Britons go on shopping spree to ease grind of Covid-19 confinement

The prospect of weeks trapped at home has seen Britons embark on unlikely shopping sprees as they create home offices and gyms but also embrace hobbies ranging from dressmaking to jigsaw puzzling and growing their own veg.

With all non-essential high street shops and some websites now closed, what is left of high street trade is online as households hunker down and seek ways to keep themselves and their children entertained.

During week one of the government’s new home isolation rules, online sales were “fairly flat” on a year ago, according to the IMRG Capgemini online retail index. However, that measure, based on the web sales of 200 retailers, masked seesawing demand: while sales of electricals and DIY products were up 42% and 14% respectively, sales of clothing fell 27% and demand for footwear slumped 38%.

On Thursday Dixons Carphone, which also owns Currys, said online sales had jumped 72% over the last three weeks thanks to bumper sales of computers and printers as well as TVs, games consoles and household appliances like freezers. John Lewis also reported high demand for home office furniture such as desks and chairs as whole families attempted to work side by side at home.

With vulnerable sections of the population advised to stay home for 12 weeks – and the country’s schools also closed – it should perhaps come as no surprise that jigsaw puzzles are having a moment. John Lewis said demand was higher than at Christmas, which is usually the annual sales peak. More than half of the retailer’s puzzles – including all the 1,000-piece ones – have been sold.

In another sign that people are trying to be creative with the new-found time on their hands, the department store chain said demand for craft kits, wool and sewing machines had risen. High street crafts shop and stationer The Works has also reported a run on home school supplies, “mindfulness material” and colouring books.

The closure of gyms and leisure centres has made keeping fit a national preoccupation. Alongside millions tuning in to the YouTube workouts of fitness supremo Joe Wicks, there has been a surge in demand for exercise equipment ranging from inexpensive starter kits such as dumbbells and skipping ropes to major purchases such as treadmills and multi-gyms.

Fitness Superstore, the UK’s biggest supplier of specialist equipment, said the sheer volume of orders in recent weeks had “driven all areas of our business to maximum capacity”. The company has imposed a £200 minimum spend to slow the rate of orders coming into its Northampton distribution centre. “We have seen a level of demand that dwarfs even our peak trading times of Christmas and January,” the company reports on its website.

With children mostly banished from nurseries and schools, the family-run online retailer Outdoor Toys joined other retailers in reporting strong sales of swings, climbing frames, trampolines and football goals as parents tried to keep them away from screens.

Before garden centres closed their doors, they had experienced a mini sales boom as gardeners stocked up for the season ahead. The Blue Diamond Group, which has 37 centres, said the day after the government urged people to work from home where possible, sales were 64% higher than in 2019. Big sellers included compost and seeds, both up 250%, and propagation products, up 150%. The managing director, Alan Roper, said: “The garden is a sanctuary. No one wants to be isolated just in their house. It’s good for the mind … it gives you a sense of well-being.”

Dobbies, the UK’s biggest garden centre chain, also reported a sharp rise in sales, with some shoppers seemingly starting from scratch, buying cultivating tools including hoes, rakes, hand tools and secateurs.

But the gardening frenzy has caught some companies off guard. The specialist firm Sarah Raven has temporarily stopped taking orders for seeds and gardening kits as it tries to catch up with a backlog of orders. The company, founded by East Sussex-based gardener Sarah Raven, is still dispatching plants and bulbs but warned that orders are taking longer than usual.

Raven said planting flowers would give people some much needed joy: “Get your annual seeds now – nigella, poppies, cosmos, zinnias, snapdragons, which are the most joyful and life-enhancing thing you could have from May onwards. And plant potatoes, sow courgettes, tomatoes, and tons and tons of salads and herbs.”

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Applying for unemployment because of coronavirus? Here’s how in all 50 states

US unemployment claims soar as coronavirus slams economy

Last week’s jobless claims hit a record-breaking 3.28 million. FOX Business’ Lauren Simonetti with more.

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The coronavirus has hit the U.S. economy hard and many companies and businesses have had to lay off employees as they try to stay afloat.

The layoffs have led millions of Americans to apply for unemployment in record numbers. Last week, 3.28 million Americans applied for unemployment, according to the Labor Department’s weekly report.

The previous record for jobless claims was just 695,000 in 1982.

HELP WANTED AMID CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC: THESE COMPANIES ARE HIRING

On Friday, Congress and President Trump enacted a $2 trillion bill, which included relief for distressed companies, $1,200 checks to individuals, money for hospitals, financial assistance for small businesses and major expansion of unemployment benefits.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will make it easier for people who have lost jobs because of the coronavirus to qualify for benefits, according to AARP.

The nonprofit also reported that workers who have been furloughed without pay will also be eligible for benefits.

US UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS SHATTER RECORD AS CORONAVIRUS HAMMERS ECONOMY

However, some people who can apply for unemployment may not know what to do or who to contact.

Because unemployment benefits vary by state, AARP published a report Thursday listing all the contact information needed to apply for unemployment in all 50 states.

HOW TO APPLY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

According to the nonprofit organization, most states require people to apply through the state labor department or an unemployment agency in the state where they worked and not necessarily where they live.

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One tip to remember: know your employer’s address and the dates you worked there, AARP said.

To see how to apply for unemployment in your state, here are the websites to check and the phone numbers to call in all 50 states — as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands — according to AARP.

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Alabama

https://labor.alabama.gov/unemployment.aspx

866-234-5382

Alaska

https://labor.alaska.gov/unemployment/

Anchorage: 907-269-4700

Juneau: 907-465-5552

Fairbanks: 907-451-2871

Arizona

https://des.az.gov/services/employment/unemployment-individual/apply-ui-benefits

602-542-5954

Arkansas

https://www.benefits.gov/benefit/1689

855-225-4440

California

https://www.edd.ca.gov/unemployment/

English: 800-300-5616

Spanish: 800-326-8937

Colorado

https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/file-claim

303-318-9000

Connecticut 

http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/UI-online/index.htm

Telephone assistance is not available

Delaware

https://ui.delawareworks.com/

New Castle County residents: 302-761-6576

Kent & Sussex County residents: 800-794-3032

Florida

https://connect.myflorida.com/Claimant/Core/Login.ASPX

800-204-2418

Georgia

https://www.dol.state.ga.us/fileaclaim/

Contact list of regional Department of Labor offices: https://dol.georgia.gov/locations

Hawaii

https://huiclaims.hawaii.gov/#/

Contact list of regional claims and benefits offices: http://labor.hawaii.gov/ui/contact/

Idaho

https://www2.labor.idaho.gov/ClaimantPortal/Login

208-332-8942

Illinois

https://www2.illinois.gov/ides/aboutides/Pages/10%20Things%20You%20Should%20Know.aspx

800-244-5631

Indiana

https://www.in.gov/dwd/2362.htm

800-457-8283

Iowa

https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/file-claim-unemployment-insurance-benefits

866-239-0843

Kansas 

https://www.getkansasbenefits.gov/BenefitsStartMenu.aspx

Contact list of regional Department of Labor offices: https://www.dol.ks.gov/contact-kdol

Kentucky

https://uiclaims.des.ky.gov/ebenefit/eben.htm

Contact list of regional career centers: https://kcc.ky.gov/Pages/Locations.aspx

Louisiana

https://www.louisianaworks.net/hire/vosnet/registration/ind/uiclaim.aspx?enc=j8p6n2RTDew2IirIcHorMg==

Phone: 866-783-5567 Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Refer to the following call-in schedule based on the last four digits of your Social Security Number (SSN):

SSN ending in 0000-2499: Monday

SSNs ending in 2500-4999: Tuesday

SSNs ending in 5000-7499: Wednesday

SSNs ending in 7500-9999: Thursday

Fridays are open to anyone needing assistance.

Maine

https://reemployme.maine.gov/accessme/faces/login/login.xhtml

800-593-7660 TTY Maine Relay: 711

Maryland

http://www.labor.maryland.gov/employment/unemployment.shtml

Contact list of regional claim centers: https://dbm.maryland.gov/employees/Pages/DisApplyforUnemploymentBenefits.aspx

Massachusetts

https://uionline.detma.org/Claimant/Core/Login.ASPX

617-626-6338

Michigan

https://miwam.unemployment.state.mi.us/ClmMiWAM/_/

866-500-0017

Minnesota

https://www.uimn.org/applicants/index.jsp

Twin Cities area: 651-296-3644

Greater Minnesota: 877-898-9090

TTY: 866-814-1252

Mississippi

https://accessms.mdes.ms.gov/accessms/faces/login/login.xhtml

601-855-3133 or 888-844-3577

Missouri

https://uinteract.labor.mo.gov/benefits/home.do

Toll-Free: 800-320-2519

Jefferson City: 573-751-9040

Kansas City: 816-889-3101

Springfield: 417-895-6851

St. Louis: 314-340-4950

TDD/TTY: 800-735-2966 Relay Missouri: 711

Montana

https://montanaworks.gov/Job-Seeker-UI-Claimant

406-444-2545

Nebraska

https://neworks.nebraska.gov/vosnet/unemployment.aspx?pu=1&plang=E

Contact list of regional centers: https://dol.nebraska.gov/Home/AboutUs

TDD: 800-833-7352 TTY 402-471-0016

Nevada

https://secure.ui.nv.gov/oaam_server/oamLoginPage.jsp

Northern Nevada: 775-684-0350

Southern Nevada: 702-486-0350

Rural areas and out-of-state callers: 888-890-8211

New Hampshire

https://wfc.nhes.nh.gov/auth/sso/login?execution=e4s1

Contact list of regional centers: https://www.nhes.nh.gov/locations/index.htm

New Jersey

https://myunemployment.nj.gov/

North New Jersey: 201-601-4100

Central New Jersey: 732-761-2020

South New Jersey: 856-507-2340

Out-of-state claims: 888-795-6672 (you must call from a phone with an out-of-state area code)

New Jersey relay: 711

New Mexico

https://www.dws.state.nm.us/en-us/Unemployment

877-664-6984

New York

https://applications.labor.ny.gov/IndividualReg/

888-783-1370

TTY/TDD: 800-662-1220; ask the operator to call the Telephone Claims Center at 888-783-1370.

North Carolina 

https://fed.des.nc.gov/ofis/citizen/pages/public/SelfRegStart.aspx

888-737-0259

North Dakota

https://apps.nd.gov/jsnd/uiiaclaims/login.htm

701-328-4995

Ohio

https://unemployment.cmt.ohio.gov/cmtview/

877-644-6562 TTY: 614-387-8408

Oklahoma

https://unemployment.state.ok.us/

405-525-1500 (Oklahoma City calling area)

800-555-1554 (Outside the Oklahoma City calling area)

TTY/TDD: 866-284-6695

Oregon 

https://secure.emp.state.or.us/ocs4/index.cfm

Phone: 800-237-3710 (in-state only)

Phone: 503-947-1394 (direct)

Fax: 503-947-1472

TTY: 771

Pennsylvania

https://www.paclaims.pa.gov/UCEN/Welcome.asp

888-313-7284

Videophone for American Sign Language: 717-704-8474

Puerto Rico

https://www.trabajo.pr.gov/desempleo_en_linea.asp

787-754-5353

Rhode Island

http://www.dlt.ri.gov/ui/

401-243-9100

Out-of-state claims: 866-557-0001

TTY via RI relay 711

South Carolina

https://dew.sc.gov/individuals/apply-for-benefits

In-state claimants: 866-831-1724

Out-of-state claimants: 800-529-8339

South Dakota

https://apps.sd.gov/LD00General/default.aspx

605-626-3179

Speech and hearing-impaired relay: 800-877-1113

Tennessee 

https://www.jobs4tn.gov/vosnet/Default.aspx

844-224-5818

Texas

https://www.twc.texas.gov/jobseekers/unemployment-benefits-services

800-558-8321

U.S. Virgin Islands

Unemployment Insurance

St. Croix: 340-773-1440

All other islands: 340-776-3700

Utah

https://jobs.utah.gov/ui/home/initialclaims

Contact list of regional centers: https://jobs.utah.gov/ui/jobseeker/contactus.html

Vermont

https://vermont.force.com/DOLClaim/s/

877-214-3330 or 888-807-7072

Virginia

http://www.vec.virginia.gov/unemployed

866-832-2363

Washington

https://secure.esd.wa.gov/home/

800-318-6022

Washington, D.C.

https://does.dcnetworks.org/initialclaims/

202-698-7550

West Virginia

https://uc.workforcewv.org/consumer/

800-252-JOBS (5627)

Wisconsin

https://my.unemployment.wisconsin.gov/Claimant/Account/TermsAndConditions

414-435-7069 or toll-free 844-910-3661

Wyoming

https://wyui.wyo.gov/benefits/home.do

In-state: 307-473-3789

Out of state: 866-729-7799

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What is a bridge loan?

Coronavirus stimulus checks to be sent 3 weeks from today

FOX Business’ Edward Lawrence gives a timeline of when Americans will start receiving money now that the House has passed the coronavirus spending bill.

As the coronavirus pandemic threatens to crush small businesses across the country, the Small Business Administration launched a pilot program this week to deliver expedited financing for eligible businesses as they await relief from the federal government.

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The Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program allows authorized lenders to get financing on an emergency basis to small businesses while they apply and await for long-term relief. Eligible small businesses include those located in counties that have been declared disaster areas by the White House and those based in any state that have been adversely impacted by the virus outbreak.

CORONAVIRUS LAYOFFS SKYROCKET, CATCHING NEARLY HALF OF STATE UNEMPLOYMENT PROGRAMS UNPREPARED

A bridge loan is a type of short-term loan that’s intended to assist businesses in the gap between two long-term financing loans. Frequently, companies use bridge loans when necessary to cover cash shortfalls when they must repay one loan before having time to obtain a new long-term loan.

Companies generally can pay off a bridge loan at any time without facing a penalty.

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WHO GETS A CORONAVIRUS RELIEF CHECK

The $2 trillion stimulus package that received congressional approval on Friday includes more than $370 billion in funding for small businesses. Businesses with fewer than 500 employees are eligible for up to $10 million in loans, which can be used for payroll and other expenses, like insurance premiums, mortgages, rent or utilities.

The government will pay off the loan balance so long as the companies either do not lay off workers or rehire ones they’ve already let go.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said small businesses will be able to go into banks “next Friday and be able to get loans.” The Trump administration will release further guidance in coming days, he said.

“We’re going to get money to you,” he said.

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Liquidity floodgates opened

Central bank to infuse ₹3.74 lakh cr. into banking system

In a move to infuse sufficient liquidity into the banking system, the Reserve Bank of India has reduced the cash reserve ratio (CRR) requirement by 100 bps, increased the cap for liquidity available under the marginal standing facility, and will auction long-term repo of ₹1 lakh crore. These three measures will infuse ₹3.74 lakh crore into the banking system.

The cash reserve ratio — the proportion of liabilities which a bank has to set aside as cash — has been reduced from 4% to 3%. The 100 bps reduction in CRR will free up ₹1.37 lakh crore liquidity for the banks. For State Bank of India, lowering of CRR will release ₹31,000 crore.

The minimum daily requirement of maintaining CRR balance has also been reduced to 80% from 90%, effective from the first day of the reporting fortnight beginning March 28, 2020. “This is a one-time dispensation available up to June 26, 2020,” the RBI said.

Banks do not earn any interest for maintaining CRR balance. With this reduction, they can deploy the liquidity in interest-earning assets.

RBI also increased liquidity available to banks under the marginal standing facility from 2% of the statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) to 3% with immediate effect. This measure will be applicable up to June 30, 2020.

“This measure should provide comfort to the banking system by allowing it to avail [itself of] an additional ₹1,37,000 crore of liquidity under the LAF window in times of stress at the reduced MSF rate announced in the MPC’s resolution,” the RBI said.

The monetary policy committee reduced the repo rate by 75 bps to 4.4% and consequently the MSF rate was reduced to 4.65%.

Observing that large sell-offs in the domestic equity, bond and forex markets had intensified redemption pressures, the central bank decided to infuse ₹1 lakh crore through targeted long-term repo operations (TLTRO).

The RBI will conduct auctions of targeted term repos of up to three years’ tenor for a total of up to ₹1 lakh crore at a floating rate, linked to the policy repo rate. “Liquidity availed under the scheme by banks has to be deployed in investment grade corporate bonds, commercial paper and non-convertible debentures over and above the outstanding level of their investments in these bonds as on March 25, 2020,” the RBI said.

RBI also said investments by banks under this facility would be classified as held-to-maturity (HTM) even in excess of 25% of the total investment permitted to be included in the HTM portfolio.

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India coronavirus lockdown | Finance Ministry pulls up banks on shut branches

Bank unions cite problems the staff faced in reaching branches.

The Union Finance Ministry has asked banks to explain why several branches are closed.

“In view of the novel coronavirus lockdown, the government is monitoring the functioning of bank branches across the country. Accordingly, the daily data on the number of bank branches (of all scheduled commercial banks in the country), which are open and functioning is being collected by Indian Banks Association (IBA), and monitored by Department of Financial Services,” the Ministry said in the communication to banks.

Coronavirus | Banks to provide only essential services

The Ministry cited the data and asked public sector banks to submit reasons on “why large number of branches are not functioning across the country”. On private banks, it has asked the IBA to compile reasons.

The bank unions, however, cited the problems the staff faced in reaching the branches.

According data submitted by banks to the Ministry, 1775 of the State Bank of India’s 22,029 branches are closed, 666 of Bank of Baroda’s 9,479 branches are shuttered as are 989 of Punjab National Bank’s 6,618 branches, 289 of Canara Bank’s 6,325 branches and 424 of 5,024 Bank of India branches.

In a communication to the banks earlier this week after the lockdown was announced, the IBA had said they could selectively keep their branches open after consultation with local State governments. Bank branches are now offering only essential services including deposits and withdrawals, and their working hours have also been shortened.

Coronavirus | Interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in India

Unions upset

The communication from the Finance Ministry has, however, not gone down well with bank unions as they cited the problems employees face in reaching to branches due to the lockdown and obstruction by police.

“Now ensuing week branches will have to face rush at the counter due to salary disbursement & pension payment,” said Devidas Tuljapurkar General Secretary Maharashtra State Bank Employees Federation.

Coronavirus | RBI cuts rates, allows moratorium on auto, home loan EMIs

“Yesterday’s announcement of disbursement of subsidies through Jan Dhan accounts is also likely to result in a huge rush at the counters when maintaining required distance amongst customers & employees as against customers is not possible which will result in frustrating the very purpose of the lockdown. This is likely to put customers as also staff to a great risk. Government should find out the alternatives.” Mr Tuljapurkar added.

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Tesla cuts staff at Gigafactory in Nevada because of coronavirus

Tesla is slashing the number of workers at its Nevada Gigafactory by about 75 percent as the coronavirus pandemic roils the company’s manufacturing operations, local officials say.

The electric-car maker told officials in the surrounding Storey County that it would cut its on-site staff at the Reno-area factory “in the coming days,” county manager Austin Osborne said in a Thursday statement. The plant produces battery packs and electric motors for the Model 3 sedan, Tesla’s most popular car.

The move came after Panasonic, which makes batteries at the factory in partnership with Tesla, said it would cut back operations there this week before shutting down altogether for two weeks.

It’s not clear how long Tesla’s staff reduction will last, how many employees it affects or whether they will be paid during their time off. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday morning.

The Nevada factory is just the latest Tesla facility to have its operations reduced amid the coronavirus crisis that has forced businesses across the US to shut down.

The automaker suspended production last week at its car factory in the San Francisco Bay Area after a dispute with local officials about whether it was an essential business that could keep running normally under an order meant to stem the spread of the virus. Tesla also temporarily stopped production at its solar roof tile plant in Buffalo, New York, where the state has imposed similar measures.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak also ordered non-essential businesses to shut down last week, but the Storey County sheriff said Tesla’s plant could remain open because it was “part of the supply chain,” according to the Reno Gazette Journal.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has raised eyebrows earlier this month when he called panic about the deadly coronavirus “dumb.” He has since started donating ventilators to help treat virus patients.

With Post wires

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Coronavirus could hit hedge fund titans who earned more than $1B in 2019

Coronavirus scaring homebuyers, but big rebound coming in summer: Million Dollar Listing’s Serhant

‘Million Dollar Listing New York’ star and licensed associate real estate broker Ryan Serhant discusses how people on the market to buy should continue to do so during the coronavirus outbreak.

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Eight hedge fund managers earned more than $1 billion apiece in 2019, according to the Institutional Investor’s Rich List, but have likely seen a slice of that wealth destroyed as the coronavirus pandemic threatens to tip the U.S. into a recession that rivals the 2008 financial crisis.

Christopher Hohn of TCI Fund Management was one of the highest individual earners last year, according to the list, raking in $1.8 billion on the back of a 40.6 percent return, the firm’s best year since 2013. Hohn tied with Jim Simons of Renaissance Technologies, who also earned $1.8 billion.

FED'S POWELL SAYS US ECONOMY MAY ALREADY BE IN A RECESSION

Citadel’s Ken Griffin nabbed second place on the list, with his fund up more than 20 percent, the highest in six years.

Point72’s Steve Cohen and Appaloosa Management’s David Tepper each made $1.3 billion last year, while Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, earned $1.1 billion.

The massive incomes for these individuals came before the virus outbreak, which has forced restaurants, airlines, cruise lines, bars and entertainment venues to shutter their doors, began to batter the economy and the financial markets. The Federal Reserve and lawmakers have both taken unprecedented action to try to mitigate the economic fallout, including a $2 trillion stimulus bill, the largest in recent memory.

US LOSES 500,000 MILLIONAIRES AS VIRUS ERODES FORTUNES OF WEALTHY

Markets have somersaulted since the end of last year, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average at one point erasing the majority of its gains since President Trump took office.

The pandemic has hammered the fortunes of some of the wealthiest Americans: The number of millionaires in the U.S. has plummeted from a record-high amid the dual financial and health crises. At the end of 2019, there were an unprecedented 11 million American millionaires, evidence of the historic 11-year economic expansion and the tax cuts and ultra-low interest rates that accompanied it, according to a new study published by research firm Spectrem Group.

US JOBLESS CLAIMS SURGE TO RECORD HIGH AS VIRUS BATTERS ECONOMY

The wealthiest people in the world have seen especially dramatic losses: According to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index, the world’s 500 richest people have lost almost $1.3 trillion since the start of the year. That’s close to a 21.6 percent decline in their collective net worth.

Of course, ordinary Americans are likely to experience a more severe fallout from the virus outbreak and will be among the people hit the hardest by an economic slowdown that experts warn could rival the 2008 financial crisis.

Unemployment claims from the period between March 14 and March 21 surged to 3.28 million, the Labor Department said on Thursday, shattering a decades-old record. Economists have warned that jobless claims will likely continue to skyrocket as the economy remains partially shut down.

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Grocery stores add sneeze guards to protect cashiers from coronavirus

Some of the nation’s largest grocery store chains are installing sneeze guards to help protect their cashiers from the coronavirus.

Walmart, Albertsons, Whole Foods and other grocers say they are putting up Plexiglas shields in checkout lines to block virus-containing droplets from the nose and mouth from flying between clerks and customers.

Walmart plans to install the barriers at its cash registers over the next two to three weeks, Dacona Smith, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Walmart US, said in a Tuesday announcement. The guards have already been placed at pharmacy lanes in Walmart and Sam’s Club stores, she said.

Kroger, the nation’s biggest supermarket chain, has reportedly begun to install sneeze guards at all cash registers, pharmacy counters and Starbucks cafe stands. Every checkout lane should have a partition “within the next several weeks,” company spokeswoman Kristal Howard told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Amazon-owned Whole Foods is working to install barriers at all of its locations, of which it has about 500 in the US, Canada and the UK, CNN reported. And Idaho-based Albertsons plans to add sneeze guards at its more than 2,200 stores over two weeks, the company said last Friday.

“This is an extra step to protect our associates who are in constant contact with the public and provide our customers with extra reassurance as well,” Albertsons president and CEO Vivek Sankaran said in a statement.

Meijer, a regional retail chain with 248 stores across the Midwest, will join the effort when it starts to install shields in checkout lanes next week, according to a Wednesday news release. The Michigan-based company said it has also marked checkout lines with X’s placed six feet apart to encourage shoppers to keep their distance from each other.

Grocery workers have been on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis, as supermarkets are among the essential businesses that have remained open even in states that have imposed lockdowns to stop the disease from spreading.

There’s no evidence to show the disease has been spread through food; it is generally transmitted through respiratory droplets from coughs or sneezes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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US coronavirus death toll tops 1,000 as $2.2T in aid approved

Trump on coronavirus 15-day quarantine: ‘The country wants to get back to work’

President Trump says his administration should have a better understanding on whether or not to lift the quarantine by Easter.

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. deaths from the coronavirus pandemic topped 1,000 in another grim milestone for a global outbreak that is taking lives and wreaking havoc on economies and the established routines of ordinary life.

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In a recognition of the scale of the threat, the U.S. Senate late Wednesday passed an unparalleled $2.2 trillion economic rescue package steering aid to businesses, workers and health care systems.

INDIA BANS EXPORTS OF POSSIBLE CORONAVIRUS TREATMENT HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE

The unanimous vote came despite misgivings on both sides about whether it goes too far or not far enough and capped days of difficult negotiations as Washington confronted a national challenge unlike it has ever faced. The 880-page measure is the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history.

Worldwide, the death toll climbed past 21,000, according to a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University, and the U.S. had 1,050 deaths and nearly 70,000 infections.

Rachel Miner, 15, left, of Emmetsburg, Iowa, sits with Carlotta Haas, 15, a foreign exchange student from Duesseldorf, Germany, who had been living with Miner and her family but was called home, as they waited for her flight Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Spain's death toll has risen past 3,400, eclipsing that of China, where the virus was first detected in December, and is now second only to that of Italy, which has 7,500. Lidia Perera, a nurse at Madrid's 1,000-bed Hospital de la Paz, said more workers were desperately needed.

"We are collapsing," Perera said.

The Spanish parliament voted to allow the government to extend strict stay-at-home rules and business closings until April 11.

Such measures are becoming increasingly common in the U.S., where New York is the epicenter of the domestic outbreak, accounting for more than 30,000 cases and close to 300 deaths, most of them in New York City.

WHO IS SURGEON GENERAL JEROME ADAMS?

Public health officials in the city hunted down beds and medical equipment and called for more doctors and nurses for fear the number of sick patients will overwhelm hospitals as has happened in Italy and Spain.

A makeshift morgue was set up outside Bellevue Hospital, and the city's police, their ranks dwindling as more fall ill, were told to patrol nearly empty streets to enforce social distancing.
In Washington, President Donald Trump has called for Americans to dedicate themselves to social distancing for 15 days, including staying home from work and closing bars and restaurants to help try to stall the spread of the disease.

President Donald Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listen as Larry Kudlow, White House chief economic adviser, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Briefing Room, Tuesday, M

Yet, he has also grumbled that "our country wasn't built to be shut down" and vowed not to allow "the cure be worse than the problem" — apparently concerned that the outbreak's devastating effects on financial markets and employment will harm his chances for reelection later this year.

"The LameStream Media is the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success," Trump tweeted Wednesday.

Democrats say that Trump was prioritizing the economy over the health and safety of Americans.
"I'd like to say, let's get back to work next Friday," said Joe Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. "That'd be wonderful. But it can't be arbitrary."

Biden said the congressional aid package addressing the outbreak "goes a long way," but that "meticulous oversight" is required.

"We're going to need to make sure the money gets out quickly into peoples' pockets and to keep a close watch on how corporations are using the taxpayers funds that they receive, to make sure it goes to help workers, not rich CEOs or shareholders," the former vice president said.

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has also called to reopen schools and businesses, contending a clampdown ordered by many governors will deeply wound the economy and spark social unrest. He called for only high-risk people to quarantine and for governors to lift their stricter measures. 
The country's governors resisted, saying his instructions run counter to health experts' recommendations and endanger Latin America's largest population. The rebellion even included traditional allies of Brazil's far-right president.

CORONAVIRUS PUSHES HAWAII, ALASKA TO MANDATE 14-DAY QUARANTINE FOR VISITORS

Meanwhile, the governor of a state in central Mexico said the poor are "immune" to the coronavirus, even as the federal government suspended all non-essential government activities.

Puebla Gov. Miguel Barbosa's comment was apparently partly a response to statistics showing that the wealthy, who travel much more, have made up a significant percentage of Mexicans infected to date, including some prominent businessmen. The country has seen six deaths so far.

A teen wears a medical mask as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus, during an outing in Mexico City, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

"The majority are wealthy people. If you are rich, you are at risk. If you are poor, no," Barbosa said. "We poor people, we are immune."

Barbosa also appeared to be playing on an old stereotype held by some Mexicans that poor sanitation standards may have strengthened their immune systems by exposing them to bacteria or other bugs.

In other developments:

— Thailand's capital, Bangkok, saw a drastic reduction in crowds and traffic on the first day of a national state of emergency declared to cope with the virus. The elevated Skytrain mass transit system was largely empty during the normal rush hour and a main bus station was quiet after the departure over the past week of many workers whose homes are in rural provinces.

Outside the usually throbbing city, checkpoints were set up to find travelers with symptoms of the disease. The state of emergency allows the government to implement curfews, censor the media, disperse gatherings and deploy the military for enforcement.

— Leaders of four Japaneses prefectures whose residents commute to work and school in Tokyo asked people to avoid non-essential visits to the capital. The calls come a day after Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike asked city residents to work from home if possible and avoid going out on the weekend. She said Tokyo is on the verge of a possible explosive increase in infections.

— Pakistani officials said a representative of an Islamic organization spread coronavirus on the outskirts of capital by visiting mosques and going house to house with other clerics. Several clerics and residents are among the 25 people who tested positive in Islamabad. Pakistan's total of nearly 1,100 cases prompted efforts to persuade the country's more than 200 million people to stay home.

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— Pakistan's giant neighbor, India, began enforcing the world's largest coronavirus lockdown, a gargantuan task of trying to keep 1.3 billion people indoors. Official assurances that essentials wouldn't run out clashed with people's fears that the disease toll could soon worsen, gutting food and other critical supplies.

— Beginning Friday, South Korea will enforce 14-day quarantines on its nationals and foreigners with long-term stay visas arriving from the United States. It already applies to arrivals from Europe. South Koreans can be sued and foreigners expelled for failing to heed the order.

— China's National Health Commission says its 67 new COVID-19 cases were all in recent arrivals from abroad. Once again, there were no new cases reported in Wuhan, the original epicenter of the illness and which remains under some restrictions until April 8. The government is trying to restart the world's second-largest economy as its cases subside. Of the more than 81,000 people infected, more than 74,000 have been released from treatment, while just under 4,000 remain in care.

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— British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said more than 400,000 people responded within a day to the government's call for volunteers to help the country's most vulnerable people.

— The Pentagon halted for 60 days the movement of U.S. troops and Defense Department civilians overseas, a measure expected to affect about 90,000 troops scheduled to deploy or return from abroad.

For most people, the 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.

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The Cheesecake Factory won’t make April rent because of coronavirus restrictions

One of America’s most popular restaurants, The Cheesecake Factory, reportedly cannot afford April’s rent at any of its nearly 300 locations due to the financial strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Cheesecake Factory’s founder and CEO, David Overton, notified the company’s landlords of their inability to pay in a March 18 letter obtained by Eater.

Overton said the company’s revenue took a hit as some restaurants were forced to close in accordance with government restrictions that have been imposed across the country to prevent the spread of the virus.

Restaurants that have remained open are only able to provide delivery and takeout services, he said.

“The severe decrease in restaurant traffic has severely decreased our cash flow and inflicted a tremendous financial blow to our business,” Overton wrote.

He added: “Unfortunately, I must let you know that The Cheesecake Factory and its affiliated restaurant concepts will not make any of their rent payments for the month of April 2020.”

The Cheesecake Factory operates 294 restaurants. It has locations in 39 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Canada, according to Eater.

The company in 2019 acquired Fox Restaurants Concepts.

Overton, in the letter, said the company hopes to resume rent payments “as soon as reasonably possible.”

A company spokesperson told Eater, “We have very strong, longstanding relationships with our landlords. We are certain that with their partnership, we will be able to work together to weather this storm in the appropriate manner.”

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