Nearly All States Reopening to Some Degree as U.S. Covid Deaths Top 86,000

Ups and downs: The coronavirus has sickened more than 1.4 million people in the U.S. and killed more than 86,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. More than 300,000 have died from the disease globally, with about 4.5 million reported cases. New cases are increasing (the seven-day average is higher than it was the week before) in three states: Arkansas, South Dakota, and Maine, according to The New York Times. They are decreasing in 23 states: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, Louisiana, Indiana, Washington, Tennessee, Iowa, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Idaho, West Virginia, Vermont, Wyoming, and Alaska, along with Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam. Everywhere else, the number of new cases is about the same as the week before, although the lack of enough testing could mean that cases are undercounted.

Back to business: By this weekend, 48 states will have reopened to some degree, ranging from Alaska and Montana, each with fewer than 750 confirmed cases, to Indiana and Georgia, which have more than 25,000. Ford Motor Co. is calling back approximately 71,000 workers next week–about 59,000 in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan, and 12,000 others in Canada and Mexico, the Detroit Free Press reports. This week, the conservative majority on Wisconsin’s supreme court struck down the stay-at-home order from the state’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, ruling that Evers didn’t follow proper procedure when he issued the order, Sam Levine writes for The Guardian. Many businesses reopened immediately, and photos of lively bars filled with people not wearing masks or keeping their distance were shared on social media. President Trump called the ruling a “big win.” Republican lawmakers in Michigan are mounting a similar campaign, challenging the legal authority of the state’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has used emergency powers to close businesses and order people to stay home. In Illinois, a Republican state lawmaker accused the governor of creating “a police state” in a lawsuit challenging his stay-at-home order. The Texas Supreme Court gave a green light for evictions and debt collection to restart as early as next week, The Texas Tribune reports, even though more than 1.9 million Texans filed unemployment claims in the past two months.

  • Also: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finally issued guidance for reopening the economy on Thursday, but the recommendations amounted to just six pages, The Washington Post reports, and are less detailed than draft recommendations the agency sent to the White House for review last month. The White House has held up releasing more detailed technical guidance, and forced states to make decisions about reopening with little information.

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All sides: President Trump took issue with the testimony of the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, after Fauci told a Senate panel the country should be cautious in reopening businesses to avoid creating new hot spots and worsening the coronavirus crisis, Katie Rogers writes for The New York Times. Among other things, Fauci warned about the unknown effects of reopening schools. “I think we better be careful, if we are not cavalier, in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects,” he said. “Children in general do much, much better than adults and the elderly and particularly those with underlying conditions. But I am very careful, and hopefully humble in knowing that I don’t know everything about this disease.” This wasn’t what the president wanted to hear. “He wants to play all sides of the equation,” Trump told reporters. The president also said, “To me it’s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools.”

  • Also: More than 100 children in New York have a rare and dangerous inflammatory syndrome that appears to be connected to coronavirus, The Times reports.

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Miracle bleach: The coronavirus pandemic appears to have created a new marketing opportunity for an old hoax. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is trying to crack down on bogus coronavirus remedies, including a so-called “miracle” solution made of chlorine dioxide and sold by the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing in Florida, Amy Martyn reports for FairWarning. Experts say ingesting the mixture is like drinking bleach, and the substance has been linked to numerous injuries and at least two deaths. The church is defying a temporary injunction against selling the solution. “We DO NOT want to pursue this,” Mark Grenon, who calls himself a bishop of the church, wrote in an email to federal prosecutors on Monday. “We have much more important things to do in our Church. STOP TODAY! DISMISS THIS CASE!” And is it a coincidence that Grenon wrote a letter to President Trump stating that chlorine dioxide “can rid the body of COVID-19” in late April, according to a report by The Guardian, just before the president said on national television that disinfectants might be able to knock out the virus? (It’s not clear that Trump read or was influenced by Grenon’s letter.)

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Probe advances: The FBI has taken possession of Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina’s cell phone as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into stock trades made as the novel coronavirus first struck the U.S., Del Quentin Wilber and Jennifer Haberkorn report for the Los Angeles Times. Federal agents needed to convince a judge that they had probable cause to believe a crime had been committed in order to get a search warrant, and to receive one for a sitting U.S. senator would require approval from the highest ranks of the Justice Department. As the  chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burr was receiving daily coronavirus briefings before the pandemic devastated the economy; the senator sold a significant percentage of his stock portfolio in 33 different transactions on Feb. 13, just before the stock market plummeted. Also on Feb. 13, Burr’s brother-in-law, Gerald Fauth—who serves on the National Mediation Board, which provides mediation for labor disputes in the aviation and rail industries—sold between $97,000 and $280,000 worth of six stocks. Burr denies there was coordination between the two of them, but is stepping down as chairman of the intelligence committee during the investigation. In 2012, Congress passed a law, known as the STOCK Act, that bars lawmakers from trading on information they get through their work in Congress, such as briefings with high-level federal officials. Burr was one of the only three senators to oppose the bill.

  • Also: Clay Lacy Aviation, a private jet charter company founded by a donor to President Trump, received nearly $27 million from the $2 trillion federal stimulus package meant to support jobs during the coronavirus crisis, Robert Frank reports for CNBC. The company appears to have received the largest grant of any private jet company on the list of recipients; most of the other 96 recipients of government funding or loans on the list are major commercial airlines or regional carriers. Because the funding is a grant, not a loan, it doesn’t need to be repaid to the government.

Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.

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