National coronavirus updates: President Trump details plans for ‘gradual’ reopening of the country

The latest:There have been more than 671,000 coronavirus cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.The U.S. death toll has surpassed 33,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins.Globally, there have been more than 2.1 million cases with more than 144,000 deaths.5.2 million more filed for unemployment benefits last week, according to numbers released Thursday. The U.S. recorded its highest number of coronavirus deaths in a day on Wednesday with 4,811 reported deaths. President Trump has detailed a plan in which states could reopen, moving away from a “blanket shutdown.”Millions of Americans have received their federal stimulus checks from the IRS this week through direct deposit. Here’s how to check the status of your check. President Donald Trump has unveiled new guidelines meant to help states loosen their social distancing restrictions even as business leaders, lawmakers and governors warn persistent testing shortfalls could hamper any effort to reopen the country. He spoke Thursday at the White House about his Opening Up America Again plan, describing how his administration is advising new guidelines for governors to take a phased and individual approach.”We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time,” Trump said, adding that some states will be able to open up sooner than others. According to the administration, reopenings could be done on a statewide or county-by-county basis at a governor’s discretion.Trump said that instead of a blanket shutdown, the country will focus on sheltering highest-risk individuals.“We’re starting our life again,” Trump said during his daily press briefing. “We’re starting rejuvenation of our economy again.” Citizens will continue to be called on to telecommute when possible, stay at home when you feel sick and be highly conscious of their surroundings. He called those tools powerful weapons.Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said the administration didn’t put a timeline on any of the phases in which changes could happen. Trump said a number of governors said they’re in good shape. He said in the next few days and as early as Friday, the U.S. could hear about reopenings for states.In a document provided to all state governors during an afternoon phone call and obtained by CNN, the White House spelled out when states should begin easing social distancing guidelines.The benchmarks including a sustained decrease in cases over a 14-day period and a return to pre-crisis conditions in hospitals, according to the document. The phased approach encourages all individuals to continue good hygiene practices like washing hands and to “strongly consider” using face coverings in public. And the document encourages employers to enact social distancing, temperature checks, testing and sanitation practices in their workplaces.In the first phase of reopening, the plan suggests, schools that are currently closed should remain so. Large venues, including some restaurants, can operate under strict social distancing protocols. Gyms can open as long as they maintain social distancing guidelines, but bars should remain shuttered.The guidelines, meant to speed Trump’s goal of restarting a moribund economy, won’t be mandatory and the ultimate decisions on how and when to open will fall to individual governors, many of whom have already extended restrictions into May or banded into regional collectives that will determine their own reopening plans. 5.2 million more seek unemployment aid as job losses mountThe ranks of Americans thrown out of work by the coronavirus ballooned Thursday to more than 20 million in just four weeks, an unprecedented collapse fueling widening protests and propelling President Donald Trump’s push to relax the nation’s social distancing guidelines. The government said 5.2 million more people applied for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the running total to about 22 million out of a U.S. work force of roughly 159 million — easily the worst stretch of U.S. job losses on record. Some economists say the unemployment rate could reach 20% in April, the highest since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Governors extend stay-at-home ordersGovernors extended stay-at-home guidelines and called for more testing to fight the coronavirus, ahead of the president’s expected announcement on guidelines to help states loosen those recommendations.New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will extend its social distancing plan through at least May 15. And he issued an executive order requiring people to wear a mask in public situations. Six other Northeast states extended stay-at-home orders to May 15, as well.”What happens after then, I don’t know. We will see depending on what the data shows,” Cuomo said.Hospitalization, ICU admission, and intubation rates are all down, he added said.”The good news is we can control the virus … we can control the spread,” he said.Before social distancing mandates are relaxed, experts say that increased coronavirus testing will have to be conducted nationwide to track how much the virus has penetrated communities and enable officials to separate those who are infected.”It does us no good to send everybody back to work and then get everybody sick,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said. In addition to testing to proactively contain the virus, frontline workers need adequate supplies of protective gear to prevent its spread, said Jeff Johnson, the state director of Florida’s AARP.Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also called rapid testing the key to determining when emergency restrictions can be lifted. “We need to build the equivalent of a fire brigade,” he said.While Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has said his city will likely not permit public sporting events and concerts until next year, Inslee was not ready to go that far yet. “I wish I had a crystal ball to say when, why, what game, what day, what sport,” the governor said. “I can’t do that.”Former Vice President Joe Biden called choosing between reopening the economy and ending the pandemic a “false choice” Thursday morning. In an interview on MSNBC, Biden — the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee — was asked by Joe Scarborough what he would say to those who want to go back to work as soon as possible.”I’d say we should not send you back to work until it’s safe to send you back to work,” Biden said. “This is a false choice. The way you revive the economy is you defeat the disease.”Trump has signaled a desire to “reopen” the economy May 1. Protesters rally against restrictions in two statesMedical experts have emphasized that the key to fewer coronavirus cases is for people to practice social distancing. As a result, all but seven states are under stay-at-home orders from their governors.But in at least two states, protesters rallied against the social distancing mandates, calling them a violation of individual freedoms.In Lansing, Michigan, vehicles jammed several streets around the capitol in a protest organized by conservative groups against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.”It’s time for our state to be opened up. We’re tired of not being able to buy the things that we need,” Brenda Essman of Kalamazoo told CNN affiliate WLNS. “We need to open our businesses.”And in Raleigh, North Carolina, demonstrators gathered outside the state legislative building Tuesday to protest the state’s stay-at-home order, CNN affiliate WRAL reported. Police officers told them they were defying social distancing rules by standing too close together and asked them to disperse. Most left. Companies report changes in testing Some commercial lab companies say they’ve seen some recent decline in demand for coronavirus tests following weeks of increases.Quest Diagnostics said demand declined in recent days, allowing the company to wipe out the remnants of its coronavirus test backlog. Its average turnaround time is now less than two days.Another company, Eurofins USA, said its labs have excess testing capacity, in part because many hospitals are now testing in-house. A company spokesperson said another contributing factor is some of its labs have been denied entry into some insurance plan networks.The United States has been looking beyond its borders to work with European medical agencies and other agencies to expedite clinical trials on potential coronavirus vaccines and treatments, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said during a live video interview with The Washington Post Thursday.”We have relationships with our brother and sister regulatory agencies around the world, and we absolutely are participating in that,” Hahn told The Washington Post’s Robert Costa.”Let me describe one effort with respect to vaccine development,” Hahn said. “We want to develop what’s called a master protocol, which is where multiple different vaccines — and this can be done for therapeutics and has been done for therapeutics — can be entered into this protocol using a very similar clinical trials approach and statistical approach. It’s a very efficient way of looking at multiple therapeutics, vaccines.”Officials are optimistic but with a caveat Despite the daily rising death tolls, the number of infections nationwide is flattening out, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.But officials are warning that states shouldn’t yet ease up on social distancing measures because a resurgence of the virus is highly likely once Americans begin getting out of the house again.Finding the right time to reopen the country is still a work in progress.A team led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency has drafted a strategy that includes guidance for local and state governments on how to reopen safely and in phases, the Washington Post reported. With many stay-at-home orders set to expire at the end of the month, governors have started discussions on the first steps toward reopening their economies. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The latest:

  • There have been more than 671,000 coronavirus cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.
  • The U.S. death toll has surpassed 33,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins.
  • Globally, there have been more than 2.1 million cases with more than 144,000 deaths.
  • 5.2 million more filed for unemployment benefits last week, according to numbers released Thursday.
  • The U.S. recorded its highest number of coronavirus deaths in a day on Wednesday with 4,811 reported deaths.
  • President Trump has detailed a plan in which states could reopen, moving away from a “blanket shutdown.”
  • Millions of Americans have received their federal stimulus checks from the IRS this week through direct deposit. Here’s how to check the status of your check.

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President Donald Trump has unveiled new guidelines meant to help states loosen their social distancing restrictions even as business leaders, lawmakers and governors warn persistent testing shortfalls could hamper any effort to reopen the country.

He spoke Thursday at the White House about his Opening Up America Again plan, describing how his administration is advising new guidelines for governors to take a phased and individual approach.

“We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time,” Trump said, adding that some states will be able to open up sooner than others. According to the administration, reopenings could be done on a statewide or county-by-county basis at a governor’s discretion.

Trump said that instead of a blanket shutdown, the country will focus on sheltering highest-risk individuals.

“We’re starting our life again,” Trump said during his daily press briefing. “We’re starting rejuvenation of our economy again.”

Citizens will continue to be called on to telecommute when possible, stay at home when you feel sick and be highly conscious of their surroundings. He called those tools powerful weapons.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said the administration didn’t put a timeline on any of the phases in which changes could happen. Trump said a number of governors said they’re in good shape. He said in the next few days and as early as Friday, the U.S. could hear about reopenings for states.

In a document provided to all state governors during an afternoon phone call and obtained by CNN, the White House spelled out when states should begin easing social distancing guidelines.

The benchmarks including a sustained decrease in cases over a 14-day period and a return to pre-crisis conditions in hospitals, according to the document.

The phased approach encourages all individuals to continue good hygiene practices like washing hands and to “strongly consider” using face coverings in public. And the document encourages employers to enact social distancing, temperature checks, testing and sanitation practices in their workplaces.

In the first phase of reopening, the plan suggests, schools that are currently closed should remain so. Large venues, including some restaurants, can operate under strict social distancing protocols. Gyms can open as long as they maintain social distancing guidelines, but bars should remain shuttered.

The guidelines, meant to speed Trump’s goal of restarting a moribund economy, won’t be mandatory and the ultimate decisions on how and when to open will fall to individual governors, many of whom have already extended restrictions into May or banded into regional collectives that will determine their own reopening plans.

5.2 million more seek unemployment aid as job losses mount

The ranks of Americans thrown out of work by the coronavirus ballooned Thursday to more than 20 million in just four weeks, an unprecedented collapse fueling widening protests and propelling President Donald Trump’s push to relax the nation’s social distancing guidelines.

The government said 5.2 million more people applied for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the running total to about 22 million out of a U.S. work force of roughly 159 million — easily the worst stretch of U.S. job losses on record.

Some economists say the unemployment rate could reach 20% in April, the highest since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Governors extend stay-at-home orders

Governors extended stay-at-home guidelines and called for more testing to fight the coronavirus, ahead of the president’s expected announcement on guidelines to help states loosen those recommendations.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will extend its social distancing plan through at least May 15. And he issued an executive order requiring people to wear a mask in public situations.

Six other Northeast states extended stay-at-home orders to May 15, as well.

“What happens after then, I don’t know. We will see depending on what the data shows,” Cuomo said.

Hospitalization, ICU admission, and intubation rates are all down, he added said.

“The good news is we can control the virus … we can control the spread,” he said.

Before social distancing mandates are relaxed, experts say that increased coronavirus testing will have to be conducted nationwide to track how much the virus has penetrated communities and enable officials to separate those who are infected.

“It does us no good to send everybody back to work and then get everybody sick,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said.

In addition to testing to proactively contain the virus, frontline workers need adequate supplies of protective gear to prevent its spread, said Jeff Johnson, the state director of Florida’s AARP.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also called rapid testing the key to determining when emergency restrictions can be lifted. “We need to build the equivalent of a fire brigade,” he said.

While Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has said his city will likely not permit public sporting events and concerts until next year, Inslee was not ready to go that far yet.

“I wish I had a crystal ball to say when, why, what game, what day, what sport,” the governor said. “I can’t do that.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden called choosing between reopening the economy and ending the pandemic a “false choice” Thursday morning. In an interview on MSNBC, Biden — the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee — was asked by Joe Scarborough what he would say to those who want to go back to work as soon as possible.

“I’d say we should not send you back to work until it’s safe to send you back to work,” Biden said. “This is a false choice. The way you revive the economy is you defeat the disease.”

Trump has signaled a desire to “reopen” the economy May 1.

Protesters rally against restrictions in two states

Medical experts have emphasized that the key to fewer coronavirus cases is for people to practice social distancing. As a result, all but seven states are under stay-at-home orders from their governors.

But in at least two states, protesters rallied against the social distancing mandates, calling them a violation of individual freedoms.

In Lansing, Michigan, vehicles jammed several streets around the capitol in a protest organized by conservative groups against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“It’s time for our state to be opened up. We’re tired of not being able to buy the things that we need,” Brenda Essman of Kalamazoo told CNN affiliate WLNS. “We need to open our businesses.”

And in Raleigh, North Carolina, demonstrators gathered outside the state legislative building Tuesday to protest the state’s stay-at-home order, CNN affiliate WRAL reported.

Police officers told them they were defying social distancing rules by standing too close together and asked them to disperse. Most left.

Companies report changes in testing

Some commercial lab companies say they’ve seen some recent decline in demand for coronavirus tests following weeks of increases.

Quest Diagnostics said demand declined in recent days, allowing the company to wipe out the remnants of its coronavirus test backlog. Its average turnaround time is now less than two days.

Another company, Eurofins USA, said its labs have excess testing capacity, in part because many hospitals are now testing in-house. A company spokesperson said another contributing factor is some of its labs have been denied entry into some insurance plan networks.

The United States has been looking beyond its borders to work with European medical agencies and other agencies to expedite clinical trials on potential coronavirus vaccines and treatments, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said during a live video interview with The Washington Post Thursday.

“We have relationships with our brother and sister regulatory agencies around the world, and we absolutely are participating in that,” Hahn told The Washington Post’s Robert Costa.

“Let me describe one effort with respect to vaccine development,” Hahn said. “We want to develop what’s called a master protocol, which is where multiple different vaccines — and this can be done for therapeutics and has been done for therapeutics — can be entered into this protocol using a very similar clinical trials approach and statistical approach. It’s a very efficient way of looking at multiple therapeutics, vaccines.”

Officials are optimistic but with a caveat

Despite the daily rising death tolls, the number of infections nationwide is flattening out, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

But officials are warning that states shouldn’t yet ease up on social distancing measures because a resurgence of the virus is highly likely once Americans begin getting out of the house again.

Finding the right time to reopen the country is still a work in progress.

A team led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency has drafted a strategy that includes guidance for local and state governments on how to reopen safely and in phases, the Washington Post reported.

With many stay-at-home orders set to expire at the end of the month, governors have started discussions on the first steps toward reopening their economies.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.