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Trump says he won’t extend social distancing guidelines

WASHINGTON — President Trump said Wednesday the federal government will not be extending its coronavirus social distancing guidelines once they expire Thursday, and his son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, predicted that by July the country will be “really rocking again.”

Putting a positive face on the latest numbers — the US death toll has now surpassed that of the Vietnam War — Trump delivered his daily upbeat update, and Kushner described the administration’s much-criticized response to the pandemic as ‘‘a great success story.”

The White House has been trying to pivot to a new stage of the crisis, focused on efforts to reopen the nation’s economy state-by-state amid concerns that lifting restrictions too quickly and without sufficient testing and contact tracing will spur a resurgence.

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As part of that effort, Trump, who has both threatened to force states to reopen and said decisions will be left to them, said the White House will not be extending its “30 Days to Slow the Spread” guidelines when they expire Thursday.

“They’ll be fading out because now the governors are doing it,” Trump said in the Oval Office as he met with John Bel Edwards, the Democratic governor of Louisiana.

Those guidelines — which were originally supposed to last 15 days and were extended an additional 30 — encouraged Americans to work from home and avoid restaurants and discretionary travel and advised older Americans and those with serious underlying health conditions to isolate themselves.

Vice President Mike Pence said the guidelines have been incorporated into the new guidance issued by the White House earlier this month that lays out how states can gradually ease restrictions and begin to reopen as the rate of new cases slows.

Edwards is currently under fire from Republican lawmakers in his state after he extended Louisiana’s stay-at-home order through May 15. As he was in Washington, some GOP legislators were trying to rally support to take the extraordinary step of trying to override the governor’s emergency decision-making about the outbreak.

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But Trump commended Edwards on the job he’s done after New Orleans became one of the nation’s coronavirus hot spots. “I just wanted to congratulate you,” Trump said.

The White House and Trump in particular have been eager to give the country positive news as they work to move past the crisis and rebuild the economy, even as the country’s death tally continues to rise. The US has now recorded more than 58,000 deaths from the virus, surpassing the total number of Americans who were killed in the Vietnam War. More than 1 million people have now tested positive.

Trump said that number has risen so high in large part because of increased US testing.

The US has dramatically increased its testing after a slow and rocky start, but many health specialists say the country still must do more — as many as 5 million a day — to safely reopen the economy. Otherwise, they warn, cases will skyrocket as Americans return to work. Trump has dismissed that recommended number, calling it unnecessary and a “media trap.”

Associated Press

People hoarding heartburn drug believing it fights virus

People are emptying pharmacy shelves of an over-the-counter heartburn drug in the hope it might fight the virus — before researchers have completed a trial of it for that use.

After reports about a clinical trial of famotidine, the active ingredient in Pepcid, a best-selling antacid, for coronavirus patients at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell Health, the drug was sold out or in low stock at most major retailers online Monday and Tuesday. Walgreens and CVS said that they have seen a run on the medicine and were working to resupply.

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It’s the latest example of drug hoarding amid a pandemic that has infected more than 1 million people in the United States and threatened to expose many more. Like hydroxychloroquine, which was in short supply after being touted by President Trump as a potential “game-changer” treatment for coronavirus, famotidine has proven uses and patients who need the drug for those purposes. But because it is being tested by researchers, people are preemptively stocking up — even though specialists advise the drug is unproven as a treatment for the coronavirus.

Washington Post

Governor: Officials ‘should be role models’ on masks

Colorado Governor Jared Polis weighed in Wednesday on the controversy over Vice President Pence going maskless during a visit to the Mayo Clinic, saying elected officials “should be role models” and don face coverings in such settings.

“Look, as elected officials, I think we have an additional responsibility, with the soapbox we have, to practice what we preach,” Polis, a Democrat, said during an interview on CNN. “Elected officials should be role models and should demonstrate the importance of wearing masks, which could absolutely help save lives and help us return to economic normalcy sooner rather than later.”

Polis relayed that he wears a mask when walking to the podium at news conferences, taking it off only when he is at a safe distance from others. He added that he and his partner and children also wear masks every day when walking their dog “because it’s important.”

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Pence drew widespread criticism Tuesday after visiting the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and speaking with patients and staff while not wearing a face mask, in an apparent violation of the medical center’s policy. It was a decision that also appears to run contrary to the Trump administration’s recommendations for combating the outbreak. Asked later about his decision, Pence noted that he is frequently tested for the coronavirus and so didn’t need to wear a mask.

Earlier this month, Pence was photographed arriving in Colorado Springs and being greeted by Polis, who wore a face mask emblazoned with images of his state’s flag. Pence’s face was bare.

Washington Post

Study finds 4 of 5 virus patients in Georgia are Black

As Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp moves to reopen businesses, a new study underscores the disproportionate toll the virus has taken on the state’s Black population.

Surveying eight Georgia hospitals, researchers found that in a sample of 305 COVID-19 patients, 247 were Black — more than 80 percent, and more than they expected.

“It is important to continue ongoing efforts to understand the reasons for these racial disparities, including the role of socioeconomic and occupational factors in transmission,” the researchers wrote. “Public officials should consider racial differences among patients affected by COVID-19 when planning prevention activities.”

While limited by time and geography, the results of the study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Wednesday echo research showing Black Americans are more likely to be infected and die of COVID-19.

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Washington Post