Covid-19 Global Virus update
U.S. Covid-19 Cases Rise 2%; Deaths Surpass 68,000. Trump Sees 100,000 U.S. Deaths; Europe Fatalities Slow
U.S. President Donald Trump said some states “aren’t going fast enough” to reopen, even as he acknowledged that the nation’s death count would likely be higher than he had predicted. Globally, deaths topped 250,000. Trump accused Beijing of attempting a cover-up and promised a conclusive report on the pandemic’s origins.
Scientists created a monoclonal antibody that can defeat the new coronavirus in the lab, an early but promising step. U.S. researchers will track thousands of children to determine how they’re affected by the pathogen.
The worst-hit countries in Europe moved to ease curbs as cases slowed. Italy began to reopen its economy after two months, but the premier was criticized for being too cautious, and Spain started to relax its lockdown regime after weeks of confinement.
- Virus Tracker: global cases pass 3.5 million; deaths top 250,000
- South Africa’s handling of virus exposes divisions in government
- Japan extends emergency, HK may soon reopen cinemas, gyms
- Russia has more than 10,000 new infections for a second day
- New Zealand had no new cases for the first time since March
- Singapore’s battle with virus “not even at the halfway mark”
Funding Watchdog Nominee Vows Vigilance (5 p.m. NY)
President Donald Trump’s nominee to oversee trillions of dollars in the effort to rescue the economy from the coronavirus pandemic pledged to “conduct every audit and investigation with fairness and impartiality.”
“I will be vigilant to protect the integrity and independence of the Office of Special Inspector General” and will work “to uncover fraud, waste and abuse,” Brian Miller said in prepared remarks released Monday. He’s scheduled to face the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday as lawmakers weigh his nomination as Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery.
Created by the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March, the role’s purview will include key stimulus programs including $454 billion in backstops to lending programs through the Federal Reserve, as well as money for airlines and defense companies. The central bank is leveraging funds from the Treasury Department into trillions of dollars in liquidity for the economy.
California to Start Reopening Friday (4:37 p.m. NY)
California, the first state to shut down its economy over the coronavirus, will start loosening its lockdown on Friday by allowing stores to sell items such as books, clothes and flowers through curbside pickup.
Governor Gavin Newsom announced the changes Monday, saying the most populous U.S. state had sufficiently slowed the virus’s spread to allow for more commercial activity. Bowing to pressure from rural areas, Newsom said individual counties could relax stay-at-home rules even further, if they are effectively able to track and trace infections.
“We are definitely at a point, a sort of hinge moment in this pandemic,” Newsom said Monday during his daily virus update with reporters.
The state reported 39 more deaths Monday, the lowest daily tally in three weeks. Hospitalizations and intensive-care stays have stabilized, Newsom said.
Virus Will Be AIG’s Biggest Catastrophe (4:35 p.m. NY)
American International Group Inc. was hit by about $272 million in costs tied to the coronavirus as the insurance industry braces for what Chief Executive Officer Brian Duperreault said would probably be its “single largest” catastrophe loss ever. The insurer withdrew previously issued guidance, including a forecast for 10% adjusted return on common equity by the end of 2021.
The losses were focused in business lines including travel, commercial property, trade credit and workers’ compensation policies. That drove an $87 million underwriting loss in the sprawling property-casualty operation, AIG said in reporting first-quarter earnings.
“While we believe Covid-19 will be the single largest CAT loss the industry has ever seen, the significant body of work our team has undertaken since late 2017 has served us well as we navigate through this evolving situation,” Duperreault said. “AIG was in a strong financial position before this crisis began and remains in a strong financial position today.”
U.S. Cases Rise 2% (4 p.m. NY)
U.S. cases rose 2% from the day before to 1.17 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That was lower than Sunday’s growth rate of 2.3% and below the average daily increase of 2.6% over the past week. Deaths rose 1.7% to 68,326.
Cases in New York rose 0.8% while deaths rose 1.5%, according to the data from Johns Hopkins and Bloomberg News.Florida has 36,897 cases, up 2.3% from a day earlier, according to the state’s health department. Deaths reached 1,399, an increase of 1.5%.Texas reported that 17 more people died, the fifth-consecutive day that number has declined, bringing total deaths to 884. There were 784 new virus cases confirmed, the first time in five days the daily increase dropped below 1,000. Hospitalizations stabilized a second day at around 1,500.California reported 39 new deaths from the virus, the lowest daily toll since April 12. Confirmed cases rose 2.5% to a total of 54,937, while hospitalizations declined.Nebraska had the biggest daily increase in cases, which rose 11% to 5,891.WHO Will Seek Talks With Gilead (1:40 p.m. NY)
There are signals of hope for the potential use of Gilead’s remdesivir drug, according to Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organizations’s health emergencies program. The WHO plans to engage in talks with the company and the U.S. government on how the drug may be made more widely available as further data emerges on its effectiveness.
Evidence from the novel coronavirus’s genetic sequence shows that the virus is of natural origin, Ryan said. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that “enormous evidence” shows the novel coronavirus outbreak began in a laboratory in Wuhan, China. He provided no proof for his claims.
“We have not received any data or specific evidence from the U.S. government regarding the purported origin of the virus, so from our perspective, this remains speculative,” Ryan said. “We would be very willing to receive any information that purports to the origin of the virus.”
Tens of Millions Could Lose Health Coverage (1:38 p.m. NY)
Between 25 million and 43 million Americans could lose their employer-sponsored health coverage if the unemployment rate reaches 20%, according to a new report from the Urban Institute.
A giant shift in how Americans get health care is likely already underway, with millions moving from getting coverage through an employer to enrolling in state Medicaid programs or the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, the report suggests. The number of people who have no health insurance could grow by 7 million to 12 million, according to the projections. States that didn’t expand Medicaid under Obamacare would see a higher proportion of people lose coverage entirely.
Job-based coverage is the primary source of insurance for Americans under 65, covering about 160 million people at the start of this year. A disruption in that market would have consequences for insurers, who sell the health plans, and medical providers that depend on higher reimbursements from employer plans.
A separate estimate last week suggested almost 13 million people have already lost coverage in the coronavirus crisis. The Labor Department will report unemployment statistics on Friday. Economists project the unemployment rate will spike from 4.4% in March to 16% in April, in the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg.
Texas Deaths Decline Again (1:38 p.m. NY)
Texas reported on Monday that 17 more people died of Covid-19, the fifth-consecutive day that number has declined, bringing total deaths to 884. There were 784 new virus cases confirmed, the first time in five days the daily increase dropped below 1,000. Hospitalizations stabilized a second day around 1,500.
The state has ramped up testing over the past couple of weeks, but daily numbers reported still swing wildly, from about 29,000 Saturday to about 10,000 Sunday. Texas joined other states in reopening stores and restaurants to indoor service on Friday, but not all businesses took advantage of the lifted restrictions, and attendance was sparse in most places.
U.K. in Talks With Roche on Test Rollout (1:15 p.m. NY)
The U.K. is in talks with Roche about a mass rollout of its antibody tests. “Roche made a very positive announcement,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at televised press briefing in London on Monday. “We are in discussions with them about a very large-scale rollout of antibody testing, as well as with some others, who may be able to bring this forward.”
Hancock added that “there’s been false hopebefore in antibody testing and so we’ll make announcements when we’re absolutely ready.” Roche received regulatory approval in the U.S. for emergency use of its antibody test over the weekend.
Finland to Start Reopening June 1 (1:01 p.m. NY)
Finland’s government set out steps to the gradual reopening of services as the pace of new coronavirus infections slowed.
Gatherings of fewer than 50 people will be permitted from June 1, up from the current limit of 10, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in Helsinki on Monday. Restaurants may resume dine-in services from June and the government will allow work-related travel to and from the European Union’s Schengen area.
Finland has about 5,300 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with at least 3,500 recorded recoveries and 240 dead.
N.Y. New Cases at Lowest Since Mid-March (12:48 p.m. NY)
New York reported 2,538 new virus cases, the lowest level since mid-March. Total hospitalizations are down, though Governor Andrew Cuomo notedthe decline hasn’t been as sharp as the rise had been.
The state is planning to begin reopening on a regional bases so upstate, which hasn’t been as hard hit as the New York City and Albany regions, doesn’t have to wait as long. Businesses will reopen in four phases. Phase 1: Construction, manufacturing and wholesale supply chain, with select retail curbside pickup. Phase 2: Professional services, finance and insurance, retail, administrative support and real estate. Phase 3: Restaurants, food services and hotels/accommodations. Phase 4: arts, entertainment, recreation and education.
EU Raises $8 Billion in Pledges (12:38 p.m. NY)
The European Commission registered $8 billion in pledges from donors worldwide at the starting day of a Coronavirus Global Response fundraiser on Monday. The goal is to finance the collaborative development and universal deployment of diagnostics, treatments and vaccines to fight the coronavirus.
The pledging event was co-hosted by the European Union, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Norway, Spain and the U.K. Donors can continue pledging in the weeks ahead.
N.J. Schools to Stay Shut (11:51 a.m. NY)
New Jersey schools will remain closed through the academic year’s end in June, forcing about 1.4 million public schoolers and their privately educated peers to continue electronic classes.
Governor Phil Murphy announced the decision, which includes colleges, on Twitter.
Florida Cases Rise 2.3% (11:30 a.m. NY)
Florida reported 36,897 Covid-19 cases on Monday, up 2.3% from a day earlier. Deaths among Florida residents reached 1,399, an increase of 1.5%.
Florida began its reopening Monday, allowing restaurants and retail to open provided they limit indoor capacity. But the Miami metropolitan area – including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties – is excluded from the plan, because it has been the center of Florida’s outbreak.
Antibody Tests Get Tighter U.S. Scrutiny (11:11 a.m. NY)
Blood tests that can tell whether patients have been infected with the new coronavirus will get tighter oversight from U.S. health regulators, after some manufacturers made allegedly false or inappropriate claims and questions arose about the accuracy of some tests.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Monday that makers of the tests, which since mid-March have been allowed to be sold without any government sign-off, will have to apply for authorization within 10 days of their products coming to market. The FDA also laid out requirements that tests must meet to gain clearance.
Gilead Drug’s Sales Could Top $2 Billion (10:40 a.m. NY)
At $4,500 for a round of treatment for Covid-19, remdesivir, Gilead Sciences Inc.’s new medicine could be reasonably priced and still generate over $2 billion in revenue for the biotech, according to analysts at Piper Sandler.
That’s the maximum price that the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review recommended for a 10-day treatment of Gilead’s remdesivir, which received emergency approval from U.S. regulators on Friday. Gilead promised to give away the first 1.5 million vials but has been quiet on its pricing plans after that supply is used up. The company didn’t immediately respond to e-mailed requests for comment.
U.S. to Track Thousands of Children (10:30 a.m. NY)
U.S. researchers will track thousands of children and their family members over six months to determine how they’re affected by the novel coronavirus,the National Institutes of Health said Monday. The study has already begun enrolling participants and aims to sign up 6,000 people from families already participating in pediatric studies.
Researchers will follow them for six months, with caregivers taking nasal swabs at home every two weeks and mailing the samples to researchers. Participants will also fill out online questionnaires about symptoms, and get several blood tests to check for the presence of antibodies.
The goal is to better understand how the virus affects children and how it may move from kids to other family members. Researchers will also examine whether children with asthma or allergies are affected differently. Children have appeared resilient to Covid-19, and the study will help determine whether they’re resistant to the infection, or if they contract the virus but don’t develop symptoms.
KLM Requires Face Masks On Board (10:30 a.m. NY)
KLM will require face masks on board flights across its entire network starting May 11. The Dutch flagship carrier will also slowly ramp up its operations and aims to execute about 15% of its flights in May. From Monday, the airline is resuming daily service to seven European cities, including the hard-hit cities of Milan and Madrid.
Scientists Create Antibody That Defeats Virus in Lab (10:01 a.m. NY)
Scientists created a monoclonal antibody that can defeat the new coronavirus in the lab, an early but promising step in efforts to find treatments and curb the pandemic’s spread.
The experimental antibody may help prevent or treat Covid-19 and related diseases, either alone or in a drug combination, according to a study published Monday in the journal Nature Communications. More research is needed to see if the findings are confirmed in a clinical setting, Berend-Jan Bosch of Utrecht University in the Netherlands and colleagues wrote in the paper.
UN Chief Puts $41 Billion Price Tag on Protection Push (9:45 a.m. NY)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres signaled that around 37.5 billion euros ($41 billion) will be needed to protect the world from the coronavirus. Speaking to a European Union-organized event meant to raise an initial 7.5 billion euros for Covid-19 vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, Guterres said five times that amount was likely needed so “everyone, everywhere” benefits. “I call on all partners to join in this effort,” he said.
Carnival Cruise Plans to Phase In Service (9:27 a.m. NY)
Carnival Cruise Line advised guests and travel agents today of its plan to phase in a resumption in its North American service this summer, beginning on Aug. 1 with a total of eight ships from Miami, Port Canaveral and Galveston. Its pause in operations will be extended in all other North American and Australian markets through Aug. 31.
Starbucks Downgraded by Fitch (9:25 a.m. NY)
Fitch Ratings downgraded Starbucks Corp., citing a higher debt load from an impending bond sale combined with the “significant business interruption” from Covid-19.
Starbucks’s rating was cut to BBB from BBB+, one level above a junk rating. Fitch also assigned a negative outlook.
Greek Banks Brace for 50% Bad Loan Ratio (9:19 a.m. NY)
Greek banks may see bad debt levels surge to half their loan book because of the impact of the coronavirus on the country’s weakened economy, according to people familiar with the matter.
The economic shutdown will probably push non-performing credit up from about 40%, or 68 billion euros, at the end of December, the people said, asking to remain anonymous because the estimate isn’t public. The increase will amount to about 10 billion euros despite flexibility European authorities have afforded banks in deciding whether to classify loans as non-performing, one of the people said.
Afghanistan Asks Taliban to Accept Truce (9:18 a.m. NY)
The government of Afghanistan has called on the Taliban militant group yet again to accept a ceasefire as the impoverished country grapples with steadily rising infections that have so far killed 90 people. Some 2,894 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the nation of 38 million since late March, according to Deputy Public Health Minister Wahid Majroh. The country’s health-care system is broken down, and testing so far has been limited.
Taliban violence since the virus outbreak has killed or wounded hundreds of people, according to the country’s National Security Council.
Goldman, Morgan Stanley See Economy Bottoming (8:36 a.m. NY)
“Economic activity has probably bottomed now,” Jan Hatzius, chief economist at Goldman Sachs, said in a report to clients on Monday. “Lockdowns and social distancing are starting to diminish as many countries are cautiously reopening their economies.”
Goldman Sachs predicted advanced economies will contract an average 32% in the current quarter before growing 16% in the next three months and 13% in the final quarter of the year.
Peugeot Maker PSA to Restart Plants (8:08 a.m. NY)
French automaker PSA Group will gradually restart manufacturing sites in coming weeks as European countries begin to lift lockdown restrictions and reopen vehicle showrooms.
The first wave of resumptions at plants is set to begin between May 4 and May 11, the company said in a statement Monday, almost two months since they were shut down. Workers will follow strict health protocols when they return to the factories, PSA said.
Honda Motor Co., which has halted production since mid-March, will decide on a timetable for reopening its U.K. factory in Swindon on May 8, it said in an internal memo to suppliers seen by Bloomberg News.
Tyson Foods Sees Supply Disruptions (7:40 a.m. NY)
Tyson Foods, the largest meat processor in the U.S., said it was experiencing “multiple challenges” from the outbreak, which would lead to higher operating costs and hurt volumes. “Operationally, we have and expect to continue to face slowdowns and temporary idling of production facilities from team member shortages or choices we make to ensure operational safety,” the company said. “The lower levels of productivity and higher costs of production we have experienced will likely continue in the short term until the effects of Covid-19 diminish.”
Closures at U.S. slaughter plants because of coronavirus outbreaks among employees jammed together on processing lines has wiped out about a quarter of pork-processing capacity and a 10th for beef, raising fears that the country was just weeks away from shortfalls.
France, Germany to Coordinate Future Stimulus (6:30 a.m. NY)
Germany and France have asked economists to look at how the two countries can coordinate fiscal stimulus to reboot their economies once the health crisis is over. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier have asked a committee of experts to advise on how to coordinate measures to ensure the biggest possible economic impact. Le Maire said France won’t set out its plans for stimulus to reboot the economy until September.
Carson Block Says Stock Valuations Make ‘No Sense’ (6 a.m. NY)
Carson Block is predicting a plunge in stocks after they roared back from the coronavirus sell-off in March. “The direction has to be sharply downward,” the renowned short seller and founder of Muddy Waters Capital said in a phone interview. Block finds it hard to believe that equities are trading at their current valuations even though demand has been “crushed” by the pandemic and isn’t likely to recover anytime soon. “It makes no sense,” he said.
“What caused the pandemic is not a policy failure,” Block said. But the fallout will be “much worse than it should be” due to “political dysfunction,” as was the case for the Iraq war and the global financial crisis, he said. Block, who’s best known as an activist short seller, has been making some short investments that don’t fit his typical approach of rooting out financial fraud. He said he’s betting against a cruise company that he declined to identify.