As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases topped 1 million in the U.S., President Donald Trump ordered meat processing plants to remain open despite safety concerns among workers and warnings of food shortages.
Trump signed the executive order Tuesday.
Many states, meanwhile, have begun to outline plans to reopen their economies and resume everyday life.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said it was possible that K-12 students could return to school as early as July. And, in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said regions of the state will begin to reopen once the hospital systems are at least 30% below capacity.
The virus has killed more Americans than the Vietnam War from 1955 to 1975, with more than 58,300 deaths as of early Wednesday, according to John Hopkins University data. Worldwide, there are over 3 million confirmed cases and more than 217,100 deaths.
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US Navy hospital ship Comfort will depart New York City this week
After a month of supporting New York City and New Jersey residents during the coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. Navy hospital ship Comfort will leave Thursday for its home port in Norfolk, Virginia. The U.S. Northern Command announced in a statement Tuesday that the ship will return to prepare for any future COVID-19 assignments.
"The Navy, along with other U.S. Northern Command dedicated forces, remains engaged throughout the nation in support of the broader COVID-19 response," the statement said.
The ship served 182 patients during its stay, discharging its final patient Sunday, according to a spokesman for Northwell Health, which assisted with service on the ship. It arrived in New York City on March 30 to help non-COVID patients, but began helping coronavirus patients six days later.
Asian stocks gain after France, Spain announce plans to reopen businesses
Asian stock markets gained Wednesday after France and Spain joined governments that plan to ease anti-coronavirus controls and allow businesses to reopen.
Benchmarks in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sydney and Southeast Asia advanced after Wall Street retreated on Tuesday, hurt by declines in health care and tech stocks that have been among the winners during the global pandemic. Japanese markets were closed for a holiday.
Investors are trying to puzzle out when the deepest global downturn since the 1930s might end.
Southern California city votes to keep beaches open amid coronavirus crisis
The Newport Beach City Council in California voted Tuesday to keep its beaches open after thousands flocked to the Orange County beach community over the weekend. The council blocked a measure that would have closed its beaches for the next three weekends.
“I’ve heard from a lot of individuals, most of which support keeping beaches open,” Councilmember Kevin Muldoon said Tuesday. “They think most people are being responsible. It’s mostly families and those practicing social distancing.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom disagreed: “The only thing that will set us back is people stopping to practice physical distancing and appropriate social distancing," Newsom said Monday during his daily briefing.
Donald Trump orders meat processing plants to stay open amid coronavirus
Faced with worries of a meat shortage caused by the coronavirus, President Donald Trump on Tuesday ordered beef, pork and poultry processing plants to remain open despite safety concerns.
Citing his authority under the Defense Production Act, Trump declared in an executive order that "it is important that processors of beef, pork, and poultry ('meat and poultry') in the food supply chain continue operating and fulfilling orders to ensure a continued supply of protein for Americans."
Critics said the forced openings – some plants have closed because so many employees contracted the coronavirus – threaten the safety of workers who remain vulnerable to the disease.
In a full-page newspaper ad over the weekend, Tyson Foods board Chairman John Tyson said "the food supply chain is breaking," and "there will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed."
– David Jackson
'They're playing Russian roulette': As states reopen, experts warn of risks
Dozens of states have decided to reopen businesses and have established a number of conditions for restarting, but public health experts question their ability to monitor and handle the inevitable increase in cases that will follow.
If the surge is strong enough, some may have to reimpose the social distancing restrictions that devastated their economies, making for a herky-jerky approach to recovery.
"“I think they’re playing Russian roulette. They’re hoping obviously that reopening the states is not going to lead to increased cases," said Dr. John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus at the University of California-Berkeley. "They have no way of monitoring the answer to that question until it explodes."
– Jorge L. Ortiz
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo lays out specifics on reopening parks, beaches
Regions of New York state can begin the reopening process after their hospital system is at least 30% below capacity and their rate of infection is below 1.1, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.
That means only 70% of the hospital system can be filled at a time and an infected person in the region is only infecting, on average, roughly one other person. Cuomo described the metrics as two "built-in circuit breakers" that would halt a region's reopening if they fall behind. Extensive contact tracing – 30 tracers for every 100,000 people – will also be necessary for regions to reopen.
"We want to reopen but we want to do it without infecting more people or overwhelming the hospital system," Cuomo said at a news conference.
Some reopening will have to happen on a statewide basis, such as parks and beaches, to prevent people from unopened region from flocking to the open attractions, Cuomo said.
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Coronavirus model increases projected US death toll to more than 74,000
A leading model projecting the total death toll from the coronavirus increased the number of Americans predicted to die during the first wave of the virus.
The new projection says 74,073 people in the United States will die from COVID-19, within an estimated range of 56,563 to 130,666 deaths. The previous model, created by researchers at the University of Washington, earlier had the number at 67,641 deaths.
"At least part of this increase is due to many states experiencing flatter and thus longer epidemic peaks," the researchers wrote. States have also seen deaths not fall as quickly following a peak.
Dr. Chris Murray of the University of Washington told CNN that signs people are becoming active again also contribute to the increase. "It's a safer strategy to get the number of infections in the community down to a really low level, and then testing and contact tracing and isolation can work," Murray told the network.
Olympics in 2021 without vaccine would be 'difficult,' Japan says
A top Japanese medical expert worries that without a coronavirus vaccine widely available, the Olympics, already delayed to 2021, may be "difficult" to hold.
Japan Medical Association President Yoshitake Yokokura said Tuesday infections of the virus need to be under control globally, not just in Japan, to safely host the Olympics. "In my view, it would be difficult to hold the Olympics unless effective vaccines are developed,” Yokokura said.
Japan and the International Olympic Committee agreed to postpone the Tokyo Games until July 23, 2021.
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Contributing: The Associated Press