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Coronavirus Live Updates: California Schools Must Provide PPE To Reopen

More than 4.9 million cases of the virus have been confirmed worldwide, and more than 323,000 people have died from it, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Efforts to curb the outbreak have led to the global disruption of daily life and the economy, as schools and workplaces shutter in hopes of slowing transmission.

HuffPost reporters around the world are tracking the pandemic and the measures being taken to flatten the curve of transmission.

Read the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic below. (To see the latest updates, you may need to refresh the page. All times are Eastern. For earlier updates on the pandemic, go here.)

Nearly 39 Million Americans Have Filed Unemployment Claims Because Of COVID-19 — 5/21/20, 9:02 a.m. ET

More than 2.4 million workers in the United States applied for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total number of Americans who have filed unemployment claims over the past nine weeks to nearly 39 million, the Labor Department said Thursday.

That number doesn’t include the 2.2 million self-employed, contractor or gig workers who are newly eligible for unemployment benefits due to the congressional CARES Act, according to the Associated Press.

Many laid-off workers who filed claims weeks ago have yet to receive their unemployment benefits due to antiquated reporting systems and state unemployment websites crashing, as HuffPost’s Arthur Delaney, Emily Peck and Igor Bobic found.

— Marina Fang

Australia’s Political Leaders At War Over Reopening Travel  — 5/21/20, 6 a.m. ET

Australia’s state and territory leaders are bickering over whether to reopen internal borders, a major step to rejuvenating the country’s A$80 billion (US$52 billion) domestic tourism industry, as part of measures to ease coronavirus restrictions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said he wants the bulk of all social distancing restrictions removed by July under a three-step plan, as the country continues to report low daily numbers of new COVID-19 infections.

But HuffPost Australia reports that the implementation of the federal plan is down to the leaders of individual states and territories, who come from opposing political parties and disagree on how safe it is to allow unrestricted movement throughout the country.

New South Wales (N.S.W.) has called for all borders to be opened as a critical step to giving the ailing economy a much-needed boost. Earlier in the week N.S.W. announced it will lift its limits on regional travel with holidays allowed within the state from June 1.

— James Martin

Brazil Expands Chloroquine Treatment Despite Health Warnings — 5/21/20, 5:40 a.m. ET

Brazil’s health ministry has approved the expanded use of chloroquine to treat mild cases of coronavirus in defiance of public health experts warning of possible health risks.

Wider use of the anti-malarial drug, widely touted by President Jair Bolsonaro, was authorized by interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, an active duty army general, after two trained doctors quit the ministry’s top job under pressure to promote early use of chloroquine.

HuffPost Brazil reports (in Portuguese), that use of the drug was previously restricted to more severe cases when patients could be monitored in the hospital. Patients or family members will have to sign a waiver recognizing potential side effects.

The World Health Organization reiterated Wednesday that hydroxychloroquine has potential side effects and should be reserved for clinical trials.

Brazil’s daily death toll from the outbreak jumped to a record 1,179 on Tuesday, with more confirmed cases than any country but Russia and the United States

— Marcella Fernandes

U.S. Buys 300 Million Doses Of Potential COVID-19 Vaccine — 5/21/2020; 5:30 a.m. ET

The U.S. government has paid more than $1 billion to pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca for an experimental COVID-19 vaccine being developed at the U.K.’s University of Oxford. 

The Department of Health and Human Services said in a Thursday statement that AstraZeneca has promised to deliver at least 300 million doses of the potential vaccine to the U.S., “with the first doses delivered as early as October.”

 If an effective COVID-19 vaccine is distributed before the year ends, it would be — by far — the fastest vaccine ever developed. The mumps vaccine is currently considered the fastest ever approved and that took four years to create. As Bloomberg cautioned, however, AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate is currently still in human trials with “no guarantee of success.” 

— Dominique Mosbergen

At Least 5 Million People Globally Have Been Infected With COVID-19 — 05/21/20; 3:45 a.m. ET

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has surpassed 5 million worldwide, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

The grim milestone was reached mere hours after the World Health Organization said it had recorded its highest-ever daily number of COVID-19 cases. “We still have a long way to go in this pandemic,” the agency’s chief warned.

— Dominique Mosbergen

California Students And Teachers Can’t Return To School Without PPE ― 5/20/20, 7:30 p.m. ET

California education chief Tony Thurmond announced Wednesday that schools in the state cannot resume instruction unless they have enough personal protective equipment for everyone on campus.

“There have to be masks and hand sanitizer and the ability for hand washing and other resources for our schools to open safely,” he said at a press briefing. “We know that having access to this personal protective equipment is a critical factor in the ability to reopen. Quite frankly, our schools cannot reopen without it.”

California has not mandated a statewide reopening date for schools, which moved online in response to the coronavirus pandemic. While some smaller counties have gotten permission to resume school in person, most don’t plan to bring students back into the classroom until the academic year starting in the fall.

― Lydia O’Connor

All 50 States Have Now Begun To Reopen In Some Form — 5/20/20, 9:00 a.m. ET

Connecticut began to modestly ease some coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday, becoming the final state — out of the 42 that had issued stay-at-home orders — to start reopening in some form during the pandemic.

The Nutmeg state will now allow people to eat in outdoor sections of restaurants and visit retail shops. Offices, outdoor museums and zoos are also allowed to reopen.

Connecticut is taking “baby steps,” Gov. Ned Lamont (D) told CNN. “We have followed the metrics, hospitalization is down, fatalities are down. We have a lot of [personal protective equipment] right now. We have the gowns and masks. And finally, we have the contact tracing in place.”

Some governors who never issued statewide stay-at-home orders, like Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), loosened restrictions earlier this month on salons, tattoo parlors and other businesses.

— Hayley Miller

Brazil Records Grim New Milestone As Daily Death Toll Rockets — 5/20/20, 6:25 a.m. ET

The daily COVID-19 death toll in Brazil hit 1,179 on Tuesday, setting a new record for fatalities recorded in a single day by any country.

The figure is more than 250 more than the 919 deaths recorded by Italy in late March when it was the epicenter of the global coronavirus outbreak.

More than 18,000 people have now died in Brazil, according to official data, while 271,628 cases have been recorded, placing the country third behind the U.S. and Russia in total number of infections.

However, HuffPost Brazil reported that the true death toll is likely to be even higher due to the slow processing of laboratory tests.

On Tuesday, President Jair Bolsonaro doubled down on chloroquine as a possible remedy as Donald Trump said he is considering a travel ban from Brazil.

— Marcella Fernandes

Radicalized Instagram Stars Are Mainstreaming COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories — 5/20/20, 6:00 a.m. ET

HuffPost’s Jesselyn Cook reviewed Instagram accounts of more than a dozen seemingly radicalized influencers who have been using their platforms to push coronavirus misinformation. They try to discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci, claim that face masks are harmful, and push 5G conspiracy theories. With their large, dedicated followings, these women are in a unique position to open people’s minds to false and dangerous information.

Read more.

— Liza Hearon

Indian Government Data Questioned As COVID-19 Cases Rocket — 5/20/20, 5:45 a.m. ET

HPIN 20 May

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is using incomplete data to justify its decisions and underplay the extent of the COVID-19 crisis, a HuffPost India report has found

An analysis of publicly available data, local health bulletins, government documents, interviews with district and state-level officials, and infectious disease experts suggests that the highest levels of government do not have a real-time picture of how the pandemic is unfolding.

The government significantly relaxed India’s national lockdown on May 17, the day the country recorded the largest single-day spike in fresh coronavirus cases and fatalities.

The crisis in India’s data gathering, and the way this data is deployed by policymakers, is likely to become more pronounced in the coming weeks as travel restrictions ease and COVID-19 cases spike, HuffPost India reports.

India has recorded just over 100,000 cases and more than 3,000 deaths, according to official data. 

For more on the pandemic, go here.