President Trump said Wednesday (April 22nd) that he told Georgia Governor Brian Kemp that he strongly disagrees with Kemp's plans to begin reopening parts of the state from coronavirus shutdowns starting Friday. Kemp, who's a Republican, has come under criticism after announcing earlier this week he'd allow businesses including hair and nail salons, barbershops, gyms, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys to reopen beginning Friday, and movie theaters and restaurants to reopen with social distancing measures Monday. Trump said during his daily coronavirus briefing that Kemp's plans are in violation of the first step of the phased plan for reopening released by the administration. However, he said he wouldn't ask the federal government to step in, saying, "He must do what he thinks is right. I want him to do what he thinks is right, but I disagree with him on what he is doing." Meanwhile, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Sitt announced similar plans yesterday, saying hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, and pet grooming services can reopen Friday, and restaurants, churches, gyms, and movie theaters on May 1st.
Tyson Foods suspended operations yesterday at a plant in Waterloo, Iowa, that's its largest pork plant due to a coronavirus outbreak among workers. More than 180 virus cases have been linked to the plant, and it's expected that number will shoot up as testing of its 2,800 workers is set to begin today. Tyson had come under criticism in recent days for keeping the plant open despite the outbreak. Several other meat processing plants have suspended operations due to outbreaks of the virus, and an estimated 25 percent of U.S. pork processing capacity has been idled over the past two days, according to economist Steve Meyer. That's led to pork prices starting to go up and warnings there could be shortages of some pork products in grocery stores.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that states struggling economically during the coronavirus pandemic should declare bankruptcy rather than be given federal aid. During an interview on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, the Kentucky Republican said, "I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route. It saves some cities." Democrats were unable to get assistance to state and local governments included in the latest coronavirus aid package agreed to this week, but President Trump has said it will be part of the next relief package.
In other developments:
Cuomo Announces Tri-State Testing and Contact Tracing Network:New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that a coronavirus testing and contact tracing network will be launched in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University that will focus on the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut tri-state area. Billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be spending $10 million of his own money on the creation of the program, which will include hiring what Cuomo called an "army" of workers to do the trace the contacts of people who test positive, as well as identifying and isolating those who are infected.
Admin. Announces Plan to Pay for COVID-19 Care for Uninsured:Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced an administration plan yesterday to pay coronavirus health care costs for uninsured patients. Under it, hospitals and doctors would submit the bills to the government, and they'd be paid at Medicare rates. The money will come from $100 billion that Congress has approved to help the health care system as it tries to deal with the burden of COVID-19 cases. However, Democrats and some health industry groups say the money allocated by Congress should go directly to health care facilities, and that the uninsured should be covered by expanding programs like Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.
First U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Were as Much as Three Weeks Earlier:Autopsy results from two California residents have shown that the earliest coronavirus deaths in the U.S. were as much as three weeks earlier than had been thought. The two were Santa Clara County residents, one a 57-year-old woman who died on February 6th, and the other a 69-year-old man who died on February 17th. Neither had traveled out of the country to an outbreak area. The first reported death had previously been in Kirkland, Washington, on February 29th, with officials later saying two February 26th deaths were caused by the virus.