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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Trump: U.S. Postal Service is 'a joke' and should dramatically raise prices
President Donald Trump on Friday blasted the U.S. Postal Service as "a joke," and vowed to block financial aid for the struggling agency unless it raised prices for packages "four times or five times."
Trump said agency should hit Amazon and other tech companies with much higher prices for packages. "They don't want to raise it because they don't want to insult Amazon," Trump said.
The president essentially confirmed a Washington Post report that he won't sign off on a $10 billion loan for the postal service included in emergency coronavirus legislation unless the agency does what he wants. “If they don’t raise the price, I’m not signing anything,” he told reporters during a bill signing in the Oval Office.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that Trump is looking to privatize the Postal Service, which she called a "very big danger" for the country, especially in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak "when vote by mail is so important in terms of as a health issue, but also medicines and all the rest of that people are depending — on so many things that they're ordering online coming by mail for them."
A short time later, he tweeted, "I will never let our Post Office fail."
How to help senior citizens cope with the coronavirus pandemic
The coronavirus can be lethal to anyone who catches it, but seniors are especially at risk if infected.
“Eight out of 10 deaths from COVID-19 have been from those age 65 or older,” says Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a family physician in Phoenix, Arizona. “The reason why is because our immune system is less effective at fighting infections as we get older. Also, having multiple other chronic diseases can complicate this virus.”
Trump says he was being sarcastic with comments about injecting disinfectants
President Donald Trump said Friday that his remarks on injecting disinfectants to treat COVID-19 were sarcasm, after doctors responded with horror and disinfectant manufacturers urged people not to ingest the poisonous substances.
"I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters just like you, just to see what would happen," Trump said on Friday during a bill signing for the coronavirus aid package. "I was asking a sarcastic and a very sarcastic question to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside. But it does kill it and it would kill it on the hands, and it would make things much better."
But the president's comments the day before — a lengthy musing that disinfectant or powerful light could be used to fight the virus — did not appear to be sarcasm; they were in part directed at a Homeland Security official.
Homeless people are at risk from the coronavirus. Police have a solution: Drones.
Drones have been in the hands of local law enforcement agencies for years, using them to help conduct search-and-rescue missions and map crime and vehicle crash scenes. But since states across the country issued shelter-in-place orders in response to the pandemic, police departments have seized on the crisis as a moment to acquire more drones to do remote patrolling.
The technology has come with warnings from anti-surveillance advocates and civil liberties watchdogs who point to the privacy risks of flying robots equipped with cameras surreptitiously filming people from afar.
Tennessee's businesses to reopen with new guidelines, but no enforcement
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Friday outlined his plans for businesses across the state to reopen starting next week — but he acknowledged that the state will not be enforcing the measures to make sure businesses are following them.
Restaurants will reopen on Monday in 89 of the state's 95 counties. Retailers will follow Wednesday, while businesses like salons and tattoo parlors that require close contact will take a few more weeks to resume operations.
In announcing his "Tennessee Pledge," Lee called on businesses that reopen to follow social distancing guidelines and operate at reduced capacity.
New restaurant guidelines call for the use of disposable menus and sanitizing chairs and table-top items after each table turn. Self-serve buffets, shared condiments, and beverage station re-use are discouraged.
Lee cited the state's "downward trajectory" for COVID-19 symptoms and economic outlook in calling for businesses to reopen. The state has experienced 8,266 COVID-19 cases and 170 deaths.
Trump signs coronavirus aid bill as tensions rise over next one
President Donald Trump signed a nearly $500 billion interim coronavirus bill on Friday that includes additional money for the small-business loan program, as well as more funding for hospitals and testing.
The bill passed the Senate earlier this week by voice vote and was approved by the House on Thursday on a 388-5-1 bipartisan vote.
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. The program, which quickly ran out of money because of heavy demand, provides forgivable loans to small businesses that keep their employees on the payroll. About $60 billion of the additional PPP funding will be set aside for businesses that do not have established banking relationships, such as rural and minority-owned companies.
The bill also provides $60 billion in loans and grants for the Small Business Administration's disaster relief fund, $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for coronavirus testing, but does not include the additional funding for states and local governments that Democrats had sought.
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Pennsylvania's cases of COVID-19, related deaths rise
Pennsylvania continues to have some of the highest totals of the coronavirus in the nation, with the state health department reporting 1,599 new cases on Friday, bringing the statewide total to 38,652.
The number of deaths increased to 1,492, an additional 71 from the day before, health officials said.
Meanwhile, Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday announced a three-phase plan for the state's economy, with a target date of May 8 for an easing of some orders and restrictions, including allowing certain businesses to reopen. The economic toll on the key swing state has been striking, and some political strategists have suggested that President Donald Trump won't have it easy there in November.
DHS warns health care facilities to guard against possible attacks
In a Friday bulletin to the health-care community, the Department of Homeland Security warned hospitals to be on the alert for potential attacks during the coronavirus outbreak.
“Terrorists and other violent extremists may attempt to exploit the situation or vulnerable individuals may be triggered by stressors to commit disruptive or violent acts targeted at the healthcare community<" said the bulletin. "This is particularly concerning as Healthcare and Public Health Sector continuity-of-operation is paramount to the national response to the pandemic."
Dr. Birx goes viral for reaction to Trump's 'injection' comments
Dr. Deborah Birx is getting her close-up.
Birx, the Trump administration's coronavirus coordinator, was caught on camera in the White House briefing room looking dejected as President Donald Trump floated the idea of light treatments to combat the coronavirus.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says polls will be open for June primary
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said polls will be open for the June 23 primary, but residents will have the option of voting absentee.
"There's only two options: Either people go to the polls or people vote by absentee. There's no other way to do it," he said at a news conference on Friday. "We're saying you have both options."
The governor said all New Yorkers will receive postage-paid applications for an absentee ballot in case they choose not to go to the polls.
Smithfield Foods sued over working conditions in Missouri during coronavirus
Smithfield Foods Inc., the world's largest pork processor, has been 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.
The lawsuit filed Thursday in Missouri federal court claims Smithfield has created a "public nuisance" by providing inadequate protective equipment to workers at the plant in the town of Milan, refusing to give them time to wash their hands and discouraging workers who are ill from taking sick leave.
Workers have also been disciplined for covering their mouths while coughing or sneezing, because it could cause them to miss pieces of meat coming down the processing line, according to the complaint.
Norway's transport minister cuts ceremonial ribbon via video conference
Norway's Minister for Transport Knut Arild Hareide celebrated the completion of a construction project on Wednesday by cutting the ceremonial ribbon via video conference.
Speaking from his office in Oslo over 200 miles away, Hareide ate a slice of celebratory cake before cutting a ribbon that he had taped to his wall to officially open the country's long-awaited Ryfast sub-sea tunnel system.
NYC mayor calls for rent freeze, longer eviction moratorium
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday, a week before many are due to pay rent on the first of the month, that further steps need to be taken to relieve New Yorkers from the financial burden of paying their landlords during and after the coronavirus crisis.
"We need to make sure that every New Yorker can stay in their home during this crisis," de Blasio said during his daily briefing. "We need to keep a roof over everyone’s head."
The mayor called for a rent freeze and state approval to allow tenants to pay their rents with their security deposits, which he has been advocating for in past weeks. He also said he wants state approval to allow tenants who have to miss rent to repay over the span of a year, and for the eviction moratorium to be extended 60 days beyond the end of the crisis.
On March 20, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a 90-day eviction moratorium for residential and commercial tenants.
U.S. deaths tied to COVID-19 top 50,000, according to NBC News tally
The number of deaths in the United States tied to COVID-19 topped 50,000 early Friday, according to a tally compiled by NBC News.
Meanwhile, the total number of cases in the U.S. neared 90,000.
Trump approved of Georgia Gov. Kemp's plan to reopen early before the president bashed it
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence repeatedly told Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp that they approved of his aggressive plan to allow businesses to reopen, just a day before Trump pulled an about-face and publicly bashed the plan, according to two administration officials.
The green light from Pence and Trump came in separate private conversations with the Republican governor both before Kemp announced his plan to ease coronavirus restrictions and after it was unveiled on Monday, the officials said. Trump’s sudden shift came only after top health advisers reviewed the plan more closely and persuaded the president that Kemp was risking further spread of the virus by moving too quickly.
“I told the governor of Georgia Brian Kemp that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities,” Trump said Wednesday, just a day after telling reporters that he trusted Kemp’s judgment. “He knows what’s he’s doing.”
On Thursday, he was even harder on the governor: “I wasn’t happy with Brian Kemp, I wasn’t at all happy.”
White House: Media 'irresponsibly' took Trump's disinfectant comments 'out of context'
The White House claimed Friday morning that the media was mischaracterizing Trump's comments suggesting exploring disinfectants as a possible treatment for coronavirus infections
"President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasized again during yesterday’s briefing," White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement. "Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines."
Trump's comments at his daily news briefing on Thursday came after a Homeland Security official mentioned the ability of disinfectants like bleach to kill the coronavirus on surfaces.
"And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?" Trump said. "Because, you see, it gets on the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it'd be interesting to check that. So that you're going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds — it sounds interesting to me."
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FDA warns against using hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus outside of hospital
The Food and Drug Administration on Friday cautioned against prescribing hydroxychloroquine to COVID-19 patients outside of hospital settings or clinical trials. The drug, an antimalarial, was repeatedly touted by President Donald Trump as a possible treatment for the coronavirus.
"The FDA is aware of reports of serious heart rhythm problems in patients with COVID-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, often in combination with azithromycin," the FDA wrote on its website.
"We are also aware of increased use of these medicines through outpatient prescriptions. Therefore, we would like to remind health care professionals and patients of the known risks associated with both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine," the FDA said.
Facebook ads, conspiracy theorists pushed bleach consumption and UV ray cures
Unfounded and harmful coronavirus treatments — including those that were floated by President Donald Trump — continue to spread online, evading efforts to crack down on misinformation.
Prisoners in Germany to produce face masks
The southern German state of Bavaria announced on Friday that it will involve prisoners in the production of face masks in an effort to continue in curbing the coronavirus.
Officials bought 65 modern high-speed sewing machines on short notice and redesigned existing workplaces in the correctional facilities for mask production, the Bavarian Justice ministry said in a press release.
The plan for the prisoners — who will sew rubber strands onto mask blanks — will create 1.6 million masks per year, the ministry said. Germany is the fifth-worst-hit country in the world, with more than 150,000 reported cases as of Friday.
Photo: Social distancing during Friday prayer
The EPA is reminding people to use disinfectant only on surfaces
The Environmental Protection Agency is reminding people to only use disinfectant on surfaces.
The agency issued the update shortly before President Donald Trump suggested Thursday that it might be helpful to inject disinfectant to combat the coronavirus.
The EPA says, “Never apply the product to yourself or others. Do not ingest disinfectant products.”
The warning comes after Trump said at his daily press briefing on Thursday, "I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning? As you see, it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that."
Bill Gates: Vaccine could come sooner than later, but 'it's going to be awhile before things go back to normal'
Bill Gates, who has been warning for years of a global disease outbreak, said that while many countries have coordinated testing on a national level during the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. has not, and access to tests is "chaotic."
But Gates also said in his interview with Savannah Guthrie that aired on the "TODAY" show Friday that he has recently seen evidence that a hoped-for timeline of 18 to 24 months for a coronavirus vaccine may come to pass. "The best scientists [are] working hard on this," Gates said. "In fact, in the last few weeks I've seen signs that we may get to the optimistic side of that time projection" for a vaccine.
Still, he said, "it's going to be awhile before things go back to normal."
"Many countries decided that at the national level, they would orchestrate the testing" for the virus, he said. "That hasn't happened in the United States. It might not happen. But, you know, the access to tests is just, you know, chaotic."
Outbreak in two of the oldest orthodox monasteries in Ukraine
Two of the oldest orthodox monasteries in Ukraine have reported virus outbreaks, as the country announced it had surpassed 7,500 cases on Friday.
Earlier this week, the Pochayiv Lavra monastery — which is a major center for pilgrimage and has about 600 priests and monks living inside — was closed for quarantine. The town of Pochayiv itself has also been locked down due to worshippers praying in the 500-year-old monastery last Sunday on the Orthodox Easter, local police reported.
There are currently 44 confirmed cases in the monastery, the city’s mayor said on local TV. Ukraine’s Ministry of Health, however, suspects the outbreak is much larger but cannot confirm due to a lack of cooperation from the abbot.
Earlier in the month, a 1,000-year-old monastery complex in the country’s capital of Kyiv was also locked down after 150 people were infected. While the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery had initially criticized the government’s quarantine measures and urged people to continue going to church, it is now holding services behind closed doors.
Cases surge to a record high in the Indian state of Maharashtra
Health authorities said Friday that Maharashtra recorded 778 new cases on Thursday, and 1,680 total cases across the country. This brings the total in India — which has been under lockdown since March 24 — to 22,930 as of Friday. This marked its biggest single-day jump since April 19, a day before India relaxed some lockdown restrictions in a bid to help employ some of the millions of migrant workers who fled cities for their homes villages.
Fearing rampant spread of the disease in the city’s crowded slums, officials in India’s financial capital of Mumbai — the state capital of Maharashtra — are developing a plan to administer doses of the Donald Trump-backed anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic against COVID-19.
Lysol manufacturer warns against internal use after Trump comments
The manufacturer for Lysol, a disinfectant spray and cleaning product, issued a statement warning against any internal use after President Donald Trump suggested that people could get an "injection" of "the disinfectant that knocks (coronavirus) out in a minute."
"As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route)," said a spokesperson for Reckitt Benckiser, the United Kingdom-based owner of Lysol, in a statement to NBC News.
"As with all products, our disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as intended and in line with usage guidelines. Please read the label and safety information," the statement continued, adding that the company believes it has a "responsibility in providing consumers with access to accurate, up-to-date information as advised by leading public health experts."
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Moscow to test all medical personnel for immunity
Around 40 percent of Moscow's healthcare system is now dedicated to combating the coronavirus after the city rapidly refit hospitals to serve as COVID-19 wards, Deputy Mayor Anastasia Rakova said on sate television Friday.
“Doctors, nurses […] everyone is truly working to the limit,” Rakova said on Channel One. She told the Interfax news agency later on Friday that all healthcare personnel working in these hospitals and clinics will receive new rapid immunity tests. The tests were launched last week by a major state lab in Siberia.
While medical professionals are receiving priority for new immunity tests, the deputy mayor also said that all patients in Moscow hospitals will be tested for active coronavirus, and that Moscow labs are now processing more than 18,000 tests per day.
Traffic jams in France after McDonald's reopens some drive-thru locations
Big Mac fans caused traffic jams in France this week after McDonald's reopened dozens of its drive-thru locations in the country.
Amused locals posted incredulous videos on social media of the long lines of traffic to access their local branches. "All that for some McDonald's," wrote one.
Josua Haron, 24, went looking for his usual choice of 20 chicken McNuggets after a McDonald's-branded car announced over loudspeaker the reopening his local drive-thru in Moissy-Crayamel, south of Paris. He went home empty-handed, though, after learning how long it would take to get to the front of the line. "Three hours wait, not for me!" he laughed.
Muslims begin unusual Ramadan amid coronavirus pandemic
A glimmering crescent moon in Thursday's twilight sky, signaled to many of the world's nearly 2 billion Muslims that the holy month of Ramadan had begun. For one month, Muslims from Boston to Baghdad will forgo food, water and sexual relations from dawn to dusk.
The first fasting day of Ramadan will begin for many Muslims on Friday, and some on Saturday due to differences in moon sightings, and is an annual anchor in the Islamic calendar — a time when worshipers increase their prayers and acts of charity. They commune joyfully with family and friends at sunset, when they break the fast at tables laden with spicy dishes and sweet mint tea.
Not this year.
U.S. base in East Africa declares public health emergency
The head of U.S. forces in the Horn of Africa declared a public health emergency for the U.S. personnel under his authority in the Djibouti Base Cluster.
“Combating COVID-19 is my top priority,” Maj. Gen. Michael Turello said in a statement on Thursday, adding the emergency would last for 30 days.
The declaration applies to all U.S. service members, Defense Department civilians and contractors under his authority at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, the primary base of operations for the U.S. Africa Command in the Horn of Africa. The camp houses approximately 4,000 U.S. and allied forces military personnel and civilians, as well as about 1,000 local workers.
The small East Africa country has reported nearly 1,000 virus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Japan shames 'pachinko' gambling parlors that refuse to shutdown
As stores have closed across Japan during a state of emergency, gambling halls known as pachinko parlors remain open, causing concern that they could undermine the government's fight against the virus.
The halls, where players sit back-to-back at long rows of machines amid the jangle of bouncing steel balls and garish flashing lights, are a fixture on many Japanese streets and are popular with young people, the underemployed and hardcore gamblers, according to Reuters. Japan imposed the state of emergency last week though restrictions are non-compulsory.
On Friday, the governor of Osaka prefecture publicly revealed the names of six pachinko parlors that have not followed requests to shut down in an attempt to stop people from visiting the shops. The governor of the capital city Tokyo also expressed concern on Friday, saying “41 pachinko parlors are still open despite our request to close their business temporarily,” in a press conference.
Doctors report uptick in surprising coronavirus complication: dangerous blood clots
Three weeks ago, critical care pulmonologist Hugh Cassiere encountered something he hadn't seen in 24 years of practicing medicine.
A 45-year-old man arrived at the hospital where Cassiere works, North Shore University Hospital on Long Island, New York, with fever and severe fatigue — well-known symptoms of the coronavirus — and went on to test positive for it.
But then the man developed a complication not usually associated with respiratory viruses: a blood clot in his leg that was so dangerous that doctors were forced to remove the leg below his knee. The development was totally unexpected, Cassiere said, and he isn't the only doctor who has noticed unusual clotting in patients with COVID-19.
No new cases for 20 consecutive days in China's Hubei province
The current number of confirmed cases in the Hubei province in China — the original epicenter of the coronavirus — fell below 50 for the first time on Friday. There have been no new confirmed or suspected cases for 20 consecutive days in the province, according to China’s National Health Commission.
Also on Friday, China reported no new COVID-19 deaths for the ninth straight day, and just six new cases of the virus.
Photo: Viewing of Korean War veteran who died of the coronavirus disease
NFL Draft to return to Las Vegas in 2022
The National Football League will hold he 2022 draft in Las Vegas, after this year's public events scheduled for that city were scrubbed due to the coronavirus epidemic.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who made announcements in Thursday's draft from his basement, said in a statement that he believes the 2022 draft in Vegas will be "an even bigger and better event than we could have ever imagined this year."
The site of the 2021 draft has already been chosen, Cleveland.