States across the nation took even stronger approaches to fighting the coronavirus Friday and President Trump Trump announced new federal actions to try and halt the growing economic chaos from the pandemic.
As COVID-19 continues to dramatically alter lives, the death toll in the U.S. and the rate of infection have begun to climb at alarming levels, with deaths nearly tripling and infections more than quadrupling since Monday. There have been over 10,000 new cases of infection reported in the U.S. since Wednesday night.
Tax Day has been moved back to July and U.S. students won't have to take annual state tests this year. California, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania took bold action to slow the spread and in so doing ordered millions to stay in their homes unless absolutely necessary.
The U.S. has recorded at least 249 deaths and over 19,285 confirmed cases of infection. Four days ago, those numbers stood at 85 deaths and 4,600 cases.
Worldwide, the death toll has topped 11,200, as Italy saw its biggest one-day increase Friday. There are more than 272,000 confirmed cases around the globe, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.
Among the measures Trump announced Friday:
- Restricting nonessential travel between the U.S. and Mexico
- Allowing borrowers with federal student loans to be able to pause their payments for two months without interest accruing
- Enacting the Defense Production Act to get critical medical supplies
The president said, though, he doesn’t see the need for a national lockdown. "I don’t think we’ll ever find that necessary," he said.
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Tax Day deadline moved back
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Friday that the deadline for Americans to file their taxes would be moved back from April 15 to July 15.
"All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties," Mnuchin tweeted.
Earlier this week, the IRS had deferred the payment deadline to July 15 but had left April 15 filing deadline in place.
Staffer working for Vice President Mike Pence tests positive
A staff member of Vice President Mike Pence has tested positive for the virus, although the White House reported that the person did not have close contact with Trump or the vice president.
"This evening we were notified that a member of the Office of the Vice President tested positive for the Coronavirus," according to a statement Friday from Katie Miller, the vice president's press secretary. "Neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence had close contact with the individual. Further contact tracing is being conducted in accordance with CDC guidelines."
The staff member was not identified.
Trump said on March 14 that he had tested negative for the virus. Pence has not been tested.
- David Jackson
US-Mexico border will close for nonessential travel
The U.S.-Mexico border will be closed to nonessential travel to further help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, Trump announced Friday.
"As we did with Canada, we're also working with Mexico to implement new rules at our ports of entry to suspend nonessential travel," Trump said. "These new rules and procedures will not impede lawful trade and commerce." Trump said that Mexico is also suspending air travel from Europe.
The expected announcement follows the closure of the border between the U.S. and Canada to nonessential travel, which was announced Wednesday. Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters the closure would happen at midnight Friday.
– David Oliver
Detroit quarantines more than 150 police officers
Detroit Police Chief James Craig said 152 police officers have been quarantined, including five who have tested positive for COVID-19.
“I’ve never seen anything like this," Craig said during a press conference Friday. "As of right now we have 152 members of the police department that are quarantined. Of that, 130 were ordered to quarantined; 22 self-quarantined."
According to the City of Detroit's website, there are 2,200 total Detroit police officers.
Craig said one precinct was heavily affected due to an event held there. A person who attended did not show symptoms at the time but has since fallen ill.
– Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press
New York governor bans all nonessential travel, gatherings, work
New York is banning all nonessential travel, mandating everyone not critical to their workplace to stay at home and requiring all businesses to shutter if they do not fit specific criteria.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the sweeping ramp up of restrictions on movement on Friday as the novel coronavirus spread through the state, with New York having the highest number of confirmed cases in the nation.
He called it "New York State on Pause," and it takes effect Sunday evening. Mass transit will stay operational and food delivery services will stay open but people were ordered to stay off the streets as much as possible.
"This is the most drastic action we can take," Cuomo said at a briefing. The decision came as the number of confirmed cases soared to 7,100 in New York, up 2,950 in the past day.
– Joseph Spector and Jon Campbell, New York state team
Illinois governor issues stay-at-home order for entire state
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday announced a "stay-at-home" order that will begin tomorrow and last until at least April 7.
Residents will still be allowed to go to the grocery store, walk their dogs and do all essential tasks. All non-essential businesses must close, and all people who can work from home must do so, Pritzker said.
All Illinois schools will stay closed until April 8. Illinois is working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Wal-Mart, and Walgreens to set up drive-thru testing sites in the hardest hit areas of the state, state officials said.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the order "is not a lockdown or martial law.” Pharmacies, grocery stories and clinics will not close. Airports will be open and garbage will be collected.
“This is the new normal, for now,” Lightfoot said.
The Illinois Department of Public Health on Friday announced 163 new cases of coronavirus disease in Illinois, including the death of a Cook County woman in her 70s.
– Grace Hauck
California calls out National Guard to protect food banks
California is calling out the National Guard to help safeguard food banks across the locked down state. Gov. Gavin Newsom had put the Guard on standby earlier in the week.
The COVID-19 virus, which so far has infected more than 1,000 Californians, has led to a decline in volunteers at food distribution sites serving the most vulnerable. Initially, the Guard will deploy personnel and logistical equipment to a food bank distribution warehouse in Sacramento County. Site assessments statewide will follow.
“Food banks provide a critical lifeline for families, and are needed now more than ever,” Newsom said in a statement. “Families across our state are suddenly losing work, and millions of Californians most vulnerable to COVID-19 are staying home to protect their health and the health of others.”
Newsom also said his administration would begin partnering with the online neighborhood community platform Nextdoor to help coordinate efforts to check on and help the elderly and others in need. Earlier this week, Newsom said that without aggressive measures, more than half of the state’s 40 million residents could be infected with the virus.
Air travel has hit a low not seen since TSA was created
The virus has grounded U.S. air travel to a degree not seen since the creation of the Transportation Safety Administration in the months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
TSA reported Friday that only 624,000 passengers passed through its outbound checkpoints on Thursday, as compared to 2.4 million on the same day last year. That number also represents a significant drop from just the week before, when 1.8 million fliers passed the checkpoints.
Earlier this week, President Trump said that airlines would be "No. 1" in line for a possible bailout. "You go from having the best year they have ever had to having no passengers because of what we have had to do to win this war – and it's a war," he said.
Airlines have been inundated with calls from travelers looking to cancel the tickets, only to face long hold times. Most airlines are offering to change bookings or offer credit as they look to keep revenue on the books. Only if a flight is officially cancelled by an airline is a refund in order, travel experts say.
Trump says he put Defense Production Act 'into gear'
Trump said he put the Defense Production Act "into gear" but did not specify how.
"We are helping the states a lot," said Trump, pushing back on criticism from some governors that the federal government isn't doing enough to provide medical supplies and tests.
The Korean War-era power allows the federal government broad authority to instruct private businesses to help meet the needs of national defense. In the case of coronavirus, that means the production of ventilators and protective masks for first responders.
– John Fritze
Join USA TODAY's Facebook group, 'Coronavirus Watch,' dedicated to sharing accurate information, asking experts questions and building community as COVID-19 spreads around the world.
Deaths in Italy spike in biggest one-day increase
Italian authorities announced the biggest one-day increase in coronavirus deaths, a day after the death toll there surpassed China's, where the outbreak began in December.
Italy’s Civil Protection Department said it recorded 627 more deaths Friday, bringing its total number of virus-related deaths to more than 4,000.
Italy is into its second week of a full national lockdown that bars all trips outside except for essential access to food and medical supplies or to care for someone who is sick.
Angelo Borrelli, the head of Italy’s Civil Protection Department, has previously said that the country is expecting to see results from its restrictions two weeks from when the lockdown first began on March 9
One factor in Italy's high death toll is the high median age, which is 47 years, compared to 37 in China and 38 in the United States. Public health experts also believe that Italy acted too slowly to enforce "social distancing" measures.
– Kim Hjelmgaard
Restaurants and bars in California can now sell alcohol to go
A temporary emergency measure in California will allow bars and restaurants to sell beer, wine, and cocktails for pick-up or delivery.
The state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control eased rules that made it taboo to bring beer or wine out of your favorite eatery. Now those establishments in the Golden State have the all-clear to sell and even deliver such beverages – with some parameters. Those include: the drinks have to be in pre-packaged containers with lids, and can only be transported in car trunks.
The order by the state’s ABC reflects the growing concern over the economic fallout of the virus, which has caused non-essential businesses such as bars and eateries to shutter indefinitely. Selling and delivering to-go drinks, from individual beers to bottles of wine, may help some locales to weather the storm.
"We listened to their concerns and said 'Let's work on some regulatory relief where we can relax some the regulations to serve customers,'" said ABC spokesman John Carr.
— Melissa Daniels, Palm Springs (Calif.) Desert Sun
Trump: Student loan borrowers can suspend payments for 60 days without interest
Borrowers with federal student loans will be able to pause their payments for two months without interest accruing, Trump and the Education Department said Friday.
The move is an effort to help those financially affected by the spread of the coronavirus. The suspension will be in effect for at least 60 days, and it started on March 13.
"Right now, everyone should be focused on staying safe and healthy, not worrying about their student loan balance growing," said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in a news release.
Borrowers will have to contact their loan servicers to request the pause in payments. It's unclear how quickly those agencies will be able to respond to those requests.
– Chris Quintana
Orthodox Jewish leaders issue call for social distancing
Leaders of six top Orthodox Jewish organizations told their members Friday to heed calls to isolate themselves despite the inherently social nature of most religious practices.
The announcement, which landed hours ahead of the Jewish Sabbath, is in keeping with similar requests made recently by Catholic and Protestant leaders. Signatories of Friday’s statement noted that “as observant Jews we have an obligation to place supreme value on protecting human life.”
The call from leaders of a range of faiths for their flocks to self-quarantine comes at a time when cases of COVID-19 continue to rise around the U.S. and the world, and leaders increasing lock their cities down.
Earlier this week, New York fire department officials were called to break up a large Hasidic wedding when gatherings are more than 50 people were banned. On Friday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo banned all group meetings of any size.
“It’s very hard to pull the plug of somebody who has three-times-a-day prayer,” said Rabbi Abe Friedman, an Orthodox leader in Brooklyn. But, he added, “I am very proud of the community, which over the past few days has been taking it very seriously.”
– Associated Press
NIH chief: Best response one people would find 'too drastic'
A top U.S. health official told USA TODAY in an interview that the most effective response federal and state officials could take to the coronavirus is one that most Americans would find too extreme.
Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, would not directly comment on whether the Trump administration should immediately order a total national lockdown, such as in Italy, where people are only allowed outside for trips to the supermarket, for medical emergencies and to collect prescription drugs.
But in response to a question about whether the U.S. should adopt the far-reaching restrictions, he said that the "approach we should be taking right now is one that most people would find too drastic because otherwise it is not drastic enough."
He said that the U.S. should be taking "very significant lessons from" places in Asia such as China, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, where "highly activated systems" have been established "to avoid further transmission by having people shelter in place, avoid interactions, hand washing and all the other things that we know make a difference (such as easy access to testing and robust contact tracing)."
– Kim Hjelmgaard
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California, Pennsylvania among states taking stricter action
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a statewide shelter-in-place order. "There's a social contract here. People, I think, recognize the need to do more to meet this situation," he said.
In a letter sent to Trump on Wednesday, Newsom also wrote that, "We project that roughly 56 percent of our population — 25.5 million people — will be infected with the virus over an eight week period."
He also told congressional leaders Thursday that California would likely need more than $1 billion in federal assistance.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all "non-life-sustaining" businesses to close Thursday night. He made the order after being granted extraordinary powers upon his "declaration of a disaster emergency, such as COVID-19."
– Sam Metz, Palm Springs (Calif.) Desert Sun; Shelly Stallsmith, York (Pa.) Daily Record
Stocks stumble after initial rally on coronavirus aid hopes
U.S. stocks flipped between small gains and losses Friday, capping a turbulent week on hopes government and central bank action can shield the global economy from the coronavirus pandemic.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 0.5%, after a relatively modest change a day earlier after wild price swings over the past week. The blue-chip average climbed 188.27 points Thursday to close back above 20,000. The Standard & Poor’s 500 slipped 1.1%. Both were on pace for weekly losses of at least 11%.
The Nasdaq Composite was down 0.4%.
Investors were encouraged after seeing more steps by the Federal Reserve and other central banks and governments to support credit markets and the economy. The Fed said Friday it would extend its asset purchase program into short-term municipal bonds to keep credit flowing.
– Jessica Menton
Reports: Senators sold off stocks ahead of economic crash
Senators are facing backlash for selling in some cases millions of dollars in personal stocks shortly before the coronavirus pandemic sent markets into a freefall earlier this month.
Based on publicly financial transaction disclosures, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., all appear to have sold stock earlier this year.
It also appears the senators made their sales around the time senators received information about the virus.
Burr said in a statement Friday he had made his sales of stocks on Feb. 13 based on "public news reports," including CNBC. He also requested a review by the Senate Ethics Committee Chairman of his stock sales.
Loeffler on Twitter called the reporting "a ridiculous & baseless attack."
– Jeanine Santucci and Nicholas Wu
US military virus cases surge
Cases of coronavirus in the military surged to 124 on Friday, the Pentagon reported. The total from Thursday was 81.
At 5 a.m., there were 67 troops with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, an increase of 16 from Thursday. There were also 26 family members and 31 civilian employees and dependents with the virus.
Three service members and one contractor have recovered.
Meanwhile, the staff for the military’s two, 1,000-bed hospital ships began reporting for duty today. The ships, however, will not be ready to sail for some time. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Fox & Friends that the USS Comfort would not be ready to deploy to New York until April. The USS Mercy, on the West Coast, will be ready sooner.
– Tom Vanden Brook
Census deadline postponed
Citing concerns about the coronavirus, Census officials said Friday workers will begin knocking on doors two weeks later than planned and the deadline for people to respond to the survey will also be pushed back two weeks.
"Even though many things may seem uncertain at the moment one thing isn’t – the 2020 census is here. It’s important to our nation that everyone respond," said Albert Fontenot, Jr., associate director of Decennial Census Programs. "The current situation underscores the need for Census data."
Most Census takers were set to start knocking on doors May 13, but that has been pushed back until May 28. Meanwhile, the deadline to respond to the survey will also be moved, from July 31 to Aug. 14.
– Deborah Berry
Gen Z spring breakers party as beaches close, CDC warns young people
Videos and photos of spring breakers in Florida have poured in, showing teens and young adults wading in the water, partying on the beach and otherwise going through with their travel plans in recent days.
"If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I'm not going to let it stop me from partying," spring break goer Brady Sluder told Reuters in Miami.
As the photos and videos have appeared, some iconic spring break locations have tried to stop the party. The city of Miami Beach closed South Beach until further notice. Fort Lauderdale closed its beaches, too. Clearwater said its beaches would close Monday.
Officials in the Florida Keys and Key West said they would close all hotels, campgrounds, short-term rentals and other lodging establishments as of Sunday, Keys Weekly reported.
In a report published Wednesday, data from the CDC showed younger people can still face serious complications from COVID-19. People ages 20 to 44 accounted for about 20% of U.S. cases that resulted in known hospitalizations, according to preliminary U.S. data. The data were limited and could not account for underlying conditions, the CDC said.
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Contributing: Lindsay Schnell and Steve Kiggins, USA TODAY; The Associated Press