CORONAVIRUS:

 What You Need To Know

On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

clear-day
76°
Partly Cloudy
H 84° L 61°
  • clear-day
    76°
    Current Conditions
    Partly Cloudy. H 84° L 61°
  • cloudy-day
    80°
    Evening
    Partly Cloudy. H 84° L 61°
  • clear-night
    62°
    Morning
    Clear. H 88° L 66°
Listen
Pause
Error

The latest newscast

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

The Latest News about Government and Politics

    Democrats are zeroing in on health care as one of the few issues that might resonate among Americans who have largely shelved election year politics as they focus on protecting their families from the spreading coronavirus. Joe Biden, the prospective Democratic nominee, is criticizing President Donald Trump for refusing to reopen “Obamacare” enrollment to allow more Americans to sign up for medical insurance during the crisis. Congressional candidates are slamming Republicans for not doing enough to protect access to health coverage. And on Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders are pushing for the next coronavirus response legislation. Democrats were always going to focus on health care after the issue helped them retake control of the House in 2018. But the coronavirus pandemic has added new urgency to the push, sidelining other policy debates that dominated the Democratic primary, such as free college education or sweeping environmental reforms. “It’s definitely amplified to people who thought that it was not the overarching issue,' said Betsy Londrigan Dirksen, the Democrat running against GOP Rep. Rodney Davis for an Illinois congressional seat. 'Health care, and access to quality affordable care, is the No. 1 issue, and it will be on the ballot in November.” Democrats still hope to put Trump on defense on other issues, such as his handling of the economy and his overall leadership. But as hospitals struggle to cope with surging coronavirus cases, few issues may feel as tangible to voters as health care. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence struggled to respond to questions during a press briefing this week about why the administration has refused to reopen healthcare.gov to allow all uninsured Americans to buy coverage through the government marketplace. Pence noted that private insurers are waiving fees on testing and that states could expand coverage under Medicaid, but he didn't directly explain the administration's thinking about the exchanges. He later said the administration was considering direct aid to hospitals who treat uninsured patients suffering from COVID-19. Biden called the resistance to reopening the exchanges “callous.” Trump has long pledged — and failed — to offer an alternative to Obamacare that would be cheaper and provide better coverage. Democrats are now highlighting the administration’s support of a Republican-backed legal effort to invalidate the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, which could ultimately dismantle the entire law. The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the case this fall. Guy Cecil, chair of Priorities USA, the biggest Democratic outside group, which is leading much of the Democratic opposition to Trump, said the group’s polling has shown Democrats never lost their advantage on health care, but the coronavirus outbreak has brought it into sharp relief. “The idea that, even in the midst of all of this, the president is still insistent on throwing our health care system into chaos I think is pretty telling,” he said. A handful of Democratic outside groups, including Cecil’s, are spending millions of dollars attacking Trump’s response to the pandemic, with everything from television to digital ads to efforts promoting news reports aimed at combating what they see as misinformation coming from the Trump administration about the outbreak. Priorities USA has spent over $6 million on ads in four key general election states — Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — that suggest Trump downplayed the severity of the crisis even as the number of infections rapidly climbed. Democratic super PACs American Bridge and Pacronym have also invested big in coronavirus ads, and a pro-Biden super PAC put out its own ad contrasting Trump with past presidents who’ve confronted crises and charging the president “failed” in addressing this one. Protect Our Care, another outside group, began an ad campaign this week in midwestern states highlighting the shortage in supplies for front-line health care workers and the spike in unemployment resulting from the outbreak. The pro-Trump super PAC America First Action responded with a $10 million ad campaign in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan attacking Biden. Trump campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said the president is “indisputably the best person to lead our country on health care,” pointing to his work to get health care industry executives to agree to offer free testing and expanded coverage for those suffering from the illness. She also argued that Trump has been working while in office to bring health care costs down for Americans. Like most Americans, Biden is grounded at home, unable to campaign in a traditional manner or harness the media spotlight. He holds daily events related to the virus, including virtual roundtables featuring first responders and others acutely affected by the outbreak. He holds daily calls with an advisory board of medical doctors and experts, and is reaching out to a number of governors dealing with the crisis in their states. There are still risks to focusing so much on health care. The Democratic primary exposed deep divides in the party over how to best expand access to affordable health insurance. Progressives, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders, insist on transitioning to a government-run system that replaces private coverage. Biden and other moderates oppose 'Medicare for All.” “The idea it would have fundamentally changed anything is just not accurate,” Biden told reporters on Thursday. “I don’t see where Medicare for All would make any difference in terms of the speed with which, and the recovery rate which would occur if in fact it existed.” Republicans have already accused Democrats of politicizing a tragedy, and a number of Democratic operatives privately acknowledged they were concerned about striking the right balance. Biden insists he’s not blaming Trump for the virus, but simply wants him to “move faster” with his response. Just this week, Biden aides said they were working to set up a call with Trump to discuss the coronavirus response. Downballot candidates also are elevating arguments centering on health care. In Texas, veteran and businesswoman MJ Hegar, who’s challenging Republican Sen. John Cornyn, said health care has always been a top issue for voters. But she said the coronavirus underscored how out of touch politicians in Washington are to the realities confronting average Americans. “He (Cornyn) doesn’t understand how broken the health care system is because he’s been on government-provided health care his whole career,' she said. 'You know, it’s really highlighting to people the problem with having folks like him in office,” she said.
  • The Wisconsin Election Commission wants a federal judge who ordered an extension for absentee voting in Tuesday’s presidential primary as the coronovirus spreads to ensure that no results are reported until all absentee ballots are in. U.S. District Judge William Conley on Thursday declined to postpone Wisconsin’s election, but he ordered that people be given an extra six days beyond Election Day for absentee voting. He also blasted state leaders’ decision not to delay the election to protect people’s health but refused to postpone it himself, saying a federal judge shouldn’t act as the state’s health officer. “As much as the court would prefer that the Wisconsin Legislature and Governor consider the public health ahead of any political considerations, that does not appear in the cards. Nor is it appropriate for a federal district court to act as the state’s chief health official by taking that step for them,” Conley wrote. The deadline for voters to get absentee ballots to local clerks had been 8 p.m. on Tuesday, but Conley’s order shifted that to 4 p.m. on April 13. Conley also extended the deadline for voters to request ballots by a day to 5 p.m. Friday. The judge also lifted a witness requirement for absentee ballot applications, writing that voters can provide a written affirmation that they could not safely obtain a witness signature due to coronavirus fears. Conley's ruling could create a situation where clerks are reporting partial results after polls close Tuesday but absentee voting is continuing for nearly a week. The Wisconsin Election Commission wrote to the judge late Thursday night asking him to clarify his order to ensure no results will be published until April 13, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Republicans wrote in support of the commission's position. The Republican Party of Wisconsin said it has appealed the ruling to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, asking it to stay the order. The Republican National Committee and the party had urged Conley to allow the election to proceed as planned. In a statement, the GOP said the judge’s decision to change the date which absentee ballots can be received without any limit on the postmarked date “effectively changes the date of the election” and needs to be reviewed by the appeals court. The ruling marks a partial victory for Democrats and liberal groups who argued that thousands of voters might be disenfranchised because time is running out to file absentee ballots. The party and the groups had filed three lawsuits demanding that Conley postpone in-person voting, extend the deadlines for filing absentee ballots and lift requirements that absentee voters supply photo IDs with their ballot applications and get a witness to sign the ballot before returning it. “Every voter must count, even during crises, and this ruling gives voters critical time to vote safely by mail,” state Democratic Party Chairman Ben Wikler said. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called it “great news” that people would have more time to request and submit absentee ballots. Several states have postponed elections or shifted to all mail in the face of the pandemic. But Evers and Republican leaders have been committed to Wisconsin’s date. They argued there’s no guarantee conditions will improve in a couple of months and postponing the election risks leaving many local offices unfilled for an extended period. Evers’ position on the election has shifted over the last few weeks. During the early days of the outbreak he said he thought the election should go on, a stance that drew considerable criticism from Democratic allies. As it became clear that Evers lacked the authority to change election law he asked the Republican-controlled Legislature to mail absentee ballots to all registered voters, a request the GOP rejected. On Wednesday, he said for the first time that if he could move the election he would. The decision to press forward has drawn widespread criticism. Poll workers have been quitting in droves. The Wisconsin Election Commission reported Tuesday that more than 100 municipalities lack enough staff to run even one polling site, and requests for absentee ballots have been setting new records daily. As of Thursday, local clerks had issued 1.1 million ballots, with some clerks facing backlogs of requests. Meanwhile, they’re bracing for an avalanche of returns that could take days to count. Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on Wednesday called for the state to postpone the election. Rival Joe Biden said Thursday that it’s up to Wisconsin courts to decide what to do but he didn’t have a problem with voting proceeding. The Democratic National Committee has announced it's pushing back its national convention in Milwaukee from mid-July to mid-August. ___ Associated Press writer Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.
  • 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.
  • Two of the most powerful people in Washington haven't spoken in five months at a time when the nation is battling its worst health crisis in a century, one that has already killed more than 6,000 Americans and put 10 million others out of work. President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last talked Oct. 16, when Pelosi pointed her finger at the seated president during a heated exchange in a White House meeting that was captured in a widely shared photograph. Pelosi stormed out, and the two leaders’ frayed relationship was soon severed by the House's impeachment of Trump months later. Now, there are worries the broken relationship could hinder the federal government's ability to respond to the growing coronavirus crisis, the extent of the damage reflected in Thursday's report that a record 6.6 million people filed for unemployment, adding to more than 3 million from two weeks earlier. “Relationships are the beginning of everything. Trust in one another is key to cooperation,” said John M. Bridgeland, who held government posts under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The relationship between Trump and Pelosi, never warm, appears beyond repair after the Republican president's impeachment, according to allies of both leaders. Even the COVID-19 pandemic, which has rewritten the rules of daily American life and threatens people's health and employment, has done nothing to thaw the ice between the two. Last month, as Washington crafted the most expensive stimulus package in U.S. history, Trump and Pelosi eyed each other warily from opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, the president leaving it to others to negotiate a $2.2 trillion economic relief package. Trump and Pelosi communicated with — or at — each other via Twitter, television and intermediaries the other side could tolerate. Chief among them has been Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who negotiated the three rescue bills passed so far. When Trump signed the package at the White House, he didn't invite Pelosi or any other Democrats to join him. The record-breaking jobless claims add new urgency to the matter of next steps for Congress, which had been moving, slowly, toward crafting another recovery bill that could equal or surpass the first stimulus' price tag. Pelosi and Mnuchin worked out the stimulus by speaking dozens of times by phone and in the speaker's Capitol office overlooking the Mall. Going forward, new White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, a former congressman who has a relationship with Pelosi, is expected to be another leading conduit. Pelosi has played down her lack of communication with Trump. 'Whatever communications we need to move forward, that will be happening whether I talk to the president or not,” Pelosi said Thursday. “It’s not casual. It isn’t, 'Let's just chat.' It’s about what is the purpose, what is the urgency, does it require the time of the speaker and the president, both of whom are very busy people.' The speaker also announced the formation of a bipartisan House select committee on the coronavirus crisis. Trump lashed out at the panel as a “witch hunt” and said it would ultimately help “build up' his poll numbers. “I want to remind everyone here in our nation's capital, especially in Congress, that this is not the time for politics, endless partisan investigations,” Trump said during the White House coronavirus task force briefing. During the pandemic is a time when Americans may have less tolerance for the usual partisan bickering or brinkmanship. “There’s no space for politics,” said Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams of Utah, who is recovering from the coronavirus and is one of several lawmakers who have isolated themselves. According to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 44% of Americans approve of how Trump is handling the coronavirus outbreak, mirroring his overall approval rating. And fewer Americans, 38%, approve of the federal government’s job of handling the virus’ spread throughout the country, compared with larger shares approving of how their state and local governments are doing (57% and 54%, respectively). Just 31% of Americans approve of how leaders in Congress are addressing the coronavirus, while 41% disapprove. It wasn’t always this bitter between Trump and Pelosi. After the Democrats captured the House in November 2018, Trump cheered for Pelosi to retake the speakership, telling aides that he respected the California Democrat’s political survival skills and believed she was a transactional politician with whom he could deal. Instead, Pelosi became his most visible antagonist, creating viral images when she mockingly clapped for him during his 2019 State of the Union address and when she strode out of the West Wing after another tense meeting clad in a designer coat and sunglasses. His demand for federal money for a border wall with Mexico, and Pelosi's refusal to agree, led to the longest government shutdown in history. Trump ultimately backed down, and the government reopened. Their feud exploded last year when Pelosi overcame her initial reluctance and authorized an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine into investigating the family of a Democratic political foe, former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump has told aides and confidants he feels as if Pelosi has tried to undermine and humiliate him at every turn and he will never forgive her for impeachment, according to two White House aides and Republicans close to the West Wing who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss private conversations. Days before Trump was acquitted by the Senate, the two leaders came face-to-face on camera before the president's State of the Union speech. Pelosi reached out her hand in a gesture that seemed more like a dare. Trump ignored the outreach and started his speech. And then, before Trump had left the podium, Pelosi ripped up a copy of his address on camera. She held it up for her allies and her family to see and took a little bow. The coronavirus has proved disproportionately deadly for older Americans; Pelosi turned 80 last week, while Trump is 73. But neither has slowed down their public schedule, and they haven't stopped sniping. 'I don’t know what I would learn in a conversation with the president,' Pelosi said this week. Retorted Trump on Fox News Channel: “She’s a sick puppy.' ___ Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writer Emily Swanson contributed to this report.
  • President Donald Trump’s campaign has sent a letter to Jeff Sessions, his former attorney general now running for a U.S. Senate seat, objecting to Sessions' portrayal of himself as a Trump supporter in a campaign mailer. The March 31 letter sent by Michael S. Glassner, chief operating officer of Donald J. Trump for President, accused Sessions of attempting to “misleadingly promote your connections to and ‘support’ of Trump,” in the campaign mailer that mentioned Trump’s name 22 times. “The letter even makes the delusional assertion that you are President ‘Trump’s #1 Supporter,’' Glassner wrote. “We only assume your campaign is doing this to confuse President Trump’s loyal supporters in Alabama into believing the President supports your candidacy in the upcoming primary run-off election. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Glassner wrote. Before becoming attorney general, Sessions was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump, donning a Make America Great Again hat at an Alabama rally. But in a political twist of irony, his public falling out with Trump has threatened to upend his hopes of recapturing his former seat. Sessions relinquished the Senate seat from Alabama he held for 20 years when he was appointed Trump’s attorney general, a position he was forced to resign after his 2017 recusal from the Russia inquiry sparked blistering criticism from Trump. Sessions is now seeking to return to the seat. Wounded by the fallout of that soured relationship in the Trump-loving state, Sessions was forced into a runoff with former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville in the Republican primary. Tuberville led Sessions in the first round of voting. The winner will face incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Doug Jones in November in the once reliably red state. The letter from the Trump campaign read: “We want to be absolutely clear about it: President Trump and the Trump Campaign unambiguously endorse Tommy Tuberville.” The letter was first reported by The New York Times. According to the Sessions campaign, the mailer in question that drew the objections of the Trump campaign, was sent several days before Trump made his March 10 endorsement of Tuberville. The Sessions camp said Thursday night that Alabama voters will decide the race. “The people of Alabama are going to decide this race, not Washington. Alabamians are an independent lot and they make their own decisions. Our campaign is resolutely focused on the important challenges facing America, and the critical issues to Alabama and our economy,” Sessions spokesman John Rogers said in a statement. The Sessions camp repeated a challenge to Tuberville to debate before the July runoff. Sessions has emphasized his loyalty to Trump since entering the race. He noted that he was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump in 2016 and had championed many of the conservative immigration, criminal justice and trade policies that became thought of as the Trump agenda. Trump’s March 10 endorsement of Sessions' primary opponent Tuberville — and one before it that appeared to mock Sessions for being forced into a runoff — put an end to any hopes by Sessions supporters that the president would keep quiet on the Alabama race. The GOP runoff, originally set for March 31, was delayed until July because of the new coronavirus outbreak.
  • The captain of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier facing a growing outbreak of the coronavirus on his ship was fired by Navy leaders who said he created a panic by sending his memo pleading for help to too many people. Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the ship's commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, “demonstrated extremely poor judgment” in the middle of a crisis. He said the captain copied too many people on the memo, which was leaked to a California newspaper and quickly spread to many news outlets. Modly's decision to remove Crozier as ship commander was immediately condemned by members of the House Armed Services Committee, who called it a “destabilizing move” that will “likely put our service members at greater risk and jeopardize our fleet’s readiness.' Modly told Pentagon reporters during an abruptly called press conference Thursday that Crozier should have gone directly to his immediate commanders, who were already moving to help the ship. And he said Crozier created a panic by suggesting 50 sailors could die. The USS Theodore Roosevelt, with a crew of nearly 5,000, is docked in Guam, and the Navy has said as many as 3,000 will be taken off the ship and quarantined by Friday. More than 100 sailors on the ship have tested positive for the virus, but none is hospitalized. “What it does, it undermines our efforts and the chain of command’s efforts to address this problem and creates a panic and creates the perception that the Navy is not on the job, the government is not on the job, and it’s just not true,” Modly said. He complained that Crozier sent the memo to people outside his chain of command and in a non-secure, unclassified email. And, he said he concluded that the captain's ability to react professionally was overwhelmed by the virus challenge, 'when acting professionally was what was needed most. We do, and we should, expect more from the commanding officers of our aircraft carriers.” Earlier this week, Modly told reporters that Crozier would not be relieved of duty for trying to protect his sailors, but he left the door open for punishment if the captain leaked the memo to the press. On Thursday, Modly said he has no information to suggest that Crozier leaked the memo to the press. He said that if Crozier had communicated only with his leadership and not widely distributed the memo, he would likely still have a job. He took sole responsibility for the decision to fire Crozier and said he got no pressure from the White House to do so. Democrats on the House committee issued a joint statement in support of Crozier. They said that while the captain went outside his chain of command, the pandemic presents a new set of challenges. “Captain Crozier was justifiably concerned about the health and safety of his crew, but he did not handle the immense pressure appropriately,” the lawmakers said. 'However, relieving him of his command is an overreaction.” Sen. Jack Reed, top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he told Modly that Navy leaders must make it clear that the decision to fire Crozier doesn't inhibit others from taking steps to protect their sailors and Marines. And he said the incident “raised critical questions” about the Navy's strategy to combat the virus across the fleet. Crozier, in his memo, raised warnings the ship was facing a growing outbreak of the coronavirus and asked for permission to isolate the bulk of his crew members on shore, an extraordinary move to take a carrier out of duty in an effort to save lives. He said that removing all but 10% of the crew would be a “necessary risk” to stop the spread of the virus. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset, our sailors,” Crozier said. As of Thursday, the Navy said 31% of the USS Theodore Roosevelt crew have been tested for the virus and 114 tested positive. The 180 sailors who tested negative will move into Guam hotels for quarantine. As testing continues, the ship will keep enough sailors on board to sustain essential services and sanitize the ship in port.
  • Joe Biden said Thursday that he wants to speak with President Donald Trump in the hope that the president can “learn some lessons” from the Obama administration on how to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. “We’ve been through this in a slightly different way in the past, and I hope they can learn some lessons from what we did right and maybe what we did wrong,” the former vice president said during a virtual press briefing. Biden’s aides have said they’re working to arrange a phone call with Trump to discuss his coronavirus response. The president said Wednesday he would “love” to speak with Biden. The prospective Democratic presidential nominee has touted his work in addressing the Ebola crisis that unfolded in 2014 as a possible model for how the federal government should deal with the current pandemic. The current coronavirus outbreak has sickened and killed exponentially more individuals nationwide, with the infection rate topping 1 million on Thursday. In recent weeks, Biden has offered his own proposals, which include expanding health care access, bolstering banks' lending ability and pushing out supplies to hospitals faster. Biden said on Thursday that he hoped Trump would expand use of the Defense Production Act, shifting U.S. manufacturing capabilities toward urgently needed medical supplies. But he said if he spoke with Trump, he wouldn't try to claim credit for the president's moves. “I think there’s things that the president can use early on from the experience we had before ... and if he did, I wasn’t going to be out there saying he took my idea,' Biden said. 'It’s a matter of the president doing what can most effectively get things done now.” Biden repeated his willingness to talk to Trump during a virtual fundraiser later Thursday with 115 plaintiffs' attorneys. “I’m happy to hear he’ll take my call,” Biden said. Earlier Thursday with reporters, Biden casually mentioned previous conversations with Trump, calling them “respectful” and “straightforward.” Trump and Biden would have encountered each other between Trump's 2016 election victory and Inauguration Day. A Biden aide confirmed after Thursday's briefing that the two have not spoken since the former vice president launched his presidential bid last April. Separately, Biden dismissed efforts from his last-remaining primary rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, to turn the pandemic into a new justification for his “Medicare for All” government insurance plan. Biden praised Sanders as “passionate” but said Medicare for All wouldn’t “make a difference” in the nation’s ability to combat COVID-19. Biden maintains that his proposal to add a government plan –- a “public option –- to existing private health insurance markets would allow the U.S. to reach universal coverage without disrupting the health care delivery system as much as a single-payer overhaul. And he said Thursday that a government-run system also would face challenges in responding to the pandemic. “The idea that this would have stopped the virus from occurring, the idea it would have been able to be implemented earlier, the idea it would have fundamentally changed anything — it’s just not accurate,” Biden told reporters. Sanders has made his renewed push for Medicare for All a theme of his new virtual campaign as he, like Biden, holds online town halls and makes the rounds on cable news and late-night talk shows. “People are asking, ‘How does it happen where we spend twice as much per person on health care as any other nation, and yet our public health system is so weak?'” Sanders said on NBC's “Late Night with Seth Meyers” earlier this week. Sanders’ plan posits an entirely government-financed model displacing private insurance and ending individuals’ out-of-pocket costs. Biden’s approach expands subsidies for private insurance premiums and the proposed “Medicare-like” public plan for certain middle-income Americans, with cost-free enrollment in the public plan for low-income residents. Policy differences aside, Biden was careful Thursday when a donor asked him about the prospects of Sanders conceding. “Our staffs have been talking, Bernie's staff and mine. I don't know where it's going to go,” Biden said. But he emphasized his “significant respect for Sen. Sanders and his supporters” and said he knows “first-hand ... what a personal decision” it is for a candidate to end a White House bid. Biden, meanwhile, criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s stated opposition to a fourth coronavirus response package. Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have discussed a massive infrastructure plan, with the president floating a $2 trillion price tag. “The majority leader of the Senate was wrong and slow last time around,” Biden said, referring to the $2.2 trillion economic aid package Trump recently signed, “and he’s wrong and slow this time around.” Even as Biden insisted he wanted a good-faith call with Trump and would be happy for the president to take his recommendations on dealing with the crisis, he continued to criticize Trump's response to the crisis and suggested it was difficult for Americans to trust him. Implementing the package Trump signed last week, Biden said, “takes more than tweets and press conferences.” “He hadn’t had a great record so far when it comes to delivering real help to the American people in a timely fashion,' Biden added. “I hope this time is different.” Biden also left little doubt about what kind of tone he expects between now and Election Day, even if he and Trump manage a cordial telephone chat. “I think it’s going to be an ugly campaign,” he told his video assembly of donors. ___ Barrow reported from Atlanta.
  • A federal judge on Thursday declined to postpone Wisconsin's presidential primary as the coronavirus spreads, but he ordered that people be given an extra six days beyond Tuesday's election for absentee voting. U.S. District Judge William Conley blasted state leaders' decision not to delay the election to protect people's health but refused to postpone it himself, saying a federal judge shouldn't act as the state's health officer. “As much as the court would prefer that the Wisconsin Legislature and Governor consider the public health ahead of any political considerations, that does not appear in the cards. Nor is it appropriate for a federal district court to act as the state’s chief health official by taking that step for them,” Conley wrote. The deadline for voters to get absentee ballots to local clerks had been 8 p.m. on Tuesday, but Conley's order shifted that to 4 p.m. on April 13. Conley also extended the deadline for voters to request ballots by a day to 5 p.m. this Friday. The judge also lifted a witness requirement for absentee ballot applications, writing that voters can provide a written affirmation that they could not safely obtain a witness signature due to coronavirus fears. The Republican Party of Wisconsin said it has appealed the ruling to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, asking it to stay the order. The Republican National Committee and the party had urged Conley to allow the election to proceed as planned. In a statement, the GOP said the judge's decision to change the date which absentee ballots can be received without any limit on the postmarked date “effectively changes the date of the election” and needs to be reviewed by the appeals court. The ruling marks a partial victory for Democrats and liberal groups who argued that thousands of voters might be disenfranchised because time is running out to file absentee ballots. The party and the groups had filed three lawsuits demanding that Conley postpone in-person voting, extend the deadlines for filing absentee ballots and lift requirements that absentee voters supply photo IDs with their ballot applications and get a witness to sign the ballot before returning it. “Every voter must count, even during crises, and this ruling gives voters critical time to vote safely by mail,” state Democratic Party Chairman Ben Wikler said. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called it “great news” that people would have more time to request and submit absentee ballots. Several states have postponed elections or shifted to all mail in the face of the pandemic. But Evers and Republican leaders have been committed to Wisconsin's date. They argued there's no guarantee conditions will improve in a couple of months and postponing the election risks leaving many local offices unfilled for an extended period. Evers' position on the election has shifted over the last few weeks. During the early days of the outbreak he said he thought the election should go on, a stance that drew considerable criticism from Democratic allies. As it became clear that Evers lacked the authority to change election law he asked the Republican-controlled Legislature to mail absentee ballots to all registered voters, a request the GOP rejected. On Wednesday, he said for the first time that if he could move the election he would. The decision to press forward has drawn widespread criticism. Poll workers have been quitting in droves. The Wisconsin Election Commission reported Tuesday that more than 100 municipalities lack enough staff to run even one polling site, and requests for absentee ballots have been setting new records daily. As of Thursday, local clerks had issued 1.1 million ballots, with some clerks facing backlogs of requests. Meanwhile, they're bracing for an avalanche of returns that could take days to count. Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on Wednesday called for the state to postpone the election. Rival Joe Biden said Thursday that it's up to Wisconsin courts to decide what to do but he didn't have a problem with voting proceeding. The Democratic National Committee announced Wednesday that it was pushing back its national convention in Milwaukee from mid-July to mid-August. ___ Associated Press writer Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.
  • Two weeks ago, the Pentagon promised to make as many as 2,000 military ventilators available as the federal government strains to contend with the coronavirus pandemic. As of Wednesday, less than half had been allocated, despite a desperate need across the country. At the Federal Emergency Management Agency, tasked with coordinating the federal response to the outbreak, about 9,000 additional ventilators are also on hold as officials seek to determine where they are needed most urgently. The combination of scarce supply and high need has sent many states onto the open market, where they are bidding for ventilators from private manufacturers. Their competition in that bidding process: both the federal government and other states. “It's like being on eBay with 50 other states bidding on a ventilator,' said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose state is the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. He urged FEMA to step in and act as a single purchaser of the vital machines. The slow deployment of ventilators underscores the ways in which the sprawling federal bureaucracy has fallen short in the crisis. Demand for medical equipment far outpaces the current supply, and the stockpiles that do exist aren’t enough for the hardest-hit areas. That undercuts the air of confidence projected by President Donald Trump at his daily briefings. Cuomo, whose state has had more than 92,000 cases of COVID-19, warned Thursday that New York has only 2,200 ventilators in its own stockpile after shipping out 600 to New York City, Westchester and Long Island. He would run out in six days at this rate. FEMA has sent 4,400 ventilators to New York, where officials have said they will likely need 20,000 to 40,000 during the crisis. It’s not just ventilators. FEMA has been able to fill only a fraction of the requests for protective equipment and medical supplies requested by the five Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia, according to documents released by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, who chairs the Oversight and Reform committee. The shortfalls include less than 10% of the requested number of N95 protective masks and none of 15,000 body bags requested. But ventilators have emerged as crucial medical tools in treating patients. The machines pump air to a person’s lungs through a tube inserted in the windpipe and can be lifesaving for severely ill patients. The government had 9,961 ventilators as of Thursday, including 9,054 in the stockpile and 907 from the Department of Defense, according to FEMA. The Health and Human Services Department, which manages the stockpile, said Thursday it has 2,109 ventilators that are undergoing required maintenance. Those are not included in the tally of machines that can be deployed. The goal is to complete all the maintenance by April 30. In Louisiana, where coronavirus cases are skyrocketing, Gov. John Bel Edwards has requested 14,000 ventilators from the federal government and private companies. To date, the state has received just 442, including 150 that arrived Wednesday from the national stockpile. “The 150 will only get us about a day or so, maybe two if we get really lucky before we’ve exceeded that capacity again,” Edwards said. FEMA is asking states to answer data-heavy questions to determine where the most urgent needs exist. Among them: How many usable ventilators, intensive care beds and machines that can be converted into ventilators are available within the state? How many anesthesia machines can be converted into ventilators in the state, and has that happened yet? “People who have needed ventilators have been able to get on ventilators and I think that’s our goal, with governors and with the mayors, to make sure that continues to happen,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force. FEMA spokeswoman Lizzie Litzow said states should not expect any shipments until they are within 72 hours of a crisis situation. Several states have hit that point. The federal government has deployed 2,400 ventilators to New York City, and an additional 2,000 for the rest of the state. FEMA said Wednesday that it was sending machines from the national stockpile to Michigan, New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut and Louisiana. Still, the numbers deployed to some of the states pale in comparison to what officials say they need. Michigan, which reported nearly 10,000 cases as of Wednesday, says it will need between 5,000-10,000 machines. It received 400 ventilators from FEMA on Tuesday. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said Wednesday that his state has nearly 1,000 ventilators and requested an additional 1,500 from the national stockpile. It received 50. Lawmakers have called repeatedly on the federal government to publicly account for how it is distributing ventilators and personal protective equipment but say they haven’t received answers. The Pentagon’s announcement two weeks ago that it had 2,000 ventilators available appeared good news. But much of that stockpile is earmarked for a pair of hospital ships and military field hospitals being deployed to take some of the patient load off other facilities. About 900 Pentagon ventilators are sitting idle, waiting for FEMA to ask for access. FEMA officials say the Pentagon equipment requires additional training beyond what is typically required for hospital-grade equipment. Rather than begin that training now, the agency says it is focusing on allocating conventional ventilators already in its stockpiles. FEMA said those are the types commonly used by U.S. hospitals and are 'better suited for immediate use.” It remains unclear how federal officials plan to address the issue of training civilians in local hospitals. Trump has defended his administration’s deployment of ventilators and said the federal government is doing all it can. He has taken steps to compel General Motors to make more of the machines, though the company was already moving in that direction before the president’s order. He issued an order Thursday under the Defense Production Act aimed at ensuring manufacturers have the supplies to make the machines. GM said in a statement with Ventec last week that they expect to deliver the first ventilators within weeks and will initially produce more than 10,000 per month. Ford, in collaboration with GE Healthcare, said Tuesday it expects to produce 50,000 of the ventilators within the next 100 days. ___ Associated Press writers Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, Mike Catalini in Trenton, New Jersey, and Marina Villeneuve in New York contributed to this report.
  • The Trump administration is formalizing new guidance to recommend that many Americans wear face coverings in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus as the president defends his response to the crisis. “Because of some recent information that the virus can actually be spread even when people just speak as opposed to coughing and sneezing -- the better part of valor is that when you’re out, when you can’t maintain that 6-foot distance, to wear some sort of facial covering,” the top U.S. infectious disease official said Friday on “Fox & Friends.” But Dr. Anthony Fauci also made clear that the aim is not to 'take away from the availability of masks that are needed for the health care providers who are in real and present danger of getting infected from the people that they’re taking care of.” The recommendations were expected to apply to those who live in areas hard hit by community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. A person familiar with the White House coronavirus task force's discussion said officials would suggest that nonmedical masks, T-shirts or bandannas be used to cover the nose and mouth people go outside — for instance, at the grocery store or pharmacy. Medical-grade masks, particularly short-in-supply N95 masks, would be reserved for those dealing directly with the sick. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the proposed guidance before its public release. President Donald Trump, who was tested again for coronavirus Thursday using a new rapid test, indicated he would support such a recommendation. The White House said Trump's latest test returned a negative result in 15 minutes and Trump was “healthy and without symptoms.” Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force's coordinator, told reporters that the White House was concerned the mask guidance would lead to a “false sense of security” for Americans. She said new data shows the administration's social-distancing guidelines were not being followed to the extent necessary to keep virus-related deaths to a minimum. The discussions on face masks came as the White House defended its handling of the pandemic, particularly its efforts to speed the distribution of ventilators and protective equipment needed by medical professionals. Trump sent a letter to Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York objecting to Schumer's criticism of the administration’s response. “The Federal Government is merely a back-up for state governments,” Trump wrote. “Unfortunately, your state needed far more of a back-up than most others.” Trump said states should have done more to stockpile medical supplies. Vice President Mike Pence also announced Thursday that the White House was considering direct payments to hospitals to cover COVID-19 treatment costs for the uninsured. The emerging guidance on masks appeared to be more limited than a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention draft that suggested the recommendation apply to nearly all Americans, according to a federal official who has seen the draft but was not authorized to discuss it on the record. Officials were expected to limit the geographic scope to just those areas where the virus was spreading rapidly, the official said. An announcement was expected as soon as Friday. Under the previous guidance, only the sick or those at high risk of complications from the respiratory illness were advised to wear masks. The new proposal was driven by research showing that some infections are being spread by people who seem to be healthy. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. On Wednesday, Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, urged his city's 4 million residents to wear masks when they’re in public. On Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed suit in his city, the epicenter of the virus' spread in the U.S. In response to recent studies, the CDC on Wednesday changed how it was defining the risk of infection for Americans. It essentially says anyone may be a considered a carrier, whether that person has symptoms or not. The virus spreads mostly through droplets from coughs or sneezes, though experts stress that the germ is still not fully understood. U.S. officials have been telling people to stay at home as much as possible and keep at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from others when they do go out. Other advice includes frequent hand washing and not touching your face. But until now federal officials have stopped short of telling people to cover their faces out in public. Scientists can’t rule out that infected people sometimes exhale COVID-19 virus particles, rather than just when coughing or sneezing, but there isn’t enough evidence to show if that can cause infection, according to a committee convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to advise the White House. The question has to do with whether the new coronavirus spreads mostly by droplets that don’t linger for long in the air or also by tinier aerosolized particles. Certain medical procedures, such as inserting breathing tubes, can create those tiny particles, which is why health care workers wear close-fitting N95 masks during such care. The World Health Organization on Monday reiterated its advice that the general population doesn’t need to wear masks unless a person is sick. Since the epidemic began in China, the WHO has said masks are for the sick and people caring for them. WHO’s epidemic chief Dr. Mike Ryan noted the risks from an improperly fitted mask or from someone improperly putting it on or taking it off. ___ Stobbe reported from New York. AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report.

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • 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:  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.”
  • The White House and other government officials continue to debate whether to advise people to wear masks to protect themselves and others from coronavirus. Since the beginning of the battle against COVID-19, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that people didn’t need to wear masks unless they were sick and coughing, The New York Times reported. But Thursday evening, President Donald Trump said his administration would have regulations when it came to the general population and the wearing of masks, but that the measures would be voluntary. Some opportunities for wearing masks while in public would be when going to pharmacies and grocery stores, the Times reported. Many people may now be looking for ways to make their own personal protective equipment or to make PPE for those working the front lines. There are many designs to make, from no-sew options to ones that need some needle and thread. No Sew Supplies: A bandanna or piece of finished cloth Hair elastics Sewn versions Supplies: Paper, to make a pattern Cotton fabric Fusible interfacing Elastic Pins Sewing machine The New York Times has an alternate pattern. Click here for step by step instructions. Kaiser Permanente has also shared a design approved by the health system for donation to hospitals, The Washington Post reported.

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.”