Trump Says U.S. Has Test Capacity: Farmers Get Aid: Virus Update

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President Donald Trump said the U.S. has enough testing capacity to allow for a phased reopening of the economy. He earlierposted a series of tweets calling to “liberate” states after protests against lockdowns.

Texas took steps to ease its restrictions. The U.K. said it can see early signs of the lockdown working. Spain had the most new cases in a week, and Russia reported another record daily increase in new infections.

Cases in Singaporesoared as authorities detected more infections among foreign workers. China pledged stronger policies after the pandemic pushed its economy into its first contraction in decades. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged the international community torally around the World Health Organization.

31,451 in U.S.Most new cases today

-16% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-1.​091 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

Key Developments

  • Virus Tracker: Cases top 2.2 million; deaths exceed 153,000
  • Farmers get $19 billion bailoutpackage
  • Trump and Cuomo tradebarbs
  • West Coast seeks volunteer armies, millions of tests toreopen
  • California names economictask force including Yellen, Iger, Steyer
  • Gileadshares soar on report saying coronavirus drug working

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U.S. Has Enough Testing Capacity, Trump Says (7:43 a.m. HK)

President Donald Trump said there’s enough coronavirus testing capacity to put in place his plan to allow a phased reopening of the economy, even though some state officials and business leaders have raised alarms about shortages.

“We’ve already built sufficient testing capacity nationwide so states can begin their re-openings,” the president said Friday at the White House.

Business leaders and lawmakers told Trump in phone calls this week that the U.S. must increase its testing capacity before attempting to reopen the economy. Trump also tweeted on Friday that “the States have to step up their TESTING!”

In many parts of the country, health officials say adequate levels of testing still haven’t been reached. California has been especially hamstrung, reporting more than 7,000 backlogged tests on Friday despite massive pushes to process more tests.

Trump Announces $19 Billion in Farm Aid (7 a.m. HK)

President Donald Trump announced a $19 billion bailout package for farmers hurt financially by the coronavirus crisis. The aid plan includes government purchases of meat, dairy products and other foods to bolster prices, along with direct payments to farmers to boost their income, the president said Friday at a White House briefing.

Minnesota Governor Warns Against Reopening Too Soon (5:30 p.m. NY)

Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota, a state that President Donald Trump tweeted should “liberate,” said he agrees with the president’s desire to reopen business but won’t endanger residents by acting recklessly.

Reopening too soon would be a costly mistake not only for state residents but the nation’s food supply, Walz said. Several Midwest meat packers and processors reported some of their workers have tested positive for Covid-19, but the facilities are still open and operating in part because providing food for the nation is considered essential.

“We have to help feed the world. Because I’m telling you this thing gets really ugly if we have to send people back” to work sick, Walz said. “We’ll see the shortages in the grocery stores.”

Earlier Friday, Walz issued anexecutive order allowing golf courses, parks, marinas, trails and other outdoor facilities to reopen. Minnesotans who engage in those activities must maintain 6-foot social distancing, avoid crowded areas and stay close to home. The provisions go into effect on Saturday.

San Francisco Requires Face Masks (5:06 p.m. NY)

Counties across the San Francisco Bay area mandated face coverings for the public when leaving their households. The masks must be worn shopping, in public transportation or while working at essential jobs. The rule in San Francisco takes effect Saturday but won’t be enforced until April 22 to give residents time to obtain coverings.

Nearly 40% of N.J. Deaths Were at Nursing Homes (4:40 p.m. NY)

Nearly 40% of coronavirus-related fatalities in New Jersey have taken place at nursing homes, according to data newly disclosed by state officials.

Outbreaks have been reported at 394 of the state’s 503 long-term care facilities, which include nursing, assisted-living and dementia-care homes. Those facilities have recorded 9,094 cases and 1,530 deaths, the data show. New Jersey, the hardest-hit U.S. state after New York, has reported a total of 3,840 deaths statewide.

California Taps Steyer, Yellen, Iger for Task Force (4 p.m. NY)

California Governor Gavin Newsom assembled an economic recovery task force that includes top executives from some of the state’s largest companies -- including Walt Disney Co.’s Bob Iger and Apple Inc.’s Tim Cook -- as well as labor leaders, social justice advocates and all four living former governors of the Golden State, both Republican and Democrat.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer will co-chair the 80-member group, along with Newsom’s chief of staff, Ann O’Leary. Former governors Jerry Brown, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gray Davis and Pete Wilson have joined, as has Janet Yellen, former chairwoman of the Federal Reserve.

Newsom and Steyer said the group would try not just to restart the economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic but to address the inequality that had been widening within the state before the virus struck. Steyer called it a “fair, green and prosperous future.”

“We want in real time to demonstrate meaningful reforms, meaningful changes,” Newsom said.

U.S. Confirmed Cases Rise 5.4% (4 p.m. NY)

U.S. cases rose 5.4% from the day before on Friday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That was higher than Thursday’s growth rate of 4.7% but on par with the than the average daily increase of 5.4% over the past week. Deaths increased 9.4% to 34,575.

U.S. coronavirus deaths for the first time passed the 34,157 people estimated to have died last season from the seasonal flu, according to data released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New York cases rose 0.2%, as the hardest-hit state shows signs of stabilizing in the past week. New York’s cases climbed 9.8% during the same time period on Thursday. New Jersey’s cases rose 10.5%

Texas Relaxes Stay-at-Home Restrictions (3:07 p..m NY)

A day after President Donald Trump told governors they could call their own shots on reopening their economies, Texas Governor Greg Abbott called his.

Abbott, a Republican who was slow to set stay-home orders even as the state’s cities charged ahead, said Friday that retailers can open with to-go service starting April 24. Establishments may deliver items to customer’s cars, homes or other locations. He also eased restrictions on nonessential medical procedures.

State parks will reopen Monday with strict guidelines to reduce transmission of the virus -- including requiring visitors to wear face coverings and maintain a 6-foot distance from people outside their party.

Abbottt’s move came in response to a booklet of guidelines Trump issued to governors Thursday. Abbott, in a Capitol news conference, didn’t specify how testing patients would be increased.

No Country Has Herd Immunity, WHO Says (2:16 p.m. NY)

Evidence suggests herd immunity hasn’t yet been achieved anywhere and that only a low proportion of people have antibodies to Covid-19, Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, said at a press briefing in Geneva. Countries should be careful not to assume that people who show antibodies to Covid-19 in blood tests have immunity, said Maria Van Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist.

Countries must impose stringent food safety and hygiene standards on wet markets that sell animals and fish for food when they reopen, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. While such markets are necessary as millions of people depend on them as a source of food, the sale of wildlife for food should be banned, according to the WHO. The novel coronavirus outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan, China.

Reported cases in Africa rose 51% in one week, though Asia and some European countries demonstrate that it’s possible for that continent to try to contain the virus, Van Kerkhove said. “We’re constantly fearful of disease exploding in places like Yemen, Syria and Iraq, or in many fragile states where people are displaced and living in overcrowded conditions,” Ryan said.

NYC Tests to Focus On Poor (1:45 p.m. NY)

New York City will set up testing sites aimed at three groups: essential workers, the at-risk elderly and residents of low-income neighborhoods, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The programs will start with about 6,000 tests a week and increase capacity rapidly, de Blasio said.

Tests for essential workers are necessary because they are in frequent close contact with others who could spread the coronavirus, which has killed more than 11,477 city residents since March 13. Tests targeted at low-income neighborhoods are intended to reduce the disproportionate share of cases among ethnic minorities and the poor, the mayor said.

N.J. Shows Slowing Virus-Case Rate (1:40 p.m. NY)

New Jersey is showing signs of slowing the outbreak, even as fatalities have doubled in a week.

The state reported 3,250 new positive results, for a total of 78,467 since the beginning of March. Daily increases have been less than 10% for 11 straight days. Between March 15 and 30, increases were between 20% and 82% each day, Governor Phil Murphy said Friday.

Murphy also reported an additional 322 fatalities, the fourth day of more than 300 deaths. Fatalities now total 3,840, up from 1,932 on April 10.

Trump Tweets ‘Liberate’ States (12:24 p.m. NY)

President Donald Trump urged Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia to “liberate” themselves on Friday in an apparent criticism of stay-at-home orders in the three Democrat-led states.

Trump made the comments in a series of tweets on Friday, less than 24 hours after unveiling a plan that deferred heavily to governors to determine when they could safely reopen their states amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The tweets signaled support for protests demanding an easing of the stay-at-home measures aimed at curbing the pandemic that have crippled the U.S. economy. All three states have Democratic governors.

— With assistance by Kara Wetzel

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