Coronavirus live updates: Reopening US not ‘a light switch’; Stimulus checks going out this week

It's been one month since President Donald Trump declared coronavirus as a national emergency.

Much has changed since March 13, when there were fewer than 2,000 confirmed cases.

The U.S. numbers have since skyrocketed, with more than 22,000 deaths — more than any other country — and 557,000 confirmed cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.Every major professional sports league in the country has suspended operations.Forty-two states have issued stay-at-home orders.Many national and state parks have closed.The airline industry has crumbled. Tourism has been crippled.

What hasn't changed, however, is Trump's determination to "reopen" the U.S. for business as soon as possible. He plans to announce a new task force Tuesday that will focus on plans to either extend social distancing guidelines or reopen the nation.

That won't be an easy decision, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"You want to make sure you don't do something prematurely and precipitously, but at the same time you pay attention to the need to try to get back to normal," Fauci told CNN's "State of the Union."

Meanwhile, Americans will start to receive their stimulus checks this week. The IRS began depositing money into taxpayers' bank accounts Saturday and will prioritize the first waves of payments for low-income Americans and Social Security beneficiaries, according to Lisa Greene-Lewis, a certified public accountant at TurboTax.

Worldwide, there are more than 114,200 deaths and 1.85 million coronavirus cases early Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Our live blog is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news, and get updates in your inbox with The Daily Briefing. More headlines:

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British PM Boris Johnson discharged, not immediately returning to work

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was discharged from the hospital where he was being treated for the coronavirus, his office said in a statement Sunday.

Johnson 55, will continue his recovery at Chequers, a 16th-century manor house in the English countryside that is the prime minister's official vacation retreat.

“On the advice of his medical team, (the prime minister) will not be immediately returning to work," No. 10 Downing Street's statement said. "He wishes to thank everybody at St Thomas’ (hospital) for the brilliant care he has received."

Johnson was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26 and still had a cough and fever 10 days later. He was admitted to the hospital a week ago and spent three days in intensive care.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is standing in for Johnson while he is sick.

– Kim Hjelmgaard

Dr. Anthony Fauci: Reopening the country 'not going to be a light switch'

In an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Dr. Anthony Fauci said reopening the country was "not going to be a light switch" and would depend on the severity of the outbreak in different areas.

"You want to make sure you don't do something prematurely and precipitously, but at the same time you pay attention to the need to try to get back to normal," he said.

"It is not going to be a light switch," he explained, noting the severity of the pandemic varied throughout out the country.

"I think it's going to have to be something that is not one size fits all," he said. Fauci hoped by the end of April, some parts of the country be ready to start "pulling back," but if they weren't, social distancing recommendations would remain in place.

– Nicholas Wu

Stimulus money begins rolling out

Following weeks of uncertainty, the IRS announced Saturday that the first stimulus payments of up to $1,200 had been deposited into eligible taxpayers' bank accounts.

"#IRS deposited the first Economic Impact Payments into taxpayers’ bank accounts today. We know many people are anxious to get their payments; we’ll continue issuing them as fast as we can," according to a Saturday tweet.

Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 and chose direct deposit for their refund will automatically receive a stimulus payment of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples and $500 for each qualifying child, the IRS said.

Individuals who receive Social Security retirement or disability benefits or who receive Railroad Retirement benefits but didn’t file a return for 2019 or 2018 will automatically receive a payment in the “near future,” the agency said.

The government is prioritizing the first few waves of payments in the coming weeks toward low-income Americans and Social Security beneficiaries, according to Lisa Greene-Lewis, a certified public accountant at TurboTax.

Some Americans were confused following conflicting reports from different corners of the government in recent weeks. The IRS said at the end of March stimulus payments would start being distributed within three weeks.

– Jessica Menton and Joel Shannon

Survey: Americans increasingly pessimistic about the economy

As unemployment numbers continue to rise because of the coronavirus pandemic, Americans' perceptions of the economy are worsening and almost a quarter say they've had difficulty paying rent or their mortgage, according to a new survey.

Sixty-five percent of Americans believe the economy is getting worse – a 40 percentage point jump from four weeks earlier, when only 25% believed it was getting worse, according to the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project with USA TODAY.

In the four weeks between surveys, the economy ground to a near-halt as much of the country was put under stay-at-home orders and non-essential businesses were forced to close. Since then, millions of people have been laid off or furloughed. The Labor Department reported Thursday that about 6.6 million Americans filed unemployment benefit claims for the first time last week, bringing the three-week total to more than 17 million.

Amid the economic turmoil, Americans also are having difficulty paying bills such as student loans or car payments. Those surveyed are also showing an increase in loss of income and job losses compared to roughly this same time two years ago.

– Rebecca Morin

Florida nursing homes ask governor for immunity from lawsuits

Florida's largest advocacy group for long-term care providers is requesting protection from lawsuits for health care professionals engaged in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Florida Health Care Association sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this month requesting "immunity from any liability, civil or criminal" under certain conditions for nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities.

The group is the most recent in a series of health care associations seeking legal immunity amid the pandemic, when hours are long and staffing and equipment are short.

Brian Lee, executive director of Families For Better Care, a non-profit group advocating for nursing home residents, said the letter was the equivalent of "asking for forgiveness in advance."

A recent USA TODAY analysis of federal inspection data found that a majority of U.S. nursing homes (75%) have been cited for failing to properly monitor and control infections in the last three years – a higher proportion than previously known.

– Grace Hauck

More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY

President Donald Trump vs. WHO: We fact-checked three claims.Your guide for COVID-19: What you need to know about safety, health and travel.Wear a mask. Coronavirus might spread farther than 6 feet in the air, CDC warns.Mapping coronavirus:Tracking the outbreak, state by state.

Pope Francis celebrated Easter Mass in solitude at St. Peter's Square in Italy

The cobblestone piazza of St. Peter’s Square was empty Sunday as Pope Francis celebrated Easter Mass in solitude inside the basilica in Italy.

During his traditional Easter address, broadcast online, Francis called for political leaders to give hope and opportunity to laid-off workers, asking specifically for sanctions relief, debt forgiveness and cease-fires, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, churches in the U.S. had similar remote services. Congregants posted photos on social media showing them attending drive-in services from their cars, and a pastor at a Boston church delivered his message to photos of his parishioners taped to the pews.

Some, however, did not follow stay-at-home orders. In Kentucky, state troopers recorded the license plates of congregants ignoring a state order and worshipping in a large group.

At another church in Kentucky, pastor Jack Roberts reported that someone scattered piles of nails around the church's parking lot in the hours before in-person services were set to begin. Roberts held a service Wednesday that drew 40 people – and a health department order to stop holding such gatherings.

Roberts was insistent on holding service Sunday, arguing his parishioners have a constitutional right to worship together, and covered up his license plate.

– Cara Kelly

More coronavirus headlines from USA TODAY

President Donald Trump claims he has 'absolute authority' to 'reopen' the country.It's actually a state-by-state decision, experts say.The economy is getting worse: That's one takeaway from new survey from Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project with USA TODAY.Fact check:Farmers are dumping milk because of change in demand, bottling limitations.Retirement planning in the age of coronavirus:Here what to expect.Coronavirus Watch: Join our Facebook group.

Contributing: The Associated Press


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