COVID-19 Daily Update: April 24, 2020

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Trump signs $484 billion measure to aid employers, hospitals

President Donald Trump signed a $484 billion bill Friday to aid employers and hospitals under stress from the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 50,000 Americans and devastated broad swaths of the economy.

The bill is the latest effort by the federal government to help keep afloat businesses that have had to close or dramatically alter their operations as states try to slow the spread of the virus. Over the past five weeks, roughly 26 million people have filed for jobless aid, or about 1 in 6 U.S. workers.

CBO says deficit to reach $3.7 trillion in economic decline

A recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a burst of government spending on testing, health care and aid to businesses and households will nearly quadruple the government’s budget deficit to $3.7 trillion, the Congressional Budget Office said Friday.

The 2020 budget deficit will explode after four coronavirus response bills passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump promise to pile more than $2 trillion onto the $24.6 trillion national debt in just the remaining six months of the current fiscal year, according to the CBO.

That’s more than double the deficit record set during President Barack Obama’s first year in office.

Don’t inject disinfectant: Blunt pushback on Trump musing

Don’t inject disinfectants, health officials leapt to warn on Friday, reacting to President Donald Trump’s comment that disinfectants perhaps could be injected or ingested to fight COVID-19. His suggestion even prompted the maker of Lysol to warn its product should never be used internally.

“As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route),” said the statement from Reckitt Benckiser, parent company of the maker of Lysol and Dettol.

First Lady Sends Gifts to Hospitals Dealing With Coronavirus

Melania Trump is sending blankets, caps and other gifts to hospitals in 10 states, including some hit hardest by the new coronavirus outbreak, for use by medical staff and children who are patients.

The care packages were shipped Thursday to hospitals in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Florida, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Delaware, Nevada and the District of Columbia, the White House said.

Texas accuses US’ largest egg producer of price gouging

Texas’ attorney general has accused the nation’s largest egg producer of price gouging during the coronavirus pandemic. The Houston Chronicle reports that a lawsuit filed Thursday by Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton alleges that Cal-Maine Foods raised generic eggs price by 300% even though the pandemic hasn’t disrupted its supply chain. . 

Texas is seeking more than $100,000 in damages. Mississippi-based Cal-Maine denies the allegations, saying its prices are based on independent market quotes. Paxton’s lawsuit alleges that Cal-Maine’s egg prices jumped from about $1 per dozen to as high as $3.44 as consumers stocked up on staples. The lawsuit says Cal-Maine “is simply charging more because it can.”

Beaches are reopening. If you go, please be smart about it

Thinking through any outing is key to mitigating the risks, said Dr. William Schaffner, infectious diseases specialist at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. 

He says beachgoers should be wearing masks when they’re around other people.

Parking lots can be especially problematic in terms of close proximity to other visitors.

He suggests going at an off hour, although many beaches are only open for several hours in the morning and evening.

“You arrive, you put on your mask as you get out of the car to make sure you won’t encounter anybody and then you go down to the beach. If there’s nobody there, you can take your mask off,” he said.

“Do your exercising, and as you walk back to the parking lot, put it back on until you can get into your car safely again.”

This new normal is going to be with us for a very long time, Schaffner said, and adopting these practices is part of increasing our safety.

Ford engineers are working on electric Mustang SUVs in their own garages

The first SUV ever to carry the Mustang name, the Mach-E was unveiled to the public in November. With an emphasis on affordability and performance, the electric crossover is seen as Ford’s attempt to take on Tesla. At the time, Ford said the Mach-E would go on sale by fall of this year. But a few months later, on March 13, the pandemic spurred Ford (F) to order its employees to start working from home.

Now, with everyone working from home, each test vehicle is in a different driveway or garage, meaning communication is crucial. Team members must ask one another to run specific driving tests if they need data from a version of the Mach-E they don’t have.

If the coronavirus lockdown lasts longer than expected, the start of Mustang Mach-E production in the fall of 2020 might need to be delayed, Ford has said.

DraftKings debuts on Wall Street amid sports world lockdown

Sports daily fantasy and betting website DraftKings made its stock market debut Friday against a backdrop of a near-complete shutdown of athletic competition across the globe due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The gamble appeared to pay off, with the Boston-based company’s shares jumping 10% in afternoon trading.

DraftKings’ move to Wall Street was sealed Thursday after shareholders of a blank-check company, Diamond Eagle Acquisition Corp., approved a merger. Blank check companies typically are publicly traded but have no operations of their own and aim to acquire or merge with others.

Somber Congress delivers nearly $500B more in virus aid

Congress has delivered a nearly $500 billion infusion of coronavirus spending, almost unanimously rushing new relief to employers and hospitals buckling under the strain of a pandemic that has claimed almost 50,000 American lives and one in six U.S. jobs. President Donald Trump is scheduled to sign the bill during a White House ceremony Friday. House lawmakers gathered in Washington for the first time since March 27, adopting stricter social distancing rules while aiming to prove they can do their work despite the COVID-19 crisis.

President Trump tries to sell the nation on sunlight killing the coronavirus

The White House is pitching what it calls “emerging” research on the benefits of sunlight and humidity in diminishing the threat of the coronavirus as President Donald Trump encourages states to move to reopen their economies.

Past studies have not found good evidence that the warmer temperatures and higher humidity of spring and summer will help tamp down the spread of the virus.

But William Bryan of the Department of Homeland Security said at a White House briefing there are “emerging results” from new research that suggests solar light has a powerful effect in killing the virus on surfaces and in the air. He said scientists have seen a similar effect from higher temperatures and humidity.

Bryan stressed that the emerging results of the light and heat studies do not replace social distancing recommendations.

Gov’t puts pressure on public companies to return loans

The federal government is making it tougher for public companies to tap a small business relief program, and seeking refunds in some cases from companies that already did. Although the intent of the program is to help small businesses hit by the coronavirus outbreak, some publicly traded companies did secure loans, setting off a backlash. The government now says companies must certify that the loan is necessary and they don’t have other sources for the money, criteria public companies are unlikely to meet. 

CDC tells South Dakota pork plant how to operate more safely

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that that the operators of a South Dakota meatpacking plant where about 800 workers contracted the coronavirus implement a strict social distancing policy and find ways to overcome language barriers. The CDC released a memo Thursday that specifically addresses the situation at the Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls but that also may give an indication of the broader recommendations the agency is working on for meat processing plants nationwide. Smithfield closed the plant indefinitely amid complaints that it wasn’t doing enough to protect its workers. 

11,000 deaths: Ravaged nursing homes plead for more testing

After two months and more than 11,000 deaths that have made the nation’s nursing homes some of the most terrifying places to be during the coronavirus crisis, most of them still don’t have access to enough tests to help control outbreaks among their frail, elderly residents. Neither the federal government nor the nation’s leader in nursing home deaths, New York, has mandated testing for all residents and staff. And a nursing home industry group says only about a third of U.S. nursing homes have easy access to test kits. Says one industry official: “We’ve been ignored.”

Late to the party, Mexico take more aggressive steps against coronavirus

Mexico has reached 1,069 coronavirus deaths and 11,633 confirmed cases as lock-down measures were tightened Thursday and the country’s capital shut down 20% of subway stations and enforced a partial driving ban.

Mexico City has the largest number of cases and its closed over three dozen of its least-used subway stations. Authorities say that stopping at fewer stations would make trains run more frequently and thus reduce crowding. The city also banned one-fifth of cars from driving one day a week as part of an effort to keep people at home.

As deaths mounted, Mexican officials predicted an even greater toll. The federal government ordered public registry offices to stay open in order to quickly issue death certificates. That was to prevent unclaimed bodies from piling up at hospitals and morgues.

The all-digital online NFL Draft goes on

For all the uniqueness of this NFL draft, including the angst over a potential communications fiasco, things looked and sounded pretty normal Thursday night.

Quarterbacks were in demand. Ohio State and the Southeastern Conference dominated. The Patriots traded out of the first round.

And Commissioner Roger Goodell even got booed, if only digitally.

The first round wasn’t all that remarkable for the picks. Beginning with Joe Burrow of national champion LSU, three quarterbacks went in the top six. Hardly unusual.

For months, the Heisman Trophy winner from LSU was linked with the Bengals. Cincinnati began the draft by sending his name to Goodell in the basement of his home.

This most basic selection show had team personnel making picks from their homes and players sitting on their own couches while learning their future employers.

“I just believe that our job is to continue on and operate within whatever guidelines are necessary to keep our personnel safe, whether it’s players or coaches or their executives or league personnel,” Goodell said.

Can I get the coronavirus from my pet?

There’s no evidence pets are spreading the virus to people.

However, there have been a few cases worldwide where animals likely got the virus from humans, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A 4-year-old tiger tested positive at New York City’s Bronx Zoo, and officials think a zookeeper with the virus got the feline sick. Several other lions and tigers have also tested positive at the zoo.

Two house cats in different homes in New York have also contracted the virus, likely from their owners or someone in the neighborhood.

More research is needed to determine how the coronavirus affects animals. The USDA does not recommend routine testing for pets.

“Parks and Recreation” to reunite for a special episode

“Parks and Recreation” is making a comeback. But it’s for one episode only – and for a good cause. The original cast of the sitcom is reuniting for a COVID-19-related fundraiser. The episode will air Thursday at 8:30 p.m. eastern on NBC. The story line dovetails with the coronavirus crisis as Amy Poehler’s character Leslie Knope tries to stay in touch with her buds – while following social distancing rules. Donations made during the show will go to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund. It will help replenish food banks that have been put under stress caring for those affected financially by the pandemic.

Chicago tavern made famous by SNL struggles to stay afloat 

A Chicago bar that inspired a “Saturday Night Live” sketch decades ago is struggling to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. Like many eateries around the world, the Billy Goat Tavern has seen its income dry up because of stay-at-home orders designed to slow the spread of the virus. The Billy Goat Tavern was featured in a classic SNL sketch featuring John Belushi and Bill Murray. It’s the one where patrons order everything except the house specialties: “Cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger!” and “No Coke … Pepsi!”

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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