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Coronavirus update: 237,996 cases, 9,819 deaths, GE Healthcare to boost manufacturing of ventilators

General Electric’s health care unit has increased manufacturing capacity and output of ventilators

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By Jaimy Lee


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The U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic is broadening, with more states and cities shutting down restaurants and gathering spots and a federal response package signed into law.

At least two members of Congress — Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Ben McAdams (D-Utah) — have said they tested positive for the virus, while the New York Stock Exchange will close its doors on Monday after a trader and an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

In the U.S., there are now 11,274 cases of the novel coronavirus and at least 157 people have died, according to the most recent data from the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering’s Centers for Systems Science and Engineering.

More cases are expected to be counted in the U.S. as access to testing expands. There are now at least four major diagnostics makers who are producing COVID-19 tests for the U.S., including Abbott /zigman2/quotes/203724446/composite ABT +3.06% , Hologic Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201671131/composite HOLX +1.30% , Roche Holding AG /zigman2/quotes/206324342/delayed CH:ROG -2.51% , and Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201150432/composite TMO +1.88% . The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. public health laboratories have conducted at least 37,824 tests so far, the CDC has said.

Separately, some companies are considering plans to manufacture ventilators, which are in short supply and needed to support the anticipated surge of patients in need of breathing support.

The Trump administration said the Defense Department will make available 2,000 ventilators, noting in public remarks that there is a stockpile of more than 10,000 ventilators. “We have a lot of ventilators, but we’re going to be ordering more,” President Donald Trump said at a news conference on Wednesday.

General Electric Co.’s /zigman2/quotes/208495069/composite GE -3.10% health care unit said Thursday it increased manufacturing capacity and output of ventilators, by adding manufacturing lines, increasing shifts, and hiring new employees. It also said it is increasing production of other equipment used in the treatment and diagnosis of COVID-19, including computed tomography machines, ultrasound devices, mobile X-ray systems and patient monitors.

A Ford Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/208911460/composite F -2.39%  spokesperson said the company doesn’t have plans to produce ventilators; however, he said the auto maker is “exploring the feasibility of providing that type of assistance.”

Worldwide, there are now 237,996 cases of COVID-19 and 9,819 deaths. More than 84,000 people have recovered. However, the number of cases in Western Europe continues to rise. Spain now has 17,963 cases and 830 deaths, Germany has 15,320 cases and 44 deaths, and France has 9,058 cases and 243 deaths. In Italy, there are 41,035 cases and 3,405 deaths.

Iran now has 18,407 cases and 1,284 deaths. South Korea, which is being considered a model for its testing and quarantine protocols, has 8,565 cases and 91 deaths.

Here’s how companies are being impacted by COVID-19:

• JPMorgan lowered stock price targets for General Motors Co. /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM -3.00% , Ford Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/208911460/composite F -2.39% , and Telsa Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203558040/composite TSLA +3.62%  on Thursday, as the car companies were forced to cut production in the midst of the outbreak of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Analyst Ryan Brinkman noted that IHS Automotive materially lowered its expectations for global light vehicle production for the first quarter this week to -16.6% from -10.8% prior, and for the full year to -4.8% from -1.9%.

• Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/200566298/composite DKS +3.24%  traffic and demand have sunk since the company reported fourth-quarter earnings last Tuesday. The athletic retailer has closed its stores for two weeks, through April 2. The company also warned of potential supply chain disruptions impacting the second quarter.

• Walmart Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT +0.30%  was upgraded to outperform by Credit Suisse on Wednesday, earning its second upgrade of the week, as the coronavirus pandemic drives shoppers to their local grocers to stock up on food and necessities. Analysts there said there is more to it that a temporary benefit. “We see this unfortunate period accelerating structural changes in consumer shopping, possibly by five-plus years, as they are introduced to new retailers and new shopping methods including online grocery and delivery, and further consolidate purchases at multi-category, multi-channel retailers,” they wrote in a note.

• GIII Apparel Group Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/201364718/composite GIII -7.60% , which has a portfolio including Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Donna Karan, has closed all retail stores and offices due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We are focused on significantly reducing the number of stores we operate and remain committed to substantially reducing the losses from our retail operations as swiftly and efficiently as possible,” CEO Morris Goldfarb said in a statement. The company didn’t give fiscal 2021 guidance.

• Darden Restaurants Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200092615/composite DRI -3.32% , which owns the Olive Garden restaurant chain, suspended its dividend due to the dine-in seating restrictions imposed by the coronavirus outbreak. The company is also withdrawing its fiscal 2020 outlook.

• Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. /zigman2/quotes/210067261/composite GT -2.81%  on Wednesday said it would suspend Americas manufacturing through at least April 3 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The shutdown is to begin at plants in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Chile, and Colombia. On Tuesday, the company announced plans to temporarily close its European tire and retread plants in phases by the end of this week, until at least April 3. That move impacts plants in France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Slovenia, and Poland.

Additional reporting by Ciara Linnane, Jon Swartz and Tonya Garcia

Read more of MarketWatch’s COVID-19 coverage:

‘No one wants to Zoom with an egg avatar.’ How to keep your health, sanity and career afloat while working from home

Trump signs coronavirus relief bill, as Congress turns its focus to broader stimulus

Biggest maker of medical face masks in U.S. is warning of an outbreak ... of fraud

Whole Foods joins growing rank of grocers offering special senior hours to minimize virus exposure

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Jaimy Lee is a health-care reporter for MarketWatch. She is based in New York.

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