Coronavirus live updates: US sees deadliest day; Americans start receiving stimulus payments; sick workers threaten food supply

The U.S. death toll spiked sharply, sick workers were putting a strain on the nation’s meat supply and New York City added thousands of deaths to its total as the coronavirus pandemic tightened its grip on the nation.

More than 80 million Americans were receiving stimulus payments of up to $1,200 in their bank accounts Wednesday as the federal government injects vast sums of money into the economy left battered by stay-at-home orders.

The cash influx comes a day after the U.S. saw the highest number of deaths during the coronavirus crisis, more than 2,200, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The previous highest daily death toll was 2,108, on Friday, but the daily total had declined steadily the last three days.

It was not immediately clear whether the increase was due to new counting methods adopted by New York City, where health authorities began including people who “probably had COVID-19” but died without being tested.

The U.S. death toll was over 26,000 early Wednesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard, but did not appear to included New York City’s new total. The U.S. has more than 600,000 confirmed cases. Worldwide, the number of cases was nearing 2 million with over 126,800 deaths.

Our live blog is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news, and get updates in your inbox with The Daily BriefingMore headlines:

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President Trump’s name will appear on checks

Stimulus payments of up to $1,200 per person began hitting American bank accounts Wednesday, and the IRS has launched an online portal that allows people to input their direct deposit information. For those who require a check, it could be in the mail next week – and will include Trump’s signature, according to multiple media reports citing unnamed Treasury Department and IRS officials. Trump had said earlier this month he did not plan on signing them. 

The Treasury Department said a “large majority of eligible Americans will receive Economic Impact Payments within the next two weeks.” The goal is to provide as much money as possible electronically rather than mailing checks, said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The deposit is labeled “IRS Treas 310” on bank statements.

China waited a week before warning of pandemic, report says

Chinese officials determined they likely were facing a pandemic a week before going public, allowing the epicenter city of Wuhan hosted a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people and millions to travel for Lunar New Year celebrations. President Xi Jinping warned the public on Jan. 20 – more than 3,000 people had been infected during almost a week of silence, according to internal documents obtained by The Associated Press.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly chastised Chinese officials for withholding and delaying information on the outbreak there that could have saved lives around the globe. Trump has also blasted the World Health Organization and on Tuesday cut off U.S. funding, saying the group had failed to report accurate information from China during the early stages of the pandemic.

Sick meatpacking workers threaten food supply

Soaring numbers of meatpacking plant workers sickened by COVID-19 have sparked fears for the employees’ health and for the continuity of the nation’s meat supply. In Iowa, Tyson Foods closed one of the nation’s major pork processing plants after 186 employees have tested positive for the illness. The plant is one of several meatpacking facilities across the nation where business has been suspended after being hit hard by the highly contagious coronavirus.

“We are taking on water fast,” National Pork Producers Council President Howard “A.V.” Roth said, adding that thousands of hog farms could close this year without government intervention. “Immediate action is imperative, or a lot of hog farms will go under.”

– Tommy Birch and Tyler Jett, Des Moines Register

Congressman: Time to put on ‘big girl pants’ and go back to work 

Sending Americans back to work at the risk of falling ill from coronavirus is the “lesser of these two evils” compared with the tanking economy, says Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, R-Indiana. Speaking in an interview Tuesday on radio-station WIBC, Hollingsworth acknowledged the warnings against ending stay-at-home orders too soon.

“It is policymakers’ decision to put on our big boy and big girl pants and say it is the lesser of these two evils,” he said. “That is our responsibility and to abdicate that is to insult the Americans that voted us into office.”

President Donald Trump had suggested May 1 as a possible date for beginning the process of restarting the economy. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said that timeline might be “overly optimistic.”

– Savannah Behrmann

New York city adds 3,778 ‘probable’ COVID-19 deaths

New York officials added more than 3,000 deaths to the city total going back a month, acknowledging that statistics based only on laboratory-confirmed tests were failing to account for many people dying at home before they reached a hospital, were tested or even sought treatment. The new count raised the city death total to more than 10,000.

“Behind every death is a friend, a family member, a loved one. We are focused on ensuring that every New Yorker who died because of COVID-19 gets counted,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, adding the new method will help “determine the scale and scope of the epidemic and guide us in our decisions.”

Trump halts US funding for World Health Organization

President Donald Trump took aim at the World Health Organization on Tuesday, announcing a halt on funding to the group he said was “severely mismanaging and covering up” the coronavirus crisis. Trump began the day’s White House task force news conference by attacking the WHO for the job it has done in recent months, claiming that it had “failed” and “must be held accountable.”

“We have deep concerns about whether America’s generosity has been put to the best use possible,” Trump said. “The reality is that the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion.

“The WHO’s attack on travel restrictions put political correctness above life-saving measures,” Trump said.

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Asian stocks sink after IMF predicts worst year since Great Depression

Asian stocks edged lower Wednesday after the International Monetary Fund said the global economy will suffer its worst year since the Great Depression of the 1930s due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Benchmarks in Tokyo and Hong Kong were flat, while Shanghai and Sydney declined despite Wall Street’s overnight gain driven by buying of technology stocks.

The IMF’s latest forecast said global economic output will shrink by 3% this year, a bigger loss than 2009’s 0.1% decline. That was a marked reverse from the Fund’s previous forecast in January of 3.3% growth before the virus prompted governments to shut down factories, travel and other industries.

“The IMF forecast a deep economic winter,” said Hayaki Narita of Mizuho Bank in a report. However, Narita said, investors appear to be looking past that to the IMF’s outlook for a “spring-back in growth” to 5.8% next year.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlines ‘surge into suppression’ strategy

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday six key indicators he and his team are watching to determine how and when to lift the statewide social distancing orders that have been in place since March 19. While he didn’t give a specific date, he indicated that officials will reevaluate their timeline in the next two weeks. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in California has started to slow, signaling the state is successfully flattening the curve.

“We move from surge into suppression,” Newsom said, adding that officials see a light at the end of the tunnel. But, he cautioned, this is “this phase is one where science, where public health, not politics must be the guide.”

The indicators: monitor and protect communities through testing, contact tracing, isolating, and supporting those who are positive or exposed; preventing infection in people who are at risk for more severe COVID-19; prepping hospitals and health systems to handle surges; developing therapeutics to meet the demand; ensuring businesses, schools, and child care facilities will support physical distancing; determining when to reinstitute certain measures, such as the stay-at-home orders, if necessary.

– Gabrielle Canon, The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, Calif.)

COVID-19 has sickened thousands of health care workers, CDC says

More than 9,000 health care workers across the U.S. contracted COVID-19 as of last week and at least 27 died, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC conceded the report’s findings underestimate the number of cases among health care workers because of uneven reporting across the country. While in some states only 3% of COVID-19 patients were health care personnel, the number was closer to 11% in those with more complete reporting.  

The report comes a day after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General reported hospitals were facing equipment shortages for N95 respirator masks, surgical masks, face shields, gowns and gloves. 

– Adrianna Rodriguez and Ken Alltucker

Major college football programs could stand to lose millions

While schools remain optimistic that a 2020-21 football season remains in play amid the coronavirus pandemic, at stake is at least $4.1 billion in fiscal-year revenue for the athletics departments at just the 50-plus public schools in the Power Five conferences. That’s an average of more than $78 million per school, a USA TODAY Sports analysis of schools’ financial reports to the NCAA shows.

That’s more than 60% of these schools’ combined total annual operating revenues, based on amounts reported for the 2019 fiscal year. These estimates do not take into account potential impacts on student fees or money from schools’ general funds, both of which likely would be reduced if students cannot return to campus as usual for the fall semester. Even within the Power Five, there are schools that receive significant amounts from those sources.   

– Steve Berkowitz

More coronavirus headlines from USA TODAY

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There’s nothing normal about learning from home: How coronavirus school closures could lead to ‘historic academic regression.’

The loneliest road trip:Here’s what I saw when I drove across the country during coronavirus.

We’re shopping for groceries from home: Here are a few tips and tricks during the coronavirus pandemic.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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