U.S. Covid-19 Cases Rise 2.4%, Deaths Top 75,000: Virus Update
A medical worker wearing personal protective equipment in the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, U.K. (Photographer: Neil Hall/EPA/Bloomberg)

U.S. Covid-19 Cases Rise 2.4%, Deaths Top 75,000: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) -- Moderna surged the most in more than two weeks after the company said its experimental vaccine would be in late-stage studies by early summer. Japan approved Gilead’s remdesivir to treat the novel coronavirus. U.S. cases rose 2.4%, matching the one-week average.

The White House is seeking revisions to a rejected Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plan to help local health authorities reopen businesses, according to reports. A U.S. agency withdrew approval for N-95 masks from China.

The National Institutes of Health fears the loss of funded research as laboratories remain shut. The Bank of England may expand stimulus to help the economy amid an outlook for a 14% slump that could be the worst in Europe.

Key Developments

  • Virus Tracker: cases pass 3.8 million; deaths top 267,000
  • Many states fall short of White House reopening criteria
  • China exports unexpectedly rise; France, Germany output hit
  • Taiwan’s China networks gave it a head start on the pandemic
  • U.S. health insurers offer discounts to customers hit by virus
  • Cold, crowded, deadly: virus stalks workers at U.S. meat plants
  • For some JPMorgan staff, remote work may become permanent

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus. See this QuickTake on unanswered questions about the virus.

U.S. Covid-19 Cases Rise 2.4%, Deaths Top 75,000: Virus Update

Disney to Reopen Some Florida Spots in May (6:13 a.m. HK)

Walt Disney Co. will open a limited numbers of shops and restaurants in the Disney Springs mall outside its resorts in Orlando, Florida, on May 20, part of a phased reopening in the theme-park capital of the world.

The properties reopening will be those managed by third parties, the company said in a blog post Thursday. Disney’s theme parks, which closed in mid-March, will remain shuttered.

The shops and restaurants will open with enhanced cleaning and limits on capacity. Guests and staff will be required to wear masks. Under orders from Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida began a first-phase reopening of stores and other businesses this week. Theme parks aren’t expected to reopen until phase two, on a date yet to be established.

Shanghai Disneyland, the first resort the company closed, is scheduled to reopen on May 11 with fewer than 30% of its 80,000 person a day capacity allowed in by reservation only.

California Outlines Partial Reopening Guidance (5:08 p.m. NY)

California issued guidelines for how shops, construction sites and factories can begin to reopen this weekend, although the steps outlined fall well short of business as usual in the most populous U.S. state.

Retail establishments, for example, will be encouraged to do curb-side delivery in an effort to keep shoppers from coming into close contact. Some California stores have quietly done so already, despite the state’s stay-home orders. Dine-in restaurants, shopping malls and offices will remain shut, although Governor Gavin Newsom has said some areas that can meet state criteria can work with health officials to further relax rules.

“We’re trying to include enough flexibility in these sectors that will allow for some variation,” Newsom said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has said his city will let stores open Friday using the new state guidelines. San Francisco Mayor London Breed said she’ll allow curbside pickup as soon as May 18. Other counties in the San Francisco Bay Area have more restrictive orders that keep most non-essential businesses closed through the end of the month.

Trump Touts Texas as Reopening Model (4:50 p.m. NY)

President Donald Trump hosted Texas Governor Greg Abbott at the White House on Thursday, promoting the Lone Star State for following his call to reopen the economy even as the U.S. continues to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

“Texas has been phenomenal, and Texas is opening up and a lot of places are opening up,” Trump said, sitting beside Abbott in the Oval Office. “I’m not sure that we have a choice. I think we have to do it. You know, this country can’t stay closed and locked down for years.”

Texas has met some of the criteria, but cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, are still increasing in the state. Abbott, a Republican and outspoken Trump supporter, ordered a phased reopening of the state’s economy last week that would allow restaurants, retail stores, malls and theaters to resume business at 25% capacity as of May 1. He said his policy would override local shut-down orders that had been in place since March.

His move has drawn backlash from some local leaders and businesses, including movie theater chains that have said they won’t reopen, amid questions about whether Texas risks a resurgence of the outbreak.

Uber Ridership Down for First Time (4:35 p.m. NY)

Uber Technologies Inc. said quarterly bookings from ride-hailing customers declined for the first time ever, a sign that the coronavirus is arresting growth of businesses that have only gone in one direction.

One bright spot was food delivery, which helped offset the drop in rides. Homebound customers drove a 52% increase in food delivery gross bookings to $4.68 billion in the first quarter. Gross bookings from rides, a measure of the total value of fares that’s closely watched by investors, dropped 5% to $10.9 billion. A year earlier, growth was more than 20%.

“While our rides business has been hit hard by the ongoing pandemic, we have taken quick action to preserve the strength of our balance sheet,” Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement. “Along with with the surge in food delivery, we are encouraged by the early signs we are seeing in markets that are beginning to open back up.”

U.S. Cases Rise 2.4%; Deaths Top 75,000 (4 p.m. NY)

U.S. cases rose 2.4% from the day before to 1.25 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That was above Wednesday’s growth rate of 1.9% and matched the average daily increase of 2.4% over the past week. Deaths rose 3.9% to 75,054.

  • New York reported 3,491 new cases, bringing the total to 327,469, according to the state’s website.
  • Texas cases rose 2.8% to 35,390, a slower rate than the 3.7% daily increase in testing, according to the state’s health department. Deaths rose by 2.6% to 973.
  • Florida reported 38,828 cases, up 2.2% from a day earlier, according to the state health department. Deaths reached 1,600, an increase of 4%.
  • Alabama cases rose to 8,699 from 8,532 the day before, according to the state health department.

FDA Pulls Approval of Chinese Masks (2:53 p.m. NY)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reversed a decision to allow the emergency use of dozens of N-95 face masks made in China, after government testing found many didn’t work properly.

The agency had authorized use of the masks to help address shortages of personal protective equipment, on the condition that their effectiveness was verified by independent testing labs. That policy, put in place April 3, is being reversed based on testing by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that found many of the masks failed to meet filtration standards.

Dow Jones earlier reported that the FDA was pulling the authorization.

South Africa Cases Increase 9% (2:45 p.m. NY)

A record 660 new infections were diagnosed in South Africa, bringing the total to 8,232, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said. The rise in cases coincided with an increase in testing and a relaxation of lockdown rules that let some categories of employees return to work. The number of deaths climbed by eight to 161, Mkhize said.

Amtrak Passengers to Wear Masks (2:05 p.m. NY)

Amtrak passengers will need to wear face coverings at stations and in coaches starting Monday as part of the railroad’s program to combat the outbreak and protect its employees. The coverings can be removed when passengers eat in designated areas, in private rooms, or while seated alone or with a travel companion in their own pair of seats, Amtrak said. Small children who are unable to maintain a facial covering are exempt.

Trump-Touted Treatment Fails in Study (2 p.m. NY)

A malaria drug that was touted by President Donald Trump and widely used as a potential treatment for patients with Covid-19 failed to help those with infections stay off ventilators or live longer, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City evaluated 1,376 consecutive patients who showed up at the emergency room with symptoms of coronavirus, comparing the fate of those who received the medication, hydroxychloroquine, to those who didn’t. Nearly 60% of the patients were given the drug, typically within 48 hours, and they were more sick on average.

There were no significant differences between the groups in the number of patients who needed to be put on a ventilator or who died, even after taking into account the differences between them, the researchers said. Additional study, including more scientifically rigorous trials that randomly assign patients to treatment groups, is needed to confirm the findings, they said.

The results shouldn’t be used to rule out either a potential benefit or harm from the drug, though they don’t support use of the medication outside of clinical trials, the researchers said. The medical center updated its clinical guidance to remove the suggestion that patients with Covid-19 should receive it.

N.J. Deploying Guard Units to Nursing Homes (1:43 p.m. NY)

New Jersey is sending National Guard units to overburdened nursing homes in the state, Governor Phil Murphy said Thursday.

More than 120 Guardsmen will fill non-clinical roles at the facilities, which account for half the state’s Covid-19 fatalities. New Jersey’s death toll from the pandemic has risen to 8,801, with 133,635 total cases.

New Jersey had fewer than 1,500 intensive- and critical-care patients for the first time since April 4, Murphy said at a news conference. Hospitalizations have dropped 40% from their peak, he said, but “we still have far too many of our fellow New Jerseyans in the hospital.”

“The great news is 460 people got out of the hospital,” Murphy said of the latest discharges over 24 hours. But 325 patients were admitted, evidence that it’s crucial to continue social distancing. “We cannot lull ourselves into thinking all is well,” he said.

Denmark Reaches Pact on Reopening (1:30 p.m. NY)

Denmark’s government agreed with parliament on a plan for the continued relaxation of a lockdown in place since mid-March.

Retailers will be allowed to resume normal business on May 11, with cafes, restaurants and schools for older children set to open a week later, the government said in a statement Thursday.

The measures follow an initial easing of restrictions on movement last month, after Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said a decision to impose a lockdown early on helped Denmark contain the outbreak.

Norway Sets June Target (12:45 p.m. NY)

Norway will gradually open up as much as possible by mid-June, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Thursday.

Gatherings of as many as 50 people will be allowed immediately as long as people remain 1 meter (3 feet) apart, while middle and high schools will open Monday, following lower grades and kindergartens. Bars can open June 1, and events with up to 200 people will be possible from June 15 -- and soccer games from June 16.

Norway has almost 8,000 confirmed cases and 209 deaths, and the spread has slowed over the past weeks.

NIH-Funded Research at Risk (12:25 p.m. NY)

Billions in medical research funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health could be lost because staff and scientists are unable to get into laboratories closed during the outbreak.

“The estimates are something like $10 billion in NIH research is going to disappear because of the way this virus has affected everybody, requiring this kind of distancing and sending everybody home,” NIH Director Francis Collins told a Senate committee on Thursday. Collins was answering Senator Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, who asked about plans for halted research. Collins said the lost science “is a heartache” but didn’t outline a plan.

NIH invests about $32 billion a year to support universities and medical centers to help develop new treatments and help people improve their health, according to the agency’s website.

South Sudan Eases Lockdown (12:20 p.m. NY)

South Sudan eased some lockdown restrictions even as new cases rose. Regional flights and road transport will be allowed to resume, the government said in a statement on Thursday. Shops and stores can open, and motorcycle taxis can restart, provided passengers and drivers wear masks. The country reported new cases rose to 74 from 58.

Cuomo Extends Eviction Ban (12:05 p.m. NY)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo extended a ban on tenant evictions until Aug. 20, saying the fear of being unable to pay rent is the top issue he hears about from residents. The state is also prohibiting late-rent fees and will let renters use their security deposit to pay rent, the governor said.

The state reported 231 deaths on Wednesday. The number of daily fatalities is well below a high of 799 reported one day last month but has remained mostly flat in recent days. Cuomo has expressed frustration with the slowness of the decline. The state reported 3,491 new virus cases for a total of 327,469.

Japan Approves Gilead Drug (11:45 a.m. NY)

Japan approved Gilead Sciences Inc.’s antiviral drug remdesivir, the company said Thursday. The “exceptional approval” by Japan’s usually conservative authorities comes days after the U.S. authorized the drug for emergency use on virus patients, the company said.

Remdesivir is only being used in the U.S. for treatment of hospitalized patients, Gilead said.

White House Rejected CDC Reopening Guidance: Reports (11:34 a.m. NY)

The White House rejected a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plan to help local health authorities reopen businesses around the U.S., according to reports from the Associated Press and others.

The document includes detailed guidance for restaurants, mass transit, schools, child-care programs and other businesses about steps they should take before reopening, according to a copy posted by the AP. It was rejected by the White House as too prescriptive, according to another report by the New York Times. The Washington Post said the White House is seeking revisions.

President Donald Trump’s administration has begun pushing aggressively for states to get life back to normal, reopen businesses and restart the economy. Trump has said that Americans should be ready to take a level of risk and accept a certain amount of illness and death.

California Projects 18% Jobless (11:30 a.m. NY)

California unemployment will reach 18% this year and the budget deficit will widen to $54 billion as the pandemic and related shutdowns hit the economy of the most populous U.S. state, the finance department said Thursday. The deficit far exceeds the state’s rainy day fund of $16 billion. “The May Revision forecast projects that the impact of these economic losses will be disproportionately borne by low- and middle-income Californians,” according to the department.

Schumer Says ‘Big, Bold’ Aid Plan in Works (11:15 a.m. NY)

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he is working with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on a “big, bold plan that will deal with the magnitude” of the economic fallout from the pandemic. Schumer said in the Senate Thursday that he is appalled that Republican leaders and President Donald Trump want to delay more assistance. Democrats are pushing for further aid for “average people, workers and families,” he said.

WHO Warns on African Deaths (10:30 a.m. NY)

As many as 190,000 people in Africa could die of Covid-19 in the first year of the pandemic if containment measures fail, the World Health Organization said in a report that looked at 47 countries with a combined population of 1 billion.

The survey found an average of nine intensive-care unit beds in each of the countries. As many as 5.5 million people might require hospitalization, including up to 167,000 cases requiring oxygen, the WHO said.

The WHO predicted lower transmission and mortality rates in Africa because of a number of factors including that the population on the continent is younger. However, the outbreak may be more prolonged, and some countries such as Algeria, South Africa and Cameroon are at high risk if governments don’t prioritize containment measures, the United Nations agency said.

The WHO on Wednesday said Africa had 1,202 deaths and 33,973 cases.

Scotland Leader Rebuffs Johnson (10:20 a.m. NY)

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she won’t be pressured into lifting the lockdown as U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to relax some restrictions.

Johnson, who returned to parliament Wednesday for the first time since being infected in March, said the easing of limits could begin as soon as Monday.

Sturgeon signaled the lockdown could continue in Scotland even if it is lifted in England. A call with governments in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales is planned later Thursday.

Portugal Has Bigger Rise in Cases for Second Day (9:03 a.m. NY)

The Postuguese government reported 533 new cases Thursday, taking the total to 26,715. The total number of deaths rose by 16 to 1,105. On Monday, Portugal started easing confinement measures by allowing small stores to reopen.

WHO Faces Funding Gap of $1.3 Billion (8:30 a.m. NY)

The World Health Organization faces a funding gap of $1.3 billion to respond to Covid-19, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday. He spoke in a briefing to government ministers where he thanked the European Commission for organizing a pledging event on Monday.

Another 3.17 Million Seek U.S. Jobless Benefits (8:30 a.m. NY)

Millions more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total to more than 33 million since the coronavirus began closing restaurants, factories and offices from coast to coast in mid-March.

Initial jobless claims totaled 3.17 million in the week ended May 2 following 3.85 million in the prior week, according to a Labor Department report Thursday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 3 million.

Study Finds 5%-15% of Chinese Cases Reactivated (7:43 a.m. NY)

The rate of reactivation in China varied among different places, with some regions showing less than 1% of such cases among recovered patients, Wang Guiqiang, director of department of infection at the Peking University First Hospital. Wang disclosed the figures during a press conference held by China’s National Health Commission on Thursday.

Fear of re-infection in recovered patients is growing in China, where the virus first emerged last December. There’s little understanding of why this happens, although some believe that the problem may lie in inconsistencies in test results.

Russian Lukoil Billionaire Hospitalized (7:25 a.m. NY)

Leonid Fedun, a billionaire shareholder at Russia’s second-biggest oil producer, has been hospitalized with a coronavirus infection, according to the Spartak Moscow soccer club, where he serves as chairman. Fedun is Russia’s 17th richest man, with a fortune of $6.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, and the first Russian on that list to publicly confirm he’s ill with the disease.

Moderna Expects Phase 3 Study to Start Early Summer (7:20 a.m. NY)

Moderna surged 13% in pre-market trading after the company said its experimental vaccine for the new coronavirus would be in late-stage studies by early this summer. A mid-stage study is expected to start imminently. The company is one of the leaders among U.S. companies developing experimental vaccines against the coronavirus and entered a pact with Lonza Group AG aimed at manufacturing 1 billion doses a year.

Aston Martin Workers Return (6:33 a.m. NY)

Workers at Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings factories have started to return to work. Manufacturing employees have begun a phased return to the luxury carmaker’s facility in St Athan in Wales, with workers at the company’s global headquarters in Gaydon in England to follow later, the company said in a statement on Thursday.

Aston Martin Lagonda is following the homebuilding industry, where firms including Persimmon Plc and Vistry Group Plc have already opened up sites.

Far Point Backs Out of Global Blue Deal (6:31 a.m. NY)

Far Point said its decision was based on reasons including the coronavirus pandemic. “Global Blue management has informed FPAC that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is having a significant negative impact on Global Blue’s financial condition, revenues and results of operations,” Far Point said.

U.K. Virus App Spurs Privacy Concerns (6 a.m. NY)

The U.K.’s contact-tracing mobile phone app includes code that could allow authorities access to a user’s detailed location data and to send information to Microsoft Corp. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, according to an initial technical analysis carried out by Privacy International.

Like governments around the world, the U.K. is developing a voluntary mobile app that uses Bluetooth technology to trace possible infections of the coronavirus, alerting users when they may have been near someone infectious. Authorities say the tools will help track and contain any resurgent outbreaks of the virus once lockdown measures lift.

But the U.K.’s app, which rolled out for trial on the Isle of Wight on Thursday, has faced questions from privacy experts who say its system gathers too much information about users.

Europe Must Be Ready to Tighten Again, WHO Warns (6 a.m. NY)

European countries emerging from lockdown need to be ready to reverse course if there are signs the virus is making a comeback, the World Health Organization’s regional office warned on Thursday.

“The transition away from restrictive measures really needs to be flexible and adaptive,” said Catherine Smallwood, a senior emergency officer for WHO Europe. The timing of a second wave depends on the measures each country takes, she said. In a separate briefing, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute said that if residents there return to normal life without measures to control the virus, a second wave may emerge before September.

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