New York state daily virus deaths drop below 100

New York state’s daily death toll has dropped below 100 for the first time since late March.

A total of 84 people died in the last 24 hours, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday, compared with 109 a day before.

During the height of the outbreak in April, more than 1,000 people a day were losing their lives in worst-hit US state.

“In my head, I was always looking to get under 100,” Mr Cuomo said.

“It doesn’t do good for any of those 84 families that are feeling the pain,” he said at his daily briefing, but added that the drop was a sign of “real progress”.

Mr Cuomo announced on Friday that groups of up to 10 people could gather “for any lawful purpose” anywhere in the state, including New York City.

But, he added: “If you don’t have to be with a group of 10 people don’t be with a group of 10 people.”

New York state was once the epicentre of the US coronavirus outbreak, with more than 28,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The US has the biggest death toll from Covid-19 at 96,000. The UK is second with more than 36,000.

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Pelosi pushes new virus package as McConnell hits “pause” – The Denver Post

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pressed ahead Tuesday with the next coronavirus aid, a sweeping package that is expected to be unveiled soon even as the House stays closed while the Senate reopens in the pandemic.

Key to any plan to reopen the economy, Democrats say, is robust testing. They are also expected to propose another round of direct cash aid for anxious Americans, funds for states to prevent layoffs and more money to shore up businesses in the stay-home economy. Pelosi had indicated more than $800 billion could be needed, but her office declined to confirm a final figure Tuesday.

“We still don’t have a national testing strategy that is adequate,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said. “It’s life and death.”

The contours of the next package are taking shape despite Republican resistance to more spending and a deepening debate over how best to confront the deadly pandemic and its economic devastation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday it’s time to push “pause” on more aid.

President Donald Trump is encouraging states to reopen and Republicans hope the gradual comeback will kick-start the economy, reducing the pressure for more pricey aid.

“Now it’s time to go back to work,” Trump said at the White House.

Under strict social distancing guidelines, the Senate reconvened Monday for the first time since March, while the House is staying away due to the health risks. The Washington area remains a virus hot spot under stay-home rules.

McConnell has focused the chamber’s workload on confirming Trump’s nominees, with several committees meeting remotely this week.

The GOP leader insists that any new aid package must include liability protections for the hospitals, health care providers and businesses that are operating and reopening in the pandemic. He said Tuesday he wants to prevent “an epidemic of lawsuits.”

But McConnell also signaled an interest in beefed-up virus testing strategies as central to the nation’s ability to take steps “back toward normalcy.”

By reconvening, Senate Republicans are trying to set the terms of debate, frustrated that Pelosi was able to fill up earlier aid bills with Democratic priorities. They’re reluctant to unleash federal funds beyond the nearly $3 trillion Congress already approved in virus relief and hope Trump’s push to re-open will reduce the need for more aid.

“I just don’t think we need to act as quite urgently as we did last time,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas told reporters at the Capitol.

The No. 2 Republican, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, said Washington had already “flooded the zone” with virus relief and should assess “what’s working and what’s not.”

Senators returned to a changed place with new guidelines, including the recommendation that senators wear masks, though not all of them were complying.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who tested positive for the virus in March, asserted he no longer needs to cover his face because he has “immunity” — even though health officials warn there is no guarantee that infected people can’t contract the virus again.

It’s not just lawmakers and the Capitol’s workers at risk.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said he disagreed with McConnell’s decision to decline Trump’s offer of instant virus testing, warning that lawmakers should be screened on exit.

“Members of Congress would represent sort of a virus-spreading machine, coming in here to a coronavirus hot spot and then going home,” Alexander said.

Senators were encouraged to keep their distance and leave most staff at home, though Republican senators gathered as a large group for their traditional luncheon. Public access to the Capitol is limited, including at public hearings. The Capitol itself remains closed to visitors and tours.

In a first, the Banking Committee convened with most of the Democratic senators appearing remotely for a hearing to consider two nominations, including Brian Miller to be the inspector general of the pandemic recovery.

“We’re making a little bit of history here,” said Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, the chairman.

With Democrats eyeing a new aid package, Pelosi outlined the governors’ requests for $500 billion, with the counties and cities seeking as much as $300 billion, which she has said could be spread out over the next several years.

Trump said any new package must have a payroll-tax holiday.

But Republicans are divided on that approach, with some questioning whether it helps the 30 million jobless Americans.

“I’ve never thought that really would be very effective,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Collins is part of a bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers, including Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who met to discuss a state and local aid package.

The White House, however, is also hitting pause on new aid.

White House Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland said before the administration commits to new spending, “the president and his team would like to assess how successful we’ve been as these resources have gone out the door.”

In the Senate, McConnell has loaded up the schedule with consideration of Trump’s nominees, including a hearing Tuesday on John Ratcliffe, the Texas Republican congressman who is Trump’s choice to lead the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

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Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor, Mary Clare Jalonick, Kevin Freking and Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.

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Australia and New Zealand mark Anzac Day at home

Across Australia and New Zealand, thousands of people have stood outside their homes at dawn to mark Anzac Day, after households were urged to pay tribute even amid coronavirus lockdown.

The national day of remembrance is a hugely important event for both nations and usually crowds gather for services.

However these were cancelled last month amid wider restrictions on gatherings.

Instead people were urged to hold a candle in their driveways and live stream services.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had acknowledged the disappointment in the ceremonies being cancelled for the first time in history.

“But that doesn’t mean we can’t show our support as a collective,” she had previously said.

“As dawn breaks, we can stand at the end of those driveways … together in silence and pay tribute to those we should never forget.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attended a closed dawn ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, which began at 06:00 and was broadcast nationally.

On Friday he had told Australians: “I look forward to the entire nation, on their driveways, lighting up the dawn, remembering our heroes and drawing inspiration from them for the task and challenge we currently face.”

Some of the alternative, home-bound tributes reported on Saturday included musicians playing the Last Post on brass instruments in suburbs, while others shared pictures of poppy wreaths online and baked Anzac cookies at home.

Australia’s veterans group, the Returned Services League (RSL) also encouraged “diggers” – service men and women – to call each other in lieu of the normal marches and parades.

The two nation’s joint Anzac Day services at Gallipoli in Turkey are traditionally a pilgrimage for many citizens, but these were also cancelled after travel bans were brought in.

What does Anzac Day represent?

It marks the anniversary of the first campaign that led to major casualties for the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) during World War One.

On 25 April 1915, soldiers from both countries landed at Gallipoli Cove in Turkey, part of an Allied effort to capture the peninsula from the Ottoman Empire.

Collectively termed Anzacs by a military clerk keen to fit the name on a rubber stamp, the acronym stuck.

After an eight-month campaign, the Allies retreated in defeat after heavy losses on both sides. More than 87,000 Turks died, along with an estimated 44,000 men from the British Empire and France, including about 8,500 Australians and nearly 3,000 New Zealanders – one in four of the Kiwis sent to Gallipoli.

It was the Anzacs’ first major engagement on the world stage, fought by the grandfathers and great-grandfathers of today’s Australians and New Zealanders.

The first Anzac commemorations were held in 1916. These have morphed into big-budget productions in Australia, New Zealand and Turkey.

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Coronavirus: New loans scheme launched for firms with turnovers above £45m

Businesses with a turnover of more than £45m will be allowed to access funding through a new government scheme, the chancellor has announced.

Rishi Sunak said the government wanted to ensure that “no viable business slips through our safety net of support as we help protect jobs and the economy” during the coronavirus outbreak.

Sky’s city editor Mark Kleinman reported at the weekend that ministers were preparing to overhaul the emergency loan programme for larger companies whose future has been put at risk of collapse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

From Monday, firms can apply for loans accredited by the British Business Bank, through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS).

Companies with sales between £45m and £250m will be able to apply for the short-term loans and financial support of up to £25m if they have been forced to halt operations or been impacted by the virus shutdown.

Larger firms with sales of more than £250m will also be able to access the support.

But if they access CLBILS, they will be unable to use the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF).

EasyJet and Greggs have both already borrowed from the latter.

Sky News has learnt that the Treasury has decided to allow companies which are majority-owned by major private equity groups to access CLBILS on an individual basis.

Buyout firms had been uncertain about whether a single £50m loan cap would be applied across a financial sponsor’s entire portfolio of investments.

Mr Sunak said: “I want to ensure that no viable business slips through our safety net of support as we help protect jobs and the economy. That is why we are expanding this generous scheme for larger firms.

“This is a national effort and we’ll continue to work with the financial services sector to ensure that our £330bn of government support, through loans and guarantees, reaches as many businesses in need as possible.”

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said expanding the scheme would “provide larger firms with the support they need during the pandemic, helping to provide job security to thousands of people and protect our economy”.

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New Orleans doctors scramble as coronavirus deaths, cases soar

(Reuters) – Emergency room doctor Thomas Krajewski stopped at the hospital room door at 2 a.m. to glance at the chart. He knew instantly the long odds faced by the patient inside: A man in his 70s, with a fever, short of breath.

“Do you mind calling my son?” the patient asked him. “My two grandsons tomorrow morning are going to crawl in my bed because they wake me up on the weekends, and if I’m not there, they will wonder.”

Twelve hours later, the man needed a ventilator. After a day, his kidneys started to fail. In three days, he was dead – one of 151 people who had succumbed to COVID-19 in Louisiana by late Sunday. The state has confirmed 3,540 cases since March 9 – among the world’s fastest-growing infection rates. That pace, Governor John Bel Edwards has said, signals that the state could become the next Italy, with overwhelmed hospitals forced to turn patients away.

Frontline health workers scrambled to prepare for that grim prophecy as patients started to stream through their doors last week. The governor said on Face the Nation Sunday that the state has only a tiny fraction of the about 13,000 ventilators it will need, and that it has yet to receive federal approval to tap a national stockpile. In New Orleans, the state’s epicenter, authorities are setting up a field hospital to handle the expected overflow of patients at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center – the same site where thousands of Hurricane Katrina refugees suffered in 2005.

Then as now, many doctors fear they won’t get enough supplies and support to keep up with the deluge of victims. This time they are fighting a pathogen that threatens them – and their families – every time they extend a hand to help a patient.

Krajewski, a 31-year-old Cincinnati native who is just two years out of residency, works the overnight shift at St. Bernard Parish Hospital, in a working class suburb just east of the city. After work, Krajewski comes home to his newborn son, Cal, just three weeks old, and his wife Genevieve. He strips off his clothes on the porch before entering his house. He drops his glasses and phone into a small UV light sterilizer and heads straight to the shower.

“I come home – and I’m horrified,” Krajewski said. “I’m wearing an N95 respirator-level face mask anytime I’m near my child, and that is after I’ve fully decontaminated.”

Doctors across New Orleans are calling colleagues in New York and Seattle, sharing intelligence on the virus. They trade suggestions on how to hook two patients up to a single respirator. Some health workers are renting out apartments to quarantine themselves from their families, said Joseph Kanter, an emergency room physician and lead public health official for the New Orleans area.

“They’re using all these stop-gap measures” to protect themselves, said Kanter, calling it a “damning indictment” of the nation’s lack of preparedness for such a pandemic.

‘IT CAN HAPPEN TO ME’

With more than 141,000 infected and nearly 2,500 dead in the United States, health workers in hard-hit places like New Orleans are feeling the strain of taking in hundreds of contagious patients who often deteriorate quickly.

While older patients are by far the most at-risk, some Louisiana doctors say they have been shocked at the severity of some cases in which younger people have just one underlying condition, such as hypertension or diabetes. Some patients in their 30s or 40s have been quickly put on life support, said Jeff Elder, an emergency physician at University Medical Center in downtown New Orleans.

Such cases are worrisome because doctors are still struggling to understand why certain younger patients are hit so much harder than others – and because they make younger caregivers fear for their own safety.

“You treat them and think, ‘If it is happening to him, it can happen to me,’” said Elder, who is 40.

EXPONENTIAL RISE

Louisiana’s soaring infection rates mean some hospitals will have to start turning away patients in the next week unless statewide efforts to curtail social contact start to show an impact, Governor Edwards has said. The governor’s pleas for residents to stay home in daily news conferences have become increasingly laced with anger and frustration.

“It’s not that hard to understand!” Edwards said on Friday, talking about what awaits New Orleans. “The trajectory we’re on right now takes us to a place where we cannot meet the demands on our health care system.”

Even as fears rise inside overtaxed hospitals, caregivers are working in an unsettling silence. Many have bans or severe limitations on visiting family members, who normally fill their hallways with conversation, comforting loved ones and waiting on scraps of news.

Patients with COVID-19 suffer quietly, too. In survival mode, they focus almost solely on breathing. Fevers make them sweat through their hospital gowns as they sit upright in bed, the position that makes it easiest to breathe. Ventilators hum in the background.

Krajewski decided early in college to become a doctor, in part because of a self-described hero complex. In his young career, he has thrived on seeing patients get well in response to his treatments.

That’s all changed in the last few days. He has put about a dozen patients on life support, and only one has come off. Five have died.

“There is a sense of gravity when you know you are one of the last people that will talk to somebody,” Krajewski said. “Those conversations are happening more often.”

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Trump backs away from New York ‘quarantine’

US President Donald Trump has said quarantining New York “will not be necessary”, after the state’s governor said doing so would be “preposterous”.

Mr Trump said the latest decision was taken on the recommendation of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

The president had earlier said he might impose a quarantine on New York, and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut, to slow the spread of Covid-19.

There are more than 52,000 cases in New York.

The state has about half of the total confirmed Covid-19 cases in the entire US.

Mr Trump tweeted that instead of quarantine, a “strong travel advisory” would be issued to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC then published a statement urging residents of those three states to “refrain” from all non-essential domestic travel for 14 days.

The agency said the advisory did not apply to “critical infrastructure” service providers, including healthcare professionals and food suppliers.

Speaking to reporters earlier on Saturday about the situation in New York, Mr Trump said: “We’d like to see [it] quarantined because it’s a hotspot… I’m thinking about that.”

He said it would be aimed at slowing the spread of the virus to other parts of the US.

“They’re having problems down in Florida. A lot of New Yorkers are going down. We don’t want that,” he said.

What did New York’s governor say?

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo responded by saying that quarantining the state of New York would be “preposterous” and “anti-American”.

“If you said we were geographically restricted from leaving, that would be a lockdown.”

He said New York had already implemented “quarantine” measures, such as banning major gatherings and ordering people to remain at home, but that he would oppose any “lockdown” efforts.

“Then we would be Wuhan, China, and that wouldn’t make any sense,” he told CNN, adding that this would cause the stock market to crash in a way that would make it impossible for the US economy to “recover for months, if not years”.

“You would paralyse the financial sector,” he said.

He added later: “I don’t know how that can be legally enforceable. And from a medical point of view, I don’t know what you would be accomplishing.

“But I can tell you, I don’t even like the sound of it.”

Mr Cuomo also said he would sue nearby Rhode Island if the authorities there continued targeting New Yorkers and threatening to punish them for failing to quarantine.

On Friday, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo deployed National Guard troops to stop cars with a New York licence plate, to remind them of their state’s advice that they quarantine.

Soldiers are going door-to-door in coastal vacation communities to ask if any residents have recently visited New York City.

The White House has said anyone leaving New York City should self-isolate for 14 days.

What’s the latest in the US?

With more than 1,800 virus-related fatalities, the US death toll remains lower than those in Italy and China. But there are virus hotspots in New York, New Orleans, Detroit and Seattle.

Saturday saw the first death in the US of an infant who had tested positive for coronavirus. The baby died in Chicago.

In his press briefing, Mr Cuomo said New York was postponing its presidential primary by almost two months until 23 June as a result of the outbreak.

He also said the apex of the crisis would occur in the next 14 to 21 days.

Mr Cuomo said the state would soon require 30,000 respiratory ventilators, which had increased in price to $45,000 (£36,000) each due to demand.

He added that Mr Trump had approved the construction of four temporary hospitals.

Demand for ventilators has also doubled in the southern state of Louisiana. Governor John Bel Edwards said New Orleans would run out of ventilators by 2 April and possibly run out of hospital beds by 7 April if the number of new infections did not subside.

“It’s not some flimsy theory. This is what is going to happen,” he said.

President Trump has ordered a car manufacturer in Detroit to produce more ventilators.

Hospitals in New York City are rapidly running out of medical equipment and personal protective gear. More widely, the mayors of most US cities have said they expect massive shortages of critical personal safety equipment in the coming weeks.

On Saturday, Mr Trump watched as the USNS Comfort, a navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds aboard, left for New York from Virginia. It will station itself at a Manhattan pier to deal with the overload of patients that New York expects.

It came after Mr Trump signed a $2.2 trillion (£1.8tr) bailout bill passed by Congress on Friday, the largest fiscal stimulus in US history.

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