Coronavirus updates: FDA takes steps to speed up testing, stocks rebound, more schools close

The fallout from the coronavirus crisis keeps coming, with schools shutting down, iconic sports events postponed, and political actors weighing in.

Meanwhile, the House appears to be close to approving a massive federal response and President Donald Trump has scheduled an afternoon news conference.

The political moves comes as Wall Street began moving up after almost a week of roiled financial markets.

As confirmed cases tick upward, the nation and the world continue to grapple with how to contain the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 5,000 people — including at least 40 across six states in the U.S. — and sickened more than 136,000 worldwide.

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Here’s the latest on the outbreak of COVID-19: 

FDA, HHS take steps to speed up virus testing

In an effort to speed up testing for the coronavirus, the Food and Drug Administration says it has given New York state wide latitude to approve testing locally and has created a 24-hour emergency hotline for labs having difficulty getting materials or finding other impediments to running tests.

The FDA said in a statement that it will allow the New York State Department of Health to authorize certain labs to begin testing patients after validating their tests and without first having to notify the FDA.

“These labs will interact solely with (the New York State Department of Health) which should expedite the availability of patient testing in New York State,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn. He said the decision “demonstrates FDA’s responsiveness to the needs of our country during this time.”

In a related move, the Department of Health and Human Services says it is giving more than $1.2 million to two companies that are working on diagnostic tests that might be able to determine within an hour whether a patient tests positive for the coronavirus-related disease.

Fauci sees ‘major escalation’ is testing in next two weeks

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says the frustrating delay in testing for the disease is getting untangled and that predicts a “major escalation” in a week or two in widespread access to them.

Fauci, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Friday that the major involvement of the private sector in the testing process will shortly break a logjam that has limited testing for the virus.

Acknowledging said a “disconnect” in the past few weeks, he said: “Hopefully this is behind us. 

“Within a week we are going to see a real escalation of testing and within two or three weeks we will see major progress,” Fauci said.

On Thursday, Fauci told Congress that the nation’s testing record to date was “a failing.”

“The idea of anybody getting it easily the way people in other countries are doing it, we’re not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes. But we’re not,” he testified.

House may vote on coronavirus response Friday

The House appears close to approving a massive federal response to confront the intensifying coronavirus pandemic that has killed dozens across the U.S., roiled financial markets and disrupted the lives of millions of Americans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi late Thursday said congressional leaders and the White House were close to finalizing a deal on a sweeping, multibillion-dollar package that would guarantee free testing for all Americans – including the uninsured – and expand worker protections such as sick leave and unemployment insurance.

Final details of the sweeping package could be unveiled by late Friday morning, with a vote by the full House possibly later in the day, Pelosi said.

Updates from Washington: Get the latest here 

Masters tourney, Boston Marathon postponed

Following the lead of other major sports events, two iconic sports events — the Masters golf tournament and the Boston Marathon — have been postponed.

The golf tournament that was set to begin April 9 will be postponed indefinitely, the Augusta National Golf Club announced Friday, while Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the Boston Marathon will be rescheduled for Sept. 14.

The Augusta National Golf Club’s decision to postpone golf’s first major of the season comes 12 hours after PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan canceled the Players Championship after one round and declared all Tour events canceled through the Valero Texas Open, which is the tournament that precedes the Masters.

Among other sports, Major League Baseball announced Thursday that it is halting spring training games and will delay Opening Day by at least two weeks due to the outbreak of coronavirus. The regular season was scheduled to begin on March 26.

The NBA suspended its season indefinitely Wednesday night after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus. Teammate Donovan Mitchell has also tested positive. The NHL followed suit and “paused” its season on Thursday, as did Major League Soccer.

– Jesse Yomtov, Bob Nightengale, Dan Wolken and Adam Schupak

Stocks rebound after Wall Street’s worst day since 1987

Stocks rebounded Friday on hopes for a coronavirus aid package from Washington after Wall Street’s worst day since the “Black Monday” crash of 1987.

The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 700 points, a day after plunging 2,352 points, or 10%, for its worst loss since its nearly 23% drop on Oct. 19, 1987. 

The Standard & Poor’s 500 surged 4%. The broad index tumbled more than 20% from its February record Thursday, sliding into a bear market and officially ending Wall Street’s historic 11-year bull market run.

The rout has come amid cancellations and shutdowns across the world, including Trump’s suspension of most travel to the U.S. from Europe. Worries have grown that the White House and other authorities around the world can’t or won’t counter the economic damage from the outbreak any time soon, threatening to end the decade-long economic expansion.

– Jessica Menton

More market news:European shares rebound after turbulent Asian session

The coronavirus economy:As Americans shy away from malls and movie theaters, the damage to livelihoods grows

Schools across country to shut down for weeks

Five states and several large urban school districts are shutting down all K-12 schools as part of a sweeping attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, New Mexico, Michigan and the District of Columbia have ordered all schools closed, and the governor has recommended closing all schools in Kentucky. Large urban school districts such as Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco and Austin, Texas, have also shuttered.

The actions are the first wave of widespread school closures in the U.S., and they stand to upend school and family routines for millions of children. 

Such closures will also throw into sharp relief the deep socioeconomic divides in American education. Disadvantaged families who rely the most on schools for stable services, such as meals and access to learning materials, will be some of the most negatively affected. Read more here.

– Erin Richards and Jessie Balmert 

Mormon church suspends church services worldwide

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has suspended services for more than 30,000 congregations worldwide as the new coronavirus spreads.

The Utah-based faith, popularly known as the Mormon church, said in a statement Thursday that the decision, effectively immediately, was made after counseling with local church leaders, government officials and medical professionals and seeking “the Lord’s guidance in these matters.”

The church urged local leaders to “conduct any essential leadership meetings via technology” and to counsel with other local leaders to determine how to make sacrament available to members at least once a month.

Tom Hanks: Why people with diabetes may be at increased risk 

Going to school? Parents worry about vulnerable kids being kept in school

Tourist hot spots: Coronavirus shutters Broadway, Smithsonians 

NCAA cancels men’s, women’s basketball tournaments

The NCAA, which on Wednesday said it would play its men’s and women’s tournaments without fans, gave in to the inevitable Thursday and canceled them.

Conceding defeat to the coronavirus and a cascade of uncertainty about how bad its ongoing spread might impact public health, the NCAA announced all its winter and spring championships have been called off after a series of moves across multiple sports leagues that foreshadowed the eventual arrival at this decision. 

“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” college sports’ ruling body said in a statement.

Airbnb to issue refunds

Airbnb has updated its “extenuating circumstances” policy to cover the U.S., a marked change as the coronavirus spreads across the globe.

This policy means that hosts and guests impacted by the coronavirus outbreak will be able to cancel their homes reservation or Airbnb Experience without getting charged for reservations booked on or before March 13, 2020 with check-in date of April 1, 2020, or earlier . Read more here.

– David Oliver

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, wife of Canadian prime minister, tests positive for coronavirus

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, has tested positive for coronavirus, according to a statement Thursday from Cameron Ahmad, communications director for the prime minster. “Following medical advice, she will remain in isolation for the time being. She is feeling well, is taking all recommended precautions, and her symptoms remain mild,” Ahmad said. Prime Minister Trudeau isn’t showing symptoms, but will be in an isolation period for 14 days. 

US death toll at 40, with more than 1,600 confirmed cases

The U.S. death toll was at 40 early Friday — 31 in Washington and others in California, Florida, Georgia New Jersey and South Dakota.

There were more than 1,600 confirmed cases covering nearly the entire map, according to USA TODAY data gathering. The only states without reported cases: Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Montana and West Virginia. Montana is listed among states with confirmed cases in some databases; however, the lone Big Sky State case involves a local woman who tested positive while in Maryland and has not returned home.

Map: Which states have coronavirus cases?

Here’s a look at which U.S. states have reported cases of COVID-19:

More on the outbreak of COVID-19:

Contributing: Steve Kiggins and Dennis Wagner, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

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