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Three top health officials and members on the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, will self-quarantine after exposure to a person with the virus, according to official statements and media reports.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been at the White House, where two staffers have tested positive for the virus in recent days, the institute said Saturday. By virtue of his calm, Brooklyn-inflected White House briefings, Fauci has become a leading expert on the coronavirus.
As U.S. cases reach almost 1.3 million and deaths top 77,000, states are making moves to ease social distancing restrictions.
Worldwide, there are more than 3.9 million cases of the coronavirus and more than 276,000 deaths, according to the John Hopkins University data dashboard.
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Here are some of the most significant developments to know today:
- Three children have died in New York from inflammatory disease that might be linked to coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.
- A member of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff, press secretary Katie Miller, tested positive for coronavirus. President Donald Trump’s staff are now tested daily after a Navy valet who has been in close proximity to the president also tested positive for the disease.
- A group of Senate Democrats unveiled legislation Friday that would provide monthly $2,000 payments to Americans until after the public health emergency is over. It’s a proposal likely to face strong resistance from the White House and congressional Republicans.
- Roy Horn of “Siegfried and Roy” died Friday at 75 of virus complications.
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Top health officials will self-quarantine
Fauci has tested negative for the virus and is taking “appropriate precautions,” a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases spokesperson confirmed to USA TODAY. While he will stay at home and telework, Fauci will go to the White House if called and take every precaution, the institute said.
In addition, two other members of the White House coronavirus task force placed themselves in quarantine after contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will be “teleworking for the next two weeks” after it was determined he had a “low risk exposure” to a person at the White House, the CDC said in a statement Saturday evening. The statement said he felt fine and has no symptoms.
And the Food and Drug Administration confirmed to USA TODAY on Saturday commissioner Stephen Hahn will self-quarantine for two weeks after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Hahn has tested negative for the virus, according to FDA press officer Stephanie Caccomo.
The coronavirus pandemic has been creeping closer to the inner circle of the White House in the past week, as two employees there have tested positive. Meanwhile, at least 11 U.S. Secret Service employees were reported to be infected and about 60 other staffers were in self-quarantine, USA TODAY has learned.
FDA authorizes new type of diagnostic test
The Food and Drug Administration issued its first emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 antigen test, a new type of diagnostic test that provides rapid results and is cheap to produce.
Antigen tests analyze samples collected with a nose or throat swab to search for proteins found on or within the virus. While positive results from antigen tests are highly accurate, there is a higher chance of false negatives, according to the FDA.
The test is different from the two existing types of FDA-authorized tests. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are diagnostic tests that detect genetic material from the virus to determine if someone has an active infection. Serological tests detect antibodies to attempt to determine if someone has had the virus and built up an immune response to it.
The FDA issued the authorization late Friday to the California-based Quidel Corporation.
– Grace Hauck
Reports: Obama calls Trump administration’s response a ‘chaotic disaster’
Former President Obama called the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic an “an absolute chaotic disaster” in a private call with members of the Obama Alumni Association on Friday, according to media reports.
Yahoo News obtained tape of the conversation, and several people who heard the speech confirmed Obama’s comments to the New York Times. CBS News also confirmed the call with Obama communications director Katie Hill.
Obama said the response to the coronavirus “would have been bad even with the best of governments.”
“It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset – of ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘to heck with everybody else’ s when that mindset is operationalized in our government,” Obama said, according to CBS News.
– Grace Hauck
Feds sends remdesivir to 6 states for COVID-19 treatment
The federal government is shipping hundreds of donated cases of remdesivir, an experimental drug shown to be useful in treating COVID-19 patients, to six hard-hit states. The Food and Drug Administration cleared remdesivir for emergency use last week as a potential treatment for the coronavirus.
The 360 cases were being sent to Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan and New Jersey, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Saturday. Each case contains 40 vials of the drug.
The antiviral drugs were donated by Gilead Sciences, which makes remdesivir. HHS said the doses will go to the more critical patients, including those on ventilators or in need of supplemental oxygen.
The department said a randomized controlled clinical trial suggests that remdesivir was associated with “faster recovery” for COVID-19 patients, although it cautioned that the data was not sufficient to determine if it was associated with lower mortality.
3 children die in New York from coronavirus-linked illness, Cuomo says
Three children have died in New York from inflammatory disease that might be linked to coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday. The announcement adds to the state’s worry that it might be entering a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic where it strikes children, who before had been deemed at low risk for the virus.
Cuomo said New York is up to at least 73 cases of the illness, which appears similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome, including a persistent fever.
The illness has been called “Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome Associated with COVID-19,” and Cuomo said the state will launch an investigation into it in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
– Joseph Spector
Symptoms of Kawasaki disease have been identified in at least 15 children in New York City hospitals, raising concerns about a possible link to COVID-19.
More coronavirus headlines from USA TODAY
CDC overruled in White House push to restart airport fever screenings
Despite vehement objections from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the White House is pushing to return to its failed experiment of relying on temperature screenings for air travelers to detect coronavirus, according to internal documents obtained by USA TODAY.
The White House directive to check travelers in 20 U.S. airports for fever comes after earlier efforts by the CDC to screen travelers returning from China failed to stop the global pandemic from reaching the United States. Recent emails show CDC scientists, who have begun owning up to initial missteps in the federal response, trying to persuade the administration to reconsider.
“Thermal scanning as proposed is a poorly designed control and detection strategy as we have learned very clearly,” Dr. Martin Cetron, the CDC’s director of global mitigation and quarantine, wrote in an email to Department of Homeland Security officials on Thursday. “We should be concentrating our CDC resources where there is impact and a probability of mission success.” Read more here.
– Bretty Murphy and Letitia Stein
Federal judge: Kentucky churches can hold in-person services starting Sunday
A federal judge ruled Friday that a Kentucky Baptist church – and all churches in the commonwealth – may hold in-person services Sunday despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Tabernacle Baptist Church in Nicholasville won a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of Gov. Andy Beshear’s order barring in-person church services to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Beshear’s order bars also mass gatherings of more than 10 people.
The effect of the order is limited: Beshear has said he will lift the ban on church gatherings May 20, although attendance will be limited to follow social gathering guidelines.
– Andrew Wolfson
States reopening: Tourism hotspots lifting restrictions
Denver will lift its stay-home restrictions this weekend. Ocean City, Maryland, plans to reopen its Boardwalk, Inlet parking lot and beaches to the general public. And in Nevada, restaurants, retail stores, barbershops, hair salons and some brewpubs can resume limited operations Saturday.
Those are among many moves states have made in recent days to roll back social distancing restrictions.
In contrast, some states have said little about when restrictions will be lifted. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy has not publicly identified any key, specific benchmarks the state needs to hit to relax restrictions.
Red Square deserted as Russia cancels military parade marking end of World War II
As a soaring outbreak of coronavirus cases pushed Russia into fifth place worldwide, Moscow’s Red Square stood largely deserted Saturday after the normally huge, military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II was canceled.
President Vladimir Putin left a bouquet of red roses at the foot of the Eternal Flame, then briefly addressed the national on television, saying, “We know and firmly believe that we are invincible when we stand together,” without specifically mentioned the virus outbreak.
With the latest cases pushing Russia ahead of Germany and France, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin extended the city’s lockdown until May 31 and ordered residents to wear face masks and gloves in all public places and transport, Moscow Times reports.
In Spain, restrictions on half the residents were eased Saturday, except for the hard-hit Madrid region, the epicenter of Spain’s outbreak. In the first phase, some small shops will be able to open, while bars and restaurants can only open “terraces” and must operate at 30% normal capacity.
In Germany, where the number of new cases fell for the first time in four days, restaurants, hotels and all shops were preparing to reopen, although individual German states can adjust the rules. Soccer matches are scheduled to resume May 15.
Delta cuts service to 10 US airports
Delta Air Lines is cutting service to 10 airports in the U.S. that serve cities including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. It’s part of the company’s previously announced 85% reduction in service schedule. Delta says the airports where it is temporarily pulling service are relatively close o other, larger airports that travelers can use as an alternative. In New York, for example, Delta’s Westchester County Airport service will cease, but flyers can still get to LaGuardia. Flights will stop at Stewart International, but John F. Kennedy International is the close-by option. See the schedule changes here.
– Chris Woodyard
Roy Horn of ‘Siegfried and Roy’ dies of COVID-19
Roy Horn, half of the Las Vegas stage duo Siegfried & Roy, died of complications due to the coronavirus Friday. He was 75.
“Today, the world has lost one of the greats of magic, but I have lost my best friend,” Siegfried Fischbacher said in a statement. “From the moment we met, I knew Roy and I, together, would change the world. There could be no Siegfried without Roy, and no Roy without Siegfried.
“Roy was a fighter his whole life including during these final days. I give my heartfelt appreciation to the team of doctors, nurses and staff at Mountain View Hospital who worked heroically against this insidious virus that ultimately took Roy’s life.”
Roy Horn tested positive for the contagious respiratory illness in late April.
— Brett McGinness
Gov. Gavin Newsom says coronavirus outbreak in California started in salon
On the day he issued guidelines for parts of California to start reopening, Gov. Gavin Newsom also identified a nail salon as the origin of the coronavirus outbreak in the state, one of the first ones in the nation to get impacted.
Newsom provided details of the requirements for counties to relax social distancing measures beginning Friday, when clothing stores, florists, sporting goods stores and bookstores will be among the retailers allowed to operate again, albeit through curbside pick-up service.
Asked why businesses that offer personal-care services like nail salons can’t open yet, Newsom said, “This whole thing started in the state of California, the first community spread, in a nail salon. I just wanted to remind you, remind everybody, of that. I’m very worried about that.’’
He did not elaborate about the time and place community spread began in the state.
US cuts funding to group studying bat coronaviruses in China
The head of a research group that studies bat-borne coronaviruses in China similar to the COVID-19 strain that’s ravaged the globe has warned that a U.S. government decision to cut funding to his organization imperils American public health.
EcoHealth Alliance’s research grant was abruptly terminated last month by the National Institutes of Health, the primary agency of the U.S. government responsible for biomedical and public health research. EcoHealth Alliance’s research in China is focused on identifying and warning about coronaviruses dangerous to human health.
“I’m really concerned about where this leaves us,” said Peter Daszak, director of the New York-based organization, in a USA TODAY interview.
The National Institutes of Health confirmed EcoHealth Alliance’s $3.4 million grant, distributed over six years, was canceled on April 24. But it would not discuss details about how the decision was made.
— Kim Hjelmgaard
Cincinnati latest city to close streets for outdoor dining
The City of Cincinnati will close parts of 25 streets so restaurants can expand outdoor seating, a move that will help restaurants without patio space keep tables farther apart for social distancing – and open as early as possible.
Restaurants and bars have been closed by state order since March 21 in order to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. It’s put people out of work and shuttered restaurants who opted not to morph into carryouts.
Tampa announced a similar plan May 5. And cities in San Mateo County in California temporarily restricted traffic beginning late last month in areas so people could safely get together.
In a similar move, Seattle said 20 miles of streets closed amid the state’s stay-at-home order will be permanently closed to vehicles. The areas will remain for residents to exercise outside, and the construction of bike infrastructure will be accelerated in 2020, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced.
— Sharon Coolidge
11 Secret Service employees infected with coronavirus
At least 11 U.S. Secret Service employees were reported to be infected with the coronavirus and about 60 other staffers were in self-quarantine, a person familiar with the matter said Friday.
The person who is not authorized to comment publicly declined to breakdown the numbers of civilian versus agent infections. The assignment locations of the sick employees also were not identified.
The service, which provides personal protection for the president, vice president and their families, along with visiting heads of state, has 7,600 employees, including more than 3,000 agents who work in close proximity to those they protect.
— Kevin Johnson and Michael Collins
Mike Pence staffer tests positive for coronavirus
An aide to Vice President Mike Pence, press secretary Katie Miller, has tested positive for coronavirus, the White House confirmed. Pence was traveling to Iowa to meet faith leaders to discuss reopening religious services to the public, but his plane was delayed and some staffers disembarked.
The news comes one day after the White House announced Thursday that a military valet to President Donald Trump had tested positive for the virus. Trump told reporters that his aides will now be tested daily instead of weekly after the valet tested positive for the disease.
— Michael Collins
More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY
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