Trump-Touted Drugs Tied to Deaths; Vaccine Trials: Virus Update

The antimalaria drugs that U.S. President Donald Trump has touted to fight Covid-19 are linked to an increase of death and heart ailments.

Oxford University and AstraZeneca started recruiting subjects for advanced human studies of one of the fastest-moving experimental vaccines. Anthony Fauci, who is leading the U.S. infectious disease control effort, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about Moderna’s vaccine, boosting the stock.

Brazil had another record day of deaths and its government agreed to the terms of a financial aid package. Beijing abandoned a growth target for 2020 amid the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, while central banks in Japan and India stepped in to help their economies. Britain posted a record budget deficit in April and retail sales slumped.

Key Developments:

  • Virus Tracker: Cases top 5.1 million; deaths around 333,000
  • Coronavirus is a stress test many world leaders are failing
  • Millions face risk of virus contagion in storm-hit South Asia
  • Nobody’s happy about all the contact-tracing apps out now
  • Bankers to the ultra-rich deprived of glamor turn to Zoom
  • Scared and sick, U.S. meat workers crowd into reopened plants

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus. See this week’s top stories from QuickTake here.

25,294 in U.S.Most new cases today

-14% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-1.​077 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-4.​8% Global GDP Tracker (annualized), April

Malaria Drugs Linked to Death, Heart Risk (9:30 a.m. NY)

The antimalaria drugs touted by U.S. President Donald Trump to treat Covid-19 patients were linked to an increased risk of death and heart ailments in a study published in The Lancet medical journal. Trump said Monday that he had taken the drug for about a week.

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine didn’t benefit the patients either alone or in combination with an antibiotic, according to the study based on records of 15,000 people treated with the antimalarials and one of two antibiotics often paired with the drug. Treatment with any combination of the four drugs was associated with a higher risk of death than seen in 81,000 patients who didn’t receive them, the study found.

Puerto Rico Cases Surpass 3,000 (8:14 a.m. NY)

Confirmed coronavirus cases in Puerto Rico surpassed the 3,000 mark on Friday, as the Health Department said an additional 117 people had tested positive. This is the third time this month that more than 100 cases were detected in a 24-hour period.

According to government figures, the pandemic has now affected 3,030 people and 126 have died. The figures come as the commonwealth of 3.2 million people pushes ahead with plans to reopen the economy after declaring a broad lock-down on March 16. On Tuesday, malls, retail outlets and restaurants will be allowed to resume operations.

Russia Tests Covid-19 Vaccine on Researchers (8:10 a.m. NY)

A Russian government research institute said it conducted successful unofficial tests on a potential coronavirus vaccine. Laboratory staff who volunteered to receive the vaccine at the Gamaleya epidemiology institute in Moscow had no side effects and are healthy, said its director, Alexander Ginzburg, the state-run Tass news service reported.

It didn’t state how many people took part in the trial.

Fauci Optimistic About Moderna Vaccine (7:36 a.m. NY)

Moderna shares rose after Anthony Fauci, the leading U.S. infectious disease official, said he was optimistic about the company’s vaccine. “Even though there were only eight individuals, we saw neutralizing antibodies at a reasonable dose of the vaccine,” Fauci said on CNN. “Although the numbers were limited, it was really quite good news because it reached and went over an important hurdle in the development of vaccines. That’s the reason why I’m cautiously optimistic about it.”

Fauci said on NPR that he expects the full results of a Phase 1 study of the biotech’s experimental Covid-19 vaccine within weeks. Earlier this week, an experimental vaccine from the company showed signs that it can create an immune-system response to fend off the new coronavirus. In 25 people who got either of the two smaller doses used in the study, researchers reported that the levels of antibodies equaled or exceeded the levels of antibodies found in patients who had recovered from the virus.

The second test, evaluating the quality of those antibodies, was only available for eight of the people because it takes longer to perform. But in all eight people, the vaccine successfully stimulated the body to create antibodies capable of neutralizing the virus in the test tube, so it can no longer infect cells.

Alibaba Growth Slows; Deere Tractor Sales Hold Up (7:15 a.m. NY)

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. reported its slowest pace of revenue growth on record after China’s economic contraction drove down spending across its online marketplaces. The results demonstrate the world’s second largest economy has yet to fully shake off Covid-19, with consumers still hesitant about spending on big-ticket items.

Deere & Co. shares rose after the world’s biggest tractor maker navigated coronavirus upheavals better than expected in the height of the pandemic. For the three months through April, sales and earnings fell less than analysts projected as agriculture -- deemed essential in the lockdown era -- proves more resilient than many other industries.

U.K. Contact-Tracing App Roll-Out Delayed (6:20 a.m. NY)

Britain’s mobile phone app for tracking coronavirus infections has been delayed by bureaucracy and the addition of more symptoms to monitor, according to a person familiar with the matter -- who said they expected the government to abandon it in favor of the model backed by Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.

The app is being developed by VMware Inc. and Zuhlke Engineering Ltd at a cost of 4.7 million pounds ($5.8 million). There has been controversy about the U.K.’s decision to reject the structure backed by Apple and Google, a move that has been criticized by privacy campaigners.

The U.K. has opted for a “centralized” model, where people who test positive for coronavirus upload all their recent contacts to a database, and those people are then contacted and warned. Apple Inc. and Google released their Covid-19 exposure-notification tools on Wednesday. Some governments have criticized the “decentralized” system because it doesn’t let authorities store data on who has the virus and track where it is spreading. Instead, it just notifies individuals if they have been exposed.

Germany Plans One-Time Child Bonus (6 a.m. NY)

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is planning a one-time bonus for families of 300 euros ($327) per child as part of a government stimulus program worth as much as 150 billion euros, Der Spiegel magazine reported, without identifying the source of its information. The bonus could cost the government 5 billion to 6 billion euros. Scholz is also considering vouchers to boost consumer spending.

Belgian Virus Spread Remains Under Control (5:54 p.m. HK)

A weekly update of Belgium’s infection rate showed the epidemic remains under control in the country after lock-down measures were gradually eased starting May 4. The so-called reproduction factor rose to 0.86 for the 7 days ending May 20 from about 0.8 in the previous week, below the key threshold of 1.0.

Belgium reported 276 new infections in the past 24 hours, based on 18,182 diagnostic tests. That’s up from 252 the prior day, which was based on 18,918 tests. New hospital admissions fell to 56 from 71 the day before, as the total number of beds occupied declined to 1,415.

U.K. Will Fine Arrivals Who Break Quarantine (5:29 p.m. HK)

Passengers arriving in the U.K. will be forced into quarantine for two weeks and face fines of 1,000 pounds ($1,217) if they break the rules. The plan is designed to stop travelers re-introducing coronavirus to the country after becoming infected overseas and is likely to have a major impact on the aviation industry’s attempts to recover after the lockdown.

Home Secretary Priti Patel will set out the details of the new quarantine system at the daily government press conference at 5 p.m. on Friday. Her Cabinet colleague, Brandon Lewis, said the measures will be reviewed every three weeks, along with the rest of the government’s coronavirus response.

Putin Presses Plan to Extend Rule (4:20 p.m. HK)

Thrown off course by the coronavirus pandemic, Vladimir Putin is moving to regain the political initiative for his plan to remain as Russia’s president potentially until 2036. Putin may announce a snap ballot within weeks on proposed changes to the constitution that allow him to sidestep term limits, said four people familiar with Kremlin discussions on the matter. Electronic voting will be used as well as polling stations to boost turnout and the result, the people said.

Putin delayed the referendum on constitutional amendments originally scheduled for April 22 when the coronavirus crisis erupted in the spring. What had seemed a formality then now looks a harder sell. Like millions around the world, Russians were thrust into hardship and uncertainty about their jobs after Putin in late March ordered a nationwide lockdown that sparked a 33% plunge in economic activity.

While there are signs the Covid-19 epidemic is starting to wane in Russia, which has the world’s second-highest number of infections, the turmoil unleashed by the virus and an unprecedented slump in oil prices continues to rip through the economy. Confirmed cases increased by 8,894 to 326,448 on Friday, while the number of deaths in the past day rose by 150, the most so far, to 3,249.

Oxford, AstraZeneca Begin Advanced Trials (3:47 p.m. HK)

The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca Plc have begun recruiting more than 10,000 subjects for advanced human studies of one of the world’s fastest-moving experimental Covid-19 vaccines.

A smaller part of the trial will expand the age range of testing to children from 5 to 12 years old and adults 56 and older, according to a statement. The other, larger stage will test the vaccine’s effectiveness in volunteers 18 and older.

AstraZeneca received a boost in its efforts to get the immunization tested and ready for use when the U.S. pledged as much as $1.2 billion toward development on Thursday.

Nissan May Cut More Than 20,000 Jobs (2:15 p.m. HK)

Nissan Motor Co. is planning to cut more than 20,000 jobs across the world, as the Japanese carmaker grapples with factories and showrooms that have been shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kyodo News reported.

The outbreak is forcing Nissan to cut back on production, and restructuring measures in Japan are also being considered, the news agency reported. The job reductions are part of a mid-term reorganization plan that Nissan is due to unveil on May 28, Kyodo said. The reduction would be much larger than the 12,500 staff cuts announced in mid-2019.

U.K. Posts Record Budget Deficit; Retail Sales Crater (2:15 p.m. HK)

Britain posted a record budget deficit in April as the government unleashed an unprecedented package to prevent the collapse of the virus-stricken economy. The shortfall stood at 62.1 billion pounds ($76 billion), the Office for National Statistics said. The figure is equal to total borrowing in the whole of the previous fiscal year. In a separate report, the ONS said retail sales fell the most since at least 1988.

The figures reflect the cost of interventions announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, including paying the wages of 8 million furloughed workers, a surge in welfare claims and the hit to tax revenue from a shrinking economy. Meanwhile, the U.K. also announced that banks should extend mortgage holidays for struggling homeowners by a further three months, as part of its measures to shore up households.

German Infection Rate Holds Below Key Level (1:20 p.m.)

Germany’s coronavirus infection rate held below the key threshold of 1.0, while the number of new cases and deaths dipped for a second day. There were 548 new cases in the 24 hours through Friday morning, bringing the total to 179,021, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Fatalities increased by 59, to 8,203.

The reproduction factor of the virus, known as R-naught, was 0.89 on Thursday, compared with 0.88 the previous day, according to the Robert Koch Institute. The figure reflects the number of additional cases generated by one infected person, and authorities consider it important to keep the number below 1.0 to prevent exponential growth that could overwhelm the health system.

Thailand Extends State of Emergency (1:15 p.m. HK)

Thailand will extend its nationwide state of emergency for another month through June, according to Taweesilp Witsanuyotin, a spokesman for the Covid-19 center. That will help facilitate the country’s reopening in stages three, which begins June 1, and four, Taweesilp said. Once stage four is completed, the government may consider reopening its borders.

India Unexpectedly Cuts Interest Rates (12:26 p.m. HK)

India’s central bank cut interest rates in an unscheduled announcement on Friday, ramping up support for an economy it expects will contract for the first time in more than four decades.

The benchmark repurchase rate was lowered by 40 basis points to 4%, Governor Shaktikanta Das said in a live streamed address. The reverse repurchase rate was reduced to 3.35% from 3.75%. The monetary policy committee met ahead of its scheduled meeting in early June, Das said.

Australian State Relaxes Curbs on Pubs, Cafes (11:36 a.m. HK)

Australia’s most-populous state will allow pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants to have as many as 50 customers from June 1, as authorities try to breathe life back into the economy.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that strict social distancing guidelines, including ensuring premises allow for 4 square meters per person, would be in force.

Coronavirus Reshapes New Zealand’s Politics (10:42 a.m. HK)

New Zealand’s main opposition party elected a new leader after a slump in opinion polls spooked its members of parliament four months out from a general election. National Party MPs backed agriculture spokesman Todd Muller to replace Simon Bridges in a caucus vote Friday in Wellington.

Muller challenged for the leadership after two polls this week showed support for National plummeting to as low as 29%, from 46% just three months ago.

Muller now faces the daunting task of trying to dethrone Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose crisis management during the coronavirus pandemic has seen her popularity soar. Support for Ardern’s Labour Party surged to 59% in a 1News/Colmar Brunton poll published yesterday, 30 percentage points ahead of National. The election will be held on Sept. 19.

China Abandons Growth Target (8:29 a.m. HK)

The Chinese government abandoned its decades-long practice of setting an annual target for economic growth amid the storm of uncertainty unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic, and said it would continue to increase stimulus.

“We have not set a specific target for economic growth this year,” the report said. “This is because our country will face some factors that are difficult to predict in its development due to the great uncertainty regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and the world economic and trade environment.”

Premier Li Keqiang said the government is setting a target for urban job creation of over 9 million jobs. That’s lower than the 2019 target of around 11 million, and a target for the urban surveyed unemployment rate of around 6%, higher than 2019’s goal, according to the document.

IBM Joins Tech Giants in Cutting Jobs (7:23 a.m. HK)

International Business Machines Corp. cut an unspecified number of jobs across the U.S., eliminating employees in at least five states. The company declined to comment on the total number, but the workforce reductions appear far-reaching.

Based on a review of IBM internal communications on the Slack corporate messaging service, the number of affected employees is likely to be in the thousands, said a North Carolina-based worker who lost his job along with his entire team of 12.

It’s unclear how many of IBM’s cuts are caused by the pandemic; the company has suffered years of falling revenue. But the tech industry has suffered widespread job losses after the coronavirus pandemic triggered a severe recession. Airbnb Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. have cut about a quarter of their workforces. Earlier on Thursday, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. said it will eliminate some employees to save money, while Dell Technologies Inc. suspended several staff benefits.

— With assistance by Mark Schoifet, John Martens, Adveith Nair, and Jonathan Levin

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Nancy Pelosi Says Trump Shouldn't Take Unproven Hydroxychloroquine Because He's 'Morbidly Obese'

Nancy Pelosi is not signing off on President Donald Trump's personal health choices.

On Monday, the House speaker, 80, appeared on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, where she spoke about the president's controversial revelation that he's been taking hydroxychloroquine to protect himself from contracting the coronavirus (COVID-19), despite research that shows the anti-malarial drug has proved ineffective and is linked to a higher death rate.

"I happen to be taking it. I happen to be taking it — hydroxychloroquine," Trump, 73, told reporters on Monday, adding that he started taking the unproven drug "a couple of weeks ago."

"He's our president and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists," Pelosi told Cooper, "especially in his age group and his, shall we say, weight group: 'morbidly obese,' they say."

She added: "I think it's not a good idea."

In 2019, Trump's annual physical found he weighed 243 pounds, and that he is considered obese on the body mass index scale.

At the press briefing when Trump raised concerns by personally touting the drug, he said, "If it is not good, I will tell you right."

"I'm not going to get hurt by it. It has been around for 40 years for malaria, for lupus, for other things. I take it," he shared, claiming that he has had "zero symptoms" and he has been taking the pill "every day."

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Trump said he asked the White House physician about the drug and said he would like to take it. When asked about the evidence of the drug actually working, Trump said, "Here we go. Are you ready? Here's my evidence: I get a lot of positive calls about it. The only negative I heard — was at the VA? People that aren't big Trump fans."

Trump has promoted the anti-malarial drug as a cure for the coronavirus, while health experts — including the head of the Food and Drug Administration — rushed to warn that the drug needs to undergo trials to see if it would work against the coronavirus and could potentially be dangerous.

Early research indicates the drug has poor results in protecting against COVID-19, and a recent Veterans Affairs study found that patients who took the drug died at a higher rate than those who did not.

More research into the drug is still needed, but their results indicate that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment and should not be used on COVID-19 patients, said the study's authors. The study took into consideration several factors, including body mass index.

“An association of increased overall mortality was identified in patients treated with hydroxychloroquine alone,” the authors wrote. “These findings highlight the importance of awaiting the results of ongoing prospective, randomized, controlled studies before widespread adoption of these drugs.”

In a letter from the president's physician, Sean P. Conley, the doctor said that they "concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighs the relative risks" of hydroxychloroquine. Conley said, however, that he would continue to monitor studies.

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Trump’s Virus Drug Whim Costs Millions, Even as the Mania Wanes

President Donald Trump has stopped talking about the decades-old antimalarial drug he once touted as a “game changer” for Covid-19, but it won’t be as simple for the rest of the health system to just move on.

When Trump first began touting the drug in mid-March, a frenzy ensued as hospitals, patients and doctors raced to secure supplies. Many believed even if the drug didn’t turn out to be an effective coronavirus treatment, it might be able to ward off infection.

But as quickly as pharmacies were drained of the pills, the tide has now turned against hydroxychloroquine and its chemical cousin, chloroquine. Regulators and scientists have raised concerns about potentially serious side effects, while Gilead Sciences Inc.’s antiviral therapy remdesivir was cleared for U.S. use. Some hospitals, including Mount Sinai Health System in New York, no longer include the drug in their treatment regimen for Covid-19.

The surge resulted in shortages that left patients who’d long taken the medication to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis hunting for alternatives. To help get more drugs to market, the Food and Drug Administration has allowed overseas manufacturing facilities that were previously sanctioned for quality violations to begin producing it for U.S. patients.

22,335 in U.S.Most new cases today

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

-1.​071 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-0.​5% Global GDP Tracker (annualized), March

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Hydroxychloroquine prescriptions jumped to 298,660 during the week of March 20, more than doubling from a week earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence. But prescriptions have now plummeted back to nearly normal levels, and there are signs a speed-up in manufacturing is slowing.

Demand for bottles of chemicals made by United States Pharmacopeia that are used as reference standards in pharmaceutical manufacturing skyrocketed 1,733% from mid-March to mid-April compared with the year before, but has since dropped 52% in the week of April 24 to April 30 compared to the week prior, according to USP data.

The swift embrace and rapid abandonment of hydroxychloroquine underlines how publicity of evolving science can have unpredictable consequences on the behavior of physicians and patients. The episode also shows how supply chains and government agencies struggle to keep up with such changes, especially when one perspective is amplified by the president.

“This is the president of the United States with the full force of the task force behind him,” said James Roberts, a marketing professor with expertise in consumer behavior at Baylor University. “He was on TV and at the White House. Whenever someone is facing desperate times, anything that can provide hope, you want to believe.”

Democrats and the media have attacked Trump for what Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said was discussing “a possible treatment that could save a person’s life.”

“While some are rooting for the drug to fail, President Trump is simply offering a consistent message of hope, comfort, and optimism while telling Americans to consult with their doctor,” Deere said.

Trump’s enthusiasm is still reverberating even as the mania that followed it recedes. The U.S. government has agreed to spend tens of millions of dollars to assess and acquire hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. And dozens of overlapping clinical trials are looking at the effectiveness of the drugs against Covid-19 at universities and medical centers.

How those dynamics will change now that doctors and health officials are souring on the drug isn’t clear. Results of some of the clinical studies could begin rolling out as soon as later this month. The FDA warned April 24 about potentially deadly heart risks associated with the drugs, but for now the agency isn’t planning to change its emergency-use policy.

Jesse Goodman, a former chief scientist at the FDA who worked under both Democratic and Republican administrations, said the available science didn’t warrant the agency’s blessing.

“The evidence was unusually weak given the potential for widespread use,” he said.

Michael Felberbaum, a spokesman for the FDA, said in an email that the agency can revise or revoke an emergency authorization under certain circumstances, including information related to linked or suspected adverse events, new data, or a change in the agency’s view of a drug’s risks and benefits.

Despite the agency’s efforts to help build up U.S. inventories, the change in sentiment has left medications that were hurriedly added to the emergency supply unused.

The FDA’s emergency authorization allowed one million donated doses of chloroquine from Bayer AG to be dispensed from the stockpile because the company’s version isn’t approved in the U.S. But none of Bayer’s drug, sold under the name Resochin, has been requested by the states, a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson said in an email.

Cluster of Contracts

The U.S. government has dispensed numerous contracts tied to hydroxychloroquine. The Department of Health and Human Services awarded Florida-based Alchem Laboratories Corp. $20.7 million to study use of the drug against Covid-19 with famotidine, the main ingredient in the antacid Pepcid, according to a government-contracts database. People have been hoarding famotidine after several studies of the combination piqued interest, and the FDA said Monday the drug is now in short supply.

A research organization set up under the Affordable Care Act awarded Duke University researchers $50 million to study hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure for U.S. health-care workers.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has contracts worth more than $200,000 to acquire the drug. The Department of Justice agreed to pay $60,000 to buy hydroxychloroquine for the prison system, according to the database. HHS also contracted with a research company in North Carolina for $750,000 to collect and analyze the outcomes for patients who use drugs dispensed from the national stockpile, a condition of the FDA’s emergency authorization.

Veterans Affairs has ordered hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for a number of years for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients, and the bulk of its contracts will be used for that, Christina Noel, a spokeswoman for the department, said.

“VA is only using hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19 in cases where veteran patients and their providers determine it is medically necessary, and in a manner consistent with current FDA guidance,” Noel said.

The Bureau of Prisons also uses the drugs for patients with autoimmune conditions and the $60,000 contract was to ensure it had enough supply for them and prisoners returning from local hospitals who were prescribed the drugs, said Emery Nelson, a spokesperson for the agency.

Costly Furor

The furor over the drugs has been costly for patients with chronic autoimmune diseases. They struggled to get access to treatment as Trump’s daily endorsements caused prescriptions to surge, though some of the strain has show signs of receding.

“Within the last few days we have seen a drop in calls and emails expressing concern and challenges accessing hydroxychloroquine,” Mike Donnelly, a spokesman for the Lupus Foundation of America, said. “We have also heard that people who had trouble getting their refill at first are now able to.”

Some lupus patients are still struggling to access their medication or are being told they can only get 14-day refills, he said.

The foundation has been talking with the 12 pharmaceutical companies that make the drugs, “and we’ve been in constant contact with federal and state government officials and agency leaders to make sure they’re doing everything possible to address the supply crisis,” Donnelly said.

As regulators try to make it easier for the drug to reach the market, manufacturers that have previously been cited for quality problems are stepping in.

The FDA allowed a drug company in India that the agency previously reprimanded for not meeting U.S. manufacturing standards to help fill in the supply gaps. Mylan NV said it would restart production of hydroxychloroquine in its West Virginia plant. The FDA had warned that facility in November 2018 for ignoring situations in which drugs made there failed to pass routine quality checks.

Mylan didn’t comment on whether those plans are moving forward at expected levels.

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United Air to Cut at Least 30% of Managers, Administrative Staff

United Airlines Holdings Inc. will cut at least 30% of its managerial and administrative jobs in October, or about 3,500 positions, as the company braces for a prolonged travel slump in the age of Covid-19.

In addition, management and administrative employees must take 20 days off without pay between May 16 and Sept. 30 to help pare costs, Kate Gebo, executive vice president of human resources, said in an internal memo Monday. Employees in “non-operational” roles will begin working a four-day week, and cash severance payments will end for managers who are laid off.

The cutbacks are the latest indication that there will be mass job losses in the U.S. airline industry when the federal government’s $25 billion in payroll support runs out at the end of September. The coronavirus outbreak has prompted a decline of about 95% in U.S. airline passenger totals, and carriers are preparing for the risk of a protracted global recession that would further sap demand for flights.

“We’ve worked hard these past several years to build an incredible team and make investments in our business that differentiate us,” Gebo said in the memo. “But now we all have to expect that our world, and our airline, will not quickly return to where they were just a few months ago.”

July Notification

The job cuts will affect “at least” 30% of “management and administrative” staff, Gebo said, affecting a group that numbers about 11,500 employees. While some work areas will see deeper reductions than others, a United spokesman declined to say which areas will be chopped more deeply.

Most United management employees who will lose their jobs will be notified starting in July.

“The reality we are faced with, especially heading into what would normally be our busiest time of year, is daunting to say the least,” Gebo wrote.

The cutbacks were reported earlier by Reuters.

United has been far more aggressive than its U.S. rivals in signaling deep job cuts starting Oct. 1, a date that marks the end of the federal aid package’s restrictions against mass layoffs.

Grim Outlook

Executives at the Chicago-based company have said repeatedly that they see little sales recovery for much of 2020, and that their top priority is to ensure the airline’s existence through the crisis.

Other carriers, such as American Airlines Group Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc., have warned employees that the carriers will probably be forced to shrink to adjust to lower demand, but have been more circumspect on how deep the cuts will extend.

On May 1, United notified about 15,000 airport customer service and baggage employees that the company would shift full-time employees to 30-hour work weeks effective May 24. Their union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, has threatened legal action and urged members to protest with their Congressional representatives.

In a separate memo Monday, Chief Operations Officer Greg Hart urged employees in operating roles to “seriously consider” taking a voluntary separation from the company.

“We recognize that this is painful news,” Hart said. “But it provides what we believe is the most accurate assessment of what lies ahead for our company.”

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Fortnite Chapter 2, Season 3 delayed until JUNE by Epic Games

THE latest season of Fortnite has been delayed by creator Epic Games until June.

Chapter 2, Season 3 of the hugely popular video game was due to come out in in just two weeks, but the US company has said it will extend the current season instead.

"We’re extending Chapter 2 – Season 2 of Fortnite beyond the original April 30 date," Epic Games said in a statement.

"Our plan is to launch Chapter 2 – Season 3 on June 4."

The company added that it has multiple game updates on the way that will deliver fresh gameplay, new Challenges and bonus XP.

There will also be "more surprises" before the new launch date.

Fortnite is one of the most popular games in the world, with millions of players taking part in its last-man-standing "Battle Royale" shootouts.

The game is run in chapters that are split into seasons, with each season lasting roughly ten weeks.

Every time a new season begins, the game's map changes slightly and new characters, cosmetic items and more are released to players.

It's not clear whether the new season's delay is the result of the current health crisis – which has forced developers to work from home – or something else.

Epic Games, which is based in North Carolina, has pushed back season launches before.

Multiple delays meant the first chapter of Season 2, launched in October 2019, lasted months longer than expected.

"A delay might impact [Fortnite's] viewership in the same way other popular games tend to plateau between updates, but it will ultimately persevere," Doron Nir, co-founder of live streaming services provider StreamElements, told BBC News.

Engineers are allowed to work from home, but there are multiple reasons this may cause delays.

What is Fortnite, anyway?

FORTNITE is an online video game played by up to 250 million people across the world.

In it, 100 players compete on their own or with a small group of pals to grab weapons, gather resources and build defences, before fighting it out to be the last man (or team) standing.

Matches take about 20 minutes, and you can drop into a new game within seconds of your previous one finishing.

It's bright, it's cartoony and it's fiendishly compelling.

Skill is rewarded but luck also plays a huge role, meaning no two games are ever the same and everyone feels like they have a chance of winning.

Fortnite has also made its developer billions.

In Europe it's rated 12+, meaning it's suitable for those aged 12 and up.

The battle royale mode is free to play, but there is also a story-driven single player and co-op mode called Save The World that players have to pay for.

Pop culture crossover events are very common because of the game's huge audience.

These involve players being able to buy themed outfits for the movie, TV show or brand, as well as getting some themed activities in-game to do too.

These might be new places to explore, new challenges to complete to win themed accessories, or new game modes that are loosely related to the theme of whatever is being crossed over with.

Many do not have the same computing power on their home computers as their work PCs, making it difficult to process graphics, new landscapes and more.

Also, due to guidelines on keeping new games secret, some updates can't take place outside of the company's headquarters, according to the BBC.

The Sun has contacted Epic Games for comment.

In other news, Fortnite fans were left shocked last month after Epic Games suddenly banned communicating with opponents.

Fortnite is giving away 25,000 free V-bucks for the best original dance move posted to TikTok.

And, we've revealed the video games that take the longest time to beat.

Are you excited for the Fortnite update? Let us know in the comments!

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