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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Trump campaign hits local TV station with cease-and-desist over coronavirus ad

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has sent a cease-and-desist letter to a TV station in Michigan over a Democratic super PAC ad that they say misleadingly accuses Trump of being soft on China at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump’s campaign earlier this month sued a Wisconsin TV station and sent cease-and-desist letters to other swing-state TV stations over an ad from a different Democratic super PAC, Priorities USA. The latest cease-and-desist letter, obtained by NBC News, targets WOOD, an NBC affiliate in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and demands the station stop running “a false, misleading, and deceptive advertisement” produced by an offshoot of the Democratic group American Bridge. 

The ad, which Trump also attacked in a tweet, accuses Trump of trusting China even though, the narrator says, “everyone knew they lied about the virus.” And it suggests the Trump administration shipped 17 tons of medical supplies the U.S. now needs to China in the early days of the outbreak, before it was widespread in the United States.

The Trump campaign said the State Department merely helped manage logistics for the shipment of medical supplies by using chartered planes that were bound for China to repatriate Americans and would have flown empty otherwise. Instead, the planes carried goods donated by a group of charities and businesses.

American Bridge, however, noted how the Trump administration publicly touted the shipment and pointed to Trump's repeated praise for China’s response to the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic. In response to Trump's criticism, the group said it would put an additional “six figures” behind the ad to run it on digital platforms.

“We will not be intimidated by his gang of lawyers, and we will not relent in our mission to make sure voters have the facts straight on Donald Trump," American Bridge President Bradley Beychok said.

Trump at briefing says CDC director was 'misquoted.' CDC director at same briefing says quote was accurate.

CDC Director Robert Redfield speaks during the daily briefing on the coronavirus at the White House on April 22, 2020.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

President Donald Trump began his Wednesday press conference by asking Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield to explain how he was "misquoted" in recent coverage of a Washington Post interview in which he said next winter might be "more difficult" than the past two months.

Redfield then tried to explain a difference between "more difficult," "worse," and "more devastating," the latter of which was how his remarks were paraphrased in a Washington Post headline, before saying he was "accurately quoted" in the publication.

Read the full story here. 

Illinois reports new daily high of over 2,000 cases, peak not projected until mid-May

Illinois reported a new daily high in coronavirus cases on Wednesday as experts project the state has yet to even hit its peak. 

There were a total of 2,049 new cases in the last day, pushing the state's total number of positive tests above 35,000. Officials say the peak in Illinois is now projected to hit in mid-May, later than initially expected. 

The state is under a stay-at-home order until April 30, but Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he may extend the order. 

Trump signs executive order temporarily suspending immigration

President Trump said at the White House coronavirus task force briefing that he signed the executive order temporarily suspending immigration to the U.S. as the economy works to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump reverses course, says 'too soon' for Georgia Gov. Kemp to reopen state

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a news conference in downtown Atlanta on April 1, 2020.Alyssa Pointer / Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP file

President Donald Trump said Wednesday he "strongly disagrees" with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's decision to allow businesses like barber shops and nail salons to reopen, a day after he praised him during the White House briefing.

"I think it's too soon," Trump said at his daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday. "But at the same time, he must do what he thinks is right."

Asked about the same plan on Tuesday, Trump praised Kemp as "a capable man who knows what he's doing."

The governor’s decision has been widely criticized by mayors in Georgia for being premature.

Read the full story here.

Hard-hit LA County nursing homes will test asymptomatic residents for COVID-19

Health officials in Los Angeles are changing course in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus at long-term care facilities that account for roughly a third of the 729 deaths in the county due to the virus. 

LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said on Wednesday that officials had been operating under the assumption that they need to focus on symptomatic residents and employees. But with significant spread among those who are asymptomatic, the county is moving to test all those who are daily in close contact with infected individuals.

The state, which last week reported coronavirus cases at 1,224 different nursing homes, lifted restrictions on testing those who are asymptomatic. LA County will get assistance from the CDC to help with infection control at facilities where there are cases.

Las Vegas mayor offers up city as 'control group' for easing coronavirus restrictions

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman speaks during the debut of Circa Resort & Casino in downtown Las Vegas on Jan. 10, 2019.Denise Truscello / Getty Images file

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman on Wednesday offered up her 650,000 constituents as a "control group" against shutdown orders while bitterly complaining that her tourism-reliant city is being economically ravaged.

"How do you know until we have a control group? We offered to be a control group," Goodman told CNN, when asked if lifting shutdown orders would lead to a spike coronavirus deaths. "I did offer, it was turned down."

Goodman said her proposal, to measure the public health impact of opening Las Vegas for business again, was turned down because too many people in town at any given moment are from outside city limits — thus making a proper statistical analysis impossible.

The mayor's proposal didn't set well with late-night host and Las Vegas native Jimmy Kimmel, who tweeted: "Carolyn Goodman should resign before lunch arrives today. She is an embarrassment to my hometown."

 

Oklahoma to start reopening businesses starting Friday

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt in Oklahoma City on Feb. 13, 2020.Nate Billings / The Oklahoman via AP

Gov. Kevin Stitt announced plans to reopen businesses across Oklahoma beginning on Friday, using the three-phase plan issued by the White House as its guide. 

The state has met all the necessary criteria laid out by the plan from President Donald Trump's administration, including a downward trend of cases, according to an announcement from Stitt Wednesday.

Oklahoma will begin allowing state parks and "personal care" businesses, such as hair salons and barbershops, to reopen beginning April 24. Other businesses, including restaurants and movie theaters, can begin reopening on May 1. 

"These businesses must maintain distance between customers and encourage customers to wait in their car until it is time for their appointment to avoid congestion in the lobbies or entrances," the governor's announcement said. 

In sickest COVID-19 patients, underlying conditions are common, large study finds

A nurse fills out paperwork on a COVID-19 patient at St. Joseph's Hospital in Yonkers, New York.John Minchillo / AP

People with obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure are at greater risk for complications from the coronavirus, according to a large study of patients hospitalized with the illness it causes.

The findings, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, confirm what physicians nationwide have noted anecdotally.

Read the full story here. 

No money, but rent is due: In Colorado, few eviction protections as coronavirus spreads

Unlike more than 30 other states, Colorado does not have a statewide moratorium on evictions during the coronavirus outbreak. That's left many tenants fearing they could soon be without homes. 

Kendra Tallant, 41, was furloughed from her job at a resort where she took reservations, and now she's struggling to pay rent on the Colorado Springs apartment she shares with her fiancé and 23-year-old son, who are also out of work. She tried to negotiate with her landlord, but the company hit her with nearly $300 in late fees and began taking steps toward eviction.

“I was just flabbergasted,” Tallant said. “We were forced to not work by no fault of our own. These places are just not working with us, and we’re having to choose between whether we can eat or pay rent.”

Read the full story here. 

Ohio man who disparaged lockdown measures on Facebook dies of coronavirus

Social media posts of an Ohio man who disparaged coronavirus lockdown measures are now circulating online after he died of COVID-19, the disease associated with coronavirus.

Screenshots of Facebook posts have surfaced online just days after John W. McDaniel, 60, died of coronavirus on April 15. One screenshot of a post dated March 13 included an accusation that the virus was a "political ploy."

"If you're paranoid about getting sick, just don't go out," another post allegedly said. "It shouldn't keep those of us from Living Our Lives. The Madness has to stop."

Read the full story here.