Coronavirus live updates: U.S. deaths started sooner than we thought; $484B stimulus moves forward; Trump halts green cards 60 days – USA TODAY

The fate of a $484 billion stimulus package was in the hands of the U.S. House on Wednesday as the nation’s death toll surpassed 45,000 and a top public health official warned that a second coronavirus wave could be worse than the current crisis.

It also now appears that the first U.S. death took place in California, three weeks before what was believed to be the nation’s first fatality in Washington state.

The Senate approved the stimulus package Tuesday; a House vote is scheduled for Thursday. President Donald Trump has signaled he will sign it. A majority of the Paycheck Protection Program would direct more than $320 billion to small businesses with $60 billion being set aside for community-based lenders, smaller banks and credit unions to assist businesses that don’t have established relationships with banks.

The financial relief comes as Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that a combination flu season and second round of the coronavirus next winter could overwhelm the health care system.

Meanwhile, with deaths and infections still rising around the world, the push to reopen has set off warnings from health authorities that the crisis that has killed more than 178,000 people globally is far from over. The U.S. has seen more than 825,300 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University data. New York state has suffered more than one-third of the 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:

First US death took place 3 weeks earlier than previously reported

The first known U.S. coronavirus death occurred earlier than previously reported – and in California, not Washington state. The medical examiner in Santa Clara County, southeast of San Francisco, said Tuesday that autopsies on the bodies of two people who died Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 showed they were positive for the virus. The first U.S. death had been thought to occur Feb. 29 outside Seattle.

The victims “died at home during a time when very limited testing was available only through the CDC,” Dr. Michelle Jorden said in a statement. She said criteria set by the CDC at the time restricted testing to only individuals with a known travel history and who sought medical care for specific symptoms. 

Local virus outbreaks could threaten nation’s meat supply

A rash of coronavirus outbreaks at dozens of meatpacking plants across the nation is far more extensive than previously thought and could get worse, according to an exclusive review of cases by USA TODAY and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. More than 150 of America’s largest meat processing plants operate in counties where the rate of coronavirus infection is already among the nation’s highest, based on an analysis of slaughterhouse locations and county-level COVID-19 infection rates.

“Initially our concern was long-term care facilities,” said Gary Anthone, Nebraska’s chief medical officer, in a recent Facebook Live video. “If there’s one thing that might keep me up at night, it’s the meat processing plants and the manufacturing plants.” Read more.

– Kyle Bagenstose, Sky Chadde and Matt Wynn

CDC chief: Next round of COVID-19 could be worse

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak in the fall could be worse than the current one sweeping the nation because it would come at the opening of the flu season. The outbreak has strained the capacity of hospitals, and states hit hardest have scrambled for respirators, ventilators and protective gear. 

“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” CDC Director Robert Redfield told The Washington Post. “We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time.”

– William Cummings

Stocks rise sharply as some states start to reopen

U.S. stocks opened higher Wednesday, shaking off the continued decline in oil prices that had pushed markets lower earlier in the week. The Dow Jones Industrials and broader Standard & Poor indexes were up more than 2% as investors appeared heartened that some states began easing restrictions on people and businesses. European stocks were also up and Asian markets were strong.

Acute hunger could double around the world

The COVID-19 pandemic will drive more than a quarter of a billion people into acute hunger by the end of the year, the World Food Program says. The lives of 265 million people in low and middle-income countries will be under “severe threat” unless swift action is taken to tackle the pandemic, up from a current 135 million. The group has issued a global appeal for $12 billion, including $1.9 billion to immediately pre-position food closer to people in most need and while supply chains are still working. 

“These new projections show the scale of the catastrophe we are facing,” warned WFP chief economist Arif Husain.

Pandemic gives boost to environment on 50th anniversary of Earth Day

The 50th anniversary of Earth Day is unlike any other we’ve experienced. Amid closed restaurants, quiet office buildings and canceled sporting events, the new normal has had its fair share of environmental effects, with some areas in the U.S. reporting significant improvements in air quality. Smog has eased in New Delhi, and India’s getting views of sights not visible in decades. Nitrogen dioxide pollution in the northeastern United States is down 30%. Rome air pollution levels from mid-March to mid-April were down 49% from a year ago. Animals have taken advantage of the absence of humans in some areas, too – several lions were caught sunbathing on the road of a closed national park in South Africa.

“It is giving us this quite extraordinary insight into just how much of a mess we humans are making of our beautiful planet,” says Duke University conservation scientist Stuart Pimm.

– Jay Cannon

South Dakota speedway opening race to 700 fans

A dirt track in North Sioux City, South Dakota, is planning to hold a race Saturday with tickets capped at 700 fans for a 4,000-seat venue. Gov. Kristi Noem has advocated for South Dakota residents to practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings, but she hasn’t issued a statewide stay-at-home order or other enforceable restrictions. Thus, Park Jefferson International Speedway is planning to move forward with the Open Wheel Nationals. 

“I’m going to strongly recommend to the people of South Dakota that they not go and that they stay home,” Noem said. 

– Scott Gleeson

Swing-state governors feel pressure to stay closed – and to reopen

Governors in both parties are walking a tightrope with increased deaths on one side and economic devastation on the other – all as President Donald Trump shakes the wire with provocative tweets and pronouncements. Trump tweeted Tuesday: “States are safely coming back. Our Country is starting to OPEN FOR BUSINESS again.” But public health officials and may front-line health care workers want to slow the roll back to normalcy. 

With the presidential election less than seven months away, the pressure is particularly high in battleground such as Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin. Swing-state governors more than any are “almost in a no-win situation,” said Susan MacManus, a political scientist and professor emerita with the University of South Florida. “They’re facing the most unusual and most intensely pressured events.”

– Deirdre Shesgreen and Maureen Groppe

Missouri is first state to sue China for coronavirus damages

Missouri became the first state to sue the Chinese government for damages stemming from the pandemic, citing “an appalling campaign of deceit.” The federal lawsuit, filed Tuesday by GOP state Attorney General Eric Schmitt, claims Chinese officials are “responsible for the enormous death, suffering and economic losses” faced by Missouri and the world. More than 200 people have died in Missouri, which has almost 6,000 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“The Chinese government lied to the world about the danger and contagious nature of COVID-19, silenced whistleblowers, and did little to stop the spread of the disease,” said Schmitt  who is seeking damages. “They must be held accountable for their actions.”

– Savannah Behrmann

FDA approves home-testing kit

Health care workers and first responders who may have been exposed to the coronavirus will soon get access to a home diagnostic test. LabCorp, a global life sciences company based in North Carolina, on Tuesday received Food and Drug Administration authorization for kits that enable people to collect nasal swab samples at home and mail them to a laboratory for testing.

The FDA’s emergency-use authorization is the first for a COVID-19 in-home test. The procedure reduces the need for personal protective equipment because no clinician is required to take a sample. LabCorp said it hopes to make the tests available to other U.S. consumers in coming weeks, assuming supplies last. The company declined to elaborate.

– Kevin McCoy

Senate OKs billions for small businesses

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said congressional leaders reached a deal Tuesday to revive a program geared to keep small businesses from shuttering and their employees from going on unemployment because of the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. The nearly half-trillion deal will provide more funds to the Paycheck Protection Program, which was halted last week after it ran out of money. McConnell, R-Ky., lauded the deal as a “bipartisan agreement.”

The $484 billion bill, approved by voice vote, will inject the program, which provides loans to small businesses, with more than $320 billion, according to McConnell. A portion will be set aside for smaller businesses that don’t have established relationships with banks and had a harder time accessing the funds in the first round of loans. It will also bolster the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan program, which had also dried up because of the coronavirus. 

– Christal Hayes

Green cards halted for 60 days

President Donald Trump said his executive order would halt new green card awards for at least 60 days and would be reevaluated after that period. Trump stressed his new move would not affect temporary workers, such as seasonal workers arriving from other countries through several visa programs. 

Trump said his executive order, which the White House had not yet provided, would “only apply to individuals seeking a permanent residency; in other words, those receiving green cards.”

Read more:Trump’s vow to suspend immigration over coronavirus has certain industries on edge

– John Fritze

More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY:

Continue reading