National coronavirus updates: Americans urged to use caution ahead of Memorial Day weekend

The latest:There have been more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.The U.S. death toll has surpassed 94,000 people, according to Hopkins.About a third of coronavirus infections have no symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in new guidance.If the U.S. had encouraged people to stay home just a week earlier, more than half the number of deaths and infections could possibly have been prevented, according to new research from Columbia University. The country’s leading infectious disease expert is urging people not to stay holed up at home over Memorial Day weekend.”We’ll be having people who want to get out there and get fresh air,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN. “You can do that. We’re not telling people to just lock in unless you’re in a situation where you have a major outbreak going on, we don’t have too much of that right now in the country.”But that does not mean throw caution to the wind.”Go out, wear a mask, stay 6 feet away from anyone so you have the physical distancing,” he said. “Go for a run. Go for a walk. Go fishing. As long as you’re not in a crowd and you’re not in a situation where you can physically transmit the virus.”All 50 states have now taken some steps to ease restrictions they placed on businesses and services — but are urging people to practice social distancing and wear masks.States have moved at different paces as governors balance reopening their economies with keeping residents safe. Some states, including Georgia and Texas, rolled out aggressive reopening plans, while others have taken a more measured approach.On Friday, North Carolina will allow restaurants to open their dining rooms with distancing rules. Barber shops and salons can also open with limitations.Alaska is allowing all businesses to reopen, as well as houses of worship, libraries, museums and sporting activities, starting at 8 a.m. Alaska has the fewest cases of all states and has reported single-digit new cases since mid-April.Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds intends to allow movie theaters, zoos, aquariums, museums and wedding venues to reopen Friday. Swimming pools will be allowed to open for laps and lessons. Bars can reopen May 28, and school-sponsored activities, such as sports, can resume June 1, she said.Indiana also plans to move ahead with opening a large swath of its economy Friday, but with restrictions such as limiting social gatherings to 100 people and dining rooms to 50% capacity, and omitting contact games from a list of sports allowed to resume.New York, California and Pennsylvania are among states allowing local areas reporting declines in new cases to reopen.More than half of all California counties are moving forward with plans to reopen their economies further despite data showing that state recorded its second highest number of daily coronavirus fatalities this week. The last time California reported the highest deaths in one day was 115 on April 21.Many cities also remain under stay-at-home orders. In Baltimore, gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited and retail stores remain closed.Experts have warned that lifting restrictions prematurely may mean thousands more Americans will die in a second spike in cases.The US epidemic is far from over, scientists say With just a small percentage of Americans reported as infected, the epidemic is far from over in the United States, according to a team of disease modelers at London’s Imperial College in the United Kingdom.Even in the worst affected states, less than a quarter of the population has been infected, they wrote in a report, posted on the university’s website.In New York, 16.6% of people have been infected, compared with 1% in California, the researchers said.”Our estimates suggest that the epidemic is not under control in much of the U.S.,” they wrote. “We predict that deaths over the next two-month period could exceed current cumulative deaths by greater than two-fold.”CDC issues new guidance on symptomsAbout a third of coronavirus infections have no symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in new guidance.It said its “best estimate” is that 0.4% of people who show symptoms and have COVID-19 will die. And an estimated 40% of coronavirus transmission occurs before people feel sick.In the most severe scenario, the CDC assumes that 1% of people overall with COVID-19 and symptoms will die. In the least severe scenario, it puts that number at 0.2%.The guidance is intended for modelers and public health officials. The CDC notes that its numbers could change as it learns more about COVID-19, saying they do not “reflect the impact of any behavioral changes, social distancing or other interventions.”The new numbers are based on real data received before April 29, it said. It characterized the numbers as preliminary estimates from federal agencies. Expert: Schools will need to make sweeping changesWhen students finally return to school, sweeping changes will be in place to help stop the spread of coronavirus.Items such as masks and hand sanitizer will be familiar sights in stuffed backpacks. Classes and school buses will have fewer people while some office meetings will be conducted by video conference, experts say.Schools must keep the virus from entering campuses, and that will mean health checks, temperature screenings, staggered arrivals and limiting visitors on campus, Dr. Tanya Altmann, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, said during a CNN coronavirus town hall Thursday.Children with underlying health conditions are especially vulnerable, and it’s crucial that people follow rules to keep everyone safe, Altmann said. She shared other things U.S. schools must address before unlatching their doors.Reducing person-to-person transmission in schools will be a priority, and educators will have to set up smaller classrooms, shut down commonly touched areas, ensure constant hand washing and disinfecting, and avoid sharing supplies, she said.When students get sick, they’ll have to be quickly ushered out of schools.”We need to quickly test them, diagnose, isolate and then contact trace, which is a lot easier when there’s fewer kids they’ve come into contact with throughout the day,” Altmann added.Experts have also expressed fears about the toll the pandemic will have on children’s mental health.”We’re going to have a mental health epidemic among our children in this country,” Geoffrey Canada, president of Harlem Children’s Zone, said during the town hall. ” … The poorest kids, they know people who died, they know people who are sick. The very air you breathe, the people you pass on the street are suddenly dangerous to you. All of that trauma is going to come into our schools and into our classrooms, and we really need to prepare for this.”More deaths could have been prevented, report saysIf the U.S. had encouraged people to stay home and had put social distancing policies in place just a week earlier, more than half the number of deaths and infections could possibly have been prevented, according to new research from Columbia University.Had the U.S. locked the country down two weeks earlier, 84% of deaths and 82% of cases could have been averted, said the research team led by epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman.”Our findings underscore the importance of early intervention and aggressive response in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic,” they wrote in the report, published online in the pre-print server MedRxiv. The findings have not been reviewed by other experts for accuracy.The first U.S. case was reported at the end of January. It wasn’t until mid-March that the Trump administration urged Americans to avoid groups and limit travel. That’s also when cities like New York started to close schools. The study used epidemiologic modeling to gauge transmission rates from March 15 to May 3 and determine the impact social distancing could have on the transmission of the disease.The first days were important, they noted. “During the initial growth of a pandemic, infections increase exponentially. As a consequence, early intervention and fast response are critical,” they wrote.However, they said, it’s also true that they could not account for how people would have responded.”Public compliance with social distancing rules may also lag due to sub-optimal awareness of infection risk,” they noted.CNN contributed to this report.

The latest:

  • There have been more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.
  • The U.S. death toll has surpassed 94,000 people, according to Hopkins.
  • About a third of coronavirus infections have no symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in new guidance.
  • If the U.S. had encouraged people to stay home just a week earlier, more than half the number of deaths and infections could possibly have been prevented, according to new research from Columbia University.

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The country’s leading infectious disease expert is urging people not to stay holed up at home over Memorial Day weekend.

“We’ll be having people who want to get out there and get fresh air,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN. “You can do that. We’re not telling people to just lock in unless you’re in a situation where you have a major outbreak going on, we don’t have too much of that right now in the country.”

But that does not mean throw caution to the wind.

“Go out, wear a mask, stay 6 feet away from anyone so you have the physical distancing,” he said. “Go for a run. Go for a walk. Go fishing. As long as you’re not in a crowd and you’re not in a situation where you can physically transmit the virus.”

All 50 states have now taken some steps to ease restrictions they placed on businesses and services — but are urging people to practice social distancing and wear masks.

States have moved at different paces as governors balance reopening their economies with keeping residents safe. Some states, including Georgia and Texas, rolled out aggressive reopening plans, while others have taken a more measured approach.

On Friday, North Carolina will allow restaurants to open their dining rooms with distancing rules. Barber shops and salons can also open with limitations.

Alaska is allowing all businesses to reopen, as well as houses of worship, libraries, museums and sporting activities, starting at 8 a.m. Alaska has the fewest cases of all states and has reported single-digit new cases since mid-April.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds intends to allow movie theaters, zoos, aquariums, museums and wedding venues to reopen Friday. Swimming pools will be allowed to open for laps and lessons. Bars can reopen May 28, and school-sponsored activities, such as sports, can resume June 1, she said.

Indiana also plans to move ahead with opening a large swath of its economy Friday, but with restrictions such as limiting social gatherings to 100 people and dining rooms to 50% capacity, and omitting contact games from a list of sports allowed to resume.

New York, California and Pennsylvania are among states allowing local areas reporting declines in new cases to reopen.

More than half of all California counties are moving forward with plans to reopen their economies further despite data showing that state recorded its second highest number of daily coronavirus fatalities this week. The last time California reported the highest deaths in one day was 115 on April 21.

Many cities also remain under stay-at-home orders. In Baltimore, gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited and retail stores remain closed.

Experts have warned that lifting restrictions prematurely may mean thousands more Americans will die in a second spike in cases.

The US epidemic is far from over, scientists say

With just a small percentage of Americans reported as infected, the epidemic is far from over in the United States, according to a team of disease modelers at London’s Imperial College in the United Kingdom.

Even in the worst affected states, less than a quarter of the population has been infected, they wrote in a report, posted on the university’s website.

In New York, 16.6% of people have been infected, compared with 1% in California, the researchers said.

“Our estimates suggest that the epidemic is not under control in much of the U.S.,” they wrote. “We predict that deaths over the next two-month period could exceed current cumulative deaths by greater than two-fold.”

CDC issues new guidance on symptoms

About a third of coronavirus infections have no symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in new guidance.

It said its “best estimate” is that 0.4% of people who show symptoms and have COVID-19 will die. And an estimated 40% of coronavirus transmission occurs before people feel sick.

In the most severe scenario, the CDC assumes that 1% of people overall with COVID-19 and symptoms will die. In the least severe scenario, it puts that number at 0.2%.

The guidance is intended for modelers and public health officials. The CDC notes that its numbers could change as it learns more about COVID-19, saying they do not “reflect the impact of any behavioral changes, social distancing or other interventions.”

The new numbers are based on real data received before April 29, it said. It characterized the numbers as preliminary estimates from federal agencies.

Expert: Schools will need to make sweeping changes

When students finally return to school, sweeping changes will be in place to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Items such as masks and hand sanitizer will be familiar sights in stuffed backpacks. Classes and school buses will have fewer people while some office meetings will be conducted by video conference, experts say.

Schools must keep the virus from entering campuses, and that will mean health checks, temperature screenings, staggered arrivals and limiting visitors on campus, Dr. Tanya Altmann, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, said during a CNN coronavirus town hall Thursday.

Children with underlying health conditions are especially vulnerable, and it’s crucial that people follow rules to keep everyone safe, Altmann said. She shared other things U.S. schools must address before unlatching their doors.

Reducing person-to-person transmission in schools will be a priority, and educators will have to set up smaller classrooms, shut down commonly touched areas, ensure constant hand washing and disinfecting, and avoid sharing supplies, she said.

When students get sick, they’ll have to be quickly ushered out of schools.

“We need to quickly test them, diagnose, isolate and then contact trace, which is a lot easier when there’s fewer kids they’ve come into contact with throughout the day,” Altmann added.

Experts have also expressed fears about the toll the pandemic will have on children’s mental health.

“We’re going to have a mental health epidemic among our children in this country,” Geoffrey Canada, president of Harlem Children’s Zone, said during the town hall. ” … The poorest kids, they know people who died, they know people who are sick. The very air you breathe, the people you pass on the street are suddenly dangerous to you. All of that trauma is going to come into our schools and into our classrooms, and we really need to prepare for this.”

More deaths could have been prevented, report says

If the U.S. had encouraged people to stay home and had put social distancing policies in place just a week earlier, more than half the number of deaths and infections could possibly have been prevented, according to new research from Columbia University.

Had the U.S. locked the country down two weeks earlier, 84% of deaths and 82% of cases could have been averted, said the research team led by epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman.

“Our findings underscore the importance of early intervention and aggressive response in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic,” they wrote in the report, published online in the pre-print server MedRxiv. The findings have not been reviewed by other experts for accuracy.

The first U.S. case was reported at the end of January. It wasn’t until mid-March that the Trump administration urged Americans to avoid groups and limit travel. That’s also when cities like New York started to close schools. The study used epidemiologic modeling to gauge transmission rates from March 15 to May 3 and determine the impact social distancing could have on the transmission of the disease.

The first days were important, they noted. “During the initial growth of a pandemic, infections increase exponentially. As a consequence, early intervention and fast response are critical,” they wrote.

However, they said, it’s also true that they could not account for how people would have responded.

“Public compliance with social distancing rules may also lag due to sub-optimal awareness of infection risk,” they noted.

CNN contributed to this report.