Coronavirus live updates: Donald Trump has ‘very good conversation’ with China’s Xi; US deaths near 1,300; House set to vote on stimulus

Hours after the U.S. surpassed China as the global leader in coronavirus cases, President Donald Trump said he had a “very good conversation” with Chinese President Xi.

In a tweet after 1 a.m. ET, Trump said he and Xi had “discussed in great detail” the virus that is “ravaging large parts of our Planet.” “China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the Virus,” Trump said. “We are working closely together. Much respect!”

While China has a population four times the size, the U.S. on Thursday surpassed it for the most confirmed cases of the virus.

The U.S. counted nearly 86,000 cases as of early Friday, with 1,296 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. More confirmations are expected as the U.S. ramps up testing. More 537,000 people are known to have been infected globally, and more than 24,000 have died. 

There were hints of a silver lining: The House is set to vote Friday on a $2 trillion emergency aid bill that would provide $1,200 to most Americans, along with funds for small businesses and unemployment insurance. Trump is expected to sign it.

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Asian stocks surge after stimulus boosts US markets for 3rd day

Shares advanced on Friday in Asia after Wall Street logged a third straight day of gains with the approaching congressional approval of a massive coronavirus relief bill.

Tokyo and Seoul jumped 1.2% and Shanghai added 0.6%, while stocks fell in Australia.

Wall Street appeared to shrug off miserable news on unemployment as the S&P 500 rose 6.2%, bringing its three-day rally to 17.6%. The Dow industrials have risen an even steeper 21.3% since Monday.

The gains earlier this week came as Capitol Hill and the Federal Reserve promised an astonishing amount of aid for the economy and markets, hoping to support them as the outbreak causes more businesses to shut down by the day.

American Airlines flight attendant dies of coronavirus, elevating industry fears

Paul Frishkorn, a Philadelphia-based American Airlines flight attendant and union representative, has died from coronavirus, the flight attendants union confirmed Thursday.

Frishkorn, 65, was described as a tireless advocate for the flight attendant corps who was spending time in the Philadelphia crew room “answering questions and assisting our members through this difficult time” before he fell ill, according to the statement.

Speaking by phone to USA TODAY, Lori Bassani, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, said that Frishkorn’s death has increased the already deep concern for flight attendants working amid the highly contagious virus.

– Bryan Alexander

Death rate soars in New Orleans; city could become next epicenter  

The number of known coronavirus cases in Louisiana jumped to 2,305 on Thursday, an increase of 510 cases from Wednesday, and a total of 83 deaths, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. Nearly half of Louisiana’s cases — 997 — came from New Orleans.  

Throngs of revelers may have brought the coronavirus to New Orleans during Mardi Gras celebrations.

But the city’s poverty rate, lack of healthcare and affordable housing, coupled with high rates of residents with preexisting medical conditions, may be driving its explosive growth and could make it the next U.S. epicenter of the outbreak.

The city reported Thursday that a 17-year-old teen died after contracting the virus, bringing the city’s coronavirus death tally to 46 — more than half of the state’s total death count. 

New Orleans Homeland Security Director Collin Arnold said hospital capacity in the New Orleans region is dwindling and the city will need additional hospital beds within weeks.

— Rick Jervis, Maria Clark and Lorenzo Reyes

Record 3.3M Americans apply for unemployment benefits amid coronavirus

The number of Americans filing initial applications for unemployment benefits jumped nearly twelvefold to a record 3.3 million last week, the Labor Department said, offering the most vivid evidence yet of the coronavirus’s widespread damage to the economy. The total was well above the 1.5 million claims economists had forecast, according to the median estimate of those surveyed by Bloomberg.

The pandemic has set off the most abrupt near-shutdown of the economy in history. Many restaurants, shops, movie theaters, sports arenas and other gathering spots were compelled to close their doors or scale back service – and lay off staff.

– Paul Davidson

Three migrant children in US custody in New York test positive for COVID-19

Three unaccompanied minor children in U.S. custody in New York have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said Thursday.

The children, whose ages and nationalities weren’t released, are in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The office is responsible for housing migrant minors.

The agency said it is doing an evaluation of the children and will not release them from New York care provider facilities. It has stopped placements of unaccompanied minor children in the states of California, New York, and Washington, which have been the hardest hit by the coronavirus. With more than 30,000 cases in New York, the state has become the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic in the United States.

– Monsy Alvarado, Bergen Record

Will Florida be the next New York?

Florida has come under fire after its beaches remained jammed with spring breakers last week, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has ignored calls to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order.

That may contribute to the state becoming the next hot spot for COVID-19, a chilling possibility considering the elderly are the most likely to die from the disease and Florida is home to nearly four million people 65 and over, the second-highest number in the U.S. behind California.

Hospitals and doctors around the state say they still don’t have nearly enough testing kits and can’t get the ones they have analyzed fast enough, echoing complaints from state health officials across the country. Health officials have completed 27,000 tests so far in Florida, while New York is doing more than 18,000 tests a day. 

— Alan Gomez

Dr. Anthony Fauci goes live on Instagram with NBA star Steph Curry 

Nearly 50,000 viewers — including former President Barack Obama and pop star Justin Bieber — tuned into Instagram on Thursday when Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors hosted Dr. Anthony Fauci in a live Q&A.

For nearly 28 minutes, Curry asked Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, questions about COVID-19, testing and social distancing. Fauci gave precise answers to all of them.

Fauci explained the difference between the flu and the coronavirus, which he considered “much more serious.” Although young people are not as vulnerable to COVID-19, Fauci argued they should still follow social distancing rules because of the rare chance they could become ill and the likely chance they could pass the virus to someone older. Fauci predicted that large events, including the NBA season, will not take place until “the country as a whole is turning that corner.”

Fauci has been a popular TV guest this week: earlier Thursday, he spoke to CNN’s Anderson Cooper during the network’s coronavirus town hall, explaining that Trump’s desire to open the country by Easter was an “aspiration projection.” Fauci added that Trump is listening to medical experts, including Fauci, and understands they have to evaluate the virus’s impact “in real time.”

– Mark Medina

China closes borders, attempting to prevent return of coronavirus

China temporarily barred most foreigners from entering the country as it seeks to curb the number of imported coronavirus cases.

The foreign ministry said even foreign citizens with residence permits will be prevented from entering starting Saturday. Diplomatic workers will be exempt, and foreign citizens coming to China for “necessary economic, trade, scientific or technological activities or out of emergency humanitarian needs” can still apply for visas. Most countries have halted or severely curbed international travelers in a bid to curb the pandemic.

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Contributing: The Associated Press.

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