WASHINGTON — This article contains ongoing U.S. and international updates on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects. Here are some key updates for Saturday, April 25, 2020. You can find more details by scrolling through the story.
- NBA facilities will begin to reopen Friday
- Naval destroyer USS Kidd reports rise in virus cases to 33
- South Korea reports only 10 new cases and no new deaths
- China reports no new deaths for 10th straight day
- White House could alter briefings to limit President Trump's role
There were just under 934,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of Saturday at 7:00 p.m., according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 53,000 deaths in the U.S., with 99,000 recoveries and over 5.1 million tests conducted nationwide.
Worldwide, there have been over 2.8 million cases, and more than 202,000 people have died.
For most, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.
President questions holding daily briefings
President Donald Trump says his press briefings are “not worth the time & effort” as his administration prepares to adjust his public presence amid the coronavirus pandemic toward addressing the nation’s economic woes.
Tweeting on Saturday, one of the few days in which he has not held a daily briefing since the start of the outbreak, Trump says: “What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately.”
The president’s tweet comes two days after he used a briefing to muse about the injection of chemical disinfectants, drawing warnings from manufacturers and the nation’s top medical professionals. The White House claimed Friday that Trump was misinterpreted, though the president later asserted he was speaking “sarcastically.”
His tweet questioning the value of press briefings also comes as White House aides are developing plans to shift the president’s public emphasis from the virus to addressing the economic crisis it has caused and the government’s plans for reopening the economy.
Potbelly Sandwich Shop latest big company to return PPP money
Potbelly Sandwich Shop is the latest large company to say it will return money it received as part of the Payroll Protection Program.
The company said Saturday that its sales dropped dramatically when COVID-19 hit, forcing it to furlough employees and close shops. Potbelly applied for and qualified for assistance under the program.
“We were surprised and disappointed when the fund was quickly exhausted, leaving many without help,” the company said in a news release. “We are returning the PPP loan after further clarification from the Treasury Department.”
The Chicago-based sandwich shop has about 6,000 employees and annual revenues of more than $400 million, according to FactSet.
The PPP is intended to help small businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Its initial $349 billion in funds ran out last week and the House gave final approval to $310 billion in additional funds Thursday.
NBA facilities will begin to reopen Friday
A person with knowledge of the situation says NBA players will be allowed to return to team training facilities starting Friday, provided that their local governments do not have a stay-at-home order prohibiting such movement.
Any workouts that take place would be voluntary and individual sessions only, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the directives from the league were not released publicly.
Group practices would not be allowed yet, and teams will not yet be permitted to organize in-person workouts.
The NBA’s move is not a sign that a return to play is imminent. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said on several occasions that the league does not anticipate being able to decide until sometime in May — at the earliest — if a resumption of the season is possible.
Naval destroyer USS Kidd reports rise in virus cases to 33
The Navy reports that the number of sailors aboard the USS Kidd confirmed to be infected with the novel coronavirus has nearly doubled, rising from 18 on Friday to 33.
The destroyer with its crew of 350 are off the Pacific coast of South America. Its current mission is related to U.S. counter-drug activities. In a statement issued Saturday, the Navy said an embarked medical team continues testing of the Kidd’s crew. Two sailors have been medically evacuated to the United States. Meanwhile, officials say those aboard the Kidd are wearing N95 masks and other personal protective equipment.
The Navy says the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island is en route to rendezvous with Kidd in case medical support is required at sea. Officials say the Makin Island has a fleet surgical team, intensive care capacity and ventilators as well as additional testing capability.
Governor says New Jersey virus deaths now top WWI, Korea, Vietnam wars combined
Authorities in New Jersey are reporting another 249 deaths associated with the coronavirus outbreak, bringing the state's total to 5,863 lives lost in the pandemic. Gov. Phil Murphy on Saturday called it “an extraordinary loss of life by any measure.”
“Just to put that in perspective ... that is more than the lives lost from New Jersey in World War I, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined," the governor said.
Murphy also announced another 3,457 cases, bringing the total number of cases to 105,523, and called on residents to redouble their efforts to stem the spread of the disease.
“This is up to us and us alone,” the governor said. “The 5,863 who we have lost must be our inspiration so we do not lose another 5,863.”
Britain, Italy, Spain and France all surpass 20,000 virus deaths
Britain’s confirmed tally of hospital deaths among people with the coronavirus has topped 20,000, making it the fifth country to reach the grim milestone.
The government says 20,319 people with COVID-19 have died in British hospitals, an increase of 813 from the day before. The figure doesn’t include deaths in nursing homes, which are likely to number in the thousands.
Britain is the fourth European country after Italy, Spain and France to reach 20,000 deaths. The United States has recorded more than 50,000 coronavirus fatalities.
There are signs the U.K. outbreak has peaked, with the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus declining. But the government says it is too soon to ease a nationwide lockdown imposed on March 23 and extended to May 7.
Still, some businesses are planning to reopen after implementing social distancing measures. Several automakers say they will restart production in May.
India announces easing of lockdown restrictions
India announces easing of a stringent lockdown for 1.3 billion people by allowing opening of neighborhood and standalone shops with restrictions such as 50% of workers with face masks and social distancing.
A home ministry statement issued late Friday says that shops in single and multi-brand malls would not be allowed to open anywhere in the country.
The relaxation also would not be applicable in hundreds of hotspots and containment zones across the country. India has so far reported more than 18,600 positive new coronavirus cases and 775 deaths. The worst-hit states are Maharashtra with 6,817 positive cases, Gujarat with 3,815 cases, New Delhi 2,514 and Rajasthan 2,034 cases.
India imposed a lockdown for its 1.3 billion people on March 25 and it is due to end on May 3. Last week, the government allowed resumption of manufacturing and farming activities in rural areas as millions of daily wage-earners were left without work.
The Home Ministry said the rise in number of positive cases in India is linear, not exponential.
South Korea reports just 10 new cases
South Korea has reported 10 fresh cases of the new coronavirus, the eighth day in a row its daily jump came below 20, as its outbreak slows amid tightened border controls and waning infections in the worst-hit city of Daegu.
The country also on Saturday reported no new deaths for the second straight day. The figures released from South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday brought national totals to 10,718 cases and 240 deaths.
While a slowing caseload has allowed South Korea to relax its social distancing guidelines over the past week, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun raised concern over possible transmissions by “quiet spreaders” and instructed officials to conduct antibody tests in Daegu and nearby towns to learn how widespread the coronavirus is.
Chung also called for stronger financial tools to ease the epidemic’s economic shock, which has caused severe cashflow problems for airlines while also hurting major exporters such as carmakers and shipbuilders.
The government is looking to create a 40 trillion won ($32 billion) fund through bonds issued by state-run banks to protect jobs in key industries, but the plan needs parliamentary approval.
South Korea’s economy shrank 1.4% during the first three months of the year, the worst contraction since late-2008, as the pandemic hit both domestic consumption and exports.
China reports no new deaths for 10th day in a row
For the 10th straight day, China reported no new deaths from the coronavirus.
Twelve new cases were reported on Saturday, 11 of them brought from overseas and one local transmission in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang bordering on Russia, according to the National Health Commission.
Just 838 people remain hospitalized with COVID-19 while another 1,000 people are undergoing isolation and monitoring for being either suspected cases or having tested positive for the virus while showing no symptoms.
China, widely believed to be the source of the global pandemic, has reported a total of 4,632 deaths among 82,816 cases.
Florida governor plans to let pharmacists administer tests
Florida’s governor says his administration plans to let pharmacists administer tests for the new coronavirus to expand availability of testing for the general public.
Gov. Ron DeSantis says the state surgeon general would authorize pharmacists under emergency regulations, but he did not elaborate or say when this kind of testing might be rolled out.
Residents can seek testing through their doctors and private clinics, or go to one of the state’s seven drive-through and six walk-up sites — if they meet certain criteria. The conditions vary, with some sites focused on front-line responders, the elderly or people already showing some symptoms of COVID-19.
Pharmacy test sites would be part of efforts to expand testing to broader categories of people, including those with no symptoms but who believe they may have been exposed, DeSantis said.
Disinfectant riff is latest of many Trump science clashes
President Trump's comment about injecting disinfectant to fight coronavirus is just the latest in a long list of comments and actions that run contrary to mainstream science.
He's gone against scientific and medical advice by staring at an eclipse without protection, calling climate change a hoax and saying wind turbines cause cancer. He has produced marker-altered maps to back up errant claims about a hurricane's threat. And now some of the treatments he mentions for coronavirus have gone against established medical advice. One scientist who has advised Republican and Democratic administrations said he'd give Trump an “F” if the president were his student.
White House could alter briefings to limit president's role
President Trump cut off a coronavirus task force briefing for the first time without taking any questions from reporters. It may not be the last time, however. There have been discussions within the White House about changing the format of the briefings to curtail the president's role.
The briefings have become nightly staples and often stretch an hour or more and feature combative exchanges between Trump and reporters. Trump was angry after a day of punishing headlines Friday, largely about his comment at the previous evening’s briefing wondering if it would be helpful to inject disinfectant into people to fight the coronavirus.