Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said it’s safe to reopen the country because half of the counties reporting “haven’t had a single death” and more than 60% of all COVID-19 cases are in just 2% of the reporting counties.
“That’s why the local leaders need to lead this,” Azar said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Azar said he was not overly concerned by images of people congregating at bars and other places without staying six feet apart or wearing masks.
“I think in any individual instance you are going to see people doing things that are irresponsible,” he said. Azar emphasized, “we’ve got to get this economy open and our people out and about, working and going to school again.”
In states such as Georgia and Ohio, where 90% of the economy is open, “we are not seeing a spike in cases,” Azar said.
He stressed that surveilling people with symptoms and responding with contact tracing and isolation are key to controlling a potential spread.
Azar suggested infections and death seem higher in the United States because it has done more testing and reporting, even though many experts say the country’s slow rollout of testing in the early stages helped the outbreak spread.
He went on to say more Americans were at risk of dying from the virus because of demonstrably higher rates of underlying conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity.
“This is about simple epidemiology,” Azar said.
Thirteen sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier have tested positive for COVID-19 after recovering from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Politico reports.
The Navy initially said Saturday afternoon five sailors had tested positive a second time. But Politico, citing two unnamed defense officials, reported later another eight sailors had been diagnosed again.
An outbreak on the ship began in March, forcing the Roosevelt to divert to Guam, where sailors spent weeks in isolation or quarantine. In total, the military has reported more than 1,000 confirmed cases among the crew of 4,800.
The five sailors who initially tested positive a second time had gone through at least two weeks of isolation and tested negative twice in a row before they were allowed back on the ship. Once they returned to the ship, they developed flu-like symptoms before they tested positive a second time.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Friday that treating the virus was “a learning process.”
“It shows us what we’ve known for a long time — that this is a very stubborn infectious disease,” Hoffman said during a news briefing.
A Navy spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., warned Sunday that “time is of the essence” for Congress and the White House to approve an additional round of coronavirus relief, including funds for more testing and job protections.
“Time is very important. We have lost time,” Pelosi said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.” “People are hungry across America. Hunger doesn’t take a pause. People are jobless across America. That doesn’t take a pause.”
Pelosi said she expects to negotiate with Republicans on a final relief bill. She would not say whether Democrats are receptive to expanding liability protections for employers that reopen during the pandemic, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has sought.
“We have no red lines. But the fact is, the best protection for our workers and for their employers is to follow very good (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) mandatory guidelines,” she said.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Sunday that social distancing measures are key to reopening his state, which has adopted a phased approach to lifting restrictions. He also said reopening schools will be predicated on data and science, not just observations on the ground.
“I think some schools will not be (open this fall) and many schools will be,” Newsom. a Democrat, told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Seventy-five percent of California’s economy is now open, including manufacturing, warehouses and restaurants, Newsom said. Business owners and individuals are encouraged to wear face coverings and maintain physical distance from others. Opening sports arenas, he said, is not an option at this time.
Newsom did not take issue with Elon Musk reopening a Tesla plant in Fremont last week, challenging Alameda County’s stay-at-home order, even though the facility had been granted permission to open early this week. The governor said officials and Tesla worked out their differences. Musk had previously threatened to move his factories out of the state.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Sunday that reopening his state’s economy was necessary but also noted that the state was still wrestling with the outbreak and the danger remains. “I’ve said to Ohioans that so much is in every individual’s control. I encourage people to wear masks when they go out in public,” he said on CNN.
People need an extra layer to protect themselves, DeWine said.
DeWine, a Republican, said that when he saw images of a reopened Ohio bar crowded with people, he was concerned. But he added that the people running the bar got the situation under control.
“Ultimately, it’s going to come to Ohioans doing what Ohioans have done the last two months — keep their distance and wear masks.”
DeWine said that 90% of the state’s economy is open but that he wasn’t sure about reopening schools. He said they were closed “not because you are worried about the kids,” but to keep students from going home and infecting their parents.
“You have one kid … in a class with it, now you have 25 kids going back to their families and spreading it” when school lets out, he said.
The Walt Disney Co. said late Saturday that it would partially reopen its sprawling Disney Springs shopping and entertainment complex near Orlando, Florida, on May 20, a significant step forward in the Walt Disney World Resort’s return to business.
Disney leadership and unions for resort workers paved the way for the move last week when they reached an agreement on measures to protect employees from the novel coronavirus, as Reuters reported.
Starting next week, third-party stores and restaurants at the 120-acre outdoor complex will open their doors, according to a statement from the company. Three Disney-owned stores will open the following week.
“While our theme parks and resort hotels remain temporarily closed, the phased reopening of Disney Springs is a welcome milestone as we navigate through this unprecedented time together as responsibly as we can,” Disney Springs Vice President Matt Simon said.
Businesses throughout Florida have begun to resume operations under the state’s phased reopening. Disney is a major economic driver for central Florida, supporting tens of thousands of jobs and drawing in millions of tourists every year. The resort furloughed 43,000 workers when it closed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Disney’s Shanghai theme park reopened with strict health restrictions last week, but others around the world remain shuttered.
Eric Trump claimed Saturday that the coronavirus will “magically” vanish after the November election and allow the country to fully reopen — an assertion that has no basis in science and is contradicted by health experts worldwide.
In an interview with Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro, Trump suggested the president’s critics were using the pandemic to undermine his father’s rallies, calling it a “cognizant strategy” that would go away once it was no longer politically expedient.
“They think they are taking away Donald Trump’s greatest tool, which is being able to go into an arena and fill it with 50,000 people every single time,” the younger Trump said. “You watch, they’ll milk it every single day between now and Nov. 3. And guess what, after Nov. 3, coronavirus will magically, all of a sudden, go away and disappear and everybody will be able to reopen.”
Leading health officials have repeatedly warned that the coronavirus will not go away by fall and that a surge in cases toward the end of the year could be even harder to manage than the current outbreak.
Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, said late last month the global spread of the disease made it “inevitable” that the coronavirus would return or linger beyond fall. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The Washington Post a second wave of COVID-19 could be worse than the first because it would coincide with the flu season.
President Donald Trump himself has acknowledged the pandemic will remain a public health problem for months. Earlier this month, he said that although he is convinced COVID-19 will disappear on its own, it “doesn’t mean it’s going to be gone, frankly, by fall or after the fall.”