Mass gatherings are making their way back into US life but may not look the way we remember

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FILE – In a Sept. 2, 2019 file photo, pedestrians walk the Mackinac Bridge on during the 62nd annual Labor Day Bridge Walk in Mackinaw City, Mich. Echoing a focus on safety that led it to bar public traffic from the bridge during the Annual Bridge Walk beginning in 2017, the Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA) on Thursday, May 14, 2020, suspended this year’s event due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/John L. Russell, File)

(CNN) — Gatherings of large groups that have been brought to a halt by the novel coronavirus are starting to make their way back into life in the United States, but they may not look the way they once did and experts question if the public is ready for them at all.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that teams may open their facilities as soon as Tuesday — so long as it is permitted in their state and teams follow staffing restrictions. Players and coaches, however, won’t start to return until next month.

In North Dakota, large gatherings like concerts, weddings, carnivals and graduations soon will be allowed to resume, with adherence to new guidelines, Gov. Doug Burgum announced Friday. Those guidelines include contactless payment, two seats in between patrons and disinfection between uses of equipment.

Florida amusement parks, like Disney World, may soon be opening their doors as well. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order allowing counties to enter phase one of reopening and parks to submit re-opening proposals.

More sports events are coming back, though generally for television and without fans in attendance. NASCAR returns to racing Sunday at Darlington, South Carolina, and UFC has another event Saturday in Florida. Horse racing can resume in New York — without fans — on June 1, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

In Georgia, restaurants recently were allowed to allow tables of 10, and up to 10 guests per 300 square feet inside and outside. Many, though, aren’t going that far.

Cindy Shera, owner of The Pig & The Pearl restaurant in Atlanta, is allowing takeout, and while customers can sit outside, they won’t receive full service.

“I’m … reacting to the customer base that comes and dines with us,” Shera said. “We’re not seeing people running back out into the streets right now. I think you’re seeing that out maybe more in the suburbs. In urban environments … we’re seeing a lot more caution.”

As reopenings continue, the 12 forecasting models tracked by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are predicting an increase in deaths in the coming weeks that could bring the nationwide death toll to 100,000 by June 1. Currently, more than 1.4 million cases and 87,841 deaths have been reported.

Health experts say the best way to protect against the virus still is to stay home.

To help employers, communities and schools make decisions about when and how to safely return, the CDC released a “decision tree” with questions to ask and step-by-step guidance.

WHO urges doctors to look out for inflammatory syndrome in children
The World Health Organization says it is essential to learn more about an inflammatory syndrome that seems to be affecting some children after they were infected with coronavirus.

In a scientific brief released Friday, the WHO described how clusters of patients with the condition, called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, emerged in Europe and North America.

It said there is an “urgent need” to collect more data on the syndrome’s clinical presentations, severity, outcomes and epidemiology.

“It is not yet clear the full spectrum of disease, and whether the geographical distribution in Europe and North America reflects a true pattern, or if the condition has simply not been recognized elsewhere,” the brief reads.

Symptoms include persistent fever, inflammation and poor function in organs such as the kidneys or heart. Children might also have blood vessel inflammation, such as red eyes, a bright red tongue and cracked lips.

The WHO’s brief provided a preliminary case definition, saying the syndrome is typically seen in children up to 19 years old who have a fever for at least three days, and who have some symptoms including rash, hypotension or shock, myocardial dysfunction, diarrhea, vomiting or elevated markers of inflammation.

The condition has been described as similar to Kawasaki disease — another inflammatory disease most commonly diagnosed in children — and toxic shock syndrome.

The CDC on Thursday urged doctors across the US to look for cases and alert public health authorities about any they see.

Hospitals and clinics in at least 18 states were checking into suspected cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, a CNN survey found earlier this week. Cases in at least 150 children have been under investigation in the US, most of them in New York.

British doctors first sounded the alert about the syndrome last month. Doctors in Italy and France also reported the syndrome.

Bill Gates-backed at home testing program on pause
Experts have long said that widespread testing would be an important tool in combating the virus and reopening safely, but an innovative test-at-home program for the Seattle area has been put on pause.

The Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network, or SCAN, provided a swab-based sample collection kit that people could use at home and send in for results. The program was backed by Bill Gates.

SCAN said in a statement on its website that the Food and Drug Administration had temporarily stopped the program.

The test was authorized by the Washington State Department of Health, but the FDA recently clarified that for the program to give users back their results, it would need emergency use authorization.

“There are no issues or concerns with the safety and accuracy of SCAN’s test. Laboratories applying for an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA are often asked to provide additional information to support their test application,” SCAN said.

SCAN said it is still asking people to submit answers to a survey it offers on its website, to continue its work to keep tabs on the novel coronavirus.

An FDA spokesman was not immediately able to provide details.

‘This is not how we treat heroes in America’
The nation’s largest grocery store chain, Kroger, will end its “Hero Pay” hourly bonus to employees on the frontlines for the pandemic beginning Sunday.

The announcement made Friday said that instead, employees would receive a one time “thank you pay.”

The announcement was met with criticism by lawmakers and unions in support of the people who have been deemed essential workers during a time of fear and uncertainty.

“Our message is clear — you can’t end Hero Pay when your heroes are still on the front lines,” six US House Democrats said in a letter to Kroger executives Thursday night.

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President Marc Perrone said in a statement Friday that the union is “extremely disappointed by Kroger’s decision to end Hero Pay,” especially considering that grocery store sales and profits have gone up.

“The simple fact is that the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Social distancing continues,” the statement said. “Kroger workers are still required to wear masks. There is no vaccine.”

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