Memorial Day weekend caution from health officials

Memorial Day weekend caution from health officials


President Donald Trump deemed churches and other houses of worship “essential” and called on governors across the country to allow them to reopen this weekend, even as some parts of the nation remain under coronavirus lockdown. (May 22)

AP Domestic

Health officials urged caution Sunday as millions of Americans were beginning to emerge from stay-at-home orders and get together with friends and family on the Memorial Day weekend.

Many headed to beaches and parks. President Donald Trump hit the golf course. One photographer commemorated the holiday by using a projector to cast images onto the homes of families who lost veterans to the coronavirus.

More than 97,000 people have died from the virus in the United States, more than a quarter of the 341,000 deaths worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. There are more than 5.3 million confirmed cases around the globe, and 1.6 million in the United States alone.

“As you go out this weekend, understand you can go out. You can be outside,” Dr. Deborah Birx said during a press briefing. “You can play golf. You can play tennis with marked balls. You can go to the beaches if you stay six feet apart. But, remember, that is your space, and that’s a space that you need to protect and ensure that you’re social distanced for others.”

Our live blog is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news, and get updates in your inbox with The Daily Briefing. Scroll down for more details.

Here are some highlights to know Sunday:

What we’re talking about: In race for coronavirus vaccine, will Operation Warp Speed focus the work or politicize it?

Some good news: New York state on Saturday reported its lowest number of daily coronavirus deaths – 84 – since late March, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. In April, several daily death tolls surpassed 1,000.

Swim party linked to coronavirus cases in Arkansas

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he’s seeing evidence of a second peak of coronavirus cases in his state. 

Speaking at a news conference, Hutchinson said a high school swim party has been linked to new COVID-19 cases in the northeast part of the state. The case was an example he used while encouraging people to be “disciplined” in their activities. 

“A high school swim party I’m sure everybody thought was harmless,” he said. “They’re young, they’re swimming, they’re just having activity and positive cases resulted from that.”

Arkansas had 5,775 cases of the new coronavirus as of Saturday, Hutchinson said. Referencing a chart, he said the seven-day rolling average of new cases in the state shows the second peak. Hutchinson linked increased testing to the increase in cases in the state. He added the state’s rate of positive tests remains low. 

“It’s clear and evident to me that we have one peak, and then we’ve had a deep dip, and then we’re having a second peak right now and they’re really about 30 days apart,” he said.

North Carolina reports highest one-day increase in cases

North Carolina on Saturday reported the highest one-day number of confirmed COVID-19 cases so far during the coronavirus pandemic with 1,107 cases reported in the state. 

The state’s department of health and human services (NCDHHS) also reported 10% “of total tests were positive among labs that report both negative and positive tests.”

“This is a notable and concerning increase, ” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen. “As we head into a holiday weekend, please practice the three Ws – wear a face covering, wait six feet apart and wash your hands frequently. When it comes to our health, we need to work together to protect our families, friends and neighbors.”

North Carolina on Friday entered Phase 2 of its reopening plan. Phase 2 is set to last until June 26. Mass gatherings in the state are still limited, but the second phase loosens restrictions on restaurants, opens pools and child care businesses and allows personal care, grooming, massage and tattoo businesses to open with restrictions. 

New York Times front page lists almost 1,000 coronavirus deaths

The New York Times on Sunday published a full page of names of men and women who have died in the United States during the coronavirus pandemic – nearly 1,000 of the almost 100,000 deaths nationwide. 

The newspaper drastically altered its typical front-page approach to mark the country inching closer to a grim milestone: 100,000 deaths. More than 96,000 people have died in the U.S. during the pandemic so far, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. 

Simone Landon, assistant editor of the Graphics desk for the Times, told the newspaper she wanted to mark the moment in time but wasn’t sure about just using graphics and instead came up with the idea to compile obituaries and death notices from newspapers across the nation. 

“Alain Delaquérière, a researcher, combed through various sources online for obituaries and death notices with COVID-19 written as the cause of death. He compiled a list of nearly a thousand names from hundreds of newspapers. A team of editors from across the newsroom, in addition to three graduate student journalists, read them and gleaned phrases that depicted the uniqueness of each life lost,” according to the Times.

2 Missouri hairstylists may have exposed 140 clients

Two Missouri hairstylists worked while experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus, potentially exposing dozens of people, health officials said. 

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department announced Friday the first stylist at Great Clips had served 84 clients. In a Saturday announcement, the department said 56 other clients were potentially exposed by the second stylist.

Clay Goddard, the health department’s director, said in a news briefing the first stylist to get sick worked eight days from May 12 to May 20, with only the 18th off. The coworker then worked five shifts from May 16 to 20 while experiencing very mild symptoms.

All of the two stylists’ clients wore masks and will be tested. The owner of Great Clips said in a statement that the salon will be closed until it goes through sanitizing and deep cleaning.

The two cases come just days after city officials announced plans to relax even more distancing requirements and about a week after the health department started seeing an influx of new travel-related infections.

– The Associated Press

Trump administration exempts foreign athletes from entry ban

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf signed an order Friday that exempts certain foreign professional athletes from the ban on entry into the U.S.

“Professional sporting events provide much needed economic benefits, but equally important, they provide community pride and national unity,” Wolf said in a press release. “In today’s environment, Americans need their sports. It’s time to reopen the economy and it’s time we get our professional athletes back to work.”

The order also exempts the athletes’ staff, team and league leadership, spouses and dependents from entry restrictions.

The order applies to Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the Women’s National Basketball Association, the Professional Golfers’ Association Tour, the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour, the National Hockey League, the Association of Tennis Professionals and the Women’s Tennis Association.

Spain to reopen borders in July

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced Saturday that the country would be open to international tourism starting in July, Madrid-based newspaper El Pais and Reuters reported.

“Spain needs tourism and tourism needs security,” Sanchez said.

According to The Financial Times, tourism accounts for 12% of Spain’s gross domestic product. The country welcomes 80 millions tourists each year.

The rest of Europe won’t reopen until after June 15 and probably later than that for non-EU citizens.

– Jayme Deerwester

Chief justice to 2020 graduates: ‘You will be tested’

In a virtual commencement address to his son’s high school class, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. told graduates to appreciate their “genuine accomplishments” while preparing to be tested by a “jarring and unexpected world.”

“I think the pandemic is the world’s way of saying to mankind, you’re not in charge,” he said. “The pandemic has pierced our illusion of certainty and control.”

Like the Greatest Generation who fought in WWII, Roberts told students that they were among “one of the most challenged” graduating classes. He encouraged them to proceed with humility, compassion and courage. “The pandemic should teach us at least that,” he said.

Amid the sobering warning and advice, Roberts also added a bit of deadpan humor. “Now as for working remotely, I was asked whether the justices participating in arguments from their homes would wear robes,” he said. “I didn’t know if the person was asking judicial or bath.”

Public remarks led to Florida data curator’s firing

The woman who raised questions about Florida’s COVID-19 data after being ousted as the data’s curator had been reprimanded several times and ultimately fired for violating Health Department policy by making public remarks about the information, state records show.

Rebekah Jones’ comments over the past week and a half in emails to researchers, interviews with a handful of media outlets and blog posts have sought to sow doubt about the credibility of the data now that she is no longer in that role.

State health officials strenuously deny any issue with the information’s accuracy as Gov. Ron DeSantis seeks to make a data-driven case for a step-by-step reopening of the state’s battered economy following safer-at-home orders. The Republican governor lashed out at a news conference earlier this week saying Jones had a pattern of “insubordination” and should have been fired months ago.

– The Associated Press

Obesity increases risk of COVID-19 severity, studies show

The chronic conditions that increase the risk of serious illness and death of COVID-19 are by now well known: diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and being older than 65. Obesity is less well known or understood, but a growing number of studies and data on COVID-19 deaths confirm the link.

The extra weight on people in the 40-plus BMI range who contract COVID-19 increases the chance they will require hospitalization, most likely in the intensive care unit. It also hampers the ability of physicians to treat them, especially with ventilators, doctors say. Read more here.

– Jayne O’Donnell


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