The Latest COVID-19 Updates (May 12)

Staff Writer

3:30 p.m. WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled a more than $3 trillion coronavirus aid package Tuesday, providing nearly $1 trillion for states and cities, “hazard pay” for essential workers and a new round of cash payments to individuals.
The House is expected to vote on the package as soon as Friday, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said there is no “urgency.” The Senate will wait until after Memorial Day to act.
“We must think big, for the people now," Pelosi said from the speaker's office at the Capitol.
“Not acting is the most expensive course," she said.
Lines drawn, the pandemic response from Congress will test the House and Senate — and President Donald Trump — as Washington navigates the crisis with the nation's health and economic security at stake.
The so-called Heroes Act from Democrats is built around nearly $1 trillion for states, cities and tribal governments to avert layoffs, focused chiefly on $375 billion for smaller suburban and rural municipalities largely left out of earlier bills.
The bill will offer a fresh round of $1,200 direct cash aid to individuals, increased to up to $6,000 per household, and launches a $175 billion housing assistance fund to help pay rents and mortgages. There is $75 billion more for virus testing.
It would continue, through January, the $600-per-week boost to unemployment benefits. It adds a 15% increase for food stamps and new help for paying employer-backed health coverage. For businesses, it provides an employee retention tax credit.
There’s $200 billion in “hazard pay” for essential workers on the front lines of the crisis.
ALAMEDA, Calif. — Tesla CEO Elon Musk has emerged as a champion of defying stay-home orders intended to stop the coronavirus from spreading, picking up support as well as critics on social media.
Among supporters was President Donald Trump, who on Tuesday tweeted that Tesla’s San Francisco Bay Area factory should be allowed to open despite health department orders to stay closed except for basic operations. Trump wrote that the plant can be reopened safely.
Tesla’s factory reopened Monday with Musk daring authorities to arrest him. The company submitted a plan to protect worker safety, which the Alameda County Public Health Department is reviewing.
The plant in Fremont, a city of more than 230,000 people south of San Francisco, had been closed since March 23. It employs about 10,000 workers.
BEIJING — Local media report that authorities are preparing to conduct coronavirus tests on all 11 million residents of the central Chinese city of Wuhan following a slight increase in cases.
The tests in the metropolitan area that was the outbreak center of the global pandemic are to be carried out over a 10-day period. The goal is to identify those who may be carrying the virus after six additional cases were recently recorded.
Wuhan ended a 76-day lockdown earlier this month, but authorities have warned consistently about a potential second wave of infections.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two rural counties in Tennessee are reporting some of the highest per capita coronavirus infection rates in the United States.
Trousdale County has the highest per capita coronavirus infection rate and Bledsoe County has the fifth highest, according to an Associated Press analysis. In both counties, the high infection rates are attributable to their local prisons.
Trousdale, a county of just over 9,500 people, has reported 1,363 cases of the virus, nearly all of those at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center run by private prison contractor CoreCivic.
Bledsoe County has reported 604 cases, including 586 at the state-run Bledsoe County Correctional Complex. Nearly all the inmates there completed 14 days of isolation without becoming ill, state corrections officials have said.
Two Trousdale prisoners and one Bledsoe prisoner have died after testing positive, although prison officials say they are asking the medical examiner to determine the exact causes of death.

1 p.m. ROME — A big jump in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Italy’s hardest-hit region contributed to the country’s highest day-to-day increase in several days.
According to Health Ministry data, 1,033 cases were confirmed in Lombardy since Monday evening, accounting for the majority of Italy’s 1,402 new cases. In contrast, the last few days had seen Lombardy’s daily new caseload running in the few hundreds.
Overall, Italy counts 221,216 confirmed coronavirus infections. Experts say the true number is doubtlessly much higher, pointing out that many people with mild symptoms often don’t get tested.
Authorities registered 172 deaths in infected patients in the 24-hour period ending Tuesday evening, raising to 30,911 the confirmed death toll. Nearly half of those deaths have occurred in Lombardy, where the country’s outbreak began in late February.
Health officials are anxiously awaiting daily case numbers later in the week to determine if a partial lifting of lockdown restrictions on May 4 caused any rise in contagion rates.
SEATTLE — UW Medicine, the Seattle-area health care system which has played a leading role in responding to the coronavirus outbreak, is now facing a huge financial hole because of the fallout from COVID-19.
The Seattle Times reports UW Medicine’s losses could be more than $500 million by the end of summer. That’s according to an email Monday from UW Medicine CEO Dr. Paul Ramsey that was obtained by the newspaper. Ramsey wrote that staff cuts, furloughs, hiring restrictions and a pay cut for senior leadership could all be implemented.
UW Medicine’s total budget for fiscal year 2020 was $5.8 billion. In early March, UW Medicine was among the first in the state to set up drive-thru sites to test its employees and patients, as well as University of Washington students who were showing symptoms of COVID-19.
Researchers at UW Medicine are also working on a variety of potential treatments and vaccinations for the virus.

12:30 p.m. UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations secretary-general is urging religious leaders to challenge “inaccurate and harmful messages” fueling rising ethno-nationalism, hate speech and conflict as the coronavirus pandemic circles the globe.
Antonio Guterres warned “extremists and radical groups are seeking to exploit eroding trust in leadership and feed on people’s vulnerability to serve their own ends.”
He says the role of faith leaders in addressing the challenges of COVID-19 can play “a pivotal role.”
The U.N. chief cites an “alarming increase in violence against women and girls” as the pandemic spreads. Guterres appealed to religious leaders “to categorically condemn such acts and support shared principles of partnership, equality, respect and compassion.”
He also called on the leaders to join the fight against misinformation about COVID-19.
HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has replaced the state’s public health commissioner, a change a state official says was made because of missteps dating to last year.
The official announcement from the Democratic governor didn’t say why he was replacing Renée Coleman-Mitchell with Deidre Gifford, commissioner of the state Department of Social Services, who also will serve as acting public health commissioner.
According to the state official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information, Lamont removed her for slow action on a plan to protect nursing homes from the coronavirus and refusing to publicly release school-by-school vaccination rates last year.
GLENVILLE, W.Va. — Five inmates at a federal prison in West Virginia have tested positive for the coronavirus after a large transfer of prisoners led to the first case at the lockup.
Data on the federal Bureau of Prisons website Tuesday show the new cases at FCI Gilmer came around a week after one of the 124 inmates transferred to the prison in Glenville tested positive.
Federal and state politicians opposed the prisoner transfers when they were announced and renewed their criticism after the positive case emerged at Gilmer.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin has said Attorney General William Barr has assured him that no additional inmates will be relocated to Gilmer or the federal prison at Hazelton.
Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal has said the agency identified 10 sites across the country with enough bed space to house new inmates and ease overcrowding at their other prisons. He says inmates who don’t test positive for the virus after a 14-day quarantine will be transported to their designated prisons.

12 p.m. HARRISBURG — Jefferson County still has seven cases of COVID-19, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s daily statistical update on Tuesday. The surrounding counties stood as follows: Clearfield, 25 cases; Indiana, 76 cases, five deaths; Armstrong, 55 cases, five deaths; Clarion, 23 cases, one death; Forest, seven cases; and Elk, five cases, one death.

11 a.m. WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says the government is working on several potential vaccines for COVID-19.
“We have many candidates and hope to have many winners,” he told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee. “In other words, it is many shots on goal.”
Despite the rapid pace of work on vaccines, Fauci was offering no guarantees. He says, “The big unknown is efficacy.”
Fauci heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is the government’s leading expert on the pandemic. He says he hopes to have a vaccine in advanced trials by late fall or early winter.

9 a.m. VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is urging governments hire more nurses and invest in their training and working conditions, saying the COVID-19 pandemic has shown a “number of deficiencies” in the way governments provide medical care for their people.
Francis hailed the “courage and sacrifice” of nurses and says their “fundamental importance” had been reaffirmed during the pandemic. He issued the message on the World Health Organization’s International Nurses Day and the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.
Francis noted many nurses have died during the pandemic. He asks world leaders "to invest in health care as the primary common good, by strengthening its systems and employing greater numbers of nurses, so as to ensure adequate care to everyone, with respect for the dignity of each person.”
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says he intends to warn the nation Tuesday that “needless suffering and death” will result from a rushed reopening of the economy.
Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will appear before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee at a hearing assessing reopening plans.
In an email to the New York Times, Fauci says his major message will concern the danger of trying to open the country.
“If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to ‘Open America Again,’ then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country,” Fauci wrote. “This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.”
This puts Fauci at odds with President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly urged governors to lift business closings and stay-at-home orders.
JOHANNESBURG — The U.S. government has donated 1,000 ventilators to South Africa to help the country respond to COVID-19.
South Africa has the most confirmed cases of the disease in Africa with more than 10,600, including 206 deaths.
The new ventilators are valued at $14 million, and with accessories, service plans and shipping, the total donation is worth $20 million, said the U.S. embassy in a statement issued Tuesday.
The ventilators, produced in the United States, will help South Africa’s hospitals treat patients in intensive care units, and the U.S. Agency for International Development will work with the South African government to distribute the equipment across the country.
U.S. ambassador to South Africa Lana Marks was at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo airport on Monday to receive the shipment.
“These ventilators are another example of the American spirit of generosity as we battle this virus at home in the United States and together abroad with our partner countries,” said Marks, in the statement.
The donation of ventilators brings the total U.S. government financial support to South Africa’s COVID-19 response to more than $41 million, according to the statement. In addition, the U.S. is supporting up to 5,400 community healthcare workers to assist with the South African government’s community COVID-19 screening campaign and provide HIV treatment support, through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).