The  GOP-led U.S. Senate reconvenes Monday, its members donning masks and promising to practice social distancing, while a disputed new report predicts a sobering increase in the number of daily deaths this month in the U.S.

The Senate schedule this week is heavy on reviewing President Donald Trump's conservative judicial hopefuls and other nominees and light on the Democrats' push for another stimulus measure that would include bailouts for state and local governments. The Democratic-led U.S. House, citing health risks, declined to gather Monday.

Also Monday, fashion retailer J. Crew became retail's first big-name casualty of the pandemic, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. But the company said it will continue to provide online sales and hopes to reopen stores when safe.

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Here are the most important developments Monday: 

A new report from within the Trump administration is privately projecting a steady rise in the number of cases and deaths, reaching about 3,000 daily deaths on June 1, according to The New York Times. The White House is disputing the report.  The number of new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and intubations are continuing their slow but steady decline in New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. The Food and Drug Administration announced plans to bolster oversight of antibody tests by requiring commercial test makers to meet new standards of accuracy and submit new information proving the testing quality.  


Good news: Amid a pandemic, teachers are finally getting the respect they deserve. "How most teachers are being viewed right now is right up there with health care workers," said Ruth Faden, a professor of biomedical ethics at Johns Hopkins University. Here are a few of their stories. 

A question you might have: Did the Obama administration send $3.7 million to a Wuhan lab? No, here are the facts. 

NYT: Daily death toll could reach 3,000 on June 1

A new report from within the Trump administration is privately projecting a steady rise in the number of cases and deaths, reaching about 3,000 daily deaths on June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times. The projections, based on modeling by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month, up from about 25,000 cases now. 

The report showed that the rate of test results in Georgia and Florida, both of which have partially reopened their economies, dropped in the last two weeks of April. Public health officials say widespread testing is key to preventing another wave of infections.

The White House, which has been encouraging states to begin reopening their economies, quickly issued a statement challenging the report. The statement says the report had not been presented to the coronavirus task force or gone through interagency vetting.

"This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed," the statement said. "The president’s phased guidelines to open up America again are a scientific driven approach that the top health and infectious disease experts in the federal government agreed with."

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state would enter the second stage of its four-phase reopening this week when some retails stores  

“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.”

FDA tightens standards for antibody test

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday announced plans to bolster oversight of antibody tests by requiring commercial test makers to meet new standards of accuracy and submit new information proving the quality of their tests. The new policy is a reversal of the agency's March 16 policy that allowed antibody test makers to sell their products without the normal step of sharing data with the agency to validate test accuracy. 

The agency said commercial test makers will have 10 business days to submit new data and seek the agency's emergency-use authorization. The agency also will require test makers to meet accuracy, or "sensitivity and specificity" standards.

– Ken Alltucker

COVID-19 numbers differ along state lines

Government officials cite confirmed coronavirus case counts as one of the key factors in weighing a state's ability to safely reopen against the risk of creating a new spike in infections. But those decisions will be based, at least in part, on the faulty premise that each state is testing and tracking the virus with the same diligence, USA TODAY's analysis of counties along state borders shows.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said areas of the U.S. should make decisions about loosening restrictions based on a “data-driven, county-by-county approach.” But each state’s reporting standards and test capabilities vary, and even counties within the same state can differ.  

“We don’t have a good sense of how many people are affected,” said Jorge Salinas, an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa.

Senate to reconvene; House taking a pass for now

The Senate was scheduled to convene at 3 p.m. ET – more than a month since members last gathered – before proceeding to executive session to consider the nomination of Robert Feitel as inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Later in the week judiciary nominations will take center stage. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says senators are essential workers and it's time to go to work. Democrats balked, arguing that convening would put other workers at risk. The Democratic-led House won't be meeting this week.

Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, says it will be interesting to see how many senators actually show up.

"Given the fact that half the senators are 65 (or older), they may be reluctant to return when few safety measures are in place," Tobias told USA TODAY.

Deaths, hospitalization, new cases continue decline in New York

The number of new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and intubations are continuing their slow but steady decline in New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday. Sunday's death toll of 226 marked the lowest toll in several weeks, but Cuomo remained solemn. "That's 226 families" that faced tragedy, he said. The virus has claimed the lives of more than 19,000 people across the state.

"Unfortunately, the decline from the mountain is not as steep as the incline was," Cuomo said, adding that the state will reopen in regions, not all at once. "If upstate has to wait for downstate to be ready to be open, they’re going to be waiting a long time."

Most Americans support voting by mail during pandemic

Two-thirds of Americans support voting by mail as an alternative to voting in person on Election Day during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new poll from USA TODAY and Suffolk University. But while Democrats and independent voters overwhelmingly back vote-by-mail, the majority of Republican voters oppose it. The poll found 65% of Americans support vote-by-mail as an alternative, a greater than 2-to-1 margin over the 32% of Americans who oppose the option.

"I think it shows that people are open to alternative methods of voting, provided that they're safe," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.

– Joey Garrison

Working from home productive, but lonely

Working from home during the pandemic has had a positive impact on productivity, according to 54% of respondents in a recent survey of professionals ages 18-74. Reasons cited included time saved from commuting, fewer distractions from coworkers and fewer meetings. But working from home also comes with terrible loneliness, according to the survey, which was conducted by YouGov in partnership with USA TODAY and LinkedIn.

"Even those that had worked from home on a regular basis pre-COVID were primarily doing it on a part-time basis and not prepared for this massive overnight shift," said Anita Kamouri, co-founder of lometrics, a workplace services firm in Irvine, California.

– Brent Schrotenboer

Hotel association unveils new rules for return of guests

The American Hotel & Lodging Association unveiled safety guidelines Monday to standardize cleanliness when travel become a thing again. 

The report outlines baseline hotel practices and procedures, including but not limited to hand-washing and hand sanitizer use, signage reminding employees and guests regarding how to wear, handle and throw away masks, and intensified cleaning practices for  elevators, front desk check-in stations and public bathrooms.

"It's really an effort to make sure that no matter if you're staying at an extended-stay economy hotel or you're staying at the nicest luxury resort, that there will be at a minimum common standards across the entire industry," Chip Rogers, the association's president and CEO, told USA TODAY.

– David Oliver

Italy eases some of the world's tightest restrictions

More than 4 million Italians returned to work Monday after two months on the sidelines as the nation of 62 million people began to tenuously emerge from its unprecedented lockdown. Construction and manufacturing restarted, although most stores are scheduled to remain closed for two more weeks. The pandemic has claimed the lives of almost 30,000 Italians, but daily death tolls have declined in recent days.

 "I wouldn't like the message to come across that it is all over and that we are starting afresh as if nothing had happened," Health Minister Roberto Speranza said. "Unfortunately, the epidemic is still here, although it is in some ways diminished."

Gold's Gym, retailer J.Crew fall victim to pandemic

Fashion retailer J. Crew's parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, plunged into crisis mode by the impact of COVID-19 on top of an unsustainable amount of debt from a private-equity buyout deal in 2011. As of Monday, J. Crew Group Inc. had 181 J. Crew retail stores, 140 Madewell locations and 170 factory stores in addition to its websites. Company officials said online sales would continue, with plans to reopen stores when it is safe to do so.

The mostly franchised Gold's Gym, which recently closed 30 company-owned locations permanently, said its bankruptcy "will have no further impact on current operations." The brand has nearly 700 fitness centers.

– Nathan Bomey and Brett Molina

Lesley Stahl describes battle with COVID-19

“60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl says she's feeling better after a harrowing battle with COVID-19 that left her hospitalized for a week. The veteran journalist, 78, said Sunday that she was "really scared" as she spent two weeks in bed with pneumonia before going to a hospital. 

"I found an overworked, nearly overwhelmed staff," she said. "Every one of them kind, sympathetic, gentle and caring from the moment I arrived until the moment days later when I was wheeled out through a gauntlet of cheering medical workers."

In her closing Sunday, Stahl paid tribute to medical staff and the care she received: "They were fulfilling a mission, answering the call. Thanks to them, like so many other patients, I am well now. Tonight, we all owe them our gratitude, our admiration – and in some cases, our lives."

– Susan Haas

Delays in road, bridge reconstructions 'a very large concern'

The coronavirus pandemic had prompted a catastrophic decline in state and local transportation funding, which officials say threatens to bring road and bridge construction to a screeching halt for the next year and a half. Governments big and small are postponing projects as roads, bridges and tunnels continue to crumble. Collections of gas taxes and tolls that fuel construction have plummeted as motorists stay home. Despite historically low interest rates, voters and their governments are leery of borrowing because of uncertainty about repaying the debt.

“It’s a very large concern,” said Patrick McKenna, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation and president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “This is a pressing, immediate issue.”

– Bart Jansen

Infection controls at nursing homes could be curbed despite pandemic

The federal government is considering rolling back infection control requirements in U.S. nursing homes despite the heavy toll COVID-19 is having on residents and workers.

A rule proposed last year by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would modify the amount of time an infection preventionist must devote to a facility from at least part time to "sufficient time," an undefined term that lets the facility decide how much time should be spent. The regulation has not been finalized, but CMS last week defended its proposal.

"It makes no sense at all – prior to pandemic, but more so now during a pandemic," said Lindsay Heckler, a supervising attorney at the Center for Elder Law & Justice, a civil legal services agency in Buffalo, New York. "They should be strengthening these infection and control requirements."

– Marisa Kwiatkowski and Tricia L. Nadolny

Home sales expected to plunge; home prices not so much

Home sales will likely plunge this spring in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic but bounce back by the end of next year, according to a new forecast from real estate search site Zillow. Sales will likely plummet by up to 60%, as stay-at-home mandates and overall worries about the economy take the steam out of what was previously expected to be a robust spring home-buying season, according to Zillow's economists and analysts.

But prices will likely experience a much slighter slide and a quicker recovery. Zillow expects prices to drop no more than 3% by the end of this year and then creep back up throughout 2021.

– Charisse Jones

State reopenings: Arkansas, Montana, Kansas take steps toward normalcy

Monday brought a flurry of reopenings across the country, including gyms, fitness centers and indoor athletic facilities in Arkansas and restaurants, bars, casinos, breweries and distilleries in Montana. Kansas will begin a three-phase reopening strategy upon the expiration of its statewide stay-at-home order, and Colorado and Minnesota will begin opening nonessential businesses. Find the latest on your state here.

In California, sparsely populated Modoc County reopened on Friday against the state's stay-at-home order. On Monday, Yuba and Sutter counties will allow businesses including restaurants, retail operations, gyms, hair salons and public spaces such as parks and libraries to reopen, as long as people can follow social distancing guidelines. Yuba and Sutter counties reported a combined 50 coronavirus cases and three deaths as of Sunday afternoon.

– Jessica Flores