By Jaimy Lee
The number of people in the U.S. who have tested positive for COVID-19 topped 104,000 on Saturday, after surpassing the number of cases in China and Italy, the Asian and European epicenters of the global pandemic, a day earlier.
There are a total of 104,860 cases in the U.S., and at least 1,711 people have died, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering’s Centers for Systems Science and Engineering. New York state has reported 44,870 cases and 519 deaths as of Friday. An estimated 18,650 tests are being conducted daily in the state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted.
There is growing apprehension about shortages of medical supplies among health-care providers, state officials and the Trump administration. Ventilators are a major concern, with Cuomo and President Donald Trump debating the number of ventilators needed in New York state. Cuomo has stated multiple times that the state needs 30,000 ventilators.
“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” Trump told Sean Hannity on Fox News. “You know, you go into major hospitals, sometimes they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’ ”
Later Friday, Trump invoked a Korean War–era law that gives the government authority over businesses to force General Motors Co. /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM +4.14% to make ventilators for coronavirus victims.
And New York isn’t the only state facing a shortage of ventilators. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said he’s requested 5,000 ventilators from the federal stockpile, and none have been shipped.
The state is emerging as another COVID-19 hot spot in the U.S.; in Louisiana, there are now 2,746 cases, 119 people have died, 773 patients are currently hospitalized, and more than 18,000 tests have been administered. “Louisiana has experienced the fastest rate of increase for confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world,” the governor tweeted Friday morning.
There are also documented shortages of personal protective equipment, or PPE, which includes gowns and masks, used by health-care workers. Several automotive manufacturers including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles /zigman2/quotes/204248628/composite FCAU +3.37% , Ford Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/208911460/composite F +4.45% and General Motors Co. /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM +4.14% and retailers including Canada Goose Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/206091526/composite GOOS +1.53% and the Gap Inc. /zigman2/quotes/206554267/composite GPS -1.02% have announced plans this week to produce a mix of gowns, masks and ventilator parts as part of the national response efforts.
Worldwide, there are now 615,519 cases of COVID-19, and at least 28,717 people have died. About 135,735 people have recovered from the novel coronavirus that has sickened people in 176 countries since it was first detected in Wuhan, China, in December. China has 81,996 cases and 3,299 deaths. Italy, which is widely considered to be the epicenter of the pandemic in Europe, had 86,498 cases and 9,134 deaths as of Friday (Italy’s numbers had not been updated yet). Spain has 72,248 cases and 5,690 deaths; Germany has 53,340 cases and 399 deaths; and Iran has 35,408 cases and 2,517 deaths.
In the U.K., where there are 14,754 cases and 761 deaths, a number of notable political figures have the virus. Prince Charles confirmed this week he has the coronavirus, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted Friday that he has tested positive for COVID-19. “I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus,” Johnson said.
Here’s how companies are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic:
• Conagra Brands Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200394144/composite CAG +1.99% will give a $500 bonus to all U.S. employees at its production and distribution facilities and a $250 bonus to part-time employees. The bonus is in recognition of the work done during the coronavirus outbreak. Conagra’s portfolio of brands includes Duncan Hines, Healthy Choice and Birds Eye.
• ViacomCBS Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200340870/composite VIAC +3.76% withdrew its 2020 financial forecast. At the same time, the media company said viewership is growing for its broadcast and cable properties but it has experienced production delays. Viacom warned that the novel coronavirus outbreak “could be material to the company’s operating results, cash flows and financial position” but that the magnitude is hard to predict due to the evolving nature of the crisis.
• Molson Coors Beverage Co. /zigman2/quotes/205165133/composite TAP +4.24% is withdrawing its 2020 financial guidance given uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. It has also created a voluntary paid leave program for April for employees whose work must be done on site; those electing to participate in paid leave will be paid 60% of regular wages. The beer brewer said it has implemented a “thank you pay incentive” for employees whose work must be done on site, with hourly workers receiving an additional $5 per hour, including any overtime pay. Salaries workers will receive an additional $200 a week. Separately, the company said it was producing hand sanitizer at multiple craft breweries to support growing need from first responders.
• Cheesecake Factory Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207909209/composite CAKE +3.63% has furloughed about 41,000 hourly employees, citing the COVID-19-related curtailment of dine-in restaurant operations and landlord closures of certain properties. Cheesecake Factory had 46,250 employees at the end of 2019, according to its annual report. Its CEO and other named executives have volunteered to have base salaries cut by 20%, and the board of directors have elected to take a 20% cut in annual retainer fees. The company also confirmed it isn’t planning to pay rent on leases for April.
• Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202780307/composite HLT +1.50% is furloughing part of its corporate workforce, suspending stock buybacks, dividend payments, halting nonessential expenses and halting capital expenditures. Beginning April 4 “many” of the company’s corporate workers will have reduced schedules or be furloughed for 90 days; workers who are not furloughed will take a 20% pay cut for the duration of the crisis. The company said the CEO would forgo a salary for the remainder of 2020 and the executive committee would take a 50% pay cut during the crisis.
Additional reporting by Emily Bary, Max Cherney, Tomi Kilgore and Tonya Garcia.
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