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Trump pushes states to lift coronavirus restrictions, hopes to hold campaign rallies soon

Here is a look at some of the latest news on COVID-19 from the U.S. and around the world for Friday.

This article contains ongoing U.S. and international updates on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects. Here are some key updates for Friday, April 17, 2020. You can find more details by scrolling through the story.

  • The Trump administration is launching a $19 billion program to help farmers struggling from the pandemic.
  • President Trump hopes to resume campaign rallies without social distancing.
  • A study shows one in three New Yorkers with coronavirus were put on ventilators.  
  • Protesters shun stay-at-home orders in Idaho, Oregon and Minnesota.
  • There appears to be progress in the efforts to replenish funding for the Paycheck Protection Program.
  • The NCAA has waived standardized test scores for incoming freshman athletes.
  • New York residents are urged to wear masks in busy public places starting Friday.
  • Modeling by the Imperial College London finds Africa could have 300,000 coronavirus deaths this year.
  • China reports its economy suffered its worst contraction in more than 40 years.
  • New data shows Wuhan had nearly 1,300 more deaths than previously reported.
  • The United Nations warns that the pandemic is putting children "in jeopardy" because of how their lives are being upended.
  • From Thursday: White House guidelines call for a phased reopening. 

There were more than 701,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States shortly before 11 p.m. EDT Friday, after there had been 672,246 as of 11:30 a.m., according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 37,000 deaths in the U.S. and 59,000 recoveries. More than 3.5 million tests have been conducted.

Worldwide, there have been 2.2 million cases, 154,000 deaths and 569,000 recoveries.

For most people, 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.

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China reports 27 new cases

China has reported 27 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, as it tries to stem an upsurge in infections in a northeastern province bordering Russia.

Twenty of the new cases were in Heilongjiang province, including 13 Chinese nationals who had returned recently from Russia. The land border with Russia has been closed.

China’s official death toll rose sharply to 4,632, reflecting a major upwards revision the previous day by authorities in Wuhan, the nation’s hardest-hit city.

The latest confirmed cases brought the total to 82,719, of which 77,029 have recovered and been discharged, the National Health Commission said.

Eighteen officials in Heilongjiang province have been punished for failures in their response to the outbreak, state media reported Friday. They include the deputy mayor of Harbin, the provincial capital, and a vice president of Harbin Medical University. They were given warnings, or demerits, in their personnel files.

Atlanta case worker is first federal prison staffer to die after positive test

The federal Bureau of Prisons say a case worker at a federal prison in Atlanta has died after testing positive for coronavirus.

An agency spokesman says Robin Grubbs is the first staff member in the federal prison system to have died after testing positive for the virus.

As of Friday, 465 inmates and 296 staff members have tested positive at federal prisons around the U.S.

Grubbs was found dead in her home on Tuesday by fellow prison staff member who went to check on her. Officials say she last worked as a case manager at USP Atlanta on April 10 and appeared to be asymptomatic.

They say the medical examiner’s office notified the Bureau of Prisons that she had tested positive for coronavirus posthumously, though a cause of death is undetermined.

Trump hopes to resume campaign rallies without social distancing

President Donald Trump says he remains hopeful that he will be able to resume campaign rallies ahead of the November election.

Trump said that he does not want social distancing at his rallies, which typically draw big crowds, because doesn’t want attendees to miss the “flavor” of the experience. Trump stopped holding his big stadium rallies in early March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The president predicted that when the rallies resume they’ll be “bigger than ever.”

Trump has only left Washington once over the last month as he’s dealt with the pandemic. But the president announced Friday that he plans to travel to the U.S. Military Academy in New York next month for its commencement ceremony.

Credit: AP
President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus, accompanied by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Thursday, April 16, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

California's decade streak of job growth ends

California officials say the state lost nearly 100,000 jobs in March, signaling an abrupt end to a record 10-year streak of growth because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The unemployment rate in the nation’s most populous state was 5.3% in March, a 1.4 percentage point increase. That's the largest jump on record since 1976, when state officials began using the current formula for tracking job losses.

Gov. Gavin Newsom says California is now “in a pandemic-induced recession.”

The job losses were based on a survey taken the week that included March 12. That was one day after the NBA suspended its season and Newsom banned gatherings of more than 250 people, prompting the closure of Disneyland and other California landmarks.

Most of the state’s job losses occurred after that date, accelerating once Newsom issued a mandatory stay-at-home order on March 19. Newsom says 3.1 million Californians have filed for unemployment benefits since mid-March.

Trump administration launching $19B program to help farmers

President Donald Trump says his administration is launching a $19 billion program to help farmers struggling from the coronavirus pandemic.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the program includes $16 billion in direct payments to farmers, ranchers, and producers who experienced “unprecedented losses” during the pandemic.

Perdue says the Department of Agriculture will spend another $3 billion to purchase fresh produce, dairy, and meat products that will be distributed through food bank networks.

GOP signals possible movement in business virus aid standoff 

Republicans signaled Friday they are willing to accept Democratic demands for additional federal funding for hospitals as part of an effort to break a stalemate over the Trump administration's $250 billion emergency request for a small-business paycheck subsidy program that's out of money.

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy told The Associated Press he is also willing to meet a demand by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to set aside some of the requested “paycheck protection” funding for community lenders.

But he said Republicans would draw the line at Democratic demands for additional tens of billions of dollars in additional funding for state and local governments suffering from plummeting tax revenues. McCarthy also said Republicans also want replenishment of another Small Business Administration program that offers disaster loans.

“I think it'll be (paycheck protection), the other SBA ... the disaster portion. And probably some hospital money,” McCarthy said in an interview Friday with AP. “I don't think you'll see any money for states in there because states already have it.” State and local governments were awarded $150 billion last month.

The House met in a pro forma session on Friday in which no business was conducted. A Senate session quickly adjourned Thursday without any progress. The next meeting of either House or Senate is a Senate session on Monday that could be used for legislative action if all sides agree.

Negotiations are continuing into the weekend and pressure is mounting since the SBA announced Thursday it has reached its $349 billion lending limit and is no longer accepting applications.

Comic-Con canceled over coronavirus, plans 2021 return

This year’s San Diego Comic-Con has been canceled due to coronavirus-related restrictions around large gatherings. Organizers say they are planning a return for July 2021.

The annual confab was scheduled to take place from July 23 through July 26 in and around the San Diego Convention Center. California Governor Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that he was not optimistic about a return of “mass gatherings” for things such as sports events, concerts and fairs in 2020. Comic-Con attracts over 135,000 people — often elaborately costumed — to the Gaslamp District every year for the comic book convention which last year celebrated its 50th anniversary.

RELATED: San Diego Comic-Con International is canceled for 2020

Taylor Swift postpones appearances to 2021

Taylor Swift has announced she is canceling all her appearances for 2020. U.S. and Brazil shows will be postponed to 2021, with dates to be announced. Refunds for tickets will be available subject to Ticketmaster terms on May 1. 

"I'm so sad I won't be able to see you guys in concert this year, but I know this si the right decision. Please, please stay healthy and safe," Swift wrote in a tweet. "I'll see you on stage as soon as I can but right now what's important is committing to this quarantine, for the sake of all of us."

NCAA waives standardized test scores for incoming freshman 

In light of the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA announced Friday it will be waiving the standardized test score requirement for incoming freshman student athletes. 

Students hoping to enroll in a Division I school will be eligible if they have a 2.3 GPA in the 10 NCAA-approved core courses. There is a 2.2 GPA requirement for Division II schools. 

A growing number of colleges and universities have waived standardized test requirements for all students due to COVID-19 disruptions. 

Stalemate over small-business program funding 

Lawmakers are struggling to break a stalemate over President Donald Trump’s $250 billion emergency request for a small-business program, stoking uncertainty about when additional support will be available in a key rescue program now exhausted of funds.

A House session Friday was expected to simply be a pro forma meeting. A Senate session quickly adjourned Thursday without any progress.

Staff aides to House and Senate Democrats and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin convened another conference call, on legislation to shore up the Paycheck Protection Program and demands by Democrats for potential additions. The Small Business Administration announced Thursday it has reached its $349 billion lending limit and is no longer accepting applications.

GOP aides said that Mnuchin is prepared to accept additional funding sought by Democrats for hospitals, but that additional aid to state and local governments couldn't get approval in the current round. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity to characterize internal party deliberations.

Schumer said Friday that more money is needed for widespread, accessible testing for the coronavirus before the economy can be reopened with confidence.

On Friday, Trump added his voice, tweeting that the “Do Nothing Democrats” should immediately return to Washington and approve the legislation. “End ENDLESS VACATION!” he wrote.

The Capitol is largely shuttered, requiring consensus from all sides for any legislation to pass, and top GOP leaders are vowing to stick closely to Trump’s request despite Democrats' additional demands.

More than 900 infected aboard French aircraft carrier 

At least 940 people aboard a French aircraft carrier and its escort ships have been infected with the new virus.

The total number of positive cases is expected to grow because some test results are still pending, the head of the military health service, Maryline Gygax Genero, told a Senate hearing Friday.

Among those infected are two of four U.S. sailors serving on the Charles de Gaulle as part of the U.S. Navy’s Personnel Exchange program.

Those infected represent more than a third of the 2,300 military personnel aboard the Charles de Gaulle and its escort ships.

Gygax Genero says twenty people on the aircraft carrier have been hospitalized, including one in intensive care.

Two investigations are underway into the virus outbreak on the ship.

Putin warns Russia yet to see peak of virus infections  

Russian President Vladimir Putin is prodding top officials to move faster to prepare for a surge in coronavirus cases.

Speaking Friday on a conference call with top federal official and regional governors, Putin told them to “act faster and more energetically” to secure ventilators, protective gear and other essential supplies.

He warned Russia is yet to see a peak of infections, adding Moscow was the first to face soaring numbers of infections and “the problem is spreading into the regions.”

Russia has registered 32,008 coronavirus cases and 273 deaths.

Putin says Russia so far has secured 72% of the 95,000 specialized hospital beds for coronavirus patients the Kremlin ordered to prepare until April 28.

Russian Defense Ministry Sergei Shoigu reported the military is building 16 specialized hospital for coronavirus patients, half of which will be completed this month.

Study: Africa could have 300,000 deaths this year

Africa could see 300,000 deaths from the coronavirus even under the best-case scenario, according to a new report that cites modeling by the Imperial College London.

Under the worst-case scenario with no interventions against the virus, Africa could see 3.3 million deaths and 1.2 billion infections, the report by the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa says.

Even with “intense social distancing” under the best-case scenario the continent could see more than 122 million infections, the report says.

Any of the scenarios would overwhelm Africa’s largely fragile and underfunded health systems, experts have warned.

New York to require face coverings in busy public places

New York residents will be required to wear face coverings anytime they come into close contact with other people outside their homes starting Friday night.

The mandate by Gov. Andrew Cuomo will require a mask or face covering, like a bandanna, on busy streets, public transit, or any situation where people cannot maintain 6 feet of social distancing, even if it is passing a person briefly on a wooded trail. 

The governor, who has himself eschewed masks during his daily news briefings, though he comes within six feet of his staff, said there will initially be no civil penalties for noncompliance, but he’s urging merchants to enforce it among customers.

China suffers worst economic contraction since 1970s

Bleak figures from the world’s two largest economies underscore how quickly the coronavirus is delivering a massive economic blow.

China on Friday reported GDP shrank 6.8% from a year ago in the quarter ending March, its worst contraction since before market-style economic reforms began in 1979. And in the U.S., the world’s largest economy, the ranks of the unemployed swelled toward levels last seen during the Great Depression.

Still, the economic data from China was not as bad as some had feared, prompting shares in Asia to surge. That was after Wall Street also rose, powered by buying of Amazon, health care stocks and other market niches that are thriving in the coronavirus crunch.

Wuhan raises number of COVID-19 deaths by 1,290

The central Chinese city of Wuhan has raised its number of COVID-19 fatalities by 1,290, with state media saying Friday the undercount had been due to the insufficient admission capabilities at overwhelmed medical facilities at the peak of the outbreak.

Wuhan’s revised death toll of 3,869 is the most in China. Numbers of total cases in the city of 11 million were also raised by 325 to 50,333, accounting for about two-thirds of China’s total 82,367 announced cases.

Questions have long swirled around the accuracy of China’s case reporting, with Wuhan in particular going several days in January without reporting new cases or deaths. That has led to accusations that Chinese officials were seeking to minimize the impact of the outbreak and wasting opportunities to bring it under control in a shorter time.

U.N. warns pandemic putting many children “in jeopardy”

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning that the coronavirus pandemic is putting many of the world’s children “in jeopardy” and is urging families everywhere and leaders at all levels to “protect our children.”

The U.N. chief said in a video statement Thursday that the lives of children “are being totally upended” by COVID-19, with almost all students out of school, family stress levels rising as communities face lockdowns, and reduced household income expected to force poor families to cut back on essential health and food expenditures, “particularly affecting children.”

Guterres said “children have so far been largely spared from the most severe symptoms of the disease.”

But with a global recession gathering pace, he said, “there could be hundreds of thousands additional child deaths in 2020.”

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Arrests in China for mask production violations

Chinese police have arrested 42 people for hoarding and driving up the price of the cloth material used to make face masks, as well as illegally producing shoddy and inferior material for resale.

The Ministry of Public Security said in a statement Friday that a nationwide task force had been formed to crack down on crimes related to the production of masks, which almost all Chinese wear when in public and many in their offices and even homes as a safeguard against coronavirus.

That has led to scarcities in many places and severe price increases, especially in online sales. The ministry statement said raids in the southern industrial hub of Guangdong and three other provinces in early and mid-March resulted in the breaking of 20 cases and the seizure of material worth more than 34 million yuan (almost $5 million).

Michael Cohen being released from prison early

President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and longtime fixer Michael Cohen will be released from federal prison to serve the remainder of his sentence in home confinement amid the coronavirus pandemic, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

Cohen is currently locked up at FCI Otisville in New York after pleading guilty to numerous charges, including campaign finance fraud and lying to Congress. He will remain under quarantine for 14 days before he is released. Federal statistics show 14 inmates and seven staff members at the prison have tested positive for coronavirus.

After he is released, Cohen will serve the remainder of his sentence at home, according to the person, who could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Credit: AP
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, waits on a street corner before going to his New York City apartment, Saturday, May 4, 2019, in New York. Cohen is scheduled to report to a federal prison on Monday, May 6, to begin serving a three-year sentence for campaign-finance violations, tax evasion, bank fraud, and lying to Congress. (AP Photo/Jonathan Carroll)