Governors in California and Pennsylvania took the boldest action yet to slow the spread of coronavirus, and the U.S. hit two grim landmarks — more than 200 deaths and over 14,000 confirmed cases — as the pandemic continued Friday to dramatically alter lives.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out a sobering, staggering prediction that more than half the 40-plus million California population would contract COVID-19 in the next eight weeks, and asked President Donald Trump and Congress for federal help. Later Thursday, Newsom issued a statewide order encouraging residents to stay at home.
“There’s a social contract here, people I think recognize the need to do more to meet this situation,” Newsom said.
His actions were similar to those of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who ordered all “non-life-sustaining” businesses to shut down, or risk enforcement from state police.
Also Thursday, Italy’s death toll surpassed China’s, U.S. health officials warned that the virus can also be deadly for young people and the U.S. State Department advised Americans not to travel outside the country. Hundreds of Americans are already stranded overseas. Meanwhile, the FDA continues to search for a vaccine but admitted they are months away.
Worldwide, the death toll has topped 10,000, with more than 244,500 confirmed cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.
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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.”
Collins is one of the nation’s top public health experts. The National Institutes of Health is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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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Global stocks, US futures rise on virus aid hopes
Global stock markets and U.S. futures rose Friday on hopes that government and central bank action can help the world economy endure a looming recession caused by the coronavirus.
European markets were as much as 4% higher and Shanghai, Hong Kong and other Asian markets advanced. Seoul surged 7.4%.
Investors were encouraged after seeing more steps by the Federal Reserve and other central banks and governments to support credit markets and the economy.
On Wall Street, the future for the benchmark S&P 500 index rose 2% and that for the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 2.4%.
– The Associated Press
Reports: Senators sold off stocks ahead of economic crash
Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., sold off significant amounts in stocks shortly before financial markets plunged because of the coronavirus pandemic, media reports say. The senators are reported to have had knowledge about the spread of coronavirus ahead of their sales.
ProPublica reported that Burr, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, dumped somewhere between $628,000 and $1.72 million of stocks, much of which came from the hospitality industry. The Daily Beast also reported that Loeffler and her husband sold stocks amounting to between $1.27 million and $3.1 million starting the same day she participated in a briefing on coronavirus.
Burr’s spokesperson told ProPublica that he “filed a financial disclosure form for personal transactions made several weeks before the U.S. and financial markets showed signs of volatility due to the growing coronavirus outbreak.” Loeffler on Twitter called the reporting “a ridiculous & baseless attack.”
The New York Times, meanwhile, reported Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., also sold stocks earlier this year ahead of the market downturn. Feinstein along with her husband sold between $1.5 million and $6 million in late January and mid-February. Read more here.
– Jeanine Santucci
California Gov. Gavin Newsom: 25 million residents will be infected
The stunning figure Newsom revealed is based on state estimates he outlined in a letter sent to Trump on Wednesday.
“We project that roughly 56 percent of our population — 25.5 million people — will be infected with the virus over an eight week period,” Newsom wrote, asking Trump to station the USNS Mercy Hospital Ship in Los Angeles immediately and keep it there until September to ease strains on hospitals.
In a separate letter to congressional leaders Thursday, Newsom said California would likely need more than $1 billion in federal assistance as the number of coronavirus cases in the state continue to multiply.
As of Wednesday evening, 675 people in California had tested positive for coronavirus and 16 had died, according to the California Department of Public Health.
– Sam Metz, Palm Springs (Calif.) Desert Sun
Pennsylvania closes ‘non-life-sustaining’ businesses
All “non-life-sustaining” businesses in Pennsylvania were ordered to close Thursday night to slow the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Tom Wolf said.
The governor made the order after being granted extraordinary powers upon his “declaration of a disaster emergency, such as COVID-19.”
Enforcement actions against businesses that do not close physical locations will begin at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. In extenuating circumstances, special exemptions will be granted to businesses that are supplying or servicing health care providers.
Among the businesses that must shut down are most manufacturing companies, building construction, utility construction, road construction, automobile dealers, nondurable goods merchant wholesalers, clothing stores and specialty food stores.
– Shelly Stallsmith, York (Pa.) Daily Record
Senate Republicans propose $1,200 cash payments in rescue package
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday unveiled a historic stimulus package that includes direct payments of $1,200 to individuals and assistance to businesses to deal with the health and economic harm from the novel coronavirus.
“We need to have the American people’s backs,” said McConnell, R-Ky.
Married couples would be eligible for up to $2,400 in assistance with an additional $500 for every child.
Assistance would begin phasing out for individuals earning at least $75,000 and would not be available to those with adjusted gross incomes above $99,000. Assistance for couples phases out after $150,000 and is not available to those with joint incomes of more than $198,000.
– Maureen Groppe, Nicholas Wu, Ledyard King and Christal Hayes
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UK newspapers to readers amid coronavirus: We are #ThereWithYou
Dozens of newspapers in the United Kingdom ran the same front page Friday morning to launch the #ThereWithYou campaign, an effort to reassure readers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Archant, Reach, JPI Media, Newsquest and Iliffe are involved in the campaign, according to the Borehamwood & Elstree Times in England. Newsquest is owned by Gannett, the parent company for USA TODAY.
The headline on the front page reads, “When you’re on your own, we’re there with you.” Each newspaper is also running a statement committing to its community and vowing to keep a reliable flow of news.
– Jordan Culver
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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.
US trajectory: Will we follow Italy?
The U.S. could soon find out whether it’s likely to be the next South Korea or the next Italy when it comes to the acceleration of coronavirus cases and deaths. South Korea managed to “flatten the curve” with aggressive action. A data analysis by USA TODAY finds that America’s trajectory is trending toward Italy’s, where circumstances are more dire.
“When you’re on an exponential curve, every moment is dangerous,” Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, told USA TODAY.
The CDC’s worst-case-scenario is that up to 210 million Americans will be infected by December. Under this forecast, 21 million people would need hospitalization and 200,000 to 1.7 million could die. Collins said that if the U.S. takes drastic measures “we should certainly be able to blunt” the curve. “But let’s be clear: There’s going to be a very rough road.”
– Kim Hjelmgaard and Jim Sergent
State Department to Americans: Do not travel abroad amid coronavirus
The Department of State is advising Americans not to travel internationally, the strongest U.S. alert yet as the pandemic continued its steady march across the globe.
The department on Thursday issued a Level 4 advisory for travel abroad — “do not travel” — only four days after it issued a Level 3 advisory — “reconsider travel.”
“In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period,” the advisory said. “U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel.”
– Curtis Tate
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Contributing: Lindsay Schnell and Steve Kiggins, USA TODAY; The Associated Press