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States reject Trump talk of restarting U.S. economy early

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A week after millions of Americans began taking shelter at home from the coronavirus, states warned on Tuesday against easing restrictions too soon even though the clampdown is devastating the U.S. economy.

President Donald Trump said on Monday he was considering how to restart business life when a 15-day shutdown ends next week, even as the highly contagious virus spreads rapidly and poorly equipped hospitals struggle with a wave of deadly cases.

A Republican, Trump is seeking to win re-election in November on a promise of economic growth.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat whose state of New York has become the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak with 25,665 cases, strongly opposed allowing people to travel, socialize and get back to workplaces too quickly.

“If you ask the American people to choose between public health and the economy, then it’s no contest. No American is going to say accelerate the economy at the cost of human life,” he said at a convention center in Manhattan that is being repurposed to fit beds for coronavirus patients.

Cuomo said the projected need for hospital beds in New York at the peak of the outbreak has jumped to 140,000, compared with the 53,000 that are available and that the apex of the outbreak could still be 14-21 days away

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, told CNN on Tuesday: “We don’t think that we’re going to be in any way ready to be out of this in five or six days or so, or whenever this 15 days is up from the time that they started this imaginary clock.”

More than 42,000 people in the United States have contracted COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, and at least 620 have died. The World Health Organization on Tuesday warned that the United States has the potential to become the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, citing a “very large acceleration” in infections.

Senior Pentagon leaders said on Tuesday that the outbreak could continue for months.

Trump issued guidelines last week that he said aimed to slow the spread of the disease over 15 days, including curbing unnecessary travel. Economic activity has ground to a halt in major states such as New York and California.

The coronavirus has shuttered thousands of U.S. businesses, thrown millions out of work and led state governors to order about 100 million people – nearly a third of the nation’s population – to stay at home.

There were signs that nerves had begun fraying after days of people working from home, looking after children whose schools are shut and severely scaling back on everyday activities.

Steve Rubinstein, a small bottle of hand sanitizer dangling from his belt loop, was juggling his two small children as they played in a New York park. Both he and his wife are working from home.

“It’s very challenging, my wife and I both work, we have fulltime jobs,” he said. “But it’s, yeah, it’s nonstop, it’s relentless,” Rubinstein, 35, added about balancing work demands and keeping their children safe and entertained.

Trump told a White House news conference on Monday that “America will again and soon be open for business,” saying the crisis should not “turn into a long-lasting financial problem.”

Rapidly reopening the economy might backfire, with higher deaths and people remaining fearful of going out, according to investors who remain anxious about the coronavirus’ uncertain trajectory and its economic toll.

“Markets will react badly because they have learned that this approach doesn’t work,” Axel Merk, chief investment officer of Merk Investments, said. “From a medical point of view, you have to break the exponential growth and you do that with shelter in place policies.”

WALL STREET JUMPS

After taking a beating for most days in recent weeks, Wall Street bounced from three-year lows on Tuesday amid signs that Washington was nearing a deal on a $2 trillion package to rescue the economy from coronavirus. All three main U.S. stock indexes jumped more than 5%.

Negotiators predicted the U.S. Senate could pass the stimulus bill, which includes financial aid for ordinary Americans, small businesses and critically affected industries, as soon as Tuesday.

After criticism from Cuomo and others that Trump was not wielding special powers to force businesses to make medical equipment likes masks and ventilators, the federal government said on Tuesday it would use the Defense Production Act to procure 60,000 coronavirus test kits.

Peter Gaynor, the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, told CNN the Trump administration had decided to use the act because “there are some test kits we need to get our hands on.” It would be the first time the act is being used for the coronavirus crisis.

For right now, Birx said people in the United States should continue to follow the guidelines of social distancing.

“What the president is doing is looking for the future … not looking to change what we’re doing now,” she said.

Stephen Moore, an economic commentator said by Trump’s aides to be influencing the president, told Reuters on Monday there was a re-examination in the White House of the wisdom of “a full scale … shutdown of the economy.”

He said there were some who thought that “if we go on too long with the economy shut down, the human toll for that could be greater than the risk of the virus.”

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the coronavirus response daily briefing as Attorney General William Barr and Ambassador Debbie Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, look on at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Despite the huge changes to daily life, many Americans still say they are willing to make sacrifices.

Christine Schindler, 58, a former receptionist, was alone waiting for a bus on Manhattan’s Upper West Side on Tuesday. She said she thought it was dangerous to lift the restrictions too early for the sake of the economy.

“It’s going to come back up anyway, really, once things hit the bottom,” she said. “This is supposed to be the number one economy in the world.”

Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu in Washington, Ross Kerber in Boston and Megan Davies and Gabriella Borter in New York; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Frank McGurty and Howard Goller

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Fed’s stimulus eases global market fears, gets cash flowing

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss, Kate Duguid and Abhinav Ramnarayan

(Reuters) – Investors across a broad range of asset markets breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday, a day after the Federal Reserve rolled out unprecedented measures aimed at boosting liquidity and bolstering investor confidence in the face of a spreading coronavirus pandemic.

As equities ripped higher around the world, a string of investment-grade companies tapped a better-functioning debt market for much-needed cash after the Fed’s measures helped ease a logjam that had frozen credit markets.

The rate at which companies could borrow high-grade, short-term loans mostly decreased, while rates for lower-grade paper continued to increase at some maturities and decreased modestly at others, according to Fed data.

The U.S. dollar edged lower against a broad range of currencies, while Treasury yields rose, a sign that investor concerns had eased, at least for the moment. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average marked its best one-day gain since 1933. <nL1N2BH227>

Few believe the markets have seen the last of the heavy bouts of selling and stretches of illiquidity that have plagued them during a month-long selloff that has slammed everything from equities to oil. Yet Tuesday’s moves were a potential sign that investors were giving at least a tentative stamp of approval to the Fed’s unprecedented interventions of the last week and a potential $2 trillion in fiscal stimulus from the government.

“The promise of fiscal stimulus in addition to what the Fed has begun to do encourages investors that we don’t have to go through this alone,” said Michael Farr, president of Farr, Miller & Washington LLC. “It lets us know that the government will … make sure the financial plumbing is working and well oiled.”

Among other signs of abating tensions, prices on credit default swaps fell, suggesting that worries about corporate insolvency was easing. The spread of Markit’s investment grade credit default swap index – used as a barometer of sentiment about the investment grade market – dropped around 14 basis points on Tuesday, indicating that investors were demanding less of a risk premium to hold the debt < CDXIG5Y=MG>.

Nestle <NESN.S> and Sanofi <SASY.PA> were among the firms to tap credit markets where bids for their long-term debt totaled more than 24 billion euros.

The U.S. LIBOR-OIS spread, which measures the difference between secured and unsecured lending in the United States, also narrowed. The one-month spread on Tuesday slipped to as low as 98.7 basis points <USDF-O0X1=R>, down from 105.67 basis points last week. A higher spread suggests banks are becoming more nervous about lending to each other.

“Things are slowly starting to improve on the dollar funding front,” said Michael Chang, interest rates derivatives strategist at Societe Generale in New York. “The Fed has done as much it could and it’s really in the hands of the fiscal policymakers.”

Meanwhile, a key measure of the premium investors pay for access to U.S. dollars remained close to its lowest since March 3. That measure, the euro-dollar swap spread, fell to 5.6 basis points, having risen as high as 86 basis points last week.

Senior U.S. lawmakers said they were approaching a deal on a $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus package, raising hopes that the divided U.S. Congress could soon act to try to limit the pandemic’s economic fallout.

Many investors remain braced for more volatility ahead, however. The trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic remains uncertain, while its economic toll is becoming increasingly clear.

U.S. unemployment could hit 30% and second-quarter economic output could be half the norm, St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard told Reuters in an interview.

Some investors see “a lose-lose situation,” said Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at Jones Trading. “You either break the healthcare system or you break the economy.”

(Additional reporting by Ira Iosebashvili; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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‘Bernie has a real decision to make’: Labor throws in with Biden

“I’m optimistic that Bernie always finds a way to meet the moment and I’m optimistic he’ll meet the moment here. It’s obvious to me Joe Biden has earned this,” Weingarten said. She credited Sanders for his positive tone in campaigning and efforts to pass a coronavirus stimulus package in the Senate.

The coalescing of major labor support — including three of the four large public employee unions — behind Biden came as the latest blow to Sanders, a union ally whose progressive campaign is built around helping working people. Absent an unforeseen turn of events, Sanders has little realistic hope in overcoming Biden’s sizable lead in the delegate count needed to clinch the nomination.

Sanders, however, isn’t yet ready to quit.

On Tuesday, Sanders’ campaign touted its organizing efforts “in the ramp up to the New York primary” on April 28. His campaign also told the New York Times said it plans to participate in the Democratic presidential debate in April, if one is held.

But Sanders is refraining from taking shots at Biden and he’s using his campaign and Senate offices to raise awareness and funds for response to the coronavirus contagion.

Asked about Sanders decision to stay in the race, Biden told CNN on Tuesday “that’s his decision. And I’ve been asked that question, as you recall, about all of the other folks who were in the primary before — all of whom have dropped out. I think with one exception [all of them] formally endorsed me. That’s a decision for them to make, not for me to make.”

The last of the large public unions, Service Employees International Union, hasn’t yet endorsed. But according to SEIU officials, it’s not because of a division in their ranks or a fear of weighing in; it’s due to the coronavirus contagion that’s requiring it to focus on the safety of its members, many of whom work in healthcare, janitorial, childcare and building-security services.

The AFL-CIO also has not yet endorsed, which is relatively common in presidential primaries, meaning the last four major endorsements Biden landed are likely the last to come in the race.

“Certainly, it’s a signal to Bernie Sanders that progressives and the Democratic Party are consolidating behind Joe Biden’s candidacy,” said Steve Rosenthal, a top national union consultant and former political director for AFL-CIO.

“These endorsements are extremely significant and come at an important time when three of the most progressive organizations — because NEA, AFT and AFSCME are not just labor unions, they’re three of the most progressive organizations in the United States — decide to weigh in,” Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal said the endorsements should have a tangible benefit for Biden in the general election in the union-heavy swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Minnesota. A poll in those states conducted for a Democratic group in December showed that 68 percent of former union members and voters who model union-like characteristics viewed unions favorably and 67 percent saw unions as a viable source of information about candidates and political topics.

Rosenthal pointed out that all of the unions revamped their endorsement processes to ensure they wouldn’t be accused of misrepresenting their support, a charge leveled by some backers of Sanders in his 2016 Democratic bid against Hillary Clinton.

The NEA said it’s looking forward to the general election.

“With so much at stake in this election, educators are now focused on November, where as a union, we have the ability to reach voters in a meaningful way, unlike any other organization. We will be organizing and using our collective voice to propel Joe Biden to the White House,” Lily Eskelsen García, NEA president, said in a written statement.

NEA kicked off the wave of endorsements on March 14, three days before the last round of states voted that made Biden the presumptive nominee.

After that, AFT, AFSCME and the food and commercial workers unions were ready to endorse. But they decided to hold off to see what happened in the March 17 elections. Weingarten said one major factor in delaying the endorsement process was input from members in Florida, where Biden went on to crush Sanders by about 40 percentage points.

Three days later, she said, support for Biden over Sanders among members was two-to-one. It was a huge shift from its Feb. 20 decision, reflecting the divided membership, to issue a triple endorsement of sorts, backing Biden, Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

“We saw a tectonic shift in the March primaries, as did everybody else, in terms of Democrats coalescing behind Biden as well as our own members,” Weingarten said.

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Coronavirus spreading in New York like ‘a bullet train’

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Media captionThe New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: The city ‘is a test case’

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has pleaded for medical supplies, warning Covid-19 is spreading in his state faster than “a bullet train”.

“The apex is higher than we thought and the apex is sooner than we thought,” Mr Cuomo told reporters on Tuesday.

He said the federal government was not sending anywhere near enough lifesaving equipment to confront the crisis.

New York now has over 25,000 confirmed virus cases and at least 210 deaths.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday the US has the potential to become the new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.

The warnings come as President Donald Trump said he hoped the US would reopen for business next month.

What did Governor Cuomo say?

“We need federal help and we need the federal help now,” Mr Cuomo, a Democrat, said.

“New York is the canary in the coal mine, New York is happening first, what is happening to New York will happen to California and Illinois, it is just a matter of time.”

The governor blasted the 400 ventilators sent to New York from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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Barcroft Media via Getty Images

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New York has been especially hard hit in the US by the coronavirus pandemic

He said: “You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators.”

New York currently has 7,000 ventilators, but needs 30,000, the governor said.

Mr Cuomo continued: “The [infection] forecaster said to me, ‘We were looking at a freight train coming across the country.’

“‘We’re now looking at a bullet train.'”

The state is also looking into creating more healthcare areas, possibly by turning college dormitories and hotels into makeshift hospitals.

With 25,665 cases in New York, the state accounts for more than half of all US infections.

The number of new cases in the state is doubling every three days, the governor said, and showing no sign of slowing down.

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Media caption60 days of coronavirus in the US – in 60 seconds

Mr Cuomo said the rate of infections could overwhelm the healthcare system. New York may need up to 140,000 hospital beds in a worst-case scenario, he said.

The governor also said he would not “put a dollar amount on human life”, in what was seen as an implicit criticism of Mr Trump’s concerns that measures to contain the virus could wreck the US economy.

“My mother is not expendable and your mother is not expendable,” said Mr Cuomo.

A tale of two media events

On Tuesday afternoon, Donald Trump sat in the verdant White House grounds for a Fox News “virtual town hall” and said he hoped to get US businesses reopened by Easter, in just over two weeks.

“A great American resurrection,” the Fox host suggested.

A few hours earlier, Governor Cuomo held a much more sombre press conference at the Javits Center in Manhattan. The building, which three years ago hosted Hillary Clinton’s ill-fated election-night party, is now a makeshift field hospital.

The president and the governor – two New Yorkers with a long history – clashed over the state’s shortage of ventilators to treat the most serious cases.

Mr Trump blamed Mr Cuomo for not purchasing more in 2015, citing a conspiracy-mongering website. Mr Cuomo said the administration should use its emergency powers to order more machines manufactured.

When it comes to easing the recent shelter-in-place orders, governors like Mr Cuomo, not the president, will have the final say.

If there’s disagreement, however, the American public could be left wondering what to believe.

What did President Trump say?

On Tuesday, President Trump told Fox News he hoped the country could get back to normal by Easter, which is 19 days away.

Mr Trump, a Republican, said: “We’re going to be opening relatively soon… I would love to have the country opened up and just rearing to go by Easter.”

He added: “Easter is a very special day for me… and you’ll have packed churches all over our country.”

Mr Trump also warned that otherwise the country could suffer “a massive recession or depression”.

The president said: “You’re going to lose people. You’re going to have suicides by the thousands. You’re going to have all sorts of things happen.

“You’re going to have instability. You can’t just come in and say, ‘Let’s close up the United States of America, the most successful country in the world by far.'”

Speaking at a White House briefing later, Mr Trump said “our decision will be based on hard facts and data as to the opening [of our country]”.

According to the latest Gallup poll, his approval rating has risen five points this month to 49%, the best of his presidency.

What is the current US situation?

There are over 53,000 confirmed cases and more than 700 deaths attributed to Covid-19 in the US.

Dr Deborah Birx, of the White House coronavirus taskforce, said the New York City metro area was the source of 56% of all cases and 60% of all new cases in the country. She advised anyone leaving the region to self-quarantine for two weeks.

On Tuesday, Wisconsin, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Mexico, West Virginia and Indiana were introducing stay-at-home orders, bringing the total number of US states under such lockdowns to 17.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been debating the details of an economic stimulus package that could total over $2 trillion (£1.7 trillion).

Democrats and the White House indicated negotiations could conclude on Tuesday, with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin saying “the president wants us to get this done today”.

In other developments:

  • A New Jersey man has been charged with making a terroristic threat after he coughed on an employee of a Wegmans supermarket during an argument on Monday, and then claimed to have coronavirus. Governor Phil Murphy described the suspect as a “knucklehead”
  • A 26-year-old in Missouri was arrested on Monday and charged with making a terrorist threat after he posted a video earlier this month of himself licking deodorants at a Walmart store while asking: “Who’s scared of the coronavirus?”
  • An individual in Kentucky tested positive after attending a “coronavirus party”, according to the state’s governor, who added: “Don’t be so callous as to intentionally go to something and expose yourself to something that can kill other people”
  • A 31-year-old Mexican national detained by US immigration officials in New Jersey became the first individual to test positive for Covid-19 while in the agency’s custody
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Couple Holds Wedding in Animal Crossing Due To Coronavirus

When the spread of the coronavirus forced a couple to cancel their wedding ceremony, the groom-to-be decided that the show must go on. On Sunday, he threw his fiancée a surprise “wedding” inside the Nintendo game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

“My fiance and I had to cancel our upcoming wedding due to Covid-19, so our best friends gave us a surprise animal crossing wedding instead,” a user named Ashmush shared in a post on Reddit. The couple, identified as Sharmin Asha and Nazmul Ahmed by Business Insider, were set to marry next month, but due to the ongoing pandemic they were forced to cancel it, undoubtedly a difficult move for any couple.

And like many others canceling events, that wasn’t the only big event that Asha was missing out on due to the coronavirus. “I’m graduating from med school and not getting a graduation,” she wrote in a comment on Reddit. “I was feeling pretty down about missing out on my milestones.”

To help cheer up Asha, Ahmed teamed up with some friends and planned a surprise digital “wedding” on his virtual island inside the game. To pull off the surprise, Ahmed told Business Insider that he invited Asha over to his island to “gather resources” as part of the game.

When she arrived, digital versions of their friends were already there to greet her. He gave her avatar a dress to wear and roses to hold, everything a bride-to-be could want in the digital world. The surprise worked. “This made me so happy,” Asha wrote on Reddit. “I don’t even have the words to describe how much it meant to me.”

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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US Officials Accuse Iran of Covering Up Extent of Coronavirus Outbreak, Stealing Medical Funds

News

The State Department on Monday accused Iran’s leadership of lying to its people about the coronavirus outbreak and covering up information, thus putting people worldwide at risk.

In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listed the ways the Iranian authorities have contributed to the global spread of COVID-19, including by lying to the public about the true scale of the crisis in the country and continuing flights to China as the virus was spreading.

“The regime continues to lie to the Iranian people and the world about the number of cases and deaths, which are unfortunately far higher than the regime admits,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo also accused the Iranian regime of stealing money intended for medical supplies and hoarding equipment such as masks and gloves to sell on the black market.

The State Department’s Monday statement is just the latest in the feud between Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Trump administration regarding who is to blame for the coronavirus’ spread in Iran.

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In televised comments on Sunday, Khamenei said the United States’ offer to send aid to Iran could not be trusted because America “may” have created the coronavirus, The Washington Post reported.

“I do not know how real this accusation is, but when it exists, what wise man would trust you to bring them medication?” Khamenei said.

“Possibly your medicine is a way to spread the virus more.”

“You might send people as doctors and therapists, and maybe they would want to come here and see the effect of the poison they have produced in person,” he added.

Do you think the U.S. should be offering Iran help?

He also said that any help should be spent on the United States itself because of its failures to stop the spread in the country.

“You have shortages yourself,” he said. “Statements by American officials … are explicitly saying they have major shortages, both in terms of preventive equipment and also medicine.”

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Khamenei’s “conspiracy theories … are harmful, irresponsible, and 100% false.”

“If the so-called Supreme Leader were a true leader, he’d return the billions in his tax-free hedge fund back to the Iranian people to deal with the virus outbreak,” she tweeted.

RELATED: Hillary Clinton Responds to Coronavirus by Urging People To Ignore Trump’s Guidance

Iran has also blamed sanctions imposed by the Trump administration for the difficulties it is facing in confronting the virus.

“If they want to help Iran, all they need to do is to lift sanctions,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech Monday. “Then we can deal with the coronavirus.”

Pompeo countered that by saying the sanctions do not target imports of food, medicine and medical equipment.

“Iranian documents show their health companies have been able to import testing kits without obstacle from U.S. sanctions since January,” he said.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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Biden goes in search of a bully pulpit

Add in the national media’s inherent geographical bias for its home base of New York — where Cuomo and even New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have occupied oversize roles in national coverage — and it’s left Biden struggling to break through.

“For Biden, the other difficulty is wedging himself into that,” Arzt said. “And you can’t easily wedge yourself into a crisis situation, other than say what you would do as president or say the president isn’t doing enough. But he could look very political.”

Trump’s campaign has accused Biden of just that, as well as undermining the president, who has gained ground in the polls since he started daily White House press briefings. But Biden campaign advisers reject the criticism, saying that Trump’s news conferences do more harm than good to the president, and the country.

Biden lauded Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, who has won plaudits for his steady-as-he-goes leadership and serving as a foil to a sometimes erratic Trump.

“New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s briefings are a lesson in leadership,” Biden said Monday. “Republicans and Democrats all are rising to the moment, putting aside politics to do what has to be done. But they’re looking to the federal government for more help.”

Cuomo was one of seven governors Biden singled out for praise, attempting to put a bipartisan sheen on his remarks by including three Republicans. Yet even there, he had a minor stumble, mistakenly calling Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker “Charlie Parker.”

Few who watched Biden’s briefing saw it as equivalent counterprogramming to Monday’s White House briefing, which featured the president, Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr and White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx, among others. Most other times, that briefing has featured Anthony Fauci, the highly respected director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Accustomed to speaking from behind a lectern, Biden decided to have one placed in the middle of his new home studio — an awkward fit amid the backdrop of bookshelves and personal pictures framed beneath a living room table lamp.

There were hiccups that showed the telltale signs of a 77-year-old candidate adjusting to a campaign that’s gone completely online in a matter of days. At the start of the webcast, Biden wasn’t sure when he was live. A few minutes in, his teleprompter appeared to have broken as he tried, but failed, to gesture beneath the camera shot for an unseen aide to hand him notes.

“The lectern in a living room look was really odd — nobody would do that in real life, so it shouldn’t be done on social,” said Kevin Cate, former media strategist for one of Biden’s past opponents, Tom Steyer.

“Vice President Biden can do regular addresses, but they should look more like what the Obama White House did, seated and direct to camera,” Cate said. “Social media craves authenticity and engagement, so they should also lean into interactive and engaging live formats.”

But echoing the Biden campaign, Cate said he believes the political damage done to the president from his own misleading statements and distortions at his news conferences far outweigh any Biden stumble. One Biden adviser added that people are seeing that Trump “puts the bully in bully pulpit.”

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Top Nigerian president aide, state governor test positive for coronavirus

ABUJA (Reuters) – The Nigerian president’s influential chief of staff has tested positive for coronavirus, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said on Tuesday.

Abba Kyari, who is in his 70s, is an important figure in President Muhammadu Buhari’s government and his illness could have ramifications for the running of the country.

His case was one of a growing number in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, with a state governor also testing positive and the Lagos state health commissioner warning that they were beginning to see the virus “spread in the community”.

Previously, most cases were travellers who had recently returned from the United Kingdom or the United States.

Kyari has a history of medical complications, including diabetes, and is the gatekeeper to the president. Many who wish to deal with Buhari must go through Kyari, including Nigeria’s top politicians and businessmen.

Matthew Page, an associate fellow with the Africa Programme at Chatham House, described Kyari as the “lynchpin” of the Buhari government. “This has the potential to further slow down decision-making within top tiers of Nigerian government,” he said.

Kyari travelled to Germany in early March with a delegation of other Nigerian officials for meetings with engineering and industrial giant Siemens AG. It is unclear if he self-isolated upon his return to Nigeria. Germany has reported some 27,000 cases of coronavirus and 114 deaths from the pandemic.

A presidency spokesman did not comment on whether Buhari has been tested. The president, 77, has undisclosed medical ailments and spent five months in London for treatments in 2017.

Later on Tuesday, a Bauchi state government spokesman said Governor Bala Mohammed had also been diagnosed with coronavirus and was in quarantine.

As of Tuesday, Nigeria had 42 confirmed cases of coronavirus, two of whom had recovered, and one death – a 67-year-old former oil official. It was unclear if Kyari or Mohammed’s diagnoses were included in that total.

The Nigeria Stock Exchange said its trading floors would close temporarily, only allowing remote trading.

Lagos state Commissioner for Health Professor Akin Abayomi warned that hundreds of Africa’s top film stars could have been exposed to coronavirus at the African Magic Viewers’ Choice Award on March 14.

Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu announced that all parks, gyms and public markets in the commercial capital, apart from those selling food, water, medicine or “other essential life-saving products”, would close on Thursday for at least seven days.

He stopped short, however, of calling for a total lockdown, citing the many among Lagos’s 20 million residents who could not afford to stock up on essential items.

“We know what our poverty line is, and I’m a very realistic leader,” he said. “We need to be considerate of that.”

Reporting by Paul Carsten and Alexis Akwagyiram with additional reporting by Libby George and Nneka Chile; Writing by Libby George; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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Trump Cites Bogus Claim That Cuomo “Established Death Panels & Lotteries”

Earlier today, Governor Andrew Cuomo implored the Trump administration to unload a federal stockpile of ventilators to help New York, which he estimates will need 30,000 ventilators to save the rapidly increasing number of patients sick from coronavirus. To date, the federal government has only provided 400 ventilators to NYC from that stockpile. “You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators!” Cuomo said.

During a Fox News town hall-style appearance this afternoon, Donald Trump shot back at Cuomo, claiming falsely that the governor “rejected buying recommended 16,000 ventilators in 2015 for a pandemic, established death panels and lotteries instead.”

Trump appeared to be reading from an article published by Gateway Pundit, a website which MediaBiasFactCheck said has an “extreme right wing bias, [has promoted] conspiracies and numerous instances of publishing false (fake) news.” The Washington Post has noted that Gateway Pundit “has a track record of stirring up controversy and generating clicks with a number of stories that quickly fell apart.” As you can see below, Trump literally read the headline on air.

The Gateway Pundit article cited an op-ed in RealClearPolitics, another conservative political news site, written by Betsy McCaughey, the former Lieutenant Governor of New York from 1995 to 1998. She writes that in 2015, Cuomo asked health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to assemble a task force and draft rules for allocating ventilators during an influenza pandemic.

She writes:

That task force came up with rules that will be imposed when ventilators run short. Patients assigned a red code will have the highest access, and other patients will be assigned green, yellow or blue (the worst) depending on a “triage officer’s” decision. In truth, a death officer. Let’s not sugarcoat it. It won’t be up to your own doctor. Cuomo could have purchased the additional 16,000 needed ventilators for $36,000 apiece or a total of $576 million in 2015.

The column, which was first published on something called Creators.com, does not cite any sources for its claims.

According to a press release from 2015, NY State did indeed release new guidelines (updating ones from a 2007 draft) about ventilators. What McCaughey and Trump and the right wing media outlets republishing these claims today ignored is that the release stresses “the guidelines are non-binding and designed with sufficient flexibility to adjust to changing clinical information.” There is no mention in the release about a shortage of ventilators. “Pandemic influenza is a foreseeable threat, and New York has a responsibility to plan now,” said Zucker. “These guidelines provide an ethical, clinical, and legal framework to help health care providers and the general public make difficult decisions in the event of an influenza pandemic.”

“The guidelines were written to reflect the values of New Yorkers, and extensive efforts were made to obtain public input during their development,” Susie Han, Deputy Director of the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law and project chair of the guidelines, said at the time. “The guidelines are a living document, intended to be updated and revised in line with advances in clinical knowledge and societal norms.”

As Media Matters for America president Angelo Carusone said on Twitter, “Not a single Fox News ‘anchor’ corrected it or addressed it. Just let the claim that [Gov. Andrew Cuomo] established death panels stand.”

We’ve contacted Cuomo’s office for comment.

At that same Fox News town hall, Trump reiterated his desire for the nation to be “opened up and just raring to go by Easter.”

“I give it two weeks,” Trump said, suggesting he was ready to phase out his 15-day self-isolating guidelines when they expire. “I guess by Monday or Tuesday, it’s about two weeks. We will assess at that time and give it more time if we need a little more time. We have to open this country up.” Trump also claimed without evidence, “we can socially distance ourselves and go to work,” and that “you’re going to have suicides by the thousands” if the shutdown continues.

Even Republican Senator Lindsay Graham seemed uncomfortable with Trump’s claims, siding with Cuomo on erring on the side of caution: “Any decision needs to be based on healthcare data with the goal of ensuring we defeat the virus — not promoting its spread.”

In one piece of positive news, Congressman Lee Zeldin announced that 4,000 more ventilators are being sent from FEMA to New York over the next 24 hours. “Working to secure more now to be best prepared for the coming days & weeks in case this pace continues,” he added.

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Trump wants to ‘open up’ country by Easter; stocks roar higher; US deaths reach 600

The nation absorbed its 600th coronavirus death Tuesday as stocks roared higher, the Summer Olympics were delayed, and President Donald Trump said he hoped to “open up” the nation by Easter.

“Our country has to get back to work,” Trump said. “Otherwise it’s going to be very hard to start it up again.”

In Congress, leaders on both sides of the aisle said a stimulus deal was near.

The U.S. death toll reached 600 hours after growing by more than 100 in a 24-hour period. As of Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. had more than 9,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, trailing only Italy and China. New York state, now testing more than 16,000 people daily, has more than half the U.S. cases.

Experts say confirmed cases reflect how much testing is done, and as the U.S. gets more tests, more confirmed cases are expected.

Across the world, more than 18,000 people have been killed by the virus and more than 400,000 infections have been confirmed, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard

Our live blog is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news. More headlines:

Trump wants country ‘raring to go by Easter’

President Donald Trump said he hopes the country can return to relative normalcy by Easter, April 12. Trump, in a virtual town hall on Fox News, said people can go back to work and still practice social distancing, wash their hands frequently and take other precautions. The flu kills tens of thousands of Americans each year, but the nation does not shut down for it, he added.

“I’d love to have the country opened up and raring to go by Easter,” Trump said.

Asked whether that was feasible, Trump said it’s not only possible but necessary to soon lift the current social-isolation measures that have sent the economy into a spiral.

“Again, this cure is worse than the problem,” Trump said. “Many people, in my opinion more people, are going to die if we allow this to continue. We have to get back to work.’’

Gov. Cuomo: NY hospitals could be overwhelmed within 2 weeks

New York state could be just two weeks from seeing 40,000 patients requiring intensive care in facilities equipped for only 3,000, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned. Cuomo, at his daily news conference, said the infection rate in New York is doubling about every three days and that daily infection numbers could peak next month. His state is home to more than half of the nation’s infections, although New York tests an estimated 16,000 people each day, far more than other states.

Cuomo said his state has the fastest rate of infection but said California, Washington, Illinois and other states should take heed because “we are your future.”

“We are not slowing it. And it is accelerating on its own,” he said in New York City. “We are now looking at a bullet train.”

Members of the National Guard listen to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as he speaks to the media at the Javits Convention Center.

Hopkins expert: Ending social distancing could cost millions of lives 

Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, warned in a series of tweets that curbing social distancing could cost millions of lives. Inglesby said the U.S has been seeing exponential growth in coronavirus cases and that health officials are just beginning to understand how pervasive it is.

“Anyone advising the end of social distancing now, needs to fully understand what the country will look like if we do that,” he tweeted. “COVID would spread widely, rapidly, terribly, could kill potentially millions in the yr ahead with huge social and economic impact across the country.”

McConnell: ‘We are on the 5-yard line’ for deal

Agreement on a trillion-dollar stimulus package that includes $1,200 checks to most Americans could be reached within hours, leaders from both parties said.

“I believe we are on the 5-yard line,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor. “We are very close.”

Speaking on CNBC, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “There is real optimism that we could get something done (within) hours.”

GOP-crafted plans have failed to gain traction with many Democrats, stalling efforts at a deal. But Pelosi said progress has been made on funds targeted for corporations and other entities. “Overarchingly, we are getting into a good place,” she said of the talks.

Trump to use Defense Production Act for test kits, masks

The Trump administration is expected to officially trigger the Defense Production Act for the first time on Tuesday to obtain about 60,000 coronavirus test kits to help health care workers confront a widespread shortage of medical supplies amid the unfolding crisis.

FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor told CNN his team planned to “use the DPA for the first time today,” adding that the administration would also insert “DPA language” into mass contracts for 500 million masks. The Korean War-era law allows Trump to address the shortage of medical supplies by directing private companies to expedite production of medical equipment. Trump invoked the DPA last week but has resisted calls from governors and other officials to actually enforce it. 

The president weighed in on using the law Tuesday morning, tweeting that the DPA was “in full force, but haven’t had to use it because no one has said NO! Millions of masks coming back up to States.” 

– Courtney Subramanian

Japan says Summer Olympics delayed to 2021

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach have agreed to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympics. According to a tweet from the Japanese Prime Minister’s office, the two agreed that the Games will not be canceled and “will be held by the summer of 2021.” It is the first time in modern Olympic history that a global health issue has disrupted the Games.

– Tom Schad

Stock market opens with big gains

Stocks rocketed higher at the start of trading Tuesday on hopes that Congress would pass a stimulus bill to shield the economy from the pandemic. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied more than 1,500 points and Standard & Poor’s 500 also jumped.

Besides providing most Americans with $1,200 payments, the measure is designed to help small businesses shuttered across the country and aid the hard-hit travel industry.

– Jessica Menton

India’s 1.3 billion people face ‘total lockdown’ for 3 weeks

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a “total lockdown” in the country of 1.3 billion people for three weeks “to save India.” Failure to properly manage the next 21 days could set the country back by 21 years, he said. Modi noted that Italy and the U.S., where health care is among the best in the world, were struggling to mitigate the effects of the virus. Indian health officials have reported more than 500 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 10 deaths.

Virus might live on surfaces for more than 2 weeks

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report indicates the virus can live on surfaces for more than two weeks. The CDC found traces of COVID-19 on surfaces in the cabins of both symptomatic and asymptomatic infected passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship – 17 days after passengers had left the cabins. Of note, the cabins had yet to be disinfected. While the data doesn’t show if transmission occurred from surfaces, the CDC report recommends exploring that further.

– David Oliver

85% of new COVID cases in US, Europe

Worldwide totals for deaths and infections from coronavirus are expected to increase considerably as numbers are updated throughout Tuesday.

World Health Organization spokeswoman Dr. Margaret Harris said overnight reporting showed 85% of the new cases are being reported in Europe and the United States. On Monday, WHO counted more than 334,000 total cases globally. Harris said the outbreak is accelerating rapidly and the case numbers obtained overnight “will put that up considerably.” The Hopkins dashboard had more than 400,000 early Tuesday.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it took 67 days from the first reported coronavirus cases to reach 100,000. The next 100,000 took 11 days, the next 100,000 just four days.

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Harvard president, wife test positive

Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow announced that he and his wife, Adele Bacow, both tested positive for the COVID-19 virus Tuesday.

In a letter addressed to the Harvard community, Bacow, 68, said they both started experiencing symptoms of coughs, then fevers, chills and muscle aches on Sunday. 

“Neither of us knows how we contracted the virus, but the good news — if there is any to be had — is that far fewer people crossed our paths recently than is usually the case,” he said. The couple started working from home and adopted social-distancing measures on March 14.

— Joey Garrison

Italy sees drop in deaths for second day in a row

The number of new confirmed cases and deaths in Italy fell for the second straight day, Emergency Commissioner and Civil Protection Chief Angelo Borrelli said. Monday’s death toll was 601, down from 651 on Sunday and 793 on Saturday. Nearly 70,000 Italians have been confirmed as infected and more than 6,800 have died. However, a report saying there may be 10 non-recorded coronavirus cases for every registered one in Italy is “credible,” Borelli told the ANSA news service.

Texas official ‘all in’ for risking life to keep economy sound

The lieutenant governor of Texas wants the United States to go back to work, saying grandparents like him don’t want to sacrifice the country’s economy during the coronavirus crisis. Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, 69, made the comments on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” after Trump said he wanted to reopen the country for business in weeks, not months. Patrick said grandparents, considered most threatened by COVID-19 because of age, wouldn’t want to sacrifice their grandchildren’s economic future.  

“No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ ” Patrick said. “And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in.”

– Adrianna Rodriguez

In China, Hubei’s 2-month lockdown starts to ease

The province in China where the coronavirus pandemic originated in December will lift travel restrictions on people leaving the region, China’s authorities said Tuesday. Hubei’s two-month lockdown ends at midnight, although people will only be able to leave the area if they are coronavirus-free and have been given a clean bill of health. 

Wuhan, Hubei’s provincial capital, will remain locked down until April 8.

– Kim Hjelmgaard

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Contributing: John Bacon and Lorenzo Reyes, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus update: Olympics, Fauci, stimulus bill, Wuhan travel rule