Roundup: Everything you need to know about COVID-19 today

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Welcome to the Hill’s daily roundup of coronavirus news.

There are nearly 1.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S., with more than 95,500 deaths. Worldwide, the coronavirus has killed more than 336,000 people. 

Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s authority on infectious diseases, told The Hill he thinks it could be possible to develop, manufacture and distribute millions of doses of a vaccine by the end of the year — with an important caveat that vaccine candidates fail more often than they succeed.

Meanwhile, President Trump said places of worship are now considered “essential” businesses, and told governors they should be open. He threatened to override any governor’s order to the contrary, even though he doesn’t actually have that power.

Here’s what happened today. 

From the administration:

  • Trump ordered governors to allow houses of worship to open immediately, declaring them “essential” to American life during COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued nonbinding recommendations to houses of worship after Trump’s remarks. Jessie Hellmann has the story.

  • Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told The Hill on Friday that an aggressive investment into the development and production of a vaccine against the coronavirus might make it possible to distribute millions of doses as the year comes to a close. Read more from Reid Wilson’s interview here

  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper doubled down on the assertion that the Trump administration will develop and widely distribute a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year. “Absolutely it’s possible,” Esper said during an interview on “Today.” Ellen Mitchell has more.

  • White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said Friday that he expects unemployment numbers to improve in June after 36 million people filed for unemployment in the weeks since March, J. Edward Moreno reports.

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs has used hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus for approximately 1,300 veterans, according to a letter sent to the top Senate Democrat overseeing the agency, but there haven’t been any reports on its effectiveness. Jordain Carney has the story. 

In Congress: 

  • Jordain Carney has an interesting behind-the-scenes story about the considerations senators are making about heading home for Memorial Day weekend. 

  • Extending enhanced unemployment benefits is emerging as a significant obstacle to getting a deal on another round of coronavirus relief legislation, as Republican senators appear divided on the issue. Alex Bolton has the rest of the story.

  • House and Senate lawmakers this week asked for briefings from key federal agencies around a recent alert that Chinese hackers are targeting U.S. research groups involved in developing vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. Maggie Miller has more.

In the states: 

  • States and some companies aren’t waiting for Congress and the White House to work out a possible liability shield and are instead taking steps on their own to insulate businesses from lawsuits in the coronavirus era. John Kruzel has the story here. 

  • The jobless rate exceeded 20 percent in Hawaii, Michigan and Nevada last month, when 43 states hit record-high unemployment because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Labor Department figures released Friday. Niv Elis reports.

  • The Washington, D.C., metro area currently has the highest COVID-19 positivity rate out of all cities across the country, according to White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx. Morgan Chalfant reports.

  • New daily coronavirus hospitalizations in New York are at their lowest level since the outbreak began, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Friday. Read more here from Nathaniel Weixel.

Across the nation:

  • Hospitalized COVID-19 patients who were treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine had a much higher risk of abnormal heart rhythms and death compared to those who were not, according to a large observational study of 96,000 patients. Get more from Nathaniel Weixel here.

  • The Trump administration will send nearly $5 billion in CARES Act funding to help nursing homes respond to COVID-19, which has already killed thousands of individuals in those facilities throughout the U.S. since February. Jessie Hellmann has the rest

Tags Andrew Cuomo Anthony Fauci Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Mark Esper Unemployment
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