U.S. Cases Increase 2.5%, Slowest Pace This Month: Virus Update
Pharmacists stand at a drive-up Rite Aid Corp. Covid-19 testing facility in Toms River, New Jersey, U.S. (Photographer: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg)

U.S. Cases Increase 2.5%, Slowest Pace This Month: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. cases rose at the slowest pace in three weeks and Texas infections increased for a third day. California reported the most fatalities in one 24-hour period. New York’s hospitalizations were relatively flat, which Governor Andrew Cuomo said “is not great news.”

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a $484 billion coronavirus aid package with only 5 votes against it, replenishing funding to aid small businesses and provide support for hospitals and virus testing.

Spain reported the greatest number of new cases and fatalities in almost a week, while Italy saw recoveries from the coronavirus overtake new infections for the first time. The U.K. will survey 20,000 households to track the spread of the virus.

Key Developments

  • Virus Tracker: Cases top 2.6 million; deaths exceed 188,000
  • Trump signs executive order suspending immigration
  • Mexico sees first daily rise of 1,000 new cases
  • Six vaccines in human trials stage, WHO says
  • Coronavirus leading to Europe’s highest deaths in decades
  • Temperature checks, constant anxiety in pandemic’s city zero
  • Slow pace of U.K. rescue loans sparks ire

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U.S. Cases Increase 2.5%, Slowest Pace This Month: Virus Update

Trump May Extend Social-Distancing Guidelines to Summer (7 am HK)

Social distancing guidelines will be extended until “we feel safe,” President Donald Trump said at the daily White House coronavirus briefing.

Japan, South Korea See Rising Cases (6:40 a.m. HK)

The number of confirmed cases in Japan rose to 11,950 from 11,512 one day ago. Deaths rose to 299 from 281, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News.

South Korea recorded 10,702 new confirmed cases, up from 10,694 one day ago. Deaths slightly rose as well, to 240 from 238.

Amtrak Ridership Down 95% (5:45 p.m. NY)

Amtrak’s ridership has all but disappeared because of the coronavirus, dashing the company’s hopes of breaking even on an operating basis for the first time in its nearly 40-year history, the railroad’s chairman said Thursday.

Ridership is down about 95%, and the passenger railroad stands to lose more than $700 million on an adjusted operating basis, or possibly more, in the current fiscal year, Chairman Tony Coscia told reporters. The metric is Amtrak’s preferred method of evaluating operations, and excludes depreciation and other expenses.

The company has implemented cost controls and taken other steps to adjust. On trains that are operating, Amtrak is capping bookings in coach and business class cars at no more than 50% of available seats to ensure passengers can maintain social distancing, said William Flynn, the former chief executive officer of Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc. who assumed the top role at Amtrak on April 15, taking over for CEO Richard Anderson.

House Creates Virus Spending Panel (5:05 p.m NY)

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 212-182 to create a special panel to oversee the distribution of coronavirus relief funds. Majority Whip Jim Clyburn will chair the committee.

Voting took almost an hour and a half because it had to be carried out with carefully choreographed movement and spacing of lawmakers to guard against spreading any infection. House members entered the chamber in groups of 60, and most took the advice of the sergeant at arms to wear surgical-style masks or other face coverings.

Baseball School Worst-Hit in Venezuelan Outbreak (4:50 p.m. NY)

A baseball academy that recently produced prospects for U.S. teams including the Yankees and the White Sox is ground zero for the most intense outbreak in Venezuela.

The disease took hold after two players from the Roberto Vahlis Academy on Margarita Island returned from the Dominican Republic last month, unaware that they were infected, according to the government.

Margarita, known for beach vacations and kite surfing, now accounts for about a quarter of Venezuela’s confirmed cases and the highest number of infections outside Caracas. Seventy of Venezuela’s 298 confirmed cases of the disease are directly connected to the academy, according to the government.

The government of President Nicolas Maduro responded by arresting two of the academy’s managers, a coach and a doctor. Epidemiologist Carmen Hernandez, who works for the opposition-led state government, was also detained. They were all accused of refusing to provide information on the victims’ health status to the government.

Gilead Falls on Leaked Virus Drug Trial Data (4:45 p.m. NY)

Gilead Sciences Inc. shares were whipsawed for the second time in a week after a summary of a Chinese trial of its Covid-19 drug appeared to show that it was a failure.

The synopsis, which the company and a scientist working on the trial said didn’t fairly represent the actual results, saw Gilead’s shares closed down 4.3% to $77.78 on Thursday in New York. The drug, remdesivir, is one of the most closely-watched therapies of the dozens being developed and tested as a potential treatment for Covid-19 patients. The World Health Organization, which has been helping coordinate the global response to the virus, said it accidentally posted the results on a website that helps track therapies for the disease.

The summary was quickly removed, but details of the post were reported by the Financial Times and posted by the publication Stat. They showed that the drug wasn’t associated with patients getting better more quickly; and 13.9% of patients getting the drug died, versus 12.8% getting standard care.

Brazil Deaths Rise (4:20 p.m. NY)

Brazil has 3,313 deaths confirmed by the novel coronavirus, there were 2,906 on April 22, according to the Health Ministry press office. Confirmed cases jumped to 49,492 from 45,757 on Wednesday. Sao Paulo state has 16,740 confirmed cases and 1,345 deaths, the ministry said.

U.S. Cases Rise at Slowest Pace This Month (4 p.m. NY)

U.S. cases rose 2.5% from the day before to 856,209, the lowest daily increase this month, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That was lower than Wednesday’s rate of 3.1% and below the average daily increase of 4.1% over the past week.

  • New York’s cases rose 2.5% to 269,756, according to the Johns Hopkins and Bloomberg News data. Deaths rose 1.7% to 19,551.
  • New Jersey expects to exceed 100,000 cases coronavirus on Friday, Governor Phil Murphy said. The state reported 4,247 new positive results, for a total of 99,989.
  • Texas reported its third-straight increase in the number of daily cases, with an additional 875 sickened residents, bringing the total to 21,944, according to the state’s health services department. Another 18 people died, bringing total fatalities to 561.
  • Florida reported 28,832 cases, up 1.8% from Wednesday. Deaths among reached 960, an increase of 7.5%, according to Governor Ron DeSantis.
  • Illinois reported 1,826 new cases, a drop from 2,049 on Wednesday, bringing the total to 36,934, according to the state’s health department. The state registered 123 deaths, the most since April 18, pushing the total to 1,688.

California Reports Deadliest Day (3:26 p.m NY)

California reported its deadliest day, with 115 fatalities, Governor Gavin Newsom said Thursday. Still, he said there’s been stabilization in the outbreak, as hospitalizations dropped 4.4% and intensive-care numbers fell 1.2%.

N.J. Speeds Up Test Results (2:30 p.m. NY)

New Jersey reported quicker test results and a drop in ventilator use as cases neared 100,000. The state has 4,247 positive results, pushing the total to 99,989. There were 307 more deaths, for a total of 5,368.

Governor Phil Murphy said test results now take five to seven days, rather than as long as 14 days, but that the capacity needs to double to prevent future cases from becoming “boomerang outbreaks.”

“I am not in a position yet to begin reopening our state,” Murphy said Thursday at a press briefing.

Texas Cases Rise for Third Straight Day (2 p.m. NY)

Texas reported its third-straight increase in the daily number of new Covid-19 cases, with an additional 875 sickened residents, bringing the total to 21,944. Another 18 people died, bringing total fatalities to 561.

The rise comes as the number of daily virus tests reported has fallen this week, despite assurances from Governor Greg Abbott that the state has expanded its testing capabilities. The Texas health department reported an additional 8,295 tests Thursday, down from 15,005 on Monday. So far ,225,078 tests have been recorded in Texas, or less than 1% of its estimated 30 million population.

Study Finds 14% of New Yorkers Had Signs (12:35 p.m. NY)

A New York state-led study seeking to learn how many people have been infected found that 13.9% of those tested had signs of the virus, in one of the biggest U.S. reviews to date.

In New York City, the hardest-hit area in the U.S., 21.2% tested positive for a blood marker showing that they had been infected at some point. Statewide, 2.7 million people may have has Covid-19, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

New York has reported 15,500 deaths. If 2.7 million people have been infected, that would put the fatality rate at around 0.6%.

Italy’s Recoveries Surpass New Cases (12:15 p.m. NY)

Italy’s number of recoveries from Covid-19 overtook new infections for the first time on Thursday, a sign that a nationwide lockdown is significantly checking the disease.

Figures from civil protection authorities showed 2,646 new cases for the 24-hour period, down from 3,370 a day earlier. The number of recovered patients was 3,033. Italy registered 464 deaths Thursday, compared with 437 the day before. Total fatalities are 25,549. Confirmed cases total 189,973.

U.S. Says Aid Seekers Must Certify Need (12:12 p.m. NY)

The U.S. Treasury released guidance Thursday that emphasizes companies seeking aid under a government program must certify the relief during the outbreak is needed, a bid to limit applications from large firms with other funding options.

The guidance emphasizes that companies must assess their economic need for a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program, and “certify in good faith that their PPP loan request is necessary.” Companies that want to return money they’ve already accepted can do so by May 7 without penalty, the guidance said.

States, City Urges Telework Extension (12:10 p.m. NY)

Governors Larry Hogan of Maryland and Ralph Northam of Virginia and Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser asked the U.S. government to maintain work-at-home policies for estimated 360,000 federal workers in the capital region. The leaders, in a letter, said telework needed to continue as local officials fought Covid-19. The Trump administration this week issued guidance for agencies to call back workers as the White House seeks to reopen the economy.

N.Y. Hospitalization Rate Flat (11:51 a.m. NY)

U.S. Cases Increase 2.5%, Slowest Pace This Month: Virus Update

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the number of new Covid-19 patients needing hospitalization has been “remarkably flat” at about 1,300 a day. It’s better than an increase, he said at his daily briefing in Albany Thursday, but still “not great news.” New York reported 438 new deaths, down from more than 700 a day a few weeks ago.

Florida Cases Rise 1.8%; Reopening Eyed (11:36 a.m. NY)

Florida reported 28,832 Covid-19 cases on Thursday, up 1.8% from a day earlier. Deaths among Florida residents reached 960, an increase of 7.5%.

Governor Ron DeSantis’s Re-Open Florida Task Force was meeting Thursday for the fourth day, weighing when and how to restart the economy. DeSantis is expected to personally participate in a live-streamed meeting of the group at 3 p.m. local time.

Lagarde Warns GDP Could Fall 15% (10 a.m. NY)

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde told the EU’s leaders that the bloc’s gross domestic product could fall by as much as 15% and that they’ve done too little, too late, according to two people familiar with the remarks.

Lagarde spoke during a video conference meeting of the 27 European Union leaders, who are discussing how to mitigate the economic fallout of the global pandemic. The people asked not to be identified because the summit is private.

Siemens Develops 14-Minute Antibody Test (9:38 a.m. NY)

Siemens Healthineers AG has developed an antibody test that can tell in 14 minutes whether someone was infected with the virus. The test is more than 99% accurate and will be available by late May, the former Siemens AG subsidiary said in a statement. It plans to produce 25 million tests a month by June.

Lilly CEO Sees Long-Term Negative Impact (9:33 a.m. NY)

Eli Lilly & Co. Chief Executive Officer David Ricks said the pandemic is expected to have a long-term negative impact on the company, potentially leading to a decrease in new prescriptions, de-stocking of medicines in future quarters as patients seek to fill additional prescriptions now, and pricing pressures. The company’s first-quarter results pointed to near-term benefits from the pandemic.

Earlier, Daimler AG threw out a forecast made two months ago that estimated significantly higher profit this year while Renault SA said it’s still not possible to assess the virus’s impact. Volvo AB said it can no longer give reliable estimates for truck markets after registrations plunged in Europe and North America.

Consumer giant Unilever also withdrew its financial guidance for the year. It said cleaning supply sales were surging, helping to offset lost revenue from its out-of-home ice cream brands. Luxury handbag maker Hermes International had reason to be hopeful, reopening all of its mainland China stores as it prepares for customers to exit lockdowns.

For more on European earnings, click here.

EMA Warns of Heart Risk From Malaria Drug Combination (9:30 a.m. NY)

Europe’s health regulator warned of exacerbated heart risks from the combination of an old malaria medicine with an antibiotic, a treatment regimen for Covid-19 that was endorsed by Trump. Hydroxychloroquine and an older cousin called chloroquine can cause heart-rhythm problems and the antibiotic azithromycin has a similar effect on the heart, according to the European Medicines Agency.

France to Lift Lockdown Case by Case (9:28 a.m. NY)

France will lift its lockdown countrywide on a case-by-case basis, rather than region by region, an official at the president’s office said. President Emmanuel Macron told mayors on Thursday that the end of the lockdown will happen within a “national framework” that can be adapted locally, depending on health conditions and public transport, the official said.

One Hundred USDA Inspectors Test Positive (9:06 a.m. NY)

One hundred U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors have tested positive for the coronavirus as the illness ravages the nation’s meat-processing plants.

The workers are part of the Food Safety and Inspection Service, a spokesperson for the agency confirmed Thursday. The USDA is taking measures to supply masks to workers, though they currently may need to find them on their own.

U.S. Cases Increase 2.5%, Slowest Pace This Month: Virus Update

Swiss Economy Set for Biggest Contraction in Decades (9 a.m. NY)

Swiss economic momentum is expected to slump 6.7% this year and recover only slowly in 2021, according to the government. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs in Bern slashed its forecast on Thursday.

German Minister Says Summer Travel May Not Happen (7:45 a.m. NY)

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier cautioned that summer vacation travel may have to be canceled.

“Every citizen must realize that nobody can guarantee that a trip that’s been booked can actually happen,” Altmaier said Thursday in an interview with the Bild newspaper. “We don’t know how the crisis will develop in other countries.”

Blackstone Sees Asset Values Plunge (7:04 a.m. NY)

Blackstone Group Inc. saw asset values across most of its business segments plunge in the first quarter because of the economic fallout from the coronavirus. Reflecting the speed of the turmoil caused by the pandemic, the declines come just months after private equity managers said they were struggling to do deals because prices were too high. Despite the declines, which mirrored the fall in public markets, the firm’s leadership struck a bullish tone.

“We built a business that’s designed to ride through a difficult environment,” Jonathan Gray, president of the firm, said in an interview. “Blackstone ultimately emerged much stronger coming out of the ’08 financial crisis.” Blackstone’s private equity group suffered the largest drop in the quarter, with assets falling 22%. About half of that was caused by the sell-off in energy markets.

Italy Manufacturing Sectors to Restart First (6:50 a.m. NY)

Companies in Italy’s manufacturing, automotive and construction industries will be the first to restart activities, as the government on May 4 begins gradually lifting a nationwide lockdown, Deputy Health Minister Pierpaolo Sileri said.

“From May 4, the manufacturing, auto, fashion and design sectors -- along with many others including construction -- will reopen, but only if they guarantee social distancing and protection measures,” said Sileri, who tested positive for the virus last month and has since recovered.

Italy’s government expects its budget deficit to spiral to 10.4% of gross domestic product this year as the economy, paralyzed by a nationwide lockdown, is seen shrinking by 8%. The government is set to request parliamentary approval for broadening the budget deficit by $59.4 billion to fund a new stimulus package.

U.S. Cases Increase 2.5%, Slowest Pace This Month: Virus Update

Australia Urges Scrutiny of Wet Markets (6 a.m. NY)

Australia used a virtual meeting of G-20 agriculture ministers to call for scrutiny of wildlife wet markets, calling them a risk to biosecurity and human health -- a move that may exacerbate tensions with China. Though the minister did not single out China in the statement, the call could be perceived as criticism of Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus, which is thought to have originated in a wet market in Wuhan where non-traditional animals were suspected of being sold for food.

Since then, China has banned its wildlife meat trade. Still, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said America is calling for China to “permanently close its wildlife wet markets” and urged “ASEAN governments to do the same.”

Beijing said it doesn’t have so-called wildlife wet markets. “There is no such concept as the wet market in China,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said. “The common ones are agricultural markets and live poultry and seafood markets. Such markets exist not only in China, but also in some Southeast Asian countries and a large number of developing countries.” International law does not restrict their operation, Geng said.

U.S. Cases Increase 2.5%, Slowest Pace This Month: Virus Update

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