Trump administration officials spoke optimistically about a relatively quick rebound from the coronavirus Sunday as life within the White House reflected the stark challenges still posed by the pandemic, with Vice President Mike Pence “self-isolating” after one of his aides tested positive.
A balancing act was playing out the world over, with leaders starting to loosen lockdowns that have left millions unemployed while also warning of the threat of a second wave of infections.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin predicted the American economy would rebound in the second half of this year from unemployment rates that rival the Great Depression. Another 3.2 million U.S. workers applied for jobless benefits last week, bringing the total over the last seven weeks to 33.5 million.
“I think you’re going to see a bounce-back from a low standpoint,” said Mr. Mnuchin, speaking on “Fox News Sunday.”
But the director of the University of Washington institute that created a White House-endorsed coronavirus model said the moves by states to re-open businesses “will translate into more cases and deaths in 10 days from now.” Dr. Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said states where cases and deaths are going up more than expected include Illinois, Arizona, Florida, and California.
Mr. Pence's move to self-isolate came after three members of the White House’s coronavirus task force placed themselves in quarantine after coming into contact with the aide. An administration official said Mr. Pence was voluntarily keeping his distance from other people and has repeatedly tested negative for COVID-19 since his exposure. He plans to be at the White House Monday.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced two policy reversals a day after an Associated Press report in which residents’ relatives, watchdog groups, and politicians from both parties alleged he was not doing enough to counter the surge of deaths in nursing homes, where about 5,300 residents have died. Nursing home staff in New York will now have to undergo COVID-19 tests twice a week and facilities will no longer be required to take in hospital patients who were infected.
The U.S. has seen 1.3 million infections and nearly 80,000 deaths, the most in the world by far, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, 4 million people have been reported infected and more than 280,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins.
In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Sunday a modest easing of the country’s coronavirus lockdown but urged citizens not to surrender the progress already made.
Those in the U.K. construction or manufacturing industries or other jobs that can’t be done at home “should be actively encouraged to go to work” this week, he said. Mr. Johnson, who has taken a tougher line after falling ill himself with what he called “this devilish illness,” set a goal of June 1 to begin re-opening schools and shops if the U.K. can control new infections and the transmission rate of each infected person.
“We will be driven not by mere hope or economic necessity,” he said. “We’re going to be driven by the science, the data, and public health.”
Germany, which managed to push new infections below 1,000 daily before deciding to loosen restrictions, has seen regional spikes in cases linked to slaughterhouses and nursing homes.
France is letting some younger students go back to school Monday after almost two months out. Attendance won’t be compulsory right away. Only preschools and elementary schools are set to start up at first, and classes will be capped at 10 students at preschools and 15 elsewhere. Administrators were told to prioritize instruction for children ages 5, 6, and 10.
Mathilde Manaud and her partner are raising their 3-year-old and 7-year-old in Le Pre Saint-Gervais, in the French capital's eastern suburbs. They agreed to send the children kids back to school if there are spaces. “Truth is, we don’t know whether we are right to do so or no, we don’t know if it’s a mistake. We ask ourselves this question every day, and we change our mind every day,” Ms. Manaud said. “We are trying to convince ourselves that if they are reopening, they assume they can handle the situation.”
French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer estimated that 80% to 85% of France’s 50,500 preschools and elementary schools will open this week. Junior high schools in regions with fewer virus cases are expected to reopen on May 18. A target date hasn’t been scheduled yet for for high schools.
Residents of some Spanish regions will be able to enjoy limited seating at bars, restaurants, and other public places Monday, but Madrid and Barcelona, the country’s largest cities, will remain shut down.
China, where the virus was first detected, reported 14 new cases Sunday, its first double-digit rise in 10 days. Eleven of 12 domestic infections were in the northeastern province of Jilin, prompting authorities to raise the threat level in one of its counties, Shulan, to high risk, just days after downgrading all regions to low risk.
All passengers traveling through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will be required to wear cloth face coverings beginning May 18.
The requirement also applies to airport workers, including Port of Seattle employees, and visitors who aren’t flying, according to The Seattle Times. The move announced by the Port of Seattle on Saturday night exempts people who can’t tolerate facial coverings for medical reasons, as well as very young children. It’s not yet clear how the Port of Seattle will enforce the requirement, but port spokesman Peter McGraw said the policy will be refined in the coming week.
Several major airlines and some airports also are requiring passengers to wear masks. Philadelphia International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport will require all passengers and visitors to wear masks starting Monday. Denver International Airport started requiring all passengers to wear face coverings this past week.
Some carriers, including Seattle-based Alaska Airlines, require passengers to wear face coverings when they are on the plane. The Transportation Security Administration now requires workers at screening checkpoints to wear masks.
South Korea reported 34 more cases as new infections linked to nightclubs threaten its hard-won gains against the virus. It was the first time that South Korea’s daily infections were above 30 in about a month. The mayor of Seoul ordered all the capital’s bars and nightclubs shut down indefinitely.
This story was reported by The Associated Press.
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