Friday brought no shortage of pandemic news: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump publicly quarreled over coronavirus testing, China blamed a rising death toll on hospital errors, and stocks rebounded amid reports of possible emerging treatments for the virus.
After the president criticized Cuomo in a tweet for “complaining,” Cuomo charged that the president “doesn’t want to help on testing.”
“(Trump) said 11 times, ‘I don’t want to get involved in testing – it’s too hard, it’s too complicated,'” Cuomo said. “I know its too complicated, (he told Trump) that’s why we need you to help.”
Still, some locales were taking small steps toward reopening, with Jacksonville, Fla., allowing people to go to the beach twice a day under strict social distancing in the early morning and early evening.
The latest fatality figures for the U.S., as tallied by Johns Hopkins University, pushed the total death toll in the country to over 36,000 by Friday evening. Numbers have fluctuated wildly this week for both U.S. and global deaths and it is unclear why; possible reasons include new counting methods for the dead in New York City and newly revised numbers in China. Thursday saw the biggest daily spike yet in U.S. deaths – 4,591 over the previous day.
There are over 692,000 coronavirus cases in the U.S. and over 2.2 million worldwide Friday, according to John Hopkins University data.
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Cuomo questions Trump’s guidelines for tests
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in a war of words with President Donald Trump on Friday over the issue of testing for the coronavirus, exchanged sharp words with the president, saying flatly, “the president doesn’t want to help on testing.”
His comments came in response to a tweet from Trump that said that Cuomo “should spend more time doing and less time complaining.”
To which Cuomo replied: “If he’s sitting home watching TV, maybe he should get up and go to work.”
Cuomo said Trump “wants to say, ‘I did enough,’ Yeah, none of us has done enough. We haven’t because it’s not over.” He said earlier in the news conference that states have neither the ability to obtain the necessary testing materials nor the money to carry it out.
He said much of the material used in testing comes from China and states were unequipped to obtain them.
The Trump administration guidelines for reopening state economies calls for them to “quickly set up safe and efficient screening and testing sites” for individuals with COVID-19 symptoms as well as people with whom they have come in contact.
– Doug Stanglin
Jacksonville opens beaches for limited morning and evening use
Beaches in Jacksonville, Florida, will open Friday for limited periods in the morning and evening for “essential activities,” including walking and biking.
City parks will be open all day, but pavilion and picnic areas will remain closed.
The moves came after early discussions between Mayor Lenny Curry and Gov. Ron DeSantis on how to reopen the city. While it’s too early to tell, Curry said data on confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations suggest the city is successfully flattening the curve.
The beaches will be open from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. daily and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Social guidelines will remain in force. City parks will be open for normal hours, however pavilions and picnic areas will remain closed.
“This can be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life,” Curry said. “Please respect and follow these limitations. Stay within the guidelines for your safety as well as for the safety of your neighbors.”
CDC still lacks demographic info for most patients
New demographic data from the CDC on Friday did not have information about the race of 76% of confirmed coronavirus patients. The CDC included age and race information for more than 465,000 confirmed cases in the U.S. through Wednesday.
Less than a quarter of confirmed cases had race data available but of those cases, 64% were among people who identified as white and 30% were people who identified as black or African American.
The CDC numbers come amid preliminary reports that Hispanics and African Americans are seeing disproportionately high rates of coronavirus-related hospitalizations and deaths.
– Grace Hauck
China sharply raises virus death toll, blames stressed hospitals for errors
China, which has been under heavy criticism for lack of transparency over the coronavirus outbreak, sharply revised its official death toll Friday in the epicenter of Wuhan, adding more than a thousand virus-related fatalities.
China’s official Xinhua news Agency reported that the undercount stemmed from several factors, including the deaths of people at home because overwhelmed hospitals had no room for them, mistaken reporting by medical staff focused on saving lives, and deaths at a few medical institutions that weren’t linked to the epidemic information network.
The latest figures raised China’s overall death toll to 4,632 from a previously reported 3,342.
Chinese officials have denied covering up cases, saying their reports were accurate and timely. However, the U.N.’s World Health Organization has come under criticism for defending China’s handling of the outbreak and President Donald Trump has suspended funding to WHO over what he alleges is its pro-China bias.
– Associated Press
Antiviral drug Remdesivir showing promise for treatment
An antiviral drug called Remdesivir is causing “rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms, with nearly all patients discharged in less than a week” in patients at a Chicago hospital, medical site STAT reported.
Remdesivir is one of numerous drugs under development to treat or cure the coronavirus. Clinical trials are conducted to ensure safety and efficacy, and there’s no guarantee the Chicago hospital’s results will be replicated elsewhere.
Remdesivir, the result of more than a decade of Gilead Sciences research, has been tested for multiple potential applications in recent years. The company tested the drug as a treatment for Ebola in west Africa in 2014. It has also been tested as a treatment of SARS and for hepatitis C.
– Nathan Bomey
New York City extends event ban
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday that New York City would be canceling concerts and all other nonessential events through May – and is considering doing the same for June.
“We’re not issuing any permits in the month of May,” de Blasio said at a press briefing. “This is an important decision to make, whether it really makes sense to have those giant gatherings, and some of them are huge in June.”
De Blasio’s announcement means events like the Brooklyn Half Marathon, which bills itself as the country’s largest half-marathon with about 30,000 runners, won’t take place as scheduled.
“Can I envision as early as June mass gatherings like some of these huge events that are beautiful events but they’re really mass gatherings, hundreds of thousands of people, in some cases more than a million?” de Blasio said. “I can’t see it, but I want to talk to the event organizers… I don’t see it for June.”
– Jesse Yomtov
Patients may be most contagious 1-2 days before symptoms appear
COVID-19 patients may be most infectious in the days before they began showing symptoms, a new study from researchers in China found.
Researchers examined “viral shedding” in 94 patients with COVID-19 admitted to Guangzhou Eighth People’s Hospital, according to small study published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal “Nature.”
Scientists took throat swabs from the patients and found that viral loads were highest when symptoms began and gradually decreased towards the detection limit at about day 21.
This finding is consistent with other small studies done at two hospitals in Hong Kong and with patients in Zhuhai, Guangdong, China.
– N’dea Yancey-Bragg
Wisconsin governor extends school closing, clamps down on business
While President Trump is pushing governors to begin reopening their states, Wisconsin’s governor is clamping down, closing schools for the rest of the school year and ordering many businesses to stay shuttered until the end of May.
The new order issued by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday will keep hundreds of thousands of school children out of classrooms for nearly three months — some receiving no virtual instruction at all.
The move comes as business owners and Republicans called on Evers to roll back restrictions, not extend them. Republican lawmakers also threatened to fire the leader of the state’s health agency from her job overseeing the state’s response to the outbreak and signaled they would take the governor to court.
“Things won’t get back to normal until there’s a vaccine and treatment for this disease,” Evers countered in a news conference, warning not to assume schools will open again in the fall unless cases are few and the number of tests available grows substantially.
– Molly Beck
Wall Street rallies over plans for phased reopening of state economies
Stocks jumped at the opening of trading on Wall Street on Friday as investors rally around signs that more governments are planning phased re-openings of their economies.
The Dow soared 500 points in early trading and the S&P 500, which rose nearly 2%, could close out its first back-to-back weekly gain since the market began to sell off in February on worries about the virus.
European and Asian indexes also rallied after China reported economic data that, while bleak, was better than expected.
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New Jersey nursing home where 18 bodies found has history of citations
The owner of a massive New Jersey nursing home facility where bodies of residents who died from COVID-19 were found said Thursday that the situation is “under control” and that they are properly staffed to handle outbreak. Nonetheless, Gov. Phil Murphy has ordered his attorney general to investigate the home.
Thirty-five people have died at the Andover Rehabilitation and Subacute Care I and II home since late March. Five bodies were found in a makeshift holding area Easter Sunday after authorities received tips. An additional 13 were found Monday.
The problems at Andover are emblematic of those playing out in nursing homes nationwide but extend beyond the recent outbreak. For example, one section of the facilityhas had 23 complaints resulting in citations over the past three years, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. It was given a one-star rating, which means “much below average,” on the Medicare website.Read more here.
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Movie theaters will be among first businesses to reopen under White House plan
Movie theaters would be allowed to reopen in the first of three phases under the guidelines released Thursday by the White House.
Just when theaters, along with restaurants, sports stadiums and churches, will be allowed to welcome back the public under the Trump administration plan is yet to be seen. It will be left largely up to governors to decide when their states are ready to take the first step back to what was once considered normal.
President Donald Trump, in announcing the reopening at his daily news conference, said some are more ready than others. The plan didn’t include a timetable.
– Chris Woodyard and Bryan Alexander
Guam governor says she knew some USS Roosevelt sailors tested positive
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said Friday she was aware that some of the sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt – including some shuttled to Guam hotels – had tested positive for COVID-19 after originally testing negative.
About 40 sailors who tested negative later had positive test results, according to a report Friday in the San Francisco Chronicle.Both the governor and Joint Region Marianas Commander Rear Adm. John Menoni have said only sailors who test negative and who are asymptomatic would be quarantined in hotels off base.
“It is also why a no-contact order with civilians was enforced,” the governor said Friday night, adding that any sailor demonstrating symptoms is returned to the Naval Base.
The Navy reported some 655 of the crew are positive for COVID-19, as of Friday. The aircraft carrier pulled into Guam four weeks ago. Six sailors are being treated at the U.S. Naval Hospital Guam for symptoms and one sailor from the ship has died from COVID-19 related complications.
Capt. Brett Crozier, skipper of the aircraft carrier, was relieved of his command two weeks ago after sending an impassioned email to a number of Naval officials urging them to evacuate most of the 4,800 sailors because of an outbreak of the coronavirus. An attachment to the email was leaked to the press, leading to his dismissal.
– Jasmine Stole Weiss
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Contributing: The Associated Press
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