WASHINGTON — This article contains ongoing U.S. and international updates on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects. Here are some key updates for Wednesday, April 29, 2020. You can find more details by scrolling through the story.
- Dr. Fauci says results from remdesivir study show drug can block the coronavirus
- President Trump said the federal government will not be extending its social distancing guidelines when they expire at the end of the month Thursday
- The federal government is giving out cleaning advice to schools and offices
- The U.S. economy shrank at a 4.8% annual rate last quarter
- Trump said his administration is considering requiring travelers on certain incoming international flights to undergo temperature and virus checks
- A Houston medical diagnostic lab is now capable of running an FDA-approved test on thousands of blood samples for coronavirus antibodies
- From Tuesday's updates: U.S. passes 1 million confirmed cases
There were more than 1,036,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States around 6 p.m. EDT Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. death toll is more than 60,000, while over 120,000 people have recovered. Beyond 6 million tests for COVID-19 have been performed in the U.S.
Worldwide, there have been more than 3.1 million cases with 226,000 deaths and 970,000 recoveries.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
Outbreak hits California federal prisons hard
More than half the inmates at a federal prison in Los Angeles have tested positive for the coronavirus and two of them have died, officials said.
As of Wednesday, 570 of the 1,055 inmates at Federal Correctional Institution, Terminal Island had the virus, as did 10 staff members, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Two inmates have died of complications related to COVID-19, the agency said.
Many of the inmates are asymptomatic, said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. Prison officials began testing inmates for the virus on April 23 at the facility in Los Angeles Harbor, she said.
To the north in Santa Barbara County, 36 inmates and 10 staff have tested positive at Federal Correctional Institution, Lompoc, according to the prisons bureau. At nearby U.S. Penitentiary, Lompoc, 83 inmates and 15 staff have the virus and one inmate has died, the agency said.
“The Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Justice must act immediately to reduce the incarcerated population and to protect those in BOP custody — as well as correctional officers and staff — from this deadly virus,” U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris said in a statement.
Trump to travel to Arizona next week, eager to resume rallies
President Donald Trump says he is planning to travel to Arizona next week and is looking forward to resuming campaign rallies after spending more than a month mostly cooped up at the White House because of the coronavirus.
Trump says he is looking forward to his Arizona trip next week and also hopes to visit Ohio soon despite the fact that much of the nation remains on some sort of lockdown as the virus continues to spread.
He says: “We’re going to start to move around and hopefully in the not-too-distant future, we’ll have some massive rallies and people will be sitting next to each other.”
Trump wouldn’t say exactly when he expects to be able to resume his rallies, but said it will depend, in part, on the state.
Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony canceled
Derek Jeter, Larry Walker and the rest of this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame class will have to wait for their big moment at Cooperstown. The Hall of Fame announced Wednesday that it has canceled the July 26 induction ceremony because of the coronavirus outbreak.
A record crowd had been expected at the small town in upstate New York to honor Jeter, the former New York Yankees captain. Catcher Ted Simmons also was to be inducted along with the late Marvin Miller, the pioneering players’ union head. Instead, they all will be honored next year, on July 25, 2021.
Florida governor says restaurants, retail can reopen, excluding hard-hit Miami area
Gov. Ron DeSantis says Florida’s restaurants and retail stores will be allowed to reopen Monday at 25% capacity, if the local government allows it.
The governor specifically excluded hard-hit, heavily populated Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, saying their businesses will begin phase one when it is safer.
The governor also will allow hospitals and surgical centers to restart nonessential, elective procedures — but only if they have sufficient medical supplies and agree to help nursing homes and assisted living facilities prevent and respond to coronavirus outbreaks. Parks, golf courses and other outdoor recreation areas already began reopening in some counties Wednesday.
DeSantis, a Republican, is being more cautious than the neighboring state of Georgia, as well as the task force DeSantis formed last week to study how to get people back to work.
Greta Thunberg launches effort to help finance UN children's emergency program
Climate activist Greta Thunberg is launching a campaign with a Danish foundation to help finance the U.N. children's agency’s emergency program to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Thunberg said in a statement that “like the climate crisis, the coronavirus pandemic is a child-rights crisis” that will affect youngsters now and in the long-term, especially the most vulnerable.
She urged people everywhere “to step up and join me in support of UNICEF’s vital work to save children’s lives, to protect health and continue education.”
The campaign is being launched with $100,000 from the Greta Thunberg Foundation and $100,000 from Denmark’s Human Act Foundation.
UN looking into if grandparents can safely hug grandchildren
A top World Health Organization official says the U.N. health agency is looking into whether grandparents can safely hug their grandchildren without risk of contracting the coronavirus.
The comments from Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead of WHO’s emergencies program, come after a top Swiss health official this week suggested that grandparents could hold young grandchildren — under age 10 — close without risk of contracting COVID-19 disease.
Most statistics show the elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions have been the overwhelming majority of victims who have died from the pandemic.
At a WHO news conference, Van Kerkhove acknowledged that many grandparents “are dying to hug their children, grandchildren” and said the issue was one of the “living reviews” conducted by WHO.
Detroit has more than 1,000 virus deaths
The city of Detroit has passed 1,000 deaths due to complications from the COVID-19 virus.
Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair says 1,008 people in Detroit have died. The city has 8,954 confirmed coronavirus cases.
Of the last 16 deaths, 14 of the victims were over age 70, while eight of those were over age 80 according to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
Trump talks reopening country with industry leaders
President Trump and Vice President Pence were conducting a roundtable discussion Wednesday afternoon with industry leaders and business executives on reopening the U.S.
Some of those who attended the talk included CEOs Walt Ehmer of Waffle House, Matt Maddox of Wynn Resorts and Chris Nassetta of Hilton, as well as Chris Reynolds, chief administrative officer of Toyota's manufacturing and corporate resources.
Pence said during the talk that 35 states have released formal reopen plans.
NBC News reported Tuesday no states have yet met the 14-day consecutive decline in cases the federal government recommended for easing restrictions that have closed businesses across the country.
Federal social distancing guidelines to expire
President Donald Trump says the federal government will not be extending its social distancing guidelines when they expire Thursday at the end of the month.
Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that the coronavirus guidelines will be “fading out” because of work that governors are doing in their states.
Vice President Mike Pence said the guidelines issued 45 days ago have been incorporated into guidance provided to the states on how they can begin the process of gradually reopening their economies.
The guidelines – which were originally supposed to last 15 days and were then extended another 30 - included encouraging Americans to work from home and avoid restaurants and discretionary travel as well as telling older Americans and those with serious underlying health conditions to isolate themselves.
Dr. Fauci: Remdesivir study shows drug can block virus
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said at the White House on Wednesday that a study on the drug remdesivir shows that it "can block" the coronavirus.
Fauci's remarks came Wednesday during an Oval Office meeting with President Donald Trump, the Coronavirus Task Force and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. He added that the result was a strong "proof of concept" for the drug.
Fauci went on to say remdesivir had produced a minor improvement on deaths - 11% for the placebo arm of the study and 8% for those treated with remdesivir.
He cited a "31% improvement" with the drug, without providing details.
Trump called it "a very positive event."
Remdesivir was invented by Gilead a decade ago and has shown promise against a variety of viruses in laboratory and animal experiments. If shown to prevent people from dying and being put on ventilators, it could give health officials and political leaders greater confidence as they seek to reopen the economy.
The NIAID study is the most rigorous test to date of the potential treatment because it is a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, the gold standard for seeing if a drug is safe and effective.
A cohort of patients receive a dummy treatment instead of the real drug, without patients and treating doctors knowing which one the patients are getting. It provides the best comparison of how people treated with the drug fared in relation to those who did not get the drug.
Federal government gives cleaning advice to offices and schools
Federal authorities are giving cleaning and disinfecting tips for schools and workplaces to help deal with the coronavirus.
The Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the cleaning guidelines Wednesday.
The guidelines urge Americans to draw up plans to clean areas with soap and water and disinfectant. Recommendations include ensuring custodians have proper protective gear.
EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler says the cleaning guidelines will “help the country reopen as safely as possible.”
Cleaning workplaces and schools will be part of reopening after weeks and months of lockdown from the outbreak. The shutdown has thrown tens of millions of Americans out of work and sent the U.S. economy plunging.
The Trump administration has vacillated between prodding states to reopen businesses and schools to get the economy going and urging caution to try to limit the spread.
US economy shrank at 4.8% rate last quarter as virus struck
The U.S. economy shrank at a 4.8% annual rate last quarter as the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the country and began triggering a recession that will end the longest expansion on record.
The Commerce Department says the gross domestic product, the total output of goods and services, posted a quarterly drop for the first time in six years. Forecasters say the drop in the January-March quarter will be only a precursor of a far grimmer GDP report to come on the current April-June period, with business shutdowns and layoffs striking with devastating force.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that GDP will plunge this quarter at a 40% annual rate.
American Airlines announces new safety measures
To keep passengers and crew safe from the coronavirus during flights, American Airlines has announced new guidelines.
In May, crews will distribute sanitizing wipes or gel and face masks to passengers while supplies last.
Flight attendants will also be required to wear face masks on all flights starting May 1.
Germany extends its worldwide travel warning
Germany is extending its worldwide travel warning until mid-June, saying the coronavirus situation is too dire to change the guidance.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says the warning, due to expire May 3, would be extended to June 14 because there has been no change to the danger posed by the pandemic. Maas says he will discuss the matter with European partners in the coming weeks.
He says, “naturally we all hope we won’t need this travel warning after June 14.”
Among other things, the official warning means that Germans who had booked vacations for the dates can get refunds, another likely blow to the European travel industry.
Path to resuming soccer season in Italy narrow
The Italian sports minister says it is increasingly unlikely the soccer season will resume.
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte announced Sunday that professional sports teams can resume training on May 18. That means Serie A could resume playing games in June.
But Vincenzo Spadafora tells Italian television channel LA7 that “resuming training absolutely does not mean resuming the season.”
He adds that he sees “the path to restarting Serie A getting ever narrower” and that if he was among the presidents of soccer teams “I would be thinking about next season.”
The French government called off the season in that country on Tuesday and Spadafora says that could push Italy to do the same.
With 14-day drop in cases requirement to reopen, no state has yet to meet it, report
Some states are already beginning to ease up on stay-at-home orders, but as NBC reports, there are no states yet that have met the federally recommended 14-day guidelines.
The guidelines from the federal government say that states should see declining cases over the course of 14 consecutive days before reopening and easing stay-at-home restrictions. Tuesday the United States hit the grim marker of 1 million cases. That's a third of the world's total cases.
South Korea experts downplay possible reinfections
South Korean infectious disease experts have downplayed concerns that patients could get reinfected with the new coronavirus after fully recovering.
While hundreds in South Korea have tested positive again after their release from hospitals, Oh Myoung-don, who heads the country’s central clinical committee on new infectious diseases, told a news conference on Wednesday there was a “high possibility” that such test results were flawed.
He said South Korea’s standard real-time PCR tests, designed to amplify the genetic materials of the virus so that even tiny quantities are detected, doesn’t reliably distinguish between remains of dead virus and infectious particles. He said lab tests on animals suggest that COVID-19 patients would maintain immunity for at least a year after their infections.
He also said it was unlikely that the virus could be reactivated after remaining dormant when it doesn’t seem to be a type that causes chronic illnesses.
Trump says US closer to testing international air travelers
President Donald Trump said his administration is considering requiring travelers on certain incoming international flights to undergo temperature and virus checks to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“We’re looking at doing it on the international flights coming out of areas that are heavily infected," Trump said Tuesday at the White House. “We will be looking into that in the very near future."
Trump said it has not been determined yet whether the federal government or the airlines would conduct the testing. “Maybe it's a combination of both," he said.
Houston lab mass-processes antibody test
A Houston medical diagnostic lab is now capable of testing thousands of blood samples for coronavirus antibodies.
SynerGene Laboratories, a facility owned by Principle Health Systems, is offering a COVID-19 test developed by pharmaceuticals giant, Abbott Laboratories. It tests for antibodies for the novel coronavirus and can detect whether a person has been exposed.
What differentiates the test from other antibody screenings is that the Abbott Labs version is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Principle Health Systems CEO James Dieter said Tuesday.
“There are a lot of tests on the market right now that are not, but Abbott did go through the painstaking process of getting FDA approval,” Dieter said.
The Abbott Labs test received “Emergency Use Authorization” by the FDA, an expedited approval that can be used during a public health crisis. The company said it plans to ship millions of tests to labs nationwide.
Dozens of blood tests are being marketed in the United States that are not entirely accurate or comparable to one another, according to a report released by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
Even a small rate of false positives can substantially distort the understanding of how many people have been infected. It’s even possible false positives could outnumber real positives.
Streaming films eligible for Oscars, but for 1 year only
Movies that debuted on a streaming service without a theatrical run will be eligible for the Oscars, but only for this year.
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences on Tuesday announced the change for the 93rd Academy Awards as a response to how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the film industry.
The film academy also says it will condense the two sound categories into one and prohibit DVD screeners for 2022's 94th Oscars in an effort to become more carbon neutral. The release eligibility change means that films that debuted online could be considered for best picture and other Oscars.