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Coronavirus update: Florida reopens after a pleasant surprise, more money going to USAA policyholders

An old blood plasma treatment is getting new consideration

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 1,161,804 (1,070,032)

Total U.S. deaths: 67,798 (66,570)

Total global cases: 3,534,544 (3,498,283)

Total global deaths: 248,164 (247,107)

Florida may have dodged a bullet

Florida is among the states loosening shutdown restrictions today after the most dire predictions associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19) failed to materialize. The state was slow to begin shelter-in-place rules, it had crowded beaches, and it had major ports for cruise ships, which have been hotbeds for the virus. Beyond that, it attracted tourists from all over the country.

Health experts warned that Florida was about to become the next hot spot, and despite early trends in that direction, the state’s hospitals were not overwhelmed as cases leveled off. Starting today, retail stores, restaurants, museums and libraries can reopen, but they must operate at 25 percent capacity.

Restaurants must ensure that patrons are a minimum of six feet apart. Florida's state parks are also part of the phase one reopening, but visitors will experience limited hours, capacity, and services.

USAA returning more money to policyholders

Most major insurance companies have adjusted their rates, temporarily at least, to reflect the large reduction in auto accidents during the coronavirus shutdown. Now, USAA says it’s sending even more money back to auto policyholders.

The company says it’s sending another $280 million in dividends to auto insurance policyholders whose policies were in effect April 4. Previously, it sent $500 million back to customers.

The company says the money reflects 20 percent of the third month’s worth of premiums.

Blood plasma treatment under study

Now that the government has granted emergency approval of a drug to treat the coronavirus, other studies are underway to determine whether antibodies from the blood of recovered patients might also be an effective treatment. It’s worked on other viral infections in the past.

Researchers are also trying to determine whether an existing and fairly common blood plasma product could also be an effective treatment. But according to The Wall Street Journal, that’s causing concern among some health experts.

They point out that a surge in demand for the treatment -- intravenous immunoglobulin, or IVIG -- could lead to a shortage for treating patients who need it to cope with other diseases. Some experts say it would likely be less effective than using the antibodies from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus.

Roche Holdings reports that the government has granted emergency approval to its antibody test, which it claims is 100 percent effective in identifying people who have already had the coronavirus.

Southwest boosts in-flight health and safety protocols

Southwest Airlines has taken steps to bolster consumers’ confidence in their health and safety aboard their aircraft. The carrier has announced additional cleaning practices across the fleet and throughout the day. It’s also modified onboard protocols to support distancing and contact-free interaction.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelley said these and other steps are being taken to not only protect passengers but also airline personnel.

"We feel extreme gratitude for those who are serving on the frontlines of this pandemic,” Kelly said. “And from our own frontlines to our back offices, we share an immense pride in the service we're providing to Southwest Customers for whom travel is essential right now."

Meanwhile, Spirit Airhas joinedJetBlue in requiring all passengers to wear masks while onboard the aircraft.

OpenTable looking ahead to restaurant reopenings

OpenTable, the restaurant reservation platform, says it is ready to adapt and assist full service restaurants as they begin to reopen. 

"Restaurants need help to reopen quickly, safely, and successfully as local restrictions lift.  We're doing our part to help them by waiving fees and updating features with the post-COVID-19 dining experience in mind," said Andrea Johnston, COO at OpenTable.

The company says that restaurants that have not taken reservations in the past may find they need to in this new era of social distancing. They may find that they have to rearrange floor plans to allow more space between tables.

The company says it has made enhancements to its platform that can provide additional support  for restaurants that are trying to adhere to social distancing guidelines while providing updated health and safety information to diners for when it is safe to eat out again.

Around the nation

  • Mississippi: Gov. Tate Reeves has defended his decision to reopen the state’s economy without waiting two weeks to see if cases were declining. He says the state’s hospital system is not stressed and that there are fewer than 100 people on ventilators. “You have to understand that Mississippi is different than New York and New Jersey,” Reeves said on “Fox News Sunday.”

  • Massachusetts: Starting Wednesday, people over the age of two across Massachusetts will be required to wear a face mask in public places where social distancing isn’t possible. People with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing masks are exempt from this order.

  • Kentucky: A growing number of meat processing plants in the state have been hit with COVID-19 outbreaks. As of the weekend, the Kentucky Department for Public Health had confirmed 313 positive cases and one death in processing plants across the state.

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