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Governors ask the White House to do more on testing

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

WASHINGTON — This article contains ongoing U.S. and international updates on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects. Here are some key updates for Monday, April 20, 2020. You can find more details by scrolling through the story.

  • President Trump leads White House briefing to update the public on coronavirus containment fight
  • MLB can cut pay, lay off managers, coaches starting May 1
  • Massachusetts becoming new virus hotspot
  • Number of daily deaths in New York state continues to drop
  • WHO head warns worst of virus is still ahead 
  • Restaurant industry estimated to lose $240 billion by end of the year
  • Fauci warns economic recovery will not happen if reopening is too fast 
  • Pope Francis postpones international family rally, World Youth Day
  • White House to hold call with governors on testing supplies 
  • US, Mexico and Canada agree to extend border closures 
  • Prince Philip made a public statement praising healthcare workers.
  • Shops, schools begin opening in Germany, Denmark
  • President Trump says his administration and Congress are getting close to a deal on a $450 billion aid package.
  • Trump says he'll use the Defense Production Act to increase manufacturing of swabs used to test for coronavirus.

RELATED: Trump says he'll act to increase swab production for coronavirus testing

There were more than 776,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States around 4:30 p.m. ET on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 41,000 deaths in the U.S., with more than 71,000 recoveries. More than 3.8 million tests have been conducted nationwide.

Worldwide, there have been 2.4 million cases and  nearly 169,000 deaths.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

President Trump opens Monday White House briefing updating the public on the virus fight

President Trump told reporters there are still a number of hot spots around the country where the virus outbreak is continuing to heat up. Trump said the country will have them contained. Trump said tremendous progress is being made on vaccines, but on therapeutics as well. The president said the therapeutics would work on attacking the virus or prevent it from spreading. 

Governors from both parties are pushing back after President Donald Trump accused Democrats of playing “a very dangerous political game” by insisting there is a shortage of tests for the coronavirus. 

The governors countered on Monday that the White House must do more to help states do the testing that’s needed before they can ease up on stay-at-home orders. Kansas’s Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said the current federal effort “really is not good enough if we’re going to be able to start to open our economy.” Republican Mike DeWine in Ohio said there's progress but “we've got a ways to go.” 

Dr. Deborah L. Birx stressed that their focus now, in regards to mitigation, is to ensure that asymptomatic people do not continue to spread the virus. 

MLB can cut pay, lay off managers, coaches starting May 1

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended uniform employee contracts as of May 1, giving teams the ability to lay off or cut the pay of major and minor league managers, coaches, trainers and full-time scouts.

About 9,000 people are covered by uniform employee contracts, including general managers and baseball operations staff on some teams. Manfred cited the inability to play games due to the national emergency caused by the new coronavirus pandemic.

“Our clubs rely heavily on revenue from tickets/concessions, broadcasting/media, licensing and sponsorships to pay salaries,” Manfred wrote in an email Monday, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. “In the absence of games, these revenue streams will be lost or substantially reduced, and clubs will not have sufficient funds to meet their financial obligations.”

Massachusetts becoming new hotspot 

Massachusetts has become a hotspot of coronavirus infections, drawing the concern of federal officials and promises of aid from hard-hit New York.

The state's death toll is expected to surpass 2,000 this week, doubling in less than a week. Officials are scrambling to boost hospital capacity and trace new infections to curb the spread of the disease.

Vice President Mike Pence has said the White House is closely watching the Boston area. The coordinator of the federal coronavirus task force, Dr. Deborah Birx, said officials are “very much focused” on Massachusetts. There were 146 new deaths reported in Massachusetts on Sunday, bringing the state’s death toll to more than 1,700.

Number of daily deaths in New York state continues to decline

The number of people dying from COVID-19 in New York state continues to slowly drop, with 478 fatalities tallied on Sunday. It was a third straight day of decreases and the lowest death toll since April 1, when 432 people died.

The state tally excludes more than 4,000 New York City deaths that were blamed on the virus but weren’t confirmed by a lab test.

The total number of hospitalizations remained largely unchanged at more than 16,000 and the number of new admissions remained largely flat at above 1,300, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday at his daily briefing.

After weeks of increases in deaths and hospitalizations in the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, Cuomo said the big question now is how fast the descent will be if New Yorkers continue to abide by social distancing restrictions.

“Does it take two weeks for it to come down? Some projections say that. Does it take a month? Some projections say that,” Cuomo said. “The projections are nice, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.”

WHO head warns worst of virus is still ahead

The World Health Organization chief warned Monday that “the worst is yet ahead of us” in the coronavirus outbreak, reviving the alarm just as many countries ease restrictive measures aimed at reducing its spread.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus didn’t specify why he believes the outbreak that has infected some 2.5 million people and killed over 166,000 could get worse. He and others, however, have previously pointed to the likely future spread of the illness through Africa, where health systems are far less developed.

“Trust us. The worst is yet ahead of us,” Tedros told reporters from WHO headquarters in Geneva. “Let’s prevent this tragedy. It’s a virus that many people still don’t understand.”

Some Asian and European governments have gradually eased or started relaxing “lockdown” measures like quarantines, school and business closures and restrictions on public gatherings, citing a decline in the growth of COVID-19 case counts and deaths.

Tedros and his agency have been on the defensive after President Donald Trump of the United States — the WHO’s biggest single donor — last week ordered a halt to U.S. funding for the agency, alleging that it botched the early response to the outbreak.

Among other things, Trump insisted WHO had failed to adequately share “in a timely and transparent” way information about the outbreak after it erupted in China late last year.

Tedros said: “There is no secret in WHO because keeping things confidential or secret is dangerous. It’s a health issue.”

“This virus is dangerous. It exploits cracks between us when we have differences,” he said.

Tedros said U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staffers have been seconded to work with his agency, suggesting that was a sign of WHO’s transparency.

“Having CDC staff (at WHO) means there is nothing hidden from the U.S. from Day One” Tedros said. “Our CDC colleagues also know that we give information immediately to anyone.”

Fauci says reopening too quickly will backfire 

The top infectious-disease expert in the United States has a message for protesters who are ignoring their governors’ stay-at-home orders and calling for him to be fired over his guidelines.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says the message is “this is something that is hurting from the standpoint of economics, from the standpoint of things that have nothing to do with the virus.”

He added on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that “unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery economically is not gonna happen. So what you do if you jump the gun and go into a situation where you have a big spike, you’re gonna set yourself back."

Fauci says as painful as it is to follow guidelines of gradually phasing into a reopening “it’s gonna backfire. That’s the problem.”

US restaurants on track to lose $240 billion by the end of 2020

A survey from the National Restaurant Association says that U.S. restaurants are on track to lose $50 billion in April and an estimated $240 billion nationwide by the end of the year.

The survey of 6,500 restaurants around the country also found that two out of three restaurant employees have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, 61% of restaurant operators said that the existing federal relief programs won't help prevent more layoffs. 

Pope Francis postpones family rally, World Youth Day 

Pope Francis has put off two major global events for the Catholic Church in the coming years, postponing its international family rally in Rome until 2022 and World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal until 2023.

The Vatican on Monday cited the coronavirus pandemic for the schedule changes.

Both weeklong events are usually held every three years and generally draw hundreds of thousands of Catholics from around the world. Many pilgrims who attend camp or bunk in dormitories. Those close quarters will have to be rethought in any post-pandemic period where social distancing is still the norm.

The family rally had been scheduled for June 2021, while World Youth Day was planned for August 2022.

Both events require intensive planning at the Vatican, in the host country and in dioceses around the world. Their lengthy delays suggest a realization that non only travel but all matter of church activities will be upended for the foreseeable future.

The Vatican, which has been in virus lockdown along with the rest of Italy for six weeks, has eight positive cases so far.

US, Mexico, Canada extend border closures

The United States, Mexico and Canada have agreed to extend restrictions on non-essential travel across their shared borders for an additional 30 days, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced Monday morning.

"As President Trump stated last week, border control, travel restrictions and other limitations remain critical to slowing the spread and allowing the phased opening of the country,” Wolf said in a statement.   

President Donald Trump said last week that the U.S.-Canada border will be among the first borders to open and says the U.S. and Canada are doing well in handling the pandemic. 

The U.S. and Canada agreed last month to limit border crossings to essential travel amid the pandemic, but that agreement was due to expire this coming week.

White House to hold call with governors on testing supplies 

After insisting it was up to governors to ramp up coronavirus testing in their states, the Trump administration is finally acknowledging their pleas for help.

Vice President Mike Pence will lead a teleconference with the nation's governors Monday morning from FEMA headquarters in response to calls for a national testing strategy to help secure in-demand supplies like testing swabs and chemical reagents — a day after Trump announced that he would be using the Defense Production Act to compel one company to manufacture swabs.

Pence will “review what more they can do and do together to develop locally tailored testing strategies,” Trump said at a White House news conference Sunday. “We want to help them out.”

Officials and health experts say the country needs to dramatically scale its testing infrastructure if it is going to safely roll back restrictions and reopen businesses without risking a major spike in infections that would negate weeks of social distancing and economic strife.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, told ABC's “Good Morning America” Monday morning that the nation is currently running about 1.5 to 2 million tests per week. But, “we really need to get up to, at least, you know, maybe two times that, three times that.”

Administration officials have insisted that the U.S. currently has enough testing capacity to safely implement “Phase One" of a plan they released last week to begin a slow return to normalcy. And they have argued that states could be running twice as many tests as they are now if only they were using all the equipment they already have access to.

Poll: 60 percent support keeping stay-at-home orders

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll says nearly 60% of American voters are more concerned lifting stay-at-home orders would lead to more virus deaths over the impacts of the restrictions on the economy.

The poll of 100 people was taken between April 13 and 15.

Prince Philip raises healthcare workers

Queen Elizabeth II’s husband has made a rare public statement praising those tackling the new coronavirus pandemic and keeping essential services running.

Prince Philip, who turns 99 in June, said he wanted to recognize the “vital and urgent” work of medical and science professionals.

He also gave thanks to key workers including people working in food production, garbage collection, and postal and delivery services.

The royal, who retired from public duties in 2017, signed off simply with “Philip.”

Philip has been staying with the queen at Windsor Castle with reduced staff for their safety.

Protesters push back on stay-at-home orders

A growing number of protests are being staged across the U.S. to oppose stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Small-government groups, supporters of President Donald Trump, anti-vaccine advocates and others have united behind a deep suspicion of efforts to shut down daily life to slow the spread of the coronavirus. As their frustration grows, they’ve started to openly defy the social distancing rules to put pressure on governors to ease them. 

Some of the protests have been small events, promoted via recently created Facebook groups. Others are backed by groups with ties to Trump. 

RELATED: Groups protest stay-at-home order

Last week, stay-at-home protests took place in California, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia.

Shops, schools reopening in Germany, Denmark

Some shops are reopening in much of Germany as Europe’s biggest economy takes its first tentative step toward restarting public life after a four-week shutdown.

Shops with a surface area of up to 800 square meters (8,600 square feet) are being allowed to reopen on Monday, along with auto showrooms, bike shops and bookshops of any size, under an agreement reached last week between the federal and state governments.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Helge Braun, told n-tv television that big shops “draw large numbers of people into the city center, they have high customer numbers and that isn’t possible in the first step.”

State governments are responsible for imposing and loosening shutdown measures, and there are regional variations. Berlin and neighboring Brandenburg are expected to reopen small shops later this week. The eastern state of Thuringia is waiting until next Monday. So is Bavaria, although it is allowing DIY and garden shops to reopen Monday.

Denmark took another small step toward reopening society when hair salons, dentists, physiotherapists, tattoo parlors and driving schools, among others, were allowed to reopen Monday.

Trump, Congress near deal on small business, hospital aid

The Trump administration and Congress expect an agreement Monday on a coronavirus aid package of up to $450 billion. 

It would boost a small-business loan program that has run out of money and add funds for hospitals and COVID-19 testing. President Donald Trump said Sunday the administration is "very close to a deal.” 

The Senate is scheduled for a pro forma session Monday, but no vote has been set. The House announced it could meet as soon as Wednesday for a vote. 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he is hopeful of a deal that could pass Congress quickly and get the small business payroll program back up by midweek.  

Trump to use DPA to increase swab production

President Donald Trump says he will use the Defense Production Act to increase manufacturing of swabs used to test for the coronavirus.

Many governors have for weeks urged the White House to further evoke federal powers to increase private industry’s production of medical supplies as health officials work to slow the spread of the virus. Trump has generally been reluctant to do so.

But the president said during a briefing Sunday evening that he would use the measure to increase production of swabs and that he would soon announce that production reaching 10 million per month.

RELATED: Trump says he'll act to increase swab production for coronavirus testing

To emphasize the point, Trump waved a swab in front of reporters. Trump also said Vice President Mike Pence would hold a call with governors on Monday to discuss testing and send a list of lab facilities in their states.

Trump administration announces new guidelines for nursing homes

The Trump administration has announced new guidelines requiring nursing homes nationwide to report to patients, their families and the federal government when they have cases of coronavirus.

Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said during a Sunday evening White House press briefing that the new rules will mandate that nursing homes report cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said the moves are aimed at increasing transparency about the spread of the virus at facilities where populations can be especially vulnerable to its effects.

There have been 7,121 deaths at long-term care facilities nationwide, according to an Associated Press tally.

Verma also discussed plans to allow elective surgeries to resume after being placed on hold during the pandemic.

That move is coming as part of larger Trump administration guidelines to reopen the economy and Verma said lifting restrictions would be gradual — not like flipping on a light switch, but “more like a sunrise.”

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