Coronavirus: China reports 7 new virus cases, South Korea 13

Coronavirus outbreak: What you need to know

More than 4.7 million people worldwide – including nearly 1.5 million in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. While efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak continue, states have begun to shift their focus toward reopening their economies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here.

>> Coronavirus: Know the facts directly from the CDC

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Live updates for Monday, May 18, continue below:

China reports 7 new virus cases, South Korea 13

Update 10:45 p.m. EDT May 18: China reported seven new coronavirus cases Tuesday, a day after President Xi Jinping announced his country would provide $2 billion to help respond to the outbreak and its economic fallout.

Three of the new cases were listed as imported, and once again no new deaths were reported. Just 85 people remain in treatment while another 392 are under observation and isolation for being suspected cases or after testing positive without showing symptoms.

China has reported 4,634 deaths among 82,690 cases of COVID-19.

Xi’s appearance via video link at the World Health Assembly on Monday came amid finger-pointing between the United States and China over the pandemic, and the World Health Organization bowing to calls from most of its member states to launch an independent probe into how it managed the international response to the coronavirus — which could be seen as a setback for Beijing. China has repeatedly said now is not the time for such an investigation, which could look into allegations that the country suppressed information and bungled its response to the initial outbreak.

South Korea has reported 13 new coronavirus cases, a possible sign that a recent outbreak in the capital area is stabilizing as officials prepare to reopen schools, starting with high school seniors this week.

Figures announced by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday brought national totals to 11,078 cases and 263 deaths.

Nine of the new cases were from Seoul and nearby regions, where dozens of infections have been linked to club goers who went out in early May as the country began relaxing social distancing measures.

Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip urged vigilance to maintain hard-won gains against the virus and called for education officials to double check preventive measures with high school seniors returning to school on Wednesday.

Tech-assisted COVID-19 tracking is having some issues

Update 10 p.m. EDT May 18: Harnessing today’s technology to the task of fighting the coronavirus pandemic is turning out to be more complicated than it first appeared.

The first U.S. states that rolled out smartphone apps for tracing the contacts of COVID-19 patients are dealing with technical glitches and a general lack of interest by their residents. A second wave of tech-assisted pandemic surveillance tools is on its way, this time with the imprimatur of tech giants Apple and Google. But those face their own issues, among them potential accuracy problems and the fact that they won’t share any information with governments that could help track the spread of the illness.

Contact tracing is a pillar of infection control. It’s traditionally conducted by trained public health workers who interview those who may have been exposed, then urge them to get tested and isolate themselves. Some estimates call for as many as 300,000 U.S. workers to do the work effectively, but so far those efforts have lagged.

Other tech companies like Salesforce have offered database tools to assist manual tracing efforts, although those also raise privacy concerns because of the need to collect and store detailed information about people’s social connections, health status and whereabouts.

Privacy advocates warn that the danger of creating new government surveillance powers for the pandemic could lead to much bigger problems in the future. In a new policy paper shared with The Associated Press, the American Civil Liberties Union is warning state governments to tread more carefully and establish stricter privacy procedures before deploying technology meant to detect and curb new coronavirus outbreaks.

Even the most privacy-minded tools, such as those to be released soon by Apple and Google, require constraints so that they don’t become instruments of surveillance or oppression. “The risks of getting it wrong are enormous,” said Neema Singh Guliani, a senior legislative counsel with the ACLU.

ACLU’s report says the worst location-tracking technology should be rejected outright, such as apps that track individual movements via satellite-based GPS technology and feed sensitive personal data into centralized government databases. “Good designs don’t require you to gather people’s location information and store that,” Singh Guliani said.

Large crowds return to Alabama beaches

Update 8:15 p.m. EDT May 18: Large crowds have returned to Alabama beaches as the state loosened restrictions on restaurants and social gatherings.

WKRG-TV reports that beaches are seeing sizeable crowds. Alabama beaches opened this month after being closed for six weeks. The state last week allowed restaurants to reopen dining rooms if social distancing measures were being followed.

“Each weekend has gotten bigger than the one before,” said Herb Malone with Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Tourism.

Malone said hotel and condo rentals are seeing big numbers for this time of year.

“Some businesses reporting in that they were right at a 100 percent for their occupancy,” Malone said.

He said the tourism industry is looking forward to a good Memorial Day weekend.

Trump hears restaurant owners’ worries, sees good days ahead

Update 7:05 p.m. EDT May 18: Restaurant owners gave President Donald Trump a sobering accounting Monday of the widespread damage the coronavirus pandemic has dealt their industry and asked him to adjust a loan program for small businesses to address their concerns. The president put a hopeful spin on the situation, saying encouraging news on vaccines and treatment efforts could “negate” the bad news.

The president was in good spirits as he met with the restaurant executives at the White House, noting that financial markets were up as states continued to loosen economic restrictions on businesses and following Moderna Inc.’s announcement of encouraging news in early work on vaccine development.

“This was a very big day, therapeutically, cure-wise and vaccine-wise,” Trump said. “Tremendous progress has been made, as I’ve been saying for two weeks, because I’ve been seeing what’s going on and have been spearheading it largely.”

“It almost feels like today is the first day,” Trump said at another point in the meeting. “Last week didn’t feel the same. Now it feels good. People are starting to go out. They’re opening. They get it.”

Restaurant owners said they appreciated that the government had acted swiftly on assistance efforts, but cautioned that even opening up to more customers would not necessarily mean a return to profits because they’ll be serving fewer customers.

They called for extending the eight-week period in which they must spend their Paycheck Protection Program loans in order to have the loans forgiven. An extension to 24 weeks would give them more time to adjust to the new customer constraints they face as states place limits on how many people can dine at restaurants.

Texas allows pro sports to apply to hold events

Update 6:40 p.m. EDT May 18: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday pro sports leagues and entities in baseball, basketball, baseball, softball, golf, tennis, football, and car racing can apply to the state to hold events without spectators starting May 31.

Abbott also said Little League baseball can resume play with parents watching under social distancing guidelines.

Youth sports camps may also open in June.

Trump says he’s taking malaria drug in case he gets virus

Update 4:50 p.m. EDT May 18: President Donald Trump said Monday that he is taking a malaria drug to lessen symptoms should he get the new coronavirus, even though the drug is unproven for fighting COVID-19.

Trump told reporters he has been taking the drug, hydroxychloroquine, and a zinc supplement daily “for about a week and a half now.” Trump spent weeks pushing the drug as a potential cure for COVID-19 against the cautionary advice of many of his administration’s top medical professionals. The drug has the potential to cause significant side effects in some patients and has not been shown to combat the new coronavirus.

Trump said his doctor did not recommend the drug to him, but he requested it from the White House physician.

“I started taking it, because I think it’s good,” Trump said. “I’ve heard a lot of good stories.”

Judge tosses coronavirus restrictions by Oregon governor

Update 4:30 p.m. EDT May 18: A county judge has declared Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s coronavirus restrictions “null and void” because she didn’t have her emergency orders approved by the Legislature.

Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff made the ruling Monday in a lawsuit brought by churches that had sued saying the social-distancing directives were unconstitutional.

The suit had also argued that emergency powers only last for a month and after that Brown would have needed legislative approval. The judge agreed.

Brown said she would immediately appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court to try to keep the emergency orders in effect.

“This will ensure we can continue to safeguard the health of all Oregonians — including frontline health care workers, those living in nursing homes, workers in agriculture and food processing plants, and Oregonians with underlying health conditions –– while the legal process moves forward,” Brown said.

Ray Hacke, the attorney who represented the plaintiffs in the case, said in a phone interview Monday the ruling invalidates Brown’s ban on churches gathering for worship but also the entire stay-at-home order, Hacke said.

Common Sense intervened after the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute filed the case earlier this month on behalf of Oregon businesses, expanding the scope, he said.

California governor says sports could begin in June without fans

Update 3:40 p.m. EDT May 18: California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that sporting events could happen the first week of June in his state but without spectators and with modifications, CNN reported.

It would only happen if the state keeps the number of positive cases down. He also announced about half of the state is moving into phase 2 for reopening, CNN reported.

Navajo Nation has highest infection rate

Update 3:22 p.m. EDT May 18: The Navajo Nation, which stretches across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, has 4,002 cases of coronavirus. That works out as a per capita average of 2,304.41 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people. The Navajo Nation has a total reported population of 173,667 as of the 2010 Census, CNN reported.

New York state has 1,806 cases per 100,000 on average.

President of the Navajo Nation attributes the spread to people living in close areas and few options when it comes to buying food, CNN reported.

Slaoui divests holdings in Moderna

Update 3:10 p.m. EDT May 18: After coming under fire for owning $10 million in company stock options, former Moderna board member and current coronavirus vaccine advisor to the President Donald Trump administration, Moncef Slaoui will divest his equity holdings in the company that is developing a coronavirus vaccine, NBC News reported.

NHL commissioner says more testing needed

Update 2:10 p.m. EDT May 18: Racing and golf are back, and some NBA teams have opened their practice facilities, but not all sports are ready to resume competition.

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman said hockey isn’t ready to come back until there’s more testing. As of now, only players who have been sick have received COVID-19 tests, CNN reported.

The commissioner is looking to come back to finish the 2019-2020 season, even if games are played over the summer and if it would delay next year’s season, according to CNN.

Uber to cut 3,000 more jobs

Update 12:15 p.m. EDT May 18: Uber officials announced Monday that they will be cutting another 3,000 positions, as well as, closing about 45 office locations, CNN reported.

The latest cuts are in addition to an earlier announcement that the company would cut about 3,700 employees earlier this month, The Associated Press reported. Those cuts were expected to impact customer support and recruiting teams and are in response to reduced demand for ride requests.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he will wave his base salary for the rest of the year, CNN reported.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo daily press conference

Update 11:35 a.m. EDT May 18: Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that anyone who has any symptoms of COVID-19 or if someone was exposed to someone who tested positive, to get a test since they have more tests available than are being conducted. He said he took a coronavirus test and it came back negative.

Cuomo said the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to go down, not as fast as he would like to see but they are still decreasing.

The governor said that he’s pushing for major league sports teams to play their seasons without fans when they can reopen, Spectrum News reported. The comment came after he said that the western part of the state will start reopening Tuesday.


Death toll climbs

Update 11:10 a.m. EDT May 18: Johns Hopkins University says there have been at least 1,490,195 cases of coronavirus documented in the U.S. and at least 89,636 people have died. There have been 3,438 new cases and 74 reported deaths as of Monday, CNN reported.

Target to continue $2 bonus for hourly employees

Update 10:46 a.m. EDT May 18: Target CEO Brian Cornell told employees that they will continue to get the $2-an-hour bonus through July 4, The Star Tribune reported.

Other companies have started announcing the end of extra pay because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Walmart will give its employees another bonus payout in June, officials announced last week.

Amazon will be ending its extra pay after May 31, CNBC reported last week.

Antibody testing for first responders begins in New York City

Update 10:22 a.m. EDT May 18: Starting Monday, 140,000 antibody tests for first responders have become available in New York City as a part of a four-week federal testing program, CNN reported.

The testing is free for health care workers and first responders through a program between the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Participation is voluntary and will start with the New York Fire Department, including paramedics and EMT, as well as, employees at The Office of Chief Medical Examiner, CNN reported.

Vaccine shows promise

Update 9:45 a.m. EDT May 18: Moderna’s early-stage human trial of a coronavirus vaccine is showing promise. Company officials said that the treatment created antibodies in all 45 participants.

Some participants got a 25 microgram dose, 100 microgram dose or a 250 microgram dose. Each got two vaccinations 28 days apart, CNBC reported.

Two weeks after the second dose showed that all participants had some antibodies.

Those who had the 25 microgram dose had about the same amount of antibodies as someone who recovered from COVID-19. Those who had the 100 microgram dose had significantly more than those who received the small dose. No information was given on the number of antibodies developed for the largest dose group, CNBC reported.

Some participants also developed neutralizing antibodies.

This is only phase one data from one company and more than 100 vaccines are being developed across the world, eight of which are in human trials.

Phase two is expected to start soon with 600 participants with phase three expected in July.

Participants had little reaction to the vaccine. Most reactions came in the 250 microgram dose group. Three people had grade 3 systemic symptoms after the second dose, CNBC reported.

President Donald Trump Friday named Moncef Slaoui as the chief scientist for “Operation Warp Speed” to develop a vaccine to combat the coronavirus, The Washington Post reported.

Slaoui had to step down from the board of directors for Moderna, HuffPost and Reuters reported. He still owns stock options in the company, according to Business Insider and a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

The value of the stock is estimated at $10 million. Moderna also received $483 million from the federal agency Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, according to the Post.

Slaoui’s appointment has been called by watchdogs a conflict of interest, the Post reported.

450 workers added to help with NC unemployment benefits

Update 7:57 a.m. EDT May 18: Tens of thousands of North Carolinians have struggled for months to get unemployment benefits they need.

Today, the state is offering some relief so they can get their benefits faster, Charlotte’s WSOC-TV is reporting.

State Sen. Jeff Jackson said the Division of Employment is adding 350 people to help answer phones, and an additional 100 people will help respond to their chat function.

For months, WSOC-TV has been investigating these issues and working to get answers. He found people have waited on hold for hours just to get through to home who can help them and people searching for the status of their benefits, have checked online, only to see their request “pending” for days.

The added staff should help clear the backlog of claims and fix some of the problems people have been experiencing.

Jackson said there are about 270,000 unemployment claims that have not been paid, and the majority of those are more than 14 days old.


Arkansas retailers can open today, governor says

Update 7:28 a.m. EDT May 18: According to a tweet by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, all retailers in the state can open today under phase 1 restrictions specific to the retailer’s industry, WHBQ-TV is reporting.

“As we move towards next phases, I encourage everyone to continue the basic safety measures to keep everyone safe while Arkansas is ready for business,” Hutchinson wrote Friday.


Sidewalk chalk brightening up Florida neighborhood gets national attention

Update 7:05 a.m. EDT May 18: A Florida mother was just looking for a way to entertain her kids and found a talent that has made her world-famous.

According to WFTV, Casey Drake of Winter Park started drawing sidewalk art with chalk and posting it on Instagram in April. Less than one month later, she has gained more than 40,000 social media followers. Her art has been featured in magazines, newspapers and even made an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live."

The art resonates with people, not just because of its vibrant colors and familiar characters, but because of its messages about COVID-19 and living through a global pandemic, the TV station reported.

Casey said she approaches everything with humor and has intertwined funny commentary with her art hoping to bring a smile to people in troubled times.


Pennsylvania offering additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits

Update 5:43 a.m. EDT May 18: Thousands of people who have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic are getting some extra time and money thanks to a new state program in Pennsylvania.

According to WPXI-TV, the Pennsylvania Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program is crucial for people who have lost their jobs and have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

The state has already paid out nearly $7.4 billion in total unemployment benefits since mid-March, and it’s not clear when everyone can go back to work.

The program will give an additional 13 weeks of benefits to those who have exhausted their initial unemployment aid.


Lawyer petitions for North Carolina-based Atrium, Novant to give frontline workers hazard pay

Update 4:30 a.m. EDT May 18: A labor lawyer is pushing North Carolina-based Atrium Health, Novant and other health care systems to increase pay for employees who are most at risk.

According to WSOC-TV, Josh Van Kampen started a petition, urging the employers to give those workers hazard pay.

He also wants them to have the protective gear they need.

He told WSOC-TV′s Jason Stoogenke he already has more than 100 signatures just a few days in.

“They’re being paid as if they just showed up to work on a regular run-of-the-mill day in the ER, and they need to be compensated for the risk that they’re taking for their community,” Van Kampen said.

Stoogenke asked Atrium and Novant for comment, but they have not responded.


Florida’s ‘full phase 1’ reopening begins today

Update 3:40 a.m. EDT May 18: Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that the state is transitioning into a “full phase 1” reopening beginning today.

What does this mean for certain businesses? Here’s what’s open, what’s reopening and what will remain closed, according to Orlando’s WFTV:

Restaurants: Restaurants have already been allowed to reopen at 25% capacity. However, under full phase 1, restaurants and retailers can open at 50% capacity and must adhere to safety protocols.

Gyms and fitness centers: Under full phase 1, gyms and fitness centers can reopen. Many gyms sent out letters during the week announcing the possible reopening date of Monday.

Museums and libraries: Museums and libraries will be able to open at 50% capacity at the discretion of local governments.

Hair and nail salons: Hair and nail salons were allowed to reopen May 11.

Elective surgeries: Elective surgeries have resumed at hospitals.

Bars: Bars must remain closed until at least phase 2.

Theme parks: Theme parks are still closed, but they are pushing to reopen during phase 2. DeSantis said theme parks will be able to reopen if they submit a plan that is approved by their county.


South Carolina salons, gyms can reopen today

Update 3 a.m. EDT May 18: When people wake up Monday morning, gyms and salons in South Carolina will be back in business.

According to WSOC-TV, the state has already taken several steps toward reopening.

Nonessential businesses reopened April 20. The work-or-home order expired May 4, and restaurants also resumed outdoor dining that day. On May 11, the state added limited indoor dining at restaurants.

On Monday, salons, gyms, public pools, massage businesses and tattoo parlors can reopen.

WSOC-TV′s Erin Edwards spoke to businesses in Rock Hill, and they said they’re closely following the state’s guidelines for reopening.

A few places, such as 9 Round, will be taking a few extra steps and going above the state’s regulations in an effort to keep their employees and clients safe.

“We want to make sure all of our members, all of our staff are very, very safe," said Dennis Carver, managing partner at 9 Round.

Carver said he placed blue tape on the mats to make sure clients are keeping a safe distance.

“The good thing about us is you always have your own trainer. Well, now you have your own personal sanitizer,” he said.

While the gym will be open and welcoming guests, it is encouraging people to schedule sessions online.

“Kind of like getting a haircut, you can schedule online. But if you walk in, you might not be able to get in,” Carver said.

Yuler Dominican hair salon in Tega Cay is allowing only six people inside the salon at a time.

“We’re asking all the people to come in with gloves and masks, and we’re also providing it if they cannot come with them,” said Leyris Perez.

Nail salons are also taking precautions, and many are not allowing walk-ins.

“I’m excited but nervous at the same time because you know we try our best to have enough time to take care of the customers. And then at the same time, we need enough time to clean," said Natalie Nguyen.

All the places WSOC-TV talked to Sunday said they are booked.


Georgia LA Fitness locations to reopen Friday under new safety protocols

Update 2:43 a.m. EDT May 18: Georgia LA Fitness locations will reopen Friday for a “preview period” under new safety protocols.

According to Atlanta’s WSB-TV, the company announced Sunday that that Georgia will be one of the first markets to reopen.

The gyms will give members a chance to test out the facility – and new guidelines – without being billed until June 1.

New protocols include temperature checks, screening questions, social distancing and limited building occupancy. Staff will be required to wear masks and gloves, and check-in will be contactless.

The club’s spas, saunas, basketball courts and Kids Klubs will be closed, and group fitness classes won’t resume until June 1 with limited capacity.

“We will not bill your account between May 22 and May 31,” officials said in a letter to members. “If our members’ response to this preview period is positive, then (assuming no additional directives from the governor or health officials requiring our clubs to close again), we will remain open.”

Officials are asking that members wash their hands often, wipe down equipment after use, distance themselves and, most importantly, not come to the gym if they are sick.


US coronavirus cases near 1.5M, deaths top 89K

Updated 1:50 a.m. EDT May 18: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States continued to climb to nearly 1.5 million early Monday across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

According to a Johns Hopkins University tally, there are at least 1,486,757 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 89,564 deaths.

The hardest-hit states remain New York with 350,121 cases and 28,232 deaths, and New Jersey with 146,504 cases and 10,363 deaths. Massachusetts, with 86,010 cases, has the third-highest number of deaths with 5,797, while Illinois has the third-highest number of cases with 94,191. Only 17 states and territories have confirmed fewer than 5,000 cases each.

Five other states have now confirmed at least 45,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including:

California: 80,166 cases, resulting in 3,240 deaths

Pennsylvania: 65,700 cases, resulting in 4,495 deaths

Michigan: 51,142 cases, resulting in 4,891 deaths

Texas: 48,396 cases, resulting in 1,343 deaths

Florida: 45,588 cases, resulting in 1,973 deaths

Meanwhile, Maryland, Georgia, Connecticut and Louisiana each has confirmed at least 34,000 cases; Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Colorado each has confirmed at least 21,000 cases, Washington state and North Carolina each has confirmed at least 18,000 cases, followed by Tennessee with 17,359; Minnesota and Iowa each has confirmed at least 14,000 cases; Arizona, Rhode Island and Wisconsin each has confirmed at least 12,000 cases; Alabama, Mississippi and Missouri each has confirmed at least 11,000 cases; Nebraska has confirmed at least 10,000 cases, followed by South Carolina with 8,816; Kansas, Kentucky, Delaware, Utah and the District of Columbia each has confirmed at least 7,000 cases; Nevada has confirmed at least 6,000 cases; and New Mexico and Oklahoma each has confirmed at least 5,000 cases.