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Coronavirus update: U.S. death toll tops 74,000, as Trump administration shelves ‘too cautious’ CDC guide to reopening

Tesla is gearing up to reopen California plant, and retailers Gap and Kohl’s are starting to open their doors

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By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch


Getty Images
Nurses stand among 88 pairs of empty shoes representing those who have died from COVID-19.

The number of U.S. fatalities from the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19 climbed above 74,000 on Thursday, as President Donald Trump’s administration reportedly confirmed it is shelving recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on reopening safely because they were too cautious.

The Associated Press was first to report that the government had rejected the advice of its own public health agency and had told the CDC a draft guide on reopening schools, restaurants, summer camps, churches, day-care centers and more “would never see the light of day.” The recommendations included detailed flow charts to be used by local officials.

The news comes as an impatient Trump has repeatedly pushed for states to reopen, supported protests against lockdowns and other restrictions and contradicted medical advice from experts on the task force created to manage the pandemic.

See: U.S. public health experts increasingly fretful as states press ahead with reopenings

“Local leaders and small businesses are looking to Washington for help [in] ensuring safety for themselves, their workers and their customers as this pandemic continues to ravage the country,” said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US, a nonpartisan group. “Instead of offering them assistance, Trump is opting to hide the expertise of his own administration’s scientists and public health professionals. What could Trump possibly gain by hiding this guidance, besides covering up his rush to reopen and his administration’s failures with the COVID-19 response?”

On Wednesday, the president backed off plans to wind down the task force after a backlash from Democrats, public health officials and experts, coming at a time when the U.S. infection rate is still growing, including in states that have started to allow small businesses and shops to reopen.

Trump acknowledged that reopening will cause more deaths, but has pressured state governors to move quickly to restore an economy that has been hit hard by stay-at-home orders, closed stores and plants and other restrictions.

Governors continue to push for more and better testing, looking to other countries like Germany and South Korea that have used a disciplined, scientific approach to testing and contact tracing allowing them to restore some activity while successfully containing the spread.

Read now: The future of successful coronavirus response: Mass testing at work and in church and self-administered tests

On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country’s infection numbers were lower than two weeks ago and that Germany was now in a good position to reopen most of its economy. “We can afford a little audacity,” Merkel told reporters at a news conference, according to the New York Times.

The biggest nurses trade union in the U.S. is planning a protest later Thursday in which members will line up white shoes outside the White House in a criticism of its handling of the crisis, the Guardian reported. Many frontline workers were infected by their own patients because of a critical shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPE, the masks, gloves and gowns that medical workers need to be safe.

See now: States start to reopen, ending coronavirus lockdowns: California, Pennsylvania and Maryland to take steps in next days

Latest tallies

There are now 3.81 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and 266,432 people have died, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

More than 1.3 million people have recovered.

The U.S. has the highest case toll at 1.24 million and the highest death toll at 74,239. Spain has the highest number of cases in Europe at 220,325 and 25,857 deaths. Italy has 215,858 cases and 29,958 deaths.

The U.K. has 207,973 cases and 30,150 deaths, the highest death toll in Europe.

Russia moved past France and Germany after another spike in cases overnight. Russia now has 177,160 cases and 1,625 deaths.

France has 174,224 cases and 25,812 deaths. Germany has 168,912 cases and 7,336 deaths. Turkey has 133,721 cases and 3,641 deaths, followed by Brazil with 127,655 cases and 8,609 deaths. Iran has 103,135 cases and 6,486 deaths. China, where the disease was first reported late last year, has 83,974 cases and 4,637 deaths.

What’s the economy saying?

In economic news, another 3.2 million Americans applied for jobless benefits last week, bringing the seven-week tally to 33 million, as MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash reported. The states of California, Texas, Georgia, Florida, and New York reported the biggest increases in new claims, according to the Labor Department. California, the largest U.S. state, has received the most jobless claims overall.

Read also: The future of Disney theme parks after the shutdowns — empty seats on Space Mountain and NO hugs from Cinderella

A separate report by large payroll processor ADP on Wednesday said more than 20 million jobs were eliminated in April, at least temporarily. The federal government’s official employment summary is expected to show a similarly large wipeout when it’s released Friday morning.

See now : Economic expert with perfect record calling recessions is betting this one will be over by the end of 2020

The federal government has sharply increased unemployment benefits, loosened eligibility standards and is effectively paying many companies to keep idled workers on payrolls until the crisis fades, but millions of jobs could be permanently lost as thousands of companies fail.

“That’s one in five jobs likely gone in seven weeks,” said Nick Bunker, director of economic research at Indeed Hiring Lab. “The outlook for the labor market remains frightening. Not only does the pace of layoffs remain at unprecedented levels, but hiring intentions remain depressed.”

See now: ‘It’s devastating’ — Jobs number will be bad, but the reality is actually much worse, warns the Fed’s Neel Kashkari

What are companies saying?

The latest batch of earnings reports sparked some big stock moves, even as companies are not offering guidance given the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and are still laying off or furloughing staff and raising cash to boost liquidity positions.

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