States react to Trump's plan to reopen U.S. while some hear a call to arms

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Medical workers are seen as they take swab samples from people to be tested for the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China's central Hubei province on April 16, 2020.Hector Retamal / AFP - Getty Images

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A number of governors said that while they would take President Donald Trump's new guidelines to reopen state economies under consideration, they were wary of moving too fast in the face of unresolved issues like testing shortages.

But some Americans are calling for a quick return to business as normal and marched on state capitols Friday to make their voices heard. Meanwhile, extremists have interpreted Trump's recent tweets to "LIBERATE" certain states as a call to arms.

Here's what to know about the coronavirus, plus a timeline of the most critical moments:

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Live coverage has ended. Continue reading April 18 coronavirus news here.

'COVID toes' often appear in patients with no other symptoms

Another unexpected condition related to the virus has captured the attention of researchers.

Dubbed "COVID toes" by the dermatology community, it can look like "purple lesions" on feet or hands, Dr. Esther Freeman, a dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told TODAY.

The condition usually starts with red or purple discoloration, and the skin may become raised or develop ulcerations, according to Freeman. It can be on hands, too. It often appears in younger patients with no other symptoms. 

It's unclear how common the symptom. Freeman is running an international registry to document COVID-19 patients' range of dermatologic conditions. The registry launched last week in collaboration with the American Academy of Dermatology.

Read the full story here

Seattle cautious about easing business restrictions

People practice social distancing after disembarking a water taxi during the coronavirus outbreak in Seattle on April 2, 2020.David Ryder / Reuters file

Seattle was the country's first coronavirus hot spot, and soon it could be one of the first big cities to reopen its economy. When and how that happens will depend largely on the region's ability to get adequate testing and protect its front-line health care workers, Mayor Jenny Durkan said.

"It's a marathon, not a sprint," she said. "We're not even really halfway through, even though we've hit the peak."

Seattle and neighboring communities will weigh various factors, including closely monitoring the rate of new cases, expanding testing and reporting capabilities and ensuring that the health care system is prepared to handle additional infections, Durkan said.

Read the full story here.

More than 12,000 New Yorkers likely dead from COVID-19

A casket is placed into a hearse outside a funeral home in Brooklyn, N.Y., on April 16, 2020.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

New York City crossed yet another tragic milestone on Friday as health officials estimated that the COVID-19 death toll had gone past 12,000.

There have been at least 7,890 confirmed coronavirus-related fatalities in the five boroughs as of 2:30 p.m., according to the city's daily tally. In recent days, the city has started to make public its count of "probable" COVID-19 deaths and that grim number reached at least 4,309 by Friday afternoon.

Just 24 hours earlier, the totals had been 7,563 confirmed deaths and 3,914 probable fatalities.

 

Tech investors say pandemic is like 1906 San Francisco quake

A San Francisco venture capital fund that has invested in Airbnb and Uber warned partners Friday that the coronavirus pandemic has been a sudden shock similar to the 1906 earthquake that leveled much of the city. 

Bond Capital is led by Mary Meeker, who has a large following in Silicon Valley where her annual reports on internet trends are eagerly consumed by entrepreneurs and fellow investors. 

"Earthquakes are like high-speed zippers that rip open the earth," Meeker and the rest of the fund's team wrote in the 29-page letter, which was first reported by Axios. 

The letter says COVID-19 may be a "call to arms" to rethink health care, which "in the U.S. hasn't changed as much as you would think since the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918."

Some small business owners got $0, while lenders got billions in fees

Small-business owners across America are outraged after the coronavirus relief program intended to extend them a financial lifeline exhausted its $350 billion fund less than two weeks after it started — while lenders took home almost $6 billion in fees.

“We survived the 9/11 economic hardships and the 2008 economic downturn that seemed to go on forever, but I don’t know if we will survive the COVID-19 economic disaster,” said Candace Senato, who has owned a Tempe, Arizona-based freight shipping company for 28 years.

The Small Business Administration opened two programs: The $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program offered businesses with fewer than 500 employees a loan that can turn into a free grant if used to cover payroll and other allowed expenses and employees aren’t laid off. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan provided up to $2 million in financial assistance for any business that has losses as a result of the pandemic.

However, now that the money has already dried up for both programs, business owners' frustrations have only grown.

Read the full story here.

New Jersey to issue temporary licenses for foreign doctors

READINGTON, N.J. — Foreign-licensed physicians living in the United States can now apply for a “temporary emergency license” to practice medicine in New Jersey during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This army can always use more reinforcements,” Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday as he announced the program, which will begin accepting applications immediately.

Murphy called it “fitting” that New Jersey is the first state in the nation with a program of this magnitude. “This is a state where the immigrant experience is writ large in our collective history,” Murphy said. “This is a state where people from all over the world have come to build a new life and to live the American dream.”

Physicians licensed under the program will be able to provide in-person medical care at facilities licensed by the New Jersey Department of Health or at another location designated as an emergency health care center by the state health commissioner.

San Francisco makes face masks mandatory for everyone outside

A pedestrian crosses an empty California Street during rush hour in San Francisco on March 17, 2020.David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Anyone setting foot on the streets of San Francisco, outside their homes, will be required to wear a face covering, authorities said Friday.

The order by Mayor London Breed and Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax goes into effect tonight.

"Additionally, transportation workers and other employees who interact with the public must also cover their face while doing essential work," according to the new city mandate.

 Los Angeles, California's largest city, already has a similar policy in place.

Senate Democrats take out frustrations over testing in Pence phone call

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats laid bare their frustrations about the lack of widespread testing in the U.S. during a teleconference with Vice President Mike Pence and the Coronavirus Task Force Friday afternoon, multiple sources tell NBC News.

At one point during the call, Maine Sen. Angus King, an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said he has “never been so mad about a phone call in my life,” adding that the administration’s lack of national testing is “a dereliction  of duty,” according to three of the sources. 

This is the second phone call in two days that Democrats peppered the administration officials about testing. A bipartisan congressional task force to reopen the country pressed President Donald Trump about the issue of testing on two phone calls Thursday.

Meanwhile, three senior administration officials tell NBC News that Friday night’s White House briefing will focus primarily on testing. Task force officials are expected to say they are confident there is enough testing available to implement the first phase of the administration’s plan to reopen the country, according to one official.  

The focus on testing comes as the administration is under fire for releasing its plans to open the economy in phases without having a nationwide testing and contact tracing program in place.

At the end of Friday's call, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., brought up the president’s “Liberate” Virginia, Michigan and Minnesota tweets, according to two sources familiar.

A Democratic aide said that Pence attempted to talk about how the administration is working respectfully with the governors but Kaine said those tweets “are not at all respectful.”

Another source familiar said that Pence’s response was that “the president is an effective communicator” and speaks with the American people in “a transparent and effective way.”

In addition to Pence, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx, Admiral Brett Giroir and other members of the task force were on the call offered for all Democratic senators. It’s the second call Pence and the task force have  had with Senate Democrats in as many weeks.

Julie Tsirkin, Peter Alexander and Carol E. Lee contributed.

'We cannot put the cart before the horse': Governors react to Trump's reopening plan

WASHINGTON — After President Donald Trump laid out his road map for reopening state economies, a number of governors sought to temper regional expectations, raising the alarm about moving too fast in the face of unresolved issues like a lack of mass testing.

“They are helpful,” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, said on MSNBC Friday of the guidelines, which encourage areas that meet certain criteria to begin easing social distancing restrictions by May 1.

“We didn't want something more heavy-handed telling the governors what they had to do. That wouldn't have worked. Every region is a little bit different.”

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said in a statement Thursday that while the White House’s suggestions were appreciated, "the plain overriding fact is we cannot put the cart before the horse.”

Read the full story here.

Parent in college admission scam leaving prison early because of coronavirus

A parent sentenced to six months in prison for participating in the college admissions bribery scheme is getting to go home early because of the coronavirus pandemic, a federal judge has ruled.

Toby Macfarlane, a former real estate executive from Del Mar, California, will be released to home confinement after his lawyers argued the conditions behind bars put him at serious risk of contracting the virus. He will be released after he completes a 14-day quarantine in prison on April 21, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton said this week.

Macfarlane was sentenced in November after admitting to paying $450,000 to get his children into the University of Southern California as fake athletic recruits.

Read the full story here.