The latest information on the coronavirus pandemic from around the world.

 

Just as the federal government tries to ramp up nationwide screening, laboratory workers are warning of a new roadblock: dire shortages of testing supplies.

The shortages are the latest stumble in a botched effort to track the spread of coronavirus that has left the U.S. weeks behind many other developed countries. Dwindling supplies include both chemical components and basic swabs needed to collect patient samples.

There are “acute, serious shortages across the board” for supplies needed to do the tests, said Eric Blank, of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, which represents state and local health labs.

Late Friday, Blank’s group and two other public health organizations recommended that testing be scaled back due to “real, immediate, wide-scale shortages.” The groups said only patients with COVID-19 symptoms who are elderly, have high-risk medical conditions or are medical staff should be tested.

Read the full story.

Member of Pence’s staff tests positive for coronavirus

WASHINGTON — The White House says a member of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff has tested positive for coronavirus.

Pence’s spokeswoman Katie Miller said Friday that the staff member, who is not being identified, did not have “close contact” to either the vice president or President Trump.

Miller said contact tracing, or contacting everyone the individual has been in contact with, is being conducted in accordance with guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Miller said Pence’s office was notified Friday evening of the positive test result.

Illinois joins New York, California, in ordering residents to stay home

CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday ordered all state residents to remain in their homes except for essentials, joining similar dramatic efforts in California and New York to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Pritzker’s order, which takes effect Saturday at 5 p.m. and is set to expire April 7, still allows the state’s 12.6 million residents to head outside to buy groceries and medicine.

“If there are actions that I can take that will save lives in the midst of this pandemic, no matter how difficult, then I have an obligation,” Pritzker said. The Democrat said he was trying to prevent “potentially tens of thousands” of deaths but urged people not to panic.

“For the vast majority of you already taking precautions, your lives will not change very much,” he said, adding that people can continue to shop for groceries, visit pharmacies and gas stations and exercise outdoors. People also can continue to pick up meals from restaurants, he said.

Pritzker acknowledged that the state doesn’t have the resources or “the desire” to enforce the order to limit individuals’ actions, but he said law enforcement will take action if necessary.

The stay-at-home order will also mean schools statewide remain closed until April 8, he said.

Pritzker had previously ordered all schools statewide to shut down through the end of March and limited gatherings to 50 people to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the state. He also closed dine-in service at bars and restaurants, but allowed businesses to continue delivery or carryout options.

Dow drops 4.5%, ending worst week since 2008

Stocks sank to their worst week since the financial crisis of 2008 as traders went into full retreat out of fear that the coronavirus will plunge the U.S. and other major economies into deep recessions.

The Dow industrials dropped more than 900 points, or 4.5 percent, on Friday, extending their weekly loss to 17 percent.

The price of U.S. crude oil also took another nosedive as investors anticipate a sharp drop in demand for energy as manufacturing, travel and commerce grind nearly to a halt.

New York became the latest state to extend a mandate to nearly all workers stay home to limit the spread of the virus.

The action taken by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, coming just a day after California announced similar measures, is another sign that large swaths of the U.S. economy are coming to a standstill as restaurants, retailers and other businesses dependent on consumer traffic are forced to close doors and furlough or lay off workers.

The measures mean less demand for oil. U.S. crude dropped about 21 percent and moved below $20 a barrel for first time since February 2002.

The stock sell-off wiped out the market’s gains from a day earlier, deepening the losses in what’s been another brutal week on Wall Street.

Read more about what happened Friday on Wall Street here.

New York follows California, residents ordered to stay home

NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is ordering all workers in non-essential businesses to stay home and banning gatherings statewide.

“Only essential businesses can have workers commuting to the job or on the job,” Cuomo said of an executive order he will sign Friday.

Nonessential gatherings of individuals of any size or for any reason are canceled or postponed.

Massachusetts confirms 1st coronavirus death

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health said a man in his 80s from Suffolk County is the first person in the state to die from the illness caused by the novel  coronavirus.

Public health officials on Friday said the man had been hospitalized and had pre-existing health conditions that put him at higher risk for COVID-19. Officials said 328 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Massachusetts.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. The vast majority of people recover.

The state’s Attorney General Maura Healey filed an emergency regulation Friday banning price gouging of essential products and services during the coronavirus pandemic.

Healey, a Democrat, said the regulation “prohibits price gouging of goods and services necessary for public health and safety during a declared statewide or national emergency.”

Healey said her office has heard from hospitals and consumers about skyrocketing prices for such items as hand sanitizer, face masks, gloves and other essential gear.

U.S. tax filing deadline has been pushed back from April 15 to July 15

The income tax filing date has been pushed back from April 15, to July 15, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

Mnuchin announced the decision in a tweet Friday saying that at President Donald Trump’s direction “we are moving Tax Day from April 15 to July 15. All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties.”

The administration had announced earlier in the week that it would delay the payments, a move that Mnuchin said would leave $300 billion in the economy at a critical time.

The administration used authority under Trump’s national emergency declaration. The delay is available to people who owe $1 million or less and corporations that owe $10 million or less.

Mnuchin had said the payment delay could provide $300 billion in temporary support to the economy by giving households and businesses the ability to use money they would have paid to the IRS as financial support to meet other needs during the economic emergency created by the efforts to contain the coronavirus.

The administration is working with Congress to develop a $1 trillion support package and Mnuchin has said the IRS payment delay will add $300 billion to that effort.

NBC News technician dies after testing positive for coronavirus

NEW YORK — A technician who worked at NBC News’ New York headquarters has died after testing positive for coronavirus, the network said on Friday.

Larry Edgeworth worked in NBC’s fifth-floor equipment room, but for many of his 25 years was an audio technician who traveled on stories around the world, NBC News Chairman Andy Lack said.

He suffered from other health issues that put him in danger, Lack said. Health officials say that while the vast majority of people recover from coronavirus, people who are elderly or who have underlying medical conditions are most vulnerable to serious illness.

NBC had said Wednesday that a staff member had tested positive but did not reveal the name for privacy reasons. Edgeworth died Thursday.

“I want to remind you that it’s more important now than ever that you take care of yourself,” Lack said in a memo to NBC staff.

More flights halted, Walmart hiring 150,000

American Airlines is initiating cargo-only flights between the US and Europe. FedEx and UPS were expecting to absorb a greater share of cargo typically carried by commercial airlines, which have severely cut capacity.

Air Canada is laying off more than 5,000 flight attendants, about 60% of that staff, according to a union official, as the country’s largest airline grounds its planes. Wesley Lesosky, who heads the Air Canada component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said the layoffs include 3,600 Air Canada employees, as well as 1,549 at Rogue, Air Canada’s discount carrier. The layoffs will take effect by April. Air Canada says the layoffs are temporary. The Montreal company said earlier this week that it will suspend the majority of its international and U.S. flights by the end of the month.

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A police officer holds a gun as firefighters unload an airplane after its arrival at the Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague on Friday. The airplane brought medical aid and protective materials against coronavirus from China. Michal Kamaryt/CTK via Associated Press

With outbreak-related layoffs expected to surge, at least two major retailers are are hiring in a big way. Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, said late Thursday that it plans to hire 150,000 U.S. hourly workers for its stores and distribution centers through the end of May as online orders surge with households stocking up. The jobs are temporary, but many will become permanent, said spokesman Dan Bartlett. He said that the company is reaching out to industry groups in the restaurant and hospitality industry, both of which are getting slammed by lockdowns and travel bans.

Amazon this week announced 100,000 people across the U.S. to keep up with a crush of orders.

Stocks open higher on Wall Street at end of a brutal week

Stocks are opening higher on Wall Street Friday at the end of another turbulent week. The Dow and S&P 500 are each up more than 1%. The gains, if they hold, would mark the first back-to-back advance in more than five weeks. Following several punishing drops, major indexes are still on track for heavy weekly losses for the second week in a row. Investors are weighing the likelihood that the global economy is entering a recession because of the massive shutdowns and layoffs caused by the coronavirus outbreak against steps by central banks and governments to ease the economic pain.

Read the full story.

Global stocks, U.S. futures rise on virus aid hopes

BEIJING  — Global stock markets and U.S. futures rose Friday on hopes that government and central bank action can help the world economy endure a looming recession caused by the coronavirus.

European markets were as much as 4% higher and Shanghai, Hong Kong and other Asian markets advanced. Seoul surged 7.4%.

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A currency trader walks by a screen showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) in Seoul, South Korea on Friday. Associated Press/Lee Jin-man

Investors were encouraged after seeing more steps by the Federal Reserve and other central banks and governments to support credit markets and the economy.

On Wall Street, the future for the benchmark S&P 500 index rose 2% and that for the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 2.4%.

Hopes are rising that there will be progress in finding virus treatments and that “a boatload of stimulus by both central banks and governments will put the global economy in position for a U-shaped recovery,” said Edward Moya of Oanda in a report.

On Thursday, the European Central Bank launched a program to inject money into credit markets by purchasing up to 750 billion euros ($820 billion) in bonds. The Bank of England cut its key interest rate to a record low of 0.1% and restarted its own program of money injections into the financial system. Australia’s central bank cut its benchmark lending rate to 0.25%. Central banks in Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines also cut rates.

They are trying to reduce the impact of a global recession that forecasters say looks increasingly likely as the United States and other governments tighten travel controls, close businesses and tell consumers and travelers to stay home.

Virus pandemic tightens grip; 10,000 dead worldwide

PARIS — The U.S. warned Americans to avoid all international travel and told citizens abroad to return now or face an “indefinite” absence, and California’s governor asked all 40 million residents to stay home, to try to slow a pandemic toll that on Friday surpassed 10,000 people worldwide.

Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began, offered a ray of hope with no new infections reported for a second day in a row and only 39 cases reported nationwide — all of them brought from the outside, the government said.

But the effects of a global economy grinding to a halt were beginning to show, from millions of unsold flowers rotting in piles in Kenya to the slow emptying of the world’s skies. The U.N. chief warned of a looming global recession “perhaps of record dimensions.”

A worker wearing protective gears disinfects as a precaution against the coronavirus at a shopping district in Seoul, South Korea on Friday. Associated Press/Lee Jin-man

In a measure of how the fortunes of East and West have shifted, a Chinese Red Cross official heading an aid delegation to Milan castigated Italians for failing to take their national lockdown seriously. Sun Shuopeng said he was shocked to see so many people walking around, using public transportation and eating out in hotels.

“Right now we need to stop all economic activity, and we need to stop the mobility of people,” he said. “All people should be staying at home in quarantine.”

China also sent medical equipment to the Czech capital, Prague, on Friday.

Globally, governments are trying to balance the need to lock down residents with the need to keep food, medicine and other essentials flowing. In Britain, the category of vital workers includes doctors, nurses and paramedics — and also vicars, truckers, garbage collectors and journalists.

French President Emmanuel Macron urged employees to keep working in supermarkets, production sites and other necessary businesses amid stringent restrictions of movement.

“We need to keep the country running,” Macron said.

Worldwide, the death toll from COVID-19 passed 10,000 and infections exceeded 244,000, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. Italy, with 60 million citizens, has recorded 3,405 deaths, exceeding the 3,248 in China, a country with a population over 20 times larger.

Though the illness is mild in most people, the elderly are particularly susceptible to serious symptoms. Italy has the world’s second-oldest population, and the vast majority of its dead — 87% — were over 70.

40 million Californians ordered to stay home to halt virus

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s 40 million residents should stay home indefinitely and venture outside only for essential jobs, errands and some exercise, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday, warning that the coronavirus threatens to overwhelm the state’s medical system.

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A man crosses a nearly empty street in San Francisco on Tuesday when officials in seven San Francisco Bay Area counties issued a shelter-in-place mandate Associated Press/Jeff Chiu

The move, the most sweeping by any state so far, was an exclamation point at the end of a week of increasingly aggressive moves meant to keep the virus in check by forcing people to stay away from each other as often as possible.

“I can assure you home isolation is not my preferred choice, I know it’s not yours, but it’s a necessary one,” Newsom said at an evening news conference streamed on social media.

He assured residents that they “can still take your kids outside, practicing common sense and social distancing. You can still walk your dog.” Restaurant meals can still be delivered to homes.

The announcement came after the release of a letter to President Donald Trump where Newsom warned the virus was spreading quickly and eventually could infect more than half the state’s population. A spokesman later clarified that the figure did not take into account the aggressive mitigation efforts that have been made.

The governor said he doesn’t expect police will be needed to enforce his stay-at-home order, saying “social pressure” already has led to social distancing throughout the state.

“I don’t believe the people of California need to be told through law enforcement that it’s appropriate just to home isolate,” he said.

Read the full story here.

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