U.S. Cases Top 1 Million; Meat Plants to Stay Open: Virus Update

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. passed the 1 million mark and deaths topped 58,000, double the toll in Italy.

France plans to begin reopening shops on May 11, while Spain is preparing for a “new normal” as Europe’s hardest-hit nation removes restrictions over the next eight weeks. The trend of overall cases is improving in Singapore but the government wants to make sure there is a reduction in local community transmission before moving to relax circuit-breaker measures.

President Trump signed an executive order requiring meat-processing plants to stay open, in a move slammed by unions. New York City reported a decline in the number of people admitted to hospitals for the new coronavirus, while the state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, laid out criteria necessary for some upstate regions to reopen.

Key Developments

  • Virus Tracker: Cases top 3.1 million; deaths pass 216,000
  • Testing shortagesundermine drive to restart U.S. economy
  • China is attempting to prevent a second wave of infections
  • Mexico City top hospitals reach capacity,reject virus patients
  • Virus forces China torethink Xi’s annual political pageant
  • Business of survival fuels race fornew skills to stay afloat

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22,412 in U.S.Most new cases today

-16% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-1.​12 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-0.​5% Global GDP Tracker (annualized), March


Brazil Death Toll Hits 5,000 With Curve on Rise (9:35 a.m. HK)

Brazil saw the total number of deaths from the virus surpass 5,000 after reporting 474 deaths over 24 hours, making its pandemic-related toll the ninth-highest worldwide.

In contrast to other parts of the world, Brazil’s curve is climbing, Health Minister Nelson Teich announced during a news conference. As of Tuesday, the country had counted nearly 72,000 positive cases and 5,017 deaths, and a 7% death rate.

When asked during the news conference about mounting fatalities, President Jair Bolsonaro answered, “So what? What do you want me to do about it?” before joking that even though his middle name means messiah in Portuguese, “I can’t make miracles.”

Trump Orders Meat Plants to Remain Open (8:49 a.m. HK)

President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that compels slaughterhouses to remain open, setting up a showdown between the giant companies that produce the country’s meat and the unions and activists who want to protect workers during the pandemic.

Meat-processing plants in the U.S. have shut down because of the coronavirus, but Trump said in the order that “such closures threaten the continued functioning of the national meat and poultry supply chain, undermining critical infrastructure during the national emergency.”

China Adds 22 Cases, No Deaths (8:32 a.m. HK)

China reports 22 additional virus cases as of April 28, with 21 of them from abroad, according to a statement from the country’s National Health Commission.

It reported no additional deaths. Of the confirmed cases, one was earlier classified as asymptomatic. China has 993 asymptomatic coronavirus cases under medical observation as of April 28.

The total death toll China has reported stands at 4,633.

HK High Schools May Resume on May 26: Ming Pao (8:29 a.m. HK)

Senior high school students are expected to return to school on May 26 at earliest, the day after the city’s university entrance exam ends, Chinese-language Ming Pao Daily reported, citing unidentified people.

The report said a half-day schedule is likely to run throughout the remaining school year to avoid crowds gathering during lunchtime. Junior high school students are likely to go back to class on June 8, at the earliest, the report said. Grades five and six are expected to resume as early as June 1.

U.K. Needs Key Tool to Lift Lockdown (7:57 a.m. HK)

The U.K. government is about three weeks from releasing the tool it says is essential to easing the current coronavirus lockdown, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, in a sign current restrictions are likely to largely continue until at least the second half of May.

The government has said it sees a “test, track and trace” system as the way to ensure that Covid-19 infections don’t take off again as the lockdown is eased. That requires the recruitment of 18,000 “contact tracers” to identify people who might have been exposed to the virus, as well as the release of a mobile phone app that will do part of that job automatically.

Romney Urges U.S. to Be Aggressive on Chinese ’Propaganda’ (7:51 a.m. HK)

Republican Senator Mitt Romney says he and other senators are urging the Trump administration to undertake a “very aggressive” effort to combat what he says is Chinese propaganda intended to portray the U.S. as incompetent in handling the coronavirus crisis.

The Utah senator said in an online discussion sponsored by the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service that there is growing concern that China is trying to take advantage of the current crisis to expand its influence.

“They will be able to say, whether it’s true or not, that they were able to knock down COVID-19 and ‘look what’s happened in the United States, it’s still running amok’ and that will be convincing to many,” Romney said.

U.S. to Reclaim Payments to the Dead (6:30 a.m. HK)

The U.S. Treasury Department is planning to instruct people whosedeceased relatives received coronavirus stimulus payments to return the money to the federal government, according to a department spokesman.

The Treasury is aware that some individuals who have recently died received the $1,200 economic impact payments and plans to issue guidance in the coming days, the spokesman said.

The announcement addresses an issue that some people began noticing earlier this month when the stimulus payments passed by Congress in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak were first deposited into bank accounts: Family members who had died in the past several months were receiving payments.

South African Economy Could Contract 6% (6:15 a.m. HK)

South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said the South African economy couldcontract as much as 6.4% this year due to the coronavirus outbreak and the budget deficit could swell to more than 10% of gross domestic product.

In a recording of a conference call with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. clients, Mboweni said he expected the contraction to be deeper than the 5.8% forecast by the International Monetary Fund. The rebound to 4% economic growth that the lender projects for 2021 is possible, he said, but it will require significant structural changes to the economy.

Starbucks Sees China Sales Falling 25% (5:12 p.m. NY)

Starbucks Corp. has opened almost all its locations in China, but still sees the lingering impact of the coronavirus pandemic trimming same-store sales there by 15% to 25% this fiscal year. The shares fell in late trading.

Same-store sales fell 10% globally in the company’s second quarter, slightly outpacing the average estimate for a 9.7% decline compiled by Consensus Metrix. The measure -- a key gauge of success for restaurant chains -- fell 50% in China, which along with the U.S. is a priority market for the company.

With the U.S. likely following China’s path to reopening, but on a delayed time line, 2020 increasingly is looking like a lost year for the company. Since the pandemic started to affect U.S. sales only at the end of the quarter that ended in late March, impact on third-quarter results will be “significantly greater” and extend into the fiscal fourth quarter “at a more moderate level.”

California Considers Starting School Year in Summer (4:45 p.m. NY)

California, which has closed schools for the academic year, is considering bumping up the start of the new school year to late July or early August, Governor Gavin Newsom said. The tools necessary for distance learning – laptops, tablets and reliable wireless internet – aren’t adequately available across the state, he said.

“There’s been a learning loss, and you can either just roll over and just accept that or you can do something about it,” Newsom said at his daily press conference.

Opening schools would also help parents get back to work as the economy restarts. Newsom reiterated that he expects some changes to California’s stay-at-home order will come in “weeks, not months,” with the next phase aimed at bringing back some lower-risk workplaces, including child care facilities.

Trump Ties Aid to Sanctuary Policies (4:30 p.m. NY)

President Trump indicated he wouldn’t allow federal aid for states facing budget deficits from the coronavirus outbreak unless they take action against “sanctuary cities” -- municipalities that prevent their police from cooperating with immigration authorities.

“We would want certain things” as part of a deal with House Democrats to aid states, he said at a White House event on Tuesday, “including sanctuary city adjustments, because we have so many people in sanctuary cities.”

“What’s happening is people are being protected that shouldn’t be protected and a lot of bad things are happening with sanctuary cities,” he added.

U.S. Cases Rise 2.5%, Below Week’s Average (4 p.m. NY)

U.S. cases rose 2.5% from the day before to surpass 1 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That was higher than Monday’s growth rate of 2.3% but below average daily increase of 3.3% over the past week. Deaths rose 3.7% to 57,608. Deaths rose 3.7% to 57,608.

  • New York’s cases rose 1.1%, according to the Johns Hopkins and Bloomberg News data.
  • New Jersey, which has the second-highest Covid-19 rate, reported 402 new deaths, for a total of 6,442,according to the state’s health department.
  • In Texas, cases rose 3.5% to 26,171, almost in lockstep with the rate of increase in testing, according to the state’s health department. Hospitalizations climbed by 119 to 1,682, or 19% higher than a week ago.
  • Florida reported 32,846 cases, up 2.2% from a day earlier, according to the state’s health department. Deaths reached 1,171, an increase of 7.6%.
  • Nebraska had the highest daily increase, with cases rising 16% to 3,507

Fauci ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ on Vaccine (1:57 p.m. NY)

The U.S. government’s top infectious disease specialist is “cautiously optimistic” scientists will develop a Covid-19 vaccine that can protect against future outbreaks of a virus he said is unlikely to disappear.

“The very fact that people can mount a natural immune response that gets rid of the virus in them makes me cautiously optimistic that we can develop a vaccine that can mimic natural infection enough to induce that same sort of response that would ultimately protect people,” Anthony Fauci said Tuesday at a virtual event hosted by the Economic Club.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in the past has shied away from making predictions about treatments.

Spain Aims to Lift Lockdown in 8 Weeks (1:15 p.m. NY)

Spain aims to remove most restrictions on daily life and return to a “new normal” over the next eight weeks, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said.

The process will be subject to data on the number of Covid-19 infections and won’t follow a strict calendar, Sanchez said in a televised address. Schools won’t return until September. Each province will ease curbs on activity at its own pace in accordance with its particular situation, Sanchez added.

After a six-week lockdown that has crippled the economy, the health ministry earlier reported a drop in the number of new virus cases and deaths, continuing a trend of steady decline in the nation with Europe’s most extensive outbreak.

U.K. Reports 586 More Deaths (12:23 p.m. NY)

A further 586 people are reported to have died from the coronavirus in U.K. hospitals, the government said.

That’s an increase from the 360 deaths reported Monday, but U.K. death numbers are usually artificially low after a weekend.

Some 3,996 more people tested positive for the disease, down from an increase of 4,310 the day before, according to figures given by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Tuesday. The U.K. now has more confirmed cases than Germany, and the fifth-highest number of confirmed cases in the world.

Putin Extends Russian Lockdown (11:10 a.m. NY)

President Vladimir Putinordered Russians to remain under lockdown through May 11 after the total number of coronavirus cases in the country surpassed China’s.

“We have been able to slow down the epidemic,” Putin said Tuesday in a videoconference with officials and regional governors. “The peak has not yet been reached. We are facing the most intense stage of the fight against the epidemic.”

Putin also ordered the government to prepare a plan for gradually lifting the virus restrictions starting as early as May 12, and said ministers should draw up further programs to support the economy. Easing the measures against the epidemic won’t happen all at once, the president said.

NYC Sees Drop in Virus Admissions (10:37 a.m. NY)

New York City reported a decline in the number of people admitted to hospitals for the new coronavirus, to 112 from 122 as of April 25.

The number of people in New York City Health + Hospitals intensive-care units also declined, to 745 from 766 as of April 25, according to figures presented by Mayor Bill de Blasio at his Tuesday virus briefing.

In another sign of progress, de Blasio reported that the citywide percentage of people who tested positive for Covid-19 is 27%, down from 29%. Testing positivity was slightly higher at the public health lab, up to 56% from 55%.

France to Reopen Shops Starting May 11 (9:46 a.m. NY)

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said a decision on whether to reopen restaurants and cafes will be examined at the end of May, and that pupils can start returning to school from May 11 but with strict rules. Public events of more than 5,000 people are outlawed until September, and working from home is encouraged for at least three more weeks, he said.

Germany to Extend Takeover Controls to Health Care (8:48 a.m. NY)

The German government plans to extend itsprotection against foreign takeovers to the health-care industry after the coronavirus outbreak made companies more vulnerable. Angela Merkel’s cabinet aims to lower the threshold for scrutinizing investments in the sector from outside the European Union, the Economy Ministry said Tuesday.

Singapore Virus Trend ‘Improving’ (6:43 a.m. NY)

The trend of overall cases is “indeed improving” but the government wants to make sure there is a decisive reduction in local community transmission before moving to relax circuit breaker measures, Singapore Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said at a briefing.

As part of the city-state’s strategy to bring down infections in the weeks to come, the government said it has more than doubled its daily testing capacity since early April even as the number of cases. Once touted as an early success in containing the spread, Singapore now has Asia’s highest number of coronavirus cases after China and India. Much of the surge in infections has been driven by hundreds of new daily cases from migrant worker dorms.

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