WASHINGTON — Updates continue for Friday, April 3, at this link.
Key updates for Thursday, April 2nd.
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee extended orders to keep non-essential businesses closed until May 4.
- North Korea says only around 500 people remain under coronavirus quarantine in the country.
- New England Patriots' team plane has returned from China with most of an order of 1 million masks.
- The White House doctor said President Trump was tested again for coronavirus, and his results came back negative.
- Confirmed cases of the virus worldwide passed 1 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.
- An FBI hoarding and price gouging task force recently found 192,000 N-95 masks and are shipping the products to New York and New Jersey.
- The U.S. death toll passed 5,000 late Wednesday night, less than 24 hours after passing the 4,000 mark. Total worldwide cases were likely to reach 1 million Thursday.
- From Wednesday's blog: Treasury and IRS announce those who receive Social Security benefits and are not typically required to file tax returns will not need to file a "simple tax return" to receive a stimulus payment.
Worldwide, the total number of COVID-19 cases was 1,015,403 shortly after 10:30 p.m. EDT Thursday. There have been 53,030 deaths worldwide and 210,579 recoveries.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. was more than 245,000 Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. death toll was at 5,949, passing the 5,000 mark less than 24 hours after reaching 4,000. More than 1,500 of those are in New York City. Over 9,000 people in the U.S. have recovered.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Alabama county received 5,000 rotted masks from national stockpile
More than 5,000 medical masks that Montgomery County received from the national stockpile were rotted, the local emergency management director said Thursday. States and cities are receiving shipments from the National Strategic Stockpile to try to relieve shortages in medical equipment because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Christi Thornton, the city/county emergency management director, said the shipment of 5,880 procedure masks received last week were unusable because of dry rot. The masks had a 2010 expiration date, according to the city’s response to a survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Thornton said they received a replacement shipment Wednesday. Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, said Wednesday that he is extraordinarily concerned about hospitals’ dwindling levels of personal protective equipment.
U.S. Sen. Doug Jones urged the governor to follow the lead of surrounding states and issue a stay-at-home order to residents, as deaths in Alabama continued to mount. Alabama has more than 1,200 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. There have been 32 COVID-19 deaths reported to the state; health officials have so far confirmed 17 of them.
Nearly 25% of Hawaii's workers apply for unemployment
Nearly one-quarter of Hawaii’s workers applied for unemployment benefits last month as social distancing measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus socked the economy.
The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said 160,929 unemployment claims were filed during March. Of those, 10,495 were duplicates.
The state's labor force has generally numbered around 660,000 for much of the past year.
U.S. Department of Labor statistics showed initial unemployment claims in Hawaii for the week through March 28 totaled 48,861 people.
A University of Hawaii economist told lawmakers this week he expected the state's unemployment rate will peak at about 25 percent in the April-June quarter as social distancing measures to contain the virus take a toll on the economy. But he said predictions were difficult to make because it's not clear how long the effects of the pandemic would last.
North Korea says only 500 still quarantined
North Korea says only around 500 people remain under coronavirus quarantine in the country after authorities in recent weeks released thousands of others who supposedly had no symptoms.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said Friday the country will continue to strengthen its anti-virus campaign amid the global spread of COVID-19.
The agency says officials during a recent national emergency meeting shared criticism over unspecified areas where quarantine controls had become passive.
The report didn’t say whether any of those remain under quarantine were foreigners.
Washington state stay-at-home order extended through May 4
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday extended orders to keep non-essential businesses closed and most of the state’s more than 7 million residents home through May 4, saying social distancing measures must remain in place an additional month to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.
In recent days, Inslee had been signaling that his initial stay-at-home orders from March 23 — which were set to expire next week — would be extended. The new proclamation, announced during a news conference, extends the original order from two weeks to six weeks. Under previous actions taken by Inslee in response to the coronavirus outbreak, all bars, dine-in restaurants, entertainment and recreation facilities have been closed even longer, since March 17.
He said the state’s efforts to date have been robust “but we have an obligation to ourselves and to our loved ones to recognize this is a hard road ahead of us.”
Patriots' pane returns from China with shipment of masks
The New England Patriots' private team plane returned to Boston from China carrying most of an order of 1 million masks critical to health care providers fighting to control the spread of the coronavirus.
“This shipment comes at a critical time as we prepare for an anticipated surge in the coming weeks ahead,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said. “What we were able to accomplish with this particular mission will go a long way forward in this fight.”
Baker secured the N95 masks from Chinese manufacturers, but had no way of getting them to the U.S. Baker said Thursday an earlier order for 3 million masks had been confiscated at the Port of New York and this time he wanted a direct humanitarian delivery to the state.
In an interview with Patriots.com radio Thursday, Kraft Sports and Entertainment chief operating officer Jim Nolan said the Chinese government didn’t sign off on the trip until March 27. He said the hurdles included legal logistics that were only cleared thanks to cooperation involving multiple state, U.S. and international entities. Nolan said the Patriots received permission to land in China and got a waiver of a 14-day quarantine because the pilots didn’t get off the plane.
Baker said some masks will go to New York and Rhode island. The story was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Trump considers intervening to stop some inmates' release
President Donald Trump is considering intervening to stop the release of some prisoners amid the coronavirus pandemic. Correctional facilities in states such as California, Michigan and Pennsylvania have begun releasing certain inmates as the prisons face a shortage of medical supplies.
Trump said Thursday that “we don’t like it.” The president added that “we’re looking to see if I have the right to stop it in some cases.” He did not elaborate what measures, or under what legal authority, he would take to stop or reverse the releases.
White House says not enough people following guidelines
White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx says incoming infection data suggests not enough Americans are abiding by guidelines in the national “call to action” to stem the spread of the virus.
Administration officials say the United States' infection and death rate from the virus is akin to what hard-hit Italy is facing. Italy has a population of about 60 million and has recorded nearly 14,000 deaths and 115,000 infections. The United States, with a population of about 327 million, has recorded more than 5,800 deaths and more than 240,000 infections.
Birx noted that Spain, Italy, France, and Germany have begun “to bend their curves.” But she says Americans will need to do a better job abiding by social distancing guidelines issued by the White House so the U.S. can do the same.
The White House issued its social distancing guidelines on March 16. Americans were advised to work from home when possible, cancel onsite learning and frequently wash hands.
Crackdown pledged on black-market medical gear
President Donald Trump’s administration is looking to crack down on a growing black market of medical supplies.
The national Defense Production Act policy coordinator, Peter Navarro, says there is a "black market springing up" to drive up prices of protective gear.
He said the federal government would step in to stop the practice.
But Trump added that states would remain the primary purchaser of medical supplies and that the federal government would remain in a backup role.
President Donald Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act to rapidly expand domestic manufacturing of N95 protective masks by Minnesota-based by 3M to assist first responders.
Trump admin moves toward promoting broader use of face masks
The Trump administration is formalizing new guidance to recommend that many, if not all, Americans wear face coverings when leaving home, in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
The recommendations were still being finalized Thursday and would apply at least to those who live in areas hard-hit by community transmission of the virus. A person familiar with the White House coronavirus task force’s discussion said they will suggest that non-medical masks, T-shirts or bandanas be used to cover the nose and mouth when outside the home.
Medical-grade masks would be reserved for those dealing directly with the sick.
White House doctor: President Trump tested negative for COVID-19
The White House doctor announced President Trump took another COVID-19 test. His results came back negative.
A release from Sean Conley said, "This morning, the President was tested for COVID-19, utilizing a new, rapid point-of-care test capability. He is healthy and without symptoms. Sample collection took just one minute, and the results were reported back in 15 minutes."
White House to start small business loan program
The White House says it is prepared to launch a $350 billion lending program on Friday that is intended to help struggling small businesses that have been affected by the coronavirus catastrophe.
Small Business Administration administrator Jovita Carranza said the paycheck protection program will help small companies keep employees on payroll and remain afloat.
Lenders have raised concerns that they won’t be able to handle the crush of applications as businesses scurry for a cash infusion and help to keep employees on the payroll. The Labor Department announced that unemployment claims soared to 6.6 million last week, more than double the previous week.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration decided to raise interest rates to 1% instead of 50 basis points to make the program more attractive to community lenders.
NYC mayor urges people to cover faces in public
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio has asked New Yorkers to wear a face covering when they go outside and will be near other people.
He cited research showing asymptomatic people could be spreading the coronavirus without realizing it. De Blasio said at a press briefing that until now, “there just wasn’t evidence” to support the move.
“When you put on that face covering, you’re protecting everyone else,” he said.
The mayor said it could be a scarf or a bandanna or anything homemade, but it should not be a surgical mask needed by front-line medical workers.
A recent study by researchers in Singapore became the latest to estimate that somewhere around 10% of new infections may be sparked by people who carry the virus but have not yet suffered its flu-like symptoms.
In response to that study and others, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed how it defined the risk of infection for Americans. The agency’s new guidance targeted people who have no symptoms but were exposed to others with known or suspected infections. It essentially says that anyone may be a carrier, whether that person has symptoms or not.
Biden wants to talk to Trump about lessons from past crises
Joe Biden says he wants to speak with President Donald Trump in the hope that the president can “learn some lessons” from the Obama administration on how to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
Biden’s aides have said they’re working to arrange a phone call with Trump to address his coronavirus response. The president said Wednesday that he would “love” to speak with the former vice president, who is Trump's prospective Democratic challenger in the 2020 election.
Biden said he hoped in particular that Trump would expand the use of the Defense Production Act, which would shift U.S. manufacturing capabilities to focus on creating urgently needed medical supplies.
NASCAR delays next-generation car until 2022
NASCAR has delayed the debut of its next-generation stock car that was scheduled to hit the track next season.
The car will now be delayed until 2022 because the coronavirus pandemic has slowed development.
The Next Gen project has been years in the works as an industry-wide collaboration to cut costs and improve competition.
'Top Gun Maverick' postponed to December due to coronavirus
Hollywood's summer movie season is all but finished. “Top Gun Maverick” is the latest would-be blockbuster to be rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Paramount Pictures on Thursday announced that “Top Gun Maverick" will now open Dec. 23 instead of June 24.
“Top Gun Maverick" follows an exodus of the big-budget spectacles that annually land in theaters in summertime. Most of the season's top movies have in the last week have departed the summer, including “Wonder Woman 1984," “Black Widow" and “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.”
Last year, summer ticket sales accounted for $4.3 billion in U.S. and Canadian theaters.
South Carolina to give 1st responders virus address data
South Carolina public health officials are creating a statewide database of addresses of known positive COVID-19 cases, a secure tool only made available to first responders who have argued the information could help protect them.
Although solely intended for the emergency response community, it’s also a step toward the release of more specific information about the location of infections that officials have come under fire for resisting.
The online matrix, according to Nick Davidson, acting director of public health for the Department of Health and Environmental Control, comes in response to local officials' complaints that first responders were being left potentially vulnerable to the disease and also needed that information to conserve protective gear, which is in short supply.
Reese Witherspoon's company gives away free dresses to teachers
Reese Witherspoon's company Draper James announced on social media that it will be giving away free dresses to teachers.
The company said, "We want to say thank you. During quarantine, we see you working harder than ever to educate our children."
Click here to apply to get a free dress. The offer is valid until April 5, at 11:59 p.m. Easter Time.
FBI task force finds large supply of PPE
The Justice Department says it is distributing about 192,000 N-95 masks to frontline medical workers in New York and New Jersey that were found during an investigation by the new coronavirus hoarding and price gouging task force
Officials say the masks, gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer and other personal protective equipment were found by the FBI on March 30. The Justice Department says it notified the Department of Health and Human Services, which compelled the supplies be turned over as part of the Defense Production Act.
Agents also found nearly 600,000 medical-grade gloves, 130,000 surgical masks, some N100 masks and disinfectant spray and towels.
Authorities said the owner would be paid “fair market value” for the supplies. The equipment is being sent to officials with the New York city and state health departments and the New Jersey Department of Health.
6.6 million seek US jobless aid as layoffs mount
More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, far exceeding a record high set just last week, a sign that layoffs are accelerating in the midst of the coronavirus.
The job cuts are mounting against the backdrop of economies in the United States and abroad that have almost certainly sunk into a severe recession as businesses close across the world. Last week's figure is much higher than the previous record of 3.3 million reported for the previous week. The surging layoffs have led many economists to envision as many as 20 million lost jobs by the end of April.
UK's Johnson still has symptoms of coronavirus
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is still showing symptoms almost a week after he announced he had the new coronavirus.
Johnson’s spokesman says the prime minister “continues to have mild symptoms.”
Johnson said Friday he had tested positive for COVID-19 after developing a fever and a cough. He said he was following U.K. health officials’ advice to self-isolate for seven days.
That period is almost up.
Spokesman James Slack did not confirm whether Johnson would end his quarantine. Slack said the prime minister is following "the best medical and scientific advice” about when to end his quarantine.
Europe's hospitals running out of ICU meds
Nine leading European university hospitals are warning they will run out of essential medicines needed for COVID-19 patients in intensive care in less than two weeks as they are increasingly crushed by the pandemic.
The European University Hospital Alliance said that without countries cooperating to ensure a steady supply of drugs, doctors and nurses might no longer be able to provide adequate intensive care for people critically ill with the virus. In a statement this week, the group wrote that the hardest-hit hospitals are likely to run out of their essential medicines in two days.
Patriots plane to carry one million masks from China to US
The New England Patriots' team plane will reportedly be carrying masks from China to the US.
In a tweet, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker thanked Robert Kraft and "several dedicated partners" for their teamwork. He said the state is set to receive more than one million N95 masks for front-line workers.
Study doubles Italian province's virus deaths
A new study quantifying the hidden toll from coronavirus in the province of Bergamo, at the epicenter of Italy’s epidemic, has found that the number of deaths linked to the virus is double the official tally.
The study by the daily L’Eco di Bergamo with the InTwig data analysis agency puts the number of virus deaths last month at 4,500, compared with the official toll of 2,060, in the province of 1.1 million people.
Mayors have warned that the official numbers fail to take into account the many people dying at home or in rest homes who have never been tested for the virus. Under current policies, only those who arrive at hospitals manifesting strong symptoms are tested.
Ali Wentworth, wife of ABC's Stephanopoulos, has COVID-19
Comedian Ali Wentworth, wife of ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, says she has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
"I’ve never been sicker. High fever. Horrific body aches. Heavy chest. I’m quarantined from my family. This is pure misery," Wentworth wrote on Instagram Wednesday. The post included a picture of her lying in bed with her dog.
Stephanopoulos reportedly said Wednesday he would broadcast from home after Wentworth developed symptoms.
Wentworth may be best known as a cast member of the 1990s FOX sketch comedy series "In Living Color."
Australia to offer child care during pandemic
Australia’s government will offer parents free child care from next week in a bid to keep 13,000 child care centers open during the coronavirus pandemic and to prevent workers staying home to look after children.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday one million families would benefit from the subsidies expected to cost 1.6 billion Australian dollars ($973 million) over three months.
Parents are increasingly keeping children home from schools and child care centers due to the risk of COVID-19 and several child care centers have closed their doors due to dwindling revenue.
Report: British Open golf tournament may be canceled
One day after Wimbledon announced it was canceling the famed tennis tournament for the first time since World War II, the British Open golf tournament may make the same move.
Golf Digest, citing multiple sources, reports the R&A is expected to cancel the tournament as early as Thursday. The sources say the R&A was awaiting the decision on Wimbledon first.
The tournament, formally known as The Open Championship, is set to begin July 16 at Royal St. George's Golf Club.
3,000 sailors to leave aircraft carrier
Nearly 3,000 sailors aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier where the coronavirus has spread will be taken off the ship by Friday, Navy officials said as they struggle to quarantine crew members in the face of an outbreak.
So far, fewer than 100 of the nearly 5,000 sailors assigned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt, now docked in Guam, have tested positive for the virus, but the Navy is moving sailors into various facilities and probably will begin using hotel rooms in the coming days. Navy leaders are talking with government officials in the U.S. territory to identify rooms for the crew members.
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, however, made it clear Wednesday that while several thousand will leave the ship, other sailors will remain on board in order to continue to protect the ship and run critical systems.
Coronavirus fraud complaints to government surge
The Federal Trade Commission says consumer complaints related to the coronavirus have surged. The FTC said Tuesday it has received 7,800 complaints since the start of the year and about half of those came in just the past week.
"The top categories of coronavirus-related fraud complaints include travel and vacation related reports about cancellations and refunds, reports about problems with online shopping, mobile texting scams, and government and business imposter scams," the FTC said in a statement.
Reported coronavirus-related scam losses by consumers reached a total of $4.77 million, with a reported median loss of $598.
Gun background checks set new record
Background checks required to buy firearms have spiked to record numbers in the past month, fueled by a run on guns from Americans worried about their safety during the coronavirus crisis.
According to figures from the FBI, 3.7 million background checks were done in March — the most for a single month since the system began in 1998. It eclipsed the previous record, set in December 2015, when 3.3 million checks were conducted.
Background checks are the key barometer of gun sales, but the FBI's monthly figures also incorporate checks for firearm permits that are required in some states. Each background check also could be for the sale of more than one gun.
Army of health care volunteers in New York
An army of health care workers heeded New York’s call for help reinforcing hospitals overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic.
So far, at least 82,000 people have volunteered for the state’s reserve force of medical workers — a group that includes recent retirees returning to work, health care professionals who can take a break from their regular jobs and people between gigs, according to health officials.
By Thursday, hospitals expect to hire about 1,500 volunteers to rescue a medical workforce that needs relief, particularly in New York City.
Health care workers who have hit the ground already, many brought in by staffing agencies, discovered a hospital system in danger of being overwhelmed.