New Jersey governor re-tightens restrictions on indoor gatherings after COVID-19 surge

By Maria Caspani

(Reuters) – New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Monday announced he was re-tightening restrictions on indoor gatherings after a recent surge in coronavirus cases in the state that officials have, in part, linked to house parties and indoor events.

Murphy said such events will now be limited to 25% of a room’s capacity with a maximum of 25 people, down from the previous limit of 100.

“The actions of a few knuckleheads leaves us no other course,” Murphy said at a news briefing. “We have to go back and tighten these restrictions once again until we begin to see the numbers of cases decrease.”

The restrictions will not apply to weddings, funerals and memorial services, and religious and political activities protected under the First Amendment, Murphy said.

The rate of COVID-19 transmission has climbed to 1.48 in New Jersey, the governor said, compared with 0.87 about a month ago, while cases have also been on the rise.

“Let me reiterate, we remain in a public health emergency,” Murphy said. “Over the past week we saw numbers of cases that we had not seen in eight weeks, our rate of transmission is now more than double where it was a few weeks ago. Everyone needs to get it together folks.”

Murphy also sought to clarify previously provided guidance on schools reopening and announced that all students will be required to wear face coverings at all times when inside a school building, excepts for health reasons.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Marguerita Choy)

Suspect in slaying of federal judge’s son found dead, media reports say

(Reuters) – The suspect in the shooting of the son and husband of a federal judge in New Jersey was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on Monday, ABC News and other media reported.

The suspect, a white male, had a case before the judge, Esther Salas, in 2015, ABC reported. He was found in his car in Sullivan County, New York, about two hours north of New York City.

Steven Nevel, a spokesman for the New York State police, confirmed an investigation of a death in the county but declined to provide further details.

The FBI has been conducting a manhunt related to the Sunday afternoon shooting at the North Brunswick, New Jersey, home of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas. Her son, Daniel Anderl, 20, was killed.

The FBI said it was looking for one suspect in the case.

Judge Salas was home at the time of the shooting but was in the basement and was not injured, according to media reports and Marion Costanza, a friend of the family who lives three homes away.

Investigators have preliminary information that someone dressed as a FedEx driver arrived at the family home at about 5 p.m. (2100 GMT), ABC News reported on Sunday, citing multiple law enforcement sources.

The motive behind the killing remained unclear. Among her cases, Salas presided over the sentencing of members of the Grape Street Crips, a gang charged with selling drugs and other crimes in 2015, and federal fraud convictions of co-stars of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” reality TV show.

Salas, 51, was nominated to her seat by President Barack Obama in 2010, becoming the first Hispanic woman to serve on the District Court of New Jersey. Salas could not be immediately reached for comment.

Her husband, Mark Anderl, 63, was an assistant prosecutor in Essex County before becoming a defense attorney. He and his partner, David Oakley, handle a variety of felonies, including homicide, sexual assault and fraud cases, according to their website.

Neither Anderl nor Oakley could be reached for comment.

Daniel Anderl, the son, was shot as he came down the stairs of the home to help his father, who had opened the door to the gunman, according to some media reports.

“He ran down the stairs. Instead of running away he ran to help his father,” Costanza said, noting that Daniel had wanted to follow in his parents’ footsteps and become a lawyer. “I want people to know what a good kid he was.”

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey were among political leaders who expressed concern about the incident on Twitter.

Menendez said he knew Judge Salas well and had recommended her appointment to the federal bench.

“My prayers are with Judge Salas and her family, and that those responsible for this horrendous act are swiftly apprehended and brought to justice,” Menendez wrote.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut and Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Dan Grebler)

Quarantine or not, tourists still flock to New Mexico

By Andrew Hay

RED RIVER, N.M. (Reuters) – In the New Mexico mountain resort of Red River, tourists from Texas stroll along Main Street, most disregarding Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s orders they quarantine and wear masks.

It’s the same in other New Mexican tourist towns such as Taos and Santa Fe, except nearly all their visitors wear face coverings – surrounded by signs warning of fines if they don’t.

Like governors in at least 15 states, Democrat Lujan Grisham has ordered out-of-state tourists to self-isolate, citing data that about one in 10 of New Mexico’s spiking COVID-19 cases comes from visitors.

Enforcing the orders is proving difficult, given the lack of a national plan, police reluctance to take on the massive task, and Americans’ penchant for driving hundreds or thousands of miles to vacation, even in a pandemic.

A U.S. road trip this summer means navigating through a patchwork of quarantine regulations across various states, most of them voluntary.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut require travelers from 19 states with high COVID-19 infection rates to self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. New York imposes fines.

Hard-hit Florida requires travelers from those three states to self-isolate for 14 days whether arriving by plane or car, or face a $500 fine.

Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Vermont all have varying self-isolation rules.

‘TAKING AWAY OUR LIBERTY’

New Mexico published newspaper ads in neighboring Arizona and Texas, states respectively reporting 27% and 18% positive coronavirus test rates, urging their residents not to visit. Health experts consider a 5% rate to be worrisome.

But tourists keep coming.

“I think it’s bullshit. They’re saying the masks should work, so why should you be quarantined?” said Chris Fry, 59, a feed company manager from Dimmitt, Texas, staying in his cabin near Red River and stopping in town for ice before going fishing.

A 45-minute drive south in Taos Plaza, Louisiana tourist Christy Brasiel was frustrated the historic Native American community was closed to visitors and compared Lujan Grisham’s rules to “communism or socialism.”

“They’re taking away our liberty,” said Brasiel, 49, staying in an Airbnb rental to avoid her voluntary quarantine order enforced by local hotels that turn away out-of-state visitors.

As in cities across New Mexico, police in Red River have yet to issue citations for non-compliance to COVID-19 rules, said Mayor Linda Calhoun, a Republican, adding that she is encouraging businesses to require masks.

“We live off of tourists, that’s all we have, so it’s very difficult for us to enforce the order,” Calhoun said of the quarantine rule in her town nicknamed “Little Texas” for the number of visitors from that state.

Many locals in Taos County, where COVID-19 cases have doubled in the last month, are dismayed by the rule breaking.

“It doesn’t make any sense to be so selfish,” said lawyer Maureen Moore, 67.

“WE DON’T WANT YOU HERE”

Only three weeks ago, as outbreaks raged across the U.S. Sunbelt, New Mexico reported stable or declining daily cases.

A poor state with limited hospital capacity, New Mexico used early, tough restrictions to curb the pandemic.

But with its positive test rate rising above 4%, Lujan Grisham has scolded New Mexicans for letting down their guard since she eased restrictions on June 1, and on Monday re-closed indoor restaurant dining.

On a shortlist as a running mate to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Lujan Grisham has also rounded on tourism, the state’s second-largest industry.

“We don’t want you here now,” she told potential visitors in a July 9 press briefing, taking special aim at Texans. “I want you to stay in Texas.”

Lujan Grisham said New Mexico State Police would “aggressively” enforce her quarantine and mask orders. The force has handed out 13 verbal warnings for mask violations but none for quarantine non-compliance, a spokeswoman said on Monday.

The rules are piling pandemic pain on businesses in the state. Standing outside his Red River supermarket, business owner Ted Calhoun said Lujan Grisham had gone too far.

“Ordering visitors to do a 14-day quarantine is killing the tourist industry of New Mexico,” said Calhoun, the mayor’s husband.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Red River, New Mexico; editing by Bill Tarrant, Tom Brown and Alistair Bell)

15 U.S. states to jointly work to advance electric heavy-duty trucks

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group of 15 U.S. states and the District of Columbia on Tuesday unveiled a joint memorandum of understanding aimed at boosting the market for electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and phasing out diesel-powered trucks by 2050.

The announcement comes weeks after the California Air Resources Board approved a groundbreaking policy to require manufacturers to sell a rising number of zero-emission vehicles, starting in 2024 and to electrify nearly all larger trucks by 2045.

The 14 states said the voluntary initiative is aimed at boosting the number of electric large pickup trucks and vans, delivery trucks, box trucks, school and transit buses, and long-haul delivery trucks, with the goal of ensuring all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales be zero emission vehicles (ZEV) by 2050 with a target of 30% ZEV sales by 2030.

The states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Vermont.

The states committed to developing a plan within six months to identify barriers and propose solutions to support widespread electrification, including potential financial incentives and ways to boost EV infrastructure.

Trucks and buses represent 4% of U.S. vehicles, but account for nearly 25% of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

California’s mandate will put an estimated 300,000 zero-emission trucks on the road by 2035. California’s planned rules will initially require 5%-9% ZEVs based on class, rising to 30%-50% by 2030 and nearly all by 2045.

The push comes as a rising number of companies – including Rivian, Tesla Inc., Nikola Corp., and General Motors work to introduce zero emission trucks.

Major businesses like Amazon.com, UPS and Walmart have also said they are ramping up purchases of electric delivery trucks.

California later plans to adopt new limits on nitrogen oxide emissions, one of the major precursors of smog, as well as require large fleet owners to buy some ZEVs.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Hogue)

New Jersey to make face masks mandatory outdoors as U.S. outbreak widens

By Peter Szekely and Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said on Wednesday he would sign an executive order requiring people to wear face coverings outdoors to prevent a resurgence of the novel coronavirus whenever social distancing is not possible.

More than 15,000 people have died from COVID-19 in New Jersey, ranking it second after neighboring New York state in the total number of deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

A Democrat, Murphy told MSNBC that requiring the public to wear masks outdoors was critical to controlling the spread of the virus in the state, an early hot spot where rates of the virus have started to creep up again.

“There’s no question that face coverings are a game-changer,” he said, acknowledging that it would be hard to enforce the order but saying the state needed to build on the progress made in its battle against the virus.

“We’ve gone through hell in New Jersey. We’ve lost over 13,000 people, we’ve brought our numbers way down. We can’t go through that hell again.”

The order, when formally announced later in the day, would be one of the most stringent coronavirus restrictions on public activity in the United States. Many states require use of masks in public indoor areas and recommend they be used outside.

Murphy is taking action as infections skyrocket in many other states, including California, Florida and Texas, and health officials warn of a coming spike in the death toll from the virus, which has killed more than 131,000 Americans.

The U.S. outbreak crossed a grim milestone of over 3 million confirmed cases on Tuesday, roughly equivalent to 1% of the population, as more states reported record numbers of new infections.

In New Jersey, some people voiced surprise that face coverings were not already mandatory.

“I figured that was already the rule – it’s confusing that it’s not clear and I try pretty hard to keep up,” said Calia Nochumson, a 42-year-old high school teacher from Maplewood, New Jersey. She said she was disappointed to see so few people wearing face coverings during a recent trip to the beach.

Ohio is ordering people in seven counties to wear face coverings in public starting on Wednesday evening.

TRUMP PUSHES RETURN TO SCHOOL

President Donald Trump, who owns a golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, has eschewed the idea of wearing a face mask and has exhorted Americans to return to their daily routines since the end of mandatory lockdowns imposed in March and April.

The Republican president, seeking a second White House term in a Nov. 3 election, threatened on Wednesday to cut off federal funding to schools that fail to open in the autumn due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!” Trump posted on Twitter.

It was unclear what specific aid Trump had in mind. States are responsible for primary and secondary education under the U.S. Constitution but the federal government provides some supplementary aid.

SURGE IN NEW CASES

Nineteen states have reported record increases in cases this month and about 24 states have reported disturbingly high infection rates as a percentage of diagnostic tests conducted over the past week.

In Texas alone, the number of hospitalized patients more than doubled in just two weeks, and the number of available hospital intensive care unit beds for adults in Florida has fallen sharply in recent days.

Additional hospitalizations could strain healthcare systems in many areas, leading to an uptick in lives lost. The U.S. death toll rose by 962 on Tuesday, the biggest one-day rise since June 10, according to a Reuters tally.

The surge has forced authorities to backpedal on moves to reopen businesses, such as restaurants and bars, after mandatory lockdowns in March and April reduced economic activity to a virtual standstill and put millions of Americans out of work.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely and Barbara Goldberg in New York and Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Paul Simao; Editing by Howard Goller)

Some scold, others cheerlead: U.S. states tackle reopening differently

By Maria Caspani and Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The two most populous U.S. states took markedly different approaches to reopening on Monday with New York scolding local governments for not enforcing social distancing and California encouraging counties to restart economies if they met criteria.

Scenes of merrymakers gathering outside bars prompted the governor of New York, the state hardest hit along with New Jersey by the coronavirus pandemic, to urge local officials and businesses on Monday to strictly enforce reopening guidelines.

“To the local governments I say, ‘Do your job,'” Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters. Over the weekend he criticized New York City street crowds outside bars and asked people to adhere to six feet (two meters) of distance from others.

Both Cuomo and neighboring New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said they were keeping open the option of reimposing restrictions if officials fail to stop large public gatherings that risk leading to a second wave of infections.

In California, Governor Gavin Newsom has left it up to individual counties on when to reopen once they meet state guidelines. He reminded county officials of the risks of not restarting economies, as well as reopening them.

Newsom told a news briefing on Monday people could not be “locked away for months and months and months,” especially those among the 5.5 million Americans who have lost their jobs since mid-March. He said some had also lost health coverage and were among the many people suffering severe mental and physical health problems during the pandemic.

In enforcing coronavirus restrictions, he said the state and counties could not “see lives and livelihoods completely destroyed without considering the health impact of those decisions as well.”

“As we mix, as we reopen, inevitably we’re going to see an increase in the total number of cases; it’s our capacity to address that that is so foundational,” said Newsom.

NEW FORECAST

California is one of four states that is projected to see the biggest spike in deaths in the months ahead, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

Its new forecast on Monday forecast over 200,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in the United States through the beginning of October, mainly due to reopening measures underway.

The IHME, whose estimates are cited by many health experts, projected Florida will see its deaths nearly triple to 18,675 deaths from 6,559 on June 10, while California can expect to see deaths increase by 72 percent to 15,155 from 8,812, it said.

Georgia and Arizona also have sharp increases in deaths forecast by the institute.

New York and New Jersey between them account for more than a third of the nearly 116,000 U.S. deaths, but deaths and hospitalizations have been on the decline of late. Both have followed strict health guidelines for reopening businesses when all measures of infection drop – new cases, deaths, hospitalizations and positive rates among those getting tested.

Scott Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug Administration director who has advised the White House on the coronavirus, said on Monday that flare-ups needed to be addressed with aggressive contact tracing and targeted responses.

“We’re not going to be able to shut down the country again this summer. We’re probably not going to be able to shut down the country again this fall,” he said on CNBC.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington, Jonathan Allen and Maria Caspani in New York, Lisa Shumaker in Chicago, Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Writing by Sonya Hepinstall and Andrew Hay; Editing by Howard Goller, Bill Tarrant and Cynthia Osterman)

Where U.S. coronavirus cases are on the rise

By Chris Canipe and Lisa Shumaker

(Reuters) – Most U.S. states reported a drop in new cases of COVID-19 for the week ended May 17, with only 13 states seeing a rise in infections compared to the previous week, according to a Reuters analysis.

Tennessee had the biggest weekly increase with 33%. Louisiana’s new cases rose 25%, and Texas reported 22% more cases than in the first week of May, according to the Reuters analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.

(Open https://tmsnrt.rs/2WTOZDR in an external browser for a Reuters interactive)

Michigan saw new cases rise 18% after five weeks of declines. Michigan was hit hard early in the outbreak and has seen more than 4,800 deaths.

Nationally, new cases of COVID-19 are down 8% in the last week, helped by continued declines in New York and New Jersey. Nearly all 50 U.S. states, however, have allowed some businesses to reopen and residents to move more freely, raising fears among some health officials of a second wave of outbreaks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended states wait for their daily number of new COVID-19 cases to fall for 14 days before easing social distancing restrictions.

As of May 17, 13 states had met that criteria, down from 14 states in the prior week, according to the Reuters analysis.

WHERE NEW CASES ARE FALLING

Kansas and Missouri saw the biggest declines in new cases from the previous week, after an outbreak at a St. Joseph, Missouri meatpacking plant resulted in over 400 cases in the first week of May. St. Joseph sits on the Kansas-Missouri border, just north of Kansas City.

Washington D.C. saw a 32% decline after several weeks of growth.

Georgia, one of the first states to reopen, saw new cases fall 12% in the past week and now has two consecutive weeks of declining cases.

Globally, coronavirus cases top 4.5 million since the outbreak began in China late last year. On a per-capita basis, the United States has the third-highest number of cases, with about 45 for every 10,000 people, according to a Reuters analysis.

(Reporting by Chris Canipe in Kansas City, Missouri, and Lisa Shumaker in Chicago)

Six U.S. states to coordinate gradual reopening after coronavirus shutdown

By Maria Caspani and Jessica Resnick-Ault

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Six states in the U.S. Northeast took the first tentative step on Monday toward reopening their economies by forming a regional panel to develop a strategy for the gradual lifting of restrictions aimed at stanching the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement of the panel, to include economic and health officials from each state as well as the chief of staff of all six governors, came after President Donald Trump insisted that any decision on restarting the economy was his to make.

The states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, with a total population of 32 million, will join with neighboring Delaware, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island in coordinating their efforts to reopen the economy as more signs the outbreak has stabilized emerged over the weekend.

The joint planning reflected growing concern among health officials and political leaders that easing stay-at-home orders too soon could allow the pandemic to re-accelerate, undoing hard-won progress the country has made in recent weeks.

“Nobody has been here before, nobody has all the answers,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said during an open conference call with his five counterparts. “Addressing public health and the economy: which one is first? They’re both first.”

Cuomo said earlier on Monday that reopening “is a delicate balance” that involved “recalibrating” which businesses and activities are essential.

The number of deaths reported in the United States overall on Sunday was 1,513, the smallest increase since April 6. The largest number of fatalities is still in and around New York City, the most populous U.S. city with about 8.4 million people.

Tensions between state governors and U.S. President Donald Trump have bubbled up since the outbreak worsened a month ago and surfaced in the debate about when and how to restart economic activity.

“It is the decision of the president, and for many good reasons,” Trump said on Twitter on Monday. He went on to write that his administration was working closely with the governors.

“A decision by me, in conjunction with the governors and input from others, will be made shortly!” Trump’s tweet said.

Legal experts say a U.S. president has limited power under the U.S. Constitution to order citizens back to their places of employment, or cities to reopen government buildings, transportation, or local businesses to reopen.

‘WORST IS OVER’ BUT…

Cuomo said on Monday that “the worst is over” for his state, the U.S. epicenter of the virus, but he hedged his remark with a warning that gains achieved through social distancing could be undone if “we do something stupid” and relax those restrictions too quickly.

“We can control the spread. Feel good about that,” Cuomo said. “The worst is over, if we continue to be smart going forward.”

Political leaders said a reopening of the economy may hinge on more widespread testing and cautioned that lifting of stay-at-home restrictions too early could reignite the outbreak. The Trump administration has signaled May 1 as a potential date for easing the restrictions.

The United States, with the world’s third-largest population, has recorded more fatalities from COVID-19 than any other country, with more than 23,000 deaths as of Monday morning, according to a Reuters tally.

Wyoming reported its first death from the coronavirus on Monday, the final U.S. state to report a fatality.

Official statistics, which exclude deaths outside of hospitals, have understated the actual number of people who have succumbed to COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, health experts said. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T)

More than 10,000 people have died in New York state, and the death rate was “basically flat at an horrific level of pain and sorrow,” Cuomo said, referring to a flattening of the curve as seen on a graph.

In New York City, three indicators have to show a sustained decline before the city could consider the outbreak to be in a less dangerous phase, Mayor Bill de Blasio said: the daily number of people admitted to hospitals, the number of people in intensive care units, and the percentage of positive tests for the virus.

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot acknowledged a “tightening” of the supply chain for swabs needed in coronavirus testing, and said it was part of a “national and international challenge” to ramp up testing.

Chris Sununu, the Republican governor of New Hampshire, said testing for the coronavirus had improved “but we don’t have enough. Nobody has enough.”

“There’s just a limited supply for a massive amount of demand,” Sununu told CNN.

To ease the impact of the shutdown on the U.S. economy, the two top Democrats in the U.S. Congress urged Republicans on Monday to authorize more funding for national testing. An effort to rush fresh assistance to U.S. small businesses stalled in Congress as the health emergency failed to overcome partisan differences between Republicans and Democrats.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani Jessica Resnick-Ault; additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Lisa Lambert in Washington and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Writing by Grant McCool; Editing by Frank McGurty and Howard Goller)

New York, New Jersey report record coronavirus deaths, U.S. cases reach 417,000

By Peter Szekely and Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The number of coronavirus cases in New York state alone approached 150,000 on Wednesday, surpassing Spain for the most infections anywhere in the world, even as authorities warned the state’s official death tally may understate the true toll.

New York and neighboring New Jersey on Wednesday again reported new single-day highs for coronavirus deaths.

New York state has 149,316 reported cases compared to Spain’s 146,690, according to a Reuters tally. In total, the United States has recorded more than 417,000 coronavirus cases and 14,100 deaths.

New York officials said a recent surge in the number of people dying at home suggests that the most populous U.S. city may be undercounting how many people have died of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.

“I think that’s a very real possibility,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in his daily news briefing.

Cuomo said 779 people died from the coronavirus in the past day in his state and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said another 275 had died there. Both totals exceeded one-day records reported just a day earlier.

Despite the grim tally, Cuomo said overall trends still appear positive, with the rate of hospitalizations down in the state at the epicenter of the U.S. epidemic.

“Every number is a face, right,” Cuomo said of the death statistics. “This virus attacked the vulnerable and attacked the weak and it’s our job as a society to protect the vulnerable.”

Murphy tightened New Jersey’s social-distancing requirements, ordering retailers including grocery stores still allowed to operate to limit customers, ensure that customers and employees wear face coverings and regularly sanitize the premises.

“We need to continue to be absolutely vigilant and, if anything tighten, as opposed to loosen,” Murphy said of coronavirus-related restrictions on residents. “And I don’t say that with any joy.”

Louisiana announced 70 more deaths in the past day, matching that state’s single-day record announced a day earlier.

President Donald Trump’s administration has called for 30 days of measures, including staying at least six feet (1.8 meters) away from other people, that have upended American life, with most people staying isolated at home, schools and businesses closed and millions losing their jobs. Some 94% of the U.S. population has been ordered to stay at home.

“What’s really important is that people don’t turn these early signs of hope into releasing from the 30 days to stop the spread – it’s really critical,” said Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force.

“If people start going out again and socially interacting, we could see a really acute second wave” of infections, Birx added.

DEATH TOLL PROJECTIONS

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model lowered its projected U.S. death toll by 26%, to 60,000 from 80,000 by August 4. The model is one of several that the White House task force has cited.

The task force previously projected 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die.

The institute also moved up its projected peak in the number to U.S. deaths to this Sunday, when it predicted 2,212 people will succumb to the disease. The revision moves forward the projected peak by four days, suggesting the strain on the country’s healthcare system will lessen sooner than previously expected.

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio estimated an undercount in the death toll of 100 to 200 people per day who are dying at home but excluded from the city’s rapidly growing tally. So far the city’s announced death toll has reflected only COVID-19 diagnoses confirmed in a laboratory.

More than 200 people are dying at home in New York City each day during the pandemic, up from 22 to 32 during the March 20 to April 5 period a year ago, according to city fire officials.

The city will now try to quantify how many of those died from coronavirus-related causes and add that to the its official death toll, New York’s health department said.

“People are dying outside the hospital, unfortunately. It happens every day,” Oren Barzilay, the president of a labor union representing city paramedics, said. “I think those numbers, those statistics in New York for deaths would significantly go up if they tested everyone that expired.”

Authorities in various states have disclosed data showing the health crisis having a disproportionate impact on African Americans, reflecting longstanding racial inequities in health outcomes in the United States.

De Blasio said there were “clear inequalities” in how the coronavirus is affecting his city’s population, though the disparities have been less pronounced than in some other jurisdictions. Data released on Wednesday showed Hispanic residents dying at more than twice the rate as non-Hispanic white people and slightly outpacing the death rate of African Americans in the city.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely, Doina Chiacu, Susan Heavey, Maria Caspani, Brad Brooks, Nathan Layne, Lisa Lambert, Stephanie Kelly, and Gabriella Borter; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Will Dunham; Editing by Scott Malone, Alistair Bell and Bill Berkrot)

CDC warns residents of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut against non-essential travel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday warned residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut against non-essential domestic travel for 14 days.

In a travel advisory posted on its website, the agency said the warning did not apply to employees of “critical infrastructure industries” including trucking, public health, financial services, and food supply professionals.

(Reporting by Raphael Satter; Editing by Daniel Wallis)