Wednesday has been deadliest day in reported coronavirus deaths in US.
Eliott C. McLaughlin, Christina Maxouris and Steve Almasy | CNN
More than 200 deaths from Covid-19 were reported Wednesday in the United States — a new high for fatalities recorded in a single day.
The dramatic spike brought the number of novel coronavirus deaths since the outbreak reached the United States in late January to at least 928. Sunday morning -- less than four days ago -- the nationwide total was 326 deaths, according to CNN data derived from state reports.
Officials reported 223 deaths Wednesday, an increase higher than any other day. Tuesday saw 164 reports. Experts have said numbers will rise dramatically as more tests are administered and analyzed.
At the White House coronavirus task force news conference, President Donald Trump said: "The more aggressively we commit to social distancing ... the more lives we can save."
More than 65,000 people in the United States have now had a positive test for the novel coronavirus.
Faced with many new cases, leaders make exceptions to rules
With the number of positive coronavirus tests increasing sharply each day, states and local communities are having to break or bend the rules to increase the resources to fight the deadly disease.
In Texas, for instance, the state will allow medical facilities that are awaiting their licenses or those that have closed in the past 36 months to come online.
"By waiving these rules, we can quickly bring many of these facilities online to help Texas communities maximize their hospital capacity and provide care to Texans in need," Gov. Greg Abbott said.
There have been almost 1,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Texas and 12 deaths.
Abbott said the hospitals coming online will be administered by medical centers that have licenses. One rule being temporarily waived is the need for a facility to have a fire marshal's report to get a license.
The measures put into effect by governments also include releasing people in jail early.
At least 200 detainees will be released by Wednesday night from jails across New York City if the people don't pose a threat to the public, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal told reporters Monday the state will initiate a process by which low-level offenders will be released from jail due to Covid-19 concerns.
This continues a trend that began last week.
Medical students answering the call early
Another way officials have been dealing with the crisis has been to call upon retired health care workers to return to hospitals.
And at New York University, the Grossman School of Medicine has sought students who want to graduate early in response to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's "directive to get more physicians into the health system more quickly," the school said in a statement.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 69 of about students had volunteered.
The school still needs the plan to be approved by state and education officials.
Health official: US doesn't have to become epicenter
"The potential is there, but you've still got time to turn it around," WHO's Margaret Harris said.
Though the number of cases and deaths continues to grow in the United States, it's possible to reverse the trajectory, she said.
"You've got the best public health brains in the world," Harris said. "You've got people who can harness technology brilliantly. You've got people who can really think out of the box."
The formula for success is testing people, finding each case, identifying people who have come into contact with those who have been infected, isolating those who are ill or who have been exposed and quarantining, she said.
"Finally, getting the people who are ill to treatment -- and when you do that, really, really protect your health workers," she said.
Harris previously said the united States had the potential to be the next epicenter based on the "very large acceleration" in its number of cases.
'We have overwhelmed our stocks'
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who issued a stay-at-home order last week, said it's likely the measure will remain in place over the next two or three months.
"I think April for California would be sooner than any of the experts that I talked to would believe is possible," he said.
The state reported a teenager may have died from coronavirus Tuesday. While the Los Angeles County Public Health Department said there may be another explanation, the teen could be the first juvenile to die from Covid-19 in the United States.
A 12-year-old in Atlanta, meanwhile, is showing improvement after her family said Sunday she was fighting for her life. Wednesday, she was coming out of sedation and "responding well" to her parents, cousin Justin Anthony said.
In Louisiana, which Gov. John Bel Edwards said is experiencing the fastest growth rate of cases in the world, residents have been ordered to stay home until April 12.
"We have overwhelmed our stocks of key resources needed for our hospitals, first responders and emergency managers. There will be a long-lasting impact on the state of Louisiana," he said.
Trump on Tuesday approved Edwards' request for a major disaster declaration, which will provide more federal aid for the state, where two parishes -- Jefferson and Orleans, in metro New Orleans -- are among the hardest-hit in the country.
US studies Italy's path
As more states implement stay-at-home orders, Trump isn't planning on a nationwide quarantine, he said.
Social distancing guidelines set forth by the federal government this month will expire next week. Among other guidelines, the "15-day pause" urges Americans to avoid public gatherings with more than 10 people.
Trump foresees a rapid recovery and "packed churches all over our country" on Easter, he told Fox News on Tuesday.
"I'm not sure that's going to be the day, but I will love to aim it right at Easter Sunday," he said.
The US has turned to Italy to understand how social distancing measures can help slow the virus' spread, a health official said Tuesday.
"We're looking very closely around the world, specifically Italy right now, because they are reaching their two weeks of clear social distancing -- and looking at the impact, we are seeing the number of deaths starting to decline," Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said on the "Today" show on NBC.
'This is your future'
New York's surge in cases should serve as a warning for the rest of the country, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
"Where we are today, you will be in three weeks or four weeks or five weeks or six weeks," he said. "What we do here will chart the course."
New York has a tally of more than 30,000 cases, several times that of any other state, and the majority of the state's cases are in New York City. Cuomo said 12% of New Yorkers who have tested positive are in the hospital and 3% of those people are in intensive care.
Cuomo attributed the high numbers to international tourism and the fact that New Yorkers live and work in close proximity to each other.
Anyone who has left New York over the past few days should self-quarantine, Birx said.
The state and city are making appeals to the federal government for more medical supplies.
New York's hospitals have enough personal protection equipment for only the next two weeks, Cuomo said. The state also needs about 30,000 ventilators. As of noon Wednesday, the state had 4,000 ventilators in hospitals, had 4,000 more on the way from the federal government, had purchased another 7,000 and is "still shopping," the governor said.
The ventilators are the "difference between life and death for thousands of New Yorkers," de Blasio said.
In addition, the state needs another 140,000 beds and 40,000 intensive care beds, on top of the roughly 53,000 beds it already has, Cuomo has said.
Senate rushes to approve $2.2 trillion coronavirus bill after landmark agreement with White House.
Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis,& Paul Kane | The Washington Post
Hurdles remain, though, and New York’s governor is demanding last-second adjustments.
The Senate on Wednesday evening rushed to pass a $2.2 trillion emergency relief package that was designed to flood the U.S. economy with money, as households and businesses continue to reel from the coronavirus outbreak.
But shortly after announcing the deal, Senate leaders struggled to fend off a number of last-minute snags, and they encountered various hurdles as they tried to write the bill’s fine print.
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) demanded changes to help his state deal with a flood of new virus cases. Four Republican senators on Wednesday said a provision in the bill needed to be fixed immediately or it would incentivize people not to return to work. And House Democrats wouldn’t provide a firm timeline of when they would vote to pass the bill.
The final-stage drama was just the latest twist for the spending legislation, which had snowballed from President Trump’s push for an eight-month payroll tax cut into the largest emergency relief bill in American history. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced the agreement on the Senate floor around 1:30 a.m., after a long day of talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other administration officials.
“I will sign it immediately,” Trump said Wednesday evening as Senate lawmakers tried to set a time for a vote.
The bill would extend $1,200 to most American adults and $500 for most children, create a $500 billion lending program for businesses, cities and states, and a $367 billion employee retention fund for small businesses. It would direct $130 billion to hospitals and provide four months of unemployment insurance, among other things.
Lawmakers and the White House were bombarded with lobbyists and special interest groups seeking assistance during the negotiations, and the price tag rose from $850 billion to $2.2 trillion in just a matter of days.
With confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States climbing swiftly to over 60,000 Wednesday with more than 800 deaths, lawmakers acknowledged that no amount of economic relief from Congress could stop the pain for the American public. A surge of Americans have filed for unemployment benefits, including 1 million in California this month alone. In addition to layoffs, many workers are dealing with salary reductions or furloughs. And despite Trump’s push to restart much of the economy by April 12, there are growing signs that the drag on business could last well into the second half of the year.
House Democrats said they would vote on the legislation no sooner than 24 hours after it was introduced in the Senate, and the Senate delays kept pushing the bill’s timeline back.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) gave an upbeat assessment of the bill early Wednesday, but the logistics of its passage through the House remained uncertain. Representatives looked likely try to approve the measure by “voice vote,” after concluding that members would like an opportunity to debate. They recognized that it would be difficult to receive “unanimous consent” for the measure because it could be blocked if just one member objects.
Cuomo on Wednesday demanded changes, though it’s unclear how amenable lawmakers might be to any final adjustments.
About half of the country’s coronavirus cases are in New York, and the health-care system around New York City is overwhelmed. Many hospitals are still rushing to find masks and other protective equipment. Cuomo said the bill would be “terrible” for his state and added that “we need the House to make adjustments.”
Meanwhile, Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) raised major concerns of their own on Wednesday. They said a “drafting error” in the bill would create incentives for companies to lay off workers instead of retain them on the payroll, complaining that the design of unemployment benefits would allow some workers to make more money on unemployment than at work. But it’s unclear whether Senate leaders would make the change because the provision as written was a key demand from Democrats.
Later Wednesday, Trump told reporters that he had spoken with some of the senators to address their concern, and White House officials did not expect the issue to derail the bill from passage.
“Our expectation is, this bill passes tonight and gets to the House tomorrow,” Mnuchin said.
The legislation ensures that taxpayer-backed loans cannot go to firms controlled by Trump, other White House officials or members of Congress. This would suggest that Trump-owned properties, including hotels that have been hurt by the downturn, cannot seek taxpayer assistance.
The airline industry, which has suffered huge losses in the past two months because of canceled flights and travel restrictions, would be a top recipient in the bill. Passenger airlines would qualify for $25 billion in loans and certain other guarantees and could have access to $25 billion in things like grants, which might not have to be repaid.
Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) said he would have preferred long-term low-interest loans to airlines instead of grants, “But we had this argument, we had this discussion, and it turned out the way it did.”
He said he intended to support the legislation as written.
Cargo airlines and suppliers would qualify for a different batch of money.
And another provision of the bill would authorize $17 billion in assistance for companies deemed crucial for national security, language that was written in part to ensure assistance for Boeing, three people with knowledge of the internal deliberations said.
There’s also an employee retention tax credit for many firms hurt by the coronavirus fallout and provisions to allow businesses to defer payment of payroll taxes for two years.
The legislation’s significant boost to unemployment benefits, which Schumer has repeatedly described as “unemployment insurance on steroids,” would expand eligibility in addition to increasing payments by giving laid-off workers $600 a week for four months on top of the benefits already provided by states. Mnuchin described the approach as the most efficient method available because the alternative would be to deal separately with individual state systems, which in some cases are badly outdated.
The system isn’t designed to handle the surge of new applicants for jobless claims, but even with all the new funding, it’s unclear how smoothly any of the changes might work. For example, the bill would dramatically expand the Small Business Administration’s ability to guarantee loans, but millions of companies could seek these guarantees all at once, putting enormous pressure on a system that has never been tested in such a manner.
After falling 10,000 points in two months, the Dow Jones industrial average regained more than 2,500 points on Tuesday and Wednesday amid optimism about the recovery package. The precise impact of the legislation could take months to understand. Many businesses have been hammered, perhaps beyond repair, by the economic impact of the virus.
Trump has signaled he wants some parts of the economy to reopen quickly, but many of the country’s biggest economic engines — such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco — are seeing problems escalate.
As the bill was coming together in the final days, Democrats fought to make numerous changes. For example, the White House and Republicans agreed to allow an oversight board and create a Treasury Department special inspector general for pandemic recovery to scrutinize the lending decisions and detect abusive or fraudulent behavior.
“Every loan document will be public and made available to Congress very quickly so we can see where the money is going, what the terms are and if it’s fair to the American people,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday.
The bill also contains a grab-bag of provisions that in some cases seem to range far afield from the coronavirus pandemic, including $13 million for Howard University, $25 million for Washington’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and $75 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities. Senate aides said those allocations and others were justified to help the institutions prepare for and respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
Although Republicans have been attacking the inclusion of funding for the Kennedy Center, Trump said he personally approved it, saying, “the Kennedy Center has suffered greatly.” Trump noted that it started out as a Democratic request, adding, “You know, it works that way. The Democrats have treated us fairly. I really believe that we’ve had a very good back and forth. And I say that with respect to Chuck Schumer.”
Trump acknowledged, though, that assisting an institution like the Kennedy Center might come across like “not a good sound bite, but that’s the way life works.”
If the Senate passes the bill, the next step is a little less clear. The House is out of session, so action there could take longer. Many members have voiced concerns about returning to the tight quarters of the Capitol, with at least two House members testing positive for the coronavirus and others in quarantine.
Pelosi had favored passing the bill by “unanimous consent,” which would require agreement from all members of the chamber. But one prominent liberal — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — has already suggested she could oppose it.
Another option, which Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) endorsed Wednesday, would be to pass the legislation by “voice vote” in the House. That could allow any members who wanted to debate the issue publicly to do so, before passing the legislation without a roll-call vote that would require a quorum to be present. McCarthy suggested time for debate should be allowed on the House floor.
“I know we’re in a very challenging time … but I don’t think we should pass a $2 trillion package by unanimous consent,” he said. Pelosi said later that she, too, would support the “voice vote” route, and “I’d like to see a good debate on the floor.”
Still, all sides expressed eagerness to move swiftly.
“This is going to be enormous help for the American workers and the American economy,” Mnuchin said.
Congress has already passed two much smaller coronavirus relief bills: an $8.3 billion emergency supplemental package for the health-care system and a $100-billion-plus bill to boost paid sick leave and unemployment insurance and provide free coronavirus testing.
Biden has talked with Obama about possible vice presidential pick.
Biden told Georgia donors his nominee would have to be prepared to step into the top job immediately.
Marianna Sotomayor and Tim Stelloh | NBC NEWS
Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden said Sunday that he has talked with former President Barack Obama about a potential vice presidential pick.
Speaking to over 70 Georgia donors on a fundraising call, Biden said he and Obama recently agreed that his vice presidential nominee must have the political experience to step in as president if he were unable to serve.
"The most important thing — and I've actually talked to Barack about this — the most important thing is that there has to be someone who, the day after they're picked, is prepared to be president of the United States of America if something happened," Biden said.
Without mentioning names, Biden told donors his team is considering at least seven women. The vetting process, which a campaign official described to NBC News as "vigorous," will begin in a "matter of weeks," he said.
During a CNN debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders last week, Biden said he planned to select a woman as his vice presidential candidate should be become the Democratic nominee.
"They have to be prepared," Biden said. "Once I pick someone, God willing, if I'm the nominee, that there's not going to be any snafu."
Biden has said repeatedly that he would prefer to pick a woman as his vice president, but he disclosed only recently that he is taking his age — he is 77 — into consideration as he makes his choice.
"I have to pick someone if, God forbid, tomorrow, if I contracted what my son had or something like that, that the person is ready on day one to be president of the United States," Biden said in February at a CNN town hall in Manchester, New Hampshire.
He then added, "But the second criteria is I would very much like my administration to look like the country, like Barack and our administration looked like."
Obama has said he will not endorse during the Democratic primary, but Biden has said the two have spoken regularly during the campaign, with Obama as an informal adviser. Obama has also advised other former Democratic presidential candidates.
Biden has said he would like to have the kind of respectful and trust-filled relationship with his running mate that he and Obama enjoyed, calling it "simpatico."
Among the women Biden has mentioned as potential vice presidential picks are former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California, the latter three once candidates themselves for the presidential nomination.
Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, whom Biden has mentioned as a possibility, was on the donor call Sunday, and he described her as "incredible person."
Biden also told the donors he did not think the general election should be postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
"We voted in the middle of a Civil War," he said. "We voted in the middle of World War I and II. And so the idea of postponing the electoral process is just, seems to me, out of the question."
Sunday's fundraiser had originally been scheduled to take place in Atlanta, but all of Biden's in-person events were suspended two weeks ago as the virus began to spread across the United States. The fundraiser was his second virtual event in the past week.
McDonald's cuts back on menu, ends All-Day Breakfast.
Kate Taylor | Business Insider
McDonald's is slashing items from its menu to make life easier for employees working during the coronavirus outbreak.
On Wednesday, the fast-food giant announced internally that it plans to roll out a limited menu in the US amid the coronavirus outbreak. Customers will no longer be able to order breakfast all day or items including salads, grilled chicken sandwiches, and chicken tenders.
According to an internal McDonald's document obtained by Business Insider, the fast-food giant is not making the decision due to supply issues.
"Supply has not been an issue for any of our food and paper products currently," the document states. "This simplified menu is to make it easier in the restaurants during these challenging times."
According to the document, the items that will continue to be served include the best selling menu items available at the chain. Customer favorites such as McMuffins, McChicken Biscuits, and McGriddles will be available in the morning; Big Macs, hamburgers, quarter pounders, fries, and Filet-O-Fit are among the menu items available the rest of the day.
Bill Garrett, McDonald's senior vice president of operations, said in a statement to Business Insider that locations across the US will begin temporarily removing some items in the next few weeks.
"To simplify operations in our kitchens and for our crew, and ensure the best possible experience for our customers, we are working with our franchisees and local restaurants to focus on serving our most popular choices and will begin temporarily removing some items from the menu over the next few weeks," Garrett said in a statement.
"We will regularly evaluate the situation and look to move back to our regular menu as soon as possible," Garrett continued. "We look forward to continuing to serve our customers through take-out, Mobile Order & Pay, Drive Thru or, McDelivery at the majority of our restaurants."
Some workers are worried about going to work
Workers at McDonald's and other fast-food chains have expressed concerns that they might catch or spread the coronavirus if they leave their homes to go to work.
"I am attempting to keep my distance from people coming in and out drive-thru or at the front counter," one McDonald's worker told Business Insider.
"I am fearful every time I go into work about bringing something home," the worker added. "I would say that my concerns for my children are higher than what I feel it would be a concern for myself."
McDonald's has made significant changes to make stores safer, including requiring all stores to roll out contactless service. That means locations will implement social distancing between employees and customers, hand off all orders pre-bagged, and generally attempt to reduce contact between individuals.
All seating areas are closed and the company has rolled out new cleaning and sanitizing practices.
'We cannot predict the duration or scope of the COVID-19 pandemic'
Also on Wednesday, McDonald's filed a 8-K form, providing updates on the company's operations and risk factors. The document states that in the US, substantially all restaurants are operating drive-thru, delivery, and take-away only, and some may limit menu and hours.
In the updated risk facts, McDonald's writes that the coronavirus has "disrupted the McDonald's global restaurant operations beginning in early 2020."
"Local governmental restrictions and public perceptions of the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have caused, and may continue to cause consumers to avoid or limit gatherings in public places or social interactions, which could continue to adversely affect our business," the document reads. "In addition, our ability to maintain our supply chain and labor force may become challenging as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic."
McDonald's concludes: "We cannot predict the duration or scope of the COVID-19 pandemic or when operations will return to full service. We expect the COVID-19 pandemic to negatively impact our financial results and such impact could be material to our financial results, condition and prospects based on its longevity and severity."
Apple’s Disappointing Delay To Your Revolutionary New iPhone.
Ewan Spence | Forbes
Talk of putting back the flagship iPhone’s debut is being reported by Nikkei Asian Review:
As well as supply constraints across the whole production line - which is affecting the vast majority of consumer electronics - the oncoming economic slowdown due to the actions taken to slow the spread of coronavirus will make the consumer market in September very different to the one predicted at the start of the year.
The former has already affected the production process of the iPhone 12. Apple’s staff cannot fly backwards and forwards to China to work through the iterative design process; short test runs of the production lines cannot be carried out; and extensive testing of the alpha units’ hardware and software will be delayed.
But the latter that may be more worrying. If you were to look at Apple’s ‘standard’ schedule for an iPhone launch, for many a year the schedule has been to launch the handset in the second week of September. Broadly speaking the handset hit the stores by the end of the month.
That hasn’t always been the case. The iPhone XR was not on sale until the end of October of its launch year, and the iPhone X waited until November. The process delays to the iPhone 12 at the very least will push the release window well into Q4. That’s if the iPhone 12 is even launched on time.
Come September, the world is more than likely going to be a recession, consumers spending power will be diminished, and the appetite for luxury priced flagship will not be as high as it has been in previous years. With the iPhone 12 set to be one of the most radical iPhones of recent times (including 5G connectivity, new camera technology, and a notch-less screen), the stakes are high, and perception is everything. The iOS-powered smartphone needs success at the level of a home run, not just a ‘get on base’ single.
If that means a delay to the launch date and the release date, so be it.