Live Coronavirus in the US Updates
Live Coronavirus in the US Updates
Amid high demand for small-business aid, the website for processing loans crashes.
Less than an hour after the Small Business Administration started taking requests for another $310 billion in emergency aid for small businesses on Monday morning, its computer system for processing the loan applications crashed.
“It’s obvious the system is simply flooded right now,” said Craig Street, the chief lending officer at United Midwest Savings Bank in Columbus, Ohio. “It’s been very stop and start, with no real way to know whether it is working other than to keep hitting the submit button.”
It was a rocky start for the second round of funding through the Paycheck Protection Program, a stimulus measure that offers small companies a low-interest loan to cover their payroll and other costs. If borrowers comply with the program’s rules, the loans will be forgiven.
The program began early this month, but its initial round of funding — $342 billion — was depleted in just 13 days. Hundreds of thousands of borrowers who sought loans did not make the cut. Congress authorized a new funding round last week, and the government began accepting applications for it at 10:30 a.m. on Monday.
Borrowers must apply for the money through banks or other lenders, but the Small Business Administration, which is managing the program, must approve each loan. Because the funds are first-come, first-served, lenders are anxious about getting their loans approved as quickly as possible.
S.B.A officials did not immediately respond to questions about the technical problems lenders were reporting with E-tran, the agency’s computer system for processing loans.
Mr. Street said he had been able to get a few loans submitted and approved, despite the technical challenges. Two loan officers at other banks said they were also struggling to submit applications.
The S.B.A. had tried to brace for the expected surge of demand. It imposed a “pacing mechanism,” an agency spokesman said, to limit the number of loans lenders could submit each hour.
It also allowed big lenders — those with at least 15,000 applications — to make one bulk submission each, bundling together all of their loans. The loans will still be processed individually, on a first-come, first-served basis, the agency said, and will only be funded if money remains available.
A New York Times investigation found that dozens of large but lower-profile companies with financial or legal problems had received large payouts under the program, according to an analysis of the more than 200 publicly traded companies that have disclosed receiving a total of more than $750 million in bailout loans.
Some companies are announcing that they will pay back the money they received. Over the weekend, the operator of Potbelly Sandwich Shops said that it would return a $10 million loan it got from a federal small business stimulus program.
Among those disclosing they have returned their Paycheck Protection Program funds: The Los Angeles Lakers. The team said it was returning about $4.6 million it received through the Small Business Program. Potbelly Corporation joined the owners of Shake Shack, the chain Kura Sushi and Ruth’s Chris Steak House in returning its loan. Federal officials clarified last week that the loans should not go to large public companies with other sources of capital.
Rob Nichols, the chief executive of the American Bankers Association, a trade group representing banks of all sizes, expressed bankers’ frustrations in a tweet on Monday. “Our member banks across the country are deeply frustrated at their inability to access @SBAGov’s E-Tran system,” he said, adding that until the problems were fixed, “#AmericasBanks will not be able to help more struggling small businesses.”
Colorado, Minnesota and Mississippi on Monday joined the handful of states that are beginning to reopen their economies shut down by the coronavirus.
But many business owners and customers said they were baffled by a blizzard of confusing rules and guidance from local, county and state governments about what was allowed and whether they should even reopen their doors.
“I couldn’t sleep last night because I was so confused,” Jose Oregel, who owns a barbershop in Greeley, Colo., said on Monday morning, an hour before he was expecting some of his first customers to walk in the door, where they will get haircuts from barbers wearing masks and gloves.
Mr. Oregel said he had received contradictory guidance from state officials over the past two days, with one saying he was fine to open and another saying he risked his license if he opened the shop on Monday. Colorado has reported more than 13,000 infections and at least 678 deaths.
Days after Alaska, Georgia and Oklahoma moved to reboot their economies, more governors and businesses across the country are facing increasingly complicated choices about reopening this week, with several stay-at-home orders set to expire on April 30.
In Minnesota, some agriculture, industrial and office employees were being allowed to return to work starting on Monday. Kentucky will permit nonurgent health care services, such as radiology and outpatient care, to resume on Monday. In Colorado, a statewide “stay at home” order issued by Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, lifted on Monday morning, allowing for a few, limited reopenings of businesses like barbershops and permitting real estate showings, voluntary surgeries and veterinary procedures.
But that much was too far for Denver and many surrounding suburbs, which decided to extend their closure orders through the first week of May, leaving most businesses closed.
Some retailers in Eagle County, which encompasses the wealthy ski town of Vail, were getting ready to start offering curbside pickup after their county got an early approval from the state to begin gradually allowing some basic businesses and nonessential medical services to resume.
And in the state’s conservative ranching and oil-drilling northeast that has been among the worst-hit areas by the virus, leaders in Weld County gave their blessing last week for any businesses to reopen provided they follow social-distancing guidance. On Monday morning, Bob Smith, 60, opened Continuum Coffee for takeout-only business but said he did not anticipate that tables of lingering latte-drinkers would be back anytime soon.
“It’s hard,” he said. “You hear one government office saying, ‘You’re good,’ and another saying, ‘no you’re not.’ I don’t know.”
Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House response coordinator, cautioned on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that Americans should expect some form of social-distancing guidelines to continue “through the summer.”
In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo laid out a broad outline on Sunday for a gradual restart of the state that would allow some “low risk” businesses upstate to reopen as soon as mid-May. He did not speculate when restrictions would be eased in New York City and surrounding suburbs, but he noted that they could not persist indefinitely. The governor said Monday that 337 more people had died in the state on Sunday, the lowest single-day death toll since March. He areported that the number of virus patients in hospitals and the number of intubated patients also continued to drop, as they have each day over the past two weeks.
Oil prices are collapsing again.
Oil prices plunged on Monday, with the American benchmark hurtling toward the $10 a barrel mark, as fears about a global glut in crude continued to weigh on energy markets.
But the S&P 500 rose about 1 percent, and European stocks were trading about 2 percent higher after a broadly higher day in Asia.
Since last week, investors have been panicked about oil storage facilities running out of capacity as producers continued to pump oil even as demand collapsed. That concern is most acute in the United States, where storage facilities in Cushing, Okla., are expected to reach capacity in May.
Its one reason the collapse in futures of American crude has been so much sharper than the global benchmark. On Monday, West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. benchmark, was down about 27 percent at a little more than $12 a barrel. At the same time, Brent Crude, the global benchmark, was down about 9 percent to just above $19 a barrel.
One factor behind the difference in price is that the Cushing facilities are landlocked, reachable only by pipeline, whereas Brent supplies can be reached by boat and either stored there or placed at facilities around the globe. Investors betting on an eventual rebound in oil prices are filling oil tankers up — with as much as two million barrels per vessel — and parking them out at sea, the Times’s Stanley Reed reported.
“I can send a boat to the Brent field; I can’t send a boat to Cushing, “ said Stuart Joyner, an analyst at Redburn, a market research firm.
Analysts say the unprecedented collapse of American crude prices into negative territory on April 20 spooked investors.
Global cuts in oil production are set to start on Friday, after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, along with Russia and other producers, agreed to reduce daily output by 9.7 million barrels a day, which is close to 10 percent of global output, to address a glut as demand for crude crashed.
Echoing the observations of doctors treating thousands of patients in the pandemic, the federal health agency this month changed its website to cite the following symptoms as possible indicators of Covid-19: chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.
Previously it had listed just three symptoms: fever, cough and shortness of breath.
The CDC made no public announcement when it added the six new symptoms to its website on April 18, and the agency did not immediately respond to questions about the revised list.
While people who become seriously ill from virus infection primarily have acute respiratory distress, other symptoms that accompany the disease can vary widely, doctors and researchers have reported.
It has turned out, for example, that many people with Covid-19 don’t have fevers or that their fevers wax and wane and are sometimes accompanied by chills.
Shortness of breath can emerge at the same time as other symptoms or it can crop up suddenly a week or even 10 days after a person has been experiencing more manageable symptoms like cough and aches.
Some people report a notable loss of smell and taste, an effect that can also occur with other respiratory infections.
The revised C.D.C. list differs somewhat from the symptoms described by the World Health Organization on its website. The W.H.O. says the most common symptoms are fever, dry cough and tiredness. “Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, sore throat or diarrhea,” the W.H.O. says. “These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually.”
The White House canceled the daily coronavirus briefing that it had listed on the schedule for Monday as Mr. Trump continued to complain about news coverage of his handling of the pandemic.
Kayleigh McEnany, the newly appointed White House press secretary, told reporters that there would be no briefing even though it had been listed on the calendar for 5 p.m. as usual. Instead, Mr. Trump is expected to open up a meeting with industry executives scheduled in the White House at 4 p.m., addressing a small pool of reporters.
Ms. McEnany said the regular briefings in the White House press room that have included public health experts as well as the president may be resumed later in the week in a new format.
The president spent much of the weekend railing on Twitter about the news media — including attacks against The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and even Fox News — and did not meet with reporters either Saturday or Sunday, saying the briefings were “not worth the time & effort.”
“There has never been, in the history of our Country, a more vicious or hostile Lamestream Media than there is right now, even in the midst of a National Emergency, the Invisible Enemy!” he wrote on Twitter on Monday morning. “FAKE NEWS, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” he added.
Cases of the virus aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer spiked over the weekend with at least 47 crew members testing positive, the Navy said on Monday.
The destroyer, the USS Kidd which has roughly 300 crew members, is part of a counternarcotics mission and is the second deployed American warship impacted by the coronavirus.
Two sailors aboard the destroyer, which was deployed to the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific, have been evacuated to the United States and the ship is returning to port. More than a dozen sailors have been sent to by a nearby warship for monitoring. So far, nearly 50 percent of the crew have been tested for the virus.
An aircraft carrier, the Theodore Roosevelt that is currently docked in Guam, has 955 active cases of the virus, according to the Navy, and is set to return to its deployment in the western Pacific in the coming weeks.
The actual toll is higher by an unknown degree, and will remain so for some time. A Times review of mortality data in 12 countries showed that official tallies have undercounted deaths during the outbreak, largely because of limited testing. Several thousand people in New York City who died without testing positive for Covid-19, and thousands more across the world, are considered probable cases.
Still, even the official numbers offer a sense of the scale and speed of the pandemic. The known global death count surpassed 100,000 on April 10, just a little more than two weeks ago.
Deaths per capita offer another measure of the pandemic. Belgium, with about 12 million people, has a relatively high figure of 62 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the Times database. But Belgium’s toll may reflect its more complete counting of deaths. Unlike many other countries, Belgium includes in its count deaths at nursing homes, where clustered populations of older adults are especially vulnerable. Spain’s reported toll is 50 deaths per 100,000 people, and Italy’s is 44. The figure in the United States is 15 per 100,000 people.
Most countries do not report deaths that occur outside of hospitals. Deaths that occurred before the virus was known to be circulating — like two in Santa Clara County, Calif., in February — are only starting to be re-examined. Further, some countries may be deliberately undercounting their tolls.
Residents of poorer areas of Los Angeles County are more than three times more likely to die because of the virus than people in wealthier communities in Southern California, public health officials said.
In a statement on Sunday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said it had recorded 16.5 deaths per 100,000 people in areas where at least 30 percent of residents lived in poverty. The death rate in communities with less poverty was 5.3 per 100,000 people.
“As we have more information about who is dying, we are reminded that the work ahead requires that we address issues of disproportionality that result in higher rates of death among African Americans, Latinx and Asians as well as residents living in poverty,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director.
“Ensuring access to testing, early treatment and care, and economic support among those communities at higher risk of devastating outcomes associated with Covid-19, is essential.”
The number of cases in Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous, has swelled in recent weeks, and more than 900 deaths in Los Angeles County have been blamed on the virus. Health officials nationwide have been warning that disparate rates of sickness and death have emerged in some places, especially among black people.
The new statistics from Los Angeles County show similar trends, with the mortality rate for African Americans at 13 per 100,000 people. Among white people, the death rate is 5.5.
The data also reinforced warnings that the virus can be more perilous for people with other health conditions. According to the county, 93 percent of people who died already had underlying health problems.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday announced it would launch an investigation into Mr. Trump’s decision to halt funding to the World Health Organization, calling the move a “political distraction” from the administration’s lackluster response to the coronavirus global pandemic.
“Attacking the W.H.O., rather than the Covid-19 outbreak, will only worsen an already dire situation by undermining one of our key tools to fight the spreading disease,” Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Mr. Trump said earlier this month that he planned to cut off American funding for the organization, blaming the agency for a “20-fold” increase in coronavirus cases worldwide and claiming the W.H.O. had become too “China-centric.”
His criticisms mirrored those of Republican lawmakers who have accused the organization’s leaders of being too trusting of Beijing regarding China’s response to the virus.
The Democrat-led House recently created an oversight panel focused on the Trump administration’s response.
Preliminary results for an arthritis drug as a treatment for Covid-19 are disappointing.
Doctors around the world, trying to save seriously ill patients with the virus, have been dosing them with arthritis drugs that can squelch immune responses. The theory was that many are dying because their immune systems went into overdrive, creating a fatal storm that attacked their lungs.
But now, preliminary results on treatments with one of these drugs, sarilumab, which is made by Sanofi-Regeneron, indicate that it does not help patients who are hospitalized but not using ventilators.
Sanofi-Regeneron immediately started a clinical trial that randomly assigned 457 hospitalized patients to receive 400 milligrams of sarilumab, 200 milligrams of it, or a placebo. The patients fell into two groups — “severe,” meaning they required oxygen but did not need a ventilator or so-called high flow oxygen, and “critical,” who needed a ventilator, high flow oxygen or were in intensive care.
Although the drug reduced c-reactive protein, which rises in severe inflammation, it did not help the severely ill patients, the companies reported on Monday. Many of those patients recovered on their own. Eighty percent were discharged from the hospital, whether or not they got the drug. Ten percent remained hospitalized and ten percent died.
The results for the critically ill patients are not conclusive but there is a hint that they might be helped. The study will continue with only critically ill patients; more than 600 have been enrolled. Results are expected in early June.
The companies are also conducting a second controlled trial in 400 critically ill patients outside the United States. Preliminary results will be available in the third quarter, the companies say.
Cities across the country are struggling under the economic shadow of the virus. But few have to deal with the collapse of their fundamental industry the way Houston, the self-proclaimed energy capital of the world, has as oil prices have plummeted.
On the same day that the price for U.S. crude oil fell to about $30 below zero — a mind-bending concept that marked the first time oil prices had ever turned negative — Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston stood before reporters and delivered the grim news, his words muffled by the black mask covering his face.
City employees would soon be furloughed, the mayor announced, but he declined to say how many. The Houston Zoo, he said, could expect to see funding deferred under what he called “the worst budget that the city will deal with in its history.”
Officials there are bracing for worse.
“We’ve probably seen within weeks the same amount of economic shock that used to occur in years,” said State Senator Paul Bettencourt, a Houston Republican whose district includes a stretch of Interstate 10 that is home to Shell, ConocoPhillips and other oil and gas giants. “We’ve gone through this before. The problem is we didn’t do it in the middle of a pandemic.”
The Houston area by some estimates may lose 200,000 to 300,000 jobs — a blow worse than the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009.
Houston has been through oil booms and oil busts before. The oil downturn of the 1980s was the worst ever, costing the region one in seven jobs. But now even the Petroleum Club of Houston is closed, along with bars, malls and churches.
Democrats and Republicans differ on attitudes toward virus risks and in workplace behaviors meant to reduce them, according to a new survey. This partisanship has the potential to hurt efforts to stop the spread.
The data from Gallup’s Covid-19 tracking panel shows that people deemed essential workers are generating large numbers of close contacts with other people, putting themselves and those they live with at risk. Recognizing this, most workers have changed how they do their jobs to reduce the risk of viral transmission.
Yet workers living in counties won by the president in the 2016 election are slightly less likely to have adopted these changes, with Republicans living in those counties even less likely to have done so.
“Coronavirus” is one fist nestled against and behind the other, then opened, fingers spread like a sunburst or a peacock tail.
Rorri Burton demonstrates via FaceTime, her sturdy hands and bare nails even cleaner than she usually scrubs them. The gesture is almost pretty compared to, say, “serological testing,” which, as she translates it, goes: “Pricked finger, test, analyze, see. Person before had coronavirus inside body? Doesn’t matter. Feels sick? Not feels sick? Doesn’t matter.”
Ms. Burton, who regularly appears with Los Angeles County officials, has recently joined an increasingly visible pantheon of essential workers: the people gesticulating on television and in internet live streams beside the governors and public health officers communicating the mighty struggle to stop the spread.
As the pandemic has ground on, interpreters, hired to help satisfy a legal requirement to provide “functionally equivalent” communication for deaf and hearing-impaired consumers, have found themselves in the restless sights of a cooped-up American public, even as they are forced to ad-lib a whole new vocabulary of crisis.
Interpreters also have spurred disability rights groups who keep asking, in vain, why the White House’s televised briefings aren’t being interpreted live for deaf viewers.
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Reporting was contributed by Alan Blinder, Eileen Sullivan, Michael Cooper, Jack Healy, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, David Enrich, Jesse Drucker, Stacy Cowley, Marc Santora, Roni Caryn Rabin, Pam Belluck, Shawn Hubler, Manny Fernandez, Jonah Engel Bromwich, David Montgomery, David Gelles, Kate Kelly, Katie Rogers, Neil Vigdor, David Yaffe-Bellany, Jonathan Rothwell and Gina Kolata.