Financial catastrophe looms for state and local governments

The impact of the fiscal crisis "will be even worse than the Great Recession — by a factor of at least two," warned one mayor.
Image: Las Vegas Strip
The Las Vegas Strip is deserted as casinos and other business are closed because of the coronavirus outbreak, on April 14, 2020.John Locher / AP

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State and municipal governments across the country are clamoring for the federal government to rescue them from what could quickly become a fiscal catastrophe, saying that they may need as much as three quarters of a trillion dollars as the coronavirus pandemic dries up many of their revenue sources.

Without the help, these governments will need to lay off or furlough workers, reduce benefits, cancel projects, defer construction and maintenance and more. The impact of the fiscal crisis "will be even worse than the Great Recession — by a factor of at least two," warned Nan Whaley, the mayor of Dayton, Ohio.

But state and local governments like Dayton's will have to wait until at least May before Congress considers further economic relief, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated. The House is set to vote Thursday on an interim round of coronavirus aid aimed at small businesses, and while Democrats sought to include roughly $150 billion in funding to shore up state and local budgets, the money didn't make it into the final bill because of objections from Republicans and the Trump administration.

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

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Japanese park beheads 100,000 tulips during coronavirus state of emergency

Missouri sues China alleging it 'lied to the world' about coronavirus

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit against the Chinese government Tuesday accusing it of lying about the danger posed by the coronavirus when it first emerged in late 2019. 

"In Missouri, the impact of the virus is very real," Schmitt said in a press release. "Thousands have been infected and many have died, families have been separated from loved ones, small businesses are shuttering their doors, and those living paycheck to paycheck are struggling to put food on their table." 

The state is the first in the country to seek damages in this way. Schmitt argues that the Chinese government "must be held accountable for their actions."

U.N. warns of 'hunger pandemic' amid threats of coronavirus, economic downturn

While the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, the head of the United Nations food agency warned on Tuesday that a looming "hunger pandemic" will bring "the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II."

Famine in as many as three dozen countries is "a very real and dangerous possibility" due to ongoing wars and conflicts, economic crises and natural disasters, World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley told the U.N. Security Council during a virtual briefing.

As a result of the coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent economic ramifications, the food agency found an additional 130 million people could be on the brink of starvation by the end of the year. The working poor would be hit the hardest as a result of the decline in tourism and exports, collapse of oil prices and any declines to foreign aid.

Read the full story.

142 Italian doctors have died of COVID-19

At doctor and nurse embrace at the end of their shift in a corridor of an intensive care unit treating COVID-19 patients at the San Filippo Neri hospital in Rome on Monday.Alberto Pizzoli / AFP - Getty Images

The coronavirus death toll among Italy's doctors has risen to 142, the country's Medical Professional Association showed Tuesday.

However, official figures also showed a new daily record for the number of people who have recovered from the virus, rising by 2,723 Tuesday to 51,600. Italy has suffered one of the worst global outbreaks with more than 24,000 deaths, figures from John Hopkins University show. Only the U.S. has reported more deaths to date. 

The country is looking at gradually reopening parts of the economy with 2.5 to 2.8 million people in sectors such as construction and manufacturing expected to go back to work May 4th.

Experts: Isolated indigenous tribes risk extinction from virus

When English explorer John Hemming first arrived in 1971 in the Amazonian state of Rondônia in Brazil, at the lower end of the Tapajós River, it was just weeks after the local Suruí people had initiated their first contact with the outside world.

Soon after that expedition encountered previously uncontacted peoples, an influenza outbreak wiped out roughly a fifth of the area's 1,500 indigenous people, before measles devastated them two or three years later.

Experts and advocates for remote aboriginal communities not just in Brazil, but also elsewhere around the world, say they fear that geographic remoteness, an inability to socially isolate and poor access to health care might mean the COVID-19 pandemic could further imperil the existence of groups that survived earlier outbreaks.

Read the full story.

Photo: Medical worker administers a swab test

Lindsey Leinbach takes a swab to test for the coronavirus at a One Medical testing facility built to help with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in the Bronx, New York on April 21, 2020.Lucas Jackson / Reuters

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Virus caused U.S. fatalities earlier than previously thought

Officials in Silicon Valley late Tuesday reported two virus-related deaths that predate a Washington state fatality previously believed to be the first victim of COVID-19 in the United States.

The California deaths on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 were not initially believed to have been related to the coronavirus. 

The first U.S. COVID-19 death was reported Feb. 29 in Wsahington state.

"Today, the Medical Examiner-Coroner received confirmation from the CDC that tissue samples from both cases are positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19)," the County of Santa Clara Medical Examiner-Coroner said in a statement.

The examiner-coroner's office said limited testing criteria set by the federal government meant that the deaths were initially overlooked as possible coronavirus cases. Each victim died at home, it said.

Read the full story here.

Harlem church has lost 11 members to COVID-19

The senior pastor of Harlem's Mount Neboh Baptist Church says that 11 of its members have died from the coronavirus illness COVID-19.

"When my phone rings, I'm always worried: Is it going to be another call with bad news?" Dr. Johnnie Green said Tuesday.

Green said that his congregation believes that faith in God is most authentic when it is tested, and he sees the trials of recent weeks as a test of faith.

"I believe that we're going to come out stronger," Green said. 

New York City and state have been called the current epidemic of the coronavirus epidemic in the United States. There have been more than 19,000 deaths statewide, according to an NBC News count of reports that includes more than 4,000 deaths in New York City which are being called probable COVID-19 cases.

Read the full story here.