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Coronavirus live updates: U.S. deaths decline again; stimulus payments going out; planning underway for reopening the country – USA TODAY

Stimulus payments were in full swing Monday as the daily U.S. death toll from the coronavirus dipped for the second straight day, providing hope that the worst of the pandemic could soon be behind us.

Monday marked one month since President Donald Trump declared coronavirus as a national emergency. There were fewer than 2,000 confirmed cases nationwide then. Much has changed:

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. 

Meanwhile, many Americans will be getting stimulus payments 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.

Sunday’s U.S. death toll was 1,557, according to Johns Hopkins University data. That was down from 1,877 on Saturday and more than 2,000 on Sunday. Worldwide, there are more than 110,000 deaths and 1.85 million coronavirus cases early Monday.

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

British PM Boris Johnson discharged, not immediately returning to work

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was discharged Sunday from the London hospital where he was being treated for the coronavirus. 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. He will not return to work immediately.

Johnson, in a video posted on social media, thanked Britain’s National Health Service for saving his life “no question.” He also urged his countrymen to continue social distancing.

“I want to thank everyone in the entire UK for effort and the sacrifice you have made and are making,” he said. “We are now making progress in this incredible national battle against coronavirus… a fight we never picked against an enemy we don’t understand.”

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

Second TSA employee dies

A Transportation Security Administration manager in Virginia has died from coronavirus, the second TSA death this month. Alberto Camacho, a branch manager for the TSA’s Acquisition Program Management in Arlington, died April 3, according to a TSA news release. Camacho first joined the TSA in 2005 and held multiple positions in security operations, enterprise support and the Federal Air Marshal Service. 

“Every day, he worked closely with TSA’s partners to ensure the nation’s aviation security technology remained cutting edge and ahead of the threat,” a statement from the TSA read. “We offer our heartfelt condolences to Alberto’s family, friends and his TSA colleagues.”

On April 3, the agency announced the passing of its first employee due to coronavirus: Francis “Frank” Boccabella III, who worked as a explosive detection canine handler at Newark Liberty International Airport died April 2, the agency said.

– Hannah Yasharoff

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

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

Contributing: The Associated Press

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