A Department of Homeland Security study shows the effects of sunlight, heat and humidity on the half life of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.


Church services remained an overwhelmingly online phenomenon Sunday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases closed in on 1 million, and the Chinese epicenter city of Wuhan reported that its last hospital patient had been discharged.

A Georgia mayor was fighting back against relaxed social distancing restrictions by asking religious leaders to not resume in-person services Sunday, even though the state says they can. States across the nation are detailing their plans to slowly reopen economies.

And controversial antibody testing is ramping up in the United States.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued an order that allowed the reopening of barbershops, hair salons, gyms, tattoo shops and nail salons on Friday. Included in the order are religious institutions that can hold services “in accordance with strict social distancing protocols,” according to the governor’s office.

The order has met with mixed reactions from business owners and widespread condemnation from health experts and even President Donald Trump.

The virus has killed more than 200,000 people globally, according to Johns Hopkins University data. More than 2.8 million confirmed cases have been reported, including 940,000 in the U.S. where there are more than 53,000 deaths.

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Last patient leaves hospital in COVID-19 epicenter of Wuhan, China

The number of hospitalized coronavirus patients in Wuhan, the central China city hardest hit by the epidemic, reached zero after the last patient was released Friday, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. In Hubei province – Wuhan is the capital – the number of existing COVID-19 cases has dropped below 50 for the first time. No new confirmed cases of the disease have been reported for over 20 days in the province, Xinhua said.

The coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in a wet market in Wuhan, first emerged there in December before spreading worldwide. Wuhan and the province of Hubei were locked down at the end of January. China has reported a death toll of more than 4,600 people but is seeing very few new cases.

Georgia mayors fight back as businesses reopen

Savannah, Georgia, Mayor Van Johnson is taking steps to keep local churches closed, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is urging residents to stay home, even as the state dramatically rolls back its social distancing restrictions. Johnson asked more than 70 Savannah religious leaders to keep their worship centers closed. None of the leaders said they would reopen. Johnson told the religious leaders he understood the financial burden of the religious institutions being closed but said, “We can reach God without going through a building.”

Meanwhile, Bottoms has repeatedly urged residents to stay home. On Friday, she tweeted coronavirus fatality statistics for the state: “The numbers speak for themselves. PLEASE STAY HOME.”

Georgia has become a high-profile outlier as dozens of states have announced plans to relax social distancing restrictions, but few have yet made major changes.

– Asha Gilbert and Joel Shannon

More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY:

CDC expands list of COVID-19 symptoms

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added several symptoms attributed to the coronavirus. The CDC now lists fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and loss of sense of taste or smell. The symptoms are important not only as a warning sign to ill people, but because most testing sites require a patient to have a COVID-19 symptom before they can be tested.

The CDC also recommends seeking “medical attention immediately” for trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure on chest, bluish lips or face or new “confusion or inability to arouse.”

Gov. Cuomo reveals plans for reopening New York

New York’s statewide daily death toll dipped to 367, the lowest one-day total in weeks and continuing a trend of decline, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday. He said hospitalization and testing numbers continue to show improvement and that the state agrees with federal guidelines for 14 days of declines before reopening begins. The state will reopen in phases, he said, with construction and some manufacturing part of the first wave.

In a separate news conference, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said his city’s economic reopening might not be completed until 2022. The mayor promised that a “more just society” will emerge for the city.

“We’re not going to risk people’s lives, we’re going to be smart about it,” he said. “It will be a reimagination of what this city can be.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that statewide death toll from Saturday was 367, the lowest one-day total in weeks. The state will reopen in phases, he said, with construction and some manufacturing part of the first wave.

USNS Comfort wraps up New York City mission

The USNS Comfort, docked at a Manhattan pier since March 30, will soon leave for its homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said. The 1,000-bed hospital ship, sent by President Trump at the request of Gov. Andrew Cuom, treated just 182 patients. There was one patient left on the ship early Sunday. The ship was deployed to care for patients without the coronavirus, but the Comfort shifted gears when there was little demand for non-COVID patients while the city’s hospitals became overrun with people suffering from the disease. 

Pork producers may have to ‘cull herds’ as processing plants close

The federal government says it will help U.S. pork producers find new processors – or potentially destroy thousands of pigs that have backed up on farms – because large meatpacking plants have slowed or closed because of the COVID-19. Pat McGonegle, CEO of the Iowa Pork Producers Association, said farmers “will need help in a significant way,” including culling herds, if the state continues to see a widespread loss of processing capacity. Iowa, the nation’s largest pork producer, has about 25 million pigs.

“The clock is ticking … it’s days not weeks” when pork producers will face destroying animals because there’s no longer room for them on farms, McGonegle said. 

– Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register

Battle brews over bailouts for state, local governments

The latest coronavirus assistance package signed into law Friday does not include the hundreds of billions of dollars sought by state and local governments to replenish their coffers. More than $2.5 trillion has been approved for businesses, individuals, hospitals, testing and other immediate needs, but a major political battle looms over government bailouts. 

“The last thing we need in the middle of an economic crisis is to have states all filing bankruptcy all across America,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who heads the National Governors Association, told Politico. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt last week that “we’re not ready to just send a blank check down to states and local governments to spend anyway they choose to.” 

– Maureen Groppe

Even if you can find an antibody test, it may not tell you much

From coast to coast, epidemiologists are using some of the many antibody tests that have entered the market recently to determine how much COVID-19 has spread.  The importance of these tests are not lost on Americans, who are itching to go back to work, see loved ones and find out if they have been infected with the virus. With little public data about the tests’ accuracy, experts question whether the tests will give people false reassurances by indicating they have immunity to the disease.

“There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” the World Health Organization said in a statement Friday. The tests also “need further validation to determine their accuracy and reliability,” the statement said.

– Adrianna Rodriguez and Grace Hauck

Scattered protests continue across nation

Protests were held in states including California, Kentucky and Rhode Island on Saturday as some Americans expressed frustration with states’ restrictive social distancing orders. In Rhode Island, a protest drew as many as 100 people to the State House with signs telling Gov. Gina Raimondo to “Knock It Off, Gina’” and “Re-open the Rhode Island Economy.” At her daily briefing on the pandemic, she said: “I certainly respect their opinion and their ability to protest. … (But) if they are violating social-distancing rules, then they should knock it off.”

In Southern California, a group of 75 to 100 protesters gathered and three people were arrested, according to a release from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. The group was protesting beach closures, even as the county made moves to begin reopening beaches.

Death certificates can’t be trusted

As the U.S. struggles to track coronavirus fatalities amid spotty testing, delayed lab results and inconsistent reporting standards, a more insidious problem could thwart its quest for an accurate death toll. Up to 1 in 3 death certificates nationwide were already wrong before COVID-19, said Bob Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics. Experts say the inaccuracies are part and parcel of a patchwork, state-by-state system of medical examiners, coroners and doctors who have disparate medical backgrounds, and in some cases none at all. 

“I’m always worried about getting good data. I think this sort of thing can be an issue even in a pandemic,” Anderson said.

– Jessica Priest

NY man charged with hoarding tons of protective gear

A New York man, accused of amassing tons of scarce protective equipment sought by nurses and doctors treating COVID-19 patients, was charged Friday with hoarding and price gouging related to sales of surgical masks, medical gowns, gloves and hand sanitizer. Federal prosecutors alleged that Amardeep “Bobby” Singh, who previously sold clothing and sneakers, began marketing a new product line in mid-March, as medical professionals scrambled to find gear to shield themselves from the deadly coronavirus.

According to court documents, Singh allegedly offered face shields for $9.99, after acquiring them at a cost of $3.10. Disposable face masks were marked up, from 7 cents each to $1, while boxes of gloves, acquired for as little as $2.50 each, were priced at $7.99.

– Kevin Johnson


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