Trump to Halt WHO Funding; Reopening Plans Weighed: Virus Update

President Donald Trump said he would temporarily halt funding for the World Health Organization because of its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

Leaders from Europe to California began to sketch out strategies for restarting their economies. U.S. stocks soared on signs the virus outbreak is leveling off or easing, while Spain, Germany and Italy all reported fewer infections.

Singapore said it would make face masks mandatory outdoors and close more workplaces. The International Monetary Fund predicted that the “Great Lockdown” recession would be the steepest in almost a century.

Key Developments

  • Virus Tracker: Cases surpass 1.96 million; deaths top 125,000
  • Cuomo says he won’t engage Trump, offers history lesson
  • New York City deaths rise by 3,800 with count beyond hospitals
  • California’s Newsom sets reopening benchmarks
  • Scientists weigh virus immunity
  • Sanofi, Glaxo join forces to develop vaccine

U.S. Officials Draft Reopening Plan: Washington Post (7:22 a.m. HK)

Federal health officials have begun drafting plans to end social-distancing measures and reopen businesses, the Washington Post reported, citing a document that the paper said was drafted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

25,306 in U.S.Most new cases today

-17% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-0.​9932 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

Called the “Framework for Reopening America,” the document describes a phased program that would split the country into areas based on risk, with low-, moderate- and high-risk sections. Low-risk areas could open first, no earlier than May 1, with moderate- and high-risk areas later.

The document, described as a draft by the Post, also calls for hiring a corps of public health workers to help trace contacts of infected people. It says that none of the steps should be taken until widespread testing capabilities are in place, and the federal government has better tools to monitor infections and coordinate a response.

The plan describes three phases, one of preparation that can begin now with social distancing and government coordination; a second phase to build up a health-care workforce and expand testing further; and a third phase starting no earlier than May 1 where some communities could begin to reopen.

President Donald Trump, speaking at a White House briefing Tuesday, said he intends to authorize governors to implement their own plans to reopen the economy. He said 29 states are “in very good shape” regarding the virus.

Trump Says He’s Halting Payments to WHO (6:21 a.m. HK)

President Donald Trump said he instructed his administration to temporarily halt funding to the World Health Organization for taking China’s claims about the coronavirus “at face value” and failing to share information about the pandemic as it spread.

“The WHO failed in its basic duty and must be held accountable,” Trump said Tuesday at a White House press conference.

Airlines, Treasury Reach Tentative Accord on Aid (5:21 p.m. NY)

U.S. airlines reached preliminary agreements with the Treasury Department to access billions of dollars in aid as the government attempts to shore up one of the industries hardest-hit by the pandemic.

The deal covers all major carriers, Treasury said in a statement. American Airlines Group Inc. said it would get $5.8 billion in payroll support, while Southwest Airlines Co. said it would get $3.2 billion. The money comes from $25 billion in payroll assistance allocated for passenger carriers in the $2.2 trillion stimulus package signed into law March 27.

NYC Deaths Cross 10,000 With New Victim Count (5:16 p.m. NY)

New York City added almost 3,800 people to its virus death toll to account for victims who died in recent weeks without seeking hospital care. The additional deaths pushed the city’s total to more than 10,000. Freddi Goldstein, press secretary to Mayor Bill de Blasio, said they include at-home deaths of people suspected of having Covid-19, based on reported symptoms including cough, fever and shortness of breath.

California Outlines Criteria for Reopening (4:45 p.m. NY)

California Governor Gavin Newsom outlined his plan to lift restrictions in the most-populous U.S. state, saying a reopening depends on meeting a series of benchmarks that would remake daily life for 40 million residents.

“There’s no light switch here,” Newsom said at a briefing, declining to estimate timing on a reopening. “It’s more like a dimmer,” toggling back and forth between more and fewer rules.

To consider modifying stay-at-home orders, California will need to meet criteria including the ability to do widespread testing and contact tracing, making sure hospitals can meet demand, and having businesses and schools support physical distancing.

Even then, public outings will look quite different, with restaurants likely having fewer tables and face coverings common, Newsom said. Mass gatherings will be “negligible at best.”

U.S. Infections Continue to Slow (4:05 p.m. NY)

U.S. coronavirus cases rose 4.6% to 598,670 Tuesday, according to data from John’s Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That was below the average daily increase of 6.8% over the past week, suggesting the U.S. outbreak continues to ease.

New York, the epicenter in the U.S., reported a 3.7% increase. That’s down from 10% on April 1. New Jersey cases rose 6.6%.

South Dakota reported the highest growth rate, with cases increasing 14%.

Louisiana reported 129 new deaths, pushing its total count above 1,000.

“Today’s death count is the largest we have reported in a single day,” Governor John Bel Edwards said in a statement. “It is incumbent upon our people to follow the stay at home order.”

NYC Taps Manufacturers to Make Gear (3:03 p.m. NY)

New York City has turned to its garment industry to shift from high fashion to mass manufacturing of surgical gowns to protect medical workers treating coronavirus patients.

The gowns are part the city’s plan to build up its manufacturing capacity to locally produce personal protective equipment and test kits by the tens of thousands per week, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Local companies will make face shields, surgical gowns and virus test kits in neighborhoods like the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Manhattan’s Garment District, de Blasio said Tuesday at his daily virus briefing.

Trump Holds Off on Threats Against WHO (2:17 p.m. NY)

President Donald Trump is holding off for now on his threat to slash U.S. contributions to the World Health Organization over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to people familiar with the matter.

One person who has appealed to Trump is United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who, through the U.S. ambassador to the UN, made the case that there will be time to apportion blame for the pandemic but that it’s not appropriate while the outbreak is still growing.

Read more here.

N.J. Shows Signs of Curve Flattening (2:11 p.m. NY)

New Jersey coronavirus cases increased by less than 10% for an eighth straight day, signs of a flattening curve even as the state reported an 365 new deaths, the most in a 24-hour period.

Cases in at least 12 of 21 counties were doubling every seven days or more, and just one, Cumberland, was doubling every four days. A few weeks earlier, cases in several counties were doubling every three days.

Still, the state “can’t begin to think of reopening” until the federal government supplies more testing resources, Governor Phil Murphy said at a press briefing Tuesday.

Italy Has Fewest Cases in a Month (12:45 p.m. NY)

Italy reported its fewest new coronavirus cases in a month on Tuesday, as a government-appointed task force seeks to map out a way to ease a nationwide lockdown that’s crippling the economy.

There were 2,972 new cases of the disease -- the fewest since March 13 -- compared with 3,153 a day earlier, civil protection officials said at their daily briefing in Rome. The decline comes as testing slowed over the Easter holiday weekend. Confirmed cases in the country now total 162,488.

Italy registered 602 deaths linked to the virus, compared with 566 the day before. That brings the total number of fatalities to 21,067.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has extended containment measures until May 3, and has appointed Vittorio Colao, former chief executive officer of Vodafone Group Plc, to head a team that will help the country’s firms gradually restart activity, depending on the spread of the disease.

Antibiotic Added to FDA Short-Supply List (12:15 p.m. NY)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration put the antibiotic azithromycin on its list of drugs in short supply Tuesday, adding to a growing tally of treatments becoming scarce as the number of Americans with Covid-19 increases.

The drug is being used in combination with the malaria treatment hydroxychloroquine, which is also in shortage after President Donald Trump touted its potential effectiveness against the coronavirus.

Pfizer Inc. said next delivery of most doses of its brand-name Zithromax tablets will be in June or July, according to FDA’s shortages database. Many of the nine generic-drug manufacturers in the FDA’s database indicated they were struggling to keep up with demand or were anticipating a backorder.

Trump, Cuomo Clash on Reopening (11:27 a.m. NY)

President Donald Trump and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo publicly sparred over who has the authority to reopen the U.S. economy.

“If he ordered me to reopen in a way that endangered the public health of the people of my state, I wouldn’t do it,” Cuomo said in an interview on CNN. “We don’t have King Trump. We have President Trump.”

Trump said in a tweet that he’s given Cuomo all the resources he’s asked for to combat the coronavirus.

“I got it all done for him, and everyone else, and now he seems to want Independence! That won’t happen!,” Trump said.

Read more here

Denmark to Lift Lockdown for Young (10:46 a.m. NY)

Denmark will release its youngest citizens from a month-long lockdown Wednesday in a move that has fueled considerable controversy.

Babies will return to daycare centers, kindergartens will open their doors and primary schools will resume for children up to age 13.

The government says the move, which follows signs that Denmark’s early Covid-19 restrictions paid off, will let parents focus on their jobs and keep the economy going. But the model has drawn a lot of criticism, including from some parents who are threatening to boycott the plan.

U.K. Reports Larger Number of Deaths (9:48 a.m. NY)

A further 778 people have died in U.K. hospitals from the coronavirus, up from 717 on Monday, as the country decides how long to continue its lockdown. Confirmed cases rose to 93,873 from 88,621, Department of Health and Social Care figures show. Before today, the rate of increase in deaths and cases had been decelerating, according to Bloomberg calculations.

Singapore to Enforce Masks, Close More Workplaces (7:17 a.m. NY)

“The minute you leave your house you have to wear a mask when you go out,” Minister of National Development Lawrence Wong said, adding that first offenders will get a S$300 fine ($212). The government will also cull the number of industries allowed to stay open.

The measures were announced as virus cases escalated in tightly packed dormitories housing mainly low-paid foreign workers. More than 200,000 of the migrants serving key industries such as construction from across Asia live in 43 of the facilities in Singapore. The cramped accommodation complicates efforts to enforce social distancing rules.

Singapore on Tuesday recorded 334 new cases, the second day figures have exceeded 300, bringing the tally so far to 3,252. No imported cases were reported, while 122 cases are unlinked. Monday recorded a new high of 386, the largest single-day spike.

— With assistance by Kara Wetzel

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