By Jaimy Lee
The U.S. is wrapping up the first full business week feeling the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, with restaurants, bars, parks, retailers and workplaces shut down in many cities across the nation.
There are now 19,624 cases in the U.S. and 260 have died in 31 states, according to the most recent data from the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering’s Centers for Systems Science and Engineering. The number of U.S. cases has risen sharply this week, though public health experts have cautioned that Americans will likely see a jump in cases as the number of available tests increases.
At least 54,205 tests for COVID-19 have been conducted by public health organizations in the U.S., as of March 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, now that at least four major diagnostics makers have said they are making tests for the novel coronavirus, it is expected to make millions more tests available in the U.S.
The state of California on Thursday issued a mandatory, stay-at-home order, excepting individuals who work in “essential services” such as pharmacies, grocery stores, takeout restaurants, banks and laundromats. New York followed suit on Friday, followed by Illinois, putting millions of people on lockdown.
At the same time, demand for service types of workers and services is growing even as jobless claims rise. Walmart Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT +0.14% is giving small cash bonuses in the range of $150 and $300 to employees, while it seeks to ramp up hiring, by adding 150,000 new workers. The meal-delivery kit company Blue Apron Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203710464/composite APRN -0.54% , which is also hiring at two of its fulfillment centers, told MarketWatch it is seeing a sharp uptick in demand.
In Washington, D.C., the Trump administration is testing out new ideas, such as potentially expanding access to antimalaria drug chloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19 through the Food and Drug Administration’s compassionate use program. At least three drugmakers — Bayer AG /zigman2/quotes/203424967/composite BAYRY +1.01% , Mylan , and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/205657894/composite TEVA +1.48% — have upped production of chloroquine products. In the case of Mylan, it is restarting a manufacturing line altogether. That said, chloroquine has not been designated a proven COVID-19 treatment by the FDA as it has not received an approval for this indication.
More than 89,891 people have recovered. In the U.S., there are now 19,624 cases and 260 deaths. The number of cases has more than doubled since Wednesday, though an uptick in cases has been expected as access to the tests increases.
Worldwide, there are now 284,566 cases of COVID-19 and at least 11,868 people have died. More than 89,891 people have recovered after being sickened by the disease; about 70% of those recoveries have been in China.
In Western Europe, cases continue to rise. Spain has 25,374 cases and 1,375 deaths, Germany has 20,705 cases and 72 deaths, France has 12,483 cases and 450 deaths, and Italy has 47,021 cases and 4,032 deaths. (Italy’s numbers have not been updated since Friday.) More people have died from COVID-19 in Italy now than in China, which has reported a total of 3,253 deaths.
Other nations with high COVID-19 rates are: South Korea, which now has 8,799 cases and 102 deaths, and Iran, which has 20,610 cases and 1,556 deaths.
Here’s how companies are being impacted by COVID-19:
• Boeing Co. /zigman2/quotes/208579720/composite BA +1.95% will halt its dividend and extend its share buyback halt until further notice as it shores up its balance sheet amid the coronavirus pandemic. “Boeing is drawing on all of its resources to sustain operations, support its workforce and customers, and maintain supply chain continuity through the COVID-19 crisis and for the long term,” the company said. Chief Executive Dave Calhoun and Chairman Larry Kellner will forgo all pay until the end of the year, the company added.
• Delta Air Lines Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200327741/composite DAL +3.12% said that second-quarter revenue will plunge 80%, or $10 billion, from the year-ago quarter as it burns through $50 million in cash a day because of coronavirus. The largest airline also said it was suspending stock buybacks and its dividend, and has secured a $2.6 billion line of credit. “To put this in context, despite all the self-help measures we are taking, we are currently burning roughly $50 million in cash each day,” Delta Chief Executive Ed Bastian said in a message to employees.
• PG&E Corp. /zigman2/quotes/202583141/composite PCG -5.10% shares rallied after-hours Friday after the utility cut a deal with Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom on an operations overhaul to help it emerge from bankruptcy, according to media reports. Under the deal, PG&E will spend billions of dollars to prevent wildfires. “This is the end of business as usual for PG&E,” Newsom said in a statement. “We secured a totally transformed board and leadership structure for the company, real accountability tools to ensure safety and reliability and billions more in contributions from shareholders to ensure safety upgrades are achieved.” PG&E has also agreed to put itself up for sale if it does not emerge from bankruptcy by June 30.
• Starbucks Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207508890/composite SBUX +0.07% said its cafes in the U.S. and Canada would close to the public for at least two weeks amid the spread of COVID-19. The company had been allowing customers to pick up items to go at many of its locations, but decided to move to drive-through-only service.