COVID-19 Daily Update: April 21, 2020

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Congress reaches deal on $450 billion package to help small businesses, sources say

Congressional negotiations have reached a deal on a bill that includes hundreds of billions of dollars in new funding for small businesses hurt by the coronavirus outbreak, three sources familiar tell CNN.

The text of the bill should be unveiled as soon as Tuesday afternoon as the two sides give the deal a final read. Lawmakers will try to pass it in the Senate at 4 p.m. ET when the chamber convenes for a pro forma session.

President Donald Trump signaled his approval of the deal on Twitter, saying, “I urge the Senate and House to pass the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act with additional funding for PPP, Hospitals, and Testing.”

The Paycheck Protection Program is a small business loan program set up to deliver aid to businesses struggling from the economic deep freeze triggered by the pandemic.

Cuomo heads to White House as he lobbies for COVID-19 help

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said hospitals in parts of New York will be able to conduct outpatient elective surgeries again. 

The governor also pledged to consider regional differences when re-opening the state’s outbreak-stalled economy. Cuomo is heading to the White House as he seeks help with coronavirus testing. 

And New York City is planning to stockpile medical equipment and supplies to meet its own needs in any potential future coronavirus surge, rather than looking to federal authorities or global markets. Meanwhile, elective surgeries will be allowed in parts of the state where the outbreak is not so severe.

New Covid-19 test allows patients to collect samples at home, send to lab for results

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, a new Covid-19 test has been authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration.

The new test allows for patients to collect their own samples using Pixel by LabCorp COVID-19 Test home collection kits that they would then mail to a lab for testing, according to an FDA announcement Tuesday.

With a doctor’s order, the home collection kits will become available to consumers in most states in the coming weeks, the FDA said.

Italy’s number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including those in intensive care, has continued to decrease

There was a day-to-day-increase of 2,729 confirmed cases, according to figures released on Tuesday by the Health Ministry, but the majority of Italy’s known coronavirus infections are isolated at home.

In all, Italy has nearly 184,000 confirmed cases since the outbreak began. There were 534 deaths from Monday evening to Tuesday evening, according to the latest figures, raising to 24,648 the number of people with COVID-19 infections who have died. Italy has the highest number of deaths in Europe during the pandemic.

National Spelling Bee canceled for first time since 1945

This year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee was canceled Tuesday, the latest beloved public event to be scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The bee will return next year, Scripps said, but that’s little comfort to the eighth-graders who are missing out on their last shot at the national stage. Scripps will not change eligibility requirements for the next bee, which is scheduled for June 1-3, 2021. The bee, which began in 1925 and was last canceled from 1943-45 because of World War II, has always been restricted to elementary and middle-schoolers.

Scripps had announced last month that the bee would not be held as scheduled the week of May 24 at its longtime venue, a convention center outside Washington. Hundreds of kids compete every year in the national finals, which are televised by ESPN, and Scripps was aiming this year for a field of around 400.

Many beaches may be closed, but `beach reads’ still coming

The coronavirus has already shut down most of the country’s bookstores, led to the cancellation of the industry’s annual national convention, BookExpo, and driven publishers to postpone many releases to the fall or next year. It now challenges another publishing and cultural tradition — beach reads. While beach reads can include any kind of light fiction, many of these romances, thrillers and family dramas are actually set on beaches and summer resorts from Nantucket to the South Carolina coast to Florida.

Authors and booksellers contend, and hope, that you don’t need a beach to read a beach book.

In Barbara Delinsky’s “A Week at the Shore,” a New Yorker confronts family issues during a visit to the Rhode Island beach house where she spent summers as a child. Nancy Thayer’s “Girls of Summer,” like Hilderbrand’s new book, is set in Nantucket, while Mary Kay Andrews’ “Hello, Summer” finds a journalist returning to her home in Silver Bay, Florida, where her family runs local newspapers.

Authors already are looking to the summer of 2021 and considering whether their next books will mention the pandemic. Monroe says she is working on a story that will have her characters living through “this virus saga,” and will brink back the Rutledge family of her “Beach House” series in the hope that readers “will connect with them.”

N.C. farm rents out miniature donkey to crash video calls

A miniature donkey named Mambo is getting some online love in North Carolina, where a farm is getting in on the idea of having animals spice up tedious virtual meetings during the coronavirus pandemic.

Peace N Peas Farm will rent Mambo, the 8-year-old miniature donkey, and his friends to crash company conference calls, The Charlotte Observer reported. This camera crowding donkey is “like a pesky little brother” that “doesn’t let anyone relax too long,” Francie Dunlap, Mambo’s owner, said.

Companies can choose other farm animals they want to invite as guests on their video calls. According to the farm animal’s meeting registration website, they include three horses, Heiren, Zeus and Eddie, along with some chickens and ducks.

Fans Sue MLB Teams Over Ticket Money, Ask For Class Action

A pair of fans in New York sued Major League Baseball, Commissioner Rob Manfred and the 30 teams, asking for their money back for tickets and for certification of class-action status.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by Matthew Ajzenman, who said he bought a partial season plan for more than 20 Mets games; and Susan Terry-Bazer, who said she purchased six tickets for a May 9 game at Yankee Stadium against Boston.

Ticketmaster, Stubhub, Live Nation and Last Minute Transactions are among the defendants. The caption on the first page included Tampa Bay Devil Rays Ltd. — “Devil” was dropped from the team’s nickname after the 2007 season.

Fans asked for “full restitution, an accounting of all MLB tickets sold for the 2020 season (including season tickets, single game purchases, and public seat licenses), a declaratory judgment that defendants’ conduct of continuing to sell tickets for the 2020 MLB regular season violates California law, as well as a disgorgement of profits from tickets sold during the 2020 MLB season.”

President Trump plans to suspend all immigration to the U.S. 

President Donald Trump said Monday that he will sign an executive order “to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States” because of the coronavirus.

“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” Trump tweeted.

He offered no details as to what immigration programs might be affected by the order. More than 750,000 Americans have come down with COVID-19 and more than 42,000 have died.

Georgia to reopen some businesses as early as Friday

Georgia’s governor plans to restart the state’s economy before the end of the week. He says many businesses that closed to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus could reopen as early as Friday. Georgia’s timetable is one of the most aggressive in the nation. It would allow gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors to reopen as long as owners follow strict social-distancing and hygiene requirements. By Monday, movie theaters may resume selling tickets, and restaurants limited to takeout orders could return to limited dine-in service. Neighboring Tennessee planned to let businesses in most of the state begin reopening as soon as next week.

Colorado stay-at-home order to end next week

Colorado’s governor says the statewide stay-at-home order will expire next week. Democratic Gov. Jared Polis says he will allow a gradual reopening of nonessential businesses and permit surgical procedures and other activity suspended by the coronavirus fight as long as strict social distancing and other individual protective measures continue. Polis credited widespread compliance with statewide social distancing and shelter-in-place orders for an apparent leveling off of COVID-19 hospitalizations. The governor urged residents who can work at home to keep doing so, to stay at home as much as possible, avoid large gatherings and wear masks and other protective gear.

WHO warns rush to ease virus rules could cause resurgence

The World Health Organization says rushing to ease coronavirus restrictions will likely lead to a resurgence of the illness. WHO’s director for the Western Pacific region said, “We need to ready ourselves for a new way of living for the foreseeable future.” He said governments must remain vigilant to stop the spread of the virus and the lifting of lockdowns and other social distancing measures must be done gradually and strike the right balance between keeping people healthy and allowing economies to function.

New Zealand could pull off bold goal of eliminating virus

New Zealand has set itself an ambitious goal of not just containing the coronavirus, but eliminating it altogether. Experts believe the country could pull it off, thanks to its geography and decisive early actions by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who put the country into a strict lockdown early in its outbreak. But whatever happens, New Zealand will continue feeling the effects of the pandemic, which has hobbled its vital tourism industry. Once a symbol of national pride, Air New Zealand is laying off thousands of employees and has cut 95% of its flights.

Virus aid exceeding $450B remains stuck in negotiations

The Trump administration and congressional leaders insist a final deal is in reach on an aid package for small businesses that could exceed $450 billion. But both sides have been struggling for days to push an agreement across the finish line. As small businesses suffer from a coronavirus-impaired economy, President Donald Trump says he hopes to see a Senate vote on Tuesday.  Most of the funding would go to replenish a payroll loan program that’s out of money. Additional help would be given to hospitals, and billions more would be spent to boost testing for the virus.

US pork farmers panic as virus ruins hopes for great year

Restaurant closures due to the coronavirus have contributed to an estimated $5 billion in losses this year for the U.S. pork industry, and almost overnight millions of hogs stacking up on farms now have little value. Some farmers have resorted to killing piglets because plunging sales mean there is no room to hold additional animals in increasingly cramped conditions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is promising to send cash and buy stored pork but industry leaders say it might not be enough to stem devastating losses.

Oil prices crater as demand evaporates, storage fills

The world is awash in oil, there’s little demand for it and we’re running out of places to put it. That in a nutshell explains Monday’s strange and unprecedented action in the market for crude oil futures contracts, where traders essentially offered to pay someone else to deal with the oil they were due to have delivered next month. The price of U.S. benchmark crude that would be delivered in May was selling for around $15 a barrel Monday morning, but fell as low as -$40 per barrel during the day. Analysts say it is first time that the price on a futures contract for oil has gone negative.

South Texas ER doctor self-isolates in his kids’ treehouse

A South Texas emergency room physician has chosen a novel place to self-isolate as he’s treating patients with the novel coronavirus. Dr. Jason Barnes has turned his children’s backyard treehouse into his temporary home. The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports the 39-year-old physician says he often shouts down to his kids if he needs something. He has two sons, ages 6 and 9. Of course, this self-isolation means they lose their playhouse. But Barnes says they understand. And he says his sons tell them they miss him once a day.

Tom Brady cited for working out in a closed Tampa park

Like many public spaces across the country, parks in Tampa, Florida, are closed to visitors these days. .

That didn’t prevent one man from trying to get an outdoor workout recently.

The scofflaw was none other than new Tampa resident Tom Brady, according to Mayor Jane Castor. And, yes, the superstar quarterback was cited, she said.

“Our parks are closed down; and so a lot of our parks staff they patrol around just to make sure that people aren’t doing contact sports and things like that, and saw an individual working out in one of our downtown parks,” Castor said.

“And she went over to tell him that it was closed and it was Tom Brady … He has been cited.”

The quarterback recently moved to Florida to play for the Tampa Buccaneers after 20 seasons and six Super Bowl wins with the New England Patriots.

NFL holds a two-round dress rehearsal for the all-digital draft

The NFL’s virtual mock draft couldn’t even last 30 minutes without hitting a snag.

In preparation for Thursday’s draft, which will be held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, the league held a two-round dress rehearsal  Monday.

Coaches and general managers told ESPN’s Dianna Russini there were communication issues and bandwidth was a problem. One GM said the problem was some forgetting to hit the mute button.

Of course, there’s a reason why the league opted to have the mock draft in the first place with a heavy emphasis on technology in this year’s draft.

Team executives are drafting from their own homes with facilities closed because of the pandemic. 

What You Can Do to Keep Yourself and Your Family Healthy

  • Take everyday preventive actions to stay healthy.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.

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