President Donald Trump signed a nearly $500 billion interim coronavirus bill into law Friday that includes more money for the small-business loan program, hospitals and testing.
The bill includes more than $320 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, created by the CARES Act, which was passed late last month and provides forgivable loans to small businesses that keep their employees on the payroll.
Meanwhile, experts ripped Trump's idea of injecting disinfectant as a possible treatment for coronavirus infections. But during the ceremony, Trump walked back his comments from Thursday, saying he was being “sarcastic.”
The new legislation comes as the death toll in the U.S. topped 50,000 on Friday, according to NBC News' tally. The global recorded death toll has passed 190,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
- MAPS: Confirmed cases in the U.S. and worldwide, confirmed deaths in the U.S. and globally.
- Stay-at-home orders across the country: What each state is doing — or not — amid widespread coronavirus lockdowns.
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Hospital ship discharges few remaining patients before NY exit
The Navy hospital ship sent to relieve stress on New York City hospitals at the height of the pandemic is discharging or transferring its last 12 patients this weekend as it nears the end of its mission, according to Northwell Health, which provides operational assistance to the vessel.
The USNS Comfort, docked at a Manhattan pier since March 30, will soon leave for its homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, where it will restock and be readied for another possible assignment, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said. He did not provide a date for the ship’s departure.
As of Saturday, the 1,000-bed hospital ship had treated just 182 patients.
Originally deployed to care for patients without coronavirus, the Comfort switched gears and started accepting them as the city’s hospitals became overrun with people suffering from the disease.
First lady sending gifts to hospitals in hard-hit states
WASHINGTON — Melania Trump is sending blankets, caps and other gifts to hospitals in 10 states, including some hit hardest by the new coronavirus outbreak, for use by medical staff and children who are patients.
The care packages were shipped Thursday to hospitals in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Florida, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Delaware, Nevada and the District of Columbia, the White House said.
“The medical community has gone above and beyond to protect the health of the American People,” the first lady said in a statement. The packages are “just a small token of my appreciation for their courage and leadership in this time of need.”
The hospitals were not identified. She met doctors and nurses at some of the hospitals during past visits to promote her youth program, the White House said.
The gifts bear the logo of her “Be Best” youth initiative and include blankets, caps, tote bags, pencils, backpacks, stickers, Dr. Seuss books and games for young patients.
UFC to hold 3 shows without fans in Florida
The UFC is returning to competition on May 9 for three shows without fans in eight days in Jacksonville, Florida.
The mixed martial arts promotion announced its plans Friday to return to action after postponing and canceling several shows due to the coronavirus pandemic.
UFC 249 will be held May 9 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville with no fans in attendance. The pay-per-view show will still be headlined by Tony Ferguson’s interim lightweight title bout against Justin Gaethje.
UFC President Dana White also plans to hold shows on May 13 and May 16 at the same arena in northern Florida. Only “essential personnel” will be in the arena, according to White.
Can the U.S. learn any lessons from Denmark as it reopens schools for youngest students?
Showdown looms between Silicon Valley, U.S. states over contact tracing apps
U.S. states promoting apps that could prove essential to ending the coronavirus lockdown may be headed for a showdown with the two Silicon Valley companies that control key software on 99 percent of smartphones over the collection of sensitive GPS location data.
Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google plan to release technology jointly in the coming weeks for digital contact tracing through Bluetooth sensors on phones. Public health authorities have determined that the technology is crucial to apps that will alert people when they have been close to people who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
For contact tracing apps to work, however, millions of people must be willing to use them without fear their locations and other personal data is being tracked and stored.
Google and Apple have sought to build public trust by emphasizing that the changes they are making to Bluetooth to allow the tracing apps to work will not tap phones' GPS sensors, which privacy activists see as too intrusive.
Officials order closure of Colorado Walmart after 3 virus deaths
Health officials in suburban Denver said Thursday they closed a Walmart Supercenter in Aurora, Colorado, after three people associated with the location died from COVID-19.
A 72-year-old woman who worked there, her 63-year-old husband and a 69-year-old security contractor have died, the Tri-County Health Department said in a statement. Six other employees have coronavirus, and another three are awaiting test results.
The department said it received "a series of complaints" from employees and shoppers about improper social distancing and workers not wearing masks at the store.
Walmart said in a statement that it will sanitize the store. It said it had installed plexiglass barriers at checkout counters, and install floor decals promoting social distancing.
"We recognize how hard this is for our associates in Aurora and everyone impacted by this difficult situation," it said. "We want to do everything we can to support them at this time. We will continue to work closely with Tri-County Health Department and take additional steps as needed to re-open the store."
Navy officials recommend reinstatement for ship commander
Top U.S. Navy officials Friday recommended that Capt. Brett Crozier, criticized by President Donald Trump for seeking help after a coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Roosevelt, be reinstated to the ship's command.
According to a U.S. defense official, a source familiar with the matter and a former defense official, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday and Acting Secretary of the Navy Jim McPherson both laid out a series of options to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Friday afternoon, including the recommendation that Crozier be reinstated.
Crozier was relieved of the aircraft carrier's command April 2 by Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who subsequently resigned after he suggested Crozier was "stupid" for sounding the alarm without greater consideration for the security of his communication to brass.
Private haven for wealthy received $2M from small business loan program
A housing association representing the richest zip code in America was approved to receive a $2 million emergency coronavirus relief loan from the Small Business Administration.
The Fisher Island Community Association, which manages the members-only private island off the Miami coast that can only be reached by helicopter or boat and once counted Oprah Winfrey as a member, was approved for a Paycheck Protection Program loan intended to help small businesses who had shuttered, laid off workers, or furloughed staff due to the viral outbreak.
Ana Tinsly, a spokesperson for public services union SEIU Florida, said earlier this week that she was not aware of any layoffs, according to The Miami Herald.
The $2 million loan comes as scrutiny mounts over the structure of the government's emergency program, which allowed many companies with strong cash flow to receive millions of dollars in forgivable loans while small businesses desperate for cash were shut out.
Michael Avenatti leaves jail after quarantine
Attorney Michael Avenatti was released from jail Friday to prevent the spread of COVID-19, his lawyer said.
"In this case, the court recognized the grave danger to federal inmates, and took action," Dean Steward said in a statement. "We are grateful for the court's insight and fairness."
Avenatti, known for representing adult performer Stormy Daniels in her legal saga involving President Donald Trump, was convicted in February of trying to extort Nike. He was being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan awaiting sentencing.
A judge said the release was temporary and that Avenatti must report back in 90 days. He was released at 11 a.m. after being quarantined behind bars for two weeks. Avenatti still faces legal troubles in California, where he is alleged to have defrauded clients.
Smithfield Foods sued over working conditions in Missouri, closes Illinois plant
Smithfield Foods Inc., the world's largest pork processor, announced Friday it is indefinitely closing an Illinois plant next week after a "small portion" of its 1,700 employees tested positive for COVID-19.
Employees will be paid during the closure, the company said in a statement.
The Monmouth plant represents approximately 3 percent of U.S. fresh pork supplies, according to Smithfield, and also produces bacon.
The news comes one day after Smithfield was accused in a lawsuit of failing to adequately protect workers at a Missouri plant who have been forced to work "shoulder to shoulder" during the coronavirus pandemic.