The United States pledged to pay as much as $1.2 billion to get first access to an experimental COVID-19 vaccine. There’s another turn in the college admissions scandal. And is it already Memorial Day weekend?
It’s Alex. It’s Thursday. Let’s get to the news.
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We’re learning more about coronavirus every day …
The coronavirus “does not spread easily” by touching surfaces or objects, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, nor by animal-to-human contact or vice versa. The CDC warns that the main way the virus is spread is through person-to-person contact, even among those who do not show any symptoms. “It may be possible for COVID-19 to spread in other ways, but these are not thought to be the main ways the virus spreads,” according to the CDC’s recently updated guidelines.
… and we may be getting closer to a vaccine …
The United States offered to pay as much as $1.2 billion to get first access to 300 million doses of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine being tested in England. The vaccine is being developed by the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute and licensed to British drugmaker AstraZeneca. It is expected to be delivered as early as October, though that only means that the doses will be stored until the vaccine completes clinical trials ensuring it is safe and effective in protecting against COVID-19 infection.
… but thousands are still dying …
More than 330,000 people have died globally from coronavirus, and the USA approaches a death toll of 100,000. Democratic congressional leaders asked President Donald Trump to pay tribute to the lives lost by ordering that flags at public buildings be flown at half-staff when the country reaches that mark. “Our hearts are broken over this great loss and our prayers are with their families,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter to Trump.
Michigan has a lot going on right now
Re: Flooding Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer requested federal aid to respond to catastrophic flooding after two dams breached, forcing thousands to evacuate and pushing a town underwater. In a letter to President Trump Wednesday, Whitmer requested help to remove debris and erect mobile bridges for emergency response vehicles to access flooded areas. The two spoke by phone, and Trump told reporters that federal assistance was already on its way to the area.
Re: Funding Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., criticized Trump for threatening Wednesday to withhold federal funds from the state if officials send absentee ballot applications to voters. “In the wake of disaster, Donald Trump once again showed us who he is – threatening to pull federal funding and encouraging division,” Biden said. Harris warned that such an act would be illegal. “Mr. President, it is a federal crime to withhold money from states with the purpose of interfering with people’s right to vote,” she said.
Re: Ford President Trump visited a Ford Motor plant Thursday that is making ventilators needed to treat COVID-19 patients, where he insisted the country would rebound from the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, he blasted Democratic governors who he said have been “very resistant” to lifting stay-at-home orders. The visit occurred despite an order put in place by Whitmer requiring manufacturing facilities to “suspend all nonessential in-person visits, including tours” as part of the state’s battle against the spread of the coronavirus.
- “I tested positively toward negative”: Trump talks about coronavirus test results before Michigan visit.
- “We would like to get in there”: Health officials are frustrated as more than 30 Amazon workers contract COVID-19.
- Restaurants take to the streets to create socially distanced dining rooms as the nation reopens.
- Smithsonian curators are collecting artifacts to best preserve this moment in time. And they need your help.
- CNN anchor Chris Cuomo teases his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, about a nose swab during his COVID-19 test.
- TSA is updating its airport screening measures amid the coronavirus. Here’s what travelers should expect.
A change of plea
After maintaining their innocence for more than a year, actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy charges in the national college admissions scandal. Loughlin and Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to get their two daughters accepted into the University of Southern California as fake crew recruits. They will become the 33rd and 34th defendants to plead guilty out of 53 charged in the sprawling “Varsity Blues” scandal.
Unemployment is down, but still very much up
About 2.4 million Americans filed initial unemployment benefit claims last week, as layoffs fueled by the coronavirus pandemic continue to mount. However, there were encouraging signs in the labor report. Initial applications for unemployment insurance have steadily declined seven weeks in a row. The tens of millions of Americans who have applied for assistance over two months is still a staggering number, reflecting a 14.7% jobless rate that is the highest since the Great Depression.
- Stock indexes turn lower amid grim news on the economy, coronavirus fallout.
What everyone’s talking about
- A shooter was killed near Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in Texas in a “terrorism-related” incident, officials say.
- Report: The Trump administration intends to withdraw from an 18-year-old arms control treaty.
- Roe v. Wade’s Jane Roe says she was paid to speak against abortion in a shocking FX documentary.
- An “armed terrorist” shot 3 people at the Westgate Entertainment District near Phoenix. The shooter is in custody, police say.
Rain, rain go away
An “extremely active” hurricane season amid the pandemic? No, thank you. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration on Thursday estimated 13 to 19 named storms will develop this season. Of the predicted six to 10 hurricanes, three to six could be major – packing wind speeds of 111 mph or higher. If predictions hold true, it will be a record fifth consecutive year of above-normal activity. That would beat the four-year streak set from 1998 to 2001. Forecasts include storms that spin up in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.
It’s almost Memorial Day weekend, in case you’re wondering
Major attractions and vacation destinations remain closed. Stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions are still pervasive. And some would-be travelers are anxious about the virus and crowds or put off by new safety measures. Is coronavirus canceling summer vacation for 2020? It depends who you ask.
- Leaving your coronavirus isolation? Think about these three things first.
- Planning a trip? Here’s what you should prepare for.
- Is international travel allowed yet? See when popular destinations are reopening their borders.
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The United States is calling dibs – USA TODAY