Theodore Roosevelt returns to sea
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is returning to sea for a two-week mission, its first since being moored in Guam in late March following a coronavirus outbreak.
The Navy said that the aircraft carrier entered the Philippine Sea on Thursday local time “to conduct carrier qualification flights for Carrier Air Wing 11.”
The Theodore Roosevelt, which has a crew of nearly 5,000, is underway with around 3,300 personnel on the mission, a Defense official said. Everyone aboard the ship was tested and enough personnel have been removed from quarantine to operate the vessel, the Navy said.
Former White House employee who served 11 presidents dies at 91
A former White House butler who served 11 different presidents died at the age of 91 after contracting the coronavirus, his daughter told Fox 5 DC.
Wilson Roosevelt Jerman was one of the White House’s longest-serving employees, remembered fondly by former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush in a statement to NBC News on Wednesday.
Expansion of mail-in voting on hold in Texas
AUSTIN, Texas — A court ruling that paved the way in Texas for a dramatic expansion of mail-in voting over fears of the coronavirus is now on hold.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals voted Wednesday to temporarily put aside any expansion of mail-in voting while the case is under review. The order came less than 24 hours after a federal judge in San Antonio ruled that Texas must give all 16 million registered voters in the state the option of casting a ballot by mail during the pandemic.
The fight in Texas is one of several nationwide over expanding access to mail-in voting during the pandemic. Texas generally limits mail-in ballots to voters 65 or older, or those with a “sickness or physical condition.”
Republican Texas Attorney General Paxton has asserted that fear of getting the virus doesn’t qualify as a disability under the law.
Tension grows as customers clash with stores over masks
White House paying huge premium for mask-cleaning machines that don’t do the job
WASHINGTON — It sounded like a great deal: The White House coronavirus task force would buy a defense company’s new cleaning machines to allow critical protective masks to be reused up to 20 times. And at $60 million for 60 machines on April 3, the price was right.
But over just a few days, the potential cost to taxpayers exploded to $413 million, according to notes of a coronavirus task force meeting obtained by NBC News. By May 1, the Pentagon pegged the ceiling at $600 million in a justification for awarding the deal without an open bidding process or an actual contract. Even worse, scientists and nurses say the recycled masks treated by these machines begin to degrade after two or three treatments, not 20, and the company says its own recent field testing has only confirmed the integrity of the masks for four cycles of use and decontamination.
Nurses in several places across the country now say they are afraid of being at greater risk of acquiring COVID-19 while using N95 masks, which they say often don’t fit correctly after just a few spins through a cleaning system that uses vapor phase hydrogen peroxide to disinfect them.
New Zealand PM urges 4-day work week to promote tourism
WELLINGTON, New Zealand: New Zealand’s prime minister wants employers to consider switching to a four-day work week as a way to promote tourism, which has been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Jacinda Ardern said in a Facebook Live video this week that people had learned a lot about flexibility and working from home during the nation’s lockdown, which was eased last week.
New Zealand’s tourism industry had accounted for about 10% of the economy, but has ground to a halt during the outbreak.
The South Pacific nation’s borders remain closed, but Ardern said that as much as 60% of tourism was domestic and that more flexible working arrangements could allow New Zealanders to travel more within their own country.
Ardern said she would encourage employers to think about whether or not a four-day work week is something that would work for their workplace, “because it certainly would help tourism all around the country.”
Brazil’s coronavirus outbreak grows amid government tension
Coronavirus is spreading faster in Brazil than anywhere else on Earth. Doctors at a disease control center say there’s so little testing, the real number of cases could be 15 times higher. President Jair Bolsonaro, when asked about the rising death toll, said he “can’t work miracles.”
California to issue guidance on restarting Hollywood, Tyler Perry unveils plan to reopen Atlanta studio
California will roll out guidelines on Memorial Day for TV, film and commercials to resume production amid the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday on a call with entertainment industry leaders.
“We’re in real time drafting guidelines related to productions … because we anticipate rolling out on Monday, May 25th, some sectoral guidelines that would allow these counties to begin to move forward and allow some modification, allow some work to be done, allow some movement in your industry,” Newsom said.
Hollywood has been at a total standstill since mid-March when Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order. As a result, hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs and studios are scrambling to fill an unprecedented content demand from people binging shows and movies at home.
Also on Wednesday, Tyler Perry unveiled a 30-page document for his plan to resume productions at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta. He will require cast and crew members to be tested for coronavirus and self-isolate at home before traveling to Georgia, undergo social distancing as much as possible on set and not leave the “quarantine bubble” at any time for the designated two-week filming period.
“I want it to be abundantly clear that there was no way I could or would consider putting people back to work without a plan that takes extreme measures to try and mitigate as much risk as possible in our productions, and I think we’ve managed to do just that,” Perry said in a letter to crew members.
Missouri grocery store repurposed salad bar to serve mini bottles of liquor
When a grocery store was forced to close its signature salad bar to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus, some of its employees got creative and built an alcohol display in its wake.
“We had originally put out other fresh foods, but it didn’t go over so well because everyone’s been stressed out,” said Rick Rodemacher, the store director of Dierbergs Markets’ Manchester, Missouri location.
“A group of the employees were talking and we thought we could make good use of the empty space and make people smile if we swapped out the salad bar for one that serves alcohol.”
Highway deaths soar amid pandemic as people get ‘the itch to drive faster’
Highway fatality rates jumped 14 percent in March, even as U.S. roadways began emptying due to the near-nationwide coronavirus quarantine.
With significantly fewer vehicles on the road, the total number of deaths dropped an estimated 8 percent, but measured in terms of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles driven, the figure for March surged to 1.22 compared to 1.07 in March 2019, according to the National Safety Council.
Seven states posted double-digit increases, the NSC reported, with Connecticut seeing a 42 percent spike. Police across the U.S. have been reporting major increases in speeding citations and arrests, with fewer fender benders — but significant increases in severe crashes.
“People on the road have been getting the itch to drive faster,” said Susanna Gotsch, director of industry analysis for CCC Information Services, which consults with insurance companies on auto crashes.
Overall, total U.S. highway deaths rose 2 percent during the first quarter of 2019, according to the NSC.
ACLU files lawsuit over Puerto Rico ‘fake news’ laws feared by journalists covering pandemic
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the Puerto Rican government over what the group called a pair of “fake news” laws that it says authorities can use to punish reporters covering the coronavirus pandemic.
The suit, brought in federal district court, was filed on behalf of two journalists, Sandra Rodríguez Cotto and Rafelli González-Cotto. Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced and other officials are named as defendants.
According to court documents, one of the provisions criminalizes raising “a false alarm” over an imminent catastrophe, during a state of emergency, or to “spread rumors” about “non-existing abnormalities.”