Some states are moving slowly towards reopening their economies while others are moving more quickly to reopen.
President Donald Trump was scheduled to mark National Nurses Day on Wednesday with a proclamation honoring thousands of nurses who have been on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis that has now killed more than 71,000 Americans.
The Oval Office ceremony comes one day after Vice President Mike Pence announced plans to wind down administration’s coronavirus task force as early as this month, despite little indication the pandemic is easing nationwide. Only 12 states are currently showing a sustained case reduction while 15 have experienced sustained increases.
U.S. stocks continued their recent surge Wednesday, but the economy is in crisis, with an April jobs report due Friday expected to reflect the worst month ever for the nation’s workers.
There were more than 1.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. early Wednesday, according to the John Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, the virus has killed over 257,000 people and infected more than 3.6 million.
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Here are some of the most important developments to start Wednesday:
What we’re talking about: The New York City health department says children have presented symptoms of the mysterious Kawasaki disease, raising concerns about a COVID-19 link. Here’s what we know about the rare inflammatory condition.
April jobs report expected to be worst in history
The April jobs report due out Friday will likely reveal the highest U.S. unemployment rate on record at 15% to 20%, but even that figure will probably understate the scale of joblessness across the nation. Some economists reckon that one-third or more of Americans who were laid off in the weeks leading up to the Labor Department’s April jobs survey aren’t even looking for work and so aren’t counted as unemployed. A silver lining: Jacob Oubina, senior economist at RBC Capital Markets, foresees unemployment tumbling to 4% by December if the country manages to dodge a second virus wave. And all those layoffs?
“I think it’s all temporary,” he says.
– Paul Davidson
Trump to mark National Nurses Day with proclamation
President Donald Trump will honor the nation’s nurses Tuesday, signing a proclamation in the Oval Office marking National Nurses Day. Perhaps more relevant to nurses are a long list of freebies and great deals offered by businesses across the nation. Dunkin’ is offering a medium hot or iced coffee and a free doughnut to all health care workers who stop by. Chipotle is offering free burritos. Many deals are available all week – it’s also National Nurses Week, which ends May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale (in 1820). These superheroes may not wear capes – but they do wear masks.
US stocks open higher on post-coronavirus hopes
Dow Jones, S&P 500 and Nasdaq stocks opened all solidly higher Wednesday, building on Tuesday gains. Asian stock markets were mixed Wednesday as hopes for a global economic recovery rose after more governments eased anti-coronavirus controls.
Investors are increasingly optimistic as European countries and some U.S. states allow businesses to reopen despite warnings that coronavirus infections are still rising in areas such as Brazil and that economic recovery could be some way off. President Donald Trump, running for reelection in the midst of a slump that has thrown more than 30 million Americans out of work, was asked in an interview with ABC News whether there might be fatalities as curbs are eased. Trump acknowledged that “it’s possible there will be some.”
New York may hold Democratic primary after all
New York must hold its Democratic primary on June 23, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled late Tuesday. Judge Analisa Torres ruled that canceling it would be unconstitutional and take away the ability of the candidates to receive delegates for the party’s convention in August. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of former presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang, who argued in a lawsuit April 28 that it was illegal for New York to cancel the primary. The state’s Democratic election commissioners argued it was best to end the presidential primary due to the coronavirus pandemic. No decision on a possible appeal of the ruling had been announced.
– Joseph Spector
Projections rise for US death toll
Despite weeks of mitigation efforts to varying degrees across the nation, only 12 states are currently showing a sustained case reduction and another 15 have experienced sustained increases.
A data model from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has doubled its national death projection, to 134,475, by Aug. 4. And a new model from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania projects almost 117,000 deaths by June 30 – up from 71,000 – even without states reopening. If states fully reopened, the death toll would rise to a staggering 466,000 by the same date, the model predicts.
“It’s a real possibility that … the virus will continue to spread indefinitely,” Penn Wharton senior analyst John Ricco said. “Inadequate social distancing, whether as a result of official restrictions or noncompliance, is likely to blame.”
– Jorge L. Ortiz
Mutations of virus could be worse than strain from China
The coronavirus, which originated in China, is mutating as it spreads across the planet, with a strain that may first have appeared in Europe becoming dominant in many areas. Researchers are trying to determine how the strains differ and whether the newer ones cause more severe illnesses. One potentially alarming study posted April 30 from Los Alamos National Laboratory found 14 mutations of virus circulating – and warned that several had characteristics that could make them more infective.
“That could explain why we’re seeing such different outcomes between San Francisco and New York City,” said Alan Wu, chief of the clinical chemistry laboratory at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.
– Elizabeth Weise
Trump doesn’t wear face mask at Arizona PPE plant
As he toured a mask manufacturing facility in Arizona, President Donald Trump declined to wear a face mask. He wore eye goggles as he toured the Honeywell aerospace plant, even though he suggested earlier he would wear a mask. At least one sign posted in the facility read “face mask required in this area” and many of the workers in the facility were wearing masks.
– David Jackson, John Fritze and Michael Collins
More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY
Dallas salon owner who defied coronavirus restrictions sent to jail
A salon owner in Texas was sentenced to seven days in jail on Tuesday for reopening in defiance of the state’s coronavirus restrictions.
Shelley Luther, owner of Salon a la Mode, was fined to $7,000 for ignoring a restraining order from a state district judge and reopening her salon April 24, according to the Dallas Morning News. She also received a cease-and-desist letter from County Judge Clay Jenkins on Friday. She ripped up the letter the next day at a rally.
“Come and get it, Judge Clay Jenkins. Come and get it,” she said at the time, the Morning News reported. “You have rights to feed your children and make income. And anyone that wants to take away those rights is wrong.”
Luther said she reopened the salon while following social distancing guidelines, but the city attorney argued that it didn’t matter because Luther defied the judge’s temporary restraining order.
– Jessica Flores
Many Starbucks stores will reopen this week after closing amid coronavirus
As COVID-19 restrictions ease in more cities and states, Starbucks plans to reopen 85% of its U.S. coffee shops but with new protocols such as mobile ordering, contactless pickup and cashless payments to protect customers and employees from exposure to the deadly virus.
Locations will be open by the end of this week and 90% will be open by early June, chief executive Kevin Johnson told customers in a letter posted online.
Starbucks will offer options such as curbside pick-up. Johnson says he expects the Seattle-based coffee giant’s mobile app – already used by 20 million – will become the most common form of payment.
Before the pandemic struck, more than 80% of Starbucks’ U.S. orders were placed via drive-thrus or the mobile app. The pandemic has forced many of the nation’s retail outlets to close. Starbucks, which is among the first of the national chains to announce reopening plans, temporarily shuttered about half of its 8,000 U.S. stores.
– Jessica Guynn
Trump administration contemplates future of coronavirus task force
Trump’s administration is considering plans to wind down its coronavirus task force as early as this month, a major shift in the White House response to the health crisis.
A senior administration official speaking on the condition of anonymity confirmed that Vice President Mike Pence told reporters in a briefing Tuesday that members of the taskforce were “having a conversation” about when and how to wind down the group.
“I think we’re having conversations about that and about what the proper time is for the task force to complete its work and for the ongoing efforts to take place on an agency-by-agency level,” Pence told reporters, according to a transcript of his remarks reviewed by USA TODAY. “And we’ve already begun to talk about a transition plan with FEMA.”
Trump announced the creation of the task force on Jan. 29, saying its goal was to “monitor, contain and mitigate the spread of the virus.” The group, which Pence has led, has met virtually every day – bringing together not only White House officials but also top public health experts within the Trump administration.
– David Jackson and John Fritze
Nick Cordero is ‘back to being stable’ after a ‘bit of a rocky night,’ wife says
Amanda Kloots is offering another update about her husband Nick Cordero’s harrowing recovery from coronavirus. On her Instagram story Tuesday, Kloots shared with her followers that the Broadway star “had a little bit of rocky night” and underwent a lung procedure to remove an infection.
“His oxygen levels went down, but (the doctors) got him right back,” she said. “They did like a lung scraping to get rid of some more infection, and he’s now back to some good numbers, so things tend to be going in the right direction.”
Kloots added: “So far, I think he’s back to being stable with some good-looking things. So, fingers crossed for a good day and the possibility, always, of waking up.”
Cordero, 41, remains in a medically-induced coma following several serious coronavirus complications, including a leg amputation and the insertion of a temporary pacemaker.
He was admitted to the hospital for what was initially thought to be pneumonia, Kloots, a Broadway dancer-turned-celebrity fitness instructor, wrote on Instagram on April 1. Cordero’s initial coronavirus test was negative, although a subsequent one turned up positive for COVID-19.
– Charles Trepany
States reopening: Massachusetts mask order; Oregon reopens 8 state parks
Beginning Wednesday, Massachusetts will require everyone to wear a mask or facial covering while in public under an executive order signed by Gov. Charlie Baker, while Oregon will reopen eight state parks to launch a gradual effort to relax limits imposed on recreation.
Also Wednesday, Arkansas will permit barbershops, beauty salons, massage therapists and tattoo artists, among others, to open again and Delaware will allow some businesses to resume “limited operations” under social distancing rules. Here’s the latest on all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
Trump pledges $600M for Navajo Nation to fight coronavirus
President Donald Trump ended his confinement at the White House amid the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday, traveling to Arizona to kick off what he hopes is the reopening of state economies.
In addition to visiting a Honeywell International plant that is producing millions of N95 respirator masks for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Trump announced “the single largest investment in Indian country in our history” to fight COVID-19 during a roundtable meeting with Native American leaders.
The Navajo Nation, which includes land in northern Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, will soon receive more than $600 million and the Gila River Indian Community will receive $40 million in initial funds to protect citizens from “the scourge, this plague, from what we’re all fighting in this country,” Trump said.
Hours before Trump landed, the Treasury Department announced it was releasing $4.8 billion of aid to tribes, some of which includes the Navajo tribe, whose community is among the hardest-hit in the nation by the virus.
– Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Ronald J. Hansen, Stephanie Innes and Chelsea Curtis, The Arizona Republic
Hawaiian Airlines CEO is optimistic travelers will flock to the island
Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram doesn’t know when Hawaii will be open to visitors again, but he sees signs vacationers are ready to return when government restrictions lift.
The airline said its late summer and early fall flights are currently booked about a quarter full. That’s down from about 40% at this time in a normal year, but is an improvement over zero demand for flights after Hawaii instituted, and strictly enforced, a mandatory two-week quarantine for arriving passengers in late March to thwart the spread of coronavirus. The quarantine was recently extended through May 31.
When the quarantine lifts, Ingram said, people will be itching to travel again.
“I think people are tired of being cooped up,” he said on the airline’s earnings conference call Tuesday. “To the extent that they’ve got the flexibility and the economic wherewithal to do it, they’re going to want to travel, and Hawaii is going to be an appealing place, like it always is.”
One thing in Hawaii’s favor besides its beaches, hiking and other tourist attractions, Ingram said: a low number of coronavirus cases.
– Dawn Gilbertson
California Gov. Gavin Newsom to early openers: You’re making a ‘big mistake’
Gov. Gavin Newsom scolded two rural counties for allowing some businesses to reopen in defiance of his statewide coronavirus restrictions, calling it a “big mistake” and saying they are “putting their public at risk.”
Restaurants, hair salons and many other businesses opened Monday in Yuba and Sutter counties, about 40 miles north of Sacramento. The Yuba Sutter Mall plans to reopen Wednesday.
Newsom said bookstores, music stores, toy stores, florists, sporting goods retailers and clothing stores could reopen as soon as Friday, but clarified during his Tuesday briefing shopping malls could not.
Yuba and Sutter together have had 44 confirmed coronavirus cases out of a combined population of just over 175,000 people, and no related hospitalizations.
Sutter County Supervisor Mike Ziegenmeyer said he was “irritated” by Newsom’s comments, saying the two counties were following the directives of their shared public health officer. He said he will urge county officials to keep allowing businesses to open in defiance of Newsom’s order.
– Arlene Martinez
The Coronavirus Task Force hasn’t held a press briefing since late April, and now a White House official says it may be disbanded.
Ex-Maryland football coach Roy Lester dies from coronavirus complications
Roy Lester, who sandwiched a disappointing three-year stint as Maryland’s football coach between a highly successful career at the high school level, has died. He was 96.
Lester’s daughter, Amy Lester Greco, said on a Facebook post that her father died Sunday in Rockville, Maryland, from complications of coronavirus. She had announced on April 25 that he had contracted COVID-19 and was in the hospital.
“How blessed I am to have been his only daughter,” she wrote. “I am not a perfect person but everything good about me came from this beautiful man.”
Lester made a name for himself in Maryland during a 10-year run at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville during which the Rockets went unbeaten six times and had an 86-10-1 record. That led to him being hired in 1968 to coach at Maryland, where he inherited a program that won only two of 19 games over the previous two years.
More coronavirus headlines from USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press
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