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White House coronavirus task force updates the nation

More than 329,000 people have recovered from the virus worldwide.

For continuing live updates for Thursday, April 9, click here.

Key updates for Wednesday, April 8, 2020

  • The Strategic National Stockpile is nearly out of medical supplies.
  • Japan says it had more than 500 new cases for first time. 
  • Vice President Mike Pence says Philadelphia is emerging as a potential hot spot.
  • The White House Coronavirus Task Force held a press briefing Wednesday afternoon.
  • The U.S. reached 400,000 cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and passed 14,000 deaths.
  • Tesla will cut pay for some employees and furlough others.
  • Track world championships rescheduled for July 2022.
  • TSA screenings hit record low.
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spent a second night in intensive care.
  • A French aircraft carrier may have an outbreak.
  • A trade group says a computer issue was delaying loans to small businesses under the stimulus.
  • China has lifted restrictions on movement in Wuhan, where the pandemic began.
  • From Tuesday, April 7 blog: Starbucks employees must wear face coverings.

The latest COVID-19 numbers

The U.S. reached 400,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 Wednesday. The total number of confirmed cases shortly before 11:30 p.m. EDT on Wednesday was more than 432,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. There were more than 14,800 deaths, and there have been 23,900 recoveries.

For perspective, the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 20, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. It took 67 days to reach 100,000 cases on March 27. Five days later, the U.S. had 200,000 cases on April 1. It took three more days to reach 300,000 on April 4. Four days later, it reached 400,000.

Worldwide, JHU reports 1.4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 with over 88,000 deaths and 329,000 recoveries.

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 death.

RELATED: New York has biggest 1-day jump in virus deaths

BROKEN HOMES: There were already early signs of weakness in the housing market before the pandemic. New data shows a significant deterioration.

Mortgage applications nationwide dropped 17.9% in one week, according to a Mortgage Bankers Association survey Wednesday. Purchase applications, which hint at future activity, slid 12% in a week, and a whopping 33% from the same week last year.

The number of people paying rent in March slipped 12%, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council. In it's first review of the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, the group found 69% of households had paid their rent by April 5, compared with 81% in the previous month.

Japan reports 500-plus new cases for 1st time

Japan’s health ministry said Thursday that the country had more than 500 new cases for the first time on Wednesday, bringing the national total to 4,768 — excluding hundreds from a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo earlier this year.

The continuous climb comes two days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other hard-hit prefectures, while asking people to reduce at least 70% of human interactions. The step allows Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and six other prefectural leaders to issue stricter measures of social distancing, but without penalties to violators. So far, Koike only issued a stay-at-home request to the residents. Requests for closures of non-essential businesses and services are still under way.

Many people were seen commuting to their offices Thursday morning in downtown Tokyo, as many Japanese companies are slow to allow remote-working for their employees, raising doubts over how effective measures can be under the state-of-emergency measures.

New Zealand reports lowest number of new cases in weeks

Halfway through a planned four-week lockdown, New Zealand has recorded its lowest number of new coronavirus cases in nearly three weeks.

Health officials said Thursday there were 29 new cases, the fourth successive daily drop since 89 new cases were recorded on Sunday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also announced stricter border measures that require all returning nationals to go into a managed quarantine facility for two weeks. Previously, returning nationals with no symptoms of COVID-19 had been allowed to isolate themselves at home.

South Korea has smallest jump in cases since Feb

South Korea says it has reported 39 more cases of the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, in a continued slowdown of the virus outbreak in the Asian country.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement Thursday the additional cases increased the country’s total to 10,423. It says 6,973 of them have been recovered and released from quarantine. The center says fatalities from the coronavirus rose by four to 204.

But, the 39 new cases are the smallest daily jump since Feb. 20. South Korea recorded 47 and 53 new cases on Tuesday and Wednesday.

There are still worries about a steady rise in infections linked to international arrivals, which has helped inflate the caseload in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area.

A total of 22 of the 39 new cases have been reported in Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi province.

HHS: Federal stocks of protective equipment nearly depleted

The Strategic National Stockpile is nearly out of N95 respirators, surgical masks, face shields, gowns and other supplies desperately needed to protect front-line medical workers treating coronavirus patients. 

The House Oversight Committee has released documents showing that about 90% of all the personal protective equipment in the stockpile has been distributed to state and local governments. The remaining 10% is being held in reserve for federal workers. 

RELATED: Federal stockpile of protective equipment nearly depleted, HHS says

House Democrats say the Trump Administration is leaving states to fend for themselves, competing with each other and federal agencies in a free-for-all bidding war that drives up prices.

China reports 63 new cases, but none in Hubei

China’s National Health Commission on Thursday reported 63 new COVID-19 cases, including 61 which it says are imported infections in recent arrivals from abroad and two “native” cases in the southern province of Guangdong.

There were no new cases reported in Hubei, the central province hardest-hit by the coronavirus outbreak. Two new deaths, however, were reported, both in Hubei.

The provincial capital of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, ended its 76-day lockdown Wednesday. Long lines formed at the airport and train and bus stations as thousands streamed out of the city to return to their homes and jobs elsewhere.

The National Health Commission also reported 56 new cases of people who tested positive for COVID-19, but did not show any symptoms. In total, 77,370 people in China have recovered from the disease and 3,335 people have died, according to the commission.

New CDC essential workers guidance

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has new guidance for essential workers as it takes a small step toward reopening the country.

The guidance applies to essential workers, such as those in the health care and food supply industry, who have been within 6 feet of a person who has a confirmed or suspected case of the new coronavirus.

RELATED: Feds loosen coronavirus rules to let essential workers return to work

CDC Director Robert Redfield announced the new guidance during the daily White House briefing on the U.S. efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

The guidance is focused on when those workers can return to work after having been exposed to the new coronavirus.

  • Do take your temperature before work.
  • Do wear a face mask at all times.
  • Do practice social distancing as work duties permit.
  • Don't stay at work if you become sick
  • Don't share headsets or objects used near face.
  • Don't congregate in the break room or other crowded places.

The CDC also issued guidance for employers in essential industries.

  • Do take employees' temperature and assess for symptoms prior to their starting work.
  • Do increase the frequency of cleaning commonly touched surfaces.
  • Do increase air exchange in the building.
  • Do send sick workers home immediately.
  • Do test the use of face masks to ensure they don't interfere with workflow.

The new guidelines will be posted on cdc.gov.

Trump to open more wildlife refuge land to hunting, fishing

The Trump administration plans to open up 2.3 million acres of land for hunting and fishing at more than 100 national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries. It's part of a proposal unveiled Wednesday that is aimed at giving Americans more recreational access on public lands. 

The plan earned applause from several hunting and fishing groups, but criticism from one conservation organization that called it “tone deaf” to focus on this during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The plan would allow alligator hunting at three national wildlife refuges: Banks Lake in Georgia, Laguna Atascosa in Texas and Savannah in Georgia and South Carolina.  

Philadelphia emerging as possible virus hot spot

Vice President Mike Pence says Philadelphia is emerging as a potential hot spot for the coronavirus and urged its residents to heed social distancing guidelines.

Pence says he spoke to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, and he says Pittsburgh is also being monitored for a possible rise in cases.

NFL announces Draft-A-Thon to help with relief

The NFL is turning the league’s 2020 draft into a three-day fundraiser to help six charities dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

The “Draft-A-Thon” announced Wednesday will benefit COVID-19 relief efforts and pay tribute to healthcare workers and first responders.

The fundraiser will be featured during the draft April 23-25 to raise money for non-profits selected by the NFL Foundation: the American Red Cross, CDC Foundation’s All of Us, Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund for member food banks, Meals on Wheels COVID-19 Response Fund, the Salvation Army, and United Way’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund.

“The Draft-A-Thon will deliver much-needed funding to many who are suffering as well as those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.

Army Corps of Engineers official issues warning

The general who heads the Army Corps of Engineers says communities are running out of time to build new medical facilities for any overflow of coronavirus patients that local hospitals can’t handle.

Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite tells reporters he believes the Corps will be done starting new projects in about a week. He says government leaders “have to think through the worst case and get ahead of it while they have time.”

If a city thinks they’ll see a peak of virus patients around April 24, and they haven’t made a decision yet to build more rooms, it may be too late, he says.

So far, 17 facilities, with about 15,000 beds, have been built, and another 17 have been planned by the Corps and developed by local communities and contractors. Another 23 facilities are pending, but it’s not clear how many of those may actually be built.

Jobless claims report Thursday could hit 7 million or higher

The government is set to report another shocking level of unemployment claims Thursday even after nearly 10 million people applied for benefits in the previous two weeks because of business shutdowns from the coronavirus. 

The number will likely keep increasing, in part because many states are still clearing out backlogs of applications for unemployment aid. And with more companies running through their cash cushions as the virus-related shutdowns persist, they are resorting to layoffs to save money.

RELATED: Jobless claims report Thursday could hit 7 million or higher

Second US study for COVID-19 vaccine uses skin-deep shots


U.S. researchers have opened another safety test of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine, this one using a skin-deep shot instead of the usual deeper jab. Inovio Pharmaceuticals launched the small study this week with volunteers in Kansas City, Missouri, and Philadelphia to see if its vaccine candidate is safe enough for crucial larger tests. Kansas City researchers say there's no shortage of volunteers. 

It's the second study underway in the U.S., and multiple potential vaccines are being developed in labs around the world.  Experts say it likely will take more than a year for any vaccine to be widely available. 

RELATED: Second US study for COVID-19 vaccine uses skin-deep shots

Macron touts WHO in wake of Trump criticism

French President Emmanuel Macron had a video conference call with the leader of the World Health Organization on Wednesday.

In a conversation with Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Macron reaffirmed “his belief that the WHO is key to respond" to the coronavirus crisis, following criticism by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Macron tweeted that they also discussed the evolution of the pandemic, strategy to face it in France and in the world, research on vaccination and the preparation of an initiative for the African continent.

At the White House on Tuesday, Trump first said the United States would “put a hold” on WHO funding, and then revised that to say, “We will look at ending funding.”

First lady spreads Easter cheer to workers during pandemic

Melania Trump is spreading some colorful Easter cheer to workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. 

She is sending 25,000 commemorative Easter eggs to Washington, D.C.-area children's hospitals, government agencies, aid groups and grocery stores that are serving the public. The pastel-colored wooden eggs would have been handed out to participants at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, which had been scheduled for April 13. 

RELATED: First lady spreads Easter cheer to workers during pandemic

That's the day after Easter. But the event was canceled due to concern about large gatherings during the coronavirus. outbreak. 

Puerto Rico seeks ban on flights from US COVID-19 hot spots

 Puerto Rico’s governor on Wednesday asked federal officials to ban all flights from U.S. cities with a high number of coronavirus cases to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. territory.

The petition by Gov. Wanda Vázquez to the Federal Aviation Administration came after officials accused some visitors of taking medicine to lower their fevers to avoid being placed in quarantine by National Guard troops screening people at the island’s main international airport.

At least two passengers from New York who lowered their fever with medication are now hospitalized in the island with COVID-19, according to the National Guard.

Vázquez asked to ban flights from New York, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Illinois.

Tesla will cut pay for some employees, and furlough others

Tesla is furloughing most of its factory workers and temporarily implementing pay cuts to help manage costs after COVID-19 suspended new vehicle production. Salaried employees will see pay cuts while hourly workers will be furloughed. 

Furloughed employees won't be paid, but health benefits will continue. The company anticipates production at its Fremont, California car plant to resume on May 4, according to an email from Valerie Workman, head of HR for North America. Pay cuts are expected to be in place until the end of the second quarter. 

Heart failure reportedly part of complications of some with COVID-19 

Cardiac experts believe that those with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, can sometimes develop heart problems and die of cardiac arrest, ABC News reported

Reports say that cardiac experts believe that as data comes in from highly affected countries and US states, medical professionals believe that the virus can infect the heart muscle. As the Washington Post reports, the disease is especially dangerous for those with preexisting conditions, including heart disease. 

Track world championships rescheduled for July 2022

The track world championships have been rescheduled for July 15-24, 2022. It's the first major sports event to be repositioned in the wake of the 12-month postponement of the Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The event draws around 1,800 athletes from more than 200 countries. It will still be held at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. The event at the expanded and remodeled venue was originally supposed to take place in August 2021. 

The rescheduling will also make for a jam-packed track schedule in 2022. The Commonwealth Games are scheduled for July 27-Aug. 7 and the European track championships are set for Aug. 11-21.

TSA screenings hit record low

Nationwide, 97,130 individuals were screened at TSA checkpoints on Tuesday, according to TSA Public Affairs spokesperson Lisa Farbstein. 

Farbenstein said this is the first time screenings dipped below 100,000 during the pandemic, a record low. For comparison, 2,091,056 people passed through TSA security checkpoints one year ago.

CDC may change guidelines for some exposed to virus

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering changing its guidelines for self-isolation to make it easier for those who have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus to return to work if they are asymptomatic.

The public health agency, in conjunction with the White House coronavirus task force, is considering an announcement as soon as Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday.

Under the proposed guidance, people who are exposed to someone infected would be allowed back on the job if they are asymptomatic, test their temperature twice a day and wear a face mask, said a person familiar with the proposal under consideration. The person described the proposal on the condition of anonymity because the draft had not been finalized.

Head of EU's top science panel quits over response

The head of the European Union’s top science organization has resigned in frustration at the height of the coronavirus crisis.

The sudden resignation of Mauro Ferrari and his stinging criticism was bound to add pressure on EU institutions, which have been accused of not working together to battle the global pandemic.

The news was first announced by the Financial Times, based on a statement released to the paper by Ferrari, who said he had “been extremely disappointed by the European response” to the pandemic. He complained about running into institutional and political obstacles as he sought to swiftly set up a scientific program to combat the virus.

The European Commission on Wednesday defended its record in combating the crisis and said 18 research and development projects had already been picked at short notice to fight the coronavirus crisis. It said another 50 European Research Council projects were contributing in the EU-wide effort.

French aircraft carrier may have outbreak

France’s defense ministry announced that French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is heading back to port amid a possible virus outbreak onboard.

The ministry said in a statement Wednesday that around 40 troops are presenting symptoms compatible with the COVID-19 disease. They have been placed under strict medical observation.

A medical team equipped with tests will get onboard Wednesday in order to confirm the potential cases and prevent the virus from further spreading, the ministry said.

The announcement comes after a coronavirus outbreak hit U.S. aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, now at port in Guam. As of Tuesday, the U.S. Navy said at least 230 crew had been tested positive. The captain was fired last week by the Navy Secretary, who himself resigned Tuesday following criticism over his handling of the situation.

British prime minister spends second night in ICU

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spent a second night in intensive care unit as his condition remained stable while he fought the new coronavirus.

Health Minister Edward Argar told the BBC on Wednesday that Johnson is receiving oxygen but is still not on a ventilator — a suggestion that at least his condition is not getting worse.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has temporarily taken over many of the prime minister’s duties to lead the country’s response to the pandemic as Johnson receives care. Britain has no official post of deputy prime minister.

Japan's economy headed to record 25% contraction

 Japan’s economy is headed to a record 25% contraction in the current quarter, even with the just announced government fiscal aid package, as the new coronavirus slams consumer spending and business growth, Goldman Sachs said Wednesday.

The dismal report by economists Naohiko Baba and Yuriko Tanaka said exports are expected to dive by 60% in the April-June period.

The contraction for the world’s third largest economy would be a record, since GDP, or gross domestic product, began to be tracked in 1955, according to the report.

Computer issues hold up small business loans

Small business owners hoping for quick help from the government’s emergency $349 billion lending program were still waiting amid reports of computer problems at the Small Business Administration. 

A trade group for community bankers and the CEO of an online lending marketplace said the SBA’s loan processing system stopped working Monday, making it impossible for loans to be processed.

The SBA did not answer a questions about the system Tuesday Thousands of small businesses are at risk of failure without a cash infusion. The loans offer forgiveness if the proceeds are used for workers’ pay, and payments can be deferred for six months.

RELATED: VERIFY: The stimulus checks won't impact your tax refund next year

Wuhan ends 76-day lockdown

The last restrictions on movement have been lifted in the central Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic began. People are going outdoors and by the thousands boarded the first trains and planes leaving Wuhan.

Its unprecedented, 11-week lockdown has been a model for countries trying to stop the coronavirus.

Wuhan now begins another experiment: resuming business and ordinary life while preventing more illnesses. The city that had most of China's 82,000 cases still has measures in place like social distancing and temperature checks. And people leaving the city will face hurdles elsewhere, like 14-day quarantines at their destinations.

Credit: AP
A medical worker from China's Jilin Province, in red, embraces a colleague from Wuhan as she prepares to return home at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Wednesday, April 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)


Little Caesars Pizza to donate pizzas

The company said in a tweet, "donating & delivering a million pizzas to healthcare workers & first responders across the country over the coming weeks! Starting 4/13 customers can also “Pie it Forward” & donate a pizza to their nearby hospitals, police, & fire departments via our app at checkout."