Virus Updates: US Tops 3 Million Cases; WHO Says Airborne Transmission Evidence Not Yet ‘Definitive'

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The United States continues to see a massive outbreak of the new coronavirus as the total cases reached 3 million Tuesday, according to a tally from NBC News. Confirmed cases are on the rise in 41 out of 50 states plus the District of Columbia, and the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus is increasing in 39 states.

Miami-Dade County, the epicenter of Florida's coronavirus boom, ordered restaurants and gyms closed again Monday because of a rise in confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. Several areas in California, including Los Angeles and San Diego, have also reversed course on reopening plans.

White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday the average age of those diagnosed with COVID is now 15 years younger than the first surge of cases in the spring in New York, New Orleans and Chicago, CNBC reported.

Also Monday, the government identified roughly 650,000 mostly small businesses and nonprofits that received taxpayer money as part of the Paycheck Protection Program. The figures released show that some less directly impacted by the pandemic, such as manufacturing and construction, received a greater proportion of the loans than the hard-hit restaurant and hotel industries. Many law firms and private equity companies also obtained loans.

Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.:

WHO on Coronavirus Airborne Transmission: 'Some Evidence Emerging But Not Definitive'

The World Health Organization said it will release a comprehensive summary of knowledge about coronavirus transmission, including airborne transmission for which there is "some evidence emerging but is not definitive."

The WHO's comments come after more than 200 scientists called on the organization to acknowledge that the coronavirus can spread in the air — a change that could alter some of the current measures being taken to stop the pandemic.

In a letter published this week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, two scientists from Australia and the U.S. wrote that studies have shown “beyond any reasonable doubt that viruses are released during exhalation, talking and coughing in microdroplets small enough to remain aloft in the air.” That means people in certain indoor conditions could be at greater risk of being infected than was previously thought.

Professor Benedetta Allegranzi, a technical lead at WHO, said that evidence on the matter of airborne transmission continues to be gathered and analyzed.

"These are fields of research that are really growing and for which there is some evidence emerging but is not definitive, and therefore the possibility of airborne transmission in public settings, especially in very specific conditions — crowded, closed, poorly ventilated settings that have been described — cannot be ruled out," Allegranzi said. "However, the evidence needs to be gathered and interpreted and we continue to support this."

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, a technical lead for WHO's COVID-19 research, said that the agency is continuing to work with scientists from different disciplines to consolidate evidence of transmission on the respiratory pathogen.

"We're also looking at the possible role of airborne transmission in other settings where you have particularly close settings where you have poor ventilation," Kerkhove said. "We will be issuing our brief in the coming days and that will outline everything we have in this area."

DeVos Says Schools Must Reopen This Fall Despite Surge in Virus Case

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says the nation’s schools must reopen this fall and be “fully operational” even as cases of COVID-19 continue to surge around the country. She says anything short of a full reopening would fail students and taxpayers.

DeVos made the comments during a call with governors as the Trump administration launched an all-out effort to get schools and colleges to reopen. Audio of the call was obtained by The Associated Press.

“Ultimately, it’s not a matter of if schools need to open, it’s a matter of how. School must reopen, they must be fully operational. And how that happens is best left to education and community leaders,” DeVos told governors.

DeVos slammed districts that are planning to offer in-person instruction only a few days a week. She called out Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, which is asking families to decide between fully remote instruction or two days a week in the classroom.

The education secretary also criticized schools' past distance education efforts during the pandemic, saying there were schools that “didn’t figure out how to serve students or who just gave up and didn’t try.”

Educators, child experts and parents are debating the pros and cons of reopening schools in time for the fall semester, as the coronavirus shows no signs of stopping for certain regions of the country.

Major Retailers to States: Mandate Face Masks Now

Retailers have a message for state governors: Please make everyone wear a face mask.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents Target, Home Depot and other major chains, says different rules around the country have made it confusing for shoppers and often lead to conflicts between customers and workers trying to enforce store rules.

Videos on social media have shown shoppers getting angry when employees ask them to wear a mask. The retail association has sent a letter to the National Governors Association asking that all states require face mask wearing.

According to the retailers, fewer than half of U.S. states require wearing a face mask in public.

The National Governors Association said Tuesday that its members are discussing the letter and others like it from different retail groups.

Here are some dos and don'ts when it comes to wearing a mask, explained by some of history's most famous paintings.

Iowa Sen. Grassley to Skip GOP Convention Due to Coronavirus Concerns

Sen. Chuck Grassley will not attend the Republican National Convention for the first time in his 40-year Senate career due to concerns about the coronavirus.

“I’m not going to go, and I'm not going to go because of the virus situation," the Iowa senator said on a conference call Monday with Iowa reporters.

He said moving the convention was probably the right thing to do since North Carolina officials didn't feel it was safe to have a large gathering.

“If you want to have a convention, and I think we should have a convention, I think you should do whatever you can to make it as safe as possible, so that would be with face masks and social distancing,” Grassley said.

The convention is now scheduled to begin on Aug. 24 in Jacksonville, Florida, where officials began requiring face masks in public a week ago.

PPE for Medical Workers Begins to Run Low Again

The personal protective gear that was in dangerously short supply during the early weeks of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. is running low again as the virus resumes its rapid spread and the number of hospitalized patients climbs.

A national nursing union is concerned that gear has to be reused. A doctors association warns that physicians’ offices are closed because they cannot get masks and other supplies. And Democratic members of Congress are pushing the Trump administration to devise a national strategy to acquire and distribute gear in anticipation of the crisis worsening into the fall.

“We’re five months into this and there are still shortages of gowns, hair covers, shoe covers, masks, N95 masks,” said Deborah Burger, president of National Nurses United, who cited results from a survey of the union's members. "They’re being doled out, and we’re still being told to reuse them.”

When the crisis first exploded in March and April in hot spots such as New York City, the situation was so desperate that nurses turned plastic garbage bags into protective gowns. The lack of equipment forced states and hospitals to compete against each other, the federal government and other countries in desperate, expensive bidding wars.

Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, who is in charge of coronavirus-related supplies for the White House, told Congress last week that more than than one-fourth of the states have less than a 30-day supply.

“It would seem like in less than 30 days, we’re going to have a real crisis,” said Rep. Bill Foster, an Illinois Democrat.

Ravens QB Still Plans to Hold “Funday with LJ” Event in Fla. Despite Outbreak

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson announced he will hold his annual “Funday with LJ” event in Florida amid the state's spike in coronavirus cases, NBC South Florida reports.

Jackson's third annual event will be held Saturday and Sunday in his hometown of Pompano Beach, Florida, according to a flyer shared on his Instagram page Monday. Social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people are currently not allowed in Pompano Beach, according to the city’s website.

The flyer, which says “come have some fun in the sun,” advertises flag football, and water slides among other activities. It also says adults must wear face masks, and a waiver must be signed for children to participate.

In Broward County, where the event is scheduled to be held, there are more than 21,000 positive coronavirus cases and about 400 people have died from the virus, according to Florida’s Health department.

Read the full story here.

Americans Trust Governors More Than Trump on Coronavirus, New Poll Finds

Americans have significantly more confidence in their governors than in President Donald Trump when it comes to handling the coronavirus, according to new data from an NBC News/SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll.

Forty-three percent of respondents approve of Trump's handling of the pandemic, while 55 percent disapprove, NBC News reported.

That's compared to 60 percent of Americans who say they approve of how their governors are handling the response and just 37 percent who said they disapprove.

And 7 out of 10 Americans say they trust their governors over the president to decide when to reopen businesses in their area. Just 25 percent say they trust Trump over their governors. Even among Republicans, just over half — 53 percent — say they trust the president's judgment on reopening over that of their governors.

Read the full story on

In Reversal, Georgia Universities to Now Mandate Masks

Georgia's 26 public universities and colleges will mandate campus-wide mask wearing after the state university system reversed itself on Monday.

The University System of Georgia had previously told schools they should “strongly encourage” students and others to wear masks, but said that the system's 26 universities couldn't mandate face coverings for their 330,000 students despite concerns about COVID-19 transmission.

Masks became a central point of contention in part because all the universities, at the behest of regents, are planning face-to-face instruction for all students beginning in August.

Faculty and employees have increasingly been demanding that their institutions mandate masks to slow virus transmission, signing letters and petitions. Administrators on Monday evening agreed, saying all faculty, staff, students and visitors must wear masks inside buildings beginning July 15.

“Face covering use will be in addition to and is not a substitute for social distancing," the system wrote in its online announcement.

Masks won't be required in dorm rooms or outdoors, or when alone in private offices or study rooms. Those who refuse will be asked to mask up or leave, and could be disciplined for repeated refusal.

Dr. Anthony Fauci explains factors that local schools should take into consideration as they figure out how to welcome kids back to the classroom.

San Diego Reverses Reopening Plans, Closes Indoor Restaurants, Theaters

San Diego County ordered a return to stricter COVID-19 restrictions on Monday that affected many public indoor activities, NBC San Diego reported.

The moves came in the wake of the county being placed on California's monitoring list for a third consecutive day due to increasing COVID-19 cases.

At midnight on Monday, the county's public health order will be updated, effectively shutting down all indoor activity at restaurants, bars, card rooms, wineries, tasting rooms, theaters, zoos, museums and family entertainment centers, including bowling alleys, miniature golf, batting cages and arcades. The closure will last at least three weeks, said San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox.

Should Your State Reopen?

For states considering lifting quarantine measures, the official guidelines propose either a downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases within two weeks or a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests.

As shown below, when you compare yesterday’s new case count with that of two weeks ago, the number is often lower, simply because the counts fluctuate. Critics call the measures vague and ultimately because they aren’t binding, some states are choosing to reopen whether they meet the criteria or not.

Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

Chicago Enacts Travel Order for 15 States

Chicago officials enacted a travel order on Monday that calls for all travelers coming from 15 designated states to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to the city, NBC Chicago reported.

The states included in the order are: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.

The quarantine order is in effect not only for people visiting the city, but also for Chicago-area residents returning home from one of the states on the list.

The Ebb and Flow of New Coronavirus Cases and Deaths

The graphs below illustrate the distribution of new coronavirus cases and deaths in the U.S. While New York accounted for the lion’s share of new cases and deaths in March and April, its numbers have declined in May as some states have increased. Hover or tap to see new daily cases and deaths across the country. States with the most are ordered top to bottom.

Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

The Associated Press/NBC
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