WASHINGTON — This article contains ongoing U.S. and international updates on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects. Here are some key updates for Tuesday, April 21, 2020. You can find more details by scrolling through the story.
- Trump to demand Harvard, large businesses pay back coronavirus relief money
- The White House Coronavirus Task Force updated the public Tuesday afternoon
- Worldwide confirmed virus cases exceed 2.5 million
- President Trump and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo set to meet Tuesday
- Schumer: Deal reached on $500B virus aid proposal
- British Prime Minister Johnson to speak with President Trump, Queen Elizabeth
- Oktoberfest in Munich has been called off
- Australia’s prime minister strongly backs his foreign minister’s call for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus
- Amazon has started using thermal cameras for virus temperature checks.
There were more than confirmed 823,000 cases of COVID-19 in the United States by 8:30 p.m. ET Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 44,000 deaths in the U.S., with more than 75,000 recoveries. More than 4 million tests have been conducted nationwide.
Worldwide, there have been 2.5 million cases and nearly 177,000 deaths.
For most people, the virus 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 or death.
Trump to demand Harvard, large businesses pay back coronavirus relief money
President Donald Trump says he will ask Harvard University to repay money it received as part of a coronavirus relief package.
And Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says that while some big businesses have obtained access to government loans, the intent of the program was not for big public companies to get loans through the Paycheck Protection Program.
The White House comments come amid media reports that some of the money intended for small business loans went to larger entities.
Trump says of Harvard “they shouldn’t be taking it.” He says the university, which received more than $8 million, has a large endowment to rely on.
Mnuchin says he wants to make sure money goes to small businesses and that more than 1 million companies with fewer than 10 workers have received loans.
Congress is trying to meet huge demand for the program with legislation that passed Tuesday in the Senate and is expected to pass the House later this week.
White House Coronavirus Task Force updates the public Tuesday afternoon
Members of the task force in charge of directing the public on mitigation rules and tracking the progress of virus containment in the U.S. were scheduled to speak to the public in the 5 p.m. Eastern hour from the White House.
Republican governors, urged on by President Donald Trump, are taking the first steps toward reopening parts of their states’ economies in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and without adhering to the president's own guidelines. Democratic governors are largely keeping strict stay-at-home orders and nonessential business closures in place, resisting small pockets of Trump-aligned protesters and public pressure from the president.
Monday President Trump began the briefing by saying, "during this time, Americans must maintain strict vigilance and continue to practice careful hygiene, social distancing, and the other protective measures that we have outlined and that everybody has become very familiar with."
The Senate has approved a $483 billion coronavirus aid package after Congress and the White House reached a deal. The measure, passed Tuesday by the Senate, would replenish a small-business rescue program, provide hospitals with $75 billion more and implement a nationwide virus testing program to facilitate reopening the economy.
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President Donald Trump announced his support, saying he’ll sign the bill if it passes both chambers. The package now goes to the House. Most of the funding, more than $300 billion, would go to boost a small-business payroll loan program that ran out of money last week.
Cuomo, Trump to meet after trading barbs, praise
The back-and-forth between President Donald Trump and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been marked by insults, sharply contrasting views on the role of federal government and some moments of mutual admiration.
Now they will meet face-to-face Tuesday for the first time since the coronavirus crisis began. Testing will be a key topic of discussion.
Their hot-and-cold relationship has been on full display in their daily briefings and Twitter posts during the crisis.
In recent days, Trump has admonished Cuomo to “do your job." Cuomo, in turn, has questioned Trump’s grasp of the Constitution and suggested the president is trying to act like a “king.” But the two have also praised each other.
Trial of potential vaccine set to begin in the U.K.
The British government is providing funding for two clinical trials of potential vaccines for the new coronavirus, one of which will begin trials on Thursday.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at the government’s daily press briefing that the U.K. is at the “forefront of the global effort” to find a vaccine and will provide financial assistance to the “promising projects” being conducted at Oxford University and Imperial College London.
The project at Imperial will receive 22.5 million pounds ($28 million) to support its phase-two clinical trials, while Oxford’s will be trialed on people beginning Thursday and will be granted 20 million pounds ($24.5 million).
Hancock also said that the government will invest in manufacturing capacity in the event either, or both, vaccines work.
However, he cautioned about the prospects of success, saying the process of vaccine development is one of “trial and error and trial again.”
Schumer: Deal reached on major parts of $500B virus aid proposal
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday agreement has been reached on “every major issue” of a nearly $500 billion coronavirus aid package for small businesses, as well as additional help for hospitals and COVID-19 virus testing.
Schumer said post-midnight talks among Democratic and Republican leaders, along with top Trump administration officials produced a breakthrough agreement on the package.
“We have a deal and I think we'll pass it today,” Schumer said Tuesday morning on CNN. He cautioned that staff are still “dotting the I's and crossing the T's.”
A Tuesday afternoon Senate session could provide an opportunity to quickly pass the legislation if it comes together quickly, though the Democratic-controlled House is planning on calling lawmakers to Washington for a vote later in the week.
British Prime Minister Johnson to speak with Trump, queen
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is gradually re-engaging with work as he recovers from the new coronavirus.
Johnson’s spokesman says the prime minister remains at his country residence and “isn’t formally doing government work.” But he is getting updates from his staff and is scheduled to speak to U.S. President Donald Trump later Tuesday.
Johnson also plans to hold his weekly audience with Queen Elizabeth II by telephone later this week — the first such conversation in three weeks.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab continues to stand in for Johnson as head of government.
Johnson spent a week in a London hospital earlier this month, including three nights in intensive care, after being diagnosed with COVID-19. He was released last week and thanked staff at St. Thomas’ Hospital for saving his life.
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Running of the bulls called off due to virus
Spain’s famous running of the bulls in Pamplona is the latest major European event to be called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Pamplona city hall announced Tuesday that the nine-day San Fermin festival held in July won’t take place this year.
It said in a statement that though the decision was expected, “it still brings sadness.”
Pamplona mayor Enrique Maya is infected with the virus.
The San Fermin fiesta was made famous internationally by Ernest Hemingway in his 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises.”
Italy looks to start reopening in May
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte on Tuesday confirmed that Italy can start reopening on May 4, but he doused any hopes of a total loosening of some of the strictest lockdown measures in a western democracy.
“Many citizens are tired of the efforts that have been made so far and would like a significant loosening of these measures, or even their total abolition," Conte said in a Facebook post, adding that “a decision of that kind would be irresponsible.”
Conte indicated that moves to relax the restrictions would be announced by the end of the week, and that they would take into account the different circumstances among regions.
Italy’s north, hardest-hit by the virus and the country’s economic engine, has been straining to restart industry after a shutdown of nonessential manufacturing on March 26 — even as some have received permission to reopen with a much-reduced workforce in recent days.
WHO car used to transport swab samples attacked
A car used by the World Health Organization to transport swab samples to be tested for the COVID-19 virus has been attacked in western Myanmar, killing the driver and wounding a passenger.
The Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported Tuesday that the vehicle bearing a U.N. license plate was attacked in Rakhine State en route to Yangon late Monday afternoon.
Rakhine has been the scene of bitter fighting between the government and the Arakan Army, an ethnic guerrilla group fighting for autonomy in Rakhine State. Each side blamed the other for the Monday attack.
The newspaper account said the driver and the passenger, a health worker, were taken to a nearby hospital. The father of the driver, 28-year-old Pyae Sone Win Mg, said his son died Tuesday morning.
Coronavirus cancels Oktoberfest in Germany
This year’s Oktoberfest in Munich has been called off because of the coronavirus pandemic. The cancellation of the world-famous annual celebration of beer, which was supposed to run from Sept. 19 to Oct. 4, underlines expectations that the way back to normal life will be very long.
The Oktoberfest typically draws about 6 million visitors every year to the packed festival grounds in Bavaria’s capital.
Bavarian governor Markus Soeder said after meeting Munich’s mayor Tuesday: “We agreed that the risk is simply too high.” He added that “you can neither keep your distance nor work with facial protection” at the Oktoberfest.
Soeder noted that the festival attracts visitors from around the world, raising concerns about bringing new infections to Bavaria.
Amazon using thermal cameras for virus temperature checks
Amazon has started using thermal cameras in its warehouses worldwide to screen workers for coronavirus symptoms, according to reports from BBC and Reuters.
The cameras are used to help detect a fever. BBC said the new technology is a lot faster than the close-range thermometers the company previously relied on.
“We implemented daily temperature checks in our operations locations as an additional preventative measure to support the health and safety of our employees, who continue to provide a critical service in our communities," an Amazon spokesman told BBC News and CNET. "We are now implementing the use of thermal cameras for temperature screening to create a more streamlined experience at some of our sites.”
In a blog post, Amazon said it had been conducting temperature checks since the end of March. Anyone that has a temperature over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended 100.4F is asked to go back home.
Australian PM wants investigation into COVID's origins
Australia’s prime minister strongly backs his foreign minister’s call for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.
China’s Foreign Ministry rejected Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s call on Sunday for an independent review into the origins of the virus, including China’s handling of the initial outbreak.
But on Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Payne’s view had his “very, very strong support.”
“Such an inquiry is important," Morrison told reporters.
“It’s important for public health globally that there is a transparency in the way you can get access to this important information early. So it’s not pursued as an issue of criticism, it’s pursued as an issue of importance for public health,” he added.
Australia’s call for transparency comes after U.S. officials revealed intelligence agencies were assessing whether the respiratory virus escaped from a biological laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began.
Michigan adds testing for essential workers without symptoms
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday said the state is working with major retailers to open more drive-thru sites to test as many as 1,000 people a day for the coronavirus, especially people who don't have symptoms but still are required to work outside their home.
“Robust testing is essential to have confidence about our strategies for safely reducing risk and re-engaging sectors of our economy,” Whitmer said.
She said Walmart, Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid are part of the plan to open eight test sites across the state. Whitmer cautioned, however, that there's a shortage of swabs and chemicals needed to complete tests.
If labs had all the supplies they needed, 11,300 tests a day could be performed, the governor said.
Some US producers, states reopening amid political pressure
Boeing and at least one other heavy-equipment manufacturer in the U.S. are resuming production amid pressure from President Donald Trump to reopen the economy.
And Georgia's Republican governor announced aggressive reopening plans starting at the end of this week. The moves come as other governors say there is not enough testing to keep the coronavirus in check. Boeing resumed production on Monday, as oil futures plunged below zero and stocks and Treasury yields dropped on Wall Street.