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Georgia to reopen businesses Friday as U.S. deaths top 40,000

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the globe.
Image: Atlanta Motor Speedway Hosts Food Distribution Event For Those In Need
Volunteers load food into vehicles during a mobile market day at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia on April 17, 2020.Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

The coronavirus death toll in the U.S. passed 40,000 late Sunday, according to NBC News' tally, and there are nearly 760,000 confirmed cases as of Monday evening.

While some governors pushed back on the Trump administration's claims that states are conducting a "sufficient" level of coronavirus testing, other governors were eager to reopen businesses in their states regardless of testing levels.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced plans to resume many businesses in Georgia this Friday, April 24, and Gov. Bill Lee said a "vast majority" of businesses in Tennessee would reopen by the end of next week.

Meanwhile, the federal agency that oversees nursing homes announced new transparency measures requiring the disclosure of coronavirus cases to patients' families and public health officials.

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

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading April 21 coronavirus news.

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Trump suggests he schooled states on testing. Governors say the issue is complex.

President Donald Trump said Monday that governors “didn’t understand” the variety of the labs their states could use until the White House provided a list.

“Some of the governors, like as an example the governor from Maryland, he didn’t understand the list. He didn’t really understand too much about what was going on, so now I think he’ll be able to do that,” Trump said. “It’s pretty simple.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said on CNN Monday he appreciated the information but wasn't confused about state capabilities. Hogan said over the weekend that governors were trying to use private labs, but were stymied by shortages of swabs and reagents needed for testing. 

Trump also boasted that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, had agreed with him that states should lead on testing. But Cuomo also pointed to the supply chain as an issue where states need the federal government to get involved. 

“On the testing, I can’t solve for the national manufacturers not being able to produce the volume to sell to my state labs,” Cuomo said, referring to equipment and materials needed coronavirus testing and noting that the supply chain was international. “I’d like the federal government to help on supply chain issues.”

'This is a great time to buy oil,' Trump says as prices plunge into negative territory

After a tumultuous day that saw oil futures falling into negative territory, President Donald Trump suggested the U.S. could either purchase roughly 75 million barrels of oil to add to the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, or rent that spare capacity to oil companies squeezed for storage space due to the glut in the market.

“This is a great time to buy oil. We'd get it for the right price," Trump said at a coronavirus task force news briefing on Monday night. "Nobody's ever heard of negative oil before."

Lawmakers have discussed providing support to the struggling energy sector, but a plan for the Department of Energy to spend $3 billion purchasing oil for the SPR was suspended when the money was not included in the stimulus package passed earlier this month.

The price for West Texas Intermediate crude contracted for May delivery plunged Monday to negative $37.63 a barrel for contracts expiring Tuesday.

Read the full story here.

South Carolina reopens many businesses effective immediately

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said Monday he was reopening many non-essential businesses effective immediately and beaches on Tuesday. 

The governor announced his decision after other state leaders spoke of tentative plans to reopen the economy in the coming weeks. McMaster's plan included the immediate reopening of retail locations such as department stores, clothing shops and book sellers. 

Beaches will be open beginning at noon on Tuesday.

"I've restored public beach access, allowing locals to use their discretion. I've also allowed some retailers that were previously closed to open, but they must follow strict social distancing measures," McMaster said Monday.

As of Monday afternoon, there were 4,439 confirmed cases and 124 deaths due to coronavirus in South Carolina.

Virtually all abortions again blocked in Texas

A federal appeals court has again blocked virtually all abortions in Texas.

This time around, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has said medication abortions cannot be allowed under an order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbot that prohibits non-essential medical procedures. 

Abortion is now allowed in the state only for women whose pregnancies will pass the state's limit for legal abortion by April 22.

Two-thirds of restaurant employees out of work, industry survey says

A survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association says that nearly two-thirds of the industry's workforce is now unemployed. 

The survey, which was released as part of the association's request for federal funding, estimates that more than 8 million restaurant workers have lost their jobs or been furloughed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The National Restaurant Association estimates that the industry faces more than $240 billion in losses nationwide by the end of 2020.

"Its survey reported that more than 60 percent of restaurant owners say that existing federal relief programs—including the CARES Act—will not enable them to keep their employees on payroll during the downturn," the association said in a release Monday. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics only has data as recent as last month, but did show a nearly 2.6 percent increase in food service unemployment rates from March 2019 to March 2020. Millions of Americans have filed for unemployment in the month of April. 

Coronavirus impact on travel is nine times greater than the 9/11 attacks, new study says

One-third of all estimated job losses this year will come from the travel industry, according to a new study.

Around 8 million people in the travel and tourism sector will lose their job by the end of 2020 as a result of the decline in travel, the U.S. Travel Association and Oxford Economics said in new data released Monday, noting that it expects a total of 24 million jobless.

The total economic impact from the coronavirus pandemic will be about nine times greater than 9/11, the report projected, with a $519 billion decline in travel spending in the U.S. this year and a loss of $1.2 trillion in economic output.

Travel declines will also lead to a loss of $80 billion in taxes in 2020, the report said.

Georgia to begin reopening businesses on Friday

Gov. Brian Kemp announced on Monday that the first phase of reopening Georgia businesses will begin this Friday, April 24.

Gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studio, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designer, nail care artists and massage therapists will be allowed to resume business on Friday. Kemp said basic health and sanitation standards must be met before any business can reopen, such as screening employees for fever and wearing masks.

Theaters, private clubs and restaurants' dine-in services will be allowed to reopen Monday, April 27, Kemp said. Bars, nightclubs, amusement parks and live performance venues will remain closed for the time being.

As of Monday afternoon, there were 18,947 confirmed cases and 733 deaths due to coronavirus in the state of Georgia.

Federal government preparing workers to head back to the office

WASHINGTON — The federal government is preparing to bring employees back to the office as soon as state and local authorities permit, the Office of Management and Budget told government agencies on Monday. 

Crediting the Trump administration’s “aggressive response” for saving lives, acting OMB director Russ Vought said in a memo to agencies posted Monday on the White House website that the "federal government is actively planning to ramp back up government operations to the maximum extent possible, as local conditions warrant, consistent with the National guidelines for Opening Up America Again.” 

President Donald Trump last week that outlined a three-phase strategy for states to determine when to bring businesses and services back online. Eighty-five percent of the federal workforce is located outside the Washington, D.C., area, which means different agencies will encounter different scenarios and timelines.

“Given the diversity of Federal workforce missions, geographic locations and the needs of individuals within the workforce itself, this transition will require continued diligence and flexibility from Federal agencies and the Federal workforce,” Vought wrote. 

'Vast majority' of businesses in Tennessee to reopen by May 1

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Monday that he will not extend the state's stay-at-home order and plans on reopening businesses next week. 

Lee announced that his administration plans to work with business leaders in an effort to open doors as soon as April 27, with the state's shelter-in-place order lifting three days later. "The vast majority of businesses in 89 counties (will be) allowed to re-open on May 1," according to a statement from Lee's office.

“Social distancing works, and as we open up our economy it will be more important than ever that we keep social distancing as lives and livelihoods depend on it," Lee said. 

As of Monday afternoon, there were 7,238 confirmed cases and 152 deaths due to coronavirus in Tennessee.

McConnell: No deal yet on second round of small business funding

Senate Majority Leader McConnell said a deal has not yet been reached for the second round of funding for small businesses to provide aid during the coronavirus crisis. Stephanie Ruhle explains how the first round of funds dried up so quickly.

Nurses union sues New York state, claims 'grossly inadequate' coronavirus protections

Nurses protest in the Bronx, N.Y., on April 17, 2020.Mary Altaffer / AP

A union representing New York nurses filed multiple lawsuits on Monday, accusing the state and two hospitals of allegedly "compromising the health and safety of" members fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

The New York State Nurses Association launched state civil complaints against the New York State Department of Health and Westchester Medical Center and a federal lawsuit against Montefiore Medical Center.

In addition to more testing, the union is demanding that nurses be better equipped with enough protective N95 masks as they treat patients with COVID-19, the disease associated with coronavirus.

Read the full story here.