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Coronavirus update: U.S. cases hit new low, nurses sue over vaccination requirement

Unemployment claims are at their lowest point since the pandemic started

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 33,309,356 (33,290,961)

Total U.S. deaths: 595,888 (595,422)

Total global cases: 171,776,210 (171,323,440) 

Total global deaths: 3,693,623 (3,683,015)

New cases continue to fall

Health officials will closely watch the data for the next two weeks to see if the long Memorial Day weekend has impacted the decline in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. So far, the numbers are moving in the right direction.

Unofficial tallies show that the seven-day average of new cases fell to 17,119 this week, the lowest reading since the earliest days of the pandemic. The trend for hospitalizations is also falling.

Forty-six states are reporting a trend of fewer cases of the virus. An exception is California, which has seen a recent uptick in cases after a marked improvement.

Nurses sue hospital over vaccine mandate

Houston Methodist Hospital has found itself as the defendant in a lawsuit filed by 117 nurses who object to the facility’s requirement that all employees be vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Despite the fact the vaccines went through clinical trials and have already been administered to millions of people, the nurses’ complaint alleges that they are being used as “human guinea pigs.”

"This is very important,” Jennifer Bridges, one of the plaintiffs, told Fox News. “We're basically fighting for everybody's rights right now just to make our own decisions. Nobody should be forced to put something in their body if they are not comfortable with it -- and lose their jobs over it." 

The job market looks like it’s back

There are still lots of people drawing jobless benefits because of the pandemic, but fewer people are seeking help. The Labor Department reports that initial claims for unemployment benefits fell to 385,000 last week, the first time the number has dipped below 400,000 since the start of the pandemic.

The four-week moving average of benefit filings was 428,000, a decrease of 30,500 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since March 14, 2020, when it was 225,500. 

The report also shows that the number of people still drawing unemployment benefits for the week ending May 15 was 15,435,982, a number that has continued to fall since the first of the year. The number represents a decrease of 366,178 from the previous week. 

Apple wants employees back in the office

While some companies may allow remote work for the indefinite future, Apple apparently wants a return to semi-normalcy over the next few months. An email from Tim Cook, obtained by The Verge, says employees should prepare for at least a partial return by September.

“For all that we’ve been able to achieve while many of us have been separated, the truth is that there has been something essential missing from this past year: each other,” the memo to Apple employees said. “Video conference calling has narrowed the distance between us, to be sure, but there are things it simply cannot replicate.”

According to the memo, employees will be offered a hybrid work schedule, reporting to the office on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. They would have the option of working remotely Wednesday and Friday.

GM sees an end to the computer chip shortage

The shortage of computer chips during the pandemic has reduced the number of new cars on dealer lots and increased prices for used cars. GM says it believes an end to the shortage is in sight.

The automaker said it has significantly increased the shipments of pickup trucks and other popular vehicles to dealers, saying the vehicles had been built but set aside until the necessary chips were in place. 

Chips have been in short supply because automakers canceled orders at the beginning of the pandemic, expecting steep declines in sales. Sales increased instead, and the chips abandoned by the auto industry were snapped up by the electronics industry, which saw a surge in sales of laptops and tablets.

Around the nation

  • Connecticut: As recently as March, Connecticut was among the states struggling to contain the virus. Now, health officials say those efforts have paid off. Connecticut ranks third in the nation among states with the fewest new cases.

  • Illinois: Gov. J.B. Pritzker says the state will move into Phase 5 of its COVID-19 protocol next week when the last of the restrictions will be dropped. Phase 5 removes all remaining capacity limits and restrictions on all sectors of the economy.

  • Tennessee: An inmate at the Grundy County Jail made an escape while deputies were taking him to the health department to get a COVID-19 test. Authorities say he is unlikely to get far since he is handcuffed, barefoot, and wearing a bright orange jumpsuit.

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