Federal plan to reopen states expected today; Vaccine may be ready earlier than thought — 6 COVID-19 updates

The U.S. has confirmed 639,664 of the 2,078,277 COVID-19 cases reported worldwide as of 8:30 a.m. CDT April 16. Nationwide, 30,985 COVID-19 deaths have been reported, while 138,101 deaths have been reported globally.  

Six updates:

1. New federal guidelines aimed at reopening parts of the U.S. are expected to be announced at a 5 p.m. EST briefing April 16, President Donald Trump said during an April 15 news briefing. He said data suggests that the U.S. is past the peak of the pandemic.

"These encouraging developments have put us in a very strong position to finalize guidelines for states on reopening the country," the president said.  

2. Just talking may transmit COVID-19, according to a study published April 15 in The New England Journal of Medicine. Small droplets that can stay in the air long enough to enter the airways of others are created when individuals speak. People sickened by COVID-19 can therefore spread the disease even at "considerable distances" and in "enclosed spaces, particularly if there is poor ventilation," Matthew Meselson, PhD, a geneticist and molecular biologist with Cambridge, Mass.-based Harvard University, wrote in an accompanying commentary.

3. A COVID-19 vaccine could be ready earlier than previously thought, Anthony Fauci, MD, said in an interview with "CBS Evening News" April 15. In early March, the nation's top infectious disease physician said it could take 12 to 18 months for a vaccine to hit the market. 

"It is possible to shave a couple of months off that," Dr. Fauci told CBS. "But, you know, you don't want to over-promise. We'll just have to see how it goes."

He added that while it's too early to talk about data, there have been no glitches in the vaccine development process.

4. President Trump's economic revival task force includes 27 healthcare executives, according to The Wall Street Journal. The task force, which includes dozens of leaders from more than 15 industries, will advise the White House about reopening sectors of the economy shut down by the pandemic.

5. Some states are requiring residents to wear masks or cloth coverings in public, according to The New York Times. New York's mandate will take effect April 17, requiring people to wear face masks in circumstances that do not allow for social distancing, such as on public transit or in grocery stores. Maryland also announced a requirement for residents to wear face masks in public April 17, and New Jersey issued a similar order last week. The state is mandating the use of face masks inside all stores and other essential businesses. 

6. More than 5 million Americans applied for unemployment last week, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Labor. In total, about 22 million Americans have filed unemployment claims in the last month.

More articles on public health:
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15% of pregnant women in study tested positive for COVID-19, most asymptomatic

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