CORONAVIRUS:

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    The federal government's relief program for small businesses is off to a bumpy start Friday, with some businesses able to apply and several big banks saying they’re not ready to process applications. Millions of small businesses are expected to apply for these desperately needed resaid scue loans from the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program, which was put in place to help them retain workers and pay bills during the coronavirus pandemic. Roughly 2,300 loans valued at $889 million have been processed so far, said Jovita Carranza, administrator of the Small Business Administration. The program is being overseen by the SBA but banks are handling the application process. Some large lenders like Wells Fargo, Huntington Bank and Bank of America said are ready to go. BofA said they've gotten 28,000 applications so far. Others like JPMorgan Chase said they wouldn't accept applications on Friday, citing lack of guidance from the Treasury Department. Even those who were accepting applications were limited in who they could accept. Bank of America said the loans were available to customers who had business deposit accounts and business loans with the bank. Ted Stein, who operates a small software business in West Virginia, filled out an online form Thursday through PNC Bank ,saying he was interested in applying. On Friday, a bank representative told Stein he was unaware that the form was on its website. After Stein explained to him where to find it, the representative told Stein the bank wasn’t accepting applications and that he should keep checking his online account for guidance in the coming hours and days, Stein said. “It was almost comical, but heartbreaking. It’s tragicomedy, I guess,' he said. Going into the program's launch Friday, the banking industry had been trying to temper expectations about how many businesses will get the cash they need on Friday. Banks large and small will have to process these loans as quickly as possible in order to get their customers a slice of the program. The banks have moved employees into new departments — a logistical challenge given many employees are working remotely — just to potentially keep up with the flood of applications. Not only that, but thousands of their employees are either sick or quarantined because of the virus. The program is part of the $2 trillion relief package signed into law last week, which was billed as a way to help local businesses that often form the fabric of communities stay afloat. The program will give businesses low-interest loans of about 2.5 times their average monthly payroll. The loans will be fully or partially forgiven if businesses show that the money was used to retain or rehire employees and pay some overhead expenses through June 30. While Congress could approve more money later on, the program as it stands is expected to run out quickly. That could mean applicants who have the financial and legal expertise of a larger organization might be able to maximize their benefits, not leaving much for smaller businesses, especially those who wait or have problems applying. Congress made the program as wide as possible. An expansive definition of “small business” in the law means that it will be open to much more than just Main Street shops as lenders start processing applications. Bankers recommend applying for the loans through the bank they already have accounts with to speed along the process as quickly as possible. Independent contractors and the self-employed are not eligible to apply until April 10 under guidance from the Treasury Department. By then, banks could be overwhelmed with applications. “It’s hard for me to say this: There is only $350 billion in this fund. Every big restaurant and hotel chain is going to be going after this money. It’s not going to last,” said Ron Feldman, chief development officer at ApplePie Capital, which has been helping businesses get ready to apply. “If you want to get this loan, speed is your friend,” Feldman told 2,000 franchise industry officials on a conference call this week. ____ Ryan J. Foley reported from Iowa City, Iowa. Ken Sweet and Joyce Rosenberg reported from New York.
  • Growth in the U.S. service sector slowed in March with a much bigger decline expected in coming months from all the shutdowns and job layoffs that have occurred because of efforts to contain the coronavirus. The Institute for Supply Management said Friday that its service-sector index slowed to 52.5 in March from a reading of 57.3 in February. Any reading above 50 indicates the service sector, where most Americans work, is expanding. But with record layoffs over the past two weeks, economists believe services will fall into a contraction in April. The March report said service industries were already showing signs of the impact of the virus. Reports from the health care sector found significant shortages of personal protective equipment, test swabs and other basic medical supplies. “Extreme sourcing measures are required to procure necessary supplies for basic operations,” the ISM report said, quoting respondents to its survey. Anthony Nieves, chair of the survey committee for the ISM services report, said one factor that kept the index from sliding further in March was strength being seen in the government and health care parts of the index. ISM reported on Wednesday that its manufacturing index did fall into contractionary territory in March with a reading of 49.1. Private economists said they were looking for the services index to slide into contraction territory probably with the April report. “Conditions in both non-manufacturing and manufacturing are expected to weaken over coming months in response to virus-related shutdowns, supply chain disruptions as well as weak demand,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics.
  • San Marino needed medical masks. Badly. The tiny republic, wedged next to two of Italy’s hardest-hit provinces in the COVID-19 outbreak, had already registered 11 deaths by March 17 — a sizeable number in a country of just 33,000, and a harbinger of worse to come. So authorities sent off a bank transfer to a supplier in Lugano, Switzerland, to pay for a half-million masks, to be shared with Italian neighbors. Next day, the truck returned empty. The company was refusing to provide the masks. Said Dr. Gabriele Rinaldi, director of San Marino's Health Authority: “It was a very bitter lesson.’’ It’s not clear whether the mask supplier, who was not identified, refused to deliver because another customer offered more. But what is clear is that the oft-proclaimed solidarity among nations waging battle against the pandemic has been tested — if not shattered — by national and corporate self-interest. A health official in France's hard-hit eastern region said U.S. officials swooped in at a Chinese airport to spirit away a planeload of masks that France had ordered. 'On the tarmac, the Americans arrive, take out cash and pay three or four times more for our orders, so we really have to fight,' Dr. Jean Rottner, an emergency room doctor in Mulhouse, told RTL radio. The U.S. Embassy in Paris on Friday insisted that no one from the federal government bought masks destined for France. President Donald Trump has suggested, however, that states get their own medical equipment to fight the virus, setting off a mad scramble among state officials. A similar squabble followed a shipment of masks aimed for Berlin police. On Friday, Berlin’s top security official, Andreas Geisel, accused the United States of using “Wild West methods” after a delivery of hundreds of thousands of face masks destined for Berlin police was diverted to the U.S. en route from China. German media reported this happened as the masks were being transferred between planes in Thailand. The U.S. embassy in Berlin didn’t immediately comment. France, meanwhile, has laid claim to supplies within its borders. In Lyon, inside the main southern European distribution facility of the Swedish medical supply company Molnlycke, were millions of masks that France was reluctant to let go for export. “We recognize that France has imposed an export ban for face masks and this ban was just extended,” said Jenny Johansson, the company’s global manager for corporate communications. She declined to comment on reports that France ultimately allowed a million masks apiece to go to Spain and Italy. “However, this is not only about France,” she said. “We see government restrictions across most countries in which we are active.” The European Union, a bloc of 27 nations built upon open borders and markets, has tried to temper this national free-for-all. The day after San Marino’s health minister publicly lamented the rejected acquisition, Switzerland enacted an ordinance obliging companies to seek government authorization to export protective medical devices. But Swiss embassy political attache Lorenza Faessler noted that the ordinance specifically exempts the EU and several other countries in Europe, including San Marino. The EU's internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera that progress had been made in dealing with exports of medical equipment by France, Germany and some other nations. He said at the moment only Poland and Slovakia were keeping the ban. Meanwhile, Spain and Italy, which together account for a large share of the world's 54,000 coronavirus deaths, are increasingly taking steps to restrict the flow of supplies. Four days after Italy’s first COVID-19 case surfaced in late February, Civil Protection agency chief Angelo Borrelli banned any export of medical supplies unless he personally approved an exception. As the daily number of infections in Italy grew dizzily, many nations blocked exports to keep their own medical supplies production within their borders, said Agostino Miozzo, director general of international relations for Italy’s Civil Protection agency. “We found ourselves in extreme difficulty in acquiring” medical supplies, he said. Last month, Italian customs police seized some 800,000 masks and disposable gloves that were about to be sent to Switzerland. Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa has called China’s medical supply market “crazy.” Italy, like Spain, has taken to using planes to fly in masks and respirators from China and elsewhere, minimizing the risks that supplies will be diverted or seized by third countries. The United States, which has twice as many infections as any other nation now, is also moving supplies like thermometers, gowns, masks and gloves via air bridge, notably from Asia and Central America, according to the U.S. agency FEMA. Last month, Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek, apologizing to Italy, said the Italians were being given 110,000 masks and thousands of respirators to compensate for those mistakenly seized in a raid on a warehouse in the Czech town of Lovosice. The devices had been donated by China’s Red Cross for the Chinese community in Italy. The raid had been launched to break up what Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamacek called an “immoral” scheme to jack up the prices a company was charging the Prague government. And recently, Tunisia accused Italy of blocking a shipment of alcohol used to make hand-cleansing gel. Trade Minister Mohamed Sellini later backtracked. “I didn’t say Italy. I said it was hijacked at sea,' the minister insisted, adding, “All of the European Union is living in a state of hysteria.” ___ David Keyton in Stockholm, Bouazza Ben Bouazza in Tunis, Karel Janicek in Prague, Joseph Wilson in Madrid, Angela Charlton in Paris and Ben Fox in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report. ___ Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.
  • A record-long streak of U.S. job growth ended suddenly in March after nearly a decade, as employers slashed hundreds of thousands of jobs because of the viral outbreak that has all but shut down the U.S. economy. The unemployment rate jumped to 4.4% from a 50-year low of 3.5%. The job loss of 701,000 reported Friday by the government — the worst since the depths of the Great Recession in 2009 — is still just a small indication of what's to come. For the April jobs report that will be released in early May, economists expect as many as a record 20 million losses and an unemployment rate of around 15%, the highest since the 1930s. The enormous magnitude of the job cuts is inflicting far-reaching damage on economies in the United States and abroad, which are widely believed to be sinking into severe recessions. As rising numbers of people lose jobs — or fear they will — consumer spending is shrinking. That pullback in spending, which is the primary driver of the economy, is intensifying pressure on those businesses that are still operating. Economists are holding out hope that an extraordinary series of rescue actions from Congress and the Federal Reserve will help stabilize the U.S. economy in the months ahead. The key goals of Congress' just-enacted $2.2 trillion relief package are to quickly put cash in people's hands and incentivize companies to avoid job cuts or quickly recall laid-off employees. Still, even factoring in the government's intervention, Joel Prakken, chief US economist at IHS Markit, predicts that the economy will sharply contract in the April-June quarter — by a 26.5% annual rate, the worst on records dating to just after World War II. The federal relief package, which includes an extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits on top of the usual state benefits, will ideally enable the millions of newly jobless to pay their rent and other bills. But it won't make up for the vast array of spending that Americans typically engage in that has now been lost — from eating out and paying for gym memberships to buying new furniture, autos and electronic gadgets. Indeed, Oxford Economics says that for the April-June quarter, that pullback will likely cause the sharpest quarterly drop in consumer spending on record. The job losses during March were likely even larger than what was reported Friday because the government surveyed employers before the heaviest layoffs hit in the past two weeks. Nearly 10 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in the final two weeks of March, far exceeding the figure for any corresponding period on record. Last month's job loss was derived from surveys of employers that were conducted in mid-March. The enormous layoffs that were reported over the past two weeks occurred only after those surveys had been completed. They will be reflected in the jobs report for April. This was an ugly jobs report, showing that the pain in the economy started in early March, well before the spike in the weekly initial jobless claims data,” said Joseph Song, an economist at Bank of America Securities. “It is going to get much worse in coming reports.” Brad Hershbein, senior economist at the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, said that last month's job loss likely reflected nervousness among businesses that had cut back on hiring even before the flood of layoffs. One sign of how painfully deep the job losses will likely prove to be: During its nearly decade-long hiring streak, the U.S. economy added 22.8 million jobs. Economists expect the April jobs report being released in early May to show that all those jobs could have been lost. Lower-income service workers bore the brunt of the job cuts in March, with restaurants, hotels and casinos accounting for roughly two-thirds of the cuts — a loss of 459,000 jobs. Retailers shed 46,000. Yet the layoffs have also begun to creep into many other corners of the economy. Doctor's offices sliced 12,000 jobs, the most on records dating to 1972. Law firms cut 1,700. Banks and real estate companies also cut jobs. The nearly full point increase in the unemployment rate from February to March was the sharpest monthly rise since 1975. There were some quirks in the jobs report that suggest it may be harder than usual for the government to track the impact of the virus. The government said the unemployment rate would have been nearly 1 percentage point higher if many workers who were told to stay home because of the coronavirus — most of whom aren't being paid — had been properly classified as temporarily laid-off. Instead, many of those workers said they still had jobs. Even with that quirk, the number of people who said they were on “temporary lay off” soared to 1.8 million, the highest since September 2009, in the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession. A key determinant of the economy’s future will be whether businesses can survive the shutdown and quickly rehire those workers who consider themselves to be temporarily laid off. If so, that would help the economy snap back and avoid the type of weak recovery that followed the past three downturns. But if the virus outbreak forces businesses to stay closed into the late summer, many may go bankrupt or won’t have the money to rehire their old employees. That would mean that many workers who now consider themselves on temporary layoff could lose their jobs. So far, some large and small businesses are still paying for health care benefits and keeping in touch with their newly laid-off workers, a slightly hopeful sign amid the flood of job cuts. More than 90% of the U.S. population is now living under some version of a shutdown order, which has forced the closure of bars, restaurants, movie theaters, factories, gyms and most other businesses. Some hotels are closed; others are largely empty. Fast-food chains are either closed or providing only drive-through service, costing thousands of jobs.
  • Passengers from an ill-fated cruise were carefully freed from their cabins and allowed to touch dry land on Friday for the first time in weeks, following the removal of 14 critically ill people who were wheeled off to Florida hospitals bracing for an onslaught of coronavirus patients. The exodus from the Zaandaam and its sister ship the Rotterdam was expected to continue throughout the day. Floridians were getting off first, followed by other passengers. Buses were taking people healthy enough to travel directly to the airport, where they'll board chartered flights home without going through the terminal. They'll be followed by what Carnival Corp. said was its last ship carrying passengers to a U.S. port since the pandemic was declared. The Coral Princess — which was expected to arrive at the Port Everglades terminal on Saturday with more than 1,000 passengers who have been isolating in their cabins, including 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on board. Princess Cruises, a line owned by the larger corporation, had already announced a “higher-than-normal” number of people with flu-like symptoms aboard the Coral Princess. “This is a humanitarian situation, and the County Commission’s top priority is protecting our 1.9 million residents while providing a contained disembarkation option for people on board who need to get safely home,” Broward County Mayor Dale Holness said in a statement late Thursday. It was unclear when the bodies of four passengers who died on the Zaandam would be removed from the ship, which set sail on March 7, the day before the State Department warned people against cruising during the pandemic, and was thereafter barred from South American ports. Broward County's agreement calls for the hundreds of crew members to remain on the dozens of cruise ships that are either docked or waiting just off Florida's shores, and for cruise lines to be prepared to treat all but the most serious cases on board to avoid adding more stress to Florida's health care system. Already, crew members are getting sicker. One has died on the Celebrity Infinity and two others were medically evacuated from the Oasis of the Seas, according to an email Friday from their company, the Miami-based Royal Caribbean cruise line. The Infinity is waiting off Florida’s west coast, and the Oasis of the Seas is positioned off Broward County’s shores. Holland America initially said 45 people who were mildly ill would stay on board the Zaandam until they recovered, but the docking plan released later Thursday indicated that 26 passengers and 50 crew members were ill. Two of the four dead had COVID-19, said William Burke, chief maritime officer for Carnival Corp., which owns the ships. Nine people had tested positive for the new coronavirus, Burke said earlier this week. There were 442 guests and 603 crew on the Zaandam, and 808 guests and 583 crew on the Rotterdam. The Rotterdam was sent last week to take in some of the passengers and provide assistance to the Zaandam since it was denied permission to dock at ports in South America. About 250 people have reported influenza-like symptoms since March 22, including 17 aboard the Rotterdam, according to the docking plan. Originally firmly opposed to the ships’ arrival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that he had a change of heart after realizing many passengers were U.S. citizens and about 50 of them Floridians. He went further on Thursday, telling Fox News that allowing the ships to dock and transferring critically ill patients to hospitals was “the humanitarian thing to do.” Passengers who have no symptoms of the virus will be bused to airports and put directly on charter flights without passing through the terminals, DeSantis said. Emily Spindler Brazell, of Tappahannock, Virginia, was still in her cabin waiting for instructions from the Rotterdam’s captain but said she was relieved to be back home. “People greeted us, came out to their balconies, blew air horns and shouted, ‘Welcome home!’” she said. “It was surprising. We went to many countries that said, ‘We are not going to talk to you.’” ___ Gomez Licon reported from Miami. ____ Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.
  • The outbreak of the coronavirus has dealt a shock to the global economy with unprecedented speed. Following are developments on Friday related to the global economy, the work place and the spread of the virus. ____________ COSTS MOUNT: The pandemic will cost the global economy as much as $4.1 trillion, or nearly 5% of all economic activity, according to new estimates from the Asian Development Bank. The regional lender said Friday that growth in developing Asia would likely fall to 2.2% in 2020, more than halving last year's growth of 5.2%. China, the region’s biggest economy, experienced double-digit contractions in business activity in January-February and will likely see growth fall to 2.3% this year. That's compared with 6.1 last year, already a three-decade low, the ADB said. In Europe, a key gauge of activity in manufacturing and services fell to a record low, suggesting an annualized drop in GDP of about 10% for the 19-country eurozone. AIRLINES: Airlines face a Friday deadline to apply for a share of $25 billion in federal grants to cover payroll costs for the next six months. American and Southwest have indicated they will apply while other carriers are hesitating. A provision of the aid could allow the U.S. government to take an equity stake in airlines that seek grants or loans. But all airlines are hemorrhaging. The number of travelers screened Thursday at airports nationwide was 124,000, a 95% drop from the same day last year. HEAVY INDUSTRY: Toyota is halting production at five of its 18 plants in Japan as sales evaporate. The stoppage will last three days for most of the plants, but one plant will close until mid-April. The affected plants produce vehicles for export, including Lexus luxury models and the Prius hybrid. Other Japanese automakers, such as Honda Motor Co., have also suspended production. The U.S. auto industry is completely shut down. Germany’s auto industry association says new car registrations in the country dropped 38% in March compared with a year earlier, the steepest drop it has measured since German reunification three decades ago. TRAVEL: Thailand’s famous resort island of Phuket has issued an order to close to all hotels. Hotels currently hosting guests may stay open until they leave, but must report their number and names to the district offices so their health can be screened. Any guest with COVID-19 symptoms will be brought to state-designated facilities for monitoring. All land and sea entry and exit points in Phuket were closed this week. The island draws more than 10 million visitors annually. MARKETS: Stocks are holding relatively steady on Wall Street after a report showed 701,000 jobs were lost last month, the first drop in nearly a decade. The major U.S. stock indexes are flat. ROUNDING IT OUT: The U.S. typically has a unique response to crisis, and this one is no different. Firearm sales spiked 85% last month compared with the March last year, according an analysis of the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System by Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting. The laws of supply and demand also apply to arming up, of course, and the cost of adding guns the the shopping list will cost you. “Much of the industry’s inventory will have been depleted, so that we anticipate that weapons and ammunition prices increased as well,” said Jurgen Brauer, SAAF's chief economist. Data on prices will be released soon.
  • Stocks are falling in early afternoon trading Friday, putting Wall Street on track for its third losing week in the last four. The losses came after the government reported that U.S. employers cut 701,000 jobs last month, the first drop in nearly a decade and the latest of what is sure to be many grim indicators of the toll the coronavirus is is taking on the economy as businesses, industry and travel shut down in an attemp to slow the spread of the outbreak. U.S. stock indexes held steady at first, then headed lower after the price of oil lost some of its momentum. That undercut a rally for energy stocks, which had been helping to keep the overall market’s losses in check. The S&P 500 was down 1.8% as of 12:42 p.m. Eastern time after earlier flipping between modest gains and losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 376 points, or 1.8%, to 21,033, and the Nasdaq was down 1.7%. Even those losses would be some of smaller daily pullbacks since the sell-off began in mid-February. The relatively muted reaction “is actually a bit of a silver lining for investors at this point,” said Peter Essele, head of portfolio management for Commonwealth Financial Network. “It shows that markets have already factored in dismal economic numbers for at least the next few weeks,” he said. Businesses have shut down across the country and the world as people stay home in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. Friday’s report likely doesn’t even fully capture the extent of the recent job losses, which have been accelerating by the day, because it collected data from before stay-at-home orders were widespread. “There is far worse to come,” said Eric Winograd, senior economist at AllianceBernstein. Economists say next month’s report may even show the economy has wiped away the last of the 22.8 million jobs created during its nearly decade-long hiring streak. On Friday, The S&P 500 is down 25% since its record set in February, reflecting the growing assumption that the economy is set to slide into a sudden, extremely sharp recession. Part of that decline also reflects the market’s expectations for stunning job losses, such as those included in Friday’s jobs report. But the panic selling that dominated the first few weeks of the sell-off has calmed a bit since Washington unleashed massive amounts of aid to help markets and the economy. The Federal Reserve has promised to buy as many Treasury securities as it takes to keep lending markets running smoothly, and Congress approved a $2.2 trillion rescue plan for the economy. “Together, these actions are staggering and unprecedented and will go some distance toward helping to cushion the economic blow of this health crisis and help get the country to the other side,” said Rick Rieder, chief investment officer of global fixed income at BlackRock. For the week, the S&P 500 is on track for a 2.5% loss, following up a 10.3% surge and a 15% drop in the prior two weeks. Now, markets are waiting to see when the number of new coronavirus infections peaks. Only that can give some clarity on how long the economic downturn will last and how deep it will be. Businesses that were just hanging on before the outbreak because of the then-strong economy may not survive. Commonwealth Financial Network's Essele pointed to retail chains and malls in particular. “It’s a bit of a brush fire that we’re going to get,” he said. “The strong will survive on the other end of this.” The United States has more than 245,000 confirmed cases of the virus, which leads the worldwide tally of more than 1 million compiled by Johns Hopkins University. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. More than 55,000 people have died, but over 219,000 have recovered. Markets got a bit of a lift Friday from another gain in oil prices. Benchmark U.S. crude climbed nearly 5% to $26.55 per barrel, adding on to its nearly 25% surge the prior day on expectations that Saudi Arabia and Russia may dial back their price war. The world is awash in oil as demand for energy collapses, and President Donald Trump said the rivals may be close to cutting back on production to prop up oil’s price. That helped propel some energy stocks higher, including a 5.4% rise for EOG Resources, though the gains faded through the morning. Benchmark U.S. oil had been above $28 per barrel earlier in the morning. Energy stocks in the S&P 500 overall were down 3% after being higher earlier in the morning.
  • After two months in locked-down Wuhan, Wei Lei was eager to get back to work on a railway construction site. Instead, the 22-year-old found himself stranded at an expressway toll plaza where police decided who was allowed in and out of the city where the coronavirus pandemic started. The authorities wanted a letter from his bosses saying he was needed, but Wei said he didn't have one because employees who would prepare it had yet to return to work. 'It was boring staying at home and I was embarrassed to be fed by my parents,” Wei said Thursday. Chinese leaders are trying to revive the economy, but local officials under orders to prevent new infections are enforcing disease checks and other controls that add to financial losses and aggravation for millions of workers. Beijing told companies to keep paying employees and promised loans and other aid. But millions of migrants, day laborers and others without regular jobs need to return to work before they can start getting paid after two idle months. More than 100 million workers who visited their hometowns for the Lunar New Year holiday were stranded after travel controls imposed Jan. 23 on Wuhan to fight the virus were extended to cover most of China. The holiday was prolonged to keep factories and offices closed and the public at home. Even after the ruling Communist Party reversed course in early March and started allowing some businesses to reopen, travel curbs remained in place in many areas, keeping workers away from their jobs. Chinese officials say state-dominated industries such as steel are almost back to normal production. But many private employers — the sector that generates most of China’s jobs and wealth — say they are operating at a fraction of normal levels in part because employees haven’t come back to work. The People’s Daily newspaper reported March 20 that about 100 million migrant workers, or about 80% of those who returned to their hometowns for the holiday, were back at work. No official figures for possible job losses have been reported. One of the bleakest estimates came from Liu Chenjie, an economic commentator and chairman of Upright Capital, a hedge fund. He said in comments reported by the website Sina.com that as many as 200 million people might have lost jobs or were underemployed due to the virus. Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in Hubei province, is the industrial and transportation hub of central China. At the Wuhan East toll plaza where Wei waited, police in gloves and face masks were turning away vehicles without Wuhan plates. Wearing masks and carrying children, returnees showed a green “health code” on a smartphone app that indicates they are symptom-free. Occupants of cars waiting inside the barrier to pick up returnees were checked for fever by police. Cai Luo, a saleswoman for an internet company in Wuhan, was returning from her nearby hometown of Huanggang. “I had to show my green code and be checked at every stop on the way back,' said Cai, 24. 'I felt panic because I had never come across before.” Huanggang also was quarantined but controls there and on other cities were lifted last month. “We weren't allowed to walk out of our home, let alone shopping at a supermarket,' Cai said. 'They knew I was back from Wuhan so they put stricter grounding on me.” Cai said she worked from home but her parents couldn't and had no income. “It is hard for ordinary families to have no income for two months,” she said. The final controls on Wuhan, which had three-fourths of China’s virus deaths, last through April 8. Returnees who were allowed into Wuhan were picked up by their employers or squeezed into private cars. Divers earned extra cash as informal taxis on a day when many businesses had yet to reopen. Despite easing controls that shut down most of China’s air, rail and bus service, authorities still require fever checks at public buildings nationwide and try to keep track of where individual travelers go. Wei said he worked on a construction site in Huangmei County on the boundary between Hubei and neighboring Jiangxi province. He showed a reporter a copy of a letter given to a coworker by their employer bearing the red approval seals of a village committee and local government. After two hours at the roadblock, Wei said he was “not hopeful” he could get his own approval letter. “I prepared documents the day before yesterday, but today something changed and the documents didn’t work anymore,' he said. “I have to go back to do it again.” ___ McDonald reported from Beijng. AP producer Olivia Zhang in Wuhan and researcher Yu Bing in Beijing contributed.
  • It may be an odd gesture at a time of social distancing, but President Donald Trump is leaning into his plea to Congress to restore full tax benefits prized by business for fine dining and schmoozing. Trump is seizing on the pandemic crisis to push for an item on his economic wish list: full tax deductions for business meals in restaurants and for other entertainment expenses. Tax relief for fine dining and the like clashes with the reality of social separation urged by the government as a critical measure to contain the coronavirus. Restaurants and sports stadiums, with their corporate boxes, sit empty across the country. But Trump argues that restoring the corporate tax deductions could help shore up the pulverized restaurant industry. It was Trump’s own tax law in 2017, which sliced the tax rate for corporations from 35% to 21%, that reduced or eliminated those same deductions. It was a rare provision that wasn’t business-friendly. The deductions tend to favor higher-end restaurants, the part of the industry that’s been hardest hit by the economic dislocation. Mass-market eateries and fast food and pizza chains have been more likely to hold things together with takeout and delivery business. “This is a great time to bring it back,” Trump said of the tax break during a White House briefing Wednesday. “Otherwise a lot of these restaurants are going to have a hard time reopening.” If the tax relief comes, the president said, it will “open up” the restaurant business, and, “in fact, I think the restaurant business will be actually bigger and better than it is right now.” Trump has repeatedly predicted that the economy will rebound robustly, lifted by consumers’ “great pent-up demand.” Restoring the dining deduction could help at least the tonier part of the restaurant industry — but down the road and depending on the strength of the recovery and consumer spending, some experts believe. “Do I think it’s a massive help? I don’t,” said Jonathan Maze, editor-in-chief of Restaurant Business magazine. “In theory, you could see it help as business travel picks backs up. Maybe it gets a few people into restaurants who might not have done so before.” By far the biggest factor, Maze noted, will be the money that goes into consumers’ pockets, including from direct cash payments from the government. Whether they remain too frightened to go to restaurants is an uncomfortable question. “While the restaurant industry sorely needs federal assistance, restoring deductibility is an action that should fall further down the priority list,” said Kevin Schimpf, senior manager for industry research at Technomic. “With so many business people and office staff working remotely for the foreseeable future, it’s unlikely this action would have much short-term benefit.” Congressional leaders haven’t weighed in yet on Trump’s proposal. Trump’s 2017 tax law, whisked through by the then-Republican majority in Congress, cut the 100% deduction for business meals in half and eliminated it entirely for most entertainment expenses at venues like sporting and cultural events. From pricey corporate boxes at sports stadiums to Double-A baseball games in small towns, the entertainment deduction was a prized perk for companies. Some companies continued to spend without the tax incentive, seeing the benefits from entertaining as a payoff in future revenue. But the tax change had a bite. There’s also a psychological effect. When something’s deductible, even in part, people think it’s less expensive; the government, in effect, is picking up part of the cost.
  • After a record 113 straight months of hiring, the government's monthly jobs report Friday is expected to show that the American jobs machine came to a sudden halt in March as a result of the coronavirus. Economists have forecast that the government will say employers shed about 150,000 jobs and that the unemployment rate rose from a half-century low of 3.5% to 3.9%, according to FactSet. But the jobs figure will vastly understate the magnitude of last month's losses because the government surveyed employers before the heaviest layoffs struck in the past two weeks. Nearly 10 million Americans have since applied for unemployment benefits, far more than for any corresponding period on record. Still, some job cuts likely happened earlier in the month, when most economists think businesses began clamping down on hiring. The job loss for March will underscore the head-snapping speed with which the economy has unraveled after nearly a decade in which employers added nearly 23 million jobs. As recently as February, employers added 273,000 jobs. Economists had welcomed February's job gain, though they wondered why hourly paychecks weren't rising more quickly. But any concerns over sluggish wage growth have now been put well off to the side. “Four years of job gains have evaporated in the span of two weeks,” said Daniel Zhao, an economist at the jobs website Glassdoor. The layoffs will continue to mount. Some economists have forecast that 20 million jobs will be lost by the end of April, swelling the unemployment rate as high as 15% and wiping out the bulk of the past decade's gains. That unemployment rate would be the worst since the 1930s. Roughly 90% of the U.S. population is living under some version of a shutdown order, which has forced the closure of bars, restaurants, movie theaters, factories, gyms and most other businesses. Some hotels are closed; others are largely empty. Fast-food chains are either closed or providing only drive-through service, costing thousands of jobs. With business activity tightly restricted, analysts expect a stomach-churning recession. Economists at Goldman Sachs have forecast that the economy will shrink at an annual rate of 34% in the April-June quarter — the worse fall on records dating to World War II. Goldman expects the economy to rebound with 19% growth in the third quarter. But even by the end of next year, the economy will not have fully recovered from the damage, Goldman projects. Robert Kaplan, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said Thursday on CNBC that he expects the unemployment rate to rise to the mid-teens soon, before falling to about 8% by year's end. A key determinant of the economy's future will be whether businesses can survive the shutdown and rehire many of the workers they laid off. If so, that would help the economy snap back and avoid the type of weak recovery that followed the past three downturns. So far, some large and small businesses are still paying for health care benefits and keeping in touch with their newly laid-off workers. But if the virus outbreak forces businesses to stay closed into the late summer, many may go bankrupt or won't have the money to rehire their old employees. That would keep unemployment elevated, depriving potentially millions of people of a paycheck and slowing the recovery.

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • Researchers at a Michigan university believe they have discovered a way to decontaminate face masks, which have been in short supply -- bake them. Scientists at Michigan State University are using commercial ovens to effectively clean N95 face masks -- a process that appears to be working, the Lansing State Journal reported. “I think we have a duty and obligation to use those resources in any way we can in this moment,” university extension director Jeff Dwyer told the State Journal. 'We need to be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things and push for solutions. Then this becomes an instance that we believe the decontamination of N95 masks … will be one of the important components of saving the lives of patients who have COVID-19 and the lives of the health care providers taking care of them.” The school hopes to start using the process next week to help medical facilities decontaminate face masks for health care workers.
  • A Michigan grandfather has been taking extraordinary measures to see his granddaughter -- walking more than four miles to set eyes on the newborn through a glass partition. Josh Gillett shared a photo of one of the visits of his father and daughter Elliana Rae on social media this week. “It breaks my heart that my dad can’t hold my daughter,” Gillett wrote. “However, as you can clearly see on my dad’s face, he’s overflowing with joy just to see her.” Gillett said his father, who’s not been identified, held Elliana Rae twice before Michigan went on lockdown. “While my wife was pregnant, I don’t think an hour went by where my dad didn’t brag about becoming a grandpa soon,” Gillett wrote. “Now, his granddaughter is finally here, and the only things he can hold are the daily pictures we send him.” A “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order telling residents to isolate themselves was issued last week. The order also closed nonessential businesses and schools, WXMI reported. Then, earlier this week, a state of disaster was declared closing any remaining schools and increasing social distancing measures. There are more than 10,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 417 deaths, according to The New York Times.
  • More than one million people worldwide -- including more than 245,000 people in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. Officials are attempting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. as hospitals brace for unprecedented patient surges. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Friday, April 3, continue below:  Special small business loans available beginning Friday Update 1:10 p.m. EDT April 3: Beginning Friday, small businesses struggling to stay afloat as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread across the United States can apply for the nearly $350 billion in loans set up through the CARES Act passed by Congress last month. Four programs are now in place to help small businesses to stay in business until the public health crisis triggered by COVID-19 abates. The programs came from the CARES Act which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27. 109 new coronavirus cases reported in Oklahoma Update 12:45 p.m. EDT April 3: Officials in Oklahoma said 109 new coronavirus infections were reported Friday, raising the total number of cases in the state to 988, according to KOKI-TV. Four new coronavirus-related deaths were also reported in the state, bringing Oklahoma’s COVID-19 death toll to 38. The four new fatal cases involved patients who were all over 65 years old. Pennsylvania officials report 1,404 new coronavirus cases Update 12:40 p.m. EDT April 3: Officials in Pennsylvania reported 1,404 new coronavirus infections Friday, bringing the state’s total to 8,420, WPXI reported. In addition, officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 12 more deaths. Statewide 102 people have died of COVID-19, according to WPXI. 104 new coronavirus infections reported in DC Update 12:20 p.m. EDT April 3: Officials in Washington D.C. said 104 new coronavirus infections have been reported, bringing the total in the district to 757. Mayor Muriel Bowser said three new fatal cases were also reported Friday. In all, 15 people have died due to COVID-19 in Washington D.C. Delta Air Lines giving passengers 2 years to rebook flights Update 12:15 p.m. EDT April 3: Delta Air Lines announced Friday that the company is extending its window to redeem travel credits from one to two years amid the coronavirus outbreak. The change will allow for travel credits to be used through May 2022. “Just as our business is changing, we know that events in our customers’ lives are being changed and canceled, too,” airline officials said Friday in a statement. “Whether customers have been affected by recent schedule adjustments or want additional reassurance about upcoming travel, we’re now extending the ability to plan, re-book and travel with us for up to two years – giving Delta customers some extra breathing room.” Temporary military hospitals to begin taking COVID-19 patients, Pentagon says Update 11:55 a.m. EDT April 3: The Pentagon said it will begin accepting COVID-19 positive patients at Pentagon-supported medical facilities in Dallas and New Orleans that previously had been designated as non-COVID hospitals. COVID-19 positive patients in convalescent care and those deemed non-urgent cases will be accepted at the Morial federal medical station in New Orleans and at the Kay Bailey Hutchison federal medical center in Dallas. These patients must first be screened at a local hospital. President Donald Trump on Thursday announced that he had approved New York’s request that COVID-19 patients be accepted for care at the Pentagon-supported Javits center, which previously had taken on non-COVID patients. The Pentagon also said Friday that screening for care of non-COVID-19 patients on the hospital ship USNS Comfort in New York harbor is being modified in an effort to reduce a backlog at some New York hospitals. Instead of requiring patients to be tested for COVID-19 at the hospital from which they are being transferred, each patient transferred to the Comfort will be screened by temperature and given a short questionnaire pier-side. The Pentagon also announced that the number of COVID-19 positive cases in the active-duty military had risen to 978 as of Friday morning. That is up 85 from a day earlier. New York reports 562 new fatal COVID-19 cases Update 11:30 a.m. EDT April 3: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said the state saw its “highest single increase in the number of deaths since we started” on Friday. Officials reported 562 new deaths attributed to COVID-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 2,373. 102,863 coronavirus infections reported in New York Update 11:20 a.m. EDT April 3: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said Friday that 10,481 new coronavirus infections have been reported, bringing the state’s total number of COVID-19 cases to 102,863. New York has been the state hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. UK prime minister to continue self-isolating Update 11 a.m. EDT April 3: Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom said Friday that he will continue to self-isolate past the recommended seven-day period as he deals with a “minor symptom” lingering since his COVID-19 diagnosis. Johnson said he continues to have a fever. “In accordance with government advice, I must continue my self-isolation until that symptom itself goes,' he said. “But we’re clearly working the whole time on our program to defeat the virus.” Mayor tells New York City residents to wear face coverings in public Update 10:50 a.m. EDT April 3: Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said Friday that residents should wear face coverings while around people who are not part of their families or households to stymie the spread of the new coronavirus. He said in a video posted Friday to Twitter that he’s been asked several times recently whether masks are appropriate for people in the general public. “The masks -- the surgical masks, those N95 masks -- we want to keep those for the health care workers, for the first responders,” he said. “We’re now advising all New Yorkers, when you go outside and you’re close to other people -- not your own family and people under your same roof, but when you’re close to other people -- have a bandanna, a scarf, some kind of face covering you can use when you happen to be in close proximity to people.” He emphasized that the mask does not protect against coronavirus and urged people to continue keeping at least 6 feet of space between each other. “(This) will help make sure that if, God forbid you’ve contracted the disease, even if you’re not yet symptomatic, that you won’t inadvertently spread it to someone else,” he said. “It’s a precaution to protect others.” Cruise ship en route to Florida confirms 12 COVID-19 cases Update 10:20 a.m. EDT April 3: Health officials have confirmed a dozen coronavirus infections on a Princess Cruise Lines ship headed toward Fort Lauderdale, Florida, company officials said Thursday. Princess Cruise Lines said that on Tuesday, crew members on the Coral Princess sent 13 COVID-19 test samples to health officials in Barbados. Of those, samples from seven guests and five crew members tested positive for the viral infection. The Coral Princess had set sail March 5 from Chile, one week before Princess Cruises announced a 60-day pause of operations. It was scheduled to travel to Argentina, where passengers were set to disembark March 19. Stocks open lower after US government reports 700,000 job losses Update 9:50 a.m. EDT April 3: Stocks wavered in early trading on Wall Street after the U.S. government reported that more than 700,000 jobs were lost last month. Businesses have shut down across the country and the world as people stay home in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. The S&P 500 was up 0.4% in the first few minutes of trading. European markets were down Friday after losses in most of Asia. The price of oil continued to rise on hopes for a global deal to limit overproduction, which helped boost energy stocks. The price of benchmark U.S. crude rose 7%. Grupo Modelo to halt production of Corona beer Update 9:45 a.m. EDT April 3: Grupo Modelo, the Mexican company that brews Corona beer, said Friday in a statement that it will halt production of the drink and others it brews to comply with Mexico’s closure of non-essential businesses. U.S. economy lost 701,000 jobs in March Update 9:15 a.m. EDT April 3: A new report from the Labor Department on Friday showed the economic storm associated with the coronavirus battering the U.S. economy in March, causing the loss of 701,000 jobs, and pushing the jobless rate up by almost one percent -- the largest monthly increase in over 45 years. The unemployment rate was at 4.4 percent in March, not far under the 4.7 percent rate when President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, the highest jobless rate of his presidency. 'Employment in leisure and hospitality fell by 459,000, mainly in food services and drinking places,' the Labor Department reported. “Notable declines also occurred in health care and social assistance, professional and business services, retail trade, and construction,” the report added. UK officials report 684 new fatal coronavirus cases Update 9:05 a.m. EDT April 3: Officials in the United Kingdom recorded 684 new fatal COVID-19 cases on Friday, raising the country’s coronavirus death toll to 3,605. The number is slightly higher than the 569 deaths reported Thursday. Authorities with the British Department of Health and Social Care also announced 4,450 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases. In all, officials said 33,718 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus infections in the U.K. Germany becomes 4th nation to surpass China’s total coronavirus count Update 7:53 a.m. EDT April 3: The global death toll attributed to the novel coronavirus hit 54,137 early Friday, and Spain’s total number of infections surpassed that of Italy, according to a tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University. In the four months since the virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, it has infected at least 1,030,628 people worldwide. Four countries – the United States, Spain, Italy and Germany – have now confirmed total infection counts well above China’s 82,509 tally. • The United States has reported 245,573 cases, resulting in 6,058 deaths. • Spain has reported 117,710 infections, resulting in 10,935 deaths. • Italy has confirmed 115,242 cases, resulting in 13,915 deaths. • Germany has reported 85,063 cases, resulting in 1,111 deaths. • China has recorded 82,509 cases, resulting in 3,326 deaths. • France has confirmed 59,929 infections, resulting in 5,398 deaths. • Iran has recorded 53,183 cases, resulting in 3,160 deaths. • The United Kingdom has reported 34,192 cases, resulting in 2,926 deaths. • Switzerland has confirmed 19,145 cases, resulting in 573 deaths. • Turkey has recorded 18,135 cases, resulting in 356 deaths. UK field hospital NHS Nightingale opens less than 2 weeks after project began Update 7:41 a.m. EDT April 3: Less than two weeks after crews began repurposing London’s ExCel conference center to accommodate overflow novel coronavirus patients, the NHS Nightingale field hospital stands ready to serve. Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, called the timely transformation a “spectacular and almost unbelievable feat.” “(It’s) an example – if ever one was needed – of how the impossible could be made possible,” he said Friday via a video-link from Scotland, where he has been self-isolating after being diagnosed with the virus in March. “In this dark time, this place will be a shining light,” Prince Charles said, adding, “It is symbolic of the selfless care and devoted service taking place in innumerable settings, with countless individuals throughout the United Kingdom.” To date, the United Kingdom has reported 34,192 cases, resulting in 2,926 deaths. Coronavirus cases continue mounting in Brazil, Japan Update 6:56 a.m. EDT April 3: With more than 1 million novel coronavirus cases now recorded worldwide, new – and some old – hotspots are emerging as the pandemic continues its global spread. • Brazil confirmed Thursday its third consecutive day logging at least 1,000 new cases. The South American country now reports a total of 7,910 infections, which have resulted in at least 299 deaths. • Japan confirmed early Friday that 235 additional novel coronavirus cases have brought the East Asian country’s total to 3,329, resulting in at least 63 deaths. • Tokyo reported its largest single-day increase in new cases on Friday with 97. Japan’s capital city has now confirmed a total of 684 cases. Portion of famed Paris market repurposed as makeshift morgue Update 6:33 a.m. EDT April 3: A portion of the Rungis food market on the outskirts of Paris has been converted into a temporary morgue to handle the swelling number of novel coronavirus fatalities reported in the region. According to The Washington Post, the Paris Police Prefecture is converting one isolated building in the world’s largest meat and vegetable market into a makeshift morgue, capable of accommodating between 800 and 1,000 coffins. “This location will permit the coffins of the deceased to be kept in the most dignified and acceptable conditions from a health point of view, pending their burial or cremation in France or abroad,” the prefecture said in a statement, circulated widely among French media. According to a tally maintained by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, France has recorded at least 59,929 COVID-19 infections since the global pandemic began, resulting in 5,398 fatalities. Libya confirms 1st coronavirus-related death Update 4:35 a.m. EDT April 3: Libya’s National Center for Disease Control confirmed the country’s first novel coronavirus-related fatality in a statement released Thursday. The patient, who was not diagnosed until after hear death, was an 85-year-old woman. According to a tally maintained by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the North African nation has reported a total of 11 infections to date. Lenders question Friday rollout of $349B small business coronavirus relief program Update 4:23 a.m. EDT April 3: The $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program is slated to launch today, but banks tapped to disperse the emergency federal small business loans told The Washington Post they are skeptical the plan is rollout-ready. “Having just received guidance outlining how to implement a $349 billion program literally hours before it starts, we would ask for everyone to be patient as banks move heaven and earth to get a system in place and running to help America’s small businesses and the millions of men and women who work at them,” Richard Hunt, president and chief executive officer of the Consumer Bankers Association, said in a statement. The Paycheck Protection Program, considered a key element of the $2.2 trillion economic relief package approved by Congress one week ago, is intended to deliver a “sharply streamlined, same-day approval process unheard of in the history of federally backed small business lending,” the Post reported. Several participating lenders indicated in interviews with the Post as late as Thursday, however, that they are still awaiting finalized program guidelines from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Small Business Administration before processing any applications despite today’s launch date. Amid coronavirus crisis Disney to furlough employees ‘whose jobs aren't necessary at this time’ Update 3:28 a.m. EDT April 3: Walt Disney Co. has officially notified employees that those “whose jobs aren’t necessary at this time” will be furloughed beginning April 19. The global entertainment empire shuttered all 12 of its theme parks on March 12 and has been paying its employees salaries in the interim. Per the latest announcement, those payments will cease on April 18. The company said in its statement it has been “forced to make the difficult decision to take the next step and furlough employees” because there is “no clear indication of when we can restart our businesses.” All furloughed workers will remain employed by Disney and retain their benefits. Mexico’s Grupo Modelo halts production of Corona beer Update 2:54 a.m. EDT April 3: Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo announced late Thursday it will temporarily halt production of Corona beer as the novel coronavirus pandemic pits essential products against those deemed nonessential. In a news release, Grupo Modelo said the move is in response to the Mexican government’s Tuesday directive that suspends temporarily most industries not deemed “essential” services such as health care and agriculture. In turn, the company plans to cease producing its brews on Sunday with no clear timeline outlined for a return to production. Supplies seized from suspected Brooklyn hoarder donated to medical staffs fighting coronavirus Update 2:32 a.m. EDT April 3: Some New York and New Jersey medical personnel are slightly better stocked after a Brooklyn man’s arrest led authorities to a stockpile of hoarded medical supplies, CNN reported. Prosecutors contend in court documents that Baruch Feldheim, 43, sold N95 masks to doctors and nurses at substantially inflated prices. In turn, the roughly 192,000 in-demand respirator masks and assorted other supplies are being redistributed to medical personnel across New York and New Jersey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Sony launches $100 million global coronavirus relief fund Update 2 a.m. EDT April 3: Sony is preparing to launch $100 million fund to provide global relief to those affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic. “Sony extends its condolences to the families of those who have passed away as a result of the coronavirus crisis and extends its sympathies to all those who have been impacted,” Kenichiro Yoshida, Sony’s president and chief executive officer, said in a prepared statement, adding, “In order to overcome the unprecedented challenges that as a society we now face around the world, we will do all we can as a global company to support the individuals on the front lines of the battle against coronavirus the children who are our future, and those who have been impacted in the creative community.' US coronavirus deaths hit 6,053, total cases top 245K Update 12:30 a.m. EDT April 3: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 245,000 early Friday morning across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 245,540 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 6,053 deaths. U.S. cases now more than double the 115,242 reported in Italy and the 112,065 confirmed in Spain. Of the confirmed U.S. deaths, 2,374 – or roughly 40 percent of the nationwide total – have occurred in New York, 537 in New Jersey and 417 in Michigan.  In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest hit with at least 92,720 confirmed cases – or more than three times the next-closest state – followed by New Jersey with 25,590 and California with 11,042. Seven other states have now confirmed at least 6,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • Michigan: 10,791, including 417 deaths • Louisiana: 9,159, including 310 deaths • Florida: 9,008, including 144 deaths • Massachusetts: 8,966, including 154 deaths • Illinois: 7,695, including 163 deaths • Pennsylvania: 7,268, including 90 deaths • Washington: 6,588, including 271 deaths Meanwhile, Georgia and Texas each has confirmed at least 5,000 novel coronavirus infections; Connecticut, Colorado and Indiana each has confirmed at least 3,000 cases; and Ohio, Tennessee and Maryland each has confirmed at least 2,000 cases. Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • While everyone is social distancing and self-quarantining, why not pick up a new hobby? Multiple guitar companies are teaching how to play guitar for free. Fender announced three free months of lessons on Fender Play, People magazine reported. The company will teach you how to play acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass or ukulele. All you have to do is sign up and find an instrument. At the same time, Gibson is teaming with Amped Guitars to offer free months of online guitar lessons, NME reported. Those companies are using the Amped Guitar Learning app that is currently only available on the Apple App store to learn how to play. The app has lessons and then allows musicians to play with some of the greats like The Beatles, Tom Petty and B.B. King through audio augmented reality technology, NME reported.
  • A North Carolina hospital has set up “mobile morgues” as a precautionary measure as it prepares for the possibility of a large number of deaths because of the coronavirus. Atrium Health confirmed it has set up the “mobile morgues” outside the emergency room at Atrium Health Cabarrus in Concord. Residents were alarmed Thursday at the sight of the two large, white containers. “That’s just not good for people’s morale in a time like this,” Joshua Seeler said. Officials said it is accurate to call them “mobile morgues,” but they stress that the move is precautionary. Hospital officials urged the public to do its part by following social distancing and stay-at-home orders. They said how quickly COVID-19 spreads is directly dependent on the community. Hospital officials said in a statement: 'As part of our ongoing pandemic planning, we are coordinating and working with every hospital in our system to prepare for the anticipated influx of COVID-19 patients in the weeks ahead. 'This includes decreasing non-essential appointments and procedures early on, our emphasis on virtual health visits and identifying extra available space for patients. 'We are also preparing for the possibility there may be a higher number of patients who succumb to COVID-19. 'The extent of how fast COVID-19 will spread, the impact it has, and our ability to serve the community during this state of emergency is directly dependent on how well our community observes the physical distancing and stay-at-home orders in place today. “We continue to urge the community to do their part in flattening the curve. These measures underscore how vitally important it is for the community to observe stay-at-home and physical distancing orders in place.”

Washington Insider

  • A new report from the Labor Department on Friday showed the economic storm associated with the Coronavirus battering the U.S. economy in March, causing the loss of 701,000 jobs, and pushing the jobless rate up by almost one percent, the largest monthly increase in over forty five years. The unemployment rate was at 4.4 percent in March, not far under the 4.7 percent rate when President Donald Trump took office in January of 2017, the highest jobless rate of his presidency. 'Employment in leisure and hospitality fell by 459,000, mainly in food services and drinking places,' the Labor Department reported.  'Notable declines also occurred in health care and social assistance, professional and business services, retail trade, and construction,' the report added. Lawmakers and economists readily acknowledged upcoming unemployment reports would likely be even worse. 'Elevated unemployment at 4.4 percent in the March jobs report shows only a glimpse of the surge in layoffs caused by the economic impact of the coronavirus,' said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX). '700k is an awful jobs month,' tweeted Austan Goolsbee, a top economic adviser under President Barack Obama. 'That it’s the best news we will get for some time should give us a terrible pit in our stomach.' Last week, 3.3 million Americans filed for initial jobless claims. That number doubled this week, as 6.6 million Americans made similar filings, indicating massive amounts of unemployment. The massive amount of job losses have sent state governments scrambling to help people seeking jobless benefits. But some states have found their systems ill-prepared for such a surge. “I'm in Florida and get an error on the unemployment website when trying to sign-up,” one person told me.  “I call and the phone number is busy.”