COVID-19 cases in the US nears a million  

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FILE PHOTO: The ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, is seen in an illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. January 29, 2020. Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC/Handout via REUTERS.

A new week in the coronavirus pandemic is beginning with a United States case count approaching 1 million and several cities and states preparing to loosen stay-at-home restrictions, reports CNN.

There have been 54,883 coronavirus deaths reported nationally and more than 965,000 cases of the virus in the US.

As the numbers continue to climb, several state and city officials are expected to announce plans to reopen their economies this week. A University of Washington model frequently cited by the White House coronavirus task force suggests that no state should open their economies before Friday — and many should wait much longer.

In New York, one of the hardest-hit states, rates of hospitalization, intubation and deaths are down, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.

He said the state is planning for a phased reopening, starting with construction and manufacturing activities at “those businesses that have a low risk.”

The earliest the state will begin its first phase of reopening is May 15 but only in regions that have seen a 14-day decline in hospitalizations.

How much longer to stay at home

Officials at all levels of government are weighing how to proceed and when to reopen their communities.

While states from Hawaii to Texas and Michigan to Alaska are loosening restrictions on certain businesses and outdoor recreation, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that his state is still weeks away from reopening.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez will explain emergency orders Monday on the reopening of parks, waterways and golf courses, his press office said Sunday. But at the state level, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he is not putting a date on the state reopening, even though Florida’s stay at home orders are set to expire Thursday.

“We are going to do everything smartly,” DeSantis said in a news conference Sunday. “I am less concerned about the date and more concerned about getting it right.”

Reports of overexposure to disinfectants

Several states also are grappling with an increase in calls to their poison control centres, following President Donald Trump’s suggestion of injecting disinfectants as a treatment for the coronavirus during a White House briefing on Thursday. He later said he was being “sarcastic.”

Maryland has received hundreds of calls from people asking if they can effectively combat coronavirus by injecting or ingesting disinfectants, Gov. Larry Hogan told Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

In Michigan, there were 65 reported overexposure cases between April 1 and April 25, a 400% increase from the same time last year. In addition to cleaning supply overexposure, Tennessee’s poison control centre has seen a jump in the number of people hospitalized from exposure to hydrogen peroxide, a common ingredient in disinfectants, according to the Tennessean newspaper.

In Illinois calls to poison control included someone who used a detergent-based solution for a sinus rinse and another who gargled a mixture of mouthwash and bleach to kill germs, Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said during a Saturday afternoon news conference.

“All I know is this when the person with the most powerful position on the planet is encouraging people to think about disinfectants whether it was serious or not, people listen,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told ABC’s “This Week.” “I want to say unequivocally, no one should be using disinfectants to digest it to fight Covid-19, please don’t do it.”

Hope in antibodies and treatments

Researchers across the country are working to find effective methods to fight the virus.

Preliminary results of a clinical trial for heartburn medicine in coronavirus treatment could come out in the next few weeks, said Dr. Kevin Tracey, president of Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell Health.

“We don’t know if it has any benefit. We really don’t. I swear we don’t,” he said. “People are hoping for anything. But we need to do this clinical trial.”

And while final results are not expected until mid-to-late May, preliminary results for a clinical trial of the experimental antiviral drug remdesivir could come out in a week or two, a principal investigator in the trial Dr. Andre Kalil said Sunday.

Physicians at a hospital in Orlando, Florida, said Sunday that at least two patients are seeing “drastic improvements” after convalescent plasma transplants, which uses the antibodies from recovered patients to treat those who are currently sick.

Testing of antibodies will also help Boston to evaluate exposure to the virus in the city. Mayor Martin Walsh announced that 1,000 asymptomatic residents will undergo diagnostic and antibody testing, which is expected to be done by Friday.

More outbreaks at meat plants

The ongoing pandemic, meanwhile, has led to the closure of another meat production plant.

A JBS USA beef production plant in Green Bay, Wisconsin, will temporarily close due to the pandemic, the company announced Sunday. The county where the plant is located has at least 776 confirmed cases and two deaths as of Sunday.

Processing plants and slaughterhouses have been shutting their doors in recent weeks. Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, JBS pork processing in Worthington, Minnesota, and Tyson Fresh Foods in Waterloo, Iowa, three of the largest pork processing plants in the country, have already closed indefinitely while smaller ones have done so temporarily.

“The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply,” Smithfield Foods CEO Ken Sullivan said. “It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running.”

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