National coronavirus updates: 3 states ease lockdowns; US death toll passes 50,000

The latest: There have been more than 890,000 coronavirus cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.The U.S. death toll has surpassed 51,000 people, according to Hopkins.Globally, there have been more than 2.7 million cases with more than 195,000 deaths.Georgia state officials are moving ahead with plans to allow some nonessential businesses to reopen, even as coronavirus deaths increase statewide. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, says the country is in a “very critical time right now” as it pulls back from coronavirus mitigation.More evidence is emerging that far more New Yorkers have had the coronavirus than the number confirmed by lab tests. Even as the confirmed U.S. death toll from the coronavirus soared past 50,000, Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska began loosening lockdown orders Friday on their pandemic-wounded businesses, despite warnings from health experts that the gradual steps toward normalcy might be happening too soon.Republican governors in Georgia and Oklahoma allowed salons, spas and barbershops to reopen, while Alaska opened the way for restaurants to resume dine-in service and retail shops and other businesses to open their doors, all with limitations. Some Alaska municipalities chose to maintain stricter rules.Though limited in scope, and subject to social-distancing restrictions, the reopenings marked a symbolic milestone in the debate raging in the United States — and the world — as to how quickly political leaders should lift economically damaging lockdown orders.Similar scenarios have been playing out worldwide and will soon proliferate in the U.S. as other governors wrestle with conflicting priorities. Their economies have been battered by weeks of quarantine-fueled job losses and soaring unemployment claims, yet health officials warn that lifting stay-at-home orders now could spark a resurgence of COVID-19.During a White House press briefing Friday, President Donald Trump spoke optimistically of the economy but also asked people to continue social distancing and using face coverings.“We’re opening our country. It’s very exciting to see,” Trump said.At the same White House coronavirus task force meeting, Vice President Mike Pence said that as more testing becomes available, people shouldn’t be discouraged by the increasing number of cases.In Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt authorized personal-care businesses to open, citing a decline in the number of people being hospitalized for COVID-19. Those businesses were directed to maintain social distancing, require masks and frequently sanitize equipment.Still, some of the state’s largest cities, including Norman, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, were opting to keep their bans in place until at least the end of April.With deaths and infections still rising in Georgia, many business owners planned to stay closed despite Gov. Brian Kemp’s assurance that hospital visits and new cases have leveled off enough for barbers, tattoo artists, massage therapists and personal trainers to return to work with restrictions.Kemp’s timeline to restart the economy proved too ambitious even for Trump, who said he disagrees with the fellow Republican’s plan.Meanwhile, a handful of Texas businesses reopened Friday in defiance of state guidance in the fight against the coronavirus, which allows retailers to offer “to go” service but leaves other restrictions in place.CBO says deficit to reach $3.7 trillion in economic declineA potential recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a government spending spree on testing, health care and aid to businesses and households will nearly quadruple the federal budget deficit to $3.7 trillion, the Congressional Budget Office said Friday.Among the legacies of the outbreak, a CBO report says, is a pile of trillions of dollars of debt, amassed by a political system that has proved incapable of taking even small steps to constrain this problem.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 report.That’s more than double the deficit record set during President Barack Obama’s first year in office.The CBO said lawmakers eventually will be forced to tackle the government’s chronic financial woes, if for no other reason than the looming insolvency of Social Security and Medicare.The report is full of gloomy economic news, predicting a devastating hit to the economy this quarter at an annualized rate of decline of 40%, accompanied by a 14% unemployment rate.Coronavirus-related federal debt and deficit figures are pointing to government red ink unparalleled since World War II.Trump signs bill to aid employers, hospitalsPresident Donald Trump signed a $484 billion bill Friday to aid employers and hospitals under stress from the coronavirus pandemic, the latest effort by the federal government to help 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. While Trump thanked Congress for “answering my call” to provide the critical assistance and said it was “a tremendous victory,” easy passage of this aid installment belies a potentially bumpier path ahead for future legislation to address the crisis.The measure passed Congress almost unanimously Thursday as lawmakers gathered in Washington as a group for the first time since March 27. They followed stricter social distancing rules while seeking to prove they can do their work despite the COVID-19 crisis.Anchoring the bill is the Trump administration’s $250 billion request to replenish a fund to help small- and medium-size businesses with payroll, rent and other expenses. This program provides forgivable loans so businesses can continue paying workers while forced to stay closed for social distancing and stay-at-home orders.The legislation contains $100 billion demanded by Democrats for hospitals and a nationwide testing program, along with $60 billion for small banks and an alternative network of community development banks that focus on development in urban neighborhoods and rural areas ignored by many lenders. There’s also $60 billion for small-business loans and grants delivered through the Small Business Administration’s existing disaster aid program.Passage of more coronavirus relief is likely in the weeks ahead.Georgia reopening salons, gyms and bowling alleys Undeterred by a barrage of criticism, Georgia state officials moved ahead Friday with plans to allow some nonessential businesses to reopen, even as coronavirus deaths increase statewide.Gov. Brian Kemp was one of the last state leaders to issue a stay-at-home order, effective April 3, to combat the spread of COVID-19.This week, the first-term Republican became one of the nation’s first governors to ease those restrictions after he allowed businesses such as gyms, barber shops, hair salons, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys to reopen.His decision has pit him against mayors from cities including Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah, as well as advice rooted in a data model often cited by the White House.Georgia should not even begin to reopen until June 22, according to the model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which assumes states will implement aggressive testing, contact tracing, isolation and crowd-size limits to prevent more infections.Georgia offers drive-thru testing and has asked state health officials to test all symptomatic people, the governor has said.Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has called Kemp’s decision perplexing for a state battling a virus that’s killed nearly 900 residents and sickened about 22,000 others. Nationwide, the death toll has surpassed 50,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University.”When I look at the data, I see our (state COVID-19) numbers are going up,” Bottoms said Tuesday, after Kemp revealed his plan. “I have searched my head and my heart on this, and I am at a loss as to what the governor is basing this decision on.” PGlmcmFtZSBpZD0iaHR2LWNvdmlkLW1hcCIgc3JjPSJodHRwczovL2NvdmlkLTE5LWFzc2V0cy5odHZ0b29scy51cy9pbmRleC5odG1sIiBzY3JvbGw9Im5vIiBzdHlsZT0iYm9yZGVyOm5vbmU7Ij48L2lmcmFtZT4KOfficials tracing cases in other statesAcross the country, a similar message: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that results of a study conducted on 3,000 New Yorkers show the virus was spreading in the region much earlier than previously thought.About 14% of the state’s residents have antibodies, Cuomo said. Antibodies help show who may have previously had the virus and developed the antibodies as a result.”It is significantly more widespread than most people had imagined and I think it confirms he point that (coronavirus) spread faster and it got here earlier than we originally believed,” Cuomo said.But the results may also be a point of reassurance.If more people had the virus than experts believe, that may mean the virus’ fatality rate may also be lower, Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, said.”It tells us this virus is much more widespread than we thought,” he said. “The hospitalization rate may be much lower because the denominator (of people infected) is so much bigger.”And, it also shows people have been developing some immunity.”There are people that have mild illness that don’t know they are sick, and those individuals may be part of how we move forward as we start to think about reopening certain parts of the country,” he added.Researchers from Boston’s Northeastern University now suggest the virus was being transmitted throughout American communities earlier than late February, Kate Coronges, the executive director of the Network Science Institute at Northeastern University, said.What that means, Coronges said, is the first cases outside mainland China had already occurred before January.The WHO is now also tracking a number of studies across the world trying to determine how many people have been infected by the virus globally, according to Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead for the coronavirus response with the agency.What the WHO is seeing, Van Kerkhove said, is that the number of people with antibodies globally ranges between 2 to 3%, and up to 14%, according to one study in Germany. ‘Weeks to months’ away from effective treatmentThe agency is also tracking hundreds of coronavirus drug trials.”Everyone in the world wants to know which drugs, which medications are going to work, which medications are going to save lives,” Van Kerkhove said. “Unfortunately, right now, we don’t have any evidence one works, yet.”It’s critical that the studies are done and done well, Van Kerkhove said.The results, she added, “can’t come soon enough.” But the world is “weeks to months” from knowing what works.The rapid efforts are similar to the ones who were taken by the experts who helped developed tests for the virus. Those types of tests, that typically take years to develop, are being created in weeks, U.S. Food and Drug Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said.He said the FDA is continuously adjusting their criteria to make sure the tests they approve are accurate and reliable.”But we also know that when they go out into the community, they’re being used. We’re going to get feedback about how they actually operate in the real world. They may be used under conditions that weren’t originally tested, or things like that,” Hahn said. “We are always incorporating data that we hear and then adjusting our authorizations based on that. So this is an ongoing effort.”He suggested that people use the FDA’s website to ensure the tests they are using have been approved by the agency — which has so far approved 62 diagnostic tests, four of which are antibody tests. The agency has 390 lab test developers working with the FDA to get authorization.”What I can provide assurance to the American people is that those tests that we’ve reviewed and that we’ve authorized have gone through the criteria established for validity, reliability and reproducibility by the FDA,” Hahn said. W2lmcmFtZSBzcmM9Imh0dHBzOi8vZDJjbXZicTdzeHgzM2ouY2xvdWRmcm9udC5uZXQvZW1haWwvcHJvZF9jb3JvbmF2aXJ1c19pZnJhbWVfYXJ0aWNsZS5odG1sIiBoZWlnaHQ9IjQxNCIgc3R5bGU9IndpZHRoOjEwMCU7Ym9yZGVyOm5vbmU7b3ZlcmZsb3c6aGlkZGVuIiBzY3JvbGxpbmc9Im5vIiBmcmFtZWJvcmRlcj0iMCIgYWxsb3dUcmFuc3BhcmVuY3k9InRydWUiXVsvaWZyYW1lXQ==The Associated Press and CNN contributed to this report.

The latest:

  • There have been more than 890,000 coronavirus cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.
  • The U.S. death toll has surpassed 51,000 people, according to Hopkins.
  • Globally, there have been more than 2.7 million cases with more than 195,000 deaths.
  • Georgia state officials are moving ahead with plans to allow some nonessential businesses to reopen, even as coronavirus deaths increase statewide.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, says the country is in a “very critical time right now” as it pulls back from coronavirus mitigation.
  • More evidence is emerging that far more New Yorkers have had the coronavirus than the number confirmed by lab tests.

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Even as the confirmed U.S. death toll from the coronavirus soared past 50,000, Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska began loosening lockdown orders Friday on their pandemic-wounded businesses, despite warnings from health experts that the gradual steps toward normalcy might be happening too soon.

Republican governors in Georgia and Oklahoma allowed salons, spas and barbershops to reopen, while Alaska opened the way for restaurants to resume dine-in service and retail shops and other businesses to open their doors, all with limitations. Some Alaska municipalities chose to maintain stricter rules.

Though limited in scope, and subject to social-distancing restrictions, the reopenings marked a symbolic milestone in the debate raging in the United States — and the world — as to how quickly political leaders should lift economically damaging lockdown orders.

Similar scenarios have been playing out worldwide and will soon proliferate in the U.S. as other governors wrestle with conflicting priorities. Their economies have been battered by weeks of quarantine-fueled job losses and soaring unemployment claims, yet health officials warn that lifting stay-at-home orders now could spark a resurgence of COVID-19.

During a White House press briefing Friday, President Donald Trump spoke optimistically of the economy but also asked people to continue social distancing and using face coverings.

“We’re opening our country. It’s very exciting to see,” Trump said.

At the same White House coronavirus task force meeting, Vice President Mike Pence said that as more testing becomes available, people shouldn’t be discouraged by the increasing number of cases.

In Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt authorized personal-care businesses to open, citing a decline in the number of people being hospitalized for COVID-19. Those businesses were directed to maintain social distancing, require masks and frequently sanitize equipment.

Still, some of the state’s largest cities, including Norman, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, were opting to keep their bans in place until at least the end of April.

With deaths and infections still rising in Georgia, many business owners planned to stay closed despite Gov. Brian Kemp’s assurance that hospital visits and new cases have leveled off enough for barbers, tattoo artists, massage therapists and personal trainers to return to work with restrictions.

Kemp’s timeline to restart the economy proved too ambitious even for Trump, who said he disagrees with the fellow Republican’s plan.

Meanwhile, a handful of Texas businesses reopened Friday in defiance of state guidance in the fight against the coronavirus, which allows retailers to offer “to go” service but leaves other restrictions in place.

CBO says deficit to reach $3.7 trillion in economic decline

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

Among the legacies of the outbreak, a CBO report says, is a pile of trillions of dollars of debt, amassed by a political system that has proved incapable of taking even small steps to constrain this problem.

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 report.

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

The CBO said lawmakers eventually will be forced to tackle the government’s chronic financial woes, if for no other reason than the looming insolvency of Social Security and Medicare.

The report is full of gloomy economic news, predicting a devastating hit to the economy this quarter at an annualized rate of decline of 40%, accompanied by a 14% unemployment rate.

Coronavirus-related federal debt and deficit figures are pointing to government red ink unparalleled since World War II.

Trump signs bill to aid employers, hospitals

President Donald Trump signed a $484 billion bill Friday to aid employers and hospitals under stress from the coronavirus pandemic, the latest effort by the federal government to help 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.

While Trump thanked Congress for “answering my call” to provide the critical assistance and said it was “a tremendous victory,” easy passage of this aid installment belies a potentially bumpier path ahead for future legislation to address the crisis.

The measure passed Congress almost unanimously Thursday as lawmakers gathered in Washington as a group for the first time since March 27. They followed stricter social distancing rules while seeking to prove they can do their work despite the COVID-19 crisis.

Anchoring the bill is the Trump administration’s $250 billion request to replenish a fund to help small- and medium-size businesses with payroll, rent and other expenses. This program provides forgivable loans so businesses can continue paying workers while forced to stay closed for social distancing and stay-at-home orders.

The legislation contains $100 billion demanded by Democrats for hospitals and a nationwide testing program, along with $60 billion for small banks and an alternative network of community development banks that focus on development in urban neighborhoods and rural areas ignored by many lenders. There’s also $60 billion for small-business loans and grants delivered through the Small Business Administration’s existing disaster aid program.

Passage of more coronavirus relief is likely in the weeks ahead.

Georgia reopening salons, gyms and bowling alleys

Undeterred by a barrage of criticism, Georgia state officials moved ahead Friday with plans to allow some nonessential businesses to reopen, even as coronavirus deaths increase statewide.

Gov. Brian Kemp was one of the last state leaders to issue a stay-at-home order, effective April 3, to combat the spread of COVID-19.

This week, the first-term Republican became one of the nation’s first governors to ease those restrictions after he allowed businesses such as gyms, barber shops, hair salons, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys to reopen.

His decision has pit him against mayors from cities including Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah, as well as advice rooted in a data model often cited by the White House.

Georgia should not even begin to reopen until June 22, according to the model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which assumes states will implement aggressive testing, contact tracing, isolation and crowd-size limits to prevent more infections.

Georgia offers drive-thru testing and has asked state health officials to test all symptomatic people, the governor has said.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has called Kemp’s decision perplexing for a state battling a virus that’s killed nearly 900 residents and sickened about 22,000 others. Nationwide, the death toll has surpassed 50,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“When I look at the data, I see our (state COVID-19) numbers are going up,” Bottoms said Tuesday, after Kemp revealed his plan. “I have searched my head and my heart on this, and I am at a loss as to what the governor is basing this decision on.”

Officials tracing cases in other states

Across the country, a similar message: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that results of a study conducted on 3,000 New Yorkers show the virus was spreading in the region much earlier than previously thought.

About 14% of the state’s residents have antibodies, Cuomo said. Antibodies help show who may have previously had the virus and developed the antibodies as a result.

“It is significantly more widespread than most people had imagined and I think it confirms he point that (coronavirus) spread faster and it got here earlier than we originally believed,” Cuomo said.

But the results may also be a point of reassurance.

If more people had the virus than experts believe, that may mean the virus’ fatality rate may also be lower, Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, said.

“It tells us this virus is much more widespread than we thought,” he said. “The hospitalization rate may be much lower because the denominator (of people infected) is so much bigger.”

And, it also shows people have been developing some immunity.

“There are people that have mild illness that don’t know they are sick, and those individuals may be part of how we move forward as we start to think about reopening certain parts of the country,” he added.

Researchers from Boston’s Northeastern University now suggest the virus was being transmitted throughout American communities earlier than late February, Kate Coronges, the executive director of the Network Science Institute at Northeastern University, said.

What that means, Coronges said, is the first cases outside mainland China had already occurred before January.

The WHO is now also tracking a number of studies across the world trying to determine how many people have been infected by the virus globally, according to Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead for the coronavirus response with the agency.

What the WHO is seeing, Van Kerkhove said, is that the number of people with antibodies globally ranges between 2 to 3%, and up to 14%, according to one study in Germany.

‘Weeks to months’ away from effective treatment

The agency is also tracking hundreds of coronavirus drug trials.

“Everyone in the world wants to know which drugs, which medications are going to work, which medications are going to save lives,” Van Kerkhove said. “Unfortunately, right now, we don’t have any evidence one works, yet.”

It’s critical that the studies are done and done well, Van Kerkhove said.

The results, she added, “can’t come soon enough.” But the world is “weeks to months” from knowing what works.

The rapid efforts are similar to the ones who were taken by the experts who helped developed tests for the virus. Those types of tests, that typically take years to develop, are being created in weeks, U.S. Food and Drug Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said.

He said the FDA is continuously adjusting their criteria to make sure the tests they approve are accurate and reliable.

“But we also know that when they go out into the community, they’re being used. We’re going to get feedback about how they actually operate in the real world. They may be used under conditions that weren’t originally tested, or things like that,” Hahn said. “We are always incorporating data that we hear and then adjusting our authorizations based on that. So this is an ongoing effort.”

He suggested that people use the FDA’s website to ensure the tests they are using have been approved by the agency — which has so far approved 62 diagnostic tests, four of which are antibody tests. The agency has 390 lab test developers working with the FDA to get authorization.

“What I can provide assurance to the American people is that those tests that we’ve reviewed and that we’ve authorized have gone through the criteria established for validity, reliability and reproducibility by the FDA,” Hahn said.

The Associated Press and CNN contributed to this report.