Ryan W. Miller, Heather Tucker and Doyle Rice
Published 8:27 PM EDT May 22, 2020
As the U.S. approaches 100,000 coronavirus deaths, President Donald Trump said Friday he was calling on governors to allow houses of worship to open and welcome parishioners to return for religious services, deeming churches, synagogues, mosques and other worship locations “essential.”
“In America we need more prayer, not less,” Trump said at a brief press conference.
Meanwhile, Trump had feuded with Michigan’s attorney general, who criticized him for not publicly wearing a mask when visiting a Ford plant. In Thursday night tweets, Trump called Dana Nessel the “Do nothing A.G. of the Great State of Michigan” and said she should not take her “anger and stupidity out on Ford Motor” or else the company might leave the state.
Nessel called Trump a “petulant child” for not wearing a mask during the visit, but Trump said he did wear one, just not in front of the press.
The U.S. accounts for over a fifth of the 5.2 million global coronavirus cases with 1.6 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. More than 337,000 people have died globally; the U.S. death toll is nearing 96,000.
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Here are some highlights to know Friday:
- President Donald Trump is scheduled to spend part of Memorial Day in Baltimore, Maryland, visiting Fort McHenry, but the city’s mayor has asked him to stay away, saying the non-essential trip ”sends the wrong message to our residents.”
- So far, Nevada is the state hit hardest by soaring unemployment caused by the pandemic, with a reported rate of 28%, highest in the U.S. and the worst in the state’s history.
- Caesars Palace and the Flamingo will be the first hotels to reopen on the Las Vegas Strip, though the exact date is not known.
- President Donald Trump will order U.S. flags to be lowered over federal buildings to honor those who have died from the coronavirus.
- The Smithsonian museums are collecting artifacts to document the pandemic.
We’re not as divided as you think. Most Americans want to get back to work, school and social lives. But safely. This is the Backstory, from USA TODAY’s editor-in-chief.
What we’re talking about: Kentucky restaurants are preparing to reopen Friday, but the state is telling them to nix tablecloths and cloth napkins and use disposable ones. Restaurant owners are calling the rule wasteful.
Something to smile about: Bingo! Will & Kate call the numbers in Zoom game with nursing home residents in Wales.
Are you wearing your face mask correctly? A mask that fits perfectly makes all the difference, according to Reviewed.com.
Staying Apart, Together: USA TODAY brings a newsletter about how to cope with these trying times straight to your inbox. 📥
Former NBA player Patrick Ewing hospitalized with coronavirus
Georgetown men’s basketball coach and Hall of Fame player Patrick Ewing has tested positive for COVID-19, the school announced Friday evening.
Georgetown said in a news release that Ewing, 57, is isolated and receiving care at a Washington hospital. He chose to announce his diagnosis “to emphasize that this virus can affect anyone,” the school said. He is the only member of the team to test positive.
An 11-time All-Star as a player with the New York Knicks, Ewing transitioned to coaching in 2002, serving as an assistant with several NBA teams before accepting the head coaching job at Georgetown before the 2017-18 season.
— Tom Schad
Nevada’s 28% joblessness is worst in US and in state history
More than one-fourth of Nevada’s workers don’t have jobs after the state’s unemployment rate hit 28.2% in April – the highest rate in the U.S. and the worst joblessness showing in Nevada history. The previous record for Nevada unemployment was estimated at 25% during the Great Depression.
Nevada was hit especially hard by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic because so many of its jobs are tied to the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors, according to David Schmidt, chief economist for the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.
Baltimore mayor asks Trump not to visit city amid lockdown
The mayor of Baltimore is asking President Donald Trump to stay home ahead of a planned trip to Fort McHenry for Memorial Day, calling it “not a smart thing to do” as the city remains on lockdown over the coronavirus.
“That President Trump is deciding to pursue non-essential travel sends the wrong message to our residents, many of whom have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 virus,” Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young said in a statement Thursday.
Trump is scheduled on Monday to visit the city’s Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, which has been closed to all visitors since late March. While Maryland began phasing out its statewide “stay-at-home” order last week, Baltimore’s is still in place.
Young told CNN on Friday he got no heads-up about Trump’s visit. “Dear Mr. President @realDonaldTrump, please stay home!” Young tweeted Thursday.
– Jeanine Santucci
Trump calls for houses of worship to open immediately
President Donald Trump said Friday that houses of worship should open immediately as churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship were “essential.” “These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united,” Trump said.
The practical impact of that designation was not immediately clear: It is state and local officials who have decided which businesses are essential and have enforced social distancing orders. The announcement comes a day after the president slammed Democratic governors for what he described as moving too slowly to bring parishioners back to their pews.
– John Fritze
China gets ‘promising’ early results from COVID-19 vaccine trial
A new study out of China suggests that it should be possible to develop a safe vaccine against COVID-19, though the effectiveness of a single shot remains unclear. In a paper in The Lancet on Friday, Chinese researchers revealed that their candidate vaccine has so far been tested in 108 healthy adults ages 18 to 60 in Wuhan, China, where the pandemic began.
Within two weeks of getting the vaccine, the immune systems of people receiving low, medium and high dose of the candidate vaccine showed some level of response, with most developing a type of antibody that can attach to the virus, though not necessarily destroy it. Some also developed so-called neutralizing antibodies, which can kill the virus.
The key outstanding question is whether this vaccine or other similar ones can generate enough of these neutralizing antibodies to protect people against the virus, said Peter Jay Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
– Karen Weintraub
Pandemic halts vaccination for nearly 80 million children
The coronavirus pandemic is interrupting immunization against diseases including measles, polio and cholera that could put the lives of nearly 80 million children under the age of 1 at risk, according to a new analysis from the World Health Organization and partners.
In a report issued on Friday, health officials warned that more than half of 129 countries where immunization data were available reported moderate, severe or total suspensions of vaccination services during March and April.
“Disruption to immunization programs from the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to unwind decades of progress against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement.
Will virus keep Florida spectators from astronaut launch?
In ordinary times, the beaches and roads along Florida’s Space Coast would be packed with hundreds of thousands of spectators, eager to witness the first astronaut launch from Florida in nine years. In the age of coronavirus, however, local officials and NASA are split on whether that’s a good idea.
NASA and SpaceX are urging spectators to stay home Wednesday for safety reasons. Officials in Brevard County, home to the Kennedy Space Center, are rolling out the welcome mat in an effort to jump-start a tourism industry hit hard this spring by virus-related lockdowns.
Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are set for a test flight of SpaceX’s Dragon crew capsule. Liftoff is set for 4:33 p.m. EDT.
CDC estimate: 35% of cases are asymptomatic
About a third of coronavirus cases are asymptomatic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in guidance for mathematical modelers and public health officials.
The “current best estimate” for the percent of positive cases that are asymptomatic is 35%, but the CDC says that number could change as more data becomes available.
The CDC says the new coronavirus can be transmitted by people who have not yet experienced symptoms or who never experience symptoms.
Cheap chicken, beef came at a cost. How American meat plants bred coronavirus hot spots.
The meatpacking industry faces perhaps its greatest test of worker safety, as the novel coronavirus continues to sweep through its slaughterhouses and processing plants.
As of May 20, officials have publicly linked at least 15,300 COVID-19 infections to 192 U.S. meatpacking plants, according to tracking by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. At least 63 workers have died.
The meatpacking industry has evolved into a marvel of modern efficiency, producing 105 billion pounds of meat annually, but those same features that allow a steady churn of cheap meat also provide the perfect breeding ground for airborne diseases like the coronavirus: a cramped workplace, a culture of underreporting illnesses, and a cadre of rural, immigrant and undocumented workers who share transportation and close living quarters.
“This pandemic is preying on decades of the fundamental arrangement of how we produce our food,” said Joshua Specht, an assistant professor of history at the University of Notre Dame who studies the meat industry.
– Sky Chadde, Kyle Bagenstose, Veronica Martinez Jacobo and Rachel Axon
More on America’s food chain: When businesses shut down, truckers lost work, risked their health to keep America open
FDA investigates lab as COVID-19 test results in Florida questioned
Federal regulators are investigating a Texas laboratory that a Florida hospital chain dropped last week because of delayed and unreliable COVID-19 test results.
AdventHealth, which has 45 hospitals in nine states, terminated its Florida contract with MicroGen DX due to concerns about the validity of some of the 60,000 tests MicroGen had processed for the system because the lab did not store them according to CDC guidelines, AdventHealth said in a statement.
AdventHealth said it is notifying about 25,000 patients who got unreliable or delayed results. It is advising them to seek medical care and retesting if they tested negative but have COVID-19 symptoms. Patients who tested positive should also seek retesting, AdventHealth said. It told the lab to destroy remaining tests and said its patients who haven’t received results from MicroGen DX will never receive them.
The dispute is expected to affect testing across the U.S. as MicroGen had an undisclosed number of other clients.
– Bailey Gallion and Jayne O’Donnell
Caesars Palace, Flamingo will be first hotels to reopen on Las Vegas Strip
Caesars Entertainment, operator of nine properties in Las Vegas, has not unveiled when it will reopen because it’s up to state and local officials controlling shutdown orders. But the company on Thursday granted a peek of what tourists can expect from the resort giant when Las Vegas reopens.
Rather than opening all properties at the same time, the chain will first welcome guests to Caesars Palace and the Flamingo Las Vegas. Caesars Palace and the Flamingo will offer hotel rooms, dining options and access to pools – as well as slot machines and table games. An added perk has also come out of the pandemic: All self-parking at Caesars properties along the Strip will be free.
– Ed Komenda, Reno Gazette Journal
Donald Trump to order US flags lowered to honor coronavirus victims
President Donald Trump said Thursday he will order U.S. flags to be lowered over federal buildings to honor those who have died from the coronavirus.
The order, which Trump said would continue into the Memorial Day weekend, comes as the nation approaches 100,000 deaths from the virus. Flags traditionally fly at half staff on Memorial Day to honor the nation’s fallen members of the military.
Trump’s decision came hours after congressional Democrats sent a letter requesting that the flags be lowered when the coronavirus death toll hits 100,000.
– John Fritze and Nicholas Wu
Reopening America: Alaska returns to life ‘prior to the virus’ on Friday
What’s changing on Friday? Alaska will resume life as it was “prior to the virus,” with a full reopening of the economy without restrictions; Iowa will reopen movie theaters, museums and zoos; and Kentucky will allow restaurants to operate at 33% capacity indoors with unlimited outdoor seating. Find out the latest news in your state.
Is summer vacation canceled? Depends whom you ask
As the annual summer travel season kicks off Friday, travelers and the businesses that cater to them face unprecedented uncertainty, chaos and concern.
Major attractions and vacation destinations remain closed, stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions are still pervasive, and some would-be travelers are anxious about the virus and crowds or put off by new safety measures, including mandatory face masks on planes. Add in steep job losses and the question becomes: Is summer vacation canceled this year?
The outlook is so murky AAA ditched its annual Memorial Day travel forecast this year for the first time in 20 years. All officials of the automobile club and travel agency could offer was that holiday weekend travel volume will be weak.
– Dawn Gilbertson
Smithsonian museums collect artifacts from coronavirus pandemic
Smithsonian museums are closed during the coronavirus pandemic, but curators across the institution are hard at work collecting artifacts to best preserve this moment in time. And they need your help.
The National Museum of American History established a task force to spearhead the effort to assess and document scientific and medical events during this period and their effects on business, work, politics and culture.
Curators will preserve objects, photographs and documents that will live permanently in the museum’s collection. The museum can’t accept materials while the building is closed, so curators request that potential donors secure items to be considered for acquisition.
– David Oliver
More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY:
- The life-saving lesson suicidal people can teach a world in pandemic.
- 13 tips for hosting a great graduation party while social distancing.
- Leaving your coronavirus isolation? Think about these 3 things first.
Contributing: The Associated Press