The Latest COVID-19 Updates (May 22)

Staff Writer

2:30 p.m. WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has called for the reopening of houses of worship, declaring them “essential” services.
The president wants governors to allow them to reopen this weekend.
“If they don’t do it, I will override the governors,” Trump says. “In America, we need more prayer not less.”
Trump says the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention also was issuing guidance for communities of faith to hold safe gatherings.
The president’s comment came one day after he prodded the agency to issue guidelines, so congregations can restart gatherings for worshipers.
The CDC previously sent the Trump administration documents outlining steps for religious facilities to reopen, but the White House shelved them at the time out of concerns about the propriety of government making specific dictates to places of worships.
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DENVER — A U.S. Postal Service distribution facility in Denver that handles 10 million pieces of mail a day for Colorado and Wyoming is still open despite being ordered to shut down by city health officials because of a coronavirus outbreak investigation.
The agency says it is complying with federal safety guidelines and working with city officials to address their concerns. Denver health officials say the closure order was a last resort after the Postal Service refused to provide it with necessary information and inspectors were refused entry beyond its post office service counter.
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NORCROSS, Ga. — Vice President Mike Pence has traveled to Georgia, where he had lunch with Gov. Brian Kemp at a cafe and praised the state — one of the first to allow businesses to start up again despite the coronavirus outbreak.
Pence and Kemp were scheduled to talk about reopening during the pandemic with members of the restaurant industry later at the headquarters of the popular Southern eatery, Waffle House.
Kemp allowed salons, restaurants, gyms and other businesses in Georgia to reopen with restrictions in April.
The Republican governor has insisted the move was guided by data and state public health officials, but it ran counter to the advice of many experts, who warned that resuming business too soon risked a fresh spike in infections.
The move also drew criticism from President Donald Trump, who said he totally disagreed with the decision after first telling Kemp he supported it.
On Friday, Pence said Georgia was “leading the way” and the country was making progress against the virus.
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CARSON CITY, Nev. — A federal agency has awarded $89.9 million to Nevada to enhance COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.
The Nevada Appeal reports that the grant awarded by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was announced by the state’s two U.S. senators, Democrats Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen.
The lawmakers say the funding is important because the state needs “an expansive and efficient system for testing and contact tracing” as it moves toward reopening its economy. Nevada health officials reported that the state had 7,401 cases of COVID-19 with 381 deaths as of Friday.
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SUNLAND PARK, N.M. — Several dozen workers at a meat processing plant in southern New Mexico have tested positive for coronavirus. State health officials plan another round of testing at the facility next week.
Illinois-based Stampede Meat says its processing facilities are cleaned and sanitized daily, employees are screened and they’re instructed to wear protection that includes masks and face shields.
The state has nearly 6,500 cases, with officials raising concerns about young people without symptoms potentially spreading the virus. Children and teenagers make up about 13 percent of the state’s positive cases, up from 7 percent a few weeks ago and about four times higher than the national average.

1:30 p.m. KEYSTONE, S.D. — Mount Rushmore is opening sooner than expected. The national memorial and its facilities and restaurants will be opening Saturday, about three weeks earlier than previously planned.
The National Park Service’s website says the grounds will be open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
“After careful consideration and consultation with local and state health authorities, we are pleased to announce that Mount Rushmore’s parking lot, retail shops, and Memorial Team Ice Cream will open earlier than expected on Saturday, May 23,” according to the memorial’s Facebook.
The Nature Trail and the Presidential Trail will be open to the base of the mountain, and the Sculptor’s Studio will be open. The park service says the information center and gift shop are closed and all educational and interpretive programs are suspended.
The amphitheater, Avenue of Flags and a short section of the Presidential Trail are closed due to deferred maintenance.
Visitors are encouraged to maintain physical distancing and hand sanitizer dispensers are available in multiple locations. Employees will be wearing personal protective equipment that is appropriate for their job responsibilities.
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says summer camps and youth activities can open without restrictions.
He says local organizations and governments can set rules and guidelines. The state won’t pre-empt those rules.
DeSantis says there have been no deaths in Florida of people under age 25.
Also, Miami Beach city commissioners agreed to open beaches and hotels on June 1, a week after the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Officials say they didn’t want large crowds at the beach over the long holiday weekend that unofficially kicks off the summer season.
On Friday, there was more than 49,000 reported cases in Florida, with more than 2,100 deaths. The median age of people infected was 54 years old.
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GENEVA — The United States says it wants the World Health Organization to start work “now” on a planned review of the WHO’s coordinated international response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The U.N. health agency is facing a Trump administration threat to cut off funding.
Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, sent a written letter to the U.N. health agency’s executive board meeting on Friday saying the United States believes the WHO can “immediately initiate organizational processes for the review,” such as by bringing together independent health experts and setting up guidelines for it.
Giroir is one of the board’s 34 international members but didn’t participate in person in the board’s first virtual meeting on Friday.
He alluded to a resolution passed Tuesday by the WHO’s assembly calling on its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to launch “comprehensive evaluation” of the WHO-coordinated international response to the outbreak to begin “at the earliest appropriate moment.”
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TOPEKA, Kan. — Republicans have pushed a sweeping coronavirus measure through the GOP-controlled Kansas Legislature, aiming to shield businesses and health care providers from coronavirus-related lawsuits.
The bill approved by lawmakers Friday would take control over the state’s pandemic response from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and give much of it to the Legislature’s mostly Republican leaders.
Some Democrats predicted Kelly would veto the bill, but her office stopped short of promising that. Democrats objected to curbing Kelly’s power and predicted substandard nursing homes and manufacturers of defective personal protective equipment would be shielded from being held accountable in the state’s courts.
The Republican plan would require Kelly to get permission from legislative leaders to keep businesses closed for more than 15 days or to exercise other broad powers granted to governors during emergencies after May 31. Legislative leaders also would have the final say in how $1.25 billion in federal relief funds are spent.

12:30 p.m. HARRISBURG — Jefferson County is still holding steady at seven confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Friday statistical update. The surrounding counties stood as follows: Clearfield, 33 cases; Indiana, 89 cases, four deaths; Armstrong, 58 cases, two deaths; Clarion County, 25 cases, two deaths; Forest county, seven cases; and Elk County, six cases.

10:30 a.m. WASHINGTON (AP) — Much of the country remains unlikely to venture out to bars, restaurants, theaters or gyms anytime soon, despite state and local officials across the country increasingly allowing businesses to reopen, according to a new survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
That hesitancy in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak could muffle any recovery from what has been the sharpest and swiftest economic downturn in U.S. history. Just 42 percent of those who went to concerts, movies, theaters or sporting events at least monthly before the outbreak say they’d do so in the next few weeks if they could. Only about half of those who regularly went to restaurants, exercised at the gym or traveled would feel comfortable doing so again.
About a quarter of Americans say someone in their household has lost a job amid that downturn, and about half have lost household income, including layoffs, pay cuts, cut hours or unpaid time off. The majority of those whose household suffered a layoff still believe they will return to their previous employer, but the share expecting their job will not return has risen slightly over the past month, to 30 from 20 percent.

9 a.m. ROME — The head of Italy’s pharmacological agency says there is little data about the effectiveness of the anti-malaria drug promoted by U.S. President Donald Trump to treat coronavirus.
Dr. Nicola Magrini offered a briefing on the various trials the Italian Pharmacological Agency had approved during the coronavirus crisis, including one involving hydroxychloroquine.
Magrini says while the drug was being used in Italy, the agency recommended it only in some patients, preferably on its own or in association with other drugs only in clinical trial settings.
While the science is still out on hydroxychloroquine’s effectiveness, Magrini said: “We are fairly certain about the possible harm and absence of security of using it in some limited sub-groups of patients.”
Trump has said he is taking hydroxychloroquine to protect against the coronavirus, even though his administration has warned it can have deadly side effects.
Magrini adds he didn’t expect a vaccine before spring or summer of next year. Italian researchers are collaborating on the Oxford University vaccine.
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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean health authorities say they’re reviewing the possible use of new smartphone technology from Apple and Google that automatically notifies users when they come close to people infected with the coronavirus.
But officials also say it isn’t clear whether the Bluetooth-based apps would meaningfully boost the country’s technology-driven fight against COVID-19, where health workers have aggressively used cellphone data, credit card records and surveillance footage to trace and isolate potential virus carriers.
Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said Wednesday that the U.S. tech giants in a message conveyed through South Korean cellphone carrier KT recommended that the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider using their technology.
Lee Kang-ho, another health ministry official, said officials were discussing whether the apps would be useful, but added “our methods in anti-virus efforts differ from methods and goals pursued over there.”
The software released by Apple and Google — a product of a rare partnership between the industry rivals — relies on wireless Bluetooth technology to detect when someone who downloaded the app has spent time near another app user who later tests positive for COVID-19.
Following a 2015 outbreak of a different coronavirus, MERS, South Korea rewrote its infectious disease law to allow health authorities quick access over a broad range of personal information when fighting epidemics, which includes medical and credit card records and location information provided by police and cellphone carriers.
Health workers have been vigorously using these powers while carrying out an aggressive test-and-quarantine program.
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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations secretary-general is again urging factions in conflict to heed his call for a global cease-fire to help tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a report to the U.N. Security Council released Thursday, Antonio Guterres pointed to the more than 20,000 civilians killed or injured in 2019 attacks in 10 countries — and millions more forced from their homes by fighting. He said the pandemic is “the greatest test the world has faced” since the United Nations was established 75 years ago and has already had a severe impact on efforts to protect civilians, especially in conflict-affected countries where weak health care systems can be overwhelmed.
The U.N. chief said support for his March 23 cease-fire appeal from governments, regional organizations, armed groups, civil society and individuals throughout the world has been “encouraging” — but he said in many instances “challenges in implementing the cease-fire still need to be overcome.”
Guterres reiterated his global cease-fire call, saying “as the world confronts the monumental challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to silence the guns could not be more acute.”
He issued the appeal in his annual report to the Security Council on the protection of civilians where he stressed that the most effective way to protect them “is to prevent the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of armed conflicts.”

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