National coronavirus updates: Federal agencies draft plan to reopen country

The latest:There have been more than 608,000 coronavirus cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.The U.S. death toll has surpassed 26,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins.Globally, there have been nearly 2 million cases with more than 126,000 deaths. President Trump announced Tuesday the U.S. will halt funding to the World Health Organization.The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the CDC and FEMA have drafted a national plan to reopen the United States.Multiple airlines reported Tuesday they are receiving billions of dollars from the federal government to help pay workers.President Trump asserted that he is the ultimate decision-maker for determining how and when to relax the nation’s social distancing guidelines.The Pentagon announced a $415 million contract for 60 decontamination units that will allow millions of N95 masks to be reused.Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, says as the world considers getting back to normal, it’s important to remember “masks are not an alternative to lockdown.”CDC, FEMA draft national plan to reopen US, report saysThere is a draft of a back-to-work strategy for the nation, created by a team led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to The Washington Post.The plan offers guidance for local and state governments on how to reopen the country safely and in phases, the newspaper reported.The strategy has three phases, according to the report.President Trump’s trade adviser defends WHO funding haltPresident Donald Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro appeared on Fox News after the White House briefing to defend the President’s WHO funding halt and discuss how it could impact US-China relations.“The World Health Organization is a single failure during this epidemic. They basically hid information from the public, they failed to call this a pandemic long after others had rightfully done so. There is blood on their hands. I think President Trump is absolutely correct to have a full investigation of how that happened and what China’s role might’ve been to that,” Navarro said.Pressed on how this could impact future trade negotiations with China, he called those “interesting questions” but went on to talk about supply chains.Asked again later in the interview how coronavirus will impact the US-China relationship, Navarro said, “We have to find out where it originated. We have to understand why China did not tell us for six weeks in which we lost precious time preparing for a pandemic.“This is something we will not forget: China was basically vacuuming up the world’s PPE around the world so that we didn’t have it in New York and people didn’t have it in Milan. That’s a question that has to be answered. The question going forward is will they provide the PPE to the world as we go through this crisis without strings?”San Francisco Pride cancels 50th anniversary celebration due to virus concernsSan Francisco Pride has decided to cancel its parade and celebration this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the organization announced in a statement today.“Uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified in recent weeks, and the organization has concluded that the risks to public health of a large-scale gathering such as Pride preclude this year’s production of the annual event,” the statement said.The two day event in San Francisco, scheduled for June 27 and 28, would have marked San Francisco Pride’s 50th anniversary with over a million attendees, according to the statement.“This was not a decision we arrived at lightly,” San Francisco Pride Executive Director Fred Lopez said.Nonprofit event producers are working to determine alternate ways to celebrate the 50th anniversary through digital platforms.SF Pride will join other Pride organizations in a worldwide “Virtual Global Pride” event on June 27.Trump acknowledges governors have authority to open states when ready President Donald Trump says he’ll soon reveal details and guidelines for reopening the country but appeared to acknowledge that individual state governors will ultimately determine when to reverse stay-at-home orders.Only a day earlier, Trump insisted he had absolute authority to determine when states would be able to reopen their economies.But his message Tuesday was different. He said governors would determine their own plans. And while he said he was authorizing them to do it, there wasn’t any evidence they would require such sign-off. Trump said he would be “authorizing each individual governor of each individual state to implement a reopening and a very powerful reopening plan of their state.”He said he would soon speak to all 50 governors about the plans, and indicated some states without major outbreaks could potentially open before May 1.He said his administration would work to hold governors accountable for the plans.But he said they’d be working closely with the states.Trump halts US funding to World Health Organization President Trump announced Tuesday he is halting funding to the World Health Organization while a review is conducted.Trump said at a news conference the review would cover the WHO’s “role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus.”The president said that while the U.S. imposed travel restrictions on China during the early stages of the outbreak, WHO was “opposed to what we did,” he said.”Other nations and regions who followed WHO guidelines and kept their borders open to China, accelerated the pandemic around the world,” Trump said.Trump continued: “The decision of other major countries to keep travel open was one of the great tragedies and missed opportunities from the early days.”Dr. Fauci: “We’re not there yet” on reopening countryDr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said Tuesday the U.S. does not yet have the critical testing and tracing procedures needed to begin reopening the nation’s economy, adding a dose of caution to increasingly optimistic projections from the White House.“We have to have something in place that is efficient and that we can rely on, and we’re not there yet,” Fauci said in an interview with The Associated Press.Fauci’s comments come as President Donald Trump and others in the administration weigh how quickly businesses can reopen and Americans can get back to work weeks after the fast-spreading coronavirus essentially halted the U.S. economy. Trump has floated the possibility of reopening some areas by May 1 and said he could announce recommendations as soon as this week. Fauci said a May 1 target is “a bit overly optimistic” for many areas of the country. Any easing off the strict social-distancing rules in place in much of the country would have to occur on a “rolling” basis, not all at once, he said, reflecting the ways COVID-19 struck different parts of the country at different times.Among Fauci’s top concerns: That there will be new outbreaks in locations where social distancing has eased, but public health officials don’t yet have the capabilities to rapidly test for the virus, isolate any new cases and track down everyone that an infected person came into contact with.“I’ll guarantee you, once you start pulling back there will be infections. It’s how you deal with the infections that’s going count,” Fauci told the AP.While some states team up to plan for reopening, others say it’s too soonWith encouraging signs that the U.S. is nearing the peak of its coronavirus outbreak, at least 10 states have created coalitions to work together toward reopening their economies. But as they do, several other state leaders are taking a more measured approach, saying they fear the worst is yet to come for their parts of the country.The contrasting responses reflect one of the challenges the country will face as talks turn to lifting social distancing measures and states find themselves in vastly different circumstances.Robert R. Redfield, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday that while the country is nearing its peak in the coronavirus pandemic, different parts of the country were affected differently and should be viewed as “separate situations.” In Pennsylvania, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said that while social distancing measures have had a positive impact in slowing the number of new cases, it would be a “very big mistake” to think about reopening the state before it hits its peak — which she said hasn’t happened yet.North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said Monday that governors across the Upper Great Plains region don’t think they are anywhere close to opening.”We have said all along there are going to be different curves for different parts of the country, and so we are not there yet,” he said.He said that while other states have begun showing signs of a flattening curve, in North Dakota, the numbers of cases and deaths are still on the rise.”That is going to be confusing for people. If … New York had all these deaths and they are opening up, why aren’t we opening? That will be a communication challenge for us, but we have to just keep monitoring and see where we are going on this,” Burgum said.New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state was coordinating with other Northeastern states, including New Jersey and Connecticut, and on Tuesday would begin discussions around reopening.”Now it is time to start opening the valve slowly and carefully while watching the infection rate meter so we don’t trigger a second wave of new infections,” he said. “This is not a light switch that we can just flick on and everything goes back to normal — we have to come up with a smart, consistent strategy to restart the systems we shut down and get people back to work.”On the West Coast, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington said they’d also be working together with similar goals.As those announcements began rolling in, President Donald Trump said the White House plans to unveil a committee — or multiple ones — Tuesday focused on reopening the country in the coming weeks.”We will soon finalize new and very important guidelines to give governors the information they need to start safely opening their states,” Trump said. “My administration’s plan and corresponding guidelines will give the American people the confidence they need to begin returning to normal life.” What May will look like still uncertainAn influential model cited by the White House predicts the coronavirus pandemic will “peter out” in May and the expert who built the model, Dr. Christopher Murray, says it’s possible to get transmission of the virus down to zero by this summer.The model, which makes predictions until August, projects zero deaths after June 21.”The one thing we absolutely know for sure is that social distancing measures work,” said Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. “It leads to a situation where every case is infecting less than one other case, and that means if you keep the course, you’ll get transmission essentially down to zero.”But a timeline toward normalcy is something most governors seem hesitant to draw.In Tennessee, the beginning of May will mark a “phased reboot of our economy” after the state’s stay-at-home order ends on April 30, Gov. Bill Lee said Monday.Lee announced the formation of an Economic Recovery Group that will work in coordination with local leaders, healthcare professionals, and representatives of impacted industries to determine what is best.The steps the group will take in reopening the economy have not yet been determined, Lee said.In Georgia, one of the last states to issue a sweeping stay-at-home order, Gov. Brian Kemp said plans beyond the end of the month were not the priority.”Our focus is on the hospital surge capacity, the ability to test more because we are going to need that when we go back to work,” the governor said when asked about the reopening of the state economy.”We are a little behind the curve from when our peak is going to be to other states around the country,” he added.Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday that schools would be closed through the end of the academic year but said it was too soon to know when the state could loosen social distancing guidelines.”I cannot tell you exactly what that’s going to look like yet, but we will be working really hard with all the experts to get that figured out,” he said.Four key cities are listening to stay-at-home ordersIn some of the country’s hotspots — New York, New Jersey, Detroit and New Orleans — cases have begun leveling off or going down, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said in a tweet Monday.”In the midst of tragedy, there IS hope,” he tweeted. “Social distancing and mitigation IS working. There is a light at the end of this dark tunnel.””Keep at it,” he added.A report from the CDC shared a similar message. CDC researchers studied data from New York City, Seattle, New Orleans and San Francisco – four cities that had large outbreaks and implemented mitigation measures early on.The report found that, in all four areas, the percentage of people leaving their home was close to 80% on Feb. 26. By April 1, that declined between 20 percentage points and 40 percentage points in each city.”They didn’t leave their home at any point for any reason. They didn’t go outside. That’s significant,” said study coauthor Kathleen Ethier, leader of the CDC’s community mitigation task force for the coronavirus response.”When you put in these social distancing measures, they do seem to work,” she said.For now, Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees said social distancing will remain the new normal until a vaccine is developed.”I cannot emphasize enough that we cannot let our guard down at this present time,” he said. “Until we get a vaccine, which is a while off, this is going to be the new normal and we need to adapt and protect ourselves.”The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The latest:

  • There have been more than 608,000 coronavirus cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.
  • The U.S. death toll has surpassed 26,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins.
  • Globally, there have been nearly 2 million cases with more than 126,000 deaths.
  • President Trump announced Tuesday the U.S. will halt funding to the World Health Organization.
  • The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the CDC and FEMA have drafted a national plan to reopen the United States.
  • Multiple airlines reported Tuesday they are receiving billions of dollars from the federal government to help pay workers.
  • President Trump asserted that he is the ultimate decision-maker for determining how and when to relax the nation’s social distancing guidelines.
  • The Pentagon announced a $415 million contract for 60 decontamination units that will allow millions of N95 masks to be reused.
  • Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, says as the world considers getting back to normal, it’s important to remember “masks are not an alternative to lockdown.”

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CDC, FEMA draft national plan to reopen US, report says

There is a draft of a back-to-work strategy for the nation, created by a team led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to The Washington Post.

The plan offers guidance for local and state governments on how to reopen the country safely and in phases, the newspaper reported.

The strategy has three phases, according to the report.

President Trump’s trade adviser defends WHO funding halt

President Donald Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro appeared on Fox News after the White House briefing to defend the President’s WHO funding halt and discuss how it could impact US-China relations.

“The World Health Organization is a single failure during this epidemic. They basically hid information from the public, they failed to call this a pandemic long after others had rightfully done so. There is blood on their hands. I think President Trump is absolutely correct to have a full investigation of how that happened and what China’s role might’ve been to that,” Navarro said.

Pressed on how this could impact future trade negotiations with China, he called those “interesting questions” but went on to talk about supply chains.

Asked again later in the interview how coronavirus will impact the US-China relationship, Navarro said, “We have to find out where it originated. We have to understand why China did not tell us for six weeks in which we lost precious time preparing for a pandemic.

“This is something we will not forget: China was basically vacuuming up the world’s PPE around the world so that we didn’t have it in New York and people didn’t have it in Milan. That’s a question that has to be answered. The question going forward is will they provide the PPE to the world as we go through this crisis without strings?”

San Francisco Pride cancels 50th anniversary celebration due to virus concerns

San Francisco Pride has decided to cancel its parade and celebration this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the organization announced in a statement today.

“Uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified in recent weeks, and the organization has concluded that the risks to public health of a large-scale gathering such as Pride preclude this year’s production of the annual event,” the statement said.

The two day event in San Francisco, scheduled for June 27 and 28, would have marked San Francisco Pride’s 50th anniversary with over a million attendees, according to the statement.

“This was not a decision we arrived at lightly,” San Francisco Pride Executive Director Fred Lopez said.

Nonprofit event producers are working to determine alternate ways to celebrate the 50th anniversary through digital platforms.

SF Pride will join other Pride organizations in a worldwide “Virtual Global Pride” event on June 27.

Trump acknowledges governors have authority to open states when ready

President Donald Trump says he’ll soon reveal details and guidelines for reopening the country but appeared to acknowledge that individual state governors will ultimately determine when to reverse stay-at-home orders.

Only a day earlier, Trump insisted he had absolute authority to determine when states would be able to reopen their economies.

But his message Tuesday was different. He said governors would determine their own plans. And while he said he was authorizing them to do it, there wasn’t any evidence they would require such sign-off.

Trump said he would be “authorizing each individual governor of each individual state to implement a reopening and a very powerful reopening plan of their state.”

He said he would soon speak to all 50 governors about the plans, and indicated some states without major outbreaks could potentially open before May 1.

He said his administration would work to hold governors accountable for the plans.

But he said they’d be working closely with the states.

Trump halts US funding to World Health Organization

President Trump announced Tuesday he is halting funding to the World Health Organization while a review is conducted.

Trump said at a news conference the review would cover the WHO’s “role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus.”

The president said that while the U.S. imposed travel restrictions on China during the early stages of the outbreak, WHO was “opposed to what we did,” he said.

“Other nations and regions who followed WHO guidelines and kept their borders open to China, accelerated the pandemic around the world,” Trump said.

Trump continued: “The decision of other major countries to keep travel open was one of the great tragedies and missed opportunities from the early days.”

Dr. Fauci: “We’re not there yet” on reopening country

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said Tuesday the U.S. does not yet have the critical testing and tracing procedures needed to begin reopening the nation’s economy, adding a dose of caution to increasingly optimistic projections from the White House.

“We have to have something in place that is efficient and that we can rely on, and we’re not there yet,” Fauci said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Fauci’s comments come as President Donald Trump and others in the administration weigh how quickly businesses can reopen and Americans can get back to work weeks after the fast-spreading coronavirus essentially halted the U.S. economy. Trump has floated the possibility of reopening some areas by May 1 and said he could announce recommendations as soon as this week.

Fauci said a May 1 target is “a bit overly optimistic” for many areas of the country. Any easing off the strict social-distancing rules in place in much of the country would have to occur on a “rolling” basis, not all at once, he said, reflecting the ways COVID-19 struck different parts of the country at different times.

Among Fauci’s top concerns: That there will be new outbreaks in locations where social distancing has eased, but public health officials don’t yet have the capabilities to rapidly test for the virus, isolate any new cases and track down everyone that an infected person came into contact with.

“I’ll guarantee you, once you start pulling back there will be infections. It’s how you deal with the infections that’s going [to] count,” Fauci told the AP.

While some states team up to plan for reopening, others say it’s too soon

With encouraging signs that the U.S. is nearing the peak of its coronavirus outbreak, at least 10 states have created coalitions to work together toward reopening their economies.

But as they do, several other state leaders are taking a more measured approach, saying they fear the worst is yet to come for their parts of the country.

The contrasting responses reflect one of the challenges the country will face as talks turn to lifting social distancing measures and states find themselves in vastly different circumstances.

Robert R. Redfield, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday that while the country is nearing its peak in the coronavirus pandemic, different parts of the country were affected differently and should be viewed as “separate situations.”

In Pennsylvania, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said that while social distancing measures have had a positive impact in slowing the number of new cases, it would be a “very big mistake” to think about reopening the state before it hits its peak — which she said hasn’t happened yet.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said Monday that governors across the Upper Great Plains region don’t think they are anywhere close to opening.

“We have said all along there are going to be different curves for different parts of the country, and so we are not there yet,” he said.

He said that while other states have begun showing signs of a flattening curve, in North Dakota, the numbers of cases and deaths are still on the rise.

“That is going to be confusing for people. If … New York had all these deaths and they are opening up, why aren’t we opening? That will be a communication challenge for us, but we have to just keep monitoring and see where we are going on this,” Burgum said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state was coordinating with other Northeastern states, including New Jersey and Connecticut, and on Tuesday would begin discussions around reopening.

“Now it is time to start opening the valve slowly and carefully while watching the infection rate meter so we don’t trigger a second wave of new infections,” he said. “This is not a light switch that we can just flick on and everything goes back to normal — we have to come up with a smart, consistent strategy to restart the systems we shut down and get people back to work.”

On the West Coast, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington said they’d also be working together with similar goals.

As those announcements began rolling in, President Donald Trump said the White House plans to unveil a committee — or multiple ones — Tuesday focused on reopening the country in the coming weeks.

“We will soon finalize new and very important guidelines to give governors the information they need to start safely opening their states,” Trump said. “My administration’s plan and corresponding guidelines will give the American people the confidence they need to begin returning to normal life.”

What May will look like still uncertain

An influential model cited by the White House predicts the coronavirus pandemic will “peter out” in May and the expert who built the model, Dr. Christopher Murray, says it’s possible to get transmission of the virus down to zero by this summer.

The model, which makes predictions until August, projects zero deaths after June 21.

“The one thing we absolutely know for sure is that social distancing measures work,” said Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. “It leads to a situation where every case is infecting less than one other case, and that means if you keep the course, you’ll get transmission essentially down to zero.”

But a timeline toward normalcy is something most governors seem hesitant to draw.

In Tennessee, the beginning of May will mark a “phased reboot of our economy” after the state’s stay-at-home order ends on April 30, Gov. Bill Lee said Monday.

Lee announced the formation of an Economic Recovery Group that will work in coordination with local leaders, healthcare professionals, and representatives of impacted industries to determine what is best.

The steps the group will take in reopening the economy have not yet been determined, Lee said.

In Georgia, one of the last states to issue a sweeping stay-at-home order, Gov. Brian Kemp said plans beyond the end of the month were not the priority.

“Our focus is on the hospital surge capacity, the ability to test more because we are going to need that when we go back to work,” the governor said when asked about the reopening of the state economy.

“We are a little behind the curve from when our peak is going to be to other states around the country,” he added.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday that schools would be closed through the end of the academic year but said it was too soon to know when the state could loosen social distancing guidelines.

“I cannot tell you exactly what that’s going to look like yet, but we will be working really hard with all the experts to get that figured out,” he said.

Four key cities are listening to stay-at-home orders

In some of the country’s hotspots — New York, New Jersey, Detroit and New Orleans — cases have begun leveling off or going down, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said in a tweet Monday.

“In the midst of tragedy, there IS hope,” he tweeted. “Social distancing and mitigation IS working. There is a light at the end of this dark tunnel.”

“Keep at it,” he added.

A report from the CDC shared a similar message. CDC researchers studied data from New York City, Seattle, New Orleans and San Francisco – four cities that had large outbreaks and implemented mitigation measures early on.

The report found that, in all four areas, the percentage of people leaving their home was close to 80% on Feb. 26. By April 1, that declined between 20 percentage points and 40 percentage points in each city.

“They didn’t leave their home at any point for any reason. They didn’t go outside. That’s significant,” said study coauthor Kathleen Ethier, leader of the CDC’s community mitigation task force for the coronavirus response.

“When you put in these social distancing measures, they do seem to work,” she said.

For now, Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees said social distancing will remain the new normal until a vaccine is developed.

“I cannot emphasize enough that we cannot let our guard down at this present time,” he said. “Until we get a vaccine, which is a while off, this is going to be the new normal and we need to adapt and protect ourselves.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.