National coronavirus updates: As states reopen, expert says US hasn’t done enough to protect residents

The latest:There have been more than 1.2 million coronavirus cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.The U.S. death toll has surpassed 71,000 people, according to Hopkins.President Trump toured and spoke at a mask production facility in Arizona on Tuesday. The World Health Organization says 108 potential COVID-19 vaccines are in development around the world, according to documents posted on its website.An influential coronavirus model often cited by the White House is now forecasting that 134,000 people will die of COVID-19 in the U.S., nearly double its previous prediction.With more than half the country now into at least the first stage of reopening, one expert says the U.S. still hasn’t done enough to protect residents from the coronavirus.”I don’t think you can say, how much suffering are you willing to bear in order to restart the economy until you have done everything possible to ensure that every single person in American can take measures to protect their own health, the health of their families and the health of their communities,” Dr. Richard Besser, the former acting director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN Tuesday. “That’s just not the case right now.”Governors across the country have allowed residents to return to some semblance of normalcy after weeks of shutdowns to stop the spread of the virus. But the country’s death toll continues to rise and public health experts have warned relaxing restrictions could cost thousands of lives.And on Tuesday, a senior White House official told CNN the White House coronavirus task force — the most visible part of the federal government’s response to the pandemic — will begin winding down later this month.But the U.S. is still lagging behind in factors that are key to helping get the virus under control and combating a resurgence, officials have said.”We don’t have the testing capacity now to know where this disease is,” Besser said. “We have not scaled up the thousands and thousands of contact tracers that we need, we don’t provide safe places for people to isolate or quarantine if they are identified as either having an infection or being in contact.””We are saying, if you have money and you are white, you can do well here,” he said. “If you are not, good luck to you.”African Americans hit harder than any other US groupAlthough communities across the U.S. have been devastated, a new study suggests more African Americans are dying from the virus in the U.S. than whites or other ethic groups.Black Americans represent 13.4% of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but counties with higher black populations account for more than half of all coronavirus cases and almost 60% of deaths, the study found.Epidemiologists and clinicians from four universities worked with amfAR, the AIDS research nonprofit, and Seattle’s Center for Vaccine Innovation and Access, PATH, and analyzed cases and deaths using county-level comparisons.They compared counties with a disproportionate number of black residents — those with a population of 13% or more — with those with lower numbers of African American residents. Counties with higher populations of black residents accounted for 52% of coronavirus diagnoses and 58% of COVID-19 deaths nationally, they said. More states reopeningBy May 10, at least 43 states will have completely or partially reopened.California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who issued the first stay-at-home order and vowed to abide by science despite mounting pressure from business owners, announced this week that some retail stores — including florists and book shops — will be allowed to reopen Friday.”I cannot impress upon people more, we’re not going back to normal, we’re going back to a new normal, with adaptations and modifications until we get to immunity until we get to a vaccine. We’ll get there,” Newsom said.For the first time since the outbreak began, the weekly count of coronavirus deaths in the state has declined, according to data from the state’s health department. The week ending May 3 saw 505 deaths, a slight drop from the prior week’s report of 527 victims.In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves announced Monday that starting this week, outdoor gatherings of up to 20 people will be allowed and dine-in services at restaurants will also be allowed to resume.The state saw its largest number of reported deaths in a day, the governor said Tuesday, adding that Mississippi has also seen the largest number of cases reported in two of the last five days.In Texas, the governor announced wedding venues can reopen. Weddings and wedding receptions held indoors must limit occupancy to 25%. Those limits don’t apply to outdoor wedding receptions, the governor’s office said.Starting May 8, hair salons, nail salons, tanning salons and pools will also be allowed to reopen in the state as long as long as they maintain certain guidelines.Virus spread extremely quickly starting late last yearAs they reopen, some states have pushed to build stronger contact tracing frameworks and conduct more antibody tests to get a better understanding of just how far and fast the virus has spread.But officials are still learning about the virus.For example, a new genetic analysis of the virus taken from more than 7,600 patients around the world shows it has been circulating in people since late last year, and must have spread extremely quickly after the first infection.Researchers in Britain looked at mutations in the virus and found evidence of quick spread, but no evidence the virus is becoming more easily transmitted or more likely to cause serious disease.”The virus is changing, but this in itself does not mean it’s getting worse,” genetics researcher Francois Balloux of the University College London Genetics Institute told CNN.The analysis also ruled out scenarios that assumed coronavirus was circulating for months before it was identified and had by now infected “large proportions of the population,” the researchers wrote.At most, 10% of the global population has been exposed to the virus, Balloux estimated.That’s grim news. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said the novel coronavirus — which by his estimate has infected between 5% to 15% of the population — will continue to spread until about 60 to 70% are infected. “Think how much pain, suffering, death and economic disruption we’ve had in getting from 5% to 15% of the population infected and hopefully protected,” Osterholm said. “Wake up, world. Do not believe the rhetoric that says this is going to go away.”

The latest:

  • There have been more than 1.2 million coronavirus cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.
  • The U.S. death toll has surpassed 71,000 people, according to Hopkins.
  • President Trump toured and spoke at a mask production facility in Arizona on Tuesday.
  • The World Health Organization says 108 potential COVID-19 vaccines are in development around the world, according to documents posted on its website.
  • An influential coronavirus model often cited by the White House is now forecasting that 134,000 people will die of COVID-19 in the U.S., nearly double its previous prediction.

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With more than half the country now into at least the first stage of reopening, one expert says the U.S. still hasn’t done enough to protect residents from the coronavirus.

“I don’t think you can say, how much suffering are you willing to bear in order to restart the economy until you have done everything possible to ensure that every single person in American can take measures to protect their own health, the health of their families and the health of their communities,” Dr. Richard Besser, the former acting director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN Tuesday. “That’s just not the case right now.”

Governors across the country have allowed residents to return to some semblance of normalcy after weeks of shutdowns to stop the spread of the virus. But the country’s death toll continues to rise and public health experts have warned relaxing restrictions could cost thousands of lives.

And on Tuesday, a senior White House official told CNN the White House coronavirus task force — the most visible part of the federal government’s response to the pandemic — will begin winding down later this month.

But the U.S. is still lagging behind in factors that are key to helping get the virus under control and combating a resurgence, officials have said.

“We don’t have the testing capacity now to know where this disease is,” Besser said. “We have not scaled up the thousands and thousands of contact tracers that we need, we don’t provide safe places for people to isolate or quarantine if they are identified as either having an infection or being in contact.”

“We are saying, if you have money and you are white, you can do well here,” he said. “If you are not, good luck to you.”

African Americans hit harder than any other US group

Although communities across the U.S. have been devastated, a new study suggests more African Americans are dying from the virus in the U.S. than whites or other ethic groups.

Black Americans represent 13.4% of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but counties with higher black populations account for more than half of all coronavirus cases and almost 60% of deaths, the study found.

Epidemiologists and clinicians from four universities worked with amfAR, the AIDS research nonprofit, and Seattle’s Center for Vaccine Innovation and Access, PATH, and analyzed cases and deaths using county-level comparisons.

They compared counties with a disproportionate number of black residents — those with a population of 13% or more — with those with lower numbers of African American residents. Counties with higher populations of black residents accounted for 52% of coronavirus diagnoses and 58% of COVID-19 deaths nationally, they said.

More states reopening

By May 10, at least 43 states will have completely or partially reopened.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who issued the first stay-at-home order and vowed to abide by science despite mounting pressure from business owners, announced this week that some retail stores — including florists and book shops — will be allowed to reopen Friday.

“I cannot impress upon people more, we’re not going back to normal, we’re going back to a new normal, with adaptations and modifications until we get to immunity until we get to a vaccine. We’ll get there,” Newsom said.

For the first time since the outbreak began, the weekly count of coronavirus deaths in the state has declined, according to data from the state’s health department. The week ending May 3 saw 505 deaths, a slight drop from the prior week’s report of 527 victims.

In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves announced Monday that starting this week, outdoor gatherings of up to 20 people will be allowed and dine-in services at restaurants will also be allowed to resume.

The state saw its largest number of reported deaths in a day, the governor said Tuesday, adding that Mississippi has also seen the largest number of cases reported in two of the last five days.

In Texas, the governor announced wedding venues can reopen. Weddings and wedding receptions held indoors must limit occupancy to 25%. Those limits don’t apply to outdoor wedding receptions, the governor’s office said.

Starting May 8, hair salons, nail salons, tanning salons and pools will also be allowed to reopen in the state as long as long as they maintain certain guidelines.

Virus spread extremely quickly starting late last year

As they reopen, some states have pushed to build stronger contact tracing frameworks and conduct more antibody tests to get a better understanding of just how far and fast the virus has spread.

But officials are still learning about the virus.

For example, a new genetic analysis of the virus taken from more than 7,600 patients around the world shows it has been circulating in people since late last year, and must have spread extremely quickly after the first infection.

Researchers in Britain looked at mutations in the virus and found evidence of quick spread, but no evidence the virus is becoming more easily transmitted or more likely to cause serious disease.

“The virus is changing, but this in itself does not mean it’s getting worse,” genetics researcher Francois Balloux of the University College London Genetics Institute told CNN.

The analysis also ruled out scenarios that assumed coronavirus was circulating for months before it was identified and had by now infected “large proportions of the population,” the researchers wrote.

At most, 10% of the global population has been exposed to the virus, Balloux estimated.

That’s grim news. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said the novel coronavirus — which by his estimate has infected between 5% to 15% of the population — will continue to spread until about 60 to 70% are infected.

“Think how much pain, suffering, death and economic disruption we’ve had in getting from 5% to 15% of the population infected and hopefully protected,” Osterholm said. “Wake up, world. Do not believe the rhetoric that says this is going to go away.”