Cara Richardson, Rachel Aretakis and Jessica Flores
Published 11:57 AM EDT May 29, 2020
The House passed a bipartisan bill to help small businesses, San Francisco is extending its stay-at-home order, and the Boston Marathon was canceled for the first time in its 124-year history.
There are more than 5.8 million confirmed cases around the world, with 1.7 million in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. The virus has killed more than 101,000 people in the U.S., and over 360,000 people worldwide.
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Here are a few developments to know today:
- Consumer spending in the U.S. has fallen by record 13.6% in face of the coronavirus pandemic.
- A new study shows more cancer patients die from COVID-19, but not necessarily for the reasons you’d expect.
- The Boston Marathon has been canceled for the first time in its 124-year history, and there are plans for a virtual race instead.
- A postcard mailed to every American that included coronavirus social distancing guidelines and featured President Donald Trump’s name cost the U.S. Postal Service $28 million, USA TODAY has learned.
Your daily dose of good news: This dad and daughter duo in Spain have been dressing in costumes for their daily walks to bring some joy back to their neighborhood.
Gov’t support boosted personal incomes but consumer spending sinks
U.S. consumer spending plunged by a record-shattering 13.6% in April.
Last month’s spending decline was far worse than the revised 6.9% drop in March, which itself had set a record for the steepest one-month fall in records dating to 1959. Friday’s Commerce Department figures reinforced evidence that the economy is gripped by the worst downturn in decades, with consumers unable or too anxious to spend much.
Even with employers cutting millions of jobs during the month, personal incomes soared 10.5% in April, reflecting billions of dollars in support through government payments in the form of unemployment benefits and stimulus checks.
People with cancer are far more likely to die from COVID-19
Those with cancer die at a higher rate from COVID-19 than the general population, though for the same basic reasons – because of their older age, male gender, smoking history and multiple health problems, according to a study published Thursday in The Lancet.
While COVID-19 has killed about 6% of Americans diagnosed with it, the study found 13% of cancer patients died within a month of catching the coronavirus that causes the disease.
But some of the factors researchers worried might increase patients’ risk of death – such as recent cancer treatment – turned out not to play a major role, the study found. Read more.
– Karen Weintraub
Costco is going to bring back free samples
Costco plans to start bringing back its legendary free samples next month with some changes.
The retailer suspended its popular samples in its wholesale clubs in early March over safety concerns with the spread of the coronavirus. Consumers mourned the smorgasbord of free snacks on social media, which was one of the first programs to be cut as the threat of COVID-19 grew.
But during Costco’s quarterly earnings call Thursday, officials said they were targeting a mid-June return of the freebies.
“We’re going to start doing some things in mid-June on a slow rollout basis in sampling,” Costco chief financial officer Richard Galanti said. “I can’t tell you anymore, but needless to say it’s not going to be where you go and just pick up an open sample with your fingers.”
– Kelly Tyko
How do you know if your hotel room is really clean amid coronavirus?
Got summer travel on your mind? As you’re thinking about booking a hotel, know this. Hotels have standard room-cleaning practices, which have been upgraded since the pandemic. But there is no universally accepted way to clean a hotel guest room, says Sheryl Kline, a professor at the University of Delaware who has researched hotel hygiene.
“Typically, cleanliness is based on visual inspection. This provides an aesthetic evaluation but not an assessment of the possibility of microbial contamination,” she adds.
That hasn’t stopped the hotel industry from trying to set standards during the pandemic. Consulting experts, a visual inspection, and taking quick action if you’re in a place that doesn’t meet your expectation can ensure that you stay in a clean room. Read more.
– Christopher Elliott
3M hunts for N95 mask con artists profiting from coronavirus
Efforts to crack down on fraudulent 3M mask sales ended with a first criminal case this week when a used car salesmen was charged with trying to bilk New York City out of $45 million.
Authorities say Ron Romano, 58, was a middleman who promised to provide 7 million masks to the city for $45 million – four times 3M’s list price. That case turned criminal Tuesday when the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced his arrest on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and violate the Defense Production Act.
Across the county, 3M has accused others of seizing the moment: A financial consultant, one suit alleged, offered Florida up to 10 million masks at a 460% markup; a Utah-based health network, another said, tried to middleman a deal in California to sell masks at $4.95, a 400% markup; and from a base in a Las Vegas hotel room, a man tried to land a $14-billion deal with Indiana. Read more here.
– Nick Penzenstadler and Josh Salman
More coronavirus news from USA TODAY
- Memory loss, gnarled fingers, panic attacks: COVID-19 didn’t kill these Americans, but many might never be the same
- FDA investigates lab: Tens of thousands of COVID-19 test results in Florida are questioned
- Keep your distance: How to stay safe from coronavirus at the pool and at the beach.
- Graduations: New Jersey schools are now planning in-person ceremonies 2020
RNC sends North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper ‘safety protocols’ for Charlotte event
The Republican National Committee sent North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper a letter Thursday evening specifying “safety protocols” they want him to approve for their party’s convention this August amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The letter, obtained by USA TODAY, comes after Cooper, a Democrat, said earlier Thursday that RNC organizers had yet to provide written plans for how they envisioned safely holding the convention in Charlotte.
RNC Chairman Ronna McDaniel wrote, “As we have previously discussed, it is our shared goal to host the Republican Nation Convention in Charlotte and to showcase the Queen City, and all of the Carolinas, to the entire world in August.”
The RNC told Cooper’s office they want a response by June 3. President Donald Trump said earlier this week that he wanted to know “within a week” whether the convention could be held in North Carolina.
– Savannah Behrmann
House passes PPP bill giving small businesses more time
Thousands of restaurants, nail salons and other small businesses unable to take full advantage of the financial lifeline provided through the federal Paycheck Protection Program would get some needed help under a bipartisan bill the House overwhelmingly passed Thursday.
The bill, now headed to the Senate, loosens some key rules regarding loan repayment and spending restrictions of the PPP. The program, created in March as part of the CARES Act, has already provided more than 4.4 million small businesses with an infusion of cash to keep their workers on the payroll during the coronavirus pandemic.
The $660 billion program, enacted as part of Congress’ response to the coronavirus crisis, provides businesses employing up to 500 workers forgivable loans of as much as $10 million. But many businesses said the program’s structure is too rigid to accommodate different types of small businesses, especially restaurants whose rent-heavy expenses do not fit well in a program that prioritizes rehiring of employees.
– Ledyard King
Nordstrom permanently closing 16 stores and three boutiques
Sales were down 40% at Nordstrom after temporarily closing its stores due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Seattle-based retailer announced Thursday. COVID-19 has led other department stores to file for bankruptcy including J.C. Penney and Neiman Marcus. Nordstrom officials had a different take.
“We’re entering the second quarter in a position of strength, adding to our confidence that we have sufficient liquidity to successfully execute our strategy in 2020 and over the longer term,” Nordstrom CEO Erik Nordstrom said in a news release.
Still, Nordstrom is not immune from permanent store closings. Officials previously announced they would permanently close 16 of the company’s 116 full-line stores because of the impact of COVID-19. In its presentation Thursday, it listed the locations, which include closing three Jeffrey specialty boutiques.
– Kelly Tyko
Boston Marathon canceled
The Boston Marathon will not be held this year, the first cancellation in the event’s 124-year history.
The Marathon was originally postponed from its traditional Patriots’ Day running in April. Organizers had hoped to stage it on Sept. 14, but Thursday officials said the in-person event would not take place. The Boston Athletic Association instead announced plans for a virtual race.
“The concern of a second surge made me have some real reservations about can we have the marathon or not,” Boston mayor Marty Walsh said Thursday.
– Eddie Timanus
The Grammys will host event to honor essential workers
The Grammys is putting together an event featuring Brad Pitt, Oprah Winfrey, Herbie Hancock and Harry Connick Jr. to honor essential workers across America.
The Recording Academy, which puts on the Grammy Awards annually, announced Thursday that the two-hour special, “United We Sing: A Grammy Salute to the Unsung Heroes,” will air June 21 on CBS.
“United We Sing” will follow Connick Jr. — who is hosting — and his filmmaker-daughter Georgia Connick on a road trip celebrating and thanking essential workers. Winfrey, Pitt, Sandra Bullock, Queen Latifah, Renée Zellweger and Drew Brees will also deliver special messages to workers.
SAT registration site crashes after reopening
The SAT registration site reopened Thursday for students in the 2020 or 2021 class who don’t have a score yet, or those who had originally scheduled a June testing date and did not cancel it. But many took to social media to share that the site keeps crashing.
Ryan Testino, a 17-year-old rising high school senior in Georgia, told USA TODAY he spent two hours using two different computers to register for the test in September. He originally planned to take the test in June. After multiple attempts, the site kept crashing and Testino said he had to start over again.
Parents and students shared their frustrations on Twitter. “I’ve been trying to sign up for the SAT for 2 hours … and now might not be able to have any test scores … I’m mad,” Sam Semsel said on Twitter.
The College Board responded to some users advising to “Please try again later this afternoon,” or try changing their internet browsers.
A spokesperson for the College Board told USA TODAY that the site didn’t crash, but they are seeing a high volume of students attempting to register which may lead to delays. “We appreciate students’ patience, and recommend they try again later if they are experiencing delays,” said spokesperson Zachary Goldberg.
San Francisco mayor extends stay-at-home order indefinitely
As San Francisco’s stay-at-home order was set to expire Sunday, Mayor London Breed announced Thursday that it would be extended “indefinitely.”
Breed also announced reopening plans that will begin next month with social distancing guidelines. Outdoor exercising like yoga and fitness camps can resume on June 15. The city plans to reopen hair salons, barbershops and allow indoor dining on July 13. Nail salons, tattoo parlors, gyms and bars are scheduled to reopen in mid-August.
Public health officials said the scheduled reopening dates could change depending on the number of cases and deaths in the city.
Airlines, hotels hope Memorial Day weekend travel kick-starts comeback
The number of people passing through Transportation Security Administration airport checkpoints Memorial Day weekend surpassed 300,000 for the first time in almost two months, the agency reported on its website. Numbers spiked on Thursday, May 21, and Friday, May 22, leading up to the three-day weekend and again on Monday.
For the week ending May 23, tracking firm STR found that hotel occupancy in the U.S. averaged 35.4%, up by 32.4% from the previous week – though still down by about half from the comparable week in 2019.
While any rise was encouraging, the travel industry still has a long way to climb before it can claim a solid rebound. TSA’s count of 318,449 people passing through checkpoints on May 21 is still paltry compared to almost 2.7 million on that same day a year ago. And with the holiday weekend over, the numbers have settled back into the mid-200,000s.
Travel may pick up as more vacation-oriented cities reopen. Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, has announced a July 11 opening. And some major Las Vegas hotel resorts, including the Wynn Las Vegas and Caesars Palace, plan to reopen June 4.
– Chris Woodyard and Morgan Hines
Contributing: Associated Press
More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY
- The next 100 days: How coronavirus will continue to change our everyday lives.
- Shopping reinvented: America’s stores, malls reopen with masks, curbside pickup and closed fitting rooms.
- Will restaurants feel like hospital cafeterias in the future? Chefs struggle to bring dining out back.
- Staying Apart, Together: USA TODAY brings a newsletter about how to cope with these trying times straight to your inbox. Sign up here.