10 things you need to know today: May 5, 2020


Several Trump administration agencies are forecasting that the daily U.S. death toll from the COVID-19 coronavirus will rise to 3,000 by June 1. That's nearly double the current toll of 1,750 deaths per day. The prediction is based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention modeling, which previously underestimated actual deaths. The CDC also predicts that the number of new confirmed cases reported daily could rise from the current 25,000 to 200,000 or more by the end of May. The report comes as dozens of states ease stay-at-home orders, allowing many nonessential businesses to reopen for the first time in more than a month. President Trump, who has pushed to start reopening much of the economy, said Sunday the number of U.S. deaths from the pandemic could reach 100,000. That figure would be quickly surpassed if the projections for June deaths hold true. [CNBC, The New York Times]


Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said Monday that his forces had captured two American "mercenaries" involved in a failed incursion launched Sunday in an attempt to topple his government. Maduro said the two U.S. citizens, identified as former special forces soldiers Airan Berry and Luke Denman, worked for a Florida-based security company called Silvercorp USA, whose owner, retired Green Beret Jordan Goudreau, posted a video on social media Sunday claiming to have organized an invasion into the oil-producing South American nation. Maduro said a total of 13 "terrorists" had been arrested. U.S. officials, and the opposition headed by Juan Guaidó, have denied any connection to the alleged plot. [Reuters, The New York Times]


Italy on Monday began partially lifting lockdown restrictions that were imposed on March 9 to contain the coronavirus outbreak. About 4.5 million Italians were able to return to work as the country allowed construction, wholesale, and some manufacturing companies to resume operations. Restaurants reopened, but only to provide takeout service. And parks reopened with social-distancing rules in place. Italy was the hardest hit country in Europe. It reported nearly 29,000 COVID-19 deaths, although the real number is believed to be higher. Spain also started the first phase of its plan to lift restrictions, with small businesses reopening for counter service, and restaurants permitted to offer delivery. [NPR, Axios]


The Supreme Court on Monday began hearing oral arguments over the phone for the first time in history, due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. In another first, the historic teleconference was made available to the public via livestream. The first of 10 cases the court began hearing was a trademark dispute involving Booking.com. The Patent and Trademark Office contends that the internet travel company can't trademark a generic term like "booking" simply by adding .com. The rest of the arguments are scheduled to continue until May 13. Among the other cases are three concerning subpoenas for President Trump's financial records. The process went smoothly on Monday. [The Washington Post, NPR]


Secretary of the Senate Julie Adams on Monday turned down a request from former Vice President Joe Biden for the release of former aide Tara Reade's complaint against Biden in 1993. Biden, now the Democratic Party's presumptive presidential nominee, was a senator at the time. Biden on Friday addressed Reade's allegation that he sexually assaulted her in a Capitol Hill hallway, saying it never happened. He also wrote Adams asking her to "take or direct whatever steps are necessary to establish the location of the records of this Office, and once they have been located, to direct a search for the alleged complaint and to make public the results of this search." But Adams said her office has "no discretion to disclose" any such complaint "based on the law's strict confidentiality requirements." [The Hill, Politico]


California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced Monday that the state would let some retail stores reopen as early as Friday, subject to modifications to limit the risk of spreading the coronavirus. The state will lift its initial stay-at-home order and issue new guidelines allowing stores selling books, music, toys, flowers, sporting goods, and other goods to start offering sales for pickup. He said details of the policy change would be unveiled shortly. "We are entering into the next phase this week," Newsom said at his Monday news conference. "This is a very positive sign and it's happened only for one reason: The data says it can happen." [Los Angeles Times]


Author Colson Whitehead won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction on Monday for The Nickel Boys, a novel about young black men at an abusive reform school. In 2017, Whitehead won in the same category for Underground Railroad, and is now the fourth writer to twice win the Pulitzer for fiction, after Booth Tarkington, William Faulkner, and John Updike. The Pulitzer committee called The Nickel Boys a "spare and devastating exploration of abuse at a reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida that is ultimately a powerful tale of human perseverance, dignity, and redemption." The prizes were announced from the living room of Pulitzer administrator Dana Canedy, after being postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. [BBC News]


Intelligence shared between the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand indicates that it's "highly unlikely" the coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan, China, two officials told CNN on Monday, citing an intelligence assessment. The countries make up the Five Eyes alliance, and two officials said the nations are uniting around the assessment. One Western diplomat told CNN the intelligence points to the coronavirus outbreak coming from a market in Wuhan, and it's "highly likely it was naturally occurring and that the human infection was from natural human and animal interaction." Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has claimed there is "enormous evidence" the coronavirus spread as a result of a lab accident. [CNN]


An Amazon vice president, Tim Bray, said Monday that he had quit his job at the online retail giant "in dismay" over the company's decision to fire some workers who protested workplace safety during the coronavirus pandemic. Bray, an engineer, was vice president of the company's cloud computing arm, and before that of Amazon Web Services. Bray criticized the firings of Staten Island warehouse protest leader Christian Smalls, and Maren Costa and Emily Cunningham, who circulated a petition in March calling on Amazon to expand sick leave. Smalls' case is being investigated by New York's attorney general. Bray said the fired workers were whistle-blowers, and that their dismissal was "evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture." [The New York Times]


Former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula, who led the team to the NFL's only undefeated season, died peacefully at his home on Monday. He was 90. Shula won a league record 347 games as head coach of the Baltimore Colts and the Dolphins. The unprecedented and unmatched 17-0 season in 1972 culminated with a 14-7 Super Bowl victory over the Washington Redskins. The team won a second straight championship the following year, beating the Minnesota Vikings 24-7 in Super Bowl VIII. That was the team's third straight Super Bowl appearance, following a loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI. Shula also led the team to two other championship games, both losses, later in his more than two decades in Miami. He also led the Colts to an appearance in Super Bowl III, which they lost to the New York Jets. [ESPN, CNN]

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