coronavirus pandemic

US Virus Updates: States With Few Cases Get Big Share of Aid; Infection Rate Rising Outside NY

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis in the U.S.

NBCUniversal, Inc.

The nation's death toll topped 71,000 with over 1.2 million confirmed infections on Tuesday, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

An Associated Press analysis finds that taking the New York metropolitan area’s progress against the coronavirus out of the equation shows the rest of the U.S. moving in the wrong direction, with the infection rate rising even as states move to lift their lockdown.

Scientists warn those numbers will only increase as states start to ease lockdowns.

About half of the states in the U.S. began to reopen Monday after weeks of lockdowns aimed at taming the spread of the coronavirus pandemic forced many businesses to close and millions of people to stay at home.

Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Washington, Nebraska and Ohio were among the states that began to lift their stay-at-home orders Monday.

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis in the U.S.:

States With Few Coronavirus Cases Get Big Share of Relief Aid

Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and Wyoming are not epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet these four states scored big this spring when Congress pumped out direct federal aid, while the two hardest-hit states, New York and New Jersey, got comparatively little given the vast numbers of cases and deaths they have seen.

An Associated Press analysis shows that some states with small populations like these took in an out-sized share of the $150 billion in federal money that was designed to address coronavirus-related expenses, when measured by the number of positive tests for the COVID-19 disease.

Their haul ranged from $2 million per positive test in Hawaii to nearly $3.4 million per test in Alaska. In Wyoming, with less than 600 positive cases, the $1.25 billion it received equates to 80 percent of its annual general state budget.

By comparison, New York and New Jersey received about $24,000 and $27,000, respectively, for each positive coronavirus test. Other states with high numbers of cases, including Massachusetts, Michigan and Illinois, received less than $100,000 per case.

To be sure, the lowest population states often receive higher dollar amounts per capita when Congress doles out federal aid. That’s due in part to political reality: Small states have the same number of U.S. senators as more populous ones, and those senators lobby hard for their states’ interests.

The awards in the relief act passed in late March were based on population, but with a catch: Every state was to receive at least $1.25 billion, regardless of its size. Lawmakers said setting such a minimum was needed to reach a deal in a divided government.


US Infection Rate Rising Outside New York as States Open Up

Take the New York metropolitan area’s progress against the coronavirus out of the equation and the numbers show the rest of the U.S. is moving in the wrong direction, with the known infection rate rising even as states move to lift their lockdowns, an Associated Press analysis found Tuesday.

New confirmed infections per day in the U.S. exceed 20,000, and deaths per day are well over 1,000, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. And public health officials warn that the failure to flatten the curve and drive down the infection rate in places could lead to many more deaths — perhaps tens of thousands — as people are allowed to venture out and businesses reopen.

“Make no mistakes: This virus is still circulating in our community, perhaps even more now than in previous weeks” said Linda Ochs, director of the Health Department in hard-hit Shawnee County, Kansas.

Elsewhere around the world, Britain’s official coronavirus death toll, at more than 29,000, surpassed that of Italy to become the highest in Europe and second-highest in the world behind the United States. The official number of dead worldwide surpassed a quarter-million, by Johns Hopkins' count, though the true toll is believed to be much higher.

The New York metropolitan area, consisting of about 20 million people across a region that encompasses the city's northern suburbs, Long Island and northern New Jersey, has been the hardest-hit corner of the country, accounting for at least one-third of the nation's 70,000 deaths. People across the densely packed region live practically on top of each other in apartment buildings and ride together on subways, buses and trains.

58% of Iowa Tyson Meat Factory Workers Test Positive for COVID-19

More than 700 employees at a Tyson Foods meat factory in Perry, Iowa, have tested positive for coronavirus as the nation braces for a possible meat shortage due to the pandemic.

An Iowa Department of Public Health report released Tuesday showed that 58 percent of the factory’s workforce had tested positive for the virus, according to NBC affiliate WHO. The news comes just days after nearly 900 workers were confirmed to have the virus at a Tyson Foods plant in Indiana.

Tyson Foods said in a statement that the pandemic has forced the company to slow production and close plants in Dakota City, Nebraska, and Pasco, Washington, and the Perry plant as well.

The pandemic’s impact on meat plant workers has caused serious concerns about the supply chain in the U.S. and fears that the country could experience a meat shortage.

Read the full story at


White House Coronavirus Task Force Winding Down

The Trump administration's response team to the global pandemic, the White House coronavirus task force, is winding down, NBC News reports.

The meetings held in the Situation Room have decreased in length and the task force, which is headed by Vice President Mike Pence, no longer meets daily, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, who have become household names from their appearance during task force briefings, are still expected to be at the White House on a daily basis, but others, including U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, will not need to be as physically present.

Trump Says Fauci Can't Testify Before House Because It's a 'Setup'

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that his administration blocked Dr. Anthony Fauci from testifying in the House because the chamber is full of “Trump haters,” contradicting an earlier claim by the White House that the government’s top infectious disease expert is too busy dealing with the pandemic to appear before Congress, NBC News reported.

On Friday, White House spokesman Judd Deere said Fauci could not testify at Wednesday's hearing in the Democratic-held House because it would be "counter-productive" to take him away from the administration's efforts to reopen the government and develop a vaccine.

"We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time," Deere said Friday.

But Fauci is set to appear next week at a Senate hearing, a spokesperson for the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee said. The Senate is held by Trump's Republican allies while the House is controlled by Democrats.

“The House is a setup. The House is a bunch of Trump haters. They put every Trump hater on the committee, the same old stuff,” the president told reporters before leaving Washington for Arizona.

Hundreds of Wendy's Locations Take Burgers Off Menu Amid Meat Supply Issues

Fresh, never frozen -- if you can get it.

Wendy's restaurants in some locations around the country have temporarily booted burgers from their menus due to coronavirus-related closures at meat processing facilities that have disrupted the meat industry.

An analysis by Stephens Inc. of online menus for every Wendy’s location nationwide revealed that 1,043 restaurants — or 18% of its national footprint — have listed beef items as out of stock, CNBC reported.

Bloomberg News reported burger outages at Wendy's locations in California. There were other reports of meatless joints in South Carolina, Detroit, Kentucky, New York and New Jersey.

"Where's the beef?" was a common refrain on Twitter bemoaning the outages. That's a reference to the famous Wendy's marketing catch-phrase of yore.

Read the full story here.

Another 1,700 Virus Deaths Reported in NY Nursing Homes

New York state is reporting more than 1,700 previously undisclosed deaths at nursing homes and adult care facilities.

At least 4,813 people have died from COVID-19 in the state’s nursing homes since March 1, according to a tally released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office late Monday. It includes, for the first time, people believed to have died from the coronavirus before it could be confirmed by a lab test.

Exactly how many nursing home residents have died remains uncertain despite the state’s latest disclosure. The list doesn’t include nursing home residents who were transferred to hospitals before dying.

New York state has lost more than 19,600 people to COVID-19, with Cuomo adding another 230 to the toll Tuesday. That doesn't include New York City's 5,383 probable fatalities, which would bring the state's toll above 25,000.

Pfizer Begins Human Testing for Experimental Coronavirus Vaccine

Pfizer announced Tuesday it has begun testing an experimental vaccine to combat the coronavirus in the United States, CNBC reports.

The pharmaceutical giant, which is working alongside German drugmaker BioNTech, said the first human participants in the United States have been dosed with the potential vaccine, BNT162. Human trials of the experimental vaccine began late last month in Germany.

The trial will test the experimental vaccine on adults between the ages of 18 and 55 in the first stage before moving on to older groups, the company said, adding it hopes to test up to 360 people.

There are currently no FDA-approved therapies to treat Covid-19 and drugmakers are racing to produce a vaccine, which U.S. health officials say is expected to take at least 12 to 18 months.

Read the full story here.

Trump to Visit Arizona Mask Plant in 1st Major Trip in Months

For much of the last two months, President Donald Trump has rarely left the grounds of the White House as he’s dealt with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and sought to minimize his own exposure to the disease.

That changes Tuesday, when Trump is scheduled to travel to Arizona to visit a Honeywell facility manufacturing N95 masks. The trip comes after Trump ended his personal lockdown Friday with a weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

In addition to Tuesday’s trip to Honeywell, Trump says he will travel soon to Ohio, to New York in June for the U.S. Military Academy graduation, and to South Dakota in July for a holiday fireworks display at Mount Rushmore. Trump says he’s also eager to get back on the campaign trail, though he acknowledged during a Fox News forum Sunday that it might not be able to hold his signature big-stadium rallies until the final months before the Nov. 3 election.

"I’ve been at the White House now for many months, and I’d like to get out, as much as I love this. ... Most beautiful house in the world," Trump said in announcing his travel plans.

The trip also means a small army of advisers, logistical experts and security staff — a coterie of hundreds that includes personnel from the White House, Defense Department, Secret Service and more — will resume regularly hitting the road again and taking a measure of risk to assist Trump.

Honeywell workers who meet Trump on Tuesday — just like anyone else who comes in close proximity to the president and vice president — will be first required to take a rapid point-of-care test to determine if they're carrying the virus.

It comes at a moment when public health officials have asked Americans to postpone nonessential travel to help stem the coronavirus. But Trump is looking to rev the engines of Air Force One as he tries to prod a shell-shocked American electorate — reeling from the death and economic destruction wrought by the virus — to edge back to normal life.

President Donald Trump on Thursday said he disagrees with Dr. Anthony Fauci over U.S. testing capacity after the NIAID director said in a TIME interview that “we absolutely need to significantly ramp up not only the number of tests, but the capacity to actually perform them.”

Coronavirus Cuts 'Deep Scars' Through Meatpacking Cities

As the coronavirus spread from the nation’s meatpacking plants to the broader communities where they are located, it burned through a modest duplex in Waterloo, Iowa.

In the downstairs unit lived Jim Orvis, 65, a beloved friend and uncle who worked in the laundry department at the Tyson Foods pork processing facility, the largest employer in Waterloo. Upstairs was Arthur Scott, a 51-year-old father who was getting his life back on track after a prison term for drugs. He worked 25 miles (40.23 kilometers) away at the Tyson dog treats factory in Independence, Iowa.

The two men were not well acquainted. But both fell ill and died last month within days of each other from COVID-19 — casualties of an outbreak linked to the Waterloo plant that spread across the city of 68,000 people. Similar spread is happening in other communities where the economy centers around raising hogs and cattle and processing their meat, including the hot spots of Grand Island, Nebraska, and Worthington, Minnesota.

The virus is "devastating everything," said duplex owner Jose Garcia, who received notification two days apart from his deceased tenants' relatives. "These two guys were here last week. Now they are gone. It's crazy."

He said it's possible one of the men infected the other because they shared an entryway, or that they each contracted the virus separately at their workplaces.

The virus threatens the communities' most vulnerable populations, including low-income workers and their extended families.

President Donald Trump is using the Defense Production Act to order meat and poultry plants hit hard by the coronavirus to stay open. More than a dozen plants have closed because of COVID-19 outbreaks among their workers. One union says 20 employees have died.

"They’re afraid of catching the virus. They’re afraid of spreading it to family members. Some of them are afraid of dying," said the Rev. Jim Callahan, of the Church of St. Mary of Worthington, a city of 13,000 that has attracted immigrants from across the globe to work at the JBS pork processing plant.

"One guy said to me, ‘I risked my life coming here. I never thought something that I can’t see could take me out.'"

In Grand Island, an outbreak linked to a JBS beef plant that is the city's largest employer spread rapidly across the rural central Nebraska region, killing more than three dozen people. Many of the dead were elderly residents of long-term care facilities who had relatives or friends employed at the plant.

In Waterloo, local officials blame Tyson for endangering not only its workers and their relatives but everyone else who leaves home to work or get groceries. They are furious with the state and federal governments for failing to intervene — and for pushing hard to reopen the plant days after public pressure helped shut it down.

"We were failed by people who put profit margins and greed before people, predominantly brown people, predominantly immigrants, predominantly people who live in lower socioeconomic quarters," said Jonathan Grieder, a high school social studies teacher who serves on Waterloo’s city council. "This is going to be with us for so long. There are going to be very deep scars in our community."

How Coronavirus Has Grown in Each State — in 1 Chart

New York has quickly become the epicenter of the American coronavirus outbreak. This chart shows the cumulative number of cases per state by number of days since the 10th case.

Source: Johns Hopkins University
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

USS Theodore Prepares to Go Back to Sea After Virus Outbreak

It’s time to get back to work.

On board the coronavirus-stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt, the crew is getting the aircraft carrier ready to head back out to sea. For the ship's commander, Capt. Carlos Sardiello, the road to recovery has been a challenge. For the crew sidelined in Guam for more than a month, it's been an emotional roller coaster.

Sardiello was a former Roosevelt captain when he abruptly returned to the ship in early April to take command after Capt. Brett Crozier was fired for urging faster action to stem the virus outbreak onboard. In an Associated Press interview from the ship late Monday night, Sardiello said he had a simple message to the crew when he came aboard: “We have an unprecedented mission that we have never faced before. We’re gonna face it together.”

More than 4,000 crew members went ashore last month. While more than 2,000 are back on board, at least 1,000 are still testing positive for the virus and remain on land. And the close to 700 crew members who had been protecting and running the Roosevelt and systems aboard have now moved into hotels and other facilities on the island for their quarantine.

When it's time to return to the ship, boarding takes place in slow, meticulous waves. Wearing gloves and masks, the crew members climb onto sterile buses only after they've had two negative tests for the virus. They are screened and checked when they get on the bus and again before they board the ship. And even a simple sniffle can get them turned back.

Those who had stayed on the ship did deep cleaning four times a day. And as they left the ship to go onto Guam for their own quarantine period, the turnover to the clean crew was a bit of a dance. According to Sardiello, those leaving the ship backed out like painters, cleaning as they stepped out of their workspaces. And as they left by one door, the virus-free crew came in another, cleaning as they moved aboard.

The Roosevelt is expected to head out to sea in a couple of weeks to do training, check the systems and re-certify the air crews.

The sailors still in quarantine will be left behind in Guam, Sardiello said, but the ship will return and pick them up after the training. Everything will be done methodically, he said, based on the conditions on the ship.

Staff, AP
Contact Us