Coronavirus updates: Trump to close US-Mexico border, postpones student loan payments; NY unleashes strict rules

President Donald Trump announced new federal actions Friday in efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus and relieve the economic effects of the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, Tax Day has been moved back to July and U.S. students won’t have to take annual state tests this year. California, New York and Pennsylvania also took the boldest action yet to slow the spread of coronavirus. 

As COVID-19 continues to dramatically alter lives, the U.S. hit two grim landmarks on Friday — at least 210 deaths and over 14,600 confirmed cases. Worldwide, the death toll has topped 11,100, as Italy saw its biggest one-day increase Friday. There are more than 265,000 confirmed cases around the globe, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.

Among the measures Trump announced Friday: 

Restricting nonessential travel between the U.S. and Mexico Allowing borrowers with federal student loans to be able to pause their payments for two months without interest accruing Enacting the Defense Production Act to get critical medical supplies

The president said, though, he doesn’t see the need for a national lockdown. “I don’t think we’ll ever find that necessary,” he said. 

Tax Day deadline moved back

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Friday that the deadline for Americans to file their taxes would be moved back from April 15 to July 15.

“All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties,” Mnuchin tweeted.

Earlier this week, the IRS had deferred the payment deadline to July 15 but had left April 15 filing deadline in place.

US-Mexico border will close for nonessential travel 

The U.S.-Mexico border will be closed to nonessential travel to further help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, Trump announced Friday.

“As we did with Canada, we’re also working with Mexico to implement new rules at our ports of entry to suspend nonessential travel,” Trump said. “These new rules and procedures will not impede lawful trade and commerce.” Trump said that Mexico is also suspending air travel from Europe.

The expected announcement follows the closure of the border between the U.S. and Canada to nonessential travel, which was announced Wednesday. Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters the closure would happen at midnight Friday.

– David Oliver

Detroit quarantines more than 150 police officers

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said 152 police officers have been quarantined, including five who have tested positive for COVID-19.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Craig said during a press conference Friday. “As of right now we have 152 members of the police department that are quarantined. Of that, 130 were ordered to quarantined; 22 self-quarantined.” 

According to the City of Detroit’s website, there are 2,200 total Detroit police officers.

According to Craig, one precinct was heavily affected due to an event held there. A person who attended did not show symptoms at the time but has since fallen ill.

– Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press

New York governor bans all nonessential travel, gatherings, work

New York is banning all nonessential travel, mandating everyone not critical to their workplace to stay at home and requiring all businesses to shutter if they do not fit specific criteria. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the sweeping ramp up of restrictions on movement on Friday as the novel coronavirus spread through the state, with New York having the highest number of confirmed cases in the nation. 

He called it “New York State on Pause,” and it takes effect Sunday evening. Mass transit will stay operational and food delivery services will stay open but people were ordered to stay off the streets as much as possible.

“This is the most drastic action we can take,” Cuomo said at a briefing. The decision came as the number of confirmed cases soared to 7,100 in New York, up 2,950 in the past day.

– Joseph Spector and Jon Campbell, New York state team

Illinois governor issues stay-at-home order for entire state

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday announced a “stay-at-home” order that will begin tomorrow and last until at least April 7,​

Residents will still be allowed to go to the grocery store, walk their dogs and do all essential tasks. All non-essential businesses must close, and all people who can work from home must do so, Pritzker said.

All Illinois schools will stay closed until April 8. Illinois is working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Wal-Mart, and Walgreens to set up drive-thru testing sites in the hardest hit areas of the state, according to the state’s DOH. 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the order “is not a lockdown or martial law.” Pharmacies, grocery stories and clinics will not close. Airports will be open and garbage will be collected.

“This is the new normal, for now,” Lightfoot said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Friday announced 163 new cases of coronavirus disease in Illinois, including the death of a Cook County woman in her 70s.

Trump says he put Defense Production Act ‘into gear’

Trump said he put the Defense Production Act “into gear” but did not specify how.

“We are helping the states a lot,” said Trump, pushing back on criticism from some governors that the federal government isn’t doing enough to provide medical supplies and tests. 

The Korean War-era power allows the federal government broad authority to instruct private businesses to help meet the needs of national defense. In the case of coronavirus, that means the production of ventilators and protective masks for first responders. 

– John Fritze

Deaths in Italy spike in biggest one-day increase

Italian authorities announced the biggest one-day increase in coronavirus deaths, a day after the death toll there surpassed China’s, where the outbreak began in December.

Italy’s Civil Protection Department said it recorded 627 more coronavirus deaths Friday, bringing its total number of deaths to more than 4,000.

Italy is into its second week of a full national lockdown that bars all trips outside except for essential access to food and medical supplies or to care for someone who is sick.

Angelo Borrelli, the head of Italy’s Civil Protection Department, has previously said that the country is expecting to see results from its restrictions two weeks from when the lockdown first began on March 9 

One factor in Italy’s high death toll is the high median age, which is 47 years, compared to 37 in China and 38 in the United States. Public health experts also believe that Italy acted too slowly to enforce “social distancing” measures.

– Kim Hjelmgaard

Trump: Student loan borrowers can suspend payments for 60 days without interest

Borrowers with federal student loans will be able to pause their payments for two months without interest accruing, Trump and the Education Department said Friday.

The move is an effort to help those financially affected by the spread of the coronavirus. The suspension will be in effect for at least 60 days, and it started on March 13. 

“Right now, everyone should be focused on staying safe and healthy, not worrying about their student loan balance growing,” said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in a news release.

Borrowers will have to contact their loan servicers to request the pause in payments. It’s unclear how quickly those agencies will be able to respond to those requests.

– Chris Quintana

NIH chief: Best response one people would find ‘too drastic’

A top U.S. health official told USA TODAY in an interview that the most effective response federal and state officials could take to the coronavirus is one that most Americans would find too extreme. 

Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, would not directly comment on whether the Trump administration should immediately order a total national lockdown, such as in Italy, where people are only allowed outside for trips to the supermarket, for medical emergencies and to collect prescription drugs.

But in response to a question about whether the U.S. should adopt the far-reaching restrictions, he said that the “approach we should be taking right now is one that most people would find too drastic because otherwise it is not drastic enough.” 

He said that the U.S. should be taking “very significant lessons from” places in Asia such as China, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, where “highly activated systems” have been established “to avoid further transmission by having people shelter in place, avoid interactions, hand washing and all the other things that we know make a difference (such as easy access to testing and robust contact tracing).”

– Kim Hjelmgaard 

California, Pennsylvania among states taking stricter action

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a statewide shelter-in-place order. “There’s a social contract here. People, I think, recognize the need to do more to meet this situation,” he said.

In a letter sent to Trump on Wednesday, Newsom also wrote that, “We project that roughly 56 percent of our population — 25.5 million people — will be infected with the virus over an eight week period.”

He also told congressional leaders Thursday that California would likely need more than $1 billion in federal assistance.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all “non-life-sustaining” businesses to close Thursday night. He made the order after being granted extraordinary powers upon his “declaration of a disaster emergency, such as COVID-19.”

– Sam Metz, Palm Springs (Calif.) Desert Sun; Shelly Stallsmith, York (Pa.) Daily Record

Stocks stumble after initial rally on coronavirus aid hopes

U.S. stocks flipped between small gains and losses Friday, capping a turbulent week on hopes government and central bank action can shield the global economy from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 0.5%, after a relatively modest change a day earlier after wild price swings over the past week. The blue-chip average climbed 188.27 points Thursday to close back above 20,000. The Standard & Poor’s 500 slipped 1.1%. Both were on pace for weekly losses of at least 11%.

The Nasdaq Composite was down 0.4%.

Investors were encouraged after seeing more steps by the Federal Reserve and other central banks and governments to support credit markets and the economy. The Fed said Friday it would extend its asset purchase program into short-term municipal bonds to keep credit flowing.

– Jessica Menton 

Reports: Senators sold off stocks ahead of economic crash

Senators are facing backlash for selling in some cases millions of dollars in personal stocks shortly before the coronavirus pandemic sent markets into a freefall earlier this month. 

Based on publicly financial transaction disclosures, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., all appear to have sold stock earlier this year.

It also appears the senators made their sales around the time senators received information about the virus.

Burr said in a statement Friday he had made his sales of stocks on Feb. 13 based on “public news reports,” including CNBC. He also requested a review by the Senate Ethics Committee Chairman of his stock sales.

Loeffler on Twitter called the reporting “a ridiculous & baseless attack.”

– Jeanine Santucci and Nicholas Wu

Senate Republicans propose $1,200 cash payments in rescue package

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday unveiled a historic stimulus package that includes direct payments of $1,200 to individuals and assistance to businesses to deal with the health and economic harm from the novel coronavirus.

“We need to have the American people’s backs,” said McConnell, R-Ky.

Married couples would be eligible for up to $2,400 in assistance with an additional $500 for every child.

Assistance would begin phasing out for individuals earning at least $75,000 and would not be available to those with adjusted gross incomes above $99,000. Assistance for couples phases out after $150,000 and is not available to those with joint incomes of more than $198,000.

– Maureen Groppe, Nicholas Wu, Ledyard King and Christal Hayes

US military virus cases surge

Cases of coronavirus in the military surged to 124 on Friday, the Pentagon reported. The total from Thursday was 81.

At 5 a.m., there were 67 troops with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, an increase of 16 from Thursday. There were also 26 family members and 31 civilian employees and dependents with the virus. 

Three service members and one contractor have recovered.

Meanwhile, the staff for the military’s two, 1,000-bed hospital ships began reporting for duty today. The ships, however, will not be ready to sail for some time. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Fox & Friends that the USS Comfort would not be ready to deploy to New York until April. The USS Mercy, on the West Coast, will be ready sooner. 

– Tom Vanden Brook

Census deadline postponed

Citing concerns about the coronavirus, Census officials said Friday workers will begin knocking on doors two weeks later than planned and the deadline for people to respond to the survey will also be pushed back two weeks. 

“Even though many things may seem uncertain at the moment one thing isn’t – the 2020 census is here. It’s important to our nation that everyone respond,” said Albert Fontenot, Jr., associate director of Decennial Census Programs. “The current situation underscores the need for Census data.”

Most Census takers were set to start knocking on doors May 13, but that has been pushed back until May 28. Meanwhile, the deadline to respond to the survey will also be moved, from July 31 to Aug. 14. 

– Deborah Berry