Coronavirus live updates: Trump suggests reopening in weeks; $2 trillion stimulus bill stalled; Wuhan to lift lockdown; US deaths near 600

China announced it would soon lift its lockdown on the coronavirus epicenter of Wuhan on Tuesday, one day after President Donald Trump signaled that an easing of U.S. restrictions could be coming soon.

The U.S. death toll, however, neared 600 after growing by more than 100 in a 24-hour period. As of early Tuesday, the U.S. had  almost 46,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus, trailing only Italy and China. New York state, now testing more than 16,000 people daily, has more than 23,000 cases.

Experts say confirmed cases reflect how much testing is done, and as the U.S. gets more tests, more confirmed cases are expected.

Across the world, more than 16,700 people have been killed by the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard

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Hopkins expert: Ending social distancing could cost millions of lives 

Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, warned in a series of tweets that curbing social distancing could cost millions of lives. Inglesby said the U.S has been seeing exponential growth and that health officials are just beginning to understand how pervasive it is.

“Anyone advising the end of social distancing now, needs to fully understand what the country will look like if we do that,” he tweeted. “COVID would spread widely, rapidly, terribly, could kill potentially millions in the yr ahead with huge social and economic impact across the country.”

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Several states hunker down as Trump proposes going back to normal

President Donald Trump sought to reassure Americans that guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus but that are hurting the economy will be short-lived. State officials, meanwhile, were preparing for a much longer shutdown of normal operations. The Trump administration rolled out a 15-day plan on March 16 to “bend the curve” of new coronavirus cases and ease the strain on the health care system. 

“America will again and soon be open for business. Very soon,” Trump said at the White House press briefing Monday. “A lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting.”

Trump himself said at a press conference last week the country could be social distancing through July or August. Though Trump didn’t announce a specific date he is considering for lifting the guidelines, he stressed he doesn’t want “the cure to be worse than the problem itself.”

– Jeanine Santucci

In China, Hubei’s 2-month lockdown starts to ease

The province in China where the coronavirus pandemic originated in December will lift travel restrictions on people leaving the region, China’s authorities said Tuesday. Hubei’s two-month lockdown ends at midnight, although people will only be able to leave the area if they are coronavirus-free and have been given a clean bill of health. 

Wuhan, Hubei’s provincial capital, will remain locked down until April 8.

China has gradually brought its coronavirus outbreak under control by aggressively isolating those infected, forcing millions to stay inside since Jan. 23 and canceling all but emergency travel in and out of Hubei. China’s National Health Commission’s said it has seen almost no new cases of the virus in Hubei for more than a week. However, other regions of China saw a doubling of new infections as imported cases of coronavirus have ticked higher in recent days. China on Tuesday reported 78 new coronavirus cases, among which 74 were imported, according to the National Health Commission. China has reported more than 81,000 cases since the outbreak began.

– Kim Hjelmgaard

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Asian stocks gain after US Federal Reserve pledges economic support 

Asian stock markets gained Tuesday after the U.S. Federal Reserve promised support to the struggling economy as Congress delayed action on a $2 trillion coronavirus aid package. Market benchmarks in Tokyo and South Korea rose nearly 7%, while Shanghai, Hong Kong and Australian markets also gained. Traders were encouraged by the Fed’s promise to buy as many Treasurys and other assets as needed to keep financial markets functioning.

– Associated Press

2020 Olympics likely to be postponed, IOC member tells USA TODAY Sports

The International Olympic Committee has decided to postpone the Summer Games in Tokyo because of the coronavirus pandemic, but what comes next appears uncertain, veteran International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound told USA TODAY Sports.  Pound said the games likely would be held in 2021, but no details had been determined.

There are several options. The games could be pushed back until sometime this fall, postponed to the same dates in 2021, or even delayed for two years to place the Winter and Summer Games in the same calendar year. No option is simple, and all will require extensive negotiations with Tokyo organizers, the Japanese government, broadcasters, the international sports federations and sponsors.

– Christine Brennan

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Republicans, Democrats fail to reach agreement on coronavirus stimulus bill

An effort in the Senate to move forward with a nearly $2 trillion economic stimulus package to combat the coronavirus crisis remained stalled over continued disagreements between Republicans and Democrats.

The largely party-line vote (with Republicans for and Democrats against) was 49-46 to end debate and move forward. Sixty votes were needed to advance the measure for a final floor vote.

The measure is designed to provide direct payments to most Americans, throw a lifeline to small businesses shuttered across the country and rescue large industries, such as the airlines, battered by the pandemic. But Democrats want more protections for workers from layoffs and loss of health coverage, more money for states to deal with the crisis and more aid for students facing student debt repayment.

– Ledyard King

ICE orders immigration lawyers to wear gloves, masks to visit detainees

Immigration lawyers are being ordered by federal immigration authorities to provide their own masks, gloves and eye protection to visit clients detained behind bars at a time when there is already not enough personal protective equipment to go around for health care workers to guard against the spread of the new coronavirus.

The new rule, which ICE unveiled over the weekend, went into effect Monday, when several immigration lawyers in Arizona and other states were turned away from detention facilities after arriving without so-called PPE. Immigration lawyers say ICE’s directive will divert personal protective equipment away from hospitals and health care workers who are already facing an acute shortage of masks and other gear.

Boris Johnson orders Britain to ‘stay at home’ amid coronavirus pandemic

Boris Johnson has become the latest European head of state to order a lockdown. The British prime minister Monday mandated the closure of most retail stores and banned gatherings for three weeks to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The decision follows similar steps taken by hard-hit Italy and Spain, as well as France.

Previously, the British government had resisted calls for stricter measures beyond closing schools, bars and restaurants and urging people to stay home. In an evening address, Johnson said that he was giving “the British people a very simple instruction — you must stay at home.’’

Southwest Air cuts 1,500 daily flights as bookings hit ‘unimaginable low’

Southwest Airlines plans to cancel 1,500 daily flights beginning Friday as the airline and its competitors take increasingly dramatic steps to offset historic declines in travel demand from the coronavirus crisis. The increased flight cuts, up from a planned 1,000 daily flight cancellations announced just days ago and put in place Sunday, were disclosed in a memo to employees Monday. A copy of the memo was obtained by USA TODAY.

They come a day after Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told employees in a videotaped message that the airline is in the “fight of our lives” to protect the company and its operations. 

– Dawn Gilbertson

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