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US Virus Updates: Spikes Could Emerge Weeks After Reopenings; Trump Calls Dr. Fauci's Warnings ‘Unacceptable'

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis in the U.S.:

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he was "surprised" by Dr. Anthony Fauci's warnings about reopening the United States, which continues battling the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic fallout. He called the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director's answers during congressional testimony "unacceptable."

Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned bluntly Tuesday of "really serious" consequences of suffering, death and deeper economic damage if state and local officials lift stay-at-home orders too quickly, even as President Donald Trump pushes them to act to right a free-falling economy.

The death toll in the United States has reached more than 84,000, with nearly 1.4 million infected, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

More coronavirus infections are inevitable as people again start gathering, but how prepared communities are to stamp out those sparks will determine how bad the rebound is, Fauci told the Senate Health, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Underscoring the seriousness of the nation's situation, Fauci and other health experts testified by videoconference from their homes. Committee chairman Lamar Alexander chaired the hearing from his cabin in Tennessee.

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis in the U.S.:

Virus Spikes Could Emerge Weeks After US Economic Reopenings

U.S. states are beginning to restart their economies after months of paralyzing coronavirus lockdowns, but it could take weeks until it becomes clear whether those reopenings will cause a spike in COVID-19 cases, experts said Wednesday.

The outbreak’s trajectory varies wildly across the country, with steep increases in cases in some places, decreases in others and infection rates that can shift dramatically from neighborhood to neighborhood.

“Part of the challenge is although we are focused on the top-line national numbers in terms of our attention, what we are seeing is 50 different curves and 50 different stories playing out,” said Thomas Tsai, assistant professor at the Harvard Global Health Institute. “And what we have seen about COVID-19 is that the story and the effect is often very local.”

A handful of states started easing their lockdowns about two weeks ago, allowing reopenings by establishments ranging from shopping malls in Texas to beach hotels in South Carolina to gyms in Wyoming. Sparsely populated Wyoming, which has some of the lowest infection numbers in the United States, plans to reopen bars and restaurants Friday. Georgia was one of the first states where some businesses were allowed to open their doors again, starting April 24 with barber shops, hair salons, gyms, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors.

But it may be five to six weeks from then before the effects are known, said Crystal Watson of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.


Trump 'Surprised' by Dr. Fauci's Warnings on Reopening, Calls Them 'Unacceptable'

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he was "surprised" by Dr. Anthony Fauci's warnings about reopening the United States, which continues battling the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic fallout. He called the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director's answers during congressional testimony "unacceptable."

"I was surprised by his answer, actually, because it's just ⁠— to me, it's not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools," Trump told reporters.

On Tuesday, Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned of "really serious" consequences of suffering, death and deeper economic damage if state and local officials lift stay-at-home orders too quickly.

Anticipating the lack of a vaccine, Fauci also said some schools should remain closed in the fall and that schools that do open must do so cautiously.

Citing the over 1.3 million infections and more than 80,000 confirmed deaths from the virus, the highest toll in the world by far, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., asked Fauci if the U.S. has been able to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

"It depends on what you mean by containment," Dr. Fauci said. "If you think we have it completely under control, we don't. I think we are going in the right direction, but the right direction does not mean we have by any means total control of this outbreak.”

In response, Trump on Wednesday said Fauci "wants to play all sides of the equation."


Ousted Vaccine Expert to Warn Congress of 'Darkest Winter in Modern History' Without Coordinated Response

Dr. Rick Bright, the ousted director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, will testify before Congress Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic could make 2020 the “darkest winter in modern history” if U.S. leaders can’t mount a more coordinated response to contain the outbreak, CNBC reports.

“We face a highly-transmissible and deadly virus which not only claims lives but is also disrupting the very foundations of our societies,” Bright will say, according to his prepared testimony, obtained by CNBC.

Bright filed a whistleblower complaint alleging he was fired from his position heading a unit of the Department of Health and Human Services after speaking out against widespread use of an unproven drug that President Donald Trump touted as a remedy for COVID-19.  

“HHS leadership was dismissive about my dire predictions about what I assumed would be a broader outbreak and the pressing need to act, and were therefore unwilling to act with the urgency that the situation required,” Bright will say. “Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities.”

Bright is set to testify Thursday morning before the Subcommittee on Health for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Read the full story on CNBC.com

Judge Releases 2 Jailed Immigrants Due to Virus Concerns

A judge has ordered the federal government to release two immigrants from a Michigan jail, saying their health is at risk from the coronavirus.

The American Civil Liberties Union has had some success in winning the release of immigrants who have been locked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement while awaiting deportation hearings or other steps. The conditions of Michigan prisons and jails have been challenged during the virus outbreak.

“COVID-19 does not respect prison walls,” U.S. District Judge Judith Levy said in a 55-page opinion released Tuesday night. “The raging global pandemic outside of Calhoun County Correctional Facility and a confirmed case within the facility pose a serious risk to those inside.”

Levy ordered the release of Qaid Alhalmi, a 54-year-old native of Yemen, and Tomas Cardona Ramirez, a 37-year-old native of Guatemala. Both have underlying health issues. The judge asked for more information about two other people.


Los Angeles County Reopens Beaches

 Los Angeles County reopened its beaches Wednesday in the latest cautious easing of coronavirus restrictions that have closed most California public spaces and businesses for nearly two months.

County beaches and many city-owned beaches along the 75 miles (120 kilometers) of coastline are open only for “active recreation” such as walking, swimming and surfing. Sunbathing, picnicking and group sports such as volleyball are still banned and strangers must stay well apart. Visitors also must wear masks when they’re out of the water.

Some mayors warned that the state or county could close the beaches again if people disobey the restrictions and crowd the shoreline.

“Please, hit the beach, do your thing, and leave. No hanging out for this first phase,” Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand urged in a Facebook post.

The move comes as California, which is still seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases, tentatively eases some stay-at-home restrictions.


Still Waiting for a Stimulus Check? Set Up Direct Deposit by Noon on May 13

There’s still time to submit your bank account information to the IRS to get your $1,200 stimulus payment more quickly.

But that window is closing.

Americans who qualify for a one-time payment now have until noon on Wednesday, May 13, to get their money faster by submitting their direct deposit information on the Get My Payment site.

After that deadline, the government will begin sending millions of paper checks that will arrive later this month and in June.

“We want people to visit Get My Payment before the noon Wednesday deadline so they can provide their direct deposit information,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement. “Time is running out for a chance to get these payments several weeks earlier through direct deposit.”

Learn more here.

Everyone is wondering how much they will get from the federal government when the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill is complete. Here's a basic guideline of what you can expect using items we found while stuck home with our kids.

California Council Member Cited After Scuffle With Protesters at His Home

A California city councilman was cited with misdemeanor battery after a physical altercation with protesters who confronted him at his home Tuesday over coronavirus restrictions.

Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias told NBC affiliate KSEE that he felt threatened that the activists had shown up while his kids were home. He said that after asking them to leave, he swiped at their equipment and shoved one man during the confrontation on a stairway.

In a video obtained by KSEE, Arias can be seen swatting at two men, including a local conservative activist, Ben Bergquam.

“What do you say to the businesses you’re destroying?” an activist can be heard saying at one point.

Read the full story on NBCNews.com

How Coronavirus Has Grown in Each State — in 1 Chart

New York has quickly become the epicenter of the American coronavirus outbreak. This chart shows the cumulative number of cases per state by number of days since the 10th case.

Source: Johns Hopkins University
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

Staff, AP
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