped, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news briefing on Sunday.

At least 469 people were reported in ICU’s as of Friday, and those numbers are down from the 506 reported on Thursday.

Of the people tested for Covid-19, about 11% have tested positive across the city as of Friday, down 13% from Thursday.

Another spike in cases: While the city is preparing for things to get better they are also preparing for bad scenarios “and that would mean tightening up restrictions" if cases were to "boomerang," de Blasio said.

“If you don’t follow these rules unfortunately there’s a danger of that boomerang and even more restrictions," de Blasio said.

10:35 a.m. ET, May 17, 2020

Beaches in New York City will not open for Memorial Day, mayor says

From CNN's Sheena Jones

Mayor de Blasio's Office
Mayor de Blasio's Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio said beaches in New York City will not be opened on Memorial Day, saying "it is not safe."

“It is not the right thing to do in the epicenter of this crisis," de Blasio said at a news briefing on Sunday.

But even though beaches remain closed to swimming, walking on the beach is permitted. The New York Police Department will increase patrols across the beaches and parks, de Blasio said.

“There will not be swimming, it will not be allowed, there will not be lifeguards on duty,” he added.

The city will add fencing to control entry points and more fencing in reserve to close off the beaches if needed, adding its not something they want to do. Access will be further restricted if social distancing or no-swim rules are not observed.

“Were going to give people a chance to get it right," de Blasio said.

The mayor is asking people to not have gatherings on the beach and if they do, “up will come the fences, closing off those beaches.”

10:34 a.m. ET, May 17, 2020

Former CDC director: Fighting pandemic without the agency "is like fighting with one arm tied behind your back"

From CNN's Arman Azad

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Asked about the sidelining of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the coronavirus pandemic, former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said it was “like fighting with one arm tied behind your back.”

Frieden, the CDC director under President Obama, was asked about the agency on Fox News this weekend.

“Very briefly, do you think it’s been a mistake for this administration to sideline the CDC?” Fox’s Chris Wallace asked.

“I think fighting this pandemic without the CDC is like fighting with one arm tied behind your back,” Frieden said. 

These comments came after a discussion about the agency’s role under the Trump administration.

“As far back as I can remember, the CDC has always been the lead agency in health crises like this,” Wallace noted, pointing to Ebola and other diseases. “This time, it seems like the CDC has been sidelined to some degree,” Wallace said, noting the agency’s lack of public briefings.

Some context: CNN has previously reported on growing tensions between the White House and the CDC during the coronavirus pandemic.

Senior administration officials in Washington and at the CDC, for example, have described a growing sense of mistrust and animosity over how quickly the US should reopen and how the government tracks data on the virus.

CNN has also reported on tensions between the White House and CDC over guidelines on how to reopen the country.

A leaked 68-page document from the agency described a detailed approach to reopening states and businesses, but those guidelines have not been publicly released. On Thursday, the CDC published six ages of graphics labeled "decision trees" as updated guidance.  

10:26 a.m. ET, May 17, 2020

New York City will have at least 1,500 contact tracers by the end of May, mayor says

From CNN's Sheena Jones

Mayor de Blasio's Office
Mayor de Blasio's Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City is partnering with 123 CityMd urgent care centers across the five boroughs to increase Covid-19 testing across the city,

De Blasio also announced that daily citywide testing capacity has reached 20,000 ahead of scheduled.

“We predict to begin 6,000 testings per day,” de Blasio said Sunday.

If an individual has insurance, they will use it, if they do not, CityMd will cover it, the mayor said, adding that testing will take place seven days a week.

More on the contact tracers: The first class of 500 contact tracers have completed their Johns Hopkins training and there are 1,000 more in progress, the mayor said.

Field training will take place the week of May 24. This includes learning about more than 100 potential case types.

The mayor expects to have an additional 1,000 tracers ready to go by the end of May, he said.

The test and trace corps are deploying Resource Navigators in every community by June 1. De Blasio said 200 to 300 people will be hired as Resource Navigators by June 1 and will be overseen by local organizations in each borough.

10:15 a.m. ET, May 17, 2020

Lack of testing leads to undercounting of coronavirus cases in Aden, Yemen

From CNN’s Nada AlTaher

There are coronavirus-related deaths in Yemen’s southern port city of city of Aden that are going unreported due to lack of testing, a source with intimate knowledge of the situation in Aden told CNN.

Aden accounts for 71 out of the 122 cases reported in government-controlled areas, according to the latest statistics published by the country’s Supreme National Emergency Committee for Covid-19 on Saturday.

In one hospital, 20 out of 60 patients that arrived over a five-day period, died due to what doctors believe were Covid-19 related reasons, the local source said.

“The patients died shortly after their arrival to hospital and were not tested – so their deaths were not ‘officially’ considered to be Covid-19 related even though all the signs said otherwise,” said the local source who declined to be named for security reasons.

10:12 a.m. ET, May 17, 2020

Social distancing worked to limit the spread of coronavirus, new study confirms

From CNN's Arman Azad

Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images

A new study found that social distancing worked to limit the spread of coronavirus in the United States and may have prevented tens of millions of infections.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Health Affairs, found that government-imposed social distancing cut the virus’ daily growth rate by about 9% after roughly three weeks.

Without any social distancing measures at all, the number of coronavirus cases in the US could have been 35 times higher, the researchers estimated.

“Our paper illustrates the potential danger of exponential spread in the absence of interventions, providing relevant information to strategies for restarting economic activity,” they wrote.

Charles Courtemanche from the University of Kentucky — as well and colleagues there and at the University of Louisville and Georgia State University – estimated the effects of social distancing by comparing coronavirus cases in counties with and without a number of social distancing measures.

Shelter-in-place orders and the closure of restaurants and bars seemed particularly effective at slowing the spread of the virus, the researchers found. Bans on large events and the closure of public schools alone didn’t seem to affect the growth rate.

“[Our] results argue against returning to partial measures such as school closures and restrictions on large gatherings, while removing the restrictions that prevent the redirection of social activity to other settings,” the researchers wrote.

They did note that their study had some limitations. Official case counts, for example, are likely an undercount because they may not include people who aren’t sick enough to go to the doctor.

Other factors could have skewed the results too, such as “informal encouragement by government officials to wear masks or improve hygiene, changing business practices, and social norms regarding distancing.”

11:30 a.m. ET, May 17, 2020

The federal government has an ethical obligation to help states and counties, California governor says

From CNN's Elise Hammond


As California faces a $54.3 billion budget deficit that is "directly Covid-induced," Gov. Gavin Newsom said the federal government has an obligation to support states and local governments moving forward.

"We have an obligation, a moral, an ethical obligation to American citizens across this country to help support cities, states and counties," he told CNN on Sunday.

Newsom said before the pandemic the state had been "managing our budget effectively."

"We're not looking for charity. We're not looking for handouts," Newsom said.

Some background: Newsom's comments come after the House passed a $3 trillion emergency relief bill on Friday, which allocates funding for state and local governments, coronavirus testing and a new round of direct payments to Americans, is urgently needed to address the crisis.

But, the White House and Senate Republicans have made it clear they do not support another massive spending bill right now.

"They say it's dead on arrival, I hope they'll consider this. The next time they want to salute and celebrate our heroes, our first responders, our police officers and firefighters, consider the fact that they are the first ones that will be laid off by cities and counties," Newsom said.

Because county health care systems are also struggling financially, health care workers and nurses would also be affected, Newsom added.