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The death toll from the novel coronavirus passed 85,000 in the United States on Thursday, and the number of confirmed covid-19 cases grew to more than 1.4 million. The U.S. has the largest number of reported cases and deaths in the world.

Rick Bright, a former top U.S. vaccine official, and an executive of a medical mask manufacturing company testified before Congress on Thursday, saying they believe lives were lost because of missteps by the Trump administration in its early handling of the pandemic.

Here are some significant developments:

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Eviction and debt collection proceedings can resume in Texas, court rules

3:45 a.m.
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Legal proceedings for evictions and debt collection can restart in Texas as early as next week, the Texas Supreme Court ruled Thursday, after it halted both due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Eviction hearings can be held starting Tuesday, and orders authorizing evictions are allowed as of May 26. Debt collectors will be able to garnish accounts again starting later this month.

Certain tenants are exempt until late August through the Cares Act, including renters in homes with federally backed mortgages, and stimulus payments may be protected from debt collection lawsuits.

The court’s order requires landlords to state whether their properties are subject to that protection, while other renters may be protected by local orders in some cities, including Austin and Dallas, according to the Texas Tribune.

The court had initially put a moratorium on evictions and debt collection suits on hold to relieve Texans from the economic devastation of the pandemic. Nearly 2 million people in the state alone filed unemployment claims over the past two months, the Tribune reported.

Some advocates expressed concern that both were restarting too early. Rental assistance programs offered by some cities have not met the demand from residents, and the order could lead to a rise in evictions — as well as homelessness and empty units — statewide, they warned.

Shortage in the nursing field amid pandemic is causing concern

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Karli McGuiness had just accepted her spot in a demanding masters program at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing when the outbreak hit the United States.

“I don’t necessarily want to risk my health or the health of my loved ones, but the situation is horrific, and it’s affecting every single person across the globe,” McGuiness said. “My determination to become a nurse hasn’t faltered. I’m anxious and chomping at the bit to help.”

Health-care officials in Maryland and beyond are hoping that others come to the same conclusion. A shortage of nurses has been a concern for years in the United States, in part because of the growing demand for their skills in health-care delivery as baby boomers in the field have been retiring. Studies and federal estimates show that nursing schools have not been graduating enough professionals — and often don’t have the capacity to accept more students.

Read more here.

The NFL is hoping for a full season, but state-by-state issues could complicate things

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For the NFL to have a 2020 season as planned amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the league and the owners of the 32 teams may have to construct the puzzle piece by piece.

The possibilities that some teams might have to be relocated based on local restrictions, either for training camps or for the season, and that some games may have to be rescheduled were underscored this week with the news that Los Angeles County could extend its safer-at-home order for three months even while easing some restrictions.

Read more here.

Harry Connick Jr. leads a socially distant second line in the French Quarter of New Orleans

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Wearing a surgical mask and rubber gloves, singer Harry Connick Jr. led what he called “a socially distant second line” on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter on Thursday as a tribute to medical workers and others on the front line of the fight against the coronavirus.

The pianist and New Orleans native is filming scenes in the city for an upcoming televised special called “United We Sing,” according to a statement from the office of Mayor LaToya Cantrell. Connick danced at the head of a column of feathered and sequined celebrants which included the Wild Magnolias Mardi Gras Indians and the Original New Orleans Lady Buckjumpers.

A band of local musicians who regularly back Connick — Shannon Powell on drums; Leroy Jones and Mark Braud on trumpet; and Craig Klein and Mark Mullins on trombone — played an instrumental jazz version of “America the Beautiful.”

The participants stayed at least six feet apart. Bourbon Street was mostly empty, but signs of life flickered as a few restaurants loaded in supplies for a partial reopening set to begin Saturday.

After the scene was taped — once with terrestrial cameras, and then by a flying drone camera — Connick greeted a bystander. “I can’t shake your hand!” he apologized. Gesturing at the absence of normal activity, he added, “I wish I could show you what it looked like before.” (He declined to speak with a reporter.)

In addition to honoring folks working in health care, public safety, sanitation, and food service, the upcoming special will salute some of those who have been killed by covid-19, including pianist Ellis Marsalis Jr., who was one of Connick’s teachers.

WHO doctor says some countries well prepared for second wave

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The doctor leading the World Health Organization’s covid-19 technical response said Thursday that several locations are experiencing a second wave of the novel coronavirus. But each, she added, is well prepared to combat the resurgence because “they’ve never let up.”

Appearing on CNN’s Global Town Hall, Maria Van Kerkhove said the disease is resurging in places such as Singapore, South Korea and Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began this winter.

She noted, though, that the resurgences have taken place in specific situations, such as dormitories in Singapore and nightclubs in South Korea.

“What is really important is that in China, in Singapore, in Korea, they have systems in place to rapidly identify the virus again and rapidly start the contact tracing again,” she said. “This is a lesson for all countries. The virus likes to find opportunities to resurge, to increase again. We all need to be ready for that.”

Van Kerkhove said she shares the concerns of Anthony S. Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, about the United States reopening too quickly.

“It needs to be done in a slow and steady way,” she said. “It can’t be done all at once.”

New York Stock Exchange set to reopen May 26

1:43 a.m.
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The New York Stock Exchange has announced it will reopen its trading floor on May 26 after being shut down since March 23. The financial hub switched to all-electronic trading nearly two months ago.

New York Stock Exchange President Stacey Cunningham announced the decision in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. The plan is to open with a subset of floor brokers following Memorial Day with new safety measures in place.

“It isn’t clear when America will resume business as usual,” Cunningham wrote. “The virus will remain a stubborn reality but we can’t keep the country closed indefinitely. Given that, our reopening will bring a ‘new normal’ for the NYSE, hopefully helping chart a path that other businesses in densely populated areas might follow.”

Cunningham detailed that “designated market makers” for the 2,200 listed companies will, in large part, continue to work remotely. Floor brokers will return in smaller numbers and be required to wear masks and practice social distancing. New spatial designs will designate where people can work on the floor. The use of public transportation is prohibited while floor brokers and visitors will be screened and have their temperatures taken upon entrance to the building.

“These rigid measures will ease as the situation in the city improves,” Cunningham wrote. “They may become more stringent if the virus surges again. Our reopening protocols have been developed in consultation with state and federal officials, as well as public health experts.”

Cunningham acknowledged that the plan is set to reduce risk, but increased activity is likely to bring new cases until a vaccine is created.

“Infections may occur as people venture back to work," she wrote. “Our approach is designed to identify possible cases quickly, which will protect against a broader spread and allow our floor to continue operating.”

Meet the people who can’t wait to get back on a cruise ship

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Amber O’Hara was stuck at sea. But that didn’t ruin her appetite for another cruise.

The Golden, Colo., retiree had been aboard the Azamara Pursuit for nearly two weeks when the industry decided to pause operations because of the coronavirus pandemic. She and her partner, Jim Ward, spent 29 days on board before disembarking in Miami, more than a week late and a continent away from where the trip was supposed to end because ports had closed to cruise passengers along the way.

Still, O’Hara enjoyed her time on board, and couldn’t resist an offer from the cruise line to make up for her troubles: a credit worth 125 percent of the trip she was on that could be used for a future cruise.

Read more here.

Awaiting long swabs for covid-19 testing, Illinois received baby swabs from federal government

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Illinois this week received a shipment from the federal government of more than 23,000 swabs to use in coronavirus testing. But as Chicago’s PBS station first reported, the supply was of baby swabs, too short for testing purposes.

The mix-up illustrated issues in providing proper equipment for increased testing, a critical step in allowing society to begin returning to normal.

“As we ramp up capacity to test, we haven’t thought all the way through the raw materials and maintenance of that equipment, those supplies,” Dr. Rick Bright, the government vaccine expert and whistleblower, said during congressional testimony Thursday.

As WTTW News reported, Illinois requested 600,000 swabs from the federal government (in addition to supplies it sought to procure on its own). About 45,000 arrived without incident. However, the latest batch was baby swabs that could have been purchased at a drugstore.

Aside from being too short for covid-19 testing, the swabs arrived in boxes mislabeled “cotton.” They were, in fact, polyester, which is necessary for covid-19 purposes. State officials also said the swabs were not individually wrapped, raising sterilization concerns.

It wasn’t the first time Illinois received the wrong shipment from the federal government. In late March, surgical masks arrived instead of N95 masks.

McConnell says he was ‘wrong’ to claim Obama didn’t leave a pandemic plan

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) walked back a claim he made earlier in the week that the Obama administration didn’t leave the incoming Trump administration a plan in case of a pandemic.

“I was wrong. They did leave behind a plan. I clearly made a mistake in that regard,” McConnell said on Fox News when asked about his comments.

McConnell on Monday was discussing the pandemic in a virtual discussion organized by the Trump campaign when he said, “We want to be early, ready for the next one, because clearly the Obama administration did not leave to this administration any kind of game plan for something like this.”

The Obama administration left behind a detailed document with specific questions to ask to determine whether the government is prepared. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed Thursday that the Obama plan “was insufficient, it wasn’t going to work” and that the Trump administration had written its own.

McConnell said he wouldn’t comment on the merits of the plans.

“As to whether or not the plan was followed and who’s the critic and all the rest, I don’t have any observation about that because I don’t know enough about the details to go into it in any detail," he said.

CDC issues health advisory for pediatric inflammatory syndrome

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday issued a health advisory for a pediatric inflammatory condition that, with suspected ties to covid-19, has alarmed doctors here and abroad.

More than 100 cases have been reported in New York state, about half in New York City, of what is called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.

The cases appear to have some characteristics of Kawasaki disease, which causes inflammation in blood vessels and includes a persistent fever. The illness was detected primarily in Britain about a month ago before afflicting children on the U.S. East Coast.

It is affecting “a small genetic subset of children who appear to be susceptible to this crazy thing,” Jane Burns, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine, told The Washington Post last week. However, she also said, “I’m thinking of it kind of like the tip of the iceberg.”

Last week, the American Heart Association issued its own alert, saying some children “are becoming very ill extremely quickly,” so those with symptoms should be swiftly evaluated.

CDC offers brief checklists to guide businesses, schools and others on reopening

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With hundreds of millions of people still seeking advice on resuming their lives safely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a scant six pages of recommendations Thursday to guide schools, businesses, day-care facilities and others into the next phase of the covid-19 pandemic.

The six checklists — which also address restaurants, mass transit and camps — come days and, in some cases weeks, after many states have begun to move forward on their own. The advice is less detailed than draft recommendations the agency sent to the White House for review last month and places responsibility on state and local governments.

Still awaited is detailed technical guidance that the CDC has submitted to the coronavirus task force and the White House for review, and that many have been clamoring for.

Read more here.

Kentucky to lift state travel ban next week

11:40 p.m.
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In time for Memorial Day weekend, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday that he is lifting the state’s travel ban.

The measure, which prohibits travel out of the state and requires self-quarantine for 14 days for those entering, will expire May 22, three days earlier than scheduled. The order had been in place since March 30.

“We realize people are making plans for Memorial Day, and I trust we can do this right and do it safely,” Beshear (D) said at a news conference in Frankfort.

The law had applied to state residents and nonresidents, though there were several exceptions, such as those who travel for work.

“We still need to be very careful about where we travel to,” Beshear said, citing a large number of cases in a group that had taken a beach vacation early in the pandemic. “We never did [the travel ban] to keep people from going places; we did it because it was necessary to save lives.”

Several other states have instituted similar travel measures, even though enforcing them is nearly impossible.

Beshear also announced that effective May 22, the state would allow groups of 10 or fewer to congregate if everyone took appropriate distancing precautions. That order had also been scheduled to expire May 25.

Carnival announces layoffs, furloughs for over 1,300

11:36 p.m.
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The world’s largest cruise company announced massive layoffs and furloughs on Thursday as the industry continues to deal with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Around 1,300 workers will be affected in Florida out of a workforce of about 3,000.

The Carnival Corporation will eliminate 820 positions permanently and furlough 537 people in the state for six months, according to the company. A statement explained the moves were “to further strengthen liquidity” with “a combination of layoffs, furloughs, reduced workweeks and salary reductions across the company, including senior management.” Carnival said the action will equate to hundreds of millions of dollars in cash conservation.

“Taking these extremely difficult employee actions involving our highly dedicated workforce is a very tough thing to do,” Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it’s necessary, given the current low level of guest operations and to further endure this pause. We care deeply about all our employees and understanding the impact this is having on so many strengthens our resolve to do everything we can to return to operations when the time is right.”

Carnival suspended operations on March 13, but has announced plans to start cruises with a fraction of its fleet on Aug. 1. Those cruises will go to the Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean and Western Caribbean from Miami; Galveston, Tex.; and Florida’s Port Canaveral. The rest of the cruises in North America and Australia for the 27-ship fleet are canceled through Aug. 31.

D.C. Metro to require face masks for all riders

11:03 p.m.
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Metro will start requiring face masks or coverings beginning Monday for all riders, Theresa Impastato, Metro’s chief safety officer, told board members Thursday.

The requirement fits in with mask rules in Maryland and the District, and Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said vehicle operators have asked for the measure. Customers on recent Metro surveys also have indicated they would feel more comfortable riding transit if passengers were required to wear masks, he said.

Until now, Metro had been recommending that customers wear facial coverings.

Wiedefeld said he didn’t expect stringent enforcement of the new requirement, saying Metro wants to avoid clashes between passengers who aren’t wearing masks and transit police. Police elsewhere have been recorded on viral social media videos physically confronting riders who aren’t wearing masks in cities such as Philadelphia, drawing widespread condemnation.

Wiedefeld said Metro is looking to see if the agency has enough stock of face masks for transit officers to carry some and provide to passengers if issues arise.

He said he is hoping customers take personal responsibility for themselves and consider the health of others.

“We will encourage it,” he said. “But we’re not looking to write tickets or anything of that sort.”