Coronavirus Updates: The Latest News

all the things you need to know right now, updated three times a week

March 31, 2020

The 2019 Coronavirus, referred to as COVID-19, spread from its origin in Wuhan, China to every continent except Antartica.

According to the World Health Organization, there are 2,604,718 coronavirus cases and 181,433 worldwide deaths, as of April 22’s situation report. The WHO Risk Assessment assesses Global Level risk as “Very High.”

On Mar. 11, the WHO Director-General stated they are “deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.”

Who officially classified COVID-19 as a pandemic the same day.

In the U.S., 829,013 cases and 46,147 deaths have been reported to the CDC. This information was updated April 22. In Texas, the Texas Department of Health Services updates these numbers on a dashboard each day.

Coronavirus is a respiratory illness that comes from a family of viruses found mostly in animals, generally types of cattle, cats or bats. In Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, humans had a link to a large seafood and animal market, where some of the animals were infected. 

While it is rare for coronavirus to infect people, it is suspected this is where animal to human transfer of the disease first began. However, people with no contact to the original animal market have caught the virus, showing that it is now being transmitted between humans.

Symptoms according to the CDC are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These can occur two to 14 days after initial exposure to the virus. 

“I feel like [COVID-19] will continue to spread for a little bit, but hopefully soon doctors will find a way to stop [the spread]” junior Christian Mandes said.

***Story will be updated three times a week to reflect current case and death counts.



Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash

Trump To Increase Swab Production Amid Shortage Of Coronavirus Tests

production expected to increase by 20 million

The U.S. swab production for coronavirus testing should increase by at least 20 million per month through President Donald Trump’s use of the Defense Production Act, the president announced on Sunday.

Trump and his administration are also partnering with Puritan Medical Products to produce an additional 10 million swabs per month for test kits. Puritan is known for manufacturing “flocked swabs” which are claimed to be better at collecting specimens than other types of swabs. 

“We’ve had a little difficulty with one, so we’re calling in, as in the past you know, we’re calling in the Defense Production Act and we’ll be getting swabs very easily,” Trump said in a press conference. “Swabs are easy. Ventilators are hard.”

The Food and Drug Administration has also approved a new alternative swab from the diagnostics startup Curative that could eventually allow people to collect their samples themselves and conduct the tests from home.

The new swab is shorter and collects the sample from the front of the nose, unlike the current swab that collects the sample from deep inside the nose and can be painful. Curative’s tests use an oral-fluid sample collected by having the subject cough to produce sputum, which releases the virus from deep in the lungs, according to a spokesperson.

Curative says that its test is better for two reasons. Its sampling method reduces the risk of exposure for healthcare workers and requires less Personal Protective Equipment and it can scale tests rapidly. The company can already process roughly 5,000 tests per day and is manufacturing 20,000 test kits over the same period. Test results can be delivered in around 31 hours.

The president had previously used the Defense Production Act in order to increase the nation’s amount of ventilators. There are currently more than 150,000 tests being conducted per day, according to Vice President Mike Pence.


Photo by CDC on Unsplash

CDC Lab Contamination Resulted In Delayed Coronavirus Testing

agency’s failed rollout of national coronavirus kits continues to hurt U.S. efforts to combat spread of virus

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention was delayed in producing a coronavirus test kit after contamination was found in some of its production facilities two months ago, recent reports have said.

The facilities had reportedly violated manufacturing processes, which resulted in the contamination of one of three elements used in the testing procedure.

Problems ranged from researchers performing in the coronavirus laboratories without changing their coats, to chemical mixtures being assembled in the same room where researchers were working on positive coronavirus samples, officials said.

Those practices made the tests sent to public health labs unusable because they were contaminated with the coronavirus and produced some inconclusive results. The chemicals and synthetic material’s closeness violated the working procedures.

“It’s really a terrible black mark on the CDC, and the impact was devastating to the country,” James Le Duc, a former CDC official and current director of the Galveston National Laboratory in Texas, said. 

The mix-up forced CDC officials to take more than a month to resolve the issue, further delaying the nation’s production and distribution of testing kits. The contamination is currently under investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services.

This is not the first time the CDC has had an issue concerning the kits. In January, 26 kits were distributed to public health labs across the U.S. and false positives were reported at 24 of the 26 testing sites.


Photo by Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash

Government Stimulus Checks Hitting Bank Accounts

first round of relief money has been distributed

Last week nearly 80 million Americans received government stimulus checks, as part of a $2 trillion stimulus act.

Those who made less than $75,000 on their last tax filing will receive a payment of $1,200, and households with an income of less than $150,000 will get $2,400. Payments decrease after that bracket, with individuals who make more than $99,000 not receiving a stimulus check. Each child is worth an additional $500.

This first group who recently received their check did so through direct deposit. Another round of direct deposits will happen in the near future, with paper checks being sent out over a several month process beginning in May. These payments come as part of the recent CARES act, which also provides several other forms of economic stimulus, such as further unemployment benefits.

Possibly delaying the issuance of the paper checks in May is Donald Trump’s decision to have his name printed on each check. This decision is unprecedented, as previous checks of this nature have included no such detail. Officials within the treasury have claimed thus far that the printing will not impact the time it takes to mail the checks, though IRS officials have stated they believe it likely will.



Photo by Daniel Lee on Unsplash

Americans Protest Against Shelter-in-Place Orders

protesters are actually in minority

With the strict shelter-in-place orders, angry Americans across the country have begun to express frustration about social distancing with protests, lining up on streets and surrounding state capitols. 

One of the largest recent protests was in Michigan, where protesters denounced Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s extension of the state’s stay-home order through April 30. Protesters filled up streets with signs demanding state officials to end the lockdown. “Shutdown the shutdown,” one sign read, while another declared “Freedom over fear.”

“If I get sick, then I am going to bear the consequences of my getting sick,” protester Andy Lyons told  CNN affiliate WTHR. “If anybody else gets sick, they bear the consequences of their free choice without government coercion to do so. That’s what this is about.”

And in Texas, protesters gathered in close quarters around the governor’s mansion.

These protests violate social distancing guidelines and leave people susceptible to contracting and spreading the virus. Furthermore, these protestors are actually in the minority.

 A Politico/Morning Consult poll revealed last week that 81 percent of Americas feel the country “should continue to social distance for as long as is needed to curb the spread of coronavirus, even if it means continued damage to the economy.”

Additionally, the White House stated it is still too early to begin reopening so quickly, and health experts are agreeing. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Model shows that, in Texas, strict social distancing guidelines need to remain in place through May before containment can happen.

“If we open up now, we’ll see a big resurgence,” Vaccine and infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Hotez told KHOU 11 in Houston.

Health officials have also warned additional waves of coronavirus are virtually inevitable. But “it’s up to us how big those other waves will be,” epidemiologist Dr. Larry Brilliant said.

Three-Stage Plan For Reopening America Released

plan not in place until certain conditions are met

President Donald Trump released a three-stage plan for reopening portions of the country last week in an attempt to prevent further economic downfall.

Before entering into this plan, President Trump would like to see a 14-day drop in cases in localities and states. Additionally, hospitals are to be able to treat all patients without criss care and have a “robust testing program” in place.

Phase one of this plan allows for restaurants, gyms and places of worship to open if they follow social distancing guidelines. Bars will remain closed.

While some businesses may open, schools will be kept closed during phase one. Elective surgeries will be allowed, but it is recommended that individuals at a particularly high risk remain at home. 

Phase two further opens the area, allowing schools and camps to operate. Outdoor recreation is allowed at this point, along with shopping centers, but gatherings of 50 are still not advised. Moderate social distancing rules applied at restaurants and music venues. 

Phase three brings the nation back to how it was before the coronavirus to a large degree. Social distancing is limited, and while the vulnerable are still told to be cautious, they can go out. Employers no longer need to worry about distancing in the workplace. 

Despite the new plan, it has been warned a resurgence in cases would likely result in restrictions coming back in the area.



Photo courtesy of HPISD

Texas Schools Closed For Remainder Of School Year

schools will end 2019-2020 online

All Texas schools are to remain closed for the rest of the academic year, and public school districts will continue online learning to avoid losing state funding, an announcement that came from Gov. Greg Abbott April 17.  

Abbott’s decision was praised by many superintendents and school officials who deemed it unsafe to allow students to return to classes. Across the state, many graduation ceremonies have been postponed until later in the summer and are unclear whether or not health officials will allow them to happen.

“The team of doctors advising us has determined it would be unsafe to allow students to gather at schools for the foreseeable future,” Abbott said during the Friday press conference.

The Texas State Teachers Association President, Noel Candelaria, also urged the state to continue fully funding school districts and require them to keep paying hourly workers such as custodians and food service workers.

The news of the school closures comes with Abbott’s plan to slowly reopen essential businesses while continuing to practice social distancing. Beginning on April 24, retail stores will allow “to go” services for product pickups to avoid as much contact as possible. State parks will also begin to reopen.

“In reopening Texas, we must be guided by data and doctors,” Abbott said. “We must put health and safety first. We must prioritize protecting our most vulnerable populations.”

Texas is among many states across the country that are preparing to reopen businesses to the public but will continue to move at a glacial pace to ensure that everyone stays safe. 

In Highland Park, teachers will continue to provide instruction and engage students in learning for the remainder of the school year through the Connect HPISD plan for instructional continuity

Texas Abortion Ban During Coronavirus Holds

state debate over abortions continues during coronavirus crisis

A federal appeals court blocked a ruling that would have reinstated some abortions in Texas on April 10.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order deeming abortion a nonessential procedure during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, prohibiting abortions that do not pose an immediate threat to the mother’s life.

In the ruling that issued a stay to this policy, judges Kyle Duncan and Jennifer Walker Elrod wrote that “when faced with a society-threatening epidemic, a state may implement emergency measures that curtail constitutional rights so long as the measures have at least some ‘real or substantial relation’ to the public health crisis and are not ‘beyond all question, a plain, palpable invasion of rights secured by the fundamental law.”

Health care providers opposed the ruling, stating it forces women to wait to the legal limit for no justifiable reason, and the procedure, being time-sensitive, generally cannot be delayed on a whim until the crisis as a whole is over. Some have speculated this is an excuse to push an anti-abortion agenda.



Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

China’s Wuhan Revises Coronavirus Death Toll Up By 50 percent

1,290 more people died of coronavirus than previously though

Wuhan City, the early epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak revised their sharp upwards death toll from the disease, admitted people died at home and cases were missed as hospitals struggled to cope in the early days of the outbreak.

There was an increase in Wuhan’s official death toll after the numbers were revised to include nearly 1,300 fatalities and the official death toll was increased by 50 percent to 3,869 deaths according to Chinese officials. The number of cumulative confirmed infections in the city was also revised upward to 50,333, an increase of 325.

Medical workers at some facilities might have been preoccupied with saving lives and there existed delayed reporting, underreporting or misreporting, but there has never been any cover-up and we do not allow cover-ups,” Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry Information Department said.

The move appeared to be a response to growing questions about the accuracy of China’s official numbers and calls to hold the country responsible for a global health crisis that has killed more than 160,000 people and caused a worldwide economic slowdown.

This new information confirmed suspicions that the number of deaths were higher than the original figures had shown. The country’s health systems were said to be overwhelmed during the outbreak which led to incorrect reporting of cases.

“They are on the defensive, clearly,” Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a political science professor at Hong Kong Baptist University said.  “It’s an uphill battle now for China to improve its image.”

China had also claimed they lacked testing capabilities, making it difficult to record the exact number of deaths.

Fall Return Of Coronavirus Highly Probable

nation’s top infectious-disease doctor discusses why U.S. will be ready

The coronavirus is anticipated to resurface this fall because of the degree of transmissibility, according to Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert and the face of the U.S. coronavirus response team.

However, should the novel virus become a seasonal, cyclical virus, the country will be better prepared to deal with it, Dr. Fauci said in Monday’s White House press briefing. 

“Our ability to go out and be able to test, identify, isolate and contact trace will be orders of magnitude better than what it was just a couple of months ago.””

— Dr. Fauci

“Our ability to go out and be able to test, identify, isolate and contact trace will be orders of magnitude better than what it was just a couple of months ago,” Dr. Fauci said. 

He added that in addition to having learned lessons during the current outbreak, he expects better resources for future coronavirus cases.

“Importantly, as I mentioned to you many times at these briefings, is that we have a vaccine that’s on track and multiple other candidates,” Fauci said in the briefing. 

Dr. Fauci mentioned if researchers start to see an efficacy signal in vaccine tests, a vaccine could be available for use during the viruses next season. 


Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

Certain Texas Businesses Set To Reopen Friday

businesses will not be able to operate at full capacity

Governor Greg Abbott’s stay at home order ends Thursday, and he announced stores, malls, restaurants and movie theaters may start to reopen with 25 percent occupancy Friday. 

The governor also cleared the way for non-interactive museums and public libraries to open but specified cities do not have to open these places. Sports like golf and tennis can start up again too, with no more than four participants at a time. 

Although Abbott is allowing these businesses to start reopening, he stated barber shops, salons and gyms must wait until mid May to reopen due to the close nature of the services.

While the governor strongly recommends citizens wear masks when they go outside, his new orders say people are not legally required to wear them while out in public, and fines will not be issued. However, people still need to follow social distancing guidelines.

“Opening Texas must occur in phases,” Abbott said. “Obviously, not all businesses can open all at once. A more strategic approach is required to ensure that we don’t reopen only to have to close down again.”


Photo courtesy of Tai's Captures

Autopsies Show First U.S Coronavirus Death In Early February

new date comes weeks earlier than originally thought

At least two people died from coronavirus in early February, weeks earlier than what was initially believed to be the first U.S. coronavirus death.

Tissue samples taken from the autopsies of the deceased, who died inside their homes on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17, tested positive for the coronavirus, according to health officials in California’s Santa Clara County.

This alters the timeline of the U.S. outbreak, moving the date of the earliest known death up from Feb. 29 in Washington’s outbreak.

“The fact that there were deaths related to coronavirus back in early February is very significant because it means the virus was around for a lot longer than was initially realized,” County Health Executive Dr. Jeff Smith said to The Washington Post.

These two deaths, along with a third March 6 death, indicated how long the coronavirus has been spreading in the San Francisco bay area. The county medical examiner also reclassified six more flu deaths as coronavirus cases, but the dates and details of those cases have yet to be released.

The county medical examiner also said there are several more cases pending.


Photo courtesy of Noah Matteo on Unsplash

Protective Equipment Supply Nearly Depleted 

health care workers force to use makeshift equipment

The current supply of protective equipment to deal with the coronavirus crisis has almost been exhausted, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The department’s April 8 press release noted that about 90 percent of its stockpile of protective equipment, such as surgical masks, face shields, gowns, respirators and other medical supplies, has been distributed to state and local governments for medical use. 

The remaining 10 percent will be retained by the department for federal use, according to spokeswoman Katie McKeogh. This means state and local governments won’t see any more protective equipment from the federal government for the time being.

Disagreement abounds over who is to blame for this issue. Medical staff all over the nation have taken to social media to show their dissent with the shortages by taking photos of themselves with self-made protective equipment, which has been proven nowhere near as effective as the real thing.

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has said states should have been better prepared well in advance, and the federal stockpile should only be used when no other options remain.


Gov. Abbott Extends Texas Emergency Declaration

Texas will have another 30 days to access public health resources

Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared he was extending the declaration to provide emergency to stop the spread of coronavirus on Sunday. 

The declaration was initially put into place on March 13 but it was to expire in 30 days. The new proclamation will extend the declaration for another 30 days. 

“By extending my Disaster Declaration, we are ensuring the state of Texas continues to have adequate resources and capabilities to support our communities and protect public health,” Abbott said in a statement.

This does not mean his executive stay-at-home order has been extended. That order is still in place until April 30.

With the declaration, Texas state and local governments will have the authority to use all available resources needed to cope with the pandemic. 

According to a Houston KHOU article, the available resources include the State Operations Center and items from the Strategic National Stockpile, which provides state and local medical supplies during health emergencies.

The proclamation also allows Abbott to suspend state agency orders or rules that “prevent, hinder or delay necessary action in coping with this disaster.”

To slow the spread of coronavirus, Abbott urges Texans to practice safe social distancing and follow CDC and executive order guidelines. 

Trump Tweets Call To Fire Dr. Fauci

Tweet comes after Fauci hints at criticism

President Donald Trump’s frustration with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease specialist, became apparent to the public after retweeting a post on Sunday, April 12. 

Fauci said on Sunday in an interview with CNN that more lives could have been saved from the coronavirus if the country had gone into lockdown sooner, which is something he later walked back at the Monday evening press conference. 

“Obviously, if we had right from the very beginning shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different,” Fauci said. “But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then.”

According to a New York Times article, President Donald Trump responded by retweeting a post from DeAnna Lorraine saying “Time to #FireFauci”. 

DeAnna Lorraine, a pro-Trump congressional candidate, claimed in her tweet that the argument of firing Fauci stems back from late February. 

“Fauci is now saying that had Trump listened to the medical experts earlier he could’ve saved more lives,” Lorraine said in a tweet. “Fauci was telling people on Feb. 29 that there was nothing to worry about and it posed no threat to the US public at large.”

Trump and Fauci have continuously disputed each other’s statements during the period of coronavirus. 


Photo courtesy of HPISD

HPISD To Implement Pass, Fail Grading System

grading model for emergency remote learning created

The Highland Park ISD administration presented a plan to the Board of Trustees on Tuesday to grade students using a credit/no credit system, and parents can join a livestream today at 1 p.m. to learn more.

The model would be implemented for students during the emergency remote learning due to coronavirus. This system would have no effect on students’ grade point averages. For graduating seniors, class rank, valedictorian, salutatorian and honor graduates will be determined by the first semester and the fourth six weeks.

Teachers will continue to provide instruction for students via remote learning. Students must demonstrate they have understood key concepts to get credit to move on to the next grade. 

“While we recognize there is no perfect solution, particularly since all of us are used to another model, we believe this approach is the most equitable and reasonable method for students and staff given the extraordinary circumstances we are currently facing,” HPISD Superintendent Tom Trigg said. 

An additional change in the current policy is the class of 2020 is not required to have 50 hours of community service to graduate. Furthermore, students in AP classes will not be required to take AP exams, but the exams will still be offered.

The plan will go into effect on April 20. 

Lockdown Lifted In Wuhan

country reported nearly zero new infections

China ended its lockdown of Wuhan, the original epicenter of the coronavirus crisis, after the city reemerged from a 76-day lockdown.

Wuhan was placed on lockdown on January 23, four weeks after city officials announced the coronavirus outbreak. The Chinese government placed 11 million people on lockdown to try and slow the spread of the disease. With trains and flights being resumed on Wednesday people are only allowed to travel from the city if they can prove they are not infected through the use of a government-sanctioned app.

The country reported nearly zero new infections in recent weeks, leading to similar lockdown measures being lifted in other provinces, but coronavirus continues to plague the rest of the world. In the last 24 hours, the United States has seen its highest death toll in one day due to coronavirus with 1,850 deaths. However, it is still unclear whether China is giving an accurate count of how many cases and deaths there have been due to coronavirus. 

As the outbreak ravaged the city of Wuhan, the economy was frozen by strict epidemic control measures. With the lockdown order lifted, it is intended to breathe life back into the economy and get its citizens back to work. Over the past two weeks, life in Wuhan has resumed business with 94 percent of businesses reopened, according to a Wuhan official. 

Surgeon General Sounds Alarm As US Cases Top 300,000

surgeon general, top infectious disease doctor warn Americans of tough week to come

Coronavirus cases and deaths are expected to accelerate this week, according to Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who compared the situation to Sept. 11, 2001 and Pearl Harbor.

“This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives,” Adams said on Fox News.

“This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives.””

— Jerome Adam

He urged Americans to “do their part” by social distancing. 

“It’s not going to be localized, it’s going to be happening all over the country,” Adams said. “And I want America to understand that.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious diseases expert, backed up Adams’ claims.

“This next week is going to look bad because we’re still not at that apex,” Dr. Fauci said on CBS.

He also warned the governors of the states that have not yet placed a statewide stay-at-home order that they are putting themselves at risk.

Currently North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Arkansas are the only states that have not enacted any sort of stay-at-home order. Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma and South Carolina only have stay-at-home orders in certain cities and counties.

Dr. Fauci said it’s important for Americans to understand this is an important week, and people need to be following social distancing and shelter-in-place guidelines to prevent the rest of April from being as devastating as the next week. 

“It is going to be shocking to some. It certainly is really disturbing to see that,” he said. “But that’s what’s going to happen before it turns around.”

Nancy Pelosi Set On Creating Another Coronavirus Relief Package

her goal is to have it on House floor at end of month

More direct payments and increased unemployment benefits could come to Americans if Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s plans for another coronavirus relief package come to fruition.

In a letter addressed to house members, Pelosi said she wants to craft legislation and present it to the House floor later this month for a vote.

“Our communities cannot afford to wait, and we must move quickly,” she said.

Pelosi said the legislation will expand assistance to small businesses, including farmers, and she wants to “double down” on payment for relieving weaker communities. She also plans to provide more aid to hospitals, community health centers, health care workers and first responders.

House Democrats’ focus has majorly shifted this past week from drafting legislation centralized on infrastructure to relief and aid to American workers. 

This shift in focus is likely due to the record breaking 6.6 million Americans who filed for unemployment last week.

Cruise Ships With Coronavirus-Positive Passengers Allowed To Dock At Florida Coast

ship spent 27-days at sea before docking

The Holland America cruise ships Zaandam and Rotterdam were allowed to dock in Florida Thursday after several South American countries closed their ports to cruise ships. 

During the voyage, four guests died of coronavirus complications while at sea, and 250 on the ship reported flu-like symptoms, but at the time of docking, 97 percent of the guests were fit to travel.

President Donald Trump said the U.S. had to help the ships at a White House news briefing Wednesday. 

“They are in big trouble no matter where they are from,” he said “Happens to be … largely Americans, but whether they were or not, they are dying so we have to do something.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis initially expressed reluctance on Monday on Fox News to let the passengers into his state. However, he told Fox News on Thursday that Broward County, where the port was located, was working with the cruise lines and the Coast Guard in order to bring the ships in while keeping Florida residents safe.

Passengers had chartered vans and planes waiting for them over the next few days to bring them home, where they would start a 14-day quarantine.

Democratic National Convention Pushed To August

decision made due to coronavirus concerns

The Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee is now delayed until the week of August 17 due to coronavirus concerns. 

This move came after 15 states and territories have decided to postpone their primaries in the interest of public safety. Some states have also decided to shift to voting by mail system.

Former vice president and democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden welcomed the decision. He said earlier this week that he expected the convention to move into August from its originally scheduled date in July.

Both Biden and his opponent, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, have moved their campaign outreach operations online, canceling all in-person events.

Members of both the Republican party, which is also holding its nominating convention in August, and the Democratic party are concerned that if they make their conventions virtual, news networks will have less interest in covering the events.

Unemployment Jumps Dramatically Due To Coronavirus Pandemic

Texas hit especially hard

A staggering 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the last two weeks, as the coronavirus crisis ramps up in the U.S. 

Last week, 6.6 million Americans claimed unemployment insurance, breaking the 3.3 million record from the week before by twice as much. 

In February, the unemployment rate was historically low at 3.5 percent. But on Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted a jobless rate that exceeded 10 percent for the second quarter of the fiscal year, though they warned that these predictions are uncertain. 

These unprecedented figures don’t include self-employed workers because they are ineligible for unemployment benefits. However, the CARES Act passed by the U.S. government in March will soon extend these benefits to independent contractors. States are waiting on direction from the Department of Labor to implement this program.

In Texas, unemployment claims have risen more than 1,600 percent in the last two weeks. 155,657 filed the week ending on March 21 and 275,597 the week ending on March 28, which dwarf numbers from the worst week of the Great Recession and the week that Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. This high volume has caused the Texas Workforce Commission’s website to crash and phone lines to jam with calls.

“Just know that you’re not going to be denied your claim just because you’re having a hard time getting through,” Governor Greg Abbott said Tuesday.

Texas’ economy is in an especially difficult position because it has taken blows from both the coronavirus pandemic and a drop in oil prices caused by decreased demand and an oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Coronavirus Fund For First Responders, Health Care Workers Established

fund is taking donations online

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and the Communities Foundation of Texas announced the creation of a fund to aid workers at the frontlines of fighting coronavirus on Thursday morning. 

“The fight against the spread of coronavirus can only be won if we protect our frontline responders including police, fire, EMS and health care workers,” Jenkins said.

The “Dallas County Coronavirus Response Fund” is meant to help these frontline workers with any immediate needs they may have. 

 The trustees for this fund are Lynn McBee, CEO of Young Women’s Prep Network, Dr. Michael Horne, CEO and President of the Parkland Foundation, Debbie Branson, Lawyer at The Law Offices of Frank Branson, and Miguel Solis, a Dallas ISD Trustee. 

The community leaders that serve as the trustees of the fund have already secured $100,000 so far in donations that will support the production of sanitizer. The page for donations can be found here.

FDA Approves First Antibody Test For Coronavirus

test uses blood sample to show if patient has had the virus and recovered

The Food and Drug Administration approved a test that detects coronavirus antibodies in the blood on Thursday.

The test, called a serology test, can identify whether someone has already had an infection and might have immunity, and is less effective in identifying active infections. 

However, a positive result on this test does not guarantee immunity, as it tests for the presence and not the efficacy of antibodies. The strength of immune responses can vary depending on the person.

Other coronavirus tests work differently. They start by swabbing a patient’s nose or throat, then find and replicate virus genetic material in the swab through a process called “reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction” (RT-PCR).

But the serology test by Cellex Inc. looks for antibodies called immunoglobulin M and immunoglobulin G in a finger prick of blood. The test takes about 15 minutes to get results. RT-PCR tests can take hours to days.

The FDA told Cellex Inc. in a letter that “circumstances exist justifying the authorization of emergency use of in vitro diagnostics for the detection and/or diagnosis of [coronavirus].”


Trump Announces CDC Recommendation For Wearing Masks

cloth masks recommended but not required to curb transmission from asymptomatic people

The CDC will release new guidelines recommending the use of non-medical cloth face masks or coverings when traveling outside the home, according to President Donald Trump at his Friday coronavirus briefing.

“It’s really going to be a voluntary thing,” Trump said. “I’m not choosing to do it.”

Although the non-medical masks in the recommendation don’t prevent the wearer from contracting coronavirus, they can prevent the wearer from spreading it.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Unsplash

Trump administration health officials debated on whether a recommendation for the public to wear masks would inadvertently cause a false sense of safety among Americans, but new evidence came out that suggested more of the spread of coronavirus came from asymptomatic people than previously thought. 

“In light of the new evidence, CDC recommends and the task force recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said. 

These cloth masks can be made at home or purchased online, but Trump warned the public against using medical or surgical grade masks, saying they should be kept for medical workers. 

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