Coronavirus update: Whitehouse restarts free test program

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A congressional report claims that the USDA put meatpackers at risk

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

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 82,619,858 (82,476,893)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 999,852 (999,607)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 522,165,282 (521,567,640)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 6,267,509 (6,264,186)‌

White House restarts free test kit program

This week, the Biden administration resumed a federal program that mailed free COVID-19 test kits to Americans who requested one. Actually, the U.S. Postal Service will deliver up to eight free tests per household.

With little fanfare, the once dormant website where consumers could order tests went back online on Monday. According to users, the site was functional and taking orders before the White House announced a resumption of the program.

The free test kit program resumes as U.S. cases of the coronavirus rapidly increase. New cases have reportedly risen more than 60% this month, with most of them caused by the less severe but more highly contagious subvariants of the Omicron variant.

Congressional panel claims collusion between meatpackers and feds

In the early days of the pandemic, long before vaccines were available, the coronavirus spread quickly through the nation’s meat processing plants. Now, a shocking congressional report claims that meatpackers and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) bent safety rules to keep the plants operating.

In its report, which contains harsh criticism of the Trump administration, the House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis claims that COVID-19 safety guidelines for meatpacking plants released by the USDA had been heavily influenced by the companies it was charged with regulating. 

Meat processing plants require employees to work in close proximity to one another, making it easy to spread the virus. Some plants reported a large number of cases, resulting in several deaths, during the first year of the pandemic.

Former Trump health official predicts large wave in the South

Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as a top health official in the Trump administration, warns that Florida and much of the South should get ready for an "exponential" COVID-19 surge this summer. Birx spoke to a group in West Palm Beach, Fla., to promote her book about the pandemic, “Silent Invasion.”

Birx said she expects a swell of new cases across the region this summer that could bring an increase in hospitalizations. So far, hospitalizations have remained well below pandemic peaks.

"We are heading into Memorial Day when families like to get together," Birx said. She urged her audience to acquire COVID-19 test kits now ahead of what could be a shortage as cases increase this summer.

Around the nation

  • Nebraska: After a prolonged leveling off, new cases in Nebraska rose sharply in the last seven days, according to state health officials. The state reported 1,500 new virus cases last week, a sharp increase from just over 800 in each of the two previous weeks.

  • Michigan: Some schools in the Detroit area have reimposed mask mandates as cases of the coronavirus continue to rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended last week that people in the Detroit area wear masks in indoor public spaces.

  • Massachusetts: New cases of COVID-19 are being reported in greater numbers across the state. The CDC has rated 11 of Massachusetts' 14 counties as having high community transmission levels of the coronavirus. Berkshire County reported the highest case rate per 100,000 individuals.

  • Arizona: State health officials are reporting an increase in both flu and COVID-19 cases since the beginning of May. The latest numbers show that the state recorded almost 5,000 new COVID-19 cases for the week of May 1, with a 9% test positivity rate. Four weeks earlier, Arizona reported fewer than 2,000 new cases when the test positivity rate was 3%.

  • Florida: Masks are gone, planes are full, and Florida tourism officials report that things have never been better. The state’s tourism agency says 36 million visitors came to Florida in the first quarter of this year – 1.3% more than during the same period in 2019, before the pandemic.

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