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Some of the last tourists to visit the Universal Studios theme park in Orlando, Fla., in March before the coronavirus crisis shut the resort down. Plans are in place for Universal and other parks to reopen. Susan Stumme/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Susan Stumme/AFP via Getty Images

Some of the last tourists to visit the Universal Studios theme park in Orlando, Fla., in March before the coronavirus crisis shut the resort down. Plans are in place for Universal and other parks to reopen.

Susan Stumme/AFP via Getty Images

It appears theme parks will soon be welcoming guests in Florida. Local officials approved reopening plans for Legoland in Winter Haven and the Universal theme parks in Orlando.

In Orange County, the Economic Recovery Task Force, chaired by County Mayor Jerry Demings, reviewed the Universal plans and approved a June 5 reopening date for its Universal Studios and Island of Adventure theme parks, as well as for its water park, Volcano Bay. The task force also gave approval to reopening plans for 13 smaller attractions in the Orlando area. Legoland received approval from officials in Winter Haven and Polk County for a June 1 reopening.

The reopening plans now go to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for final approval. He has indicated he wants to see theme parks reopen once they submitted plans for keeping employees and guests protected from the coronavirus.

Both Legoland and Universal says employees and guests will undergo temperature checks on arrival. Anyone with a temperature over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit won't be allowed in. The chief administrative officer for Universal's parks, John Sprouls told the Orange County task force, staff members had done temperature checks on more than 30,000 people since CityWalk, its shopping and restaurant complex reopened to the public. "Our guests have been very supportive of the process," Sprouls said. "We're not hearing a lot of complaints about that or the masks. They're very happy to get out and happy that having those precautions in place is making them feel safe."

Unlike Universal, Legoland's guidelines don't make masks mandatory for guests, although they are recommended and provided free to those who want them. Face coverings at Legoland will be required for all employees.

Legoland says it will limit capacity to less than 50% when it reopens. Universal also says it will reduce capacity but hasn't said by how much. Sprouls says measures to ensure distancing will be in place at turnstiles. People from different groups will not be commingled in seating on rides. In restaurants, contactless ordering, payment and food service will be available through the use of a mobile app.

Both companies say they'll have hand sanitizer dispensers and signs outlining safety requirements at entrances and throughout their parks.

Disney hasn't yet unveiled reopening plans for its parks in Orlando. Disney Springs, its retail, dining and entertainment complex, resumed welcoming visitors this week. Shanghai Disney reopened last week to a limited number of guests. Disney World and SeaWorld, Orlando's other major theme park, are expected to present their reopening plans to local officials for approval in coming weeks.

How A Decades-Old Unemployment Insurance System Is Measuring Up In The Pandemic

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Launched during the Great Depression, the unemployment insurance system has seen unprecedented strain during the coronavirus crisis. Olivier Douliery AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Olivier Douliery AFP via Getty Images

Launched during the Great Depression, the unemployment insurance system has seen unprecedented strain during the coronavirus crisis.

Olivier Douliery AFP via Getty Images

Since the pandemic started, 38.6 million Americans have filed for unemployment claims, according to new numbers announced Thursday.

That's more than one in five American workers using an unemployment insurance system first established decades ago to serve a very different population.

It was 1935 and the country was struggling to emerge from the Great Depression. The system's focus was people who worked in medium-to-large manufacturing or in trade industries, says Indivar Dutta-Gupta, co-executive director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality.

"Policymakers were clear that they wanted partial wage replacement for workers who were laid off through no fault of their own," he tells NPR's Ari Shapiro. "But policymakers also recognized that unemployment insurance would have the effect of stabilizing the economy and helping keep workers attached to the labor force."

He describes how the unemployment insurance system is functioning as the workforce and economy have changed.

Here are excerpts from the interview.

Tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs this spring. The unemployment insurance system has never had to support this kind of an event before. How's it doing?

On the one hand, the unemployment insurance system is absolutely struggling under the weight of the claims that it's experiencing. But on the other hand, what we're seeing gradually is that really the supermajority of folks have been getting claims paid. And it's quite painful, of course, when you have to wait a week or two weeks, never mind six weeks for a payment. But I think that we're seeing the system slowly turn around, as states step up and take the measures that they really, in many cases, should have always taken, but now finally feel the pressure to take.

Unemployment insurance administration was not a topic that was attracting much attention, except when states wanted to reduce spending during what was really the longest economic expansion model in U.S. history. And here we are in a crisis paying the price for that.

As part of the response to this crisis, the federal government has expanded benefits to include people who aren't typically eligible, like freelancers, gig workers and self-employed people. Also, unemployed people are getting $600 a week more than before. How have those steps helped, and do you think they've gone far enough?

One of the key concerns with the unemployment insurance system over the decades has been how many workers it actually leaves out. Many people would be surprised to know that only about 27% of unemployed workers in 2019 actually accessed unemployment insurance benefits.

What Congress recognized in this crisis was that that percentage would be just unacceptable today. And so Congress created not only a number of incentives and offered funding for states to somewhat expand the unemployment insurance program, but they also established what's called the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program to help pick up some of the very workers you mentioned.

Unfortunately, I'm concerned that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance [program] is still going to leave out of a lot of workers. Just think about all the people exiting school, exiting jails and prisons, exiting long-term caregiving responsibilities, and will have no access to unemployment insurance, and in many cases, no access to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program either.

Listen to the full interview at the audio link above.

Kansas National Guard member Roy Manns, from Topeka, Kan., writes down results as he runs samples through an Abbott COVID-19 testing machine at a drive-thru testing site on Wednesday in Dodge City, Kan. Charlie Riedel/AP hide caption

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Charlie Riedel/AP

Kansas National Guard member Roy Manns, from Topeka, Kan., writes down results as he runs samples through an Abbott COVID-19 testing machine at a drive-thru testing site on Wednesday in Dodge City, Kan.

Charlie Riedel/AP

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has acknowledged that it is mixing up the results of two different kinds of tests in the agency's tally of testing for the coronavirus, raising concerns among some scientists that it could be creating an inaccurate picture of the state of the pandemic in the United States.

The CDC combines the results of genetic tests that spot people who are actively infected, mostly by using a process known as polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, with another, known as "serology" testing, which looks for antibodies in peoples' blood. Antibody testing is used to identify people who were previously infected.

The CDC's practice was first reported by Miami public radio station WLRN on Wednesday and was confirmed by the agency in a subsequent email to NPR.

Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, expressed concern that adding the two types of tests together could leave the impression that more testing of active cases had been conducted than was actually the case.

"Reporting both serology and viral tests under the same category is not appropriate, as these two types of tests are very different and tell us different things," Nuzzo wrote in an email to NPR.

Serology tests don't give real-time information about the number of new infections occurring. And combining the tests is problematic because it could leave governments and businesses with a false picture of the true scope of the pandemic, she says. That's important because sufficient testing is considered crucial for keeping the epidemic under control, especially as the nation starts to relax social distancing measures, experts say.

"Only [PCR] tests can tell us who is infected and should be counted as a case," Nuzzo wrote. "The goal for tracking testing is to understand whether we are casting a wide enough net to identify cases and only viral tests can tell us that."

In addition, combining antibody testing with diagnostic testing could reduce the number of tests that appear to be producing positive results, lowering the overall "positivity rate." That's another important benchmark. The World Health Organization has recommended a positivity rate of 10% or less as a signal of whether enough testing is taking place.

"I suspect it will artificially lower the percent positive," wrote Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in another email to NPR about the CDC testing data.

CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund wrote in an email to NPR that the "majority of the data is PCR testing," but acknowledged that the agency's tally includes antibody testing because "some states are including serology data" in their testing numbers.

"Those numbers still give us an idea of the burden of COVID-19," Nordlund wrote.

She added, however: "We hope to have the testing data broken down between PCR and serology testing in the coming weeks as well."

Several states have acknowledged in recent weeks that they are combining both types of testing, but at least one, Virginia, then reversed that practice after it became public.

The criticism over how testing results are being reported is the latest in a series of controversies related to testing for the new virus. Many public health experts have criticized the federal government for failing to ramp up testing quickly enough to track and control the epidemic.

The CDC obtains testing data from several sources, including state public health labs, commercial testing companies and hospitals. Officials have been working to develop standardized criteria to alleviate complaints about confusion about reporting requirements.

Facebook's CEO says the company will begin "aggressively" hiring remote workers and allow current employees to request to work from home permanently. Jeff Chiu/AP hide caption

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Jeff Chiu/AP

Facebook's CEO says the company will begin "aggressively" hiring remote workers and allow current employees to request to work from home permanently.

Jeff Chiu/AP

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he expects half of the tech giant's 48,000 employees to be working remotely in the next five to 10 years as part of a major shift in how the company operates.

The company plans to begin "aggressively" hiring remote workers and it will soon allow some current employees to apply to work remotely on a permanent basis, the CEO said in a live-streamed meeting with staff on Thursday.

"We're going to be the most forward-leaning company on remote work for our scale," Zuckerberg said. "But we're going to do this in a way that is measured and thoughtful and responsible and in phases over time. ... Because this is fundamentally about changing our culture and the way that we all are going to work long-term."

The shift is a sign of how the coronavirus pandemic may permanently alter corporate policies and strategies, particularly in industries, such as tech, where many employees can do their jobs outside the office. Twitter and Square, the payments company, have told employees they can work from home indefinitely.

On Thursday, Zuckerberg said an employee survey indicated a lot of interest in permanent remote work, and that he saw benefits in allowing more people to shift away from offices. That includes recruiting talented staff who don't live near a current Facebook office; retaining employees who want to move; and improving the diversity of its workforce.

"When you limit hiring to people who either live in a small number of big cities or are willing to move there, that cuts out a lot of people who live in different communities, different backgrounds or may have different perspectives on things," he said.

The company will initially ramp up remote work for new and existing employees in the US and Canada, focusing on experienced workers, especially senior engineers. Some roles, such as hardware development, content moderation, sales and recruiting, will not be able to be done outside the office.

Geographically, Facebook will first look to hire people in areas within a one- to four-hour drive of an existing office, such as Portland, San Diego, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The company is also looking to create new "hubs" with hundreds of remote workers in Atlanta, Dallas and Denver.

Zuckerberg acknowledged that the shift may save money for Facebook. The company will adjust employees' salaries depending on where they live, he said.

Facebook, like other Silicon Valley companies, was among the first U.S. employers to close offices in the early days of the pandemic. Zuckerberg said 95% of employees are now working remotely.

While it intends to start bringing some workers back to its offices in July, it will limit occupancy to 25% of normal capacity. The company has said that most staff can keep working from home through the end of the year, and has canceled gatherings of more than 50 people through June 2021.

Experts say New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Facebook Live appearances and reassuring messages have led to an 80% approval rating. Mark Mitchell/AP hide caption

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Mark Mitchell/AP

Experts say New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Facebook Live appearances and reassuring messages have led to an 80% approval rating.

Mark Mitchell/AP

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has floated the idea of a four-day work week to encourage domestic travel in the wake of the country's coronavirus lockdown.

Ardern raised the potential of a shortened work week and more flexibility around leave in the workplace after meeting with local officials and tourism operators in the North Island-city of Rotorua.

"How can we support New Zealanders to make the most of traveling around the country?" the prime minister said in a Facebook Live video. "Some have been saying, 'Well, if they had a bit more flexibility in terms of their travel and their leave they might be ought to do that.' I've heard lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day week."

The decision on whether to institute a shorter work week is an individual one between employer and employee, according to Ardern. But she encouraged businesses to think about this option, "because it certainly would help tourism all around the country."

The prime minister also pointed to the benefits of working from home, which the coronavirus crisis has shown can drive up productivity.

Last week, the government announced a NZ400 million (about $245 million) Tourism Recovery Fund as part of its broader budget to support the hard-hit industry.

New Zealand's tourism sector contributed more than NZ$16 billion ($9.8 billion) to the country's gross domestic product for the year ending in March 2019, according to Tourism New Zealand. That's 5.8% of total GDP.

The industry also employs nearly 230,000 Kiwis.

The island country with a population of nearly 5 million allowed most businesses to reopen last Thursday after three days without any new COVID-19 cases.

New Zealand received global praise for its swift response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which consisted of aggressive lockdown measures and travel bans paired with widespread testing and contract tracing.

On April 27, Ardern declared that the country has "won [the] battle" against widespread COVID-19 community transmission. The country's health ministry reported 1,153 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Thursday. The death toll stands at 21.

French chef Guy Savoy poses with a face mask in the kitchen of one of his restaurants, in the Monnaie de Paris building, on Tuesday. Christophe Archambault/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Christophe Archambault/AFP via Getty Images

French chef Guy Savoy poses with a face mask in the kitchen of one of his restaurants, in the Monnaie de Paris building, on Tuesday.

Christophe Archambault/AFP via Getty Images

When restaurants in France were forced to close on March 15 due to the coronavirus, many kitchens switched to takeout. That's manageable if you serve crêpes, burgers or sushi. But what if you're a three-Michelin-star chef?

Guy Savoy is one of those chefs — among the world's most celebrated — and his response has been to adapt. He is champing at the bit for the day he can reopen his four Paris restaurants. (His fifth, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, is also closed). Until then, he's venturing with optimism into the takeout business.

"We chefs and restaurateurs have had to sit by completely helpless as our activities were put in an artificial coma, even though they're in perfect health," he says.

A recent easing of restrictions does not include France's 160,000 restaurants. The French government has said it may be possible for them to reopen in June.

"I'm talking to chefs in a total state of shock," Michelin Guide director Gwendal Poullennec told Le Figaro newspaper this month.

Poullennec said only 13% of Michelin-starred restaurants have been able to reopen so far across the world.

Savoy says the inaction was killing him. So when France's lockdown was lifted on May 11, he decided to begin offering takeaway service. Earlier this week at Le Chiberta, his restaurant near the Arc de Triomphe, Savoy wore a face mask instead of a toque. The restaurant was empty, but the kitchen was busy.

Included in the abbreviated menu on this day were two of his signature dishes, the artichoke soup with truffles and Parmesan, and a ballotine of poultry with foie gras and a truffle vinaigrette.

Parisian Jean Gosset, who recently ordered Savoy's takeaway, says it's great to enjoy a master chef's meal at home at an affordable price. A prix fixe menu including starter, entree and dessert costs $60.

"It interrupts the monotony of this confinement and reminds us that we have these amazing chefs," Gosset says.

While most restaurant workers are still receiving paychecks, thanks to the French government's unemployment support system, analysts estimate that around 25% of of the country's restaurants may not survive this crisis. Others wonder if the cozy French bistro will survive in a new era of social distancing and face masks.

Savoy doesn't share these doubts.

"The restaurant is one of the symbols of French art de vivre," he says. "It's what we live for and why tourists come to France. From the little bistro to the outdoor cafe, the gastronomic restaurant is where we go to meet friends and be with family and to fête special occasions. I have faith that all of this will come back as soon as this virus disappears."

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, here at a February Capitol Hill hearing, has long championed alternatives to public schools. Alex Brandon/AP hide caption

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Alex Brandon/AP

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, here at a February Capitol Hill hearing, has long championed alternatives to public schools.

Alex Brandon/AP

Congressional Democrats have accused U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos of trying to reroute hundreds of millions of dollars in coronavirus aid money to K-12 private school students. The coronavirus rescue package, known as the CARES Act, included more than $13 billion to help public schools cover pandemic-related costs.

In a Wednesday letter co-signed by Rep. Bobby Scott, Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the lawmakers said DeVos' efforts run "in contravention of both the plain reading of the statute and the intent of Congress." Scott is chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Murray is the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

This admonition comes about three weeks after DeVos issued guidance suggesting that private schools should benefit from a representative share of the emergency aid.

Most of the money set aside for schools in the CARES Act is meant to be distributed based on how many vulnerable, low-income students a district serves, the lawmakers said — the same way the federal government hands out Title I dollars. It's an old formula meant to send money where it's needed, including to some low-income private school students in the form of "equitable services" such as tutoring or transportation.

In the Education Department's interpretation of the CARES Act, though, the agency argues that private schools should receive these subsidized services based on how many students they serve overall, rather than just their share of low-income students. This could mean, in places with large private school populations, districts serving low-income students could be required to spend relief money on more affluent, private school neighbors.

In practice, here's what the difference would look like: In Louisiana, under the low-income student formula, the state Department of Education reports private school students would receive services worth $8.6 million of the state's CARES Act relief money. Under the department's broader interpretation, that share would jump to $31.5 million — a 267% increase.

The department's initial guidance, issued on April 30, confused many school leaders, prompting a letter from the Council of Chief State School Officers, telling DeVos that, if the guidance is not revised, it "could significantly harm the vulnerable students who were intended to benefit the most" from the CARES Act relief.

In a letter to New Jersey's governor, the head of the Education Law Center, a policy and advocacy group, calls DeVos' directive "a patent misreading" of federal law and warns that, under this interpretation, Newark Public Schools would have to redirect an additional $800,000 of aid from its own pupils to area private school students.

Tennessee's schools chief has reportedly said she plans to abide by the department's guidance, though other school leaders have been defiant, noting that the directive is not legally binding.

On May 12, Indiana's Republican superintendent of public instruction, Jennifer McCormick, tweeted that, after consulting with her state's attorney general, she would ignore the guidance. "I will not play political agenda games with [COVID-19] relief funds," she said.

Scott, chairman of the House education committee, said in a statement to NPR that "there is rightfully pushback" to the department's position. "The actions of the Department of Education have left states and districts stuck between compliance with the law and adhering to ideologically motivated guidance," he said.

In a statement, Education Department press secretary Angela Morabito insisted the department is in the right: "Congress directed the Department to make sure all students are able to be served through the CARES Act." The statement went on to say, if school districts "were to only count Title I eligible students, they would be placing non-public school students and teachers at a disadvantage that Congress did not intend."

On Thursday, speaking remotely to reporters, the Republican chair of the Senate education committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander, was asked if he agreed with DeVos' interpretation: "I thought, and I think most of Congress thought, that money from the CARES Act would be distributed in the same way that Title I is distributed."

A shipment of medical aid from the United States, including 50 ventilators, appears inside a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster transport plane Thursday at Vnukovo International Airport outside Moscow. Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

A shipment of medical aid from the United States, including 50 ventilators, appears inside a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster transport plane Thursday at Vnukovo International Airport outside Moscow.

Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The United States delivered 50 ventilators to Russia on Thursday, part of a humanitarian aid package worth $5.6 million to help Moscow fight the coronavirus, U.S. officials said.

Another batch of 150 American-made ventilators will head to Russia next week, according to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

In a statement, the U.S. Embassy called the delivery "rapid fulfillment" of a request Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed on recent phone calls with President Trump.

"The United States and Russia have provided assistance to each other in the past, and I have no doubt will do so in the future," John Sullivan, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, said in a video announcing the arrival of the U.S.-made ventilators.

Russia delivered coronavirus-related equipment to the United States in April, which drew some criticism as a propaganda coup for the Kremlin.

The arrival of a Russian plane carrying ventilators, masks and respirators to New York was covered live on the Kremlin-supported RT channel, which described the shipment as "humanitarian aid."

The U.S. later insisted it had purchased the supplies. The Kremlin now says the two sides split the bill.

And the Russian shipment was controversial for other reasons: The Russian-made ventilators included in the deal were produced by a company under U.S. sanctions. U.S. emergency officials said those ventilators were returned after identical models caused two separate fires in Russian hospitals in Moscow and St. Petersburg earlier this month, killing six people.

The U.S. aid delivery comes as Russia reports just over 317,000 coronavirus infections and 3,099 deaths, according to data compiled by John Hopkins University.

The Kremlin has largely portrayed its efforts battling the virus as effective, citing what it considers its low death rate — compared with the U.S., which has the world's highest number of fatalities from the virus — as a measure of Russia's success.

While researchers and critics of the Russian government question the accuracy of the official Russian death toll, they've also lambasted the Kremlin for sending supplies abroad as hospitals and health workers in Russia's far-flung regions complain about critical shortages at home.

In another twist, the U.S. Agency for International Development carried out Thursday's ventilator delivery — the government agency's first mission in Russia since the Kremlin expelled it in 2012.

At the time, the Kremlin accused the agency and USAID-supported Russian nongovernmental organizations of meddling in Russia's internal affairs.

The NCAA is clearing the way for college football, men's basketball and women's basketball to resume on-campus activities on June 1, even as universities map out how they might return to a new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many schools are also facing a sharp drop in revenue that would be made far worse if the upcoming college football season is canceled.

The NCAA Division I Council says college athletes can take part in "voluntary athletics activities" such as workouts in less than two weeks, as long as they can also follow any local restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, such as limits on building capacities and physical distancing. Each school and conference will be free to decide how to safely resume athletic operations, the council said.

The new provision applies to voluntary on-campus workouts, not regular practices. It also says football and basketball players, not coaches, must initiate the activity.

"Coaches may not be present unless a sport-specific safety exception allows it, and activity cannot be directed by a coach or reported back to a coach," the council says in a statement about the decision.

Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, the athletics director at the University of Pennsylvania, says the move "acknowledges that reopening our campuses will be an individual decision but should be based on advice from medical experts."

Months after the coronavirus forced the cancellation of this year's March Madness basketball tournaments and other championships, thousands of schools are now laying out plans for shortened semesters. The virus and its economic toll have forced some colleges to scale back athletic schedules, or cut programs altogether.

Earlier this week, Furman University in South Carolina eliminated its baseball and lacrosse programs, citing a string of coronavirus-related losses that range from millions of dollars in refunded fees, the cancelation of camps and conferences, new technology costs – and a $100 million drop in the value of the private school's endowment.

Many schools and conferences are forming plans to follow safety rules while also continue holding football games – a huge revenue source or colleges and the NCAA. If the 2020-21 season doesn't take place, the 65 schools that make up the Power 5 conferences would lose more than $4 billion, according to a recent analysis reported by ESPN.

National Guard members help load up boxes at a food distribution center at Kingsbridge Armory in New York City last month. Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images hide caption

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Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

National Guard members help load up boxes at a food distribution center at Kingsbridge Armory in New York City last month.

Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Officials in New York City say they plan to deliver more than a million free meals a day beginning next week. The number of people going hungry in the five boroughs has risen sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We're dealing with an unprecedented crisis," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday morning during his daily briefing. "Before the coronavirus, we thought somewhere around a million people were food insecure and needed food. Now we think that number is 2 million or more."

That means roughly one in four New Yorkers face food insecurity. Daily meals will be delivered or available for pickup and will be packaged to reflect many New Yorkers religious dietary restrictions, officials said.

De Blasio has appointed the city's sanitation commissioner, Kathryn Garcia, to serve as "food czar," organizing the nutrition response.

"This is an enormous operation," Garcia said at Thursday's briefing. "It's really nothing like anything that's been done in this city or I would say probably across the world."

De Blasio said local officials have already delivered 32 million free meals since he declared a state of emergency on March 12 over the coronavirus.

The program hasn't always run smoothly. City officials say two contract vendors have been fired for delivering packaged meals that didn't meet quality standards.

"We will hold people accountable," Garcia said, noting that more than 30 organizations and food producers are taking part in the program. "We have made changes to make certain we're getting healthy food to people."

De Blasio said nearly every segment of the city's population has become vulnerable during the pandemic, including the elderly and children. "Think about the working people, middle-class people who were doing everything right and suddenly their job isn't there anymore and they don't have that paycheck and they don't have enough money to feed their family," he said.

The food-support program is expected to cost more than $170 million, including a $50 million plan to build up a reserve supply of nonperishable meals.

Michael Cohen arrives Thursday at his Manhattan apartment after being released from federal prison. John Minchillo/AP hide caption

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John Minchillo/AP

Michael Cohen arrives Thursday at his Manhattan apartment after being released from federal prison.

John Minchillo/AP

President Trump's former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, was released from a federal prison and into home confinement Thursday.

His release comes amid concerns he could be exposed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Cohen, 53, who once proclaimed he "would take a bullet for the president," was sentenced in 2018 to a three-year federal prison term following guilty pleas to a number of financial and political crimes, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress.

He had been serving at a medium-security federal correctional institution in Otisville, N.Y., more than 75 miles northwest of New York City. He was scheduled to be released in November 2021.

It is unclear why Cohen was let out Thursday. His release was originally granted in April but had been delayed.

Video posted by NBC News showed Cohen walking into his New York apartment wearing a white shirt, a dark blazer, a University of Miami ball cap and a white mask.

Last week, another former member of Trump's inner circle — onetime presidential campaign chairman Paul Manafort — was also released from prison due to concerns of virus exposure.

Manafort, 71, was sentenced to prison time by two federal courts.

In 2018, a jury in Virginia found Manafort guilty on eight of 18 counts in his tax and bank fraud trial related to work he did in Ukraine. He later pleaded guilty to two additional felony counts in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr has ordered federal prisons to try to stop the spread of the virus in their system.

A March 26 memo from Barr outlined that one of the Federal Bureau of Prisons' "tools" to help keep prison populations safe "is the ability to grant certain eligible prisoners home confinement in certain circumstances."

The memo said that "there are some at-risk inmates who are non-violent and pose minimal likelihood of recidivism and who might be safer serving their sentences in home confinement rather than BOP facilities."

As of Thursday morning, the Bureau of Prisons said it has released 2,932 inmates to home confinement since late March.

NPR Justice Correspondent Ryan Lucas contributed to this report.

A man walks past mannequins in the windows of a Macy's store in Boston on April 15. The company said its online sales started growing in April, but they "only partially offset" the losses from its stores. Charles Krupa/AP hide caption

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Charles Krupa/AP

A man walks past mannequins in the windows of a Macy's store in Boston on April 15. The company said its online sales started growing in April, but they "only partially offset" the losses from its stores.

Charles Krupa/AP

Macy's losses during the coronavirus pandemic might mount to $1.1 billion in its first quarter. The company's warning Thursday is the latest highlight of a widening gap in retail between big sales of "essential" stores that remained open during the health crisis versus clothing and other "nonessential stores" that had to close.

The preliminary earnings report from Macy's echoed the pain felt at many other department stores and retail chains revealed in the first wave of financial disclosures since the pandemic began.

In a historic collapse, U.S. retail spending nosedived a record 16.4% in April, particularly hammering sales of clothes and home goods. At the same time, the wide shutdowns have been a boon to "everything" stores like Walmart, Target, Amazon and even Home Depot. More Americans turned to these big-box retailers to make fewer but bigger purchases of all their stay-at-home supplies like snacks, video games, office chairs and exercise equipment.

Home decor chain Pier 1, which declared bankruptcy in February, said this week it now wants to close for good. The pandemic has begun taking retailers with previous financial troubles over the brink of bankruptcy, so far including J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus and J. Crew.

Macy's has warned that it might emerge a smaller company from the pandemic, as it had to furlough the majority of its workers and close all stores. On Thursday it said its online sales did start growing in April, but they "only partially offset" the loss of sales from its stores.

In a statement, Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette saw hopeful patterns in reopenings, which the company hopes to mostly finish by the end of June. "With two weeks of results from reopened stores, customer demand is moderately higher than we anticipated," he said.

The story was even trickier for stores without a strong online operation, like discount retailer T.J. Maxx. The company, which also runs Marshalls and HomeGoods stores, said on Thursday that its net loss in the first quarter reached $887 million. But it said that as it began reopening hundreds of its stores, sales at the newly reopened stores were "above last year's."

Victoria's Secret parent company L Brands said this week that overall it lost more than a third of its sales and is looking to permanently close some of its stores. That's despite also running soap purveyor Bath & Body Works, which has seen big demand during the health crisis. The pandemic thwarted the company's plan to separate its flagging lingerie business and take it private.

Department store Kohl's this week also said it lost nearly half of its sales during the pandemic, but that it hoped to recover as stores start to reopen "on a phased timeline," as CEO Michelle Gass put it in a YouTube message this week.

"As we begin to navigate the new normal, the shopping experience at Kohl's will look and feel a bit different than what you're used to," she said.

The company's plans mirrored the approach that many malls and retailers are taking: closing fitting rooms, getting rid of beauty testers, restricting opening hours and how many shoppers are allowed at one time, checking workers' temperature before each shift and putting up protective barriers at counters.

U.S. Could Have Saved 36,000 Lives If Social Distancing Started 1 Week Earlier: Study

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As late as March 17, people eat at a restaurant along Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Fla., several days after President Trump declared a national emergency. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

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As late as March 17, people eat at a restaurant along Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Fla., several days after President Trump declared a national emergency.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Updated at 12:10 p.m. ET

The U.S. could have prevented roughly 36,000 deaths from COVID-19 if broad social distancing measures had been put in place just one week earlier in March, according to an analysis from Columbia University.

Underlining the importance of aggressively responding to the coronavirus, the study found the U.S. could have avoided at least 700,000 fewer infections if actions that began on March 15 had actually started on March 8.

The U.S. currently has more than 1.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, and more than 93,000 people have died from the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

In the analysis, researchers applied transmission models to data drawn from the pandemic's actual course county by county in the U.S. — the worst-hit nation in the world. The main focus of the study was the period from March 15 to May 3, when U.S. states and counties implemented "measures enforcing social distancing and restricting individual contact."

And if restrictions had gone into effect in the U.S. two weeks earlier, researchers found, nearly 54,000 people would still be alive and nearly a million COVID-19 cases would have been avoided.

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11 — an act that had been widely anticipated. Two days later, President Trump declared a national emergency in the U.S. But it took even longer for dozens of U.S. states to order social distancing and shut down business as usual.

March 15 is the day the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against gatherings of 50 or more people for the next two months. But the federal agency also said the guidance didn't apply to schools or businesses. That same day, the governors of Washington state and Illinois – two of the first U.S. hot spots — ordered all bars and restaurants to close. Other cities and states were also moving to shut down social life, and by Monday, March 16, many schools began to close.

If the U.S. had been able to follow social distancing restrictions to the same degree on March 8, the study says, it would have sharply cut the respiratory disease's impact — and the early action would have made a big difference in densely populated and hard-hit areas such as New York City.

The paper says that if restrictions had taken effect on March 8, the New York metropolitan area would have had at least 209,987 fewer cases and 17,514 fewer deaths.

The study was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Morris-Singer Foundation. The researchers' findings are in "pre-print" status, meaning their article hasn't been certified by peer review.

The new analysis finds social distancing has been effective in slowing the spread of the virus, and it looks at what might happen if states or local governments lift those orders too soon — or wait too long to reimpose them.

The researchers say that once counties and states reopen their economies and lift restrictions, the number of daily confirmed cases will likely continue to decline for almost two weeks. That residual benefit from the shutdown, paired with the lag time between COVID-19 infection and diagnostic confirmation, creates "a false signal that the pandemic is well under control," they write.

Citing a persistent vulnerability to the virus, the researchers say their models describe "a large resurgence of both cases and deaths ... peaking in early- and mid-June," even if restrictions are reimposed, just two or three weeks after being relaxed.

"We have to be so responsive and so attentive to what's going on," researcher Jeffrey Shaman tells NPR, "and able to quickly identify when there's a resurgence of the infection in the community and to respond to it quickly and to have the will to do so and not repeat our mistakes."

As of Wednesday, all 50 states have at least partially eased restrictions on businesses, with a mix of policies letting restaurants or stores welcome customers. Many states still have stay-at-home orders or other social distancing policies in effect, and some cities and counties are maintaining shutdown orders.

NPR's Nurith Aizenman contributed to this report.

38.6 Million Have Filed For Unemployment Since March

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A woman looks at signs at a store in Niles, Ill., on May 13. Shutdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic have left tens of millions out of work. Nam Y. Huh/AP hide caption

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A woman looks at signs at a store in Niles, Ill., on May 13. Shutdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic have left tens of millions out of work.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

The United States is still losing jobs at an alarming pace two months after the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

Another 2.4 million people filed claims for unemployment last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That's down 249,000 — or 9% — from the previous week, but still painfully high by historical standards.

In the past nine weeks, jobless claims have totaled 38.6 million. That's roughly one out of every four people who were working in February, before the pandemic hit.

The official unemployment rate was 14.7% in April — the highest since the tail end of the Great Depression. Millions of additional people have joined the ranks of the unemployed since then.

"The jobs numbers will be worse before they get better," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers this week.

A Federal Reserve survey found 20% of people who were working in February had been furloughed or laid off in March or early April. The job cuts were concentrated among lower-wage workers. In households making less than $40,000, nearly 40% said they were out of work.

As high as it is, unemployment doesn't capture the full extent of the pandemic's economic fallout. A new survey from the Census Bureau shows many Americans who are still working have lost hours or seen their wages cut. Nationwide, 47% of all households say their income has declined as a result of the coronavirus. Losses were even higher in tourist-dependent states such as Nevada and Hawaii.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University say nearly half of all accounts tweeting about the coronavirus appear to be bot accounts. Jeff Chiu/AP hide caption

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Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University say nearly half of all accounts tweeting about the coronavirus appear to be bot accounts.

Jeff Chiu/AP

Nearly half of the Twitter accounts spreading messages on the social media platform about the coronavirus pandemic are likely bots, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University said Wednesday.

Researchers culled through more than 200 million tweets discussing the virus since January and found that about 45% were sent by accounts that behave more like computerized robots than humans.

It is too early to say conclusively which individuals or groups are behind the bot accounts, but researchers said the tweets appeared aimed at sowing division in America.

"We do know that it looks like it's a propaganda machine, and it definitely matches the Russian and Chinese playbooks, but it would take a tremendous amount of resources to substantiate that," said Kathleen Carley, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University who is conducting a study into bot-generated coronavirus activity on Twitter that has yet to be published.

Researchers identified more than 100 false narratives about COVID-19 that are proliferating on Twitter by accounts controlled by bots.

Among the misinformation disseminated by bot accounts: tweeted conspiracy theories about hospitals being filled with mannequins or tweets that connected the spread of the coronavirus to 5G wireless towers, a notion that is patently untrue.

Such bogus ideas on the Internet have caused real-world harm. In England, dozens of wireless towers have been set on fire in acts officials believe have been fueled by false conspiracy theories linking the rollout of 5G technology to the coronavirus.

"We're seeing up to two times as much bot activity as we'd predicted based on previous natural disasters, crises and elections," Carley said.

Using a so-called bot-hunter tool, researchers flagged accounts that tweet more than is humanly possible or claim to be in multiple countries within a few hours' period. Researchers say they examine a Twitter account's followers, frequency of tweeting and how often the user is mentioned on the platform in determining whether the tweeter is a bot account.

"When we see a whole bunch of tweets at the same time or back to back, it's like they're timed," Carley said. "We also look for use of the same exact hashtag, or messaging that appears to be copied and pasted from one bot to the next."

A Twitter spokeswoman declined to comment on the Carnegie Mellon findings, but the company says it has removed thousands of tweets containing misleading or potentially harmful information about the coronavirus.

Twitter says its automated systems have "challenged" 1.5 million accounts that were targeting discussions about COVID-19 with malicious or manipulative behavior.

Last week, Twitter unveiled new labels that will accompany misleading, disputed or unverified tweets about the coronavirus, an effort that attempts to tamp down the rapid spread of tweets carrying harmful and false information about the global health crisis.

Where in the world most of the bot accounts are based is still being probed by researchers, though some reports have implicated Russian actors in the spread of misinformation in the U.S. amid the pandemic.

Reuters reported in March that Russian media have recently deployed a widespread disinformation campaign against the West to worsen the impact of the coronavirus to create panic and distrust.

Efforts to fight back against the spread of false information about COVID-19 come just as the federal government and election security experts keep a watchful eye on the November election.

American intelligence agencies concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Experts believe Russian actors will try to influence the 2020 vote as well, including by using social media to amplify their messages.

Carley with Carnegie Mellon said countering bot accounts on Twitter is not a simple task. Blocked accounts can resurface, and the disinformation networks are sophisticated and difficult to completely root out.

She offers this advice, though: Look out for subtle typos, for tweets being sent out very quickly, or profile images and usernames that appear suspicious.

"Even if someone appears to be from your community, if you don't know them personally, take a closer look, and always go to authoritative or trusted sources for information," Carley said. "Just be very vigilant."

Barbers and hairstylists gave protesters a trim in a demonstration against Michigan's stay-at-home orders at the Capitol in Lansing on Wednesday. Abigail Censky/WKAR hide caption

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Barbers and hairstylists gave protesters a trim in a demonstration against Michigan's stay-at-home orders at the Capitol in Lansing on Wednesday.

Abigail Censky/WKAR

A protest in Lansing, Mich., against stay-at-home orders focused on what has become a rallying cry for such demonstrations — haircuts.

The Capitol lawn was turned into a barber shop. At least a dozen barbers and stylists, highlighting the damage to their shuttered businesses, set up card tables and generators to power the clippers, and people lined up.

There were no temperature checks, few people wearing masks, and little to no social distancing. Seven hairdressers were ticketed by Michigan State Police for disorderly conduct for refusing to stop.

Sreeny Cherukuri hadn't gotten his haircut in three months. He said he came out to show his support for small businesses. He said he thinks salons and barber shops are in the spotlight because everyone can relate to them.

"It's one of the places you still have a relationship with the provider," he said. "I don't really know the name of the guy who works at the gas station, but I do know the names of the ladies who cut my hair, so I think that's why it's a touch point."

For protesters across the country, a haircut is a political statement.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, made a statement recently by getting his first pandemic haircut from a hairdresser who was jailed for defying the state's order to close her salon.

A barber in New York drew the disapproval of state officials, after continuing to give haircuts against orders. The barber later tested positive for the coronavirus.

Wednesday's protest was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition, the same group that organized Operation Gridlock in Lansing in April.

This protest was billed as Operation Haircut in support of 77-year-old-barber Karl Manke whose license has been revoked and is now in a court battle with the state after opening up his business during the stay-at-home order.

But some customers and business owners aren't so eager to return to salons and barber shops, even those that will open under strict safety protocols.

Nefertiti Harris, owns Textures by Nefertiti, a salon that caters to Detroit's black community which has been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19.

She said she finds it hard to believe that people are protesting to get their hair cut and to open salons and barbers back up.

"Are they really chomping at the bit to get their hair cut? I mean, are those protests really about that? I question that. I don't even think it's about a haircut at all. ... When you have lost so many loved ones to this disease you think twice," said Harris.

The freedom to make that decision depends on where you live. In states like Missouri and Arkansas, barbers and salons have sprung back to life.

In others, like Michigan, even as remote parts of the state reopen, salons and barbers remain closed, and according to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer are unlikely to reopen even after the stay-at-home order has been lifted.

The 110 Freeway, which is often jampacked with California commuters, saw extremely light traffic in March. Richard Vogel/AP hide caption

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The 110 Freeway, which is often jampacked with California commuters, saw extremely light traffic in March.

Richard Vogel/AP

In March, as states across the country began implementing stay-at-home orders and commuters got off the road, traffic dropped, but a new National Safety Council report finds that the number of motor vehicle fatalities per miles driven increased by 14% compared with the March 2019 rate.

The total number of motor-vehicle-related deaths dropped by 8% in March of this year compared with March 2019, but the number of miles driven dropped by over 18%, because of myriad COVID-19 related impacts.

The National Safety Council analysis counts a fatality as anyone involved in a motor vehicle accident; drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists.

When the council compared the number of fatalities with the number of miles driven in March 2020 to March 2019, that's where analysts saw the 14% spike.

"What really strikes me is the incredible speed of the changes we're seeing on a roadways," Ken Kolosh, manager of statistics at the National Safety Council, told NPR. "Looking at other recessions what you usually see is a decrease in the number of deaths, or the injuries and fatality rate holding steady or decreasing slightly."

The council also found that for every 100 million miles driven in March, there were 1.22 deaths on the road, compared with 1.07 in March 2019.

"When we see the combination of both a dramatic decrease in number of total deaths coupled with a dramatic increase in the fatality rate on our roads, that was very surprising," Kolosh said.

In particular during the first three months of 2020, states such as Connecticut, Louisiana, New York and California saw significant jumps in roadway fatality rates.

The new nationwide data comes as some regional officials have reported that during the pandemic, people have been driving more recklessly and there have been local upticks in car crashes.

The number of pedestrians and cyclists who have been killed by motor vehicles has gone up in recent years. In 2018, the number of both pedestrian and cyclist deaths shattered decades-long records.

Why The Race For A Coronavirus Vaccine Will Depend On Global Cooperation

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A researcher works on the diagnosis of suspected COVID-19 cases in Belo Horizonte, state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, on March 26, 2020. Douglas Magno /AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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A researcher works on the diagnosis of suspected COVID-19 cases in Belo Horizonte, state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, on March 26, 2020.

Douglas Magno /AFP via Getty Images

These days, it seems any morsel of good news about a coronavirus vaccine sends hopes — and markets — soaring.

The reality is, developing and producing a vaccine is an incredibly complicated process — one that is heavily reliant on global cooperation, says Prashant Yadav, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.

Yadav says cooperation is necessary for a number of reasons. For one, "just protecting U.S. population won't be sufficient for us to resume global travel and trade," he says.

Then there's the matter of simple logistics. Assuming U.S. researchers are able to discover a vaccine, the spare parts, components and ingredients that would go into manufacturing it all come from a global supply chain.

Cooperation is also a way for the U.S. to hedge its own risks "in terms of who has the most efficacious vaccine first," says Yadav. "It may well be that it's not a U.S. vaccine, so global cooperation will help on all of those three fronts."

Yadav, who has been working around the world to improve health care supply chains, spoke with All Things Considered on Wednesday about the race for a vaccine. Here are highlights from the conversation.

How is the U.S. doing on the vaccine effort?

So, first thing, I think we have some of the top scientists for vaccine development and for vaccine manufacturing and looking at all of these novel platforms here in the U.S. ... Somewhere along the way we backtracked on global collaboration, which may hurt us in some ways. And then I think there's also efforts being put in place — one notable one is a public/private partnership that Health and Human Services announced a week or so ago to make new technology for syringes and vaccine containers, which will relieve the global supply chain of some of the pressures in glass vials.

So some things are moving well, especially when it comes to things that manufacturing scientists and clinical scientists control. Things which are about making sure that our global diplomacy is working, things that are about making sure that we work with this in a multilateral coordinated manner, those are where I think we see some deficiencies.

Is it possible that multiple countries who are working on this will announce successful vaccines around the same time?

Yeah, so I think what constitutes successful vaccine is somewhat unclear and fuzzy, right? I mean, we may not have a successful vaccine in the sense that it is ready to be used at widespread population level for prevention in a country, but we may have earlier vaccines which are more of our smaller population groups, controlling outbreaks or applicable only in specific age groups, and so on. So I think what is most likely going to happen is that we would have a number of vaccines with slightly varying efficacy profile characteristics around the same time, and then it will be a question of which vaccine does the global convergence circle around or do countries and health systems start paying attention to one or two as compared to just everyone scrambling to get the one vaccine. And that will determine whether the manufacturing capacity can be more distributed or will it be all towards one vaccine.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (left) talks to Vice President Pence as they wait for their lunch at Beth's Burger Bar in Orlando, Fla., on May 20. Chris O'Meara/AP hide caption

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (left) talks to Vice President Pence as they wait for their lunch at Beth's Burger Bar in Orlando, Fla., on May 20.

Chris O'Meara/AP

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is defending the firing of the state's top data scientist tracking the coronavirus pandemic. Rebekah Jones was ousted from her position with the Department of Health on Monday. She says she was let go for refusing to manipulate data to support the state's reopening.

When first asked about Jones' dismissal, DeSantis on Monday called it a "nonissue." He said he understood from an email she sent her supervisor that "she was tired and needed a break."

In a statement later that day to The Miami Herald, DeSantis' communications director, Helen Aguirre Ferré, said, "Rebekah Jones exhibited a repeated course of insubordination during her time with the department, including her unilateral decisions to modify the department's COVID-19 dashboard without input or approval from the epidemiological team or her supervisors."

In Orlando on Wednesday, where he was with Vice President Pence, DeSantis took up the charge of insubordination and attacked Jones' claims that she created the state's highly praised COVID-19 portal. "She is not the chief architect of our Web portal. That is another false statement, and what she was doing was she was putting data on the portal, which the scientists didn't believe was valid data."

Until her dismissal, Jones was the manager of the geographic information system team at Florida's Department of Health. She helped create a data portal that for months has provided easily accessible and detailed information on COVID-19 cases broken down by ZIP code. The Florida COVID-19 dashboard has been praised by researchers in the state and by Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus task force coordinator.

Last week, Jones notified public health researchers in an email that she'd been removed from the project. "As a word of caution," she wrote, "I would not expect the new team to continue the same level of accessibility and transparency that I made central to the process during the first two months. After all, my commitment to both is largely (arguably entirely) the reason I am no longer managing it."

After she was fired Monday, Jones told CBS12 News in West Palm Beach, Fla., that it was because she refused to "manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen."

In Orlando on Wednesday, DeSantis said, "Our data is available. Our data is transparent. In fact, Dr. Birx has talked multiple times about how Florida has the absolute best data. So any insinuation otherwise is just typical partisan narrative trying to be spun."

DeSantis says he has also learned since her firing that Jones faces criminal stalking charges. According to court documents, the charges stem from a relationship Jones had with another student that turned contentious while she pursued a doctorate at Florida State University. "I've asked the Department of Health to explain to me how someone would be allowed to be charged with that," DeSantis said, "and continue on because this was many months ago."

Jones' removal from the project and her subsequent dismissal have raised questions among researchers about the impartiality and transparency of Florida's COVID-19 dashboard.

Ben Sawyer, director of LabX at the University of Central Florida, which is investigating how local health systems are coping with COVID-19 cases, said her ouster is "quite disturbing to me as a scientist and as a citizen."

"Regardless of what you think about reopening Florida, you would like to know what's going on," Sawyer said. "This data is our ability to see what's happening. I think there are enormous questions that arise when you don't know if what you see [is] fair or accurate."

Jones' dismissal has also drawn criticism from Democrats. Congresswoman Kathy Castor, who represents the Tampa area, is asking the governor to provide immediate answers as to why Jones was fired.

"Amidst pressure to 'reopen' the state regardless of data and science," Castor wrote, "transparency is vital to keeping our neighbors safe and ensuring that they have confidence that our government is reporting honestly."

State Senator José Javier Rodríguez from Miami is calling for an investigation by Florida's chief inspector general. "Floridians must have confidence that critical public health information produced and published on behalf of the state is accurate, complete and reliable. It is especially important during this period of economic reopening that decision-makers in the private and public sector — whether they be leaders of institutions, employers or parents — have access to accurate information as they make decisions impacting the lives and livelihoods of our families and communities."

Virginia's Arlington County held its first drive-thru donation for people to drop off unopened and unused personal protective equipment (PPE) for use by first-responders. Tyrone Turner/WAMU hide caption

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Virginia's Arlington County held its first drive-thru donation for people to drop off unopened and unused personal protective equipment (PPE) for use by first-responders.

Tyrone Turner/WAMU

If you were designing a museum exhibit that would explain the coronavirus pandemic to future generations, what would you put in it?

Smithsonian curators in Washington, D.C., are trying to answer that question, even as the virus continues to spread in some states. The National Museum of American History and the Anacostia Community Museum have recently launched coronavirus collection projects. A third effort from the National Museum of African American History and Culture will kick off in June.

Each collection will have its own particular focus. The American History Museum is taking a broad approach: Curators on its COVID-19 task force are putting together lists of objects they want to collect, ranging from handwritten grocery lists and letters from patients to personal protective equipment, test kits and ventilators. Some of the objects will be put on display in an exhibit on disease planned for late next year.

"Obviously those are objects we will not collect until the pandemic has really wound down," said Alexandra Lord, the chair of the American History Museum's medicine and science division. "We don't want to put pressure on supplies."

Object collection is on hold for another reason: The District of Columbia's stay-at-home order is still in effect and the Smithsonian museums and offices are all closed.

"There's a whole set of protocol around artifacts that we can't follow right now," Lord said.

In the meantime, Smithsonian curators are soliciting digital items and oral histories for their online collections.

"Three, five, 10 years from now, we really don't want the human impact of this story to get lost. And so that's what we're really trying to collect," says Melanie Adams, the director of the Anacostia Community Museum, which explores local social change. People in the Washington region can submit digital photographs, videos and written accounts to the museum's new "Moments of Resilience" online collection.

Adams' team will eventually start collecting objects for an exhibit planned for next summer. They'll pay particular attention to the pandemic's impact on the Washington region's restaurant industry and on black and Latino residents.

Curators at the National Museum of African American History and Culture plan to collect objects that tell the stories of black Americans during the pandemic. For the pilot program, they'll ask residents of Baltimore, Chicago, Denver and New Orleans to upload oral histories, images and short videos to an online platform. Object collection will come later, once curators are back in their offices.

"It's important to make sure that those stories from African Americans are included in the record," said Dwandalyn R. Reece, the museum's associate director for curatorial affairs. She said the museum is modelling its current efforts off its work collecting artifacts during the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson and Baltimore in 2014, prior to the museum opening to the public.

Even though object collection can't start yet, the Smithsonian curators are hustling to get the word out about their various projects to keep people from throwing away would-be artifacts. Even a homemade face mask or an empty box that held a shipment of toilet paper could tell future historians a lot about the current moment.

Today's junk, tomorrow's artifact.

Amarillo Mayor: New Testing Data Will Help Track Spread As Rest Of Texas Reopens

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Most of Texas is reopening despite a surge of cases in some places. Ross Lewis/Getty Images hide caption

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Most of Texas is reopening despite a surge of cases in some places.

Ross Lewis/Getty Images

In Texas, as more businesses get the green light to reopen, those plans have been delayed in some areas where the governor says jump in positive COVID-19 cases follow ramped-up testing capacity.

Over the weekend, Texas saw its highest single-day number of confirmed COVID-19 cases — more than 1,800 — since the start of the outbreak. Over 700 of those positive cases were recorded in Amarillo, a spike that officials link to increased testing at the city's Tyson Foods plant.

"We've had a spike in positive test results come back," Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson told NPR's Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition. "But it's because we've had the support of the state of Texas and even the support from the president and recognizing that our meat packing industry is a critical part of our nation's food supply."

President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act as one of several measures to keep meatpacking plants open. To address the surge in positive cases, Gov. Greg Abbott sent a so-called Surge Response Team to Amarillo to provide testing and personal protective equipment to plant workers.

Texas hasn't met Abbott's goal to test 30,000 per day. Still, the Republican governor has begun to lift restrictions on restaurants, movie theaters, salons and gyms. Abbott has postponed the phased re-openings in Potter and Randall Counties, over which the city of Amarillo stretches.

Mayor Nelson thinks the new testing data can help inform decisions on reopening her region safely.

"I think it's important for us to be open as quickly as we can be, but only if we can safely do it," she said. "Some additional testing does help us track where the disease is spreading. That helps the industry track what's happening inside their facilities. I think we'll use that information more strategically."

The novel coronavirus, first detected at the end of 2019, has caused a global pandemic.

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