President Donald Trump is set to speak to all 50 governors on Thursday as protests begin to emerge across the country amid a pandemic that has led to millions of lost jobs and crippled the economy.
The White House will issue guidelines Thursday about reopening the economy after Trump noted improvement and the positive impact of social distancing guidelines in hot spots including New York, Detroit and Louisiana.
“These encouraging developments have put us in a very strong position to finalize guidelines for states on reopening the country,” Trump said Wednesday at the White House, adding that some states could reopen before the current social distancing guidelines end on May 1.
In some states, including Michigan and North Carolina, protesters have turned out in recent days because of the economic ramifications caused by the social distancing restrictions. More than 15 million Americans have already lost their jobs, and economists estimate the unemployment rate will surge to nearly 16% by July, higher than at any point since The Great Depression. The next weekly jobless claims report is due Thursday.
The U.S. death toll was nearing 31,000 early Thursday, with more than 4,500 reported deaths over the past 24 hours, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Worldwide, the number of confirmed cases has surpassed 2 million — including nearly 640,000 in the U.S. — with over 137,100 deaths.
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Asian stocks slide after weak US data adds to global economic gloom
Asian stocks were mostly lower Thursday after unexpectedly weak U.S. retail and other data added to gloom about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Benchmarks in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul and Shanghai declined after the U.S. government reported last month’s retail sales plunged by a record 8.7% and factory output fell at the fastest rate for March since 1946. The retail figures hit especially hard because consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the U.S. economy.
The announcements shook investors who economists have warned are too optimistic about a quick rebound from what is shaping up to be the deepest global slump since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
"Boy, were U.S. data a rude awakening," said Riki Ogawa of Mizuho Bank in a report.
Any notion of a "V-shaped recovery" once anti-virus controls are lifted "is now being questioned more seriously," Ogawa said.
CDC set to tour Smithfield Foods plant in South Dakota, a coronavirus hot spot
A team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday will tour the Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which has become the biggest single source of coronavirus cases in the U.S.
Eighty of South Dakota's 180 newest COVID-19 cases are employees of the meat-processing company, bringing the total to 518 Smithfield Foods employees who have tested positive. There are also 126 cases of non-employees who became infected after coming into contact with a Smithfield employee, according to the South Dakota Department of Health.
The CDC team will create a checklist of items to complete before the plant can reopen, Gov. Kristi Noem said Wednesday. Noem said she's working with federal officials and Smithfield leaders to get the plant back online to provide relief for pork producers and the food chain.
– Lisa Kaczke, Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader
Social distancing could be necessary until 2022, Harvard researchers say
With states, public health officials and even President Donald Trump weighing in on when the U.S. should lift social distancing requirements amid the coronavirus pandemic, a study authored by Harvard University researchers paints a bleak picture.
The study, published in the journal "Science," suggests intermittent social distancing might be necessary until 2022 if no vaccine or pharmaceutical treatments for the novel coronavirus are found.
They argued implementing social distancing measures only once could result in a "prolonged single-peak epidemic" that strains the health care system.
"Intermittent distancing may be required into 2022 unless critical care capacity is increased substantially or a treatment or vaccine becomes available," researchers wrote.
– Jordan Culver and Adrianna Rodriguez
China waited a week before warning of coronavirus pandemic, report says
Chinese officials determined they likely were facing a pandemic a week before going public, allowing the epicenter city of Wuhan to host a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people and millions to travel for Lunar New Year celebrations.
President Xi Jinping warned the public on Jan. 20 – after more than 3,000 people had been infected during almost a week of silence, according to internal documents obtained by The Associated Press.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly chastised Chinese officials for withholding and delaying information on the outbreak there that could have saved lives around the globe. Trump has also blasted the World Health Organization, and on Tuesday cut off U.S. funding, saying the group had failed to report accurate information from China during the early stages of the pandemic.
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New Yorkers must wear masks or cloth coverings, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says
New Yorkers will soon have to start wearing masks or cloth coverings over their mouths and noses in public to help fight the novel coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
Cuomo issued an executive order mandating the masks be worn whenever those in New York can't maintain at least six feet of space between themselves and others in public, citing the social-distancing measure taken to limit the risk of infection.
"If you are in public and you cannot maintain social distancing, then have a mask," Cuomo said.
The order takes effect at 8 p.m. Friday to allow people time to obtain masks or cloth coverings to follow the new rules, Cuomo said, adding local authorities will be tasked with enforcing the mandate.
– David Robinson, New York State Team
President Donald Trump's name will appear on paper stimulus checks
Stimulus payments of up to $1,200 per person began hitting American bank accounts Wednesday, and the IRS has launched an online portal that allows people to input their direct deposit information.
For those who require a check, it could be in the mail next week – and will include Trump's name, according to multiple media reports citing Treasury Department and IRS officials. Trump had said earlier this month he did not plan on signing them.
The Treasury Department said a "large majority of eligible Americans will receive Economic Impact Payments within the next two weeks." The goal is to provide as much money as possible electronically rather than mailing checks, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
Chicago is beginning to flatten coronavirus curve, officials say
Chicago, a recent hot spot of the coronavirus outbreak, is beginning to reduce the rate of new daily cases, city officials announced Wednesday.
“... Chicago is beginning to flatten the curve on COVID-19 cases,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a press briefing. “However, we should not confuse improvement with success … we still have a long way to go.”
Chicago’s nearly 10,000 confirmed cases account for about 41% of all cases in Illinois, which is also seeing a lowering rate of new cases, according to Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.
That’s because Chicagoans are staying home, Arwady said. Based on a study of cellphone data, an estimated 80% of Chicagoans are staying home throughout the day, and the number of cases is doubling every 12 days, according to Arwady.
To think about lifting restrictions, Chicago would need to see a “significant and sustained drop” in the rate of new cases, Lightfoot said. But the city still isn't testing “nearly enough people,” she said.
– Grace Hauck
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Contributing: The Associated Press