coronavirus
May 11, 2020

Over the weekend, Tesla began producing cars again at its plant in Fremont, California, despite Alameda County's shelter-in-place orders put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic, The Verge reports.

Two Tesla employees told The Verge that some workers were called in, and they have finished about 200 Model Y and Model 3 vehicles. The facility closed on March 23, just a few days after Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that there would "probably" be "close to zero new cases" of COVID-19 in the United States by the end of April. There are more than 1.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, with the death toll reaching 80,297, data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center shows.

On Saturday, Musk threatened to move the company's operations to another state after Alameda County health officials warned Tesla about reopening amid the pandemic. Tesla then sued the county, seeking an injunction over the stay-at-home order. Scott Haggerty, an Alameda County supervisor, told The New York Times health officials had been working with Tesla and they were close to reaching an agreement to reopen the facility on May 18.

On Monday afternoon, Musk tweeted, "Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules. I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me." One factory employee told The Verge they refused to go to work, because they are crammed next to others in close quarters. "We get lured in by the 'Tesla dream' of saving the planet only to get treated so poorly that even though I love my job, I'm not willing to risk my health for him," they said. Catherine Garcia

May 10, 2020

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will testify remotely on Tuesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

Fauci, who last testified before Congress in March, will discuss the coronavirus pandemic. He will be joined virtually by Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn; and Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir.

The senators, their staff members, and the witnesses will "appear by video conference due to these unusual circumstances," the committee's chairman, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), said in a statement on Sunday. Alexander is now self-quarantining at his home in Tennessee, after a staffer tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday. Fauci entered a "modified quarantine" over the weekend after being exposed to a White House staffer who has been infected by the virus.

Fauci and other members of the White House coronavirus task force were blocked from testifying before members of the House earlier this month, with President Trump saying the House is "a bunch of Trump haters." Catherine Garcia

May 1, 2020

At least a dozen states apparently recorded their highest single-day death tolls from COVID-19 this week as governors across the country have moved forward with plans to reopen. Texas, Florida, and Illinois reported their deadliest days of the pandemic within hours of their respective governors announcing intentions to roll back local lockdown restrictions.

Texas, which had its deadliest day Thursday with 50 new deaths, will allow for the reopening of "restaurants, retailers, malls, and movie theaters" at 25 percent capacity, The Hill reports. Florida, where new deaths jumped by 83 on Tuesday, is allowing more beaches to reopen as well as certain businesses, beginning Monday, The Miami Herald writes. Illinois saw a record 144 people die in a 24-hour period this week, but will go ahead with "state parks, golf courses, retail stores, and garden centers" reopening, CNN reports. Many additional states, including Iowa, which had its highest death toll Wednesday, are also going forward with plans to energize the economy, with governors telling workers who refuse to go back to their jobs due to health concerns that they'll lose their unemployment benefits.

Overall, new cases of coronavirus are increasing in 18 states as well as in Puerto Rico, according to analysis by The New York Times. Cases have plateaued in 20 states, and are only on the downswing in 13 states plus Guam. Additionally, experts fear that coronavirus cases are being unreported nationwide due to ongoing problems with adequate testing; excess mortality data suggests there are as many as 25,000 additional people who have died due to the pandemic, whether they actually contracted COVID-19 or it impacted their health in other ways.

This week, confirmed U.S. deaths due to COVID-19 exceeded the death toll of the entirety of the 20-year Vietnam War, passing 63,000. The first known death from coronavirus in the U.S. was on Feb. 6. Jeva Lange

April 17, 2020

More than a fifth of America's 31,600 coronavirus deaths have been linked to nursing homes, according to new analysis by The New York Times. Since the country's outbreak began in a nursing home outside of Seattle, some 6,900 deaths have occurred either in, or in connection to, such facilities, a number that is "far higher than previously known," the Times writes.

"They're death pits," said former New York Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey, who founded a nonprofit aimed at stopping hospital-acquired infections. "These nursing homes are already overwhelmed. They're crowded and they're understaffed. One COVID-positive patient in a nursing home produces carnage."

Earlier this week, an anonymous tip led to the discovery of 17 bodies stored in the four-person morgue of a New Jersey nursing home. Eight of the people had died in a single day, bringing the total to 68 people to have died of COVID-19 in the center so far. "Once one person in the home gets sick it spreads pretty quickly in nursing homes," New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer told NBC News.

Judith Regan, whose 91-year-old father lives at the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University, told the Times that "he is on the Titanic, but there are no lifeboats." Mark Parkinson, the president of the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, echoed the sentiment. "The cavalry hasn't arrived," he said, adding: "People will end up blaming nursing homes and talking about how terrible we are, but it is the complete lack of prioritization that has put us in the position that we are in."

To date, more than 36,000 nursing home residents and employees are known to have contracted COVID-19, the Times reports. Read why Matthew Walther says we need to rethink nursing homes, here at The Week. Jeva Lange

April 2, 2020

Confirmed cases of the new coronavirus surpassed one million on Thursday, with nearly a quarter of the cases reported within the United States, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reports. The global death toll now exceeds 51,000, while nearly 209,000 people have recovered from COVID-19.

The million-case mark is an alarming new milestone in the global pandemic. Some 171 countries have reported the disease within their borders, and a third of the world — some 2.6 billion people, more than were alive to witness World War II — is now living under lockdown.

"In a totally rational world, you might assume that an international pandemic would lead to greater internationalism," historian Mike Davis recently told The Guardian. "In a rational world, we would be ramping up production of basic essential supplies — test kits, masks, respirators — not only for our own use, but for poorer countries, too. Because it's all one battle. But it's not necessarily a rational world. So there could be a lot of demonization and calls for isolation. Which will mean more deaths and more suffering worldwide." Jeva Lange

April 2, 2020

An alarming new report by The Wall Street Journal suggests that nearly one in three patients who are infected with COVID-19 receive incorrectly negative test results. "A false negative is problematic because it tells the patient they don't have the virus," Dr. Craig Deligdish explained to the paper.

The estimate about the incorrect results is based on limited data, but the implication that tests may be far from accurate is worrisome. As Deligdish observed, it means that people who've been reassured they are not contagious are likely going forth and spreading the disease to others.

Health care experts additionally told The Wall Street Journal that part of the problem with the tests is how fast they've been approved. "The thing that is different this time is most of these tests are going through a really rapid validation process," said Ohio State University epidemiologist Bill Miller. "As a result, we can't be completely confident in how they will perform." Other doctors have already picked up on the faulty results; in New York City, the center of the U.S. outbreak, "a negative is not clearing anybody who is symptomatic," one emergency room doctor said.

New guidelines to sick Americans asks that if you have coronavirus symptoms, assume you have COVID-19. "Research coming out of China indicates that the false-negative rate may be around 30 percent," writes The New York Times' Harlan M. Krumholz. "Some of my colleagues, experts in laboratory medicine, express concerns the false-negative rate in this country could be even higher."

Curiously, it doesn't seem to go the other way. The Times adds, "the tests appear to be highly specific: If your test comes back positive, it is almost certain you have the infection." Jeva Lange

March 29, 2020

Singer-songwriter John Prine was hospitalized Thursday after "a sudden onset of COVID-19 symptoms," and "he was intubated Saturday evening, and continues to receive care, but his situation is critical," Prine's family announced Sunday night. Since his 1971 debut album, Prine's songs have earned him a devoted following, been widely covered by everyone from Bob Dylan to Bette Midler, and won him four Grammys.

Prine, 73, has survived two bouts of cancer, in the late '90s and in 2013, and his wife, Fiona, announced March 20 that she had tested positive for the new coronavirus. "There's a chance he may not have this virus," she said on Instagram, "and we are working really, really hard and being really diligent about all of the protocols. We are quarantined and isolated from each other and members of the family. It's hard, I won't lie, but it's absolutely important."

"This is hard news for us to share," Prine's family wrote Sunday. "But so many of you have loved and supported John over the years, we wanted to let you know, and give you the chance to send out more of that love and support now. And know that we love you, and John loves you." Peter Weber

March 22, 2020

Former Hollywood producer and convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein has tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus, The Niagara Gazette reports.

Weinstein is imprisoned at the Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, New York. On March 18, Weinstein was transferred there from New York City's Rikers Island jail, where there are reportedly 40 inmates who have contracted coronavirus. A law enforcement official told Deadline Weinstein is now in medical isolation.

Earlier this month, Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison after being found guilty in New York of rape and sexual assault. He still faces sexual assault charges in California. Catherine Garcia

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