Every state has begun to partially reopen from their coronavirus shutdowns as of today (May 20th), with the last state to do so, Connecticut, set to allow outdoor dining spaces, offices, retail stores, malls, museums and zoos to reopen today with restrictions. The nationwide reopening, however, is coming as at least 17 states still had an growing trend of average new daily coronavirus cases. More than 91,800 people have been killed in the U.S. as of last night, according to Johns Hopkins University's count, and there have been more than 1,527,000 confirmed cases.
Health officials in some states have also been accused of misrepresenting their statistics, accidentally or not, to make the situation look better. Rebekah Jones, the scientist who created Florida's coronavirus cases dashboard, said this week that she was fired for refusing to manipulate data, quote, "to drum up support for the plan to reopen." In Georgia, a graph published by the Department of Public Health on May 11th showed new cases declining, but the entries weren't chronological, but in descending order, so dates went back and forth in time. It was taken down after a day andGovernor Brian Kemp's office denied an attempt to deceive the public. And Virginia and Vermont have been combining the results of virus tests and antibody tests, which doesn't give a real picture of the virus' spread. They say they've now stopped doing so.
The Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that their research into 285 COVID-19 survivors who tested positive for the coronavirus again after presumably recovering suggests they were actually shedding non-infectious or dead virus particles instead of having a lingering infection. As a result, South Korean health authorities will no longer consider people infectious after they recover and won't require more tests after patients leave isolation, meaning they won't have to test negative before returning to work or school. Additionally, almost all of the cases for which blood was taken had antibodies against the virus.
In other developments:
U.S., Canada, Mexico Extend Border Shutdown:The U.S., Canada and Mexico are extending to June 21st their agreements to keep their shared borders closed to non-essential travel because of the pandemic. They've already been extended once after being announced in March. Those allowed to cross include essential workers like healthcare professionals, airline crews and truck drivers.
Study: Masks Can Cut Transmission By as Much as 75 Percent:A new study from researchers at the University of Hong Kong found that transmission of the coronavirus can be reduced by as much as 75 percent by wearing masks. The study used hamsters in two cages, those in one infected with the coronavirus and those in the other not, and set up three scenarios: mask barriers on the cage with the infected hamsters; mask barriers on the cage with the healthy hamsters; and one with no mask barriers. A fan was put between the cages to allow transmission between them. Two-thirds of the healthy hamsters got sick with no barriers, 33 percent got sick when the mask barrier was on the healthy hamsters' cage, and just 16.7 percent got sick with the barrier on the infected cage. Hamsters were chosen because they have very similar enzyme receptors to humans.
Congressional Republican leaders said Tuesday (May 18th) that they're not in a rush to pass another coronavirus aid package, with SenateMajority Leader Mitch McConnelltelling reporters, "We need to assess what we've already done, take a look at what worked and what didn't work, and we'll discuss the way forward in the next couple of weeks." Their stance comes after the Democratic-led House of Represented passed a new $3 trillion aid package for coronavirus relief, the cost about equaling the cost of the four previous packages passed by Congress.