CORONAVIRUS UPDATE… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has topped 833,800 and the number of people dead is at least 833,000, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University. Autopsy results released yesterday revealed that two patients in California died nearly three weeks before the previously known first U.S. death from the virus. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt announced yesterday that some businesses will be allowed to reopen as early as tomorrow and others can reopen within 10 days. Ohio officials said they would soon announce plans to re-open the state’s economy and governors of Midwest states say they are working together to determine how best to lift restrictions. Georgia, South Carolina and several other Southern states that have already begun reopening are facing criticism from some health experts who warn that lifting restrictions too quickly could trigger a new surge in cases.
CORONAVIRUS COULD RE-EMERGE IN FALL… White House health officials warned yesterday that the coronavirus could re-emerge alongside the common flu next fall and complicate the medical response. Centers for Disease Control and Protection Director Robert Redfield said medical experts “had the benefit” of the flu season concluding before the coronavirus pandemic this season, allowing them to use flu surveillance systems to detect coronavirus. Speaking during White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing, Redfield, urged Americans to get the flu vaccine, “taking flu out of the picture.”
PET CATS TEST POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS… Officials in New York confirmed yesterday that two cats have become the first pets to test positive for the coronavirus. The confirmation follows the discovery that seven tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo have contracted the virus. Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the Associated Press, “There’s no evidence that pets are playing a role in spreading this disease to people.” The CDC is advising pet owners to keep their animals in their homes as a precautionary measure and only seek out testing for them if they are exhibiting symptoms or were exposed to someone infected with the virus.
FIRED VACCINE RESEARCHER FILES WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINT… Dr. Rick Bright, who was removed Tuesday as the director of the office involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine, says his sudden dismissal was partly because he resisted efforts to widen the availability of a debunked coronavirus treatment pushed by President Trump. Bright, who had led the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority since 2016, announced he will file a whistleblower complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general. He cited “clashes with political leadership” as a reason for his firing, as well as his resistance to “efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections.”
DATA BREACH AFFECTS EMERGENCY-LOAN APPLICANTS… The Small Business Administration said yesterday that it has informed thousands of businesses applying for emergency loans that a data breach may have compromised their information. Nearly 8,000 applicants to its Economic Injury Disaster Loan program were affected by the breach, according to the SBA. Prior to its discovery on March 25, the breach may have allowed other applicants to view Social Security numbers, income amounts, names, addresses and contact information. The SBA said the affected applicants can request a year of free credit monitoring.
ACTRESS SHIRLEY KNIGHT DIES… Shirley Knight, who earned Oscar nominations for her work in the 1960 film “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” and 1962’s “Sweet Bird of Youth,” has died of natural causes, her daughter confirmed yesterday. The actress was 83. Knight won a Tony Award in 1976 for her role in “Kennedy’s Children.” Her television credits include “Desperate Housewives,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Murder, She Wrote.”
JUDGE DISMISSES JUSSIE SMOLLETT’S SUIT… A federal judge yesterday dismissed actor Jussie Smollett’s malicious prosecution lawsuit against the city of Chicago and several police officers. In April 2019, the city sued Smollett seeking reimbursement of more than $130,000 paid in overtime to police officers who were involved in investigating the actor’s claim that he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack three months earlier. In his countersuit filed in November, Smollett claimed the city couldn’t recover costs because it accepted $10,000 from HIM “as payment in full in connection with the dismissal of the charges.” The lawsuit said Smollett had been the victim of a malicious prosecution that caused him humiliation and extreme distress. U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall ruled that the former “Empire” actor can’t bring a malicious prosecution claim until all proceedings against him have ended.
MLB LEVIES PUNISHMENT IN SIGN-STEALING SCANDAL… Major League Baseball yesterday suspended Boston Red Sox video replay system operator J.T. Watkins through the 2020 postseason and stripped the team of its second-round draft pick this year after completing its investigation into allegations that it illegally stole signs during the 2018 season. Former manager Alex Cora, who mutually parted ways with the Red Sox as the scandal emerged in January, is suspended through the 2020 postseason as well. MLB emphasized that Cora’s punishment is purely in response to his actions as bench coach of the Houston Astros in 2017.